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Hakhel Email Community Awareness Bulletin


Sent November 30:

NOTE: We live in incredible times. While in previous generations it was extremely difficult if not almost impossible for those living outside of Eretz Yisroel to fulfill the special precept of Yoshon, we now have easy opportunities to consume Yoshon throughout the day.  Even if you are not observing Yoshon as a matter of course, it is remarkable to learn how much hands-on information is currently available on this topic.  We refer you for further information to:

Chodosh Bulletin—Guide to Chodosh

C/o Rabbi Yoseph Herman, 20 Sylvan Road, Monsey, New York 10952


Address all subscriptions to: Project Chodosh Subscriptions, P.O.Box 150088, Kew Gardens, NY 11415

Hot Line Phone: 845-356-5743

Email: yherman@earthlink.net




STEP ONE: The Chayei Adam (Chapter 143) writes, “It is appropriate that a person accustom himself daily to reciting the prayer that Dovid HaMelech himself recited (Tehillim 86:11) ‘Horeini Hashem Darkecha, Ahalech Ba’Amitecha, Yached Livovi L’Yira Shimecha…--teach me Your ways Hashem, [so that] I walk in Your truth, unify my heart to fear your name [let me not be indecisive—Metsudas Dovid]’”.  Indeed, the Mesilas Yesharim concludes the entire introduction to his Sefer, by quoting this Pasuk-- with the prayer and brocha that we fulfill its very words.

Let us look at a typical day.  We sometimes feel an abrupt break upon leaving Shul in the morning and evening, or upon closing a Sefer either after a shiur, at home, or while traveling to and from work.  With the closing of the Siddur or Sefer, with the getting up out of our seat, as we walk out the door, we seem to be suddenly leaving one world and about to enter another very different one!  Suddenly, cell phone calls have to be returned, important needs and tasks have to be fulfilled, and duties must be accomplished, in many cases immediately.  How can we bridge the large expanse between the Olam Haba of Torah, Tefillah, and spiritual endeavors to the world of clients, customers, employees, shopping, carpools, and “rat-race” type activities?  Perhaps this very Pasuk, taught to us by none other than Dovid HaMelech, provides that bridge.

Here is how.  As we are about to leave Shul in the morning and before taking out the cell phone, after we have closed the Sefer before getting off the bus or train to begin a day’s work, or even just before you begin a menial, mundane, arduous, or unwanted task, try reciting this very Pasuk.  Through this prayer, you are asking that whatever you do be purposeful to Hashem, and consequently to you.  It can help to bridge that gap--to build that important bond--between the otherwise diverse parts of your daily life.


STEP TWO: HaRav Pam, Z’TL (The Pleasant Way, pp. 55-57) asks a splendid question that many, if not all of us, have asked whether about ourselves, or about our brothers, sisters, or friends.

Here is the question: “Is there a purpose for Chasuna pictures?”

HaRav Pam’s answer is that they can play a vital role.  There are times in married life when things are not the way they should be.  There may be bitterness, complaints and feelings of unhappiness and anger.  That is the time to take out the chasunah pictures and study them.  Then the pictures call out:

“Look how happy you were--filled with joy and gratitude to Hashem for bringing you together on this great day!  Try to recall your dreams and hopes of how you would establish your new home in peace and harmony and do everything possible to make each other happy.  Look at the joy in the eyes of your parents and grandparents who lived to see your wedding day!  Look at the distinguished Rabbonim and Roshei Yeshivos who took time from their hectic schedules to take part in your chasunah!  Look at the friends and relatives who came from far and near to help you rejoice!  Relive the joy of your chasunah and then ask yourself the question:  Does it pay to throw all that happiness away because of petty arguments, unkind words or bad middos?”

With this, HaRav Pam explains a question that troubles many in this week’s Parsha.  When Leah’s fourth son was born, she named him Yehuda--for “this time let me thank Hashem” (Bereishis 29:35).  Did not Leah thank Hashem with exuberance for her first three sons?  For being married to Yaakov?  For being one of the holy Imahos?  For having a sister like Rachel?  HaRav Pam answers that the “Yehuda”--the thanks she was expressing here was different.  “Her intent was to permanently ingrain her initial feelings of happiness so that it not be diminished with the passage of time and the inevitable difficulties that arise in a person’s life.  Thus, whenever she would mention her son’s name, she would remind herself as to her intent in that name.  This would reawaken in her the emotional joy that she had felt at the time of his birth and it would carry her through the difficult circumstances of life.”

We can all take the lesson in trying to guide ourselves through hard times, thorny situations, and even the rigors and ins-and-outs of every day life.  If it is not the Wedding or the Bar Mitzvah album, if your name is not Yehuda, and you cannot remember the last moment of unbridled joy in your life…you can always use that very same bridge--the bridge between Olam Hazeh and Olam Haba, so beautifully expressed by Dovid HaMelech--“Teach me Your ways Hashem, so that I walk in Your truth.”





There is a well known Tefillah which is used to find a lost object.  To the thousands that have used the Tefillah, it has truly proven to be a “lost object savior”.  The following is an English language translation:


Rabbe Binyamin said: “Everyone is presumed to be blind, until The Holy One, blessed is He, opens their eyes, as it is written ‘G-d opened her eyes [and she saw a well of water], and she went and filled the skin.’”


Whether or not we have lost an object, Rebbe Binyamin teaches us that we are all truly lost without Hakadosh Baruch Hu’s guiding light.  It is much more than our sense of direction, a presence of mind, our ability to navigate, or our determination to reach a destination.  It is, in fact, the very special gift of wisdom, discernment, of intellect and its application that so many of us are blessed with in the normal course of a day’s events.


The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 115:1) brings this point home by writing in our very Code of Jewish Law itself that the “only advantage of man over animal is understanding and intellect,” and it is for this reason that our **very first request** in Shemone Esrei is for these abilities--for, as the Shulchan Aruch teaches (ibid.): “If there is no understanding--there is not even prayer!”  A short daily review of the beautiful Artscroll translation (Nusach Ashkenaz Siddur) of this brocha would do much to enhance our request, and deepen our faith in G-d as the true source of all of our capacities:


“You graciously endow man with wisdom and teach insight to a frail mortal.  Endow us graciously from Yourself with wisdom, insight and discernment....”


