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10 Sivan 5772

SPELT RICE CAKES:  According to the OU:  “Both the spelt and the rice in spelt rice cakes are puffed grain upon which according to Rav Moshe Feinstein one can say either Ha’adoma or Mezonos, but the Bracha Achrona should be a Borei Nefashos.”

Hakhel Note:  One should consult with his Rav or Posek on any specific questions he may have--especially as to the Brachos on complex or not-well-understood food products.



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




Special Note One:  We continue our Monday/Thursday listing of the Mitzvos Asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times, as set forth in his Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar.  Today, we present Mitzvos 14 and 15:


14.  To Study and Teach Torah.  As the Pasuk says “VeShenantem Levanecha”.  It is a Mitzvah for one’s Torah studied to be well understood so that he is able to easily express it without stammering.  The Mitzvah applies to the poor and the wealthy, the young and the old, one suffering from affliction and one who asks for alms--each one of these people must set aside time to study Torah in the morning and in the evening, as the Pasuk teaches:  VeHagisah Bo Yomam VaLaylah”.  One is obligated to study until the day of his death.  It is a Mitzvah for a father to teach his son, and this Mitzvah precedes teaching all others.  One is also obligated to learn with his son’s son, as the Pasuk instructs:  VeHodatem Levanecha V’Levenei Vanecha”.  As soon as a child begins to talk, the father begins teaching him--beginning with the Pasuk “Torah Tzivah Lanu Moshe”.  A person is then required to hire a teacher to teach his son further.  Although a woman is exempt from Talmud Torah, she should make effort for her sons not to be amei ha’aretz.  The Mitzvah of Talmud Torah is equal to all of the other Mitzvos, for Talmud Torah brings to the Ma’aseh of all of the other Mitzvos! 


15.  To Write a Sefer Torah.  As the Pasuk teaches:  Kisvu Lachem Es HaShira Hazos.”  If one writes a Sefer Torah himself it is as if he received the Torah from Har Sinai, but if this is not possible he should purchase a Sefer Torah, or hire someone to write a Sefer Torah for him--even if he has already inherited a Sefer Torah from his ancestors.  If one fixes one letter in a Sefer Torah it is considered as if he wrote an entire Sefer Torah.  The Rosh writes that the Mitzvah of writing a Sefer Torah itself refers to previous generations in which the Sefer Torah would actually be studied from.  In our generations, however, when the Sefer Torah is used only to read from publicly, it is a Mitzvas Asei upon every man to purchase Seforim--Chumashim, Mishnayos, Shas and commentaries for oneself and his sons to study from.  This is because the Mitzvah to write a Sefer Torah is based upon one’s need to study from it, and today we use our Seforim to understand the Mitzvos and their Halachos clearly.  The Chofetz Chaim adds here that if a person is able to fulfill both aspects--to have a Sefer Torah written and to buy Seforim then “Ashrei Chelko--fortunate is his lot”!



Special Note Two:  We continue with our focus on the Fourth Bracha of Shemone Esrei, Binah.  We move now to the second phrase of the bracha:  U’Melamed Le’enosh Binah”.  Enosh was the grandson of Adom HaRishon whose generation had sunk to a very low level.  Thus, Enosh represents man at a low point.  Nevertheless, Hashem grants even a coarse and base man Binah--the ability to understand one thing from another.  Indeed, if the generation of Enosh would have used the Binah that Hashem afforded them properly--and they did have the opportunity to do so--world history would have been forever changed.  Even if we live in a generation similar to that of Enosh, we must personally endeavor to use the Binah that Hashem grants us properly.  It is significant that we refer to Hashem here as a Melamed--one who teaches.  The other place in our Tefillos in which we use the term Melamed is, of course, HaMelamed Torah LeAmo Yisroel.  When we picture a Melamed, we should envision a caring and loving teacher, meaning to instill as much understanding as he can into the seemingly indifferent student who does not properly appreciate and understand the gift that he is being given.  We therefore suggest that while reciting these words, a person should especially sense his humility for being given something that he does not really deserve and does not fully appreciate.  We should also feel the love of Hashem as we recite the word--Melamed!



Special Note Three:  Several post-Shavuos points and pointers: 


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


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


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



9 Sivan 5772

Special Note One:  We continue with our focus on the Fourth Bracha of Shemone Esrei, Binah.  HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, in the Sefer Rinas Chaim writes that while all of the Bakashos we make in Shemone Esrei are items which we need urgently--nevertheless the first Bakasha for a healthy and active mind is the prerequisite to all of the other Bakashos.  Simply stated, without sechel, a person would not know that he should be asking Hashem for everything else that follows--nor would he know what to ask for and how to ask for it!  Indeed, as the Mishna Berurah writes in his commentary on this Bracha (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 115, seif katan 1) the goal of man in life is to choose good and detest evil--and without the intellect to do so he would be lost.  All of this intellect comes from One Source.  Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, emphasizes in Mishlei (3:5):  Vi’ehl Binasecha Al Tishaein--do not rely upon your own understanding.”  Truth be told, it is at first blush easier for a person to understand that his might is not his and that his money is not his than for him to understand that his wisdom comes only from Hashem as well.  A person readily recognizes that a doctor is Hashem’s Shaliach, and that his boss, and his customers and clients, are as well.  However, it is harder for a person to fathom that his insight, his ability to understand, his reasoning and his power of association are not ‘his own’.  It is for this reason that Shlomo HaMelech especially teaches that this is not the case at all--and that our own wisdom does not even serve as an addition or support to the wisdom Hashem grants us--for all our wisdom, all our intelligence, all of our understanding comes only from Him.  We can well understand, then, why this bracha--with Kavannah--is so crucial to attaining our potential, our goals--our role--in life!



Special Note Two:  Several post-Shavuos points and pointers:


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


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


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


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

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



8 Sivan 5772

Special Note One:  We continue with our study of the Nineteen Brachos of Shemone Esrei.  This week we focus on the Fourth Bracha of Binah.  We begin with the words Atta Chonen L’Adam Da’as.  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, points out that unlike all of the other brachos of Bakasha which begin directly with a request, this Bracha, which serves as the introduction to all the other brachos of Bakasha, initially begins with praise of Hashem--that he graciously (and free of charge--chinam!) bestows man with knowledge.  HaRav Kaniesvky explains that Da’as is even greater than Binah, in that through Da’as one can explain his thinking.  The Adam referred to here, Rav Kanievsky continues, is a Chochom U’Bar Ma’aleh  (see Tosfos to Sanhedrin 59A).  Although Torah knowledge is not specifically requested in the Bracha, HaRav Kanievsky points out that “Ain Da’as Elah Torah”(Sotah 49A)--and Torah is clearly intended.  Nevertheless, we may infer that because Torah is not directly referred to in the bracha, our request is also meant to include a plea that all of our actions be undertaken and completed with sechel hayashar--appropriate and complete presence of mind!



Special Note Two:  We must be sure to have the effects of Shavuos continue with us--even as we may have now caught up on our sleep, or finished the last vestiges of caramel cheesecake.  One practical, easy and important suggestion is to think about the Ma’amad Har Sinai--in which we miraculously ‘heard’ the lightening and ‘saw’ the thunder, the opening of the sky and of the earth. the unrelenting Shofar blast, the literal shaking of the hills and mountains, the fearful and wondrous awe of cloud and darkness, the stillness of creation, the fire pillaring from Har Sinai into the heights of heaven--all so that we would forever realize and appreciate the moment of Hashem revealing Himself to man in this world--and the incomparable gift and inestimable privilege we thereby received forever.  Every morning--no matter how tired we are, how many things we have on our head, how much we have to do in the morning alone, and even if we are terribly late--we must remember that those few short moments in which we recite Birkos HaTorah are our moments of realization that we are a precious and irreplaceable part of the most valuable chain that the world has ever known--conveying Hashem’s personal and direct message to us.  We owe it to ourselves to treasure these few moments, in great appreciation and thanks, as we visualize the event, and dedicate ourselves to Torah and Mitzvos in the day ahead in a manner befitting the grandeur and glory--and simply unparalleled importance--of the most precious of heavenly possessions that was gifted to us then--and is gifted to us anew every single day!


Additional Note One:  We received the following from a reader in response to a Shavuos Bulletin--but the information is useful each and every day:  “On the topic of BirKos HaTorah, we should make sure to pronounce the words properly.  It is BAW.char BAW.nu and not Baw. CHAR Baw.NU.  It is NAW.san LAW.nu, and not Naw. SAN Law.NU.”


Additional Note Two:   Please remember that the monumental occasion of Har Sinai is relived in Shul four times a week at Kriyas HaTorah.  How so?  The Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 141, seif katan 16) writes that the Ba’al Kriyah is the Shul’s equivalent of Moshe Rabbeinu, relating the Torah to all assembled--men and women, young and old--at the behest of the Gabbai, who kevayachol, is “in the place of” Hashem, designating whom he wants to call to the Torah to hear its teaching.  The person receiving the aliyah represents K’lal Yisroel, serving as their special, designated representative!  With this in mind, the Kriyas HaTorah we experience--whether it be on a Monday or Thursday, Shabbos or Yom Kippur must be fully appreciated--as it was then--it should be a time of intense attention.  Each time, we should feel the unique privilege of our participation in an absolutely incomparable event!



Special Note Three:  Many reasons are given as to why we read Megillas Rus on Shavuos.  HaRav Yaakov Emden, Z’tl, in his Siddur Bais Yaakov writes that the preeminent lesson of Megillas Rus is the tremendous Chesed of Rus.  With this, HaRav Emden writes, we can appreciate the tremendous Chesed of Hashem in giving us the opportunity to study Torah and perform Mitzvos--an opportunity not afforded to more than 99% of the universe.  In fact, to further appreciate Hashem’s great gift to us, the Sefer HaKuzari writes that we should consider each and every mitzvah as a personal invitation by Hashem to enter into His very palace.  If one could take a moment to visualize every mitzvah prior to its performance as a palatial invitation, we would have a more refined appreciation of the Chesed of Hashem, and certainly in our attitude and approach towards mitzvah performance!



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


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



Special Note Five:  To further elaborate on the prior Note, we provide the following fantastic Mashal from HaRav Shimshon Pincus, Z’tl:


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


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


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


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


We are at the day after Shavuos!  If not now--then when is the time to evaluate and re-evaluate Torah’s place in our life?  Chazal (Chagiga 3A) actually provide one definition of a shoteh  (an insane person) as one who loses what is given to him.  We should not, Chas V Shalom, place ourselves anywhere near that category--squandering those seedlings which can be nurtured into such big and beautiful fruit-bearing trees.


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


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


Let us make the commitment--Bli Neder--to especially and intentionally study just an additional five minutes of Torah a day--just so that we show how much we care about that seedling--no--that tree!



4 Sivan 5772

Special Note One:  We received the following from readers in the aftermath of the Internet Asifa, and the link (available here) to possible filters and controls that we provided:  


1.  I wanted to mention a suggestion that we have found very helpful.  Installing a filter is wonderful, but if you are in possession of the password there is always the possibility to change the level of filtering or get around the filter.  My husband and I each keyed in half the password, and we did not tell each other our portion of the password.  This way, there is no way around the filter!  A simple, but very helpful suggestion. 


2.  Rabbi Viener, Shlita, in his shmooz about the Internet, advises ‘losing the password’.

Hakhel Note:  We received the following warming information from a reader:  At the Mincha Minyan he attends in New Jersey , which combines the staffs of three companies, they have instituted another kind of ‘Technology Healing’--by asking everyone to put their cell phones into a basket before Mincha.  In this way, the Mispallelim are freed of the temptation to do anything with their cell phones during Chazaras HaShatz or any other time during Mincha--and instead give their time solely to their connection with HaKadosh Baruch Hu.  What a special idea--disconnect to connect!



Special Note Two:  We conclude with our study of the Third Bracha of Shemone Esrei.  We conclude the Bracha of Atta Kadosh in the series of the first three brachos with the Bracha of Baruch Atta Hashem HaKel HaKadosh.  As we saw in the first bracha of Shemone Esrei, the term ‘Kel’ is special in that it combines Hashem’s Omnipotence with His Mercy.  We therefore emphasize that although Hashem is separate and apart from us, He treats us with the Middas HaRachamim.  In this vein, HaRav Schwab, Z’tl (Rav Schwab on Prayer, Artscroll), reminds us that our Kedusha emanates and is derived from Hashem’s Kedusha--as the Pasuk states:  Kedoshim Tehiyu Ki Ani Hashem Elokeichem.”  (Vayikrah 19:2) Thus, our very own source of Kedusha is derived from Hashem’s Kedusha--and it comes to us because of His Mercy.  Our own Kedusha will now be expressed in different ways with the Fourth Bracha--depending on whether it is a weekday, Shabbos or Yom Tov.  In all events, it is the Kedusha that Hashem has mercifully implanted in us that empowers us to move to the next Bracha--and on to new and higher levels of Kedusha!


Additional Note:  A few notes on davening over the next several days:


A.  Every day, three times a day at the very end of Shemone Esrei, we ask Hashem for V’Sein Chelkenu B’Sorasecha--grant us a share in Your Torah.  Let us make sure that these words do not ‘slip by us’ over the next several days.  We importantly add that in each of the Shabbos and Yom Tov Tefillos before reciting Boruch Atta Hashem MeKadeish HaShabbos or MeKadeish Yisroel V’Hazemanim, we also plead the very same words--V’Sein Chelkenu B’Sorasecha!  What more auspicious and propitious time could there be for reciting these words slowly and with Kavannah than the next several days!  Please recall the words of HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, we had recently brought, in which he taught that for one’s Torah learning to have a Kiyum, he has to keep on davening and davening to Hashem for it. 


B.  We provide by clicking here a beautiful Tefillah sent to us by a reader that the Shlah HaKadosh provides to be recited after one concludes his learning on Leil Shavuos!


C.  Reminder:  Because on Shavuos we are judged on Pairos HaIlan (fruits of the tree), many have the custom to daven for a beautiful Esrog on Shavuos.  Our Tefillos should be focused on Hiddur Mitzvah--enhancing the Mitzvah of Esrog--in the year 5773. 


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



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


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


2.  At the Torah U’Mesorah convention last Shabbos, Rabbi Baruch Hilsenrath principal of the Magen David Yeshiva in Brooklyn, urged all participants not only to sing Zemiros at the table--but to explain them so that they take on more meaning and significance to all present, and were not just traditional or even pleasant sounding tunes.  Hakhel Note:  There are Zemiros published with commentaries, the most recent one of note by Oz V’Hadar Publishers.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



Special Note Four:  We provide below several additional points and pointers relating to Yom Tov:


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


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


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


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


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


F.  Earlier this week, we brought HaRav Elyashiv Shlita’s, teaching that one should daven for a Refuah Sheleima when the Aseres HaDibros are read on Shavuos morning--as Bnei Yisroel were healed then and we are re-experiencing that very Matan Torah anew!  A Rav advised us that he feels one can actually think about the Refuah Sheleima needed at the time the Aseres HaDibros are themselves being read.  If you would like to utilize the Eitzah of a Gadol HaDor, you may want to consult with your Rav or Posek in advance as to his opinion on the optimum time and method of accomplishing this great task!  Bracha VeHatzlacha!  Hakhel Note:  Let us remember that just as the Aseres Hadibros were first heard in Fear and Awe, we, too, no matter how tired we may be should feel the awe and power of the occasion, for we are re-living through the moment once again!


G.  For Ashkenazim in Chutz LaAretz, until the Moshiach comes, Shavuos is the last time Birchas Kohanim is recited in 5772.  We wish to remind our readers that the Bi’ur Halacha (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim: 128, Introduction) brings from the Sefer Chareidim that just as the Kohanim fulfill a Mitzvas Aseh when they bless K’lal Yisroel, so, too, do the Bnei Yisroel have a part of the Mitzvah when they stand in silence and have Kavanna to receive the Bracha from the Kohanim!


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



Special Note Five:  HaRav Chaim Volozhiner, Z’tl, provides the following insights on the study of Torah, as culled from the Sefer Nefesh HaChaim (4:3), and the Sefer Ruach Chaim (on the Sixth Perek of Pirkei Avos which we will study tomorrow):


A.  The reason that one of the qualities needed to acquire Torah is:  HaOmer Davar B’Sheim Omro--to say something over in the name of one who originated it, is because by knowing who said it, one will be able to associate his other opinions that he has studied, and formulate a consistency in approach by a particular Tanna, Amora, or anyone else.  He is thus not simply amassing knowledge, but is able to associate, combine, deduce and explain.  It is therefore essential for us to try to remember the names of the Tanna, Amora, or other Torah personality who had expressed the statement--for our own Torah--and the Torah in general will be enhanced!


B.  Before studying, one should be Miharher in Yiras Hashem.  As Rebbi Chanina Ben Dosa teaches (Avos 3:11 ):  Kol Sheyiras Cheto Kodemes L’Chachmaso, Chachmaso Miskayemes--he whose fear of sin precedes his wisdom, will have his wisdom endure.  One should also have a Hirhur of Teshuvah so that his study of Torah is B’Tahara. 


C.  When a person is MeChadesh a Chiddush, he should realize that this is something that a Malach cannot do. His joy in having the privilege of learning and delving deeper into Hashem’s greatest of gifts should be Ki Nesinasam MeiSinai--as the joy we experienced when we received the Torah at Sinai.  When one learns Torah with joy for an hour, he will learn much more than if he learns without joy for several hours.  Hakhel Note:  The Sefer Eglei Tal powerfully echoes this thought with the words:  Ki Zeh He Ikar Mitzvas Limud HaTorah LiHeyos Sos V’Sameach U’Mishaneg BeLimudo VeAz Divrei Torah Nivlaim BeDamo U’MeiAchar Sheneheneh MeDivrei Torah Hu Na’aseh Davuk L’Torah--when one studies Torah for the sake of the Mitzvah and rejoices in his studies, the words of Torah become absorbed into his bloodstream, and because he has enjoyed his learning he becomes one with the Torah.”  Indeed, the Eglei Tal writes that Yetzer HaTov is Misgadel Mitoch Simcha Shel Torah.  When one learns L’Sheim Mitzvah, with joy, his Yetzer HaTov continues to become greater and greater! 


D.  An essential aspect of our Torah study is that it be Lishma.  What does Lishma mean?  According to HaRav Chaim Volozhiner, it means L’Sheim HaTorah--one must study, understand and expound upon the Torah for the sake of Torah study itself.  One must seek to get to the truth according to the best of his capabilities, and one should be driven to delve deeper and deeper into his Torah study because of his Chavivus HaTorah and Ahavas HaTorah.  One must recognize that there are two aspects to Torah--one is to know what the Torah requires in order to fulfill it--this is Yediyas HaTorah.  The second is Eisek HaTorah--making Torah study an end and not just a means to an end.  Thus, Lishma means that one must toil and study Torah in depth to gain greater and greater understanding of the Torah itself--even without the practical Mitzvah applications.  The more one delves into Torah for its own sake, the more light one sees.  The matter can be compared to entering into the King’s palace and going further and further towards the throne room from inner room to inner room--with each inner room shining with more light than the previous one.  Hakhel Note:  Based upon this Yesod, the Bais HaLevi (in his introduction to the Sefer Bais HaLevi) is able to answer the following two questions:  (A) Chazal teach that when the Bnei Yisroel said Na’aseh (we will do) before Nishma (we will hear) they merited to have two crowns--why was it only because they put Na’aseh before Nishma (we will listen) did they merit two crowns?; and (2) Why in actuality did they not say Nishma V’Na’aseh--let us listen and [then we will be able to] do--would that not have been more sensible? The answer is that these two words represent the two separate and distinct aspects of Torah study--Na’aseh--we have to know what to do, and Nishma--we have to learn Torah for its own sake.  If we had simply exclaimed Nishma V’Na’aseh--it would have appeared as if we wanted to study the Torah only in order to properly perform the Mitzvos--that there is only one reason and purpose for Torah study.  Once, however, we put the Na’aseh first, we affirmatively demonstrated that one reason to study Torah is for us to know how to properly perform the Mitzvos, and beyond that there is a separate and distinct reason--Nishmah-- the delving into Torah Lishma--for its own sake.  This is how we were zoche to two crowns--for the two distinctive and very special Kabbalos!



Special Note Six:  Matan Torah--the delivery of the infinite Blueprint from HaKadosh Baruch Hu--at no charge--to each and every one of us!  The Torah describes in unusual detail the awe of the event, and this description is also a primary focus of the brocha of Shofaros on Rosh Hashanah.  We provide below from the Sefer Ma’amad Har Sinai (by Rav Shlomo Rosner, Shlita) a small portion of the description of Matan Torah, as culled from the Gemara and Midrashim-- which forever changed world history, our history--and each of our lives.  The import, extent and unparalleled nature of the event is described in and by the Torah itself (Devorim 4:32, 33) with the words:  Ki She’al Na …--When you ask of the earlier days from the day Hashem created man on the earth, and from one end of the heaven to the other…has there ever been anything like this…has a people ever heard the voice of Hashem speaking from the midst of a fire as you have heard….?!”


Just some of the wondrous events brought by Rav Rosner, Shlita:


  1. The lightning bolts and thunder were not uniform and consistent, but were different from each other to add to the reverence and uniqueness of the occasion.  The thunder could be seen, and the lightning bolts heard.

  2. The Shofar sound did not weaken--but strengthened as it continued--and the blast could be heard worldwide.

  3. 600,000 ministering Malachim came to attend, and rested on Har Sinai itself.

  4. Har Sinai was raised from its place, and was suspended in midair with the B’nei Yisroel standing underneath it.

  5. Although many were wounded and maimed from the years of slavery in Mitzrayim, they were all healed.  Moreover, they were healed from spiritual and mental illness as well, and there were no zavim, metzoraim, or shotim.  The zuhama, the spiritual contamination planted in man by the nachash was removed from us, so that we would have the quality of Adam before the chait.

  6. The mountain itself was burning, with its fire reaching the heavens.

  7. The Seven Heavens opened up to the Kisei HaKavod--with more being revealed to the B’nei Yisroel than was revealed to Yechezkel HaNavi and Yeshaya HaNavi in their visions of the Merkava.

  8. The Seven Tehomos (Depths) below also opened, so that B’nei Yisroel understood that Hashem was singular in all worlds, and “Ain Od Milvado--there is nothing else but for Hashem.”

  9. The mountains of Tavor and Carmel in Eretz Yisroel were uprooted from their place and came to Midbar Sinai.

  10. The World was still and silent--the sun remained in one place, seas did not move, birds did nor chirp or fly, the animals were silent.  Even the Serafim did not say “Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh….”

  11. Tal, a special Dew, fell to revive the B’nei Yisroel after their souls had left them from the awe of the Dibros.

  12. The letters of each of the Aseres HaDibros could be seen as they were said.

  13. Every nation heard each Dibur in its own language, so that it could not later claim that “had it heard…”

  14. With each Dibur, the World became filled with the aroma of besamim.


We have provided above 14 special details of Matan Torah at Har Sinai.  In fact, there are 14 Azkaros--Hashem’s name is mentioned a total of 14 times--in the Aseres HaDibros.  The Tashbatz writes that there are also 14 Azkaros in the Sheva Brachos that we recite at a Chasuna and the days following in celebration.  Indeed, a Great Wedding is taking place this Shavuos--and **you ** are one of the Ba’alei Simcha--so celebrate!



