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Special Note One:  We had received the following from Rabbi Moshe Goldberger, Shlita, relating to this past week’s Parsha:


“Yosef brought bad reports to Father.  The Medrash says we learn to avoid Loshon Hora.  What were the costs of those words?  Yosef was in prison for 12 years.  His father who had listened suffered for 22 years.  Words can be very costly!”



Special Note Two:  At the recent Hakhel Yarchei Kallah, Rabbi Eytan Feiner, Shlita, related an incredible insight from HaRav Shimon Schwab, Z’tl.  HaRav Schwab explained why it is that people sway back and forth while davening.  If one is properly praying, he is experiencing the simultaneous emotions of love and fear of Hashem.  He sways forward to show his love and closeness to Hashem, and moves back in awe and fear.  One’s Tefillah is thus an experience of ‘Gilu BeRe’ada’--love and fear of Hashem in meaningful harmony together to serve one’s Creator!



Special Note Three:  At the Yarchei Kallah, Rabbi Yisroel Dov Webster, Shlita, provided a masterful review of many Halachic Shailos relating to Chanukah.  As an example, he discussed the concept of women not doing Melacha for one-half hour after candles are lit.  Rabbi Webster explained that according to most Poskim, the Melachos that are prohibited are the Melachos that cannot be done on Chol HaMoed--laundry, sewing, ironing, etc.  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky rules that even baking and cooking (the latkes!) should only be done if there is a need to then do so, and one should not otherwise be washing the floor, washing the dishes, or the like.  Much of Rabbi Webster’s shiur was devoted to contemporary Shailos and the opinions of our Gedolei HaDor. 


For tapes or CD’s of the entireYarchei Kallah, please call 718-252-5274.



Special Note Four:  The days before Chanukah are days in which we remember what happened before the final, great victory attained by the Chashmonaim on the 25th day of Kislev.  The Avudraham notes that Chanukah is a contraction of Chanu, Chaf, Heh, for on the 25th day of Kislev we rested and achieved relief from the defilement, mockery, cruelty, and evil decrees of the Greeks.  Chazal (Shabbos 21B) teach that the times before the victory were so difficult and defiling that only one small jar of oil remained Tahor--all else had been defiled!  The Chashmonaim fought unbelievable wars of Mesiras Nefesh to bring back Kedusha and Tahara--holiness and purity--in lieu of the vast contamination that had taken place.


So what can we do now in the days before Chanukah to recall those days prior to the great victory--the days of defilement of the Bais HaMikdash and our people, and the days of Mesiras Nefesh that succeeded them?  We, too can, in our own small way act like the Chashmonaim--showing a special level of Mesiras Nefesh for the holy.  Here is one example.  The Sefer Mesilas Yesharim (Chapter 19) writes: “It is not enough for us simply not to act lightheaded in the Bais HaKnesses and the Bais HaMedrash.  Rather, we should by our actions and conduct, accord to them their appropriate honor and awe.  Anything that you would not do in the palace of a great king should not be done in them.”


Indeed, the Sefer Yeraim (Chapter 409) includes the proper respect of one’s Shul as a Mitzvas Asei D’Oraisa--just as the proper respect for the Bais HaMikdash itself!  Thus, even though we may not have the Bais HaMikdash at this very moment, we can show our appreciation for holiness and purity even in our day.  Starting your own personal campaign to show that high level of awe and respect for the places in which you pray and learn--for sanctity in this world--can certainly go a long way in demonstrating your personal appreciation and understanding of the depth and beauty of Chanukah.  Hakhel note: A reader alerted us to some Shuls which are now fining individuals whose cell phones go off in Shul.  What as auspicious time to undertake this or other similar Takana--for the Kavod of the Bais HaKnesses!



Special Note Five:  We present below several rulings of HaRav Elyashiv, Shlita, relating to Chanukah, as excerpted from the monumental Sefer Ashrei HaIsh (Volume III ):


1.  One should attempt to use the nicest Menorah and Neiros possible, even though the Chashmonaim themselves may have lit with broken earthenware vessels.  The Mitzvah is to be performed based upon “Zeh Keili VeAnveihu”--and not to replicate that which Chazal did not instruct to replicate. 


2.  All oils can be used to light, but olive oil is a Mitzvah Min HaMuvchar.  Pure olive oil is better than regular olive oil, and edible olive oil is better than non-edible olive oil--as the closer one gets to the oil of the Bais HaMikdash, the great the Hiddur Mitzvah!


3.  One may use floating wicks LeChatchila, notwithstanding that at the moment that one lights the wicks he is actually lighting the flammable wax coating and not the oil.[Rabbi Webster in his Shiur pointed out that, according to other Poskim, it would be best to keep the lighting flame on the wick for a short while, so that the wax will melted off]. 


4.  If one lit at home, and is then asked to light in Shul, he should not make a new Shehechiyanu in Shul, as the Brachos in Shul are based upon Minhag, and it is not a separate Mitzvah.  In fact, even if there are many Minyanim in a Shul, the Menorah should only be lit with a bracha only once at the first Minyan, or in the  Main Shul minyan only.  Of course, the other Minyanim and/or the other locations should preferably have the Menorah lit, but without a bracha.  A katan should not light in Shul; if he did so, it should be extinguished and relit with a bracha by a person of age so that there is proper Pirsumei Nissah.


5.  It is appropriate for a katan who has already reached the age of Chinuch to be Yotzei with his father’s lighting(and for the father to have him in mind)--even if the katan will light again on his own [HaRav Elyashiv actually rules that it would be best for the katan who has reached the age of Chinuch not to light at all because he cannot fulfill the Mitzvah which is on the Bayis, so it is a Hadlakah Pesulah, MeIkar HaDin].  HaRav Elyashiv brings that this is also the ruling of the Kli Chemda (to Bamidbar 17:8).  On the other hand, the other household members who are above the age of Bar Mitzvah should have in mind not to be Yotzei with the Ba’al HaBayis and be Yotzei the Ikar Mitzvah themselves.


6.  What does one do when looking at the Neiros?  In his Divrei Aggadah, HaRav Elyashiv writes that one should think about how close we had come to extinguishment of the Menorah--…and how the Chashmonaim did not sit back and wait as it was being extinguished.  Instead, the Chashmonaim worked diligently to purify the oil so that after the Tekufah of the Chashmonaim came the Tenoim, the further development of Torah She’Be’al Peh, and ultimately the Talmud Bavli and Talmud Yerushalmi.  Chanukah is a time to remind ourselves to take action on behalf of Torah--and to actually begin taking that action!


7.  . If one cannot light on time, but either at P’lag HaMincha or later in the night--he should light at the time when there is greater Pirsumei Nissah.  To a soldier, HaRav Elyashiv ruled that he should light when more Chayalim would see the Neiros. 


8.  When one is on a plane above an area where the time to light has arrived [ see chaitables.com], he too has a Chov of Hadlakah at that time.  Of course, one cannot light on a plane, and if one would do so, it would be a bracha levatalah.  If at this very time they are actually lighting in home, he can be Yotzei with their Hadlakah.  If the neiros were already lit in the home, he would not be Yotzei because “Hadlakah Oseh Mitzvah”--the actual act of lighting is what counts --and no lighting was done at the time that his obligation to light occurred. Hakhel Note:  We thus see how important it is to avoid being on an airplane if at all possible during this time.


9.  Lighting must be done in a ‘Bayis’--accordingly one can light in the Bais Haknesses at the cave of the Kosel, but cannot light at the open area of the Kosel. 


10.  If a hotel does not allow a person to light by the doorway (but only in the lobby on a table), then one is not allowed to light at the doorway without the hotel’s permission for this is theft, and one is not Yotzei.  Instead, one should make it his business to be elsewhere for Chanukah. 


11.  One is not permitted to fast on Chanukah.  Accordingly, if one sees that his breakfast is being delayed, he should eat or drink something before Chatzos, so that he is not fasting. 


12.  If one forgot Al HaNissim in Shemone Esrei, he should recite “HaRachaman Hu Ya’aseh Nissim VeNaflaos Kisheim She’asissa LaAvoseinu Bayamim HaHaeim BaZeman HaZeh…Bimei Mattisyahu…” at the end of Elokai Netzor, just before Yeheyu LeRatzon. On Shabbos, he should start directly with Bimei Mattisyahu, since one may not add additional HaRachamans (personal  requests) on Shabbos.


13.  We recite full Hallel every day Chanukah because a new miracle occurred daily.  If one mistakenly recited half Hallel, he should recite the entire Hallel anew gain.  If he cannot find anyone to be Motzi him with the bracha, he should think the Bracha in his heart before reciting the full Hallel. 


14.  With respect to the Segulah of giving Tzedaka on Chanukah, it need not especially be before or after lighting--for it is a Segulah any time during the day.  The Segulah also applies to distributing Ma’aser money on Chanukah.  One should try to make sure that the tzedakah money actually gets to the poor person on Chanukah, so that he can derive benefit from it. 


15.  One should not put the words “HaNeiros Halallu Kodesh Heim” into an advertisement, because it is a part of a Ma’amar Chazal, and would require Genizah. Hakhel Note:  Let us consider the sanctity of the words that we are privileged to know so easily and so well!


B’EH we hope to continue tomorrow, with additional P’sokim from HaRav Shmuel Kamenetsky, Shlita.



Special Note One:  IMPORTANT HEADS UP!  A Rav asked us to remind our readers that Chanukah is not a time to cancel Shiurim or Motzei Shabbos Avos U’Bonim programs--but a time to encourage them, as the light of Torah shone so brightly on Chanukah that it was able to extinguish all of the darkness that the avodah zara of that time was encouraging--and has indeed lasted us to this very day.



