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5 Sivan

INYANEI SHAVUOS! By the following link http://tinyurl.com/y7g9lqks we provide a kuntrus entitled MeiAfar Kumi, by Rabbi Ronen Shaharbany, Shlita, on Inyanei Shavuos with all new chiddushim. Please feel free to distribute further! 



TRUE SIMCHA! As we take the Heaven’s treasure, we should remember that the Torah uses the word “simcha” twice in discussing the holiday of Shavuos.  Our joy is twofold, for we not only received the Torah on that great day more than 3,300 years ago, but we commit to take this remarkable gift, compared to water and fire, to bread and wine, to milk and honey, and use it as our daily guide to navigate the pathways of Heaven on Earth.  A real Shavuos inspiration should bring us to remember this primacy throughout the year--especially at those very times when the Heavens feel oh so distant.  A Torah bite at lunch, a shiur on CD in the car between errands, a vort before going to sleep, sharing a Torah thought with a friend while exercising, all serve to remove those roadblocks, eliminate the weighty sandbags, and raise us up very high--as we see the Earth meeting our Heaven!





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


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


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


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


E.  As for Ashkenazim in Chutz LaAretz, until the Moshiach comes, Shavuos is the last time Birchas Kohanim is recited in 5777.  We wish to remind our readers that the Bi’ur Halacha (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim: 128, Introduction) brings from the Sefer Chareidim that just as the Kohanim fulfill a Mitzvas Aseh when they bless K’lal Yisrael, so, too, do the Bnei Yisrael have a part of the Mitzvah when they stand in silence and have Kavanna to receive the Bracha from the Kohanim!


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


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


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


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


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


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






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


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


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


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


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


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





We once again provide below from the Sefer Ma’amad Har Sinai (by Rav Shlomo Rosner, Shlita) a small portion of the description of Matan Torah, as culled from the Gemara and Midrashim--which, we reiterate, forever changed world history, our history--and each of our lives.  The import, extent and unparalleled nature of the event is described by the Torah itself (Devorim 4:32, 33) with the words:  “Ki She’al Na …--When you ask of the earlier days from the day Hashem created man on the earth, and from one end of the heaven to the other…has there ever been anything like this…has a people ever heard the voice of Hashem speaking from the midst of a fire as you have heard….?!”


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


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

2.                              The Shofar blast could be heard worldwide.

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

4.                              Har Sinai was raised from its place, and was suspended in midair with the Bnei Yisrael standing underneath it.

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

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

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

8.                              The Seven Tehomos (depths) below also opened, so that Bnei Yisrael understood that Hashem was singular in all worlds, and most definitely that “Ain Od Milevado--there is nothing else but for Hashem.”

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

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

11.                          Tal, a special dew, fell to revive the Bnei Yisrael after their souls had left them from the awe of the Dibros.

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

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

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


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



4 Sivan

KASHRUS ALERT FROM THE VA’AD OF DETROIT: Many ARNOLD brand BREADS and other breads produced by Bimbo Bakeries are no longer OU certified and do not bear the OU symbol, due to a reformulation to dairy, which is not permitted in bread. Check each label carefully.”



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



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





Someone taps you on the shoulder and, in an inquisitive tone, asks, “Are you excited?”  Perhaps you are tired, but you cannot put your finger on what he is talking about.  In your mind, you quickly scan through what is happening at your job, at home, perhaps it is the Mazel Tov of a friend that you forgot about.  However, your unstated slight bewilderment leads him to state, “I mean Kabbalos HaTorah--it’s almost here!  The count-up is almost over!”  Slightly impressed at his idealism, and not terribly troubled by your oversight, you smile politely, and eke out a “Well, we’re trying!”


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


Indeed, Chazal (Shabbos 129B) teach that it is prohibited to be “makiz dam”--to let blood for healing purposes, on Erev Shavuos, lest the person put himself in sakana--in danger, by letting blood while not having properly prepared for his receiving of the Torah on Shavuos.  This is by no means homiletics.  The Rema in Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim (468:10) brings this Chazal l’halacha--and the Mishna Berurah there even explains that it is forbidden to let blood on every Erev Yom Tov, so that he does not forget and let blood on Erev Shavuos.  (See Teshuvos V’Hanhagos 4:109 for a further discussion.)  While we may not let blood as a matter of course, the importance that even the halacha attaches to proper preparation of each and every one of us to receive the Torah on Shavuos is self-evident.  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(!).


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





“Included among the apikorsim are those who say, “Of what use to us are the scholars with their studies?  Is there anything about which they say, ‘See this is new? They have never permitted us to eat raven, nor forbidden us to eat a dove.”  People such as these have not heard, nor known, nor opened their ears to the values that lie in occupation with Torah.  Because of this, occupation with Torah is lowly in their eyes; they have become rebels against the light of its nobility, and have no share in the World to Come.  We have, therefore, been obliged to teach the sons of Yehudah the values that lie in occupation with Torah….those who do not have the ability to learn--let them recognize the beauty of the honor of occupation with Torah, and let them acquire merit through this realization.”


This appears to be Rabbeinu Yonah’s 700 year old comment on those who disapprove of Kollel study.  We now present you with a more recent perspective.


An outstanding story is brought about Rebbe Yisroel Salanter, Z’TL, who spent significant time with a simple, elderly poor man advising him of all the merits of learning in Kollel.  Reb Yisroel was questioned by his students as to the necessity of talking to him about this--after all, the man was poor and could not support anyone in Kollel, and was simple and elderly and himself not prepared for Kollel study.  Reb Yisroel responded beautifully as follows:  “I wanted this man to have a feeling and a desire, a longing, to learn in or support a Kollel.  Obviously, he does not have the actual means to do either, but to HaKadosh Boruch Hu, he has fulfilled whatever he could by his feelings, desires and longings.  It is for this reason that I spent the time I did with him.”


At this time of year, as we move closer to our receiving the Torah anew, let us give special consideration, thoughts, and appreciation for those who study Torah day and night, and who keep the world going with their Torah study.  Perhaps one way we can demonstrate our feelings is by providing some new or additional support or charity to an:   institution of Torah learning.  Why not write that special Kollel check, or check for a Talmid Chochom--today!



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


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


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


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


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


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


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





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


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


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



IN PROPER PERSPECTIVE: Perhaps one of the most popular questions raised regarding the Giving of the Torah, is why it was given in the desert.  You probably could count five answers on one hand with what you have heard over time.


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


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


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


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


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



1 Sivan

YEHI RATZON: Yesterday, we provided a Tefillah to be recited by parents on behalf of children. By the following link we provide a beautiful, concise Tefillah to be recited (daily) by children on behalf of their parents http://tinyurl.com/jzyo54s.