It is well known that when the Chazon Ish, Z’TL, and HaRav Chaim Shmulevits, Z’TL, had difficulty with a sugya--a Torah topic--they were intensely studying, they would pause for a while to pray--in complete recognition that it was only Hashem who was the source of their wisdom and could provide them with the solutions and insights to proceed.


Indeed, the **wisest of all men**, Shlomo HaMelech, conclusively teaches in Mishlei (2:6): “For it is Hashem Who gives wisdom, from His mouth comes wisdom and discernment.”


We can **all ** become the wiser.  When you, too, find a Torah topic difficult, have a difficult decision to make or problem to solve, or even need to teach or give over something you already know to someone else, try reciting a simple prayer--perhaps even the posuk in Mishlei--or focus intently on the words of Shemone Esrei at your next Tefillah.


May we have the wisdom--to always pray for it.




The Gra begins his Sefer, the Even Shelaima, as follows:


“Our Service of Hashem is entirely dependent upon the improvement of one’s character.  Character traits are fundamental to the performance of Mitzvos and to Torah principles.  Conversely, all sin stems from unimproved character traits.

“The prime purpose of man’s life is to constantly strive to break his bad traits.  Otherwise, what is life for?

“One who desires to repent his evil ways must judge his character honestly.  One must at first analyze his bad traits and know them well….  Every person must, according to his nature, set up safeguards against sinning, even though his ways seem incorrect to others who do not know his nature.

“A man should not go completely against his nature even if it is bad, for he will not succeed.  He should merely train himself to follow the straight path according to his nature.  For example: One who has an inclination to spill blood, should train himself to become a ritual slaughterer or a mohel.

“Some people are naturally good, yet sin.  G-d rewards these people fully in this world so that they will have no portion in the world-to-come since they could easily have done good but didn’t want to.  On the other hand, someone whose nature is bad and constantly strives to overcome his evil inclination is rewarded by G-d according to the difficulty of his struggle….”


We are now close both to the beginning of the week (Monday) and the beginning of the month (the sixth day of Kislev).  Now is the time to look ahead and see what we can achieve, as opposed to looking back later and see what we did not accomplish.  Here are two simple suggestions for the week.  You may choose one, or both, or may attempt any other character improvement that you feel appropriate for yourself.

First, we suggest an ardent effort at “Don L’Chaf Zechus--judging every one, and every situation, favorably” over the next several days--this means, if possible, even in the most difficult and seemingly egregious of circumstances.  This does not require much training, but does require much effort.  It certainly can change your attitude, if not your day.

The second suggestion is to follow the words of Chazal (Yoma 86A), to speak softly in all situations.  As Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, teaches (Koheles 9:17) that the words of Chachamim are spoken softly.  Most certainly, in retrospect at the end of one’s day, one who has spoken gently and kindly in all instances will recognize how wise he has really been!

We recognize that both of these suggestions may be concomitantly profoundly simple, yet extremely difficult in the everyday situations in which we find ourselves.  As the Gra, however, taught us above, “Otherwise what is life for?”  Try living life today!




Today is the Yahrtzeit of HaRav Aharon Kotler, Z’TL, whose life has already impacted on generations of Torah Jewry.  We would like to share a few brief paragraphs of Rav Aharon’s view on the struggle between ruchniyus and gashmius.  These paragraphs are taken from the book Rav Aharon Kotler, by R’ Yitzchok Durshowitz, Shlita (pp. 21-23).

"It should be pointed out that materialism is a relative term.  No one today can be expected to live with furnishings like those found in the home of the Chofetz Chaim, nor did the Rosh Yeshiva expect everyone to match his degree of bitul hagashmius--negation of materialism.  For that matter it is doubtful if a yeshiva today could attract bochurim and command the respect due to Torah if it were housed and furnished like the Radin Yeshiva of old.  The Rosh Yeshiva himself planned the present Bais Medrash building [in Lakewood, New Jersey] and it is well built, large and comfortable.

“Nevertheless the Rosh Yeshiva did try hard to teach a non-materialistic life style, a life style of histapkus b'muat--satisfaction with only the minimum, practical physical amenities, a life style where fulfillment and satisfaction derive from spiritual accomplishments, a life style consonant with an awareness of Hashem V'Toroso, of Tachlis Hachayim--the real purpose of our life on earth--a life style of a Ben Olam Habo--a “World to Come Jew” who lives for and connects to netzach nitzochim--everlasting life--eternity.  And in this, his home and the Yeshiva of that era can serve as a beacon of light for future generations.”

The following is actually the translation of Mishnas Rebbe Aharon (Volume 3, page 123), as translated in Rabbi Durshowitz’s biography:

“It is well known that ‘histapkus’, being satisfied with just the basics, is one of the greatest attributes.  The Vilna Gaon writes (in Even Shlaimah) that this quality is even more necessary than bitachon to acquire Torah.  One aspect of histapkus is to train oneself to be satisfied with little and not run after “bigger and better” in food, in clothing, etc.  Nevertheless, at this level, one still feels that he is missing something.  An even higher level is “Someach B'chelko--to be happy with whatever one has”, without being bothered because of what he does not possess, without even feeling he is missing anything.  The highest level of all, however, is the attribute of “Yeish Li Kol--feeling that he has everything”, that there is nothing more [materially] that he could even want.  This is what [Hashem meant when he said to Avrohom Ovinu] ‘V'heyei tomim--be whole, perfect”, lacking nothing.”


May we take this great teaching from Rav Aharon and climb the ladder--from being satisfied, to being happy--to elevating ourselves to the middah of Avraham Avinu himself!





“And Lavan and Besuel answered ‘From Hashem has the matter come’” (Bereishis 24:50).  Astounding.  This simple and straightforward statement, perhaps something we (hopefully) recite constantly to ourselves, or perhaps to our close relatives or friends, is openly affirmed by none other than Lavan and Besuel!  Yes, by Lavan and Besuel, those money-grubber of great note, the renowned world-class idol worshippers.  Yes, it was they whose first reaction to Eliezer’s request for Rivka to become Yitzchak’s wife was “This is from Hashem.”  We must ask ourselves--How could this be?  What had changed within them in the few brief moments of their encounter with Eliezer?  If we look at Eliezer’s words to them we may glean a better insight.  In his brief discourse, no less than five times does Eliezer specifically refer to Hashem as his hope and trust, as the source of all of life and life’s events, as the Master of all.  He is not intimidated by his company, feels no need to “make nice”, does not “talk their language”.  Rather, he sincerely expresses his belief, openly declares his faith, and unabashedly avers that our lives and everything about them are in G-d’s hands.  His genuine sincerity not only strengthened his faith, but made an incredible impact on even the crème de la crème of the wicked.


