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Hakhel Email Community Awareness Bulletin

MAY 2016 DAILY EMAIL ARCHIVE

 

23 Iyar

THE JOY OF TORAH! 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 reported that he recalls as a young boy in the Bronx how his Rav, a Talmud Chacham 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 pray 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.

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THE ROAD UPWARDS:  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!

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NOTES ON TALMUD TORAH FROM HARAV CHAIM KANIEVSKY, SHLITA:  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!

 

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22 Iyar

FROM THE HILCHOS SHABBOS INITIATIVE: “A full year has gone by, in which we have been davening for a refuah sheleima for Chaya Malka bas Bas-sheva. We appreciate all the Tefillos said on her behalf. We have tremendous gratitude as well for all the Hilchos Shabbos papers printed each week and read at the Shabbos table, and we continue to Daven for her full recovery. At this point, we would like to further increase the amount of people who receive the Halacha page weekly. We are requesting if possible to forward this email to at least one other contact. In this way, we will accrue additional z’chusim, and hopefully merit to see a yeshuah speedily. Thank you so much. May we share besuros tovos.”

 

Hakhel Note: For a sample of The Hilchos Shabbos Initiative weekly materials, please see last week’s issue by the following links:   http://tinyurl.com/juttl4v  http://tinyurl.com/hr5bs92    To join the Hilchos Shabbos Initiative, email: shabboshalachos@gmail.com

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WHAT HAPPENED TODAY?:  Last 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!

 

As we all know, the Parasha has reminded us of this Mitzvah at this particular point, and even  at this particular juncture in our lives[this is what Hashgacha all about], because it is something for each and every one of us to work on  in his own particular way. Let us each meet the challenge--and fulfill this great Mitzvah in a way that brings us a wonderful Nachas Ruach--which will bring along with it Nachas Ruach to others…and, in a magnificent way, to our Creator as well!

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NINETEEN WEEKS!  We are now in the second week 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: We remind you of the following excerpt 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, 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!  

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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--that 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 One: Incredibly, the son-in-law of the Chofetz Chaim, HaRav Zaks, Z’tl, related that he heard from the Chofetz Chaim that “If one speaks Lashon Hara, this demonstrates that he is not awaiting and yearning for the Moshiach--for if he truly was, then how could he speak Lashon Hara--which is Haikar Hagadol which is preventing the Geulah from taking place?! Speaking Lashon Hara and yearning for the Geulah utterly contradict each other!”

 

Hakhel Note Two: The new cycle of the Sefer Chofetz Chaim began on Shabbos, and will conclude on Erev Rosh Hashana.  Participating individually or with others in its study over the cycle is certainly a great and actual zechus--for the Geulah!

 

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

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AN AUSPICIOUS TIME!  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 demonstrate your desire to bring Karbanos in the Bais HaMikdash! We always recommend yadeliezer.org--with its stellar reputation in collecting money for Aniyei Eretz Yisrael. 

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A PATH TO WISDOM! 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!

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PLEASE DON’T PUNISH YOURSELF!  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!

 

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19 Iyar

A GREAT MESSAGE! We saw the following on a recent sign: “Ain Ohd Milevado--Say It, Think It, Live It!

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COMPLETING THE FIRST OF THE NINETEEN WEEKS: As we complete our special emphasis on Kavannah in the first bracha of Shemone Esrei during this first of the Nineteen Weeks prior to Rosh Hashana, may we add that one use the first bracha, on a going-forward basis, to feel existentially Shivisi Hashem L’negdi Somid--Hashem before you as you pray!

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FROM A READER: “I heard two other reasons for the practice that even those who recite LaOmer when counting the Sefira every night, call today Lag BaOmer:

 

1. The Yahrzeit for the Rema (R’ Moshe Isserless, Z’tl) was Lag BaOmer; since he said BaOmer as a Nusach Ashkenazi, as a courtesy to his memory we refer to the day as Lag BaOmer.

 

2. It is widely said that the Rashbi was a nitzutz of Moshe Rabbeinu.  The gematria of Moshe is 345, which is the same gematria as Lag BaOmer.”

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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 to 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!  

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ANI BOTEI’ACH…: In this week’s Parasha, Parashas 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 Botei’ach 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!

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PRACTICAL GUIDANCE IN ONA’AS DEVARIM:  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.” Chazal (Bava Metzia 58B) teach that this Pasuk refers specifically to causing pain with words—Ona’as Devarim. The Mishna and Gemara (ibid.) elaborate on the prohibition against Ona’as Devarim and further details are brought L’Halacha in Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat, Chapter 428, which is dedicated to this topic. 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!

 

BE CAREFUL--DON’T SAY: 

 

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

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

3.                  “I told you so.”

4.                  “Didn’t I tell you not to…”

5.                  “You forgot again?”

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

7.                  “You look like I feel.”

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

9.                  “Who appointed you king?”

10.             “You’re off your rocker.”

11.             “Klutz!”

12.             “You make no sense.”

13.             “Who cares what you think?”

14.             “You don’t match.”

15.             “You’re impossible.”

16.             “You forgot to make supper again?”

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

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

19.             “Leave me alone!”

20.             “You never…/You… always”

21.             “Can’t you take a joke?”

22.             “I don’t believe you.”

23.             “You blew it!”

24.             “What’s wrong with you?”

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

26.             “Where are your brains?”

27.             “What a nerd!”

28.             “You really overpaid for this thing.”

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

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

 

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!

 

MAKE SURE--TO SAY: 

 

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!

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MORE SALIENT POINTS ON THE TOPIC: We provide below  many points also gleaned from The Power of Words, which are indeed ‘suitable for framing’—and which certainly should be reviewed from time to time—and especially when you well know that you are about to have a challenging encounter. We present the points by number, for ease of reference.

 

1.      The Chazon Ish wrote: “Even if what you say will cause someone pain or discomfort for only a brief moment, it is a violation of this Torah commandment.”

 

2.      Be aware of what the consequences of what your words will be. Any time your words will cause someone pain it constitutes Onoa’as Devarim.

 

3.      Some people can suffer again and again for years because of insulting remarks people have made to them.

 

4.      One of the easiest ways to make enemies is to insult people.

 

5.      Someone who studies Torah has a greater obligation than others to avoid all forms of Ona’as Devarim. Failure to do so will cause others to learn from his negative example, and could even cause people to have negative feelings about Torah study in general.

 

6.      Any statement that disparages the appearance of another person is considered Ona’as Devarim.

 

7.      It is forbidden to say or do things to scare other people.

 

8.      The laws of Ona’as Devarim are based in the subjective response of the person you are talking to. Even if many other people don’t mind a certain statement, if the person you say it to will be distressed, upset, angry or offended it is forbidden.

 

9.      Don’t disparage the Torah thoughts of others. If you want to disagree, do so in a polite manner.

10. Don’t insult someone for being different from you in personality, thought, background, habits, etc.

 

11. It is Ona’as Devarim to say things to a person which would imply that he is not normal.

 

12.  Needlessly saying things to cause someone worry is Ona’as Devarim.

 

13.  When you have conflicting interests with someone, master the art of finding peaceful solutions. Find the basic needs of both parties and try to find ways that the needs of both parties can be met.

 

14. Statements made in a sarcastic tone of voice constitute Ona’as Devarim, even though the words themselves might sound Kosher.

 

15. Asking people personal questions about matters they would prefer not to discuss causes them discomfort and is Ona’as Devarim.

 

16. It is counterproductive to say to someone, “If I told you once, I told you a thousand times…”

 

17. Avoid saying,” You don’t understand,” when you are discussing ideas with others.

 

18. If you see that a person is very tired or in an especially irritable mood, be very careful with what you say to him.

 

19. People who are very perceptive and notice all kinds of details about personality and character of others must be careful to use this gift as a tool to help--not to hurt-- others.

 

20. It is easy for married couples to cause each other much emotional pain by insulting one another. Even if two people disagree or are disappointed with each other, they should still speak to each other with respect.

 

21. Anger does not give you permission to violate the prohibition against Ona’as Devarim.

 

22. Humor at someone else’s expense is Ona’as Devarim.

 

23. Accepting other people and their differences is one of the keys to observing this Mitzvah.

 

24. When you have internalized the awareness that people are created BeTzelem Elokim--in the image of Hashem, you will experience great respect for each person you encounter.

 

25. When you communicate with others, be aware of your goal. Most insults and derogatory comments are counterproductive and will not help you achieve your goal.

 

26. The more difficult it is to refrain from insulting someone, the greater the reward.

 

27. Whenever you refrain from saying anything that would be Ona’as Devarim, feel the joy of fulfilling a Mitzvah.

 

28. You are what you say. By transgressing the laws of Ona’as Devarim you are lowering your own spiritual level.

 

29. Any time that someone hurts your feelings in some way, view it as a learning experience to teach yourself to be more sensitive to causing others distress with words.

 

30. Imagine standing before Hashem after 120 years and being confronted with all of your Ona’as Devarim statements.

 

31. “It’s your fault for taking offense.” If someone will feel pain because of what you say, you have an obligation to avoid saying it and you cannot blame the other person for feeling hurt.

 

32. “I hope that this doesn’t offend you, but…” Starting off with this statement does not render your Ona’as Devarim permissible.

 

33. When you want to influence someone to do something, always try to motivate him with an approach that will be based on his needs, wants, and personality.

 

34. There are many statements that if said with a smile will not cause a person distress-- even though they might if a person were to say the words with a serious expression on his face.

 

35. There are always ways of disagreeing with someone that show a basic respect for him even though you disagree with what he said.

 

36. The laws of Ona’as Devarim apply even to parents when they speak to their children.

37. The laws of Ona’as Devarim apply even to small children. Insulting a young child or frightening him as a joke is forbidden.

 

38. If someone is angry it is an act of kindness to calm him down. Be careful not to say things that would be Ona’as Devarim to someone who is presently angry.

 

39. When you speak to a stranger, you might not be aware of his particular sensitivities and therefore might cause him pain unintentionally. Note the facial reactions of the people you speak to.

 

40. When you see someone insulting another person, have the courage to say something to stop him.

 

41. Be willing to make a public commitment to your family and friends that you will be careful with Ona’as Devarim.

 

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AS WE GET CLOSER! We provide below some insights in preparation for the joyous and awe-inspiring moment of Kabbalas HaTorah:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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18 Iyar

IMPORTANT AND TIMELY INFORMATION ON HAIRCUTS:

 

1. It is a time to reflect anew upon how even a task such as a haircut has meaning and purpose in our lives. In the Torah itself, we learn that Yosef took a haircut upon his release from prison in order to see Paroh--as a sign of respect.  We similarly find that Haman (who was by trade a barber) gave Mordechai a haircut prior to his ascending onto the king’s horse (Megillah 16A).  Thus, a person can have kavana prior to taking a haircut that he is doing so out of respect for himself and others. There is more, however. We can also reflect upon the Kavod Shabbos inherent in the haircut--as we too show respect to the royal Shabbos Queen.

 

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

 

2.  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!

 

3. We had received the following from a reader: “A Kavannah before getting a haircut is ‘Beyomo Titein Secharo”--paying the barber on time.”

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ON LAG BAOMER:

 

1. It appears that even those who recite LaOmer when counting the Sefira every night, call today Lag BaOmer. A reader suggested that this is so because the celebration of Lag BaOmer originates from Tzefas (first found in Peri Eitz Chaim), and the Arizal’s Nusach was BaOmer.

 

2. 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.

 

3. 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!

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REBBI SHIMON BAR YOCHAI: As we all know, 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!

 

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17 Iyar

AN IMPORTANT SEFIRAH GEMATRIA: The Me’Afar Kumi by Rabbi Ronen Sharhabani, Shlita, wondrously points out that the Gematria of “Mepenei Shelo Nahagu Kavod Zeh Lazeh (661) is equal to the Gematria of Lashon Hara! Me’Afar Kumi is a weekly D’var Torah on the Parasha in Hebrew, and may be received weekly by email by sending a request to meafarkumi@gmail.com.

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COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS! This popular phrase asks us to “count our blessings”. In fact, however, while one can begin to count his blessings--we affirm each and every week in Nishmas that “Ein Anachnu Maspikim Lehodos Lecha…--U’levareich Es Shemecha Ahl Achas Meialef Elef Alfei Alaphim VeRibei Revavos Pe’amim HaTovos…” Simply stated, our blessings are uncountable! Whenever we have difficultly or pain in one aspect, we should try and look at the unlimited blessings we have in so many other areas of our lives. In fact, one can simply think about this phrase that he recites in Nishmas weekly on a daily basis!

 

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REMINDER--TEFILLAH AHL HEGEULAH! We once again remind our readers to remember the words of the Mesilas Yesharim, who teaches that the Tefillos of each and every person for the Geulah make a difference and are important. By the following links we once again provide the Tefillah Ahl HaGeulah http://tinyurl.com/2u3l4e  (Hebrew version) and  http://tinyurl.com/3ybyxq  (English version). Please recite it sincerely--today!

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EMUNAH APPLIED:  The Navi (Hosheiah 2:22) brings a touching Pasuk:  “V’Eirastich Li BeEmumah VeYada’at Es Hashem…[Hashem says:] I will betroth you to Me with Emunah, and you will know Hashem.”  Rabbi Yosef Eisen, Shlita, brings a fantastic Malbim on this Pasuk.  The Malbim explains that as a result of the Emunah that we demonstrate in this world, we will be zoche to ‘know Hashem’--He will reveal to us signs and wonders, and will cause the Shechina to dwell amongst us, so that we will no longer believe in Hashem, but rather will have a yedi’ah berurah--a tangible knowledge--felt and understood by our senses--of Hashem.  We will no longer have a Kabbalah, a tradition, regarding Hashem’s existence.  Instead, we will have a personal, clear, and direct awareness of His presence at all times.  Let us daven that we need not wait much longer! 

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FOR EVEN AN HOUR!  Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss, Shlita, related that he was once in the presence of HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, when HaRav Feinstein was reciting the bracha Asher Yatzar.  He noted that HaRav Moshe did recite the words:  “Afilu Sha’ah Achas” at the end of his bracha.  Rabbi Weiss questioned him as to why he did so--was this our Nusach?  HaRav Moshe responded that these words express unequivocal thanks to Hashem for his continued existence by the virtue of his being able to take care of his needs.  Rabbi Weiss asked:  “But don’t the words mean that we would not be able to exist even for an hour without taking care of needs--when in fact we can?”  HaRav Moshe responded that yes, one could exist--but to him life is Torah--and one could not learn if he was occupied or distracted by difficulties such as these!  Hakhel Note:  Even if it is not our custom to recite these words--let us appreciate the Afilu Sha’ah Achas inherent in the bracha described in Asher Yatzar!

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GEMILAS CHESED: Remarkably, the Rabbeinu Yonah (Sha’arei Teshuvah 3:15) writes that the cheit of not performing Gemilas Chesed is worse than stealing as is demonstrated by the Pasuk (Yecheskel 16:49): “Hinei Zeh Haya Avon Sedom Achoseich…VeYad Ani V’Evyon Lo Hichzikah”. According to Yecheskel--Sedom’s sin was not theft--but rather was not helping those in need. The clear message to us is that just as we daven and learn every day, we must be sure to perform Chesed every day as well. As we learn in Pirkei Avos (1:2) Shimon HaTzaddik teaches that the world stands on three things: Torah, Avodah and Gemilas Chasodim. We daven every morning thereby touching upon Avodah. We then learn for at least a few minutes after davening to fulfill the words of the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 155). After such a successful beginning to the day--Torah and Avodah, it should behoove us as well to perform an act of Chesed before one otherwise gets involved in his regular day-to-day activities. That act of Chesed could simply be a Kepitel Tehillim for one designated person, a special gift of Tzedaka, a short conversation with someone who needs Chizuk or taking care of something for someone else. In order to strengthen our Chesed--in anticipation of the summer months when there is a tendency in the world-at-large to become more self-centered, we will be providing a short series from the Sefer Kuntres Chaim V’Chesed by HaRav Kolodetsky, Shlita, of Bnei Brak.

 

PART 1

 

A. If one has a child in another city who he knows is having some difficulties, he would certainly want someone in that city to assist his child through his situation. Hashem is our Father--and His children are here walking, working and living side-by-side. It gives great Nachas Ruach to Hashem when He sees you trying to quell the distress of another, and certainly when you bring him into a more joyful mood!

 

B. Hashem did not need to create the world with some in-need and some not in-need. The world exists in this form in order for Chesed to be performed--which in turn will arouse Hashem’s Chesed from the heavens--certainly infinitely greater than the Chesed we provide!