Special Note Two:  Our brothers in Eretz Yisroel are still suffering from lack of rain.  No scientist, politician or soothsayer has been able to produce rain--notwithstanding men on the moon, atomic bombs, internet, cell phones, modern man and the like.  The words of Chazal (Ta'anis 2A) who taught thousands of years ago that Hashem keeps the 'keys' to rain with Him (notwithstanding any human advancements or claims otherwise) should spur us to daven with the sincerest of pleas.  Hakhel Note:  As we begin the work week in Chutz La'Aretz, we are all reminded (and perhaps should all recite) the words in Tehillem (55:23)--"Hashlech El Hashem Yehovecha VeHu Yechalkelecha...Cast upon Hashem your burden and he will sustain you....  Every drop of water in Eretz Yisroel to every cent of our paycheck or earnings--is a Divine Gift and Blessing.  There is no better Source--let's do our best to ask Hashem for the Gift and Blessing...for us all!



Special Note Three:  Gentle but Forceful Reminders:

1.  As we draw ever so closer to Chanukah:  Teshuva BeChol Yom!!

2.  Next week, we will be moving on to the fourth month and the fourth of the 13 Ani Ma'amins. Let us remember to place that extra Kavana in the third Ani Ma'amin over the coming week --as we especially show the Greeks and their influence who placed so much emphasis on the body--that to us the more disassociated from bodily form one is the more sacred--and the more powerful!



Special Note Four:  As “change of weather” season takes effect in the northern hemisphere, we remind ourselves that if we are one of those who, R’L, are experiencing a cold, sore throat, headache, congestion, etc., we should remember that it is not the extra-strength Tylenol, or any of the other remedies filling our pharmacy-aisle that gives us our cure.  Instead, we should consider that there is a reason that we received this ailment (which could include not properly taking care of yourself), and that it is Hashem--and ONLY HASHEM--Who gives the relief and refuah, and not that “sure-fire” acetaminophen or other “Special Formula” which serves to ameliorate the symptoms, or serves as Hashem’s agent in the cure.  Before taking that aspirin or other tablet or fluid, we should especially reflect upon this, and recite the tefilah before taking medicine with true recognition and feeling.  The Tefillah Recited before Visiting the Doctor or Taking Medications  is available by clicking here and the Tefillas HaBori--asking Hashem to keep us healthy  is available by clicking here.  Zei Gezunt!



Special Note Five:  PLEASE WRITE THIS DOWN ON YOUR HADLAKAS NEIROS SHEET!  As we approach Chanukah, the Holiday of the Home (Ner Ish U'Baiso), let us especially remember those who are away from their home and families as Shevuyim with a Tefillah after Hadlakas Neiros.  In fact, your heartfelt Tefillos can commence in advance.  If you believe in Yeshuos--they can happen today as well!:  Yonasan ben Malka (Pollard), Sholom Mordechai ben Rivka (Rubashkin) and Gilad ben Aviva (Shalit).



Special Note Six:  A reader pointed out to us how HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon's teaching on Bitachon (presented in last Erev Shabbos' Bulletin) rang true in the Parsha last week with Yosef.  How possible statistically was it to appoint as the Viceroy of Egypt an individual who only the day before was (a) totally unknown to Paroh, (b)a young, unmarried and unsettled man, (c) a non-citizen who was even an Ivri (per se despised, as seen from Rashi on the words of the Sar HaMashkim to Paroh in this week's Parsha), (d) an Eved, and as if to add insult to injury (e) a convicted criminal who was still in prison?!?  Because Hashem runs the world and all parts of it, there is not even the smallest element of shock or surprise to us... or even to any Mitzri recorded in this week's Parsha!  Hakhel Note:  As we strengthen ourselves in Bitachon in preparation for Chanukah--may we suggest especially focusing on the Second Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Gevuros--in which we attest to Hashem's limitless and unfettered power in all areas of our existence.



Special Note Seven:  We provide the following excerpt from the English translation of Sefer Derech Hashem (published by Feldheim, translated by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, Zt’l ).  For those who do not have this classic Mussar work, one can find it in the Feldheim Chanukah Catalog, which, together with the Artscroll Catalog, and the Israel Bookshop Catalog are certainly something for the Jewish people to be proud of!  These are the meaningful and precious words of the Ramchal:

“In order to have its desired effect, study of the Torah must conform to two conditions.  These are reverence for the study itself and the constant rectification of one’s own deeds.

“The only reason why the Torah has any power at all is because Hashem bound His most precious Influence (Hashpa’ah) to it, making it dependent on the Torah.  It is for this reason that reciting and comprehending it can transmit this Influence.  If Hashem had not made it so, then the Torah would be no different from any other educational book involving the various aspects of natural inquiry.  These books may contain accurate and valuable information, but they do not incorporate any significance and excellence in the soul of a person who reads, recites or comprehends them.  Books such as these, furthermore, have absolutely no power to rectify Creation.

“It is imperative that one should have reverence and awe when involved in the Torah.  What one is then doing is approaching Hashem and involving himself in the transmission of the great Light from Hashem to himself.  The individual involved in the Torah should therefore be abashed by his human lowliness and tremble before Hashem’s loftiness.  He should rejoice in what he can attain, but even this should be combined with the greatest possible awe.  It is all the more important that one not behave frivolously when involved in the Torah, and not show any disrespect for its books or their words.  When occupied with the Torah, one must realize before Whom he stands.  When one fulfills these conditions, then his study of the Torah is as it should be.  He can then draw down the Influence discussed earlier and incorporate in himself G-dly excellence, as well as rectify and illuminate all Creation.”

Hakhel Note:  As Chanukah approaches, in which we more intensely bring the light of Torah into our lives, let us take these words of the Ramchal to heart, and consistently demonstrate a greater reverence, respect and appreciation during our Torah study.



Special Note Eight:  The Sefer Sichos BaAvodas Hashem notes that on other Chagim, we went into the Bais HaMikdash to bring karbanos and become inspired.  On Chanukah, however, we bring the Kedushas HaChag primarily into our own home with the lighting of the Menorah.  Just as Chassidim may wear Streimels on Chanukah--it is reported that HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, wore his Shabbos shoes--to indicate the importance of this very special time.  Let us ready ourselves--from the top of our heads all the way down to our shoes!



Special Note One:  At yesterday’s Yarchei Kallah in Brooklyn , Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, urged everyone to sincerely empathize with the plight of our brothers in Eretz Yisroel and daven for rain to fall in our Holy Land .  Their hurt is our hurt, and we must view the situation as our personal situation as well.  Hakhel Note:  It is no coincidence, as it never is, that Yosef is sent in this week’s Parsha to view “Es Shelom Achecha V’Es U’Shelom Hatzon --how his brothers and their property were fairing (Bereishis 37:14).”  We too must have the care and concern that Yaakov Avinu wanted Yosef to have for his brothers--and demonstrate it in a real and practical way.  Our personal tefillos in Shema Koleinu or Elokai Netzor must be sure to express our urgent pleas for rain and water--which will be a bracha to all of K’lal Yisroel.



Special Note Two:  In this week’s Parsha, the Torah teaches that “VaYaveih Yosef Es Dibasam Ra’ah El Avihem (Bereishis 37:2)--and Yosef brought bad reports about them to their father (Bereishis: 37:14).”  The Chofetz Chaim at the outset of the Sefer refers to these bad reports as the “Ikar Sibas Yeridas Yisroel LeMetzrayim LeChatchila--the original main cause for the entire Galus Mitzraim!”  We must be sure to grow this poignant and timely lesson from the Parsha in a practical way.  Chazal (Bava Basra 165A) teach that while only some individuals may be predisposed to arayos (immorality), and more individuals to gezel (thievery), everyone is prone to “Avak Loshon Hora”--which is defined as making statements or taking action which lead to, cause, or result in Loshon Hora.  The Maharsha (ibid.) explains that while arayos is a sin which most directly relates to the body, and gezel is a sin directly involving money, Avak Loshon Hora is an iniquity impacting most directly upon a person’s soul.  Accordingly, the Yetzer Hora is especially focused on Avak Loshon Hora and urges everyone to falter here.  We accordingly provide the following Avak Lashon Hara prevention notes (as supplied in the past)--with the hope and intent that if it was Lashon Hora that started the Galus process for K’lal Yisroel, it will be our dedicated and special Shemira from the most predisposed form of Lashon Hora that will once and for all lead us out of this Galus and into an eternal Geulah Sheleima.


The Chofetz Chaim (Hilchos Loshon Hora, Chapter 9--recently studied in Shemiras Halashon Yomi) provides us with seven kinds of statements or expressions of Avak Loshon Hora:


“Who would have thought that Ploni (Mr. X) would be where he is today…”  The implication to be gleaned is clear.


“Don’t talk about Ploni--I don’t want to discuss what happened or what will be with him”. Or saying, “I don’t want to speak about Ploni because I don’t want to speak Loshon Hora.”


Praising Ploni in front of those who dislike him (this includes his business competitors)--for we all know where this will lead.


Praising anyone excessively (for you will end up saying--”except for this” or “besides that…” or because the listeners will respond--”why do you praise him so highly? What about….”).


Praising anyone in public unless: (a) he is known as a Tzaddik, for anyone who tries to attack him will not succeed because of the Tzaddik’s reputation; or (b) you know that the listeners will not disparage him, for they do not know him.


A praise that implies a deficiency--”when he actually does something, he does it properly.”


Praise that will result in harm or loss to (or ill will by) the individual spoken about.  For instance, “Ploni likes to cook a lot”--and, as a result, riffraff come knocking on his door, looking for meals.


Interestingly, the Chofetz Chaim adds that it is also Avak Loshon Hora to speak about someone in a manner which appears to be Loshon Hora (even though it really is not) so that others suspect him of speaking Loshon Hora.  Thus, when speaking in a deprecatory manner about someone, one should explain to them why it is not Loshon Hora.


