Hakhel Email Community Awareness Bulletin
MAY 2019 DAILY EMAIL ARCHIVE
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 cellphone). 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!
According to the OU, the bracha rishona for Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes
is Borei Pri Ha’adama.
We asked the OU, which gives the Hashgacha on Popinsanity popcorn,
which has pieces of graham cracker mixed with the popcorn, what the
appropriate bracha is. The OU advised that it is Mezonos (the label states
that the package is ‘Pas Yisroel’). Hakhel Note: The after-bracha would
obviously be a question. We would in any event suggest that if one has
purchased this product, he shows it to his Rav or Posek for a final
determination as to how to best use it.
QUESTION OF THE DAY:
Tomorrow, in the fifth Perek of Avos we will learn that the world was
created “Ba’asara Ma’amaros”, as in the creation in Parashas
Bereishis we find the word Va’Yomer used time after time. If that is
the case, why is the bracha that we recite Shehakol Nihiyeh Bidavro—and
not Shehakol Nihiyeh B’Ma’amaro?
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:
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
uninformed person may think: What purpose is there to this world, in which
he has finite years of life, and during which time he may be beset with
various and sundry difficulties? What does he have to thank Hashem
for--should a person love a king because he puts him into a beautiful jail?
We know better-- we know that there is an Olam Haba, which is the true and
everlasting world. Based upon this, we can appreciate that Hashem has taken
this temporary world and has made it as comfortable for us as He deems and
knows to be within our best interests. Picture one who is traveling to his
son’s wedding who needs to run at full speed in order to catch the train,
and then has to stand for hours sandwiched between people on the train--does
he not realize that his destination is the great Simcha, which will put
everything in its proper perspective? We thus owe Hakaras HaTov to Hashem
for making our ‘ride’ in Olam Hazeh as doable as He can for us--in order to
get to the final destination of Eternity!
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 he is. 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!
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 days 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
CONTINUE WITH OUR EREV SHABBOS--HALACHOS OF SHABBOS SERIES:
Last week, we mentioned that we would begin to discuss practical situations
which could involve the Melacha, of Lisha, or combining substances to
form a new mass. Because of the limited space available today, we will
mention only three practical examples:
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.
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.
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.
B. Moving flowers from place to place: Practical Halachos from Rabbi
Yisroel Dov Webster, Shlita (for Shabbos and Yom Tov):
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 we will see, one of the issues of placing flowers in
water on Shabbos or Yom Tov is the fact that doing so causes the flowers to
open. Although zoreya [planting or facilitating growth] is limited to
items attached to the ground, nonetheless the Rabbanan forbade placing
flowers in water as it can be perceived as facilitating growth. The issue
arises as to whether moving flowers and causing the water level to rise
would in fact cause them to open sooner and be included in this Issur
D’Rabbanan. The Poskim rule that one may move even unopened flowers on
Shabbos or Yom Tov (HaGaon HaRav Y.S. Elyashiv Z’tl). There are, however, Poskim
who maintain that one should be stringent and move the vase slowly to avoid
causing the water level to rise (See Sefer Shalmei Yehuda 3-10)
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, as mentioned above, the Rabbanan forbid the placing of
flowers in water on Shabbos for the following reasons: For flowers that have
not yet fully opened, placing them in water would cause them to fully open
which can be perceived as planting because of its similarity(O.C. 336:11).
Additionally, the Rabbanan forbid the actual filling up or adding of water
to a vase of flowers since they felt this involves undue exertion which can
detract from the aura of Shabbos and resembles weekday activities (M.B.
336-53). Based on the second reason, one may not fill up a vase even for
flowers that are fully opened. There is a dispute among the Poskim whether
one may place fully opened flowers into a vase that was filled before
Shabbos began. If one forgot to place his flowers in a vase that was filled
before Shabbos, he may rely on the lenient opinion and do so on Shabbos (Sha’ar
Hatziyon 336-48). According to all opinions, one may return fully opened
flowers into water where they had been and were subsequently removed (M.B.
336-53). There is a slight difference between Shabbos and Yom Tov in this
matter. As mentioned above, one may not even add water to a vase with
flowers on Shabbos. On Yom Tov, however, one may add water to a vase
containing opened flowers (Neshamas Shabbos 3-242). Nevertheless, one may
not empty out and refill the vase with fresh water (see O.H. 654).
We are familiar with the concept that one may not take pleasure from this
world without first reciting a blessing and thanking Hashem for the item.
This rule applies to smell as well. However, the Halacha is that one only
recites a blessing when the item was placed in that location for the purpose
of giving off a scent. If there was a different motive, even though the item
may emit a pleasant fragrance no blessing is required (Based on O.H.
217-1, M.B. 1). However, if one takes it into their hands to smell it
then a blessing is required. (See however Chazon Ish O.H. 35-1) Flowers
generally are placed in the home for their pleasing appearance, rather than
for their scent. Hence, unless one took the flower into his hand with the
intention of smelling it, no blessing is required. If one did take hold of
the flower to smell it, the following blessing would be recited. On leaves
or flowers of trees the blessing is Borei Atzei Besomim. This would include
roses, carnations, jasmine and honeysuckle. On grasses, herbs or flowers
that grow from the ground the blessing is Borei Isvei Besamim.
POINTS AND POINTERS FROM PARASHAS BECHUKOSAI:
A. The Parasha begins with the words: “Im Bechukosai Teileichu”--which
Rashi defines as our requirement to seriously study Torah--to be Ameilim
BaTorah. Why does the Pasuk refer to the study of Torah as a chok--as
a law without obvious reason? After all, we all know how precious a gift the
Torah is--and what it contains?! It is our guidebook and guideline to life!
Rabbi Eliyahu Schneider, Shlita, brings the Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh,
who, in one of his explanations, teaches that we must study the Torah as a ‘Chok
Velo Ya’avor’--in a steadfast manner without leaving room for breaching
a Torah study time or session for this ‘good’ reason, or for that ‘very
important purpose’. Another aspect of the chok of Torah, Rabbi
Schneider explains, is presented by the Kli Yakar. The Kli Yakar
teaches that the chok, the ameilus, that the Pasuk is
referring to is chazara--reviewing one’s learning time and time
again, so that it becomes more and more a part of you. This is
difficult--for especially in our fast-paced society, it is difficult for us
to allot time to reinforce the same teachings within us, notwithstanding
that we will find new sweetness and discover special nuances if we seriously
apply ourselves in each review. Practical and meaningful thoughts that we
all can apply...on the great avodah of Im Bechukosai Teileichu.
B. The Torah teaches that the reward for Ameilus BaTorah and
Shemiras HaMitzvos is Venasati Gishmeichem B’Itam--that rain will
fall in its proper time. At first glance, this may be a bit puzzling. Why is
rain, which is viewed to someone who is not a farmer--whether one is young
or old--as somewhat of a burden and have-to-live-with type of event, listed
here in the Torah as a primary bracha? The Ramban explains that the Torah is
teaching us that rain is truly an incomparable gift--for through its waters
we remain healthy and strong and live longer lives. HaRav Ezriel Erlanger,
Shlita, in quoting this Ramban, adds that perhaps the Torah is instructing
us not to look at the world in a myopic manner--considering only whether the
matter or item in front of you is immediately pleasurable. Rather, one
should take a step back and understand the source of the wood used to build
his home, the fruits and vegetables that he eats, the meat that he consumes,
the wool that he wears…. Once one can appreciate this, then he can take the
next important step--which is realizing, and better yet appreciating the
Source of each and everything...including the water!
C. In a related vein, at the outset of the Parasha, the Meshech Chochma
magnificently explains that Hashem created the world in a way so that
extraordinary miracles are simply not necessary. In lieu of special events,
Hashem created a natural order or nature, which together constitutes nissim
retzufim--a series of ongoing miracles. If we fulfill our task-- Im
Bechukosai Teileichu, then the heavens and the earth will continue to
function in their ‘natural’ way--to shower bracha on the world. When we do
in fact experience extraordinary miracles, then it is only to remind us of
the everyday, continuing miracles, which constitute Hashem’s constant,
enduring and unending Hashgacha Pratis over us. The greatness of 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!
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 you were not responsible for their state. At home,
we once again remind everyone to make sure that Siddurim and Bentschers/Zemiros
books are properly treated and placed in their proper position; and if any
Sefer page or binding is ripped, or torn, to promptly repair them with tape
that you have handy.
It is interesting to note that the Hebrew word for honor, “kavod”, is also
used as a synonym for the Neshama--soul, as Dovid HaMelech pleads in
Tehillim: “Lem’aan yezamercha kavod...”--so that my soul praises
You. Yet, the gematria of kavod is 32, which corresponds to “Lev”--the
heart, symbolizing feeling. Thus, the term kavod uniquely combines both
Neshama, symbolizing our superior intellect, and Lev, demonstrating our
unique humane feeling. When we properly show kavod, we unite our powerful
intellect and unparalleled feeling, to display true respect, whether due or
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 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
HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, relates that when he was younger the Chazon
Ish noticed that he was studying Torah with his elbows on the Gemara, but
that he was careful not to put any other Sefer on top of his Gemara. The
Chazon Ish advised him that he acted incorrectly--no elbows were allowed on
his Gemara, but another Sefer being used in connection with this study, even
that of a later commentary, was.
Many of us were trained as children that when a Sefer falls, you pick it up
and kiss it. What if two Seforim fall? The Bais Lechem Yehuda, one
of the classic meforshim found in the Shulchan Aruch itself (ibid.)
writes that both Seforim should be picked up as quickly as possible--and
then kissed together.
Some common examples where we can show Kavod HaTorah, which we have
mentioned in the past and which require our renewal and rededication before
· Not permitting children’s books with Torah content to be placed,
or remain, on the floor
· Not tossing Seforim (Hebrew or English) even from short distances
or onto the table
· Not placing Seforim on your lap or sitting on the same level that
Seforim are placed
· Not holding a Sefer below your waist, or letting it bang against
· 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
· 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!
Sunday 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
NINETEEN WEEKS! As we forge through the Second Week of our Nineteen Weeks of
Shemone Esrei Improvement, we focus on the second bracha of
Gevuros--Techiyas HaMeisim. By the following link, we provide a wonderful
review (in Hebrew) of the powerful second bracha by Rabbi Ronen Shaharabani,
studying, one should feel the sublime joy of the opportunity to study Torah,
as well as the joy of the study itself. One of our readers reported that he
recalls as a young boy in the Bronx how his Rav, a Talmud Chacham from
Europe, always seemed to be dancing as he recited the Birchos HaTorah when
he received an Aliyah. Along with the joy, one should also feel and
appreciate the sweetness of Torah. As we pray every day as part of
our Bracha over the Torah, “V’Haarev Na…”--please, Hashem,
sweeten the words of Your Torah in our mouths and in the mouths of Your
people--for this, too, is an essential aspect of growth in Torah.
We received the following Kashrus Alerts from COR of Greater Detroit:
1. DOLE FRUIT PRODUCTS “IN 100% FRUIT JUICE” that in the past
bore an OU and contained Kosher grape juice, are no longer using Kosher
grape juice, and new packages therefore no longer bear the OU symbol. This
includes Dole Mandarin Oranges, Tropical Fruit, Mixed Fruit, Peaches, Pears,
Grapefruit, etc. in cans, cups and plastic jars that say “In 100% Fruit
Juice” and list white grape juice concentrate in the ingredients. Packages
that still bear the OU were produced before this change.
Every package should be carefully checked for the OU symbol.
2. Some FIBER ONE BARS (especially “Chewy” types) that were
previously OU certified are no longer certified, due to changes in
manufacturing procedures, and will no longer bear an OU. Check each package
for the OU symbol.
KOSHER ICE CREAM TRUCK REMINDER! As
the summer months approach, frum neighborhoods have now begun to hear the
musical sounds of “Kosher Ice Cream” trucks moving slowly through the
streets. One must be careful not to allow his amazement at this new
phenomenon to overcome his common sense. When it comes to any new food store
or establishment, one should determine the Hashgacha and its standards--the
ice cream truck should be no different.
Is there a Kashrus certificate?
If there is one--is it for this truck (or a photocopy)?
Is it current?
Are there cross-outs and smudges?
Is the operator’s name stated?
What is being certified?
One most certainly cannot think of simply relying on the unknown driver of
the truck to answer your questions in a responsible manner. It would make
sense for the Hashgacha to be called and asked:
Do you actually spot check the trucks--or do you just supervise the
warehouse that they depart from?
Whose soft ice cream or yogurt mix is it?
When it comes to slush--what is its source?
What is the source of the fruits in the smoothies? Note that some fruits
definitely require bedika.
Good Humor and similar trucks selling packaged ices and other packaged items
with hashgachos are also attempting to sell soft, unpackaged ice cream in
various forms by showing a hashgacha stamped on the side or bottom of ice
cream tubs on the truck.
One should definitely allow his intellect to overcome his desire before
purchase...advise your neighbors and friends!
MORE SALIENT POINTS ON TORAH FROM HARAV CHAIM KANIEVSKY, SHLITA!: In
keeping with our spirit of Talmud Torah enhancement, 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 Korban Todah at this moment, he should
learn Perek HaTodah (Menachos Chapter 8), with Rashi and Tosfos!”
3. HaRav Chaim was asked that if a Malach learns with a fetus so that he
will properly understand Torah after he is born (Niddah 31A), how does a Ger
study Torah after he converts--after all he had no Malach learning with
him? He responded that it is enough that the Ger was at Ma’amad Har Sinai,
and it is possible that Geirim have their own special Siyata DiShmaya in
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
5. Chazal (Yevamos 62B) teach that: “Lamad Torah Beyalduso,
Yilmad BeZaknuso--one who learns Torah when a child, should also learn
when he is older.” What is the Chiddush of this Pasuk--most certainly an
older person knows even more than a child how important it is to learn?!
HaRav Chaim explains that an older person may believe that he should
continuously learn new things as his time becomes more limited in this
world, and not review that which he has already learned. This is not so--as
one must take time to review what he has learned--even at the expense of
learning areas of Torah that he may not have yet achieved.
6. The Pasuk (Devarim 4:9) states: “VeHodatem Levanecha V’Livnei
Vanecha--and you should relate it [Ma’amad Har Sinai and the Torah] to
your sons and your son’s sons”. HaRav Chaim explains that this Pasuk
instructs us that there is a separate Mitzvah on a grandfather to teach not
only his son, but his grandson as well. In fact, Chazal teach that, since
this Pasuk refers to Ma’amad Har Sinai, the Torah is teaching us that one
who teaches his grandson Torah is considered as if he received it at Har
Sinai (see Kiddushin 30A). Additional Note: HaRav Chaim adds that the
ikar Mitzvah of VeLimadetem Osam Es Beneichem, is for a father to
teach his son the Chamisha Chumshei Torah (see Rambam Hilchos Talmud
Torah 1:7). In fact, HaRav Chaim recalls how his father would study with
him once a week, even when HaRav Chaim was much older, for this very
reason. There is a different Mitzvah to learn Torah SheBe’al Peh
with a son which is based on the Pasuk VeShinantam Levanecha.
(Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 245:6)
7. HaRav Chaim advised that his father, the Steipeler, Z’tl, wanted him to
prepare his own Bar Mitzvah Drasha, but he could not--so the Steipeler
helped him with it, and the Steipeler eventually published it as well, for
it was the Steipeler’s Chiddush. Hakhel Note: What a great lesson--there is
truly 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.
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.
The Chofetz Chaim writes that: “One who wishes to truly guard his mouth and
tongue--lest it lead him to Machlokes, Lashon Hara, curses, and
embarrassment of others--should acquire for money the Middah of
Savlanus--which is to overcome one’s personal Middah in any given
situation, and acquiesce or accede to the other person.” How does one
‘acquire this with money’? The Chofetz Chaim teaches that one should
actually penalize himself monetarily if he realizes that he was not
Ma’avir Al Midosav, and let himself get away. He notes that usually the
Issurim of Machlokes, Lashon Hara, and Rechilus arise out of a small
matter, which a person blows out of proportion, and turns it into something
for which he cannot not give in. However, if one knows in his mind that he
will have to pay a monetary penalty for having done so [suggestion: perhaps
to an institution or cause which he would not otherwise support], he will
begin to realize that it is just not worth it. The Chofetz Chaim concludes
that: “One should not think that being Ma’avir Al HaMiddos is simply
a nice Middah--rather it is the direct cause for saving a person from many
aveiros, including Machlokes, Lashon Hara, and Rechilus….”
Hakhel Note: We add that in the Sefer Orchos Tzaddikim (Sha’ar
HaRatzon), the Mechaber specifically writes: “U’Me SheMa’avir Al
Midosav Tefillosav Nishma’as--one who overcomes his personal affront,
his personal hakpados and his personal opinions--will have his
Tefillos answered!” Thus, by practicing Savlanus--Ma’avir Al
HaMiddos in a dedicated way--one will not only save money, and prevent
aveiros from occurring--but will have his Tefillos answered!
especially dedicate ourselves to the second Bracha of Shemone Esrei this
week, we provide the following words of instruction from the great
Praying with Passion Series (in order to go through this entire
outstanding series on Tefillah, please visit
“and He makes salvation sprout” is included in this blessing of
Mechayeh Meisim--”He resuscitates the dead,” because of the
connection between bringing the dead to life and bringing a seed to sprout.
Just as a planted seed first disintegrates in the ground and then a sprout
emerges, so does a person’s body decompose in the ground prior to being
recreated in a more spiritually elevated form. We observe that when things
in our world die, they appear to end. Yet, death is actually the groundwork
for a more spiritual life (Dovair Shalom in Siddur Otzar Ha’Tefillos).
Alternatively, U’Matzmi’ach Yeshua refers to the salvation of the
Jewish nation. It is called sprouting, because the process happens
gradually, like the growth of a plant. (Midrash Tehillim, Mizmor 18).
A person who continuously watches a plant grow will not notice the plant
changing. Yet, over time, it’s obvious that the plant grew. Similarly, we
cannot see how each period of Jewish history contributes to the final
redemption; only when we look back from the vantage point of a redeemed
world will we perceive these developments.
SPECIAL INSIGHT INTO SEFIRA:
HaRav Matisyahu Salomon, Shlita (Matisyahu Chaim
Ben Ettel--may he have a Refuah Sheleimah BeKarov Mamash) provides a special
insight into the Avodah of the Sefira Period based upon the words of the
Sefer Avudraham. The Avudraham brings the words of Yirmiyahu Hanavi
(5:20-25) specifically referring to Shavuos: “Shavuos Chukos Kotzir
Yishmor Lanu...”--in which Yirmiyahu reproves the people for “having
eyes but not seeing” and for “having a heart that turns away” --for “failing
to say in their hearts let us fear Hashem ...”. What do these words of
reproof have to do particularly with Shavuos--what is this Nevua teaching
The Avudraham explains that Hashem actually commanded us to count during the
Sefira so that we would feel the ‘tza’ar ha’olam’--the pain of the world in
desperate need of food and livelihood during these days of judgment and
harvest of crops of the field and crops of the tree--and to turn to Hashem
in Teshuva with a full heart, and beseech Hashem to have mercy on us, on the
earth and on all of creation--”so that the crops will be as they should be,
for if there is no kemach there is no Torah.” In short, Rav Salomon
explains, the days of Sefira are really like a second Elul--days in which we
are to recognize the Awe and Majesty of HaKadosh Baruch Hu, tremble before
His awesome might, and straighten out our ways. These weeks are oh so
critical--our gashmius and our ruchniyus depend on their outcome! It is for
this reason that Chazal (Megillah 31B) teach that we read the Tochacha of
Bechukosai (in Chutz La’aretz) this Shabbos --in advance of
Shavuos--just as we read the Tochacha of Parashas Ki Savo in advance of Rosh
Hashana--the two are very much related--for we demonstrate that we want to
rid ourselves of any vestige of sin and any iota of curse--and instead be
successful going forward with our Shavuos and Rosh Hashana.
this end, the Radvaz explains that we do not make a bracha of She’hechiyanu
on Sefiras Ha’omer because it is the pre-requisite Mitzvah to the Ikar
Mitzvah of Shavuos. The analogy is to Sukkos--where although building the
Sukkah is a Mitzvah (Chag HaSukkos Ta’aseh Lecha)--we wait to make
the She’hechiyanu until we actually dwell in the Sukkah--and then the
She’hechiyanu is made on both Mitzvos. We are now accomplishing the
equivalent of building the Sukkah--just like there is no Chag HaSukkos
without a Sukkah, we must build ourselves up, make ourselves ready with the
pre-requisite Mitzvah of Sefira for the Ikar Mitzvah---Chag HaShavuos. The
Navi teaches us how--”let us fear Hashem, Who supplies rain...in its proper
time, and Who preserves for us the weeks appointed for the harvest!” We are
to prepare with Yiras Shomayim!
have a week and a half to hear the words of Yirmiyahu Hanavi. In years gone
by, we have experienced many Tisha B’Avs in wonderment--how could they not
have listened to Yirmiyahu--a Tzaddik, a Kohen,. a Navi, who was so
exceedingly Moser Nefesh --risking his life time and time again in order to
save us from a long and bitter galus, and the Bais Hamikdash from
devastation and destruction. Now, it is our turn to test ourselves--will we
listen to his cries, to his heart wrenching pleading, to his prophetic
appeal -- and do what we are supposed to do during these essential
days before Shavuos?! We can begin, suggested Rav Salomon, to demonstrate
our Yiras Shomayim--our Awe for our Creator--our recognition that He is the
One and Only source of our ruchniyus and gashmius-by taking the instruction
of the Chofetz Chaim: At points during the day simply stop what are you
doing and think about the Ribono Shel Olam: Realize that you have to watch
yourself because it is Hashem Himself Who is watching you.
PROPERLY APPRECIATING THE KIRUV OPPORTUNITY!
From a publication issued by Hidabroot:
“The Zohar says: ‘…two angels are invited to testify, and they say, “We
testify that so-and-so brought people close to their Father in Heaven.” The
Shechinah is then filled with joy that Her distant son was brought close to
Her. At that time, Hashem signals to an official, who brings the figure who
brings merit to Hashem’s children… [who] is [then] given: 70 keys,
containing all his Master’s treasures, entry to 70 hidden worlds, and all
the blessings that Hashem blessed Avraham Avinu, who also brought people
close to Hashem.
Come and see, whoever has a part in bringing people close to their Father in
Heaven: Overrides the Sitra Achra, elevates Hashem’s Name, supports This
World and the Next…in the World to Come, the twelve gates of Gan Eden are
opened to him, so that he may rejoice with those who dwell there.
If people knew how many benefits and merits are held for one who draws Jews
closer to Hashem, they would pursue Jews in order to bring them merit, as
one pursues life. One who gives charity to the poor merits many things, but
one who brings merit to fellow Jews, and draws near to those who are
estranged, merits much more because he repairs the soul and causes the
submission of the Sitra Achra in the world.’ (Zohar, Terumah 128-129).”
HaRav Pam, Z’tl, as quoted in the wonderful work Careful Words, by
Rabbi Sholom Smith, Shlita, brings the following important lessons:
1. Every Jew should speak favorably about his fellow man, despite the fact
that K’lal Yisrael and ‘Reb Yisrael’ have their faults and
weaknesses. It is not hard to criticize others and highlight their
shortcomings. But that causes deep distress to Hashem. No father
wants to hear a bad report about his child, even if it is true. Vice
versa, a father is extremely appreciative of a person who can find good
things to say about his child. So, too, is Hashem grateful when a person
defends His children before Him even if they are lacking in merits. Jews
must look for opportunities to praise the accomplishments of their fellow
man. Who can estimate the far-reaching effect this advocacy will have in
Heaven and the blessings it will bring upon the Jewish people?!
2. A talmid chacham controls his power of speech because, as the
Vilna Gaon writes in his Igeres HaGra, ”HaPeh Kodesh Kedoshim--the
mouth is holy of holies” and, as such, should not be sullied with
improper speech. In fact, the Gaon adds that, “Winged creatures
(heavenly angels) follow a person around wherever he goes and record every
word he speaks.” On the Day of Judgment there will be an entire,
unimpeachable stenographic record of all the words each person spoke during
his lifetime and he will certify with his own signature that everything is
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!
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
THE ROAD UPWARDS:
Once again, as we move closer to Matan Torah, 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):
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!
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.
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!
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.
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 in any event was going to be learned.
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
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.
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
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!
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!”
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…
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!
Last week’s Parasha of Behar begins with the monumental teaching of Bitachon
through the observance of Shemittah.
