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17 Sivan

QUESTION OF THE WEEK:  In this week’s Parasha, Moshe Rabbeinu is described as “Anav Me’od MeKol HaAdam” (Bamidbar 12:3)--Moshe was very humble, more than any person on the face of the earth.  In Avos, however, teaches that:  “Me’od, Me’od Hevei Shefal Ruach--one should be very, very humble.  Why was Moshe only very humble, while Chazal implore everyone to be very, very humble? 



COMPOUNDED FOR ETERNITY: This week’s Parasha especially highlights the Mitzvah of Shemiras HaLashon with the ma’aseh of Miriam and Aharon. In the Sefer Shemiras HaLashon, the Chofetz Chaim spends much time pointing out that the Mitzvah of Shemiras HaLashon is found in many Parashios of the Torah. The Chofetz Chaim notes that after 120 years a person will be asked: “Did you observe the Torah?” If he responds in the affirmative, and then is made to review lesson after lesson in Shemiras HaLashon on a Parasha after Parasha basis--he will be more than shame-faced, but shocked and dumbfounded by how unsuccessful his life had been. On the other hand, if in fact one was superbly careful in Shemiras HaLashon--those very same Parashios--Parasha after Parasha after Parasha--will stand in his great stead!


Hakhel Note: The choice is ours--compounded for eternity!



FROM A READER: “Regarding the Parasha, Rabbi Menachem Zupnik, Shlita, Rav of Bais Torah U’Tefilah of Passaic, stated that the posuk “V’Haish Moshe Anav Me’od MeKol HaAdam” (Bamidbar 12:3)--Moshe was very humble, more than any person on the face of the Earth”, describes the humility of Moshe Rabbeinu in that he did not respond to Miriam’s claim against him. Indeed earlier in the Parasha we find another great example of Moshe Rabbeinu’s humility.  In Bamidbar 10:31, Moshe Rabbeinu begs his father-in-law, Yisro, to travel with B’nei Yisrael, stating that Yisro “will be our eyes.”  Imagine the humility of Moshe Rabbeinu, who, as seen in Bamidbar 9,8, can call upon his Teacher, Hashem Himself, at any moment to answer a question, yet Moshe tells a recent convert whose level of Torah knowledge is incomparably minute in comparison, that he has so much to learn from him!  This is truly a prime example of Pirkei Avos (4:1) of Aizehu Chacham, HaLomed MeKol Adam.”



UPHILL INSTEAD OF DOWNHILL: Chazal give the reason that the Parasha concludes with the Chait of Miriam speaking against Moshe Rabbeinu and Parashas Shelach begins with the Chait of the Meraglim.  It is to teach us that “Reshaim Halalu Ra’u Veloh Lakchu Mussar--these Reshaim saw what happened to Miriam and did not take the Mussar lesson from it.”  HaRav Yeruchem Levovitz, Z’tl, points out that although the key Aveira of the Meraglim was Lashon Hara--it all began to roll downhill for the Meraglim (and for K’lal Yisrael) because they did not take the Mussar that they should have from the event.  It all starts with the proper study of Mussar….


When the colossal Aveira was concluded, it was ultimately one of Lashon Hara.  In order to better perceive and understand the  pervasive and encompassing nature of this Aveira, we provide by the following link -- http://tinyurl.com/22tuarx  -- a one-page listing of the 17 Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh, 14 Mitzvohs Aseh, 4 Arurrim--and their applicability to the speaker and the listener.  This chart may serve a person best if placed near a phone, framed near a table or otherwise put in a position where it could otherwise help save a person (especially you!) from a wrong remark once or even several times a day!


Additional Note One: The Chofetz Chaim (Sefer Shemiras HaLashon II, end of Chapter 6) writes that when a person watches his words, he profits continuously--for each time that he wants to speak, he considers for a moment whether what he is about to say is or includes Lashon Hara, Ona’as Devarim, Leitzanus and the like, and he quashes his desire to so speak.  When this happens, in Shomayim it is considered as if he fulfilled a Mitzvah with his actions, as Chazal (Makkos 23B) specifically teach:  “Yashav Adam V’Lo Avar Aveirah Ke’sheh Bah L’Yado, Nosnin Lo Sachar Ke’Oseh Mitzvah--when one has the opportunity to do an aveirah and does not do so, Hashem credits him with having fulfilled a Mitzvah by his inaction!  The Chofetz Chaim concludes:  over the year, by inaction, one will amass several thousand more Mitzvos to his credit!


Additional Note Two: One must certainly take leave of the lesson from Miriam with some real and practical method of improvement. For those who do not yet recite the short Tefillah on Shemiras HaLashon composed by the Chofetz Chaim--we once again provide the Tefillah by the following link http://www.hakhel.info/archivesPublicService/TefillahL%27ShemirasHaLashon.pdf

for your recital at the beginning of the day!



HEICHAL HAZECHUS: The Chofetz Chaim (in the name of the Sefer Chareidim) explains that one who is melamed zechus on others is zoche to the light of a Heichal HaKedusha called the Heichal HaZechus--a place in Shomayim where the zechusim of Yisrael are mentioned.  Be among those who bask in this light!



40 DAYS OF FASTING: The Sefer Orchos Tzadikim in the Sha’ar HaTeshuva, quotes from the Sefer Rokeach as follows:  “How does one do Teshuva for Rechilus or the like?  Rechilus has no remedy, unless one asks forgiveness of the person offended, and one fasts for 40 days or more and receives lashes every day. [Furthermore], he should recall his misdeed by reciting Vidui every day, and he should focus upon all Mitzvos in general--and making peace between man and his fellow and man and his wife in particular.”  Although this type of Teshuva may be something beyond our realm, it is important for us to get an idea of how severe Lashon Hara and Rechilus really are.  If nothing else, we should shake ourselves before allowing that offhand quip, witticism or ‘can’t hold it in’ comment to leave our lips.  After all, is it worth what a Rishon (the Sefer Rokeach) tells us requires 40 days of fasting and more--in order to rectify?



AS THE SUMMER APPROACHES: The following great messages were supplied by our readers:


1. I recall that when I had the great zechus to take Harav Hagaon Rav Ruderman, Z’tl, for walks he always took off his glasses--he was 80 years old and we were walking on the Yeshiva campus.  I asked my cousin why and he said that was the Rosh Yeshiva’s level of Shemiras Einayim.  I also had the zechus to speak with the Skulener Rebbe, Shlita, who told me some wonderful advice on this topic.  He said one should picture oneself standing at the edge of a cliff.  If there is a fence, even if you fall--you fall against the fence.  The same holds true with the Shemirah of Kedushah--by setting fences the fall will be protected.