May we suggest that each of these seven kinds of statements be reviewed two or three times, preferably out loud--to help cleanse ourselves of these deceptive tactics and suggestions of the Yetzer Hora designed to keep us in Galus.


As we know, many already observe the “Shabbos Machsom L’fi” at their Shabbos tables.  Perhaps, in honor of the Parsha’s fundamental lesson, this week we can begin an additional Shabbos Avak Lashon Hora Machsom L’fi --for the entire Shabbos as well!



Special Note Three:  We continue with our Erev Shabbos--Halachos of Shabbos Series:


1.  In between the Shalom Aleichem and Aishes Chayil that we recite on Leil Shabbos there is a beautiful Tefillah beginning with the words Ribon Kol HaOlamim which many do not recite, because it is viewed as a personal bakasha on Shabbos.  The Siddur Otsar HaTefillos brings that Rebbe Yosef M’Rashkov, Z’tl, would recite this Tefillah upon arrival in Shul on Erev Shabbos before Mincha.  What a tremendous benefit and opportunity--getting to Shul early on Erev Shabbos--and thereby being enabled to recite the beautiful and meaningful words of request before and in honor of Shabbos Kodesh!


2.  The Sefer Besomim Rosh writes that upon arriving home on Leil Shabbos one should exclaim Bekol Rom (say aloud)--Shabbos Shalom U’Mevorach!--for with these words he greets the Shabbos Kallah in the home pleasantly and with great happiness.


3.  We describe Shabbos Mincha time as an ‘Eis Ratzon’ with the pasuk before Kriyas HaTorah at Mincha: “Va”Ani Sefilasi Lecha Hashem Eis Ratzon....”  Since we are not permitted to add personal requests on Shabbos, in what way can we utilize this special time by which point one has imbibed much Kedushas Shabbos?  A posek advised us that we should use it by having real kavana in the words of the Shabbos Mincha Shemone Esrei which already contains powerful bakashos authorized by Chazal( ...and that we also have the bakashos of Elokai Netzor at the end of Shemone Esrei as well!)


4.  From a reader:  The Shaarei Teshuva to Orach Chaim, Siman 294 brings from the Halachos Gedolos that if one lengthens his recitation of Baruch Hashem Hamevorach Leolam Vo’ed on Motzei Shabbos (i.e., having kavana in these words), he will be saved from harm in the coming week.  Moreover, the Sha’arei Teshuva continues, the Birkei Yosef brings from HaRav Chaim Vital, Z’tl in the name of Rav Hai Gaon that it is a tested kabbalah that a person will have Hatzlacha when he lengthens his recitation of Boruch Hashem Hamevorach on Motzei Shabbbos. With the assurances of such gedolim over the generations--let’s be sure to focus and draw in and upon these powerfully hallowed words!



Special Note Four:  HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, recently provided fundamental introductory words to the Yom Tov of Chanukah.  Chanukah teaches us yesodos, basics, in Bitachon.  With the mighty falling into the hands of the weak, the many losing battle after battle to the few, a little bit of oil lasting eight days, we learn that natural law, statistics and probability are not relevant to the Ba’al Bitachon.  What happened in the past is by no means determinative that the same will happen again in the future.  On the other hand, Bitachon in Hashem does not mean that we are confident that whatever we want to happen will happen.  What is Bitachon?  The Rabbeinu Yonah teaches that Bitachon is hope.  When statistics say that something is impossible, K’lal Yisroel still has hope, for Hashem can do anything.  What we simply do not know is if Hashem, as the HaTov and HaMaitiv wants it to happen.  We don’t know and often cannot see the Tov in events that occur.  This is where the next step in Bitachon comes in--we believe that notwithstanding our subjective hope, what really happens is all good.  One may have davened for what he thought was good for him, but when the opposite occurred, Hashem indicated that in reality what he davened for was not the best for him.  When we properly exercise our Bitachon, we do not know what the outcome will be, for it depends on the Cheshbonos of the Ribbono Shel Olam.


Chanukah teaches that “Ain Od Melvado--there is nothing but His Will”--is really the Metziyus, the reality.  In everyday life, this is hidden by nature--but in special moments (such as Chanukah and Purim, and perhaps other special times in a person’s life), Hashem makes it visible.  It was a clear statistical impossibility for thirteen people (no matter how able bodied they were) to defeat tens of thousands. Hashem willed otherwise --and the rest is history that we celebrate -which reignites the flame of Bitachon within us every year.


HaRav Salomon continues with a beautiful teaching of HaRav Chaim Volozhiner, Z’tl (in Sefer Ruach Chaim to Avos 2:4).  There, HaRav Chaim brings the famous Kepital in Tehillim (23)--”Hashem Roii Lo Echsar--Hashem is my shepherd--I will lack nothing.”  Dovid HaMelech compares himself to a sheep whose whole existence depends on the shepherd.  He leads them in a way that they won’t be injured--all is for their benefit even if they have no understanding.  Dovid HaMelech teaches us all to follow the shepherd and feel secure, for even if one may be tired and “harassed”, he can have full confidence that the shepherd is leading him in the path that is really best.  Sometimes we see the good, but often it is not visible.  Knowing this, the “Shivtecha”--the stick that hits me, and Mishantecha--the stick that I lean upon, are really the same stick.  Thus, “Heimah Yenachamuni--they together assuage me because I have Bitachon that everything is LeTova--for the good-- for it all comes from the One who is All Good.  At the end of the Parsha, Yosef HaTzaddik places some eminently justifiable reliance on the Sar Hamashkim--after all that he did for him.  However, the end was, as the last word of the Parsha testifies--Vayishkacheihu--and he forgot him.  [On the other hand, Dovid Hamelech exclaims--V’shavti Bevais Hashem L’Orech Yomim--I look to nothing else and to no one else, other than dwelling together with Hashem for length of days.]   With this, Yosef learned that our hallmark for survival in Galus among all those around us who in fact do us a favor if they only ‘forget us’--is looking to Hashem for anything and everything.  The lesson learned is quickly brought into practice in next week’s Parsha as Yosef starkly and clearly advises Paroh--“Biladai--it is not me, it is Hashem” who makes all determinations and all decisions, and it is to Him that we must turn--in all dreams, and in all realities!



Special Note One:  We know that the Halachos of Kavod Seforim require that a Sefer of the Chamisha Chumshei Torah should not be placed underneath any Sefer of Neviim or Kesuvim, and that one should correct the situation if he observes Seforim stacked incorrectly.  What if a Sefer of Kesuvim (such as Mishlei) is found on top of a Sefer Neviim (such as Yeshaya)--need you remove and restack it?  The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (28:4) writes that there is no order of preference in Neviim and Kesuvim, and that one may be placed upon another.



Special Note Two:  Yes, we are just one week away from Chanukah!  Of course, the week may be used to ready ourselves with Menorahs, wicks, oils and everything else that we need to make sure that the Ma’aseh Mitzvah is performed B’Hidduro.  We note, however, that in addition to the Mitzvah objects being readied, those involved with and performing the Mitzva must also be readied.  We are approaching two months since the last of the Chagim ended, and the Yetzer Hora has done a yeoman’s job in attempting to rid us of the sacred vestiges of those inspiring and uplifting days.  We can do much to counter his attacks by make the effort starting today to rise to the great occasion just ahead of us, especially in light of the Seforim that teach that the final judgment of a person is actually concluded on Chanukah.  We may even suggest that the reason one’s judgment is finally determined on Chanukah is in order for the Heavenly Tribunal to determine whether the Kabbalos and improvements we undertook really stayed with us, at least in some ways.  Our Teshuva B’Chol Yom Program should be especially implemented during these days, and one should also be careful to check himself against his Kabbala sheet each day in preparation for and in honor of the miracle-filled days ahead.  The Yetzer Hora does not sleep on other fronts, and so one may want to examine his ways in general--looking for the Yetzer’s thrusts into new areas of daily living (by way of example but not limitation--late to davening, late to learning, more (and not less) time on the cell phone, loose lips in general and ona’as devorim in particular).  Let us use the time ahead to grow in our Avodas Hashem--so that when we stare at the purity of the Neiros this Chanukah--we will also see its beautiful reflection in the purity within ourselves as well!  Remember--the time is now!



Question of the Week:  Many recite the Pasuk of “Va’Ani BeRov Chasdecha Avo Veisecha...” every time they enter a Shul or Bais Medrash.  What Pasuk should one recite when he leaves a Shul?



Special Note One:  The Pasuk in this week’s Parsha teaches that Yosef Hatzaddik was thrown into an empty pit without water.  Chazal teach that by the Torah specifying that there was no water--it meant to also convey that there were in fact snakes and scorpions in the pit.  Rabbi Yonasan Garfinkel, Shlita provides a unique and beautiful explanation of this Chazal, as follows:  In Perek Shira, we are taught that the snake recites the comforting Pasuk “Somech Hashem Lechol HaNoflim...--Hashem provides support to all who have fallen...”.  The scorpion, in turn, recites the assuring Pasuk of “Tov Hashem LaKol VeRachamov Al Kol Ma’asav--Hashem is good to all, His mercies are on all his works.”  Although the snakes and scorpions may have otherwise been potentially dangerous in that pit--there was a much more potent message of Hashgacha Pratis and hope that they were conveying to Yosef through the Shira that they represented.  There is a splendid lesson here for each and every one of us as well.  We must try to rise above the everyday appearances, the physical circumstances, the material make-up, the ‘first take on things’  to appreciate the spiritual realm of a person, place or event.  There is a whole other world that we may not be able to see with our eyes--but we must remember that our eyes are placed in close proximity to our brain for good reason.  After having made a superficial determination or analysis, try re-thinking or evaluating it for what is really going on--even if a few billion of your neighbors in this world would not know otherwise.  Is it sufficient for us to simply shudder when we see a snake in the zoo--or is there much more for us to think about?  When we are about to make a conclusory judgment about someone--can we not give it another minute of thought as to the 20 or 30 or 40 years of other life experiences that brought him to that point in his life or to the comment he has made or the act he has taken?  If we can strip away the gashmius coatings and attempt to reveal a ruchniyus truth, we can turn ostensibly venom-filled snakes into the creations that began to give Yosef the encouragement and drive to survive away and alone for 22 years.  Of course, we should discuss some of our thoughts with others--especially mentors such as Rabbonim and teachers--but is our initiative that will help get us ‘out of the pit’ and on the road to being a wise and perceptive asset for all of K’lal Yisroel!