 

C. When a person comes over to others in the morning with a hearty “Boker Tov/Good Morning!” and a smiling face--especially in his own home--he promotes harmony and happiness among his family and/or among his people, and helps provide a positive direction to the day for others.

 

D. When one makes it a goal to conduct himself pleasantly and happily with his family, he fulfills a separate Mitzvah of U’MeBesarecha Lo Tisaleim. Accordingly, Chesed to one’s family takes precedence over all other Chesed.

 

E. When a person gives the bracha of “Shalom” to his friend, he is blessing him with the name of Hashem which is “Shalom” (Gittin 61A, Rashi d’h V’Sho’alin)--enabling the Beis Din Shel Ma’alah to agree to the blessing. Additionally, when a person sees somebody engaged in work or in some other activity--he should give him a bracha of “Titzlach Melachtecha”--or the like. These words of direction were, in fact, given by Hashem to Moshe Rabbeinu when he came to Shomayim to receive the Torah! (Shabbos 89A, Rashi d’h L’Azreini)

 

A Final Note:  The Mesilas Yesharim (end of Chapter 19) writes, “Hakodosh Boruch Hu only loves those who love their fellow Jew, and the more one increases his love for fellow Jews, the more Hakodush Boruch Hu loves him. [We note the incredible statement of the Alter of Kelm (Kisvei HaSaba MiKelm page 13) that with V’ahavta L’reacha Comocha one can be m’kayem thousands of mitzvos a minute because for every single Jew that one loves, he is m’kayem a separate Mitzvas Aseh.  (Also see Yesod V’Shoresh Ha’Avoda 1:7-8).]  Many have asked, How can I properly fulfill the Mitzvas Aseh of V’ahavta L’reacha Comocha--How can I love someone else as much as myself?  Must I buy another a pair of shoes whenever I buy one for myself?  Rav Eliyahu Lopian, Z’tl, provides an incredibly practical guideline: The Mitzva is: Do for others what you would want them to do for you; and do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you.  This is the formula to apply in all of your life’s encounters (Lev Eliyahu, Bereishis, page 253).  Using this as your guideline, the following is a list of practical ideas for a person to grow in the great mitzva of Ahavas Yisrael:

 

1.                  Did you say hello to at least one person before they said hello to you?

 

2.                  Did you make someone smile or laugh today?  Did you boost someone’s spirits?

 

3.                  Were you truly happy to hear good news about a friend?  Even if you wish that the same good news would happen to you?

 

4.                  Did you judge someone favorably today?  Did you see people positively—-or did you sum up their lifestyle, pros and cons, with one glance of the eye?

 

5.                  How often did you find yourself talking about someone else?

 

6.                  Did you actually do any of the following?

 

a.      Visit a sick person

b.      Help the needy in some way

c.      Invite a guest without family in town for a Shabbos meal

d.      Patronize Jewish products and stores

e.      Help a single person find a Shidduch

f.      Sincerely ask Hashem to bring the Geulah for all of us

 

(This checklist is based largely on a checklist developed by the wonderful N’shei Ahavas Chesed of Brooklyn.)

 

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16 Iyar

TODAY--THE 16TH OF IYAR:  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 Shemone Esrei 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 in 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!).

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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 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.

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ASSET PRESERVATION:  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!

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STOP AND SMELL THE ROSES! Having recently made the Birchas HaIlanos, we B’EH have begun to reap the benefits of spring. One of them is the greater opportunity to recite Brachos over the wonderful world of fragrances around us.  As in the past at this time of year, we provide our readers with a ‘shmek’, a brief ‘fragrance’, from the wonderful Sefer Rei’ach Hasadeh-The Fragrant Field (by Rabbi Hanoch Slatin, Shlita; Feldheim Publishers, 2003):   

 

1.                  Appreciating Our Sense of Smell. One of the first times the Torah refers to the sense of smell is when Yitzchok Avinu appreciates the fragrance of his son Yaakov: “Look, the fragrance of my son, is like the fragrance of the field which Hashem blessed.” (Bereishis 27:27)  The Midrash explains that Yitzchok smelled Gan Eden--his sense of smell connected him with a world in another dimension!

 

2.                  The Brachos. There are five possible Brachos over fragrances.  Their sequence, in order of priority, is as follows:

 

a.                   Borei shemen arev — only on apharsemon oil

b.                  Hanosein re’iach tov bapeiros — only for fruits

c.                   Borei atzei v’samim — for all tree aromas

d.                  Borei isvei v’samim — for all grass aromas

e.                   Borei minei v’samim---for all other aromas over which a bracha is recited

 

Hakhel Footnote: In a sense, Borei minei v’samim is an omnibus bracha similar to shehakol neheya b’dvaro.

 

3.                  Priority in Brachos Recitation.  When one picks up a pleasant-smelling fruit with the intention to both smell it and eat it, which bracha should come first?  There is reason to assume that one should begin with the fragrance.  As the person picks up the fruit, the smell will reach his nose before he has a chance to eat the fruit, and if he does not say the bracha on the aroma first, he will be guilty of deriving pleasure from this world without first saying a bracha.  Many authorities follow this line of reasoning and instruct us to say the bracha on the smell first.

 

4.                  Aromatherapy:  Alternative medicine is a rapidly expanding area. Some people use various scents in order to improve their health.  People may smell a fragrance, or add them to massage oils or to their bath.  This practice is called aromatherapy.  If a person smells fragrances with no intention to enjoy their pleasant aroma, only to relieve himself of some illness, he should not make a bracha.  In practice, however, most people who employ aromatherapy also enjoy its fragrance on its own, and therefore they should recite the appropriate bracha.

 

Hakhel Footnote: As a matter of caution, one should first ask his Rav or Posek whether it is permissible to engage in aromatherapy per se, as different forms of alternative medicine have been linked to aspects of Avoda Zara.  It is a person’s absolute duty to determine that the source of his proposed form of therapy does not arise from the worshipping of other gods--something so foreign to individuals in the West that we may not initially consider it.

 

5.                  Black Pepper and Ginger: There is a difference of opinion among the authorities whether black pepper and ginger are to be considered besamim.  Therefore, the rule is that one should not make a bracha.  In order to avoid the transgression of enjoying this world without making a bracha, one should either refrain from smelling black pepper and ginger, or make a bracha on another fragrance and intend to include the pepper or ginger, as well.

 

6.                  Bread:  A similar question exists regarding picking up (or bending over) and smelling a fresh, warm loaf of bread.  There are authorities who maintain that bread is neither a pleasant-smelling fruit nor a bosem, and no bracha should be said on its smell.  Others rule that a bracha should be said on the smell of bread.  Even according to this view, there is a difference of opinion as to which bracha should be said.  Some say that the bracha hanosein rei’ach tov bapeiros is applicable, others insist that only the bracha borei minei v’samim applies, whereas still others require the recital of a special bracha hanosein rei’ach tov b’pas--Who puts a pleasant smell in bread.  Again, since a bracha  may or may not be required, one should not say a bracha and should refrain from picking up(or bending over) warm bread to smell it.  This refers only to warm bread; the smell of cold bread is not strong and pleasurable enough to require a bracha.  Also, unless the bread is picked up or set aside for the purpose of smelling it, no bracha is required, even on fresh, warm bread. (Like any aromatic fruit, no bracha is said unless one takes the fruit with intention to enjoy its smell.)

 

7.      Weak Appreciation: One who by nature has a weak sense of smell, or whose sense of smell has been temporarily weakened due to a cold and the like, should not recite a bracha on a scent which he does not sense keenly.  The same applies to one with a healthy sense of smell who does not enjoy a particular aroma.  He does not say a bracha on that particular smell, even if most people do derive pleasure from it.

 

8.                  Weak Aromas:  Some flowers and fruits may have a very weak smell.  A person may find that one orange does not have a noticeable fragrance, but that a bowlful of oranges does.  Unless there is an appreciable fragrance coming from the item in question, do not make a bracha.

 

9.                  Testing a Fragrance:  If one is in doubt as to how strong a smell a fragrance has, or whether or not the smell is pleasant, or whether or not his sense of smell is keen enough to be able to smell the fragrance properly, he may first smell it without a bracha as a trial.  If he finds the smell sufficiently strong and enjoyable, he should say the bracha and smell it a second time.

 

10.              Shabbos:  On Shabbos one of the forbidden activities is to harvest produce.  We are afraid that if one were to smell a fragrant fruit on a tree, he might want to eat that fruit and accidentally come to pick it.  Chazal therefore forbade one from smelling fruit on a tree on Shabbos.  There is no such concern about smelling a flower, as full enjoyment is derived from the flower without needing to pick it.  Therefore, one may smell growing flowers on Shabbos.  One must still be very careful to handle the plant gently.  If the plant is as soft as grass there is essentially no possibility of breaking it, so one may touch it.  If the branch of a tree is somewhat brittle, one should refrain from holding it. 

 

11.              In Havdala, one may use only those fragrances that normally require a bracha.  Hand soaps or bathroom deodorants never require a bracha, so they may not be used.  Many have the custom to use Hadassim (myrtle leaves) which were already used to fulfill the mitzvah of Lulav.  This is in keeping with the principle that an object used for one mitzvah is preferred over other objects to perform yet another mitzvah.  Myrtle branches usually require the bracha of borei atzei v’samim.  For Ashkenazim the text of Havdalah always uses the bracha of borei minei v’samim.  Therefore, it is advisable to also include some fragrance which normally requires a borei minei v’samim, such as cloves.  This is not true for Sephardim, as their custom at Havdala is to say whichever bracha is correct for the particular fragrance being used.  Since myrtle leaves dry out and lose their scent with time, one should be careful to replenish the spice box regularly.

 

12.              True Appreciation. The author of the Sefer Yesod V’Shoresh Ha’Avodah, in his Last Will, urged his children to acknowledge Hashem in their thoughts before partaking of any pleasure of the world, even with such pleasures as snuff, which requires no bracha.  Ideally, any benefit we derive from the world should be accompanied by some form of praise and gratitude to the One Who created so many varied pleasures for us.  Therefore, even when we are not permitted to make a formal bracha, our thoughts should be directed toward Hashem.

 

We hope you once again enjoyed this timely whiff from the Sefer Rei’ach Hasadeh!

 

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15 Iyar

IMPORTANT BRACHOS ALERT! We contacted the OU regarding the bracha to be recited on a Pita Chip product bearing the OU symbol. The OU’s position is as follows: “Pita Chips are Hamotzi. They are regular pitas that are seasoned and then baked again into chips.”

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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, Praying With Meaning (the recent work by Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, Shlita) or another similar work, or by utilizing the link provided on a daily basis throughout the week. 

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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

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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 fault 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!

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STRENGTHEN YOUR EMUNAH!  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!

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FROM MATZAH TO MON:  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, Z’tl, 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!

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A LIFE’S CHOICE:  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!

 

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12 Iyar

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

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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.

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

 

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!

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VEKIDASHTO: In this week’s Parasha, Emor, we find the distinctive Mitzvah of “Vekidashto”…and you shall sanctify the Kohen by treating him with a higher level of dignity and respect (Vayikra 21:8).  We provide our readers with our yearly review of this sometimes forgotten Mitzvah which needs our chizuk. The Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah 269) writes that this Mitzvah D’Oraysa applies at all times (not only when the Bais HaMikdash is standing), and furthermore that the Mitzvah applies equally to both men and women.  The Aruch HaShulchan (Orach Chayim 128:72) writes that there are opinions to be lenient in the Mitzvas Aseh of VeKidashto today because our Kohanim may not have clear “yichussei Kehuna” (evidence of lineage), but rejects this opinion with the strong words “VeCholila Lomar Kain U’Lehatil Dofi BeKedushas Kohanim--Heaven Forbid to say this and to cast aspersions on the holiness of our Kohanim!”  Accordingly, 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 (the Karbonos in the Bais HaMikdash), even though they cannot actually serve.  The Piskei Teshuvos (I:128:94) writes that, because it is a Machlokes among the Poskim and it is a Sofek D’Oraysa, we should be machmir, and treat both a Kohen who is physically disqualified from serving because of a 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 Bentching, being Motzi the Rabim with a Mitzvah, speaking first at any gathering, being the Shaliach Tzibbur and in taking first portions at a seudah.  See Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 167:14 and the Mishne 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 Mishne Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 128, seif katan 175) rules that a Kohen does have the right to waive your Vekidashto of him and perform tasks or services for you, but lechatchila only if he benefits from it by payment or in some other way.  In no event, however, writes the Mishne 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 Hora 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.  However, if the Kohen is a ba’al aveira in other areas, there is a Machlokes HaPoskim as to whether the heightened respect for his status as a Kohen would still apply.  See Piskei Teshuvos 1:128:97.

 

8.      The Chinuch writes that the reason for this special Mitzvah is to give honor to Hashem who chose the Kohanim to serve Him in very special ways…”for when one honors the King’s officers, he honors the King.”  Accordingly, the Chinuch continues, whenever we honor the Kohanim, we should have in mind that we are honoring Hashem.  In this zechus, the Chinuch concludes, Hashem will bring His brachos and goodness upon us, as He so much wants to do.

 

9.      Two Related Notes:

 

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

 

b.      An important point relating to Bircas Hakohanim--the Bi’ur Halacha (at the outset of Orach Chayim 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!

 

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CONTEMPORARY HARVEST REAPING: 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!

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

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

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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.

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THE YAHRZEIT OF REBBI MEIR: 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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11 Iyar

KEEPING SHABBOS IN OUR TIME: The following link is to an essential four (4) minute video produced by the Business Halacha Institute explaining how business owners can ensure that their operations are consistent with Hilchos Shabbos http://businesshalacha.com/en/audio-general/shabbos-initiative

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CHOOSE KINDNESS! “Hashem has created Kindness Coaches to enable us to reach our maximum potential. They are known as the people in need.  They help us clarify our vision and goals, keep us focused, do our best, and live up to Torah values. They can help us double our giving time….As Chazal teach, when you give a tenth to charity, you will become wealthier and able to continue giving more….” Hakhel Note: We, as a people of Gomlei Chasodim, not only perform acts of kindness, but understand that we must continuously strive for greater and greater heights. We must be extremely appreciative and respectful of the Coaches--as we join together in providing Hashem with Nachas from His beloved children! [From “Choose Kindness” by Rabbi Moshe Goldberger, Shlita]

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THREE IMPORTANT LESSONS FROM THE CHOFETZ CHAIM:

 

1. The Sefer Otzros HaTorah (Sefiras HaOmer, page 389) provides a remarkable incident that occurred to HaRav Bentzion Krenfus, a close talmid of the Chofetz Chaim, who was often in his home. Once when he entered the Chofetz Chaim’s home he saw him sitting and crying profusely. He immediately asked the Chofetz Chaim what was wrong. The Chofetz Chaim responded: “I just completed learning the Sefer Raishis Chochma and I learned there that if someone suffers bizyonos in this world--then the amount of gehenom that he must otherwise be subjected to can be greatly reduced. I am crying for myself--why have I been punished by not having to suffer bizyonos in this world--which would save me so much punishment in the next?!

 

Hakhel Note: How we must treasure the shame, the degradations, the insults that we are zoche to receive.

 

2. The wise person realizes that his battle with the Yetzer Hara is a battle against a ganav--the Yetzer Hara is out to steal one’s most precious possessions--his time and his Torah. Teshuvah is re-taking that which the Yetzer Hara has stolen from the person.

 

Hakhel Note: Do not make yourself into your own victim!

 

3.  Every morning we recite about the Torah: “Vechayei Olam Natah B’Socheinu”. Additionally, every night we recite: “Ki Heim Chayeinu”. There are many Jewish people who are alive and know little or no Torah. If one who does not study much (or perhaps as much as he should) wants to be considered alive--he should do his utmost to support those who do study Torah, and it will be considered as if he was learning Torah--and he too will be breathing the life-giving air of Torah (see Shulchan Aruch Yoreh De’ah 246).

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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10 Iyar

B’TZEDEK TISHPOT AMISECHA! In last week’s Parasha (Vayikra 19:15), we learned B’Tzedek Tishpot Amisecha--we are to judge our friends favorably.  What if we do not? We provide several points:

 

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!

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A PRACTICAL REVIEW OF CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM: Hochayach Tochiach Es Amisecho, V’lo Siso Alov Chait--You shall rebuke your fellow man, and you shall not bear sin because of him.” (19:17)  We are commanded to correct someone who behaves improperly, whether in matters pertaining to man’s relations with G-d or man’s relationship with his fellow man. Once again, Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita, provides the following essential guidelines:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

*You must be very careful not to grow angry when rebuking someone.  Rebuke delivered in anger will not be heeded.  Even when you admonish your children or other members of your family, you should do so in a pleasant tone of voice.