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!
all know, the Parasha has reminded us of this Mitzvah at this particular
point, and even at this particular juncture in our lives[this is what
Hashgacha all about], because it is something for each and every one of us
to work on in his own particular way. Let us each meet the challenge--and
fulfill this great Mitzvah in a way that brings us a wonderful Nachas Ruach--which
will bring along with it Nachas Ruach to others…and, in a magnificent way,
to our Creator as well!
Shavuos is now less than two weeks away. Since it is one of the Shalosh
Regalim, it is a time that we travel to the Bais HaMikdash. It would appear
that it is an extremely auspicious time for us to demonstrate how we desire
to have the Bais HaMikdash back and bring karbanos as soon as possible. A
superb way to demonstrate that desire is by taking the time now to give
something extra, a special gift, now to Tzedaka in order to demonstrate your
desire to bring Karbanos in the Bais HaMikdash! We always recommend
yadeliezer.org--with its stellar reputation in collecting money for Aniyei
now in the second week of the nineteen week period prior to Rosh
Hashana. In past years, we have proceeded weekly, Bracha by Bracha, through
Shemone Esrei with a special emphasis on Kavannah on that week’s Bracha.
This week’s Bracha is Gevuros--a spectacular recollection of different
aspects of Hashem’s Gevurah. We provide by the following link our notes to
the Nineteen Brachos for the years 5771 and 5772
May we highly recommend the Nineteen Week Program again this year--either
based upon your own study (such as by utilizing the magnificent Rav
Schwab on Prayer or another similar work), or by utilizing the link
provided on a daily basis throughout the week.
Hakhel Note: We remind you of the following excerpt from Rav Schwab on
Prayer, and was related by Rav Schwab at a Shiur he gave on Tefillah:
”I heard a story from Rav Yosef Breuer, which he told about his father,
my Rebbe, Rav Shlomo Zalman (Solomon) Breuer. The elder Rav Breuer was a
very good friend of Rav Shimon Sofer, the Rav of Cracow, a brother of the
Ksav Sofer, and a son of the Chasam Sofer. Once when the two friends met,
Rav Shimon Sofer asked Rav Breuer to tell him a short ‘vort’ from his
father-in-law, Rav Shamshon R. Hirsch. Upon which, Rav Breuer told him that
Rav Hirsch would point out that while Adon Olam described the unfathomable
eternity and omnipotence of Hashem, it nevertheless makes a reference to Him
in a very personal way--”VeHu Kaili, He is my G-d.” Each
person in his Tefillah says: ‘I have a personal relationship with
HaKadosh Baruch HU, He is my personal G-d.’ Therefore, whenever a
person says the word “Ado
--i, my Master”, no matter how small he thinks
he is, he is averring that he is in direct contact with Hashem.
This thought is in the introduction to any individual’s Iyun Tefillah,
concentration on Prayer. There is nothing mystical or supernatural about
it. It should be the most natural thing in the world.”
Additional Note One:
When reciting the name of Hashem, which is so often repeated in the first
Bracha of Shemone Esrei, it is very important to have this warm and moving
thought and feeling in mind--and hopefully remember it even as you proceed
and recite Hashem’s name through the rest of Shemone Esrei!
Additional Note Two:
Shlomo HaMelech teaches in Mishlei (28:20) ‘Ish Emunos Rav Brachos--a
trustworthy man will have many blessings. We may also interpret this to
mean that one who makes many Brachos is constantly demonstrating and
re-demonstrating his Emunah in Hashem, and becomes not only an Ish Emunah
but an Ish Emunos. Chazal teach that a Bracha without ‘Shem
U’Malchus’--’Hashem Elokeinu Melech HaOlam’ is not truly a Bracha.
Thus, each time we recite Hashem Elokeinu--My L-rd, Our G-d in
a bracha, we should be careful to recognize the personal relationship
that goes to the essence of our Emunah--each and every time we recite
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
Hakhel Note Two: The new cycle of the Sefer Chofetz Chaim began on
Shabbos, and will conclude on Erev Rosh Hashana. Participating individually
or with others in its study over the cycle is certainly a great and actual
zechus--for the Geulah!
Each one of us should make it his/her business to take an active role in
this great Zechus HaRabim!
PLEASE DON’T PUNISH YOURSELF!
In last week’s Perek (Avos 4:28), we studied the well-known teaching of
Rebbi Elazar HaKappar--HaKinah, V’Hata’avah, V’HaKavod Motzi’in Es
Ha’Adam Min HaOlam--jealousy, desire and glory-seeking take a person out
of the world. Some point out that the term Motzi’in is a very
telling one--as it refers to the present tense--rather than the future. If
a person is jealous of another, if he lets his desires overcome him, and if
he seeks glory (rather than modesty), then he is actually ‘taking himself
out’ of his current purpose in life during those very moments that he is
engaging in this circumspect conduct. It is not something for which he is ‘chayav
missa’ on later. Rather--it is the person himself who is literally and
truly killing his own time in the present. It is no small wonder that the
Sefer Sparks of Mussar brings from the Chofetz Chaim that he
overheard Rebbi Yisroel Salanter repeating this Mishna for an entire night.
After all, what could be worse than a person punishing himself to death?!
Hakhel Note: At a Hakhel Shiur, Rabbi Jonathan Rietti, Shlita, pointed out
that the word ‘Chayim’ in Lashon HaKadosh is in plural
form, for it demonstrates that we live two lives--one in Olam Hazeh and the
other in Olam Haba. If we waste time with jealousy, needless desire, and
kavod-seeking in this world--we are wasting our eternal time as well. On
the other hand, if that very same moment was filled with Torah or Gemilas
Chasodim--it would likewise translate to an eternal moment in Olam Haba.
There is an important additional thought--how this teaching relates to
others. When one assists or inspires another to make his moment fruitful,
he is assisting that person forever and ever. Here is a practical example
relating to the study of Torah, which we continue to focus upon before
Shavuos: If one notices that in the Shul or Beis Midrash that there are
those studying, but that it is quiet, he should consider raising his voice a
bit in Torah study to uplift and energize those around him to do so as
well. Because his Torah study is more inspired, their Torah study may be
more inspired as well--as the sound of Torah spreads through the study
hall. On the other hand, as we have pointed out in the past, if one begins
to sing a song (even if pretty) in the Shul, Beis Midrash, or wherever a
group is studying, one will notice that others will begin to sing as
well--and everybody’s study is interrupted as a result. We therefore have
great power to infuse not only our lives--the life of Olam Hazeh and Olam
Haba with very special moments--but to directly aid in infusing others with
their own meaningful and priceless time--carrying through in this world and
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
A GREAT MESSAGE!
We saw the following on a sign: “Ain Ohd Milevado--Say It, Think It, Live
COMPLETING THE FIRST OF THE NINETEEN WEEKS:
As we complete our special emphasis on Kavannah in the first bracha of
Shemone Esrei during this first of the Nineteen Weeks prior to Rosh Hashana,
may we add that one use the first bracha, on a going-forward basis, to feel
existentially Shivisi Hashem L’negdi Somid--Hashem before you as you
FROM A READER: “I
heard two other reasons for the practice that even those who recite LaOmer
when counting the Sefira every night, call today Lag BaOmer:
1. The Yahrzeit for the Rema (R’ Moshe Isserless, Z’tl) was Lag BaOmer;
since he said BaOmer as a Nusach Ashkenazi, as a courtesy to his memory we
refer to the day as Lag BaOmer.
2. It is widely said that the Rashbi was a nitzutz of Moshe Rabbeinu.
The gematria of Moshe is 345, which is the same gematria as Lag BaOmer.”
CONTINUE WITH OUR EREV SHABBOS HALACHOS OF SHABBOS SERIES:
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).
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!!
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
PRACTICAL GUIDANCE IN ONA’AS DEVARIM:
Tomorrow, we will review one of the key Mitzvos found in the Parasha (Vayikra
25:17): “VeLo Sonu Ish Es Amiso…--each of you shall not aggrieve his
fellow.” Chazal (Bava Metzia 58B) teach that this Pasuk refers specifically
to causing pain with words—Ona’as Devarim. The Mishna and Gemara (ibid.)
elaborate on the prohibition against Ona’as Devarim and further details are
brought L’Halacha in Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat, Chapter 428, which is
dedicated to this topic. Accordingly, we once again present below our annual
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!
“How many times do I have to tell you?”
“If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you 1,000 times.”
“I told you so.”
“Didn’t I tell you not to…”
“You forgot again?”
“I think that it runs in your family.”
“You look like I feel.”
“This time you’ve outdone yourself.”
“Who appointed you king?”
“You’re off your rocker.”
“You make no sense.”
“Who cares what you think?”
“You don’t match.”
“You forgot to make supper again?”
“How can you live in this mess?”
“You keep on making the same mistake.”
“Leave me alone!”
“You never…/You… always”
“Can’t you take a joke?”
“I don’t believe you.”
“You blew it!”
“What’s wrong with you?”
“What do you think you are doing?”
“Where are your brains?”
“What a nerd!”
“You really overpaid for this thing.”
“Let me show you the right way to do it.”
“I know that this is hard for someone like you, but…”
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
MAKE SURE--TO SAY:
It’s a privilege to know you.
You have a knack for doing the right thing.
I need your advice.
You really bought this at a good price.
It looks so good on you.
You remind me of your father/mother.
I really appreciate your effort.
You do so many good things.
You are truly the right person to be around.
How do you find time to do all of this?
This is delicious.
Can I give you a bracha?
Can you give me a bracha?
What a wonderful idea.
You probably know the answer to this.
I know you’re someone I can count on.
My compliments to the chef.
You look like a million dollars.
Your parents did something right.
Some people really have their head on straight.
You did a great job.
What a chesed!
You have amazing taste.
You are so special.
You did this all by yourself?
I know that your word is your bond.
above list beyond anyone—anyone? Let us leave “anyone” aside and
focus on you. The Torah (and your Maker) knows that you can do
it…and your life will surely be much enhanced when you do!
MORE SALIENT POINTS ON THE TOPIC:
provide below many points also gleaned from The Power of Words,
which are indeed ‘suitable for framing’—and which certainly should be
reviewed from time to time—and especially when you well know that you are
about to have a challenging encounter. We present the points by number, for
ease of reference.
The Chazon Ish wrote: “Even if what you say will cause someone pain
or discomfort for only a brief moment, it is a violation of this Torah
Be aware of what the consequences of what your words will be. Any
time your words will cause someone pain it constitutes Onoa’as Devarim.
Some people can suffer again and again for years because of insulting
remarks people have made to them.
One of the easiest ways to make enemies is to insult people.
Someone who studies Torah has a greater obligation than others to
avoid all forms of Ona’as Devarim. Failure to do so will cause others to
learn from his negative example, and could even cause people to have
negative feelings about Torah study in general.
Any statement that disparages the appearance of another person is
considered Ona’as Devarim.
It is forbidden to say or do things to scare other people.
The laws of Ona’as Devarim are based in the subjective response of
the person you are talking to. Even if many other people don’t mind a
certain statement, if the person you say it to will be distressed, upset,
angry or offended it is forbidden.
Don’t disparage the Torah thoughts of others. If you want to
disagree, do so in a polite manner.
Don’t insult someone for being different from you in personality,
thought, background, habits, etc.
It is Ona’as Devarim to say things to a person which would imply that
he is not normal.
Needlessly saying things to cause someone worry is Ona’as Devarim.
When you have conflicting interests with someone, master the art of
finding peaceful solutions. Find the basic needs of both parties and try to
find ways that the needs of both parties can be met.
Statements made in a sarcastic tone of voice constitute Ona’as
Devarim, even though the words themselves might sound Kosher.
Asking people personal questions about matters they would prefer not
to discuss causes them discomfort and is Ona’as Devarim.
It is counterproductive to say to someone, “If I told you once, I
told you a thousand times…”
Avoid saying,” You don’t understand,” when you are discussing ideas
If you see that a person is very tired or in an especially irritable
mood, be very careful with what you say to him.
People who are very perceptive and notice all kinds of details about
personality and character of others must be careful to use this gift as a
tool to help--not to hurt-- others.
It is easy for married couples to cause each other much emotional
pain by insulting one another. Even if two people disagree or are
disappointed with each other, they should still speak to each other with
Anger does not give you permission to violate the prohibition against
Humor at someone else’s expense is Ona’as Devarim.
Accepting other people and their differences is one of the keys to
observing this Mitzvah.
When you have internalized the awareness that people are created
BeTzelem Elokim--in the image of Hashem, you will experience great respect
for each person you encounter.
When you communicate with others, be aware of your goal. Most insults
and derogatory comments are counterproductive and will not help you achieve
The more difficult it is to refrain from insulting someone, the
greater the reward.
Whenever you refrain from saying anything that would be Ona’as
Devarim, feel the joy of fulfilling a Mitzvah.
You are what you say. By transgressing the laws of Ona’as Devarim you
are lowering your own spiritual level.
Any time that someone hurts your feelings in some way, view it as a
learning experience to teach yourself to be more sensitive to causing others
distress with words.
Imagine standing before Hashem after 120 years and being confronted
with all of your Ona’as Devarim statements.
“It’s your fault for taking offense.” If someone will feel pain
because of what you say, you have an obligation to avoid saying it and you
cannot blame the other person for feeling hurt.
“I hope that this doesn’t offend you, but…” Starting off with this
statement does not render your Ona’as Devarim permissible.
When you want to influence someone to do something, always try to
motivate him with an approach that will be based on his needs, wants, and
There are many statements that if said with a smile will not cause a
person distress-- even though they might if a person were to say the words
with a serious expression on his face.
There are always ways of disagreeing with someone that show a basic
respect for him even though you disagree with what he said.
The laws of Ona’as Devarim apply even to parents when they speak to
The laws of Ona’as Devarim apply even to small children. Insulting a
young child or frightening him as a joke is forbidden.
If someone is angry it is an act of kindness to calm him down. Be
careful not to say things that would be Ona’as Devarim to someone who is
When you speak to a stranger, you might not be aware of his
particular sensitivities and therefore might cause him pain unintentionally.
Note the facial reactions of the people you speak to.
When you see someone insulting another person, have the courage to
say something to stop him.
Be willing to make a public commitment to your family and friends
that you will be careful with Ona’as Devarim.
AS WE GET CLOSER!
provide below some insights in preparation for the joyous and awe-inspiring
moment of Kabbalas HaTorah:
The Sefer Pele Yoetz (under the heading “Kesiva”) teaches that a
person should take the time to write down nuances that he discovers in his
Torah study--whether big or small--for through writing he brings the
Torah in a demonstrable way into this world, and it is as if he actually
taught Torah “to the multitudes.” Perhaps one can keep his own
notebook, and over time marvel at how much he actually accomplished!
Chazal (Shabbos 31A) teach that one of the first questions a person will be
asked after 120 years is whether “Kavata Itim L’Torah--Did you have
designated times for Torah study daily?” The Levush (Yoreh De’ah 246:1)
writes that by usage of the plural “Itim”--times, Chazal are teaching
that we must set aside some Torah study time by day and by night
(i.e., at least a few minutes immediately after Ma’ariv, or before going to
bed). In this regard, the Sefer Piskei Teshuvos (Volume 2, Page 304)
brings from other noted sources that during these designated times for Torah
study, one should view himself as not being in Olam Hazeh, but rather in Gan
Eden before the Shechina! See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, Chapters 155 and
238 on this vital topic.
C. The Zohar (Parashas Vayeishev) writes that if someone puts in the effort
to study Torah in this world, even if he does not understand or remember
what he learned, he will have the knowledge and understanding that he
strived for in this world--but also in a more important world--Olam Haba.
As we recite when we complete our day of study, or when we complete a
particular tractate or portion of Torah: “For they toil and we toil--they
toil and do not receive reward (i.e., they may not see the fruits of their
labor), but we toil and [definitely] receive reward.” In other words,
there is no such thing as a “failed business venture” or an “unsuccessful
business project” in Torah--there is only success!
The Sefer Orchos Tzaddikim (Sha’ar HaSimcha) teaches that when a
person davens Shemone Esrei, he must remember that the brachos are recited
in the plural. This means that one is not only davening for himself, but for
all of K’lal Yisrael. All of K’lal Yisrael, he further notes, includes those
who are distant from him both in the physical and spiritual sense.
Specifically, he writes, when reciting Atta Chonein, Hashiveinu, Selach Lanu,
and all of his requests, he should have in mind Ohavav V’Sonav—those
he likes, and those with whom he is not on the same page. By doing so, he
concludes, one fulfills the Mitzvas Asei of V’Ahavta L’Reiacha Kamocha
in its literal sense!
TIMELY INFORMATION ON HAIRCUTS:
is a time to reflect anew upon how even a task such as a haircut has meaning
and purpose in our lives. In the Torah itself, we learn that Yosef took a
haircut upon his release from prison in order to see Paroh--as a sign of
respect. We similarly find that Haman (who was by trade a barber) gave
Mordechai a haircut prior to his ascending onto the king’s horse (Megillah
16A). Thus, a person can have kavana prior to taking a haircut that he is
doing so out of respect for himself and others. There is more, however. We
can also reflect upon the Kavod Shabbos inherent in the haircut--as we too
show respect to the royal Shabbos Queen.
is still more. Of course, ahl pi kabala, hair and its growth
extending outside and away from the body has profound meaning. We would,
however, like to remind men that before taking a haircut they may have
kavana that they are fulfilling two (2) additional mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh--which
are Lo Sakifu Pe’as Roshechem and Lo Sashchis Es Pe’as Zekanecha--not
rounding the hairline and not using a knife-like blade to cut certain areas
of the face. Readers must be on guard that barbers who are not aware of the
Halacha may be using cutting instruments in an improper way in the Payos
area and above the ear. Accordingly, we once again provide an important
link to The Kosher Haircut Guide Poster (available at
We urge you to send on the Guide to as many as possible--it is so
unfortunate for one to violate a Torah prohibition for lack of
knowledge--and all the more so when it is so easily rectified. We have free
large, hard-copy laminated posters of the Guide as well for pick up--for use
in Shuls, Yeshivos and barber shops. Please feel free to contact us.
Remember, just as there is much more to a Kosher hamburger...there is much
more to a Kosher Haircut! In everything we do--our kavana plays the key
role--let’s do it the way we are supposed to!
Why is it that when a person gets older, his hair starts turning
white? After all, white symbolizes purity, as evidenced by the white
garments of the Kohein Gadol on Yom Kippur, and the fact that the red string
that was tied on to the entrance to the Heichal on Yom Kippur turned white
to demonstrate that the people’s sins were forgiven (Yoma 6:8). It would
thus seem more appropriate for children, who are so much closer to
purity to have white hair, which then would become darker as one ages, as a
symbol that the person is sullying himself with sin. Why does it move in
the reverse direction? Hakhel Note: This is, of course, a rhetorical
question. If you do not know or appreciate the answer, we suggest as an
immediate undertaking the study of either the Sefer Mesilas
Yeshorim or the Sefer Sha’arei Teshuva!
had received the following from a reader:
“A Kavannah before getting a haircut is ‘Beyomo Titein Secharo”--paying
the barber on time.”
ON LAG BAOMER:
1. It appears that even those who recite LaOmer when counting the
Sefira every night, call today Lag BaOmer. A reader suggested that
this is so because the celebration of Lag BaOmer originates from Tzefas
(first found in Peri Eitz Chaim), and the Arizal’s Nusach was BaOmer.
2. The Chasam Sofer (Shailos U’Teshuvos, Yoreh Deah 233) brings the
possibility that Lag BaOmer is observed as a day of simcha because on this
day (18 Iyar) the Mon began to fall. This calculation is based on the fact
that on the 15th of Iyar Bnei Yisrael arrived in Midbar
Sin and the people complained--3 days then transpired before the Mon
began to fall.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
FOR ALL THOSE TAKING A HAIRCUT SOON!
The Kosher Haircut Guide--http://tinyurl.com/yh2dqy6.
Remarkably, the Rabbeinu Yonah (Sha’arei Teshuvah 3:15) writes that
the cheit of not performing Gemilas Chesed is worse than stealing as
is demonstrated by the Pasuk (Yecheskel 16:49): “Hinei Zeh Haya Avon
Sedom Achoseich…VeYad Ani V’Evyon Lo Hichzikah”. According to
Yecheskel--Sedom’s sin was not theft--but rather was not helping those in
need. The clear message to us is that just as we daven and learn every day,
we must be sure to perform Chesed every day as well. As we learn in Pirkei
Avos (1:2) Shimon HaTzaddik teaches that the world stands on three things:
Torah, Avodah and Gemilas Chasodim. We daven every morning thereby touching
upon Avodah. We then learn for at least a few minutes after davening to
fulfill the words of the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 155). After such a
successful beginning to the day--Torah and Avodah, it should behoove us as
well to perform an act of Chesed before one otherwise gets involved
in his regular day-to-day activities. That act of Chesed could simply be a
Kepitel Tehillim for one designated person, a special gift of Tzedaka, a
short conversation with someone who needs Chizuk or taking care of something
for someone else.
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!
EVEN AN HOUR!
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
EVEN MORE THAN THE PETALS: Many in the
Northern Hemisphere have recently witnessed the pretty blooming of trees
with stunning pink, purple and white petals. However, these beautiful works
of Hashem then fall off of the tree within days of their formation. This may
seem disappointing and discouraging. After such a long winter--why does the
pretty blossom--with all of its beautiful colors--last for such a short
period? Should we not celebrate the rebirth of nature for a longer time than
that? HaRav Ezriel Erlanger, Shlita, provides an essential insight. In
thinking about it a bit more--we must realize that the essence of a fruit
tree is really its fruit, and the essence of a non-bearing fruit tree is its
leaves, and the shade, the cool wind, the photosynthetic process that they
provide. The blossoming of the tree can in a sense be compared to the rocket
which launches a spaceship, and then must separate and fall back into the
atmosphere. The rocket is very important--but the essence is the spaceship
itself. In life, we must realize that which is ikar, that which is
vital--and that which is tafel. In our own lives, we should consider
the Mitzvos and Ma’asim Tovim as the ‘fruit’ of our existence, and that
which we must do (including the servicing of our bodies) as the means to
attain this goal. As we count through the Sefirah towards Kabbalas
HaTorah--we must remind ourselves that we are going somewhere--we are headed
in a direction, we are clear as to what is the tafel of life--and
what is the ikar!
The Chofetz Chaim teaches that, although every individual must be careful
with all of the Mitzvos, one should nevertheless be very adept at one
particular Mitzvah and observe it with great strength and constancy, being
close with it his whole life--just as one holds onto a tree for life. He
specifically suggests that one choose a Mitzvah that seems to be less on a
person’s mind than other Mitzvos. Indeed, in the Sefer Shemiras HaLashon,
he suggests that this Mitzvah be guarding one’s tongue from Lashon Hara. In
the Sefer Mesilas HaMaharsha on the Chameish Megillos, by Rabbi
Eliezer Ginsburg, Shlita, Rabbi Ginsburg brings an important source (Koheles
5:9) for the concept of a person choosing a Mitzvah and ‘specializing’ in
it: “Ohev Kesef Lo Yisbah Kesef U’mi Ohev BeHamon Lo Tevuah Gam Zeh
Havel--a lover of money will never be satisfied with the money he has; a
lover of abundance has no wheat--this too is futility!” Rashi (ibid.)
explains that it is not sufficient for a person to simply do “many Mitzvos”--rather,
one needs to have a Mitzvah Mesuyemes V’Nikeres. Rashi there gives
examples of this, which include helping to build a Shul or having a
beautiful Sefer Torah written. The Sifsei Chachomim (ibid.) adds that this
very lesson is taught in the Torah itself by the actions of Moshe Rabbeinu,
as the Pasuk (Devarim 4:31) states: “Az Yavdil Moshe Shalosh Arim”--where
Moshe forever designated three Arei Miklat, even though they would not be
used in his lifetime. HaRav Ginsburg notes that this does not mean that one
necessarily has to choose a Mitzvah which would physically last for future
generations, but rather the emphasis is on a Mitzvah that one is
Medakdeik LeKayeim Kol Yimei Chayav--especially careful in the
performance of all of his life. Rabbi Ginsburg reports that it was said of
Rebbi Akiva Eiger, Z’tl, that he was medakdeik all of his life to
fulfill the Mitzvah of Bikur Cholim.