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


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


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


As we take the Heaven’s treasure over the Chag, we should especially remember that the Torah uses the word “simcha” twice in discussing the holiday of Shavuos.  Our joy is twofold, for we not only received the Torah on that great day 3,324 years ago, but we commit to take this remarkable gift, compared to water and fire, to bread and wine, to milk and honey, and use it as our daily guide to navigate the pathways of Heaven on Earth.  A real Shavuos inspiration should bring us to remember this primacy throughout the year--especially at those very times when the Heavens feel oh so distant.  A Torah bite at lunch, a shiur on CD in the car between errands, a vort before going to sleep, sharing a Torah thought with a friend while exercising, all serve to remove those roadblocks, eliminate the weighty sandbags, and raise us up very high--as we see the Earth meeting our Heaven!






3 Sivan 5772

Special Note One:  We continue our Monday/Thursday listing of the Mitzvos Asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times, as set forth in his Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar.  Today, we present Mitzvos 12 and 13:


12.  Mezuzah.  We must affix a Mezuzah to each doorpost and gatepost as evidenced by a lintel and two side posts.   The Mezuzah contains two Parshios--that of Shema and VeHaya Im Shamoa.  Every person, man and woman alike, must be careful with the Mitzvah of Mezuzah.  The Chofetz Chaim quotes from the language of the Rambam in Hilchos Mezuzah:  Each time one enters and leaves the room and passes through the door way he is greeted by the Mezuzah’s declaration of the Oneness of Hashem, and this should raise a person’s awareness of Hashem’s love for him.  Each such awareness is to arouse a person from his slumber and his mistaken notions about the frivolities of this world--instead realizing that the only thing that lasts forever is our knowledge of Hashem.  Upon internalizing this awareness, a person sets his head on straight and wherever he is going--will go on the proper path! 


13.  Birkas HaMazon.  One must bless Hashem after eating bread, provided he is satiated.  The Rabanan added that one is required to recite Birkas HaMazon if he ate even a K’zayis of bread, although not satiated.  Chazal (Brachos 35A) teach that we derive from Birkas HaMazon that we must make brachos before we eat as well.  As Chazal state:  “If one blesses Hashem after he eats--then all the more so should he bless Hashem before he eats!”  The Mitzvah applies to men, and with respect to women there is a safek as to whether the obligation is a Torah requirement or whether the Mitzvah is MiD’Rabanan. 



Special Note Two:  We continue with our study of the Third Bracha of Shemone Esrei.  The next phrase in the bracha is:  U’Kedoshim Bechol Yom Yehalelucha Selah--and holy ones praise You every day forever.”  There is a difference of opinion among the commentaries as to whom the Kedoshim are--as some say we are refering to the Malochim, and some say that we are referring to K’lal Yisroel as a people [perhaps one can keep both explanations in mind!].  Whether it is, in fact, the Malochim and/or K’lal Yisroel--the next words, which describe what the Kedoshim do, is extremely telling.  They:


Bechol Yom--every day--without fail!


Yehalelucha--will praise you [Note especially the rare use of the term ‘Hallel’ in the daily davening and certainly in the Shemone Esrei itself.  Where else do you find it in Shemone Esrei?] We suggest that the term of Hallel is used, because it is apparently the most appropriate term for how Kedoshim are to express themselves to Hashem!


Selah--forever [Note once again the rare use of the term ‘Selah’ both in the daily davening and in Shemone Esrei itself.  Where else do you find it in Shemone Esrei?]  We suggest that the term Selah is meant to teach us that our recognition of Hashem’s loftiness over us will continue even in the time of greatly elevated spirit.  Certainly now, then, must we recognize His Mastery over the universe, over the world--and over us!



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


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


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


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



Special Note Four:  We provide some points and pointers on Torah Study:


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


B.  Chazal (Shabbos 31A) teach that one of the first questions a person will be asked after 120 years is whether “Kavata Itim L’Torah--Did you have designated times for Torah study daily?”  The Levush (Yoreh Deah 246:1) writes that by usage of the plural “Itim”--times, Chazal are teaching that we must set aside some Torah study time by day **and** by night (i.e., at least  a few minutes immediately after Ma’ariv, or before going to bed).  In this regard, the Sefer Piskei Teshuvos (Volume 2, Page 304) brings from other noted sources that during these designated times for Torah study, one should view himself as not being in Olam Hazeh, but rather in Gan Eden before the Shechina.  See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, Chapters 155 and 238 on this vital topic.


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


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


D.  The Sefer Pele Yoetz (under the heading “Kesiva”) teaches that a person should physically write down nuances that he discovers in his Torah study--whether big or small--for through writing he brings  the Torah in a demonstrable way into this world, and it is as if he actually taught Torah “to the multitudes.”  Perhaps one can keep his own notebook, and over time marvel at how much he actually accomplished!


E.  When studying, one should feel the sublime joy of the opportunity to study Torah, as well as the joy of the study itself.  Along with the joy, one should also feel and appreciate the sweetness of Torah.  As we pray **every day** as part of our Brocha over the Torah, “V’Haarev Na…”--please, Hashem, sweeten the words of Your Torah in our mouth and in the mouth of Your people--for this, too, is an essential aspect of growth in Torah.


F.  The Zohar (Parshas Vayaishev) writes that if someone puts in the effort to study Torah in this world, even if he does not understand or remember what he learned, he will have the knowledge and understanding that he strived for in this world--but also in a more important world--Olam Haba.  As we recite when we complete our day of study, or when we complete a particular tractate or portion of Torah: “For they toil and we toil--they toil and do not receive reward (i.e., they may not see the fruits of their labor), but we toil and [definitely] receive reward.”  In other words, there is no such thing as a “failed business venture” or an “unsuccessful business project” in Torah--there is only success!



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


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


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


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


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




2 Sivan 5772

Special Note One:  Today is the Yom HaMeyuchas--the day upon which Hashem told Bnei Yisroel:  V’Heyisem Li Segulah Mikol HoAmim (Shemos 19:5, and Rashi there)--You shall be to Me the most beloved treasure of all peoples”.  What a great day--to be declared the greatest treasure of all peoples by the Creator of all!  Accordingly, today, we should try to perform at least one Mitzvah with at least a little more preparation, kavannah, and real glowing--knowing and showing that you are--literally--Hashem’s prized possession!


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



Special Note Two:  As noted yesterday, this month s mazal is Teumim (Gemini, or twins).  The Sefer HaTodaah by Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov, Z tl, suggests that the reason for this is that both Moshe Rabbeinu and Aharon HaKohen were together essential in bringing the Torah to our people.


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


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


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


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


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


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



Special Note Three: As we move closer to Shavuos, we begin to sense a greater closeness to climbing the mountain itself.  During this special period, the Yetzer Hara may be at serious work, actually attempting for us to have a yerida, rather than an aliyah.  He has many techniques and trials available to challenge you with at this time:  This may go wrong with davening, that may go wrong with learning.  This may go wrong at work, that may go wrong at home....  We must especially bolster ourselves, and if there is, in fact, a yerida, we should try to make sure that it instead takes us to a further aliyah.  Rather than stumbling, or even despairing from any new, unique or strange pre-Shavuos circumstances or situations--we should use it to propel us higher up the mountain.  As Chazal teach, Lefum Tza'ara Agra--according to the necessary effort (such as a steeper mountain) is the fruit born. 


In this important regard, Rabbi Eliyahu Schneider, Shlita, provides a great observation.  He explains that Pesach and Sukkos may, at least in theory, begin on their own simply by closing your doors at home, driving to a hotel, handing them your credit card, and taking pleasure in the days of Yom Tov.  No, preparation, no sweat in advance--and hopefully enjoying Oneg and Simchas Yom Tov with family and/or friends!  Shavuos, however, is very different, as its name indicates.  There is no Matzah or Seder as there is inherent in Pesach, nor is there a Sukkah to dwell in or a Lulav and Esrog to take, as is part and parcel of Chag HaSukkos.  Instead, the essence of the Yom Tov is the ‘Shavuos’--the weeks that precede it--that lead up in preparation to the Yom Tov.  Only after, as the Torah refers to it, the Sheva Shabbosos Temimos, can we celebrate Shavuos!  There are no particular Mitzvah or Mitzvos associated with this Yom Tov at all, because the preparation for our Kabbalos HaTorah is the essence of the Yom Tov--and the climax is in our hands reaching up and out as we reach the top of the mountain! 


So, in addition to preparing for Shavuos Holiday itself (see previous note), we need to take the time out now to implement the lessons of the word Shavuos itself.  What will I begin in Torah study that is new?  What is it that I will reinforce?  How can I make sure that I will enter Shavuos in the aftermath and light of the previous Shavuos?  Hashem has blessed us with a mind to use.  Let us use it for this most sublime and lofty of purposes--which literally fulfills our lives, and even more literally fulfills the world!



Special Note Four:  Those who completed Seder Kodshim in Daf Yomi, should especially appreciate the following lesson from the last Mesechta studied--Mesechta Tomid:  The Pasuk (Tehillim 85:5) teaches us “Go from strength to strength, and appear before Hashem in Tzion.” The Targum on this Pasuk incredibly explains that going from strength to strength means that one should go from the Beis Hamikdosh to the Beis HaMidrash.  Each person should take his own personal steps to truly appreciate the awe he should feel upon his entry into the Beis HaMidrash, for one even goes from the Beis Hamikdosh itself to go into the Beis HaMidrash!  Note:  The Rosh, as well as the Tiferes Yisroel (Mishnayos Tamid 4, seif katan 63) prove from the Mishna there that the Kohanim who were serving in the Beis Hamikdosh actually left the area of the Mizbe’achstanding in front of the Heichal and the Kodesh Hakodoshim in order to go into the Lishkas Hagozis (where the Sanhedrin Hagadol learned and judged) in order to say Shema and daven—for Torah was studied there, and accordingly their Tefillos would be more accepted there than in the actual Azarah of the Beis HaMikdosh facing the Kodesh Hakodoshim itself!  Hakhel Note:  Let us take this to heart when there is an opportunity for us to daven in a place where there is learning going on--and especially in a place where we ourselves learn.  One’s Tefillah is clearly especially potent when emanating from a place of Torah--and especially one’s own. 



Special Note Five:  We once again provide several Piskei Halacha of HaRav Elyashiv, Shlita, (may he have a Refuah Shleimah BeKarov) relating to Shavuos, as provided in the three volume work of HaRav Elyashiv’s Pesakim, entitled Ashrei HaIsh authored by Rav Yechezkel Feinhandler, Shlita:


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



Special Note Six:  We continue with our study of the Third Bracha of Shemone Esrei.  The next phrase in the bracha is ‘VeShimcha Kadosh--and Your Name is Holy’.  HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, explains that with this phrase we express that not only is Hashem’s Existence and Power elevated beyond our comprehension, but even in the ways in which we do know of Him (Shimcha--His Name), we cannot and do not know Him completely--but only to the extent of limited human understanding.  We recognize, for instance, Hashem’s Rachmanus, Koach, Mishpat, Memshalah--but only in a manner in which our finite minds can comprehend it.  Even in the future, when we will look back and understand the events of our lives and of history--the Ramchal (in the Sefer Da’as Tevunos) writes that this understanding will nevertheless be:  Ketipah Min HaYam HaGadol--like a drop from a large sea.”  Thus, the bracha inspires within us an elevated level of awe--as we declare our inability to fathom Hashem’s greatness not only in realms that we do not understand (Atta Kadosh)--but even in the realm of VeShimcha Kadosh--the ways in which Hashem reveals Himself within the very world all around us!




1 Sivan 5772



1. Today we begin the cycle of the Sefer Praying with Fire II, which is an absolutely outstanding Sefer on Emunah and on the advanced (but not esoteric) study of Tefillah.

We provide below the moving words of the Sefer Chovos HaLevavos on the sheer importance of appropriate focus on proper Tefillah.  The translation below is substantially excerpted from the outstanding Feldheim English translation Duties of the Heart:


“Look into the meaning of the words of your Tefillos, and the intention of their contents, so that when you recite them before Hashem you will understand the words you are uttering and what it is that your heart is asking for.  Do not [continue to] act in a haphazard fashion, without understanding the meaning [of what you are saying].  Contemplate them, and give them the benefit of the doubt.  Do not rely on what you understood at the beginning of your studies, but demand of yourself that you approach the subject as though you were just beginning to study it.  What you understand, remember and review.  If you are in doubt about something, consult those wiser than you and examine it in a way that you never did before.  Let not conceit lead you to think that you are no more intelligent now than you always were, or that it is impossible that you would ever change previously held views or come to judge them as erroneous.  For such [thoughts] are part of the evil inclination’s attempt to deceive you, to keep you from exploring and searching for the truth of things.  It will instill in you the delusion that you are supremely wise and that you lack nothing of what you need [to know].  As the Wise One said: “In his own eyes, a lazy man is wiser than seven who answer with sound advice” (Mishlei 26:16); “If you see a man who is wise in his own eyes, [know that] there is more hope for a fool than for him” (ibid. 26:12).”  Hakhel Note:  If one studies, he not only gains knowledge--but demonstrates that he wants to gain knowledge--and defeats his Yetzer Hara in the process, who attempts to make him lowly, in the process!  We are tempted to, but will not, (because you are too old for it) provide a money-back guarantee for all of those who purchase Praying with Fire II and go through the cycle--and do not have a greater appreciation and understanding of what Emunah is, and how, when and why to daven!


2.  Today, we also begin the first day in the new cycle of the Sefer Chofetz Chaim and in its related English language Seforim.  How can we re-energize ourselves in this life-giving cycle, which has provided (and will continue to provide) personal Yeshuos for so many--and will hopefully hasten the Geulah Sheleima in our day?  Once again, we provide the following rejuvenation suggestions for the coming Shemiras HaLashon cycle HaBa’ah Aleinu LeTova:


A.  Learn as a Zechus for something or someone in particular, and so state before each study session.


B.  Read the daily portion out loud, instead of just with your eyes.


C.  Change the Sefer that you learned the last cycle, as there are so many wonderful Seforim to choose from.


D.  Spend five-ten minutes to learn the daily portion with a family member or friend.  A Chavrusa always helps sharpen the study, and gives chizuk to its members.


E.  Even if you cannot learn with a Chavrusa, make it a point to talk to someone about the day’s study.


F.  Keep the Sefer you are learning on your desk or table at home as a daily reminder for Shemiras HaLashon. 


G.  Pass on the following information to as many people as you can, and keep it on hand to continuously pass on:  To order Shemiras Halashon tapes, books, learning programs and the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation’s free catalog call at 866-593-8399.  For free Shiurim in the Sefer Chofetz Chaim call the Chazal Hotline at 718-258-2008 (press 5).  For the Shemiras HaLashon Shailah Hotline (expert Poskim in Shemiras HaLashon to anonymously answer your real-life Shailah before saying the right or wrong thing), please call 718-951-3696, between the hours of 9:00PM until 10:30PM (EST).


H.  Observe a one or two hour Machsom L’fi daily.  For further information on Machsom L’fi please call 845-352-3505.


I.  Recite the complete Tefillah of the Chofetz Chaim on Shemiras HaLashon daily--provided by clicking here.   The Chofetz Chaim himself writes at the end of the Sefer Chovos HaShemira that one should recite this Tefillah in the morning after davening, or at any other time that he is able.  There is, of course, a shortened version of this Tefillah--but recitation of the extended version may demonstrate a re-dedication on your part for the new cycle. 


J.  Many high schools and elementary schools now have programs through the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation in Shemiras HaLashon.  Make it a point to ask your child or another child what they learned to be mechazek them.


K.  Check yourself at the end of each day before retiring--and determine whether you have stopped yourself from speaking or listening to Lashon Hora or Rechilus at least one time during the day. 





Special Note One:  We continue with our study of the Third Bracha of Shemone Esrei.  The Tur (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 114) writes that there are 14 words in the bracha of Atta Kadosh (Nusach Ashkenaz), which correspond to the 14 words of the Pasuk in Yeshaya (6:3) “VeKara Zeh El Zeh V’Amar Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh Hashem Tzevakos Meloh Kol Ha’aretz Kevodo--and they called out one to the other and said Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh…”  Thus, in our personal recitation of the bracha we are emulating the Kedusha that is said B’Tzibbur.  The Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 125 seif katan 4) reminds us that when actually reciting the Kedusha we should have in mind that we want to be Mekadesh Shem Shomayim and fulfill the Pasuk of V’Nikdashti Besoch Bnei Yisroel.  He then especially brings the Sefer Heichalos, which teaches that when we recite the words Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh [and Baruch Hashem Bimikomo] our eyes should be raised towards Shomayim, and then it is an outstanding moment of connection between us and Hashem as we do so.  In fact, the Sefer Heichalos brings that when we lift up our eyes towards the Heavens, Hashem kevayachol ‘looks towards us as well’, and remembers our merits and hastens the Geulah.  We may suggest that the 14 words of Atta Kadosh in our private Shemone Esrei are a great remembrance of (and, for men davening with a Minyan, preparation for) this enormous event and opportunity!



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



Special Note Three:  The oft-quoted words of HaRav Boruch Ber Lebowitz, Z’TL, Rosh HaYeshiva of the Kamenitz Yeshiva is quoted in Growth Through Torah (p.287) as follows: “What can I compare to my situation?  I wake up in the morning, and it is as though I have the Shaagas Aryeh, the Ketzos HaChoshen and Rebbe Akiva Eiger at my bedside.  I can’t wait to wash my hands and arise to my riches!”


Truth be told, the riches referred to by Rav Boruch Ber are not unique to Roshei Yeshivos or world renowned Talmidei Chachomim, but, as Shlomo HaMelech teaches in Mishlei ( 3:14 ) “For its [the Torah’s] commerce is better than the commerce of silver, and its gain [is better] than fine gold.”  We must remember that unlike money, which is fixed, objective and extrinsic (you put it in your pocket--not in your heart or brain), Torah is so infinite, subjective and internal that it relates to every single person living at any time in his own way and on his own particular level.  In fact HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, learns that when the Gemara (Nidah 30B) teaches that an Angel learns Torah with a fetus in his mother’s womb--it does not necessarily refer to all of Torah, but **TO THAT PERSON’S **chelek, or part, in Torah.  While we are expected to cover some ground in Torah, in no event will two individuals’ quantity or quality of learning be the same.


It is truly a primary responsibility to discover our part in Torah, in at least the same way as we try to be successful in our business, at our jobs, or even when shopping.  Not always is what is easy or convenient most meaningful.  The G’ra writes in Sefer Evan Sheleima that one can go to many lectures, and hear many “shmuessen”--but ultimately a person’s strategy must come from within--from his particular self-knowledge, to be successful.  As succinctly stated by Hillel in Avos ( 1:14 )--”If I am not for myself who will be for me?”


As we reach closer and closer to Shavuos, we all, men, women and children alike, should begin to prepare for the “closing”--for the acquisition of something more precious than anything we can even imagine.  Somehow the coveted contract is ours--unbelievably, we are the purchasers!  So what can we do to prepare for this day?  Each person must reflect upon, research and study what he is going to do with his new acquisition.  Is he learning enough now?  What is his potential?  What must he change?  Will he leave more learning to retirement age--even though the wisest of all men has already told him which business is more important?


At the Internet Asifa, Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman, Shlita, suggested that perhaps we select an “Internet Mesechta” [or “Internet Mishnayos”, or “Internet Sefer Tanach”] which one studies in lieu of the few minutes he would have otherwise engaged in himself in ‘traveling about’ or reading interesting items on the Internet.


The first step in all events is reflection.


This reflection can be accomplished by actually sitting down with a pad and paper and an open mind.  This is by no means limited to men--there are many Halachos and Hashkafos, shiurim, books and self-study that are imperative for women, as well.


We ** ALL ** should wake up every morning to our riches at our bedside--why leave them in the locked Bais HaMidrash?



Special Note Four:  It is now about one week to Shavuos…and counting (Baruch Hashem)!  We should remember that in addition to our commemoration of receiving the Torah, there are other mitzvos associated with Shavuos.


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


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


Thirdly, we should remember that there are certain mitzvos relating to the Yom Tov--actually, essential to the Yom Tov--which we will be unable to perform this Shavuos unless the Moshiach arrives first.  The Mitzvos of Aliyah L’Regel to the Bais HaMikdash--yes, even for only one day; the various Karbonos, including the special Kivsei Atzeres, Shtai Halechem, Olas Re’iya, Shalmei Chagiga and Korbanos Musaf are all physically and spiritually, shatteringly and irreplaceably, lost from us if the Moshiach does not come.


At the very least, we should attempt to study these Mitzvos as a preparation for or at least on Yom Tov itself, so that we are not totally forsaken of them.  For starters, one can study the Sefer HaChinuch, the Siddur Bais Yaakov of HaRav Yaakov Emden, or even easier, the Parshios of the Torah relating to these many Mitzvos. We should also purposefully daven over the next week that we fully and finally celebrate this Shavuos with the Shechina in Yerushalayim Ir Hakodesh!



29 Iyar 5772

Special Note One:  We continue our Monday/Thursday listing of the Mitzvos Asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times, as set forth in his Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar.  Today, we present Mitzvos 10 and 11:


10.  Tzitzis.  The Mitzvah is to place Tzitzis on a four (or more) cornered garment, or if greater than four corners, on the four extreme coorners.  The minimum size of one’s Tzitzis should be the size that would cover the head and most of the body of a child of an age that would travel himself in the marketplace.  According to the Sefer HaMitzvos HaKatzar, a garment made out of wool or flax is required to have Tzitzis MiD’oraysah, while a garment made out of any other material (including cotton) is required to have Tzitzis MiD’Rabanan [see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 9:1, and Mishna Berurah, Seif Katan 5 for further detail as to the Halacha LeMa’aseh here, and as to how a Yirei Shomayim should conduct himself].  If one wore a four (or more) cornered garment and did not put on Tzitzis, he has negated the Mitzvah.  A child who knows how to perform ituf with his Tzitzis is of an age where he should don Tzitzis (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 8 as to the meaning of ituf).  One must be very careful with the Mitzvah of Tzitzis, for the Pasuk itself refers to all of the other Mitzvos in its light--as the Pasuk states:  U’Re’isem Oso U’Zechartem Es Kol Mitzvos Hashem--by looking at his Tzitzis, he will remember all of the other Mitzvos as well.”  This Mitzvah applies to men but not to women. 


11.  Kriyas Shema.  The Mitzvah is to read Kriyas Shema in the morning and evening, as the Pasuk states:  U’Beshachbecha U’Vekumecha”.  The First Parsha of Kriyas Shema has within it the Mitzvah of Yichud Hashem (Mitzvah 2, as presented earlier), the Mitzvah of Ahavas Hashem (Mitzvah 3, as presented earlier) and the Mitzvah of Talmud Torah, which “is the yased--the spike upon which ‘everything is suspended’ as well.  The Second Parshas of Kriyas Shema has within it the Kabbalas Ohl HaMitzvos.  The Third Parsha of Shema has within it the Mitzvah of Tzitzis (which includes the remembrance of all the Mitzvos, as above), and the Mitzvah of Zechiras Yetzias Mitzrayim.  This Mitzvah applies to men but not to women.