 

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

 

*If a person you have rebuked did not heed you the first time, you should continue to rebuke him as many times as necessary until he corrects his ways.  The Talmud says “Even a hundred times”.  The Chofetz Chaim gives an analogy to someone who sells apples from a stand.  He will keep calling out “Apples for sale!” the entire day.  Even if only one passerby in a hundred heeds his sales pitch, it is worthwhile.  This is his livelihood, and he cannot afford to remain silent.  The same is true of rebuke.  Of course, a person does not always effect a change in the recipient of his rebuke.  But even if he is successful only occasionally, it is worth his efforts.

 

*A person should feel love for someone who rebukes him.  A person is willing to pay a doctor for trying to heal him; how much more grateful should he be to someone who corrects his spiritual failings.

 

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

 

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

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THE POWER OF A WORD: In explaining the 231st Mitzvah, found in last week’s Parasha, 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 once again 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)

 

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9 Iyar

 

THE SHIDDUCH CHECKLIST: As we all know, it is not only what you say--but how you say it. It is certainly a great Mitzvah to redt Shidduchim. By the following link http://tinyurl.com/z2hc8jn  we provide helpful guidelines in redting a Shidduch properly and effectively.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY:  The following is excerpted from the remarkable, must-go-through Sefer The Power of Teshuvah, by Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, Shlita (Artscroll, p. 168-169):  “Kabbalos are effective because they impart new levels of strength to a person.  When one makes a definite commitment, Hashem eases his path to assist him. These resolutions should, however, be employed carefully - only for flaws we are truly motivated to repair - and wisely, with realistic resolutions that we have the capacity to keep.”

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BRACHOS OVER ‘NATURAL’ EVENTS: We once again especially provide Halachos below relating to Hashem’s messages from nature to us. The basis for the Halachos below is Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, Chapter 227 and the Mishna Berurah there, the Sefer Shoneh Halachos and the Sefer Piskei Teshuvos on this Chapter in Shulchan Aruch.  We specifically note that one should, of course, consult with his Rav for the final Halacha.  We present the following for an understanding of the issues:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

D.     When in the middle Birchas HaMazon.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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8 Iyar

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

 

Hakhel Note--Received From a Reader: “Concerning memorizing the seven conditions to permit what would otherwise be considered Lashon Hara, I saw a helpful acronym to help one remember (from Rabbi Daniel Yaakov Travis, Shlita, Praying with Joy-Volume 3) : STARBUCKS

 

See - the incident yourself

Think - well into whether the subject definitely transgressed

Accuracy - do not exaggerate the details of the story

Reprove - the transgressor gently before speaking

Beneficial - intentions of the speaker

Utilizing - ways other than Lashon Hara to accomplish your goal

Causing - no more damage than Beis Din would rule

Keep

Seven above conditions or keep silent!”

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

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

 

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

 

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NAOMI AND RUS TODAY!  We are now only four weeks from the giving of the Torah in 5776.  The following is excerpted from the wonderful work Leading Jews Back by Rabbi Sholom Smith, Shlita, based upon the teachings of HaRav Avraham Pam, Z’tl: “What did Rus see in Naomi that impressed her so much?  The Midrash (Rus Rabbah 2:5) gives an explanation:  Why was she called Naomi?  Because her actions were sweet and pleasant Rus saw in Naomi what a life devoted to Torah and Avodas Hashem can do for a person.  She saw her sterling middos, her nobility of spirit, her warmth and caring personality.  That was what attracted Rus and motivated her to give up a life of ease and luxury and “return” to Yiddishkeit as a penniless, widowed convert, forced to live off the charity of others.  This is the enormous power a person with a pleasant, warm personality and good middos has on other people.  He attracts followers like a magnet and can have great influence on their lives. This is a proven method to bring closer to Yiddishkeit those who are estranged from the heritage of their forefathers.  While philosophical discussions and intellectual discourses are certainly tools in bringing Ba’alei Teshuvah back to their roots, a critical factor is to show how the ways of Torah are pleasant and all its pathways are peace (Mishlei 3:17) This has the drawing power to influence people to a Torah way of life.  Derech Eretz precedes Torah (Vayikra Rabbah 9:3).  This concept underlines the vital importance of Torah Jews conducting themselves with the utmost courtesy and respect in their interpersonal relationships.  They must not forget that wherever they go--whether in the business or professional world, or as neighbors or friends--they represent the Torah One does not have to be a Rabbi or kiruv professional to influence others.  Every Torah Jew presents an image to those around him which, depending on his conduct, will either bring others closer to Yiddishkeit or, c’v, cause estrangement from it.  It is a responsibility that should not be taken lightly.  This can be seen by the great influence one woman (Naomi) has on another (Rus), which set into motion the chain of events which led to the founding of Malchus Bais Dovid and planted the seeds of Moshiach.

 

Hakhel Note:  Let us start somewhere--do you smile in order to benefit the next person (whom you do not know) when passing by, or on elevators or entrances in stores and office buildings?...

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KAVOD IMPROVEMENT SUGGESTIONS: It is obvious that improving our respect for each other is a key feature of our Sefira Period.  Set forth below are a number of important suggestions culled from Mussar Seforim.  We welcome your additional insights or improvement in this crucial area during this timely period:

 

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

 

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

 

3. Be free with compliments, and loving with constructive criticism.  

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

9.    Do not yell, scream, or speak coarsely but speak gently, remember that you are speaking to a member of Hashem’s Royal Household!

 

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

 

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5 Iyar

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

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INSPIRE YOURSELF--From a Reader: “To inspire myself before davening, I sometimes think of the words of Tehillim which so strongly state how our Tefillos are answered:  “Hashem Elokai Shivati Eilecha Vatirpa’eini--Hashem, my G-d,  I cried out to You and You healed me (Tehillim 30:3) …Tza’aku VeHashem Shome’ah U’Mekol Tzarosam Hitzilam--they cried out and Hashem heard, and saved them from all of their troubles.(Tehillim 34:18).  We have to know that are Tefillos are really listened to!”

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MISSIONARY ALERT! From A Reader:  “A package containing a CD and a small booklet was left on my door by a Christian missionary group called Israel Restoration Missionaries, a group in California. The package says “A Gift Prepared Especially for You: Israel Restoration.” Parents should be warned to trash it immediately and protect children from listening or reading this misguided material. On the website the Israel Restoration Missionaries clearly reveal their goal to reach out “to lost Jews.”

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

Let us take these upcoming days before Shavuos to learn Torah with the effort and energy, with the exhilaration and enthusiasm, that it really, truly deserves!

 

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WE CONTINUE OUR EREV SHABBOS—HILCHOS SHABBOS SERIES: As always, one must consult his own Rav or Posek regarding his particular facts or circumstances.

 

A. The Tissue Box. Many tissue boxes, in addition to a perforated cardboard cover, also have underneath it a perforated plastic protective cover, which must be opened in order to reach the tissues. Opening the plastic on the perforation may actually involve three different Melachos: (i) Korei’ah, (ii) Mechateich; and (iii) Makeh B’Patish (see The 39 Melachos by Rabbi Dovid Ribiat, Shlita). While the simple act of opening on the perforation may take a second and can be done by children, it could truly involve the most serious of transgressions. Accordingly, one should take note to fully open all tissue boxes before Shabbos. Please assist your Shul, as necessary, in this regard--and let others know as well!

 

B. The follow rulings are from HaShabbos BeTifarta by Rav Avrohom Adas, Shlita of Yerushalayim, (Hebrew, and Volume 2):

 

a. [In a similar vein to what is mentioned above,] one may not rip a thin plastic table cloth from a roll—even if it is not on the perforation, because you have in all events prepared it for use (Koraya).

 

b. One may not utilize a one-time use bib by punching out the plastic of the head area (Koraya).

 

c. One may not separate a new pair of socks attached by a string, or remove price tags or cleaners tags which are sewn or stapled into clothing (Koraya). However, if they are merely hung from a plastic string, one can remove the tag, because it is not attached tightly, and its removal does not affect the clothing in the same way as something stapled or sewn, which is considered more intrinsically part of the clothing.

 

d. One may remove a Sefer that is tightly squeezed in a Seforim shrank, even though it is stuck to its adjoining Seforim—and one can put it back after use, even though it will again become stuck to its adjoining Seforim (it is clearly not one’s intent to attach or detach the Seforim).

 

e. If a silver polish was left on a Kiddush cup, it should not be rinsed off (Memachek).

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IT’S A RASHI!  We provide below several wonderful words of instruction from Rashi himself to this week’s Perek (2) in Pirkei Avos:

 

A.   Hevei Mechashev Hefsed Mitzvah K’neged Sechara--think of the loss from a Mitzvah in light of the gain:  The Mishna is teaching us that when one loses money in order to perform a Mitzvah, he should not be upset or saddened, as the reward in the future is great--the most basic cost-benefit analysis tells you to JUST DO THE MITZVAH! The reverse is true in aveirah performance--although the immediate pleasure is definite, immediate and direct--the future loss far, far outweighs it--DON”T DO IT!

 

B. Ahl Tomer... Shesofo LeHishame’a--do not say that I will listen to it later:  The Mishna is teaching us that if you can listen to a Devar Torah now--do it immediately--and do not put it off until later.

 

C. Lo HaBaishan Lomeid--the shamefaced person does not learn:  The Mishna is teaching us that one who does not ask questions when learning Halachos or other areas of Torah fulfils the words of Shlomo HaMelech in Mishlei (30:32) VeIm Zamosa Yad LePeh--it will be as if he put his hand in his mouth, and will know ‘kelum’-- nothing.

 

D.  Ahl Tehi Rasha Bifnei Atzmecha--do not be wicked in your own eyes.  The Mishna is teaching that one should not do something which even in a day or two will render a person a Rasha--in which he will say Loma Asisi Resha Zeh--why did I do this?!

 

E. Ashrei Yoladeto--happy is his [Rebbe Yehoshua’s] mother.  The Yerushalmi teaches that when Rebbe Yehoshua’s mother was expecting with him she went to the Batei Midrashos and asked the students to “Please daven for this child that he become a chacham.” The davening worked.  Hakhel Note: It is said that a Rosh Yeshivah in the New York area has asked interviewees to the Yeshiva during their farheir--Do you know how to become a Talmid Chacham--and eventually answers-- Do you know how? You must sincerely daven for it!

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100 RABBIS:  In this week’s Parasha of Kedoshim we find the fundamental prohibition against Loshon Hara, as the Torah adjures “Lo Selech Rochil BeAmecha –Do not be a gossiper among your people (Vayikra 19:16).The Sefer Sparks of Mussar relates the following incident with HaRav Naftoli Amsterdam, Z’tl, a great student of Rebbe Yisroel Salanter, Z’tl, who served as a Rav and Posek in various cities, including Moscow and St. Petersberg:

 

A Jew once came before him, asking him for “the permission of one hundred Rabbis” necessary to take a second wife without divorcing the first. In the course of talking, the man spoke badly of his wife. R’ Naftoli interrupted him and asked: “Have you already received the permission of a hundred rabbis to violate the prohibition of Lashon Hara?”

 

Hakhel Note: There is  a great lesson for us all here—there are many cases when you certainly may feel that Lashon Hora is warranted or justified—and that others will ‘expect you’ to speak Lashon Hara—before falling into the trap—make sure that you have the heter of at least one Rabbi to relate it! The phone number of the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation Shemiras HaLashon Shaila Hotline is 718-951-3696, and Poskim are available 9-10:30 pm New York time to answer both the easy-- and the difficult –real life Shemiras HaLashon questions that you may have.

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IN RESPECT OF RESPECT:  In this week’s Parasha of Kedoshim, we also find the great Mitzvah of “Mipnei Sayva Takum…” (Vayikra 19:32)--In the presence of an elderly person shall you rise, and you shall honor the presence of a Sage....

 

The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 244) rules that one must rise if a person over the age of 70 (even if unlearned, but provided he/she is not wicked) enters within your 4 amos (i.e., within 6-8 feet of you).  One should remain standing until he/she has passed from in front of you.  Respect does not only consist of rising, but also includes respectful words and a helping hand (ibid. 244:7).  Let us take a moment to reflect upon our diligence in the performance of this Mitzvah as it may apply in our own homes, in the homes of friends and relatives, in Shul, in doctor’s offices, and in the various situations that may present themselves to us throughout the day.  Let us also thank Hashem for giving us the opportunity to be in their presence (and having the opportunity to learn from them, if applicable)--and making it a Mitzvah on top of that!

 

Additional Note:  Some opinions hold that the minimum age to which respect must be accorded is actually 60 and not 70.

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TEACHINGS OF RABBI ZELIG PLISKIN, SHLITA:  We present below several important notes from Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita on the Parasha (citations and sources presented there have been omitted-please refer to this wonderful Sefer directly for further detail):

 

1.      Parashas Kedoshim begins with the words “Daber El Kol Adas Bnei Yisrael--speak to the entire congregation of Bnei Yisrael.”  The Chasam Sofer comments that to attain holiness one need not be isolated and withdrawn from the rest of society.  On the contrary, the Torah’s admonition here to be “Kedoshim--to be holy--was especially stated in front of the entire congregation. A person must learn how to sanctify himself by behaving properly amongst people!

 

2.       ”Lo Sa’ashok” (Vayikra 19:13)--the prohibition of withholding money.  In order not to be guilty of withholding someone’s wages, or payments due to a worker, you should always reach an agreement about payment before he begins doing the job.  Failure to decide on a price in advance usually leads to arguments later on, with the results that both sides feel cheated.  The Chofetz Chaim’s son wrote that his father would not ask someone to do any work for him without first reaching an agreement as to all the details of the job, including the price.  If for some reason they could not settle upon a price before hand, the Chofetz Chaim would pay whatever the worker later requested.

 

3.      “Lo Sikallel Chayreish” (Vayikra 19:14)--it is forbidden to curse even the deaf who are unable to hear the curse, all the more so is it forbidden to curse people who are able to hear.  Saying to someone “G-d should punish you” is a violation of this prohibition.  Note that it is considered using G-d’s name even when the name is not in Hebrew.  Although using G-d’s name constitutes a more serious offense, it is nonetheless forbidden to curse someone without using G-d’s name as well.  For example, it is forbidden to say “Drop d - - d” or the like to someone.

 

4.      “B’Tzedek Tishpot Amisecho” (Vayikra 19:15)--you shall judge your fellow man with righteousness.  In Yerushalayim, there is a group that regularly discusses practical ways to judge people favorably.  A member of the group gives true-to-life situations, and everyone else offers explanations that would present the person involved in a favorable light. For instance:

 

       I.            You did not receive an invitation to a wedding.  Possibilities:  A. Perhaps the person was under the impression that he had already sent you an invitation B. Perhaps he sent it to you and it was lost in the mail. C. Perhaps he cannot afford to invite so many people.

 

    II.            You are standing in a bus stop with a heavy load of packages, and a neighbor drives by in an empty car and does not offer you a ride. Possibilities: A. Perhaps he was only going a short distance. B. Perhaps he has already committed himself to pick up some other people. C. Perhaps he has a problem that weighed on his mind so heavily that he couldn’t think of anything else.

 

 III.            You are hoping someone would invite you to his house, but he failed to do so. Possibilities:  A. Perhaps someone in his family is ill. B. Perhaps he is planning to be away from home. C. Perhaps he did not have enough food in his house.

 

5.       ”Lo Sisna es Achicha Bilevovecha” (Vayikra 19:16)--you shall not hate your brother in your heart.  The Chofetz Chaim writes that if someone has embarrassed or humiliated you, you should not hate him.  Although he has committed a transgression, he has actually rendered you a service--for when a person suffers humiliation in silence, it atones for any sins he may have.  The situation is analogous to that which someone prepared a hot bath for you.  Although it may cause you some pain, it will also cleanse you.  Keeping this thought in mind should prevent feelings of hatred from arising.  There is a proven method of changing someone’s feelings of hatred towards you.  You should consider him as if he were righteous and treat him favorably.  In a very short time, that person will begin to like you.  Ravid HaZahav interprets this verse, “You shall not hate your brother BECAUSE of your heart.”  You might have a warm heart and do favors for others.  Nevertheless, if your friend lacks this trait, do not hate him for it.

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ONE FINAL THOUGHT: As we are instructed to be “Kedoshim” by our Parasha this Shabbos, let us pay special attention to, and try to instill just a bit more additional spirit of, Kedusha, in a real and tangible way…into tomorrow’s Shabbos Kodesh!