Note: In the secular world around us, we find specialized expertise in a
great many professions and jobs. It may be safely said that the world is
more highly specialized today than it ever was. The physical world around us
is a place for us to derive lessons for our Ruchniyus. Accordingly,
if the world today is more specialized in terms of our daily, material,
physical and mundane needs--then all the more so should we, in addition to
our steadfast general Mitzvah performance, bli neder take upon
ourselves a particular Mitzvah with which we can fulfill the words of the
Pesukim “Az Yavdil Moshe…” and “…Ohev BeHamon Lo Tevuah….”
One’s selection process may require some thought, and one should consider
both the Mitzvos that he seems predisposed to and those that seem more
difficult for him to perform--and make an important personal determination
in this regard. Hakhel Note: We may add that the concept of developing a
personal expertise applies in the area of Talmud Torah as well. The Chofetz
Chaim and others bring that one should have his ‘Olam Haba Mesechta”, which
he reviews and knows better than all other Mesechtos, which will certainly
elevate him to higher and higher levels of Olam Haba. The practice of
personalizing a particular Mesechta was even adopted by the Gedolim. We
believe that it is said that the Chasam Sofer’s Mesechta was Mesechta Bei’ah.
Indeed, it is reported that more recently, HaRav Chaim Stein, Z’tl, had a
Mesechta for Bekiyus (Zevachim) and a Mesechta for Iyun (Chulin).
Hashem has lovingly given us a charge--become an expert in your Ruchniyus--you
can do it! Let us live up to the task with sincerity, dedication and zeal!
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
Birkas HaMazon in honor of the Mon’s initial falling. Today then would then
appear to be an auspicious day to rededicate ourselves to the principle of
Mon--that all of our sustenance in Min Hashamayim as the Mon indicates--and
certainly a day to review and renew our kavana in the very first bracha of
Birkas HaMazon (after all--do you know of any other brachos that Moshe
Rabbeinu himself composed!).
The Sefer Ma’alos HaTorah by Rebbi Avraham (the brother of the G’ra),
Z’tl, writes that the first step in Teshuva should be in one’s study of
Torah. To demonstrate the point, he brings the braysa of Rebbi
Pinchos Ben Yair upon which the entire Sefer Mesilas Yesharim is
based: “Torah Meivi’ah Lidei Zehirus, Zehirus Lidei Zerizus….” The
starting point of all proper conduct is Torah. This concept is echoed in the
bracha of Teshuvah that we recite three times daily in Shemone Esrei--”Hashiveinu
Avinu LeSorasecha…VeHachazireiu Bishuvah Sheleima Lefanecha”--only after
we come closer in Torah can accomplish Teshuvah. Let us further stop for a
moment to recognize the point and time that we are in--only approximately
two and a half weeks away from Shavuos! It so behooves us to bli neder
undertake at least some small improvement in our Torah study--not only for
the sake of Teshuvah (which would be enough in and of itself)--but certainly
in honor of our recognition that the great day of Kabbalas HaTorah is coming
for each and every one of us!
The Kabbalah could be as small as an increase of only “two to three minutes
a day” after davening or before going to bed, listening to a short Torah
phone message, going through a particular Sefer in preparation for Shavuos--and
can be something as great as reviewing a few blatt per day of a Mesechta
recently learned, culminating with a Siyum on Shavuos! One’s personalized
decision must come based upon one’s own time constraints, feelings,
background and surroundings. 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.
Chazal (Bava Basra 10A) teach that ‘Kol Ha’Maalim Einav Min Hatzedaka
Ke’Ilu Ovaid Avodah Zara--if someone hides his eyes from giving charity,
it is as if he worships idols(!).’ HaRav Elchanan Wasserman, Z’tl, provides
a great and penetrating insight here. When one turns to Avodah Zara, he
believes that the getchka will help him out of his situation or
predicament--but instead finds that his energies were misdirected and
wasted. Thus, rather than the perceived good that would come out of his
effort, it is in fact real ra, bad, that results. He has no yeshua
in hand, and has given of his life in a wasted effort. So, too, when one
avoids a tzedaka collector or collection, a gabbai, an appeal or a
campaign--and it is because he simply can’t give to anyone and everyone and
deplete his resources in this way--he should understand that while he may
think that he is engaged in asset preservation and cash management, in
fact he is not using his money wisely--in a good way. The rule to follow in
charity distribution is “Melach Mammon--Chosair...if you want to
preserve your money, then give it those in need--for you have then made
an everlasting deposit into an eternal account--never subject to market
fluctuations, bankruptcies, debt collection, theft or other loss. The more
you give--the more you collect!
STOP AND SMELL THE ROSES!
Having recently made the Birchas HaIlanos, we B’EH have begun to reap the
benefits of spring. One of them is the greater opportunity to recite Brachos
over the wonderful world of fragrances around us. As in the past at this
time of year, we provide our readers with a ‘shmek’, a brief ‘fragrance’,
from the wonderful Sefer Rei’ach Hasadeh-The Fragrant Field (by Rabbi
Hanoch Slatin, Shlita; Feldheim Publishers, 2003):
1. Appreciating Our Sense of Smell. One of the first times
the Torah refers to the sense of smell is when Yitzchok Avinu appreciates
the fragrance of his son Yaakov: “Look, the fragrance of my son, is like the
fragrance of the field which Hashem blessed.” (Bereishis 27:27) The Midrash
explains that Yitzchok smelled Gan Eden--his sense of smell connected him
with a world in another dimension!
2. The Brachos. There are five possible Brachos over
fragrances. Their sequence, in order of priority, is as follows:
a. Borei shemen arev — only on apharsemon oil
b. Hanosein re’iach tov bapeiros — only for fruits
c. Borei atzei v’samim — for all tree aromas
d. Borei isvei v’samim — for all grass aromas
e. Borei minei v’samim---for all other aromas over
which a bracha is recited
In a sense, Borei minei v’samim is an omnibus bracha similar to
shehakol neheya b’dvaro.
3. Priority in Brachos Recitation. When one picks up a
pleasant-smelling fruit with the intention to both smell it and eat it,
which bracha should come first? There is reason to assume that one should
begin with the fragrance. As the person picks up the fruit, the smell will
reach his nose before he has a chance to eat the fruit, and if he does not
say the bracha on the aroma first, he will be guilty of deriving pleasure
from this world without first saying a bracha. Many authorities follow this
line of reasoning and instruct us to say the bracha on the smell first.
4. Aromatherapy: Alternative medicine is a rapidly
expanding area. Some people use various scents in order to improve their
health. People may smell a fragrance, or add them to massage oils or to
their bath. This practice is called aromatherapy. If a person smells
fragrances with no intention to enjoy their pleasant aroma, only to relieve
himself of some illness, he should not make a bracha. In practice, however,
most people who employ aromatherapy also enjoy its fragrance on its own, and
therefore they should recite the appropriate bracha.
As a matter of caution, one should first ask his Rav or Posek whether it is
permissible to engage in aromatherapy per se, as different forms of
alternative medicine have been linked to aspects of Avoda Zara. It is a
person’s absolute duty to determine that the source of his proposed form of
therapy does not arise from the worshipping of other gods--something so
foreign to individuals in the West that we may not initially consider it.
5. Black Pepper and Ginger: There is a difference of
opinion among the authorities whether black pepper and ginger are to be
considered besamim. Therefore, the rule is that one should not make
a bracha. In order to avoid the transgression of enjoying this world
without making a bracha, one should either refrain from smelling black
pepper and ginger, or make a bracha on another fragrance and intend to
include the pepper or ginger, as well.
6. Bread: A similar question exists regarding picking up
(or bending over) and smelling a fresh, warm loaf of bread. There are
authorities who maintain that bread is neither a pleasant-smelling fruit nor
a bosem, and no bracha should be said on its smell. Others rule that a
bracha should be said on the smell of bread. Even according to this view,
there is a difference of opinion as to which bracha should be said. Some
say that the bracha hanosein rei’ach tov bapeiros is applicable,
others insist that only the bracha borei minei v’samim applies,
whereas still others require the recital of a special bracha hanosein
rei’ach tov b’pas--Who puts a pleasant smell in bread. Again, since a
bracha may or may not be required, one should not say a bracha and should
refrain from picking up(or bending over) warm bread to smell it. This
refers only to warm bread; the smell of cold bread is not strong and
pleasurable enough to require a bracha. Also, unless the bread is picked up
or set aside for the purpose of smelling it, no bracha is required, even on
fresh, warm bread. (Like any aromatic fruit, no bracha is said unless one
takes the fruit with intention to enjoy its smell.)
7. Weak Appreciation: One who by nature has a weak sense of smell, or
whose sense of smell has been temporarily weakened due to a cold and the
like, should not recite a bracha on a scent which he does not sense keenly.
The same applies to one with a healthy sense of smell who does not enjoy a
particular aroma. He does not say a bracha on that particular smell, even
if most people do derive pleasure from it.
8. Weak Aromas: Some flowers and fruits may have a very
weak smell. A person may find that one orange does not have a noticeable
fragrance, but that a bowlful of oranges does. Unless there is an
appreciable fragrance coming from the item in question, do not make a bracha.
9. Testing a Fragrance: If one is in doubt as to how
strong a smell a fragrance has, or whether or not the smell is pleasant, or
whether or not his sense of smell is keen enough to be able to smell the
fragrance properly, he may first smell it without a bracha as a trial. If
he finds the smell sufficiently strong and enjoyable, he should say the
bracha and smell it a second time.
10. Shabbos: On Shabbos one of the forbidden activities is to
harvest produce. We are afraid that if one were to smell a fragrant fruit
on a tree, he might want to eat that fruit and accidentally come to pick
it. Chazal therefore forbade one from smelling fruit on a tree on Shabbos.
There is no such concern about smelling a flower, as full enjoyment is
derived from the flower without needing to pick it. Therefore, one may
smell growing flowers on Shabbos. One must still be very careful to handle
the plant gently. If the plant is as soft as grass there is essentially no
possibility of breaking it, so one may touch it. If the branch of a tree is
somewhat brittle, one should refrain from holding it.
11. In Havdala, one may use only those fragrances that normally
require a bracha. Hand soaps or bathroom deodorants never require a bracha,
so they may not be used. Many have the custom to use Hadassim (myrtle
leaves) which were already used to fulfill the mitzvah of Lulav. This is in
keeping with the principle that an object used for one mitzvah is preferred
over other objects to perform yet another mitzvah. Myrtle branches usually
require the bracha of borei atzei v’samim. For Ashkenazim the text
of Havdalah always uses the bracha of borei minei v’samim.
Therefore, it is advisable to also include some fragrance which normally
requires a borei minei v’samim, such as cloves. This is not true for
Sephardim, as their custom at Havdala is to say whichever bracha is correct
for the particular fragrance being used. Since myrtle leaves dry out and
lose their scent with time, one should be careful to replenish the spice box
12. True Appreciation. The author of the Sefer Yesod
V’Shoresh Ha’Avodah, in his Last Will, urged his children to acknowledge
Hashem in their thoughts before partaking of any pleasure of the world, even
with such pleasures as snuff, which requires no bracha. Ideally, any
benefit we derive from the world should be accompanied by some form of
praise and gratitude to the One Who created so many varied pleasures for
us. Therefore, even when we are not permitted to make a formal bracha, our
thoughts should be directed toward Hashem.
We hope you once again enjoyed this timely whiff from the Sefer Rei’ach
ALERT! We contacted
the OU regarding the bracha to be recited on a Pita Chip product bearing the
OU symbol. The OU’s position is as follows: “Pita Chips are Hamotzi. They
are regular pitas that are seasoned and then baked again into chips.”
We are now in the nineteen week period prior to Rosh Hashana! In the past,
we have proceeded weekly, Bracha by Bracha, through Shemone Esrei with a
special emphasis on Kavannah on that week’s Bracha. This week’s Bracha is
Birkas Avos--a Bracha whose Kavannah is especially significant every day of
the year, for it is the anchor from which the remaining brachos of Shemone
Esrei continue. We accordingly once again provide by the following link our
notes to the Nineteen Brachos for the years 5771 and 5772
May we highly recommend the Nineteen Week Program again this year--either
based upon your own study, such as by utilizing the magnificent Rav
Schwab on Prayer, Praying With Meaning (by Rabbi Heshy Kleinman,
Shlita) or another similar work, or by utilizing the link provided on a
daily basis throughout the week.
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
MOMENT WITH RABBI AVIGDOR MILLER, Z’TL:
QUESTION: Isn’t it good enough just to be a good person? Why must we follow
ANSWER: And the answer is, why must you keep traffic laws? Isn’t it good
enough to be a good person? How many good people go through red lights?
How many good people have killed innocent persons by driving drunk? Good
intentions are not enough to be a good person. A man must be bound by a
code. And if he is choosing a code, he might as well take the very best
code there is. There is no such thing as a good person without Torah. A
good person can be a mercy killer, he kills his old mother because he cannot
see her suffer. A good person can be a selfish man, who thinks he is doing
good, when in reality he is only helping himself, because he is blinded by
his own desires.
have to know that nobody is able to live with standards that he himself
creates. You see 50 years ago the reformers, the reform Jews, had certain
standards that they considered good, moral, and today they are changed
entirely. So whatever people consider as standards in one generation can
change in another generation. It’s only those who live by the eternal
standard of Torah, who remain good forever and ever.
above is an example of a weekly email entitled ‘A Moment with Rabbi Avigdor
Miller, Z’tl, is available free of charge. The email provides a Question
and Answer transcribed from one of Rabbi Miller’s legendary Thursday Night
Shiurim. To subscribe, please contact
STRENGTHEN YOUR EMUNAH!
A reader once provided us with the following remarkable story which he had
read: “HaRav Mordechai Gifter, Z’tl, had to have a particular surgery. He
inquired as to a top surgeon in the field, met with him, and then scheduled
the surgery for about a month later when the surgeon had a free slot. The
time came, and Rav Gifter was at last being taken into surgery. Rav Gifter
asked the doctor to pray that the surgery would go well. “Rabbi”, the
doctor responded, “you have nothing to worry about--I am top in my field!”
Upon hearing these words, Rabbi Gifter advised that he would no longer be
going through with the surgery at that time. Instead, he found another
doctor, perhaps not as famous, but who realized that health and sickness,
life and all that is to it--is in G-d’s anthropomorphic hands, and not in
those of a skilled mortal.” Hakhel Note: All would do well to remember
this story--but not only when visiting a doctor. May we suggest that the
next time you recite Shemone Esrei, you move through the Brachos of bakasha--from
bracha to bracha--noting all of the action verbs that we
recite--asking Hashem several times in each bracha for this act and that
act--for it is truly only from Hashem that each and every thing that
affects, impacts and improves our daily lives comes! Every time we
daven, we should recognize and grow from the strong Emunah in Hashem we are
asserting, as we plead for his active guidance, direction and action. All
we have to do is read, say, understand and feel the plain and powerful
meaning of our daily Tefillos!
FROM MATZAH TO MON:
According to the Luach Dovor B’Ito, today is the transition day
between Bnei Yisrael finishing Matzah they had brought along from Mitzraim,
and tomorrow, 16 Iyar, is the day that the Mon began to fall (see, however,
Rashi to Shemos 16:33, in which Rashi appears to write that the Mon began to
fall today), it is in these days that Moshe Rabbeinu composed the first
bracha of Birchas HaMazon, the Bracha of Hazon Es HaOlam. The
Luach therefore urges that this Bracha be recited with a special
Kavannah at this time.
Note: At a Hakhel Shiur, HaRav Yisroel Belsky, Z’tl, once made the following
incredible point. How could it be that millions of people actually finished
the Matzah that they had brought with them from Mitzrayim on the exact same
day? After all, did not some families have more, some have less? Were not
some families larger, and some families smaller? Did not some families have
mostly adults, and others mostly small children?
Belsky answered with a remarkable teaching. In fact, there were families
that had finished their Matzah days ago, and others that had finished it
even weeks ago. However, those with Matzah remaining shared it willingly
and even happily with their neighbors. Only when all of this shared Matzah
was completely consumed, was there a need for the Mon. In fact, perhaps the
Mon came only because Hashem recognized and acknowledged the chesed of His
people, and “shared” with us effusively from His special bounty as well.
Let us take this lesson and enthusiastically apply it by trying to help
someone else today with their Parnassah or their needs. After all, in the
end…it is all Mon!
internationally-renowned Posek advised us that the ‘Toch Kedei Dibur’
necessary for one to make a bracha in after hearing lighting or thunder is
not 2-3 seconds as we had reported, but actually 1-1.25 seconds.
Accordingly, the window for recitation of the bracha is indeed very
Note: This is an important point in any ‘Toch Kedei Dibur’
situation—it is a very short period of time.
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,
These are days in which we especially work on our Bein Adam L’Chaveiro. In
this regard, we provide two very fundamental--and extremely
Chofetz Chaim writes that the way we can properly honor others is by finding
something greater in them than in yourself--whatever it may be. Once one
recognizes that he holds another in higher regard for something, he will
simply treat him with more dignity and respect.
HaRav Naftali Kaplan, Shlita, adds that prior to engaging in an act of
Chesed--we should endeavor to think about the fact that in doing so we are
emulating the ways of Hashem--Who is a Rav Chesed. By doing so, we
demonstrate that our Chesed is not a ‘good thing to do’ or a ‘social
norm’--but an act which constitutes both V’Halachta B’Derachav--and
Olam Chesed Yiboneh.
CONTINUE OUR EREV SHABBOS--HALACHOS OF SHABBOS SERIES:
every Erev Shabbos after Chatzos, HaRav Chaim Pilagi, Z’tl, would
daven to Hashem that nothing would happen this Shabbos that would require
c’v’ the Shabbos to be violated, such as a choleh mesukan, a fire, or
Parasha this week, we note that Shabbos is placed first--ahead of a
description of all of the Moadim. We should be inspired this Shabbos to
realize that although Shabbos comes every week--it is a truly a primary
Mo’ed--an especially designated time to come closer to our Creator and
raise ourselves up spiritually. Perhaps in honor of the primacy of Shabbos--one
can start this week with extra Zemiros, an extra D’var Torah, an extra act
LeKavod Shabbos Kodesh!
Chazal (Meilah 17A) provide an incredible incident in which Rebbi Reuven Ben
Istrubeli dressed as a Roman in order to induce the Roman political to
annual their evil decrees against the Jewish people. One such decree was
that the Jews could no longer observe Shabbos. He argued to them
(ostensibly as a gentile)--”If a person had an enemy, does he want to make
him rich or poor?” “Poor, of course”, they responded. “If that is the
case, let them observe Shabbos so that they will not do work and they will
become poor.” He said. The politicians responded “You are right.”, and
they annulled the decree. Later, they learned he was a Jew and they
reinstated the Gezeirah. This Ma’aseh serves to reinforce to us the stark
contrast between our level of Emunah which our observance of Shabbos
highlights and brings out--and the non-Jews attitude which is that not
working will simply make us poor (although they actually believed that to be
the case, they only reinstated the decree because of their anti-Semitism).
Our calm observance of Shabbos, without thinking about the work week, the
money that has to be made and the tasks that have to be done, is a bastion
of our Emunah. One of the reasons given as to why we put our ten fingers on
bread or Challah before making a bracha over it is that this represents the
ten words of ‘Veyiten Lecha’--that our Parnassah is from Hashem--and
not the result of our own genius or toil. It is no coincidence that we take
this great lesson of Shabbos with us immediately into the week by reciting
the Pesukim of ‘Veyiten Lecha…it all depends on Hashem’s bracha’--as
we begin the new week!
D. The Mishnah in this week’s Perek (Avos 3:2) teaches that one who studies
Torah even by himself is aptly rewarded, as the Pasuk (Eicha 3:28) states: “Yeishev
Badad VeYidom Ki Natal Alav--even if one learns in solitude, he will
receive a reward.” The Bartenura explains that these words are much more
powerful than we might otherwise think. The term ‘Ki Natal Alav’
teaches that even for one sitting and studying in solitude: “K’ilu
Nesinas Kol HaTorah Kula Haysah Ba’avuro Bilvad--Hashem considers it
as if the entire giving of the Torah was for him, and him alone! We
see, then, how precious even one moment of Torah is to even the solitary
Torah student, and we should be careful with every such moment--for
ourselves, and for all others--all the more so when one spends those extra
minutes to learn on Shabbos Kodesh!
In this week’s Parasha, Emor, we find the distinctive Mitzvah of
“Vekidashto”…and you shall sanctify the Kohen by treating him with a higher
level of dignity and respect (Vayikra 21:8). We provide our readers with
our yearly review of this sometimes forgotten Mitzvah which needs our chizuk.
The Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah 269) writes that this Mitzvah D’Oraysa
applies at all times (not only when the Bais HaMikdash is standing), and
furthermore that the Mitzvah applies equally to both men and women. The
Aruch HaShulchan (Orach Chayim 128:72) writes that there are opinions to be
lenient in the Mitzvas Aseh of VeKidashto today because our Kohanim may not
have clear “yichussei Kehuna” (evidence of lineage), but rejects this
opinion with the strong words “VeCholila Lomar Kain U’Lehatil Dofi
BeKedushas Kohanim--Heaven Forbid to say this and to cast aspersions on
the holiness of our Kohanim!” Accordingly, we provide below some important
points relating to this Mitzvah, which apply in our everyday life:
1. The Rema (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 228) writes that it is “Assur
LeHishtamesh BeKohen”--it is forbidden to use a Kohen to perform tasks and
services on one’s behalf, even in our days, and if one does so it is like
being “Moel beHekdesh”--it is as if one is violating something that is holy.
2. The Poskim discuss whether the Mitzvah upon us of Vekidashto applies
to Kohanim who are ba’alei moom (possess blemishes which would render them
unfit to serve in the Bais HaMikdash), or to Kohanim who are still under the
age of Bar Mitzvah, since both of whom could, in fact, eat Kodshim (the
Karbonos in the Bais HaMikdash), even though they cannot actually serve.
The Piskei Teshuvos (I:128:94) writes that, because it is a Machlokes among
the Poskim and it is a Sofek D’Oraysa, we should be machmir, and treat both
a Kohen who is physically disqualified from serving because of a moom, and a
Kohen under Bar Mitzvah, with the dignity and respect of Vekidashto, where
it is possible.
3. Examples of Vekidashto in specific positive areas include having the
Kohen go first--not only in Aliyos to the Torah, but also in making Kiddush
for everyone, making the HaMotzi for everyone, leading the Bentching, being
Motzi the Rabim with a Mitzvah, speaking first at any gathering, being the
Shaliach Tzibbur and in taking first portions at a seudah. See Shulchan
Aruch Orach Chayim 167:14 and the Mishne Berurah and commentaries there for
further detail if a Talmid Chacham is present. One should consult with his
Rav or Posek if in doubt as to any particular circumstances.
4. The Poskim discuss whether a Kohen has the right to waive Vekidashto
as to himself. The Mishne Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 128, seif
katan 175) rules that a Kohen does have the right to waive your Vekidashto
of him and perform tasks or services for you, but lechatchila only if he
benefits from it by payment or in some other way. In no event, however,
writes the Mishne Berurah (ibid.) may one have a Kohen perform “sheirus
bezuyos--embarrassing or demeaning tasks on one’s behalf”.
5. May one Kohen perform tasks for another Kohen? The Bi’ur Halacha
d’h’Assur writes that “Efsher SheMuttar--perhaps it is permissible”, and the
Aruch HaShulchan writes that it is “Tzarich Iyun LeDina”--unclear, requiring
further investigation. Interestingly, however, family members who are not
Kohanim, and spouses of Kohanim (!), would still have the Mitzvah of
Vekidashto apply to them.
6. The Sefer Chofetz Chaim (Aseh 9) writes that if one speaks Lashon
Hora against a Kohen who is in front of him, thereby offending him, he has
violated the Mitzvas Aseh of Vekidashto.
7. If a Kohen is married to someone that is forbidden to him according
to Halacha, or is metamei lemeisim, defiles himself with tumah, the mitzvah
of Vekidashto does not apply. However, if the Kohen is a ba’al aveira in
other areas, there is a Machlokes HaPoskim as to whether the heightened
respect for his status as a Kohen would still apply. See Piskei Teshuvos
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!
CONTEMPORARY HARVEST REAPING:
In the Parasha (23:22), we find that a seemingly unrelated Pasuk of giving
to the poor is suddenly placed among the Pesukim describing our Moadim, “U’vekutzrechem
Es K’tzir Artzechem…when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall
not remove completely the corners of your field; as you reap and you shall
not gather the gleanings of your harvest, for the poor and the ger
shall you leave them, I am Hashem…” (Vayikra 23:22). Chazal cited by Rashi
(ibid.) teach that this Pasuk, juxtaposed among the Pesukim describing the
Moadim, teaches us that anyone who gives charity properly is considered as
if the Bais HaMikdash was built in his time, and he offered Karbanos
there--as so much of the Moadim relate to the Bais HaMikdash, our coming
there and offering of sacrifices. When we give tzedakah properly--it can be
viewed as a step into the Bais HaMikdash!