Hakhel Test:  Do you remember the first 11 Mitzvos to date?



Special Note Two:  We continue with our Nineteen Week Shemone Esrei Project, with this week’s focus on the Third Bracha of Shemone Esrei.  HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, in the Sefer Sifsei Chaim cogently explains the term Atta Kadosh as follows:  The height of human capability in Ruchniyus does not attain the level of any Malach in the upper worlds, and the Ruchniyus of the highest Malach in the upper worlds has no connection to the Ruchniyus of HaKadosh Baruch Hu Himself.  Thus, if we cannot perceive of the Ruchniyus of a Malach, then we most certainly have no perception of the Ruchniyus of Hashem--which is beyond the Malochim.  So, the phrase Atta Kadosh brings home the notion that we have no Hasaga, no understanding at all of the Essence of Hakadosh Baruch Hu.  Our recognition of Hashem’s Greatness and separateness leads us to hisbatlus, our recognition of our position in this world in relation to Hashem’s Greatness.  As we recite the words Atta Kadosh, we should be inspired with awe--from the depth, meaning, and lesson of this two-word phrase!



Special Note Three:  Let us now continue on the theme of awe.  Each one of the Shalosh Regalim is K’Neged one of the Avos.  Pesach--Avraham; Shavuos--Yitzchok, and Succos--Yaakov.  The relationships between each Chag and each Av is clear.  Our Avodah then, the service of Hashem that we look to, for Shavuos, is the particular service for which Yitzchok Avinu is most noted.  Yitzchok’s trait is Avodah and Yirah--Service of Hashem with awe.  Matan Torah demonstrates our acceptance, over all of the other nations of the world, of Avodas Hashem, and we recall the Yirah--the awe of Matan Torah itself--every day in Birchas HaTorah as we recite the words “VeNasan Lanu Es Torah-so”.  In fact, Rav Shlomo Wolbe, Z’tl, said that he heard from his Rebbe, R’ Yeruchem Levovitz, Z’tl, that we received the Torah in order for us to always remember the Yirah of that day!


As we are now a week before Shavuos, we should consciously prepare not by searching for Chometz or building a Sukkah, but by thinking about the eternally awesome sight of Matan Torah, and by thinking about “Shivisi Hashem L’Negdi Samid--placing Hashem’s Presence before us”--at different points of the day.  In this way, we will raise our level of Awe before Him--throughout the day.


Additional Note:  Just as each one of the Shalosh Regalim is K’neged each one of the Avos, so too, is each one of our daily Tefillos instituted by a different one of the Avos:  Avrohom--Shacharis, Yitzchok--Mincha, and Yaakov--Ma’ariv.  It would behoove us then, as we strive to emulate Yitzchak Avinu, to improve the Avodah of our Tefillas Mincha in the coming week, as well.  It is no secret that of the three Tefillos, Mincha is the most difficult to focus upon, for it is strategically placed in the middle and course of one’s daily activities.  We can well understand why it is that Chazal tell us that “A person must always be careful with Tefillas Mincha, for Eliyahu HaNavi was answered against the hundreds of Nevi’ei HaBa’al at this time.”  Let us make the extra-special effort in the coming week at Mincha time, so that we build toward the Avodah and Yirah of Yitzchak on Shavuos--and become Zoche to receive the Torah as expected of us--through the Middos of Yitzchok Avinu!



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


Additional Note:  In this very special time, perhaps we can consider purchasing some Sefarim (which may include Chumashim and Siddurim) for our Shuls and Batei Midrashim.  In this way, we are helping others to cling on to Torah and Avodah as well!



Special Note Five:  Chazal (Horios 13B) list items which cause one to forget one’s learning, and items which assist one to remember one’s learning.  One of the items that causes one to forget one’s learning is when one is ‘HaRagil B’Zaisim (one who is used to eat olives), and one that has a positive effect on learning is when one is ‘HaRagil B’Shemen Zayis(one who is used to using olive oil).  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, points out that the Torah’s admonition of “Rak Hishamer Lecha U’Shemor Nafshecha Me’od Pen Tishkach--only beware for yourself lest you forget...” (Devarim 4:9), may very well apply to one who is lax in this area and acts without concern regarding items which cause one to forget their learning.  He recalls that the Steipeler, Z’tl, would basically not eat olives, because he was unsure as to what the standard was of ‘Regilus’--one who is ‘used to’ consuming olives.  Hakhel Note:  When we find things in Chazal (and in Halacha) which are Kashe LeShichecha (cause a person to forget), we should take them quite seriously--as the precious amount of Torah that we do possess is at the epitome of our accomplishments--which we must do our utmost to retain!



26 Iyar 5772

Special Note One:  Two important points relating to the Mitzvah of Tefillin, noted yesterday as Mitzvos 8/9 in the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar of the Chofetz Chaim.  Remember--the Chofetz Chaim writes that each Parsha is a separate Mitzvah--so that one fulfills eight Mitzvos Asei when he properly wears his Tefillin!


1.  Hakhel’s experience in the Tefillin Awareness Program has shown that MOST people, even the most learned, needed adjustments to their Tefillin.   Rav Yisroel Belsky, Shlita, writes: “So many of the most well-meaning individuals have gotten into the habit of misplacing their Tefillin.”  Rav Simcha Bunim Cohen, Shlita, quoted in Mishpacha: “Even Yidden who are scrupulously observant in every area of their lives are often unable to fulfill this basic mitzvah properly.”Rav Aharon Kahn, Shlita, writes: “In their innocence, many Ehrliche Yidden are not Mekayeim Mitzvas Tefillin.”  Accordingly, we once again provide our Tefillin Awareness Program contact information:  shelrosh@comcast.net.  Please bring the merit of this Program to your Shul or community!


2.  By the following link--  http://tinyurl.com/ctwfmcs we provide an extremely important article written by Rabbi Doniel Neustadt, Shlita, entitled Mitzvas Tefillin: Questions and Answers.  At the end of the article, one will find meaningful information on how one can join the Worldwide Kedushas Tefillin Program.



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



Special Note Three:  We conclude our focus on the Second Bracha of Shemone Esrei.  HaRav Yonasan Eibishitz, Z’tl, in his Sefer Ya’aros Devash, writes that the bracha of Gevuros incorporates within it the Gevurah of Hashem in accepting our Teshuva--for our sins cause our souls to diminish and decay through the tumah created.  Kareis is, likewise, the result of a severe sin cutting off the soul from its connection to the Above.  When a person does Teshuvah, Hashem remarkably cleanses the soul of the tumah and/or rebuilds the soul.  Thus, Hashem’s acceptance of Teshuvah is in the realm of Techiyas HaMeisim as well.  So, when we thank Hashem for Techiyas HaMeisim in this bracha--we are not only referring to the Techiyas HaMeisim of bodies in the future, but the Techiyas HaMeisim of our souls in the here and now!  Remember--Chazal teach that Reshaim in this lifetime are referred to as ‘Meisim’--and Tzaddikim are referred to as ‘Chaim’.  We have to get the message!


Additional Note: Because so much of the Bracha of Gevuros does refer to Techiyas HaMeisim, which certainly incorporates the ultimate Techiyas HaMeisim, we review the following thought on Techiyas HaMeisim:


The Chofetz Chaim (Chovas Hashemira, Chapter 13) ponders the following question: A person takes out insurance on his house, so that if, c’v a fire occurs, he will have enough funds to rebuild his home.  But a house is made only of wood or brick and it is only a safek that it will actually burn down.  A person’s body, on the other hand, which is so holy that it houses the neshama, will certainly be consumed in the end, because all people die. Why does not everyone purchase Techiyas HaMeisim Insurance, in order to insure that his body will come back to life at Techiyas HaMeisim?!  Neither cash nor a broker is needed to purchase this important insurance.  The Chofetz Chaim explains that Techiyas HaMeisim Insurance is the study of Torah. As the Posuk (Yeshaya 26:19) teaches “Hakitzu V’Ranenu Shochnei Ofor Ki Tal Oros Talecha”--Awaken and sing you who dwell in the dust, for the Dew of Light [of Torah] is Your Dew”--this, Chazal explain, will be what allows our revival at Techiyas HaMeisim (Kesubos 111B).  The Chofetz Chaim goes on to teach that the Light of Torah that will revive a person can actually be a combination of his Torah, the Torah of others that he supports and even the Torah of his children that he sends through Yeshiva. It would seem that just as with insurance, where the larger the face amount of the policy, the larger is the amount that will be collected, so too with Techiyas HaMeisim Insurance, the more Torah to one’s credit, the more…


Now, is there anything that specifically prevents one from arising at Techiyas HaMeisim?  The Chofetz Chaim (ibid.) quoting Chazal (Sotah 5A) states that the sin of ga’avah (arrogance) prevents a person’s earth from moving during Techiyas HaMeisim.  Additionally, lending money with ribbis prevents one from arising (Pirkei D’Rebbe Eliezer 33).  Even if a Heter Iska is used, the Chofetz Chaim writes, one must make sure that it is properly completed in order for it to be valid.  The Chofetz Chaim (Dovor B’ito, Chapter 2) also writes that lack of proper care in matters of kashrus will also cause a person great difficulty at the time of Techiyas HaMeisim. His proof is clear: The chait of Adam HaRishon, which was eating from the Eitz Hadaas, brought death to Adam HaRishon and death to the world, because the consumed sin traveled through the bloodstream and infected his entire body and consequently, the bodies of all future generations. One who consumes ma’acholos asuros in his lifetime, without exercising the proper care, likewise infects his entire body and demonstrates that he has not learned from the chait of Adam Harishon, who was punished with death. How then can such a person awaken from his death at Techiyas HaMeisim?! In fact, the Chofetz Chaim answers that in such a case, one’s body will then require a ‘Tikun Norah’ or, as he also puts it, a “dreadful operation,” to remove the horrible infection in all of the limbs and organs of the body caused by ma’acholos asuros, in order to make him worthy to arise. With this idea, we can understand the words of the Mesilas Yesharim (Chapter 11) who writes that forbidden food is poison, and that one should take the same steps to avoid it as one takes precautions to avoid death.  One should never indifferently or naively put the blame on the mashgiach at a hotel catered affair, Shabbos retreat or restaurant--for it is your body, and your Techiyas HaMeisim!  One must be careful to avoid these pitfalls--and insure himself with the light of Torah!



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


A.  In our Zemiros, we recite that one permissible activity on Shabbos is ‘Tinok LeLamdo Sefer’--to teach a child.  Although, one may thus tutor a child on Shabbos and receive pay ‘BeHavla’ah’ (a Rav should be consulted with any Shailos), one is not permitted to actually hire a tutor or teacher on Shabbos--even if it is for the study of Torah or any other Mitzvah (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 90:5). 


B.  In our Zemiros we also recite that ‘Hirhurim Mutarim’--one may think about mundane matters.  As we have previously noted, Rashi (Shemos 20:9) writes that this should preferably not be done, and the Tur already rules it cannot be done if it will cause distress. There is one additional point here. It is only permitted to think about mundane matters when it is not obvious that one is thinking them.  Thus, one cannot study with his eyes advertisements in the newspaper, financial information and mundane records--for it is evident that, although he is not speaking about them--he is thinking about them. 


C.  If one is wearing a cloth bandage on his hand on Shabbos, the Dirshu Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 162) writes that one should be careful about getting it wet--as it may involve issues of libun--cleansing the item. If one needs to wear a cast or bandage, he should consult with his Rav or Posek as to how Netilas Yodaim can and should be accomplished--both during the week--and on Shabbos!


D.  One of the most complex Melachos on Shabbos to apply in particular situations is the Melacha of Lisha, colloquially known as  kneading--but really a much more pervasive halacha which applies to food and non-food items alike (play-dough has Lisha issues).  In The Shabbos Kitchen (Artscroll), Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen, Shlita, defines Lisha as:  “The binding together of small particles by means of a binding agent for form one mass”.  Causing a loose mixture to become thicker is also Lisha, if this is done by adding flour or particles to it. On the other hand, if a liquid causes a solid substance to break apart and disintegrate into a loose mixture, there is no question of Lisha, as long as the resulting mixture is not stirred. Thus, it is permitted to soak matzah in soup or cookies in milk because these solid foods tend to disintegrate when placed in contact with liquids. (The 39 Melachos by Rabi Dovid Ribiat, Shlita, II: p.540).  Next Erev Shabbos, we hope to continue with practical examples of what could be or become Lisha--and how to avoid them!  



Special Note Five: In the first of this week’s two Parshios, Behar, we find one of the paradigm mitzvos given to us by Hashem in order to affirm and strengthen our Bitachon—trust--the mitzvah of Shemitah.  We are incredibly commanded to let the source of our Parnassah lay fallow and open to all, and are, in turn, promised that we will be (according to the laws of nature, miraculously) sustained and actually will prosper until new crops begin to grow again in the eighth year (Vayikra 25:21).  It is important, very important, for us to realize, however, that the mitzvah of Bitachon is not related only to the Sabbatical Year--or even to the strict requirement that we not work one day a week on Shabbos Kodesh.  Rather, our Bitachon is built-up of even smaller building blocks, tangible to all on a very recurring basis.


With this awareness, HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’TL, (Sifsei Chaim, Middos V’Avodas Hashem volume I, page 587) writes that we can better understand the words of the Shelah HaKadosh (on the topic “Emes V’Emuna”).  The Shelah teaches that prior to undertaking any act or item of accomplishment such as buying, selling, meeting with someone, etc. one should say “Ani Botayach BaShem--I believe in Hashem,” recognizing that the act and its outcome is totally in Hashem’s hands, and then relate it to the specific action or event in front of you.  This recognition, appreciation, and actual statement, will have the added benefit of forging a greater bond between your infinite Father and you as his son, and will help to eliminate some of the worst human character traits possible--anger at people for what they have done or not done for you; jealousy of others who were successful in doing the same thing when you were not; and haughtiness and pride over your personal ingenuity and craftiness. 


Rebbe Yisroel Salanter, Z’TL, in letters to his son on Bitachon (Ohr Yisroel, Letters 24-25), additionally advises him to draw upon the words of our Tefilos, and the words of Tehillim, to inspire and develop a full faith and trust that our very being--and our every being--is in Hashem’s great Hands.  For example, we recite in Pesukei D’Zimra, “Ashrei SheKel Yaakov B’Ezro”--Praiseworthy is one whose hope is in Hashem--He is the Maker of Heaven and Earth, the sea and all that is in them, He safeguards truth forever….  In fact, once you take note, you will find that Pesukim relating to Bitachon abound--”Kavei El Hashem…” (Tehillim 27:14); “Einai Tomid El Hashem…” (Tehillim 25:15)….


Bitachon is such a crucial aspect of our existence.  We must take the time out to be fluent with a few Pesukim (from our davening or otherwise) relating to Bitachon which should calm us and put the actions and events of our life in Torah perspective, and follow the advice of the Shelah HaKadosh--start by saying the words “Ani Boteyach Ba’Shem” in the everyday and the not-so everyday circumstances and occurrences that we face or that come our way--no--that Hashem brings our way!!



25 Iyar 5772

QUOTE OF THE DAY :  On the Mishna (Avos 4:1) of “Aizehu Ashir HaSameach BeChelko--who is wealthy, one who is happy with his lot”, Rashi provides the following insight:  Afilu Ashir SheBeAshirim, VeDo’eg VeAtzeiv BeChelko--HaRei Hu KeAni SheBe’aniyim--even the wealthiest of people who is worried or upset with his monetary situation, is like the poorest of the poor….” 



BE CAREFUL OF THE WET TOWEL!  We are all familiar with the concept of washing Netilas Yadayim again if one’s hands are still wet and he is touched by another person.  What if one finds that the towel he is about to dry his hands with is wet--must he wash again as well, assuming that the wetness is from the prior Netilas Yadayim of others?  The Dirshu Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 162, footnote 26) writes that the Mishna Berurah does not discuss this situation, but that the Shevet HaLevi (7:20) rules that if the people who just washed and used the towel know how important it is as they wash each hand, to pour a revi’is at once on the hand, then there is no chashash of mayim tema’im--of impure waters, and one need not wash again.  On the other hand, if one is drying his hands in a public place and the towel is wet enough to make one’s hands wet, then one should not dry his hands with this towel, as we may well assume that there were those who improperly washed and that the water will render one’s hands tamei, requiring him to wash again.  The Chazon Ish (Orach Chaim 25:12), however, writes that if one touched water on a towel from an improper washing (i.e., a revi’is was not poured on each hand), the waters would not be considered temai’im, and one need not in any event wash again. 




Special Note One:  We continue our Monday/Thursday listing of the Mitzvos Asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times, as set forth in his Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar.  Today, we present Mitzvos 7 and 8/9:


7.  U’LeAvdo BeChol Levavechem--This is the Mitzvah to serve Hashem with all of one’s heart, which Chazal teach us is the Mitzvah of Tefillah.  The structure of Tefillah is that one first praises Hashem--recognizing Who Hashem Is, then follows by requesting his needs, and concludes by thanking Hashem for listening and doing what is best for him.  Since Tefillah is the service of the heart, the Mitzvah is specifically to daven with Kavannah, and to clear away any foreign thoughts.  One must especially realize that he is standing in front of the Shechina, and not view Tefillah as a burdensome task that he has to do, or has to take care of.  If one appreciates the true privilege he is engaged in, he will not allow his mind to be beset by other matters.  This Mitzvah applies at all times, and to men and women alike.


8/9.  Tefillin Shel Yad and Tefillin Shel Rosh--Each of the Tefillin Shel Yad and Tefillin Shel Rosh has a particular location within which it must be placed, which are described by Chazal and brought in Halacha.  [Hakhel Note: The failure to properly place Tefillin, which could occur simply by carelessness, laxity or lack of knowledge as to the Halacha, may result in the non-fulfillment of the Mitzvah of Tefillin daily, the brachos over the Tefillin recited being levatalah, and the sorry repetition of all of this daily.  If one does not put on Tefillin properly, the Chofetz Chaim writes that he has negated eight Mitzvas Asei--not placing upon himself the eight Parshios.  We urge you to bring Hakhel’s Tefillin Awareness Project to Your Shul or community.  It has helped thousands with the proper performance of the Mitzvah.  Please email shelrosh@comcast.net  Each of the Tefillin contain four Parshios within them--Kadeish Li, VeHaya Ki Yeviyacha, Shema, and VeHaya Im Shamo’a--which contain within them Kabbalas Ol Malchus Shomayim, a remembrance of the Nissim V’Niflaos that Hashem performed for us in Mitzrayim, and how Hashem draw us close to Him.  One must be sure to keep his body clean while wearing Tefillin, and must be sure to wear his Tefillin while reciting Kriyas Shema every morning, for the Mitzvah of Tefillin is mentioned in Shema, and if one is not wearing Tefillin at that time, it is as if he brandishes the fact that he is not wearing them.  Conversely, if one is careful to wear Tefillin with a Guf Naki, he will have length of days, as the Pasuk says:  Hashem Aleihem Yichyu”.  Because the Kedusha of Tefillin is ‘Gadolah LiMe’od’, one should not be distracted from his Tefillin, nor engage in unnecessary or lighthearted discussions, and be sure that his mind is clear of inappropriate thoughts. This Mitzvah applies to men but not to women.  When wearing Tefillin, one should realize that at that time he is designated as an Anav and Yirei Shomayim. 



Special Note Two:  We continue with our focus on the Second Bracha of Shemone Esrei.  We continue to review the exceptional phrases of this bracha, as instituted by the Anshei Knesses HaGedolah--with the phrase of Mi Chamocha Ba’al Gevuros U’Mi Domeh Lach--who is like You, Master of Strengths, and who could be compared to You?  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, points out that we use the question form so as to powerfully indicate the incomparable nature of Hashem’s Power--as we do on the Leil HaSeder.  Next, note that we now express Hashem’s power in the plural--Gevuros, perhaps in order to refer to Hashem’s Mastery over each individual, as well as over the world at large.  Thus, he is able to watch over each one of us B’Hashgacha Pratis--and at the same time bring the sun out to shine everywhere, or bring rain to New York , clouds to Boston , and snow in Montreal .  HaRav Schwab, Z’tl, adds that the plural use of Gevuros also serves to incorporate seemingly polar opposites--as Hashem is both a Maimis, He takes away life and then destroys the destroyer of life (V’Shafat Malach HaMaves), which will result in U’Mechayeh, in Techiyas HaMeisim.  His Gevurah is thus unfathomably complete.  Moreover, the Gevura is further manifest by the range of Techiyas HaMeisim--for it includes not just putting fresh spirit into the body, but spiriting bodies which did not have proper or real burial at all and bringing them back to life as well.  One may ask--if we posit that all of the Gevuros described here are Chesed, what is the Chesed in Maimis, being put to death?  We recall the words of HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, in the bracha of Elokai Neshama, in which HaRav Chaim teaches that even those living at the time of Techiyas HaMeisim will pass away for an instant, in order to be zoche to a new type of life--a life that lasts forever, and it is to that Maimis that we can certainly refer!  Finally, we recite that Hashem is a Matzmiach Yeshuah.  The Kuntres Avodas HaTefillah explains that just as a seed first is absorbed and even apparently dissolved in the ground--and in the end produces an apple tree, so too, will Hashem save us from situations which previously appeared desperate or impossible.  Sometimes the salvation comes slowly, and sometimes rapidly--all, of course, within Hashem’s determination, and within Hashem’s Power!



Special Note Three:  In keeping with our spirit of Talmud Torah enhancement in this now short period before Shavuos, we provide final points and pointers from HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, relating to Talmud Torah (Derech Sicha):




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


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


3.  HaRav Chaim is of the opinion that if someone does not make a Siyum on the Mishnayos of Seder Zeraim and Seder Teharos together with all the Mesechtos of Gemara that he has studied, then it is not called a Siyum HaShas.  He explained that the reason HaRav Meir Schapiro, Z’tl, did not include Zeraim and Taharos as part of Daf Yomi study, was because the printed Gemaros at that time were not the same as to their presentation of the Mishnayos of Zeraim and Taharos.  HaRav Chaim therefore advises that one learn a Mishna every day--which would be irrespective of any Tzuras HaDaf--resulting in learning at least 354 Mishnayos over a year, and over the approximately 7 and ½ year period of Daf Yomi--learning over 2,500 Mishnayos as well!


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


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


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


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


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


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


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




24 Iyar 5772

Special Note One:  An important personal note from a reader:  “In our times, if one was zocheh to be brought back from cardiac arrest, where everything in the body had shut down for a few moments--that is Mechayeh Meisim B’Rachamim Rabim as well as, Melech Maimis U’mechayeh.  Techiyas HaMeisim is not only for the Yemos HaMoshiach.  It sometimes falls into the category of “Ve’al Nee-secha she’b’chol yom Imanu.” Signed by: A Witness to this Chessed of the Ribono Shel Olam.”