 

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4 Iyar

NEW CAMPAIGN TO SAY “GOOD MORNING” TO INCREASE ACHDUS:

 

If someone greets his friend with a pleasant face…it is considered as if he gave him all of the good presents in the world. (Avos D’Rav Nosson 13-4)

 

Be first to greet every person…by doing this all will love you and this is the greatest success that you can attain in this world (Pirkei Avos, Chapter 4, Mishna 15, Tiferes Yisrael)

 

For further information, or obtain ‘business cards’ to  hand out with this information, please call 347-522-5412 or 917-482-8697.

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FROM THINK HASHEM DAILY:

 

“Life is the only test

you can’t cheat on ;

everyone gets

his own unique paper”

 

Hakhel Note: To subscribe to Think Hashem Daily email: ThinkHashem@gmail.com.

 

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REMEMBERING:  Yesterday, we remembered our innocent brothers who have fallen at the hands of our enemies in Eretz Yisrael. With this in mind we note that in this week’s Parasha, Parashas Kedoshim, the Torah teaches “Venikdashti Besoch Bnei Yisrael” (Vayikra 22:32).  HaRav Chaim Kanievksy, Shlita was asked whether one makes a bracha before he is about to be put to death Ahl Kiddush Hashem.  HaRav Kanievsky responded that the Mitzvah of Kiddush Hashem is Mah SheHa’adam Muchan U’Moser Atzmo LaiHareig Al Kedushas Shemo Yisbarach--one fulfills the Mitzvah if he is prepared to give his life to sanctify Hashem’s name, even if in the end he is not killed.”  He continues that those who were killed by the Nazis Y’S or the Arabs Y’S, have the Zechus of Kedoshim, but would not make a bracha prior to their being murdered because they were killed against their will.  May all of the soldiers and civilians murdered continuously achieve new heights in Gan Eden, and be Melitzei Yosher for all of K’lal Yisrael.

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YOM HA’ATZMA’UT:  Upon request, we once again provide the following important note:

 

Today, Yom Ha’Atzma’ut, is celebrated in some of our communities (in various ways), and not celebrated in others.  We all know the different approaches and sentiments on the topic--and note that in the Third Beis Hamikdash described by Yecheskel there will be 12 entrances, for there can be different approaches to the one Avodah.  What we may add is that however one does or does not celebrate, observe or perform--it should be done in accordance with the teachings of his ultimate Rav or Posek.  There can be much misinformation or misguidance, and a person can conduct himself based upon what he believes to be correct, without further consultation--and this is the part that is wrong.  As a case in point, we may mention that HaRav Yosef Ber Soloveitchik, Z’tl, Rav of Boston, and Rosh HaYeshiva of RIETS, was in the Yeshiva on Yom Ha’Atzma’ut 5738 (1978)--one of the latter years of his giving Shiurim in the Yeshiva.  He davened Shacharis in the Morgenstern dormitory minyan, which davened with Hallel.  Later that morning, rather than giving Shiur on Perek HaZahav (the 4th perek of Bava Metziah which was being studied that Zeman in his Shiur), Rav Soloveitchik, obviously upset, instead gave Shiur on the importance of keeping the Tzuras HaTefillah intact.  Shemone Esrei is followed by Chazaras Hashatz, which is followed by Tachanun, and then followed by Ashrei and U’va Letzion--and we do not have the right or privilege of changing that, he opined.  Rav Soloveitchik continued that if one wanted to express his personal gratitude or thanks to HaKadosh Baruch Hu, he could recite the Chapters of Hallel in Tehillim (Chapters 113-118), without a bracha after davening.  Now, this is not to say that Rav Soloveitchik had a different opinion in earlier years or in later years (we do not know either way)--but it is to say that someone was not following his Rebbe if he knew what his opinion was at that time--and still recited Hallel in place of Tachanun in order to make his own personal statement.  On the other hand, if one’s final Halachic authority is the Rabbanut, his practice would be different.  This ruling will be different than that of the Badatz-Yerushalayim.  What does your ultimate Rabbinic authority say?  A person must look upwards for answers--not to himself, downwards or sideways.

 

The following is really true:  A person collecting tzedaka on behalf of a yeshiva in France, promoting Torah among more needy Sefardi families, was asked by a potential donor whether his yeshiva said Hallel on Yom Ha’Atzma’ut (we won’t reveal which way he wanted the answer to come out), and the answer would be the determining factor as to whether he received a donation.  The collector gave the “wrong” answer and was promptly escorted out empty-handed.  Would any Rabbinic authority make this one question the sole determining factor as to whether a Torah institution was to be supported or helped, even minimally?  We doubt it, but we suggest that if a potential donor has this ‘dilemma’, he should ask a Shaila rather than allow emotions or sentiments to override the Halacha one must follow as an Eved Hashem--which, by definition, is always the right thing to do.

 

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

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GUIDE TO DERECH ERETZ

PART II

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

   

11. Benefits of speaking gently:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

19.  Entering and Exiting:

 

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

 

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

 

20.  Additional Rules of Derech Eretz:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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3 Iyar

LE’OSEH NIFLA’OS GEDOLOS!  Moving deeper into the springtime as Hashem’s creations bloom around us, we dare not forget one of the great lessons of Pesach --Le’oseh Nifla’os Gedolos Levado Ki L’Olam Chasdo--Who alone performs great wonders, for His kindness endures forever (Tehillim 136:4). As we see the marvels of the flowers blooming, the trees budding and the grass growing--we must realize that it is not only the Ten Makkos, the Splitting of the Sea, the Ananei Kavod and the Mon which were extraordinary miracles, but that which we call ‘nature’ is most definitely extraordinary as well. The only real difference between the Ten Makkos and the Splitting of the Sea--and the five different shades of green on the bushes and trees in front of you--is that the former are Nissim Geluyim, and the latter are Nissim Nistarim. Let us take the time to marvel at Hashem’s world. Especially at this time of year, as we see this wonder, that spectacle, and those phenomena, let us get used to exclaiming with joy Le’oseh Nifla’os Gedolos Levado Ki L’Olam Chasdo!

 

Hakhel Note: HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, notes that the Chovos HaLevavos first teaches the Sha’ar Habechina (the study of Hashem’s wonders) and only then teaches the Sha’ar Avodas Elokim--because we first have to appreciate Who Hashem is and what He does before we can properly serve Him!

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

 

PART I

 

1.  Derech Eretz can be defined as a type of behavior that will be acceptable by one’s society and which is geared towards making people happy, as the Mishna [in this week’s Perek] states: “Which is the proper path one should choose?  One that is pleasing to the one who performs it and is pleasing to others” (Avos 2:1)

 

2.  The Maharal writes that one must offer greetings even to a willful transgressor of sins--otherwise the sinner will wrongly conclude that the Torah advocates scorning ignorant

people. This in effect profanes the name of Hashem.

 

3.  Mesechta Derech Eretz describes the degree of humility one should strive to achieve: ‘‘One should be as the threshold upon which everyone treads, and as the peg which people use for hanging objects” (Derech Eretz Zuta, ch. 1). What this really means is that one is obligated to tolerate others--even if they do not consider him worthy of respect. The Midrash adds, “Be lowly before everyone, especially before members of your household.... Be as the threshold upon which everyone treads, for eventually the house will collapse, but the threshold will remain untouched” (ibid. ch. 3).

 

4.  Tolerance leads to peace and to new friendships, and precludes anger.  “A pious man was once asked, ‘To what do you attribute people’s affection for you?’  He answered, ‘Because I always consider other people to be better than I. ‘” (Orchos Tzaddikim, Sha’ar Ha’anavah).

 

5.  It is told that one of Rabbi Yisrael Salanter’s disciples once complained to him that his efforts to do chessed for his wife were not appreciated by her. R’ Yisrael responded, “Know that performing an act that you think is beneficial for your wife, or giving her something that you think she is lacking, is not yet considered chessed; rather, chessed is the performance of an act that she considers beneficial, and the giving of something that she feels she is lacking.”

 

6.  One is obligated to do chessed for a person he dislikes before doing so for a person he loves. It is questionable whether a person whom one dislikes takes precedence over one’s relative (Ahavas Chessed, Sec. 1, Ch. 4).

 

7.  It is stated in Mesechta Derech Eretz Zuta (ch. 5): “A person should not be awake amongst those who are sleeping, nor sleeping amongst those who are awake; cry amongst those who laugh, nor laugh amongst those who cry; sit amongst those who stand, nor stand amongst those who sit. In general, a person’s behavior should not be at variance with other people’s behavior.” This idea is derived from Moshe Rabbeinu’s example, as R. Tanchum Ben Chanilai said: ‘A person should not deviate from the custom--Moshe ascended to the Heavens and he did not eat bread; the angels descended [to visit Avraham Avinu] and they did eat bread’ (Bava Metzia 86b). This concept has halachic ramifications. The Mishnah states: “In a city where the custom is to work on Erev Pesach until noon , work may be performed. In a city where the custom is not to work, work may not be performed....But one should not deviate from the local custom if this will lead to dispute” (Pesachim 50a).  The reason for this ruling, that a visitor is obligated to preclude dispute by conforming to local custom, is that people are not able to tolerate ideas and customs different from their own, and such differences can lead to dispute.

 

8.  Chazal teach: Love your friend as yourself’ is a general rule throughout Torah” (Yerushalmi Nedarim 9:4). Through his love for others one will refrain from causing them physical or emotional pain; in fact he will work for their benefit and behave towards them with derech eretz. Orchos Tzaddikim writes that it is possible to train oneself to feel love for people.  This can be achieved by fulfilling the following codes of behavior:

 

A) Speak gently. If someone embarrasses or misleads you, do not reciprocate.

 

B) Share other people’s burdens and refrain from increasing their suffering. Never conduct heated arguments with others.  Welcome everyone joyously and with a friendly facial expression, since a friendly expression strengthens bonds of love.

 

C) Soothe people who feel worried or angry.

 

D) Honor others, both verbally and through your actions.  Never act in a haughty manner with anyone; instead, yield to the will of others.

 

E) Refrain from passing judgment on others; instead, look for the merit in other people’s actions.

 

F) Conduct all transactions honestly.

 

G) Strive to benefit others, not to benefit from others.

 

H) Extend help to others, both physically and monetarily. Refrain from miserliness.

 

I) Avoid speaking in a derogatory manner about others, and refrain from listening to others speak negatively about people.

 

Hakhel Note:  Perhaps one can consider reviewing the above nine pointers (A-I) at the beginning or end of his day--to motivate him or see how he fared.

 

9.  Although the obligation to carry on friendly relations with one’s neighbor is great, one must not visit a neighbor too often, since overly frequent visits will eventually cause the neighbor to dislike the visitor.  Concerning this idea, the verse says, “Let your foot be seldom in your neighbor’s house, lest he will be weary of you and dislike you” (Mishlei 25:17).  Rashi explains that just as eating an overabundance of honey makes one feel like vomiting, so, too, frequent visits causes the host to revile the visitor. Metzudos David writes that love between people increases when they are absent from each other, whereas overly frequent visits have the opposite effect.

 

10.  From Moshe Rabbeinu, we learn how far Derech Eretz extends.  Before accepting upon himself the commandment to go to Mitzrayim and redeem the Jewish people, Moshe Rabbeinu said to Hashem, “Master of the Universe! I cannot fulfill Your commandment, since Yisro welcomed me and opened his door to me, and I am as a son to him.  A person who is shown hospitality is eternally indebted to his host.” Thus, Moshe refused to embark on his journey without first receiving Yisro’s permission. From this we learn that one act of derech eretz takes precedence over the redemption of the entire Jewish People!

 

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2 Iyar

WELCOME BACK AMIRAS TACHANUN!  After a month of not reciting Tachanun, let us recite these great words of supplication--which incredibly include the words of AVINU MALKEINU CHANEINU VA’ANEINU KI AIN BANU MA’ASIM--ASEH IMANU TZEDAKA VACHESED V’HOSHIAINU (the last Avinu Malkeinu recited in the Aseres Yemei teshuva and on Fast Days)--with a renewed intensity and fervor--pleading with Hashem to shower us with his unlimited mercy--and the Geulah Sheleima in our day!

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FOR THOSE STUDYING DAF YOMI BHALACHA: You can receive an outstanding daily email from Dirshu on that day’s Mishna Berurah Yomi study. To subscribe, email: daf-hayomi-behalacha@dirshunj.org. For additional information, including live shiurim worldwide, audio and video Shiurim recordings, optional bechinos, one may also call 1-888-5-Dirshu.

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FROM PARTNERS IN TORAH--IMPORTANT INFORMATION: By the following link http://tinyurl.com/mm7t4z8 we provide sensitive information which is important to your not-yet-religious contacts providing important distinctions between cremation and burial. We note that the peacefulreturn.org site was developed with this in mind as well.

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MODIM! The outstanding Sefer Praying with Meaning (Artscroll, Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, Shlita’s latest publication), which proceeds through Tefillas Shacharis in 89 powerful and practical daily lessons, provides the teaching of the Avudraham, who writes that the Gematria of Modim is 100--representing the 100 daily brachos in which we should express our daily thanks to Hashem!

 

Hakhel Note: The Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 127: 1), seif katan 5, writes that “haolam nohagim” when responding to Modim D’Rabbanan in Shemone Esrei to remain bowed throughout. The Chazon Ish, Z’tl and HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, y’blcht, however, follow another minhag mentioned in Shulchan Aruch which is to bow at the outset of Modim D’Rabbanan, and at its end (Ahl She’anachnu Modim Lach…), but not during the entire recital (ibid., Dirshu Note 7). Accordingly, one should follow his Rav’s direction in this area.

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WILL IT BE ACCEPTED?  In a publication containing the teachings of HaRav Moshe Shmuel Shapiro, Z’tl, it is reported that whenever HaRav Shapiro offered words of rebuke or mussar, it would only be presented if it could be done in a way ‘Ki Heichi Delekablu Minei’--so that the words of advice, guidance or constructive criticism would be accepted by the party it was addressed to.  With this stated goal in mind, there would be no words of admonition or instruction uttered in annoyance or anger, or containing bites of derision, cynicism or sarcasm--for although these kinds of expressions could vent frustration--they certainly would not be accepted by another....What a simple and shining standard to use for words to help another –Ki Heichi Delekablu Minei’-- so that they truly accomplish their goal!

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REMINDER! The Sefer Tallelei Oros brings from the following “Eitzah Ne’emana” (Trustworthy Advice) taught by the HaRav Leib Chasman, Z’tl in the Sefer Ohr Yahel: “If one finds himself chas veshalom in a tzara, he should take a neder to not satiate his desire in a particular manner which is otherwise permissible to him, and with this he will be assured of a having obtained a ‘zechus gadol’ to be saved ....” Hakhel Note: HaRav Chasman is not requiring unrelenting abstinence--he is advising to select something permissible and simply not satiate yourself with it--because you--and not your Yetzer Hora--are in charge of your life!

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ASEH TORASECHA KEVAH! We learned this famous phrase in Pirkei Avos (1:15) last week. We would typically understand it to mean that one should be ‘Kove’a Itim LaTorah’. Rashi, on this Mishna, however, specifically writes that this is not the meaning of these words. Rather, continues Rashi, Torah is to be our keviyus the entire day--it is the keva--and anything else we do the rest of the day are ‘inserts’ into our keviyus of the day! What a powerful message!

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MORE ON REFUAH IN IYAR: Regarding the acronym of the word Iyar as ‘Ani Hashem Rofecha,’ we received the following from a reader:  “I also wanted to add that Rabbi Zechariah Wallerstein always says that when the rain comes in Iyar, you open your mouth and let it in, and just feel that Hashem is healing your whole body.  It is an amazing thing to do--I’ve been doing it every year since he said it.”  Hakhel Note One:  If you choose to do this, you should consult with your Rav as to if and when a Bracha may first be required.  Hakhel Note Two:  It is interesting to note that Matzah is referred to as the healing bread or healing food.  One may therefore suggest that the reason we are not commanded to eat Matzah the whole year (and forbidden to eat Chometz, as part of our Kashrus observance) is because once we have taken medication and been healed, there is no need to take the medication any further.  However, we do not then proceed directly into the rest of the year without anything more--but are then especially treated to the special healing qualities inherent within the month of Iyar!  Ashreinu Mah Tov Chelkeinu--Oh how great is our lot!

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RULINGS FROM HARAV CHAIM KANIEVSKY, SHLITA, ON SEFIRAS HAOMER:

 

QUESTION:  Is there a Mitzvah of Chinuch on counting Sefira as very often the children will be asleep at night when you want to count with them? 

ANSWER:  For Chinuch purposes, one can count with them during Bein HaShemashos, before they go to bed.

 

QUESTION:  Should girls count with a Bracha?