IMAGINE! We provide a dramatic but
practical teaching of the Rabbeinu Bachya, derived from the Parasha of the
mekalel in this week’s Parasha. Rabbeinu Bachya writes that the mekalel did
not simply brazenly utter Hashem’s name with r’l a curse connected to
it--he slowly and surely expressed the Name--with aforethought and intent.
If this one time act, teaches Rabbeinu Bachya, was able to shorten, to snuff
out, the mekalel’s life by sekila being meted out against him, then
IMAGINE, just IMAGINE the arichus yomim, the bracha, that a life-long
dedication to reciting Hashem’s name slowly and surely when reciting a
bracha will bring to each and every one of us. Such is r’l the power
of a kelala for the wrongdoer--and such is the power of a bracha
for us--as the zerah beirach Hashem--to learn and apply. Remember: Not
fast and gobbled, or even mediocre and unthinking --but Slow and Sure. The
difference is, literally, life itself!
SUNDAY IS PESACH SHENI!
Yaakov Tzvi Emden, Z’TL (“the Yaavetz”) writes in his Siddur that:
was revealed to me from Heaven why Pesach Sheni was established on the 14th
day of Iyar. After all, it would not require more than two weeks for anyone
who was impure or too far away on Pesach itself to come to Yerushalayim and
bring the Pesach Sheni. So, why wait a month from the 14th of Nissan to the
14th of Iyar--the Pesach Sheni could have already been brought by Rosh
Chodesh Iyar?!” The reason given to HaRav Emden from Heaven was that Bnei
Yisrael had sufficient Matzos to last from the time of our Exodus from
Mitzrayim for 30 days--until the night of the 15th of Iyar! In other words,
the Exodus, and all of the Kedusha that came along with it, actually lasted
for a full month after the night of Makkas Bechoros and our gathering to
leave the next morning. The holiness that extended from Yetziyas Mitzrayim,
then, extended until Pesach Sheni!
Torah teaches (Bamidbar 9:10) that the actual Korban Pesach Sheni is brought
when a person cannot bring the Korban Pesach in its proper time--either
because, for example, he was rendered impure, or because he was too far away
from the Courtyard of the Bais HaMikdash at the time the original Pesach
offering was to be brought. The Luach Dovor B’Ito writes that a
great lesson of Pesach Sheni is that it teaches us that it is never too
late, and it is always possible, to “Remove your tumah”--shed your
impurity, and to come closer to Hashem after “Having been too far away”.
Accordingly, Pesach Sheni is a time of reflection and Teshuva. We should
take some time out to properly utilize the opportunity of the day.
final point on Pesach Sheni: there is a difference in custom as to if and
when one eats Matzah. According to one opinion, one should not eat Matzah,
for it may appear as if he is attempting to fulfill the Mitzvah of Matzah in
an improper time, which is a violation of the Torah’s prohibition against
adding onto the 613 Mitzvos. Others have the custom to eat Matzah sometime
during the day on the 14th, to remember that the Korbon Pesach
Sheni was brought today. A third opinion is to eat the Matzah tonight,
i.e., the night of the 15th of Iyar, for this would be the night
that the Korban Pesach Sheni was eaten together with Matzah and Marror.
Every person should follow his custom, or his Rav’s guidance, in this area.
THE YAHRZEIT OF REBBI MEIR:
Sunday is also commonly held as the Yahrzeit of the Great Tanna, Rebbi Meir
(also known as Rebbe Meir Ba’al Haness). There are those who have the
custom of putting money in the Pushka L’Ilui Nishmaso, and reciting “Aloka
D’Meir Anaini” three times. There are specific Tefillos which are
attributed to the Chasam Sofer relating to good health, blessing and
success; success in one’s business dealings and locating lost items which
one may recite any time during the year when placing money into a Pushka
L’Ilui Nishmas Rebbi Meir. To obtain copies of these tefillos, one can
contact the Rebbi Meir Ba’al Haness Kolel Shomrei Hachomos office near you.
They may also be found on the back of Pushkas distributed by Kolel Shomrei
Hachomos. May the Zechuyos of Rebbi Meir always stand in our stead!
“Hashem has created Kindness Coaches to enable us to reach our
maximum potential. They are known as the people in need. They help
us clarify our vision and goals, keep us focused, do our best, and live up
to Torah values. They can help us double our giving time….As Chazal teach,
when you give a tenth to charity, you will become wealthier and able to
continue giving more….” Hakhel Note: We, as a people of Gomlei Chasodim,
not only perform acts of kindness, but understand that we must continuously
strive for greater and greater heights. We must be extremely appreciative
and respectful of the Coaches--as we join together in providing Hashem with
Nachas from His beloved children! [From “Choose Kindness” by
Rabbi Moshe Goldberger, Shlita]
THREE IMPORTANT LESSONS FROM THE CHOFETZ CHAIM:
1. The Sefer Otzros HaTorah (Sefiras HaOmer, page 389) provides a
remarkable incident that occurred to HaRav Bentzion Krenfus, a close talmid
of the Chofetz Chaim, who was often in his home. Once when he entered the
Chofetz Chaim’s home he saw him sitting and crying profusely. He immediately
asked the Chofetz Chaim what was wrong. The Chofetz Chaim responded: “I just
completed learning the Sefer Raishis Chochma and I learned there that
if someone suffers bizyonos in this world--then the amount of gehenom
that he must otherwise be subjected to can be greatly reduced. I am crying
for myself--why have I been punished by not having to suffer bizyonos
in this world--which would save me so much punishment in the next?!
Hakhel Note: How we must treasure the shame, the degradations, the
insults that we are zoche to receive.
2. The wise person realizes that his battle with the Yetzer Hara is a battle
against a ganav--the Yetzer Hara is out to steal one’s most precious
possessions--his time and his Torah. Teshuvah is re-taking that which the
Yetzer Hara has stolen from the person.
Hakhel Note: Do not make yourself into your own victim!
3. Every morning we recite about the Torah: “Vechayei Olam Natah
B’Socheinu”. Additionally, every night we recite: “Ki Heim Chayeinu”.
There are many Jewish people who are alive and know little or no Torah. If
one who does not study much (or perhaps as much as he should) wants to be
considered alive--he should do his utmost to support those who do study
Torah, and it will be considered as if he was learning Torah--and he too
will be breathing the life-giving air of Torah (see Shulchan Aruch
Yoreh De’ah 246).
The following is excerpted from Growth Through Tehillim (by Rabbi
Zelig Pliskin, Shlita, as well!) on the words of Dovid HaMelech (Tehillim
52:3) ‘Chesed Kel Kol HaYom--the kindness of Hashem is all day
Whatever day it is right now as you are reading this, the kindness of Hashem
has been there for you from the beginning of the day, until this moment, and
the kindness of Hashem will be with you for the rest of the day until the
new day starts. Tomorrow again you will be a beneficiary of the kindness of
Hashem, and this will continue each and every day for your entire life. This
has been going on from your very first day of life and each and every day
after that until this moment. Imagine how you will feel when you experience
an entire day with this consciousness. From the moment you open your eyes in
the morning until you go to sleep at night, every moment will have awareness
of Hashem’s kindness towards you. Allow yourself to be aware of being the
recipient of constant kindness for an entire day. Every movement you make is
an aspect of Hashem’s kindness. Everything you own is an aspect of Hashem’s
kindness. Every interaction with other people has aspects of this
kindness. Every bit of food you eat and every drop of water you drink is an
aspect of this constant kindness. And what about the things that you
usually overlook? On the day at you decide to become more aware of the
kindnesses you experience, you will notice more and more things. You will
see what you might not have seen before, and you will hear what you might
not have heard before. You will feel feelings of gratitude and joy that you
otherwise might not have felt. You will find yourself being more aware of
Hashem’s presence, and you will allow your mind to be filled with thoughts
of appreciation for Hashem’s kindness to you. You will be more present
oriented, and you will focus less on anything you are dissatisfied with
about the past. You will be free from stressful thoughts about the future -
you will be focused on the present kindnesses. When you do this, if your
mind needlessly wanders to some thoughts that are not conducive to
appreciation of kindness, you will gently and lightly re-direct your
consciousness to the present kindness that you are experiencing. Just
knowing that your mind has the ability to direct your thoughts, is a
wonderful kindness of Hashem. Just how does your mind direct your thoughts
to thoughts of kindness? We have no way to explain this with our present
limited knowledge, but the knowledge we do have of what we are able to do,
is something for which to be grateful. What would your entire life be like
from now on if you would take this Pasuk as a concept to focus on
frequently? There is only one way to really answer this question accurately,
and that is to make this Pasuk-- Chesed Kel Kol HaYom a verse
that will frequently be on your lips. For when you repeat it out loud and to
yourself, your inner mind will focus on the kindnesses that you are
experiencing right now, on this very day.
A joyful middle-aged man was
asked, “What was a major breakthrough in your life?” He related, “I used to
be what one would consider a negative person “Until about ten years ago I
would frequently complain and kvetch, I usually focusing on what I did not
like. Each and every day a number of things were not going exactly as I
wanted them to. This would make me unhappy. I considered myself a constant
victim of circumstances. I would have been much happier if other people, and
my life in general, would be more the way I wanted. In addition, I never had
enough money, and I was terrified that in the future I would be short of the
money that I needed to live. I was filled with insecurity and anxiety. Then
a Rabbi told me that he could tell me four words that would totally change
my entire emotional life. I was skeptical. “Four words?” I challenged him.
“Do you really believe that after three years of therapy that helped a bit
but did not make me a happy person, you can just tell me four words and
those four words will transform my entire life?” “Try it, I am not claiming
that these four words are magic, and that just by my saying them or your
repeating them, you will become a happy person. What I am saying to you is
that these four words contain a mind-set that can totally transform your
life when you give thought to what they mean, and you frequently think about
this during the day. I’ll only agree to share them with you if you give me
your word that you will make a serious effort to apply them for just one
day.” “One day is a long time,” I argued. “What about for just one hour?”
“Nothing doing!” the Rabbi said firmly but kindly. “If you are
not/committed to think about this for an entire day, I don’t think that you
are serious when you say that you would like to know how to improve your
emotional condition. If you do not care about your own well-being, my just
wishing you well will not really help you. For this to work, you need a real
commitment. After a day of applying what I am suggesting, if you feel that
you prefer to be grumpy, negative and depressed, that will be your choice.
However, I must know that you really mean what you say, when you say that
you truly want to become a happier person.” I saw that the Rabbi was going
to be stubborn, or as he would say, ‘steadfast,’ about not telling me his
formula unless I committed to giving it a try for an entire day, so I
reluctantly said I would do it. He then told me the verse that has been my
motto, and blueprint for life, ever since that moment. The four Hebrew words
are Chesed Keil Kol HaYom, the Kindness of Hashem is all day long.
Since I said it in Hebrew, it was just four words. He told me that I should
start the next day from the moment I woke up until the end of the day. It
was amazing! That day was one of the best days of my life. I kept projecting
how wonderful my life would be if I kept this up each and every day. At
times I would feel badly that I had wasted so much time in the past feeling
needlessly miserable, but that too would be a lack of focusing on the
kindnesses of Hashem. I realized that it would be much wiser to view my
past unhappiness as a way to gain greater appreciation for the present
happiness in my life!”
Hakhel Note: Let us move ourselves every day with these words--
Chesed Keil Kol HaYom!
In last week’s Parasha (Vayikra 19:15), we learned
B’Tzedek Tishpot Amisecha--we are to judge our friends favorably. Being
a Choshed BeChesheirim is listed as one of the twenty four items
which are Me’akeiv Teshuvah--for the person who improperly accuses does not
feel that he has really done something wrong or hurt someone, while
the very thought is an aveirah.
What if we do not? We provide several points:
1. Chazal teach (Shabbos 97A) that one who is Choshed BeChesheirim--(improperly
suspects others) is Lokeh BeGufo. This is easily explained in a
Middah K’Neged Middah manner--just as he put a Mum on someone else,
so too, will he receive a Mum in return.
2. Chazal also teach that if somebody is Choshed his friend
improperly--he must appease him and he must bless him--as we find
with Eili HaKohen who suspected Chana of being a Shikorah--and then
appeased her and gave her a bracha…and what a bracha it was--Shmuel HaNavi!
If one improperly suspected another (including a family member or
friend)--don’t forget to ask for forgiveness--and don’t forget to give them
a nice big bracha!
3. In the Sefer HaYirah, Rabbeinu Yonah writes that one should
specifically forgive all those who improperly suspected him.
4. Do not feel bad if someone has falsely suspected you--the Gemara (Shabbos
118B) brings the teaching of Rebbi Yosi--”Yehi Chelki Mimi Shechoshdin
Oso V’ein Bo--may my lot be among those who have been suspected of
something which is not true.” One explanation for this may be that Hashem
especially seeks to protect those who are derided. Notwithstanding this
fact, one should not go about seeking that suspicion be heaped upon him, for
the Pasuk teaches “Veheyisem Neki’im MeiHashem U’MeiYisrael--one
should always appear clean in the eyes of Hashem, and in the eyes of His
Hakhel Note: The Pasuk of B’tzedek Tishpot Amisecha teaches us that
whether we know it or not, whether we like it or not--we are all judges.
We should strive for excellence in everything that we do--and if we must be
judges, let us perform the task with propriety, correctness, honor and care!
A PRACTICAL REVIEW OF CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM:
“Hochayach Tochiach Es Amisecho,
V’lo Siso Alov Chait--You shall rebuke your fellow man, and you
shall not bear sin because of him.” (19:17) We are commanded to correct
someone who behaves improperly, whether in matters pertaining to man’s
relations with G-d or man’s relationship with his fellow man. Once again,
Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita, provides the following essential guidelines:
*The most important rule to remember about rebuke is that it must be
administered with love and as painlessly as possible. Only when the
recipient of rebuke feels that the rebuker loves him, will he readily accept
*Some people mistakenly think that the commandment to admonish others
applies only to Rabbis and teachers. But the truth is that every single
person, even if he is unlearned, who sees someone behaving improperly is
obligated to rebuke him. Quite often the rebuke of a friend will be more
effective than the rebuke of a Rabbi. Some people might not heed the
admonition of a Rabbi with the following rationalization: “If I were a Rabbi
I would or would not do such and such. But I’m just an ordinary layman.”
If, however, their friend rebukes them, they are likely to think to
themselves: “If he is careful about this matter, then I should be, too.”
The author of the Noam Hatochocho writes that the mitzvah of
correcting others is a Mais Mitzvah (a Mitzvah that is improperly ignored).
There are many Mitzvah observers who do not realize that correcting others
is obligatory and not merely meritorious. The severity of failing to
correct others can be seen from the opinion in the Talmud which states that
Yerushalayim was destroyed because the inhabitants failed to rebuke one
another. The Chofetz Chaim wrote that some people are careful to fulfill
the commandments themselves, but never try to influence others to fulfill
them. In essence, they are saying, “I won’t suffer in gehinnom, so I don’t
have to…..” Such a person is selfish for he thinks only about himself and
his own reward. He shows a lack of feeling for Hashem’s honor and his
fellow man’s spiritual welfare. He is also wrong--for he will be held
responsible for failing to perform this essential Mitzvah.
* When you rebuke someone, you must do so privately so as not to embarrass
him. This applies both when the matter pertains to his having wronged you,
and when the matter pertains to his improper behavior relating to his
obligations to G-d.
*If someone transgresses in public, you should rebuke him immediately so as
not to cause a Chillul Hashem. For example, if someone is in the middle of
speaking Lashon Hara in front of a group of people, it is correct to point
out his transgression immediately, even though other people are present. Of
course, this should be done in the most tactful manner possible (HaRav
*You must be very careful not to grow angry when rebuking someone. Rebuke
delivered in anger will not be heeded. Even when you admonish your children
or other members of your family, you should do so in a pleasant tone of
*Before admonishing someone, offer a prayer that your admonition should be
delivered in a manner that will be effective.
*If a person you have rebuked did not heed you the first time, you should
continue to rebuke him as many times as necessary until he corrects his
ways. The Talmud says “Even a hundred times”. The Chofetz Chaim gives an
analogy to someone who sells apples from a stand. He will keep calling out
“Apples for sale!” the entire day. Even if only one passerby in a hundred
heeds his sales pitch, it is worthwhile. This is his livelihood, and he
cannot afford to remain silent. The same is true of rebuke. Of course, a
person does not always effect a change in the recipient of his rebuke. But
even if he is successful only occasionally, it is worth his efforts.
*A person should feel love for someone who rebukes him. A person is willing
to pay a doctor for trying to heal him; how much more grateful should he be
to someone who corrects his spiritual failings.
*If a whole group of people are in need of correction, you will be most
successful if you admonish each person individually. Speaking to the group
as a whole will not have the same effect.
*If a person heeds you and improves his ways, all the Mitzvos he
subsequently performs as a consequence of this reproof bring reward to you
as well as the doer himself (Vilna Gaon in Even Shlaima 6:7).
POWER OF A WORD:
explaining the 231st Mitzvah, found in last week’s Parasha, the
Sefer HaChinuch teaches as follows (English translation by Charles
Wengrov, Feldheim publishing): “Now,
to know in what
on a cursed
generally from all the people in the
world that they are fearful about curses--both Jewry and other peoples. They
say that anyone’s malediction, even the curse of a commoner, leaves a mark
on the cursed person, and the imprecation and the pain cling to him. Well,
knowing this concept from people’s words, we would say that at the root of
the precept lies the reason that Hashem has restrained us from causing harm
with our mouths to anyone else, as He has restrained us from harming others
by action. In a vein akin to this theme, Chazal say: ‘A covenant (pact) was
made with the lips--whatever they utter should have an effect. In other
words, there is a force in the words of a man’s mouth.”
bring the above quote to learn and internalize the tremendous power our
mouth has, even though our sound waves are not visible to the naked eye.
However, we now add several additional Halachos relating to this particular
Mitzvah as culled once again from Love Your Neighbor, by Rabbi Zelig
“Lo Sekalel Cheireish--it is forbidden to curse others” (Vayikra 19:14)
1. It is forbidden to curse a person using any of Hashem’s names. (Choshen
2. Saying to someone, ‘Hashem should punish you,’ is a violation of this
prohibition. (U’rim Vetumim 27: 2)
3. It is considered using Hashem’s name even when the name is not in
Hebrew. (Choshen Mishpat 27: 1)
4. A person is forbidden to curse himself (ibid.) It is forbidden to say
concerning a false statement: “This statement is true, so help me G-d.”
This is considered cursing oneself, since from the positive we infer the
negative. (Sha’arei Teshuva 3:47)
5. It is an especially severe transgression to curse a Torah scholar (C.M.
27:2), or an entire group. (Rambam, Hilchos Teshuvah 4:3)
6. Although using Hashem’s name constitutes a more serious offense, it is
nonetheless forbidden to curse someone without using Hashem’s name (ibid.).
(For instance, it is forbidden to state ‘I hope you fall off a…’)
7. It is forbidden to curse someone by the use of an inference. For
example: “You should not be blessed by Hashem.” (ibid.)
8. Cursing someone who .is deceased is not as serious as cursing someone
who is alive, but it is nevertheless forbidden. (ibid.)
9. If someone says Hashem’s name with the intention of cursing another
person, it is a mitzvah to interrupt him so as to prevent him from
transgressing. (Sefer Chasidim 64)
The Vilna Gaon advised his wife to strike their children if she ever heard
them cursing someone. (Igeres HaGra)
THE SHIDDUCH CHECKLIST:
As we all know, it is not only what you say--but how you say it. It is
certainly a great Mitzvah to redt Shidduchim. By the following link
http://tinyurl.com/z2hc8jn we provide helpful guidelines in redting
a Shidduch properly and effectively.
The following is excerpted from the remarkable, must-go-through Sefer
The Power of Teshuvah, by Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, Shlita (Artscroll, p.
strength to a person.
makes a definite commitment,
Hashem eases his path to assist him. These
for flaws we are truly motivated
BRACHOS OVER ‘NATURAL’ EVENTS:
once again especially provide Halachos below relating to Hashem’s messages
from nature to us. The basis for the Halachos below is Shulchan Aruch, Orach
Chaim, Chapter 227 and the Mishna Berurah there, the Sefer Shoneh
Halachos and the Sefer Piskei Teshuvos on this Chapter in
Shulchan Aruch. We specifically note that one should, of course, consult
with his Rav for the final Halacha. We present the following for an
understanding of the issues:
1. When experiencing an earthquake, one recites the Bracha of “Oseh
Ma’aseh Bereishis--Who makes the work of Creation”. It is also
permissible to make the Bracha of “Shekocho U’Gevuraso Malei Olam--His
strength and His power fill the universe”. Piskei Teshuvos writes
that the degree of the tremor is not necessarily relevant, as long as it is
clearly felt. HaRav Yaakov Emden, Z’tl, teaches that one should recite the
Pasuk from Sefer Yeshaya (6:3) “V’Kara Zeh El Zeh V’Amar Kadosh…”
three times, and the earthquake will cease. Indeed, he brings that this
Pasuk is specifically intended to cover the situation of an earthquake!
2. On very strong winds, i.e., winds which uproot either heavy objects
or items attached to the ground or to buildings which would not ordinarily
have been uprooted, one makes an “Oseh Ma’aseh Bereishis”. On a
hurricane (killer type of wind), the Piskei Teshuvos writes that one
can make the Bracha of “Shekocho U’Gevuraso”, but HaRav Chaim
Kanievsky, Shlita, writes that in all events one should make the Bracha of “Oseh
Ma’aseh Beraishis,” because we are not proficient as to the degree of
wind that is necessary to make “Shekocho U’Gevuraso.”
3. On lightning, and on thunder, one can make either “Oseh Ma’aseh
Beraishis” or “Shekocho U’Gevuraso.” However, the custom is to
make the Bracha of “Oseh Ma’aseh Beraishis” on lightning, and the Bracha of
“Shekocho U’Gevuraso” on thunder. We note that in many Sephardic
communities, the custom may be to recite these Brochos without “Shem
U’Malchus” (i.e., skipping from Baruch to “Oseh” or Baruch to “Shekocho”).
4. If one sees lightning and hears thunder simultaneously, he makes one
Bracha of “Oseh Ma’aseh Beraishis” on both (he would also be yotzei
with the Bracha of “Shekocho U’Gevuraso” on both as well).
5. One does not make a Bracha on lightning which comes only from heat.
If one is unsure of the source of the lightning, he should wait until he
hears thunder. Then, he makes one Bracha--Oseh Ma’aseh Beraishis--if
he experiences them together (as noted in the previous paragraph). However,
if he does not experience them together--for example, if he then hears
thunder without simultaneous lightning, he makes a Bracha of “Shekocho
U’Gevuraso,” and then when he sees lightning (again) he makes the Bracha
of “Oseh Ma’aseh Beraishis.”
6. If one already had commenced making a Bracha on lightning and then,
while making that Bracha, he heard thunder, he must make a second Bracha on
the thunder later (once again, within two to three seconds after hearing the
thunder). The same would, of course, be true if he had already begun to
make a Bracha on thunder, and then saw lightning--he would make a second
Bracha on lightning within two or three seconds after seeing it again later.
7. There is a Machlokes among the Poskim as to whether one has to see
the actual lightning bolt in order to make the Bracha of “Oseh Ma’aseh
Beraishis” (HaRav Dovid Feinstein, Shlita, for instance, holds that one
must see the bolt). Many Poskim (including HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach,
Z’tl, and the Tzitz Eliezer, Z’tl) rule that one need not see the bolt
itself and that, accordingly, one can make the Bracha of “Oseh Ma’aseh
Beraishis” when merely seeing the light flash--and not the actual bolt
in the sky.
8. Once again, one must make the Bracha within two to three seconds
after seeing the lightning or hearing the thunder. Accordingly, if one came
out of the bathroom and washed his hands, and then saw lightning or heard
thunder, he should immediately make the Bracha before reciting Asher Yotzar
(usually one must be careful to recite the Bracha of Asher Yotzar
immediately after coming out of the bathroom).
