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1 Sivan


PUNKLICHT! At the recent Hakhel Yarchei Kallah, Rabbi Matis  Blum, Shlita, taught that the Chazon Ish did not feel that the word ‘yekke’ should be used--as it could be taken by some to have a colloquial negative connotation. Instead, if one wants to describe another as being prompt and on-time--the correct word would be punklicht!



FOLLOW THE MAJORITY: Rabbi Blum also taught that many may be mistaken as to the Halachic rule regarding opening windows or turning on the air conditioning when some are hot, and closing windows or turning off the air conditioning when some are cold. No, it does not depend on the time of year--an individual does not have the right to open windows or to turn on the air conditioning, for instance, just because it is summer time. Rather, the general rule is--the majority rules!




Special Note One:  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.


The following is excerpted from the sefer Let My Nation Serve Me by Rabbi Yosef Deutsch, Shlita, (Artscroll) a wonderful work which provides both depth and feeling to the events in the Midbar leading up to Mattan Torah, and to Mattan Torah itself, as culled from Chazal in the 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. 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.  Hashem did not want to give it in Nissan, whose sign is Aries, the sheep, because the Egyptians worshipped sheep.  He did not give want to give the Torah during Iyar, whose sign is Taurus, the bull, because the Jewish people would worship the Golden Calf, a young bull.  Hashem did not want an everlasting association between the idol and the Torah.  Therefore, he chose to wait until Sivan, whose sign is the twins, a symbol of fraternal love and solidarity.  These are virtues that qualified the Jewish people to receive the Torah.


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


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



Special Note Two:  HaRav Shimshon Pincus, Z’tl, provides the following fascinating Mashal:


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


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


That is the Mashal.  The Nimshal cries out to us. Each one of us is given the incredible opportunity to harness our unique and individual portion in Torah during our lifetime.  The little seedlings with which we begin--”Torah Tziva Lanu Moshe”, “Shema 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 chevrusa, a telephone shiur (718-906-6400 is one example), Shmiras Halashon HaYomi, etc.  The possibilities are almost endless.  So many of our opportunities are free, and much of our learning can be done in a group setting, which also makes it easier.  We just have to be diligent, and care.


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


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


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 P’eah 1:1), if one would have been learning during these five minutes every day, he would have accumulated over 7 million mitzvos!  We now can appreciate how taking care of that seedling could produce such a beautiful and glorious tree.


Let us make the commitment b’li 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!



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


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


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 maalos of others, and it is this that we must emulate!


B.  A typical Shabbos greeting is ‘Shabbos Shalom’ or ‘Shabbat Shalom’.  One thing we must remember in this Shabbos before Shavuos is that Chazal  (Brachos 64A) teach that Talmidei Chachomim increase peace in the world.  One way we can certainly accomplish this is through the “Deracheha Darchei Noam” of the Torah--doing Mitzvos and speaking in a pleasant manner.  We recall that, especially when learning--”Divrei Chachomim BeNachas Nishma’ain--wise people communicate pleasantly”.  This Shabbos, a time of peace, is a time when we should refresh the way we learn and ‘talk in learning’ all the time--pleasantly, with Derech Eretz, and with Ne’imus.  Remember--when you speak with nachas--you bring nachas to all around you--and you most certainly give the ultimate ‘nachas’ --to Hashem!

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


C. A reader asked whether one keeping the second half of Sefirah could take a haircut today--Erev Shabbos--LeKavod Shabbos, rather than waiting for the Sheloshes Yemei Hagbalah on Sunday. We asked a Posek this question and he responded that this would not be permissible.


D. HaRav Yechiel Michal Stern, Shlita, Posek in Ezras Torah, makes the following interesting point in his Sefer on Hilchos Shabbos:  For those who are concerned with opening the refrigerator on Shabbos when the refrigerator motor is off for fear that the warm air from the room will cause the motor to start, one should certainly not put warm food (such as meat or cholent) back into the refrigerator on Shabbos--for this is even more likely to cause the motor to start!

E. In this week’s Divrei Siach, Rabbi Goldshtoff, Shlita, points out that HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, very much urges one to make Melaveh Malka on pas, or bread. Indeed, HaRav Kanievsky rules that if one has a choice between making Melaveh Malka over Mezonos right after Havdalah (which is the most preferable time for Melaveh Malka--directly demonstrating one’s Kavod Shabbos)--or delaying Melaveh Malka in order to eat bread, one should delay Melaveh Malka and eat bread. Additionally, if one has a choice of eating Mezonos as Melaveh Malka before Chatzos or eating bread after Chatzos--it is better to wait until after Chatzos and eat bread!



Special Note Four: The Divrei Siach also provides the following fascinating pesokim of HaRav Kanievsky regarding Simchas Yom Tov for one’s wife:


1. Although one commonly would buy new clothing for his wife for Yom Tov, he can also fulfill the Mitzvah of Simchas Yom Tov for his wife if he buys something new for the house which brings her joy.


2. Although a wife can be mocheles her husband’s buying her a gift for Simchas Yom Tov, the husband should nevertheless at least buy something.


3. It is better for the husband to buy a gift--then for him to give his wife money for her to buy something for herself.


4. If a husband does not have money to buy his wife a new article of clothing, he should borrow money in order to do so.


5. If one fixes a broken article of her jewelry so that it could be used on Yom Tov, it is possible that one can be considered to have fulfilled the Mitzvah of Simchas Yom Tov for his wife.


6. If one did not purchase something for his wife before Yom Tov, then there is no ‘tashlumin’--he does not have seven days after Yom Tov to make it up!



Special Note Five: We provide the following points and pointers on this week’s Parasha, Parashas Naso:


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


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


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


Some additional points on Birkas Kohanim:


A.     As for Ashkenazim in Chutz LaAretz, until the Moshiach comes, Shavuos is the last time Birchas Kohanim is recited in 5774.  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 Kavannah to receive the Bracha from the Kohanim!


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


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


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


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


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


C. In his commentary on Birkas Kohanim in the Parasha, the Rashbam emphasizes that it is not the Kohanim who are giving the bracha--but it is Hashem Himself, with the Kohanim simply requesting that Hashem do so. Accordingly, a Rav reported that the Skulener Rebbe, Shlita, told him that when giving a bracha, one should not merely state the passive: “You should be blessed”, but rather “Hashem should bless you” or “Hashem should give you…”


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


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



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




29 Iyar

STEAK SAUCE: If one reads the ingredient panel on ‘A-1’ Steak Sauce, he will find that one of the ingredients is ‘raisin paste’. If one is careful not to eat raisins because of potential tolaim issues--he should consult with his Rav or Posek regarding the advisability of personally using this product. Who would have thought that a steak sauce would have raisin paste? A consumer must read the ingredient panel not only for brachos purposes, or for health reasons--but simply to learn what is in the product!



CHOOSE THE BRACHOS OPTION: One has two ways to leave Shul in the morning, to leave the office at night, or to leave any public place or gathering. He can do so in a discreet fashion--avoiding others entirely, or he can instead take another turn and say: “Good morning!”; “Have a great day!”; “Enjoy your evening!”; “Get home safely!”…. In all likelihood, in addition to being the benefactor of brachos to another--he will also receive meaningful brachos from the person whom he had blessed. Indeed, the bracha received will be especially powerful because it is not a passing bracha--but a bracha expressed out of appreciation. While there may be circumstances in which one does not have the time or ability to do so--one should seriously consider the daily opportunities he has…for the Brachos Option



NO GRIME: Picture moving new, beautiful furniture into a room that has been filled with mud and debris. The Chofetz Chaim utilizes this analogy to explain how detrimental it is for a person to speak negative words about others--and then proceed to go to learn, or go to daven. One has the opportunity to put brand new furniture into a mansion--but instead puts it into a filthy hovel. If one would never, ever treat his furniture in this way--he most certainly should not do so to his very own being. Hakhel Note: We were advised by someone of an important episode: He was a guest in a small community. He approached the Rav after davening on Friday night, and wanted to act warmly to him. He told the Rav that he would like to tell him an amusing story about a famous Rav in America . He then proceeded to pre-advise the Rav not to worry--as there was no Lashon Hara in the story. The Rav said--”Sorry, I would not like to hear it.” The guest attempted again--insisting that there would be no Lashon Hara in the story. The Rav, however, once again declined--insisting that he did not want to hear it. On the way home from Shul, the guest thought over the story in his mind--and realized that there actually was a possibility of Avak Lashon Hara in the story, and now understood how wonderfully careful the Rav had been. After all, the Rav had no idea whom his guest was and how well he actually knew the laws of Shemiras HaLashon--whether or not he thought he did. Accordingly, there was no room for compromise, no room for falling prey to words of mud and debris. A lesson in Shemiras HaLashon--a lesson for life!




Special Note One: Today is the Yom Kippur Koton for Rosh Chodesh Sivan. The Shelah HaKadosh composed a Tefillah to be recited by parents for their children—especially on Erev Rosh Chodesh Sivan. Of course, the Tefillah can be recited any time as well. We would like to thank Artscroll for providing the Tefillah of the Shelah HaKadosh to us in Hebrew and English by clicking here  For those familiar with the Hebrew, a slightly longer version of the Tefillah is available by clicking here.  



Special Note Two:  As we are only six days away from the date of Kabbalas HaTorah, everyone should be taking strides in preparation for the Great Event.  May we propose the following thoughts for your contemplation…and action, all of which will be bli neder: 


A.  Undertaking to learn Chumash with Rashi on the Parasha.  


B.  Attempting to memorize a Mishna a day, six days a week, with Chazara on Shabbos.  Over the course of a year (i.e., a year from today) you will know 300 Mishnayos by heart!  Imagine how much Torah study you can gain by reviewing the Mishnayos you have committed to memory, at events, in situations, and in places where you do not have a Sefer, do not have light, are walking by yourself (whether or not you have a cell phone!)--and to those who know you, think of how inspirational it will be to them as well!  If you are a woman, or if you are a man to whom the task appears too difficult at this time, may we suggest as an alternative, paying someone to learn all of Mishnayos in your Zechus.  We believe that you may have several options here.  One is Chevrah Lomdei Mishnah, which can be contacted at www.chevrahlomdeimishnah.org.  Another is Keren Ner Tomid of Yerushalayim which performs this special service (learning Shisha Sidrei Mishna as a Zechus for you (or for a relative or loved one)) for $600.00, and which may be paid in installments.  To contact Keren Ner Tomid by email:   rabbikrohn@kerennertomid.org .  We believe that in addition to the merit of Torah study in this instance, one also merits the support of Torah study--which is an additional method of coming closer to Torah!


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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The above is only a brief and summary listing of improvements in Torah, but is certainly a start for any of us to get moving with.  We more than welcome your suggestions.



Special Note Three:  Dovid HaMelech teaches us in Tehillim (119:59): “Chishavti Derachai…”--I had many things to do, when I was unsure what to do I would go to the Beis Midrash and study.  (Translation based upon the Alter of Novordak).  When we are unsure what to do, Dovid HaMelech teaches us, we turn to Torah--we allow the physical to be guided by the spiritual and not vice versa.


We are probably all familiar with the story told by Rabbi Berel Wein, Shlita, about his predecessor at the OU, Rabbi Alexander Rosenberg.  The story goes something like this:  “I remember how Rabbi Rosenberg would just sit there and silently listen to the latest proposals which a salesman claimed would enhance Rabbi Rosenberg and the stature of the OU, in addition to being a great boon to civilization.  Rabbi Rosenberg patiently waited for the salesman to make his spiel and then just peered at him with those hooded blue eyes. Then he pounced, falcon-like and asked just one question that was comprised of but four words--’Und Vos Zugt Gott? (and what does G-d say?)  Would you tell the IRS such a story?’”


Throughout the day we must make decisions, some more difficult, and some less problematic.  In all instances if we reflect for a moment, and pull ourselves into our Bais HaMidrash before we make the decision--before we decide what to do or which way to turn, we will be looking at what G-d has to say, and will be following the path of Royalty--of David HaMelech…and ultimately of Moshiach!!



 Special Note Four: We continue an exciting Monday/Thursday series on the practical aspects of Sta”m, written by Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz, Shlita, author of Inside Sta”m--An Insider Reveals The Answers To All The Questions You Should Ask When Purchasing Or Maintaining Tefillin, Mezuzos, Megillos, Sifrei Torah And Nevi’im.


For a fuller treatment of all topics to be discussed, we urge you to purchase the Sefer, which provides practical and meaningful information and ideas.



We continue our discussion of hiddurim in Sta”m



A number of sources mention the concept of a sofer immersing in the mikveh before writing a STA”M item or a Shem HaShem within one.


While different communities follow different customs in this regard, it would be a hiddur for the sofer to immerse in a mikveh at least when impure so as to write only in a purified state.


The “Avnei Nezer

Halachah dictates that tefillin and mezuzos must be written k’sidran (in sequence). For instance, when writing the word Shema (the first word in a mezuzah), the sofer must first write the shin, and only then may he proceed to write the mem, and only after completing the mem may he proceed to write the ayin, and so on until the end of the mezuzah. Tefillin (or a mezuzah) written shelo k’sidran (out of sequence) are pasul. (Sifrei Torah, Nevi’im, and megillos have no such requirement.)

Often, a sofer finds it helpful to write parts of later letters first. This is called chatzi os shelo k’sidran (half a letter out of sequence). There is a dispute among the Acharonim as to whether or not this practice is permitted when writing tefillin and mezuzos. The Avnei Nezer (R’ Avraham of Sochatchov, 18381910) maintains that this would render the tefillin (or mezuzah) pasul.

Contemporary poskim are of the opinion that l’chatchilah one should not rely on the lenient opinions when writing or selling what is supposed to be a mehudar product.



28 Iyar

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



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


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


So, we must do something--setting up a Chavrusah for Shavuos night, should not satisfy us.  Just as B’nei Yisroel were conscious that they were traveling directly from Mitzrayim to Har Sinai, and that they required several days of further preparation upon their arrival at Har Sinai, so, too, must we begin to sense the need to draw near and experience and inspire ourselves with Torah anew.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



Special Note Three:  We are all familiar with the Chazal that teaches: “If the Yetzer Hara attempts to take hold of you, pull him into the Beis HaMidrash” (Kiddushin 30B).  This tactic should not necessarily be viewed as some form of circumvention or defensive maneuver.  Rather, the Maharal (Tiferes Yisroel, Chapter 25) explains, your action is a positive and productive one--for you are drawing your body and Yetzer Hara towards their purpose and mission in life--to be sanctified.


This is why, explains the Sefer Sifsei Chaim (Moadim 3, p. 76), the karbon brought on Shavuos, was uniquely made of chometz (representing gashmius), and also the reason that all agree that on Shavuos we are required to celebrate with “Lochem”--we are enjoined to rejoice with food and drink, and are forbidden to fast (Pesachim 68B).  Shavuos, then, is a holiday which requires no other or additional symbols or Mitzvos, for it is the Yom Tov of the person himself--the soul and body united in holiness!


With this realization, we can likewise understand why Shavuos (unlike Pesach and Sukkos) is only one day--for it unites the neshama and the guf, and as such, nothing further is necessary.  We can likewise better understand why Megilas Rus is so essential to Shavuos.  When Elimelech and his family leave Eretz Yisrael (i.e., their Ruchniyus) in order to protect their wealth, and in search of their physical needs in a foreign land, they failed in a horrible way.  However, when Naomi and Rus (a scion of Moav royalty) bring their bodies “back to the Beis HaMidrash”--to Eretz Yisrael, to once again subjugate the physical to the spiritual, they are incredibly successful.  Their road back leads to the Malchus of Beis Dovid--and to the ultimate achievement of Moshiach!


We each have the power within us to fulfill our purpose in this world.  Sometimes, it may appear that all fingers point in the direction of Moav.  We must realize that it is to the Torah--its study and performance--that we must constantly turn to in order to be steered in the right direction—not only for the soul’s good, but for the body’s good, as well!




27 Iyar

TORAHSTREAM! www.TorahStream.org presents a broad spectrum of the wonderful Halacha and Hashkafa Shiurim of Rabbi Yosef Viener, Shlita, which are available for free download.



FROM GUARD YOUR TONGUE: “When it is permissible to relate information, you should do so even if you have not been asked.”



THINK NOTEBOOK: As we B’EH race towards Moshiach’s time, all events in Olam Hazeh seem to move along at a extremely rapid pace as well. As a result, some of our important thoughts may get lost in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. May we suggest that when a constructive point or nuance enters one’s mind, whether it relates to Torah study, one’s middos, or a particular goal to accomplish or correction to be made--rather than rely on hopefully thinking of it again or implementing it in the future--one instead promptly write it down so that one takes the fleeting thought or observation--and makes it a part of his reality that he can look to, and look back to. In this way, the Yetzer HaTov can take a foot hold--and not be so easily driven off now, or in the future!




Special Note One: At yesterday’s Yarchei Kallah, Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, gave a remarkable Shiur on the striking similarities between the events in which Nechemia came back to rebuild our homeland in Eretz Yisrael--the first return, and our very times which will hopefully be the last return. Rabbi Reisman brought from the Sefer HaKuzari the teaching that the fact that Bnei Yisrael did not return in significant numbers then made the Bayis Sheini impermanent.  The minimum lesson: When we recite V’Lirushalayim Irecha B’Rachamim Tashuv--it should not be as the ‘chirping of a bird’. He urged everyone to pay greater attention to Eretz Yisrael--not just worrying about its external enemies and political threats--but of all the good that is flowing from it, and how we could connect with our brothers in a positive way. Our own personal ga’aguim must also focus towards Yerushalayim--for a person performs best when he is at home! We highly recommend those who were not present to obtain a CD of the Shiur (718-252-5274).


Hakhel Note: Rabbi Reisman importantly noted that this Tisha B’Av will mark 100 years since the beginning of World War I. He detailed how World War I was a turning point in the return to Eretz Yisrael.



Special Note Two: Of the many practical Bein Adam L’Chaveiro Halachos provided by Rabbi Matis Blum, Shlita, yesterday, we provide several points Rabbi Blum made relating to Gezel Sheina--stealing another’s sleep:


1. Although sleep is not a tangible item, HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, explains that being concerned about another’s rest falls squarely under the Mitzvas Asei of V’Ahavta L’Reiacha Kamocha.


2. Others view disturbing another’s sleep as a violation of Lo Sonu Ish Es Amiso--which is a Lo Sa’aseh.


3. Because taking away another’s sleep does potentially involve violation of a Mitzvas Asei and Lo Sa’aseh, we must be very sensitive to the sleep of others. Even if one has a small doubt as to whether another is sleeping at a late hour--he should not call him unless there is truly adequate reason to do so. Rabbi Blum recalled how a person once called late at night and said to him: “Oh, I am sorry--did I wake you?” Rabbi Blum responded: “It’s OK--I had to get up anyway to answer the phone!”


4. Even one who lives in an apartment building or in close proximity to others, should not rationalize by claiming that if his neighbor lives in an apartments building as well, that he is per se accepting upon himself disturbances from others. One must certainly follow the laws of the municipality, the rules and regulations of a building or complex, and of basic Derech Eretz such as carpeting, soft shoes, not yelling and screaming, not playing music late at night, etc.


5. Not disturbing another’s sleep goes to the point where one should be careful not to set an alarm clock even to do a Mitzvah if it will awake another. Indeed, one should ask a Shailah if by having Negel Vasser next to his bed he will wake up other family members when he is washing--whether he should still do so. The Sefer Me’oros HeGedolim brings that Rebbi Yisroel Salanter, Z’tl,  told a student who wanted to arise early to learn (ahead of other students), that he should stay in bed and think in learning--rather than get up to learn and disturb the sleep of others! Hakhel Note:  Don’t assume that the person is mochel--ask a shaila whenever necessary!