Special Note Two:  We are all guests in Hashem’s world, which is why we recite Birkas HaMazon, thanking Hashem for the bounty he has provided and the care he takes of us.  In addition to being Hashem’s guest, everyone from time to time is a guest in another’s home as well. Chazal teach that an Orayach, a guest, should give a special bracha to his host at Birkas HaMazon, and the actual text of the moving bracha is codified in Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 201:1.  We provide below several points as to the Birkas HaOrayach, as excerpted from VeZos HaBeracha by Rabbi Aleksander Mandelbaum, Shlita:


1.  The Birkas HaOrayach is alluded to in the Torah itself by the words “U’Vayracta Es Hashem”--with the ‘extra’ word Es written in the Torah to allude to the need to bless the Ba’al Habayis as well.


2.  The text of the Birkas HaOrayach can be found in many Siddurim.  See, for example, the text and its translation in the Artscroll Siddur p.192 (Ashkenaz).  A Ba’al Habayis or Ba’al Simcha should make sure that the Siddurim and Bentschers that he gives to his guests has the Birkas HaOrayach in it, so that they can properly perform their duty as set forth in Shulchan Aruch , and so that they can show their midda tova of Hakaras HaTov--and so that the Ba’al HaBayis will be blessed!  This is no small matter for, as we have previously noted, a bracha given out of Hakaras HaTov has great potency (HaRav Pam, Z’tl and yblc’t HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita).


3.  One should recite both the Birkas HaOrayach which begins with the words “Yehi Ratzon She’lo Yaivosh VeLo Yikaleim Ba’al HaBayis Hazeh..., and the standard HaRachaman Hu Yivorech Es Ba’al Habayis Hazeh.  B’dieved, one is yotzeh by only reciting the second, standard version.  {Hakhel Note:  Is this something that you want to be yotzeh b’dieved?!]


4.  Every guest, and not just the one leading the zimun, should recite the Birkas HaOrayach.


5.  It is proper to recite the Birkas HaOrayach immediately upon conclusion of the fourth bracha--after the words ‘leolam al yechaserainu.”  Some have the custom of reciting it before HaRachaman Hu Yevorech Es Ba’al HaBayis Hazeh.  Sefaradim have the custom of reciting it before HaRachaman Hu Yechayainu Vizakainu.


6.  It is befitting that even children who are being raised/supported by their father give this bracha to him when Bentsching at his table.  (Magen Avraham to Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim, ibid., 2, and HaRav Eliyashiv, Shlita).  HaRav Mordechai Eliyahu, Z’tl, rules that the Minhag (for Sefaradim) is only for guests to do so.


7.  The Mishna Berura (ibid., seif katan 7) rules that if one is paying for his meal, he need not give the Birkas HaOrayach, although even in this instance the Piskei Teshuvos suggests that “Tov Ayin Hu Yevorach would still apply!


As in all matters, one should consult with his Rav or Posek on particular Shailos that he may have.



Special Note One:  In last week’s Parsha, we find that Yaakov Avinu fought with the Malach of Eisav, who was also the personification of the Yetzer Hara.  When Yaakov was victorious, he asked this Malach for his name, but was asked: “Why do you ask me my name?”  This answer by the Malach may be misconstrued as simply answering a question with a question--or perhaps as a refusal to give a truthful answer.  However, Rabbi Zelig Pliskin (Growth Through Torah, p. 97) brings a remarkable insight from HaRav Yehudah Leib Chasman, ZT’L.  HaRav Chasman explains that this was actually the name of the evil inclination, “Don’t ask!”


Rabbi Pliskin elucidates:

“The desires of this world draw a person like a magnet.  The best way to overcome one’s negative impulses is to be aware of how illusory these pleasures actually are.  As soon as you take a close look with your intellect at worldly desires you will see how empty and meaningless they are. The Yetzer Hara cautions you: ‘Don’t ask!’  As soon as you start asking questions to clarify the reality of the evil inclination, you will find that there is nothing there.  This is analogous to seeing a shadow and thinking that something is actually in front of you.  As soon as you light a candle, you realize that what you saw was only an illusion.  Use your intellect to see the emptiness of negative desires and you will be free from their pull (Ohr Yohail, Volume 2, p. 35).”


This is an important lesson for each and every one of us.  Whenever we are faced with a situation in which we say to ourselves “Better not to think about this too much” or “Let me go with my impulse” or “Ignorance is bliss” or “Just this one time”…remember that the Malach, the Yetzer Hora  “Don’t Ask” may be making these suggestions to you.  Why not void that temporal temptation, the pleasure-filled bag of illusion--by lighting your own candle inside--the candle of truth?



Special Note Two:  HaRav Yerucham Levovitz, Z’tl, the Mashgiach of Mirrer Yeshiva, wrote in his personal notebook that “I want to be zoche to daas--to wisdom.”  He therefore accepted upon himself to break his desire three times a day.  This appears difficult--at least at first glance.  What is the connection between obtaining wisdom and breaking your desire?  HaRav Shlomo Volbe, Z’tl, (Collected Letters, 41) explains that wisdom is evidenced by the intellect’s overcoming of desire.  It is the supremacy of spiritual aspiration over material want.  The battle for wisdom, however, cannot be fought in the abstract or even only in the Bais HaKnesses or Bais HaMedrash.  It must be fought in every day life and in every day situations.  Indeed, according to the Sefer Mesilas Yesharim, the first two middos--the first two character traits--we are to build within ourselves are Zehirus and Zerizus--care and alacrity--the immediate response we make to the situations that present themselves.  Let’s take a look:  The extra portion of delectable food.  The manner in which you eat.  The curious eavesdropping.  Looking at things that  shouldn’t be looked at.  Going places we shouldn’t be going.  Listening to things we shouldn’t be listening to.  Excess gadgets--and that one more high-tech toy.  These, and similar temptations, are the challenges of our everyday life.  Will wisdom win?  You are the General.


In last week’s Parsha, we find that Eisav was pacified by the gifts of animals (animals, of course, symbolizing desire) delivered to him from Yaakov.  Consequently, despite all of his might, Eisav withdrew from--and forever forfeited his and his descendant’s claim to--Eretz Yisroel.  Likewise, Shechem’s desire for Dina resulted not only in the loss of his princely status, but in the death and destruction of himself, his family, and his entire nation.  Perhaps the Torah emphasizes to us that the effect of desire is not necessarily only the personal downfall of the person falling prey, but also the possible ruination of those around him and those following him, as well.  Let us take a few moments each day to follow the lead of the Mirrer Mashgiach--by breaking a particular desire at least once daily--as we place our minds over matter--and become all the wiser for it!



Special Note Three:  The Gemara (Beizah 38A) teaches that Rebbe Abba, after leaving Bavel and prior to meeting with the Rabbonim in Eretz Yisroel, prayed “May it be Your will that my words be accepted.”  In fact, his words were not accepted by the Rabbonim.  The Chasam Sofer, in explaining what had happened there, teaches that Rebbe Abba was mistaken in asking that his words be accepted.  Instead, he should have davened that his words bring about discovery of the truth relating to the matter being discussed.  Aside from learning the value of truth from this incident, we can also learn the value of **praying** that we attain truth.  Indeed, the Middah of Yaakov Avinu is the Middah of Truth (For a fuller discussion of this, see Michtav M’Eliyahu Volume 2, p. 161).


Perhaps an even starker indication of the value of truth may be found in the Pasuk (Tzefania 3:13 ) where the Navi describes who among us will remain in the end of days.  “Sheairis Yisroel…--the Remnant of Israel--shall neither commit injustice nor speak lies; neither shall deceitful speech be found in their mouth.”  Need we anything more be written or said?


As we experience the Parshiyos of Yaakov Avinu, and his remarkable survival through diverse suffering, we should make an extra special effort to follow in his Middah of Truth--in understanding that the real truth about others is not always known to us, in discerning and distinguishing the everlasting truth of the Yetzer HaTov from the momentary delights presented by the Yetzer Hora, and in speaking properly and honorably.  If we can sufficiently make that effort--and it is certainly not beyond anyone reading this--we, too, can be part of that lasting Remnant of Israel at the end of this exile.



Special Note One:  In a note last Erev Shabbos, we pointed out that spiders are not considered to be dangerous and are not put into the dangerous snake and scorpion category, which would allow them to be killed on Shabbos.  Rather, the Chofetz Chaim teaches, one can cover the food so that the spiders stay away (or try to remove the spider webs during Erev Shabbos cleaning).  A reader cautioned that while this may be true of the traditional house spider, his research indicates that there are several other kinds of spiders who are quite dangerous--including the Brown Recluse Spider, Black Widow Spider, Mouse Spider, and Black House Spider.  Accordingly, one should consult with his Rav as to how to treat insects and creatures with which he is not otherwise familiar.  Of course, if there is doubt as to Pikuach Nefesh one always immediately errs to the side of saving his life.