Special Note Two:  Thank You!  Energized by the above, we continue with our focus on the Second Bracha of Shemone Esrei.  As we move through the bracha, we note that Hashem is Rav LeHoshia (great in His salvation), and that it is followed by the phrase Mechalkel Chaim B’Chesed (Who provides the living with Chesed).  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, points out that the term Mechalkel Chaim is based upon the Pasuk “VaYechalkel Yosef Es Echav--and Yosef sustained his brothers…”(Bereishis 47:12).  We may suggest that the term ‘Mechalkel’ itself is in essence a repetition of the word ‘Kol’ (all ) to indicate that Hashem’s sustaining us is completely out of His Chesed.  This is in contrast to the term Rav LeHoshia, in which we emphasize that Hashem’s salvation of us is qualitatively great.  There are, of course, other explanations of these phrases, but the point that we must make as we daven is that we understand Who Hashem is, and what Hashem does for us--qualitatively and quantitatively.  In fact, HaRav Schwab, Z’tl, (Rav Schwab on Prayer, Artscroll) translates Mechalkel Chaim B’Chesed as ‘He provides [not only sustenance to, but actual] life to the living with kindness.  As we continue and present practical applications of Hashem’s Qualitative and Quantitative Gevurah in the bracha--Someich Noflim (He supports the falling), Rofeh Cholim (He heals the sick), and Matir Assurim (He releases those imprisoned or confined), we should try to visualize actual situations in our lives, or the lives of those whom we know, to which each one of these actually occurred (or for whom we hope they will occur).  We add, of course, that Someich Noflim refers not only to those who have physically fallen to get back on their feet, but also to those who have fallen spiritually or emotionally as well.  Likewise, Rofeh Cholim ranges from those with a common cold to those who have been previously on life support, and Matir Assurim ranges from those who had previously been imprisoned in Japan and in America, and extends to those who had previously been confined to bed, in a mother’s womb, and those previously bound by the passions and desires of their Yetzer Hara. All of this and infinitely more is what Hashem accomplishes for us.  It is no wonder, then, that the Sefer Yesod V’Shoresh Ha’avodah often repeats the phrase (and asks us to constantly contemplate):  Gevuras Hashem! Gevuras Hashem!’.



Special Note Three:  The Chofetz Chaim writes that: “One who wishes to truly guard his mouth and tongue--lest it lead him to Machlokes, Lashon Hara, curses, and embarrassment of others--should acquire *for money* the Middah of Savlanus--which is to overcome one’s personal Middah in any given situation, and acquiesce or accede to the other person.”  How does one ‘acquire this with money’?  The Chofetz Chaim teaches that one should actually penalize himself monetarily if he realizes that he was not Ma’avir Al Midosav, and let himself get away. He notes that usually the Issurim of Machlokes, Lashon Hara, and Rechilus arise out of a small matter, which a person blows out of proportion, and turns it into something for which he cannot not give in.  However, if one knows in his mind that he will have to pay a monetary penalty for having done so [Hakhel Note:  Perhaps to an institution or cause which he would not otherwise support], he will begin to realize that it is just not worth it.  The Chofetz Chaim concludes that: “One should not think that being Ma’avir Al HaMiddos is simply a nice Middah--rather it is the direct cause for saving a person from many aveiros, including Machlokes, Lashon Hara, and Rechilus….”  Hakhel Note:  We add that in the Sefer Orchos Tzaddikim (Sha’ar HaRatzon), the Mechaber specifically writes:  U’Me SheMa’avir Al Midosav Tefillosav Nishma’as--one who overcomes his personal affront, his personal hakpados and his personal opinions--will have his Tefillos answered!  Thus, by practicing Savlanus--Ma’avir Al HaMiddos in a dedicated way--one will not only save money, but will have his prayers answered!



Special Note Four:  In keeping with our spirit of Talmud Torah enhancement in this now short period before Shavuos, we provide the additional points and pointers from HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, relating to Talmud Torah (Derech Sicha):




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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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




23 Iyar 5772

Special Note One:  We continue with our focus on the Second Bracha of Shemone Esrei

The Sefer BeRumo Shel Olam on Tefillah brings the teaching of the Sefer Avudraham that Techiyas HaMeisim is mentioned three separate times in the bracha of Gevuros--each with its own independent meaning (see also Ritva to Ta’anis 2A for a slightly different approach), as follows: 


1.  Mechayeh Meisim Atta--this refers to our awakening in the morning after hours of sleep, which is one-sixrieth of death. It is for this reason that before we go to sleep, we actually recite the Pasuk: “Beyadecha Afkid Ruchi Padisa Osi Hashem Kel Emes--in Your hands I put my spirit, Hashem save me...”.


2. Mechayeh Meisim B’Rachamim Rabim--this refers to the rainfall and Parnassah that Hashem supplies us with in the here and now--for Chazal (Ta’anis 7A) teach that Gadol Yom HaGeshamim Yoser Meitichiyas HaMeisim.  As the Tur writes:  Just as Techiyas HaMeisim brings life to the world, so does rain! 


3.  V’Ne’eman Atta LeHachayos Meisim Boruch Atta Hashem Mechayeh Meisim--this refers to the Techiyas HaMeisim of the future to which we will hopefully be zoche.  Hakhel Note:  We may suggest that the phrases ‘Techiyas HaMeisim’ and ‘Mechayeh Meisim’ are repeated in this vein, are not only so that the end of the bracha should be similar to its concluding phrase (which is a Halachic principle), but also to allude to the fact that there will be two stages of Techiyas HaMeisim--first the Tzaddikim will arise, and later all those others who are deserving.


The Sefer Reishis Chochma (Chapter 7) adds that the Gevurah referred to in this bracha is  Gevurah B’Chesed--Someich Noflim, Rofeh Cholim, Matir Assurim, and, of course, the three kinds of Techiyas HaMeisim referred to above!  Accordingly, when reciting this bracha, we should appreciate Hashem’s ongoing love for us--as He demonstrates His caring Omnipotence in literally limitless ways! 



Special Note Two:  In last week’s Perek (Avos 4:28 ), we reviewed the well-known teaching of Rebbi Elazar HaKappar--HaKinah, V’Hata’avah, V’HaKavod Motzi’in Es Ha’Adam Min HaOlam--jealousy, desire and glory-seeking take a person out of the world.  Some point out that the term Motzi’in is a very telling one--as it refers to the present tense--rather than the future.  If a person is jealous of another, if he lets his desires overcome him, and if he seeks glory (rather than modesty), then he is actually ‘taking himself out’ of his current purpose in life during those very moments that he is engaging in this circumspect conduct.  It is not something for which he is ‘chayav missa’ on later.  Rather--it is the person himself who is literally and truly killing his own time in the present.  It is no small wonder that the Sefer Sparks of Mussar brings from the Chofetz Chaim that he overheard Rebbi Yisroel Salanter repeating this Mishna for an entire night.  After all, what could be worse than a person punishing himself to death?!

Hakhel Note:  At a recent Hakhel Shiur, Rabbi Jonathan Rietti, Shlita, pointed out that the word ‘Chayim in Lashon HaKadosh is in plural form, for it demonstrates that we live two lives--one in Olam Hazeh and the other in Olam HaBah.  If we waste time with jealousy, needless desire, and Kavod-seeking in this world--we are wasting our eternal time as well.  On the other hand, if that very same moment was filled with Torah or Gemilas Chassodim--it would likewise translate to an eternal moment in Olam HaBah.  There is an important additional thought--how this teaching relates to others.  When one assists or inspires another to make his moment fruitful, he is assisting that person for ever and ever.  Here is a practical example relating to the study of Torah, which we continue to focus upon (see next Special Note as well) before Shavuos:  If one notices that in the Shul or Beis Midrash that there are those studying, but that it is quiet, he should raise his voice in Torah study to uplift and energize those around him to do so as well.  Because his Torah study is more inspired, their Torah study will be more inspired as well--as the sound of Torah spreads through the study hall.  On the other hand, if one begins to sing a song (even if pretty) in the Shul, Beis Midrash, or wherever a group is studying, one will notice that others will begin to sing, as well--and everybody’s study is interrupted as a result.  We therefore have great power to infuse not only our lives--the life of Olam Hazeh and Olam Habah with very special moments--but to directly aid in infusing others with their own meaningful and priceless time--carrying through in this world and the next! 



Special Note Three:  In keeping with our spirit of Talmud Torah enhancement in this now short period of time before Shavuos, we provide the following points and pointers from HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita (culled from the Sefer Derech Sicha):


1.  The reason that Torah teaches us the actual day that we left Mitzrayim, but does not disclose the day that we received the Torah is because every day that we learn Torah is a Zecher of Matan Torah! 


2.  When Chazal (Megillah 6B) teach that “Le’ukmei Girsah Siyata Min Shamayah He--for one to remember his studies, he needs help from Hashem”--they mean to emphasize that one should daven to Hashem that he remember his studies. The more one davens-the more success he will have. This is the Segula for one to remember his learning.


3.  The younger one is when he studies, the better he will remember it.  One should accordingly not push off any of his studies even for a day--for the day prior, one is a day younger!


4.  There is a ma’alah to learn from a Sefer that many have learned from.  As Chazal (Brachos 39B) teach--once a Mitzvah has been done with it, let us do more Mitzvos with it.  HaRav Chaim actually showed that he still uses his Mishnah Berurah that he purchased while still in Yeshiva.


5.  When one learns as a zechus for a Refuah Sheleima for someone, he must learn something extra, and he cannot simply learn what he was learning anyways.  The zechus is generated by the fact that more Torah is studied than what would have otherwise been--not that one has ‘given away’ the Torah that was in any event was going to be learned.


6.  For one who fell asleep during a Shiur--if it is the first time he should be awoken, based upon the notion that he would want to be (even if he will feel slightly ashamed).  If it is a more than one time occurrence, the sleep-needy person should be asked what he prefers--and one should follow his instruction.


7.  If one made a neder to learn ten dafim of Gemara, and he said a Daf Yomi Shiur in which there were 9 students, he has not fulfilled his Neder--although he has the zechus that ten dafim were learned through him.


8.  HaRav Chaim reports in the name of his father that one should not put a metal object on a Sefer--for in this sense the Sefer is like a Mizbei’ach, for which the Posuk says:  Lo Sonif Aleihem Barzel--do not place on them iron!”


9.  Chazal (Sanhedrin 98B) teach that for one to be saved from the Chevlei Moshiach, he should involve himself with Torah and Gemilas Chessed.  This however, only refers to one who cannot otherwise be involved in the study of Torah constantly.  Otherwise, the greatest Chesed is the study of Torah, for one can answer questions of others and teach them.  Indeed, one can write a Sefer and is automatically doing the Chesed of teaching others!


10.  HaRav Chaim reports that his father, the Steipeler, Z’tl, would read the words in Old French in Rashi and explain:  “Since Rashi wrote them, they are Torah!”




22 Iyar 5772

Special Note One:  We continue our Monday/Thursday listing of the Mitzvos Asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times, as set forth in his Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar.  Today we present Mitzvos 5 and 6:


5.  LeKadeish Es Hashem BaRabim--as the Pasuk (Vayikrah, 22:32--last week’s Parsha!) teaches: “VeNikdashti Besoch Bnei Yisroel--and I shall be sanctified in the midst of K’lal Yisroel).  The Chofetz Chaim writes that this Mitzvah requires of us to be MeKadeish Shem Hashem with a Mesiras Nefesh--to give up our lives and all that we possess to publicly display our belief in Hashem.  This means that if a perpetrator attempts to persuade or force us to act otherwise, one cannot allow himself to be so swayed or forced--and cannot even allow the perpetrator to think that he has betrayed his belief in Hashem, even if one truly believes in Hashem in his heart.  The general guidelines are as follows:


A.  If the perpetrator attempts to cause a person to commit any Aveirah Befarhesya--in front of ten Jews, and even if it is not a Sha’as HaShemad (a time when our enemies are seeking for us to forsake the Torah), one must let himself be killed, rather than transgress (Yeihareig VeAl Ya’avor). 


B.  If it is a Sha’as HaShemad, then even if the perpetrator is attempting to cause a person to commit any Aveirah in private (i.e., not in front of ten Jews), then one must let himself be killed rather than transgress.


C.  If the Aveirah the perpetrator is attempting to cause one to commit particularly involves either Avoda Zara, Gilui Arayos (forbidden relationships) or Shefichas Damim (murder), then even if it is not a Sha’as HaShemad and it is in private, one must still let himself be killed rather than transgress.  This is so even if the perpetrator expressly declares that he wants the Jew to do the Aveirah for the perpetrator’s personal and only benefit, and it has nothing to do with the Jew’s religious beliefs. 


In the above situations, one who allows himself to be killed Befarhesya has departed this world as a “MeKadeish Hashem Berabim She’ain LeMa’alah Heymenu--as one who has sanctified Hashem’s Name in public and there is no one greater than he.”  One who does not give his life in accordance with the above has negated this Mitzvas Asei (and has violated the Lo Sa’aseh of Velo Sechalelu--not to be Mechalel Shem Shomyaim).  This Mitzvah as described above applies at all times, and to men and women alike.


6.  VeHalachta B’Drachav--this Mitzvah requires us to follow the Middos of Hashem with all of our capabilities.  As Chazal teach, just as Hashem is a Chanun (gives something for nothing), so too, should we be a Chanun.  Just as Hashem is a Rachum (he is merciful to us even if we are not deserving), so too, should we be a Rachum.  Just as Hashem is a Chossid (He goes beyond Din, the letter of the law, and is kind to us), so too, should we be a Chossid…and the same holds true for all of the other Middos that are used to describe Hashem (see Micha 7:18-20 and Sefer Tomer Devorah, Chapter 1 for the Thirteen Middos of Hashem, and how we can practically apply them to our lives).  This Mitzvah applies at all times, and to men and women alike.



Special Note Two:  We continue with our Nineteen Week Shemone Esrei Project, with this week’s focus on the Second Bracha of Shemone Esrei.  Chazal (Megillah 17B) teach that our recitation of the Second Bracha of Shemone Esrei (known as Gevuros-- Hashem’s Omnipotence) is based on the Pasuk (Tehillim 29:1):  Havu LaHashem Kavod VeOz--render to Hashem honor and might.”  HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, explains that this means that by referring to Hashem’s Omnipotence, we are honoring Him.  He adds, however, that we must understand what Omnipotence really means.  Hashem’s Power cannot be explained in terms of a mortal’s power or prowess, as when two people, groups or even countries are engaged in battle and one bests the other.  Rather, because Hashem is the Source of all strength, power and influence in the world, there is simply no one that can stand up to Him that he must defeat.  After all, is a man who steps on a fly considered a Gibor?  Indeed, as we noted in the definition of HaGibor in the First bracha of Shemone Esrei, Hashem’s restraint against the nations who seek to destroy K’lal Yisroel, is a demonstration of Hashem’s Omnipotence--allowing His Middas HaChesed to supersede His Middas HaDin--thereby giving K’lal Yisroel more zechusim in Bechira, and giving the other nations more attempts to succeed in life.  Moreover, we must remember that when Hashem displays His outward Gevurah, He does so in both ‘natural’ and ‘miraculous’ ways.  We begin the Bracha with the words Atta Gibor LeOlam--Hashem’s Might is not only infinite, but eternal.  Hashem does not tire, and Hashem does not age.  LeOlam also indicates that Hashem’s incomparable Power manifests itself in all situations, in all circumstances and in all events.  If we can properly appreciate these three opening words of this bracha--Atta Gibor LeOlam, then we can infuse the Brachos of Request that we are soon to make with greater sincerity and Kavannah, for we know with clarity and certainty that we make the requests in front of the Only One who can fulfill them!


Hakhel Note:  One can reflect upon these three opening words every time he takes a tablet or pill, puts on a medical patch, or undergoes some other kind of therapy or treatment.  It is not the oval shaped capsule that actually cures the infection, or the gray tablet that removes the arthritic pain; it is not even the exercise bike that strengthens one’s knees or the dietary regimen that saves one from illness--it is, rather, Hashem Who creates the symptoms and the cures, the illnesses and the healings, Who will determine just exactly when the pain will start and when it will stop, what the side effects and after-effects of any treatment may be, and the what and why for a person staying healthy and well.  This observation relates only to the Rofeh Cholim words of the Pasuk.  Similar considerations must, of course, be made for the remainder of the bracha--Mechalkel Chaim B’Chesed, Someich Noflim…. Yes, most assuredly, we believe and should think about throughout the day (and at least when reciting Shemone Esrei!) that Atta Gibor LeOlam!



Special Note Three:  As we are now within two weeks of Matan Torah, we must seriously consider how our appreciation for the study of Torah can increase.  We all try to study, and many of us even try to create ‘spare moments’ for additional Torah study.  Here is just one idea to further refine our dedication to the Torah and its study:  Making it a point, and being more careful, not to disturb others while they are learning.  This may include not walking past them when you know that they will become distracted (even if they do not have to engage you in conversation, as just the looking up can interrupt their thought process or the Iyun).  This would extend to approaching someone who is studying even if it to ask him if he knows where a Sefer is (unless it is, after reflection, justifiable) or going close to those studying to get the tissue box near them if they will be disturbed--when there is another tissue box a few tables away.  Of course, one must use his discretion--but it should be with the recognition of the value of a moment of Torah for one person studying--and all the more so for a Chavrusah or Shiur studying together.


Additional Note One:  In last week’s Pirkei Avos (4:13), Rebbi Yehuda teaches us that we should be careful with our Torah study, “Sheshigegas Talmud Oleh Zadon--for a mistaken act here is treated as a willful transgression.”  HaRav Chaim Volozhiner, Z’tl, (in the Sefer Ruach Chaim) provides a poignant explanation of this Mishna:  Because, as Chazal teach, Talmud Torah K’Neged Kulam--the study of Torah is equivalent to the performance of all the other Mitzvos, so too, is the bitul of Torah the worst of all aveiros.  What the Mishna is teaching, HaRav Chaim explains, is that even a Shegagah (a careless act) of Bitul Torah is worse than a Zadon--the intentional commitment of another aveirah! 


Additional Note Two:  The Mishnah in Avos (3:2) also teaches that one who studies Torah even by himself is aptly rewarded, as the Pasuk (Eicha 3:28) states:  Yeisheiv Badad VeYedom Ki Natal Alav--even if one learns in solitude, he will receive a reward.”  The Bartenura, however, explains that these words are more powerful than we might otherwise think.  The term ‘Ki Natal Alav’ teaches that even for one sitting and studying in solitude:  K’ilu Nesinas Kol HaTorah Kula Haysah Ba’avuro Belvad--Hashem considers it as if the entire giving of the Torah was for him, and him alone!  We see, then, how precious even one moment of Torah is to even the solitary Torah student, and we should be careful with every such moment--for ourselves, and for all others!



19 Iyar 5772

B’HASHGACHA!  In a note yesterday on Ahavas Hashem, we had mentioned that ‘B’Hashgacha’--at the same time that we were providing the Chofetz Chaim’s listing of the Mitzvah of Ahavas Hashem from the Sefer HaMitzvos HaKatzar, the excellent Six Constant Mitzvos Project was studying about Ahavas Hashem this week as well.  In truth, of course, everything, every single thing that we experience is B’Hashgachas Hashem--It is only that sometimes we see and feel it more than others.  Several years ago in Lakewood , a booklet was produced which fit into one’s inside jacket pocket or purse.  The entire bound booklet was blank-- and one was asked to fill it in by jotting down a note when he especially realized an incident of Hashgacha Pratis--making several lights in a row, finding a box of tissues on the table when he needed to sneeze, having just seen the Sefer that was now needed, knowing someone the right person who could help a friend when it was otherwise like ‘finding a needle in a haystack’…the circumstances abound.  Over the course of time, we simply forget them.  If one would make a short note of it, it will help him recall the event 30 days later--and marvel all of the recordings several months later, as they continue.  If one is unable to locate the form of the Lakewood notebook, one can simply start one on his own.  Ashrei Adam Oz Lo Vach--fortunate is the person who finds that what he has--comes from Hashem!’ 



OBSERVATION!  The more one recites Asher Yatzar throughout the day, the more inspired he should become that Hashem has granted him yet another Neis.  Each additional Asher Yatzar should not be like a repetition of the first--but an additional act of inspiration with newfound appreciation, thanks and Kavannah.  The Yetzer Hara, of course, attempts to turn the bracha as the day progresses into a rote--’I have to say it again’, which is--of course--the opposite of the truth.  In a similar way, our Shacharis Shemone Esrei upon our awakening is fresh and new.  By the time Mincha comes around, we have experienced more of the day in which to appreciate Hashem’s powers, and what we need--yet, we are beset by apparently mind-consuming issues of the work day or matters at home--and by the time Ma’ariv arrives, the Yetzer Hara makes us happy enough to turn the pages of the Siddur in our weary and exhausted state.  Yet, it is Mincha at the heart of the day which should draw us closer to Hashem as we realize what we have done so far and what we still have to accomplish--and the Ma’ariv of the evening which should be our climactic Shemone Esrei --filled with our acknowledgement of Hashem and all of our accomplishments over the day, and with a better understanding of our requests for the morrow.  The Sefer Mesilas Yesharim teaches of the soldier who came home from war and was told by the wise man--now you have the greater war to contend with--the war with your Yetzer Hara.  One of our great tasks in life is not to allow the Yetzer Hara to turn that which is false and make it appear true, and that which is crooked and make it appear straight.  One method of working on our success is making sure that our brachos and our Tefillos truly get better as the day progresses.



WOW!  A Rav asked us to relate the following: When one goes to a store and finds something very beautiful or very appropriate, his first reaction may be:  “Wow--I really want to get this for myself!”  The proper reaction, the Rav instructed, should be: “Wow--this is beautiful--I want to get this for my parents!”, or “I want to get this for my spouse!”  Rather than viewing the matter as a somewhat selfish find, he should train himself to immediately transfer his feeling to benefit himself to feelings of Kavod and endearment.  This, he concludes, is the Derech of Bnei Yisroel!




Special Note One:  In last week’s Parsha, Hashem instructed us Kedoshim Te’hiyu, in this week’s Parsha, we learn of the Kedushas Kohanim (Special Note Two), the Kedusha of Shabbos and the other Mo’adim (Special Note Three), and that we ourselves are a vehicle to bring Kiddush Sheim Shomayim (Special Note Four).  HaRav Pam, Z’tl, as recorded in The Pleasant Way, by Rabbi Sholom Smith, Shlita, brings the Midrash that teaches that our Kedusha stems from prior to the world’s creation.  What does the Midrash mean to teach--what difference does it make that our Kedusha precedes the world?  HaRav Pam explains with a Mashal from the Dubno Maggid:  There was a wealthy villager who sought the ‘best boy in the Yeshiva’ for his only daughter whom he would support in his studies for the rest of his life--as long as the bochur came back to learn in the village.  He brought his offer to the Rosh Yeshiva of a large Yeshiva, who proposed a wonderful bochur.  The Shidduch went through, the young couple moved into the village, and the young man began his assiduous studies in the village Shul hours before Shacharis in the morning--and continued uninterrupted throughout the day until hours after Ma’ariv in the evening.  No one in the village had seen anything like it.  The hard work continued for about a year, until the wealthy ‘Shver’ realized that his star son in-law started arriving in Shul around the time of Shacharis and leaving soon after Ma’ariv.  “What happened--am I doing anything wrong, why the slack in your studies?” the father in-law asked.  The son in-law replied:  “What do you mean--in this village, I learn so much more than anyone.  I am the best young man here.  Isn’t that enough for you?!”  If we look at the world around us we could easily become complacent by looking at our Torah study, our Chesed, and our decency and morality--and then look at the emptiness of the world around us.  However, this Midrash that teaches that our Kedusha emanates from something that preceded the world is teaching us that we are not to compare ourselves in any manner to the world around us, because they are simply not our basis of comparison.  Our starting point, our standards, our goals, our life, and our after-life is unrelated to theirs.  Everything that we do needs to be based on Hashem’s standards--not on the standards of a politician in Washington, a designer in France , or a professor in Harvard.  The Pasuk cannot state it any clearer-- Kedoshim Te’hiyu Ki Kadosh Ani Hashem Elokeichem--you shall be holy, for I Hashem your G-d Am Holy.  We have only one standard!


