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11 Sivan

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


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



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


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



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




Special Note One:  Final post-Shavuos points and pointers: 


A.  It is reported that the Gerrer Rebbe provided a remarkable contrast between Pesach and Succos, on the one hand, and Shavuos on the other.  At the conclusion of Pesach, we immediately begin to eat Chometz again (although, contrary to popular opinion, the Halacha does not require that pizza be consumed on Motza’ei Pesach).  When Succos ends, we promptly leave the temporary booths and snuggle-up in our homes for the Winter.  When it comes to Shavuos, however, we do not conclude, end, or terminate anything.  Quite to the contrary, we all know that we are to continue that which we began on Shavuos, which is to dedicate and rededicate ourselves to Torah study and a refined Torah lifestyle.


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



C.  Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, teaches us in the last, ultimate, chapter of Mishlei, known to us as Aishes Chayil, that the key, perhaps concomitantly most elusive and elevating, element of Torah study, the aspect that brings one to the height of service, is “Chayil”, valor or strength, in Torah learning. [Please recall our point yesterday--that both Boaz and Rus were described in the Megillah with this term--Chayil!] We must put our efforts, our strengths, our wherewithal into Torah study in no less measure than into our business goals, monetary objectives and anything else in life that is very important to us.  It is no coincidence (as we know, there is never a “coincidence”, and there never can be one) that the Gematria of Chayil is equal to 48, symbolizing the need to strive for all 48 Ways.  Moreover, the number 48 (Mem Ches) spells Mo’ach, indicating the necessity of seriously putting one’s entire mind to attaining Torah knowledge and practice.  Chazal teach that “Torah weakens the strength of a person”.  In truth, most activity weakens a person, whose soul is housed in flesh and blood.  If something is to weaken a person, it is certainly much more preferred that it be Torah than...


D.  As we approach the first Shabbos away from Shavuos, we note that the Parashas HaShavua is Parashas Naso.  Among other mitzvos, the Parasha contains some enormous lessons on why and how to control the Yetzer Hara, and the kinds of brachos we should look to give and to receive.  We would like here to only point to the fact that this Parasha is almost always read on the Shabbos after Shavuos, and that it is the longest Parasha in the Torah.  Part of the reason it is the longest Parasha is that each of the 12 Nesseim’s private donations to the Mishkan is separately detailed, notwithstanding that the donations are otherwise fully identical in object, kind and amount.  Chazal (at length in Bamidbar Rabba on these Pesukim) teach that this individualized detail was not done so that we can simply stay more attached to Yom Tov by reading more and more Pesukim of Torah right after Shavuos (although this, in and of itself, would be a sufficient reason).  Rather, the Midrash teaches that behind the otherwise identical and seemingly (c’v) repetitive Pesukim is a lesson for eternity--that they all looked the same, but that they were all very different, because each Nassi had his own Kavanos, his personal thoughts, when he brought his Korban. We can derive a very important lesson from this relating to the study of Torah itself.  While many people may appear to learn similar Torah topics, as they may be among the tens of thousands who study the Parasha with Rashi weekly, or the thousands who learn two Halachos of Shemiras HaLashon every day, or part of the 15 people attending a local Daf Yomi shiur, there really is a difference, because the manner of study of no two are the same--and we need each and every one of them!  My Torah Study, your Torah Study, his Torah Study--it is all essential for oneself, and for K’lal Yisrael!


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


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


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


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



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



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


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


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


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


Some additional points on Birkas Kohanim:


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



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




10 Sivan

IMPORTANT REMINDER--INNOVATIVE LEARNING PROGRAM BY EMAIL:  Hakhel received the following notice from one of its readers:


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1. “I heard in the name of an Adam Gadol that while one does not perhaps stand for the Chosson and Kallah as they go to the chupah, one does stand for their parents who are acting as Shelichei Mitzvah!”


2. “A chupah is not the only place that a cell phone should be shut off--there it is basic mentschlichkeit. A more important place is in Shul--where in addition to the lack of Bein Adam L’Chaveiro in disturbing others while they are davening--it certainly detracts from the Mah Norah HaMakom Hazeh of the Makom Kadosh in which one finds himself.”

---------------------------------------------------------- cleardot



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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




9 Sivan

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


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


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



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



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



FROM A READER:  “A friend of mine told me that the Rav where he davened said that he knew of grandparents who did not want to walk down at their grandchildren’s Chasuna, because they knew that the people attending the chupah would not stand for them even though they were 70 + years old.  They did not want to be involved in lifnei iver. Truth be told,  I have seen the following many times.  When the grandparents who are 70 or more years old walk down,  no one stands for them.  However,  when the Chosson and Kallah walk down everyone stands for them. It is, of course,  a positive mitzvah to stand up for any person 70 years old or more.  It is questionable if one has to stand for the Chosson and Kallah. I told my friend that it should be announced at the beginning of every chupah that:  1.  All cell phones should be turned off;  2.  There should be no talking during the chupah,  and  3.  If grandparents who are 70 or more will be walking down,  then one is required to stand for them.”



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



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



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


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


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


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


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


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




8 Sivan

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



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



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




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


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



Special Note Two:  We provide the following post-Shavuos notes to our readers:


1.  Last week, we had mentioned that the term “Simcha” is used two times by the Torah relating to Shavuos, and suggested an explanation.  A reader noted a related explanation.  He writes that Rav Pam Z’tl would always emphasize that Limud HaTorah was always to be B’Simcha, with appreciation and joy for the opportunity.  Accordingly, one “Simcha” in the Torah could refer to the joy of Torah study on Shavuos itself, and the other “Simcha” to the joy one should feel and experience when studying Torah daily.


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


3.  Chazal (Shabbos 88B) teach that the Malochim protested Hashem’s gift of the Torah to mankind, for the Torah was so divine, it belonged only in Heaven.  Moshe Rabbeinu was able to best them by showing that the Torah’s Mitzvos and prohibitions were (at least on a simple level) directed to human beings--do not steal, do not kill, do not speak Lashon Hara, etc…. The Malochim knew this, but they still believed that there was no place for the holy among the profane.  So how was Moshe Rabbeinu able to win his debate?  HaRav Neiman, Z’tl, explains that Moshe Rabbeinu was able to convince them that while the Torah remaining in Heaven would make Heavenly life more beautiful, the Torah on Earth was much more than that--for it was as essential to life on this planet as the very air we breathe.


In fact, the Gemara (Pesachim 112A) relates that Rebbi Shimon Bar Yochai visited Rebbi Akiva in jail and asked Rebbi Akiva to teach him Torah.  Rebbi Akiva refused to do so flagrantly in the presence of the Roman authorities, fearing for Rebbi Shimon’s well-being (Rebbi Akiva was already incarcerated for the very teaching of Torah).  Rebbi Shimon Bar Yochai, unbelievable as it may sound, threatened his Rebbi with trumped-up charges against him to the government (apparently even worse charges than he had been jailed for)--unless he would teach him Torah!  What was this all about?  After all, Rebbi Akiva was only trying to protect Rebbi Shimon Bar Yochai from the authorities!  And how could Rebbe Shimon threaten his Rebbi in this gross way?!  The answer seems to be that Rebbi Shimon Bar Yochai was complaining to Rebbi Akiva that, without Torah to breathe, he faced such lowliness, such decadence, such a meaningless life, that he could actually become the lowest of lows-a moser--an informer--against his very own Rebbi!


Moshe Rabbeinu gave the Malochim an understanding of how the Earth--whose creation was also Hashem’s will--simply could not function without the life breath of Torah.  As we study Torah daily, we should really take a moment before, and/or during and/or after our study to recall Moshe Rabbeinu’s debate with the Malochim--and realize that we have Torah’s precious words because it is our air, our joy, and because it put us on the road to our glorious destination.