Special Note Two:  When one takes a closer look at the symbol of the Mitsubishi automobile, one may be struck by the fact that its symbol, which appears on both the front and back of the car, appears to resemble a configuration of the avodah zara markulis (one stone being positioned on top of two).  Brief research into the Mitsubishi symbol shows that it in fact has actual occult origins--and that the car maker proudly displays them. We had asked a Posek in Eretz Yisroel whether he felt there was any avodah zara or maris ayin issue involved in owning or riding in such a vehicle, and he felt that there was no issue.  The existence of the symbol, as proudly displayed, does however serve as a reminder to us that we must watch our step in our encounters with the outside world---for even the silliest and most innocuous items and objects can be laced with kefira and avodah zara, perhaps in Halachically impermissible contexts and ways.  Nothing should be taken for granted--and when doubts arise--they should be most definitely investigated.  Similar and perhaps more difficult issues may arise from currently available and popular homeopathic medicines, treatments and procedures, whose origins and performance must be investigated before being undertaken!



Special Note Three:  Here are some unusual words which appear in large type on the front label of a particular food product (not otherwise particularly known as a health food).  “DAIRY FREE   GLUTEN FREE   WHEAT FREE   EGG FREE   NUT FREE   100% VEGETARIAN  NO PRESERVATIVES”.  After all of that, on the back of the label for this very product, one will find the words “For best results--deep fry.”  [Hakhel Note--while deep frying may provide the ‘best results’ in terms of taste, deep frying may be the most harmful way of preparing a product, and we provide it here not as an endorsement, but to accurately report the contents of the label].  Labels such as these should serve as a great reminder to us to always look at the good in a person, place, event, item or thing--and not take an immediate and  negative approach towards the person’s or object’s qualities, and most certainly avoid harming in any way or maligning in any way the ability and character of others.  Yes, he may possess the human midos-equivalents of gluten, eggs, nuts or saturated fats--but there is really oh much good in him, as well.  So put the deep frying part on your friend’s ‘back label’ in small type--and put all those healthy FREEs in large type on his ‘front-label’--so that you see that when you greet him-- there is really so much good for you to see!



Special Note Four:  At the outset of last week’s Parsha, which describes Yaakov Avinu sending Malachim to Esav, Rashi writes that they were “Malachim Mammash--real angels”.  What does Rashi mean to add by teaching that they were real Malachim?  The Chofetz Chaim explains (in another context) that Hashem has many, many Malachim to do his work--and not all of them are angels. As Dovid Hamelech teaches us in Tehillim--”Oseh Malachav Ruchos--Hashem makes the winds his messengers....  It is up to us to realize that Hashem is constantly sending us messages through what other human beings say or do to you, through natural phenomenon, through an event that occurred in front of your eyes, and through changes in the lives of those you know or are close to.  Yaakov Avinu was zoche to deal with Malachim mammash.  We may not be in a position to benefit from the assistance or teachings of the Malachim mammash--but we most certainly should recognize and benefit from the Hashgacha Pratis, direction in life and messages being related to us through Hashem’s messengers in all sizes, shapes and forms. As a simple starting point in getting used to a constant appreciation of Hashem’s care for you--the next time you are about to get angry, raise your voice or say the wrong thing to someone--stop and think--’wait a second he was Hashem’s messenger’!



Special Note One:  We continue with our Erev Shabbos--Halachos of Shabbos series:


1.  The Mishna Berura notes that there is a misconception among some that spiders can be dangerous to humans and that killing them is permissible on Shabbos.  This, he writes, is not true, and they are not to be treated as snakes or scorpions.  If one is worried about the presence of spiders around food, one should simply cover the food--but may not kill the spider.  Likewise, one may not kill insects on fruits and vegetables on Shabbos (one should consult with his Rav about bedikas tolaim on Shabbos in fruits and vegetables) (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 316, seif katan 48)


2.  At the outset of Tikanta Shabbos in Mussaf, we recite the phrase “Tzivisa Peirusheha”--to what do these words refer?


3.  It is forbidden to tell a Non-Jew to do on your behalf anything that you personally cannot do on Shabbos.  Some rule that this is an Issur D’Oraysa (Kol Melacha Lo Yei’Aseh Bohem), and some rule that it is an Issur DeRabbanan (so that the Jew does not come to do a forbidden act on his own, or because it appears that the Gentile is simply doing the work as a Shaliach on the Jew’s behalf).  Additionally, it is generally forbidden to derive benefit on Shabbos (and Bichdei She’yaasu on Motza’ai Shabbos) from work performed on Shabbos by a Non-Jew with the Jew in mind (even if the Jew did not ask for it).  Indeed, a Jew should be ‘moche’--should try to stop the Gentile from performing such work (for silence implies consent). If the work was done on behalf of the Jew publicly--it is forever forbidden to the Jew, and he can never derive benefit from it.  Even if the Gentile is doing work for himself--but may add on to the melacha in order to benefit the Jew as well (such as putting up more water to boil)--it is forbidden to derive benefit from this work on Shabbos.  In a place where there is no Eruv, it is generally forbidden to give a Gentile anything that he may take outside even on his own behalf, for it will appear as if he is doing so for the Jew (Maris Ayin).  There are leniencies in certain instances Mipnei Darchei Shalom, but they must first be discussed with your Rav.  Additional Note:  If one speaks about doing Melacha to a Gentile--he will also violate the separate Issur of Daber Dovor.


4.  Shalosh Seudos—For Women.  The third meal of the on Shabbos is a crown which distinguishes Shabbos from the other days of the week.  The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 291:6) devotes a specific se’if to the following p’sak halacha: “Women are obligated in Seuda Shelishis.”  The Mishna Berurah there explains that this p’sak is because men and women are equal in all Shabbos matters, and women also benefited from the miracle of the mon.  It is for this reason that women are also obligated in lechem mishne.  Accordingly, every adult should be careful, especially in the winter months, to leave enough room for Shalosh Seudos.  The Gemara (Shabbos 118A) explicitly states that one who upholds the mitzva of three meals on Shabbos is saved from three punishments—the pangs of Moshiach, the Judgment of Gehinnom and the War of Gog U’Magog.  Husbands and fathers who choose to spend Shalosh Seudos in shul should ensure that their homes maintain the appropriate level of Kedushas Shabbos and that family members eat Shalosh Seudos.


5.  Remind Others!--  In the face of the multitude of activities that may take place after Havdala, the mavdil should not forget to make a bracha achrona.  Instead, the mavdil should take care to drink a reviis of wine/grape juice immediately, and make the bracha achrona of al hagefen before folding his talis, cleaning up, etc.  [If the mavdil, however, is about to start a meal after Havdala, see Orach Chayim 299:8,9].



Special Note Two: The Rabbeinu Bachya writes that Yaakov bowed down to Esav seven times before meeting him--in order to demonstrate (and instill within us) that although a Tzaddik may fall along the way seven times--he will finally arise and succeed!



Special Note Three:  In his classic work, In the Beginning, HaRav Avigdor Miller, Z’tl provides the following beautiful and extremely meaningful lessons on this week’s Parsha:


a. “VaYevorech Oso Shom”--The Malach of Esav--the Satan--the Yetzer Hora-- blessed Yaakov.  We learn from here that the Yetzer Hora, when properly resisted by a person, proves to be his greatest blessing--for according to the effort is the reward (Avos 5:23 ).  If not for tests of virtue, life would be bereft of value.  The long night of battling the Evil Inclination in the darkness of this world is the greatest blessing to us, as Yaakov’s descendants!


b.  When Yaakov met Esav--they wept (Bereishis 33:4).  We also find that when Yaakov met Rochel he wept (ibid. 29:11), and that Yosef wept when his brothers came (43:30, 45:2, and 45:15).  Additionally, Esav and Yaakov embraced and kissed each other, Yaakov kissed Rochel, and Yosef embraced and kissed his brothers. We see that the family of Avrohom and Yitzchak express their love of kin in a highly emotional manner, and we learn from this that it is an excellence of the soul to love one’s kin with powerful emotion.  By loving one’s kin, one comes to love his kin’s kin, and eventually he attains the feeling that the entire House of Israel is his kin.  The perfection of character toward one person tends to spread, and is subsequently broadened to include others.  The fact that even Esav ran toward his brother, embraced him, kissed him and wept demonstrates how deeply ingrained the fervent love of kin should be in family life.”



Special Note Four:  The Torah devotes 43 Pesukim to Esav’s descendants.  Why?  We suggest that these special passages help us appreciate the Torah’s great and unfathomable depth.  If the Torah was simply telling us a story or giving us a genealogy lesson--most of us would undoubtedly just turn the page--for after all, what interest do we have in this Mumar’s descendants.  Our inner feelings would otherwise undoubtedly be:  How could someone like this grow up in Yitzchak’s house anyways?  Who needs or wants these wicked and unwanted relatives?  It is obvious then that Sodos HaTorah--thoughts, ideas and principles beyond the average person’s grasp are placed into these words and letters.  Rather than let the words fly by us during Krias HaTorah--we should be awed and mesmerized by their deeper connotations currently not known to us--the Kedushas HaTorah. Most certainly, when the Moshiach comes we will have a lot to learn.  Until then, we must try to properly honor and respect the Great and Holy Treasure that has been handed down to us. It is much more than a priceless diamond--it is a limitless one!