Hakhel Note:  At the recent Hakhel Shiur, Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, raised an excellent question:  One of the reasons given as to why we eat milchiks on Shavuos is because after we received the Torah on Shavuos, we realized that all of our Keilim, our utensils were not Kosher and so we could only eat dairy.  (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 494, Mishna Berurah seif katan 12)  However, in fact, on Shavuous we received only the Aseres HaDibros--we did not receive the Parsha of Kashrus, which was formally received on later on in the desert.  How then, did the Bnei Yisroel realize that their utensils were not Kosher?!  Rabbi Reisman answers that at Matan Torah, the zuhama, the impurity that was instilled into man by the nachash was removed from K’lal Yisroel and we returned to the status of man before the Cheit HaRishon--which was the status of our bodies feeling naturally connected to the Mitzvos even without any formal direction or instruction.  This was our original level of Kedusha.  We must always appreciate who we are--the Kedusha we came from--and the Kedusha we will go to for all eternity.  The more Kedusha we can instill in ourselves now, the more we will connect to the Kedusha of old--and the more Kedusha we will have forever and ever!



Special Note Two:  In this week’s Parsha, Emor, we find the distinctive Mitzvah of “Vekidashto”…and you shall sanctify the Kohen by treating him with a higher level of dignity and respect (Vayikra 21:8).  The Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah 269) writes that this Mitzvah D’Oraysa applies at all times (not only when the Bais HaMikdash is standing), and furthermore that the Mitzvah applies equally to both men and women.  The Aruch HaShulchan (Orach Chayim 128:72) writes that there are opinions to be lenient in the Mitzvas Aseh of VeKidashto today because our Kohanim may not have clear “Yichussei Kehuna” (evidence of lineage), but rejects this opinion with the strong words “VeCholila Lomar Kain U’Lehatil Dofi BeKedushas Kohanim--Heaven Forbid to say this and to cast aspersions on the holiness of our Kohanim!”  Accordingly, as in previous years at this time of year, we provide important points relating to this Mitzvah, which apply in our everyday life:


  1. The Rema (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 228) writes that it is  “Assur LeHishtamesh BeKohen”--it is forbidden to use a Kohen to perform tasks and services on one’s behalf, even in our days, and if one does so it is like being “Moel beHekdesh”--it is as if one is violating something that is holy.


  1. The Poskim discuss whether the Mitzvah upon us of VeKidashto applies to Kohanim who are ba’alei mum (possess blemishes which would render them unfit to serve in the Bais HaMikdash), or to Kohanim who are still under the age of Bar Mitzvah, since both of whom could, in fact, eat Kodshim (the Karbonos in the Bais HaMikdash), even though they cannot actually serve.  The Piskei Teshuvos (I:128:94) writes that, because it is a Machlokes among the Poskim and it is a Sofek D’Oraysa, we should be machmir, and treat both a Kohen who is physically disqualified from serving because of a mum, and a Kohen under Bar Mitzvah, with the dignity and  respect of VeKidashto, where it is possible.


  1. Examples of VeKidashto in specific positive areas include having the Kohen go first--not only in Aliyos to the Torah, but also in making Kiddush for everyone, making the HaMotzi for everyone, leading the Bentsching, being Motzi the Rabim with a Mitzvah, speaking first at any gathering, being the Shaliach Tzibbur and in taking first portions at a seudah.  See Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 167:14 and the Mishna Berurah and commentaries there for further detail if a Talmid Chacham is present.  One should consult with his Rav or Posek if in doubt as to any particular circumstances.


  1. The Poskim discuss whether a Kohen has the right to waive VeKidashto as to himself.  The Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 128, seif katan 175) rules that a Kohen does have the right to waive your VeKidashto of him and perform tasks or services for you, but lechatchila only if he benefits from it by payment or in some other way.  In no event, however, writes the Mishna Berurah (ibid.) may one have a Kohen perform “sheirus bezuyos--embarrassing or demeaning tasks on one’s behalf”.


  1. May one Kohen perform tasks for another Kohen?  The Bi’ur Halacha d’h’Assur writes that “Efsher SheMuttar--perhaps it is permissible”, and the Aruch HaShulchan writes that it is “Tzarich Iyun LeDina”--unclear, requiring further investigation.  Interestingly, however, family members who are not Kohanim, and spouses of Kohanim (!), would still have the Mitzvah of VeKidashto apply to them.


  1. The Sefer Chofetz Chaim (Aseh 9) writes that if one speaks Lashon Hora against a Kohen who is in front of him, thereby offending him, he has violated the Mitzvas Aseh of VeKidashto.


  1. If a Kohen is married to someone that is forbidden to him according to Halacha, or is metamei lemeisim, defiles himself with tumah, the mitzvah of VeKidashto does not apply.  However, if the Kohen is a ba’al aveira in other areas, there is a Machlokes HaPoskim as to whether the heightened respect for his status as a Kohen would still apply.  See Piskei Teshuvos 1:128:97.


  1. The Chinuch writes that the reason for this special Mitzvah is to give honor to Hashem who chose the Kohanim to serve Him in very special ways…”for when one honors the King’s officers, he honors the King.”  Accordingly, the Chinuch continues, whenever we honor the Kohanim, we should have in mind that we are honoring Hashem.  In this zechus, the Chinuch concludes, Hashem will bring His brachos and goodness upon us, as He so much wants to do.  In responding to a different, but related question, HaRav Kanievsky rules that if two students ask a question at the same time and one is a Kohein, the Kohein should be answered first. 


  1. HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, (in Sefer Derech Sicha, Vol. II p. 145) also rules that if there are two deceased people to bury, the Kohein would come first, because he will return to his Avodah in the Bais HaMikdash upon Techiyas HaMeisim.  If for some reason he would not return in Techiyas HaMeisim (for one of the reasons that one does not return, such as lending money on Ribbis), then there would be no Halacha of VeKidashto for him here either.  Finally, HaRav Kanievsky rules that a Kohein also takes precedence in terms of Tzedaka and Halvaos (see Sefer Derech Emunah Hilchos Matanos Aniyim 8: seif katan 108).


  1. Two Related Notes:


    1. The Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 201, seif katan 13) writes that one should give preference to a Levi over a Yisroel of equal stature in respect of Birkas HaMotzi, Bentsching and Tzedaka.


    1. An important point relating to Birkas Hakohanim--the Bi’ur Halacha (at the outset of Orach Chayim 128) brings the ruling of the Sefer Chareidim, when a Yisroel stands in front of the Kohanim with the Kavannah of receiving their bracha as Hashem commanded, the Yisroel himself has a part in the Mitzvas Aseh of Birkas Kohanim!



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


A.  The Yerushalmi (Shabbos 7:2) teaches that Rebbi Yochanan and Reish Lakish learned the Seventh Perek of Shabbos (which reviews the 39 Melachos) for three years!  It is no small wonder, then, that Rebbi Yonasan Eibishitz, Z’tl, writes in the Ya’aros Devash that one who does not learn Hilchos Shabbos well two or three times will not be able to save himself from Chilul Shabbos whether on a DeOraysa or DeRabanan level.  Accordingly, one should review Hilchos Shabbos constantly, with a Rav or will clarify everything for him.  A person who does this will be protected--it will be a ‘Kiseris Bifnei Hapuranus--like a shield protects from injury’.


Hakhel Note:  At the very least, one should review Hilchos Shabbos on Shabbos itself--as the Mishna Berurah (Orach Chaim 290, seif katan 6) urges Shiurim on Shabbos in Hilchos Shabbos.  Vehakikar Yihiyeh Az Lilamed LeRabim Es Chukei HaElokim V’es Torosav Lehoros Hilchos Shabbos VeHaAssur VeHamutar.”


B.  The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 260) itself specifically rules that it is a Mitzvah to cut one’s nails on Erev Shabbos.  In fact, in the Sha’ari Teshuvah (ibid. seif katan 2) writes that although all the Achronim write that one should not cut the nails of his hand and the nails of his feet on the same day, HaRav Chaim Vital wrote that the Arizal, would cut both on Erev Shabbos LeKavod Shabbos.  Hakhel Note:  Although this may not be our practice--we see the importance of cutting our nails LeKavod Shabbos Kodesh! 


C.  There is a general Issur on Shabbos of Hashma’as Kol--making noise with a musical instrument (ibid. 338).  Does this prohibition extend to knocking on a door in a distinctive, musical tune--such as one that will identify ‘the one who knocks like that’?  This may be a matter of halachic question, but it appears from the Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa (new edition, p.445, seif 41) that this is not permitted.  Similarly, although one could knock a spoon on a utensil for silence, one could not do so if he was producing a specific tune.  Finally, although one cannot knock on the table with his hand or a kli when singing to a certain tune (or hit his foot to the ground for a similar reason), one could bang two items together to wake someone up (if that, of course, is the only way you could wake them up!).


D.  In this week’s Parsha, we are reminded of the Mitzvah of Shabbos at the outset of the Parshas HaMoadim.  As the Pasuk states (Vayikra 23:3) -Shabbos Hi Lachem Bechol Moshvoseichem--it is a Shabbos for Hashem in all of your dwelling places.  This Shabbos, as the Parsha especially reminds us of Shabbos as the first and primary Mo’ed--and actually refers to it as Shabbos Shabboson (ibid.) we should think of a practical way in which we can elevate our Kedushas Shabbos on a weekly basis--whether it be with the dedicated study of Hilchos Shabbos or additional Zemiros at the table, an elevated level of speech, a little less sleep--or a little more learning!



Special Note Four:  In this week’s Parsha, the Torah teaches “Venikdashti Besoch Bnei Yisroel” (Vayikra 22:32 ).  HaRav Chaim Kanievksy, was asked whether one makes a Bracha before being put to death Al Kiddush Hashem.  He responded that the Mitzvah of Kiddush Hashem is “Mah SheHa’adam Muchan U’Moser Atzmoh LaiHareig Al Kedushas Shemo Yisbarach--one fulfills the Mitzvah if he is prepared to give his life to sanctify Hashem’s name, and this is so even if in the end he is not killed.”  Based upon this guideline, HaRav Kanievsky teaches that those who were killed by the Nazis y’s or the Arabs y’s, have the zechus of Kedoshim, but would not make a Bracha because in fact they were killed against their will, and did not give themselves over to be killed.  HaRav Kanievsky adds that it is reported that the Mechaber of the Sefer D’var Avrohom recited a Bracha before he was killed by the Nazis, but he is surprised by that report.



Special Note Five:  We conclude this week’s focus on the First Bracha of Shemone Esrei with the final words of the bracha.  Hashem is the Melech Ozer, U’Moshia U’Magen--and ultimately, as the bracha concludes, He is the Magen Avraham.  It would appear that although Ozer and Moshia are great gifts to us, the quality of Magen is the most important because it is not only the climax after Ozer U’Moshia but also concludes the bracha--Magen Avraham.  We can readily understand why this is so.  After all--with Ozer, Hashem helps us when we are already in the predicament, with Moshia, Hashem saves us as the predicament is about to unfold--but with Magen, Hashem shields us, i.e., does not allow the situation, event or circumstance to even occur at all.  We aspire to Magen!  The concept of Magen is based on Hashem’s assurance to Avrohom Avinu (Bereishis 15A)--’Anochi Magen Lach--I will shield you.’  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, brings Shir HaShirim Rabba (4:4) to explain the meaning of Magen to us in the bracha:  Hakadosh Baruch Hu said to Avraham:  To you I was one shield, but to your children I will be many shields!”  This means that Hashem protected Avraham from harm and in his zechus Hashem will protect us as well!  As the situation in the world around us appears precarious, and we have no clue of the plans or future plans of the politicians, the world leaders, the terrorists and those in a position to ‘push buttons’ may be, we must strive to instill special Kavannah in our closing words of the bracha: Melech--All Powerful King Who is concerned with our welfare--be our Ozer, our Moshia, and our Magen--just as You were to--and in the Zechus of--Avraham Avinu!



18 Iyar 5772

QUESTION OF THE DAY :  In this week’s Pirkei Avos (4:15), Rebbi Elazar Ben Shamua--who was one of the five Talmidim of Rebbi Akiva who continued the Mesorah after the 24,000 students were Niftar, teaches the following:  Yehi Chevod Talmidcha Chaviv Alecha KiShelach U’Chevod Chavercha K’Mora Rabbach--let the honor of your student be as dear to you as your own honor, and the honor of your friend as the reverence of your teacher…”  It is very important for us to learn from Rebbi Elazar--the student of Rebbi Akiva after the 24,000 original students who had not succeeded in this very area-- how we are to truly show honor to our friends.  Rebbi Elazar  teaches us that it is through Mora--reverence.  Are not Mora and Kavod two different concepts, two different ideas?  For instance, in Hilchos Kibbud Av VaEim, there are specific acts which demonstrate Mora of our parents, and other specific acts which demonstrate Kavod to our parents.  How can we compare the two--how do we actualize and implement U’Chevod Chavercha K’Mora Rabbach?!




Special Note One:  We continue our Monday/Thursday program in the Sefer HaMitzvos HaKatzar of the Chofetz Chaim.  You may recall that the Chofetz Chaim in his introduction to this Sefer suggested that its Mitzvos be reviewed every Monday and Thursday.  We B’EH intend to list two Mitzvos each Monday and Thursday, and we are accordingly up to Mitzvos Asei 3 and 4 in the Sefer.  You may also recall that the total number of Mitzvos Asei that we can perform in our day is 77--which is the Gematria of VeChayu Bahem--and you shall live in them!  Let us try our best!


3.  Ahavas Hashem--we must love Hashem Bechol Levavecha U’Vechol Nafshecha U’Vechol Meodecha.  This means that we must be ready to not only direct our Yetzer Hara to Hashem’s service, but also be ready to give up our life and our money for, and put all of our resources and capacities behind, this special love.  How does one attain love of Hashem?  By reflecting upon Hashem’s wonders, and spending time in contemplating all that Hashem does for us.  This Mitzvah applies at all times throughout the day, and part of the Mitzvah is bringing other people to the service of Hashem, and helping other people appreciate Who Hashem Is and what Hashem does for them, just as Avraham Avinu did.  In fact, Avraham Avinu is especially referred to as “Avraham Ohavi--Avraham, the one who loves Me”.  Hakhel Note:  The Mitzvah of Ahavas Hashem is, of course, one of the Sheish Mitzvos Temidios--the Six Constant Mitzvos.  B’Hashgacha Pratis, the Six Constant Mitzvos Sefira Project has this week reached this very Mitzvah, and we are happy to provide you by the following link with a video Shiur given by Rabbi Yerachmiel Milstein, Shlita, on Ahavas Hashem!  Rabbi Yerachmiel Milstein on The Six Constant Mitzvos For further information on the superb Six Constant Mitzvos Project, please contact info@thesixconstantmitzvos.com.


4.  Yiras Hashem--When an Aveirah comes up before a person, he is duty bound to inspire himself by the absolute recognition that Hashem watches over each and every one of our actions, words and thoughts.  Using Hashem’s Name needlessly violates this Mitzvah as well.  The way to be successful at this Mitzvah is similar to success at Ahavas Hashem--to constantly be aware of its primary importance throughout the day.   Hakhel Note:  When an aveirah of any kind comes your way--think instead ‘Es Hashem Elokecha Tirah--I know that Hashem is here!’



Special Note Two:  We continue with our review of the First Bracha of Shemone Esrei.  Chazal teach that we cannot mention all of the praises of Hashem in our Tefillah, because we could never stop.  We are, however, permitted to mention the phrase HaKel HaGadol HaGibbor VeHanorah because Moshe Rabbeinu himself utilized this exact phrase in the Torah itself--so that we are essentially recounting the Torah’s phrase.  We must realize that each one of these four extremely potent words has its important own meaning. Based upon the Kuntres Avodas HaTefillah, the following is each word’s succinct meaning


HaKail refers to Hashem’s All-Powerful Mercy.  Note:  this word is so important that it is repeated again in the next phrase Kel Elyon!


HaGadol refers to His Greatness in Acts of Chesed.  Hakhel Note:  To appreciate the concept of HaGadol in a practical way, think of the fact that one reason Shabbos HaGadol is referred to by that name is because it demonstrates our recognition that Hashem, in His Great Kindness, empowered and enabled us to tie the Egyptian god to our bed posts in preparation of, and as a zechus to ensure, our departure from Mitzrayim forever--to Cheirus Olam!


HaGibor refers to the incomparable power of His Judgment (we need only quiver or tremble for a moment at volcano, tornado, tsunami and other ‘natural’ events and disasters and their aftermath).  Chazal also teach that this term also demonstrates Hashem’s incredible power over the world, as He, throughout the course of history has allowed the lamb of K’lal Yisroel to live and thrive among the 70 wolves of nations which desire to devour it in each and every generation.  In the words of Chazal:  Hein, Hein Gevurosav--this is a true demonstration of Hashem’s Gevurah”.


HaNora teaches that Only Hashem is to be feared for his Awesome Power, for no other creature or creation has any power to act without Hashem’s express permission.  Hashem’s fearsomeness is also demonstrated by His restraint at the Babylonian and Roman armies, who as His mere tiny creations, destroyed each Bais Hamikdash and blasphemed Hashem in gross and horrible ways in the process.  Chazal teach that:  Hein, Hein Nora’osav--His restraint during it all is a true demonstration of Hashem’s literally incredible Nora’us”.



Special Note Three: Today is the Yahrzeit of Rebbi Shimon Bar Yochai.  The Sefer Ta’amei Haminhagim U’Mekorei HaDinim presents an entire chapter on the Hilulah DeRashbi.  In a footnote there (page 271), the Sefer writes that for one to attach to the zechus of Rebbi Shimon, it would be appropriate for one to study Rebbi Shimon’s teachings.  In fact, Rebbi Shimon (Gittin 67A) told his students:  Banai, Shanu Middosai--my children, study my teachings!”  Accordingly, we provide below just a few of the thousands of teachings of Rebbi Shimon for us to recall on this day:


1.  Rebbi Shimon said (Avos 3:4):  Shelosha Sheachlu Al Shulchan Echad…--Three that eat at a table together and do not say Divrei Torah at the table, are considered to have eaten of offerings to idols; however, when three eat together and share words of Torah, it is as if they ate from Hashem’s table, as the Pasuk says:  ‘and he said to me, this is table of Hashem’.” 


2.  Rebbi Shimon taught (Yerushalmi Brachos 1:2):  Ilu Havina Ka’im Al Tura DeSinai…--if I was at Matan Torah at the time the Torah was given to Bnei Yisroel, my initial thought would have been to ask Hashem to create for us two mouths--one with which to speak in Torah, and one to take care of our other speech needs….”


3.  Rebbi Shimon said (Avos 4:17):  Shelosha Kesarim Heim…--There are three crowns--the crown of Torah, the crown of Kehuna, the crown of kingship, but the crown of a good name surpasses them all.”


Hakhel Note:  Rebbi Shimon, from his famous lessons in the Me’arah with his son Elazar for 12 years (Shabbos 33B) and his teachings throughout Shas, teaches the absolute primacy of Torah in our everyday life.  However, our lives, Rebbi Shimon teaches, must always be further guided by the Keser Sheim Tov--which is the crown under which all of our Torah rests.  May our study of his life-guiding teachings serve as a zechus for him on his Yom Hilulah, and may his zechuyos on this special day stand in our stead and in the stead of all of K’lal Yisroel!



17 Iyar 5772

Special Note One:  Notes from readers:


1. On the topic of forgiving someone who is Choshed you, I want to share with you the words of the Ritva to the Gemara in Shabbos (118B) that you quoted:  Vehi Kapparah Gedolah Lemi Shesovel HaDavar--it is a great Kapparah to one who takes it (on the chin)”


Hakhel Note:  Who does not need a Kapparah Gedolah?!  All we have to do (even if it may not seem easy) is to forgive and forget the erstwhile distaste, discomfort, distress and disappointment that the suspicion or disparagement against you may have otherwise caused.  Remember Rebbi Yosi (whom we mentioned yesterday)--don’t feel the ill-will, and instead feel good about it--after all, how many things can bring you a Kapparah Gedolah?!


2.  On the bracha of Gafnah which adds a separate bracha of Hatzlacha, a reader wrote as follows:  I heard this brocha from HaRav Yossel Tzengvorth, Shlita, a Gadol in Yerushalayim--but he called it ‘HaGefen’--Hatzlachah in Gezunt, Parnassah and Nachas.


3.  Because last week’s Parsha contained the Mitzvah of paying workers on time, we were asked to remind our readers that service providers should be paid in a timely manner--on the completion of the performance of their service.  “Some look to the check or cash you are providing them with for their immediate expenses, including food and overdue bills.”


Hakhel Note:  As discussed in the past, even workers who are mochel timely payment, must be of age to do so.  A babysitter who is not bar mitzvah or bas mitzvah cannot be mochel.  For an excellent, practical and clear review of the halachos of paying workers and others, we highly recommend The Halachos of Other People’s Money, by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita (Feldheim).


4.  A reader advised us of how she had practically applied and assimilated a story she had read about HaRav Aryeh Levin, Z’tl.  HaRav Levin was, of course, known as the ‘Rabbi of the prisoners’ (regularly visiting Jewish prisoners put into jail by the British authorities in Eretz Yisroel).  During one such visit, a prisoner had asked HaRav Levin to go to his wife and tell her that he was OK.  HaRav Levin agreed and traveled to a neighborhood with which he was unfamiliar.  When he got to the general area, he asked someone for directions to the address.  The person realized that it would be easier to simply take HaRav Levin there, so she put on a coat and escorted him directly to the home.  HaRav Levin was so impressed by this act of Chesed that he decided to adopt it for himself--whenever someone would ask him for directions, rather than merely direct them, he would instead physically escort them to the location.  HaRav Levin’s son then took on this special Minhag as well.  Almost immediately after reading about this special Chesed, the reader B’Hashgacha Pratis heard someone asking for directions--and said “I know where it is--I will take you there!”


Hakhel Note:  As we approach Lag BaOmer--by which time our improvement in the area of Kavod Zeh LaZeh should be crystallized--let us think about something that we read, that we saw or that we know will increase our Kavod to others--and actually try to bli neder implement it in our everyday lives! 


5.  HaRashbi, as many know, is an acronym for HaRav Shimon Bar Yochai, whose Yahrzeit will bring thousands to Meron on Lag BaOmer.  A reader advised in the name of an Adam Gadol that the letters of HaRashbi, when rearranged, stand for Yushpa Shefa Rav BeChal HaOlamos--will bring great abundance to all the worlds.  May the great zechuyos of the Rashbi bring all of these brachos upon us!