2.  I read a story of Rabbi Eliyahu Lopian, Z’tl, talking to a talmid about trying to keep his eyes from looking at nivul.   The talmid answered:  “I know how to look after myself.” Rabbi Lopian answered to him:  “I am over 80 and blind in one eye and I am scared when I walk in the street!”



IT’S NOT TOO LATE FOR US!  Although the Internet and cell phones have been years in the running, and many of us realize that we have occasionally overstepped our bounds in the past (whether intentionally, recklessly, negligently, or innocently), we can take all of our negative experiences over the years and rebound from them through our proper actions now.  As we know, Hashem anticipates and awaits our corrections and, if necessary, our turn-arounds.  Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman, Shlita, quotes the Satmar Rav, Z”tl, who explained the statement “Shuvu Bonim Shovavim Chutz MeiAcheir--everyone can do Teshuvah except for Acheir” to mean that everyone can do Teshuvah except for someone who considers himself someone else--too far gone--a different person.  Heaven forbid for anyone of us to consider ourselves too far gone--a different person than the person we were before the technology explosion began.  We should learn from a contractor’s dumpster, placed in front of a home that is being renovated.  Perhaps thousands of pounds of rubbish and undesired material are thrown in, and the carting company truck comes and with powerful but sure effort lifts the thousands of pounds up and carts it away.  It is each and every person’s turn to renovate his home!



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



16 Sivan

SE’U MAROM: When one leaves Shul (or his/her home) in the morning, it is a time of transition, and especially in the summer months in the Northern Hemisphere a time of r’l potential downfall at the sights around you. We accordingly suggest that as one leaves Shul or his home in the morning, he lift his eyes to the heavens, thanking Hashem for His wonders (as the Pasuk teaches (Yeshaya 40:26): “Se’u Marom Eineichem U’re’u Mi Vara Eileh”)--and davening to Hashem that his day is a successful one both spiritually and materially!



FROM A MASHGIACH RUCHNI IN ERETZ YISRAEL: “To help further our appreciation of Matan Torah, try and express both at the start and close of your Torah study: ‘I am learning the Toras Hashem and this is Dveikus in HaKadosh Baruch Hu.’ The world at large instinctively attempts to connect and identify with their heroes whom they hope to emulate--we want to fulfill our spiritual selves, and feel close proximity to Hashem. For further study, see Sefer Nefesh HaChaim, Sha’ar Daled, Perek Vav. We may not reach exalted levels with fire swirling over our heads, but it is certainly still worthwhile to constantly alert ourselves that the Torah connects us with Hashem--it is as if we are learning B’Chavrusah with the Borei Olam!”



AHAVA RABBA: It is said that the Ba’al Shem Tov advised the Toldos Yaakov Yosef that it was revealed to him Min HaShomayim that the reason Moshiach was delayed was that K’lal Yisrael was not spending enough time on the Bracha of Ahava Rabba. Let us re-focus and re-energize ourselves on this bracha--if not now--then when?!



LEHODOS LECHA!  In the Bracha before Shema every morning, very close to the end of the bracha and immediately prior to Shema we recite the words “Lehodos Lecha--to offer praiseful thanks to You” (Artscroll translation).  The Magen Avraham (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 60) brings from the Sefer Kavanos that “HaPeh Lo Nivra Rak Lehodos Velo LeDaber Lashon Hora VeZehu Zechiras Ma’aseh Miriam--the mouth was created only to give thanks and not to speak Lashon Hora”--so with these words we remind ourselves --right before our recitation of Kriyas Shema that we are to keep our mouths Lashon Hora free--and use our mouth only for its truly intended, real purpose!  The Chofetz Chaim similarly writes that on Yom Kippur--prior to the Kohen Gadol doing the great Avodos HaYom in the Kodesh HaKodoshim and in the Kodesh--he first had to bring the ketores in the Kodesh HaKodoshim to attain Kapara for Lashon Hora--and only then begin the Avodos HaYom.  The unified message is clear--we must first be clear, very clear about the role of our mouths in our lives--and we can then take the next step on the road to greatness.  As we move towards the Ma’aseh Miriam in Parashas BeHa’alosecha, and its poignant message, let us jump ahead and remind ourselves--Lehodos Lecha!



THE TORAH’S VIEW OF YOUR SENSES!  We remind everyone of the following powerful and practical guidance provided by HaRav Moshe Cordovero, Z’tl, in Chapter 2 of the Sefer Tomer Devorah.  The English translation is by Rabbi Dov Fink and Rabbi Shimon Finkelman (Tomer Publications): 


1.  Ears.  One’s ears should always turn to hear good, while false or despicable reports should not enter them at all.  Just as in the essence of Supernal “listening”, any cry for strict judgment or any blemish of evil gossip does not enter there; so, too, one should not listen to anything other than good or of practical use.  To other things, which intensify anger, he should not listen at all.  Just as the  words and speech of the Nachash have no entry Above, so, too, no despicable thing should have any entry in him (in his ears).  This is the meaning of the phrase Lo Sisah Sheima Shav--you shall not accept a false report” (Shemos 23:1).  How much more so, does this apply to other despicable things, which should not enter one’s ears at all; as one should turn his ear only to good things.


2.  Eyes.  One’s eyes should not gaze at all at anything despicable.  Rather, they should always be open to watch over unfortunates and have as much mercy on them as possible.  When one sees the suffering of the poor, he should not close his eyes at all.  Rather, he should give as much thought to their predicament as possible, arousing the mercy of both Heaven and man upon them.  He should distance himself from noticing evil, just like the Supernal Eye which is open, and forever sees only good.


3.  Nose.  Regarding the nose, a breath of wrath should never be found in it.  Rather, it should constantly contain the breath of life, good will and patience, even toward those who are unworthy.  One should always want to fulfill the desire of others, to satisfy every request, and to revive the broken-spirited.  One should always breathe forth from his nose forgiveness of iniquity and pardon of transgression.  One should not be angry with those who offend him; rather, he should constantly be willing to be appeased, and he should be desirous of kindness, pleasing everyone.