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


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


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


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


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


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


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



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



Special Note Five: The Ramban (Devorim 4:9) writes that the Torah provides such great detail as to Ma’amad Har Sinai in order to impress upon us the absolute need to constantly visualize and envisage this unparalleled event in our minds--and permanently plant it in our hearts.


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


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


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


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




4 Sivan

INNOVATIVE LEARNING PROGRAM BY EMAIL:  Hakhel received the following notice from one of its readers:


As a zchus for a complete and speedy recovery for

Chaya Malka Bas Bas-sheva, an 18 year old girl who fell into a coma

please join an innovative learning program. Each week, receive one page with a few practical and relevant Hilchos Shabbos you may not have been aware of.

Many people have read the papers at the Shabbos table and their Shabbos has been transformed.

All Halachos are reviewed by HaRav Yaakov Forcheimer, Shlita,

Posek Bais Medrash Govoah Lakewood .


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Change your Shabbos.

Change your life.

Change hers.



STOVE: We provide by clicking here an extremely helpful article, written by Rabbi Tsvi Heber, Shlita and reviewed by Rabbi Yisroel Dov Webster, Shlita, on stove and oven issues on Yom Tov. After reading this brief article, at the very least a person should be able to ask his Rav the right questions!



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



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




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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



Special Note Two: Important points for Yom Tov:


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


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


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


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


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


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


G.  As for Ashkenazim in Chutz LaAretz, until the Moshiach comes, Shavuos is the last time Birchas Kohanim is recited in 5775.  We wish to remind our readers that the Bi’ur Halacha (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim: 128, Introduction) brings from the Sefer Chareidim that just as the Kohanim fulfill a Mitzvas Aseh when they bless K’lal Yisrael, so, too, do the Bnei Yisrael have a part of the Mitzvah when they stand in silence and have Kavanna to receive the Bracha from the Kohanim!


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



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


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


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



Special Note Three:  Additional related points as we approach this Awesome and Joyous Chag:


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


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


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


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


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


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




3 Sivan

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


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


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


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



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


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


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


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


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


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



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


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


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


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


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



Special Note Four:  We once again provide several Piskei Halacha of HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, relating to Shavuos, as provided in the three volume work of HaRav Elyashiv’s Pesakim, entitled Ashrei HaIsh authored by Rav Yechezkel Feinhandler, Shlita:


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



2 Sivan  

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


“Tur (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 114) writes that there are 14 words in the bracha of Attah Kadosh (Nusach Ashkenaz), which correspond to the 14 words of the verse in Yeshaya (6:3): “VeKara Zeh Ehl Zeh VeAmar Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadoh Hashem Tzevakos Meloh Kol Ha’aretz Kevodo--and they called out one to the other and said Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh…”. Thus, in our personal recitation of this blessing in Shemoneh Esrei, we are emulating the holiness that the Tzibur proclaims when it says kedushah as a Minyan. The concept of holiness is a very important one. The Torah commands us to be holy for Hashem is Holy. This is indeed our primary mission in life and from it flows all our other responsibilities toward mankind. The Seforno (on Shemos 19:6; Vayikra 11:44 ; and Devarim 26:19) adds a unique dimension to the concept of kedushah as it applies to Hashem and K’lal Yisrael—that of eternity. In Vayikra ( 11:44 ), Seforno states that “…holiness is everlasting and eternal.” Since Hashem says that the K’lal Yisrael shall be a “kingdom of priests and a holy people” (Shemos 19:6), the nation will never perish; it possesses the force of eternity, which is an integral part of kedushah.




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


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



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



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


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


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


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


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



Special Note Four: We provide below several important points regarding Torah Study on a daily basis:


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


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


C.       When studying, one should feel the sublime joy of the opportunity to study Torah, as well as the joy of the study itself.  One of our readers once reported that he recalled as a young boy in the Bronx how his Rav, a Talmud Chochom from Europe , always seemed to be dancing as he recited the Birchos HaTorah when he received an Aliyah.  Along with the joy, one should also feel and appreciate the sweetness of Torah.  As we daven every day as part of our Bracha over the Torah, “V’Haarev Na…”--please, Hashem, sweeten the words of Your Torah in our mouth and in the mouth of Your people--for this, too, is an essential aspect of growth in Torah.


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



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


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


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


We must always remember that the Torah especially uses the word ‘Simcha’  in discussing the holiday of Shavuos.  Our joy is truly twofold, for we not only received the Torah on that great day more than 3300 years ago, but we commit to take this remarkable gift, compared to water and fire, to bread and wine, to milk and honey, and use it as our daily guide to navigate the pathways of Heaven on Earth.  A real Shavuos inspiration should bring us to remember this primacy throughout the year--especially at those very times when the Heavens feel oh so distant.  A Torah bite at lunch, a shiur on CD in the car between errands, a vort before going to sleep, sharing a Torah thought with a friend while exercising, all serve to remove those roadblocks, eliminate the weighty sandbags, and raise us up very high--as we see the Earth meeting our Heaven!




1 Sivan

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


The following is excerpted from the sefer Let My Nation Serve Me by Rabbi Yosef Deutsch, Shlita, (Artscroll) a wonderful work which provides both depth and feeling to the events in the Midbar leading up to Mattan Torah, and to Mattan Torah itself, as culled from Chazal in the 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 have no kinship or connection.


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

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


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


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



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



 Special Note Three: HaRav Matisyahu Salomon, Shlita (Matisyahu Chaim Ben Ettel, may he have a Refuah Sheleimah B’Karov), notes that the Torah expends many infinitely valuable words on describing the scene at Har Sinai as the Torah was being given.  Indeed, while the Event may not now be in the forefront of our short term memory, the Torah teaches that the covenant was made with us all there (See Devorim 5:3).  What was the scene like?  Rather than obtaining some third party account, we urge you to refresh your recollection, either before or on Shavuos, by reviewing the Pesukim describing the Ma’amad, which powerfully describe the surroundings.  Specifically, we refer you to Shemos 19: 9, 16, 18, 19, and 20:15 , and then to Devorim 5:19 -26.  The world never before, and never again, would witness such awe, as the Torah itself testifies (Devorim 4:32 -34).  Moreover, Rashi (Devorim 4:35) brings Chazal who describe that the seven heavens, and the deepest depths, all opened wide on this day--specifically in order for us to get a once-in-a-worldtime full view!


The opening of the Heavens and the Earth--the resounding noises and thunder--the blasting Shofar-- the great fiery fire--the fearsome darkness!!!  And then, as Dovid HaMelech writes in Tehillim (114:4--part of the Hallel we will recite on Shavuos)--even [the mighty] “mountains trembled like rams, the hills like young lambs.”  It is no small wonder, then, that the millions of people present recoiled a great distance.  Why is the giving of the Torah a day of such literally unparalleled trepidation?


Rav Salomon answers that, when we receive the Torah, it is not a “stand-alone”.  It is not simply “lamdus”, or a body of halacha, a guidebook to success in life, a set of eternal instruction, an inspired and meaningful life outlook, an all-encompassing world philosophy, or any one more of the myriad aspects of its Divine wisdom--a wisdom so beyond us that Chazal teach that there are 600,000 explanations to each Pasuk in the Torah (!) (cited by the Chofetz Chaim in the introduction to Etz Pri).  So, what is it that must stand side-by-side with the Torah--it is Yiras Shomayim--the enveloping, inspired awe of Hashem that must accompany the study and observance of Torah if one is to succeed (Shabbos 31A-B).  As the Navi teaches (Yeshaya 33:6)--”Yiras Hashem HE OTZARO”--it is the fear of Hashem that precedes and is the storehouse of Torah, for without a treasure house, there is no treasure--at least for very long.


With this we can understand why the bracha one makes over a Torah Scholar is “...Who gave of His wisdom to THOSE WHO FEAR HIM (L’YEREIOV)”.  For it is a profound and powerful awareness of Hashem that must accompany our Torah study and our Torah observance.  Indeed, the Torah itself commands us (Devorim 4:9-10) that we MUST REMEMBER ALL THE DAYS OF OUR LIVES the day that we stood before Hashem at Har Sinai.