There is a great lesson to be learned here.  We must be upstanding and resolute in declaring that we are, absolutely and unwaveringly, openly and expressly, dedicated to our beliefs.  In order to develop this pure, dedicated, wholesome resoluteness within us, it may be a good idea to at least once weekly recite the 13 Ani Ma’amins of the Rambam slowly and with feeling.  It may be even further beneficial to express some of these principles from time to time to those around you without fear or shame.  It is truly surprising how often these values can come up in, or be added to, the course of a regular or everyday conversation.


If Eliezer could have this effect on Lavan and Besuel--Oh, what we can accomplish!




1.  In last week’s Parsha, we learn that Yitzchock Avinu was consoled after the passing of his mother, Sara (Bereishis 24:16).  In fact, the Rambam brings the mitzvah of performing Chesed, which is based upon “V’Ahavta Lereacha Komocha,” in Hilchos Aveil, the Laws of Mourning (14:1).  When one properly comforts a mourner, he is doing a Chesed to both the living, and the departed (ibid., 14:7).  As great as providing comfort may be, finding the right words to say may be even more difficult.  The Rema (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 376:2) importantly tells us what one should not say. “Do not say, however, ‘What can one do, one cannot change what happened,’ for that is not consolation but blasphemy.”  The Aruch HaShulchan (ibid., at paragraph 5 ) explains that making such a statement implies that you must resign yourself to what happened against your will, rather than comforting the mourner with words of faith, with words that Hashem loves us all and that only He, in His infinite wisdom knows what is best.  HaRav Shamshon Refoel Hirsch, Z’TL, echoes this thought and adds that it “is the murmuring of the helpless against his helplessness, not the recognition of the blessed wisdom of G-d” (Horeb page 433, cited in Love Your Neighbor, page 93).

HaRav Feivel Cohen, Shlita, in the recently published Badei HaShulchan on Hilchos Aveilus (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 376:2, seif 27) extends this thought and writes that it is prohibited to make any kind of statement such as “What can one do?” to anyone who is in any kind of difficult situation, in any Tzara, whatsoever.  Obviously, one can daven, learn Torah, do mitzvos and especially Chesed, as a zechus for oneself or others--but one should never chas v’shalom, question Hashem’s Supreme Judgment.

2.  The Sefer Talelei Oros writes that the author of a new commentary on the Siddur brought it to the Gra, the Vilna Gaon, for his approbation.  The Gra opened to the beginning of the manuscript and read that the reason we recite “Adon Olam” in Shachris is because this Tefillah was written by Avraham Avinu, who was the first to call Hashem ‘Adon’, master of the world (i.e., not just its creator).  Accordingly, the author wrote, it was appropriate to begin the Shachris prayer, which was instituted by Avrohom Avinu, with Adon Olam, which Avraham Avinu himself composed.  The Gra is reported to have said that it would be worthwhile to publish the entire manuscript just to publicize this thought.  The Brisker Rav, Z’TL, was asked why the Gra reacted with such excitement to the author’s commentary.  The Rav responded that when one finds truth in any measure, whether large or small, he should be excited and react accordingly.  This is an important lesson to us--the truth always matters, the truth always counts--in all situations, large or small--and at all times, at home, at work, and on the way.



SPECIAL NOTE ON CAPTIVES:  After all of this time, after all of the violence, terror and death, the three kidnapped Israeli Soldiers still remain in captivity.  With all of the political machinations and double-talk, it appears that nothing has been accomplished.  As Torah Jews, we know that nothing can, in fact, be accomplished unless Hashem responds to our pleadings.  Just as we continue to recite Tehillim Chapters 83, 121, and 130 every day to assist our brethren in Eretz Yisroel, we must continue to specifically daven for the three soldiers: Eldad Ben Tova, Ehud Ben Malka, and Gilad Ben Aviva.  Incredibly, the collective Gematria of “Yitzchak” and “Rivka” (515) is also the Gematria of “Tefillah.”  We have to constantly remind ourselves of this message.


MORE ON KIRUV WEBSITES: We received the following additional information from our readers in order to help our brothers learn more about their legacy:

Hours of downloadable classes are available on www.simpletoremember.com.  Additionally, the www.gatewaysonline.com and www.njop.org are also valuable websites.

Wouldn’t any one want to know more about the treasure buried underneath their floorboards?



The following is adapted from Growth Through Torah, by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita (Page 52-53).


“And the life of Sara was one hundred years, and twenty years, and seven years.  These were the years of the life of Sara.” (Beraishis 23:1)


Rashi comments that, by the Torah segregating the years of Sara’s life, it teaches us that she enjoyed every year of her life.  Yet, the previous parshios seem to depict how much she had suffered in her life.  For many years she was childless; she experienced severe famine; she was exiled across the Middle East and even within Eretz Canaan; she was taken captive by Paroh and later by Avimelech; and she was even looked down upon by her very own maidservant.  Rabbi Zushe of Anipoli, Z’TL, explains that the Torah is teaching us a great lesson.  Because Sara knew that all of her personal life’s events were for her benefit, she was able to evaluate each one in a positive light.


The Torah ideal is to be aware that the purpose of life is to perfect your character, and every life situation is an opportunity for growth.  Sara mastered this level of awareness.  Therefore, at the end of her life, which was constantly devoted to growth, it could be said about her that all her years were good.  This lesson is most important for us to internalize.  See the growth possible in every life event.  In each difficult situation ask yourself, “How can I become a better person because of what happened?”