4.  Face.   One’s face should always shine, and he should receive all people with a cheerful countenance.  For regarding the Supernal keser, it says, Be’Ohr Pnei Melech Chaim--the light of the King’s countenance is life.” (Mishlei 16:15).  Just as no flush of anger or strict judgment enters there at all; so too, the light of his countenance should be unchanging, and all who look into his face should find nothing but joy and cheerfulness.  No factor should distract him from this at all.


5. Mouth.  One’s mouth should express nothing but good, and the content of his words should be Torah and constant expression of good will.  No despicable words, curses, rage, anger, or frivolous talk should escape his mouth.  Rather, it should resemble the Supernal ‘Mouth’ which is never sealed and never refrains from speaking good at all times.  Therefore, one must not silence himself from speaking well of everyone, expressing good words and blessings constantly.


Hakhel Note:  Perhaps we can print out these guides, and keep them near us throughout the day!



HALACHOS OF NETILAS YADAYIM:  We provide below several points and pointers relating to the Halachos of a meal--including Netilas Yadayim and HaMotzi, as excerpted from the Mishna Berurah, Dirshu Edition:


A.  If one intends to eat with only one hand, he nevertheless must wash with both hands, as this is the Takanas Chachomim (Chazon Ish, Orach Chaim 23 seif katan 13).


B.  Seltzer is kosher for Netilas Yadayim, because the appearance of the water has not changed, nor has the taste been ruined (S’u’T Ohr L’Tzion 46:4). 


C.  If one initially uses water to clean dirty hands--or even only one finger which is dirty, the water can no longer be used for Netilas Yadayim (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 40:9).  Similarly, if a dog drank from the water, the Mishna Berurah rules that the water is pasul because it is ma’us.  However, b’sha’as hadechak one can rely on the opinions that permit it (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 160, Mishna Berurah seif katan 23). 


D.  Vaseline on one’s hand is considered to be a chatzizah and must be removed prior to washing.  Similarly, a clear glue which is otherwise unnoticeable is considered a chatzizah--for it too has substance (Chut HaShanim, Niddah p.279). 


E.  When washing Netilas Yadayim, it is extremely important that one pour at least a revi’is (approximately 3 ounces) at one time on each hand.  This avoids many issues of ‘yadayim temei’im’, and the revi’is, the Mishna Berurah writes then becomes a ‘mikvah metaheres’ for Netilas Yadayim purposes (Orach Chaim 162, Mishna Berurah seif katan 21).


F.  If one cannot wash his hands because he has no water, he can wrap his hands in a towel or cloth.  It is the hands that are wrapped--and not the bread, because if the bread is wrapped we are still concerned that the hands may touch the bread.  It is for this reason that eating the bread with a fork would not help as well (Avnei Yosphei 2:11 , anaf 6).


G.  One should ask a Shailas Chochom if he will be in a situation in which non-frum individuals will be offered bread or other food products, and they will not wash or make brachos upon them.  Even though one may believe that it is mutar for kiruv purposes, and in order to avoid a Chilul Hashem, different facts and circumstances may nevertheless require different responses (see, for example, Igros Moshe, Orach Chaim 5:13; Minchas Shlomo 1:35; and Shevet HaLevi 4:17). 


H.  The Zohar HaKadosh teaches that it is a Mitzvah for a person to daven for his Parnassah every day before eating.  By reciting Mizmor L’Dovid (Tehillim 23) after HaMotzi--one has both prayed for food, and learned Torah at the table (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 170, Mishna Berurah seif katan 1).  Hakhel Note:  It would certainly seem appropriate to know this chapter of Tehillim very well, as it is a mainstay of the Torah and Tefillah at our meals!


I.  One should cut the bread at the place where it is best baked (hardest), but not the place that it is burnt.  Cutting the bread in the best possible place is, the Mishna Berurah writes, Kavod for the bracha (ibid., 167, Mishna Berurah seif katan 1).  Hakhel Note:  Even when cutting bread--we can have the right Kavanos!  Ashreinu Mah Tov Chelkeinu!


J.  It is appropriate for a person to eat a Kezayis of bread at the time that HaMotzi is made (ibid. Mishna Berurah seif katan 15). 


K.  If one recited HaMotzi, he should not hum a tune before partaking of the bread, but BeDieved if he did, he does not need to make a new bracha (Minchas Yitzchak 7:9 and Shevet HaLevi 5:16).  Likewise, after making HaMotzi, one should not motion with his eyes or snap his fingers--and even answering ‘Amen’ to someone else’s HaMotzi is a matter of dispute.  HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, rules that if one answers Amen to the HaMotzi of another, then it is not a hefsek Bedi’eved, but answering ‘Amen’ to any other bracha would be a hefsek (Shemiras Shabbos KeHilchasa 48:7 and footnotes 38-39). 


L.  Unlike other brachos over food, in which one holds the food in his right hand (or left hand, if he is a lefty), when making HaMotzi, he should hold the bread with both hands.  The Shulchan Aruch itself explains that by this his ten fingers are holding the bread, which represents the ten Mitzvos which could be performed in order to prepare bread, and the ten words in various apropos Pesukim, including “Einei Chol Eilecha Yesabeiru” and “VeYitein Lecha”--both relating to one’s Parnassah.  It is no small wonder then that the bracha of HaMotzi itself has ten words! (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 167:4). 


M.  The Mishna Berurah brings in the name of the Mekubalim that one should dip the piece he made HaMotzi on three times in salt (ibid. seif katan 33). 


N.  Although everyone is familiar with the requirement to feed his animal before he feeds himself, HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, adds that one’s young children who cannot take food on their own do indeed come before one’s animals (Igros Moshe 2:52).


O.  If one makes a bracha and then realizes that there may even be a suspicion of the food not being permissible--he should not eat it even though he will have made a bracha levatalah--for it is forbidden for one to eat something that may be prohibited in order to save himself from a bracha levatalah.  However, if one made a bracha on a dairy product and it was more than four hours after he ate meat, he should eat a little bit of the dairy product to avoid the bracha levatalah, and rely on those who rule that four hours is a sufficient time period to wait between milk and meat.  The same would be true if one made a bracha on pas akum by mistake--he should eat a little bit, even though he is machmir the rest of the year (Shevet HaLevi 1: 205 and note to 206).