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 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.  As is well known, HaRav Chaim is of the opinion that if someone does not make a Siyum on the Mishnayos of Seder Zeraim and Seder Taharos together with all the Mesechtos of Gemara that he has studied, then it is not called a Siyum HaShas.  He explained that the reason HaRav Meir Schapiro, Z’tl, did not include Zeraim and Taharos as part of Daf Yomi study, was because the printed Gemaros at that time were not the same as to their presentation of the Mishnayos of Zeraim and Taharos. Accordingly, one should 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 “Mazel Tov!” at a Siyum--even though we usually do not say Mazel 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 Mazel 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 ascribed to his wife as well!   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:  “Klapai 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!




26 Iyar

Special Note One:  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 (as excerpted from the Sefer Derech Sicha):




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


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


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


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


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


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


7.  HaRav Chaim advised that his father, the Steipeler, Z’tl, wanted him to prepare his own Bar Mitzvah Drasha, but he could not do so to the point he wanted to--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 Parashas HaKetores, he will attain wealth.  


10.  What is the age range of our Tinokos Shel Beis Rabban--the precious lot of children who, Chazal teach, 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 to fulfill the words of Chazal--and not stop the Tinokos Shel Beis Rabban from learning--as we build the Beis HaMikdash speedily and in our day!



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 Yahrzeit falls out on Yesod SheB’Yesod.  We provide below several notes from HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita (may he have a Refuah Sheleima BeKarov) from his Sefer Matnas Chelko, which contain his notes on the Sefer Mesilas Yesharim:


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


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


C.  The Mesilas Yesharim is based upon the Braisa 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 Braisa--except for Torah.  HaRav Mattisyahu explains that the Ramchal does not begin with Torah, because Torah is the beginning, the middle and the end--for each Madreigah that one attains must be accompanied by Torah in order to grow in Avodas Hashem. 


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


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


F.  An uninformed person may think:  What purpose is there to this world, in which he has finite years of life, and during which time he may be beset with various and sundry difficulties?  What does he have to thank Hashem for--should a person love a king because he puts him into a beautiful jail?  We know better-- we know that there is an 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!



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


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


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


C.  The Mesilas Yesharim is based upon the Braisa 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 Braisa--except for Torah.  HaRav Mattisyahu explains that the Ramchal does not begin with Torah, because Torah is the beginning, the middle and the end--for each Madreigah that one attains must be accompanied by Torah in order to grow in Avodas Hashem. 


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


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


F.  An uninformed person may think:  What purpose is there to this world, in which he has finite years of life, and during which time he may be beset with various and sundry difficulties?  What does he have to thank Hashem for--should a person love a king because he puts him into a beautiful jail?  We know better-- we know that there is a Olam Haba, which is the true and everlasting world.  Based upon this, we can appreciate that Hashem has taken this temporary world and has made it as comfortable for us as He deems and knows to be within our best interests.  Picture one who is traveling to his son’s wedding--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, literally, the Middos that will be with him forever.  Accordingly, one must undertake all appropriate action to develop Middos Tovos now.  Accordingly, one should not view the concept of ‘remembering the day of death’ as something fearful, but should view it as a Hisorerus to repair and grow while one can.  This can be compared to one who is working in the fields being told by his friend:  “It will soon be dark outside, do whatever you can now.”  Will his response to his friend be: “Don’t tell me that?!” Not at all, for his friend does not want to scare him--but to give him good advice for his betterment and benefit!


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



 Special Note Four: We continue an exciting Monday/Thursday series on the practical aspects of Sta”m, written by Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz, Shlita, author of Inside Sta”m--An Insider Reveals The Answers To All The Questions You Should Ask When Purchasing Or Maintaining Tefillin, Mezuzos, Megillos, Sifrei Torah And Nevi’im.


For a fuller treatment of all topics to be discussed, we urge you to purchase the Sefer, which provides practical and meaningful information and ideas.




We continue our discussion of hiddurim in Sta”m




All sta”m items contain letters with tagin (crowns). The letters shin, ayin, tes, nun, zayin, gimmel, and tzaddi (known collectively by the acronym sha’atnez getz) each have three tagin. The Gemara refers to these tagin as “ziyunin.” Ziyunin can be understood to mean “multiple zayins.” Indeed, many sources state that the tagin should be miniature zayins. It should be noted that for the purposes of a tag, the “head” of the zayin need not be square. Rather what makes it a zayin (as opposed to a vav) is the position of the head over both sides of the leg.


All, however, agree that should the tagin not be written in the form of zayins, the STA”M item is still fine. (There is even a minority opinion that the tagin should be written as straight lines with no “head” at all.)


Yet, it can be very difficult to successfully create three small zayins in such limited space without the heads of the tagin touching each other (especially in tefillin).


Despite all this, if the sofer is able to write the tagin as mini-zayins, it certainly would be a hiddur.



The Magen Avraham


The Magen Avraham deals with the correct placement of the tagin. Because his ruling is cited by numerous Acharonim, some are careful to make the tagin only in this fashion.


However, the source of his ruling is the Sefer HaZichronos (R’ Shmuel Abuhav, 1610–1694). The Magen Avraham apparently did not have the Sefer HaZichronos to look up. For when examining the source, he seems to be addressing a different issue entirely.


Nevertheless, some poskim feel that since the Magen Avraham is quoted by many Acharonim, it would still be considered a hiddur to arrange the tagin according to his opinion.




23 Iyar

SPIRITUAL EXERCISE: As the Sefer Mesilas Yesharim writes, a primary goal of each person’s life should be to give Nachas Ruach to HaKadosh Baruch Hu. When one realizes that he is faced with a decision--no matter how trite or minor it may be--he should accustom himself to the following thought: “Which will give greater Nachas Ruach to Hashem?” The answer may not always be clear, and there may not always be an answer--but it is the question and the consideration that is of first importance!



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 are the type of people who 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:  As we have just completed a cycle of daily study of the Sefer Chofetz Chaim and commenced the last daily cycle of the 5774 year to end on Erev Rosh Hashanah, we provide by clicking here a summary review of the Seven Prerequisites that are necessary in order to permissibly relate what would otherwise be considered Lashon Hara.  You can print it out, cut it into the size of a card, and leave it in your wallet.  On the other side of the card, you can put the following notation:  “Any questions--call the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation Shemiras HaLashon Shailah Hotline: 718-951-3696, 9:00 to 10:30 PM , EST.


Hakhel Note:  There is a meaningful Mashal given by the Chofetz Chaim.  He tells of the wealthy person who became more miserly as he got older, and decided that he could get by eating a little less and a little less every day.  Each month he saved a little more…five rubles…then ten rubles…then fifteen rubles.  By the fourth month, however, he was so weak that he had to spend money to go to the doctor.  After reviewing his situation, the doctor advised him that his was in real danger of starvation--and that it would cost 200 rubles for medicine to heal him.  The elderly man’s plan to save a few rubles resulted in a huge and disastrous expense.  The Nimshal is to a person who raises a Machlokes because of a few dollars here, or speaks Lashon Hara because of a few dollars there.  He may be upset and concerned about --and even ultimately save the money here and there--but the severity of the machlokes and the deleterious effects of the Lashon Hara will far, far, far, exceed the gain from the few dollars or even ‘the principle of the thing.’  We therefore must urge ourselves on to look at these Seven Prerequisites, and to ask a Shailah when in doubt…in order to save much more than those 200 rubles way down the line--in Olam HaZeh and Olam Haba!



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


1.      The following Halachos relating to practical applications relating to the Melacha of Me’abeid are culled from “The Shabbos Home” (Volume 2) by Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen, Shlita and the “The 39 Melachos” by Rabbi Dovid Ribiat, Shlita:


A.       Me’abeid is generally translated as ‘tanning’, and relates to preserving.  In order to wear new leather shoes, for example, it is sometimes necessary to bend the back or front of the shoe in order to soften the leather.  This may not be done on Shabbos, for softening leather violates this Melacha. 


B.      One may not insert a shoe tree into a shoe that has lost its shape (e.g. one that has dried after having been soaked in the rain).  By doing so, one stretches the leather, once again violating this Melacha.  If the shoe has not lost its shape (e.g. it is still wet), shoe trees may be inserted into the shoe.


C.       Although the Halacha is that MiD’Oraysa there is no prohibition of ‘tanning’ (or preserving) as it relates to foods--”Ain Ibud BeOchlin”--nevertheless, MiD’Rabannan it is forbidden to salt, pickle, or preserve foods in different ways, as will be discussed briefly below.  One is forbidden, for instance, to put fresh cucumbers into brine; however, one is permitted to put pickles back into a pickle jar on Shabbos, because they have already been pickled and undergo no change when re-placed into the brine.


D.      Salting is very much related to the tanning process, as foods like hides are altered and improved by salt.  It is for this reason that the Halacha prohibits one from sprinkling salt on a number of pieces of raw or fresh cucumbers, radishes, peas, onions, garlic, peppers, lettuce, carrots, turnips, or string beans.  One has two alternatives if he wishes to salt any of these raw vegetables.  Either he must salt or dip into salt each piece as he eats it (as this would not be deemed preserving it, for each piece is being immediately consumed upon salting), or--perhaps the easier solution-- one may add liquid (such as oil, vinegar, or salad dressing) to the fresh vegetables before salting--the liquid will dilute the salt, temper its sharpness and thus when one than adds the salt, it will not resemble the act of tanning or preserving.


E.       There are many foods (other than the fresh vegetables) in which salt effects no real change in quality or texture, but to which it merely adds flavor.  Examples include cooked meat, fish, cooked vegetables, and eggs, and all of these may be salted.  However, even cooked foods should not be salted too far in advance of eating.  They may be salted in preparation for the next meal on Shabbos (if it will not be a very long time off)--but not for the meal after that.  One may also not salt cooked legumes that have hard peels or pods.  Chick peas and similar legumes that have been completely softened from cooking may be salted.


F.       The restrictions on salting foods do not apply to other spices (e.g. pepper, paprika, onion powder, etc.) all of which merely add flavoring but do not affect the food itself.



Special Note Three:  This week’s Divrei Siach provides the following question on the Parasha presented to HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, and his response:


Question: Rashi brings Chazal who teach that the Shevatim which encamped to the south of the Mishkan (Degel Reuvein) were neighbors with Korach, and accordingly fell prey to his distortions, joined with him and of them it is said “Oy L’Rasha, V’Oy L’Shecheino”. In taking a step back, however, Chazal teach that the Shevatim encamped in accordance with the instructions previously given to them by Yaakov Avinu. Why was it then, Degel Machane Reuven’s fault--after all, they were placed next to the Reshaim--and did not ask to be there?


Answer: If a person is in the company of people who are suspect or who are performing suspect acts, he must be especially careful and vigilant not to fall prey to their conduct and to their deeds.  Everyone must recognize the challenges that face him and personalize ways to overcome them!


Hakhel Note: We can perhaps analogize to one who must work in Manhattan , or in another big-city business district, in which much non-Torah conduct and practices occurs. One cannot excuse himself by simply saying ‘I have to earn a living’--this is what I must do and it is not my fault. Instead, he should use his best efforts to take whatever steps he can knowing that he is dangerously close to the spiritual equivalent of a lion’s den. Perhaps when one is eminently successful in this regard, he has done even better than the one who is encamped next to the Tzaddik (such as Degel Machaneh Yehudah next to Moshe and Aharon), upon whom we can immediately comment Tov L’Tzaddik V’Tov L’Shecheino.



Special Note Four: 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 Pasuk 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 Chesed.  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!”


Hakhel Note One:  As we have noted in the past, 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 Pasuk (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…


Hakhel Note Two: HaRav Chaim Pinchos Scheinberg, Z’tl, was once asked if he could provide “hadracha”, or guidance, in how one could better study Torah.  He provided a two-word response: “Learn more.”  HaRav Scheinberg is also said to respond to some who request a Brocha for themselves or their children in Torah study, “I will give the Brocha--but they have to do their part--will they take upon themselves to study a few extra minutes a day?”  In fact, the Sefer Orchos Tzadikim (Shaar HaZerizus) writes that “...for “sha’ah achas”--one hour of Torah study, even if it is only to learn one teaching or lesson, is better than anything else in the world....”



Special Note Five:  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! 


We should take the time this Shabbos to reflect upon our preparation and where it will be going over the next 10 days.  What will I begin that is new?  What is it that I will reinforce?  How can I make sure that I will enter Shavuos with the term properly referring to is as 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!

HaRav Moshe Feinstein Z’TL likewise explains that Parashas Bamidbar, which of course counts the individual members of Bnei Yisrael, is always read a week or two before Shavuos.  The Torah is teaching us that each and every one us counts, and that no one can hide behind his Rabbi’s frock, his profession’s desk, or his living room sofa.  Furthermore, Rav Shimshon Dovid Pincus, Z’tl, explains the Posuk which states that the Torah was given in front of “Kol Yisrael” teaches us that even if one member of K’lal Yisrael had been missing, the Torah would not have been given. This did not happen--all of K’lal Yisrael were there and the Torah was given, so each and every one of us is a part of it!





22 Iyar

LOOK WHO IS SAYING THAT ABOUT YOU!  The Chofetz Chaim writes that when someone speaks well of others in this world below--then the Malachim speak well of him in the world above!



THE GREATEST HISHTADLUS:  Rabbi David Ashear, Shlita in a daily Emuna Daily message made the following essential insight into hishtadlus in Parnassah:  “The greatest Hishtadlus one makes in Parnassah is his recital of the bracha of Barech Aleinu three times daily.”  Hakhel Note: Hopefully, this greatest hishtadlus is accomplished with kavannah. Everything else that one does at work is hishtadlus in parnassah as well--but we must be sure to separate the ikar from the tafel!




Special Note One:  In last week’s Perek (Avos 4:28 ), we studied 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 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 Chasodim--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 forever and ever.  Here is a practical example relating to the study of Torah, which we continue to focus upon before Shavuos:  If one notices that in the Shul or Beis Midrash that there are those studying, but that it is quiet, he should consider raising 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 may 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 Two:  The Sefer Nesiv Chaim writes that when one performs a Mitzvah in the guise of Mitzvas Anashim Melumada--out of habit or rote, he cannot possibly fulfill the basic tenets of Mitzvah performance--which primarily include fulfilling the Mitzvah in as complete a manner as is possible, and fulfilling a Mitzvah out of true joy.  It is for this reason, the Nesiv Chaim continues, that a Mitzvah performed out of rote cannot even be considered--it does not even reach the level of--a Mitzvah She’lo Lishma!  Accordingly, he urges that we work hard to weed out perfunctory Mitzvah performance--remarkably adding that if one does not feel the proper joy when performing a Mitzvah--how can he express the proper charata--true remorse and real Teshuva when he fails in its performance?!   After all, feelings cannot simply be created one way without a proper true and positive feeling the other way--an appreciation and endearment for each item of royal treasure that may come into our possession.  The Chofetz Chaim brings the words of Mishlei (13:7): “Yesh...Misroshesh Vehon Rav... there can be one who is ostensibly impoverished--but has great wealth.”  He explains that if one has sinned many times--and succeeds in turning the sins around with proper feelings of Teshuva--than he takes all of that poverty, all of those sins, and turns each one of them into a separate and distinct Mitzvas Aseh of Teshuva--a very great wealth.  For us to get there, we must begin by first blighting the scourge of Mitzvas Anashim Melumada that we experience on a daily basis--which not only so sorely damages the Mitzvah itself--but make the Teshuva process all the more difficult.  Let us begin somewhere, by identifying our Melumada acts, and working on a project of improvement.  If you need somewhere to begin, may we suggest placing new energy and zeal into Tefillas Mincha, or perhaps stopping for a moment before studying Torah or before listening to a Shiur to appreciate the privilege, or perhaps helping someone out when permeated with a feeling of Ahavas Yisrael.  We don’t necessarily need hours of preparation to perform our Mitzvos--we need moments of thought and caring!



Special Note Three:  We continue an exciting Monday/Thursday series on the practical aspects of Sta”m, written by Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz, Shlita, author of Inside Sta”m--An Insider Reveals The Answers To All The Questions You Should Ask When Purchasing Or Maintaining Tefillin, Mezuzos, Megillos, Sifrei Torah And Nevi’im.


For a fuller treatment of all topics to be discussed, we urge you to purchase the Sefer, which provides practical and meaningful information and ideas.




We continue our discussion of hiddurim in Sta”m


The “Pri Megadim


This hiddur refers to the way the letter aleph is written. Aleph is comprised of two yuds and a kind  of vav in the middle. When writing a yud, aside from the “head” and the “leg,” one is also required to add a “kotz” (lit. thorn) coming down from the left side of the head. This is called “Kotzo Shel Yud.”


Almost all letters of the Aleph-Beis are made from a combination of other letters. As a general rule, when a letter is comprised of two other letters, the halachah does not require each component to be written exactly as the actual letter must be written.


Therefore, when writing an aleph, it would seem that since the Rishonim say explicitly that the yud on the aleph must look “like” a yud – without calling it an actual yud – there is no need to add the “Kotzo Shel Yud.”


The Pri Megadim (R’ Yosef Teomim, 17121792), however, clearly states that both the top and bottom yud require a kotz since these yudin have the halachic status of a real yud.


Interestingly enough, a number of Acharonim who call for adding the kotz mention it only in reference to the upper yud of the Aleph. Other Acharonim maintain that no kotz is necessary on either yud of the Aleph and, indeed, as we indicated above, no Rishonim mention the need for any such kotz.


Although some feel that it is a hiddur to add the kotz of the Pri Megadim (only on the top yud), the prevailing custom is not to add a kotz on either yud.




21 Iyar

Special Note One:  HaRav Shimshon Pincus, z’tl, provides a fascinating mashal which sheds an absolutely glowing light on the importance of each day of Sefirah:


If one is told that he has won the $10 million lottery, and that he will receive his check (less 50% taxes, of course), in about 7 weeks, you can imagine how quickly he would wish those seven weeks would pass in order for him to have that $5 million check in his hands.  Oh, how we would wish that those 24-hour days were only 18 hours or less!


However, if one was told that he would be receiving his $5 million lottery proceeds over a 50-day period, in increments of $100,000.00 at the end of each day, how he would look forward to, and appreciate each and every single day--for each and every day is an important building block and integral step towards his $5 million final aggregate end goal.


That is the Mashal.  The Nimshal is clear:  Shavuos does not just come, as a $5 million check, all at once.  We are to arrive there, in paced and steady installments, until our final goal is reached.  Each and every day of Sefirah is be utilized in some way--with some level or type of accomplishment--in Torah and Mitzvah appreciation, study, performance or teaching.  Most certainly, as we get closer and closer to Shavuos, we should sincerely attempt to successfully gain those daily $100,000.00 installments so that we can be most proud of our Kabolas HaTorah on Shavuos.


Here is a practical suggestion for today, among the many others you can think of:


HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, notes that in the bracha of Ahava Rabba which we recite immediately prior to Shema in the morning, which relates significantly to Torah study, we make no mention of Simcha or joy in our Torah study.  Yet, in the parallel Ahavas Olam Tefillah in Maariv, we state “V’Nismach B’Divrei Sorosecha--we will rejoice in the joy of Torah study.”  HaRav Kanievsky explains that in the morning usually prior to having studied that day, one has not yet appreciated the Simcha of studying Torah.  By Ma’ariv, after having studied something during the day, one has (or should have) already felt the Simchas HaTorah.