Special Note Two:  We were asked to provide our Lag BaOmer thought prior to Lag BaOmer, so that we can have a perspective as the special day begins this evening.  The following has been our traditional thought: 


As we reach the Lag BaOmer milestone, we are faced with a perplexing question:  What is really the sudden cause for celebration at this time?  After all, from what we know of our past during the Omer period, 24,000 senior scholars--the students of Rebbe Akiva passed away for not properly respecting each other; even Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai, one of the surviving students, eventually passed away on this day; later, the Crusades took their great toll on Ashkenazic Jewry during Sefira; then, the great Posek for Ashkenazim, the Rema passed away on Lag BaOmer, like Rebbe Shimon; and, most recently, much of Hungarian Jewry was hurriedly annihilated during the period from Pesach to Shavuos in 1944--to such an extent that the survivors of Hungarian Jewry who do not know when their relatives or friends were murdered observe the Second Day of Shavuos as their Yahrzeit.  So, what is the joy--the songs, the bonfires, the bows and arrows about?  Why are weddings allowed, and Tachanun not recited?


HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita (following the lines of the Gra’s Commentary on Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim, 493) teaches we celebrate that in all events, there were those who remained.  Indeed, the resemblance in all of the aforementioned tragedies is striking: Rebbe Shimon passed his legacy to his students (it is no coincidence that so many other future generations of Tannaim are buried right around Rebbe Shimon in Meron).  Similarly, even after the Crusader massacres killing Rabbeinu Tam and many others in many communities, the Baalei Tosfos flourished for many generations, culminating in the Rosh, and his son, the Tur, as the basis for our Shulchan Aruch; the Rema, rather than being the final word in Halacha for Ashkenazim, became the basis and guide for the scores of future poskim; the remnants of Hungarian Jewry fill the Yeshivas from Bnei Brak to Borough Park.


But it is more than that we are just survivors.  It is the fulfillment of the Posuk (Devorim 32:23): “Chitzai Achaleh Bom”--I will finish my arrows in them--which Chazal (Sotah 9A) explain to mean--my arrows will be finished in them, but they will not be finished.  Hashem has guided us through events, times, places and tragedies of immense proportions, while the other 70 nations of the world disappeared from far less calamitous events.  Perhaps this is the symbol of the bow and arrow on Lag BaOmer--the arrows are done, but we are not.  Why is this so--why has our history--our experience in this world been so different than all other nations?


We suggest that the answer to this, too, brings us to this time of year--it is, once again, not coincidental that all of this is happening as we prepare to receive the Torah--for it **IS THE TORAH** that has made our lives so different and so endurable.  It is the Torah, created well before the world as we know it was created, that has given us the “supernatural” force for us to thrive and survive.  At this special time of year, we should especially demonstrate our recognition of the importance of Torah in our lives and in the lives of K’lal Yisroel.


PRACTICAL SUGGESTION:  For the coming two weeks until Shavuos, in whatever you are learning, whether it is a thought on the Parsha, Daf Yomi, or even a Torah email, think about how very important Torah study is to us.  It is not academics, nor a body of knowledge, but the one part of our life that permeates and invigorates us--and the bonfire that warms and enlightens us every day of our lives.



Special Note Three:  We continue with our review of the First Bracha of Shemone Esrei.  Why is it that some people can daven so quickly, are not be particularly concerned with Kavannah or how they pronounce the words, and even come late and leave early?  Why do they not truly appreciate the outstanding privilege of what is truly happening--an audience with the King at each Shemone Esrei?!  Why the lack of concern, why the lack of care?  Some have suggested that a real reason for this is that they simply do not believe that anyone is listening.  Yes, Hashem is real, and they believe in Him--but they do not believe that they prayer about to be uttered is at all meaningful to themselves, let alone K’lal Yisroel or the world.  It is perhaps for this reason that at the outset of Birkas Avos as soon as we begin the bracha with Baruch Atta Hashem--even before we mention that Hashem is the G-d of our fathers, Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov--we first impress upon ourselves the word ‘Elokeinu’--that Hashem truly is watching over us, loves us and takes care of us.  Everything that follows in the next Nineteen Brachos is based upon this fact.  When reciting the word Elokeinu, we should stop for a moment, so that we properly appreciate that everything that we are about to say really does have meaning for ourselves, for K’lal Yisroel, for the world--and even makes a mark on all worlds.  Our tefillah should come alive!  We should share this thought with others--helping to negate the ignorance, apathy, and feeling of unimportance of our individual Tefillos--by steering ourselves and others to a proper awareness of just how meaningful, relevant, practical, important and effective each of the individual Tefillos we recite truly are! 



Special Note Four:  We conclude our series, “A Word on Words”.  Readers comments are, of course, always welcome for additional thoughts and enhancements in this area.


A Word on Words

Lesson #50


There are several points throughout the day when the right words can make the difference in attitude and perspective--changing the meaning of the event or of the day.  Here are a few examples:


A.  When we arise in the morning--the first words of Modeh Ani Lefanecha…HaReini MeKabel Alai Ohl Torah HaYom, can energize a person out of bed and off on the right foot…and mindset!


B.  Before eating, one recites the words:  HaReini Rotzeh Le’Echol V’Lishtos Kedei She’eheyeh Bari V’Chazak L’Avodas HaBorei--I would like to eat and drink so that I will be healthy and strong for Avodas Hashem (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 231, Mishna Berurah, seif katan 5). 


C.  Before beginning work, reciting a Tefillah to Hashem that one’s work be honest and upright, bring about Kiddush Hashem, allow one to learn Torah, give Tzedakah and do Chesed.  If one is not familiar with Tefillos regarding Parnassah, he may talk to Hashem in this regard in his own words.  Some may recall that we had previously published a moving, thoughtful Tefillah written by a Ba’al HaBayis that he recites before he begins his work day.  That Tefillah is provided by clicking here.


D.  Reciting other personal Tefillos to Hashem, as applicable, throughout the day.  By clicking here, we provide the Tefillas HaBari of the Chidah, praying for good health and excellent welfare.


E.  Making sure that the last words of the day before reciting Kriyas Shema Al Hamittah are words of Torah (Orchos Chaim LaRosh).  We add that the very last word that we are to recite before falling asleep is: HaMeir LaOlam Kulam BiChvodo--Who illuminates the entire world with His Glory.  What a beautiful way to end our day of speech--hopefully, in the zechus of our meaningful words, we will experience the fulfillment of these last daily words in all of their fullness, speedily and in our day!




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Kol Halashon (has many Shiuirm on the Sefer Chofetz Chaim for men and women and in different languages): 718-906-6400



16 Iyar 5772

Special Note One:  Chazal (Bava Basra 10A) teach that ‘Kol Ha’Maalim Einav Min Hatzedaka Ke’Ilu Ovaid Avodah Zara--if someone hides his eyes from giving charity, it is as if he worships idols(!).’  HaRav Elchanan Wasserman, Z’tl, provides a great and penetrating insight here.  When one turns to Avodah Zara, he believes that the getchka will help him out of his situation or predicament--but instead finds that his energies were misdirected and wasted. Thus, rather than the perceived good that would come out of his effort, it is in fact real ra, bad, that results.  He has no yeshua in hand, and has given of his life in a wasted effort. So, too, when one avoids a tzedaka collector or collection, a gabbai, an appeal or a campaign--and it is because he simply can’t give to anyone and everyone and deplete his resources in this way--he should understand that while he may think that he is engaged in asset preservation and cash management, in fact he is not using his money wisely--in a good way. The rule to follow in charity distribution is “Melach Mammon--Chosair...if you want to preserve your money, then give it those in need--for you have then made an everlasting deposit into an eternal account--never subject to market fluctuations, bankruptcies, debt collection, theft or other loss.  The more you give--the more you collect!



Special Note Two:  We continue with our review of the First Bracha of Shemone Esrei.  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, points out that the reason each one of our Avos is mentioned in the bracha is because the Nusach of the bracha incredibly refers back to the Pasuk (Shemos 3:6,7) in which Hashem advises Moshe at the Sneh that he has heard the cries of Bnei Yisroel in Egypt:  Anochi Elokei Avicha Elokei Avraham, Elokei Yitzchok, VEilokei Yaakov…V’es Tza’akasam Sha’amati MiPenei Nogsav…I am the G-d of Avraham, Yitzchok and Yaakov… and I heard their cries…. In fact, the name Yisroel is not used here--for ‘Yaakov’ is specifically used in the Pasuk [perhaps further indicating the pain of Galus].  We thus connect our Tefillos to the Tefillos of our forefathers in Egypt--with the similar hope that Hashem will listen to our cries as well! 



Special Note Three:  In last week’s Parsha (Vayikra 19:15 ), we learned that B’Tzedek Tishpot Amisecha--we are to judge our friends favorably.  What if we do not?


1.  Chazal teach (Shabbos 97A) that one who is Choshed BeChesheirim--(improperly suspects others) is Lokeh BeGufo.  This is easily explained in a Middah K’Neged Middah manner--just as he put a Mum on someone else, so too, will he receive a Mum in return. 


2.  Being a Choshed BeChesheirim is listed as one of the twenty four items which are Me’akeiv Teshuvah--for the person who improperly accuses does not feel that he has really done something wrong or hurt someone, while the very thought is an aveirah.


3.  Chazal also teach that if somebody is Choshed his friend improperly--he must appease him and he must bless him--as we find with Eili HaKohen who suspected Chana of being a Shikorah--and then appeased her and gave her a bracha…and what a bracha it was--Shmuel HaNavi!  If one improperly suspected another (including a family member or friend)--don’t forget to ask for forgiveness--and don’t forget to give them a nice big bracha!


4.  In the Sefer HaYirah, Rabbeinu Yonah writes that one should specifically forgive all those who improperly suspected him.


5.  Do not feel bad if someone has falsely suspected you--the Gemara (Shabbos 118B) brings the teaching of Rebbi Yosi--”Yehi Chelki Mimi Shechoshdin Oso V’ein Bo--may my lot be among those who have been suspected of something which is not true.”  One explanation for this may be that Hashem especially seeks to protect those who are derided.  Notwithstanding this fact, one should not go about seeking that suspicion be heaped upon him, for the Pasuk teaches “Veheyisem Neki’im MeiHashem U’MeiYisroel--one should always appear clean in the eyes of Hashem, and in the eyes of his People!”


Hakhel Note:  The Pasuk of B’tzedek Tishpot Amisecha teaches us that whether we know it or not, whether we like it or not--we are all judges.  We should strive for excellence in everything that we do--and if we must be judges, let us perform the task with propriety, correctness, honor and care!



Special Note Four:  We continue with our series, “A Word on Words”.  Since our communication with others forms such an important part of our lives, it is essential that we continuously enhance our words--so that we continuously enhance our lives.


A Word on Words

Lesson #49


The Mishna in Avos (5:9) teaches that there are seven factors that distinguish the Golam from the Chochom. They are as follows [translation is Artscroll]: (i) a learned person does not begin speaking before one who is greater than him in wisdom or in years; (ii) he does not interrupt the words of his fellow; (iii) he does not answer impetuously; (iv) he questions with relevance to the subject, and he replies accurately; (v) he discusses first things first and last things last; (vi) about something he has not heard he says: “I have not heard”; and (vii) he acknowledges the truth, admitting when he is wrong. 


Rabbi Moshe Goldberger, Shlita, points out that each and every one of these seven characteristics of the Chochom vs. the Golam relates to one’s speech.  This is not allegory, this is not fiction, it is speech that is the main dividing line between the wise and non-wise!  We owe it to ourselves to review each and every one of these seven items of careful speech many times--and steadfastly guide ourselves to--and remain on--the path of the wise!



Special Note Five:  As we are now into the “Natural Events” season, we once again provide the following pertinent Halachos relating to the Brachos on these events--which serve to remind us that they are far from being “natural”.  The basis for the Halachos below is Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, Chapter 227 and the Mishna Berurah there, the Sefer Shoneh Halachos and the Sefer Piskei Teshuvos on this Chapter in Shulchan Aruch.  We specifically note that one should, of course, consult with his Rav for the final Halacha.  We present the following for an understanding of the issues:


1.      When experiencing an earthquake, one recites the brocha of “Oseh Ma’aseh Bereishis--Who makes the work of Creation”.  It is also permissible to make the brocha of “Shekocho U’Gevuraso Malei Olam--His strength and His power fill the universe”.  Piskei Teshuvos writes that the degree of the tremor is not necessarily relevant, as long as it is clearly felt.  HaRav Yaakov Emden, Z’tl, teaches that one should recite the Pasuk from Sefer Yeshaya (6:3) “V’Kara Zeh El Zeh V’Amar Kadosh…” three times, and the earthquake will cease.  Indeed, he brings that this Pasuk is specifically intended to cover the situation of an earthquake!


2.      On very strong winds, i.e., which winds which uproot either heavy objects or items attached to the ground or to buildings which would not ordinarily have been uprooted, one makes an “Oseh Ma’aseh Beraishis”.  On a hurricane (killer type of wind), the Piskei Teshuvos writes that one can make the Brocha of “Shekocho U’Gevuraso”, but HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, writes that in all events one should make the Brocha of “Oseh Ma’aseh Beraishis,” because we are not proficient as to the degree of wind that is necessary to make “Shekocho U’Gevuraso.”


3.      On lightning, and on thunder, one can make either “Oseh Ma’aseh Beraishis” or “Shekocho U’Gevuraso.”  However, the custom is to make the Brocha of “Oseh Ma’aseh Beraishis” on lightning, and the Brocha of “Shekocho U’Gevuraso” on thunder.  We note that in many Sephardic communities, the custom may be to recite these Brochos without “Shem U’Malchus” (i.e., skipping from Baruch to “Oseh” or Baruch to “Shekocho”).


4.      If one sees lightning and hears thunder simultaneously, he makes one Brocha of “Oseh Ma’aseh Beraishis” on both (he would also be yotzei with the Brocha of “Shekocho U’Gevuraso” on both as well).


5.      One does not make a Brocha on lightning which comes only from heat.  If one is unsure of the source of the lightning, he should wait until he hears thunder.  Then, he makes one Brocha--Oseh Ma’aseh Beraishis--if he experiences them together (as noted in the previous paragraph).  However, if he does not experience them together--for example, if he then hears thunder without simultaneous lightning, he makes a Brocha of “Shekocho U’Gevuraso,” and then when he sees lightning (again) he makes the Brocha of “Oseh Ma’aseh Beraishis.”


6.      If one already had commenced making a Brocha on lightning and then, while making that Brocha, he heard thunder, he must make a second Brocha on the thunder later (once again, within two to three seconds after hearing the thunder).  The same would, of course, be true if he had already begun to make a Brocha on thunder, and then saw lightning--he would make a second Brocha on lightning within two or three seconds after seeing it again later.


7.       There is a Machlokes among the Poskim as to whether one has to see the actual lightning bolt in order to make the Brocha of “Oseh Ma’aseh Beraishis” (HaRav Dovid Feinstein, Shlita, for instance, holds that one must see the bolt).  Many Poskim (including HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, and the Tzitz Eliezer, Z’tl) rule that one need not see the bolt itself and that, accordingly, one can make the Brocha of “Oseh Ma’aseh Beraishis” when merely seeing the light flash--and not the actual bolt in the sky.


8.      Once again, one must make the Brocha within two to three seconds after seeing the lightning or hearing the thunder.  Accordingly, if one came out of the bathroom and washed his hands, and then saw lightning or heard thunder, he should immediately make the Brocha before reciting Asher Yotzar (usually one must be careful to recite the Brocha of Asher Yotzar immediately after coming out of the bathroom).


9.   Because one must make the Bracha so soon after experiencing the lightning or thunder, one may find himself in the midst of Tefillah, and an important issue becomes whether one should interrupt his prayers in order not to miss the Bracha and Hisoreirus opportunity which will quickly pass.  Once again, one should consult with his Rav on any particular Shaila, we provide here Halachos as excerpted from the Siddur Kavanas Hashem (Yerushalayim:


Permitted interruptions in Tefillah to make the Bracha over lightning and thunder:


A.     During Pesukei DeZimra (except while reciting Baruch Atta Hashem Melech MeHulal Batishbachos, or Baruch Atta Hashem Kel Melech Gadol BaTishbachos…)


B.     In between (not during) Brachos of Kriyas Shema, or in between (not during) the first and second and second and third Chapters of Kriyas Shema.


Non-permitted interruptions in Tefillah to make the Bracha over lightning and thunder--i.e., do not make the Bracha at these times:


A.     After having made the Bracha on the Tefillin Shel Yad, and before completing placement of the Tefillin Shel Rosh.


B.     In the middle of one of the Birchas Kriyas Shema, or in the middle of any Chapter of Shema.


C.     In Shemone Esrei, and even in the middle of Elokai Netzor at the end of Shemone Esrei until after Yehiyu LeRatzon Imrei Phee.


D.     When in the middle Birchas HaMazon.


E.      When in the middle of a making a Bracha (even long Brachos such as Asher Yatzar or HaMa’avir Sheina)


10.      If one mistakenly made a Brocha over a flash of light or a thundering noise thinking that it was thunder or lightning (such as an airplane passing overhead at night), he would have to make the appropriate Brochos when he actually hears thunder or sees lightning later.


11.  One can assume (unless there is a basis to believe otherwise) that one’s hands are clean, and he does not have to wash them in order to recite the Brocha.


12.  Although not absolutely required by Halacha, it is preferable that one stands when making these two Brochos.


13.  One makes the Brocha over lightning and thunder only one time a day during the same storm.  If the sky completely clears up, and new storm clouds come in, then one makes new Brochos over lightning and thunder even a second time during the day.


14.   If a storm had commenced the previous day or even the previous evening, and has still not cleared up by the time one arises the next morning, one would make new Brochos the next morning after daybreak.  In other words, the evening and the next morning are considered two separate days for the Brochos over lightning and thunder (just like Birchos HaTorah)--so that one would make new Brochos upon hearing lightning and thunder when awakening the next morning.


14.  We should in all events remember that Chazal (Brochos 59A) teach that thunder was invented only to “straighten out the crookedness in the heart,” and thank Hashem for the ordinary and extraordinary events that take place every day--and for our ability to understand and appreciate them!



15 Iyar 5772

Special Note One: We are now just Nineteen Full Weeks before Rosh Hashanah! Last year at this time, we began BE'H our very successful Shemone Esrei Project, in which we particularly studied one bracha a week over the 19 weeks--enabling us to have additional kavannah in that bracha during the week. This year, we hope to repeat the project, with some new and additional notes in the brachos from time to time as well. We begin with the first of the Brachos--known as Avos, obviously alluding to our forefathers--each of whom, as we know, are specifically only in this bracha, and each of whom Chazal teach instituted one of the daily Tefillos (Avrohom Avinu-Shacharis, Yitzchak Avinu--Mincha, and Yaakov Avinu--Ma'ariv). However, there is a second suggested meaning to the reference of this bracha as Avos. One reason given that Mesechta Avos (the only Mesechta of 63 Mesechtos that is studied in such a formal way in preparation for Kabbalas HaTorah), is called by this name is because it contains the Avos--the cardinal principles for us to live by.  This bracha as well puts the Avos--the fundamentals of our faith--in perspective for us, as it describes Hashem's relationship to K'lal Yisroel, His Greatness, His Kindness, His Awesomeness, how we have survived through His beneficence--and how we will make it through the end of days. The bracha of Avos is so essential that the Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 101:seif katan 4) uniquely rules that if one realizes before he concluded the bracha with the words Baruch Atta Hashem that he did not have Kavannah for the meaning of the words--then he can go back to the words "Elokei Avrohom, Elokei Yitzchok near the beginning of the bracha, and recite the bracha again from there even though he will be repeating Hashem's name several times (although he cannot go back to Baruch Atta Hashem at the beginning of the bracha). The Dirshu Mishna Berurah (ibid.) brings the opinion of the Chazon Ish who rules that if one had recited the words Baruch Atta Hashem at the end of the bracha, or had completed the bracha but had not begun the next bracha of Gevuros, he can think the words of the bracha in between the two brachos, and it would be considered as if he had kavannah in the bracha. [The Dirshu note adds that HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita writes that he does not believe the Mishne Berurah would agree with this ruling of the Chazon Ish.] In all events, we see the special emphasis and tremendous need to have kavannah in the first bracha--as evidenced by the proposed lengths we must go if c'v we have not done so. Accordingly, it behooves us to place special concentration on the meaning of the words we are reciting in this bracha--as we begin our privileged meeting with Our Maker known as "Shemone Esrei"--with the fundamental principles of Avos!



Special Note Two: We continue with our series, “A Word on Words”.  Since our communication with others forms such an important part of our lives, it is essential that we continuously enhance our words--so that we continuously enhance our lives.


A Word on Words

Lesson # 48


With the words "Lo Selech Rochil Be'Amecha in last week's Parsha, we learn that our words our so powerful that they actually go places--they are holchim!  It was a hallmark of HaRav Pam, Z'tl, that he would consistently pause and not speak or respond quickly in order to ensure that his words were appropriate and correct. Yes, Shabbos is over--but let us not simply turn our backs on Lo Selech Rochil, one of the ikar Pesukim on which the concept of Shemiras Halashon is based.  Let us show that it has made a difference for us! May we suggest that twice a day--once in the daylight hours (work), and once in the evening (home), one practice this middah of HaRav Pam--not responding immediately, but thinking about what one is about to say--to demonstrate that it is not our speech that controls us--but that we are in control of our speech!



Special Note Three: Another one of the Mitzvos in last week's Parsha was VaChai Bahem--and you shall live in them. The Chofetz Chaim in his Sefer HaMitzvos HaKatzar writes that there are 77 Mitzvos Aseh which we can be mekayem in our day (77 is the gematria of Vechayu Bahem!), and briefly lists them. He urges his readers to divide the list into two--and read one-half on Mondays, and one-half on Thursdays, until one becomes fluent enough in them to move on to the Lo Sa'asehs, of which there are 194 [which he lists] one can be mekayem in our day--and review them in the same way. All of these practical mitzvos are undoubtedly familiar to us. We intend to list two every Monday and two every Thursday--in order to at least touch upon the review process suggested by the Chofetz Chaim--and begin now with the first two Mitzvos Aseh:


1. Anochi Hashem Elokecha--to believe that Hashem exists forever, and that He created all worlds and all that is found in them according to His Will, and that Hashem watches over all of this that He has created. This is the Yesod Hadas, and one who does not believe it is a kofer B'Ikar who has no part in K'lal Yisroel. We must be wiling to sacrifice our lives and possessions for this ikar of Emunah.


2. Hashem Echad--Hashem is the One and Only--with no partner or helper, no second in command and no other god. As part of this ikar, we must also believe that Hashem has no body or form and accordingly that which happens to a body will not happen to Him, and that He is incomprehensible to our finite minds. We should always keep this in mind.



Special Note Four: According to the Luach Dovor B’Ito, today is the transition day between Bnei Yisroel finishing Matzah they had brought along from Mitzraim, and tomorrow, 16 Iyar, is the day that the Mann began to fall (see, however, Rashi to Shemos 16:33), in which Rashi appears to write that the Mann began to fall today), it is these day that Moshe Rabbeinu composed the first Brocha of Birchas HaMazon, the Brocha of Hazon Es HaOlam. The Luach therefore urges that this Brocha be recited with a special Kavannah at this time.