REMINDER--AHAVAS HASHEM! As we move closer to the great day of Kabalas HaTorah 5777, we remind our readers that at the end of the Sefer Shemiras HaLashon, the Chofetz Chaim provides outstanding practical advice as to how one can bring Ahavas Hashem into his daily life. We provide the Chofetz Chaim’s words of instruction by clicking here -- http://tinyurl.com/m5t5a52  You will note that he recommends that this be undertaken as a matter of course as a pre-breakfast activity. What a wonderful few moments to add to your day!



YOUR ENCAMPMENT!: The Divrei Siach provides the following question on the Parasha presented to HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, and his response:


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


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



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


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


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


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


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


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


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






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


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

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


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

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



SEEDS OF A LIFETIME!  HaRav Shimshon Dovid Pincus, Z’tl, provides the following famous and fascinating Mashal:


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


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


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


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


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


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


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




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


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


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


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


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


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



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


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


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


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


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



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


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


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


We must always remember that the Torah especially uses the word ‘Simcha’ in discussing the holiday of Shavuos.  Our joy is truly twofold, for we not only received the Torah on that great day more than 3,300 years ago, but we commit to take this remarkable gift, compared to water and fire, to bread and wine, to milk and honey, and use it as our daily guide to navigate the pathways of Heaven on Earth.  A real Shavuos inspiration should bring us to remember this primacy throughout the year--especially at those very times when the Heavens feel oh so distant.  A Torah ‘bite’ at lunch, a shiur on CD in the car between errands, a vort before going to sleep, sharing a Torah thought with a friend while exercising, all serve to remove those roadblocks, eliminate the weighty sandbags, and raise us up very high--as we see the Earth meeting our Heaven!



29 Iyar

YOM KIPPUR KOTON FOR ROSH CHODESH SIVAN: Today is the Yom Kippur Koton for Rosh Chodesh Sivan. The Shelah HaKadosh composed a Tefillah to be recited by parents for their children—especially on Erev Rosh Chodesh Sivan. Of course, the Tefillah can be recited any time as well.  The Tefillah is available at the following link -- http://www.hakhel.info/archivesPublicService/TefillasHaShlah.pdf



LESS THAN ONE WEEK AWAY! It is now less than one week to Shavuos…and counting (Baruch Hashem)!  We should remember that in addition to our commemoration of receiving the Torah, there are other mitzvos associated with Shavuos.


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


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


Thirdly, we should remember that there are certain mitzvos relating to the Yom Tov--actually, essential to the Yom Tov--which we will be unable to perform this Shavuos unless the Moshiach arrives first.  The Mitzvos of Aliyah L’Regel to the Bais HaMikdash--yes, even for only the one day of Shavuos; the various Karbonos, including the one-time-a-year Kivsei Atzeres and Shtai Halechem, the Olas Re’iya, Shalmei Chagiga and Korbanos Musaf are all physically and spiritually, shatteringly and irreplaceably, lost from us if the Moshiach does not come. At the very least, we should attempt to study these Mitzvos as a preparation for or at least on Yom Tov itself, so that we are not totally forsaken of them.  For starters, one can study the Sefer HaChinuch, the Siddur Bais Yaakov of HaRav Yaakov Emden, or even easier, the Parashios of the Torah relating to these many Mitzvos. We should also purposefully daven over the next week that we fully and finally celebrate this Shavuos with the Shechina in Yerushalayim Ir Hakodesh!



MORE SALIENT POINTS ON TORAH FROM HARAV CHAIM KANIEVSKY, SHLITA! In keeping with our spirit of Talmud Torah enhancement in this now short period before Shavuos, we provide additional points and pointers from HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, relating to Talmud Torah (Derech Sicha):


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



28 Iyar

A DAY OF NISSIM!  Today, 28 Iyar, commemorates the Nissim V’Niflaos that our people experienced 50 years ago, as Hashem reunited us with the Kosel HaMa’aravi and Mekomos HaKedoshim.  As Dovid HaMelech teaches: “U’re’eh BeTuv Yerushalayim Kol Yemei Chayecha (Tehillim 128:5)--let us observe the beauty of Yerushalayim all the days of our lives.”  The Nissim that began 50 years ago still reverberate for our people daily.  We cannot miss today’s special opportunity to give special shevach v’hoda’ah to Hashem--V’al Nisecha She’bechol Yom Imanu(!)-- and to daven sincerely for the Geulah Sheleima--so that we are no longer bothered by politics, strife, and tzaros of any kind, enabling us to wholly achieve our pure mission and purpose in life.  Let us also give special tzedaka today--for the sake of the ultimate Tuv Yerushalayim--the Binyan Shalem!



REMINDER--TONIGHT! SPECIAL OPPORTUNITY RELATING TO SHIDDUCHIM FROM THE CHOFETZ CHAIM HERITAGE FOUNDATIONOn Wednesday nights from 10:30PM to 11:30PM (New York time) a Rav and Posek is available to provide pesokim in Shemiras HaLashon and Shidduchim, in addition to Hadracha and practical advice in Shidduchim matters. This service supplements the regular Shemiras HaLashon Shailah Hotline hours, in which Shemiras HaLashon Shailos in Shidduchim are also answered by Poskim. For this service, please call the Hotline number: 718-951-3696. Spread the word!



TOMORROW--FOR WOMEN AND GIRLS!  Erev Rosh Chodesh Tehillim for Rosh Chodesh Sivan and Chizuk over the Phone. Rebbetzin Ora Weingort, a Mechaneches From Eretz Yisrael will provide Divrei Chizuk. Time: 1:15PM (NY time). The number to call is 646-558-6338 Access code: 30671# (pound).  The following Perakim will be recited #20, 46, 83, 121, 130, 142 and 100.  The Perakim can be downloaded from Artscroll at http://www.artscroll.com/itehillim.html#tehillim



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





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


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


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



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



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


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


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


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



27 Iyar



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



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


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


HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, relates that when he was younger the Chazon Ish noticed that he was studying Torah with his elbows on the Gemara, but that he was careful not to put any other Sefer on top of his Gemara.  The Chazon Ish advised him that he acted incorrectly--no elbows were allowed on his Gemara, but another Sefer being used in connection with this study, even that of a later commentary, was.


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The above is only a brief and summary listing of improvements in Torah, but is certainly a start for any of us to get moving with.  We more than welcome your suggestions. We especially note that the first three words of last week’s Parasha are “Im Bechukosai Teileichu” (Vayikra 26:3).  Chazal (quoted by Rashi) teach that this refers to “walking, moving, in the study of Torah.”  This is our opportunity to demonstrate that we are taking the clear lesson from the Parasha, and that we are on the move to improve in Torah!



26 Iyar

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



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



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


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



23 Iyar

TREMENDOUS TEACHINGS!:  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 going to be learned.

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

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

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

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

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





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!  



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!



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!