Based upon this, may we suggest that while studying or listening to a Torah Shiur, or at some point while reviewing a Torah thought during the day, one take the time to feel the happiness and joy with his ability to study, teach, and hopefully, properly apply, what he has learned--so that when he recites “V’Nismach B’Divrei Sorosecha” that evening, he really means it!



Special Note Two:  We provide below some additional insights in preparation for the joyous and awe-inspiring moment of Kabbalas HaTorah:


A.  The Sefer Pele Yoetz (under the heading “Kesiva”) reminds that a person should take the time to 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.”  One should keep his own notebook, and over time marvel at how much he actually accomplished!


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 De’ah 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.  The Zohar (Parashas Vayeishev) 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 Three:  HaRav Pam, Z’tl, as quoted in the wonderful work Careful Words, by Rabbi Sholom Smith, Shlita, brings the following important lessons:


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


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


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


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




20 Iyar

QUESTION OF THE DAY ONE :  Rebbi Shimon Bar Yochai teaches us in last week’s Pirkei Avos ( 4:13 ) that Shelosha Kesarim Heim--there are three crowns: (i) Kesser Torah; (ii) Kesser Kehuna; and (iii) Kesser Malchus.  Rebbi Shimon then continues V’Kesser Sheim Tov Oleh Ahl Gabeihen.  What is the Kesser Sheim Tov--is it a fourth crown? How does one attain it?  Hint: See Rashi, Rambam and Rabbeinu Yonah on this Mishna.



QUESTION OF THE DAY TWO:  In last week’s Perek (4:2), Ben Azzai teaches us that Mitzvah Goreres Mitzvah and Aveirah Goreres Aveirah. There thus appears to be equal ‘compensation’ that results from a Mitzvah and from an Aveirah.  However, do not Chazal teach that Haba LeTaheir Mesayin Osso, one who wants to purify himself is actually assisted from heaven--whereas, Haba LeTameih Poskin Lo--if one wants to defile himself, he is not assisted--but instead the door is only left open.  Accordingly, shouldn’t the Mishna recognize this distinction?



A SEFIRAH SUGGESTION: In last week’s Perek as well (Avos 4:20 ), Rebbi Masya Ben Charash teaches: “Hevei Makdim Bishlom Kol Adam--initiate a greeting to every person.” As the cheit of the students of Rebbi Akiva is Shelo Nahagu Kavod Zeh Lazeh (Yevamos 62B)--we suggest that a clear demonstration of one’s desire to improve in his showing the honor due another, would be to take great care to follow the teaching of Rebbi Masya Ben Charash-- Hevei Makdim Bishlom Kol Adam!



IMPORTANT OBSERVATION: Before and after we eat or drink, we recite a bracha. Yet, we recite a bracha only after we take care of our bodily needs--and not before. While we can provide a simple explanation for this--one is simply not in a position to make a bracha before taking care of his needs, the fact is that there is a great gift that is about to occur and one does not recognize it in the same way as he does before the gift of food. With this realization, may we suggest that at least the after-bracha be infused with special Kavannah--as it covers the entire spectrum of the nes of bodily function!



REMINDER FOR THE SUMMER: By clicking here we provide an essential Tefillah from the Sefer Taharas HaKodesh, as provided to us by the Always Our Kids Organization.



AYY! The Alim L’Terufah (a weekly Bulletin in Hebrew) brings from the Peleh Yo’etz that instead of a person say Oy! or Vay!, he should instead AYY!--which stands for Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, invoking the Zechus Avos.


Hakhel Note: HaRav Dessler, Z’tl, teaches that zechus Avos relates to Zakus Avos--the purity of our Avos, which each and every one of us should aspire to. Indeed, HaRav Nosson Wachtfogel, Z’tl, the initial Mashgiach of Lakewood, would sincerely recite the Ma’amar Chazal--”Masai Yagiyah Maasai LeMa’asei Avosai, LeMa’asei Avraham, Yitzchak V’Yaakov”--each and every day!




Special Note One:  We are just slightly more than two weeks away from Kabbalas HaTorah--and our appreciation of Torah should be growing daily so that we are not surprised on Shavuos night.  Think of how we prepared for Pesach-and how we prepare for Sukkos--let us not permit Shavuos to be any different! The Sefer Ma’alos HaTorah makes the following tremendous points about Limud HaTorah: 


1.  In Devarim (30:15) the Pasuk states “Re’eih Nasati Lifneichem HaYom Es HaChaim V’Es HaTov…behold I have placed before you today the life and the good.”  Hashem Himself is telling us what is life and what is good. Before beginning to study daily, one should consciously realize that he is choosing the path that Hashem has declared to be life and good!


2. The Sefer Reishis Chochma writes that when a person learns Torah, the Shechina stands in front of him and says to him:  Hashem Imcha Gibor HaChayil--I am with you!” (Shoftim 6:12).


3. When a person studies, he must be careful not to mix in words of chol or in inyanei olam hazeh into his studies or in between sentences of his learning. If c’v one does so, it is as if he is bringing patches of darkness into a room of light--uncomfortably darkening the room for himself and others.  Hakhel Note:  When Shlomo HaMelech teaches us that “Torah Ohr--Torah is light”--we should take it very literally!


4. When one utters the words of Torah, he brings forth tahara from himself, as Dovid HaMelech (Tehillim 12:7) teaches:  Imros Hashem Amaros Tehoros--the words of Hashem are words of purity, like purified silver, clear to the world refined sevenfold.”


5.  The Midrash to Shir HaShirim (8:7) writes that in the future--when the truth is clear to all, the nations of the world will come with all of their silver and gold and attempt to purchase at least something from the Torah from us. We will then respond that the Torah is not for sale as it is in this world that one studies--and in the next world that he reaps the everlasting and eternal benefits!



Special Note Two: Today, we begin a new cycle in the Sefer Chofetz Chaim, the related work Guard Your Tongue, and all of the outstanding Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation Seforim and Shiurim.  Please contact the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation at 845-352-3505 for all of the possibilities and resources to enrich your life during the coming cycle.  The Sefer Orchos Tzaddikim devotes a special Sha’ar to Lashon Hara and makes the following significant points: 


1. A person thinks to himself:  “What have I done, just saying a few words?”  He accordingly does not pay attention to the damage he has just caused, and will block things out and will not do Teshuvah.  Without Teshuvah for this aveirah, what will become of him?


2.  One who has spoken Lashon Hara requires mechila from those whom he has spoken against--and he may not even remember who they are or what he said. 


3.  When a person speaks about a family, or ‘something that is wrong with’ a family, he hurts not only this generation but future generations as well, and no forgiveness is possible at all. 


4.  The great Talmid Chochom, Doeg spoke Lashon Hara--and neither his wisdom nor his Torah were able to save him. 


5.  When a person speaks Lashon Hara he will not only be punished for the damage he caused, but for the enjoyment he derives from shaming or disgracing another--violating VeAhavta LeReiacha Kamocha


6.  Watching another speak every extra word of Lashon Hara without trying to stop him in some way is like watching a person eat another piece of chazir, and another piece, and another piece. 


7.  A person speaks about what matters to him.  If a person often speaks of food, wine, [technology] or clothing this is a priority concern of his.  Dovid HaMelech (Tehillim 119:97), however, exclaims:  “Mah Ahavti Sorasecha Kol  HaYom He Sichasi--How I love Your Torah, all day do I speak about it.”  Because he loved the Torah--this was his topic of discussion, his topic of conversation.  Let us study our speech--and move it as close as we possibly can to the speech of Dovid HaMelech!


Hakhel Note: As in the past, we provide the following rejuvenation suggestions for the coming Shemiras HaLashon cycle HaBa’ah Aleinu LeTova. We welcome your rejuvenation possibilities as well!  


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


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


C.  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.


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


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


F.  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 and for further information on free Shiurim on Shemiras HaLashon, call 845-352-3505.  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).


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


H.  Recite the complete Tefillah of the Chofetz Chaim on Shemiras HaLashon daily available 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. 


I.  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.


J.  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.




19 Iyar

NINETEEN WEEKS!  We are now in the nineteen week period prior to Rosh Hashana! In the past, we have proceeded weekly, Bracha by Bracha, through Shemone Esrei with a special emphasis on Kavannah on that week’s Bracha.  This week’s Bracha is Birkas Avos--a Bracha whose Kavannah is especially significant every day of the year, for it is the anchor from which the remaining brachos of Shemone Esrei continue. We accordingly once again provide by clicking here our notes to the Nineteen Brachos for the years 5771 and 5772.  May we highly recommend the Nineteen Week Program again this year--either based upon your own study (such as by utilizing the magnificent Rav Schwab on Prayer or another similar work), or by utilizing the link provided on a daily basis throughout the week. 





1. “I saw the following sentence in your Lag B’Omer note: ‘Similarly, even after the Crusader massacres killing Rabbeinu Tam and many others in many communities’. If I am not mistaken, Rabbeinu Tam was stabbed 5 times in the head but miraculously survived. (The Mordechai was killed by the Crusaders.)”  Hakhel Note:  Thank you for the correction.


2. “It is very dangerous to text and do anything else. How can you type when walking on the street--or when engaged in any activity in which your life and limb--or the life and limb of others is at stake? This is more than a Chilul Hashem--it is r’l dangerous and life threatening. I am not being extreme--I am being practical. Help yourself--and help others!”


3. “Another Kavannah before getting a haircut is ‘Beyomo Titein Secharo”--paying the barber on time.”




Special Note One: Final points and pointers from Parashas Bechukosai:


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


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


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



 Special Note Two: We continue an exciting Monday/Thursday series on the practical aspects of Sta”m, written by Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz, Shlita, author of Inside Sta”m--An Insider Reveals The Answers To All The Questions You Should Ask When Purchasing Or Maintaining Tefillin, Mezuzos, Megillos, Sifrei Torah And Nevi’im.


For a fuller treatment of all topics to be discussed, we urge you to purchase the Sefer, which provides practical and meaningful information and ideas.




Many people approach a socher and express an interest in purchasing “very mehudar” tefillin or mezuzos (and even Sifrei Torah!). Often they are even prepared to “put their money where their mouth is”. Yet, if one is unfamiliar with Hilchos Sta”m he has no way of knowing which hiddurim he may be interested in. In the coming installments we will refer to various hiddurim pertinent to all areas of Sta”m without getting into the technical aspects involved.  Even if we are not well acquainted with the intricacies of the halachah, it is instructive to be familiar with these concepts nonetheless.


First though, please note some important advice. Be aware that a sofer is under considerable stress when attempting to produce a mehudar STA”M item for a consumer. Ironically, if you approach him with a list of “extra” hiddurim that you want him to incorporate in your Sta”m, you may actually be defeating your own purpose. This is because he will now be departing from his normal routine, and this may detract from his concentration on the many requirements of the basic halachos. It is therefore wise to first determine which hiddurim you really want, and then seek out a sofer who writes to that standard as a matter of course. This can prevent heartache in the future, both for you and the sofer. Now, let us begin with two examples that we have made reference to in the past:


A. The “Rashba”


The halachah is that if two letters touch each other, the Sta”m becomes pasul. Can this be fixed by merely scraping away the connection between the two letters? The Rashba rules that it depends when the letters touched. Suffice it to say that the Machaber and Rama in Shulchan Aruch are maikil while the Rashba is machmir.


Although the halachah is clearly not like the Rashba, the Biur Halachah (quoting the Gra and others) says that l’chatchila one should try and be Yotzei the Rashba’s opinion as well.


 Practically speaking, if the sofer was not careful to observe the Rashba’s opinion when writing the tefillin, it is difficult to justify selling such parashiyos as mehudar when selling them at above average prices.


B. The “Radach


 There is a halachah known as “chak tochos.” Literally translated, this means to “scrape the insides.” The practical application in terms of Hilchos STA”M is that a letter must be created by writing, not through scraping or erasing.


In other words, should there be a blotch of ink on the klaf, a sofer would not be permitted to merely scrape away at parts of the ink and thereby create the form of a letter. The form of the letter must actually be handwritten.


The above invalidation assumes that the entire letter was created by means of chak tochos. Would it be permitted to create part of a letter by way of chak tochos while finishing it off by writing the remaining part(s) of the letter? For instance, should there be a blotch of ink on the klaf, would a sofer be permitted to merely scrape at it and thereby create the head of a reish, and then subsequently write the leg?


While most Acharonim are of the opinion that it would indeed be permitted, the Radach (R’ David ben Chaim HaKohen of Corfu , d.1531) insists that the entire letter be created solely through writing. And since a number of Acharonim rule in accordance with the opinion of the Radach, it would be an enhancement of any STA”M item for the Radach’s chumrah (stringency) to be observed.


It is worth noting however that this chumra can often lead to trouble for the sofer since holes in the klaf are easily created. Indeed, the prevalent custom is not to be strict in this regard.




16 Iyar


The Gemach concept is indeed an incomparable one.  The Chofetz Chaim (in Sefer Shemiras HaLashon, Chasimas HaSefer) provides the following powerful points regarding the establishment of a Gemach:


A.  A mitzvah for which money is spent is much greater, as the Zohar describes in Parashas Teruma. 


B.  A Gemach is at work even when one is sleeping or involved in business.


C.  One should seek Mitzvos which are ‘Kevua LeDoros’--which can continue beyond one’s lifetime into future generations.  If one can accomplish this, continues the Chofetz Chaim then even when ‘he is sitting in Gan Eden’, ‘Yitosef Lo Noam VeOhr Al Nafsho--additional pleasantness and light will be awarded to his soul’ through the Mitzvos taking place through the monies or articles that he had originally provided while in this world.


Take the Chofetz Chaim’s guiding light--and work on establishing a Gemach for your neighborhood, shul or community--with its light to shine upon you for eternity!




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


A.  Ashkenazim who have the custom of taking a haircut on Lag BaOmer (and not Sefardim who begin to take a haircut on the 34th day of the Omer) are permitted to take a haircut today LeKavod Shabbos.  Indeed, the Luach Davar B’Ito brings that if one has a new garment to wear, it is a Mitzvah to put it on LeKavod Shabbos.


B.    A humble suggestion: On every Erev Shabbos Daven to Hashem that you will not be Mechalel Shabbos in any manner, including BeShogeg and BeOness.


B.  According to many (but not the Chasam Sofer, as mentioned earlier), the Mon began to fall today. In the Parasha of the Mon, the Bnei Yisrael were advised that they could not violate the Shabbos in connection with its collection--and that a double portion would fall on Erev Shabbos, with no Mon to fall on Shabbos Kodesh itself. Indeed, the concept of properly preparing for Shabbos is found in the Parashas HaMon (Shemos 16:23 ) with the words: “Eis Asher Tofu Eifu, V’Eis Asher Tevashelu Basheilu….” It is striking that the Parasha of Mon refers so much to Shabbos--a day that the Mon did not fall! Certainly, one of the great lessons to us from this is that we should not worry about, concern ourselves with, or think about the business or job tasks that we are ‘in the middle of’, or that definitely need to be accomplished in the coming week or weeks.


C.  In the Parashas HaMon, the Torah states:  VeHaya Mishne--and it shall be twice….”  The Mishna Berurah (Orach Chaim 250, seif katan 2) writes that we derive from these words that even thought one has prepared for Shabbos on Friday morning, it is a Mitzvah that he also do something else on Friday afternoon as well. Hakhel Note:  A practical way to apply this for men is to do something for Shabbos immediately upon arriving home from Shul Friday morning (such as setting up the Neiros Shabbos, opening containers, etc.) and then have a specific second set of tasks upon arrival home in the afternoon (making sure tissues are open, nails are cut, shoes are shined, etc.). Hakhel Note: The Dirshu Mishna Berurah (ibid. at Note 15), brings the words of the Rambam in Hilchos Shabbos (30:6) relating to Shabbos preparations--Vechol HaMarbeh Harei Zeh Meshubach--these words are not only related to the Seder night--but to each and every Shabbos!


D. We provide certain Halachos relating to the melacha of Tzad, as excerpted from the monumental Sefer “The 39 Melachos” by Rabbi Dovid Ribiat, Shlita (Feldheim Publishers):


1. Tzad may be defined as the forcible confinement of a living creature.  This includes any method of confining--conventional or otherwise.  Thus, chasing or merely frightening a living creature into a  corner or confined area without actually coming near the creature is Tzad. 


2. Animals that can pose a threat of real pain or injury, such as raccoons, rats and the like may be trapped on Shabbos if necessary.  This is especially true where the spread of rabies or other diseases by animals is prevalent. If a raccoon or similar animal is only in the vicinity, one should not trap or kill it (unless it is known that the raccoon is rabid)--instead, a non-Jew should call the authorities. If a raccoon or squirrel got into the house, the door to that room (if not very small or narrow) may be closed to seal it off. However, a non-Jew should preferably be asked to do so.   A dog or other animal that has  attacked and bitten a person may be captured if it is necessary to examine the animal for rabies or disease.


3. One cannot force a bird that is not completely domesticated into its cage or even simply close the cage door to prevent it from escaping. If a small wild bird flew into the house, one should open windows and doors, encouraging it to escape.  If one is not successful in chasing the bird out and leaving the doors and windows open will cause the home to become uncomfortable, one may close the doors and windows, as it is a Rabbinic level of confinement which is permitted when one has no interest in trapping the bird and leaving the doors and windows open would impose a hardship.


4. One is not permitted to set any kind of trap on Shabbos (with the exception of dangerous  situations), even though the animal only becomes caught later on its own.

However, it is permissible to set a trap before Shabbos even though the animal may become trapped on Shabbos, just as one turns on lights before Shabbos--and then leaves them on for Shabbos.


5. According to most Poskim, the Melacha of Tzad does not apply to capturing and confining of humans.  Thus, one may take hold of an unruly child or place him into a ‘time-out’ room (...without getting into the Chinuch aspects of it!)



Special Note Two:  In this week’s Parasha, we learn in the Tochacha that much punishment comes from our failure to observe the Shemitta.  Rabbi Refoel Shain, Shlita, asks a pointed question:  The Shemitta year applies to people who work the earth.  What about all of the businessmen?  Don’t they continue to do business the entire Shemitta year?  If so, how do they glean the lessons of Kedusha and Emunah so inherent in Shemitta’s observance?  Fascinatingly, he explains that because Shabbos occurs once every seven days, every day of his Shabbos observance will add up to an entire Shemitta year after seven years.  The land, however, continues to ‘work on Shabbos’, as plants and trees continue to grow, and so the Shemitta year is needed to ‘catch-up.’  Furthermore, the fiftieth year of Yovel can be understood as comparable to the aggregate of 50 years of seven days of Yom Tov (two days of Pesach, one day of Shavuos, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkos, and Shemini Atzeres) that the businessman observes every year, which the land does not, so that over the 50 years through Yovel--one has observed a year of Yamim Tovim--which the land has not.  Accordingly, in the Yovel, the land has its turn! 


We as ‘businessmen’ who are not working on the land of Eretz Yisroel should learn to appreciate the power and potency of each day of Shabbos and Yom Tov--our personalized portion of a Shemitta year--and inhale its Kedusha and Emunah to take us through…until the next Shabbos or Yom Tov! 