Hakhel Note: As we have previously noted, at a Hakhel Shiur, HaRav Yisroel Belsky, Shlita [may he have a Refuah Sheleima Bekarov], made the following incredible point. How could it be that millions of people actually finished the Matzah that they had brought with them from Mitzraim on the exact same day? After all, did not some families have more, some have less? Were not some families larger, and some families smaller? Did not some families have mostly adults, and others mostly small children?


HaRav Belsky answered with a remarkable teaching. In fact, there were families that had finished their Matzah days ago, and others that had finished it even weeks ago. However, those with Matzah remaining shared it willingly and even happily with their neighbors. Only when all of this shared Matzah was completely consumed, was there a need for the Mann. Indeed, perhaps the Mann came only because Hashem recognized and acknowledged the chesed of His people, and “shared” with us effusively from His special bounty as well. Let us take this lesson and enthusiastically apply it by trying to help someone else today with their Parnassah or their needs. After all, in the end…it is all Mann!



14 Iyar 5772

Today is Pesach Sheni. HaRav Yaakov Tzvi Emden, Z’TL (“the Yaavetz”) writes in his Siddur that:

“It was revealed to me from Heaven why Pesach Sheni was established on the 14th day of Iyar. After all, it would not require more than two weeks for anyone who was impure or too far away on Pesach itself to come to Yerushalayim and bring the Pesach Sheni. So, why wait a month from the 14th of Nissan to the 14th of Iyar--the Pesach Sheni could have already been brought by Rosh Chodesh Iyar?!” The reason given to HaRav Emden from Heaven was that Bnei Yisroel had sufficient Matzos to last from the time of our Exodus from Mitzraim for 30 days--until the night of the 15th of Iyar! In other words, the Exodus, and all of the Kedusha that came along with it, actually lasted for a full month after the night of Makkas Bechoros and our gathering to leave the next morning. The holiness that extended from Yetzias Mitzraim, then, extended until today’s special day!

The Torah teaches (Bamidbar 9:10) that the actual Korban Pesach Sheni is brought when a person cannot bring the Korban Pesach in its proper time--either because, for example, he was rendered impure, or because he was too far away from the Courtyard of the Bais HaMikdash at the time the original Pesach offering was to be brought. The Luach Dovor B’Ito writes that a great lesson of Pesach Sheni is that it teaches us that it is never too late, and it is always possible, to “Remove your Tumah”--shed your impurity, and to come closer to Hashem after “Having been too far away”. Accordingly, Pesach Sheni is a time of reflection and Teshuva. We should take some time out to properly utilize the opportunity of the day.

One final point on Pesach Sheni: there is a difference in custom as to if and when one eats Matzah today. According to one opinion, one should not eat Matzah, for it may appear as if he is attempting to fulfill the Mitzvah of Matzah in an improper time, which is a violation of the Torah’s prohibition against adding onto the 613 Mitzvos. Others have the custom to eat Matzah sometime during the day on the 14th, to remember that the Korbon Pesach Sheni was brought today. A third opinion is to eat the Matzah tonight, i.e., the night of the 15th of Iyar, for this would be the night that the Korban Pesach Sheni was eaten together with Matzah and Marror. Every person should follow his custom, or his Rav’s guidance, in this area.

Today is also the Yahrtzeit of the Great Tanna, Rebbe Meir (also known as Rebbe Meir Ba’al Haness). There are those who have the custom of putting money in the Pushka L’Ilui Nishmaso, and reciting “Aloka D’Meir Anaini” three times.

There are specific Tefillos which are attributed to the Chasam Sofer relating to good health, blessing and success; success in one’s business dealings and locating lost items which one may recite any time during the year when placing money into a Pushka L’Ilui Nishmas Rebbe Meir. To obtain copies of these tefillos, one can contact the Rebbe Meir Ba’al Haness Kolel Shomrei Hachomos office near you. They may also be found on the back of Pushkas distributed by Kolel Shomrei Hachomos.

May the Zechuyos of Rebbe Meir always stand in our stead!



12 Iyar 5772

Special Note One:  Important comments and advice from our readers:


A.  A well-known chaplain advised that, in his opinion, rather than picking up a Siddur in Shul, one should instead have his very own Siddur with him--and further advises that the Siddur should be mug’ah, with Shvah Nahs marked, and other pronunciation assistance tools, as some Siddurim have (see, for instance, the Artscroll Siddur and the dividing lines separating words in Kriyas Shema).


B.  Another reader advised us of the proper pronunciation of Amen Yehei Shemei Rabbah as follows:  Awe.main/ye.hai sh.may (mapik heh) rah.bah/me/va.rach


C.  A reader advised us that he had asked HaRav Yisroel Yaakov Fischer, Z’tl (who was Av Bais Din of the Aida HaChareidis and Rav of Zichron Moshe in Yerushalayim) how he could improve his memory.  He felt he was forgetting sources and ideas too readily.  HaRav Fischer advised him that he should take first cold press olive oil which was not cooked and consume some every day (the reader advised us that he puts it into his salad).  We assume this advice is based on the Chazal (Horoyos 13B) which teaches that being ragil in shemen zayis assists in one’s retention of his learning.



Special Note Two:  In last week’s Parsha, we learned of items that we have to guard from entering our mouth--all the unkosher animals, birds and fish.  In this week’s Parsha, as we will see below to a limited extent (and as one will clearly recognize during his following of tomorrow’s leining), we will learn of how many Mitzvos one performs when he carefully guards that which goes out of his mouth.  We suggest that just as one should not utter an inappropriate word or a word of which one does not know the meaning, so too, one should not consume an item of which the ingredients are not known, or are not obvious.  Merely because something looks ‘interesting’ should not be a sufficient reason to try it without knowing what in fact one is eating.  Furthermore, if one does taste or sense something strange in what he has partaken, even when the food item is a simple one, he should attempt to clarify it as soon as possible.  Here are two incidents of which we recently learned--something like Shailos from a Rabbi's diary: 


1.  A housewife had prepared special cookies for Shabbos, and asked her husband to taste them on Erev Shabbos.  He in turn would be fulfilling the Mitzvah of To’ameha Chaim Zachu (although some learn that this Mitzvah actually applies on Shabbos and not on Erev Shabbos).  He tasted the cookies, noticed a special taste and said that they were delicious and fit for Shabbos.  They were, of course, served over Shabbos.  On Motza’ei Shabbos, the wife looked in the refrigerator and realized that the margarine tub was still there--which meant that she had put butter--and not margarine into the cookies!  Had the husband inquired about the unusual (butter) taste on Erev Shabbos after partaking of the cookies--the cookies would not have been consumed on Shabbos after the meat meals.  One can imagine the aftermath of Shailos regarding what was consumed, utensils, the oven, etc.


2.  In another instance, someone went to a Bris, and in honor of the great occasion (some explain that eating at a Seudas Bris is like participating in the seuda after bringing a Karbon), he decided not to just have a plain bagel, but instead took a "fancy looking bagel with swirls on it".  After eating a part of the bagel--he realized that this was none other than a cinnamon raisin bagel-- and he was otherwise makpid about not eating raisins because of the possible tolaim issue involved.  He was left with a dejected ‘raisiny’ taste in his mouth. Whether the raisins were infected, whether they were crushed and edible...the fact remained that he ate beginning with his eyes....


Summing it up:  We see that just as the act of eating requires a bracha before and a bracha after--it requires thought before and thought after as well!  Indeed, when we eat we are different, on the one hand, from animals who do so simply to satisfy their base instinct for food and may accomplish the task in a manner which is repulsive to us, and on the other hand, we are different from Malochim who do not need to eat at all.  We are uniquely positioned to turn our eating-- beginning from before we actually eat through and after the time we actually eat into a wonderful experience of Avodas Hashem!  We are not animals, and we are not Malochim--let us act as humans in the best possible way!



Special Note Three:  We continue with our series, “A Word on Words”.  Since our communication with others forms such an important part of our lives, it is essential that we continuously enhance our words--so that we continuously enhance our lives.


A Word on Words

Lesson #47


As noted above, there are very many Mitzvos in this week’s Parsha relating to speech.  One such Mitzvah which we may otherwise summarily review is what the Sefer HaChinuch counts as Mitzvah 231--the prohibition on cursing.  In explaining this Mitzvah, the Sefer HaChinuch teaches as follows (English translation by Charles Wengrov, Feldheim Publishing):  Now, even though it-is not in our power to know in what way a malediction takes effect on a cursed person, and what force speech has to bring this [effect] upon him, we know generally from all the people in the world that they are fearful about curses-both Jewry and other peoples. They say that anyone's malediction, even the curse of a commoner, leaves a mark on the cursed person, and the imprecation and the pain cling to him.  Well, knowing this concept from people's words, we would say that at the root of the precept lies the reason that Hashem has restrained us from causing harm with our mouths to anyone else, as He has restrained us from harming others by action. In a vein akin to this theme, Chazal say: ‘A covenant (pact) was made with the lips--whatever they utter should have an effect.  In other words, there is a force in the words of a man's mouth.”


We bring the above quote from the Chinuch to learn and internalize the tremendous power our mouth has, even though our sound waves are not visible to the naked eye.  We now add several additional Halachos relating to this particular Mitzvah as culled from Love Your Neighbor, by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita:


 “Lo Sekalel Cheireish--it is forbidden to curse others” (Vayikra 19:14 )


1.  It is forbidden to curse a person using any of Hashem’s names. (Choshen Mishpat 27:1)


2.  Saying to someone, ‘Hashem should punish you,’ is a violation of this prohibition. (U’rim Vetumim 27: 2)


3.  It is considered using Hashem’s name even when the name is not in Hebrew. (Choshen Mishpa’at 27: 1)


4.  A person is forbidden to curse himself (ibid.)  It is forbidden to say concerning a false statement: "This statement is true, so help me G-d."  This is considered cursing oneself, since from the positive we infer the negative. (Shaarei Teshuva 3:47)


5.   It is an especially severe transgression to curse a Torah scholar (C.M. 27:2), or an entire group. (Rambam, Hilchos Teshuvah 4:3)


6.  Although using Hashem’s name constitutes a more serious offense, it is nonetheless forbidden to curse someone without using Hashem’s name (ibid.). (For instance, it is forbidden to state ‘I hope you fall off a…’)


7.  It is forbidden to curse someone by the use of an inference.  For example: "You should not be blessed by Hashem." (ibid.)


8.  Cursing someone who .is deceased is not as serious as cursing someone who is alive, but it is nevertheless forbidden. (ibid.)


9.  If someone says Hashem’s name with the intention of cursing another person, it is a mitzvah to interrupt him so as to prevent him from transgressing. (Sefer Chasidim 64)


10.  The Vilna Gaon advised his wife to strike their children if she ever heard them cursing someone. (Igeres HaGra)



Special Note Four:  We have thus far referenced a few mitzvos contained in this week’s Parshios of Acharei Mos-Kedoshim.  In truth, however, how can one begin to do justice to a review of these two Parshios, which together contain 79 Mitzvos?  The task is, nevertheless, ours--as Chazal have so established our Parshios.  Our must recognize that our touching upon all these particular Mitzvos now is timely--because all that occurs is Hashgacha Pratis.  To begin one's special and sacred task, we suggest that one must be careful to timely review the Parshios--a man by Shnayim Mikrah V’Echad Targum, and both men and women at least with Rashi.  At points where we feel a special connection or newfound question, we can take a few moments to further investigate the topic.  Most certainly, we should remember that Torah study has two separate and distinct goals--one is study for the sake of study, for Hashem wants us to know the Torah (according to the Chofetz Chaim this is Torah Lishmah), and through this, our Deveikus to Hashem certainly increases.  The second goal is study for the sake of LeMa’aseh--proper conduct and practice.  It is not enough to know what to do in a particular situation--but to actually do it.  As the Sefer Mesilas Yesharim teaches, there are three purposes in life--La’avod, U’Lekayem HaMitzvos, VeLa’amod BeNisayon--to serve Hashem, to fulfill the Mitzvos and to stand steadfast in the face of Nisayon.  All three of these appear to be accomplished by putting the Torah that one studies into practice.  Accordingly, we provide below excerpts from the Sefer HaChinuch (the Feldheim edition quoted above) as to two Mitzvos in this week’s Parsha--together with a practical suggestion after each one.  The intent is not necessarily that a readerfollow the practical suggestion, but that the reader develop improvement that he feels relevant to himself in these two Mitzvos, and that the reader will develop similar thoughts on other Mitzvos contained in the Parsha as well:


A.  VeAhavta LeRei’acha Kamocha--You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Vayikrah 19:18 )


“To love every member of K’lal Yisroel with a profound affection, which is to say that we are to be concerned about every Yid and his property as a man is concerned about himself and his property-for it is stated, you shall love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19: 18), and Chazal explained: What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow-man.  Then, in the Midrash (Sifra 4:12 ) it was taught: Said Rebbi Akiva: This is a great principle in the Torah. In other words, many commandments in the Torah 'depend on it.  Thus, a person who loves another as himself will not steal from himwill not cheat him of goods or oppress him with words, will not move his boundary, and will not harm him in any way. So are many other religious duties bound up with it; the matter is evident to every understanding person.  'The root reason for the Mitzvah is apparent: for as a person treats another, so will the other treat him; and with this there will be peace among human beings. The laws of the Mitzvah are summed up in the precept: for it includes everything to say that a man should behave toward his fellow-man as he behaves toward himself--to guard his property and remove all harm from him. And if he relates things about the other one, let him relate them in his praise and have a care for the other's esteem, and not find honor in the other's disgrace. As Chazal teach: Whoever derives honor through the disgrace of his fellow-man, has no share in the World-to-Come. On the other hand, when a man behaves toward his fellow in a way of love and peace and friendship, seeking his advantage and rejoicing in his good fortune, the Pasuk refers to him as, Yisroel Asher Bicha Espa’ar-- Yisroel in whom I will be glorified (Yeshaya 49: 3)


PRACTICAL SUGGESTION:  Based on this week’s Parsha, one must advance in some area in the Mitzvah of VeAhavta LeRei’acha Kamocha.  As an example, we refer you to the site of Refuah-Shelayma.org  This is their welcoming message:


  "Give 30 seconds to a stranger today, and who knows what tomorrow will bring you..."  Welcome to Refuah-Shelayma.org  the great new site that helps get the word out about any cholah (sick person), to thousands of people davening, in just minutes!  Do you...learn with a chavrusa?  Learn after Minyan?   Learn in a Kollel or Yeshiva?  Read some Tehillim while on the train? Why not have a cholah in mind and use the full potential of your learning.   Now you can have any number of cholim names to have in mind while learning.   Do you do none of the above? No worries, receive a small inspirational 30 second piece of Torah with your cholim names each day."


Hakhel Note:  Will you join in?  What a wonderful demonstration of the Mitzvah!  Mi KeAmcha Yisroel!


B.  Mipenei Seivah Takum--The Mitzvah of honoring Talmidei Chachomim (Vayikrah 19:32 )


“To honor Torah scholars and rise before them: for it is stated, Mipenei Seivah Takum, which Onkelos translated, "You shall rise up before one who studies Torah"; and VeHadartah P'nei Zakein (ibid.)--on which Chazal (Kiddushin 32B) explained: "an old man" means none else but one who has acquired wisdom.  As to why the Pasuk expresses the concept of a Torah scholar by the term "an old man," the reason is that a young Torah scholar sees through his wisdom what an old man sees through the multitude of his years.  At the root of the Mitzvah lies the reason that the main. point of man's having been created in the world is for the sake of wisdom, so that he- will become aware of his Creator. It is therefore fitting for a man to honor one who has attained it. As a result, others will be bestirred about it, and for this root reason, Issi Ben Yehuda (ibid) explained that even an uneducated old man, i.e. who is not wise, is included in this Mitzvah: it is right to honor him-because in his great number of years he has seen and recognized a bit of the workings of Hashem and His wonders; hence he is deserving of esteem.  This is why Rebbi Yochanan said the Halacha is like Issi Ben Yehuda.  Yet this rule holds only on condition that he is not a confirmed sinner; for if he is, he has deprived himself of honor.  Among the laws of the Mitzvah, there is what Chazal taught: that needless to say, one who is not a wise scholar has the obligation of honoring a wise scholar; but even he who is one himself is also required to honor a wise person.  As Chazal (Bava Metzi’ah 33A) recounted: The Torah scholars in Bavel rise up before one another.  Then there is what they equally explained: that in the honor due a Torah teacher from a student, there is a great deal more [required] than in the esteem he owes every other scholar. They indeed went so far as to say (Avos 4:12 ):  Mora Rabcha KeMora Shomayim-- the reverent fear of your Torah teacher should be as the reverent fear of Heaven. 


PRACTICAL SUGGESTION:  As we prepare for Matan Torah we should consider ways that we can increase the respect that we give to our Rabbanim and Maggidei Shiur.  What happens when the Daf Yomi Maggid Shiur enters the room, and how do we treat him--even if he may not be the Rav of the Shul or a Rebbi in a Yeshiva?  Do we stand to a full height when the Rav himself enters the Shul or room?  How do we treat Menahalim and our children’s Rebbeim?  What is the tone in which we address them--and how do we demonstrate reverence?  Just because one’s Rav may be unassuming and modest--does not obviate the need for us to accord them the honor and respect Hashem teaches they deserve?  In fact, when we accord them their proper due in the way that the Torah requires it --we demonstrate our Yiras Shomayim, for the entire Pasuk is: "Mipenei Seivah Takum VeHadartah Pinei Zakein Veyareisa MeiElokecha Ani Hashem--In the presence of an old person you shall rise, and you shall honor the presence of a sage and you shall revere your G-d--I am Hashem!"  Let us act to improve our reverence for Torah Scholars--and with it we will demonstrate our true Yiras Hashem!



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


A.  Once again in this week’s Parsha, we find the concept of Shemiras Shabbos mentioned in two separate instances--Ish Aviv VeImo Tira'u Ve'Es Shabsosai Tishmoru…revere your mother and father and observe my Shabbosos(Vayikrah 19:3), and then later Es Shabsosai Tishmoru Ve'Es Mikdashai Tira'u--observe My Shabbosos and revere My Bais HaMikdash (Vayikrah 19:30).  There are obviously two separate messages here.  First, even if a parent instructs his child to violate a Mitzvah DeRabanan such as “Move that Muktzah” or “Have the gentile turn on the light” in a situation where it is not Halachically permitted, the child is not permitted to honor his parent and must follow the Mitzvah DeRabanan.  Moreover, the Kedusha of Shabbos is so great, the second Pasuk teaches us, we would not be able to violate a Mitzvah DeRabanan even if it was to build the final and eternal third Bais HaMikdash, which we have been waiting for 2,000 years!  We should keep these lessons in mind every Shabbos, and seek to increase our personal awareness and feeling of the Kedushas Shabbos. Afterthought complacent reactions such as “Oh well, I carried this outside by mistake”, or “Maybe I shouldn't have moved the Muktzah”, “Oops, was that some kind of Borer?”…are not part of an elevated attitude towards Shabbos.  Skipping Zemiros because it is ‘getting late’, priding oneself on attending a Shabbos morning Minyan which 'finishes davening on in less than two hours',  or looking for an earlier Motza’ei Shabbos Minyan, would also not seem to fall squarely within the Shemiras Shabbos the Torah seeks of us in this week’s Parsha.  Shabbos is so lofty, so elevated--even above the Bais HaMikdash--let us make sure that it elevates us!


B.  During this past week’s Daf Yomi (Meilah 17A), we learned of an incredible incident in which Rebbi Reuven Ben Istrubeli dressed as a Roman in order to induce the Roman politicos to annual their evil decrees against the Jewish people.  One such decree was that the Jews could no longer observe Shabbos.  He argued to them (ostensibly as a gentile)--“If a person had an enemy, does he want to make him rich or poor?”  “Poor, of course”, they responded.  “If that is the case, let the Jews observe Shabbos so that they will not do work and they will become poor,” he said.  The politicians responded “You are right!”, and they annulled the decree.  Later, they learned he was a Jew and they reinstated the Gezeirah.  This Ma’aseh serves to reinforce to us the stark contrast between our level of Emunah which our observance of Shabbos highlights and brings to the fore--and the non-Jew's attitude which is that not working will simply make us poor (they only reinstated the decree because of their anti-Semitism--even though they believed his argument was correct).  Our calm observance of Shabbos, without thinking about the work week, all the money that has to be made, and the tasks at work that have to be done, is a bastion of our Emunah as an Am Segulah VeGoy Kadosh--a people with a very special relationship to their Creator who bask in His Hashgacha Pratis.  Indeed, one of the reasons given as to why we put our ten fingers on bread or Challah before making a bracha over it is that this represents the ten words of the Pasuk of ‘Veyiten Lecha’--that our success is only from Hashem--and not the result of our own genius or toil.  It is no coincidence that many take this enormous lesson of Shabbos with us immediately into the week by reciting the Pesukim of ‘Veyiten Lecha…it all depends on Hashem’s bracha’--as we are about to conclude Ma'ariv and begin the new week!



11 Iyar 5772

Special Note One:  We continue with our series, “A Word on Words”.  Since our communication with others forms such an important part of our lives, it is essential that we continuously enhance our words--so that we continuously enhance our lives.


A Word on Words

Lesson #46


The following is excerpted from Love Your Neighbor (Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita) on this week’s Parsha:


Hochayach Tochiach Es Amisecho, V’lo Siso Alov Chait” ( 19:17 )--you shall rebuke your fellow man, and you shall not bear sin because of him.  We are commanded to correct someone who behaves improperly, whether in matters pertaining to man’s relations with G-d or man’s relationship with his fellow man.


*The most important rule to remember about rebuke is that it must be administered with love and as painlessly as possible.  Only when the recipient of rebuke feels that the rebuker loves him, will he readily accept the admonition.


*Some people mistakenly think that the commandment to admonish others applies only to Rabbis and teachers.  But the truth is that every single person, even if he is unlearned, who sees someone behaving improperly is obligated to rebuke him.  Quite often the rebuke of a friend will be more effective than the rebuke of a Rabbi.  Some people might not heed the admonition of a Rabbi with the following rationalization: “If I were a Rabbi I would or would not do such and such.  But I’m just an ordinary layman.”  If, however, their friend rebukes them, they are likely to think to themselves: “If he is careful about this matter, then I should be, too.”  The author of the Noam Hatochocho writes that the mitzvah of correcting others is a Mais Mitzvah (a Mitzvah that is improperly ignored).  There are many Mitzvah observers who do not realize that correcting others is obligatory and not merely meritorious.  The severity of failing to correct others can be seen from the opinion in the Talmud which states that Yerushalayim was destroyed because the inhabitants failed to rebuke one another.  The Chofetz Chaim wrote that some people are careful to fulfill the commandments themselves, but never try to influence others to fulfill them.  In essence, they are saying, “I won’t suffer in gehinnom, so I don’t have to…..”  Such a person is selfish for he thinks only about himself and his own reward.  He shows a lack of feeling for Hashem’s honor and his fellow man’s spiritual welfare.  He is also wrong--for he will be held responsible for failing to perform this essential Mitzvah.