P.  A Ba’al HaBayis takes precedence even over a Kohen in making HaMotzi, because he will hand out the bread “BeAyin Yafeh--with a good eye” (Shulchan Aruch 167, Mishna Berurah seif katan 73).  Nevertheless, the Ba’al HaBayis should give the first piece of bread to the Kohen (ibid. 128, Mishna Berurah seif katan 175).


Q.  If there is no Ba’al HaBayis or Kohen present, it is appropriate to allow a Levi to recite the HaMotzi or lead Birkas HaMazon, if the Levi is equal to the Yisraelim present in Torah knowledge (ibid. 201, Mishna Berurah seif katan 13).


R.  The Rema writes that when one is being Motzi others, he states:  “B’Reshus Morai V’Rabosai” (ibid. 167, Mishna Berurah seif katan 14).


S.  An adult can make a bracha with the child of another (i.e., even not his own child), if they do not know how to make a bracha on their own--and even if the adult will not be eating (ibid. 167, Mishna Berurah seif katan 73).


T.  The Shelah HaKadosh writes that one should leave a little bit of bread from his HaMotzi to eat at the end of his meal so that he is left with the taste of the ‘HaMotzi’ in his mouth (ibid. 167, Mishna Berurah seif katan 97).  Hakhel Note:  On Pesach there is the taste of the Afikoman, the rest of the year there is the taste of the HaMotzi.  What a great lesson!  For the Torah Jew--the taste we are to be left with--is the taste of Mitzvos!



15 Sivan

THE BIRTH DATE OF YEHUDA:  Today is the birth day of Yehuda, the son of Yaakov Avinu.  We all know what his mother Leah exclaimed upon his birth--”Hapa’am Odeh Es Hashem (Bereishis 29:35)--this time I will gratefully praise Hashem!”  Rashi comments that Leah expressed this because she knew that she had received more than she was otherwise entitled to.  Today is an especially auspicious day for us to express our humble appreciation and gratitude to Hashem for that which we do not deserve as well.  Thank you Hashem! Thank You Hashem! should be an important hallmark of the day.  Additionally, if you have a moment, the Luach Davar B’Ito suggests that one take the favorable occasion to read the Brachos given to Yehuda in the Torah --in Parashas Vayechi and in Parashas Vezos HaBeracha--perhaps with the prayer that today be a special ‘Eis Ratzon’ for the brachos to take effect!



D’VEIKUS! We have the great ability to connect and establish our deveikus with HaKadosh Baruch Hu through our Tefillos. May we suggest that each of our readers today make a greater effort to daven for everything--from the current turbulent Matzav in the world over, to acting properly towards one’s family and close friends, to reciting brachos in a respectful way, to learning Torah with greater clarity and success….We all know and acknowledge in our minds that everything, every single thing is in the hands of Hashem--why not absolutely and definitively directly express it to our Maker as well?!



IMPORTANT HALACHOS OF TEFILLAH:  We provide the following important points relating to Tefillah, as excerpted from the Mishna Berurah, and the Dirshu commentaries:


1.  When reciting the Posuk “Pose’ach Es Yadecha”, one should have in mind that Hashem is the ‘Mashgiach Al B’riosav U’Mefarnesam’ (Mishna Berurah 51; seif katan 15).  The Dirshu commentary brings from Rabbeinu Bachya that one should also recognize the Niflaos HaBorei and His chasadim when reciting these words.


2.  It is more important to recite Kriyas Shema and Shemone Esrei with Tefillin on than to daven B’Tzibbur without Tefillin (Mishna Berurah 66; seif katan 40).


3.  If two Chazanim are otherwise equal, than a Kohein comes before a Levi, a Levi before a Yisrael, and a Talmid Chochom comes before an Am Ha’aretz, even if the Am HaAretz is a Kohein (Mishna Berurah 53; seif katan 36).


4.  A Ger can recite Elokei Avoseinu because Avrohom Avinu was the ‘Av Hamon Goyim.’  Fascinatingly, the Mishna Berurah explains that he was called the Av Hamon Goyim, because he taught the entire world Emunas Hashem (ibid.; seif katan 50).  Hakhel Note:  Can we not follow in Avrohom Avinu’s footsteps?


5.  If there is a Machlokes as to who should be the Sheliach Tzibbur, one should not Daven even if someone who is not haggun will Daven instead (Mishna Berurah; 581; seif katan 11).  Hakhel Note: !!!


6.  The Igros Moshe (Orach Chaim 2:17) writes that the Siddur one uses to daven with makes a difference in one’s Tefillos and their acceptability.  Accordingly, he warns against utilizing a Siddur for which there was even a suspicion that it was printed on Shabbos, even if by non-Jews.


7.  We pronounce the last two words of Yishtabach as ‘Chei HaOlamim’.  The Tosfos Yom Tov (at the end of Mesechta Tamid) writes that the word ‘Chei’ actually means that Hashem not only lives in the world, but He is the Mechayeh--He instills life--into all worlds!


8.  Finally, we conclude with a thought on Atta Chonein. The Mishna Berurah to Orach Chaim 115: seif katan 1 writes, that this bakasha is the Ikar HaShe’eilah that a person should ask of Hashem--that Hashem give him the sechel and da’as yashar to shun evil and choose good.  The Sefer Baruch She’amar adds that the word Haskeil is intended to denote not only knowledge but success at attaining the knowledge.  We can now better understand, why, in Nusach Ashkenaz, Haskeil is our final request prior to concluding the Bracha--we need the success of making our intellect work for us as well!





A.  The Pasuk (Bamidbar 7:1) teaches:  “Vayehi BeYom Kalos Moshe LeHakim Es HaMishkan--on the day that Moshe Rabbeinu completed the Mishkan….”  Rashi points out that it was Betzalel, Ahaliyav, and the Chachmei Lev who actually effectuated the teachings of Moshe Rabbeinu--but Moshe Rabbeinu is nevertheless credited with the building of the Mishkan, because of his mesiras nefesh in making sure that what he learned from Hashem was properly conveyed to and implemented by those who were performing the work.  Similarly, Rashi (ibid.) points out that the Bais HaMikdash is named as ‘ Beis Dovid’ (Melochim I, 12:16), because of Dovid HaMelech’s great undertakings-- his mesiras nefesh in having the Bais HaMikdash built and completed--even though it did not happen in his lifetime.  We should take a great lesson from this--when we study a Torah topic, we should proceed with real zeal and drive to implement and effectuate that which we have learned--for ourselves and for others.  It is the mesiras nefesh which is necessary to complete the job.  After learning a Halacha which you did not know, or which you know others did not know--what steps will you take to ensure that the new knowledge is properly applied and bears fruits?  What will be your mesiras nefesh to bring the Mitzvah to a new level in your life, and in the lives of others?  We too, can be like Moshe Rabbeinu and like Dovid HaMelech--it is our own personal mesiras nefesh which can get us there! Hakhel Note: The term ‘mesirus’ should not be viewed as connoting that one is giving-up something—but rather that one is giving to the proper cause—reaching one’s purpose and potential in life!