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




1.      It’s a privilege to know you.

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

3.      I need your advice.

4.      You really bought this at a good price.

5.      Smart!

6.      I’m impressed.

7.      It looks so good on you.

8.      You remind me of your father/mother.

9.      I really appreciate your effort.

10. You do so many good things.

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

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

13. This is delicious.

14. Can I give you a bracha?

15. Can you give me a bracha?

16. What a wonderful idea.

17. You probably know the answer to this.

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

19. Beautiful!

20. My compliments to the chef.

21. You look like a million dollars.

22. Your parents did something right.

23. Some people really have their head on straight.

24. You did a great job.

25. What a chesed!

26. You have amazing taste.

27. You are so special.

28. You did this all by yourself?

29. I know that your word is your bond.

30. You’re great!


Is the above list beyond anyone—anyone?  Let us leave “anyone” aside and focus on you.  The Torah (and your Maker) knows that you can do it…and your life will surely be much enhanced when you do!



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 Ona’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.

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


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


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


12.  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.


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


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


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


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


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


18.  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.


19.  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.


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


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


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


23.  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.


24.  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.


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


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


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


28.  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.


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


30.  “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.


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


32.  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.


33.  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.


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


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


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


37.  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.


38.  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.


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


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



22 Iyar

QUESTION OF THE DAY: The Torah refers to one Mitzvah in last week’s Parasha as both a Bris Olam and Chok Olam. What Mitzvah is it?



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



WHAT HAPPENED?  This week’s Parasha of Behar begins with the monumental teaching of Bitachon through the observance of Shemittah. The starting step, the first building block of Bitachon is that nothing happens ‘coincidentally’, ‘by chance’ or ‘by accident.’  In fact, a reader pointed out to us that there is no word in Lashon HaKodesh which means ‘accident.’  The current word in modern Hebrew for accident, ‘Te’una’, is found in Tehillim 91:10, and is translated there as ‘befall’, ‘occur’ or ‘come upon’ (see Metsudos and Malbim there).  Throughout our day, especially in these turbulent times (as Chabakuk taught--‘Vetzadik B’Emunaso Yichye’), we must be careful to recognize and aver that everything, every single thing, is really and truly an act of Hashem.  It would appear than that for one to say that he ‘bumped into’ or ‘happened to meet’ someone, or that ‘by chance’ (in modern Hebre--‘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 reminds us of this Mitzvah at this particular point, and even  at this particular juncture in our lives[this is what Hashgacha is 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!



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 will begin on Rosh Chodesh Sivan, 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!



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!



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 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!



21 Iyar

A PHRASE TO REMEMBER: “Warm words never hurt anyone.”



CAREFUL WORDS:  HaRav Pam, Z’tl, as quoted in the wonderful work Careful Words, by Rabbi Sholom Smith, Shlita, brings the following important lessons:


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


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


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


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



AN IMPORTANT SEFIRA MASHAL:  HaRav Shimshon Pincus, z’tl, provides a fascinating mashal which sheds an absolutely glowing light on the importance of each day of Sefirah:


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


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


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


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


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


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



20 Iyar

A SEFIRAH SUGGESTION: In last week’s Perek (Avos 4:20), Rebbi Masya Ben Charash teaches: “Hevei Makdim Beshalom Kol Adam--initiate a greeting to every person.” As the cheit of the students of Rebbi Akiva is Shelo Nahagu Kavod Zeh Lazeh (Yevamos 62B)--we suggest that a clear demonstration of one’s desire to improve in his showing the honor due another, would be to take great care to follow the teaching of Rebbi Masya Ben Charash-- Hevei Makdim Bishlom Kol Adam! Hakhel Note: Does one fulfill being Makdim Beshalom by saying “Good Morning”, “Good Afternoon”, or the like--or should one actually say “Shalom Aleichem”? We asked a Rav who felt that “Good Morning” or its equivalent would fulfill the words of the Tanna here. One can ask his own Rav this question as well.



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



REMINDER FOR THE SUMMER: By the following link http://tinyurl.com/kcy82vz we provide an essential Tefillah from the Sefer Taharas HaKodesh, as provided to us by the Always Our Kids Organization.



3,650! By avoiding ten words of Lashon Hara a day (one or two sentences)--one will have performed 3,650 Mitzvos a year. Over a 50 year period, this amounts to 182,500 Mitzvos and Malochim who are malitzei yosher for a person--all for avoiding 10 no-good words per day!



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


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



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


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


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


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


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


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



ONA’AS DEVORIM: This week’s Parasha provides the Lo Sa’aseh of Ona’as Devorim--”Lo Sonu Ish Es Amiso” (Vayikra 25:17).


How should the victim, the subject, of Ona’as Devarim react? We provide some thoughts below; of course, details as to any particular situation should be discussed with one’s Rav or Posek:


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



19 Iyar

TAKING TERUMAH: In the Siddur Masok M’Devash, HaRav Doniel Frisch, Z’tl, writes that making a bracha over food is like taking Terumos and Ma’asros before eating--the bracha removes the food status as tevel, and turns it from a davar ha’asur into something that a Mitzvah was done upon!



SUMMER PLANS: As the weather gets warmer and the very cold winter becomes more of a memory, many begin to actively work on successful summer plans. As Torah Jews, we do not immediately approach the summer with ideas of ‘fun’ vacations and trips to the wrong places. Instead, we plan our activities with the thoughts of traveling at the proper times, and being in proper areas, with Minyanim and Torah study available. However, as we are still in the last throes of our current Galus Edom/Yishmael, we are faced with living in a society whose mores continue to decline and whose decadence becomes more commonplace. We suggest that the most important summer plan that one should come up with is how to avoid falling prey to the pritzus--both in scenery and activities--all around us. One can truly have a successful summer if he/she thinks about and implements certain plans as to places to avoid (even if it means time or expense), how to dress and how to conduct oneself if faced with being in any place which is not a home or community environment. Women will be inspired and directed by this week’s Bnos Melochim event, in which HaRav Yitzchok Scheiner and either Rabbi Naftali Reich (Program A) or Rabbi YY Jacobson and Mrs. Dina Schoonmaker (Program B), will provide much-needed guidance, direction and encouragement. Please see local ads for further detail. For further information email projects@bnosmelochim.org or call 845-425-9222. Men are left more on their own to gird themselves against the influences. For men to begin their successful summer plan, we once again provide the Tefillah L’Shemiras Einyaim by the following link http://tinyurl.com/kcy82vz which should be recited daily--and perhaps more often! 



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!





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.”



Lag B'Omer



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!



FROM A READER: “I heard two 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.”



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!



16 Iyar

TURNAROUND YOUR DAY: Giving brachos to others uplifts them and inspires you. There are certain personal habits which a person practices every day--may we suggest giving at least three brachos a day to three different people as part of your daily way of life! What a benefit to all involved!