9. Because one must make the Bracha so soon after experiencing the
lightning or thunder, one may find himself in the midst of Tefillah, and an
important issue becomes whether one should interrupt his prayers in order
not to miss the Bracha and Hisoreirus opportunity which will quickly
pass. Once again, one should consult with his Rav on any particular Shaila,
we provide here Halachos as excerpted from the Siddur Kavanas
interruptions in Tefillah to make the Bracha over lightning and thunder:
During Pesukei DeZimra (except while reciting Baruch Atta Hashem Melech
MeHulal Batishbachos, or Baruch Atta Hashem Kel Melech Gadol
In between (not during) Brachos of Kriyas Shema, or in between
(not during) the first and second and second and third Chapters of Kriyas
interruptions in Tefillah to make the Bracha over lightning and
thunder--i.e., do not make the Bracha at these times:
After having made the Bracha on the Tefillin Shel Yad, and before completing
placement of the Tefillin Shel Rosh.
In the middle of one of the Birchos Kriyas Shema, or in the middle of any
Chapter of Shema.
In Shemone Esrei, and even in the middle of Elokai Netzor at the end of
Shemone Esrei until after Yehiyu LeRatzon Imrei Phee.
When in the middle Birchas HaMazon.
E. When in the middle of a making a Bracha (even long Brachos such as
Asher Yatzar or HaMa’avir Sheina)
10. If one mistakenly made a Bracha over a flash of light or a
thundering noise thinking that it was thunder or lightning (such as an
airplane passing overhead at night), he would have to make the appropriate
Brochos when he actually hears thunder or sees lightning later.
One can assume (unless there is a basis to believe otherwise) that one’s
hands are clean, and he does not have to wash them in order to recite the
Although not absolutely required by Halacha, it is preferable that one
stands when making these two Brochos.
One makes the Bracha over lightning and thunder only one time a day during
the same storm. If the sky completely clears up, and new storm clouds come
in, then one makes new Brochos over lightning and thunder even a second time
during the day.
If a storm had commenced the previous day or even the previous evening, and
has still not cleared up by the time one arises the next morning, one would
make new Brochos the next morning after daybreak. In other words, the
evening and the next morning are considered two separate days for the
Brochos over lightning and thunder (just like Birchos HaTorah)--so that one
would make new Brochos upon hearing lightning and thunder when awakening the
We should in all events remember that Chazal (Brochos 59A) teach that
thunder was invented only to “straighten out the crookedness in the heart,”
and thank Hashem for the ordinary and extraordinary events that take place
every day--and for our ability to understand and appreciate them!
TORAH AND YIRAH:
In the Sefer Ruach Chaim (1:14), HaRav Chaim Volozhiner, Z’tl,
writes that the study of Torah and Yirah is different from the business and
affairs of this world in three important ways:
1. Torah and Yirah are dependent entirely upon the person himself,
and is what Hashem asks of a person to accomplish. Parnassah, on the other
hand, comes only from Hashem and there is accordingly no need to
overly exert oneself to attain it.
2. In worldly affairs, Hashem will not add on to what a person is
deserving of because of his added toil--whereas, with regard to Torah, ‘Haba
LeTaher Mesayin Oso--the more one acts to purify himself, the more he
is assisted.’ Moreover, Hashem will view all of a person’s
accomplishments in Torah and Yirah, and if they were wholly accomplished by
the person himself, even though none of it could have been accomplished
without Hashem’s Chessed.
3. In commonplace matters, that which a person does not accomplish today,
he can still accomplish tomorrow. In Torah, that which was lost today, is
forever lost and cannot be made up. On the other hand, that which is
accomplished is not accomplished only for today--but forever, and
Remember--Torah was created before creation, so is not bound by time--and
will lovingly carry us beyond time as well!
A TESHUVAH MOMENT:
In the fast-paced world we live in, it is difficult to collect our thoughts,
even more so to do a deliberate Cheshbon HaNefesh. We see how quickly
our computers, cell phones and other technological equipment operates--and
for some reason the Yetzer Hara convinces us that we have to move our
thought processes at this pace as well. Perhaps we owe it to ourselves to
designate at least a minute or so in the morning and in the evening--as a
time to sit and close our eyes in order to think about a particular middah
or an area of Teshuvah or Mitzvos we are or should be working on. The rapid
pace of the world around us--should not interfere with the attention and
with the care--that we deserve to give ourselves!
ANOTHER KIND OF COUNT:
The Chofetz Chaim
provides simple guidance as to how a person can accrue thousands of Mitzvos
over the course of a year: If one consciously decides not to say certain
words about a person, a family, or a group--then each word is a separate
Mitzvah in Shemiras Halashon. Assuming a person spares himself of uttering
only ten inappropriate words a day (just one or two sentences)--then he has
accrued a minimum of 10 x 365 or 3,650 Mitzvos. Considering that each
Mitzvah lasts for eternity--this is a lot of eternity!
Hakhel Note--Received From a Reader:
“Concerning memorizing the seven conditions to permit what would otherwise
be considered Lashon Hara, I saw a helpful acronym to help one remember
(from Rabbi Daniel Yaakov Travis, Shlita, Praying with Joy-Volume 3)
- the incident yourself
- well into whether the subject definitely transgressed
- do not exaggerate the details of the story
- the transgressor gently before speaking
- intentions of the speaker
- ways other than Lashon Hara to accomplish your goal
- no more damage than Beis Din would rule
above conditions or keep silent!”
A TRUE ENIGMA:
The following is excerpted from the Sefer HaRav Schach: Conversations,
compiled by his son in-law Rabbi Asher Bergman, Shlita, and translated into
English by Rabbi Yaakov Blinder, Shlita: “Rav Schach said that one of the
things that moves him
tremendously is contemplating the amazing power
of concealment of Hashem’s hand in
creation. ‘Other people wonder why we don’t see
miracles and visible proofs for faith in Hashem,’
‘but I am amazed at the tremendous power that
man receives from Heaven to be able to
disregard the facts that virtually shout
into his ears: ‘Here
is proof for your faith in Hashem!’
People say that nowadays we don’t
see miracles. But a rational person can
see that every lifting of one’s hand is a miracle,
as every glance with the eye.
See how a little piece of flesh can
move around and be able to see things, and to
provide information to the brain,
which interprets and analyzes it.
These facts declare, as
clearly as the sun shines:
‘U’mibesari Echezeh Elo’ak--from
my flesh I see Hashem’ (Iyov 19:26).
One who ponders such things just a tiny
bit can already sense the beauty of
creation that Hashem
brought into being in order to bestow His
beneficence upon us.
Yet, along with the obviousness of
presence, He created the ability to be oblivious to the
providing an enigma:
On the one hand,
one who truly
contemplates the beneficence of the Creator is
so impressed with the G-dliness of the
world that he wonders how it is possible that
there could be evil in the world,
so manifest is
goodness to us. Yet,
on the other hand,
those who close their minds
ask precisely the opposite question - ‘Where is
look for proofs for faith in Him. It is incredible how at the same time
there is both clarity and concealment; it is all so simple, yet so hidden!
Let us consider another aspect of this marvel.
We see that man’s desire to attain
physical comfort and pleasure drives him into undertaking the greatest toil
in order to achieve them.
It would seem that man’s
recognition of the truth should
be at least as strong as these drives,
and should stir within man the strongest
desires to foster a relationship with his Creator and do His will.
We have seen throughout history that nations are willing to sacrifice
millions of lives for ideals and beliefs that were the products of their own
our sacrifice for our perfect Torah be any less valid than their idle
The realization and feeling that man was not created by accident,
and that there is a Mastermind Who runs the world’s events are basic and
natural in man’s
soul and instinct from the day
of his birth.
Just a minimum of truthful contemplation
and deliberation will bring any man to
clear conclusions regarding man’s essence and
his obligation in this world,
namely that he must channel all the
power of his body and soul to do the will of the
All this is so simple and natural.
It can only be a divine miracle of the highest
magnitude that these obvious facts go unnoticed and unrealized for so many
NAOMI AND RUS TODAY!
We are now only four weeks from the giving of the Torah in 5779. The
following is excerpted from the wonderful work Leading Jews Back by
Rabbi Sholom Smith, Shlita, based upon the teachings of HaRav Avraham Pam,
Z’tl: “What did Rus see in Naomi that impressed her so much? The Midrash (Rus
Rabbah 2:5) gives an explanation: Why was she called Naomi? Because
her actions were sweet and pleasant.
Rus saw in Naomi what a life devoted to Torah and Avodas Hashem can do for a
person. She saw her sterling middos, her nobility of spirit, her warmth and
caring personality. That was what attracted Rus and motivated her to give
up a life of ease and luxury and “return” to Yiddishkeit as a penniless,
widowed convert, forced to live off the charity of others. This is the
enormous power a person with a pleasant, warm personality and good middos
has on other people. He attracts followers like a magnet and can have
great influence on their lives.
This is a proven method to bring closer to Yiddishkeit those who are
estranged from the heritage of their forefathers. While philosophical
discussions and intellectual discourses are certainly tools in bringing
Ba’alei Teshuvah back to their roots, a critical factor is to show how the
ways of Torah are pleasant and all its pathways are peace (Mishlei 3:17).
This has the drawing power to influence people to a Torah way of life.
Derech Eretz precedes Torah (Vayikra Rabbah 9:3). This concept underlines
the vital importance of Torah Jews conducting themselves with the utmost
courtesy and respect in their interpersonal relationships. They must not
forget that wherever they go--whether in the business or professional world,
or as neighbors or friends--they represent the Torah.
One does not have to be a Rabbi or kiruv professional to
influence others. Every Torah Jew presents an image to those around him
which, depending on his conduct, will either bring others closer to
Yiddishkeit or, c’v, cause estrangement from it. It is a
responsibility that should not be taken lightly. This can be seen by the
great influence one woman (Naomi) has on another (Rus), which set into
motion the chain of events which led to the founding of Malchus Bais Dovid
and planted the seeds of Moshiach.
Hakhel Note: Let us start somewhere--do you smile in order to benefit the
next person (whom you do not know) when passing by, or on elevators or
entrances in stores and office buildings?...
KAVOD IMPROVEMENT SUGGESTIONS:
obvious that improving our respect for each other is a key feature of our
Sefira Period. Set forth below are a number of important suggestions culled
from Mussar Seforim. We welcome your additional insights or improvement in
this crucial area during this timely period:
Pirkei Avos, we learned (2:5) last Shabbos: ‘Yehi Kavod Chavercha Chaviv
Alecha KeShelach--let the honor of your friend be as dear to you as your
own honor.’ When in doubt as to how to react to, or treat your
friend, keep this Ma’amar Chazal in mind!
Look at your friend while speaking to him, and do not occupy yourself with
something else at the same time.
free with compliments, and loving with constructive criticism.
genuinely happy when your friend is happy, and feel genuinely troubled when
he is troubled.
When a friend is undergoing a nisayon, apply yourself so that you can
best appreciate how to help him.
Avoid a witty repartee which only make you look good or funny, but will not
benefit your friend, or may even hurt him.
you had a disagreement, ask for forgiveness first, before your friend asks
Chazal teach that Bais Hillel would present the opinion of Bais Shammai
first--let your friend always speak or go first.
Do not yell, scream, or speak coarsely but speak gently, remember that you
are speaking to a member of Hashem’s Royal Household!
From time-to-time think--My friend is a Tzelem Elokim--someone who
Hashem has especially created for a specific purpose in life. I know
him--so I have something to do with his purpose!
LINK TO RABBI BRUDNY IYAR/SEFIRAH VAAD:
INSPIRE YOURSELF--From a Reader: “To inspire myself before davening, I sometimes
think of the words of Tehillim which so strongly state how our Tefillos are
answered: “Hashem Elokai Shivati Eilecha Vatirpa’eini--Hashem, my
G-d, I cried out to You and You healed me (Tehillim 30:3) …Tza’aku
VeHashem Shome’ah U’Mekol Tzarosam Hitzilam--they cried out and Hashem
heard, and saved them from all of their troubles.” (Tehillim 34:18).
We have to know that our Tefillos are really listened to!”
It is well known that HaRav Dessler, Z’tl, teaches and reiterates that our
Holidays are not mere commemorations and remembrances of glorious events
that took place in years past, but are times in which we re-experience and
relive those very events and occurrences. Thus, every Pesach we are to feel
and arrive at new levels of freedom, and at Shavuos we are to undertake a
new echelon of Torah acceptance and study.
So what is it that we are supposed to be re-experiencing during the Sefira
period itself? Most likely, there were no concerts or CDs in the desert
that Bnei Yisrael were forced to miss, so that could not be it. It also
cannot simply be an abstinence from barbers and barber shops for an extended
period of time. At a Hakhel Shiur, Rabbi Eliyahu Schneider, Shlita,
provided the following wonderful insight:
The Sefer HaChinuch writes that the purpose of the Sefira is for us
to count up to Shavous, instilling within us a sense of appreciation,
excitement and enthusiasm. As we slowly but surely progress through the
Omer period, we must rid ourselves to the greatest extent possible of the
robotic nature in which we may perform our mitzvos, and any mental stupor we
may experience while listening to a Shiur. We must teach ourselves that
Torah and Mitzvos cannot be comprised only of “doing today’s daf”, or
“learning the two Halachos”. Of course, it is essential that we have goals,
and guide ourselves with certain daily accomplishments. However, we must
infuse a genuine desire and drive into our Torah study and Mitzvah
performance. As Rabbi Schneider points out, even though fish live in water,
when it rains they come to the surface, as if they are thirsting for the new
drops of the life-giving liquid, even though they are already surrounded by
Indeed, Hakhel (forgive the plug), is one of the last Mitzvos in the Torah
for this very reason. What does Hakhel represent? After all, could not
every one simply study the Parashios recited at Hakhel either at home, in
Shul, or at a Shiur? Why did every one--men, women and children of all ages
have to ascend to the Bais HaMikdash on one particular day to hear a portion
of the Torah being read?!
Rabbi Schneider suggests that Hakhel not only represented the study of
Torah, but the experience of Torah. Every so often, one must reinvigorate
himself and excite himself about the great opportunity that awaits him every
day. It is an opportunity shared by a minute, actually, very minute,
percentage of all the people in the world. Just as people may forget to
appreciate their eyesight, their ability to walk, that they have a job,
food, clothing, so, too, may they forget to consider the infinite and
eternal Torah that is or can be their daily companion.
take these upcoming days before Shavuos to learn Torah with the effort and
energy, with the exhilaration and enthusiasm, that it really, truly
WE CONTINUE OUR EREV SHABBOS—HILCHOS SHABBOS SERIES: As always, one must consult his
own Rav or Posek regarding his particular facts or circumstances.
A. The Tissue Box. Many tissue boxes, in addition to a perforated
cardboard cover, also have underneath it a perforated plastic protective
cover, which must be opened in order to reach the tissues. Opening the
plastic on the perforation may actually involve three different Melachos:
(i) Korei’ah, (ii) Mechateich; and (iii) Makeh B’Patish (see The 39
Melachos by Rabbi Dovid Ribiat, Shlita). While the simple act of opening
on the perforation may take a second and can be done by children, it could
truly involve the most serious of transgressions. Accordingly, one should
take note to fully open all tissue boxes before Shabbos. Please assist your
Shul, as necessary, in this regard--and let others know as well!
B. The follow rulings are from HaShabbos BeTifarta by Rav
Avrohom Adas, Shlita of Yerushalayim, (Hebrew, and Volume 2):
a. [In a similar vein to what is mentioned above,] one may not rip a thin
plastic table cloth from a roll—even if it is not on the perforation,
because you have in all events prepared it for use (Koraya).
b. One may not utilize a one-time use bib by punching out the plastic of the
head area (Koraya).
c. One may not separate a new pair of socks attached by a string, or remove
price tags or cleaners tags which are sewn or stapled into clothing (Koraya).
However, if they are merely hung from a plastic string, one can remove the
tag, because it is not attached tightly, and its removal does not affect the
clothing in the same way as something stapled or sewn, which is considered
more intrinsically part of the clothing.
d. One may remove a Sefer that is tightly squeezed in a Seforim shrank, even
though it is stuck to its adjoining Seforim—and one can put it back after
use, even though it will again become stuck to its adjoining Seforim (it is
clearly not one’s intent to attach or detach the Seforim).
e. If a silver polish was left on a Kiddush cup, it should not be rinsed off
IT’S A RASHI!
We provide below several wonderful words of instruction from Rashi himself
to this week’s Perek (2) in Pirkei Avos:
A. Hevei Mechashev Hefsed Mitzvah K’neged Sechara--think of
the loss from a Mitzvah in light of the gain: The Mishna is teaching
us that when one loses money in order to perform a Mitzvah, he should
not be upset or saddened, as the reward in the future is great--the most
basic cost-benefit analysis tells you to JUST DO THE MITZVAH! The reverse is
true in aveirah performance--although the immediate pleasure is definite,
immediate and direct--the future loss far, far outweighs it--DON”T DO
B. Ahl Tomer... Shesofo LeHishame’a--do not say that I will listen to
it later: The Mishna is teaching us that if you can listen to a Devar Torah
now--do it immediately--and do not put it off until later.
C. Lo HaBaishan Lomeid--the shamefaced person does not learn: The
Mishna is teaching us that one who does not ask questions when learning
Halachos or other areas of Torah fulfils the words of Shlomo HaMelech in
Mishlei (30:32) VeIm Zamosa Yad LePeh--it will be as if he put his
hand in his mouth, and will know ‘kelum’-- nothing.
D. Ahl Tehi Rasha Bifnei Atzmecha--do not be wicked in your own
eyes. The Mishna is teaching that one should not do something which even in
a day or two will render a person a Rasha--in which he will say
Loma Asisi Resha Zeh--why did I do this?!
E. Ashrei Yoladeto--happy is his [Rebbe Yehoshua’s] mother. The
Yerushalmi teaches that when Rebbe Yehoshua’s mother was expecting with him
she went to the Batei Midrashos and asked the students to “Please daven
for this child that he become a chacham.” The davening worked. Hakhel
Note: It is said that a Rosh Yeshivah in the New York area has asked
interviewees to the Yeshiva during their farheir--Do you know how to
become a Talmid Chacham--and eventually answers-- Do you know how? You must
sincerely daven for it!
In this week’s Parasha of Kedoshim we find the fundamental prohibition
against Loshon Hara, as the Torah adjures “Lo Selech Rochil BeAmecha
–Do not be a gossiper among your people (Vayikra 19:16).The Sefer Sparks
of Mussar relates the following incident with HaRav Naftoli Amsterdam,
Z’tl, a great student of Rebbe Yisroel Salanter, Z’tl, who served as a Rav
and Posek in various cities, including Moscow and St. Petersberg:
“A Jew once came before him, asking him for “the permission of one
hundred Rabbis” necessary to take a second wife without divorcing the first.
In the course of talking, the man spoke badly of his wife. R’ Naftoli
interrupted him and asked: “Have you already received the permission of a
hundred rabbis to violate the prohibition of Lashon Hara?”
Hakhel Note: There is a great lesson for us all here—there are many cases
when you certainly may feel that Lashon Hora is warranted or justified—and
that others will ‘expect you’ to speak Lashon Hara—before falling into the
trap—make sure that you have the heter of at least one Rabbi to relate it!
The phone number of the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation Shemiras HaLashon
Shaila Hotline is 718-951-3696, and Poskim are available 9-10:30 pm New York
time to answer both the easy-- and the difficult –real life Shemiras
HaLashon questions that you may have.
IN RESPECT OF RESPECT:
In this week’s Parasha of Kedoshim, we also find the great Mitzvah of “Mipnei
Sayva Takum…” (Vayikra 19:32)--In the presence of an elderly person
shall you rise, and you shall honor the presence of a Sage....
The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 244) rules that one must rise if a person
over the age of 70 (even if unlearned, but provided he/she is not wicked)
enters within your 4 amos (i.e., within 6-8 feet of you). One should remain
standing until he/she has passed from in front of you. Respect does not
only consist of rising, but also includes respectful words and a helping
hand (ibid. 244:7). Let us take a moment to reflect upon our diligence in
the performance of this Mitzvah as it may apply in our own homes, in the
homes of friends and relatives, in Shul, in doctor’s offices, and in the
various situations that may present themselves to us throughout the day.
Let us also thank Hashem for giving us the opportunity to be in their
presence (and having the opportunity to learn from them, if applicable)--and
making it a Mitzvah on top of that!
Additional Note: Some opinions hold that the minimum age to which respect
must be accorded is actually 60 and not 70.
TEACHINGS OF RABBI ZELIG PLISKIN, SHLITA: We present below several important notes
from Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita on the Parasha
(citations and sources presented there have been omitted-please refer to
this wonderful Sefer directly for further detail):
1. Parashas Kedoshim begins with the words “Daber El Kol Adas Bnei
Yisrael--speak to the entire congregation of Bnei Yisrael.” The Chasam
Sofer comments that to attain holiness one need not be isolated and
withdrawn from the rest of society. On the contrary, the Torah’s admonition
here to be “Kedoshim--to be holy--was especially stated in front of the
entire congregation. A person must learn how to sanctify himself by behaving
properly amongst people!
2. ”Lo Sa’ashok” (Vayikra 19:13)--the prohibition of
withholding money. In order not to be guilty of withholding someone’s
wages, or payments due to a worker, you should always reach an agreement
about payment before he begins doing the job. Failure to decide on a price
in advance usually leads to arguments later on, with the results that both
sides feel cheated. The Chofetz Chaim’s son wrote that his father would not
ask someone to do any work for him without first reaching an agreement as to
all the details of the job, including the price. If for some reason they
could not settle upon a price before hand, the Chofetz Chaim would pay
whatever the worker later requested.
3. “Lo Sikallel Chayreish” (Vayikra 19:14)--it is forbidden to
curse even the deaf who are unable to hear the curse, all the more so is it
forbidden to curse people who are able to hear. Saying to someone “G-d
should punish you” is a violation of this prohibition. Note that it is
considered using G-d’s name even when the name is not in Hebrew. Although
using G-d’s name constitutes a more serious offense, it is nonetheless
forbidden to curse someone without using G-d’s name as well. For example,
it is forbidden to say “Drop d - - d” or the like to someone.
4. “B’Tzedek Tishpot Amisecho” (Vayikra 19:15)--you shall judge
your fellow man with righteousness. In Yerushalayim, there is a group that
regularly discusses practical ways to judge people favorably. A member of
the group gives true-to-life situations, and everyone else offers
explanations that would present the person involved in a favorable light.
I. You did not receive an invitation to a wedding.
Possibilities: A. Perhaps the person was under the impression that he had
already sent you an invitation B. Perhaps he sent it to you and it was lost
in the mail. C. Perhaps he cannot afford to invite so many people.
II. You are standing in a bus stop with a heavy load of
packages, and a neighbor drives by in an empty car and does not offer you a
ride. Possibilities: A. Perhaps he was only going a short distance. B.
Perhaps he has already committed himself to pick up some other people. C.
Perhaps he has a problem that weighed on his mind so heavily that he
couldn’t think of anything else.
III. You are hoping someone would invite you to his house,
but he failed to do so. Possibilities: A. Perhaps someone in his family
is ill. B. Perhaps he is planning to be away from home. C. Perhaps he did
not have enough food in his house.
5. ”Lo Sisna es Achicha Bilevovecha” (Vayikra 19:16)--you shall
not hate your brother in your heart. The Chofetz Chaim writes that if
someone has embarrassed or humiliated you, you should not hate him.
Although he has committed a transgression, he has actually rendered you a
service--for when a person suffers humiliation in silence, it atones for any
sins he may have. The situation is analogous to that which someone prepared
a hot bath for you. Although it may cause you some pain, it will also
cleanse you. Keeping this thought in mind should prevent feelings of hatred
from arising. There is a proven method of changing someone’s feelings of
hatred towards you. You should consider him as if he were righteous and
treat him favorably. In a very short time, that person will begin to like
you. Ravid HaZahav interprets this verse, “You shall not hate your brother
BECAUSE of your heart.” You might have a warm heart and do favors for
others. Nevertheless, if your friend lacks this trait, do not hate him for
As we are instructed to be “Kedoshim” by our Parasha this Shabbos, let us
pay special attention to, and try to instill just a bit more additional
spirit of, Kedusha, in a real and tangible way…into tomorrow’s
As this week’s Parasha contains the Mitzvah of V’Ahavta L’Reiacha Kamocha,
we provide for your study and implementation in some way, the Ahavas Yisrael
1. Did you say hello to at least one person before they
said hello to you?