B.  The Karbonos of the Nesi’im described at the end of the Parasha reached such a high level that they were able to each bring a ketores (which does not otherwise exist as a Korban Yachid), and they were even able to bring it on the outer Mizbe’ach, where the ketores is not otherwise brought.  Yet, these were the very same Nesi’im who ‘delayed’ in bringing their donations to the Mishkan.  Now, the Torah seemingly goes out of its way, to provide for us in great detail, the great Kavod afforded to the Nesi’im and their extraordinary Karbonos.  There is an extremely powerful lesson here.  The Nesi’im fell badly in delaying their donations, yet they did not allow themselves to ‘fall by the wayside’ and wait for another, different or later opportunity to pick themselves back up after they had learned their lesson.  Rather, as soon as possible in whatever way they could, they came back to the very Mishkan where they had fallen and glorified it in a manner which is recorded for eternity.  We must always take this lesson to heart as the Yetzer Hara tries to push our recovery to ‘next time’, ‘tomorrow’ or ‘next week’.  The key is to bounce back--as quickly and as powerfully as possible!


C.  By popular request, we provide a thought we had previously published on U’Mafli La’asos. Within the Haftarah of Parashas Naso, the Pasuk states that upon hearing the news from the angel that Shimshon would be born, Manoach brought a Korban.  The Pasuk continues “U’Mafli La’asos--and a wondrous thing happened,” as fire came out of a rock to consume the offering that Manoach had brought (Shoftim 13:19).  The Metsudos and other Meforshim there explain that the word Mafli is rooted in the word Peleh--an amazing and phenomenal event had just occurred--something shocking, astonishing and miraculous--fire out of a rock!!  Chazal then remarkably “borrow” this two word phrase “UMafli La’asos,” as the conclusion and climax of the Asher Yotzar Bracha, which we recite several times a day in recognition of Hashem giving us the capability to take care of our needs.  By using this phrase, Chazal may want us to understand that it is the same “Mafli La’asos” that Manoach and his wife witnessed as they saw fire coming out of a rock to consume a Karbon--as we witness every time we successfully take care of our bodily needs.  It is a Peleh--wondrous and extraordinary--like fire out of a rock!


We should not, chas veshalom, have to wait for an occasion when it is difficult or temporarily impossible for us to witness the daily Peleh we experience in ourselves in order for us to appreciate the miracles inherent in the Asher Yotzar.  Each and every time we conclude Asher Yotzar, it should not be with a feeling that we are just about ready to move on to something else….  Rather--it should be with a huge acknowledgment--with a climactic recognition and blissful declaration--”UMAFLI LA’ASOS!



14 Sivan

YOU’RE NOT GETTING OLDER YOU’RE GETTING BETTER! Rabbi David Ashear’s Emuna daily messages thrive and inspire. After more than 1,000 messages already recorded (which can be accessed), Rabbi Ashear continues to provide wonderful and meaningful essential Emuna lessons on a daily basis. To join and for further information contact:  emunadaily@gmail.com.  The recording is available via telephone as well:  Dial (605) 475-4799, access code 840886#, and then press # again.



IN WEDDING SEASON: HaRav Gamliel Rabinovitch, Shlita, made the following fascinating observation relating to incredible nature of Chasunas:  A wedding is a time of unique Ahavas Yisrael, represented by the uniting of both the Chasan and Kallah, and of two families previously (usually) unrelated and independent.  Moreover, when everyone at the Chasuna joins together in Simcha below, Hashem and the Malochim with Him join together in the Simcha above.  Finally, at the Chasuna, when the Chasan and Kallah are married, the Shechina joins together with them.  Each partner therefore owes the other unremitting and unrelenting love and respect because their partner, by joining together with him/her, has actually brought the Shechina Itself into his/her life!



PLEASE WRITE THIS ESSAY: The topic for your essay is “From Challenge to Success!--Utilizing the Facts and Circumstances of Today’s Times to Become a Ben Olam Haba.” We would very much appreciate your submissions to us!



ONE-MAN RACE: As we look around us, we will notice that there are those whose Ruchniyus in life appears to be greater, and others whose Gashmiyus seems more expansive, than our own. We can well understand that each and every person has his own Nisyonos and his particular purpose and mission in life. What is more difficult to fathom, however, is when to accept, and when to reject, the advice, the guidance and the direction of others. HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, provides the following parable, which he believes to be an ancient and time-tested one: “Once a father and son were traveling, with the father riding on a donkey and the son accompanying alongside, walking by foot. Soon after setting off, a passerby looked up to the father and said: ‘Is this how you treat your son--have you no mercy on your own progeny?!’ The father quickly alighted off the donkey and put his son on it instead. Soon after, a second passerby looked up to the son riding high and shouted: ‘Is this your Kibbud Av?!’ The son reacted quickly, urging his father to join him for the ride on the donkey’s back. Traveling a bit further, they encountered a third pedestrian who looked up at them and shouted: ‘Have you no mercy on this poor donkey?!’ They promptly both descended from the donkey and walked alongside it. A short while later, a fourth passerby looked at the scene and said to his friend--loud enough for all to hear: ‘Look at this--three donkeys walking next to each other!’ The father and son realized there was only one other alternative left--they jointly took the donkey and put it on their shoulders, carrying it for the remainder of the trip!” This is the end of a person who takes each and every person’s influence as to how he should lead his life, what he should be accomplishing-and how and what he should be doing, . One cannot be influenced by all of his surroundings, and all those that surround him. Does he need this or that because it is indispensable to the next person, or because ‘there is no other way to live’ according to that person. Instead, he should look into himself, understanding who he is and who he should be, take the suggestions and advice of others--and look to direction from his Rav or Posek to guide his needs, his conclusions and his actions!