ANSWER:  The Mishna Berura rules they should not, lest they forget counting for a day (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 489; seif katan 3).  However, if there is a real basis for reminding them nightly it is permitted for them to count with a Bracha, as in the Steipeler’s home, the girls would make a Bracha, because the Steipeler himself would remind them every night.

 

QUESTION:  Can a barber stay open during Sefira for non-religious Jews if their alternative would be to go to a barber who would use a razor?

ANSWER:  It is not permissible, and it is not the religious barber’s responsibility if they would violate other Issurim as a result of his not servicing them, for if he does service them he himself would be violating a ‘lifnei iveir’ kind of aveira relating to Sefiras HaOmer.

 

Hakhel Note:  The Aruch HaShulchan (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 492) brings from the Zohar to Parashas Tetzaveh that the primary reason that we stand during Sefiras HaOmer is because Sefiras HaOmer is comparable to Shemone Esrei itself(!).  We should realize the extraordinary importance of Sefira every night just from the fact that the one-sentence count is surrounded in the Siddur by prayers before and after (whether or not you actually recite them). 

 

Reminder!:  To inspire yourself here, do not allow yourself to count the Sefirah by heart.  Instead, read each and every word of the bracha and count from a Siddur.

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PARASHAS KEDOSHIM LESSON ONE:  Chazal teach:  “Yofeh Shesika Lechachomim Kal Vechomer Letipshim--silence is beautiful for the wise all the more so for the unwise.” As we approach the Parasha of Kedoshim which contains so many Mitzvos relating to proper speech, we should do so with an uplifted sense of our power of speech--oh how it is important to use in many situations--and how important it is to refrain from using in many situations.  This is the perfect time to practice circumspection and judiciousness in our speech, particularly with people as to whom one has fallen prey to forbidden speech within the past.  In our times, we have newfound modes of speech--email and texting. We should treat these new methods of communication with the same level of care as the uttered word--for they also truly express the inner makings (and hopefully, sanctity) of one’s self. The Ona’as-Devarim free and Lashon Hara free mode and the dignity, clarity, care and concern of the written word should shine forth from one’s cell phone or computer. HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, taught many years ago relating to regular phones that ‘the party on the other end should be able to feel and appreciate your warm smile!’  We should be able to say the same for our texts and emails as well!

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PARASHAS KEDOSHIM LESSON TWO:  The Ben Ish Chai raises the following question.  There are ten birds on a roof.  A hunter successfully traps four of the birds.  How many birds are left on the roof?  In fact, the Ben Ish Chai writes, there will be four birds left on the roof, because the other six would have flown away while the hunter was trapping the other four.  The analogy he draws is to money that a person spends in this world.  The money that is well-spent on Mitzvos and Ma’asim Tovim flies nowhere--it will remain with the person forever and ever.  On the other hand, money improperly spent or squandered flies away and has no everlasting--or even lasting--relationship with the person.  Let us take the Ben Ish Chai’s thought a step further.  How could money which is appears to be a purely material, Olam Hazeh kind of item be transported into Olam Haba?  HaRav Aaron Kotler, Z’tl, teaches that the “Kedoshim Ti’heyu” required by this week’s Parasha is not the holiness of Malochim or of people who separate themselves from others, but rather it is elevating the materialism of Olam Hazeh to Kedusha of Olam Haba.  Money, then, becomes an invaluable resource--a source of Kedusha for our Olam Haba--all based upon how we use it in this world.  To some, money is a source of evil.  To others, it is a necessary evil.  To us, however, it is and should be a source of eternity.  Every dollar for a Mitzvah, every check for Tzedaka is a fulfillment of a Kedoshim Ti’heyu--which will last forever!

 

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1 Iyar

LOOKING UP!  As we begin the ninth month of the year 5776--we should realize that we still have almost 40% of the year ahead of us for reaching new heights in our kabbalos and in our personal growth.  It’s a great day for cheshbon hanefesh--after all, the glass is still more than one-third full!

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

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

 

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

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A TIME FOR HEALING!  The Sefer Ta’amei HaMinhagim (page 251) writes that our new month of Iyar is tried and tested as a time for refuah, healing, from the ailments and pains that may affect a person.  Why is this so?  The B’nai Yissaschar, who teaches that most weakness and illness come from foods which do not comport with the person’s nature or composition.  The Rambam (Hilchos De’os 4:15) writes likewise.  See also Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Chapter 32. Since the Mon began to fall in this month (on the 16th day of Iyar 2448)--and it was a perfect food from which resulted no sickness, pain or even waste matter (as Dovid HaMelech refers to it in Sefer Tehillim--”Lechem Abirim”) and even cured those who were ill--Hashem left the curative nature of the month in effect even through today.  Accordingly, Iyar is a time of “segulah l’refuah”.  In fact, the Ta’amei HaMinhagim notes, the name “Iyar” is an acronym for Ani Hashem Rofecha--I am Hashem, Your Healer.

 

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

 

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

 

ADDITIONAL NOTE: A reader wrote the following to us:   Rabbi  Nachman of
Breslov writes that the word IYAR is Roshei Taivos of the words  ”Oyvai
Yoshuvu Yaivoshu Roga,” thus indicating that the month of IYAR is  conducive to
see a Mapala for the enemies of K’lal Yisrael!” Hakhel Note: When  reciting
Tachanun during this month we should have especial Kavannah when  reciting
these words--that they come to immediate reality!

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FROM A PRAYING WITH FIRE 2 READER: In a related vein to our concept of refuah, we received the following: “I just wanted to share with you one of the many, many things I learned from this incredible Sefer. It taught me that when I have a headache –my first reaction should not be—where is the Tylenol, so that I can take two Extra Strengths and it will go away. I really had always thought that that was the right reaction. No, the RIGHT REACTION is “Hashem you gave me the headache--I acknowledge that (do teshuva for something, if necessary), and then daven to Hashem that the headache go away. Then--take the Tylenol--and remember that it is not the Tylenol taking away the headache--it is Hashem, and the Tylenol is his shaliach through the teva, through nature and cures he has provide to us in this world.”

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FROM A READER--NEW ROUND OF MIDDOS CHALLENGES - STARTING THIS WEEK! “A new round of Middos Challenges will be starting this week, focusing on how to develop deeper Bitachon in Hashem. Every week, you will receive a brief insight into bitachon, creativity challenges, and Torah questions to help integrate the middah into your daily life. Participants can earn points by completing the challenges each week, and the winners at the end of each month receive a prize. Perfect for family discussions at your Shabbos table! To sign up click here. To see past emails click here. For more information, email MiddosChallenges@gmail.com.”

 

Hakhel Note: Perhaps the greatest lesson of the month of Nissan is Emunah--acknowledging Hashem’s omniscience, omnipotence and Hashgacha Pratis--and putting our lives and everything about us in Hashem’s sacred trust. Succinctly stated--’Ain Od Milevado--He is the Source of Everything’. As a starting point, to reinforce this most basic of our beliefs, and to carry that special feeling of the month of Nissan with you throughout the year, may we add that you recite every morning--or at least once a week--the Segula Nifla’ah [“The Wondrous Segula”]--as written by none other than HaRav Chaim Volozhiner, Z’tl in the Sefer Nefesh HaChaim--which we provide by the following link http://www.hakhel.info/archivesPublicService/SegulahGedolah.pdf

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DAF BAIS: As we move closer to Kabbalas HaTorah, we are reminded of the teaching of HaRav Shimshon Dovid Pincus, z’tl: Why is it that each Mesechta begins on Daf Bais—what happened to Daf Aleph?! Rabbi Pincus answers that this is to remind us  that we must  first ‘open our eyes’ and consider what we are about to learn—something holy, something special, something passed on for more than 3,300 years, something eternal, something that is life-giving—both in this world and in the next.  Could there be anything more worthwhile, more essential, more privileged, more exhilarating—perhaps we should hum or sing “Ashreinu Ma Tov Chelkeinu”  at least once a day before learning!

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FROM A READER ON THE ‘ZUGOS’ OF REBBI AKIVA:  “Chazal relate: ‘Shnaim Asar Elef Zugos Talmidim Haya Lo L’Rebbi Akiva V’lo Nohagu Kavod Zeh Bazeh--Rebbi Akiva had 12,000 pairs of students who did not conduct themselves respectfully with each other.’  Why do Chazal say that Rebbe Akiva had 2 times 12,000 talmidim?  Why not just say that he had 24,000 students that were not respectful to each other?? The answer may be that, of course, when they were all together in the dining room and one asked the other to pass the Corn Flakes, or when saying “Good Morning or “Good Night”,  they were all very gracious and answered with a smile.  But that’s not where the true test was.  The test presents itself when two chavrusos sit down for hours together and one comes up with a good “Kashe--question” or a “S’vorah--line of reasoning” that is enlightening--is it accepted graciously?  When one pours out his heart to the other about a difficult situation that he is going through is the other empathetic--or is his mind elsewhere?  The same is true in relationships between spouses, siblings, etc.  Chazal here are not referring to dealings by and among acquaintances.  They are referring to the close relationships between “Zugos”, people close to each other, those we perhaps take for granted.  That’s the true test of “Noheg Kovod Zeh Bazeh”.”

 

Hakhel Note: There are now only approximately five (5) weeks left to the Omer…try to apply this lesson every day until Shavuos!

 

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28 Nissan

YOUR OWN PERSONAL HAKARAS HATOV INITIATIVE: When you don’t receive the thanks and appreciation for something that you believe you deserve--what is a possible message or lesson for you?

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HAVE YOU MADE YOUR LIST YET OF LESSONS FROM PESACH--and how you will implement at least some of them in your daily life?  If not now--when--don’t just go through Pesach--make Pesach go through you!

 

In this vein, we provide the following final post-Pesach practical daily points:

 

A. Recite Birchos HaShachar with enthusiasm [Heard from Rabbi Yosef Eisen, Shlita].

 

B. When reciting the word Halelukah in Shacharis--feel the word, and appreciate all that Hashem does for you--and that you are able to thank Him for it!

 

C. When reciting Borei Nefashos, have in mind not that it is an ‘easy, quick bracha’--but that it is a bracha which concisely thanks Hashem for the specific food or drink that you have just partaken of, and recognizes further that He blesses you with an overabundance--even more than what you need! (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 207, Mishna Berurah Seif Katan 5)

 

D. When reciting Ahl HaMichya--recognize that you are uniquely davening Ahl Mizbechecha--for the Mizbei’ach to be rebuilt--something that is not even mentioned in Birchas HaMazon! Focus!

 

E. Think about ‘Chatzos HaLailah’--just one moment in time changed the history of the world, and consider that when this happens again, speedily and in our day--it will be forever and ever! Will it be this moment--will it be the next? Be alert, be ready! The Chasam Sofer notes that there are six Leshonos of Geulah in the Torah at the outset of Parashas Va’eirah. We have already experienced five--Vehotzeisi, VeHitzalti, VeGa’alti, VeLakachti and VeHeiveisi, and we accordingly have five cups (including the Kos Shel Eliyahu) at the Seder. The sixth Lashon--VeNasati Lachem Morasha--and I will give you Eretz Yisrael as a final and everlasting inheritance--is yet to come. Oh, how we must yearn for the sixth cup!

 

F. Consider a Hashgacha Pratis calendar--where the clear events of how you found that item, met that person, went there and not there, ate this food and not that--ranging from the greatly significant to seemingly insignificant incidents have been clearly guided by Hashem. Of course, one cannot spend his entire day on this, but can certainly jot down a few times during the day when he realizes that Hashem is together with him in a clear and open way!

 

G. Finally, Dovid HaMelech teaches in Tehillim (81:11): “Anochi Hashem Elokecha Hama’alcha Mei’Eretz Mitzrayim Harchev Picha V’amalei’hu--I am Hashem Who elevated you from the land of Eygpt--open your mouth wide and I will fill it.” The Targum on this Pasuk explains that we are to open our mouth wide in prayer to Hashem. We are not limited to the times of Tefillah to be Marchiv Peh--even in a moment of privacy in one’s home, while walking somewhere, or in Shul before and after davening--open your mouth wide--and may Hashem fill it!

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TODAY!:  Today, the 28th day of Nissan, marks the day that Yericho fell to the Hakafos and Shofar blasts (and not to the military prowess) of B’nei Yisrael.  It was none other than Yehoshua Bin Nun who composed Aleinu at that time in recognition of Hashem’s Omnipotence--and the thanks that we owe Him for our position in this world!  According to the Sefer Chareidim, as brought in the Siddur Rashban, Aleinu was actually recited forwards and then backwards by Yehoshua and Bnei Yisrael, and this was the final blow that caused the walls to fall in.  This Tefillah is so crucial to us that we recite it at the end of each of our daily prayers, and it is the essence of our Tefillos on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (where we additionally genuflect).  The Rema in Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 132:2) writes that we should be careful to recite Aleinu with Kavanah each day.

 

It is certainly no coincidence--as it never is--that Aleinu was composed so soon after Pesach, as it reflects so many of the lessons to be gleaned from those special days---Thanks to Hashem for choosing us as his People; Awareness of Hashem not only as Creator but in Hashgacha Pratis on a daily basis; Ain Od Milevado…and our longing and prayer for the final Geulah. If you started today to daven Aleinu only from a Siddur, or to be sure to have special Kavannah when reciting it for all of the essential yesodos of Emunah it contains (actually found in the plain meaning of the words), or to make sure that it takes you at least a minute to recite because you are not swallowing the words and you are paying attention to them, bowing down more properly or with thought…or any other improvement (if you have already done any or all of the above)—then you will always remember the  anniversary of your improvement—the anniversary of Aleinu!

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WE CONTINUE WITH OUR EREV SHABBOS--HALACHOS OF SHABBOS SERIES.

 

A.      As noted in the past, the following point is made in the wonderful work “Shabbos in My Soul--70 Powerful Lessons to Illuminate the Shabbos Experience” by Rabbi Boruch Leff, Shlita :  “U’sefartem Lachem Mimacharas HaShabbos, Miyom Haviachem Es Omer Hatenufah Sheva Shabbasos Temimos Tehiyena--you should count for yourselves from after Shabbos [referring here to Pesach], from the day when you bring the offering of  the Omer waving, it should be seven complete weeks.”  In counting the Omer we are counting towards Matan Torah and, in doing so, readying ourselves for Shavuos.  We prepare ourselves by purifying and perfecting our spiritual lives, especially our Middos and Derech Eretz. Thus, when we count, we are supposed to be tallying up our growth, day by day. The Nesivos Shalom says that the day that is designated for the most powerful growth that can be achieved during Sefiras Ha’omer is Shabbos. The Pasuk indicates this: “Sheva Shabbasos Temimos Tehiyena.”  It is only when Shabbos is temimah, when Shabbos is observed and experienced with a potent ruchnius, purity, and spiritual growth, that we can truly develop ourselves properly during this period.  The way to utilize the potential of Sefiras Ha’omer is to make sure our Shabbos days are filled with kedushah.  We are bidden by the Torah to make our Shabbosos temimos, perfect and whole. Let us not squander the opportunity.”

 

B.      It is a custom of many on the Shabbos following Pesach to have a “Shlissel Challah” or “Key Challah”.  We are advised that some Chassidic masters in fact waited until Shabbos before they consumed Chometz after Pesach. The Shlissel Challah would be their first Chometz! What is the concept of Shlissel Challah? In The Book of Our Heritage (the excellent English translation of the Sefer HaToda’ah), Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov, Z’tl, writes as follows: “In some communities, it is customary for the Shabbos on which we announce the approaching month of Iyar that sesame seeds are sprinkled on the top of Challahs in the shape of a key. This serves as a reminder of the Mon that began to fall from heaven in Iyar, as well as reminder that the key to our sustenance is in Hashem’s Hand.” The Sefer Ta’maei Dinim U’Minhagim writes that this is related to the words in Shir HaShirim that we recited over Pesach “Pischu Li Achosi Rayasi--open the gates of love and parnassah for us.”  On Pesach we have been judged for our Tevuah--our Parnassah--and with the Shlissel Challah we demonstrate affirmatively and conclusively that we recognize that the key to every bite of our bread is absolutely and exclusively in Hashem’s most caring of hands!

 

C.       During these very days--immediately after Pesach in the Midbar--the Bnei Yisrael received the Mitzvah of Shabbos while encamped at Marah.  The Levush (Orach Chaim 487:1) writes that we accepted the Mitzvah of Shabbos in all of its detail with love, and that is why the word “BeAhava” is especially related to Shabbos.  The Sefer Bris Olam by HaRav Binyomin Zilber, Z’tl, provides the following potent words of Chazal relating to one who is Shomer Shabbos: 

 

a.       Hashem will listen to his prayers (Midrash Tehillim, Chapter 16)

 

b.      He tastes 1/60th of the taste of Olam Habah (Bereishis Rabba, Chapter 7)

 

c.       He is Zoche to Yiras Hashem (Yevamos 96)

 

d.      He will receive a double reward for his efforts--one for Kavod and one for Oneg (Medrash Tehillim, Chapter 93).