Special Note Three:  The following is excerpted from Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita, on this week’s Parasha (p.336):  “…and a man shall stumble upon his brother ...” (Vayikra 26:37).  Rashi cites the Sifra which explains this verse thus:  One shall stumble through the iniquity of another, for all the people of Israel are responsible for each other.  (Sifra; Sanhedrin 27b).  The Chofetz Chaim used to relate the following analogy:  Mr. Cohen loaned Mr. Green a large sum of money.  Mr. Shapiro agreed to guarantee the loan; he would pay Mr. Cohen if Mr. Green will be unable to pay.  If Mr. Green were investing his money in a business that was sure to lose money, Mr. Shapiro would definitely do everything in his power to prevent Mr. Green from becoming involved in that business.  Mr. Shapiro knows that if Mr. Green wastes his money, the obligation to repay the loan will be his.  The same applies to preventing others from sinning,’ said the Chofetz Chaim.  If someone has the ability to stop another person from transgressing and fails to do so, he will ultimately be held liable for that offense.  Therefore, we must do everything we can to prevent transgressions’.



Special Note Four: Short points on the Parasha:


A. On the first Pasuk of the Parasha (Vayikra 26:3), Rashi brings the Torah’s Pasuk for the Mitzvah of Talmud Torah. Rashi likewise brings this Pasuk in a similar context in the sugyah of Talmud Torah (Kedushin 29B). One may also see the Rambam at the outset of Hilchos Talmud Torah. What Pasuk is it? (Hint: See Devarim 5:1)


B.  The Parasha begins with the phrase: “Im BeChukosai Teileichu”. Im, of course, primarily means ‘if’ to us. Why are we being given a choice--shouldn’t the Torah say ‘Ka’asher BeChukosai Teileichu--when you study Torah and fulfill its Mitzvos’--when and not if? We suggest that the Torah emphasizes to us that it is imperative for us to exercise our bechira chafshis properly--recognizing our constant confrontation, our constant battle with the Yetzer Hara. Indeed, one should not become overconfident--and try to make each and every situation of ‘if’ into a success!


C. Paradoxically, the beginning of the Parasha continues that if we study the Torah and fulfill its Mitzvos, Hashem will give us the physical bounty of Olam Hazeh. Spirituality is not left to Hashem--and gashmiyus to man. It is just the opposite--our role is ruchniyus--and Hashem’s role is gashmiyus. If we can keep this in focus throughout the day our learning and davening may improve--and our Parnassah issues will be viewed in a much different light!


D. Continuing the previous thought: The Torah teaches that if we are zoche to the Bracha, then “Eitz Hasadeh Yitein Piryoh--the tree of the field will give its fruit.” Rashi says that this refers to non-bearing fruit trees which will in the future bear fruit. Not only is Hashem in charge of giving us gashmiyus ‘within nature’--but also through extraordinary ‘out-of-nature’ experiences as well. This serves as a second, forceful reminder--it is the ruchniyus that is our responsibility.


E.  The Pasuk continues: “VeNasati Shalom VBa’aretz”. Rashi here explains that Shalom is equal to everything--this is the ultimate bracha. Every day we are given the opportunity to daven for this ultimate bracha three times at the end of Shemone Esrei. If we remember that it is the ultimate bracha--equal to all other brachos, then how can we not gird ourselves to utter the powerful words of Sim Shalom/Shalom Rav with heartfelt feeling each and every time!


F.  On the Pasuk of ‘5 chasing 100 and 100 chasing 10,000’, Rashi teaches that the disproportion can be explained by the Halachic fact that one cannot compare a Mitzvah which is performed by a few, to a Mitzvah which is performed by the many. Accordingly, a Gemach that is established by more than one person (such as a loan fund to which many contribute) is a more powerful Mitzvah than a Mitzvah performed by one individual.  The source for this, writes the Chofetz Chaim, is actually the Sifra (10:4) on this Pasuk.  The Chofetz Chaim continues that it appears ‘pashut’ that Hashem will consider each person’s contribution as if he himself was performing the Chesed of the entire Gemach, since without him the Chesed would not have been possible. 


G. In the Tochacha, the Torah (Vaykirah 26:23) writes: “Ve’Im Be’eileh Lo Sivasruh Li--and if through these punishments you have not taken mussar from me.” There is a special lesson here--in order to obviate punishment--one should study mussar--and his own, motivated self-improvement will prevent the need for excess pain or suffering.


H. The Tochacha continues (26:33): “V’eschem Ezareh Vagoyim--and I will scatter you among the nations.” The great curse here is that K’lal Yisrael is exposed to all kinds of different ‘junk’ from the nations. The Jews who live in France are not exposed to the same tumah as the Jews who live in the United States, and the Jews who live in Argentina are not exposed to the same tumah as the Jews who live in England. We are fighting all kinds of different battles. It is like the different kinds of boils or lice that the Mitzriyim were afflicted with. It makes our terrible galus all the more difficult and all the more horrifying.


I. The Tochacha continues (26:39): “Ba’avonos Avosam Itam Yimaku--when the iniquities of their forefathers are with them, they will disintegrate.” Chazal (Brachos 7A) teach that we are only punished for the sins of our forefathers if we ‘inherit’ and follow their sins. On the other hand, the reverse is also true. If we do Teshuvah for the sins we know that our forefathers had, we bring zechus not only to ourselves but to the previous generations who had in fact sinned as well. If one knows, for instance, that an ancestor was weak in a particular area--and accordingly makes a conscious effort to excel in it--he has taken this kelala--and turned it into a bracha!


J. The last Pasuk in the Shabbos Haftarah deserves special attention at one’s Shabbos table. The familiar Pasuk in Yirmiyah ( 17:14 ) reads: “Refa’eini Hashem V’Eirafeih Hoshi’eini V’ivashei’ah Ki Sehilasi Atah”. Especially in this month of Iyar--Ani Hashem Rofecha--we should remind our friends and family to daven with great Emunah and Bitachon for those who they know are ill. Yirmiyahu HaNavi reminds us of this great message--at this time of year!



Special Note Five: Our annual Lag BaOmer thought:  Upon reaching 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 Rebbi Akiva passed away for not properly respecting each other; even Rebbi 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 Rebbi 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?


Rav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita (following the lines of the G’ra’s Commentary on Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim, 493) teaches we celebrate that in all events, there were those who remained.  Indeed, the resemblance in all of the aforementioned tragedies is striking: Rebbi Shimon passed his legacy to his students (it is no coincidence that so many other future generations of Tannaim are buried right around Rebbi Shimon in Meron).  Similarly, even after the Crusader massacres killing Rabbeinu Tam and many others in many communities, the Ba’alei 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 Pasuk (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 Yisrael.


PRACTICAL SUGGESTION:  For the coming two weeks until Shavuos, in whatever you are learning, whether it is a thought on the Parasha, Daf Yomi, or even a Torah email, think about how important Torah study is in our lives.  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!




15 Iyar

GAFNAH!  No, it is not the name of a new wine.  We all seek the bracha of Gefen--Gezunt, Parnassah and Nachas.  A wonderful addition when giving this bracha is the letter Hei--standing for Hatzlacha! So, when someone gives you the beautiful bracha of Gefen--generously and meaningfully give him back--the bracha of Gafnah!





1.  FROM A READER:  The permissibility of taking a haircut tomorrow or on Sunday is only applicable for Ashkenazim.  Sefaradim will wait until Monday to take a haircut.



2.  It is a time to reflect anew upon how even a task such as a haircut has meaning and purpose in our lives. In the Torah itself, we learn that Yosef took a haircut upon his release from prison in order to see Paroh--as a sign of respect.  We similarly find that Haman (who was by trade a barber) gave Mordechai a haircut prior to his ascending onto the king’s horse (Megillah 16A).  Thus, a person can have kavana prior to taking a haircut that he is doing so out of respect for himself and others. There is more, however. We can also reflect upon the Kavod Shabbos inherent in the haircut--as we too show respect to the royal Shabbos Queen (if this was not the Halachic case, we would of course not be taking a haircut until Lag Ba’omer on Sunday).


There is still more. Of course, ahl pi kabala, hair and its growth extending outside and away from the body has profound meaning. We would, however, like to remind men that before taking a haircut they may have kavana that they are fulfilling two (2) additional mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh--which are Lo Sakifu Pe’as Roshechem and Lo Sashchis Es Pe’as Zekanecha--not rounding the hairline and not using a knife-like blade to cut certain areas of the face.  Readers must be on guard that barbers who are not aware of the Halacha may be using cutting instruments in an improper way in the Payos area and above the ear.  Accordingly, we once again provide an important link to The Kosher Haircut Guide Poster (available at http://tinyurl.com/yh2dqy6 ). We urge you to send on the Guide to as many as possible--it is so unfortunate for one to violate a Torah prohibition for lack of knowledge--and all the more so when it is so easily rectified. We have free large, hard-copy laminated posters of the Guide as well for pick up--for use in Shuls, Yeshivos and barber shops.  Please feel free to contact us.  Remember, just as there is much more to a Kosher hamburger...there is much more to a Kosher Haircut!  In everything we do--our kavana plays the key role--let’s do it the way we are supposed to!


3.  Why is it that when a person gets older, his hair starts turning white?  After all, white symbolizes purity, as evidenced by the white garments of the Kohein Gadol on Yom Kippur, and the fact that the red string that was tied on to entrance the Heichal on Yom Kippur turned white to demonstrate that the people’s sins were forgiven (Yoma 6:8).  It would thus seem more appropriate for children, who are so much closer to purity to have white hair, which then would become darker as one ages, as a symbol that the person is sullying himself with sin.  Why does it move in the reverse direction?  Hakhel Note:  This is, of course, a rhetorical question.  If you do not know or appreciate the answer, we suggest as an immediate undertaking the study of either the Sefer Mesilas Yeshorim or the Sefer Sha’arei Teshuva!




Special Note One:  A postscript to our Notes on Ona’as Devarim:  It is certainly no coincidence, as it never is, that the new cycle of Positive Word Power (Artscroll/Mesorah), which is the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation’s monumental and incomparable English work on Ona’as Devarim, will be starting its new daily cycle soon, on Rosh Chodesh Sivan.  This most important work is a realistic, meaningful, and effective tool to help rid Ona’as Devarim from one’s daily life.  Each short daily lesson concludes with something practical to work on.  If you are already learning the daily cycle, may we strongly urge reviewing it another time in the next cycle?  If you have not yet undertaken this wonderful daily program, we highly urge you to do so--for this is something, whether or not you may realize it , that affects everyone in their daily lives--and affects even more those with whom they come in contact!  Your undertaking of this important project most certainly indicates your desire to improve in this very crucial part of daily life.  Even if you are pretty good, and only need a little improvement--why not do this Mitzvah extremely well?



Special Note Two:  A reader provided us with the following remarkable story which he had read:  “HaRav Mordechai Gifter, Z’tl, had to have a particular surgery.  He inquired as to a top surgeon in the field, met with him, and then scheduled the surgery for about a month later when the surgeon had a free slot.  The time came, and Rav Gifter was at last being taken into surgery.  Rav Gifter asked the doctor to pray that the surgery would go well.  “Rabbi”, the doctor responded, “you have nothing to worry about--I am top in my field!”  Upon hearing these words, Rabbi Gifter advised that he would no longer be going through with the surgery at that time.  Instead, he found another doctor, perhaps not as famous, but who realized that health and sickness, life and all that is to it--is in G-d’s anthropomorphic hands, and not in those of a skilled mortal.”  Hakhel Note:  All would do well to remember this story--but not only when visiting a doctor.  May we suggest that the next time you recite Shemone Esrei, you move through the Brachos of bakasha--from bracha to bracha--noting all of the action verbs that we recite--asking Hashem several times in each bracha for this act and that act--for it is truly only from Hashem that each and every thing that affects, impacts and improves our daily lives comes!  Every time we daven, we should recognize and grow from the strong Emunah in Hashem we are asserting, as we plead for his active guidance, direction and action.  All we have to do is read, say, understand and feel the plain and powerful meaning of our daily Tefillos!



Special Note Three:  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 Mon began to fall (see, however, Rashi to Shemos 16:33), in which Rashi appears to write that the Mon began to fall today), it is in these days 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: At a Hakhel Shiur, HaRav Yisroel Belsky, Shlita, once 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 Mon.  In fact, perhaps the Mon 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 Mon!



Special Note Four: We continue an exciting Monday/Thursday series on the practical aspects of Sta”m, written by Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz, Shlita, author of Inside Sta”m--An Insider Reveals The Answers To All The Questions You Should Ask When Purchasing Or Maintaining Tefillin, Mezuzos, Megillos, Sifrei Torah And Nevi’im.


For a fuller treatment of all topics to be discussed, we urge you to purchase the Sefer, which provides practical and meaningful information and ideas.






A friend told me to have the sofer write the parashah shel yad on two separate pieces of klaf, and then glue them together. He says this is preferable because it is hard to find a suitable piece of klaf which is long enough. This sounds strange to me. Should I listen to him? Is there any drawback to his suggestion?





There once was a time when your friend’s suggestion had some merit. Nowadays, however, it is unnecessary.


It is true that years ago it was difficult to find a single long piece of klaf (especially klaf avodas yad) which was actually fit to write on. However, today the quality of the klaf is much higher than it was even a few short years ago, and there is absolutely no reason to resort to such a practice.


As for the practice itself of gluing two pieces of klaf together, let us see if there is any halachic problem.


The Gemara clearly states that the shel yad should be written on one long piece of klaf. Even so, if one were to write the four parashiyos on four separate pieces of klaf, the tefillin are still kosher. Nevertheless, the pieces should be attached to each other either by gluing or sewing them together.


Once the parashiyos have been glued together, all agree that there is no halachic problem whatsoever with the parashiyos. Nevertheless, people who are paying above-average prices for tefillin don’t expect to receive a shel yad which is glued or stitched together. Actually, many would be annoyed to find that their parashiyos are stuck together, and would view them as “damaged goods.” It follows that a sofer or socher would be obligated to inform a customer who is paying above-average prices about this type of imperfection before selling such parashiyos. (In spite of what we have said, one is certainly better off with mehudar parashiyos which have been glued together than with l’chatchilah parashiyos written on one piece of klaf.)




14 Iyar

NOT ON THURSDAY NIGHT! As many know, when Lag BaOmer falls out on Sunday as it does this year, the Rema (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 493:2) permits taking a haircut on Erev Shabbos in honor of Shabbos.  We asked a Posek whether one could take a haircut on Thursday night (to avoid the lines, for example).  He responded in the negative, as the haircut must be evident that it is LeKavod Shabbos.  Accordingly, if one would like to take a haircut this Thursday night for personal reasons, he must first consult with his Rav or Posek to determine whether doing so would be permissible under the particular facts or circumstances.



PARNASSAH: In last week’s Parasha, we learn of the great Mitzvah of Vachei Imach/V’chai Achicha Imach (Vayikrah 25, 35-36). With these words, the Torah implores us to help our brothers with their sustenance and their needs of life. What a great Mitzvah it is to spot a job available and send it to a few friends for whom it may be a possibility. What a great Mitzvah it is to take a resume and make the effort to send it on to a few possible contacts. What a great Mitzvah it is to identify areas in which Parnassah opportunities are available and share the information with others in the community. The greatest gift one can give is his time--and this is such a special way to spend it! Vachei Imach/V’chai Achicha Imach!




Special Note:  On Erev Shabbos, we highlighted how important it is for the Torah Jew to avoid Ona’as Devarim.  How should the victim, the subject, of Ona’as Devarim react? We provide some thoughts below; of course, details as to any particular situation should be discussed with one’s Rav or Posek:


1.  The following is taken from Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita (p. 330):  “You do not violate the commandment against Ona’as Devarim if you reply to an insult directed at you.  The Torah does not obligate a person to be as unfeeling as a stone.  Usually, however, a person who is careful not to insult or vex others will not be insulted by others.  If you remained silent and swallowed the insult without replying immediately, you are forbidden to insult the person who insulted you at a later time when you have already calmed down (Chofetz Chaim, Introduction, B’air Mayim Chayim, 8-9).”


2.  Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, teaches in Mishlei (17:9) “Mechaseh Pesha Mevakeish Ahava…he who conceals transgression seeks love, but he who harps on a matter alienates Hashem.”  Rashi (ibid.) explains that if one man sins against another, and the hurt party brushes over it, does not pursue it, and does not show an angry face, then it will bring love between the two parties; however, he who bears a grudge will bring further alienation to the already hurt relationship.  A bit further in Mishlei, we learn:  Sechel Adam He’Erich Apo …it is good sense for a man to be slow to anger, and it is his glory to pass over a transgression ( 19:11 ).”  Once again, Shlomo HaMelech is teaching us to avoid the initial reaction to hurt back with a direct, sometimes caustic (or even worse) response, and instead quell one’s feelings in order to rebuild, rather than destroy the relationship.


3.  With this in mind, we come to a real understanding of words that we recite at the end of Shemone Esrei three times daily:  Velimkalelai Nafshi Sidom--and to those who curse me, may my soul be silent.”  HaRav Shimon Schwab, Z’tl, in the monumental work Rav Schwab on Prayer (Artscroll, p.537) explains these important words as follows:  “This means, may I remain calm and silent as the dust of the earth, in the face of my tormentors.  I pray that I shall not react if I am cursed or tormented.”


Someone once insulted a very pious person.  The community wanted to put a ban on the man, but the pious person would not hear of it.  “We must punish that man, not merely for your sake,” the pious person was told, “but to preventing the insulting of others.”  “On the contrary!” exclaimed the pious person.  “Let people learn from me not to let insults bother them.”  (Sefer Chasidim 183, as published in Love Your Neighbor (ibid.)). 


4.  The Sefer Tomer Devorah (Chapter 2) by HaRav Moshe Cordovero, Z’tl, provides the following powerful instruction:  “…a person should recall his sins and desire purification…asking himself: “Which type of suffering is the best in the world and will not distract me from Avodas Hashem?  Surely, there is no better than these--to be shamed and insulted, for these will not weaken a person’s strength or his vitality by illness, nor will they rob him of his food and clothing, nor of his life or his children’s lives.  Hence, a person should actually desire this form of suffering, saying to himself:  “Why would I fast and torment myself with other afflictions, which weaken my strength for Avodas Hashem?  It is far better for me to be afflicted with shame and insult, as my strength will not depart or weaken.  Thus, when insults are meted out to him, he should rejoice in them.  Contrary to the typical reaction to them, he should desire them.”


A disciple of Rav Chatzkel Levenstein, Z’tl, related, “I once saw Rav Chatzkel in a state of extreme happiness, and asked him for the reason.”  “Someone greatly insulted me today, and I didn’t say anything in return.  For this I am joyful,” replied Rav Chatzkel (Marbitzai Torah U’Mussar, Vol. 4, p.212, as published in Love Your Neighbor (ibid.)).


5.  One should recognize that although the hurtful words may be misdirected and even absolutely false, everything that happens in our lives occurs by Hashgacha Pratis, and is for us to learn from.  Is there anything from the specific tactless, unkind, or spiteful words that I can learn from or grow from?  Is there anything along the lines that he is claiming that I can do better in, even if it is not as exaggerated as he claims? 


6.  When hearing someone rant at you or another out of anger, one should immediately make a mental note of the horrors of Ka’as.


7.  In spite of the Ka’as, after someone experiences a rant, harangue, tirade, or even ‘just’ a few biting words, he would do well to remember three words “Dan Lechaf Zechus.” Who knows what the person venting has gone through, or is going through right now. Only Hashem knows.  Furthermore, you can attribute even the most shocking and coarse behavior against you to a huge mistake or misconception on his part. He may have simply heard something much different than what was said, and took it all wrong.  Accordingly, what he has done to you may not be right, but it may be more of a misunderstanding than an act of malice. 


8.  One must certainly take the experience against himself as a lesson not to hurt, upset, or embarrass others, even if it is in the privacy of one’s own home or office, with the two of you as the only people there.