SPECIAL NOTE ON KIRUV: Kiruv can be much easier than you think.  Your co-worker, your next door neighbor, your close or distant relative, in all likelihood have access to the Internet.  Moreover, in many instances they may be looking for new and interesting websites.  We were provided with the following list of fascinating sites.  You should try to make it a point to do the ultimate chesed of helping them learn about their heritage--by sending them a link, or referring them, to any one of the following locations:


The following contain a wealth of information on many Jewish topics:









The following contain Downloadable Classes/ Lectures:






For Anti-Missionary material and information, one may contact Outreachjudaism.org.


Finally, for a free personal study partner, one should contact partnersintorah.com.




It is fascinating to note that there is one point in the silent Shemone Esrei where we actually recite the words “V’Imru Amen--And Say Amen.”  This occurs, of course, after we have taken three steps back, and have just importantly asked Hashem to provide to us and all of Klal Yisroel with peace.  Who are we talking to when we ask them to “say Amen” to what we have just said?  After all, are we not reciting the silent Shemone Esrei--who could we possibly be talking to?  The commentaries on the Siddur explain that we are asking the malochim, the angels that guard and escort us to concur with our Tefillah.  If we would remember that the malochim are listening to us as we pray, we would also remember that, even more importantly, Hashem is actually right there listening to us, as well.  After all, while we are directing only the last few words to the malochim, we direct our entire Tefillah to Hashem.  When, at the end of his life, Rebbe Yochanan Ben Zakkai was asked to provide a final brocha to his students, he responded with the following words of brocha:  “May your fear of Hashem be to you like your fear of human beings.”  If we cannot sense Hashem’s presence with us at all times, we certainly should at least attempt to do so in Shemone Esrei.  Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, Shlita, author of Praying with Fire (Artscroll 2005), suggests that you designate certain brochos in your Shemone Esrei in which you reawaken/remind yourself as to Hashem’s presence directly in front of you.  Examples of this “stop and look” would be at “Ata Kadosh”, “Umeloch Aleinu” “Ki Lishuosecha Kivinu” and “Sim Shalom”.  Of course, these “Shechina recognition points” can be changed from time to time to revitalize the feeling and the connection.  One would most certainly sense a lion roaming, or even an eagle hovering, in front of him.  Yet, these are only kings of their own kind in this world.  All the more so should we be sure to make the effort to feel the Shechina in our midst.  Indeed, as HaRav Chaim Solveitchik, Z’TL, writes, this, together with focusing on the meaning of the words, is the essence of Tefillah.  In your next Shemone Esrei, try to be sure to include a few “Shechina stopping points”, so that your prayer is truly a meeting with the Hashem.  We believe that if you do so, when you reach the point of saying “V’Imru Amen” to the malochim, you will eagerly await their reciting “Amen”!




1.  Time is a most precious commodity.  Our minutes are measured, and, if they are not, maybe they should be!When a Torah Jew is asked “Gotta minute?” he pauses for a moment before responding.  Indeed, our days are marked by special Halachic points throughout the day:  Daybreak, Sof Zeman Krias Shema, Sof Zeman Tefillah, Midday, the optimum time to recite Mincha, Sunset, Tzeis Hakochavim, and Midnight.  We do not need alarm clocks to remind us of our duties, or how to organize our day.  Yet, interestingly, these times do change throughout the year.  For instance, Chatzos, or Halachic Midnight in New York City this week is 11:40 p.m.  This means that Krias Shema of Maariv must be recited before that time in order for one not to be considered “an individual who violates the words of the Rabbis” (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 235:3, Mishna Berura, Seif Katan 27).  Accordingly, our days are structured, but we are reminded by season and time change to keep on guard, and not to live our lives by sleepy habit and redundant rote.  An important resource for the daily changing times in your area (United States and Canada) is 718-331-TIME, which is a computerized, automated service that can be reached 24 hours a day.


2.  The Sefer Tomer Devorah (end of Chapter 4) writes: “And this is the standard of Teshuva that a person should conduct himself in daily--he should think about and actually do Teshuva ‘bedavar ma’--in some way, every day, so that all his days are days of Teshuva.”  What a remarkable teaching!  As long as we think about Teshuva, and fix a ‘davar ma’--something small in a given day, we are considered to be living all of our days with Teshuva.  After considering and reconsidering this simple, straightforward and powerful point, we can each think of how it may be implemented in just a few moments every single day of our lives.  The Torah in this week’s Parsha teaches (Beraishis 24:1) “And Avraham was elderly, he came with his days...”  The commentaries explain that Avraham Avinu made each and every day count, so he was able to “come with his days” into his old age.  The Tomer Devorah is giving us a great starting point to emulate our forefather.

3.  Supplementing this point, the greatest obstacle to personal growth and to Teshuva is the Yetzer Hora, which urges us, which eggs us on, to follow our taavos--our desires--and not our reason and intellect.  HaRav Shlome Volbe, Z’TL, (Collected Letters, 23) brings the Chovos HaLevovos which actually teaches that the **intent of the Torah** is to cause one’s sechel--one’s intellect, to control and succeed over, even to vanquish, one’s base desires.  In fact, HaRav Volbe definitively writes, the “ikar hakol-- the most important of all”--is to be a “ba’al sechel”--to act with intellect overcoming emotion, with reasoning overpowering impulse, and with discernment overriding instinct.  If in the situations that come up throughout the day, we remind ourselves that we are a “ba’al sechel” (perhaps with a little slip of paper on our desk), we can go far, very far, towards bringing our days with us into our old age.



In this week’s Parsha, Chayei Sarah, we learn more about Chesed and how to perform it properly.  The Parsha specifically details two distinct chasodim--that of Halvoyas Hameis and of Shidduchim/Hachnosas Kallah.  These two kinds of chesed would appear to be the most public types of Chesed possible.  The deceased is eulogized and buried in public, and one usually comforts mourners when there are other (sometimes many other) people around.  Similarly, weddings typically involve large gatherings of diverse people in a happy setting.  Yet, Chazal (Sukkah 49B), based upon the Posuk in Micha (6:8), specifically highlight Halvoyas Hameis and Hachnosas Kallah as two mitzvos that should be performed “b’tznius--discretely”.  Rashi there explains that one need not necessarily weep in public, nor on the other hand, balance three balls on his nose, in order to demonstrate that he truly feels the pain or, hopefully, the joy of another.  It is up to us to think about how we can truly empathize, or truly rejoice, with another without the world, or a good part of it, having to know about it.