Rav Salomon therefore concludes that it would be a mistake to think that the proper observance of Shavuos is limited to total immersion in Torah study, without a rededication to the ever-necessary Yiras Shomayim that is the Torah’s special partner in our life.  The Shofar, the thunder, the fire--they must all accompany our Torah study daily.


It is told that HaRav Chaim Shmuelevitz, Z’tl, Rosh Yeshivah-Mir Yerushalayim, once noticed two chavrusos who continued to learn Gemara, even though Mussar seder had begun.  He approached them and asked that they now study Yiras Shomayim.  “Rebbi,” they asked, “if the study of Mussar is so important, why do we study Gemara for ten hours a day, and Mussar for only twenty minutes during the same day?”  He responded--”The study of Mussar may be likened to the Kadosh HaKadoshim.  One need only enter for a few moments for it to have a very lasting impact upon him.  So, too, if we study the Mesilas Yeshorim, or the Orchos Tzaddikim, or the Shaarei Teshuva, or other similar classic works for only a few minutes a day, it will leave an indelible impact upon our Torah study, and raise us to new heights, as we not only observe what happened at Sinai, but actually climb the mountain ourselves!



29 Iyar





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Hakhel Note: What a special Kabbalah before Shavuos!



BE HAPPY-- AND MAKE OTHERS HAPPY! If you have not yet done so, please remember your Yom Tov donation to assist poor families in celebrating the Chag.  Please reach out to yadeliezer.org. PLEASE!



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



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



THE LINK TO PROPER SPEECH: We provide by clicking here, a comparison based upon our Erev Shabbos Bulletin as to what to say, and what not to say! Please feel free to post in an important place and share with others!




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 provide the Tefillah by clicking here.



Special Note Two: Rashi writes at the beginning of last week’s Parasha, that from the fact that the Torah states that the mitzvah of Shemitah 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 not needed 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 Shemitah, 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.


Over the last 100 years, the great Mitzvos associated with Shemitah have been renewed in Eretz Yisrael. Indeed, the open miracles promised in the Torah in connection with Shemitah observance have been visible to the naked eye in the strictly Shemitah observing community of Komimius. Those who live far from Eretz Yisrael, from New York to Moscow , and from Montreal to Melbourne , have their direct Shemitah experience limited to contributing generously to:


Keren Hashviis

4520 18th Avenue
Brooklyn, New York 11204
Phone: 888.675.6694



and perhaps by our utilization of a “Prozbol” (a unique method which allows debts which Shemitah would have otherwise cancelled to remain extant). What then could be our “lead” commandment, our paradigm mitzvah, to guide us in our relationship with Hashem, to carry us from Sinai in a very meaningful way?


We 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 Shemitah in the Parasha--it is “Lo Sonu...”--the great prohibition against cheating or deceiving someone else. Even if Shemitah does not apply today to the same extent as it will when the Geulah comes (speedily and in our day!) 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, 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 Three: In just a few days, we will celebrate Matan Torah with Shavuos.  Much in the same way as we get closer and closer to Yom Kippur do we feel a need to do Teshuva, or as we get closer and closer to Pesach do we feel a need to rid ourselves of our Chometz, so too, should we demonstrate our recognition of the advent and approach of Matan Torah.  One should not take lightly the need to ready himself for receiving the Torah.  Indeed, Chazal (Pesikta D’Rav Cahana, Piska 12) teach:


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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




26 Iyar

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



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


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


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


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


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



Special Note Three: In the first of this week’s two Parashios, Behar, we find one of the paradigm mitzvos given to us by Hashem in order to affirm and strengthen our Bitachon—trust--the mitzvah of Shemitah.  We are incredibly commanded to let the source of our Parnassah lay fallow and open to all, and are, in turn, promised that we will be (according to the laws of nature, miraculously) sustained and actually will prosper until new crops begin to grow again in the eighth year (Vayikra 25:21).  It is important, very important, for us to realize, however, that the mitzvah of Bitachon is not related only to the year we are in--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, daily basis.


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


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


Bitachon is such a crucial aspect of our existence.  We should 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!!


Final Note: 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, taught -- 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’s teaching “Tzaddik B’Emunaso Yichye”--bringing Emunah to life--which in the end will be the ‘Yichye---the source of life for us itself!



Special Note Four:  Tomorrow, we will review one of the key Mitzvos found 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 a listing of statements constituting Ona’as Devarim, as culled from The Power of Words, by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita.  It definitely pays 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)--an inspiring and inspired time!




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…”  


To battle Ona’as Devarim, one work on appropriate phrases that become part and parcel of his/her every day lexicon.  Here is a sampling we have provided in the past--please feel free to liberally add to the list--and supply us with your additions!




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!


Is the above list beyond anyone—anyone?  Let us leave “anyone” aside and focus on you.  The Torah (and your Maker) knows that you can do it…and your life will surely be much enhanced when you do!  This list can be accessed as a separate PDF file by clicking here.



Special Note Five: 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 Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh, who, in one of his explanations, teaches that we must study the Torah as a ‘Chok Velo Ya’avor’--in a steadfast manner without leaving room for breaching a Torah study time or session for this ‘good’ reason, or for that ‘very important purpose’. Another aspect of the chok of Torah, Rabbi Schneider explains, is presented by the Kli Yakar. The Kli Yakar teaches that the chok, the ameilus, that the Pasuk is referring to is chazara--reviewing one’s learning time and time again, so that it becomes more and more a part of you. This is difficult--for especially in our fast-paced society, it is difficult for us to allot time to reinforce the same teachings within us, notwithstanding that we will find new sweetness and discover special nuances if we seriously apply ourselves in each review. Practical and meaningful thoughts that we all can apply...on the great avodah of Im Bechukosai Teileichu.


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


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




25 Iyar

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


14. 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. 


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


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


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


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


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


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




24 Iyar





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Hakhel Note: What a special Kabbalah before Shavuos!



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


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




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


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


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


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



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


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




23 Iyar

Special Note One:  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 us 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 to reflect upon our preparation and where it will be going over the next 12 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 it 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!



Special Note Two:  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 the Torah teaches us the actual day that we left Mitzrayim, but does not disclose the day that we received the Torah is because every day that we learn Torah is a Zecher of Matan Torah


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


9.  Chazal (Sanhedrin 98B) teach that for one to be saved from the Chevlei Moshiach, he should involve himself with Torah and Gemilas 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: 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…


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




22 Iyar

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


Hakhel Note:  The following is excerpted from Rav Schwab on Prayer, and was related by Rav Schwab at a Shiur he gave on Tefillah:  ”I heard a story from Rav Yosef Breuer, Shlita, which he told about his father, my Rebbe, Rav Shlomo Zalman (Solomon) Breuer.  The elder Rav Breuer was a very good friend of Rav Shimon Sofer, the Rav of Cracow, a brother of the Ksav Sofer, and a son of the Chasam Sofer.  Once when the two friends met, Rav Shimon Sofer asked Rav Breuer to tell him a short ‘vort’ from his father-in-law, Rav Shamshon R. Hirsch.  Upon which, Rav Breuer told him that Rav Hirsch would point out that while Adon Olam described the unfathomable eternity and omnipotence of Hashem, it nevertheless makes a reference to Him in a very personal way--”VeHu Kaili, He is my G-d.”  Each person in his Tefillah says:  ‘I have a personal relationship with HaKadosh Baruch HU, He is my personal G-d.’  Therefore, whenever a person says the word “ Ado --i, my Master”, no matter how small he thinks he is, he is averring that he is in direct contact with Hashem.  This thought is in the introduction to any individual’s Iyun Tefillah, concentration on Prayer.  There is nothing mystical or supernatural about it.  It should be the most natural thing in the world.”