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



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



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



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 Bircas Hamazon in honor of the Mon’s initial falling.  Today then would then appear to be an auspicious day to rededicate ourselves to the principle of Mon--that all of our sustenance is Min Hashamayim as the Mon indicates--and certainly a day to review and renew our kavana in the very first bracha of Birkas HaMazon (after all--do you know of any other brachos that Moshe Rabbeinu himself composed!).



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


The Kabbalah could be as small as an increase of only “two to three minutes a day” after davening or before going to bed, listening to a short Torah phone message, going through a particular Sefer in preparation for Shavuos--and can be something as great as reviewing a few blatt per day of a Mesechta recently learned, culminating with a Siyum on Shavuos! One’s personalized decision must come based upon one’s own time constraints, feelings, background and surroundings. 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.



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, H’YD, 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!



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


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



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





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


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


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


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


D.  In this week’s Parasha, we are reminded of the Mitzvah of Shabbos at the outset of the Parashas HaMoadim.  As the Pasuk states (Vayikra 23:3) -Shabbos Hi Lachem Bechol Moshvoseichem--it is a Shabbos for Hashem in all of your dwelling places.  We note that Shabbos is placed first--ahead of a description of all of the Moadim.  We should be inspired this Shabbos to realize that although Shabbos comes every week--it is 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!





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


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


B. On the words of “Venikdashti Besoch Bnei Yisrael” recited above, HaRav Chaim Kanievksy, Shlita teaches that the Mitzvah of Kiddush Hashem is “Mah SheHa’adam Muchan U’Moser Atzmo LaiHareig Al Kedushas Shemo Yisbarach--one fulfills the Mitzvah if he is prepared to give his life to sanctify Hashem’s name, even if in the end he is not killed.”


Hakhel Note One:  See the introduction to the Sefer Kovetz Shiurim of HaRav Elchanan Wasserman Z’tl, H’YD, relating to HaRav Elchanan’s preparations for petira Ahl Kiddush Hashem. 


Hakhel Note Two:  In all events, we note that we recite daily in Shacharis-- Kadesh Es Shimcha Ahl Makdishei Shemecha...Baruch Atta...Mekadesh Es Shimcha Barabim!  Let us give these awesome words the Kavannah they deserve daily!


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


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



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


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


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


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


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


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


Hakhel Note: A very practical and timely suggestion to demonstrate by action your awareness that Shavuos will soon arrive: Commit to show greater respect to Rabbanim and Talmidei Chachomim by standing up when they are in your proximity; similarly, trying to reshelve Seforim that may be strewn about in Shul, even if you were not responsible for their state.  At home, making sure that Siddurim and Bentchers/ Zemiros books are properly treated and placed in their proper position; and if any Sefer page or binding is ripped, or torn, promptly repairing them with tape that you have handy.



15 Iyar

FROM A READER: “In response to your note from the Chofetz Chaim on finding something greater than yourself in another person, I heard it said in the name of the former Rosh Yeshivah of Tiferes Bachurim in Morristown, NJ and Rav of Kehillas Tzemach Tzedek in Monsey, HaRav Dovid Wichnin, Z’tl, that every morning before opening the door to the Beis Medrash in his yeshivah, he would pause at the door and think to himself why each bochur (and kollel yungerleit) sitting inside the Beis Medrash had a ma’alah over him, in that they had made a conscious decision to become Shomer Torah u’Mitzvos, whereas he was “merely” born into it!”



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!



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!



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!



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!



IMPORTANT KAVANOS IN AHAVA RABBA:  The Mogen Avraham (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 60:1) provides some essential Kavannos for one to have at the end of the bracha Ahava Rabba (Ahavas Olam in Nusach Sefard): 


-U’vanu Vacharta Mikol Am VeLashon V’Keiravtanu--and You have chosen us from among every people and tongue.”  Here, when reciting the words with Kavannah--we can fulfill the Mitzvas Asei of remembering Matan Torah and Ma’amad Har Sinai.  


-“LeShimcha HaGadol Selah B’Emes--to Your Great Name.” Here, when reciting the words with Kavannah--we can fulfill the Mitzvas Asei of remembering what Amaleik did to us, for as long as they are present in this world Hashem can be referred to as Kah, and only after their destruction will Hashem’s Name be made Gadol--‘whole’--to always be Yud-Key-Vuv-Key.


-“LeHodos Lecha--to offer praiseful thanks to You.” Here, when reciting the words with Kavannah--we can fulfill the Mitzvas Asei of remembering what Hashem did to Miriam, through our realization that our mouths were created only to thank Hashem, and not to speak Lashon Hara against others.


-“U’Leyachedicha B’Ahava--proclaim Your Oneness with love.” Here, when reciting the words with Kavannah--we can fulfill the Mitzvas Asei of remembering how our forefathers angered Hashem in the desert with their conduct, thereby appreciating that our conduct is so important that if c’v it is improper it actually angers Hashem--but that if it is proper it demonstrates our love to Him--and in turn He shows His love back to us in so many ways that we will be able to appreciate!



14 Iyar

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



APPRECIATING A RASHI: HaRav Aharon Rotter, Shlita, mechaber of the multi-volume Sha’arei Aharon, teaches us how to appreciate Rashi’s teachings:  One should review the words of Rashi to Yecheskel 42:3, where Rashi discusses Yecheskel HaNavi’s description of the Third Beis HaMikdash. There, Rashi explains how he came to his commentary as follows: “I did not have any teacher or help who could explain to me [how the Third Beis HaMikdash would look]--all I had was Kemo Sheheruni Min HaShomayim--that which was showed to me from Heaven!”



A TIMELY LESSON!  Rebbi Akiva teaches us that VeAhavta L’Reiacha Kamocha is a, or the, K’lal Gadol BaTorah--a great Torah principle. The Sifsei Chachomim gives a special insight into why this is so. He explains that it is more difficult for a person to act properly in the Bein Adam L’Chaveiro sphere than it is to act in Bein Adam LaMakom matters. After all, there are Yetzer Hara driven middos such as kinnah, ga’avah, sinah, ta’avah and the like, which reverberate between man and his fellow man. If one not only controls these middos, but excels in them, concludes the Sifsei Chachomim--then he will most certainly excel in Bein Adam LaMakom, as well.

Hakhel Note: In a similar vein, HaRav Chaim Shmuelevitz, Z’tl, asks why Hashem will hear the cries of Rochel for the Geulah and respond “Meeni Koleich MiBechi”--apparently even more than Hashem will hear the cries of Avraham Avinu who was ready to sacrifice his son in the service of Hashem, or of Yitzchak Avinu, who was ready to sacrifice himself. He explains that Rochel’s act towards her sister Leah--giving up her ‘competition’, and not only allowing but providing for Yaakov Avinu to marry Leah seems to be even a greater act of self-sacrifice than the sacrifice of oneself to Hashem. The masterful lesson is clear--when one improves in Bein Adam L’Chaveiro--he will (even unwittingly) be wonderfully raising himself in Bein Adam LaMakom as well!