Let us now focus for a moment on the first step--the necessary prerequisite--for Hachnosas Kallah, which is the sometimes easy, but usually not so easy, the process of finding a bashert.  Each one of us is probably familiar with at least one couple who were each other’s first date.  The much more common experience, however, is the difficulty and struggle of mixing and matching--especially for those who are not well-connected, and those who are kind enough not to hound family, friends, and/or shadchonim with their frustrations and their needs.   The Torah incredibly goes out of its way to teach not only how Yitzchok Avinu was paired with Rivka, but also how Adam was given Chava, Yaakov Avinu introduced to Rochel, and Moshe Rabeinu to Tziporah.  It is rare (to say the least) for the Torah to repeat one kind of event, albeit important, more than once.  Here, however, the basic reason for the repetition seems clear:  the primary importance of shidduchim as a basis for humanity, and for the continuation of Klal Yisroel.  In assisting others--whether they are immediate family, distant family, friends or acquaintances, to find their zivug hagun--their proper mate, we are participating directly in a most sublime Chesed.  As far as we know, the only human state that the Torah expressly calls “not good” is for man to be alone (Bereishis 2:18).  If we are truly looking to help others, we should certainly help them to rid themselves of a “not good” status.  Moreover, if it is not good for them, it is not good for us, because all of our lives, and all of K’lal Yisroel, are inextricably bound together.


So, what can we do?  We are not professional Shadchonim, we are not social butterflies, and we barely have the time to take care of our own little needs, let alone having the time to actually work on, and sometimes convince, two families that your recommendation is solid, or two “out-of-towners” to “go out” with each other.


Our modest proposal:  As this week is the parsha of shidduchim, and, as Chazal teach that privately performed chesed is especially meaningful, we suggest that you, together with your spouse or close friends, undertake b’li neder, to make just one date--just one good attempt at a match--in the year 5767.  Let the Torah, let the actions of our Avos, let your G-d-given and inspired feelings for others be your guide.


This week’s Parsha is before us.  It is talking to us.  The task may be daunting, time-consuming and embarrassing--but this really means that your efforts are all the more worthwhile.


Note:  If you are unsure about what to say in proposing a Shidduch, we highly recommend and urge you to contact the Chofetz Chaim Shmiras Halashon Shaila Hotline at 718-951-3696.


May our Year be replete with…“Mazel-Tov!!”





Imagine the King’s son, lost and straying in a neighboring country at just about this time of year.  One person gives him hot food, a second gives him a warm bed for the night, the third even buys him a new down coat for the winter.  All great Chasodim--but none of these can come anywhere near to matching the ultimate Chesed--bringing him home to the palace, to his father, to his family, to his friends, to his royal past and future.


In this regard, HaRav Yaakov Neiman Z’TL, Rosh Yeshivas Ohr Yisroel in Petach Tikva, brings the following Posuk (Yirmiyahu 9:22, 23):  “So says Hashem--Let not the wise person glory in his wisdom nor the let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: but let a person glory in this--that he understands and knows Me....”


Rav Neiman writes that the Posuk teaches that there is one thing you can take credit for--and that is to state in clear and unambiguous language to the world that you know that there is a Master Creator and Provider, Our Father in Heaven Whose Chesed and Goodness is not only unparalleled but infinite, Whose words you follow, and for Whose words you would actually sacrifice your very own most precious possession--your life!  This is what Avraham Avinu articulated to the world, and this is our legacy.  In fact, the Chofetz Chaim brings the Chazal which teaches that after Avraham fed his guests, he asked them to “bentch”, so that they would affirm their belief in Hashem’s daily and continuous beneficence and kindness to us.  The Chofetz Chaim writes that there is no greater “hatava”--no greater goodness that you can bestow upon a person, than to strengthen his recognition and his wholehearted faith in his Creator.  Indeed, not so long ago on the Yomim Noraim, we prayed for the time, that not only us, but the whole world would make an “aguda achas”--a unified group whose faith in Hashem is undaunted.  Indeed, although a recent Gallup poll showed that 93% of Americans stated that they believed in G-d--much of Western society would still view our total submissiveness and subservience, our unyielding and unabashed faith, to be “naïve”, “backward” or at least out of sync or out of touch with modern man and all of his accomplishments.  As we live in this society, we ourselves might be slightly affected by this attitude.  We must, however, strengthen ourselves as Avraham Avinu did (he had even fewer people to back him up!) and unabashedly affirm and reaffirm our faith to ourselves, within our community, and to others.


The Ramban (Shemos 13:16) writes: “For the ultimate objective of all the Mitzvos is that we should believe in our G-d and acknowledge to Him that He created us” (translation courtesy of Artscroll, Ramban Commentary on the Torah, Shemos, p.299).


In these trying times, perhaps we can take the time out a few times a day to affirm to ourselves, and to explain to others, that all events, large or small, from affecting the world to affecting what is for supper, are from Hashem Who created us, and Who is and will forever be, watching over us.




The brocha of Avos concludes with the words “Magen Avraham”--Hashem is the Shield of Avraham.  Chazal (Shir HaShirim Rabbah 4:14) explain that Hashem was not only the Shield of Avraham (as promised in Bereishis 15:1), but He continues to be the Shield of Avraham’s descendants in all future generations.  A shield is so great because rather than only ameliorating or reducing the damage, it can actually stave it off entirely.  This is indicated by the progression towards the end of the bracha--Hashem is an Ozer--He provides help in times of distress; moreover, the brocha continues, He is a Moshea--He can completely save us once the trouble has started; and furthermore and finally, He is a Magen--He can prevent the trouble from ever occurring.  The brocha thus concludes only with ‘Magen’ Avraham, because it is for this that we are most grateful.


Let us examine for a moment when and why Avraham Avinu received Hashem’s promise that He would be Avraham’s Shield.  The Posuk teaches that Avraham, greatly under-armed and undermanned, went to war against the four great superpowers of his time--because it was the right thing to do.  His innocent nephew could not be held captive; five kingdoms of people could not be maliciously plundered by the horrible Nimrod and his cohorts.  But then, after his incredible victory, Avraham took the time out to reflect upon the ramifications of his actions.  Was going to war the right thing to do?  In retrospect, it was so uncharacteristic, so the opposite of the “Chesed of Avraham”--the seeming absence of aidelkeit, the apparent lack of gentility, the bloodshed...was this something he really should have gotten involved in?  Hashem, in turn, responded to Avraham that it was very much the right thing, for in the zechus of this Mesiras Nefesh, in the merit of his conduct, Hashem Himself would now be Avraham’s Shield, and as the Posuk (ibid.) even concludes “Secharcha Harbeh Meod--your reward is very great.”