9.  The Chofetz Chaim writes that one should avoid the company of Ba’alei Lashon Hara--those who are want to speak Lashon Hara at all costs.  One should likewise avoid the company of those who as a matter of course allow unkind, spiteful, or tactless words to constantly spew forth from them.  By consciously avoiding this kind of person, one constantly reminds himself to utilize his power of speech for more positive purposes and goals.  If one constantly finds himself subject to verbal or mental abuse heaped upon him by a close family member, boss, or the like (i.e., someone who cannot be avoided), he should seek guidance from his Rav or Posek as to how to proceed.  Moreover, as noted at the outset of this Note, one should consult with his Rav or Posek in any particular situation that occurred or may occur, as it may be appropriate not to remain silent, but to respond to the one committing Ona’as Devarim--so that he will know of your hurt, and so both of you can grow from the experience. 


10.  Ona’as Devarim, of course, applies not only in person, but also over the phone, and by email as well.  A reader advised us that he received an email from someone on ‘the other side of a transaction’ who wrote to him that his actions were ‘shameful and disgraceful, and that he should read the Iggeres HaRamban.’  The reader noted that the Iggeres HaRamban tells one to avoid anger in all circumstances, and anger is what the writer himself was expressing!  We may add that just as words can never be retracted, so too, emails that have been sent (even if they are ‘recalled’) can never be taken back.  In a sense, emails are even worse--for the hurt party can review the hurtful words in print time and time again.  Accordingly, one should overcome his nature and not read and reread an offensive letter or email--but, rather discard it.  Moreover, the act of disposing of it will remind a person not to mentally harp on it either.  Conversely, when sending an email which in any manner may touch upon Ona’as Devarim, one should read it two or three times before pressing the ‘send’ button. 


11.  Every night before going to sleep as part of Kriyas Shema Al HaMita, we state “Hareini Mochel Lechol Mi…I hereby forgive anyone who angered or antagonized me--whether against my body, my property, my honor, or against anything of mine; whether he did so accidentally, willfully, carelessly, or purposely; whether through speech deed, thought or notion…”  (translation courtesy of Artscroll Siddur).  We must recognize that these precious words every night are not mere lip service, but are so important that they are among the final words we state every day.  We must mean what we say, and if we have specific people or events in mind, then it is all the better!  In the Zechus of our forgiving and forgetting, may the Heavenly court do likewise for us, and for all of K’lal Yisroel!




13 Iyar

MESECHTA SHEVI’IS--THE HEBREW: A reader advised us that a new and revised Artscroll Hebrew version of Mishnayos Mesechta Shevi’is being re-published and will be available very shortly, in time to bask in the study of Mesechta Shevi’is in the sixth year of the cycle, in preparation for the great study le’ma’aseh--in the seventh year--Haba’ah Aleinu L’Tovah.



RABOS MACHASHAVOS:    Shlomo HaMelech teaches in Mishlei: “Rabos Machashavos B’lev Ish, Va’atzas Hashem He Sakum” (Mishlei 19:21 )--there are many thoughts in Man’s heart, but the plans of Hashem are what endure.  Fascinatingly, this is one of the few Pesukim from Mishlei that we recite in our daily davening.  We may suggest that this Posuk is, in fact, recited in davening to remind us to focus on our Tefillah--as any foreign or outside thoughts during davening (“What will I do at work today?”, “What do I need to buy at the store?”, “Where will I go for this?”, “What will I tell him?”, “How will I do that?” etc.) are for naught, as only Hashem’s plans --especially in the course of Tefillah--endure. So keep the right thoughts--your kavana--for they are the only ones that work--and matter!



WE WOULD RATHER SWITCH THAN FIGHT: Chazal (Chulin 89A) teach: “In whose Zechus does the World stand--in one who keeps his mouth closed during a time of dispute.” The next time you have the opportunity to dispute--think to yourself: ‘I’d rather be responsible for the world’s existence than winning this argument, getting in a good repartee, or even defending myself.’ We recognize that sometimes it is the principle of the matter, and other times it is the seemingly unquenchable desire for the truth to prevail, but if one can also leave a window of opportunity for the world when the dispute is not that important, he will have accomplished an unrecognized, but equally as important, service for mankind.  We should NOT ONLY REMEMBER--BUT ALSO ACT UPON this-- as often as possible!



TURN OFF: A reader strongly advised us that his personal alternative to the Shul cell phone locker and to placing the cell phone ‘silent’ mode before entering a Shul is simply to turn off the phone. It appeared that the reader wished to emphasize that people are so used to having their cell phones on--that they should also get used to having their cell phones off, as well!



QUESTION OF THE DAY : “It is a medicine that can cure the ills of society but is being poured down the drain.” What is the medicine?



WAIT A MINUTE! No one appreciates it when their home, their office or even their store is barged into. All the more so, when we appreciate just a bit Kedusha Beis Hakenesses, should we recognize that we must enter with reverence, with honor and with appreciation. At yesterday’s special shiur on Kedushas Beis Hakenesses, HaRav Moshe Tuvia Lieff, Shlita, urged everyone to wait a moment before entering a Shul and contemplate where exactly he was entering and what he was going to do there!




Special Note One:  A Rabbi, educator and counselor advised us that he teaches people who are down, dejected and even depressed--about the value of thinking and rethinking about three essential life-enriching words--”Ain Od Milevado!”--There is no One but Hashem --Hashem is the Source of Everything, and he is a Maitiv--so that the situations that a person encounters and the people he must meet are all Divinely Ordained--and for a purpose. No one has been left to his fortune or  to the elements; no one has been forgotten about or rejected.  Rather,  if one acts in accordance with the Torah as explained by his Rav or Posek, he is fulfilling his purpose in this world, even if it may be different than what is perceived as the normal, usual or ordinary lifestyle.  In truth, no two people--even husband and wife--have the same experiences.  Every person in his own unique way is under Hashem’s watchful eye. We are never alone, for in the 120 years we are in this world--there is  our Father in Heaven who looks down upon us with cherish and endearment--who may simply be asking or reminding us to acknowledge His guiding presence.  In difficult times, when it is hardest to feel it, is when we daven --strengthening our ties and asking our Father for the Yeshuos we know only He can grant.



Special Note Two:  Tomorrow 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 tomorrow’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 tomorrow.  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.



Special Note Three: Tomorrow is also the Yahrtzeit of the Great Tanna, Rebbi 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 Rebbi Meir.  To obtain copies of these tefillos, one can contact the Rebbi 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 Rebbi Meir always stand in our stead!



12 Iyar

MONUMENTAL GATHERING! Yesterday, Rabbi Moshe Tuvia Lieff, Shlita, hosted a monumental gathering on behalf of the International Committee for the Preservation of Har Hazeisim, founded by R’ Avrohom Lubinsky. This Committee is working very strenuously to overturn the current lack-of-security and state-of-terror at Har Hazeisim in order to make it accessible to our people. Rabbi Dovid Lau, Shlita, Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi spoke and stated how just last week he went to the Kever of Rabbeinu Ovadia M’Bartenura on Har Hazeisim. While there, he received a call from the police asking him what in the world he, as Chief Rabbi, was going up privately to such a dangerous place as the Bartenura’s Kever?! The police asked him to wait there so that they could pick him up and escort him out of the area. He replied that he was ashamed to do that, and would not agree.


The Novominsker Rebbe, Shlita, stated that the Kedushas Yerushalayim is, according to the Rambam, an extension of the Kedushas HaMikdash--which never left--and that we have an obligation to do what we can to preserve this Kedusha!


Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zweibel, Shlita, stated that it is a tragedy and travesty for terror and vandalism to exist on such a holy place.

Rabbi Moshe Tuvia Lieff, Shlita, pointed out that Har Hazeisim was where the Parah Adumah was brought--and we all know the great Kedusha of the Ma’aseh Parah Adumah to which Mesechta Parah is dedicated. He added that we know, of course, that there is a Chelkas HaNevi’im on the Har, and that Chagai, Zechariah and Malachi--the last of our Nevi’im are buried there. Yet, in a shocking revelation, he pointed out that between 1948-1967, under the Jordanian government auspices and direction, 40,000 gravesites were destroyed on Har Hazeisim alone. The Committee has arranged for approximately 20,000 graves to be restored so far.


Please click here for a brochure entitled: “If They Can’t Rest, How Can We?”


To learn more about the International Committee for the Preservation of Har Hazeisim, email info@saveharhazeitim.org or contact P.O. Box 190427, Brooklyn, NY 11219, 212-796-5388, www.saveharhazeitim.org Checks should be made payable to the International Committee of Har Hazeitim.


Hakhel Note: Please participate--please show that you care! As Rabbi Lieff put it--it is a matter of Kavod Hashem Yisborach, Kavod Yisrael and Kavod Eretz Yisrael!



ONE CASE WHERE SILENCE IS A RESPONSE! In response to reader inquiry as to what they can do if their Shul does not have lockers with keys in which to store cell phones prior to entry--may we suggest the next best alternative, which is either to leave one’s phone in his coat pocket in the Shul’s coat room--or if one does not feel that he can do so for security reasons--then to turn the phone on silent prior to entering. Remember--Hashem gave the idea of ‘silent’ to the cell phone producer--let us use it wisely!




Special Note One:  As we develop our Middos of Emunah and Bitachon during the week following Parashas Behar, we note that the Chofetz Chaim writes that learning Chumash with Rashi on the weekly Parasha is in and of itself a source for strengthening one’s Emunah.  Likewise, the meaningful daily recital of the Rambam’s Thirteen Ani Ma’amins should guide us greatly in growth in this area.  Most certainly, our reading the Shemone Esrei with feeling and focus--sincere belief in the words we are saying, on a bracha by bracha basis--will alone significantly strengthen our connection to true Emunah as well.  We must remember that in the end, Chabbakuk HaNavi advises--it will be “VeTzadik Be’Emunasso Yichye-- it will come down to the righteous one living by his Emunah.”



Special Note Two:  HaRav Matisyahu Salomon, Shlita, provides a special insight into the Avodah of the Sefira Period based upon the words of the Sefer Avudraham .  The Avudraham brings the words of Yirmiyahu Hanavi ( 5:20 -25) specifically referring to Shavuos: “Shavuos Chukos Kotzir Yishmor Lanu...”--in which Yirmiyahu reproves the people for “having eyes but not seeing’ and for “having a heart that turns away” --for failing to say in their hearts let us fear Hashem ...”  What do these words of reproof have to do particularly with Shavuos--what is this Nevuah teaching us? 


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


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


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



Special Note Three: We continue an exciting Monday/Thursday series on the practical aspects of Sta”m, written by Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz, Shlita, author of Inside Sta”m--An Insider Reveals The Answers To All The Questions You Should Ask When Purchasing Or Maintaining Tefillin, Mezuzos, Megillos, Sifrei Torah And Nevi’im.


For a fuller treatment of all topics to be discussed, we urge you to purchase the Sefer, which provides practical and meaningful information and ideas.






When writing tefillin parashiyos, does it make a difference if the shel yad is written first or if the shel rosh is written first?




There certainly is a minhag as to which comes first. Everyone agrees, however, that if the minhag was not followed, the kashrus of the tefillin is not affected.


With that in mind we will now discuss the minhag.


The Rema in Shulchan Aruch says that the shel yad should preferably be written first since it is mentioned first in the pasuk: וקשרתם לאות על ידך והיו לטוטפות בין עיניך .


Indeed, this is the minhag in almost all non-Chassidic Ashkenazi communities.


The Arizal, however, felt that since the tefillin shel rosh has a higher level of holiness than the tefillin shel yad, the shel rosh should be written first.


Moreover, the Arizal clearly stipulates that after the parashah of the tefillin shel rosh is written, it should be inserted into the bayis shel rosh, and then fully painted and sealed. Only after this stage should the shel yad be written. Practically speaking, though, this is very difficult to arrange. Therefore, it seems that even someone generally accustomed to observing the Arizal’s minhagim would be well advised to have the parashah shel yad written first (as the Rema recommends), if he is unable to have the parashah shel rosh written and inserted into the bayis shel rosh before the parashah shel yad is written.


Once again, we are talking about how the sofer should have them written in the first place. If the order was reversed, there is no problem at all and the tefillin are kosher l’mehadrin.




9 Iyar

MESECHTA SHEVI’IS! The Parasha begins with the Mitzvah of Shevi’is. As many may know (and as we have previously referenced), HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, has recently been strongly recommending to individuals who want to undertake something as a tikun or as a zechus to learn Mesechta Shevi’is, and the Halachos of Shevi’is. In this week’s Divrei Si’ach, HaRav Yitzchak Goldshtoff, Shlita, provides a remarkable story (on p. 1): A Gadol from Europe asked HaRav Chaim what he could do to help remedy the tremendous pains he was experiencing in his legs. The Gadol noted that he had done a Cheshbon HaNefesh and could not determine why it was specifically his legs that were in so much pain--and asked HaRav Kanievsky for a bracha and eitzah as to what he could do for his legs to heal, so that he would not continue to suffer in this way. HaRav Kanievsky responded that he should have a Refuah Sheleimah, and advised that he should learn all that he could about Shevi’is--the Mesechta (Yerushalmi), the Rambam…. HaRav Goldshtoff provides his personal explanation as to why he believes HaRav Kanievsky is insistent upon this study at this time--after all, it is not the Shemittah year until next year? It is, Rabbi Goldshtoff suggests, because the bracha that the Torah gives to those who are Shomrei Shevi’is already begins in the sixth year of the Shemittah cycle (the year we are in!). In fact, HaRav Kanievsky, in his Sefer Ta’amah Dikrah, points out that when the Torah refers to the seventh, eighth and ninth years of the Shemittah cycle--Shevi’is, Sheminis and Tishi’is--these years are missing the second yud in the word (as the second-to-last letter)--they are chaser in the Torah. However, the sixth year is written with a yud--shishis (as the second-to-last letter) to indicate that Hashem will bring His bracha into the sixth year!


Hakhel Note: For those who may be intimidated or daunted by the concept of learning the Yerushalmi Shevi’is, we must HIGHLY recommend the Artscroll two-volume Yerushalmi Shevi’is, with English translation, commentary and notes. The Artscroll also contains tremendous diagrams and descriptions of the boundaries of Eretz Yisrael--as this is an important topic of the Mesechta. In a short period of time every day, one can cover an Amud--and actually finish the Mesechta approximately on time by Rosh Hashana--in time to review the Mesechta  in the Shemittah year itself. What an undertaking! What an accomplishment! What a source of Bracha! Indeed, as so recommended by HaRav Kanievsky, may the study of Mesechta Shevi’is and the Halachos of Shevi’is bring much bracha into our homes--and may Shemittah be performed on a D’Oraysa level--according to all opinions--in the coming year! Let us begin our study now--with the hope and aspiration of Halacha L’Ma’aseh in all respects!




Special Note One: We continue with our Erev Shabbos--Halachos of Shabbos Series. The following Halachos are excerpted from the Mishna Berurah (Vol. III , Dirshu Edition):


A. One may wash dishes and utensils on Shabbos, as long as there is another meal or additional food to eat, unless one knows that he does not need the dishes. One may even wash on Friday night  (Leil Shabbos) for the sake of the Seudah tomorrow (but should not separate them in a way which would constitute Borer, as explained by Rabbi Webster in his Borer test, as previously provided). If one does have enough dishes and utensils, the Shevet HaLevi writes that it is the better practice not to wash them because of the tircha involved, and the Aruch HaShulchan (Orach Chaim 323:7) writes that it is improper to wash utensils in this event (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 323, Mishna Berurah seif katan 27 and 28, and Dirshu Note 21).


B. HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl (Igros Moshe, Orach Chaim 4:74, os 4) writes that one can place dirty dishes into his dishwasher on Shabbos, effectively treating it as a cabinet, and there would be no issur of hachana--of preparing the dishes to be cleaned on Motza’ei Shabbos in the dishwasher. One may not, however, stack them in the dishwasher to be set up in the order they need to be cleaned--for that is a preparation for the weekday, and may also lead to a violation of borer as a person separates larger and smaller utensils in the dishwasher (ibid, Dirshu Note 22).


C. Although one is generally not permitted to measure on Shabbos, as it constitutes an Uvdah D’Chol, it is permitted to measure for the sake of a Mitzvah. Accordingly, for instance, one could measure the items of food in a pot, in order to determine whether there is bitul b’shishim and whether the Halacha permits or prohibits the items in the pot to be used (ibid., Dirshu Note 37).


D. One is permitted to feed animals which are dependent for food upon him. Chazal make dogs a special exception--and as long as it is not a kelev rah (a wild dog)--one may feed dogs on Shabbos even if they do not belong to him. It is inappropriate to feed the birds outside on Shabbos (such as on Shabbos Shirah), as they are not domesticated animals (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 324, Mishna Berurah seif katan 31).


E. There is an apparent disagreement among the Poskim as to whether one can loudly snap his fingers in order to awake a sleeping person on Shabbos--as the production of the sound may be prohibited based upon the issur of tikun kli. As far as a person placing his finger into his mouth and producing a sound, the Aruch HaShulchan permits it--viewing it primarily as a song of the mouth, and not noise produced by the hand in the mouth. The Chazon Ish, however, is of the opinion that although one may whistle with his mouth--one should never place his finger in his mouth to produce a sound as this is pritzus (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 338, Dirshu Note 3 and 4).


F. For various reasons, it is forbidden to leave a microphone on before Shabbos, with the intent of using it on Shabbos (see Igros Moshe Orach Chaim 3:55 and Orach Chaim 4:84; Minchas Shlomo 1:9, Minchas Yitzchak 3:38 and Shevet HaLevi 1:66). If a Chazan is warned not to use a microphone on Shabbos and nevertheless does so, the Igros Moshe (Yoreh De’ah 4-5) rules that he has the Halacha of a Mechalel Shabbos Befarhesyah (Orach Chaim 338, Dirshu Note 6).


G. The Shevet HaLevi (1:61) rules that very small bells which decorate a Sefer Torah are not intended to produce any real noise, and are therefore permissible to be used as part of a Sefer Torah ornament on Shabbos (ibid. Dirshu Note 8,9).



Special Note Two: Let us delve a bit further into the Shevi’is. One of the paradigm mitzvos given to us by Hashem in order to affirm and strengthen our Bitachon is of course the concept of  Shemittah.  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 are 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. Rebbi 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!!


We are handed so many straightforward and simple, daily gifts and opportunities to build and refine our trust in Him daily. Hashem is not looking to find fault with us--instead, He gives us all that we need, at no charge, and many times without any additional effort, to come close.  As HaRav Chaim Shmulevitz, Z’tl, is famous for teaching, the young child who is in his mother’s lap on the bus ride from Tel Aviv to Yerushalayim does not consider himself to be in or near Tel Aviv, Yerushalayim, Lod, Mevasseret, or any of the other cities sighted or seen along the way; the child views himself as only being in his mother’s lap--no matter where he is.  We have to start feeling the purity of that child in our daily Tefillos and in our daily experiences.  If we can, we will take the lessons of the Parasha with us this week, and, moreover, we will be taking the ‘final’ instructions of Chabakuk:”VeTzaddik Be’Emunaso Yichye”:--bringing Emunah to life--which in the end will be the ‘Yichye---the source of life for us itself!



Special Note Three: Rashi writes at the beginning of the Parasha, that from the fact that the Torah states that the mitzvah of Shemita was given at Sinai, we learn that all Mitzvos were given there, even if not explicitly stated.