BEING CAREFUL BEFORE AND AFTER:  Every night in Hashkiveinu, we recite the words:  “V’Haser Satan Milifaneinu U’Mei’achareinu”.  What does this mean--who is the satan in front of us and who is the satan in back of us? HaRav Pam, Z’tl, teaches that Milifaneinu refers to the satan who stands in front of the person, trying to prevent or delay him from doing a Mitzvah. By asking Hashem to remove the satan from in front of us--we are asking that Hashem help give us the mindset, the resolve, and the drive to accomplish the Mitzvah without any tarrying. Then, after we have done a Mitzvah--we sometimes may feel remorse, a sense of disappointment, or a feeling that we made the wrong decision. We accordingly ask Hashem not to let any despair or even reconsideration trouble us--so that the Mitzvah remains whole--as we had intended it. HaRav Ezriel Erlanger, Shlita, presents a related superb insight into the Satan Milifaneinu U’Mei’achareinu, which he had heard from a Yerushalmi many years ago. The satan Milifaneinu is the attitude or approach that an aveirah one is about to commit is ‘nisht geferlach’--not so bad, not so important, really nothing. We ask that Hashem open our eyes to our own significance, and to the importance of each one of our actions. On the other side, if c’v, an aveirah has been committed--the satan Mei’achareinu immediately attempts to convince the sinner: “You are lost, you cannot overcome this aveirah--work on something else instead.” We accordingly ask Hashem that even if c’v we have once or more than once succumbed to any sin, that He give us the sense to get up and go on--to realize that yei’ush is not a Torah feeling--but an instrument of the satan. Hakhel Note:  Every night as we recite the words Satan Meilifaneinu U’Mei’achareinu--perhaps we can stop for a moment in between the words Meilifaneinu and U’Mei’achareinu--and appreciate their great import and their life giving and essential meanings!



WHAT DOES HASHEM REALLY WANT?  Dovid HaMelech himself (Tehillim 147:11) writes “Rotze Hashem Es Yereiav…Hashem wants those who fear Him, those who look out for His kindness.”  From this Posuk, it is clear that, succinctly stated, Hashem would like us to recognize, acknowledge and appreciate that our entire existence is permeated and imbibed with His Chasodim--Kindnesses.  It is therefore no coincidence that, in another Posuk in Tehillim (26:3), Dovid HaMelech specifically relates “Ki Chasdicha L’Neged Aiynei--[I place] Your kindness in front of my eyes.”  Every so often during the day we should take a moment or two to recognize and express our appreciation for the multitude of kindnesses that Hashem is performing for us at that very moment--and try to tangibly feel and experience as many of them as possible.  Take the senses, for example.  Sight and the beauty of what you can see; hearing and the consequent words of Torah you can learn from others; smell and an appreciation of necessary nutrients entering your body in a pleasant way; walking with your feet, legs and hips in concert to Shul, to work and to help others; touching and being able to hold, push and move objects for the benefit of yourself and others.


Of course, this is only a cursory list of some of the immediate items around us.  As we have noted in the past, the beautiful prayer known as “Nishmas” which is recited on Shabbos, Yom Tov, on the night of the Seder, and by some at a Seudas Hoda’ah--a meal of thanks, contains the following moving words: “Were our mouth as full of song as the sea [is of water], and our tongue as full of joyous song as its multitudes of waves, and our lips as full of praise as the breadth of the heavens, and our eyes as brilliant as the sun and the moon, and our hands as outspread as eagles of the sky and our feet as swift as hinds [deer]--we still could not thank You sufficiently Hashem our G-d and the G-d of our forefathers, and bless Your name for even one of the thousand-thousand, thousands of thousands and myriad myriads of favors that You performed for our ancestors and for us… (Translation from the Complete Artscroll Siddur).


Each and every one of us is faced with concomitant daily, short-term, and long-term troubles, trials and tribulations, which may be or are very difficult and very real.  We should not, however, lose sight of all that we have to be thankful for.  Another sunrise, another day of life, is truly, in all reality, another opportunity to acquire everlasting eternity through the performance of Mitzvos and proper conduct in life.  As HaRav Moshe Tuvia Lieff, Shlita, related at a Hakhel Shiur in the name of one of his Baalei Batim--”My cup may be smaller than that of others--but it is still full!!”


When we realize that we have moments in which we can ponder a bit (or when we are reflective enough to create those special moments), let us think of the words of Nishmas cited above, and let us emulate the words of Dovid HaMelech (who went through so many trials and tribulations in his own life), as he declared to the world:  [I place] Your kindness in front of my eyes!



13 Iyar

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


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


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



BY HEART: Do you know the Sheish Mitzvos Temidiyos--the Six Constant Mitzvos--by heart? If not, now is the time to learn them as these are Six Constant Mitzvos with unlimited reward. For a concise description, see the first page of the Mishna Berurah, in the Biur Halacha d’h Hu K’lal Gadol BaTorah.



PESACH SHENI--TOMORROW!  Tomorrow is Pesach Sheni. HaRav Yaakov Tzvi Emden, Z’TL (“the Yaavetz”) writes in his Siddur that:


“It was revealed to me from Heaven why Pesach Sheni was established on the 14th day of Iyar.  After all, it would not require more than two weeks for anyone who was impure or too far away on Pesach itself to come to Yerushalayim and bring the Pesach Sheni.  So, why wait a month from the 14th of Nissan to the 14th of Iyar--the Pesach Sheni could have already been brought by Rosh Chodesh Iyar?!”  The reason given to HaRav Emden from Heaven was that Bnei 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 Mitzraim, then, extended until tomorrow’s special day!


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


One final point on Pesach Sheni: there is a difference in custom as to if and when one eats Matzah tomorrow.  According to one opinion, one should not eat Matzah, for it may appear as if he is attempting to fulfill the Mitzvah of Matzah in an improper time, which is a violation of the Torah’s prohibition against adding onto the 613 Mitzvos.  Others have the custom to eat Matzah sometime during the day on the 14th, to remember that the Korbon Pesach Sheni was brought on that day.  A third opinion is to eat the Matzah tomorrow night, 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.



YAHRZEIT OF REBBI MEIR: Tomorrow is also the Yahrtzeit of the Great Tanna, Rebbi Meir (also known as Rebbi 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!



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


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


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


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



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


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


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



12 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).



DAN LCHAF ZECHUS! In last week’s Parasha, we studied the Mitzvah of B’Tzedek Tishpot Amisecha. Let us keep it on our minds daily!


By the following link-- http://tinyurl.com/6l5s2s  we present a Tefillah provided in the past in which one davens to Hashem for assistance in judging others LChaf Zechus. Chazal teach that it is a great merit for a person to judge others favorably for one will also then be judged favorably as well!