Additional Note One:  When reciting the name of Hashem, which is so often repeated in the first Bracha of Shemone Esrei, it is very important to have this warm and moving thought and feeling in mind--and hopefully remember it even as you proceed and recite Hashem’s name through the rest of Shemone Esrei!


Additional Note Two:  Shlomo HaMelech teaches in Mishlei (28:20) ‘Ish Emunos Rav Brachos--a trustworthy man will have many blessings.  We may also interpret this to mean that one who makes many Brachos is constantly demonstrating and re-demonstrating his Emunah in Hashem, and becomes not only an Ish Emunah but an Ish Emunos.  Chazal teach that a Bracha without ‘Shem U’Malchus’--’Hashem Elokeinu Melech HaOlam’ is not truly a Bracha.  Thus, each time we recite Hashem Elokeinu--My L-rd, Our G-d in a bracha, we should be careful to recognize the personal relationship that goes to the essence of our Emunah--each and every time we recite a bracha!  




Special Note One:  Shavuos is now less than two weeks away.  Since it is one of the Shalosh Regalim, it is a time that we travel to the Bais HaMikdash.  It would appear that it is an extremely auspicious time for us to demonstrate how we desire to have the Bais HaMikdash back and bring karbanos as soon as possible.  A superb way to demonstrate that desire is by taking the time now to give something extra, a special gift, now to Tzedaka in order to fulfill the words of our Chazal--and bring Karbanos in the Bais HaMikdash that you have built for yourself--while waiting! We always recommend yadeliezer.org--with its stellar reputation in collecting money for Aniyei Eretz Yisrael. 



Special Note Two:  In preparation for Matan Torah, one must, of course, review his Torah study, and determine how he can improve.  One important qualitative way is by identifying the ‘rough edges’ in one’s study and making them a bit softer.  For example, at times one may remember having learned something such as a Halacha or Gemara, and then realize that the detail, and perhaps most importantly, the conclusion has been forgotten.  A significant technique to practice in order to remember more of one’s learning is to go back and look up (even research if necessary) that which one has forgotten at the time that this realization occurs--without delay.  Even if one cannot do it at that moment, he should write it down, and make it a priority over the next several hours or day.  As the learning has become a separate, stand-alone item to which one has dedicated a few special moments, it should now stay with him for a much longer period of time--and the Ameilius and Ahavas HaTorah that he has demonstrated will stay with him forever!



Special Note Three:  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 Haba.  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 Haba.  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 a bit 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, as we have pointed out in the past, 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 Haba 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 Four:  From a publication issued by Hidabroot:


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


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


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



Special Note Five:  This week’s Parasha of Behar begins with the monumental teaching of Bitachon through the observance of Shemittah. The starting step, the first building block of Bitachon is that nothing happens ‘coincidentally’, ‘by chance’ or ‘by accident.’  In fact, a reader pointed out to us that there is no word in Lashon HaKodesh which means ‘accident.’  The current word in modern Hebrew for accident, ‘Te’una’, is found in Tehillim 91:10, and is translated there as ‘befall’, ‘occur’ or ‘come upon’ (see Metsudos and Malbim there).  Throughout our day, especially in these turbulent times (as Chabakuk taught--Vetzadik B’Emunaso Yichye’), we must be careful to recognize and aver that everything, every single thing, is really and truly an act of Hashem.  It would appear than that for one to say that he ‘bumped into’ or ‘happened to meet’ someone, or that ‘by chance’ (in modern Hebrew--’bemikre’) someone called or said something, or that ‘your timing is great’ or ‘how could he have said that about me’ --even if not at all meant to derogate one’s belief is nevertheless inappropriate and contradictory to the Ani Maamins that we recite daily.  Care in our speech means care in our thoughts--and we are a much, much better person--with a closer personal relationship to Hashem--because of it!




19 Iyar

IMPORTANT OPPORTUNITY: One can help others not fortunate enough to have their own Tefillin by sponsoring a pair for someone who cannot afford it. Importantly, this can be done by men and women--yes, women can have a part of Mitzvas Tefillin as well! For further information on sponsoring a pair of Tefillin for a Shuvu child, please email: yma@shuvuusa.org.


Hakhel Note: Shuvu has 15 Bar Mitzvahs in the immediate future in which it needs Tefillin sponsorship--the opportunity is immediate!



DO YOU PROVIDE NACHAS MATERIAL? “Rabbi Dovid Bender was the beloved Menahel of Yeshiva Torah Vodaath and a rare individual. He excelled in many areas, including the way in which he honored his parents. His father, Rabbi Avrohom Bender, emigrated to Eretz Yisrael in his later years. Rav Dovid never missed the opportunity to send his father anything that might bring him Nachas. If one of the children came home from Yeshiva with a good grade on a test, the test paper was immediately air-mailed to his father. A new photo of a grandchild was also mailed without delay. Had the fax machine been invented, no doubt there would have been a steady flow of “nachas material” traveling from the Bender home in Williamsburg to the one in Tel Aviv.” (Excerpted from Let There Be Rain: A Lesson a Day on Making Gratitude a Part of Our Lives (Lesson 47), by Rabbi Shimon Finkelman and Rabbi Zechariah Wallerstein).


Hakhel Note: What an outstanding idea--keep the idea of providing Nachas material to others in mind as frequently as you can!



SUMMER PLANS: As the weather gets warmer and the very cold winter becomes more of a memory, many begin to actively work on successful summer plans. As Torah Jews, we do not immediately approach the summer with ideas of ‘fun’ vacations and trips to the wrong places. Instead, we plan our activities with the thoughts of traveling at the proper times, and being in proper areas, with Minyanim and Torah study available. However, as we are still in the last throes of our current Galus Edom/Yishmael, we are faced with living in a society whose mores continue to decline and whose decadence becomes more commonplace. We suggest that the most important summer plan that one should come up with is how to avoid falling prey to the pritzus--both in scenery and activities--all around us. One can truly have a successful summer if he/she thinks about and implements certain plans as to places to avoid (even if it means time or expense), how to dress and how to conduct oneself if faced with being in any place which is not a home or community environment. Women will be inspired and directed by next week’s Bnos Melochim event entitled “Eye to I”, in which Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Feuer, Shlita and Rabbi David Ashear, Shlita, along with Rabbanit Yemima Mizrachi and Mrs. Ayala Berney will provide much-needed guidance, direction and encouragement. Please see local ads for further detail. For further information email events@bnosmelochim.org or call 845-425-9222. Men are left more on their own to gird themselves against the influences. For men to begin their successful summer plan, we once again provide the Tefillah L’Shemiras Einyaim by clicking here which should be recited daily--and perhaps more often!  



QUESTION OF THE DAY ONE :  In this 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?



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



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.”



SELFLESSNESS! Rabbi Yissocher Frand, Shlita, provides an extremely memorable one-word insight into marriage.  He reported that many of his students about to get married ask him for last-minute marital advice.  He answers with one word “Selflessness.”  What a powerful word to remember for a married person--before he/she is about to say or do something--and even more importantly, as a guide for initiative in marriage.  Remember--Selflessness!




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


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


Hakhel Note:  At the very least, one should have at least a short Seder to study Hilchos Shabbos on Shabbos itself--as the Mishna Berurah (Orach Chaim 290, seif katan 6) urges Shiurim on Shabbos in Hilchos Shabbos.  Vehaikar Yihiyeh Az Lilamed LeRabim Es Chukei HaElokim V’es Torosav Lehoros Hilchos Shabbos VeHa’asur VeHamutar.”