As we review the events of the last several days, the struggles of morality against sacrilege, the battles of purity against impurity, the war of Hashem and His Torah against profanity and blasphemy, we see perhaps above the victories and defeats, the Divine Hand.  Did we do right--our protests, our blood spilled, our boys incarcerated, our leaders in sackcloth--for what?  Because a cast of sorry, demented people want to display their lack of civility and their abhorrent failure in adhering to the most basic standards of humanity?  From the unfolding of events, we see how Hashem was not only our Help and Savior, but also our Shield, overruling Attorney Generals, Prime Ministers, Judges, and their unfortunate kind.  When we do what is right, Hashem, in turn, displays His incomparable Shield on our behalf.  If the abomination would have taken place today in public, while we sat back, who knows if the world could have survived the Chilul Hashem?  We acted--we fought--and Hashem has shielded.  It is reported that after the Bolsheviks took control of Russia, the Chofetz Chaim stated that a mistake had been made.  Rather than accept Communism, he said that all Jews should have taken sticks in their hands and gone off to fight the Communists--and we would have succeeded.


As we are now in the midst of new threats from within and without, we must bolster our faith.  We must recognize that Hashem is not only our Savior but our Shield.  With our proper conduct, He--and only He--can and will guard us and protect us.  Let us also be mindful, when we say the words, to sincerely thank Hashem for being the Magen Avraham.


Note: We have been asked how printed pages of the Bulletin should be treated. Since the Halacha may be subject to divergent opinions among the Poskim, we urge you to ask your own Posek to resolve this question.




We continue today with a note on the first brocha of Shemone Esrei, Birchas Avos.  The brocha describes Hashem as a “Gomel Chasodim Tovim--One who bestows complete Chesed upon us” (the word "tov" is the word utilized in Parshas Bereishis when describing the completion of an aspect of creation).  We may suggest that Chazal, by utilizing this term, are emphasizing to us that the Chesed we undertake should be complete, as well.  Helping someone out but saying even one unkind word in the process, picking up all of the papers but one or two, teaching someone a D’var Torah or Halacha but not researching and getting back to him with an answer to the question he posed, dropping someone off at the corner rather than in front of his house, are all examples of Chasodim, but do not appear to be “Chasodim Tovim--Complete Chasodim.”  In this week’s Parsha, for instance, we find the Chesed of Avraham extended from greeting the Malochim outside of his home, to taking care of them in every way while in his home and then escorting them on their departure.  Avraham Avinu emulated his Creator, and served as our guide in this area. In this world of Home Depots, Wal-Marts, Staples, etc. where we find everything under one roof, we should take the lesson to make our Chesed performance complete and “under one roof” as well.


Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, teaches us in Mishlei (21:2): “Kol Derech Ish Yashar Be’eynov--man’s ways are straight in his own eyes.”  In most cases, we assess our daily activities as being correct and proper, and in many of cases, we are, hopefully, right.  The area where we may especially need a little bit of tweaking is in the area of Complete Chesed.  Using the example from above, suppose you are in a great rush and **must** drop your friend off at his corner.  This is really a moment of truth, for you must balance your personal needs against the needs of another. You may want to try once a day to not immediately decide in your favor, but to recognize the situation, and if possible, “err” on the side of the Complete Chesed.


Finally, we note that Complete Chesed can take almost an infinite number of forms.  The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 240:9) rules that one must honor his parents not only in their lifetimes, but also after their deaths.  Although one may very much love and cherish a departed parent and think of them all the time, it would truly be Complete Chesed to do a particular mitzvah on their neshama’s behalf everyday, such as learning a Mishna, trying to find a Shidduch for someone, etc.  Your honor of them during their lifetimes (Rebbe Akiva Eiger to Peah 1:1 writes that honoring a parent is part of the Mitzvah of Chesed) then continues daily through your entire lifetime.  This very same Chesed--a Mitzvah a Day--can likewise be a great zechus for somone who has departed and has no one to supply zechusim on his behalf.


Complete Chesed--it makes us whole, it ties us to our Avos and it completes our eternity.




1.  The Chayei Adam (68:13) writes that “HaSimcha HaGedolah B’Mitzvah--Joy is the greatest [or at least one of the greatest] elements in performing a Mitzvah.”  He continues, based upon the Arizal, that the happiness one experiences when fulfilling a Mitzvah should really be more blissful than one who finds a host of pleasures and precious jewels.  In fact, the Mishna Berura (Shulchan Oruch, Orach Chaim 669:1, seif katan 11) writes in the name of the Arizal that the highest levels he reached came about through his great joy in performing Mitzvos.  It behooves us to take a Mitzvah that we perform daily, and put a little thought into it prior to its performance so that we can be truly joyful when doing the Mitzvah.  Why should Tefillin, for instance--the holy garb of men--be placed upon our arms and heads in a bleary-eyed, rote manner?  We should think instead for a moment about the privilege, honor, the meaning, and even the spiritual rewards of wearing Tefillin!  Is it any wonder then, that Tefillin were worn all day in past generations, and that some Gedolim even wear Tefillin all day today?  Tefillin, is, of course, only one example.  The opportunity to stand before Hashem in prayer, with the knowledge that the King of Kings, the Creator and Provider is listening, should likewise provide nothing less than unbridled ecstasy.  Most certainly, the privilege and the ability to study Torah--Hashem’s direct words and instructions--should bring us to bliss.  Of course, the opportunity to perform each and every Mitzvah, **large or small, easy or difficult** is an opportunity of infinite Olam Haba right here in this temporal Olam Hazeh.  As we have seen, joy is more than an integral part of a Mitzvah--it brings one to, and in and of itself is, the highest levels of Mitzvah performance.  Let us not rob ourselves of this opportunity--at least once a day!  One should make sure to put forethought into at least one Mitzvah he is about to perform daily, sincerely appreciate the opportunity, and simply delight in its performance.