Let us examine this for a moment.  What did Sinai initially provide to us?  It provided our connection, our relationship to Hashem for all time--for mankind never again experienced the event, nor needed to. Why not?  Because the Mitzvos embody and carry Har Sinai with us daily.  Had we remained at Har Sinai forever, we would have needed no Torah and Mitzvos, for our relationship with Hashem would have always remained on that skyscraping altitude.  But this was not the world’s purpose.  So, the Torah teaches, it is through Shemittah, with all the other Mitzvos derived therefrom, that we are to extend our Har Sinai experience--our unbelievable connection and relationship with Hashem into everyday life.



We additionally suggest that Parashas Behar is always read close to Shavuos, for it teaches us what can bring us close to Har Sinai.  Let us see what the next Mitzvah is after Shemittah in the Parasha--it is “Lo Sonu...”--the great prohibition against cheating or deceiving someone else.  Even if Shemittah does not apply today to the same extent as it will when the Geulah comes (B’EH for this cycle!), the Mitzvah of Lo Sonu most certainly applies in our times in full force.  In fact, there is a very detailed Siman in Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat, 227) that provides the Halacha in many, many “tricky” situations.  In order for us to fathom the paramount relevance of honesty in monetary matters with our relationship with Hashem, we need only look to the Gemara in Shabbos(31A), which teaches and reminds us that the **FIRST** question that a person will be asked after 120 years is--”Did you deal honestly in business?”  JUST AS SHEMITA FORGES OUR EMUNAH IN HAKADOSH BARUCH HU--SO TOO DOES DEALING HONESTLY AND PROPERLY IN BUSINESS AND FINANCIAL MATTERS FOSTER, DEVELOP AND BUILD THAT VERY SAME RELATIONSHIP.


As we have suggested in the past, perhaps, then, it is also no coincidence that the word “cheat” is so closely related to the word “chait”--sin--for a key aspect of chait--a real source of estrangement from HaKadosh Baruch Hu is deceit, for it destroys the connection established at Sinai and fostered in us for thousands of years.


Whether as consumers, businessman, housewives, professionals or even Rabbis and teachers, we are constantly faced with judgment calls--whose money is this?  Is it mine or is it his?  Shouldn’t it be mine?  Although there are those who have defined capitalism as the economics of putting your money into my pocket, we suggest that the Torah defines economics as the great method of maintaining and expanding a close relationship with your Maker.  Every little struggle, and certainly every greater struggle, in this area brings us infinitely closer to that very time that our very souls stood at Sinai!



Special Note Four: There is a second aspect of Lo Sonu presented in the Parasha (Vayikra 25:17): “VeLo Sonu Ish Es Amiso…--each of you shall not aggrieve his fellow.” Accordingly, we once again present below the penetrating listing of statements constituting Ona’as Devarim, as culled from The Power of Words, by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita.  It would most certainly pay to review this listing from time-to-time, to keep one’s mind and tongue in check.  Please feel free to share it with your friends and help turn the period between Pesach and Shavuos into a true Chol HaMoed--as the Ramban refers to it!  Careful--don’t say: 


  1.  “How many times do I have to tell you?”

  2. “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you 1,000 times.”

  3. “I told you so.”

  4. “Didn’t I tell you not to…”

  5. “You forgot again?”

  6. “I think that it runs in your family.”

  7. “You look like I feel.”

  8. “This time you’ve outdone yourself.”

  9. “Who appointed you king?”

  10. “You’re off your rocker.”

  11. “Klutz!”

  12. “You make no sense.”

  13. “Who cares what you think?”

  14. “You don’t match.”

  15. “You’re impossible.”

  16. “You forgot to make supper again?”

  17. “How can you live in this mess?”

  18. “You keep on making the same mistake.”

  19. “Leave me alone!”

  20. “You never…/You… always”

  21. “Can’t you take a joke?”

  22. “I don’t believe you.”

  23. “You blew it!”

  24. “What’s wrong with you?”

  25. “What do you think you are doing?”

  26. “Where are your brains?”

  27. “What a nerd!”

  28. “You really overpaid for this thing.”

  29. “Let me show you the right way to do it.”

  30. “I know that this is hard for someone like you, but…”  


May we suggest that, to battle Ona’as Devarim, one work on appropriate phrases that become part and parcel of his/her every day lexicon?  Here is a small sampling--please feel free to liberally add to the list!


  1. It’s a privilege to know you.

  2. You have a knack for doing the right thing.

  3. I need your advice.

  4. You really bought this at a good price.

  5. Smart!

  6. I’m impressed.

  7. It looks so good on you.

  8. You remind me of your father/mother.

  9. I really appreciate your effort.

  10. You do so many good things.

  11. You are truly the right person to be around.

  12. How do you find time to do all of this?

  13. This is delicious.

  14. Can I give you a bracha?

  15. Can you give me a bracha?

  16. What a wonderful idea.

  17. You probably know the answer to this.

  18. I know you’re someone I can count on.

  19. Beautiful!

  20. My compliments to the chef.

  21. You look like a million dollars.

  22. Your parents did something right.

  23. Some people really have their head on straight.

  24. You did a great job.

  25. What a chesed!

  26. You have amazing taste.

  27. You are so special.

  28. You did this all by yourself?

  29. I know that your word is your bond.

  30. You’re great!


Hakhel Note: If you can discuss this at the Shabbos table--any additional notes, comments and suggestions that you could provide to us would be very much appreciated!



8 Iyar



By eating an insect, one violates a maximum of 5 issurim. By wearing Shatnez, one violates many issurim per hour!


Testing your garments for Shatnez is vital is protecting yourself from wearing Shatnez.

One does have an obligation to test his garments for Shatnez. Reliance on claims from storeowners and salespersons should be avoided. Additionally, one should test his garments only at a qualified Shatnez laboratory. Substandard testers will label Shatnez garments as being Shatnez-free. Unfortunately, this has been shown over and over again.


It is strongly recommended for schools, especially high schools and seminaries, to educate their students on the necessity of testing one’s garments for Shatnez. The Lakewood Shatnez Laboratory gives school presentations. You may contact Rabbi Yosef Sayagh at 732-330-4103 or at Shatnezhedqtrs@verizon.net.



CLOSE YOUR EYES FOR A MINUTE: In the fast-paced world we live in, it is difficult to collect our thoughts, even more so to do a deliberate Cheshbon HaNefesh. We see how quickly our computers, cell phones and other technological equipment operate--and for some reason the Yetzer Hara convinces us that we have to move our thought processes at this pace as well. Perhaps we owe it to ourselves to designate at least a minute or so in the morning and in the evening--as a time to sit and close our eyes in order to think about a particular middah or an area of Teshuvah or Mitzvos we are or should be working on. The rapid pace of the world around us--should not interfere with the attention and with the care--that we deserve to give ourselves!




Special Note One:  We are now only four weeks from the giving of the Torah in 5774.  The following is excerpted from the wonderful work Leading Jews Back by Rabbi Sholom Smith, Shlita, based upon the teachings of HaRav Avraham Pam, Z’tl: “What did Rus see in Naomi that impressed her so much?  The Midrash (Rus Rabbah 2:5) gives an explanation:  Why was she called Naomi?  Because her actions were sweet and pleasant.  Rus saw in Naomi what a life devoted to Torah and Avodas Hashem can do for a person.  She saw her sterling middos, her nobility of spirit, her warmth and caring personality.  That was what attracted Rus and motivated her to give up a life of ease and luxury and “return” to Yiddishkeit as a penniless, widowed convert, forced to live off the charity of others.  This is the enormous power a person with a pleasant, warm personality and good middos has on other people.  He or she attracts followers like a magnet and can have great influence on their lives. This is a proven method to bring closer to Yiddishkeit those who are estranged from the heritage of their forefathers.  While philosophical discussions and intellectual discourses are certainly tools in bringing Ba’alei Teshuvah back to their roots, a critical factor is to show how the ways of Torah are pleasant and all its pathways are peace (Mishlei 3:17).  This has the drawing power to influence people to a Torah way of life.  Derech Eretz precedes Torah (Vayikra Rabbah 9:3).  This concept underlines the vital importance of Torah Jews conducting themselves with the utmost courtesy and respect in their interpersonal relationships.  They must not forget that wherever they go--whether in the business or professional world, or as neighbors or friends--they represent the Torah.  One does not have to be a Rabbi or kiruv professional to influence others.  Every Torah Jew presents an image to those around him which, depending on his conduct, will either bring others closer to Yiddishkeit or, c’v, cause estrangement from it.  It is a responsibility that should not be taken lightly.  This can be seen by the great influence one woman (Naomi) has on another (Rus), which set into motion the chain of events which led to the founding of Malchus Bais Dovid and planted the seeds of Moshiach.


Hakhel Note:  Let us start somewhere--Do you hold the door open with a smile for a few seconds in order to benefit the next person (whom you do not know) in stores and office buildings…?



Special Note Two:  The following is excerpted from the Sefer HaRav Schach: Conversations, compiled by his son in-law Rabbi Asher Bergman, Shlita, and translated into English by Rabbi Yaakov Blinder, Shlita: “Rav Schach said that one of the things that moves him tremendously is contemplating the amazing power of concealment of Hashem’s hand in creation. ‘Other people wonder why we don’t see miracles and visible proofs for faith in Hashem,’ he said, ‘but I am amazed at the tremendous power that man receives from Heaven to be able to disregard the facts that virtually shout into his ears: ‘Here is proof for your faith in Hashem!’ People say that nowadays we dont see miracles. But a rational person can see that every lifting of one’s hand is a miracle, as well as every glance with the eye. See how a little piece of flesh can move around and be able to see things, and to provide information to the brain, which interprets and analyzes it. These facts declare, as clearly as the sun shines: U’mibesar Echezeh Elo’ak--from my flesh I see Hashem’ (Iyov 19:26 ). One who ponders such things just a tiny bit can already sense the beauty of creation that Hashem brought into being in order to bestow His beneficence upon us. Yet, along with the obviousness of Hashem’s presence, He created the ability to be oblivious to the obvious, providing an enigma: On the one hand, one who truly contemplates the beneficence of the Creator is so impressed with the G-dliness of the world that he wonders how it is possible that there could be evil in the world, so manifest is Hashem’s goodness to us. Yet, on the other hand, those who close their eyes and minds ask precisely the opposite question - ‘Where is G-d?’--and look for proofs for faith in Him. It is incredible how at the same time there is both clarity and concealment; it is all so simple, yet so hidden! Let us consider another aspect of this marvel. We see that man’s desire to attain physical comfort and pleasure drives him into undertaking the greatest toil in order to achieve them. It would seem that mans recognition of the truth should be at least as strong as these drives, and should stir within man the strongest desires to foster a relationship with his Creator and do His will. We have seen throughout history that nations are willing to sacrifice millions of lives for ideals and beliefs that were the products of their own minds. ‘Should our sacrifice for our perfect Torah be any less valid than their idle prattle?!(Menachos 65b).


“The realization and feeling that man was not created by accident, and that there is a Mastermind Who runs the world’s events are basic and natural in mans soul and instinct from the day of his birth. Just a minimum of truthful contemplation and deliberation will bring any man to clear conclusions regarding man’s essence and his obligation in this world, namely that he must channel all the power of his body and soul to do the will of the Creator. All this is so simple and natural. It can only be a divine miracle of the highest magnitude that these obvious facts go unnoticed and unrealized for so many people.”


Hakhel Note: Oh, how we must act on this penetrating teaching!



Special Note Three: We continue an exciting Monday/Thursday series on the practical aspects of Sta”m, written by Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz, Shlita, author of Inside Sta”m--An Insider Reveals The Answers To All The Questions You Should Ask When Purchasing Or Maintaining Tefillin, Mezuzos, Megillos, Sifrei Torah And Nevi’im.


For a fuller treatment of all topics to be discussed, we urge you to purchase the Sefer, which provides practical and meaningful information and ideas.






Are all Yidden permitted to wear tefillin written according to any minhag? (I.e. can an Ashkenazi borrow tefillin from a Teimani; a Sephardi from a Chassid etc.?)




Tefillin by definition include three components: 1. Battim 2. Retzuos 3. Parashiyos.


Regarding Battim: All (kosher) battim may be worn by any member of K’lal Yisrael. However, when borrowing tefillin made according to minhag Chabad, extreme caution must be exercised to ensure that the placement of the tefillin shel yad is precise. Due to their extremely large size this is often difficult.


Regarding Retzuos: All (kosher) retzuos can be worn by any member of K’lal Yisrael.


Regarding Parashiyos: All (kosher) parashiyos can be worn by any member of K’lal Yisrael with two notable exceptions.


1.      Most contemporary Sephardi poskim are of the opinion that parashiyos written according to the Taz (explained in the previous installment) are pasul for Sephardim. Practically speaking, since most Ashkenazi parashiyos are written in this fashion, a Sephardi should not make a berachah when using tefillin of an Ashkenazi. (Unless he knows for a fact that they were not written like the Taz.)


There is some discussion among the poskim as to whether this applies to the shel rosh as well. Indeed, Ashkenazi poskim are lenient regarding a shel rosh which has an incorrectly written shiur parashah. (Since they are written on separate pieces of klaf each section is freestanding and unrelated to any other). This also seems to be the position of the Beis Yosef. Nevertheless, contemporary Sephardi poskim are stringent regarding the shel rosh as well.


2.      Very often tefillin written in the Chabad style of writing (Alter Rebbe Kesav) contain various letter forms that are not considered kosher by the poskim. Hence, such tefillin should be avoided by one who does not follow minhag Chabad in all areas.




7 Iyar

KINGS HIGHWAY (CONTINUED):  A Brooklyn community activist called the New York State Kashruth Enforcement Division which came down to the bagel store in question and “had the store remove some signage as well as require the store to post a sign stating clearly that Kosher and Non-Kosher products are sold.”  We all can take action!



6 CONSTANT MITZVOS LINK By clicking here, we remind our readers of the beautiful Nexus between the 6 Constant Mitzvos and the words Baruch Attah Hashem Elokeinu Melech HaOlam contained in every bracha. 



CELL PHONE PLEASURES: Although what one does with his cell phone may not always make him happy--and one may feel personally compromised by the way the cell phone has in a sense overtaken so many aspects of his everyday life, we note the following two special pleasures one can obtain from his cell phone:


1. In addition to using it as an alarm clock for arising in the morning, one can additionally use it as an alarm clock reminder to daven Mincha, to daven Ma’ariv, to count Sefirah, and other Mitzvah activities. As to whether should actually use it as a siddur to daven from, one should first consult with his Rav or Posek.


2. At Agudas Yisroel Snif Zichron Shmuel in Flatbush (under the leadership of Rabbi Eliezer Ginsburg, Shlita) immediately outside of the inner entrance to the shul there is a series of special small lockers with keys in the lock(as in a bus station or airport, but here without charge). Prior to entering Shul, one simply puts his cell phone inside, locks it and takes the key before he enters the Shul itself. What a pleasure-filled experience! Spending quality time with one’s Creator and one’s self--without interference from beeps, buzzes, temptations and worldly affairs--making his time in Shul a truly spiritual experience!




Special Note One: It is well known that HaRav Dessler, Z’tl, teaches and reiterates that our Holidays are not mere commemorations and remembrances of glorious events that took place in years past, but are times in which we re-experience and relive those very events and occurrences. Thus, every Pesach we are to feel and arrive at new levels of freedom, and at Shavuos we are to undertake a new echelon of Torah acceptance and study.


So what is it that we are supposed to be re-experiencing during the Sefira period itself? Most likely, there were no concerts or CDs in the desert that Bnei Yisroel were forced to miss, so that could not be it. It also cannot simply be an abstinence from barbers and barber shops for an extended period of time. At a Hakhel Shiur, Rabbi Eliyahu Schneider, Shlita, provided the following wonderful insight:


The Sefer HaChinuch writes that the purpose of the Sefira is for us to count up to Shavuos, instilling within us a sense of appreciation, excitement and enthusiasm. As we slowly but surely progress through the Omer period, we must rid ourselves to the greatest extent possible of the robotic nature in which we may perform our mitzvos, and any mental stupor we may experience while listening to a Shiur. We must teach ourselves that Torah and Mitzvos cannot be comprised only of “doing today’s daf”, or “learning the two Halachos”. Of course, it is essential that we have goals, and guide ourselves with certain daily accomplishments. However, we must infuse a genuine desire and drive into our Torah study and Mitzvah performance. As Rabbi Schneider points out, even though fish live in water, when it rains they come to the surface, as if they are thirsting for the new drops of the life-giving liquid, even though they are already surrounded by it!


Indeed, Hakhel (forgive the plug), is one of the last Mitzvos in the Torah for this very reason. What does Hakhel represent? After all, could not everyone simply study the Parashios recited at Hakhel either at home, in Shul, or at a Shiur? Why did everyone--men, women and children of all ages have to ascend to the Bais HaMikdash on one particular day to hear a portion of the Torah being read?!


Rabbi Schneider suggests that Hakhel not only represented the study of Torah, but the experience of Torah. Every so often, one must reinvigorate himself and excite himself about the great opportunity that awaits him every day. It is an opportunity shared by a minute, actually, very minute, percentage of all the people in the world. Just as people may forget to appreciate their eyesight, their ability to walk, that they have a job, food, clothing, so, too, may they forget to consider the infinite and eternal Torah that is or can be their daily companion.


Let us take the last several weeks before Shavuos to learn Torah with the effort and energy, with the exhilaration and enthusiasm, that it really, truly deserves!



Special Note Two: In honor of our recognition that we need Torah as a fish needs water, we provide the following five brief questions and answers relating to Torah study that were asked of HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, as excerpted from the Kuntres Derech Torah:


A. Question: When we recite Birchas HaTorah in the morning, we immediately thereafter recite Birkas Kohanim. Why do we recite these Pesukim? Answer: It is a Siman Bracha (see Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 47, Mishna Berurah seif katan 20). The Kuntres itself brings that there are 60 letters in Birkas Kohanim corresponding to the 60 Mesechtas of the Talmud.


B. Question: Why do we recite Eilu Devarim She’ein Lahem Shiur after Birkas Kohanim? Answer: Because it ends with the words V’Talmud Torah K’neged Kulam--allowing us to appreciate where Birkas HaTorah leads us!


C. Question: Based upon the words of the Rema in Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 155 and the Mishna Berurah there, it appears that one should set aside a specific place in the Beis HaMidrash in which he learns. Is this a chiyuv as it is in Tefillah? Answer: It is an Inyan Gadol.


D. Question: If one is learning in Kollel and is being paid for doing so--does he still have a separate chiyuv to be Kove’ah Itim LaTorah without pay? Answer: Since the Kollel student could have been doing something else during that time for which he could have been paid, his Kollel study is considered as a Keviyus Itim LaTorah.


E. Question: If one has a Mitzvah that no one else can perform, or must make a doctor’s appointment, i.e., a permitted circumstance for which he may interrupt his learning and he has a choice between doing so during the day or at night--is it preferable to interrupt his learning by day--or by night? Answer: One’s day time learning is more important--see Eruvin 65A.




6 Iyar

AMONG THE READER RESPONSES: In reference to your question of why Lag BaOmer is not called Lag LaOmer according to Nusach Sefard:


1.  Lag Ba’Omer is the Yahrtzeit of the Rema, so in deference to him Nusach Sefard refers to the Yom Tov as he would have.


2. The Rashbi was a gilgul of Moshe, and Lag Ba’Omer has a Gematria of 345, like Moshe.



ANOTHER KIND OF COUNT: The Chofetz Chaim provides simple guidance as to how a person can accrue thousands of Mitzvos over the course of a year: If one consciously decides not to say certain words about a person, a family, or a group--then each word is a separate Mitzvah in Shemiras Halashon. Assuming a person spares himself of uttering only ten inappropriate words a day (just one or two sentences)--then he has accrued a minimum of 10 x 365 or 3,650 Mitzvos. Considering that each Mitzvah lasts for eternity--this is a lot of eternity!