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


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


D.  In this week’s Parasha, we are reminded of the Mitzvah of Shabbos at the outset of the Parashas HaMoadim.  As the Pasuk states (Vayikra 23:3) -Shabbos Hi Lachem Bechol Moshvoseichem--it is a Shabbos for Hashem in all of your dwelling places.  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, Parashas Emor: 


A. In this week’s Parasha (Vayikrah 22:32 ), we find the Mitzvah of “Velo Sechalelu Es Sheim Kodshi VeNikdashti Besoch Bnei Yisrael--you shall not desecrate My Holy Name; rather, I shall be sanctified among Bnei Yisrael.”  Rabbi Yosef Eisen, Shlita, relates that Rav Hillel Zaks, heard from his father, Rav Mendel Zaks, who heard from his father in-law, the Chofetz Chaim an explanation as to why the 24,000 students of Rebbi Akiva were niftar. After all--could a lack of giving proper respect to each other be punishable in and of itself by the death penalty? The Chofetz Chaim answered that the underlying Aveirah for which they were punished was Chilul Hashem--where others who were less learned in Torah would ‘follow the lead’ of the Bnei Torah, thereby claiming lack of Derech Eretz to be the Torah practice--and profane Hashem’s name through lack of respect to others. Indeed, it is said that HaRav Yaakov Kamenetsky, Z’tl, teaches that although a child younger than Bar Mitzvah or a Bas Mitzvah is generally not obligated by the Torah itself to keep Mitzvos--they are nevertheless absolutely obligated by the Torah itself not to commit a Chilul Hashem--even as minors! 


Hakhel Note: What an important Sefirah lesson to take with us!


B. On the words of “Venikdashti Besoch Bnei Yisrael” recited above, HaRav Chaim Kanievksy, Shlita teaches 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.”


Hakhel Note One:  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 Two:  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 (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!


D. 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 mekallel. Rabbeinu Bachya writes that the mekallel did not simply brashly 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 mekallel’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 k’lala 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:  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 Himself 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 inyanein 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!



Hakhel Note: A very practical and timely suggestion to demonstrate by action your awareness that Shavuos will soon arrive: Commit 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, making sure that Siddurim and Bentchers/ Zemiros books are properly treated and placed in their proper position; and if any Sefer page or binding is ripped, or torn, promptly repairing them with tape that you have handy.




18 Iyar

TIME TO ACT!: The Chofetz Chaim writes that if Chazal (Yoma 9B) teach that the Beis Hamikdash was actually destroyed because of Sinas Chinam and Lashon Hara--then it certainly is enough of a reason to stop the Beis HaMikdash from being rebuilt, as well. If a person would strengthen himself--and urge others--in the area of Shemiras HaLashon, he would affirmatively demonstrate that he seeks to increase Kavod Shomayim with the building of the Beis haMikdash, and his merit is very great. After all, continues the Chofetz Chaim, Torah Jewry has a Chezkas Kashrus, and it must be that if they are violating the laws of Lashon Hara and keeping the Beis HaMikdash from being built--it must be because they don’t know enough about how to fight the Yetzer Hara in this regard. If one assists them in any way [by teaching them important Halachos and techniques to avoid Lashon Hara]--then Zechus HaRabim Talui Bo!


Hakhel Note: Each one of us should make it his/her business to take an active role in this great Zechus HaRabim!



GESHMAKE! Relating to yesterday’s bulletin as to the importance of Oneg and Simcha in one’s learning, Rabbi Moshe Tuvia Lieff, Shlita, once approached a Bar Mitzvah bachur and asked him if he wanted to become a Talmid Chochom. The Bochur immediately responded: “Yes!” To this, Rabbi Lieff enjoined: “Do you know how to become a Talmid Chochom?” The boy responded: “Yes--by learning”. “No” Rabbi Lieff explained--”It is by learning with Geshmake!”



FROM A READER: In response to your question of the day, as to why Lag BaOmer is called Lag BaOmer according to all opinions: The celebration of Lag BaOmer originates from Tzefas (first found in Peri Eitz Chaim), and the Arizal’s Nusach was BaOmer.


Hakhel Note: The Chasam Sofer (Shailos U’Teshuvos, Yoreh Deah 233) brings the possibility that Lag BaOmer is observed as a day of simcha because on this day (18 Iyar) the Mon began to fall. This calculation is based on the fact that on the 15th of Iyar Bnei Yisrael arrived in Midbar Sin and the people complained--3 days then transpired before the Mon began to fall.




Special Note One: Our annual Lag BaOmer thought:  Upon reaching the Lag BaOmer milestone, we are faced with a perplexing question:  What is the nature of 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?


HaRav 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 Tanaim are buried right around Rebbi Shimon in Meron).  Similarly, even after the Crusader massacres killing Talmidei Chachomim 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 Borough Park to Bnei Brak.


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!



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


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


Hakhel Note: Let us be sure to remember this teaching when at the table with others!


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


Hakhel Note: Let us recall the Chofetz Chaim’s teaching as to our power of speech noted above--recognize how very precious our mouths really are--and help ourselves and others to safeguard the ‘Fort Knox’ that we all possess!


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


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


4. Rebbi Shimon taught (Midrash Tanchuma, Parashas Vayechi) that anyone who helps another member of K’lal Yisrael is considered as if he helped the Shechina itself--as Devorah criticizes those who did not come to battle in the fights against Siserah--”Ki Lo Ba’u L’Ezras Hashem--they did not come to Hashem’s aid” (Shoftim 5:23). Does Hashem need any help? Obviously not. Devorah is simply teaching us the enormity of the accomplishment of helping another.


Hakhel Note: When one performs a Chesed, he should recognize that he is not only helping another, helping himself and emulating the Shechina--but that the Shechina K’vyachol personally recognizes it and appreciates it! How meaningful, how deep, how outstanding, how eternal, an act of Chesed really is!


5. Rebbi Shimon taught (Midrash Tanchuma BeChukosai): At the end of days, whether we have done Teshuvah or not, the Geulah will in all events come.


Hakhel Note: The Geulah may come at any time, at any moment now--how important it is for each person to do Teshuvah now--before the Geulah arrives!




17 Iyar

QUESTION OF THE DAY : Tonight and tomorrow is referred to as Lag BaOmer. According to Nusach Sefard which refers to LaOmer in our nightly counting --why is it not called Lag LaOmer?


In the past, we received the following reader responses:


1.  Lag BaOmer is the Yahrzeit 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 BaOmer has a Gematria of 345, like Moshe.


We look forward to your responses!





1. FROM A READER: The permissibility of taking a haircut tomorrow is only applicable for Ashkenazim. Sefaradim will wait until Friday 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 kavannah prior to taking a haircut that he is doing so out of respect for himself and others.


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 Saschis 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 by clicking here. 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, and when so many prohibitions can be violated with just one haircut or one shave over the affected areas time and again. 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 kavannah plays the key role--let’s do it the way we are supposed to!


3. From a reader:  “A kavannah one can have before getting a haircut is ‘Beyomo Titein Secharo’--paying the barber on time!”


4. 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 the entrance to 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!



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


The term HaKel-refers to Hashem’s All-Powerful Mercy.


HaGadol refers to Hashem’s greatness in acts of Chesed. He proclaims His presence in this world by performing acts of benevolence.


HaGibor refers to the incomparable power of Hashem’s judgment, for He proclaims His presence in this world by meting out perfect justice. The vastness of Hashem’s might is glimpsed in the trembling we experience from just one moment of an earthquake or tornado.


HaNorah--awesome--only Hashem is to be feared for His awesome power, for no other creature or creation has any power to act without Hashem’s express permission (Kuntres Avodas HaTefillah by Rabbi Meyer Birnbaum). Alternatively, Hashem is Norah in that He proclaims His presence through truth and beauty (Michtav M’Eliyahu, Volume 4, page 64).


Kel Elyon--the supreme G-d--Hashem is so exalted that He is far beyond the comprehension of even the holiest angels. We can understand Him only superficially, by studying His deeds….(Siach Yitzchak).


Gomel Chasodim Tovim--Who bestows beneficial kindnesses. Although Hashem is supreme and exalted, He nevertheless bestows never-ending kindnesses on even the smallest creatures in the world. The kindness of Hashem, Who can foresee all the consequences of His actions, is completely beneficial and greater than that of any human being (Abudraham, page 94).