2.  The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 98:1) writes that one should have kavannah, one should understand, the words of Shemone Esrei as he is reciting them.  In the first brocha of Shemone Esrei, Birchas Avos, we recite “V’Zocher Chasdei Avos--Hashem recalls the kindnesses of the forefathers.”  These words should especially reverberate within us over the next several weeks as we live through the great lives and immense accomplishments of our forefathers.  We should then additionally appreciate that Hashem does not remember the Chesed that He did to the Avos, but rather the Chesed that our Avos did to others.  On top of all of this, Hashem then takes this Chesed, and utilizes it for our zechus, for our merit, as the Pasuk teaches, “V’Notzer Chesed L’Alofim--Hashem preserves kindness for thousands of generations.” (Shemos 34: 7)  Thus, in reciting these three simple words, we are really recalling the enormous kindness of the Avos, the great Chesed of Hashem in remembering these acts of kindness, and realizing that all of this ends up for our personal benefit.  What could be sweeter?


3.  Today is the yahrtzeit of HaRav Shach, Z’TL.  We present the following story which teaches us how we, too, can bring that Chesed of the Avos into our daily lives (Rav Shach on Chumash, Artscroll, page 31--on this week’s Parsha):

A student once came to see Rav Shach, seeking the Rabbi's advice and blessing for an upcoming important interview in Jerusalem.  When the Rosh Yeshivah saw him come in, he noticed that he was limping.  The student dismissed the ailment.  “It's nothing,” he reassured the Rav.  “Just an ingrown toenail.”

“You know,” the Rosh Yeshivah told him, “my rebbetzin is a registered nurse.  She knows how to treat such things!  Sit down on the sofa and take off your shoe.  She'll be right here!”

The student did as he was told, and sat down waiting for the Rebbetzin to come in.

A few moments later, the Rosh Yeshivah himself entered the salon with a basin of warm water for the visitor, in which to soak his feet!




SPECIAL NOTE 1: The term “Kel Elyon” uniquely appears four times in this past week’s Parsha (Bereishis 14:18-22).  Interestingly, the term then reappears in our first brocha in Shemone Esrei, Birchas Avos.  While the basic translation of the term would be “Supreme G-d”, there seems to be something more underlying the phrase, as it is repeated several times after the Torah describes Avraham Avinu’s war against the superpowers, and then again in Birchas Avos.  The Avodas HaTomid, a commentary on Tefillah, writes that the phrase uniquely describes that Hashem is the cause of everything--everything comes from Him.  Rav Schwab, Z’TL, in his peirush on the siddur adds that we are to understand from “Kel Elyon” that Hashem’s knowledge is beyond that of any man.  He writes, therefore, that he advised people not to think about how something like the Holocaust could have happened because we simply cannot fathom Hashem’s supremacy over us.  Can one man defeat the four superpowers of the World?  Can a group of Kohanim quash the seemingly invincible Greek army?  More recently, could the Six-Day War or the Yom Kippur War make sense to the common man?  The term “Kel Elyon” is therefore placed in the Birchas Avos, for it is part of the legacy from our Avos, one of the foundations of our faith, which is immutable by time, place, or occurrence.


SPECIAL NOTE 2:  Following closely in line with Hashem’s absolute supremacy is the awe we should have over the miraculous occurrences throughout our daily lives.  Many have become accustomed to reciting the brocha “Asher Yotzar” from a card or siddur once a day so that they may concentrate on the words.  We may add an important suggestion. Before reciting the Brocha once a day, read an English version of the Brocha (without saying) the words first, so that when you recite the Brocha it will be with an added measure of Kavannah.  For additional Chizuk in the area, we refer you to the new designerperfect.com website, and provide you with the following link to that site to download a PDF version of an Asher Yotzar chart for the home, school, or office.



SPECIAL NOTE 3: At the Bris HaBesarim described in last weeks Parsha, the Torah teaches that Avraham Avinu was commanded not to cut the birds (Bereishis 15:10).  Rashi there explains that this was to symbolize that no matter how downtrodden our lives may have gotten in galus, we would never be eradicated.  Rashi further explains that the birds were doves, because Klal Yisroel are compared to doves.  What makes doves so special is that when one wing may be wounded or tired, the dove will continue to fly, utilizing its other wing.  This is the lesson we are taught--we are to persevere over the criticisms, the obstacles, the bitterness of exile.  We can do this by not giving up, not letting ourselves fall, accomplishing that one extra mitzvah, doing that one extra chesed, “praying with fire” even when tired, and not letting that meeting interfere with our regular Torah study.  With this perseverance, with this drive, we will be zoche to spread open our second wing, as we enter the geulah and more deeply appreciate our “Kel Elyon”.


Important Note:  Our suggestion to start the work day with a Chesed was only meant to cover those employment situations in which your employer would otherwise allow it.  Similarly, we ask that our bulletins only be read or printed at work if you are absolutely sure that your employer so allows.




1)  As incredible as it may sound, it is now more than 30 days since Yom Kippur, and more than 40 days since Rosh Hashana.  This means that more than 10% of this New Year is now behind us.  The halfway mark will be coming sooner than we think.  It behooves each and every one of us at this time to take a few moments out to recall what our goals and aspirations were for the year, to consider what we have accomplished (now that we are in fact, a couple of weeks past Yom Tov), and to determine how we can better put ourselves in the right direction for the future.  Without wishing to sound intimidating, we intend to provide a similar awareness notification in another 40 days--so we ask that you plan to meet the challenge.


2)  In this week’s Parsha, we find the Torah’s first reference to the city of “Beis-Kel” (Bereishis 12:8).  HaRav Chaim Kanievski, Shlita, rules that one is not permitted to use the name of Hashem when stating or writing the name of this city (including the same name of the current yishuv), and that one must say and write “Bais-Kel”.


3)  Every day, three times a day in Shemone Esrei we recite the following words in the Eighteenth Brocha: “Visechezena Eineinu…--May our eyes see Your return to Tzion with mercy.”  We received the following two insightful comments on this Tefillah.  First, the request in not only that I personally witness the return, but that all of us witness the return--including those who are at this moment very elderly or very infirm, which indicates the urgency and immediacy of our pleading.  Second, we should recognize that Chazal have especially phrased our appeal for the Geulah in terms of our eyes actually witnessing the event and, each time we say these words every day, long for and picture the joyous event with our eyes and minds.