KODESH HAKODOSHIM! In last week’s Parasha, we learned how the Kohen Gadol enters the Kodesh HaKodoshim on Yom Kippur. While at this moment in time we may not have a Kodesh HaKodoshim here are earth--we can view our own Shuls and Batei Midrashim as our current Holy of Holies. One practical application of this is to speak softly and gently in Shul--and not speaking loudly across the Shul, even if one has called out to you from a distance in Shul. Let us remember the great reverence and respect we must have for a Makom Kadosh!



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


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



SIX IN ONE:  Chazal (Sanhedrin 20A) teach that in a generation of Rebbi Yehudah the son of Rebbi Ila’i the poverty was so great that six people were forced to cover themselves with one tallis.  HaRav Chaim Shmuelevitz, Z’tl, provides an outstanding insight on this Chazal.  If six individuals were able to cover themselves with one tallis, it meant that no one individual was pulling the tallis too much towards him, and in fact that each individual was allowing the covering to be pulled in all directions by his different ‘partners’.  Chazal teach that despite the abject poverty of this generation, it superseded much wealthier and seemingly more prominent generations in the power of its prayers.  The lesson to us all is obvious.  When one feels himself struggling and at apparent odds with another--and even with legitimate reason--he should allow himself to let that other person have ‘a little bit of the tallis’.  Only children should care about who wins in a ‘tug of war’. We should see how far we can go in sharing, giving and even relenting to another.  We can really go much farther than we think--while still keeping ourselves covered.  As we speed through the days of Sefira--almost reaching the halfway point, we should be sure to let go of the tallis a little bit more in the challenging situations--which will be a clear and effective demonstration that we have in fact grabbed hold of the Sefira and its lessons to us.  The next time you feel a tug--don’t respond by pulling hard in your direction as you did when you were a child--but let it slip gently to bring pleasure to, and build relationships with, the person who is tugging at it with you!



PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS OF HOCHEI’ACH TOCHIACH: The following is excerpted from Love Your Neighbor (Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita) on last week’s Parasha:


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


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


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


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


*If someone transgresses in public, you should rebuke him immediately so as not to cause a Chillul Hashem.  For example, if someone is in the middle of speaking Loshon 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).


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


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


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



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!



9 Iyar

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!”



A RESPONSE----From a Reader: “In response to your question of why we don’t count two days of sefira due to doubt, I have the following answer: “The Rishonim - Raza [Baal Hamaor] and Ran on end of Pesachim - explain that the reason is because this would belittle the holiday of Shavuos, as one would have to count Sefira on the first night of Shavuos, which would be a contradiction to the sanctity of Shavuos and a belittlement of the festival [similar to saying leishev basukkah on Shemini Atzeres due to the fact that perhaps it is still Sukkos, which would belittle the festival of Shemini Atzeres and therefore we don’t do it].”


Hakhel Note: The Reader provided other responses as well--you too can do your own research!





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


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


C.  Chazal (Meilah 17A) provide an incredible incident in which Rebbi Reuven Ben Istrubeli dressed as a Roman in order to induce the Roman political leadership to annul 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!



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.



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.



THE FAMOUS MIDRASH: The Midrash Rabba on this week’s Parasha brings the extraordinary story of the peddler who traveled from city to city crying out, “Who wants to purchase the elixir for life?  Is there anyone who wishes to purchase the potion for life?”  The great Rebbe Yannai heard the merchant’s pitch, and told him that he would purchase the concoction.  The peddler then opened up a Sefer Tehillim to the posukim “Mi HaIsh HeChofetz Chaim…Which man desires life…guard your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit.” (34:13-14) Succinctly stated, the elixir is Shemiras HaLashon!  Rebbi Yannai, upon hearing these words, was impressed by the Chiddush contained in the peddler’s teaching.


Everyone who has heard or studied this Midrash (probably each and every one of us) asks the question, what was the point, the nuance, the novelty, that the peddler provided that Rebbe Yannai did not previously know, understand or realize?!


HaRav Shimon Schwab, Z’tl, based upon his personal audience and experience with the Chofetz Chaim himself, reports the Chofetz Chaim’s understanding of the Midrash:


Unlike other storekeepers or businessman, a peddler cannot extend credit, and all transactions are COD.  Rebbe Yannai learned from the peddler that, for the act of refraining from Lashon Hara one does not receive a “credit” for life.  Instead, he receives **an immediate award** of life!  Moreover, added the Chofetz Chaim, the life we are talking about is not merely a day of life--or even ten days--or even thirty days or a year or two years.  Rather, it is as we recite in the Bracha over the Torah, “Vechayei Olam Nota Besochainu”--it is Chayei Olam--an eternal life.  The Chofetz Chaim, in fact, turned to his student, and asked him, “Do you know where we will be 100 years from now?  In the Mechitza of the Ribbono Shel Olam.  This is the same place we will be in 1,000 years from now--and in 5 million years from now (!!)--with the Ribbono Shel Olam.”  This is what a person who refrains from Lashon Hora merits--an immediate ticket to millions and millions years of being in the Mechitza of the Ribbono Shel Olam--could there be anything greater--could there be?!


So, the next time the temptation of Lashon Hora comes, and to most of us it happens several times a day, remember three things--A) Immediate Payment, B) 5 Million Years and More, C ) In the Mechitza of the Ribbono Shel Olam.  This should help out a tremendous amount with that Nisayon…and convert it into  pristine, eternal  bliss!!



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.





1. Rebbi Nechunyah Ben Hakanah (3:6) teaches that: “Kol HaMekabel Alav Ohl Torah…one who accepts upon himself the yolk of Torah, he will have removed from him the yolk of government and the yolk of worldly responsibilities.” Rebbi Nechunyah then continues: “Vechol Haporeik Mimenu Ohl Torah…but if someone throws off the yolk of Torah from himself--the yolk of government and the yolk of worldly responsibilities are placed upon him.” Rebbi Nechunyah teaches us that there are but two alternatives--and not three, four or more. One either accepts upon himself the yolk of Torah, or throws it off.


In an almost identical fashion, Rebbi Chananyah Ben Tradyon (ibid. 3:3) teaches: “Shenayim Sheyoshvin V’Ein Beineihem…--if two sit together and there are no words of Torah between them, it is a moshav leitzim….” Whereas, “if two sit together and words of Torah are between them, the Shechinah rests between them”. Once again, there aren’t three or four choices--only two. Either the two sitting together recognize the significance of their being together and exchange words of Torah bringing the Shechinah into their midst--or they are like those attending a boxing match. Every person has a choice in life--as the Torah expressly sets forth (Devorim 30:15) “Re’eih Nasati Lifanecha Hayom…see I have placed before you today the life and the good, and the death and the evil…U’vacharta BaChaim--and you shall choose life!”