* When you rebuke someone, you must do so privately so as not to embarrass him.  This applies both when the matter pertains to his having wronged you, and when the matter pertains to his improper behavior relating to his obligations to G-d.


*If someone transgresses in public, you should rebuke him immediately so as not to cause a Chillul Hashem.  For example, if someone is in the middle of speaking Loshon Hora in front of a group of people, it is correct to point out his transgression immediately, even though other people are present.  Of course, this should be done in the most tactful manner possible (HaRav Eliashiv, Shlita).


*Before admonishing someone, offer a prayer that your admonition should be delivered in a manner that will be effective.


*If a whole group of people are in need of correction, you will be most successful if you admonish each person individually.  Speaking to the group as a whole will not have the same effect.


*If a person heeds you and improves his ways, all the Mitzvos he subsequently performs as a consequence of this reproof bring reward to you as well as the doer himself! (Vilna Gaon in Even Shlaima 6:7)



Special Note Two:  During the Sefira period, we recall that the cause for the Petira of so many students of Rebbi Akiva was Shelo Nahagu Kavod Zeh B’Zeh.  It is obvious that improving our respect for each other should be a key feature of our Sefira Period.  Set forth below are a number of Kavod Improvement Suggestions culled from Mussar Seforim.  We welcome your additional insights or improvement in this crucial area during this timely period:


1.  In last week’s Perek of Pirkei Avos, we learned (2:5):  Yehi Kavod Chavercha Chaviv Alecha KiShelach--let the honor of your friend be as dear to you as your own honor.  When in doubt as to how to react to, or treat your friend, keep this Ma’amar Chazal in mind!


2.  Look at your friend while speaking to him, and do not occupy yourself with something else at the same time. 


3.  Smile at your friend--and make him feel that it is important for you to be with him. 


4. Be happy when your friend is happy, and feel troubled when he is troubled. 


5. When you friend is undergoing a Nisayon, apply yourself so that you can best appreciate how to help him.


6.  Avoid a witty repartee which only make you look good or funny, but will not benefit your friend, or may even hurt him.


7.  If you had a disagreement with your friend, ask for forgiveness first, before he asks you. 


8.  Chazal teach that Bais Hillel would present the opinion of Bais Shammai first--let your friend always speak or go first.


9.  From time-to-time think--My friend is a Tzelem Elokim--someone who Hashem has especially created for a specific purpose in life.  I know him--so I have something to do with his purpose!


10.  Do not yell, scream, or speak coarsely but speak gently, remember that you are speaking to a member of the Royal Household!



Special Note Three:  The following is excerpted from Growth Through Tehillim (by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita, as well!) on the words of Dovid HaMelech (Tehillim 52:3) ‘Chesed Kel Kol HaYom--the kindness of Hashem is all day long!’:


Whatever day it is right now as you are reading this, the kindness of Hashem has been there for you from the beginning of the day, until this moment, and the kindness of Hashem will be with you for the rest of the day until the new day starts. Tomorrow again you will be a beneficiary of the kindness of Hashem, and this will continue each and every day for your entire life. This has been going on from your very first day of life and each and every day after that until this moment.  Imagine how you will feel when you experience an entire day with this consciousness. From the moment you open your eyes in the morning until you go to sleep at night, every moment will have awareness of Hashem’s kindness towards you.  Allow yourself to be aware of being the recipient of constant kindness for an entire day. Every movement you make is an aspect of Hashem’s kindness.  Everything you own is an aspect of Hashem’s kindness.  Every interaction with other people has aspects of this kindness.  Every bit of food you eat and every drop of water you drink is an aspect of this constant kindness.  And what about the things that you usually overlook?  On the day at you decide to become more aware of the kindnesses you experience, you will notice more and more things.  You will see what you might not have seen before, and you will hear what you might not have heard before. You will feel feelings of gratitude and joy that you otherwise might not have felt.  You will find yourself being more aware of Hashem’s presence, and you will allow your mind to be filled with thoughts of appreciation for Hashem’s kindness to you. You will be more present oriented, and you will focus less on anything you are dissatisfied with about the past. You will be free from stressful thoughts about the future - you will be focused on the present kindnesses. When you do this, if your mind needlessly wanders to some thoughts that are not conducive to appreciation of kindness, you will gently and lightly re-direct your consciousness to the present kindness that you are experiencing. Just knowing that your mind has the ability to direct your thoughts, is a wonderful kindness of Hashem. Just how does your mind direct your thoughts to thoughts of kindness?  We have no way to explain this with our present limited knowledge, but the knowledge we do have of what we are able to do, is something for which to be grateful.  What would your entire life be like from now on if you would take this Pasuk as a concept to focus on frequently? There is only one way to really answer this question accurately, and that is to make this Pasuk-- Chesed Kel Kol HaYom a verse that will frequently be on your lips. For when you repeat it out loud and to yourself, your inner mind will focus on the kindnesses that you are experiencing right now, on this very day.


A joyful middle-aged man was asked, “What was a major breakthrough in your life?” He related, “I used to be what one would consider a negative person “Until about ten years ago I would frequently complain and kvetch, I usually focusing on what I did not like. Each and every day a number of things were not going exactly as I wanted them to. This would make me unhappy. I considered myself a constant victim of circumstances. I would have been much happier if other people, and my life in general, would be more the way I wanted. In addition, I never had enough money, and I was terrified that in the future I would be short of the money that I needed to live. I was filled with insecurity and anxiety. Then a Rabbi told me that he could tell me four words that would totally change my entire emotional life. I was skeptical.  “Four words?” I challenged him. “Do you really believe that after three years of therapy that helped a bit but did not make me a happy person, you can just tell me four words and those four words will transform my entire life?”  “Try it, I am not claiming that these four words are magic, and that just by my saying them or your repeating them, you will become a happy person. What I am saying to you is that these four words contain a mind-set that can totally transform your life when you give thought to what they mean, and you frequently think about this during the day. I’ll only agree to share them with you if you give me your word that you will make a serious effort to apply them for just one day.” “One day is a long time,” I argued. “What about for just one hour?” “Nothing doing!” the Rabbi said firmly but kindly.  “If you are not/committed to think about this for an entire day, I don’t think that you are serious when you say that you would like to know how to improve your emotional condition.  If you do not care about your own well-being, my just wishing you well will not really help you. For this to work, you need a real commitment. After a day of applying what I am suggesting, if you feel that you prefer to be grumpy, negative and depressed, that will be your choice. However, I must know that you really mean what you say, when you say that you truly want to become a happier person.” I saw that the Rabbi was going to be stubborn, or as he would say, ‘steadfast,’ about not telling me his formula unless I committed to giving it a try for an entire day, so I reluctantly said I would do it. He then told me the verse that has been my motto, and blueprint for life, ever since that moment. The four Hebrew words are Chesed Keil Kol HaYom, the Kindness of Hashem is all day long. Since I said it in Hebrew, it was just four words.  He told me that I should start the next day from the moment I woke up until the end of the day. It was amazing! That day was one of the best days of my life. I kept projecting how wonderful my life would be if I kept this up each and every day.  At times I would feel badly that I had wasted so much time in the past feeling needlessly miserable, but that too would be a lack of focusing on the kindnesses of Hashem.  I realized that it would be much wiser to view my past unhappiness as a way to gain greater appreciation for the present happiness in my life!”


Hakhel Note:  Let us move ourselves every day with these words-- Chesed Keil Kol HaYom!



10 Iyar 5772

Special Note One:  May is here! So, what does that have to do with us? The Sefer Ohaiv Yisroel by the Apter Rav (as brought in the Luach Dovor B’Ito) writes that “We recite Pirkei Avos during the days of Sefira to purify ourselves, and to return BeTeshuva Sheleima--and these days are referred to by the nations of the world as ‘May’--for they also recognize that these days are mesugalim for refuah, for healing. The Gematria of ‘May’--Mem and Yud--adds up to 50, for these are the days in which the soul is healed as we move towards Mattan Torah on the 50th day (and in which likewise our bodies can be healed as well).”


Based upon this teaching, we see the kindness Hashem has provided for us in the flu’s worldwide travel during these days of healing. Last week, we provided some Tefillah pointers to assist in our “what you can do.” We are by no means helpless, as we never are. For those who have asked for a specific Nusach that one can recite not to become ill, we refer you to the Tefillas HaBori by clicking here.  There is also a well-known short Tefillah LeBrius of the Chidah, which many of you already have. We add that the classic Sefer Seder HaYom (which is the first known source for the text of the Modeh Ani which we recite upon awakening in the morning) writes that “One should recite Asher Yotzar word for word with Kavannah…” as this will greatly assist a person in avoiding the need for doctors and medications. Finally, for the men who are in shul, we remind them that Chazal teach “All who answer ‘Amen Yehei Shemei Rabbah Mevorach’ with Kavannah and strength (with feeling, and not just an expression of words) will have a Gezar Din against him torn up.” This “segula’ is brought lehalacha by the Mishne Berurah in Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 56, Seif Katan 1. We refer you to the Kavannas Amen Yehei Shmei Rabbah by clicking on the following links— Card in English --  and  Card in Hebrew provided by Rabbi Mayer Birnbaum, Shlita.



Special Note Two:  Notes from a reader:


1.  “Regarding your Note on referring to people in the appropriate way.  One way my father applies this rule is, he makes sure to refer to his tenants as ‘neighbors’

2. “Regarding Hashem’s Name in other languages,  I recently got a delivery from our neighborhood pizza store. On the box, under a big American Flag were the words “In G-d [spelled out] We Trust’. According to the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch this would seem to require being placed in Sheimos. I called the Mashgiach, pointed this out to him and the store has replaced these boxes.”



Special Note Three:  We find it curious as well that many times the box in which a pizza is delivered has the name and address of a non-Kosher pizza store on it.  This is apparently permitted because it is ‘common knowledge’ that branded pizza boxes may be purchased at a discount when they are overstocked or when there is  some kind of mistake on them.  Perhaps a greater problem is that some pizza stores may use parmesan or other ‘aged’ cheeses in the production of their pizzas or other dairy items, and that there may be an issue as to whether one has to wait six hours after eating the pizza.  The OU has issued guidelines as to when a person would be required to wait six hours.  After Limburger and other pungent cheeses, for instance, the OU’s poskim maintain one must wait, regardless of the cheese’s age.  HaRav Chaim Yisroel Belsky, Shlita (may he have a Refuah Shelaima Bekarov), states that it is the accepted practice for one not to wait 6 hours to eat meat after eating hard cheese if the cheese was both (a) softened via bishul and (b) somewhat mixed into other foods (even if it is still b’ain).  According to the above, one would have to wait 6 hours after eating Caesar’s salad made with Parmesan cheese (i.e. hard cheese) since the cheese is not softened (condition ‘a’).  Based upon the foregoing, it would appear very appropriate for one to ask his pizza store/dairy restaurant proprietor or mashgiach exactly what cheeses are used in the food in question, and follow up with an appropriate inquiry to one’s Rav or Posek as to the time period that he remains ‘milchig’ after consuming the pizza store (or dairy restaurant) product.



Special Note Four:  We continue with our series, “A Word on Words”.  Since our communication with others forms such an important part of our lives, it is essential that we continuously enhance our words--so that we continuously enhance our lives.


A Word on Words

Lesson #45


It is fascinating to note that Rabban Shimon Ben Gamliel teaches in the first Perek of Avos ( 1:17 ) ‘VeLo Matzasi LaGuf Tov Mishesika’ (I have found nothing better for one’s self than silence) and Rebbi Akiva reiterates this concept in this week’s Perek ( 3:17 ) with the instruction ‘Siyag LeChochma Shesika’ (A protective fence for wisdom is silence).  Rashi explains this special (dual) emphasis on the importance of silence with the teaching of Shlomo HaMelech (Mishlei 17:28 ):  Gam Ehvil Macharish Chochom Yeichasheiv--a fool who is silent is considered a wise man.’  The converse, Rashi adds, is also true.  When a person always responds first--then even if he is wise--he will be looked down upon for his rashness and brashness.  Rashi concludes with the words of Chazal (Pesachim 99A) ‘Yaffah Shesika LeChachomim Kol SheKein Latipshim--silence is appropriate for the wise--and most certainly for those who are not as wise.’  The Rabbeinu Yonah on these Mishnayos adds that silence assists a person both from the perspective of middos and from the perspective of wisdom.  For example, one who recognizes the value of Shesika will not interrupt his friend as his friend is speaking, and will also not readily speak in front of someone who is greater than him in wisdom.  As a result, even though he has an idea, he will not immediately share it--but wait for his Rebbi, teacher or other person of greater wisdom to complete an idea--and this newfound wisdom will help one improve his own thought (the thought that he did not immediately disgorge).  Rabbeinu Yonah concludes (ibid. 1:17) that the wise person strives to make his mouth a Kli Shareis--a utensil which serves Hashem in whatever it does, and in whatever it accomplishes!



Special Note Five:  Chazal (Kiddushin 38B) teach that ‘Sechar Mitzvah BeHai Almah Leka--we cannot receive a just reward in this world for the Mitzvos we perform.’ Rabbi Yosef Eisen, Shlita, brings a fantastic Mashal from HaRav Sholom Schwadron, Z’tl, to better understand why we cannot really be rewarded for our Mitzvah performance in this world.  HaRav Sholom tells of the farmer who bought a new ox with which to plow.  The animal was strong and steadfast and did a remarkable job.  The farmer ended up with his most successful crop ever--and wanted to show his special appreciation to the ox for its services.  Amazed at his beautiful field of produce, the farmer ran into his house and penned a $100 check made out to cash, ran over to the ox and put it between its horns exclaiming:  “This is for you, thank you so much!”  Even the ox understood the absurdity of what had just transpired! 


Hakhel Note:  With HaRav Sholom’s Mashal, we should begin to appreciate the incredible value of our Mitzvos.  At the Kinus this week in Flatbush, honoring HaRav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, Z’tl, one of the Maspidim related a remark he had heard:  “Why doesn’t he take off some of the pairs of Tzitzis, after all, he is older and it must be hard to walk and carry them.”  The Rav responded to the inquirer as follows:  “If it was gold that he was carrying on his back--would you ask the same question so quickly?  Gold has a price to it in this world--our Mitzvos are priceless!  Every moment that he wears the Tzitzis is a moment of eternity!”



Special Note Six:  Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, was also maspid HaRav Scheinberg.  Rabbi Reisman pointed out that in Havdalah we state that there is a difference between Ohr and Choshech and Kodesh and Chol.  The difference between Ohr (light) and Choshech (darkness) represents the difference between a Mitzvah which is light, and an Aveirah, which is darkness.  What then is the meaning of the difference between Kodesh and Chol--as we have already covered the difference between a Mitzvah and an Aveirah?  Rashi alludes to the answer at the outset of this week’s Parsha, Kedoshim.  One is Kodesh if he takes an item of Chol (something ordinary or parve, something otherwise permissible) and raises it--and himself together with it.  Examples of this would be for a person to make sure that he rose in order to always make the first Zeman of Kriyas Shema in the morning, or one who always kept his Tefillin on at least until davening was certainly over, or one who broke his bodily desires in some other constant and consistent way.  Similarly, Rabbi Reisman brought the words of the Steipeler, Z’tl, who taught that one should continuously go over a Sugya that he already knows very well--as an act of overcoming one’s own predilections towards new study-- and instead demonstrate his dedication himself to the Kedushas HaTorah!  Rabbi Reisman concluded that when we look at Gedolim, it is not simply to put them up on a high and lofty mountain--but to learn from them in a real and practical way, every person in accordance with his own level.  HaRav Scheinberg, with his great Hasmada, with all of the pairs of Tzitzis that he wore for (we believe) over 50 years, and his keeping his Tefillin on all day as a heightened level of personal Kedusha; yet, with his down-to-earth manner, relating to even the simplest person or question--taught us all what a person can achieve and who he can really be!  Kedusha is yours--all you have to do is work on it!


9 Iyar 5772

QUESTION OF THE DAY: A reader inquired as to why the Pasuk of ‘Ki Shem Hashem Ekrah Havu Godel Leilokeinu’(Devarim 32:3) is recited before Musaf and Mincha. What does this Pasuk specifically have to do with Shemone Esrei?! We look forward to your responses. We may suggest the following: Firstly, we note that this Pasuk is not recited before the Shemone Esrei of Shacharis and Ma’ariv, because we do not want to interrupt (or further interrupt) between the Bracha of Go’al Yisroel and Shemone Esrei. When we can recite this Pasuk is when there is no issue of Semichus of Geulah L’Tefillah--which is at Mussaf, Mincha (and Neilah). Shemone Esrei is divided into three parts--the first three brachos in which we establish the greatness of Hashem, so that we can realize for ourselves Before Whom we will be making our requests; these brachos are then followed by the middle thirteen Brachos of Request; we then conclude with the final three brachos of praise and thanks to Hashem for listening and if it pleases Hashem, fulfilling our request. The structure of the Shemone Esrei that we are about to recite is beautifully symbolized by this Pasuk as follows: Ki Shem Hashem’ (the three words relating to the first three brachos which establish the ‘Shem Hashem’), followed by the Ekrah--our calling out of our requests; and concluding with the Havu Godel Leilokeinu--in which we express our appreciation to Hashem for our audience with Him, for listening to our requests, and for fulfilling or ultimately doing what is best for us. The Pasuk, then, is an inspiring introduction and wonderful portal to what we are about to accomplish!


Special Note One: We received many comments regarding ‘gosh’and ‘abracadabra’. A reader added that ‘hocus pocus’ also has dubious origins, and may actually relate to the mocking of Avodah Zara. Our ultimate conclusion, however, remains the same. Our words are important and our mouth is holy--and we must be especially circumspect about the words that we utter. After all, when given the responsibly of presenting on an important topic at the office, one would be sure that he understood what he was saying. Why should this be true only in a business setting--it should be one’s personal duty to himself--for his words will continue with him forever and ever.

Additional Note: One final point on the concept of ‘knowing what one is talking about’. The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (6:3) rules as follows (excellent translation by Rabbi Eliyahu Touger, Mozna’im Publishing)

A. “It is forbidden to write His name, blessed be He, on a letter in any language. Many err in this regard and write His name, blessed be He, in Yiddish, or the word Adia [adieu], which in French means “with G-d.” This is absolutely forbidden, because ultimately, the letter will be thrown into a garbage dump. This popular use, and, how much more so, the dishonor to G-d’s name, causes great poverty in Israel, and much effort and wisdom must be employed to nullify it.”

B. “If a person wants to refer to G-d’s me [without actually mentioning it], he should say “Hashem,” and not “Adoshem,” as is the mistaken custom of many. The latter is not becoming for God.”


Special Note Two: We now continue with a second step relating to our words, in the next installment of A Word on Words.

A Word on Words

Lesson #44

The story is told of how HaRav Elchonon Wasserman, Z’tl, was once in England before the war in order to collect money for students toiling in Torah in Europe, and asked his wealthy host’s child whether everyone was home. The child responded: “Yes--except for the dinst (maid).” Reb Elchonon gave the child an important lesson which he hopefully would never forget. He thanked the child for the information, but then pointed out to him that in the Chumash a Jewish maidservant is known as an‘Amah Ivriyah’, whereas a non-Jewish maidservant is known as a ‘Shifcha’. The Torah is teaching us that when referring to a person, we have to refer to him in the appropriate way and give him the appropriate level of respect--whether in or out of his presence. To one woman, the term Shifcha is appropriate, and to another woman the term Amah is proper and correct. Putting them both together under the term ‘dinst’ is wrong. We can make the same mistake with terms like ‘It is another Meshulach at the door--rather than ‘It is a tzedaka collector from Eretz Yisroel.” Similarly, ‘It’s the refrigerator guy’ is inappropriate--for truly ‘It is the appliance repair man.’ Related more general inappropriate terminology includes: ‘It’s only him’ or‘You know, that guy’. The Ba’alei Mussar point out that the reason a person may strive for Kavod in this world, is because his soul (which is known by the term ‘Kavod’ in Tehillim (30:13)--’LeMa-an Yezamercha Kavod’) truly strives for eternal Kavod, which in reality can only be achieved by one’s proper conduct in this world. When one refines himself in this way, enhancing his Kavod for others through his manner of speech, he is concomitantly enhancing his eternal Kavod. Moreover, as a practical matter and remarkable added benefit, one will also distance himself from Lashon Hara and Ona’as Devarim, as the thought of such low level speech becomes more and more foreign to his manner of expression. When one practices care and kindness with his words, he elevates himself much in the same way as when a plane takes off from Chutz LaAretz to Eretz Yisroel--leaving the old habits and inappropriate words behind--and poised to reach a new and highly anticipated destination!


Special Note Three: Every day, we utter thousands of words of Tefillah to Hashem, with the hope that our Tefillos are bringing us closer to Him and having an impact in the Heavens. One method of improving our Tefillah may be to select certain portions and focus upon them with special Kavannah. This is, of course, an absolute requirement in the first Pasuk of Shema and the first Pasuk of Shemone Esrei. There are other points of Tefillah, however, which we can also especially focus in on, and perhaps change from time-to-time. The Mishna Berurah, for instance, teaches that we unwaveringly pray in Uva L’Tzionthat we be successful with our children when reciting the words ‘VeLo Neileid LeBehalah--so that we do not produce for futility’. In this vein, our readers notified us of the following:

A. “I remember how my father would always cry when he recited the words ‘Shomer Yisroel, Shomer She’eiris Yisroel’ in Tachanun every day. This reaction taught me as a child how to combine Ahavas Yisroel with Emunah--that it was and is Hashem Who can take me and all of K’lal Yisroel out of any situation.”

B. “It takes my Rebbi twenty minutes to say the bracha of Ahava Rabbah…”

Hakhel Note: While we may not be capable of reaching the heights of the father or Rebbi above, we should really try to enhance our Tefillah--especially in places that we really feel connected to, or that we recognize could energize us. Indeed, the Sefer Mesilas Yesharimends with the Pasuk that we recite every morning in Pesukei DeZimra: Yismach Yisroel BeOsav Bnei Tzion Yagilu BeMalkim.’ (Tehillim 149:2) Obviously this was a Pasuk that Rabbi Moshe Chaim Lutzatto felt especially moved by!


Special Note Four: In the Sefer Ruach Chaim (1:14), HaRav Chaim Volozhiner, Z’tl, writes that the study of Torah and Yirah is different from the business and affairs of this world in three important ways:

1. Torah and Yirah are dependent entirely upon the person himself, and is what Hashem asks of a person to accomplish. Parnassah, on the other hand, comes only from Hashem and there is accordingly no need to overly exert oneself to attain it.

2. In worldly affairs, Hashem will not add on to what a person is deserving of because of his added toil--whereas, with regard to Torah, ‘Haba LeTaher Mesayin Oso--the more one acts to purify himself, the more he is assisted. Moreover, Hashem will view all of a person’s accomplishments in Torah and Yirah, and if they were wholly accomplished by the person himself, even though none of it could have been accomplished without Hashem’s Chessed.

3. In commonplace matters, that which a person does not accomplish today, he can still accomplish tomorrow. In Torah, that which was lost today, is forever lost and cannot be made up. On the other hand, that which is accomplished is not accomplished only for today--but forever, and ever!

Remember--Torah was created before creation, so is not bound by time--and will lovingly carry us beyond time as well!


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