V’Koneh HaKol--and is the Owner of everything. The entire world is Hashem’s by virtue of His creating and maintaining it with kindness. Everything in this world testifies that Hashem created it, and has the ability to teach us His benevolence, charity, and favor (Michtav M’Eliyahu, Volume 4, page 64).




Special Note One: We provide the following outstanding teachings from the Sefer Otzros HaTorah (Sefiras HaOmer--Shavuos):


A. The Radin Yeshiva secretary once came to the Chofetz Chaim in great joy after having received the Yeshiva’s mail. Among the letters and correspondences was a 500 ruble note (in cash, and an astronomical sum at that time) which had been placed into a regular envelope and mailed. Upon hearing this joyous news, the Chofetz Chaim responded: “There is something very wondrous about this. Who would send cash in the mail--especially this much, when it could be easily lost or stolen? We have to investigate this--maybe it is all a mistake? The secretary immediately corresponded back with the sender and inquired as to what had transpired. The sender responded that he was involved in a large business transaction and that he had taken upon himself that if he succeeded he would give a large donation to the Chofetz Chaim’s yeshiva. The transaction concluded and was a success. He decided that he would go to the post office the next day, and arrange for a 500 ruble donation to the Yeshiva. However, he then thought to himself--”Am I crazy--such a large donation? Don’t I have other thing to do with my money? Wouldn’t 50 rubles be very generous? Other arguments popped into my head as well. I decided to shake off all of these thoughts and immediately went to the post office waiting no further and certainly not until the morrow, so that the Yetzer Hara would no longer have any time to work on me!”


Hakhel Note: The Sefer concludes that when a Mitzvah comes to one’s hands, or a person has a particular Hisorerus--he should not let it pass, for even one additional minute could result in a lost opportunity--instead of--an eternal gain!


B. Chazal teach that Hashem created the Yetzer Hara, and that He created the Torah as the tavlin,  the spice, to work against it (Kiddushin 30B). It is puzzling that the Torah is compared only to a spice--after all, is not the Torah essential and life-bearing, serving much more than as a mere ‘spice’ to simply make life more tasty? Indeed, Dovid HaMelech in Tehillim (119:93) exclaims: “Ki Vam Chiyisani--for through Torah I live”. HaRav Eliyahu Chaim Cohen, Shlita, answers that yes, of course, Torah is our spiritual air. However, we are faced with daily challenges and with new-fangled, incredibly convincing Yetzer Hara attacks on a daily basis. Today, it is very hot, tomorrow it is very cold. There is this excuse and that excuse, and many excuses…. It is only when one not only recognizes the essence of Torah--but its sweetness--that he will be able to overcome his Yetzer Hara. The Torah provides more ta’anugim, more enjoyment, more pleasure, more joy than any and all of the lurings and enticements of the Yetzer Hara. Indeed, the Ponovezher Rav, Z’tl, once remarked that the haskalah movement in Europe was able to lure even ‘top’ Yeshiva Bochurim--but it was not able to lure anyone who enjoyed the Mesikus HaTorah.


The Aruch HaShulchan (Yoreh De’ah 246:45) records the question as to why at a Siyum we do not recite “Shehasimcha Bimono--the Simcha is in Hashem’s place” in the Zimun before bentsching. After all, isn’t a Siyum at least as joyous an event as a Sheva Brachos?! The Aruch HaShulchan answers that when it comes to any other Simcha--even the Simcha of a Chasunah, we state that the true Simcha is only in Hashem’s abode in the Heavens. However, when it comes to the Simchas HaTorah--then the Simcha is even in this world, so we do not need to state that the only Simcha is only in the Heavens, for it is before us here in this world in full bloom!


The Dubno Maggid once related the following Mashal: A diamond merchant traveled from overseas with a small case of diamonds. Upon arriving at the hotel, the clerk at the front desk told the merchant that the porter would bring up his belongings. The merchant went to his room, and the porter arrived at his room a few minutes later huffing and puffing. The merchant looked at him and said: “You obviously don’t have my bags, which are very light.” The Dubno Maggid explained--the Torah is our jewel, which is light and precious and which should involve no burden or toil to carry at all--only Oneg and Simcha.” This is the essence of our connection and relationship to the Torah!


Post Script: The Kotzker Rebbe, Z’tl, stated that this Mashal is one of the three Meshalim of the Dubno Maggid which were said with Ruach HaKodesh!




16 Iyar

THE BEGINNINGS OF TESHUVA: The Sefer Ma’alos HaTorah by Rebbi Avraham (the brother of the G’ra), Z’tl, writes that the first step in Teshuva should be in one’s study of Torah. To demonstrate the point, he brings the braysa of Rebbi Pinchos Ben Yair upon which the entire Sefer Mesilas Yesharim is based:  Torah Meivi’ah Lidei Zehirus, Zehirus Lidei Zerizus….” The starting point of all proper conduct is Torah. This concept is echoed in the bracha of Teshuvah that we recite three times daily in Shemone Esrei--”Hashiveinu Avinu LeSorasecha…VeHachazireiu Bishuvah Sheleima Lefanecha”--only after we come closer in Torah can we accomplish Teshuvah. Let us further stop for a moment to recognize the point and time that we are in--only approximately two and a half weeks away from Shavuos! It so behooves us to bli neder undertake at least some small improvement in our Torah study--not only for the sake of Teshuvah (which would be enough in and of itself)--but certainly in honor of our recognition that the great day of Kabbalas HaTorah is coming for each and every one of us!

The Kabbalah could be as small as an increase of only “two to three minutes a day” after davening or before going to bed, listening to a short Torah phone message, going through a particular Sefer in preparation for Shavuos--and can be something as great as reviewing a few blatt per day of a Mesechta recently learned, culminating with a Siyum on Shavuos! One’s personalized decision must come based upon one’s own time constraints, feelings, background and surroundings. In light of the recent passing of young, special individuals, we must demonstrate that we understand our need to bolster ourselves in Teshuvah…and that Talmud Torah, which is in all events K’neged Kulam, and the pinnacle of our Shavuos celebration, is also the seed of the Teshuvah process.




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



Special Note Two:  Today, the 16th of Iyar, is according to many, the first day that Mon began to fall in the Midbar, after the Matzah brought from Mitzrayim was completed.  Chazal teach that Moshe Rabbeinu composed the first bracha of Birkas HaMazon in honor of the Mon’s initial falling.  Today then would then appear to be an auspicious day to rededicate ourselves to the principle of Mon--that all of our sustenance is Min Hashamayim as the Mon indicates--and certainly a day to review and renew our kavana in the very first bracha of Birkas HaMazon (after all--do you know of any other brachos that Moshe Rabbeinu himself composed!).



Special Note Three: In this week’s Parasha we find the distinctive Mitzvah of “Vekidashto”…and you shall sanctify the Kohen by treating him with a higher level of dignity and respect (Vayikra 21:8).  We provide our readers with our yearly review of this sometimes forgotten Mitzvah which needs our invigorated 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 “Yichusei 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.         HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita 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 here either.  In responding to a different question in VeKidashto, 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.  Finally, 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).


9.      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!


10.      Two Related Notes:


A.       The Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 201, seif katan 13) 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 Kohanim--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!


Hakhel Note: Please remember this for Shavuos!




15 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 the following link our notes to the Nineteen Brachos for the years 5771 and 5772 http://www.hakhel.info/TefillahArchive.html May we highly recommend the Nineteen Week Program again this year--either based upon your own study (such as by utilizing the magnificent Rav Schwab on Prayer or another similar work), or by utilizing the link provided on a daily basis throughout the week. 