 

e.       Hakadosh Baruch Hu longs for him, does his bidding, and he is considered as someone who is worthy to testify before Hashem! (Medrash Tanchum to Parashas Re’ai and Mechilta to Parashas Yisro)

 

Let us take the propitious time we are in--the very time in which we initially accepted the Mitzvah of Shabbos as a nation-- and use it to strengthen our personal Shabbos observance in some way. After all--how many opportunities do you have to enjoy a taste of Olam Haba here and now!

 

D. There is a famous story told of a man who had obviously grievously sinned and had come to Rav Shach, Z’tl, a few hours before Shabbos.  The man was sobbing uncontrollably and could barely eke out the following words, “How will I ever be forgiven?”  However, because of his uncontrollable sobbing, he was not able to express to Rav Shach what his sin was, so that Rav Shach could not give him advice.  After an extended period, Rav Shach advised him to go home, get some rest and come back to see him again on Motzei Shabbos.  The man did so, and on Motzei Shabbos, came in to Rav Shach, and sat down calmly, explaining to Rav Shach the aveira he had done.  After Rav Shach gave him his advice, the man left. Commenting on this incident, Rav Shach noted how “sleeping on it” could cause a person to forget all of the feelings and emotions within him.  He surmised from this that Teshuvah must be done immediately upon recognition of an aveira, and advised his students not to sleep on an aveira without doing Teshuvah. We can derive a similar lesson from this with regard to any of the strong positive feelings we had over the Pesach holiday.  We should not let them get away over this weekend.  Instead, we should reflect upon (and take some positive action which could maintain) the highpoints, the gained Emunah, the simcha, the thanks, and should try to remember any of the events or Divrei Torah that elevated us--so that they do not escape us during the coming days, weeks and months. It might pay to review your feelings and experiences with your family or friends at the Shabbos table or at any other time, as one person’s reflections often assist another to grow in their own personal way, as well.

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AS WE BEGIN PIRKEI AVOS: This Shabbos we will commence the recitation of Mesechta Avos--commonly known to us as “Pirkei Avos”.  HaRav Chaim Volozhiner, Z’tl, at the outset of the Sefer Ruach Chaim, writes that we begin each Perek with the words of the Mishna (Sanhedrin 90A) “Kol Yisrael Yesh LaHem Chelek LaOlam Habba--all of K’lal Yisrael has a share in the World-to-Come”.  The Tanna uses the phrase LaOlam Habba, rather than BaOlam Habba in order to teach us that Olam Habba is not a future world--but a world that is built in the here and now by the Mitzvos that a person performs.  One really does exist in Olam Habba in this world--it is just the physical elements of Olam Hazeh that prevent him from realizing its presence.  HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, in fact, brings the words of the Zohar (1:265A), which explains that Olam Habba means Olam Shekevar Bah--a world that has already come!  Thus, just as a Ben Yeshiva is someone who is in a particular Yeshiva, a Ben Olam Habba, is someone who is already rooted in Olam Habba!  HaRav Friedlander also explains that the reward for a Mitzvah is ‘Ruchni Tahor’--total Ruchniyus, and that accordingly we cannot get reward in the physical world of Olam Hazeh for Mitzvos.  Whenever the Torah or Chazal describe sechar or reward in this world, what it really means is that we are being granted additional means to learn more Torah and perform more Mitzvos in Olam Hazeh--and that the actual reward for any and all Mitzvos will be exclusively in Olam Habba. The mashal  given is to a very wealthy individual who owns a huge and profitable factory.  He will put on workers clothes in the factory and not be distinguished from the other workers there as the products are being produced--but will reap all of the profits in his finely tailored clothing when the products are finally produced, distributed  and sold.

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OUR PARASHA VERSUS THE WESTERN WORLD: It is important to note that of the Mitzvos in this week’s Parasha of Acharei Mos- many relate to Arayos—forbidden relationships and immorality. As always, we must take the lesson from the Parasha as we live through it, and bolster our care in the fundamental area care from the Arayos plays in a Jew’s life--especially as the warmer weather comes upon us, and the populations around us act with increased prurience. The western world incredibly considers 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 horrendously 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. We must 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 now less than 40 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.

 

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NISSAN 5776:  As we leave the month of Nissan on Sunday night, we provide an outstanding observation by Rabban Gamliel Rabinovich, Shlita regarding the Pesach Seder--which is truly a bold and important lesson for daily living the rest of the year.  The Seder teaches us that there is a seder, an order, to things.  If we follow the Seder as we should, then in the end everything is Nirzah--accepted.. and we sing into the night.  However, not everything starts out happy--we begin as slaves, and we experience shame and degradation, physically and spiritually.  We even eat a portion of Marror.  But, if we do what we are supposed to--we will be zoche to a special Yom Tov Shulchan Orech and its joy-filled aftermath.  Olam Hazeh is not meant to be a fountain of delight or a wellspring of contentment.  It is meant to be a place where we learn our lessons and grow from them--where we shape our lives for eternity.  Success begins and is measured through effort, dedication, commitment and strength of character.  The bitterness may be there in different ways--as pure marror, sandwiched with something else (korech), and will have some charoses to take out some of the sting...but, we must recognize and believe that all of this is only a purification agent that is needed for only a short period of time--it is as transitory as a passing thunderstorm in light of the permanent sunshine of Olam Haba that will succeed it.  During the rest of the year we go straight to Shulchan Orech--but we should not be fooled.  It is the order of the Seder night which puts our lives into perspective.  You may have a lot of questions to ask through the course of Galus night --but if you follow through the order and succeed to conclusion--you are guaranteed to come out singing--and with all of the answers!

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…AND BEGIN THE MONTH OF IYAR:  As we move towards Kabbalas HaTorah, we provide the following enlightening words of Chazal (Yalkut Shimoni to Mishlei 4):

 

“There are 248 Mitzvos Aseh in the Torah and 248 limbs of the body—for each limb reminds and cries out to the person ‘Perform the Mitzvah-so that you will live in its merit, and also  merit length of days, There are 365 Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh in the Torah corresponding to the 365 days of the solar year—for each day from the time the sun rises and until it sets, it reminds us and cries out—I direct you not to do an aveira today, which could tip the scales against me and the whole world  chas veshalom to chovah—in the wrong direction....”

 

Let us take an important moment now to look at our hands, our arms, our legs—they are Hashem’s messengers to us reminding us to stay focused, do right, and keep the world going. Every so often we should gaze at these Chofetz Chaim’s of which we are composed—reminding us to fulfill our mission in life—raising ourselves, and raising the world with us.

 

Then, we can look at the sun for a brief moment or even at the light it sheds—it is talking to us--communicating essential, life-bearing advice--Please, Please, no -- don’t go there…don’t say that…close your eyes and don’t look… don’t hurt that person with what you are about to do….If you squint when you are outside on a sunny day, it is not a coincidence—it is merely a stronger message.

 

Hashem has blessed us with reminders within us and around us—they are like alarm clocks gently sounding for us throughout the day— and they will only be ineffective if we turn them off. Incredibly, when we heed their message and do this Mitzvas Aseh here, and avoid that Lo Sa’aseh there—when we throughout the day consciously use Hashem’s gifts for Chazal’s stated and noteworthy purpose, we bring not only life and length of days to ourselves in this world and the next—but life to the entire world as well —for which the sun and the rest of Ma’aseh Bereishis will be so thankful!

 

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27 Nissan

BEWARE--AND PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD! A huge marketing campaign has been underway for Rocket Loans “Fast, Powerful and Completely Online”. As we understand it, Rocket Loans is a product of Quicken Loans, which has very substantial Jewish ownership. Please consult your Rav regarding obtaining a mortgage, as serious ribbis issues may be involved. If you can spread the word in your Shul and community you will be saving others from possible tza’ar and financial loss incurred in attempting to rectify what has been done.

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UPDATED HAKHEL GEMACH LIST!: The 5776 Hakhel Gemilas Chesed List, which provides contact information for hundreds of Chasodim in the New York Metropolitan area (with special sections for Queens, the Five Towns, Crown Heights, Monsey and Lakewood), is now available on the home page of Hakhel’s website-- www.hakhel.info or by the following  link http://www.hakhel.info/gemach-list.htm  PLEASE NOTE THAT THE LIST IS FOR PRIVATE USE ONLY and cannot be reprinted or reproduced for any other reason, whether as part of a tzedaka or commercial venture or otherwise, without the express written consent of Hakhel, which will be given only on a case-by-case basis. For further information, please call: 718-253-5497.

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A DAILY REMINDER: By the following link http://tinyurl.com/jqvwkuv, we provide “From the Letters of the Chazon Ish, which one may want to recite daily at the outset of his day, or perhaps at the outset of his work day. This is a powerful message which we need to be constantly reminded of.”

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QUESTION OF THE DAY:  Why is Sefiras HaOmer recited in Ma’ariv between Shemone Esrei and Aleinu (in most communities)?  After all, what does the counting of Sefira have to do with our structure of Tefillas Ma’ariv?

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QUESTION AND ANSWER OF THE DAY:  We recently changed reciting the words “V’Sein Tal U’Matar Levracha” to the words “V’sein Bracha”.  What Kavannah are we to have in mind when saying the words “V’sein BrachaThe Kuntres Avodas HaTefillah explains that we are asking for Ribui Tova V’Hatzlacha--for Hashem to shower goodness and success upon us.  Although we are no longer asking for the rain--we are still asking for the shower!  Picture it as you recite these words.  Remember, it is not just lip service or even simply an element of belief--Hashem’s bracha in all areas is tangible and real!

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QUOTE OF THE DAY:  From the remarkable, must-go-through Sefer The Power of Teshuvah, by Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, Shlita (Artscroll, p. 233):  “‘I can’t help it. That’s just the way I am.’  Everyone has either said these words, heard them, or both.  Nevertheless, Rav Avraham Pam, Z’tl, would often paraphrase the Rambam’s rebuttal of this justification with the words, ‘It’s not your nature, it’s your choice!’

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ON HARAV MILLER’S YAHRZEIT: Today is the fifteenth Yahrzeit of the legendary and incomparable HaRav Avigdor Miller, Z’tl, so much of whose life was dedicated to helping the lives of others become accomplished and complete. We provide below three separate examples of his teachings on personal brachos and tefillos, as originally brought by Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen, Shlita in Rabbi Avigdor Miller Speaks (Volume 1, pp. 227, 234--Artscroll), and as highlighted in the masterful work Praying With Fire 2 by Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, Shlita (p.172-3, p.186--Artscroll).

 

1.When a customer walks in, say a quick Tefillah that the customer should buy your merchandise and pay the right price and not complain…HaKadosh Baruch Hu will say: “I see you trusting in Me, as the Pasuk states “Blessed is the man who puts his trust in Hashem, and, therefore, Hashem will reward him by becoming his trust.”

 

If you are going to see a customer [at his place of business], before you walk in say “Yehi Ratzon Milefanecha She’tatzlicheni—Hashem, please make me successful!

 

Hakhel Note: Of course, one should analogize to his everyday situations relating to projects, meeting with superiors at work, shopping, eating Kosher, dating,…everything in life!

 

2. Even where Tefillas HaDerech is not required, if you are starting up your car, ask Hashem without making a bracha for safety and everything else you need on the way… “Believe me—in town you need a lot of help from Hashem!”

 

3. “Good Morning” is not merely a trite phrase or pleasantry. Good morning means that they should have a good breakfast, that they should earn a good living, no colds today, no trouble in business. Good Morning means everything!

 

Hakhel Note: Imagine the meaning and power of a sincere “Have a Good Day!”

 

Thank you Rabbi Miller for such truly essential daily guidance! May we each be blessed with the sechel to implement it!

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PRACTICAL LESSONS FROM PESACH--PART 4

 

A.  It is interesting to note that while the Korban Pesach in Mitzrayim was eaten Bechipazon, in haste, the Navi (Yeshaya 52:12) teaches us that our final Geulah will not be in haste:  “Ki Lo VeChipazon Teitseiu U’Vemnusa Lo Seileichu…you will not leave in chaos, nor will you go in flight; for Hashem will go before you….”  With this, we may understand why Bechipazon is one of the key differences between the Seder in Mitzrayim and the Seder of all future generations after Yetzias Mitzrayim--as the Mishna (Pesachim 9:4) teaches us--the Korban Pesach in Mitzrayim was eaten in haste (in a ‘ready-to-go’ mode), while the Pesach of all future generations did not have this requirement.  The explanation may be that all future Pesachim are also attached to the final Geulah which, as the Navi teaches will not be Bechipazon.  Remember--even if we don’t sense any particular Chipazon now, we don’t have to--Pisom Yavo, our Geulah can come at any time!

 

B.  Many of the Mitzvos on the Leil HaSeder come in pairs.  For instance, one of the answers given to the question as to “Why do we drink four cups tonight” not being part of the Mah Neshtana, is because each one of the four Kosos is simply associated with another Mitzvah of the evening.  Similarly, the bracha of Borei Pri Ha’adama over Karpas is also (possibly) the bracha over the Maror.  When we recite Maggid, the Matzah and Maror must also be before us.  Motzi Matzah is a stage in which we fulfill both the Mitzvah of Lechem Mishna and that of Achilas Matzah.  If we carefully focus, we will realize that Hashem, in His Great Graciousness to us packages and bundles Mitzvos to us together in order to give us more and more zechusim and more and more opportunities to develop our relationship with Him within a finite life span in this world.  All we have to do is be careful to recognize and appreciate each and every one of them--just as the Jews in Mitzrayim were to appreciate that they were blessed with six babies at once--and not only one.  The idea is to think through the Mitzvos as we perform them--and if we do, we will realize that what appears to be one Mitzvah may not be just one large treasure chest--but really a number of individual, perfectly minted gold coins and shining rubies!

 

C.  The Chasam Sofer (Drashos Chasam Sofer II, p. 536) notes that every Song, every Shir, that has significance is composed in response to a particular event.  The Shiras HaYam was, of course, composed in reaction to the miracles at the sea.  Likewise, the Shira at the Be’air (Bamidbar 21:17) was sung in appreciation of the well spring that the Bnei Yisrael were graced with in the Midbar.  This being the case, why did Shlomo HaMelech compose Shir HaShirim?  The Chasam Sofer answers that this Song is an outpouring of expression to Hashem for choosing us as His nation.  Rebbi Akiva describes it is Kodesh Kodashim--holy of holies, and this may be  because it is the ‘anthem’ of the holiest of nations.  When we recite it, it should accordingly be with the greatest of joy!  Hakhel Note:  We can now possibly understand why there is a Segulah associated with reciting Shir HaShirim 40 days in a row--What greater sign can there be of our appreciating that HaKadosh Baruch Hu has chosen us as His nation--than bursting out in song in response!

 

D. As we come close to concluding this month of Geulah, and move towards the Geulah of Shavuos (which is the fourth Kos of Velakachti), we recall the words of Rashi on an essential Pasuk that we may recite several times daily:  “Yimloch Hashem LeOlam Elokaich Tzion LeDor VaDor Haleluka” (Tehillim 146: 10).  There, Rashi comments “Yekayem Es Malchuso BeShemiras Bonov.”  Hashem views His Kingship in terms of us.  If we are guarded and protected, if we are happy, if we are successful, then His Kingship is also successful and established.  When we are downtrodden and forlorn, Hashem’s Malchus is negatively impacted as well.  Thus, when we exclaim Yimloch Hashem LeOlam, we are asking for our position to be elevated so that Hashem’s Malchus can be fully and appropriately established.  We should certainly take comfort in the fact that Hashem’s position in the world works together with ours, and that our roles can improve together!

 

Additional Note:  In many of our Tefillos, we recite “Elokeinu V’Elokei Avoseinu--our G-d and G-d of our forefathers.”  Chronologically and from a perspective of honor and respect, it would appear that we should first begin Elokei Avoseinu -and then--V’Elokeinu.  Perhaps the lesson to us is that without first recognizing and establishing our own personal and close relationship with Hashem, the relationship Hashem had with the Avos is not really so relevant.  When we recite the Bracha of Go’al Yisrael--Who redeemed Yisrael (after Kriyas Shema in the morning and evening), we recognize that Hashem redeemed our forefathers in the past, and can/will therefore redeem us again in the Ultimate Redemption Bimheyra BeYameinu.  However, when we recite the Bracha of Go’el Yisrael (in Shemone Esrei three times daily), we proclaim that Hashem can/will and is redeeming us directly in the here and now.  In these last few days of Chodesh Nissan, let us work on intensifying our personal relationship with Hashem, so that His Malchus, and His Geulah, is personal to us as well.  We can begin by concentrating on the Pasuk of “Yimloch Hashem LeOlam” when recited in our Tefillos, as well as by reciting the Bracha of Go’el Yisrael--Hashem is redeeming me-- with special recognition and intensity--at least in the month of Iyar--connecting the Geulah of Nissan to the Geulah of Shavuos!