2. Rebbi Akiva (Avos 3:17) teaches that “Seyag LaChochma Shesika--a protective fence for wisdom is silence.”  This closely follows the teaching of Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel (ibid. 1:17):  “Kol Yomai Godalti Bain HaChachamim...all my days I have been raised among chachomim and I have found nothing better for oneself than silence...and one who talks excessively brings on sin.”  The Bartenura on Rebbi Akiva’s teaching explains that Rebbi Akiva is not talking about sinful speech such as Lashon Hara or Ona’as Devorim which is in any event forbidden. Rather, he is speaking about permissible speech, which is still hurtful if left unchecked.  HaRav Avigdor Miller, Z’tl, accordingly teaches that one should practice every day refraining from saying something (permissible) that he was otherwise going to say. This, HaRav Miller teaches, demonstrates a level of Yiras Shomayim, recognizing that one is not in control of his power of speech--but that it is HaKadosh Baruch Hu who opens our minds and our mouths.  This level of Yiras Shomayim, in turn, will help prevent one from sin.  Indeed, Dovid HaMelech teaches in Tehillim (111:10):  Raishis Chochma--Yiras Hashem--the Chochma referred to by Rebbi Akiva could be the Yiras Shomayim referred to in the Pasuk.  In a similar vein, it is well known that HaRav Pam, Z’tl, even for the most obvious or simple response would typically wait for a moment or more--so that the word or words uttered were uttered with awareness and care.  We should take the lesson to heart--we start off the day with Raishis Chochma--can we try and follow HaRav Miller’s suggestion-and work on our Chochma and Yiras Shomayim-by keeping our lips sealed--not making the added comment or excessive statement, not providing the additional opinion or witticism--just one time a day--(preferably in the morning)?   One may never know when and where the fruits of this Avodah will blossom and appear!



THE PATH TO KABBALAS HATORAH:  At the outset of the Sefer Sha’arei Teshuva, the Rabbeinu Yonah writes that Teshuva is not a one-month or ten day of the year attempt, but is a daily requirement for one who realizes that the Yetzer Hora has bested him in some way. In fact, one who makes the mistake of putting off  his Teshuva to a later time may very well be committing a greater indiscretion than the first sin itself!  As we know, the three aspects of immediate Teshuva are Charata (true remorse and regret for what was done), Kabala Ahl HaAsid--setting up a safeguard or taking a measure or measures so that it does not happen so fast again, and Vidui--admitting and confessing that you made a wrong turn.  The Sefer Tomer Devorah provides a profound insight into the concept of Vidui.  He writes that when one verbally expresses his sin to Hashem, his Kavannah should be ‘lekabel alav tahara’--to bring upon himself a purity, a cleansing.  As Dovid HaMelech expresses in the Perek HaTeshuva (Tehillim 51): “Herev Cabseini MaiAvoni--abundantly cleanse me from my iniquity” (ibid. 51:4). Some feel,or at least hope for, a greater sense of purity and cleansing when they immerse in a mikva on Erev Shabbos, or Erev Yom Tov.  We, Dovid HaMelech teaches, have the opportunity to accomplish a true cleansing, a real purification, with the sincere words of Vidui which we articulate.  How and why could a person who realizes that his life needs some fixing wait days or months--when he can freely immerse in the comfort of his home or office--in a kabala of tahara through a  heartfelt and genuine expression of vidui!


Additional Note:  We don’t have to wait to recite Vidui to use our mouths for great accomplishments.  Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, teaches in Mishlei (12:8): ‘Lefi Sichlo Yehulal Ish’, which we could take to mean that a person is praised in accordance with the level of his wisdom.. The Targum there, however, provides a more telling explanation.  It translates ‘Lefi’ not as ‘in accordance with’, but instead as ‘to the mouth’--so that the Pasuk in fact reads (translated) “a person is praised by the wisdom that is uttered from his mouth.”  What is the greatest wisdom that one can attain?  Obviously, Torah which Hashem gave to us--and told us is the best thing for us in life. When we recite in Ma’ariv “Ki Haim Chayeinu--for they (the Torah and the Mitzvos contained within it) are our life--it is no allegory or parable.  By making a special effort to relate a D’var Torah when the situation or event seems devoid of Torah, to actually cheer someone’s spirits with a teaching from Chazal, to share a thought that you heard from a Rav or Maggid Shiur with a friend or business associate--doesn’t only show that you know something--but also decidedly demonstrates, says the wisest of all men, that you are especially worthy of praise for the words of your mouth. 


As we proceed to Kabalas HaTorah, we can accomplish oh so much more by letting go on the rope to another, and by focusing and directing our utterances to words of Torah--Lefi Sichlo-- in the various situations and circumstances we find ourselves in.  The life of a shopkeeper, school teacher, and person you are sitting next to at a simcha or on a bus, neighbor, friend or family member can all be eternally enhanced by a D’var Torah that you just learned and exert the effort to relate--and you can actually change someone’s life.  So don’t shy away in carrying a Torah thought further--and be praised for your wisdom by Hashem and by man--because you deserve it!



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!



DO IT TODAY! We must appreciate the value and importance of receiving brachos from others. Chazal teach that even the bracha of a hedyot should not be treated lightly. Today, ask three people for brachos (for either something specific, or in general)… and answer with a sincere and heartfelt “Amen!”. Hakhel Note: You can do this every day!



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.”



YOUR IMPORTANT PERSONAL RECORD: Following is the text of a letter issued by HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl and HaRav Yaakov Kamenetsky, Z’tl, dated 24 Av 5744, as translated into English and presented in the Emuna Daily’s Hashgacha Pratit Journal: 


                    “As any thoughtful person will understand, it is very important in these times to implant the belief in the heart of every person that Hashem watches personally over the life of each individual. This is especially critical when educating our youngsters, because this is a pillar which upholds our entire belief system.  A good strategy for reinforcing this faith is to keep a notebook chronicling any situation in which a person sees and feels Hashem’s direct supervision in matters of daily life. One can easily discern that this approach will uproot and negate the sense that things occur at random, or that forces of nature dominate our lives, or that “it is my fortitude and the power of my hand that accomplish for me in life”. By strengthening this Mitzvah all of the other Mitzvos of the Torah will be fortified. Then we will experience the words of Habbakuk:  VeTzaddik Beemunaso Yichye--the righteous man will be vitalized by his faith. “


The Emuna Daily’s Hashgacha Pratit Journal, an extremely meaningful pamphlet with over 40 blank pages to fill-in one’s personal Hashgacha Pratis  insights on a daily basis, is available by contacting emunadaily@gmail.com.  To receive the daily short Emuna-message email, contact this email address as well.  Once again, for a daily three to five minute moving audio Shiur on Emunah, please call 605-475-4799, access 840886#, and then when asked for the number of the shiur--press  # again.



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, as 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!



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 - if the subject actually 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


Seven above conditions or keep silent!”



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!