A MOMENT WITH RABBI AVIGDOR MILLER, Z’TL:  QUESTION: Isn’t it good enough just to be a good person?  Why must we follow the Torah?  ANSWER: And the answer is, why must you keep traffic laws?  Isn’t it good enough to be a good person?  How many good people go through red lights?  How many good people have killed innocent persons by driving drunk?  Good intentions are not enough to be a good person.  A man must be bound by a code.  And if he is choosing a code, he might as well take the very best code there is.  There is no such thing as a good person without Torah.  A good person can be a mercy killer, he kills his old mother because he cannot see her suffer.  A good person can be a selfish man, who thinks he is doing good, when in reality he is only helping himself, because he is blinded by his own desires.


We have to know that nobody is able to live with standards that he himself creates.  You see 50 years ago the reformers, the reform Jews, had certain standards that they considered good, moral, and today they are changed entirely. So whatever people consider as standards in one generation can change in another generation.  It’s only those who live by the eternal standard of Torah, who remain good forever and ever.


The above is an example of a weekly email entitled ‘A Moment with Rabbi Avigdor Miller, Z’tl,  is available free of charge.  The email provides a Question and Answer transcribed from one of Rabbi Miller’s legendary Thursday Night Shiurim.  To subscribe, please contact tikotzky@gmail.com



PREPARING FOR MOSHIACH: The Chofetz Chaim (Zachor L’Miriam, Chapter 18) poses the following stark question: How can we prepare ourselves for the Moshiach to come? The Chofetz Chaim answers this question in just as straightforward a manner: “Hashem is not expecting from us things that we cannot achieve--rather, He is expecting from each person only that which he is capable of. If one can learn Mishnayos--then he must set aside time every day to do so; if he can study Midrash--then he can set aside the time to study Midrash. If he is further capable and can study Gemara or Halacha--then that is what he must do. Hashem is not looking to find faults with us. He is simply looking for each of us to do what we can. This, the Chofetz Chaim continues, is what Shlomo HaMelech (the wisest of all men) is instructing us (Koheles 9:10 ): “Kol Asher Timtza Yadecha La’asos Bechochacha Asei--do what is within your power”. The Chofetz Chaim then makes one additional point which is applicable to all: Hashem took the Shechina away from both the first Beis HaMikdash and the Second Beis HaMikdash, and we are now left with the Mikdash Me’at of our Shuls and Batei Midrashim. If we make special effort and take special care to show them the proper respect--recognizing their inherent Kedusha, then we are affirmatively demonstrating to Hashem that we want the especial Kedusha of the Great Beis HaMikdash to return to us--forever--as well!




Special Note One:  A reader once 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 Two:  According to the Luach Dovor B’Ito, today is the transition day between Bnei Yisrael 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 bracha of Birchas HaMazon, the Bracha of Hazon Es HaOlam.  The Luach therefore urges that this Bracha 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 Mitzrayim 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 Three:  Let us add an additional realm to the lesson of the Chofetz Chaim presented earlier.  The Chofetz Chaim teaches that, although every individual must be careful with all of the Mitzvos, one should nevertheless be very adept at one particular Mitzvah and observe it with great strength and constancy, being close with it his whole life--just as one holds onto a tree for life. He specifically suggests that one choose a Mitzvah that seems to be less on a person’s mind than other Mitzvos. Indeed, in the Sefer Shemiras HaLashon, he suggests that this Mitzvah be guarding one’s tongue from Lashon Hara. In the Sefer Mesilas HaMaharsha on the Chameish Megillos, by Rabbi Eliezer Ginsburg, Shlita, Rabbi Ginsburg brings an important source (Koheles 5:9) for the concept of a person choosing a Mitzvah and ‘specializing’ in it:  Ohev Kesef Lo Yisbah Kesef U’mi Ohev BeHamon Lo Tevuah Gam Zeh Havel--a lover of money will never be satisfied with the money he has; a lover of abundance has no wheat--this too is futility!” Rashi (ibid.) explains that it is not sufficient for a person to simply do “many Mitzvos”--rather, one needs to have a Mitzvah Mesuyemes V’Nikeres.  Rashi there gives examples of this, which include helping to build a Shul or having a beautiful Sefer Torah written. The Sifsei Chachomim (ibid.) adds that this very lesson is taught in the Torah itself by the actions of Moshe Rabbeinu, as the Pasuk (Devarim 4:31) states:  Az Yavdil Moshe Shalosh Arim”--where Moshe forever designated three Arei Miklat, even though they would not be used in his lifetime. HaRav Ginsburg notes that this does not mean that one necessarily has to choose a Mitzvah which would physically last for future generations, but rather the emphasis is on a Mitzvah that one is Medakdeik LeKayeim Kol Yimei Chayav--especially careful in the performance of all of his life.  Rabbi Ginsburg reports that it was said of Rebbi Akiva Eiger, Z’tl, that he was medakdeik all of his life to fulfill the Mitzvah of Bikur Cholim.


Hakhel Note:  In the secular world around us, we find specialized expertise in a great many professions and jobs. It may be safely said that the world is more highly specialized today than it ever was. The physical world around us is a place for us to derive lessons for our Ruchniyus. Accordingly, if the world today is more specialized in terms of our daily, material, physical and mundane needs--then all the more so should we, in addition to our steadfast general Mitzvah performance, bli neder take upon ourselves a particular Mitzvah with which we can fulfill the words of the Pesukim “Az Yavdil Moshe…” and “…Ohev BeHamon Lo Tevuah….” One’s selection process may require some thought, and one should consider both the Mitzvos that he seems predisposed to and those that seem more difficult for him to perform--and make an important personal determination in this regard. Hakhel Note: We may add that the concept of developing a personal expertise applies in the area of Talmud Torah as well. The Chofetz Chaim and others bring that one should have his ‘Olam Haba Mesechta”, which he reviews and knows better than all other Mesechtos, which will certainly elevate him to higher and higher levels of Olam Haba. The practice of personalizing a particular Mesechta was even adopted by the Gedolim. We believe that it is said that the Chasam Sofer’s Mesechta was Mesechta Bei’ah. Indeed, it is reported that more recently, HaRav Chaim Stein, Z’tl, had a Mesechta for Bekiyus (Zevachim) and a Mesechta for Iyun (Chulin).


Hashem has lovingly given us a charge--become an expert in your Ruchniyus--you can do it! Let us live up to the task with sincerity, dedication and zeal!




12 Iyar

TAKE ACTION! These are days in which we especially work on our Bein Adam L’Chaveiro. In this regard, we provide two very fundamental--and extremely practical--points:


1. The Chofetz Chaim writes that the way we can properly honor others is by finding something greater in them than in yourself--whatever it may be. Once one recognizes that he holds another in higher regard for something, he will simply treat him with more dignity and respect.


2. HaRav Naftali Kaplan, Shlita, adds that prior to engaging in an act of Chesed--we should endeavor to think about the fact that in doing so we are emulating the ways of Hashem--Who is a Rav Chesed. By doing so, we demonstrate that our Chesed is not a ‘good thing to do’ or a ‘social norm’--but an act which constitutes both V’Halachta B’Derachav--and Olam Chesed Yiboneh.



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


We are indisputably in days of healing. For those who have asked for a specific Nusach that one can recite not to become ill, we refer you to the Tefillas HaBori by clicking here.  There is also a well-known short Tefillah LeBrius of the Chidah we provide by clicking here and a Tefillah L’Refuah of the Chidah which we provide by by clicking here.   We add that the classic Sefer Seder HaYom (which is the first known source for the text of the Modeh Ani which we recite upon awakening in the morning) writes that “One should recite Asher Yotzar word for word with Kavannah…” as this will greatly assist a person in avoiding the need for doctors and medications. Finally, for the men who are in shul, we remind them that Chazal teach “All who answer ‘Amen Yehei Shemei Rabbah Mevorach’ with Kavannah and strength (with feeling, and not just an expression of words) will have a Gezar Din against him torn up.” This “segula’ is brought Lehalacha by the Mishna Berurah in Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 56, Seif Katan 1. We refer you to the Kavannas Amen Yehei Shmei Rabbah in the following links--  click here for the English version  and click here for the Hebrew version, provided by Rabbi Mayer Birnbaum, Shlita.