INTERNATIONAL CHESED HELPLINE: This remarkable free service provides a wealth of Chesed information around the world: 718-705-5000 (it begins with a very special menu of automated information).



NEW WEEKLY TEFILAH FOCUS PROGRAM: “Do you wish your davening left you uplifted, inspired and feeling closer to Hashem? Transform your Tefilah each week, read, listen or view concisely but powerfully presented material on short segments of Tefilah. To participate in the Weekly Tefilah Focus program or to learn more, visit www.weeklytefilahfocus.com or call 844-Tefilah.”



GUIDANCE IN KIDDUSH HASHEM: Mifal Kiddush Hashem was founded for the purpose of promoting awareness and understanding of the fundamental mitzvah of Kiddush Hashem, and the vital role it plays in the life of every Jew. For important and practical (free) material on the mitzvah visit: http://www.kiddush-hashem.com/ and see the downloads.



KINGS HIGHWAY ALERT: We have been asked to alert the public that there are two ‘bagel stores’ along the Kings Highway strip in Brooklyn in which in one carefully reads the sign it is only the ‘bagels’ that are certified as Kosher.  If one enters the store he may (but not necessarily will) realize that all of the items that could be placed on the bagel such as cheeses and the like are not Kosher, (for there is a kashrus certification relating only to the bagels) that is displayed.  The lesson: When one enters a food establishment for the first time--before purchasing anything, he should survey the situation to ensure that the Kashrus really meets his standards--and indeed that everything in the establishment is Kosher at all!




Special Note One: One additional point on yesterday’s note regarding Yom Ha’atzma’ut: Once each of us recognizes that his brother is indeed following the p’sak of a Rav or Posek, he should appreciate and respect this fact. We can achieve the final Geulah through Tefillah, through Tzedakah and through Ahavas Yisrael. We provide the following additional compelling insight on Geulah from the Sefer Geulah B’Rachamim by Rabbi Pinchas Winston, Shlita.


“In a world of about 6.6 billion people, it is hard to imagine making a difference to history.  Even if we talk only about the Jewish nation, which has a population of about 12 million people worldwide, it is hard to imagine, for the average Jew, making a significant impact on the direction and success of the Jewish people as a whole.  However, often what stands between the makers and the pawns of history is not money, position, or power.  It is usually two things:  perception of a problem and the desire to do something about it.  You can’t fix something that you cant see is broken, and, you won’t try to fix that which you think you can’t fix.  A person who was planning a project to have a significant, and seemingly impossible, impact on the Jewish people was asked, “What do you expect to do?  How do you expect to reach that many people, and, even if you reach them, how do you expect them to change their minds and get them to hear your message? Undaunted, he answered, “What difference does it make?  What is the alternative, no project at all?  If I do nothing, I will fail for sure.  If I do something, even if I fail, I will know, at least, that I did my best to succeed.”  Dont forget that Pinchas required 12 miracles to make him successful against Zimri (Bamidbar Rabbah 20:26 ).  In other words, naturally speaking, the odds were stacked against him, and yet, that didn’t stop him, because win or lose, he had to choose, and he chose to make a difference.  This is what Chazal teach:  One who comes to purify himself, they help him...  “One who comes to sanctify himself, they sanctify him” (Shabbos 104a).  In other words, our responsibility is to make the effort, to take steps in the right direction, and leave the rest up to Heaven.  We only have to make an opening the size of a pinhole, and Heaven will find a way to drive a wagon through it.  In Hashem’s world, small efforts can have huge effects, when they are in the right direction and with the right intention.  As we learn from the Torah, crises, from a Divine perspective, are really spiritual opportunities.  As chaotic as history can seem to become, it is never out of control, at least not out of Hashem’s control.  Even in the worst circumstances, there remains an opportunity to rise to the occasion and make a difference on some level.  In the Torah, Pinchas merited to end the crisis in his time because he had developed himself into the kind of zealot who could perform the necessary deed.  The daughters of Tzelofchad merited to teach an important law regarding inheritance of Eretz Yisroel because of their inherent love of the land, like their great ancestor before them (Rashi, Bamidbar 27:4).


“If we plan to make a difference during the quiet times, then Hashem will find a way to give us the opportunity to do so during the times of crisis.”


Hakhel Note:  The next move is up to each and every one of us--please think about it--and do something!



Special Note Two:  Before taking leave of Parashas Emor, we must provide one final dramatic but practical teaching of the Rabbeinu Bachya, derived from the parasha of the mekalel. Rabbeinu Bachya writes that the mekalel did not simply brazenly utter Hashem’s name with r’l a curse connected to it--he slowly and surely expressed the Name--with aforethought and intent.  If this one time act, teaches Rabbeinu Bachya, was able to shorten, to snuff out, the mekalel’s life by sekila being meted out against him, then IMAGINE, just IMAGINE the arichus yomim, the bracha, that a life long dedication to reciting Hashem’s name slowly and surely when reciting a bracha will bring to each and every one of us.  Such is r’l the power of a kelala for the wrongdoer--and such is the power of a bracha for us--as the zerah beirach Hashem--to learn and apply.  Remember:  Not fast and gobbled, or even mediocre and unthinking --but Slow and Sure.  The difference is, literally, life itself!



Special Note Three: Many in the Northern Hemisphere have recently witnessed the pretty blooming of trees with stunning pink, purple and white petals. However, these beautiful works of Hashem then fall off of the tree within days of their formation.  This may seem disappointing and discouraging.  After such a long winter--why does the pretty blossom--with all of its beautiful colors--last for such a short period?  Should we not celebrate the rebirth of nature for a longer time than that? HaRav Ezriel Erlanger, Shlita, provides an essential insight.  In thinking about it a bit more--we must realize that the essence of a fruit tree is really its fruit, and the essence of a non-bearing fruit tree is its leaves, and the shade, the cool wind, the photosynthetic process that they provide.  The blossoming of the tree can in a sense be compared to the rocket which launches a spaceship, and then must separate and fall back into the atmosphere. The rocket is very important--but the essence is the spaceship itself. In life, we must realize that which is ikar, that which is vital--and that which is tafel. In our own lives, we should consider the Mitzvos and Ma’asim Tovim as the ‘fruit’ of our existence, and that which we must do (including the servicing of our bodies) as the means to attain this goal. As we count through the Sefirah towards Kabbalas HaTorah--we must remind ourselves that we are going somewhere--we are headed in a direction, we are clear as to what is the tafel of life--and what is the ikar!




5 Iyar



1. According to Nusach Sefard, one says: “….Hayom Esrim Yom LaOmer”. Yet, the 33rd day of the Omer seems to be universally known as Lag BaOmer. According to Nusach Sefard, would it not be Lag LaOmer?


2. From a Reader: Why when counting days and at the beginning of the first day, we say “one day” even though it’s only the beginning of the first day, yet we only start mentioning weeks when we CONCLUDE a week?!  Should we not say something like “today is one day which is in the first week of the Omer”?




FROM A READER: “About bracha improvement regarding bracha acharonah, I try to think briefly of the gashmi benefits: the taste, the satisfaction of thirst or hunger, the calories ingested -- but quickly go on to the ruchni thoughts: that HaShem provided JUST this food or drink for me for now; that He keeps a constant watch over me, guides me in all my paths, leads me to do His works which I now will do by saying the bracha acharona; that it is obvious and clear to me that HaShem wants me to be alive and well so I can do His will and serve Him in the best way I can; that He is Echad, v’Ayn Od Milvado; and that I should work to improve my avoda by saying this bracha with kavanah and with hakaras hatov.  I then try to do just that ...  and sometimes I actually succeed!




Special Note One: It is obvious that improving our respect for each other is 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 Pirkei Avos, we learned (2:5):  ‘Yehi Kavod Chavercha Chaviv Alecha KeShelach--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 your 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 Hashem’s Royal Household!



Special Note Two:  We provide our annual note on Yom Ha’Atzma’ut:

Tomorrow will be celebrated in some of our communities (in various ways), and not celebrated in others.  We all know the different approaches and sentiments on the topic--and note that in the Third Beis Hamikdash described by Yecheskel there will be 12 entrances, for there can be different approaches to the one Avodah. What we may add is that however one does or does not celebrate, observe or perform--it should be done in accordance with the teachings of his ultimate Rav or Posek.  There can be much misinformation or misguidance, and a person can conduct himself based upon what he believes to be correct, without further consultation --and this is the part that is wrong.  As a case in point, we note that HaRav Yosef Ber Soloveitchik, Z’tl,  Rav of Boston, And Rosh HaYeshiva of RIETS, was in the Yeshiva on Yom Ha’Atzma’ut 5738 (1978)--one of the latter years of his giving Shiurim.  He davened Shacharis in the Morgenstern dormitory minyan, which davened with Hallel.  Later that morning, rather than giving Shiur on Perek HaZahav (the 4th perek of Bava Metziah which was being studied that Z’man in his Shiur), Rav Soloveitchik, obviously upset, instead gave Shiur on the importance of keeping the Tzuras HaTefillah intact. Shemone Esrei is followed by Chazaras Hashatz, which is followed by Tachanun, and then followed by Ashrei and U’va Letzion--and we do not have the right or privilege of changing that, he opined.  Rav Soloveitchik continued that if one wanted to express his personal gratitude or thanks to Hakadosh Baruch Hu, he could recite the Chapters of Hallel in Tehillem (Chapters 113-118) after davening.  Now, this is not to say that Rav Soloveitchik had a different opinion in earlier years or in later years (we do not know either way)--but it is to say that someone was not following his Rebbe if he knew what his opinion was at that time--and still recited Hallel in place of Tachanun in order to make his own personal statement.  On the other hand, if one’s final Halachic authority is the Rabbanut, his practice should be different. This ruling will be different than that of the Badatz-Yerushalayim.  What does your ultimate Rabbinic authority say?  A person must look upwards for answers --not to himself, downwards or sideways.  The following is really true:  A person collecting tzedaka on behalf of a yeshiva in France, promoting Torah among more needy Sefardi families, was asked by a potential donor whether his yeshiva said Hallel on Yom Ha’Atzma’ut  (we won’t reveal which way he wanted the answer to come out)--and the answer would be the determining factor as to whether he received a donation.  The collector gave the ‘wrong’ answer and was promptly escorted out empty-handed.  Would any Rabbinic authority make this one question the sole determining factor as to whether a Torah institution was to be supported or helped, even minimally?  We doubt it--but we suggest that the Shaila should be asked rather than allow emotions or sentiments to override the Halacha one must follow as an Eved Hashem --which, by definition, is always the right thing to do.

Hakhel Note::  We are all in agreement that the Geulah Sheleima has not yet come, and that the world would be a much better place if we could bring it.  We know for a fact that when Bnai Yisroel cried out to Hashem (Vayizaku), that Hashem heard their cries (VaTa’al Shavassam), and ‘remembered’ the bris that He had made with our Avos (Shemos 2:23,24).  As our Geulah from Mitzrayim is the paradigm of our future Geulah--may we suggest that we begin to take the special effort to cry out to Hashem in the brachos of Shemone Esrei relating to Geulah. This does not mean that one needs to shout--but rather that his heart cries out--perhaps with an outstretched hand during his tefillah, or with a look heavenward, with a tear, with a sense of urgency and pleading--at least in one of the brachos such as Tekah Beshofar, VeLirushalayim or Ess Tzemach.  If you really need something--you do more than say that you need it--you do something about it!  Your newfound sincere striving, your special awakening, will not only help yourself-- it will help take the Shechina out of tza’ar--as it returns to VeLirushalayim Irecha--Your City--and it will help cure all those who are spiritually, emotionally and physically ill, it will bring everyone to their proper place in life...in short, you will be able to accomplish more than all the wealthiest people and all of the heads of state joined together cannot accomplish.  Incredibly, all of this is free--just for our sincerity and devotion during one of the most important points of our day--the Shemone Esrei.  Let’s begin to use this opportunity in a new and special way--pouring out our hearts for the few brief moments of a bracha, pleading with feeling, showing that we really want Geulah and really need it--so that just as it was in Mitzrayim--VaTa’al Shavosam...VaYayedah Elokim--and their cries went up and Hashem knew...so too will Hashem look down and understand that our cries are true and sincere--so that once and for all we can all come home--together with Hashem- -for good --and forever! 



Special Note Three: We continue an exciting Monday/Thursday series on the practical aspects of Sta”m, written by Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz, Shlita, author of Inside Sta”m--An Insider Reveals The Answers To All The Questions You Should Ask When Purchasing Or Maintaining Tefillin, Mezuzos, Megillos, Sifrei Torah And Nevi’im.


For a fuller treatment of all topics to be discussed, we urge you to purchase the Sefer, which provides practical and meaningful information and ideas.




Writing the first three parashiyos of tefillin can be done in a way that allows one to be yotzei the opinion of both the Rambam and the Rosh.


However, at the beginning of Parashas Vehayah Im Shamoa it is impossible to create a setumah which is kosher according to both the Rambam and the Rosh.


The Shulchan Aruch therefore rules that the shiur parashah of Parashas Vehayah Im Shamoa be written in accordance with the opinion of the Rambam since his position on this subject is considered primary by all later poskim.


However the Ta”z (acronym for Turei Zahav – R’ David Halevy, 15861667) argued that even in our situation, it is possible to create a parashah setumah which would satisfy both the Rambam and the Rosh.


Specifically, (without providing the background details), if the sofer would leave less than nine letters’ worth of space at the end of Parashas Shema and less than nine letters’ worth of space at the beginning of Vehayah Im Shamoa – with the total of the two blank spaces equaling more than nine letters’ worth of space – then, the Taz says, a parashah setumah has been created according to all opinions.


Although a number of poskim felt that the entire “compromise” of the Ta”z is unfounded, the overwhelming majority of poskim accepted the approach of the Ta”z as a final ruling on the subject.


Indeed, the prevailing custom in almost all Ashkenazi communities down to today has been to follow the Ta”z.




2 Iyar

FROM A READER:  “Question: Where in this week’s Parasha can I find a Pasuk that has the same two letter word mentioned six times?!  Answer:  Parashas Emor, Perek 21, Pasuk 20.”



WHAT IS BEING TALKED ABOUT? In the Divrei Siach, Rabbi Yitzchak Goldshtoff, Shlita, writes that of the many hundreds who visited with HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, over Pesach, much of what HaRav Kanievsky related to his visitors concerned Biyas HaMoshiach which is Holeich U’Miskareiv, with HaRav Chaim also providing chizuk in Yishuv Eretz Yisrael, even telling visitors from Chutz La’aretz--”Tisha’aru Kan Moshiach Miskareiv”. HaRav Kanievsky also spoke much about learning about the Halachos of Shevi’is for the upcoming Shemitah year and told people who asked what they should strengthen themselves in--to learn Mesechta Shevi’is!



A FUNNY SIGN? NOT FOR US!  A popular sign (and bumper sticker) reads:  “Work Harder--Millions Of People Are Counting On You!” Although meant to poke fun at social democratic governments--there truly is a great lesson in these words for us.  We know that the world exists on Torah, and that at any given moment there are only a very small and limited number of people (much less than 1% of the world’s population) actually studying.  The more one studies--the more he assists in keeping not the millions--but the billions of people in the world going. Work harder--you are a billionaire!



HAKARAS HATOV APPLIED:  The Sefer Otzros HaTorah provides two fascinating examples of HaKaras HaTov, which we can all apply in our everyday lives: 


1. The Steipeler Gaon, Z’tl, teaches that returning a Sefer to its place demonstrates HaKaras HaTov to the Sefer--and to its mechaber, its author--for by returning the Sefer, one demonstrates his respect for it, and the hope that others will use it as well. Indeed, every time another person studies the Sefer, the mechaber accrues merit, and even if the mechaber is no longer living, Chazal teach:  “sifsosav dovevos bakever--his lips move in the next world as his words are being studied”! Oh how far-reaching one’s Hakaras Hatov can be!


2. HaRav Elya Lopian, Z’tl, would fold his Tallis daily over a certain bench in the Bais Midrash. Once, a drink spilled on the bench.  HaRav Elya hurried to find something to clean the bench with, although his students insisted that they do so.  HaRav Elya replied that he must do it because he owed HaKaras HaTov to the bench for being able to fold his Tallis over it day after day!


Hakhel Note:  We are all familiar with Moshe Rabbeinu demonstrating his HaKaras HaTov to the earth and the waters by not hitting them at the outset of a makka.  We learn from the Steipeler and HaRav Elya that HaKaras HaTov even to inanimate objects [and all the more so to others, and certainly to family members and close friends]--must not be limited to Moshe Rabbeinu--but should apply to each and every one of us in our daily lives! 



BRACHA ACHRONA IMPROVEMENT: In the past we have provided several different momentary thoughts one could have before reciting a Bracha Rishona.  We have likewise provided the words of the Mishna Berurah who writes that some say:  “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). We now ask what words should one think or say --before reciting a Bracha Achrona--in order to better focus and render his bracha a more potent and meaningful one.  We look forward to hear of your practices, and your thoughts and suggestions!




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


A. We provide certain Halachos relating to the melacha of Tzad, as excerpted from the monumental Sefer “The 39 Melachos” by Rabbi Dovid Ribiat, Shlita (Feldheim Publishers):


       1. Tzad may be defined as the forcible confinement of a living creature.  This includes any method of confining--conventional or otherwise.  Thus, chasing or merely frightening a living creature into a  corner or confined area without actually coming near the creature is Tzad. 


        2.   Animals that can pose a threat of real pain or injury, such as raccoons, rats and the like may be trapped on Shabbos if necessary.  This is especially true where the spread of rabies or other diseases by animals is prevalent. If a raccoon or similar animal is only in the vicinity, one should not trap or kill it(unless it is known that the raccoon is rabid)--instead, a non-Jew should call the authorities. If a raccoon or squirrel got into the house, the door to that room(if not very small or narrow) may be closed to seal it off. However, a non-Jew should preferably be asked to do so.   A dog or other animal that has  attacked and bitten a person may be captured if it is necessary to examine the animal for rabies or disease.


          3. One cannot force a bird that is not completely domesticated into its cage or even simply close the cage door to prevent it from escaping. If a small wild bird flew into the house, one should open windows and doors, encouraging it to escape.  If one is not successful in chasing the bird out and leaving the doors and windows open will cause the home to become uncomfortable, one may close the doors and windows, as it is a Rabbinic level of confinement which is permitted when one has no interest in trapping the bird and leaving the doors and windows open would impose a hardship.


           4. One is not permitted to set any kind of trap on Shabbos (with the exception of dangerous  situations), even though the animal only becomes caught later on its own.

However, it is permissible to set a trap before Shabbos even though the animal may become trapped on Shabbos, just as one turns on lights before Shabbos--and then leaves them on for Shabbos.


           5. According to most Poskim, the Melacha of Tzad does not apply to capturing and confining of humans.  Thus, one may take hold of an unruly child or place him into a ‘time-out’ room (...without getting into the Chinuch aspects of it!)


B. In the Parasha this week, we note that Shabbos is placed first--ahead of a description of all of the Moadim.  We should be inspired this Shabbos to realize that although Shabbos comes every week--it is a truly a primary Mo’ed--an especially designated time to come closer to our Creator and raise ourselves up spiritually.  Perhaps in honor of the primacy of Shabbos--one can start this week with extra Zemiros, an extra D’var Torah, an extra act LeKavod Shabbos Kodesh!