2. Did you make someone smile or laugh today? Did you
boost someone’s spirits?
3. Were you truly happy to hear good news about a friend?
Even if you wish that the same good news would happen to you?
4. Did you judge someone favorably today? Did you see
people positively—or did you sum up their lifestyle, pros and cons, with one
glance of the eye?
5. How often did you find yourself talking about someone
6. Did you actually do any of the following:
a. Visit a sick person
b. Help the needy in some way
c. Invite a guest without family in town for a Shabbos meal
d. Patronize Jewish products and stores
e. Help a single person find a Shidduch
f. Sincerely ask Hashem to bring the Geulah for all of us
checklist is based largely on a checklist developed by N’shei Ahavas
Chesed of Brooklyn.)
FROM THINK HASHEM DAILY:
“Life is the only test
can’t cheat on;
own unique paper”
Hakhel Note: To subscribe to Think Hashem Daily email:
Yesterday, we remembered our innocent brothers who have fallen at the hands
of our enemies in Eretz Yisrael. With this in mind we note that in this
week’s Parasha, Parashas Kedoshim, the Torah teaches “Venikdashti Besoch
Bnei Yisrael” (Vayikra 22:32). HaRav Chaim Kanievksy, Shlita was asked
whether one makes a bracha before he is about to be put to death Ahl Kiddush
Hashem. HaRav Kanievsky responded that the Mitzvah of Kiddush Hashem
is “Mah SheHa’adam Muchan U’Moser Atzmo LaiHareig Al Kedushas Shemo
Yisbarach--one fulfills the Mitzvah if he is prepared to give his
life to sanctify Hashem’s name, even if in the end he is not killed.” He
continues that those who were killed by the Nazis Y’S or the Arabs Y’S, have
the Zechus of Kedoshim, but would not make a bracha prior to their being
murdered because they were killed against their will. May all of the
soldiers and civilians murdered continuously achieve new heights in Gan
Eden, and be Melitzei Yosher for all of K’lal Yisrael.
Upon request, we once again provide the following important note:
Yom Ha’Atzma’ut, is celebrated in some of our communities (in various ways),
and not celebrated in others. We all know the different approaches and
sentiments on the topic--and note that in the Third Beis Hamikdash described
by Yecheskel there will be 12 entrances, for there can be different
approaches to the one Avodah. What we may add is that however one does or
does not celebrate, observe or perform--it should be done in accordance with
the teachings of his ultimate Rav or Posek. There can be much
misinformation or misguidance, and a person can conduct himself based upon
what he believes to be correct, without further consultation--and this is
the part that is wrong. As a case in point, we may mention that HaRav Yosef
Ber Soloveitchik, Z’tl, Rav of Boston, and Rosh HaYeshiva of RIETS, was in
the Yeshiva on Yom Ha’Atzma’ut 5738 (1978)--one of the latter years of his
giving Shiurim in the Yeshiva. He davened Shacharis in the Morgenstern
dormitory minyan, which davened with Hallel. Later that morning, rather
than giving Shiur on Perek HaZahav (the 4th perek of Bava Metziah which was
being studied that Zeman in his Shiur), Rav Soloveitchik, obviously upset,
instead gave Shiur on the importance of keeping the Tzuras HaTefillah
intact. Shemone Esrei is followed by Chazaras Hashatz, which is followed by
Tachanun, and then followed by Ashrei and U’va Letzion--and we do not have
the right or privilege of changing that, he opined. Rav Soloveitchik
continued that if one wanted to express his personal gratitude or thanks to
HaKadosh Baruch Hu, he could recite the Chapters of Hallel in Tehillim
(Chapters 113-118), without a bracha after davening. Now, this is not to
say that Rav Soloveitchik had a different opinion in earlier years or in
later years (we do not know either way)--but it is to say that someone was
not following his Rebbe if he knew what his opinion was at that time--and
still recited Hallel in place of Tachanun in order to make his own personal
statement. On the other hand, if one’s final Halachic authority is the
Rabbanut, his practice would be different. This ruling will be different
than that of the Badatz-Yerushalayim. What does your ultimate Rabbinic
authority say? A person must look upwards for answers--not to himself,
downwards or sideways.
following is really true: A person collecting tzedaka on behalf of a
yeshiva in France, promoting Torah among more needy Sefardi families, was
asked by a potential donor whether his yeshiva said Hallel on Yom
Ha’Atzma’ut (we won’t reveal which way he wanted the answer to come out),
and the answer would be the determining factor as to whether he received a
donation. The collector gave the “wrong” answer and was promptly escorted
out empty-handed. Would any Rabbinic authority make this one question the
sole determining factor as to whether a Torah institution was to be
supported or helped, even minimally? We doubt it, but we suggest that if a
potential donor has this ‘dilemma’, he should ask a Shaila rather than allow
emotions or sentiments to override the Halacha one must follow as an Eved
Hashem--which, by definition, is always the right thing to do.
Note:: We are all in agreement that the Geulah Sheleima has not yet
come, and that the world would be a much better place if we could bring it.
We know for a fact that when Bnei Yisrael cried out to Hashem (Vayizaku),
that Hashem heard their cries (VaTa’al Shavassam), and ‘remembered’
the bris that he had made with our Avos (Shemos 2:23,24). As our Geulah
from Mitzraim is the paradigm of our future Geulah--may we suggest that we
begin to take the special effort to cry out to Hashem in the brachos of
Shemone Esrei relating to Geulah. This does not mean that one needs to
shout--but rather that his heart cries out--perhaps with an outstretched
hand during his tefillah, or with a look heavenward, with a tear, with a
sense of urgency and pleading--at least in one of the brachos such as
Tekah Beshofar, VeLirushalayim or Ess Tzemach. If you
really need something--you do more than you say that you need it--you do
something about it! Your newfound sincere striving, your special awakening,
will not only help yourself-- it will help take the Shechina out of
tza’ar--as it returns to VeLirushalayim Irecha--Your
City--and it will help cure all those who are spiritually, emotionally and
physically ill, it will bring everyone to their proper place in life...in
short, you will be able to accomplish more than all the wealthiest people
and all of the heads of state joined together cannot accomplish.
Incredibly, all of this is free--just for our sincerity and devotion during
one of the most important points of our day--the Shemone Esrei. Let’s begin
to use this opportunity in a new and special way--pouring out our hearts for
the few brief moments of a bracha, pleading with feeling, showing that we
really want Geulah and really need it--so that just as in Mitzraim the Torah
records--VaTa’al Shavosam...VaYayedah Elokim--and their cries
went up and Hashem knew...so too will Hashem look down and understand that
our cries are true and sincere--so that once and for all we can all come
home--together with Hashem--for good--and forever!
GUIDE TO DERECH ERETZ
As we are in the midst of the Sefirah period in which we are careful to
practice important Minhagim relating to the period, we remember that the
students of Rebbi Akiva were Niftar during this period for not according the
proper respect to each other. Accordingly, in order to work on improvement
in this area in this especially propitious period, we provide the second
part below of notes as excerpted from the outstanding and highly recommended
resource Guide To Derech Eretz by Rabbi Shaul Wagschal,
Shlita (Targum/Feldheim). Once again, even if one knows many or most of the
points below, and even feels that he is ‘pretty good’ with them, it is
essential that we not only know them or study them--but conscientiously
work on them as well:
11. Benefits of speaking gently:
A) Most individuals value the privilege of making choices and thereby
determine their course of action. For this reason, it is inherently
difficult for people to follow orders. A person who gives orders to others
must remember this fact and act accordingly. By speaking gently and
treating others with respect, one can rest assured that his directions will
be more closely cared for.
B) The need to speak to people in a kind and gentle manner is absolutely
essential when instructing an individual on how to perform a task with which
he is unfamiliar. When confronted with a new experience, most people adopt
a defensive attitude in a feeble attempt to hide their ignorance. If the
instructor’s tone of voice or manner of behavior makes the individual feel
threatened, the lesson has in effect come to a close--the capacity to
internalize information is seriously impaired by the individual’s need to
protect his self-image.
C) It is self-evident that an employee who is satisfied with his working
conditions is more productive than one who is dissatisfied. The
employer-worker relationship is one of the essential components of a
positive working environment. In light of these facts, an employer should
recognize the benefits of treating his employees with respect!
12. One must avoid causing embarrassment to others at all times, even when
learning Torah. The Midrash asks, “Why was his name ‘Doeg HaAdomi’?
Because he reddened Dovid Hamelech’s face during the study of Halacha” (Midrash
Tehillim 52:4). For this reason, the Talmud warns against asking a
rabbi a question if there is reason to suspect he will not know how to
answer. Similarly, the Talmud (Shabbos 3b) says, “When Rebbi is
studying this tractate, do not ask him a question regarding a different
tractate.” The posuk says, “...one who makes his way will see the
salvation of Hashem.” (Tehillim 50:23), that is, one who plans his ways, and
knows when to ask and when not to ask his questions will prosper (Moed
Katan 5b). The Talmud (Tosefta Sanhedrin, ch. 7) also warns
against asking a Sage a question immediately upon his entering the beis
midrash; one must allow him time to settle his thoughts.’
13. Chazal (Niddah 16b) bring the following teaching: “I hate three
[types of] individuals, and one of them is a person who enters his friend’s
house unexpectedly”. R. Yochanan’s opinion is that this law even applies to
a person who enters his own house unexpectedly.
14. “A man should not instill a feeling of excessive fear in his home” (Gittin
7a). The Talmud explains that instilling fear in one’s home may
eventually result in the transgression of a Torah precept (see ch. 12). For
this reason, a father should never frighten a child by saying, “I will
punish you by doing so and so to you.”
15. Concerning the mishnah, “Ayin ra’ah ...removes a person from the
world” (Avos 2:1b), Rabbeinu Yonah writes “There exists [the trait
of] ayin ra and [the trait of] ayin ra’ah. Ayin ra’ah refers
to a miserly person, while ayin ra refers to one who envies other
people’s possessions. His wish to own others’ possessions may harm them,
for the vision of the eye is capable of causing damage. Beyond this, he
also hurts himself-- his unfulfilled wishes cause him to burn with envy.”
Avos D’Rebbi Nasan (ch. 16) expands on this theme: As a man looks at his
own house and wishes that it remain standing, so too should he look at his
16. The Talmud dictates, “One who enters [another’s] house must follow
his host’s instructions” (Pesachim 86b). The Shulchan Aruch (Orach
Chaim 170:5) also decrees that a guest must follow the host’s
instructions without any objections. For example, one must sit wherever the
host decides. One must not object even if the host wishes to honor him.
Most halachic authorities agree, however, that a guest who feels satiated
is entitled to refuse to eat additional food even if the host insists, if
this will endanger his health. One may infer from this rule that if
additional eating does not pose a danger to the guest’s health, it would be
correct to comply with the host’s wish.
17. Rules Concerning Eating in a host’s Home:
A. Upon entering the host’s home, the guest should not request food or
drink; instead, he should wait until the host offers him food (Shulchan
Aruch, Orach Chaim 170:13).
B. The most distinguished guest should be invited to wash his hands first
(Brachos 46, Orach Chaim 165:2).
C. The guest should wait until the host serves himself the first portion of
food before reaching for food.
D. If two guests sit at the same table and the host is not present, the more
distinguished of the two should serve himself first. A person who reaches
for food before a person greater than himself is considered a glutton. (Orach
Chaim 170: 12, Mishnah Berurah 28)
18. The Talmud (Kiddushin 40b) says that a person who eats in the
street, i.e., in a place where people would not normally eat, resembles a
dog-- an animal which lacks the quality of humility more than other animals.
So, too, a person who eats in public demonstrates his lack of humility. The
Talmud rules that a person who eats in public is disqualified from giving
testimony. Since he lacks the trait of self-effacement, he will not
hesitate to give false testimony and thereby risk public ridicule.
19. Entering and Exiting:
A. When two people enter a beis kenesses or beis midrash
together, the person of greater importance should go in first. When leaving
the beis kenesses, however, the person of least importance may leave
first, since there is no mitzvah to leave a beis kenesses. The
Birkei Yosef quotes the opinion of the gaonim who contend that
the person of greater importance should also exit first when leaving a
B. When entering a house, the baal habais should enter first. When
leaving the house, the guest should exit first (Masseches Derech Eretz,
ch. 4). When leaving a house owned by someone else, the person of
greater importance should leave first.
20. Additional Rules of Derech Eretz:
A. Rabbeinu Asher writes in Orchos Chaim, “A person should avoid
involving himself in another’s dispute. Eventually, they will reach
accommodation and you will still be involved in the argument.” Furthermore,
by becoming involved one will invariably make enemies.
B. When a person shares his misfortune with others, he should first say,
“It should never happen to you” . (Sanhedrin 104b,Based on Eichah
C. One should not praise a person excessively, since this may be
misinterpreted as empty flattery (Rashi, Eruvin 18b and Rashi,
D. A person who is received with undue honor is obligated to inform those
honoring him of their mistake. (Makkos 12b)
E. The Talmud (Sanhedrin 38b) rules that it is prohibited to respond
to a Jewish apostate under any circumstances. Similarly, one should not
answer a fool unless he asks a Torah-related question.
F. One should not enter someone’s house while the person is eating, since
people find it embarrassing to eat in the presence of others. (Tov
G. A wealthy person should not be miserly. This is inferred from the verse,
“Purchase food from them with silver...for Hashem your God has blessed you
with your handiwork” (Devarim 2:6). Rashi explains that in order to
acknowledge Hashem’s blessing, this verse instructs the Jewish people to
behave as wealthy people and not as poor people.
H. A man of average wealth should eat food of lesser quality than he is
capable of purchasing, clothe himself with garments in accordance with his
financial status, and honor his wife and children beyond his financial
capability (Chulin 94b).
LE’OSEH NIFLA’OS GEDOLOS!
Moving deeper into the springtime as Hashem’s creations bloom around us, we
dare not forget one of the great lessons of Pesach --Le’oseh Nifla’os
Gedolos Levado Ki L’Olam Chasdo--Who alone performs great wonders, for
His kindness endures forever (Tehillim 136:4). As we see the marvels
of the flowers blooming, the trees budding and the grass growing--we must
realize that it is not only the Ten Makkos, the Splitting of the Sea, the
Ananei Kavod and the Mon which were extraordinary miracles, but that which
we call ‘nature’ is most definitely extraordinary as well. The only real
difference between the Ten Makkos and the Splitting of the Sea--and the five
different shades of green on the bushes and trees in front of you--is that
the former are Nissim Geluyim, and the latter are Nissim Nistarim.
Let us take the time to marvel at Hashem’s world. Especially at this time of
year, as we see this wonder, that spectacle, and those phenomena, let us get
used to exclaiming with joy Le’oseh Nifla’os Gedolos Levado Ki L’Olam
Chasdo! See Teshuvah Moment below!
HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, notes that the Chovos HaLevavos
first teaches the Sha’ar Habechina (the study of Hashem’s
wonders) and only then teaches the Sha’ar Avodas Elokim--because we
first have to appreciate Who Hashem is and what He does before we can
properly serve Him!
GUIDE TO DERECH ERETZ:
As we are in the midst of the Sefira period in which we are careful to
practice important Minhagim relating to the period, we remember that the
students of Rebbi Akiva were niftar during this period for not according the
proper respect to each other. Accordingly, in order to work on improvement
in this area in this especially propitious period, we provide the notes
below excerpted from the outstanding and highly recommended resource
Guide To Derech Eretz by Rabbi Shaul Wagschal (Targum/Feldheim).
Even if one knows many or most of the points below, and even feels that he
is ‘pretty good’ with them, it is essential that we not only know them or
study them--but conscientiously work on them, as well:
1. Derech Eretz can be defined as a type of behavior that will be
acceptable by one’s society and which is geared towards making people
happy, as the Mishna [in this week’s Perek] states: “Which is the proper
path one should choose? One that is pleasing to the one who performs it and
is pleasing to others” (Avos 2:1)
2. The Maharal writes that one must offer greetings even to a willful
transgressor of sins--otherwise the sinner will wrongly conclude that the
Torah advocates scorning ignorant
people. This in effect profanes the name of Hashem.
3. Mesechta Derech Eretz describes the degree of humility one should
strive to achieve: ‘‘One should be as the threshold upon which everyone
treads, and as the peg which people use for hanging objects” (Derech
Eretz Zuta, ch. 1). What this really means is that one is obligated to
tolerate others--even if they do not consider him worthy of respect. The
Midrash adds, “Be lowly before everyone, especially before members of your
household.... Be as the threshold upon which everyone treads, for eventually
the house will collapse, but the threshold will remain untouched” (ibid. ch.
4. Tolerance leads to peace and to new friendships, and precludes anger.
“A pious man was once asked, ‘To what do you attribute people’s affection
for you?’ He answered, ‘Because I always consider other people to be better
than I.’” (Orchos Tzaddikim, Sha’ar Ha’anavah).
5. It is told that one of Rabbi Yisrael Salanter’s disciples once
complained to him that his efforts to do chessed for his wife were
not appreciated by her. R’ Yisrael responded, “Know that performing an act
that you think is beneficial for your wife, or giving her something that you
think she is lacking, is not yet considered chessed; rather, chessed
is the performance of an act that she considers beneficial, and the
giving of something that she feels she is lacking.”
6. One is obligated to do chessed for a person he dislikes before
doing so for a person he loves. It is questionable whether a person whom one
dislikes takes precedence over one’s relative (Ahavas Chessed, Sec.
1, Ch. 4).
7. It is stated in Mesechta Derech Eretz Zuta (ch. 5): “A person
should not be awake amongst those who are sleeping, nor sleeping amongst
those who are awake; cry amongst those who laugh, nor laugh amongst those
who cry; sit amongst those who stand, nor stand amongst those who sit. In
general, a person’s behavior should not be at variance with other people’s
behavior.” This idea is derived from Moshe Rabbeinu’s example, as R. Tanchum
Ben Chanilai said: ‘A person should not deviate from the custom--Moshe
ascended to the Heavens and he did not eat bread; the angels descended [to
visit Avraham Avinu] and they did eat bread’ (Bava Metzia 86b). This
concept has halachic ramifications. The Mishnah states: “In a city where the
custom is to work on Erev Pesach until noon, work may be performed.
In a city where the custom is not to work, work may not be performed....But
one should not deviate from the local custom if this will lead to dispute”
(Pesachim 50a). The reason for this ruling, that a visitor is
obligated to preclude dispute by conforming to local custom, is that people
are not able to tolerate ideas and customs different from their own, and
such differences can lead to dispute.
8. Chazal teach:
your friend as yourself’ is a general rule throughout Torah” (Yerushalmi
Nedarim 9:4). Through his love for others one will refrain from causing
them physical or emotional pain; in fact he will work for their benefit and
behave towards them with derech eretz. Orchos Tzaddikim writes
that it is possible to train oneself to feel love for people. This can be
achieved by fulfilling the following codes of behavior:
A) Speak gently. If someone embarrasses or misleads you, do not reciprocate.
B) Share other people’s burdens and refrain from increasing their suffering.
Never conduct heated arguments with others. Welcome everyone joyously and
with a friendly facial expression, since a friendly expression strengthens
bonds of love.
C) Soothe people who feel worried or angry.
D) Honor others, both verbally and through your actions. Never act in a
haughty manner with anyone; instead, yield to the will of others.
E) Refrain from passing judgment on others; instead, look for the merit in
other people’s actions.
F) Conduct all transactions honestly.
G) Strive to benefit others, not to benefit from others.
H) Extend help to others, both physically and monetarily. Refrain from
I) Avoid speaking in a derogatory manner about others, and refrain from
listening to others speak negatively about people.
Hakhel Note: Perhaps one can consider reviewing the above nine pointers
(A-I) at the beginning or end of his day--to motivate him or see how he
9. Although the obligation to carry on friendly relations with one’s
neighbor is great, one must not visit a neighbor too often, since overly
frequent visits will eventually cause the neighbor to dislike the visitor.
Concerning this idea, the verse says, “Let your foot be seldom in your
neighbor’s house, lest he will be weary of you and dislike you” (Mishlei
25:17). Rashi explains that just as eating an overabundance of honey makes
one feel like vomiting, so, too, frequent visits causes the host to revile
the visitor. Metzudos David writes that love between people increases
when they are absent from each other, whereas overly frequent visits have
the opposite effect.
10. From Moshe Rabbeinu, we learn how far Derech Eretz extends. Before
accepting upon himself the commandment to go to Mitzrayim and redeem the
Jewish people, Moshe Rabbeinu said to Hashem, “Master of the Universe! I
cannot fulfill Your commandment, since Yisro welcomed me and opened his door
to me, and I am as a son to him. A person who is shown hospitality is
eternally indebted to his host.” Thus, Moshe refused to embark on his
journey without first receiving Yisro’s permission. From this we learn that
one act of derech eretz takes precedence over the redemption of the
entire Jewish People!
IT’S NOT TOO LATE--OUTSTANDING NEW OPPORTUNITY:
following link, the classic Mussar work Sefer Orchos Tzaddikim is now
available for daily study over the two-month period of Iyar and Sivan, with
the entire Sefer divided into 59 daily segments--http://www.hakhel.info/archivesPublicService/OrchosTzadikimCalendar.pdf
This should serve as an outstanding preparation of one’s Middos for
Kabbalas HaTorah and beyond. There are of course wonderful English
translations to assist you, published by both Artscroll and Feldheim.
TESHUVAH MOMENT: After a
month of not reciting Tachanun, let us recite these great words of
supplication--which incredibly include the words of AVINU MALKEINU
CHANEINU VA’ANEINU KI AIN BANU MA’ASIM--ASEH IMANU TZEDAKA
VACHESED V’HOSHIAINU (the last Avinu Malkeinu recited in the Aseres
Yemei teshuva and on Fast Days)--with a renewed intensity and
fervor--pleading with Hashem to shower us with his unlimited mercy--and the
Geulah Sheleima in our day!
FOR THOSE STUDYING DAF
You can receive an outstanding daily email from Dirshu
on that day’s Mishna Berurah Yomi study. To
For additional information, including live shiurim worldwide, audio and
video Shiurim recordings, optional bechinos, one may also call
FROM PARTNERS IN TORAH--IMPORTANT INFORMATION:
By the following link
we provide sensitive information which is important to your
not-yet-religious contacts providing important distinctions between
cremation and burial. We note that the peacefulreturn.org site was developed
with this in mind as well.
outstanding Sefer Praying with Meaning (Artscroll, Rabbi Heshy
Kleinman, Shlita’s latest publication), which proceeds through
Tefillas Shacharis in 89 powerful and practical daily lessons, provides the
teaching of the Avudraham, who writes that the Gematria of Modim is
100--representing the 100 daily brachos in which we should express our daily
thanks to Hashem!
Note: The Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 127: 1), seif katan 5,
writes that “haolam nohagim” when responding to Modim D’Rabbanan in
Shemone Esrei to remain bowed throughout. The Chazon Ish, Z’tl and HaRav
Chaim Kanievsky, y’blcht, however, follow another minhag
mentioned in Shulchan Aruch which is to bow at the outset of Modim
D’Rabbanan, and at its end (Ahl She’anachnu Modim Lach…), but not
during the entire recital (ibid., Dirshu Note 7). Accordingly, one should
follow his Rav’s direction in this area.
WILL IT BE ACCEPTED?
In a publication containing the
teachings of HaRav Moshe Shmuel Shapiro, Z’tl, it is reported that whenever
HaRav Shapiro offered words of rebuke or mussar, it would only be presented
if it could be done in a way ‘Ki Heichi Delekablu Minei’--so that the
words of advice, guidance or constructive criticism would be accepted by the
party it was addressed to. With this stated goal in mind, there would
be no words of admonition or instruction uttered in annoyance or anger, or
containing bites of derision, cynicism or sarcasm--for although these kinds
of expressions could vent frustration--they certainly would not be accepted
by another....What a simple and shining standard to use for words to help
another –’Ki Heichi Delekablu Minei’-- so that they
truly accomplish their goal!
The Sefer Tallelei Oros brings from the following “Eitzah Ne’emana”
(Trustworthy Advice) taught by the HaRav Leib Chasman, Z’tl in the Sefer
Ohr Yahel: “If one finds himself chas veshalom in a tzara,
he should take a neder to not satiate his desire in a particular manner
which is otherwise permissible to him, and with this he will be assured of a
having obtained a ‘zechus gadol’ to be saved ....” Hakhel Note: HaRav
Chasman is not requiring unrelenting abstinence--he is advising to select
something permissible and simply not satiate yourself with it--because
you--and not your Yetzer Hora--are in charge of your life!