 

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26 Nissan

 PRACTICAL LESSONS FROM PESACH--PART 3

 

A. The Sefer Sifsei Chaim (Mo’adim II, p.428) teaches that we can reinforce our feelings for the Geulah Shleimah every day in the Tefillah of Ezras Avoseinu which contains so many powerfully meaningful phrases, among them:

 

-“Ezras AvoseinuMagen U’Moshiah Livneihem Achareihem Bechol Dor V’Dor”

 

-“U’Mibaladecha Ain Lanu Melech Go’el U’Moshiah”

 

-“VeOneh LeAmo B’Eis Shavam Eilav”

 

-“Tzur Yisrael Kumah B’Ezras Yisrael U’fdeih Chinumecha Yehudah V’Yisrael”

 

Taking literally just an extra moment to feel the words as one says them can strengthen one’s D’veikus to Hashem and deepen one’s yearning for the Geulah Sheleimah. 

 

B.  We are familiar with the bracha we give another of “Gefen”--Gezunt, Parnassah and Nachas.  The Chasam Sofer finds another acronym in the term “Gefen”--it is Geulaseinu u’Pedus Nafsheinu--our physical and spiritual redemption.  Have this in mind as well when giving the bracha of “Gefen”.

 

C.  In the Haggadah we read that Hashem was “Chisheiv Es HaKeitz”--which some meforshim teach means that we were released 190 (the Gematria of Keitz) years early because of the difficulty of the Galus we were experiencing and/or because of the depths of the tumah we had reached.  Let us think for a moment.  The Navi (Micah 7:15) teaches us that Kimei Tzeisecha MeiEretz Mitzrayim Erenu Niflaos--as in the days when you left Egypt, I will show wonders.”  We are now in the year 5776--if we add on the 190 years in which Hashem was Chishev Es HaKeitz in Mitzrayim (and it is definitely at least a theoretical possibility that this will happen again--based on the Pasuk and due to our difficulties in Galus and all of the tumah around us)--that brings us up to the year 5966, which is just 34 years short of the year 6000 (and we know what that means).  This should provide some additional inspiration for us to do Teshuvah as soon as possible!

 

D.  At Kriyas Yam Suf, the Pasuk (Shemos 14:14) states:  Hashem Yilacheim Lachem VeAtem Tacharishun.  The Midrash (Mechilta to Beshalach 2:14) teaches that even when we stand and remain silent Hashem fights for us, then, Kal V’Chomer--all the more so, will He fight on our behalf when we call out and praise Him.  The lesson is there for all to see--it is better to communicate with Hashem than to remain silent.  Hakhel Note:  Let us look for a moment at the Nusach of the Musaf Shemone Esrei that we recite everyday of Yom Tov:  “Yehi Ratzon Milfanecha…Melech Rachaman Shetashuv U’Seracheim Aleinu…B’Rachamecha HaRabbim.”  Then a little later we once again recite:  “Melech Rachaman Racheim AleinuBaHamon Rachamecha.”  We plead time and time again for Hashem to bring His Rachamim upon us.  We must recognize the value of our not remaining silent and the importance of connecting to Hashem with Kavannah!  

 

E.  Also at Kriyas Yam Suf, the Pasuk (14:17) states:  “VeIkabda BePharoh U’Vechol Cheilo.”  The Midrash teaches us that the reason Paroh is mentioned first is because since he began to sin against K’lal Yisroel and the Mitzriyim followed, so too, was he punished first, and then the Mitzriyim followed in receiving their punishment.  The Midrash then goes a step further:  “If in the case of punishment he who sinned first is punished first, then Kal V’Chomer--all the more so will one who acted meritoriously and led others in that direction receive his reward at the outset as well!

 

F.  The Pasuk that follows at Kriyas Yam Suf (14:18) states:  “VeYadu Mitzrayim Ki Ani Hashem…and the Mitzriyim will know that I am Hashem.”  The question becomes--why at all does it make a difference as to whether the Mitzriyim will know who Hashem is--they will no longer be alive in seconds, minutes, or at most a few hours.  HaRav Shach, Z’tl, explains that the Pasuk is teaching us how precious and important even a few seconds, minutes or hours of recognizing and appreciating Hashem truly are.  We should not be spoiled by the manifold opportunities that we have--but instead should appreciate and savor each and every bracha opportunity, every Tefillah opportunity…and each and every realization and actualization of a Teshuvah opportunity!

 

G.  Dovid HaMelech teaches in Tehillim (115:14, as recited in Hallel each day of Pesach), “Yevareich Yirei Hashem Haketanim Im HaGedolim--He will bless those who fear Hashem, the small as well as the great.”  This Pasuk should give us all encouragement--for it teaches us that Hashem blesses us all in accordance with our level.  We need not be the Rav, the Rosh Yeshiva, or the one giving the Mussar lecture--we can be a katan and receive Hashem’s blessing--as long as we try to be Yirei Hashem--sensing Hashem’s presence throughout the day!

 

H.  Do not be fooled by its loftiness and sublimity--Shir Hashirim has many practical lessons for us as well.  Chazal (Shir Hashirim Rabbah 8:12) teach us, based on the Posuk of “Haelef Lecha Shlomo U’mosayim L’notrim Es Piryo--One thousand for Shlomo and two hundred to those who watch his fruit”--that the reward for one who learns while traveling (“Lecha”) is five times (1000 vs. 200) greater than for one who simply learns in the Beis Medrash (“Notrim Es Piryo”).  It is interesting that the numbers the Posuk uses for a ratio of 5:1 is 1000:200.  A possible explanation may be based upon the Chofetz Chayim (quoted in Item 30, Volume II, Number 2 (Teves/Shevat 5762) of the Bulletin – available at  http://tinyurl.com/2neafe), who states that one can learn 200 words of Torah, which is equivalent to 200 separate Mitzvos, in one minute.  If one learns while traveling, Hashem considers it as if he is learning five times as much, or 1,000 words per minute.  While traveling, one should await and treasure the incredible opportunity to perform the equivalent of 1,000 Mitzvos per minute.

 

I.  If one had to describe the essence of Pesach in one word, it would be ‘Emunah’.  Even the Matzah is described as the Food of Emunah.  The most famous Ramban in Chumash found at the end of Parashas Bo (which we understand HaRav Wolbe, Z’tl, said should be memorized) affirmatively states:  “and from the great and famous miracles, one must recognize the hidden miracles of everyday life which are the Yesod HaTorah Kulah--the foundation of the entire Torah.”  One has no part in the Torah unless he believes that all of our affairs and experiences-- everything that occurs in one’s life--are miracles, and that there is no nature, nor a ‘minhag haolam’ at all--either on a communal, or a private level.  In fact, HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, writes that anything that can be ascribed to Tevah and Mazal are Nisyonos on life.  Based on this most fundamental of Torah teachings, we present the following essential teachings:

 

1.  The Rabbeinu Bachya (Shemos 14:31) brings from the Rabbeinu Chananel that there are four basic parts to Emunah: (A) Emunah B’HaKadosh Baruch Hu; (B) Emunah B’Nevi’im; (C) Emunah B’Olam Habba; and (D) Emunah B’Viyas HaGoel.  The Rabbeinu Bachya continues that one who possesses these four beliefs has great zechuyos.  He provides an essential method for one strengthening his Emunah--and that is to answer Amen to the brachos of others.  Amen, of course, is an acronym for Kel-Melech-Ne’eman--that Hashem is our G-d and trustworthy King.  With these three words (and consequently in the one word of Amen) we describe Hashem as the All-Powerful-One Who closely watches over us and Who punishes and rewards in accordance with our deeds.  Hakhel Note:  Accordingly, it would be very much in order for one to commence a personal Amen campaign--in which he sincerely and dedicatedly answers this sacred word (which should not be uttered in vein) with Kavannah and feeling. 

 

2.  At the outset of Hallel, we recite the Pesukim: “Rom Ahl Kol Goyim Hashem…” followed by “Me KaShem ElokeinuHaMashpili Liros BaShomayim U’Va’aretz”.  This means that while the world believes that Hashem is in the distant Heavens, gazing upon us far away from humanity--we know that we can feel Hashem’s Hashgacha Pratis hovering over us and directly upon us. However, there are different levels of Hashgacha Pratis that one can experience.  The Ramban (Iyov 36:7) writes:  “Kefi Kirvaso LeHidabeik BeEilokav Yishtamer Shemirah Me’ulah--in accordance with one’s desire to come close to Hashem, will Hashem come closer and watch over him.”  How can we develop our D’veikus B’Hashem?  The Sifsei Chaim brings the fascinating words of Yirmiyahu HaNavi (9:22-23):  “Ko Amar Hashem Ahl Yishallel Chochom BeChachmaso…--thus said Hashem:  ‘Let not the wise man glorify himself with his wisdom, and let not the strong man glorify himself with his strength, let not the rich man glorify himself with his wealth.  For only with this may one glorify himself--contemplating and knowing Me.”  The Sifsei Chaim explains that this means that our importance to Hashem is not dependent on our wisdom, strength or abilities--but only in how we exercise our bechirah towards Avodas Hashem.  He continues that when each person recognizes his reward in Olam Habba, it will not be based on the fact that he was a Rosh Yeshiva, or a Chassidic Rebbe, or a children’s Rebbi or a businessman or an accountant.  Rather, it will be in accordance with the madreigah that he was supposed to have reached in this world in his Avodas Hashem--every person Kidrachav U’Kefi Ma’alalav.  It is for this reason that Hashem hides the complete Da’as Hashem from us in this world--and we will only understand Hashem’s actions in Olam Hazeh at the Geulah Sheleimah--it is to give us the opportunity to exercise our Bechirah Chafshis and to realize our potential without being forced or even easily led to the only true conclusion. 

 

3.  At the end, the darkess of Galus will be exceedingly dark, as the Pasuk (Zechariah 49:7) says:  “Le’eis Erev Yehiyeh Ohr--so that the clarity of the light will be most appreciated.  As things appear dark, darker, darkest (now with our own people attacking us in Eretz Yisrael, we must strengthen ourselves with the knowledge that the clarity of true light will soon shine forth.”  As Dovid HaMelech teaches (Tehillim 90: 15):  “Samcheinu KeYimos Inisanu--Hashem will bring us joy to compensate for the previous afflictions”.

 

4.  The Sefer Nefesh HaChaim (1:9) brings the Pasuk in Shir HaShirim (1:9):  “Lesusasi BeRichbei Paroh Demiseich Rayasi--Hashem, I realize that my relationship with You can be compared to that of the horses of Paroh’s army in the hands of the chariot riders.  He remarkably explains that the world improperly believes that Hashem directs us in this way and that, just as chariot riders direct horses to go here and to go there.  However, this is not what happened to Paroh’s chariot riders--they did not lead the horses, the horse miraculously led them.  With the Geulas Mitzrayim, Hashem put us in a position of the horses at Kriyas Yam Suf which led the driver.  We determine our own fate and the fate of the world--by our choices, by our actions.  Hashem lets us ‘run the world’ in this way.  Will the Geulah come today--time will not tell--we will!

 

5.  To take a short and potent Emunah lesson with us daily, we highly recommend Emuna Daily.   To join and for further information contact:  emunadaily@gmail.com.  The recording is available via telephone as well:  Dial (605) 475-4799, access code 840886#.

 

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25 Nissan

MIZMOR LESODAH!  For the last several days, we have once again been able to recite Mizmor LeSodah (Tehillim Chapter 100) in Pesukei D’Zimra. We should not once again settle quickly into habit as we recite this joyous song which temporarily serves as a daily Todah to Hashem. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 51:9) rules L’Halacha that when reciting Mizmor LeSodah in Pesukei D’Zimra “Yeish L’Omra Benegina Shekol HaShiros Asidos Libatel Chutz MeMizmor LeSodah--we should recite the Mizmor with a pleasant tune, because this song will uniquely survive forever”. In its five short Pesukim, the Mizmor conveys a powerfully sweet message which we should carry--and which should carry us--throughout the day.

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TOMORROW! The 26th of Nissan, is the Yahrzeit of Yehoshua Bin Nun.  Chazal (Shabbos 105B) teach that the elders of his generation were punished for not properly eulogizing him.  Yehoshua instituted two of our great Tefillos:

 

1.  The first paragraph of Aleinu LeShabeyach, which is a highlight of our Tefillos on the Yamim Noraim, and is recited three times daily as part of the important conclusion of each of our Tefillos (the Rema to Shulchan Aruch [Orach Chaim 132:2] emphasizes that we should be careful to have Kavannah when reciting Aleinu.

 

 2.  The second Bracha of Birkas HaMazon was instituted by Yehoshua upon entering into Eretz Yisrael (Berachos 48A).

 

 We should be especially careful tomorrow (and every day!) with theses two special Tefillos, both of which express our great thanks to Hashem for the blessings he has bestowed upon us.  Let us take these opportunities to properly remember Yehoshua Bin Nun--and keep some part of his great legacy with us daily (if some want to stay especially close to their Rav or Talmidei Chachomim--or keep the Shul or Bais Medrash in order--he can take another part of these legacies as well!).

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PRACTICAL POST-PESACH POINTS:

 

A. We are still in the month of Nissan--there is a real reason that we continue not to utter the Tachanun supplication daily. Chazal remind us that B’Nissan Nigalu U’V’Nissan Assidin Liga’el--just as we were redeemed in Nissan in the past--we will be redeemed in Nissan in the future.  We must continue to take a step back to at least appreciate what this means. Each day in Mussaf over Pesach we exclaimed V’Havi’einu L’Tzion Irecha B’Rina Velirushalayim Beis Mikdashecha BeSimchas Olam--bring us to Tzion, Your city, in glad song, and to Yerushalayim, home of Your sanctuary, in eternal joy.  While we cannot fathom the glad song of millions of people together, nor the eternal joy of even ourselves personally--we must at least appreciate how we need to yearn and long for the moment--which will then incredibly become eternal! We must remind ourselves of the poignant words of the Sefer Mesilas Yesharim (end of Chapter 19), who teaches that each and every individual must daven for the Geulas Yisrael, pointedly writing as follows:

 

Im Yomar Adam Me Ani…She’espalel Ahl Yerushalayim--if a person would say ‘Who am I…to daven for Yerushalayim--will it be because of my prayer that the Yeshuah will come?....” This is why a person was created individually, so that each individual should say ‘The world was created for me!’  It is certainly a Nachas Ruach to Hashem that His children plead and pray for the Geulah…. Each and every one of us is therefore obligated to do so, and no one can excuse himself because of his lack of position or power…for it is not possible for Kevod Shomayim to be increased until the Geulah of Yisrael comes, as the two are interdependent….”

 

Now--Nissan 5776, as the pangs of Ikvasah D’Moshicha beat about us--is the time for us to be especially passionate--now--Nissan 5776, is the time for each and every one of us to call out in our hearts for the Geulas Yisrael!  Do not lose--and instead very dedicatedly use--the opportunities in each Shemone Esrei, most certainly over this week:  Tekah BeShofar, Velirushalayim Irecha, Es Tzemach, V’sechezenah Eineinu Beshuvecha L’Tzion, Sheyibaneh Beis HaMikdash BeMeheirah V’Yameinu, and VeArvah LaShem Minchas Yehudah Virushalayim. Let us call out from the heart--and may our calls be answered just as our forefathers’ calls were heard, as testified by the Pasuk (Shemos 2:23,24):  “Vata’al Shavasam Ehl HaElokim…Vayishmah Elokim Es Na’akasam VaYizkor Elokim Es Briso….”  May it be speedily and in our days!