Special Note One:  Although Hashem had promised Yaakov Avinu that he would be sustained, Chazal teach that Yaakov was worried “Shemah Yigrom HaCheit--maybe Aveirah would do away with” the Brachos that would otherwise come.  What Aveirah was Yaakov referring to?  HaRav Daniel Movshovitz, Z’tl (the last Rosh Yeshiva in Kelm, who was killed Al Kiddush Hashem), provides an incredible explanation.  He teaches that Hashem’s assurance of Bracha to Yaakov was really an assurance to him that he was capable of attaining that blessing--and that if he did the proper hishtadlus, he would be zoche to it.  Yaakov, then, was worried that he would not realize his potential--not live up to the capabilities that Hashem told him he was in fact capable of.  This is, of course, a great and important lesson to us all.  Hashem wants to give us brachos and has unlimited resources--we simply have to properly step into the shoes of the very person whom He wants to give them to.  We are simply hurting ourselves--we are taking away our very own bracha--if we are weak in Lashon Hara here, easily-angered there, even a little late to davening, or in general are not careful enough in areas in which you know you really could be.  Instead of worrying--let’s realize our potential and draw the bracha in! 


Additional Note:  It is no secret that while a child may like to wallow in the mud or dirt, spreading more and more grime on his arms, face and feet, an adult will try to avoid any of this--and will instead attempt to promptly remove any residual evidence of stain on his clothes or body.  This obvious contrast should serve as a real-life lesson for us all.  When one is tempted to speak when he should not, miss a learning seder, eat of an unknown Hashgacha, or engage in conduct that he would not feel comfortable with on Rosh Hashana or Yom Kippur--he should picture himself as a little child and as a well-respected adult--and then make the choice of getting dirty--or staying clean!



Special Note Two:  The Torah makes it very clear to us in this week’s Parsha that Yaakov Avinu had a long and difficult battle overnight--with none other than, as Chazal explain, the Sar Shel Eisav himself.  The Chofetz Chaim teaches that neither Avrohom nor Yitzchak had this incredible battle--only Yaakov.  What was it that so upset the Satan--that he went to do battle head on at this point?!  The Chofetz Chaim explains that this was a pivotal moment in world history.  Avrohom Avinu was the Amud HaChesed which became a mark of his descendants for all time.  Yitzchak Avinu was the Amud of Avodah which separates us from all peoples.  Now, however, came Yaakov--who learned Torah in Eretz Yisroel--kept it in Chutz La’Aretz--and was returning with Torah to Eretz Yisroel.  The Amud HaTorah would mean the ultimate effective defeat of evil--for it would prove that the Torah of Galus would last and be successfully transplanted back to Eretz Yisroel.  HaRav Elchanan Wasserman, Z’tl, in explaining his Rebbe’s teaching, writes that Torah is literally a Jew’s ammunition--without it, all of the guns, artillery, fighter jets and manpower can simply not do battle.  It is for this reason, Chazal teach, that even if Hashem is mevater on the sins of Avodah Zara, Gilui Arayos and Shefichus Damim--Hashem will never be mevater on the sin of Bitul Torah.  One who disregards his Torah study time and/or does not learn as he could or should is really like a sentry who has been asked to guard the ammunition depot--turns away and lets the terrorists steal it all.  Yaakov showed the Sar Shel Eisav that even if he could be temporarily maimed, our essence of Torah could not be defeated.  It is our role as Yaakov’s progeny to follow in his ways.  This means EVER STRENGTHENING OURSEVES in the study of Torah--and not letting weakness set in.  As we are now two months after Yom Kippur and counting, with the detours and distractions of Esav’s Sar all around us--we must fight off the difficulties and temptations--to make sure that we are learning more this year--not less.  We must make sure that we are utilizing our wisdom and our capabilities to devise and develop new ways to learn and new times to learn-so that we are constantly growing and modernizing our arsenal.  Starting another shiur in your Shul, going through another Sefer, finding another five minutes of “downtime” during the day to learn, trying to help someone else grow in Torah, or utilizing another technique in modern technology for learning--are some of the actual examples of  the weaponry of our survival.  We are soldiers in a lonely army--but the world’s most important and the world’s best.  If we fail in our individual duty, we are hurting ourselves and making the world a more dangerous place.  If we succeed--then we will have realized the full and potential of Yaakov Avinu--and unite with him to together be called Yisroel!


We hope to soon kindle the Chanukah lights.  If we are to sincerely take the lesson from this week’s Parsha--the time is now to rekindle the flame of Torah.  It takes just a few minutes of reflection, of thinking “out of the box”--to take yourself to the next step in the great and surprising strides you can make over your lifetime in Torah study.


Special Note One:  The Ba’al HaTurim at the outset of last week’s Parsha, on the word “Sulam--ladder” notes that its gematria (136) is also the gematria of mammon (money) and oni (poverty)--for much of one’s spiritual elevation and spiritual descent in this world is based upon how he treats money!  How can one demonstrate that he took this great lesson from the Parsha to heart by being especially vigilant and scrupulous in monetary matters?  We constantly receive correspondence from service providers complaining about how they provide services to people in their community and are not paid upon completion of their service, which is further exacerbated by later difficulties in collection--despite assurances of payment.  One should be careful to pay service providers on-time--they may really need the money to pay their rent, tuition, etc.  Another way to demonstrate careful behavior in monetary matters and concern would be by tilting the scale in favor of the one on the other side of the transaction, rather than perhaps erring, even in a small way in your favor.



Special Note Two:  Today is the 10th day of Kislev--two (2) months from the 10th of Tishrei--Yom Kippur.  It is a day to stop and contemplate where we have come since Yom Kippur.  Today, maybe we can be especially careful as to what we think, or say, or do.  Perhaps we can resolve to daven the Mincha Shemone Esrei today with Kavana never thought possible in the middle of the work- or burden-filled day.  Perhaps, alternatively or in combination, one can designate it as a day of extreme caution in judging others favorably--or in being especially careful to refine what is about to be said.  Or, it could be that middah that you know you have to work on, or some re-igniting of that Kabbala you may have made some 60 or so days ago.


We may add that it is certainly not just another one of those coincidences that the Haftorah for last Shabbos actually incorporated the Shabbos Shuva Haftorah of “Shuva Yisroel Ad Hashem Elokecha--Return, Israel, to Hashem your G-d.”  The Yetzer Hora, disguising himself as Mother Nature, Old Man Winter or whatever else you may want to call him (Chazal say he has seven names) makes sure to remind us that we’ve got to slow down now--after all, birds fly south, animals hibernate, it’s dark when many of us wake up in the morning and already dark again in the late afternoon by the time we get home.  He shows us how cold, nasty or treacherous it is to go outside to the shiur or do the Mitzvah, and how easy--and “important”--it is to turn over in bed just one (or two) more times.  Our response must be that we are not weakened by the external stimuli, by what the world looks like or does around us, but instead remember Shuva Yisroel--always keep your priorities straight, and keep the proper focus.  Today, let us invigorate ourselves with a fresh breath of cold air--as we invite in the challenges of winter with a renewal of our own, personalized Avodas Hashem in a way that only we ourselves would know---and be proud of.



Special Note Three:  HaRav Dessler, Zt’l, (Michtav M’Eliuyahu, Volume 3, p. 306) wrote a short poem in 1943.  In Hebrew, it actually rhymes.  In English, even without the rhyme, it rings powerfully and deeply within us. It reads:

“The past-

Is now memories

The future-

Is hopeful illusions-

But the present

Focus on that

It is your life

And it is all Nisyonos” (tests and trials)


Reality is not negative.  Reality is the challenges that one encounters in everyday life.  In the end, there may be no greater joy than successfully meeting those challenges.



Special Note Four:  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.



Special Note One:  In Birkas HaMazon, we thank Hashem for the food that he gives us, sustaining us “Bechol Yom U’Vechol Eis U’Vechol Sha’ah--every day, every time, and every hour.”  A reader suggested that the need for these three specific phrases is to teach us that even when we are not eating we are being miraculously sustained through our digestive systems.  In a sense, then, we are thanking Hashem not only for the food which we have just eaten--but for the fact that we don’t have to be constantly eating!



Special Note Two:  The Bnei Lavan bitterly complained that Yaakov had taken their father’s wealth and made for himself “Es Kol HaKavod Hazeh”.  The Vilna Gaon asks why the Torah uses the word “Kavod” here, when we know that, as Chazal teach --”Kavod is Torah”.  The Gaon answers that the word Kavod in last week’s Parsha is, in fact, written without a “Vav”--to teach us that while wealth may appear to be a source of Kavod, there is really something very much lacking in the Kavod that is limited to wealth alone.  Indeed, by using the term Kavod with the Vav missing, the Torah is indicating that even the sons of Lavan should have known better--and realized that money in of itself is not honor.  However, we do ask Hashem for a Parnassah BeKavod (with a Vav) both in Bentching and in Birkas HaChodesh.  We suggest that there are two aspects of wealth which are afforded a higher station:


A. The recognition that Hashem has appointed this or that wealthy person as a “Trustee” to properly distribute the entrusted assets (See Iggeres HaRamban).


B.  If one acts properly and honestly with his money (the Pachim Ketanim of Yaakov in this week’s Parsha), then the money becomes sanctified and elevated as an object of Kiddush Hashem.


If we treat our assets and our wealth as a Trustee, and with utmost honesty and integrity--then the word Kavod in our Tefillos can have a Vav in it--because then it is complete. 



Special Note Three:  This week, we continue learning of the quality of Emes L’Yaakov.  In fact, the quality of ‘Titein Emes L’Yaakov’ is the Tenth Middah of Hashem, as explained in the Sefer Tomer Devorah, as follows:  “and to those who conduct themselves in this world with uprightness, Hashem also conducts towards them with this quality of truth, having mercy on them in a way that is upright and just.  So, too, must a person act towards his fellow….  He should have true mercy on him, just as Hashem has true mercy on his creatures….”  We see from the Tomer Devorah that even Hashem’s truth relates back to the truth--of mercy.  If this is the truth that we seek from Hashem--this is the truth that we should mete out to others!