AN APPRECIATION OF CHESED:  Rabbi Yosef Eisen, Shlita, relates what he believes was the last story he had heard from HaRav Shmuel Berenbaum, Z’tl:  HaRav Berenbaum recalled that when he was a young boy there was a wagon driver who would take passengers and products from city to city and in this way earned his living. He would do Chesed from time to time--taking the destitute who were going in his direction, when there was room to do so. On one such occasion, as he was traveling to another city, he took an indigent person and told him to simply lie down on the shmattas that he was transporting to that city. As he arrived in the inn at the city outskirts, a businessman saw the poor man disembark from on top of the shmattas and asked the wagon driver if the man had paid for his ride. The driver responded “No, I did it as a Chesed. It was really pretty effortless.”  The businessman then asked him whether he could purchase the Mitzvah from him. The driver laughed it off, but the businessman insisted that he was serious, and offered him a pretty sum (perhaps something like 50 rubles) for the Mitzvah. The driver was both surprised and happy with the offer--and accepted it! When he arrived home the next day, he told his wife how he had made a tidy sum-’easy money’--by selling the Mitzvah he had performed in bringing a poor man to the other city. His wife was outraged--”How can you sell a Mitzvah? Are you crazy?! I don’t even know how you can remedy this--I demand that you go to the Rav right now and ask him what to do.” The husband agreed, for, after all, he knew that the Rav was a ‘sensible person’, and his wife would be assuaged. He assuredly related the entire story to the Rav. At the conclusion of the story, the Rav stood up and told him:  “Your act was a heinous one! You were mezalzel in the Mitzvah of Chesed. You must pay ten times the amount you received to Tzedaka as a penalty for your horrible deed!”


Hakhel Note:  We sometimes forget the greatness and inestimable spiritual benefits that we bring onto our guf and neshama by our daily acts of Chesed--acts which may not even cost us much time or money. We should, nevertheless, appreciate them for what they are--Olam Chesed Yibaneh--literally what the world is built on today and every day! Just as one makes it a point to properly daven and study Torah daily, he must likewise make it a point to properly cherish and complete the third leg of our table--Gemilas Chassodim on an unrelenting, constant and consistent daily basis. There is no ‘standardized’ Chesed--everyone has the responsibility and the privilege to personalize his daily meaningful acts to his situation and the circumstances of those with whom he shares his life! Let us not be mezalzel--but be mechabev these great opportunities of life!



BETWEEN SHAVUOS AND ROSH HASHANA: We are in the period between Shavuos and Rosh Hashana, which is our next Yom Tov, pending the Bais HaMikdash being rebuilt.  Fascinatingly, the Torah, in the Parashas HaMoadim (in Emor 23:22) presents the following singular Pasuk as the bridge Pasuk between Shavuos and Rosh Hashana:  “U’Vekutzrechem Es Ketzir Artzechem…LeAni VeLaGer Ta’azov Osam, Ani Hashem Elokeichem--when you reap the harvest…for the poor and the Ger shall you leave them, I am Hashem your G-d.”  Rashi (ibid.) brings Chazal who explain that the reason this Pasuk (which seemingly related to charity) is precisely placed here in the Parashas HaMoadim is to teach that if one gives gifts to the poor properly, it is considered as if he himself had built the Bais HaMikdash and brought Karbanos in it--he has in a sense made his own Mo’ed!  Let us take this great lesson from Chazal--and ensure that this period between Shavuos and Rosh Hashana is marked by proper Tzedaka giving--so that we will in all events build our own Bais HaMikdash and brought our Karbanos--well in advance of Rosh Hashana!



ON THE YAHRZEIT OF HARAV CHAIM VOLOZHINER: Today is the Yahrzeit of HaRav Chaim Volozhiner, Z’tl, the awesome founder of Yeshivas Volozhin, and Mechaber of the classic Sefer Nefesh HaChaim, among other works.  In honor of HaRav Chaim, we present several of his teachings below:


1.  A person must always know and appreciate that his deeds are not ‘shefalim’--low and unimportant.  Rather, every part of one’s life is consequential and important in this world and to this world, and has far-reaching impact in the heavenly spheres as well.  A person is not ‘a world onto himself’ only in an allegorical sense-but in a literal way.  His heart, as the source and place of his thought, is the Kodesh HaKodoshim--the epicenter of his world, which acts in tandem with all of the other worlds around him.  Accordingly, if one allows anger or desire to enter his being even temporarily--it is as if he is, c’v, setting a fire, albeit only temporarily, in the center of his world--in the Holy of Holies.  On the other hand, of course, performance of Mitzvos and Ma’asim Tovim bring unimaginable (because it is not physical) Kedusha into oneself, which is his world at large--and actually raises the level of Kedusha of the heavens!  Indeed, even the Malochim benefit from a person’s proper actions through a ‘Tosefes Kedusha Ahl Kedushasom’-- their Kedusha actually becomes increased as well.  It is especially appropriate for a person to have in mind when learning Torah or performing a mitzvah that he intends to bring Kedusha into himself and into all worlds through his actions.  This teaching may not appear to be very light--but it is very real!


2.  Following from the previous point:  Some raise themselves up when reciting Kedusha.  The reason for this may be that one is in effect demonstrating that he is connecting to the upper worlds, and raising their level of Kedusha (which they themselves cannot do)--by and through his earthly words and actions of Kedusha!


3.  Through the recitation of Perek Shira, one enables the Malochim and the Sarim of these creatures to sing their respective Shiros, and these heavenly beings are thereby enabled to continue influencing the lives and continued existence of each of the creatures they were created to represent.  Hakhel Note:  It is perhaps for this reason that the Torah teaches us that the animals will fear us--for they may especially recognize that their survival is dependent on our actions!


4.  Chazal do not teach that everyone has a part “BaOlam” Haba--but rather “LaOlam” Haba.  BaOlam Haba would indicate that there is a set and designated place which one goes to if he earns it.  That is not the case, however.  One’s Olam Haba is ‘Ma’aseh Yedei Adam Atzmo’--the handiwork of the person himself--who actually constructs his own personalized Olam Haba through the quantity and quality of his individual and specific Ma’asim Tovim.