ASEH TORASECHA KEVAH!
We learned this famous phrase in Pirkei Avos (1:15) last week. We
would typically understand it to mean that one should be ‘Kove’a Itim
LaTorah’. Rashi, on this Mishna, however, specifically writes that this
is not the meaning of these words. Rather, continues Rashi, Torah is to be
our keviyus the entire day--it is the keva--and
anything else we do the rest of the day are ‘inserts’ into our keviyus of
the day! What a powerful message!
MORE ON REFUAH IN IYAR:
Regarding the acronym of the word Iyar as ‘Ani Hashem Rofecha,’ we
received the following from a reader: “I also wanted to add that Rabbi
Zechariah Wallerstein always says that when the rain comes in Iyar, you open
your mouth and let it in, and just feel that Hashem is healing your whole
body. It is an amazing thing to do--I’ve been doing it every year since he
said it.” Hakhel Note One: If you choose to do this, you should consult
with your Rav as to if and when a Bracha may first be required. Hakhel Note
Two: It is interesting to note that Matzah is referred to as the healing
bread or healing food. One may therefore suggest that the reason we are not
commanded to eat Matzah the whole year (and forbidden to eat Chometz, as
part of our Kashrus observance) is because once we have taken medication and
been healed, there is no need to take the medication any further. However,
we do not then proceed directly into the rest of the year without anything
more--but are then especially treated to the special healing qualities
inherent within the month of Iyar! Ashreinu Mah Tov Chelkeinu--Oh
how great is our lot!
RULINGS FROM HARAV CHAIM KANIEVSKY, SHLITA, ON SEFIRAS HAOMER:
Is there a Mitzvah of Chinuch on counting Sefira as very often the children
will be asleep at night when you want to count with them?
For Chinuch purposes, one can count with them during Bein HaShemashos,
before they go to bed.
Should girls count with a Bracha?
The Mishna Berura rules they should not, lest they forget counting for a day
(Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 489; seif katan 3). However, if there is a real
basis for reminding them nightly it is permitted for them to count with a
Bracha, as in the Steipeler’s home, the girls would make a Bracha, because
the Steipeler himself would remind them every night.
Can a barber stay open during Sefira for non-religious Jews if their
alternative would be to go to a barber who would use a razor?
It is not permissible, and it is not the religious barber’s responsibility
if they would violate other Issurim as a result of his not servicing them,
for if he does service them he himself would be violating a ‘lifnei iveir’
kind of aveira relating to Sefiras HaOmer.
The Aruch HaShulchan (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 492) brings from the Zohar
to Parashas Tetzaveh that the primary reason that we stand during Sefiras
HaOmer is because Sefiras HaOmer is comparable to Shemone Esrei itself(!).
We should realize the extraordinary importance of Sefira every night just
from the fact that the one-sentence count is surrounded in the Siddur by
prayers before and after (whether or not you actually recite them).
To inspire yourself here, do not allow yourself to count the Sefirah by
heart. Instead, read each and every word of the bracha and count from a
PARASHAS KEDOSHIM LESSON ONE:
Chazal teach: “Yofeh Shesika Lechachomim Kal Vechomer Letipshim--silence
is beautiful for the wise all the more so for the unwise.” As we
approach the Parasha of Kedoshim which contains so many Mitzvos relating to
proper speech, we should do so with an uplifted sense of our power of
speech--oh how it is important to use in many situations--and how important
it is to refrain from using in many situations. This is the perfect
time to practice circumspection and judiciousness in our speech,
particularly with people as to whom one has fallen prey to forbidden speech
within the past. In our times, we have newfound
modes of speech--email and texting. We should treat these new methods of
communication with the same level of care as the uttered word--for they also
truly express the inner makings (and hopefully, sanctity) of one’s self.
The Ona’as-Devarim free and Lashon Hara free
mode and the dignity, clarity, care and concern of the written word should
shine forth from one’s cell phone or computer. HaRav Chaim Friedlander,
Z’tl, taught many years ago relating to regular phones that ‘the party on
the other end should be able to feel and appreciate your warm smile!’ We
should be able to say the same for our texts and emails as well!
PARASHAS KEDOSHIM LESSON TWO:
Ben Ish Chai raises the following question. There are ten birds on a roof.
A hunter successfully traps four of the birds. How many birds are left on
the roof? In fact, the Ben Ish Chai writes, there will be four birds left
on the roof, because the other six would have flown away while the hunter
was trapping the other four. The analogy he draws is to money that a person
spends in this world. The money that is well-spent on Mitzvos and Ma’asim
Tovim flies nowhere--it will remain with the person forever and ever. On
the other hand, money improperly spent or squandered flies away and has no
everlasting--or even lasting--relationship with the person. Let us take the
Ben Ish Chai’s thought a step further. How could money which is appears to
be a purely material, Olam Hazeh kind of item be transported into Olam Haba?
HaRav Aaron Kotler, Z’tl, teaches that the “Kedoshim Ti’heyu”
required by this week’s Parasha is not the holiness of Malochim or of people
who separate themselves from others, but rather it is elevating the
materialism of Olam Hazeh to Kedusha of Olam Haba. Money, then,
becomes an invaluable resource--a source of Kedusha for our Olam Haba--all
based upon how we use it in this world. To some, money is a source of
evil. To others, it is a necessary evil. To us, however, it is and should
be a source of eternity. Every dollar for a Mitzvah, every check for
Tzedaka is a fulfillment of a Kedoshim Ti’heyu--which will last
OUTSTANDING NEW OPPORTUNITY:
By the following link, the classic Mussar work Sefer Orchos Tzaddikim is now
available for daily study over the two-month period of Iyar and Sivan, with
the entire Sefer divided into 59 daily segments--http://www.hakhel.info/archivesPublicService/OrchosTzadikimCalendar.pdf
This should serve as an outstanding preparation of one’s Middos for
Kabbalas HaTorah and beyond. There are of course wonderful English
translations to assist you, published by both Artscroll and Feldheim.
As we begin the ninth month of the year 5779--we should realize that we
still have almost 40% of the year ahead of us for reaching new
heights in our kabbalos and in our personal growth. It’s a great day for
cheshbon hanefesh--after all, the glass is still more than one-third
QUESTION OF THE DAY:
Very few dates are mentioned in the Chamisha Chumshei Torah--but today is
one of them! Where is today’s date mentioned in the Torah? Why is the date
specifically mentioned in that Parasha and context?
CONNECTION TO THE BINYAN BEIS HAMIKDASH!
Chodesh Iyar is very much related to the Binyan Bais Hamikdash. The
Luach Dovor B’Ito brings that Shlomo HaMelech began the building of the
First Bais HaMikdash today, and that construction of the foundation
of the Second Bais HaMikdash also began today as well (See Ezra
3:8-13). Let us now daven that today also prove to serve a role in the
building of the Third and Lasting Bais HaMikdash. Even if we see
nothing immediately around us or in front of us, and even if we hear no
shofar blast at this moment, let our acts of Teshuva today serve as a
cornerstone for its Building. Why leave the building to someone else
when each and every one of us is so eminently capable?! Let’s also begin
building Today--it’s for Eternity!
Note: One of the actions that we will take in the Bais HaMikdash that we
are not very used to doing now is Hishtachava’ah--prostrating oneself
to the ground. Undoubtedly, this Hishtachava’ah will come in direct
response to the intense Kedushah and Ruchniyus experienced upon entering and
viewing the Kohanim and the Avodah. Yet, in the Tefillah of Nishmas we do
recite in the here and now--VeChol Koma Lefonecha Sishtachaveh--and every
person standing up shall prostrate himself before You. How can/do we
fulfill this statement? The Chassidic masters teach the following: Even
when one is ostensibly standing straight, he should feel inwardly
as if he is bowed before Hashem--in recognition of Hashem’s greatness
and mastery and one’s own humility--something that every person should
recognize and appreciate--even without a Bais HaMikdash. We may add that
even when reciting the words VaAnachnu Koriim U’Mishtachavim in
Aleinu three times daily, we should experience the moment--envisioning
ourselves in an aura of submission and sanctity--so that we properly reflect
the words that we are expressing. In this merit--may we live to experience
the ultimate Hishtachava’ah speedily and in our days!
TIME FOR HEALING!
The Sefer Ta’amei HaMinhagim (page 251) writes that our new month of
Iyar is tried and tested as a time for refuah, healing, from the ailments
and pains that may affect a person. Why is this so? The B’nai Yissaschar,
who teaches that most weakness and illness come from foods which do not
comport with the person’s nature or composition. The Rambam (Hilchos De’os
4:15) writes likewise. See also Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Chapter 32.
Since the Mon began to fall in this month (on the 16th day of
Iyar 2448)--and it was a perfect food from which resulted no sickness, pain
or even waste matter (as Dovid HaMelech refers to it in Sefer Tehillim--”Lechem
Abirim”) and even cured those who were ill--Hashem left the curative
nature of the month in effect even through today. Accordingly, Iyar is a
time of “segulah l’refuah”. In fact, the Ta’amei HaMinhagim notes,
the name “Iyar” is an acronym for Ani Hashem Rofecha--I am Hashem,
can we do to help promote the curative effects of this special time as
initiated by the heavenly Mon? Let us reflect upon the following. The
Baalei Mussar note that one afflicted with Tzora’as does not ask others
directly to pray for him--rather, about the metzorah it is written “VeTameh
Tameh Yikrah”--he only exclaims that he is “Tameh”, and those who hear
him are expected to pray sincerely for him even without his direct
request--and notwithstanding that he has sinned to such a great extent that
Hashem has actually made him a Metzora. What a great lesson we can learn at
this time of year--which is so special for healing, and, moreover, the Omer
period, in which our “Bein Odom L’Chavero” is to be seriously
improved upon. We should not wait to be asked, or merely be responsive to
the request of others, when we hear that someone is not well. Instead, we
should “hear the cry” and go out of our way during this auspicious time to
daven for those we may not even know, but whom we have heard are in need of
a Refuah. An ounce of Tefillah may mean a kilogram of cure.
During this special month, recite a daily special, sincere Kepitel (chapter)
of Tehillim for your list of cholim--recognizing that this is a special time
for the potency--and importance--of your heartfelt Tefillah!
reader wrote the following to us: Rabbi Nachman of Breslov writes that
the word IYAR is Roshei Taivos of the words “Oyvai Yoshuvu Yaivoshu Roga,”
thus indicating that the month of IYAR is conducive to see a Mapala for the
enemies of K’lal Yisrael!” Hakhel Note: When reciting Tachanun during this
month we should have especial Kavannah when reciting these words--that they
come to immediate reality!
FROM A PRAYING WITH FIRE 2 READER:
In a related vein to our concept of refuah, we received the
following: “I just wanted to share with you one of the many, many things I
learned from this incredible Sefer. It taught me that when I have a headache
–my first reaction should not be—where is the Tylenol, so that I can take
two Extra Strengths and it will go away. I really had always thought that
that was the right reaction. No, the RIGHT REACTION is “Hashem you gave me
the headache--I acknowledge that (do teshuva for something, if necessary),
and then daven to Hashem that the headache go away. Then--take the
Tylenol--and remember that it is not the Tylenol taking away the
headache--it is Hashem, and the Tylenol is his shaliach through the teva,
through nature and cures he has provide to us in this world.”
move closer to Kabbalas HaTorah, we are reminded of the teaching of HaRav
Shimshon Dovid Pincus, z’tl: Why is it that each Mesechta begins on Daf Bais—what
happened to Daf Aleph?! Rabbi Pincus answers that this is to remind us that
we must first ‘open our eyes’ and consider what we are about to
learn—something holy, something special, something passed on for more than
3,300 years, something eternal, something that is life-giving—both in this
world and in the next. Could there be anything more worthwhile, more
essential, more privileged, more exhilarating—perhaps we should hum or sing
“Ashreinu Ma Tov Chelkeinu” at least once a day before learning!
FROM A READER ON THE ‘ZUGOS’ OF REBBI AKIVA:
“Chazal relate: ‘Shnaim Asar Elef Zugos Talmidim Haya Lo L’Rebbi Akiva
V’lo Nohagu Kavod Zeh Bazeh--Rebbi Akiva had 12,000 pairs of students
who did not conduct themselves respectfully with each other.’ Why do Chazal
say that Rebbe Akiva had 2 times 12,000 talmidim? Why not just say that he
had 24,000 students that were not respectful to each other?? The
answer may be that, of course, when they were all together in the dining
room and one asked the other to pass the Corn Flakes, or when saying “Good
Morning or “Good Night”, they were all very gracious and answered with a
smile. But that’s not where the true test was. The test presents itself
when two chavrusos sit down for hours together and one comes up with a good
“Kashe--question” or a “S’vorah--line of reasoning” that is enlightening--is
it accepted graciously? When one pours out his heart to the other about a
difficult situation that he is going through is the other empathetic--or is
his mind elsewhere? The same is true in relationships between spouses,
siblings, etc. Chazal here are not referring to dealings by and among
acquaintances. They are referring to the close relationships between “Zugos”,
people close to each other, those we perhaps take for granted. That’s the
true test of “Noheg Kovod Zeh Bazeh”.”
Hakhel Note: There are now only approximately five (5) weeks left to the
Omer…try to apply this lesson every day until Shavuos!
Reminder! If you have not already made the bracha--Don’t Delay Any
Further--and be mezakeh others with a sincere reminder!
Chofetz Chaim teaches that inherent in the term “Shemiras HaLashon” is that
it is not enough to meet a particular Lashon Hara circumstance and respond
to it. Rather, one must be a Shomer—on guard that at any moment he may be
confronted with a difficult situation of speech. Accordingly, one must plan
ahead. As a practical example, before meeting people for lunch or dinner,
any business meeting, a friendly conference call, or the like, one should
remind himself of all of the Mitzvos and Brachos that a person receives for
Shemiras HaLashon--and utter a prayer that his speech during the meeting or
conversation remains pure and ehrlich!
YOUR OWN PERSONAL HAKARAS HATOV INITIATIVE:
you don’t receive the thanks and appreciation for something that you believe
you deserve--what is a possible message or lesson for you?
HAVE YOU MADE YOUR LIST YET OF LESSONS FROM PESACH--and
how you will implement at least some of them in your daily life? If not
now--when--don’t just go through Pesach--make Pesach go through you!
this vein, we provide the following final post-Pesach practical daily
Recite Birchos HaShachar with enthusiasm [Heard from Rabbi Yosef
When reciting the word Halelukah in Shacharis--feel the word, and
appreciate all that Hashem does for you--and that you are able to thank Him
When reciting Borei Nefashos, have in mind not that it is an ‘easy, quick
bracha’--but that it is a bracha which concisely thanks Hashem for the
specific food or drink that you have just partaken of, and recognizes
further that He blesses you with an overabundance--even more than what you
need! (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 207, Mishna Berurah Seif Katan 5)
When reciting Ahl HaMichya--recognize that you are uniquely davening Ahl
Mizbechecha--for the Mizbei’ach to be rebuilt--something that is not
even mentioned in Birchas HaMazon! Focus!
Think about ‘Chatzos HaLailah’--just one moment in time changed the
history of the world, and consider that when this happens again, speedily
and in our day--it will be forever and ever! Will it be this moment--will it
be the next? Be alert, be ready! The Chasam Sofer notes that there are six
Leshonos of Geulah in the Torah at the outset of Parashas Va’eirah. We have
already experienced five--Vehotzeisi, VeHitzalti, VeGa’alti, VeLakachti
and VeHeiveisi, and we accordingly have five cups (including the Kos
Shel Eliyahu) at the Seder. The sixth Lashon--VeNasati Lachem Morasha--and
I will give you Eretz Yisrael as a final and everlasting inheritance--is yet
to come. Oh, how we must yearn for the sixth cup!
Consider a Hashgacha Pratis calendar--where the clear events of how you
found that item, met that person, went there and not there, ate this food
and not that--ranging from the greatly significant to seemingly
insignificant incidents have been clearly guided by Hashem. Of course, one
cannot spend his entire day on this, but can certainly jot down a few times
during the day when he realizes that Hashem is together with him in a clear
and open way!
Finally, Dovid HaMelech teaches in Tehillim (81:11): “Anochi Hashem
Elokecha Hama’alcha Mei’Eretz Mitzrayim Harchev Picha V’amalei’hu--I am
Hashem Who elevated you from the land of Eygpt--open your mouth wide and I
will fill it.” The Targum on this Pasuk explains that we are to open our
mouth wide in prayer to Hashem. We are not limited to the times of Tefillah
to be Marchiv Peh--even in a moment of privacy in one’s home, while
walking somewhere, or in Shul before and after davening--open your
mouth wide--and may Hashem fill it!
Today, the 28th day of Nissan, marks the day that Yericho fell to
the Hakafos and Shofar blasts (and not to the military prowess) of B’nei
Yisrael. It was none other than Yehoshua Bin Nun who composed Aleinu at
that time in recognition of Hashem’s Omnipotence--and the thanks that we owe
Him for our position in this world! According to the Sefer Chareidim,
as brought in the Siddur Rashban, Aleinu was actually recited forwards and
then backwards by Yehoshua and Bnei Yisrael, and this was the final blow
that caused the walls to fall in. This Tefillah is so crucial to us that we
recite it at the end of each of our daily prayers, and it is the essence of
our Tefillos on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (where we additionally
genuflect). The Rema in Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 132:2) writes that we
should be careful to recite Aleinu with Kavanah each day.
It is certainly no coincidence--as it never is--that Aleinu was composed so
soon after Pesach, as it reflects so many of the lessons to be gleaned from
those special days---Thanks to Hashem for choosing us as his People;
Awareness of Hashem not only as Creator but in Hashgacha Pratis on a daily
basis; Ain Od Milevado…and our longing and prayer for the final
Geulah. If you started today to daven Aleinu only from a Siddur, or to be
sure to have special Kavannah when reciting it for all of the essential
yesodos of Emunah it contains (actually found in the plain meaning of the
words), or to make sure that it takes you at least a minute to recite
because you are not swallowing the words and you are paying attention to
them, bowing down more properly or with thought…or any other improvement (if
you have already done any or all of the above)—then you will always remember
the anniversary of your improvement—the anniversary of Aleinu!
WE CONTINUE WITH OUR EREV SHABBOS--HALACHOS OF SHABBOS SERIES.
A. As noted in the past, the following point is made in the wonderful
work “Shabbos in My Soul--70 Powerful Lessons to Illuminate the
Shabbos Experience” by Rabbi Boruch Leff, Shlita: “U’sefartem Lachem
Mimacharas HaShabbos, Miyom Haviachem Es Omer Hatenufah Sheva Shabbasos
Temimos Tehiyena--you should count for yourselves from after Shabbos
[referring here to Pesach], from the day when you bring the offering of the
Omer waving, it should be seven complete weeks.” In counting the Omer we
are counting towards Matan Torah and, in doing so, readying ourselves for
Shavuos. We prepare ourselves by purifying and perfecting our spiritual
lives, especially our Middos and Derech Eretz. Thus, when we count, we are
supposed to be tallying up our growth, day by day. The Nesivos Shalom
says that the day that is designated for the most powerful growth that can
be achieved during Sefiras Ha’omer is Shabbos. The Pasuk indicates this:
“Sheva Shabbasos Temimos Tehiyena.” It is only when Shabbos is
temimah, when Shabbos is
observed and experienced with a potent ruchnius, purity, and spiritual
growth, that we can truly develop ourselves properly during this period.
The way to utilize the potential of Sefiras Ha’omer is to make sure our
Shabbos days are filled with kedushah.
are bidden by the Torah to make our Shabbosos temimos, perfect and whole.
Let us not squander the opportunity.”
It is a custom of many on the Shabbos following Pesach to have a “Shlissel
Challah” or “Key Challah”.
advised that some Chassidic masters in fact waited until Shabbos before they
consumed Chometz after Pesach. The Shlissel Challah would be their
first Chometz! What is the concept of Shlissel Challah? In
The Book of Our Heritage (the excellent English translation of the
Sefer HaToda’ah), Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov, Z’tl, writes as follows: “In some
communities, it is customary for the Shabbos on which we announce the
approaching month of Iyar that sesame seeds are sprinkled on the top of
Challahs in the shape of a key. This serves as a reminder of the Mon
that began to fall from heaven in Iyar, as well as reminder that the key to
our sustenance is in Hashem’s Hand.” The Sefer
Ta’maei Dinim U’Minhagim writes that this is related to the words in
Shir HaShirim that we recited over Pesach “Pischu Li Achosi Rayasi--open
the gates of love and parnassah for us.” On Pesach we have been judged for
our Tevuah--our Parnassah--and with the Shlissel Challah we demonstrate
affirmatively and conclusively that we recognize that the key to every bite
of our bread is absolutely and exclusively in Hashem’s most caring of hands!
During these very days--immediately after Pesach in the Midbar--the Bnei
Yisrael received the Mitzvah of Shabbos while encamped at Marah. The Levush
(Orach Chaim 487:1) writes that we accepted the Mitzvah of Shabbos in all of
its detail with love, and that is why the word “BeAhava” is especially
related to Shabbos. The Sefer Bris Olam by HaRav Binyomin
Zilber, Z’tl, provides the following potent words of Chazal relating to one
who is Shomer Shabbos:
a. Hashem will listen to his prayers (Midrash Tehillim, Chapter 16)
He tastes 1/60th of the taste of Olam Habah (Bereishis Rabba,
He is Zoche to Yiras Hashem (Yevamos 96)
He will receive a double reward for his efforts--one for Kavod and one for
Oneg (Medrash Tehillim, Chapter 93).
Hakadosh Baruch Hu longs for him, does his bidding, and he is considered as
someone who is worthy to testify before Hashem! (Medrash Tanchum to Parashas
Re’ai and Mechilta to Parashas Yisro)
Let us take the propitious time we are in--the very time in which we
initially accepted the Mitzvah of Shabbos as a nation-- and use it to
strengthen our personal Shabbos observance in some way. After all--how many
opportunities do you have to enjoy a taste of Olam Haba here and now!
There is a famous story told of a man who had obviously grievously sinned
and had come to Rav Shach, Z’tl, a few hours before Shabbos. The man was
sobbing uncontrollably and could barely eke out the following words, “How
will I ever be forgiven?” However, because of his uncontrollable sobbing,
he was not able to express to Rav Shach what his sin was, so that Rav Shach
could not give him advice. After an extended period, Rav Shach advised him
to go home, get some rest and come back to see him again on Motzei Shabbos.
The man did so, and on Motzei Shabbos, came in to Rav Shach, and sat down
calmly, explaining to Rav Shach the aveira he had done. After Rav Shach
gave him his advice, the man left. Commenting on this incident, Rav Shach
noted how “sleeping on it” could cause a person to forget all of the
feelings and emotions within him. He surmised from this that Teshuvah must
be done immediately upon recognition of an aveira, and advised his students
not to sleep on an aveira without doing Teshuvah. We can derive a similar
lesson from this with regard to any of the strong positive feelings we had
over the Pesach holiday. We should not let them get away over this
weekend. Instead, we should reflect upon (and take some positive action
which could maintain) the highpoints, the gained Emunah, the simcha, the
thanks, and should try to remember any of the events or Divrei Torah that
elevated us--so that they do not escape us during the coming days, weeks and
months. It might pay to review your feelings and experiences with your
family or friends at the Shabbos table or at any other time, as one person’s
reflections often assist another to grow in their own personal way, as well.
WE BEGIN PIRKEI AVOS:
Shabbos we will commence the recitation of Mesechta Avos--commonly known to
us as “Pirkei Avos”. HaRav Chaim Volozhiner, Z’tl, at the outset of the
Sefer Ruach Chaim, writes that we begin each Perek with the words of
the Mishna (Sanhedrin 90A) “Kol Yisrael Yesh LaHem Chelek LaOlam
Habba--all of K’lal Yisrael has a share in the World-to-Come”. The
Tanna uses the phrase LaOlam Habba, rather than BaOlam Habba
in order to teach us that Olam Habba is not a future world--but a
world that is built in the here and now by the Mitzvos that a person
performs. One really does exist in Olam Habba in this world--it is just the
physical elements of Olam Hazeh that prevent him from realizing its
presence. HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, in fact, brings the words of the
Zohar (1:265A), which explains that Olam Habba means Olam Shekevar Bah--a
world that has already come! Thus, just as a Ben Yeshiva is
someone who is in a particular Yeshiva, a Ben Olam Habba, is someone who is
already rooted in Olam Habba! HaRav Friedlander also explains that the
reward for a Mitzvah is ‘Ruchni Tahor’--total Ruchniyus, and that
accordingly we cannot get reward in the physical world of Olam Hazeh for
Mitzvos. Whenever the Torah or Chazal describe sechar or reward in
this world, what it really means is that we are being granted additional
means to learn more Torah and perform more Mitzvos in Olam Hazeh--and
that the actual reward for any and all Mitzvos will be exclusively in Olam
Habba. The mashal given is to a very wealthy individual who owns a
huge and profitable factory. He will put on workers clothes in the factory
and not be distinguished from the other workers there as the products are
being produced--but will reap all of the profits in his finely tailored
clothing when the products are finally produced, distributed and sold.