Special Note Four:  Chazal teach that when a man is within five years of the age that a parent passed away, he should be “do’eg”--he should be concerned five years before and five years after.  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita explains that the concept of do’eg means that one should learn with greater hasmada--and that this is what Chazal similarly mean when they teach that “when one of the chabura passes away, the rest of the chabura should be do’eg”--that they should learn with greater hasmada.  It would appear from this teaching that greater hasmada-- in an incredibly important way--helps one maintain his life in this world!  



Special Note Five:  As we encountered two Chasunahs in last week’s Parsha, both of Leah and of Rochel, we provide below several informative questions and answers from HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita (Sefer Derech Sicha ), relating to Chasunahs:


Q:  Does a Chassan who is “Domeh LeMelech” have to nevertheless stand up for his father?

A:  Yes--for even a King must stand up for his father.  In fact, according to Rav Elyashiv, Shlita, a Chassan must also stand up before a Talmid Chacham, even though a Melech does not.  This is because a Chassan is only “Domeh LeMelech--like a king”, but is not fully a king!


Q:  Does the Chassan have a mitzvah to be MeSameach himself?

A: It appears that it is a Machlokes Tenoim (based on a Sugyah in Maseches Avodim Chapter 2)


Q: In order to properly fulfill the Mitzvah, must one be MeSameach both the Chassan and the Kallah?

A: No--being MeSameach either one fulfills the Mitzvah and brings all of the reward.


Q:  Is it permissible to turn down a Kibbud at a Chasunah?

A:  Yes, one can only not turn down the offer to lead Birkas HaMazon.


Q:  In the order of “Ailu Devarim She’Adam Ocheil Peiroseihem BaOlam Hazeh” that we recite every morning, we recite “Bikur Cholim, Hachnosas Kallah, U’levayas HaMeis.”  Why is Hachnosas Kallah placed in between Bikur Cholim and a Levaya? 

A:  In the name of his father, the Steipeler--this teaches us that if one who is sick gets involved in Hachnosas Kallah, it can literally save his life.


Q:  Should a Chassan avoid going to Shul during the Sheva Brachos week, because if he goes, the Tzibbur will not say Tachanun?

A:  The Mishna Berurah states that a Chassan should not go to Shul, so that the Tzibbur will say Tachanun.  However, the Chazon Ish states that this is not the Minhag--and that Chassanim should go to Shul [for a discussion as to the Mishna Berurah’s intent here, see Piskei Teshuvos Vol II, p.74].



Obvious Question of The Week:  In last week’s Parsha, after Yosef is born, Yaakov asks Lavan permission to leave and make his way home (Bereishis 30:25).  We then learn of Yaakov’s miracle-filled ‘deal’ with Lavan for payment. Yet, it is not until many Pesukim later (ibid. 31:13) that a Malach appears to Yaakov and instructs him to leave and return to Eretz Yisroel.  How could/why would Yaakov have initiated his plans for departure and return to Eretz Yisroel without instructions from his mother (who said she would call for him when it was safe--see ibid. 27:45), or without having received instruction from Hashem--which apparently only happened much later?!



Special Note One:  If a person works hard to provide good service, he expects the appreciation of a timely payment besides a sincere expression of thanks.  Many who are in a service business (doctors, lawyers, accountants, consultants, craftsmen, plumbers, electricians, etc.) are the first to pay their bills to other service providers--because they know how sorely and even hurt they feel when they are not paid on time.  As we look at Lavan’s foolish and rotten conduct, in withholding from Yaakov whatever he could for as long as he could, we are reminded of the concluding words of the Rambam in Hilchos Sechirus (the Laws of Hired Workers).  There, the Rambam refers to Yaakov as ‘Yaakov ‘Hatzaddik’, and states that Yaakov worked Bechol Kocho--with all of his strength for Lavan.  Though the wicked Lavan tried to avoid payment, Hashem Himself acknowledged Yaakov’s steadfast and honest efforts and Yaakov was rewarded even in this world with “Vayifrotz HaIsh Me’od Me’od--he became very wealthy.  By bringing this as the concluding Halacha here, we can suggest that the Rambam intends to impart a great lesson to all workers.  Dedication and integrity in the workplace should be rewarded by our employers or those who hire us.  If we act as we are supposed to ( please recall the instructions given by HaRav Pam, Z’tl to his student who was entering the work force, as published in our last Bulletin), than we are Tzaddikim--and we should dealt with accordingly by those who hired us.  Even if, however, we are treated more like Lavan treated Yaakov, then Hashem Himself will get involved in a way that He deems fit and either despoil the Lavan we are dealing with for our benefit--or take care of us in some other very special way---as the Pasuk unusually emphasizes--Me’od Me’od--his situation *very much* improved.  In these difficult financial times, let us take the lesson of Yaakov HaTzaddik--and may we not only give Nachas to Hashem and reap the rewards for our conduct in the Next World, but touch the Me’od Me’od very much so in This World as well!



Special Note Two:  Another of the many foundations for life that we learned in last week’s Parsha, was Leah Imeinu’s exuberant expression when she gave birth to Yehuda:  HaPa’am Odeh Es Hashem--this time I will thank and express my appreciative submission to Hashem!  We present briefly below three important explanations of these words, and would most welcome your explanations, as well:


1.  Leah realized that the fourth son granted to her was beyond her allotment--after all there were 12 sons to be born to four wives--making each wife the mother of three boys.  With this appreciation--that she had received more than her allotment--she gained a fully new appreciation and picture as well. Even the first son, the second son and the third son were undeserved and a great gift from Hashem.  Were her meager deeds indeed worthy of a first miracle, a second miracle, or a third miracle?  Leah thus asked herself--HaPa’am Odeh Es Hashem--should it be only this time that I thank Hashem?!  Proper thanks must always be expressed for the blessings that we have--even if they are repeated.  Because we were able to see, hear, eat or think yesterday--does it mean that the miracle necessarily must recur today?  HaPaa’m teaches us that the gifts should not be viewed on a ‘wholesale’ basis--but rather should be scrutinized and appreciated in an individualized way.  (based upon the teachings of HaRav Shmuel Ehrenfeld--the Mattersdorfer Rav, Z’t’l)


2. In many of our Tefillos during the day, we thank Hashem for something--and then ask for more (Modim, and the HaRachamans after bentsching, for example).  This of course demonstrates our sincere belief that Hashem is the Continuous Source of Blessing at all times.  However, sometimes we should express our thanks without any additional ‘ulterior motive’--of more blessing, more benefits or more rewards.  Pristine thanks and thanks alone--unaccompanied by anything else-- over an event, occurrence, or yeshua is a pure appreciation of “Ki Mimcha Hakol--You have provided me with this blessing and I express my sincere and heartfelt thanks!  (based upon the teachings of HaRav Meir Schuck--the Temesvarer Rav, Z’tl)


3.  Leah did not want to let this great moment of appreciation and joy pass by as a moment in history.  She wanted it very much to be a part of her for the rest of her life--and she did so by making that her son’s name.  When she called out her son’s name--for supper, for an errand, to go to bed, she would remember that Hashem is to be thanked for his blessings.  There is really a dual message here.  Firstly, we should find reference points or milestones within our day to help guide us so that are days are properly and meaningfully directed--and so that we do not get lost in insignificant trivialities and diversionary trifles through which a day’s events can be detoured and minimized.  Secondly, we should appreciate the significance of names (perhaps the meanings of our friends/families names that we call upon can be part of our daily milestones, as we call their names).  Indeed, Chazal teach that it is wrong to be “Mechane Shem”--to call someone by other than his name, even if it is not necessarily condescending.  A person’s name identifies him in This World and the Next World--and we should very much express it as such.


The lesson to us of Leah’s naming of Yehuda is so important, so crucial, so pivotal--that the appellation “Jew” has stayed by our side world-over for 2,000 years.  Through our proper appreciation and accomplishments from the lessons of this title--may we deservingly go back to the title of B’nai Yisroel--speedily and in our day!



Mazel Tov to all those who are starting Seder Kodshim in the Daf Yomi--a true milestone.  May our studies be Halacha LeMa’aseh as we witness speedily with our own eyes how the Sugyos we learn are actualized in the Bais HaMikdash before us--speedily and IN OUR DAYS!



Question of the Week:  We know that Avrohom Avinu broke his father Terach’s idols as part of his demonstrative rejection of avoda zara, and his hope that his father, family…and the world would follow.  When Rachel Imeinu stole her father’s terafim--was she following in Avrohom Avinu’s footsteps, or is the Halachic Analysis a different one? 



Special Note One:  At yesterday’s Yarchei Kallah, Rabbi Zev Smith, Shlita provided some beautiful insights into opportunities we encounter daily, and how to utilize them.  Below are but a brief few of the significant points that he made:


1.  Every day in Ahava Rabba we pray that we succeed in “Lilmod U’Lelamed….learning and teaching Torah.  However, very few of us are teachers.  Yes, we can learn Torah, and try to observe and fulfill the Torah--but teach?!  There is an inevitable answer.  In fact, we are all teachers--because all of those around us learn from our actions.  We pray, then, that our conduct will be Torah-guided--and not c’v an embarrassment to ourselves and to the Torah.  Rabbi Smith related the story of a Frum Jew who inadvertently slightly scratched another’s parked car in a classic packed parking lot scenario.  He left a note on the windshield with his name and phone number--and advised that he would pay whatever the expense would be to fix the scratch.  Upon returning, the affected party noticed the note and called.  “You left me the note because of that scratch?!  I want to meet you.” The end is a happy one--the surprising integrity brought about that meeting… and then brought a previously uneducated Jew back to Yiddishkeit.