5.  Conversely, when one sins he creates a Ruach Hatumah which one does not sense but remains present with him until the aveira is completed.  If one does not undo what he has done in his lifetime, the Ruchos Hatumah will be fully sensed upon death, and their envelopment of him will be real punishment.  These Ruchos Hatumah will not exist eternally, however--whereas the Kedusha created by Ma’asim Tovim will benefit the person forever and ever.


6.  The word “Baruch” at the outset of a bracha is translated by many as a word of tribute or praise.  The word actually means ‘Tosefes Ve’ribui’--addition and increase.  Through our bracha, we express our awareness and appreciation that Hashem is the ultimate source of all influence and the absolute cause of all existence in all worlds. We do not understand His limitless powers or His infinite strength--but we know enough to recognize that the item or event upon which we are reciting the bracha emanates only from His utter graciousness and goodness to us.  Through our proper expression and recognition of this, we can hopefully bring more shefa--more of His Divine Influence into the world around us.


7.  When Chazal teach that Moshe Rabbeinu (Bamidbar 11:2, as explained in Brachos 31B), or Eliyahu, or Chana cast words ‘against the heavens’ when they davened to Hashem for a Yeshua--it does not mean that they complained or were even perplexed by Hashem’s actions.  Rather, it means that they davened to Hashem not out of concern for their own tza’ar-- but ‘against the heavens’--out of concern for the tza’ar of the Shechina which was suffering along with them.  One must look beyond himself when davening to the much broader picture of all that he is really davening for.  Moreover, one is mechuyav--obligated to find eitzos as to how he can fight the ‘Milchemes Mitzvah’ of having Kavannah while davening.  Our Tefillos take the place of Karbanos--the effectiveness of which were wholly dependent on the Kohen’s thoughts.  Through his thoughts--the Korban could become permanently disqualified as ‘pigul’--or rise-up gracefully as a ‘Reiach Nichoach’. We must also remember that each one of our Tefillos constitutes its own stand-alone Korban--creating its own benefits and tikunim which had previously not been brought into the world from the time of the institution of Tefillah --and will never be replicated again in the future.  Accordingly, we should treasure each irreplaceable Tefillah for what it really, truly is--something that is ‘Omed B’rumo Shel Olam--standing at the height of the world’--ready and able to bring holiness and light into the world through the proper recitation of its purified and refined words!


8.  As provided in the past, the following link http://www.hakhel.info/archivesPublicService/SegulahGedolah.pdf

is one of his most famous writings in the Sefer Nefesh HaChaim--a Segula Gedolah VeNifla’ah on the topic of Ain Od Milevado.  Try to go through the day today with a special emphasis on everything happening around you based only in Ain Od Milevado--it is all Hashem’s Will and no one else’s; no other consideration, no other force--not an army, not a dictator, not a pronouncement, not a decree is of any independent meaning or consequence!



11 Sivan

AMOR LAHEM: The Midrash Tanchuma (Bamidbar 6:23) explains that the word “Amor” in the Parasha of Birchas Kohanim is written with a Vav, when it could be written and pronounced without the Vav as well. The reason? It is to teach us that whenever we give a bracha to another person it should be maleh--a full and complete bracha. Let us take the lesson!



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



WE CONTINUE WITH OUR EREV SHABBOS--HALACHOS OF SHABBOS SERIES: We begin a discussion on practical situations which could involve the Melacha, of Lisha, or combining substances to form a new mass:


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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





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


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


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





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


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


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


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


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


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


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



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





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


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


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


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


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


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



10 Sivan

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





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


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


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



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



9 Sivan

THE BENEFITS OF VASIKIN! The following important information is posted at a Vasikin Minyan in Los Angeles, California. http://www.hakhel.info/archivesPublicService/MaalosDaveningNeitz.jpg



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



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



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



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



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



AMOR LAHEM: The Midrash Tanchuma (Bamidbar 6:23) explains that the word “Amor” in the Parasha of Birchas Kohanim is written with a Vav, when it could be written and pronounced without the Vav as well. The reason? It is to teach us that whenever we give a bracha to another person it should be maleh--a full and complete bracha. Let us take the lesson!



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


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





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


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


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


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


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



8 Sivan

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



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



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



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


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





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


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


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


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



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



BIRKOS HATORAH INSPIRATION: The Ramban (Devorim 4:9) writes that the Torah provides such great detail as to Ma’amad Har Sinai (please review the vivid Pesukim referred to in Erev Yom Tov’s bulletin) in order to impress upon us the absolute need to constantly visualize and envisage this unparalleled event in our minds--and permanently plant it in our hearts.


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


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


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


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



4 Sivan

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!



LEARN FROM ACHISOFEL!  In this 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!



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





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. 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. 



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! 





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 5778.  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 Halachos of Tznius--and rely upon women (including their wives and daughters) to be doing the right thing.  As all kinds of exercise garments worn under or with clothing become more prevalent, as shorter and closer fitting becomes more in secular vogue making it difficult to obtain other styles, and as the warmer summer months approach--every Jewish 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 this week’s Perek (6:2):  “VeChol Mi She’Osek BeSalmud Torah Harei Zeh MisAleh--and anyone who engages in the study of Torah becomes elevated.”  Let us remember these poignant words of the great Rebbi Yehoshua Ben Levi before we study or listen to a Shiur by really feeling elevated!  We certainly shouldn’t have our elbow on the table with our head perched in the cup of our hand anymore--for instead we are perched together with something the Malachim didn’t want to give up--right here in front of us!


E. Chazal (this 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!





“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.



PISKEI HALACHA OF HARAV ELYASHIV, Z’TL, RELATING TO SHAVUOS: We once again provide several Piskei Halacha of HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, relating to Shavuos, as provided in the three volume work of HaRav Elyashiv’s Pesakim, entitled Ashrei HaIsh authored by Rav Yechezkel Feinhandler:


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



3 Sivan

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?


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!



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


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


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


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





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


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


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


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


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



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


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


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


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


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



2 Sivan

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



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


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



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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




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: Tonight 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 in our times.  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!



1 Sivan

STARTS TODAY--SHA’AR AVODAS ELOKIM! By the following link, we provide a magnificent opportunity to review the Chovos Helevavos Sha’ar Avodas Elokim in 30 short segments over the month of Sivan http://www.hakhel.info/archivesPublicService/ChovosHaLevavosSivan.pdf

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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 5778, 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 word of instruction by the following link - http://www.hakhel.info/archivesPublicService/AhavasHashemChofetzChaim.pdf  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 occurs. One cannot excuse himself by simply saying ‘I have to earn a living’--this is what I must do and it is not my fault. Instead, he should use his best efforts to take whatever steps he can knowing that he is dangerously close to the spiritual equivalent of a lion’s den. Perhaps when one is eminently successful in this regard, he has done even better than the one who is encamped next to the Tzaddik (such as Degel Machaneh Yehudah next to Moshe and Aharon), upon whom we can immediately comment Tov L’Tzaddik V’Tov L’Shecheino.