Note: We ask that our bulletins only be read or printed at work if you are absolutely sure that your employer so allows.


SPECIAL NOTE 1:  We know that our forefather, Avraham Avinu, felt Hashem’s presence wherever he was and wherever he traveled.  An important exercise for us to emulate our Avos is to feel the Hashgacha Pratis that occurs in our daily lives.  At least several times a day, one should go out of his way to express his sense of the “Hand of G-d” in what has just occurred, what he has just heard, or the amazing interplay or turn of events he has experienced.  This expression may take the form of a “Baruch Hashem” or “What Hashgacha Pratis!” or the like.  The Netziv explains that the amount of Hashgacha Pratis that one receives is actually commensurate with one’s feeling of Hashgacha Pratis in his life.


SPECIAL NOTE 2:  At the commencement of our personal requests at the end of Shemone Esrei, we plead, “Netzor Leshoni Mayra”--guard my tongue from speaking evil.  The Sefer Avudraham, a classic commentary on the Siddur, emphasizes that in this prayer we are specifically and especially asking for Siyata Dishmaya--Hashem’s help in loshon hora situations.  Because these situations come up so many times in the course of a work and home day, we should try to remember to have Kavannah these three times a day to ask Hashem to spare us from those situations which could lead to grave sin.


SPECIAL NOTE 3:  Ingredient labels on food products have recently become quite detailed.  Why has this suddenly occurred?  Perhaps we can take the lesson to heart.  Just as ingredients and the nutritional value of these ingredients have become more complex, so have our lives, with all of the technological and associated advancements.  For this reason we too must take stock--do I have enough of the right “building blocks”?  Is there a bit too much saturated fat?  Of course, we must take everything in proper balance.  Perhaps meal time is a good time to evaluate our spiritual make up--especially if we are eating alone.  Even if we are eating together, discussing Ruchniyus or self-improvement over food may turn the mundane into the sublime, and food needed to energize the body into soul food as well.




Chazal teach that the Torah commences with the Chesed of Hashem making the first Shidduch ever--between Adam and Chava.  The entire Sefer Bereishis is then replete with various sometimes astounding acts of Chesed by the Avos--and is in fact called “Sefer HaYoshor--the Book of the Upright.”  Indeed, the entire Sefer Bereishis contains only three mitzvos, seemingly indicating to us that we must first study how the Avos conducted themselves before we can learn in detail how the Torah requires us to conduct ourselves.  It is even further telling that the *first* middah associated with the *first* of the Avos is Chesed--as the last posuk in Micha teaches “Give CHESED to AVRAHAM, truth to Yaakov….”


As we witnessed the terrible events leading up to the Flood in last week’s Parsha, and the actions of Noach in the Ark, we glean further indications as to the supreme need of Chesed for the world’s existence.  Many ask the following question:  If the world was guilty of the heinous crimes of forbidden relationships and idol worship, why was it that the world’s destruction was attributable to robbery?  HaRav Yitzchok of Vorke, Z’TL, answers that because they showed no kindness to each other in their interpersonal dealings and wantonly stole even items of negligible worth from each other, Hashem could show them no mercy or kindness for their more severe crimes.  The people’s lack of Chesed was nothing short of the proximate cause of their downfall.  Now, let us turn to the Ark itself.  Even a small child may innocently ask--why was there a need to build a taiva?  After all could not one mountain have been left dry?  One area spared?  Could not the eight people who survived and all the animals been moved to the moon temporarily?  The answer seems clear.  If the world was to survive after the flood, it had to be based upon the Chesed that mankind would now perform to each other and to the rest of the world within the taiva.  Noach, the venerable 600 year-old sage, personally fed and cared for his family, the lions, the cows, the birds and the ants.  This had to be done, for as Dovid HaMelech teaches (Tehillim 89) “Olam Chesed Yiboneh--the world is built on kindness.”


The Sefer Pele Yoetz provides us with a remarkable insight in this regard.  He notes that people may expend much effort and money to purchase the honor to be Sandek at a bris, to open the Aron Kodesh on special occasions and undertake other similar activities, all of which show how one cherishes Torah, but none of which are necessarily mitzvos from the Torah.  Yet, he continues, opening the door for someone knocking, providing someone with change, or carrying a package each constitute a Mitzvas Asei Deoraisa of Chesed.  All the more so, he concludes, if one purchases items for loan (such as a gemach) where the mitzvah of Chesed is compounded many times over with each and every loan of the very same item.  Hakhel’s Gemilas Chesed List, for example, currently prepared for the New York City Metropolitan Area, contains hundreds of gemachim, run by individuals or groups, which literally provide collectively tens of thousands of acts of Chesed per year. Every one of them is building the world--on kindness.


In order for us to demonstrate the primacy of Chesed throughout the day, we suggest instituting the following “good habit” into your life.  At the first stage of every part of your day--start it with a Chesed--just as the first book of the Torah starts with the acts of the Avos and, moreover, the hallmark of the very first of our Avos, Avraham Avinu, was that of Chesed.  This is much easier to accomplish than it sounds:


  • In the morning after you open your eyes and say Modeh Ani, pick something up from the floor, or do something for someone else—or, if applicable, even smile to some one and say good morning if he/she is already awake.

  • When you arrive at work, make a phone brief phone call to cheer someone up, say a Kapital of Tehillim for someone who you know who needs it, or educate a non-religious co-worker in something about Judaism.

  • When you get home at night, start your evening off in a similar vein.


Of course, we cannot provide all the scenarios or mention the myriads of possibilities for Chesed that face each and every one of us in our own way.  Indeed, the Alter of Kelm teaches that **even thinking** of how you can help someone (such as finding them a shidduch, helping with a job, suggesting how they can help their child…) is a Mitzvas Asei in the Torah.


Quite literally, it is with His great Chesed that Hashem established the world, and kept the world in existence.  He has now placed it into our hands (and our legs, our minds…) to keep this very same world--our world--going, growing and thriving--with Chesed!

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