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


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


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


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


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


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



7 Iyar

THE OUTSTANDING NATURE OF PRAYER: “Among Hashem’s acts of love was the opportunity that He gave man to approach Him, even in this world. Even though man is immersed in darkness and far from the Light in his natural physical state, he is still permitted to stand before Hashem and call Him by His Name. Man is thus able to temporarily elevate himself from his lowly natural state to exist in a state of closeness to Hashem, casting his burden upon Him. This is the reason for the strict rule prohibiting any interruption whatsoever during [the Amidah, which is the paradigm of] prayer. This is because of the very high degree of closeness to Hashem that one places himself in at such a time. This is also the reason why it was ordained to take leave at the end of the Amidah, by taking three steps backwards. These steps represent man’s return to his normal state, where he must remain at all other times.” [Excerpted from Derech Hashem by HaRav Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, Z’tl, as translated in the outstanding English translation by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, Z’tl (Feldheim)]



SO CALLED ‘NATURAL EVENTS’:  As it is thunderstorm season in many areas, we provide the following Reminder of the Halachos regarding the “natural” phenomenon uniquely provided by Hashem in each given location at its own special time.  You may want to keep them handy when the situation presents itself so that you are prepared to do right!


The basis for the Halachos below is Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, Chapter 227, and the Mishna Berurah, Shoneh Halachos and Piskei Teshuvos on this Chapter.  We specifically note that one should, of course, consult with his Rav for the final Halacha.  We present them for an understanding of the issues.


1.  When experiencing an earthquake, one recites the bracha of “Oseh Maaseh 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 Maaseh Beraishis”.  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 Maaseh 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 Maaseh Beraishis” or “Shekocho U’Gevuraso.”  However, the custom is to make the Bracha of “Oseh Maaseh 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 Maaseh 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 Maaseh 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 Maaseh 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 Maaseh 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 Zitz Eliezer, Z’tl) rule that one need not see the bolt itself and that, accordingly, one can make the Bracha of “Oseh Maaseh 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.  Although not absolutely required by Halacha, it is preferable that one stands when making these two Brochos.


10.  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.


11.  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.


12.  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.


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


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



WHO WAS NA’AMI?:  We are now less than four weeks from the giving of the Torah in 5777.  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 Na’ami that impressed her so much?  The Midrash (Rus Rabbah 2:5) gives an explanation:  Why was she called Na’ami?  Because her actions were sweet and pleasant Rus saw in Na’ami 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 proofs of the existence of a Creator 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 (Na’ami) 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:  It is no coincidence that the Sefira is a time of growth in Bain Odom LeChaveiro, as a necessary prerequisite to Kabbalas HaTorah.  Rabbi Frand’s Hakhel Sefira Shiur on narcissism was an OUTSTANDING review and presentation of how a Torah Jew is to conduct his life both inwardly and outwardly.  We urge you to obtain a cd of the Shiur, by contacting 718-252-5274. Listening to and applying Rabbi Frand’s great teachings will emanate far beyond this Sefira period--long and far into life!



6 Iyar

IT’S NOT ABOUT RETIREMENT: The Mishna in last week’s Pirkei Avos (2:5) teaches: “V’Ahl Tomar Lichshe’efneh Eshneh Shema Lo Sipaneh--do not say that when I will be free I will learn, for maybe you will not be free.” Rabbi Eliyahu Schneider, Shlita, points to the Tiferes Yisrael who teaches that the Mishna is not talking about a person saying that when he is older and stops working that he will then start learning more. Rather, the Mishna refers to our activities on a day-by-day basis. One should not think that ‘these five minutes’ he can improperly use, for he will use ‘another five minutes’ properly. Each and every portion of life--no matter how big or how small--is eternally important. Indeed, you may be so busy tomorrow--that those five minutes may not come. Use ‘these’ five minutes--especially for the study of Torah--today!



QUESTION OF THE WEEK:  In Chutz LaAretz, we keep two days of Yom Tov because of the original Sefeika D’Yoma (doubt as to which day Yom Tov really came out) in Chutz LaAretz which was far from Yerushalayim, which remained our Minhag even after we became sure of the actual dates--such as which day is really the 15th of Nissan.  This being so, why don’t we keep two counts for Sefira--one beginning on the second night of Pesach as usual, and a second count beginning on the third night of Pesach as the Sefeika D’Yoma of the previous night?  It would not, after all, be so complicated at all--with our simply reciting that today is the 21st day of the Omer, pausing a few seconds and saying that today is the 22nd day of the Omer. We eat Matzah and Maror, and maintain an entire Seder on the second night of Pesach--can’t we do the same for our precious Sefira count --with the second additional count simply being completed--on the second day of Shavuos instead of the first!



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


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


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


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



GUIDE TO DERECH ERETZ PART THREE:  As we are in the midst of the Sefirah period in which we are careful to practice important Minhagim relating to the period, we remember that the students of Rebbi Akiva were Niftar during this period for not according the proper respect to each other.  Accordingly, in order to work on improvement in this area in this especially propitious period, we provide the second part below of notes as excerpted from the outstanding and highly recommended resource Guide To Derech Eretz by Rabbi Shaul Wagschal, Shlita (Targum/Feldheim).  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:




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).



5 Iyar

MITZVOS TZRICHOS KAVANNAH! Rabbi Daniel Garfinkel, Shlita, has recently authored a wonderful work on Mitzvos Tzrichos Kavannah--stating or thinking the simple intention before doing any mitzvah: “I am fulfilling the mitzvah of ____, as Hashem commanded.” What does this mean? Look at all the mitzvohs we do individually and in many different kinds of groups, from Yeshivas to Shuls, Daf Yomi, Shiurim, Tehillim groups, etc. We devote and dedicate ourselves in so many ways and on so many levels to helping ourselves, our loved ones and K’lal Yisrael through these beautiful thoughts and actions. But, we should affirmatively state what we are doing and why we are doing it. If we do not, then it is like writing a gorgeous, heartfelt letter to Hashem and putting it in the mailbox without a stamp! We were alerted to this by www.kavanahkards.com  By the following link http://tinyurl.com/k2sq4no, we provide the text of a magnet which one can place in a convenient place to remind himself of this great daily practice. To obtain the Mitzvos Tzrichos Kavannah work magnet, please contact kavanahkards@gmail.com



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!”



YOM HA’ATZMA’UT:  We once again provide the following important note:


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 paradigm of our future Geulah--may we suggest that we begin to take the special effort to cry out to Hashem in the brachos of Shemone Esrei relating to Geulah. This does not mean that one needs to shout--but rather that his heart cries out--perhaps with an outstretched hand during his tefillah, or with a look heavenward, with a tear, with a sense of urgency and pleading--at least in one of the brachos such as Tekah Beshofar, VeLirushalayim or Ess Tzemach.  If you really need something--you do more than 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 can 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! 



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 everyone 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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