 

B. The Second Hallel.  We have concluded our recitation of Hallel HaMitzri (Tehillim 113-118), and Chazal teach that it would be inappropriate to continue to recite it daily as Hallel during the rest of the year.  There is, however, a second Hallel, which is known as Hallel HaGadol (Tehillim 136).  Hallel HaGadol contains 26 Pesukim each of which ends with the phrase “Ki Le’olam Chasdo--for His kindness endures forever.” HaRav Meir Schuck, Z’tl, brings Chazal (Pesachim 118A) who teach that the reason this Kepitel is known as Hallel HaGadol--the great Hallel, is because of the conclusion it contains--Nosein Lechem Lechol Basar Ki Le’olam Chasdo, in which we affirm our unwavering belief that Hashem not only is the executor of open miracles--splitting the sea, giving us water in the desert, giving us the Torah from the Heavens among the trembling mountains--but that He also sustains each and every creature in accordance with his needs. Hallel HaGadol thanks Hashem for His everyday kindness to us. On a daily basis, HaRav Schuck, Z’tl, explains, we must express our Ki Le’olam Chasdo for the miracles within what is to others nature itself. If one can relate back the world and its common experiences--eating, drinking, taking care of one’s needs, seeing the things that he sees, meeting the people that he meets, all back to their Source--then on a daily basis, and in fact many times on a daily basis he can remember the phrase:  “Nosein Lechem Lechol Basar Ki Le’olam Chasdo!”

 

C. The Torah’s Definition of Beauty.  Perhaps one of the most famous phrases in Ahz Yashir is Zeh Keili V’Anveihu--which Chazal (Shabbos 133B) interpret as teaching us that one should beautify the Mitzvos, by building a nice Sukkah, buying a beautiful Lulav, wearing nice Tzitzis…. HaRav Yeruchem Levovitz, Z’tl, teaches that the beautification of Mitzvos are not limited to Mitzvos which are Bein Adam LaMakom--rather the guideline of Zeh Keili V’Anveihu applies just as equally to Mitzvos which are Bein Adam L’Chaveiro as well.  Accordingly, when addressing another it should be in a pleasant and respectful manner, when writing to someone it should be in a neat and thoughtful way, when giving Tzedakah it should be with the feeling that I am helping another Tzelem Elokim.  When one beautifies any Mitzvah--whether it is Bein Adam LaMakom or Bein Adam L’Chaveiro--he indeed most beautifies himself!

 

D. Daily Improvements.    As we all know, Chazal teach “Ra’asah Shifcha Al Hayam Mah Shelo Ra’ah…the maidservant at the Sea saw what the greatest of the Nevi’im were not able to see in their most sublime of prophesies.”  The Ba’alei Mussar point out that even after everything that the maidservants saw in the heavens, on the earth, and on the sea--the next day they still remained maidservants.  How could this be?!  The explanation is that over time the supernally uplifting experience that the maidservants had, dissipated because after the experience they left it and did not seek to remain on the high level they had attained.  We present several brief and practical applications that we can take with us from the Pesach we have just experienced into the coming months:

 

1.  Every morning we make the bracha of Shelo Asani Aved.  This bracha should now come to life for us daily--for we truly could have been lowly, petrified, servile, decadent slaves with no independent bearing or existence of our own.  Moreover, since we achieved Cheirus Olam when we left Mitzrayim--the nations of the world have never been able to destroy us or even enslave us as a people again.  Remember--Shelo Asani Aved--say it with appreciation!

 

2.  Every morning we make the bracha of Shelo Asani Goy.  The Maharal explains that just as the Six Days of Creation reached their pinnacle with the creation of man, so too, did mankind reach its pinnacle with the creation of Bnei Yisrael from the Kur HaBarzel of Mitzrayim.  Our exodus thus enabled mankind to reach its potential, rather than be destroyed for lack of fulfillment.  If the Bnei Yisrael would have remained just another Goy, not only would we have taken the path of so many other nations which fell away and disappeared, but the world itself could not have survived.  Thus, the fact that Hashem has not made us like the other nations is, quite literally, keeping everyone going.  Remember--Shelo Asani Goy--not only being personally privileged--but having creation reach its intent--and allowing each sunrise to keep coming! 

 

3.  Dovid HaMelech exclaims (Tehillim118:24) “…Zeh Hayom…Nagilah VeNesmicha Vo--this is the day…let us rejoice and be glad in Him.”  The Malbim provides us here with an extremely fundamental lesson.  He writes that Dovid HaMelech is teaching us that the Ikar Simcha is not in the Yeshua itself, but in the awareness that Hashem is with us.  The miracles we experience are given to us not as an end, but as a means for us to recognize Hashem’s closeness to us.  Remember--Nagilah VeNesmicha Vo--we can rejoice that Hashem is with us--each and every day!  This is the Ikar Simcha

 

4.  Before performing many of our Mitzvos, we recite the bracha “Asher Kideshanu BeMitzvosav Vetzivanu--Who sanctified us with His Mitzvos (plural), and commanded us to perform [the particular Mitzvah of…eating of Matzah, the taking of the Lulav, enwrapping in Tzitzis].  The Chasam Sofer asks--should not the Nusach HaBracha on a Mitzvah be Asher Kideshanu BeMitzvaso Vetzivanu (singular and not plural)--Who sanctified us in the Mitzvah, i.e., the Mitzvah I am about to perform [the eating of Matzah, the taking of the Lulav, the enwrapping in Tzitzis]?  Why not be specific and talk about our sanctification with the Mitzvah at hand?  The Chasam Sofer answers that, as the Zohar explains, the 248 Mitzvos Asei and the 365 Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei are the counterparts of our Eivarim and Giddim respectively.  We cannot sanctify one Eiver or Gid at a time, for as we know, a Karbon that is missing a limb is Pasul.  It is likewise inappropriate for us to recite that we are being sanctified only by the one Mitzvah that we are about to perform.  Rather, we declare our Kedusha through our acceptance of the Mitzvos in general, and that we are now going to perform this Mitzvah in particular.  We thus absolutely, unequivocally and rejoicingly declare that with every Mitzvah that we perform, we are accepting upon ourselves the privilege, obligation, wholesomeness and Kedushah of all of the Mitzvos!

 

5.  As we noted before Pesach, the Chasam Sofer teaches that we know there are certain things that can bring the Geulah.  One of them, as indicated by the words ‘Kol Dichfin Yesei VeYeichol’ is the giving of Tzedakah.  We are, of course, familiar with the Pasuk in Yeshaya (1:27) as well:  “Tzion BeMishpat Tipadeh V’Shaveha B’Tzedakah”.  It very much behooves us, then, to give Tzedakah--especially for the sake of Geulah.  In this post-Pesach period, many of us may feel that we have given an inordinate amount of Tzedakah before Pesach, and that there are several weeks until the next Yom Tov when we will give again.  We may suggest, however, that one overcome this guile of the Yetzer Hara--especially in this month of Geulah--and give Tzedakah--perhaps even on a regular or periodic basis for the sake of Geulah!  We all believe, and we all know as an absolute truth that the Geulah is coming.  Giving Tzedakah to bring it is truly much more secure than money in the bank!

 

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24 Nissan

QUESTION OF THE DAY ONE:  If the Moshiach comes between today and Pesach Sheni (the 14th of Iyar), will each one of us bring a Korban Pesach on Pesach Sheni, or because we missed bringing the Korban Pesach on Erev Pesach will we have to wait all the way until next year to bring the Korban Pesach?

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QUESTION OF THE DAY TWO:  Which two seforim in Tanach do not have Hashem’s name mentioned directly in them?

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QUOTE OF THE DAY:  From HaRav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, Z’tl, would often advise:  “Keep on smiling, and keep on going!”

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NON-GEBROKTS ADVISORY:  There are still many cake and cookie products (many ‘on sale’) left from Pesach.  Please remember that many of these products are non-Gebrokts, and the appropriate bracha is Shehakol and Borei Nefashos.  Even if you know it--you may be used to making a Mezonos on the cake and Shehakol on the coffee--so extra special care is required.  This will provide you with a special opportunity to focus and concentrate on you Brachos--one great way to practice your Emunah in this post-Pesach period.

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PRACTICAL LESSONS FROM PESACH

 

1. Shir HaShirim. In the incredible Sefer HaTodaah (translated as The Book of Our Heritage [Feldheim Publishers]), Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov, Z’tl, writes as follows:

 

“Shir HaShirim is unique among all of the Kisvei Kodesh, all of the works of Scripture, for Hashem’s name is not mentioned even circumspectly (although Hashem’s name is also not recorded in Megilas Esther, it is clearly alluded to, as Chazal point out).  Shir HaShirim is written entirely in the form of a parable of the exalted love between Hashem and Bnei Yisrael…  Through this metaphor, Shlomo HaMelech teaches us that all earthly desires are merely a method to enable us to understand the love that we should have for Hashem.  When man immerses himself solely in the parable--in the material world--he is not able to understand the higher message that the parable conveys.  On Pesach, the spiritual essence that exists in the material world is revealed before us.  Paroh and his army, all creatures, the sea and its tempest, the earth and the sky, are all subordinate to our relationship--yes, our relationship with Hashem.  On Pesach, we are all freed from the slavery of Mitzraim and from the slavery to our evil inclination.  At this time, we are most apt to understand the song of love between Hashem and His People.”

 

Hakhel Note:  As we all know Shir HaShirim is the holiest of all things holy (Shir HaShirim Rabba 1).  Obviously, then, once we better appreciate the meaning of Shir HaShirim for us, we must be sure not to pack away this teaching with our Pesach supplies until next year.  Instead, we must make the effort on a daily basis to “sing” the Song of Songs--if not by physically reciting its sacred words, then by constantly remembering what is the parable--and what is the reality  Try to see how many times you can catch yourself during the day, whether you are on the phone, in the store, walking, or even while studying or davening, and remind yourself that you live in a world, in a reality, in which its spiritual essence is so clear that Hashem’s name need not even be mentioned.  So why let the Yetzer Hara muddy the waters with his earthy parable when you can sing the Song of all Songs--each and every day!

  

2. Expressing Oneself to Hashem. We recall the powerful words of the Rambam (Hilchos Brachos 10:26):

 

“The primary rule is that a person should always call out to Hashem for the future and ask for His mercy; and give thanks for the past and praise Hashem, each person according to his strength. And the more one thanks Hashem and constantly praises Him, the more praiseworthy he himself is.”

 

Rav Chaim Friedlander Z’TL deduces from this, and notes that, the Rambam does NOT write that the more one calls out to Hashem and asks for His mercy, the more praiseworthy he is. Rather, the Rambam writes the more one thanks and praises Hashem, the greater he is. Indeed, Chazal teach us that in the future, the Korban Todah--the Thanks Offering--will be the Korban that continues on and remains with us after the world becomes filled with the knowledge of Hashem. The Sin Offerings and the Guilt Offerings will no longer have a place in our lives, but thanks always will.

 

It is amazing to note that the level of thanks and praise to Hashem on Pesach is so high that no Korban Todah can be brought because they must be brought with chometz loaves of bread--which is impossible on Pesach! This is obviously no coincidence, as the Torah could have either excluded the chometz loaves from the offering on Pesach, or permitted them for the sake of the offering only. The message is clear--on Pesach, we have grown even above this Korban.

 

Let us start the Spring/Summer season with our right foot forward, by keeping our Pesach spirit of Thanks and Hallel, so that as we begin to once again recite Mizmor L’Sodah daily, we will merge and blend our joy over the redemption of the past into an everlasting thanks continuing into the future.

 

Practical Suggestion: As you go through davening (especially Pesukei D’Zimrah) focus on and feel the words of thanks--especially considering your being born close to the time of the Final Redemption and your having the tremendous opportunity to contribute to the last stages of Zechusim, putting up those last few bricks on the wall, to bring Moshiach, Bimhera B’yameinu.

 

 

3. Keeping On The Spiritual Weight Gained. We must recognize that the physical pounds that we may have gained over Pesach is symbolic of the spiritual weight which we really should have gained--and not shed--in the days and weeks after the Holiday. Accordingly, we provide the following additional clear lessons we all undoubtedly learned over Pesach, and some practical way to implement each one in our daily lives:

 

A.  Hakaras Hatov—Such as Moshe Rabbeinu recognizing the good that the earth, the water, and Bisya Bas Paroh did on his behalf. There are also many examples--what we owe to the dogs, the donkeys--and even the Egyptians for being our hosts for so long.

 

Practical Suggestion: Pick one person in your home or office and show him/her an added level of thanks or respect daily in recognition of what he/she has done for you, even if it was only a one-time act or event.

 

 

B.  Segulas Yisrael—Pesach was a “second creation” for mankind, as it not only established Hashem as the Creator of the world, but as Ongoing Supervisor of the world with B’nei Yisrael chosen as the nation to epitomize the purpose of man’s creation. The commentaries on the Siddur explain “Ata V’Chartanu MiKol Ha’amim” as specifically referring to Hashem choosing to redeem us from Mitzrayim and giving us the Torah 49 days later. This explains why so many Mitzvos are “Zecher L’Yetzias Mitzrayim”--because they all emanate from this great choice--our eternal selection to be mankind’s crown jewel.

 

Practical Suggestion: Do something daily--even if it is a Mitzvah--only because you recognize the gift and opportunity that Hashem has presented you with in being unique, special and different from all that surrounds you--for being that crown jewel!

 

C.  Hashgacha Pratis—Hashem’s care and concern for each individual member of B’nei Yisrael evidenced by such examples as thousands of children being saved from the king’s decree of death, by Moshe Rabbeinu being raised in Paroh’s palace, and B’nei Yisrael walking through Egyptian houses in daylight as just a few feet away Egyptians were enwrapped in such tangible darkness that they could not even move.

 

Practical Suggestion: At some time during the day, and really as often as possible, feel the Hashgacha Pratis, Hashem’s watching over you, in your daily life. There must be a reason that you saw a loose dog, that you met this particular person, or that you heard that D’var Torah.  Also, of course, remember to say “Baruch Hashem”, “Thank You, Hashem” or “Please Help Me, Hashem” quietly (or out loud) as many times as possible during the day.

 

D.  Reward and Punishment -- The Egyptians who hid their animals in fear of Hashem were spared those animals.  Similarly, in reward for saying that “Hashem is righteous”, the Egyptians merited burial after their Yam Suf debacle. On the other hand, the Egyptians were punished in kind and in proportion to their level of cruelty and animosity expressed towards Bnei Yisrael, as is evidenced, for example, by the way each individual Mitzri died at the Yam Suf--some sinking quickly like lead, others being tossed as stones, and yet others being thrown about like straw.  Even those who were gleeful over our servitude, such as the bechorim (first born) of other nations, got their due.  May the same exact justice be meted out against each individual Nazi and each one of our past and present enemies, speedily in our days.

 

Practical Suggestion: Before doing a Mitzvah, and prior to or while contemplating a possible Aveira, recognize that Hashem’s Justice is exact, accurate, and correct. When one is rewarded for davening with Kavannah, he will also be rewarded for coming to Shul in the first place, for arriving there on time, and indeed for every step of the way (instead of turning over in bed). On the other hand, when one is punished, every hurtful word will be counted, each mistruth will be weighed and every degree of Chillul Hashem and Kiddush Hashem will be accounted for.  As the Pasuk teaches (Devorim 32:4) “Hatzur Tomim Pa’alo…”--perfect is His work, for all His Paths are just.  This is related to the incredible degree of middah k’neged middah (measure for measure) with which Hashem runs this world (as we learn when studying the precise nature of each of the ten Makkos).  Dovid HaMelech teaches (Tehillim 121:5) “Hashem is your shadow”--Hashem responds to us and it is up to us whether that shadow will be dark and gloomy--or illustrious and beautiful!!

 

E.  Teva—The Makkos, the concomitant freedom of B’nei Yisrael from the Makkos, the miraculous growth of B’nei Yisrael (from seventy to millions of people) while in desperate servitude, the entire world’s viewing and experiencing of the miracles at the Yam Suf, all dispel the concept of nature and natural existence.  Pesach occurs in the spring not only because it made it easier for B’nei Yisrael to leave, but also for us to appreciate that what the world calls nature, is really the Hand of Hashem.  It is fascinating to note that the Hebrew word for nature, or Teva, consists of the same letters as “Tava”, which means to drown, referring us back to the Sea, to teach us how ‘natural’ events really occur.  It is not surprising, then, that we do not eat Chametz on Pesach, which represents nature taking its course on flour and water, but instead use Matzah, which demonstrates control over what would otherwise occur.  The Ba’alei Mussar explain that we must take this lesson and exercise control over our own nature, for the more we do so, the more we will overcome the physical forces of this world, and raise ourselves from the impurities surrounding us, up and towards the 49 levels of purity that we must begin to strive for.

 

Practical Suggestion: When we see something that looks like a beautiful or even frightening element of nature, recognize that it is really the Yad Hashem, and have it serve as a reminder to you of Hashem’s control over every aspect of the world’s existence--and that you, too, must control your nature and elevate your precious everyday life to the sublime and spiritual!

 

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