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!




PRACTICAL GUIDANCE IN ONA’AS DEVARIM:  On Shabbos, we had reviewed 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 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!



29 Iyar

STARTS TOMORROW--SHA’AR AVODAS ELOKIM! By the following link, we provide a magnificent opportunity to review the Chovos Helevavos Sha’ar Avodas Elokim in 30 short segments over the month of Sivan http://www.hakhel.info/archivesPublicService/ChovosHaLevavosSivan.pdf

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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. We provide the Tefillah by clicking here.



GRAB THE OPPORTUNITY!  The last Pasuk in the Haftarah of this past Shabbos deserves special attention. The familiar Pasuk in Yirmiyah (17:14) reads: “Refa’eini Hashem V’Eirafeih Hoshi’eini V’ivashei’ah Ki Sehilasi Atah”. Especially in this last day of the 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!



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!



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


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





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


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


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



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 a Olam Haba, which is the true and everlasting world.  Based upon this, we can appreciate that Hashem has taken this temporary world and has made it as comfortable for us as He deems and knows to be within our best interests.  Picture one who is traveling to his son’s wedding who needs to run at full speed in order to catch the train, and then has to stand for hours sandwiched between people on the train--does he not realize that his destination is the great Simcha, which will put everything in its proper perspective?  We thus owe Hakaras HaTov to Hashem for making our ‘ride’ in Olam Hazeh as doable as He can for us--in order to get to the final destination of Eternity!


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


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



THE YAHRZEIT OF SHMUEL HANAVI: Sunday, 28 Iyar, 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.  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!  



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!



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!





1. In this 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 Yisroel should learn to appreciate the power and potency of each day of Shabbos and Yom Tov--our personalized portion of a Shemitta year--and inhale its Kedusha and Emunah to take us through…until the next Shabbos or Yom Tov! 


2. The following is excerpted from Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita, on this week’s Parasha (p.336):  …and a man shall stumble upon his brother ...”(Vayikra 26:37)Rashi cites the Sifra which explains this verse thus:  “One shall stumble through the iniquity of another, for all the people of Israel are responsible for each other.”  (Sifra; Sanhedrin 27b)The Chofetz Chaim used to relate the following 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’.





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 ‘5 chasing 100 and 100 chasing 10,000’, Rashi teaches that the disproportion can be explained by the Halachic fact that one cannot compare a Mitzvah which is performed by a few, to a Mitzvah which is performed by the many. Accordingly, a Gemach that is established by more than one person (such as a loan fund to which many contribute, or the rain coats above 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 the 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!




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 this 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 are, 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 you 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 this 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!



25 Iyar

HOW WAS YOUR WALK? Many trying to improve their Torah study during this now short period before Shavuos may be attempting to ‘think in learning’ while walking or travelling (rather than, for example, being in or on their cell phone).  A good measure of success would be noting whether one realizes he has to look up something in a Chumash, Gemara or other Sefer as a result of his thoughts, and when he arrives in Shul or at home--has a new short project to take care of!



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 begins 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 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!



24 Iyar

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



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!



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 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 Erech 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!



23 Iyar

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



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


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


We should take the time to reflect upon our preparation and where it will be going over the next 12 days.  What will I begin that is new?  What is it that I will reinforce?  How can I make sure that I will enter Shavuos with the term properly referring to it as Shavuos?  Hashem has blessed us with a mind to use.  Let us use it for this most sublime and lofty of purposes--which literally fulfills our lives, and even more literally fulfills the world!


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



NOTES ON TALMUD TORAH FROM HARAV CHAIM KANIEVSKY, SHLITA:  In keeping with our spirit of Talmud Torah enhancement in this now short period of time before Shavuos, we provide the following points and pointers from HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita (culled from the Sefer Derech Sicha):


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



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?



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



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!  

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





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


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


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



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!



19 Iyar

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.”





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 a truly a primary Mo’ed--an especially designated time to come closer to our Creator and raise ourselves up spiritually.  Perhaps in honor of the primacy of Shabbos--one can start this week with extra Zemiros, an extra D’var Torah, an extra act LeKavod Shabbos Kodesh!





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. 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! IMAGINE! 




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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


9.      Two Related Notes:


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


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




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.



18 Iyar



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!



17 Iyar

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



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.



KIND HEALTHY GRAINS BARS: The different flavors of kind bars require different brachos rishonos, and the OU should be contacted regarding the particular flavor of your concern. We note in addition, that as this is a granola related product, the after-bracha will probably have the same concerns as granola bars. Accordingly, we recommend that a Brachos expert be consulted prior to consuming this product.



KOSHER ADVISORY ON PRINGLES: April 24, 2018 from the OU with additional information from the COR Detroit on April 30, 2018: Pringles Products, Pringles, Kellogg’s Snacks, Battle Creek MI:  Pringles is changing many of their OU pareve potato crisps to OU dairy. This may or may not be a result of a product reformulation. If a Pringles product is marked OUD and ingredients state ‘whey’ or ‘milk’, it is real dairy. If the ingredients don’t state ‘whey’ or ‘milk’, it is dairy equipment. The COR Detroit added (This is true even though the allergen statement after the ingredient listing states “Contains Milk & Wheat Ingredients”.) Those that have the plain OU designation are pareve. Consumers should always be careful to check for the kosher designation.



FOR ALL THOSE TAKING A HAIRCUT SOON! The Kosher Haircut Guide--http://tinyurl.com/yh2dqy6.



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



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



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



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



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!



16 Iyar

TODAY--THE 16TH OF IYAR:  Today, the 16th of Iyar, is according to many, the first day that Mon began to fall in the Midbar, after the Matzah brought from Mitzrayim was completed.  Chazal teach that Moshe Rabbeinu composed the first bracha of Bentsching 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!).



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 a part of your daily way of life! What a benefit to all involved!



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!



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!”



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 Biseshuvah 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 to 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!



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!



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!



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


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