PARASHA VERSUS THE WESTERN WORLD:
important to note that of the Mitzvos in this week’s Parasha of Acharei Mos-
many relate to Arayos--forbidden relationships and immorality. As always, we
must take the lesson from the Parasha as we live through it, and bolster our
care in the fundamental area that Arayos plays in a Jew’s life--especially
as the warmer weather comes upon us, and the populations around us act with
increased prurience. The western world incredibly considers some of the
Arayos as ‘victimless’ crimes. We, on the other hand, believe that not only
are the participants and those who encourage them at fault, but that the
degenerate mores impact horrendously on the world at large. We need go no
further than the Pasuk “Ki Hishchis Kol Bassar EsDarko Al Ha’Aretz”—for
all flesh had corrupted its way upon the earth (Bereishis 6:12), and the
literal destruction of the world at the time of the Flood that resulted in
its aftermath. We must do something to distance ourselves far, far, far away
from this behavior. Each of us (man and woman, young and old, city worker
and chareidi neighborhood dweller) can do something to improve his/her
situation in this regard—to bring a greater, tangible Kedusha into one’s
life. It is now less than 40 days to Matan Torah—in which the Kedusha from
on High—the Torah-- was brought down to this world for transmission to us
all in each generation. Let us make ourselves eminently worthy of it—not
only by contemplation and reflection—but in deed and in restraint.
As we leave the month of Nissan on Sunday night, we provide an outstanding
observation by Rabban Gamliel Rabinovich, Shlita regarding the Pesach
Seder--which is truly a bold and important lesson for daily living the rest
of the year. The Seder teaches us that there is a seder, an order, to
things. If we follow the Seder as we should, then in the end everything is
Nirtzah--accepted. and we sing into the night. However, not everything
starts out happy--we begin as slaves, and we experience shame and
degradation, physically and spiritually. We even eat a portion of Marror.
But, if we do what we are supposed to--we will be zoche to a special Yom Tov
Shulchan Orech and its joy-filled aftermath. Olam Hazeh is not meant to be
a fountain of delight or a wellspring of contentment. It is meant to be a
place where we learn our lessons and grow from them--where we shape our
lives for eternity. Success begins and is measured through effort,
dedication, commitment and strength of character. The bitterness may be
there in different ways--as pure marror, sandwiched with something else (korech),
and will have some charoses to take out some of the sting...but, we must
recognize and believe that all of this is only a purification agent that is
needed for only a short period of time--it is as transitory as a passing
thunderstorm in light of the permanent sunshine of Olam Haba that will
succeed it. During the rest of the year we go straight to Shulchan Orech--but
we should not be fooled. It is the order of the Seder night which puts our
lives into perspective. You may have a lot of questions to ask through the
course of Galus night --but if you follow through the order and succeed to
conclusion--you are guaranteed to come out singing--and with all of the
…AND BEGIN THE MONTH OF IYAR:
move towards Kabbalas HaTorah, we provide the following enlightening words
of Chazal (Yalkut Shimoni to Mishlei 4):
are 248 Mitzvos Aseh in the Torah and 248 limbs of the body—for each limb
reminds and cries out to the person ‘Perform the Mitzvah-so that you will
live in its merit, and also merit length of days, There are 365 Mitzvos Lo
Sa’aseh in the Torah corresponding to the 365 days of the solar year—for
each day from the time the sun rises and until it sets, it reminds us and
cries out—I direct you not to do an aveira today, which could tip the scales
against me and the whole world chas veshalom to chovah—in the wrong
take an important moment now to look at our hands, our arms, our legs—they
are Hashem’s messengers to us reminding us to stay focused, do right, and
keep the world going. Every so often we should gaze at these Chofetz Chaim’s
of which we are composed—reminding us to fulfill our mission in life—raising
ourselves, and raising the world with us.
we can look at the sun for a brief moment or even at the light it sheds—it
is talking to us--communicating essential, life-bearing advice--Please,
Please, no -- don’t go there…don’t say that…close your eyes and don’t look…
don’t hurt that person with what you are about to do….If you squint when you
are outside on a sunny day, it is not a coincidence—it is merely a stronger
has blessed us with reminders within us and around us—they are like alarm
clocks gently sounding for us throughout the day— and they will only be
ineffective if we turn them off. Incredibly, when we heed their message and
do this Mitzvas Aseh here, and avoid that Lo Sa’aseh there—when we
throughout the day consciously use Hashem’s gifts for Chazal’s stated and
noteworthy purpose, we bring not only life and length of days to ourselves
in this world and the next—but life to the entire world as well —for which
the sun and the rest of Ma’aseh Bereishis will be so thankful!
From the remarkable, must-go-through Sefer The Power of Teshuvah,
by Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, Shlita (Artscroll, p. 233): “‘I can’t help
it. That’s just the way I am.’ Everyone has either said these words, heard
them, or both. Nevertheless, Rav Avraham Pam, Z’tl, would often paraphrase
the Rambam’s rebuttal of this justification with the words, ‘It’s not
your nature, it’s your choice!’”
A DAILY REMINDER:
By the following link
http://tinyurl.com/jqvwkuv, we provide “From the Letters of the Chazon
Ish, which one may want to recite daily at the outset of his day, or perhaps
at the outset of his work day. This is a powerful message which we need to
be constantly reminded of.”
QUESTION OF THE DAY:
Sefiras HaOmer recited in Ma’ariv between Shemone Esrei and Aleinu
(in most communities)? After all, what does the counting of Sefira have to
do with our structure of Tefillas Ma’ariv?
QUESTION AND ANSWER OF THE DAY:
We recently changed reciting the words “V’Sein Tal U’Matar Levracha”
to the words “V’sein Bracha”. What Kavannah are we to have in mind
when saying the words “V’sein Bracha”? The Kuntres Avodas
HaTefillah explains that we are asking for Ribui Tova V’Hatzlacha--for
Hashem to shower goodness and success upon us. Although we are no longer
asking for the rain--we are still asking for the shower! Picture it as you
recite these words. Remember, it is not just lip service or even simply an
element of belief--Hashem’s bracha in all areas is tangible and real!
HARAV MILLER’S YAHRZEIT:
is the eighteenth Yahrzeit of the legendary and incomparable HaRav Avigdor
Miller, Z’tl, so much of whose life was dedicated to helping the lives of
others become accomplished and complete. We provide below three separate
examples of his teachings on personal brachos and tefillos, as originally
brought by Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen, Shlita in Rabbi Avigdor Miller
Speaks (Volume 1, pp. 227, 234--Artscroll), and as highlighted in the
masterful work Praying With Fire 2 by Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, Shlita
a customer walks in, say a quick Tefillah that the customer should buy your
merchandise and pay the right price and not complain…HaKadosh Baruch Hu will
say: “I see you trusting in Me, as the Pasuk states “Blessed is the man who
puts his trust in Hashem, and, therefore, Hashem will reward him by becoming
are going to see a customer [at his place of business], before you walk in
say “Yehi Ratzon Milefanecha She’tatzlicheni—Hashem, please make me
Note: Of course, one should analogize to his everyday situations relating to
projects, meeting with superiors at work, shopping, eating Kosher,
dating,…everything in life!
Even where Tefillas HaDerech is not required, if you are starting up your
car, ask Hashem without making a bracha for safety and everything else you
need on the way… “Believe me—in town you need a lot of help from Hashem!”
“Good Morning” is not merely a trite phrase or pleasantry. Good morning
means that they should have a good breakfast, that they should earn a good
living, no colds today, no trouble in business. Good Morning means
Note: Imagine the meaning and power of a sincere “Have a Good Day!”
you Rabbi Miller for such truly essential daily guidance! May we each be
blessed with the sechel to implement it!
PRACTICAL LESSONS FROM PESACH--PART 4
A. It is interesting to note that while the Korban Pesach in Mitzrayim was
eaten Bechipazon, in haste, the Navi (Yeshaya 52:12) teaches us that
our final Geulah will not be in haste: “Ki Lo VeChipazon Teitseiu
U’Vemnusa Lo Seileichu…you will not leave in chaos, nor will you go in
flight; for Hashem will go before you….” With this, we may understand why
Bechipazon is one of the key differences between the Seder in
Mitzrayim and the Seder of all future generations after Yetzias
Mitzrayim--as the Mishna (Pesachim 9:4) teaches us--the Korban Pesach in
Mitzrayim was eaten in haste (in a ‘ready-to-go’ mode), while the Pesach of
all future generations did not have this requirement. The explanation may
be that all future Pesachim are also attached to the final Geulah which, as
the Navi teaches will not be Bechipazon. Remember--even if we don’t
sense any particular Chipazon now, we don’t have to--Pisom Yavo,
our Geulah can come at any time!
B. Many of the Mitzvos on the Leil HaSeder come in pairs. For instance,
one of the answers given to the question as to “Why do we drink four cups
tonight” not being part of the Mah Neshtana, is because each one of
the four Kosos is simply associated with another Mitzvah of the
evening. Similarly, the bracha of Borei Pri Ha’adama over Karpas
is also (possibly) the bracha over the Maror. When we recite
Maggid, the Matzah and Maror must also be before us. Motzi Matzah
is a stage in which we fulfill both the Mitzvah of Lechem Mishna and that of
Achilas Matzah. If we carefully focus, we will realize that Hashem, in His
Great Graciousness to us packages and bundles Mitzvos to us together
in order to give us more and more zechusim and more and more opportunities
to develop our relationship with Him within a finite life span in this
world. All we have to do is be careful to recognize and appreciate each and
every one of them--just as the Jews in Mitzrayim were to appreciate that
they were blessed with six babies at once--and not only one. The idea is to
think through the Mitzvos as we perform them--and if we do, we will realize
that what appears to be one Mitzvah may not be just one large treasure
chest--but really a number of individual, perfectly minted gold coins and
C. The Chasam Sofer (Drashos Chasam Sofer II, p. 536) notes that
every Song, every Shir, that has significance is composed in response
to a particular event. The Shiras HaYam was, of course, composed in
reaction to the miracles at the sea. Likewise, the Shira at the Be’air (Bamidbar
21:17) was sung in appreciation of the well spring that the Bnei Yisrael
were graced with in the Midbar. This being the case, why did Shlomo
HaMelech compose Shir HaShirim? The Chasam Sofer answers that this
Song is an outpouring of expression to Hashem for choosing us as His
nation. Rebbi Akiva describes it is Kodesh Kodashim--holy of holies, and
this may be because it is the ‘anthem’ of the holiest of nations. When we
recite it, it should accordingly be with the greatest of joy! Hakhel Note:
We can now possibly understand why there is a Segulah associated with
reciting Shir HaShirim 40 days in a row--What greater sign can there
be of our appreciating that HaKadosh Baruch Hu has chosen us as His
nation--than bursting out in song in response!
we come close to concluding this month of Geulah, and move towards the
Geulah of Shavuos (which is the fourth Kos of Velakachti), we recall
the words of Rashi on an essential Pasuk that we may recite several times
daily: “Yimloch Hashem LeOlam Elokaich Tzion LeDor VaDor Haleluka”
(Tehillim 146: 10). There, Rashi comments “Yekayem Es Malchuso
BeShemiras Bonov.” Hashem views His Kingship in terms of us. If
we are guarded and protected, if we are happy, if we are successful, then
His Kingship is also successful and established. When we are downtrodden
and forlorn, Hashem’s Malchus is negatively impacted as well. Thus, when
we exclaim Yimloch Hashem LeOlam, we are asking for our position to be
elevated so that Hashem’s Malchus can be fully and appropriately established.
We should certainly take comfort in the fact that Hashem’s position in the
world works together with ours, and that our roles can improve together!
In many of our Tefillos, we recite “Elokeinu V’Elokei Avoseinu--our
G-d and G-d of our forefathers.” Chronologically and from a perspective of
honor and respect, it would appear that we should first begin Elokei
Avoseinu -and then--V’Elokeinu. Perhaps the lesson to us is that
without first recognizing and establishing our own personal and close
relationship with Hashem, the relationship Hashem had with the Avos is not
really so relevant. When we recite the Bracha of Go’al Yisrael--Who
redeemed Yisrael (after Kriyas Shema in the morning and evening), we
recognize that Hashem redeemed our forefathers in the past, and can/will
therefore redeem us again in the Ultimate Redemption Bimheyra BeYameinu.
However, when we recite the Bracha of Go’el Yisrael (in Shemone Esrei three
times daily), we proclaim that Hashem can/will and is redeeming us directly
in the here and now. In these last few days of Chodesh Nissan, let
us work on intensifying our personal relationship with Hashem, so that His
Malchus, and His Geulah, is personal to us as well. We can begin by
concentrating on the Pasuk of “Yimloch Hashem LeOlam” when recited in
our Tefillos, as well as by reciting the Bracha of Go’el Yisrael--Hashem
is redeeming me-- with special recognition and intensity--at
least in the month of Iyar--connecting the Geulah of Nissan to the Geulah of
Pasuk that follows at Kriyas Yam Suf (14:18) states: “VeYadu Mitzrayim
Ki Ani Hashem…and the Mitzriyim will know that I am Hashem.” The
question becomes--why at all does it make a difference as to whether the
Mitzriyim will know who Hashem is--they will no longer be alive in seconds,
minutes, or at most a few hours. HaRav Shach, Z’tl, explains that the Pasuk
is teaching us how precious and important even a few seconds, minutes or
hours of recognizing and appreciating Hashem truly are. We should not be
spoiled by the manifold opportunities that we have--but instead should
appreciate and savor each and every bracha opportunity, every Tefillah
opportunity…and each and every realization and actualization of a Teshuvah
PRACTICAL LESSONS FROM PESACH--PART 3
The Sefer Sifsei Chaim (Mo’adim II, p.428) teaches
that we can reinforce our feelings for the Geulah Shleimah every day in the
Tefillah of Ezras Avoseinu which contains so many powerfully meaningful
phrases, among them:
Avoseinu…Magen U’Moshiah Livneihem Achareihem Bechol Dor V’Dor”
-”U’Mibaladecha Ain Lanu Melech Go’el U’Moshiah”
-”VeOneh LeAmo B’Eis Shavam Eilav”
-”Tzur Yisrael Kumah B’Ezras Yisrael U’fdeih Chinumecha Yehudah V’Yisrael”
Taking literally just an extra moment to feel the words as one says them can
strengthen one’s D’veikus to Hashem and deepen one’s yearning for the Geulah
are familiar with the bracha we give another of “Gefen”--Gezunt,
Parnassah and Nachas. The Chasam Sofer finds another
acronym in the term “Gefen”--it is Geulaseinu u’Pedus Nafsheinu--our
physical and spiritual redemption. Have this in mind as well when giving
the bracha of “Gefen”.
the Haggadah we read that Hashem was “Chisheiv Es HaKeitz”--which
some meforshim teach means that we were released 190 (the Gematria of
Keitz) years early because of the difficulty of the Galus we were
experiencing and/or because of the depths of the tumah we had reached. Let
us think for a moment. The Navi (Micah 7:15) teaches us that Kimei
Tzeisecha MeiEretz Mitzrayim Erenu Niflaos--as in the days when you left
Egypt, I will show wonders.” We are now in the year 5779--if we add on the
190 years in which Hashem was Chishev Es HaKeitz in Mitzrayim (and it
is definitely at least a theoretical possibility that this will happen
again--based on the Pasuk and due to our difficulties in Galus and all of
the tumah around us)--that brings us up to the year 5969, which is just 31
years short of the year 6000 (and we know what that means). This should
provide some additional inspiration for us to do Teshuvah as soon as
Kriyas Yam Suf, the Pasuk (Shemos 14:14) states: Hashem Yilacheim Lachem
VeAtem Tacharishun. The Midrash (Mechilta to Beshalach 2:14) teaches
that even when we stand and remain silent Hashem fights for us, then, Kal
V’Chomer--all the more so, will He fight on our behalf when we call out
and praise Him. The lesson is there for all to see--it is better to
communicate with Hashem than to remain silent. Hakhel Note: Let us look
for a moment at the Nusach of the Musaf Shemone Esrei that we recite
everyday of Yom Tov: “Yehi Ratzon Milfanecha…Melech Rachaman
Shetashuv U’Seracheim Aleinu…B’Rachamecha HaRabbim.”
Then a little later we once again recite: “Melech Rachaman
Racheim Aleinu…BaHamon Rachamecha.”
We plead time and time again for Hashem to bring His Rachamim upon us. We
must recognize the value of our not remaining silent and the importance of
connecting to Hashem with Kavannah!
Also at Kriyas Yam Suf, the Pasuk (14:17) states: “VeIkabda BePharoh
U’Vechol Cheilo.” The Midrash teaches us that the reason Paroh is
mentioned first is because since he began to sin against K’lal Yisrael and
the Mitzriyim followed, so too, was he punished first, and then the
Mitzriyim followed in receiving their punishment. The Midrash then goes a
step further: “If in the case of punishment he who sinned first is punished
first, then Kal V’Chomer--all the more so will one who acted
meritoriously and led others in that direction receive his reward at the
outset as well!
Dovid HaMelech teaches in Tehillim (115:14, as recited in Hallel each day of
Pesach), “Yevareich Yirei Hashem Haketanim Im HaGedolim--He will
bless those who fear Hashem, the small as well as the great.” This Pasuk
should give us all encouragement--for it teaches us that Hashem blesses us
all in accordance with our level. We need not be the Rav, the Rosh Yeshiva,
or the one giving the Mussar lecture--we can be a katan and
receive Hashem’s blessing--as long as we try to be Yirei Hashem--sensing
Hashem’s presence throughout the day!
not be fooled by its loftiness and sublimity--Shir Hashirim has many
practical lessons for us as well. Chazal (Shir Hashirim Rabbah 8:12) teach
us, based on the Posuk of “Haelef Lecha Shlomo U’mosayim L’notrim
Es Piryo--One thousand for Shlomo and two hundred to those who watch his
fruit”--that the reward for one who learns while traveling (“Lecha”)
is five times (1000 vs. 200) greater than for one who simply learns in the
Beis Medrash (“Notrim Es Piryo”). It is interesting that
the numbers the Posuk uses for a ratio of 5:1 is 1000:200. A possible
explanation may be based upon the Chofetz Chayim (quoted in Item 30, Volume
II, Number 2 (Teves/Shevat 5762) of the Bulletin – available at
http://tinyurl.com/2neafe), who states that one can learn 200 words of
Torah, which is equivalent to 200 separate Mitzvos, in one minute. If one
learns while traveling, Hashem considers it as if he is learning five times
as much, or 1,000 words per minute. While traveling, one should await and
treasure the incredible opportunity to perform the equivalent of 1,000
Mitzvos per minute.
H. If one had to describe the essence of Pesach in one word, it would be ‘Emunah’.
Even the Matzah is described as the Food of Emunah. The most famous Ramban
in Chumash found at the end of Parashas Bo (which we understand HaRav Wolbe,
Z’tl, said should be memorized) affirmatively states: “and from the great
and famous miracles, one must recognize the hidden miracles of everyday life
which are the Yesod HaTorah Kulah--the foundation of the entire
Torah.” One has no part in the Torah unless he believes that all of our
affairs and experiences-- everything that occurs in one’s
life--are miracles, and that there is no nature, nor a ‘minhag haolam’
at all--either on a communal, or a private level. In fact, HaRav Chaim
Friedlander, Z’tl, writes that anything that can be ascribed to Tevah and
Mazal are Nisyonos on life. Based on this most fundamental of Torah
teachings, we present the following essential teachings:
1. The Rabbeinu Bachya (Shemos
14:31) brings from the Rabbeinu Chananel that there are four basic parts to
Emunah: (A) Emunah B’HaKadosh Baruch Hu; (B) Emunah B’Nevi’im; (C) Emunah
B’Olam Habba; and (D) Emunah B’Viyas HaGoel. The Rabbeinu Bachya continues
that one who possesses these four beliefs has great zechuyos. He provides
an essential method for one strengthening his Emunah--and that is to answer
Amen to the brachos of others. Amen, of course, is an acronym for
Kel-Melech-Ne’eman--that Hashem is our G-d and trustworthy King. With
these three words (and consequently in the one word of Amen) we describe
Hashem as the All-Powerful-One Who closely watches over us and Who punishes
and rewards in accordance with our deeds. Hakhel Note: Accordingly, it
would be very much in order for one to commence a personal Amen campaign--in
which he sincerely and dedicatedly answers this sacred word (which should
not be uttered in vein) with Kavannah and feeling.
2. At the outset of Hallel, we
recite the Pesukim: “Rom Ahl Kol Goyim Hashem…” followed by “Me
KaShem Elokeinu…HaMashpili Liros BaShomayim U’Va’aretz”. This
means that while the world believes that Hashem is in the distant Heavens,
gazing upon us far away from humanity--we know that we can feel Hashem’s
Hashgacha Pratis hovering over us and directly upon us. However, there are
different levels of Hashgacha Pratis that one can experience. The Ramban (Iyov
36:7) writes: “Kefi Kirvaso LeHidabeik BeEilokav Yishtamer Shemirah
Me’ulah--in accordance with one’s desire to come close to Hashem, will
Hashem come closer and watch over him.” How can we develop our D’veikus
B’Hashem? The Sifsei Chaim brings the fascinating words of
Yirmiyahu HaNavi (9:22-23): “Ko Amar Hashem Ahl Yishallel Chochom
BeChachmaso…--thus said Hashem: ‘Let not the wise man glorify himself
with his wisdom, and let not the strong man glorify himself with his
strength, let not the rich man glorify himself with his wealth. For only
with this may one glorify himself--contemplating and knowing Me.” The
Sifsei Chaim explains that this means that our importance to Hashem is
not dependent on our wisdom, strength or abilities--but only in how we
exercise our bechirah towards Avodas Hashem. He continues
that when each person recognizes his reward in Olam Habba, it will not be
based on the fact that he was a Rosh Yeshiva, or a Chassidic Rebbe, or a
children’s Rebbi or a businessman or an accountant. Rather, it will be in
accordance with the madreigah that he was supposed to have reached in this
world in his Avodas Hashem--every person Kidrachav U’Kefi Ma’alalav.
It is for this reason that Hashem hides the complete Da’as Hashem from
us in this world--and we will only understand Hashem’s actions in Olam Hazeh
at the Geulah Sheleimah--it is to give us the opportunity to exercise our
Bechirah Chafshis and to realize our potential without being forced or even
easily led to the only true conclusion.
3. At the end, the darkess of
Galus will be exceedingly dark, as the Pasuk (Zechariah 49:7) says: “Le’eis
Erev Yehiyeh Ohr--so that the clarity of the light will be most
appreciated. As things appear dark, darker, darkest (now with our own
people attacking us in Eretz Yisrael, we must strengthen ourselves with the
knowledge that the clarity of true light will soon shine forth.” As Dovid
HaMelech teaches (Tehillim 90: 15): “Samcheinu KeYimos Inisanu--Hashem
will bring us joy to compensate for the previous afflictions”.
4. The Sefer Nefesh HaChaim
(1:9) brings the Pasuk in Shir HaShirim (1:9): “Lesusasi BeRichbei Paroh
Demiseich Rayasi--Hashem, I realize that my relationship with You can be
compared to that of the horses of Paroh’s army in the hands of the chariot
riders. He remarkably explains that the world improperly believes that
Hashem directs us in this way and that, just as chariot riders direct horses
to go here and to go there. However, this is not what happened to Paroh’s
chariot riders--they did not lead the horses, the horse miraculously led
them. With the Geulas Mitzrayim, Hashem put us in a position of the horses
at Kriyas Yam Suf which led the driver. We determine our own fate and the
fate of the world--by our choices, by our actions.
Hashem lets us ‘run the world’ in this way. Will the Geulah come
today--time will not tell--we will!
take a short and potent Emunah lesson with us daily, we highly recommend
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