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


A.  On every Erev Shabbos after Chatzos, HaRav Chaim Pilagi, Z’tl, would daven to Hashem that nothing would happen this Shabbos that would require c’v’ the Shabbos to be violated, such as a choleh mesukan, a fire, or other danger.


B.   In this week’s Parasha of Kedoshim, we find the concept of Shemiras Shabbos mentioned in two separate instances--Ish Aviv VeImo Tira'u V'es Shabbsosai Tishmoru…revere your mother and father and observe My Shabbosos (Vayikrah 19:3), and then Es Shabbsosai Tishmoru V'es Mikdashai Tira'u--observe My Shabbosos and revere My Bais HaMikdash (Vayikrah 19:30).  There are two separate messages here.  First, even if a parent instructs his child to violate a Mitzvah DeRabanan such as “Bring that [muktzah item] to me” or “Have the gentile turn on the light” in a situation where it is not Halachically permitted, the child is not permitted to honor his parent and must follow the Mitzvah DeRabanan.  Moreover, the Kedushas Shabbos is so great the second Pasuk teaches us, we would not be able to violate any Shabbos law even if it was to build the final and eternal third Bais HaMikdash, which we have been waiting for 2,000 years.  We should keep these lessons in mind every Shabbos, and seek to increase our personal awareness of the Kedushas Shabbos! “Oh well, I carried this outside by mistake”, “I guess I moved the Muktzah”, “I was not sure if that was some kind of Borer”…are not part of the proper attitude towards Shabbos.  Skipping Zemiros because it is ‘getting late’ or looking for an earlier Motza’ei Shabbos Minyan, would also not seem to fall squarely within the Shemiras Shabbos the Torah seeks of us in Parashas Kedoshim.  Shabbos is so elevated--even above the Bais HaMikdash--let us make sure that it elevates us!


C.  Chazal (Meilah 17A) provide an incredible incident in which Rebbi Reuven Ben Istrubeli dressed as a Roman in order to induce the Roman political to annual their evil decrees against the Jewish people.  One such decree was that the Jews could no longer observe Shabbos.  He argued to them (ostensibly as a gentile)--“If a person had an enemy, does he want to make him rich or poor?”  “Poor, of course”, they responded.  “If that is the case, let them observe Shabbos so that they will not do work and they will become poor.”  He said.  The politicians responded “You are right.”, and they annulled the decree.  Later, they learned he was a Jew and they reinstated the Gezeirah.  This Ma’aseh serves to reinforce to us the stark contrast between our level of Emunah which our observance of Shabbos highlights and brings out--and the non-Jews attitude which is that not working will simply make us poor (although they actually believed that to be the case, they only reinstated the decree because of their anti-Semitism).  Our calm observance of Shabbos, without thinking about the work week, the money that has to be made and the tasks that have to be done, is a bastion of our Emunah.  One of the reasons given as to why we put our ten fingers on bread or Challah before making a bracha over it is that this represents the ten words of ‘Veyiten Lecha’--that our Parnassah is from Hashem--and not the result of our own genius or toil.  It is no coincidence that we take this great lesson of Shabbos with us immediately into the week by reciting the Pesukim of ‘Veyiten Lecha…it all depends on Hashem’s bracha’--as we begin the new week! 


D. The Mishnah in this week's Perek (Avos 3:2)  teaches that one who studies Torah even by himself is aptly rewarded, as the Pasuk (Eicha 3:28) states:  “Yeishev Badad VeYidom Ki Natal Alav--even if one learns in solitude, he will receive a reward.”  The Bartenura explains that these words are much more powerful than we might otherwise think.  The term ‘Ki Natal Alav’ teaches that even for one sitting and studying in solitude:  “K’ilu Nesinas Kol HaTorah Kula Haysah Ba’avuro Bilvad--Hashem considers it as if the entire giving of the Torah was for him, and him alone!  We see, then, how precious even one moment of Torah is to even the solitary Torah student, and we should be careful with every such moment--for ourselves, and for all others--all the more so when one spends those extra minutes to learn on Shabbos Kodesh!



Special Note Three:  Points and pointers on this week’s Parashiyos: 


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


B.  This week, we also learn B’Tzedek Tishpot Amisecha--we are to judge our friends favorably (Vayikra 19:15).  What if we do not?


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


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


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


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


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


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


C.    After contemplating the profundity and depth of just the two Mitzvos mentioned above, let us be honest with ourselves. How can one begin to do justice to a review of these two Parashiyos, which together contain 79 Mitzvos?  The task is, nevertheless ours--as Chazal has so established.  One must recognize that our touching upon all these Mitzvos is timely for us now, because all that occurs is Hashgacha Pratis.  Accordingly, we proceed further--with two further excerpts from the Sefer HaChinuch (quoted above) as to two Mitzvos in this week’s Parashiyos--together with a practical suggestion after each one.  The intent is not necessarily that a reader follow the practical suggestion, but that the reader develop improvement that he feels relevant to himself in these two Mitzvos, and will develop similar thoughts on other Mitzvos contained in the Parashiyos:


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


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




(i).   HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita teaches that one fulfills the Mitzvah not only with friends and strangers, but with family members as well—including by showing proper attitude and behavior to one’s own spouse—so start cashing in! (See Kiddushin 41a).


(ii).  The Mitzvah can be fulfilled by thought alone in two different ways— (i) spending time thinking about a Shidduch for someone, how to help an individual in need of emotional or physical support, or on how to give constructive criticism in a way which will have a real effect--and other thoughts unique to the people and situations that you are aware of [after all, Hashem made you aware of them, and it is for a reason]; and (b) actually feeling together with the other person--feeling their pleasure and pain, their dejection and their joy--with this you unite with your fellow person—and he becomes Kamocha—like you, as the Torah adjures. As a starting point, you can try to develop this feeling with one person (who, once again, can be a relative), and witness for yourself how your “I” and “Me” has so beautifully grown!


2.  The Mitzvah of Mip'nei Seivah Takum--The Mitzvah of honoring Talmidei Chachomim (Vayikrah 19:32):


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


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


D.  The western world distortedly views some of the Arayos as ‘victimless’ crimes. We, on the other hand, believe that not only are the participants and those who encourage them at fault, but that the degenerate mores impact horrificaly on the world at large. We need go no further than the Pasuk “Ki Hishchis Kol Bassar EsDarko Al Ha’Aretz”—for all flesh had corrupted its way upon the earth (Bereishis 6:12), and the literal destruction of the world  at the time of the Flood that resulted in  its aftermath. It is absolutely incumbent upon us to do something to distance ourselves far, far, far away from this behavior.  Each of us (man and woman, young and old, city worker and chareidi neighborhood dweller) can do something to improve his/her situation in this regard—to bring a greater, tangible Kedusha into one’s life. It is less than 30 days to Matan Torah—in which the Kedusha from on High—the Torah-- was brought down to this world for transmission to us all in each generation. Let us make ourselves eminently worthy of it—not only by contemplation and reflection—but in deed and in restraint.


E.  Because the Parashiyos contain the Mitzvah of paying workers on time, we were asked to remind our readers that service providers should be paid in a timely manner--on the completion of the performance of their service.  “Some look to the check or cash you are providing them with for their immediate expenses, including food and overdue bills.”  Hakhel Note:  As discussed in the past, even workers who are mochel timely payment, must be of age to do so.  A babysitter who is not bar mitzvah or bas mitzvah cannot be mochel.  For an excellent, practical and clear review of the halachos of paying workers and others, which involves so many mitzvos intertwined--we highly recommend The Halachos of Other People’s Money, by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita (Feldheim).



Special Note Four:  Sunday 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 Yisrael had sufficient Matzos to last from the time of our Exodus from Mitzrayim 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 Yetziyas Mitzrayim, then, extended until Pesach Sheni!


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.  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 Five: Sunday is also commonly held as 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!


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