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


A.  In the Parasha (23:22), we find that a seemingly unrelated Pasuk of giving to the poor is suddenly placed among the Pesukim describing our Moadim, “U’vekutzrechem Es K’tzir Artzechem…when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not remove completely the corners of your field as you reap and you shall not gather the gleanings of your harvest, for the poor and the ger shall you leave them, I am Hashem…” (Vayikra 23:22).  Chazal cited by Rashi (ibid.) teach that this Pasuk, juxtaposed among the Pesukim describing the Moadim, teaches us that anyone who gives charity properly is considered as if the Bais HaMikdash was built in his time, and he offered Karbanos there--as so much of the Moadim relate to the Bais HaMikdash, our coming there and offering of sacrifices.  When we give tzedakah properly--it can be viewed as a step into the Bais HaMikdash!


B.  The Torah teaches “Venikdashti Besoch Bnei Yisrael” (Vayikra 22:32 ).  HaRav Chaim Kanievksy, Shlita was asked whether one makes a bracha before he is about to be put to death Ahl Kiddush Hashem.  HaRav Kanievsky responded that the Mitzvah of Kiddush Hashem is “Mah SheHa’adam Muchan U’Moser Atzmo LaiHareig Al Kedushas Shemo Yisbarach--one fulfills the Mitzvah if he is prepared to give his life to sanctify Hashem’s name, even if in the end he is not killed.”  He continues 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 prior to their being murdered because they were killed against their will.  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 that he is surprised by that report. Hakhel Note:  See the introduction to the Sefer Kovetz Shiurim of HaRav Elchanan Wasserman Z’tl, H’YD, relating to HaRav Elchanan’s preparations for petira Ahl Kiddush Hashem.  Hakhel Note:  In all events, we note that we recite daily in Shacharis-- Kadesh Es Shimcha Ahl Makdishei Shemecha...Baruch Atta...Mekadesh Es Shimcha Barabim!  Let us give these awesome words the Kavannah they deserve daily!


C. In the Parasha we also 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).  We provide our readers with our yearly review of this sometimes forgotten Mitzvah which needs our chizuk. The Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah 269) writes that this Mitzvah D’Oraysa applies at all times (not only when the Beis 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, we provide below some 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.


      2.      The Poskim discuss whether the Mitzvah upon us of VeKidashto applies to Kohanim who are ba’alei moom (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 (i.e., the Karbonos in the Beis 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 moom, and a Kohen under Bar Mitzvah, with the dignity and  respect of VeKidashto, where it is possible.


        3.      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 Chaim 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.


        4.      The Poskim discuss whether a Kohen has the right to waive VeKidashto as to himself.  The Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 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”.


         5.      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.


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


         7.      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 to him.  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.


         8.      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!


          9. Pesakim of HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, relating to VeKidashto:


A. 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. 


B. HaRav Kanievsky rules that a Kohen also takes precedence in terms of receiving Tzedaka and loans (see Sefer Derech Emunah Hilchos Matanos Aniyim 8: seif katan 108).


C. Upon receiving Shailos by mail, HaRav Kanievsky has them sorted by category of Kohen, Levi and Yisrael and answers them in that priority. Apparently, HaRav Kanievsky even requests those who prepare the response envelopes to prepare the responses to the Kohanim first. Once, upon receiving a letter from a ‘Kahn’, noted that this was a safeik Kohen and because it was a matter of safeik l’chumrah, gave the letter the priority of a Kohen. (Divrei Siach on this week’s Parasha)


D. HaRav Kanievsky rules that if there are two deceased people (a Kohen and a Yisrael) to bury, the Kohen 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 after his demise. 


E. A Kohen asked HaRav Kanievsky what to do--as his wife did not want him to as yet grow a beard. HaRav Kanievsky responded to the husband that he should tell his wife that the Moshiach is coming soon and that a Kohen without a beard is pasul to do the Avodah in the Bais HaMikdash (according to the Ramban), and this will lead to busha gedolah--to great embarrassment! In fact, when a Kohen came in to HaRav Chaim and asked him what profession to learn--HaRav Chaim advised him to learn Torah so that he would know how to do the Avodah in the Beis HaMikdash!


10. Two Related Notes:


A.       The Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 201, seif katan 13) specifically writes that one should give preference to a Levi over a Yisrael of equal stature in respect of Bircas HaMotzi, Bentsching and Tzedaka.


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




Special Note Three:  As we are in the midst of the Sefirah period in which we are careful to practice important Minhagim relating to the period, we remember that the students of Rebbi Akiva were Niftar during this period for not according the proper respect to each other.  Accordingly, in order to work on improvement in this area in this especially propitious period, we provide the second part below of notes as excerpted from the outstanding and highly recommended resource Guide To Derech Eretz by Rabbi Shaul Wagschal, Shlita (Targum/Feldheim).  Even if one knows many or most of the points below, and even feels that he is ‘pretty good’ with them, it is essential that we not only know them or study them--but conscientiously work on them  as well:




11. Benefits of speaking gently:


A) Most individuals value the privilege of making choices and thereby determine their course of action. For this reason, it is inherently difficult for people to follow orders. A person who gives orders to others must remember this fact and act accordingly.  By speaking gently and treating others with respect, one can rest assured that his directions will be more closely cared for.


B) The need to speak to people in a kind and gentle manner is absolutely essential when instructing an individual on how to perform a task with which he is unfamiliar.  When confronted with a new experience, most people adopt a defensive attitude in a feeble attempt to hide their ignorance.  If the instructor’s tone of voice or manner of behavior makes the individual feel threatened, the lesson has in effect come to a close--the capacity to internalize information is seriously impaired by the individual’s need to protect his self-image.


C) It is self-evident that an employee who is satisfied with his working conditions is more productive than one who is dissatisfied. The employer-worker relationship is one of the essential components of a positive working environment. In light of these facts, an employer should recognize the benefits of treating his employees with respect!


12.  One must avoid causing embarrassment to others at all times, even when learning Torah.  The Midrash asks, “Why was his name ‘Doeg HaAdomi’?  Because he reddened Dovid Hamelech’s face during the study of Halacha” (Midrash Tehillim 52:4).  For this reason, the Talmud warns against asking a rabbi a question if there is reason to suspect he will not know how to answer.  Similarly, the Talmud (Shabbos 3b) says, “When Rebbi is studying this tractate, do not ask him a question regarding a different tractate.” The posuk says, “...one who makes his way will see the salvation of Hashem.” (Tehillim 50:23), that is, one who plans his ways, and knows when to ask and when not to ask his questions will prosper (Moed Katan 5b).  The Talmud (Tosefta Sanhedrin, ch. 7) also warns against asking a Sage a question immediately upon his entering the beis midrash; one must allow him time to settle his thoughts.’


13.  Chazal (Niddah 16b) bring the following teaching: “I hate three [types of] individuals, and one of them is a person who enters his friend’s house unexpectedly”. R. Yochanan’s opinion is that this law even applies to a person who enters his own house unexpectedly.


14.  “A man should not instill a feeling of excessive fear in his home” (Gittin 7a).  The Talmud explains that instilling fear in one’s home may eventually result in the transgression of a Torah precept (see ch. 12).  For this reason, a father should never frighten a child by saying, “I will punish you by doing so and so to you.”


15.  Concerning the mishnah, “Ayin ra’ah ...removes a person from the world” (Avos 2:1b), Rabbeinu Yonah writes “There exists [the trait of] ayin ra and [the trait of] ayin ra’ah. Ayin ra’ah refers to a miserly person, while ayin ra refers to one who envies other people’s possessions.  His wish to own others’ possessions may harm them, for the vision of the eye is capable of causing damage.  Beyond this, he also hurts himself-- his unfulfilled wishes cause him to burn with envy.” Avos D’Rebbi Nasan (ch. 16) expands on this theme: As a man looks at his own house and wishes that it remain standing, so too should he look at his friend’s house!


16.  The Talmud dictates, “One who enters [another’s] house must follow his host’s instructions(Pesachim 86b).  The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 170:5) also decrees that a guest must follow the host’s instructions without any objections.  For example, one must sit wherever the host decides.  One must not object even if the host wishes to honor him.  Most halachic authorities agree, however, that a guest who feels satiated is entitled to refuse to eat additional food even if the host insists, if this will endanger his health.  One may infer from this rule that if additional eating does not pose a danger to the guest’s health, it would be correct to comply with the host’s wish.


17.  Rules Concerning Eating in a Host’s Home:


A.  Upon entering the host’s home, the guest should not request food or drink; instead, he should wait until the host offers him food (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 170:13).


B.  The most distinguished guest should be invited to wash his hands first (Brachos 46, Orach Chaim 165:2).


C.  The guest should wait until the host serves himself the first portion of food before reaching for food.


4) If two guests sit at the same table and the host is not present, the more distinguished of the two should serve himself first.  A person who reaches for food before a person greater than himself is considered a glutton. (Orach Chaim 170: 12, Mishnah Berurah 28)


18.  The Talmud (Kiddushin 40b) says that a person who eats in the street, i.e., in a place where people would not normally eat, resembles a dog-- an animal which lacks the quality of humility more than other animals.  So, too, a person who eats in public demonstrates his lack of humility. The Talmud rules that a person who eats in public is disqualified from giving testimony.  Since he lacks the trait of self-effacement, he will not hesitate to give false testimony and thereby risk public ridicule.


19.  Entering and Exiting:


A.  When two people enter a beis kenesses or beis midrash together, the person of greater importance should go in first. When leaving the beis kenesses, however, the person of least importance may leave first, since there is no mitzvah to leave a beis kenesses. The Birkei Yosef quotes the opinion of the gaonim who contend that the person of greater importance should also exit first when leaving a beis kenesses.


B.  When entering a house, the baal habais should enter first.  When leaving the house, the guest should exit first (Masseches Derech Eretz, ch. 4).  When leaving a house owned by someone else, the person of greater importance should leave first.


20.  Additional Rules of Derech Eretz:


A.   Rabbeinu Asher writes in Orchos Chaim, “A person should avoid involving himself in another’s dispute.  Eventually, they will reach accommodation and you will still be involved in the argument.” Furthermore, by becoming involved one will invariably make enemies.  


B.  When a person shares his misfortune with others, he should first say, “It should never happen to you” . (Sanhedrin 104b,Based on Eichah 1:12).


C.  One should not praise a person excessively, since this may be misinterpreted as empty flattery (Rashi, Eruvin 18b and Rashi, Bereishis 7:1).


D.  A person who is received with undue honor is obligated to inform those honoring him of their mistake.  (Makkos 12b)


E.  The Talmud (Sanhedrin 38b) rules that it is prohibited to respond to a Jewish apostate under any circumstances. Similarly, one should not answer a fool unless he asks a Torah-related question.


F.  One should not enter someone’s house while the person is eating, since people find it embarrassing to eat in the presence of others. (Tov Yehoshua 3:2)


G.  A wealthy person should not be miserly. This is inferred from the verse, “Purchase food from them with silver...for Hashem your God has blessed you with your handiwork” (Devarim 2:6). Rashi explains that in order to acknowledge Hashem’s blessing, this verse instructs the Jewish people to behave as wealthy people and not as poor people.


H.  A man of average wealth should eat food of lesser quality than he is capable of purchasing, clothe himself with garments in accordance with his financial status, and honor his wife and children beyond his financial capability (Chulin 94b).




1 Iyar

SIX MITZVOS IN TWO PESUKIM!  At the outset of the Sefer Chofetz Chaim, the Chofetz Chaim lists 31 possible Mitzvos that one could violate in the Lashon Hara process. In last week’s Parasha of Kedoshim, a full six of these 31Mitzvos are actually found in two consecutive Pesukim--and all-told, ten of the 31 are found within five Pesukim! Can you identify them?



LOOKING UP!  As we begin the ninth month of the year 5774--we should realize that we still have more than 30% of the year ahead of us for reaching new heights in our kabbalos and in our personal growth.  It’s a great day for cheshbon hanefesh--after all, the glass is still close to one-third full!



QUESTION ONE OF THE DAY :  Very few dates are mentioned in the Torah--but today is one of them!  Where is today’s date mentioned in the Torah?  Why is the date specifically mentioned in that Parasha and context?



QUESTION TWO OF THE DAY :  Having just recited the Musaf Tefillos of the Shalosh Regalim for 7 (EY) or 8 (Chutz LaAretz) days, we recall how we PLEADED TIME AND TIME AGAIN with Hashem for HIS RACHMANUS--His Mercy in finally and at long last rebuilding the Bais HaMikdash--as we recited:  “Melech Rachaman...U’Serachem Aleinu V’Ahl Mikdashecha BeRachamecha HaRabim...and then reiterated a short while later Melech Rachaman Rachem Aleinu...Bahamon Rachamecha....  Yet, in today’s Musaf for Rosh Chodesh, we make no heart rending appeal for mercy or even any request at all of Rachmanus--instead only asking in a straightforward manner that the Mizbe’ach be rebuilt and that we be brought back to Yerushalayim where we can all rejoice together in the Bais Hamikdash.  Why is there such a difference between these two Tefillos of Musaf--what is the difference between the Shalosh Regalim and Rosh Chodesh in this regard?




Special Note One:  In fact, Rosh Chodesh Iyar is very much related to the Binyan Bais Hamikdash.  The Luach Dovor B’Ito brings that Shlomo HaMelech began the building of the First Bais HaMikdash today, and that construction of the foundation of the Second Bais HaMikdash also began today as well (See Ezra 3:8-13).  Let us now daven that today also prove to serve a role in the building of the Third and Lasting Bais HaMikdash.  Even if we see nothing immediately around us or in front of us, and even if we hear no shofar blast at this moment, let our acts of Teshuva today serve as a cornerstone for its Building.  Why leave the building to someone else when each and every one of us is so eminently capable?!  Let’s also begin building Today--it’s for Eternity!



Special Note Two:  One of the actions that we will take in the Bais HaMikdash that we are not very used to doing now is Hishtachava’ah--prostrating oneself to the ground.  Undoubtedly, this Hishtachava’ah will come in direct response to the intense Kedushah and Ruchniyus experienced upon entering and viewing the Kohanim and the Avodah.  Yet, in the Tefillah of Nishmas we do recite in the here and now--VeChol Koma Lefonecha Sishtachaveh--and every person standing up shall prostrate himself before You.  How can/do we fulfill this statement?  The Chassidic masters teach the following:  Even when one is ostensibly standing straight, he should feel inwardly as if he is bowed before Hashem--in recognition of Hashem’s greatness and mastery and one’s own humility--something that every person should recognize and appreciate--even without a Bais HaMikdash.  We may add that even when reciting the words VaAnachnu Koriim U’Mishtachavim in Aleinu three times daily, we should experience the moment--envisioning ourselves in an aura of submission and sanctity--so that we properly reflect the words that we are expressing.  In this merit--may we live to experience the ultimate Hishtachava’ah speedily and in our days!



Special Note Three:  The Sefer Ta’amei HaMinhagim (page 251) writes that our new month of Iyar is tried and tested as a time for refuah, healing, from the ailments and pains that may affect a person.  Why is this so?  The B’nai Yissaschar, who teaches that most weakness and illness come from foods which do not comport with the person’s nature or composition.  The Rambam (Hilchos De’os 4:15 ) writes likewise.  See also Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Chapter 32.

Since the Mon began to fall in this month (on the 16th day of Iyar 2448)--and it was a perfect food from which resulted no sickness, pain or even waste matter (as Dovid HaMelech refers to it in Sefer Tehillim--”lechem abirim”) and even cured those who were ill--Hashem left the curative nature of the month in effect even through today.  Accordingly, Iyar is a time of “segulah l’refuah”.  In fact, the Ta’amei HaMinhagim notes, the name “Iyar” is an acronym for Ani Hashem Rofecha--I am Hashem, Your Healer.


What can we do to help promote the curative effects of this special time as initiated by the heavenly Mon?  Let us reflect upon the following.  The Baalei Mussar note that one afflicted with Tzora’as does not ask others directly to pray for him--rather, “VeTameh Tameh Yikra”--he only exclaims that he is “Tameh”, and those who hear him are expected to pray sincerely for him even without his direct request--and notwithstanding that he has sinned to such a great extent that Hashem has actually made him a Metzora.  What a great lesson we can learn at this time of year--which is so special for healing, and, moreover, the Omer period, in which our “Bein Odom L’Chavero” is to be seriously improved upon.  We should not wait to be asked, or merely be responsive to the request of others, when we hear that someone is not well.  Instead, we should “hear the cry” and go out of our way during this auspicious time to daven for those we may not even know, but whom we have heard are in need of a Refuah.  An ounce of Tefillah may mean a kilogram of cure.


PRACTICAL SUGGESTION:  During this special month, recite a daily special, sincere Kepitel (chapter) of Tehillim for your list of cholim--recognizing that this is a special time for the potency--and importance--of your heartfelt Tefillah!


Hakhel Note: A reader wrote the following to us:  

“Rabbi  Nachman of  Breslov writes that the word IYAR is Roshei Taivos of the words  ”Oyvai  Yoshuvu Yaivoshu Roga,” thus indicating that the month of IYAR is  conducive to  see a Mapala for the enemies of K’lal Yisroel!” When  reciting  Tachanun during this month we should have especial Kavannah when  reciting these words--that they come to immediate reality!



Special Note Four: We continue an exciting Monday/Thursday series on the practical aspects of Sta”m, written by Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz, Shlita, author of Inside Sta”m--An Insider Reveals The Answers To All The Questions You Should Ask When Purchasing Or Maintaining Tefillin, Mezuzos, Megillos, Sifrei Torah And Nevi’im.


For a fuller treatment of all topics to be discussed, we urge you to purchase the Sefer, which provides practical and meaningful information and ideas.




One of the most complicated concepts in all of Hilchos Sta”m is the idea of the Shiur Parashah in Tefillin and Mezuzos. It is impossible to explain all of the detail in this forum. We will attempt therefore to merely introduce the general ideas involved to allow a basic familiarity with the concept on a practical level.


You may have noticed in a printed chumash that there is an occasional “פ” or “ס” between pesukim. These letters tell us that in an actual Sefer Torah, we will find a new “parashah” (section) beginning at this spot.


The method used for separating parashiyos in the Sefer Torah itself is to leave a blank space between the two parashiyos.


The gap between parashiyos represents the respite Moshe Rabbeinu was given by Hashem to absorb what he had been taught before they continued.


There are two types of parashiyos: pesuchos and setumos (literally, open ones and closed ones).


A parashah pesuchah is represented in a printed chumash as a “פ,” while a setumah is represented by a “ס.”


The parashah pesuchah (“open” parashah) is graphically disconnected from the previous parashah and represents a fresh theme. In contrast, the parashah setumah (“closed” parashah) is both adjacent to and thematically related to the previous parashah.


The separation between parashiyos is created by a blank space equivalent to the size of nine letters of that same STA”M item. L’chatchilah, the blank space should be large enough space to accommodate nine large letters (such as an aleph, shin or reish) B’dieved, even a space equivalent to nine small letters (such as a vav or yud) is sufficient to separate two parashiyos. This blank space is called the shiur parashah. If less space is left blank in an area which requires a shiur parashah, the shiur parashah is pasul, and the entire STA”M item is not kosher. Note that nine letters’ worth of blank space is the minimum. If a sofer left even more space blank for a shiur parashah, there is no problem whatsoever.


There is a machlokes (dispute) between the Rambam and the Rosh regarding exactly how a pesuchah and setumah are arranged when writing STA”M. In practice, most are noheg like the Ta”z whose compromise between the Rambam and the Rosh is almost universally used. A very small minority are noheg like the Rambam.


In our next installment we will B’EH  briefly explain the mechanics of the ruling of the Ta”z.


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