2.  A large measure of Kiddush Hashem towards the outside world can be demonstrated by the way that we drive. Rather than contemplate the typical sign “Honking--$350.00 Fine”, we should contemplate “Honking--Big Chillul Hashem.”  The fact that you are rushing to make Ma’ariv does not justify the outsider’s view of your conduct as a race car driver.  A sharp left turn once brought about an unnoticed elderly women’s (about to cross the street) response--“What is this--the Wild West?!”  Courtesies to pedestrians and obeying traffic laws draws respect and earns praise--which counts in the World Above even more than in the World Below.


3.  The Alter of Kelm once sent a letter to Baron Rothschild expressing his Hakaras HaTov to him. This was not because he had given a donation to the Yeshiva--or because he was seeking a donation, but simply because he felt gratitude towards Baron Rothchild for being a constant source of Kiddush Hashem with the “higher echelon” people with whom he was constantly in contact.  The Alter explained with the following point:  The Bechor has a special status in K’lal Yisroel because during Makas Bechoros in Egypt our Bechorim survived.  Although our Bechorim that night did not, in fact, undertake any special activity-- the simple fact that a Kiddush Hashem resulted from their survival was an eternal zechus forever.  Thus, one is credited even for a “passive” Kiddush Hashem.  In fact, the Torah uses the word “VeNikdashti”,  rather than a more active and forceful word form to teach us that our mere positive presence has an effect in all Worlds.  When we take action with a kind or calm word, with dignified or honorable conduct, with genuine sincerity--the Kiddush Hashem is all the greater!


4.  Rabbi Smith related the very miserable tale of a young Ba’al Teshuvah couple with whom he was familiar as a child.  The young wife began to teach in a local girls Yeshiva.  Several months later, Rabbi Smith’s mother walked into her apartment and saw her bowing down to something with incense.  Tragically, she was now worshipping avoda zara in the very apartment where she had kept the Mitzvos.  When asked for her explanation for this sad and terrible change, she explained that she was “turned off” to Yiddishkeit because of the disrespect and behavior of her students in school.  She brought down her husband and young child with her, and the family was lost to Yiddishkeit.  Of course, there were undoubtedly other issues involved, but this was her explanation and perception.  This was in sharp contrast to the young man who was marrying out of our faith because he was not brought up in a Torah home, and had no personal connection to Judaism.  Although not religious, his father never envisioned this tragic result. In a last-ditch effort, he introduced his son to Rabbi Moshe Shisgal, Z’tl (the son in-law of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl), and they spent a short time together.  The recalcitrant young man emerged from the brief encounter and declared:  “If we have such a man as part of our people, I cannot marry out.”  He then proceeded to become a Torah Jew.


5.  Rav Pam, Z’tl, once advised a student who was entering the work force and asked for his advice as follows:  “Be the hardest working, most honest, and most pleasant person in the office….”  Rabbi Smith added that ‘Our customers are our best advertisement’ should not be limited to the slogan of a clothing store, but should be the mantra of a Torah Jew as well. 


6.  We should always remember that for every action there is a reaction.  HaRav Elchonon Wasserman, Z’tl, in his Hesped of the Chofetz Chaim, Z’tl, said the Chofetz Chaim had said that he first wanted to change the world, then lowered his expectation to his community, then to his family, and then settled on himself.  What the Chofetz Chaim did not fathom, HaRav Wasserman explained, was that because he changed himself, he changed his family, he changed his community, and he changed the world!  As each pearl on a strand has its own value and significance, so too does each of our actions have its own worth--and helps make up a string of immense and eternal value!


Hakhel Note:  To obtain a CD of the complete Shiur, please contact:  718-252-5274.



Special Note Two:  Also at the Yarchei Kallah yesterday, Rabbi Dan Roth, Shlita, provided an essential review of the Halachos of Mezuza, and showed--not in a critical or condescending way--how many Mezuzas were not properly placed (in many cases the improper placement being Me’akeiv--invalidating the Mitzvah).  His Shiur was presented with excellent audio-visual aids.  One may obtain additional information about Rabbi Roth’s presentations and contact Rabbi Roth at the following site: www.torahlive.co.il.



Special Note Three:  We received the following meaningful thought, which was supplied by a reader in the name of HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, from a shiur he gave in his  recent visit to Chicago: “We have to feel another's Simcha--and the more you feel his pain, the more you feel his Simcha.”  HaRav Salomon spoke about a holocaust survivor who made a Chasunah and got up and spoke about what he went through. HaRav Salomon thought to himself ‘why do that at a Simcha?’  He realized it was so that the people would really feel his Simcha--after feeling the pain of what he went through, they could really share in his Simcha!



Special Note Four:  In this week’s Parsha, we learn of an essential contrast between Eisav and Yaakov.  Last week, we saw that Eisav came in from the field:  “Vehu Ayeif--and he was tired.”  Rabbi Yosef Eisen, Shlita, explains that Eisav had been fighting with his Yetzer Hara and arrived at the point where he was exhausted and simply gave-up.  He was tired of the daily battles, weary of the skirmishes with the Yetzer in Torah study, Tefillah, speech, and avoidance of Aveiros.  He was “throwing in the towel.”  In stark contrast, in this week’s Parsha, we learn of Yaakov Avinu’s dedicated and incredible perseverance notwithstanding the obstacles of loneliness, extreme hardship, deception, and fraud.  In the face of all that was going against him, despite his predicament and surroundings, he managed not only to begin raising his many children in a Torah path, but even lead a life of impeccable dedication and honesty to his devious host and scheming employer.  Yaakov simply would not give in--and did not give in.  His resilience became the mark of Bnei Yisroel as a people, and should be the mark of each and every one of us individually as well.  In fact, in next week’s Parsha we will learn that Yaakov tells Eisav that he “lived with Lavan all these years”--thereby explaining, as Chazal add--that unlike Esav’s failure of conduct, he steadfastly kept the Torah and Mitzvos and did not learn from Lavan’s ways, in spite of all of the difficulties, hardship, antagonism and even the ultimate pursuit of his life by Lavan at the end of this week’s Parsha.


This week’s Parsha is the first Parsha of Yisroel and the Bnei Yisroel in Galus.  Let us take the shining lesson of our Forefather.  We each have a daily opportunity to personally implement Ma’aseh Avos-Siman LeBanim into our lives through not tiring--through special dedication to Torah study, through unrelenting commitment to Mitzvah performance even in the face of derision, and by real resilience to the entreaties and trickery of the Yetzer Hara who seeks to make inroads by denting and scratching our Neshamos through Aveiros he can smuggle into our daily activities.  We are Yaakov and not Eisav.  We will not tire, and we will fight until we arrive back in Eretz Yisroel…just as Yaakov does …only a Parsha away!



Special Note Five:  We continue with our Erev Shabbos Halachos of Shabbos Series:


1.  We refer to the word Retzei both in our Shabbos Shemone Esrei and in our Shabbos Birkas HaMazon.  What does the word “Retzei” mean?  The Kuntres Avodas HaTefillah explains that we ask that our Shabbos observance should be a “Nachas Ruach Lefanecha--that it should give Hashem Nachas!”


2.  There are several Halachic issues relating to a child performing a Melacha on Shabbos, or performing even an Issur DeRabanan (see Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim. 343):


(a)  The Mitzvah of Chinuch--Chanoch LeNa’ar Al Pi Darko--depending upon when the child reaches the Halachic age, which depends upon the child, and the Mitzva involved.


(b)  The Torah prohibition of Lo Sochilum--not giving or putting an Issur into a child’s hand (or instructing a child to do an Issur)--even if he is below the age of understanding, and even if he is not your child.” 


(c) LeHafri sho Min Issur--Once a child becomes a bar havanah (above the age of 2 or 3 for Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh), his father must prevent him from violating Issurim. Additionally, the Chayei Adam, as brought by the Mishna Berurah (ibid., seif katan 7) rules that if the child has reached the age of Chinuch, every person must stop or prevent a child from performing an Issur DeOraysah (a father must, of course, also prevent him from doing an Issur DeRabanan).


(d)  Finally, Lo Sa’aseh Kol Melacha Ata U’Vincha U’Vitecha--the Aseres HaDibros especially enjoin a parent from obtaining benefit from an Issur Shabbos performed by a child on the parent’s behalf.


Based upon the above, we provide the following rulings from the Sefer Mishna Berurah LeMa’aseh by HaRav Yehoshua Horowtiz, Shlita:


(1)  A four year-old child accidentally turned off the light switch in the living room on Shabbos and wants to turn it on for everyone to have light.  His father cannot look away, but instead must actively prevent him from doing so. See Items (a), (c) and (d) above.


(2)  However, if the child is a one year-old (and one does not put the Issur--in this case the light switch into his hands), the father can allow the child to play with the light switch on his own, and need not remove him from the area or rebuke him. 


(3)  If one sees someone else’s child who is of Chinuch age attempting to turn on a light, one should take action to prevent the child from doing so. Item (c) above.


(4)  Similarly, if the lights go out in the living room and one calls another child (not his own) to turn on the light (whether or not he has reached the age of Chinuch) he has committed an Issur DeOraysa of Lo Sochilum.


(5)  If a young child scattered money all over the floor, his father would not be allowed to tell him to pick it up, although it may “only” be an Issur DeRabanan of Muktzah --potentially infringing all of the items above.


(6)  Please see 2 above.  We now move on to a more common application. Can one stand near the light switch with a toddler under the age of 2 in his hands so that the child will have the opportunity to play with the light switch until he turns it on?  Obviously, one cannot put the child’s hand on the switch or even say anything about the switch to the child (for this is like putting the Issur into his hand).  The Aishel Avrohom (Butshash) rules that it is forbidden to pick up the child to bring him near the switch because it is like assisting him to do an Issur.  As noted earlier if the child is a bar havanah, has some level of understanding (above the age of 2 or 3), one must prevent him from turning on the switch, even if the child intends to do it on his own.  One should in all events consult with his Rav or Posek as to specific Shailos and his rulings in this area.


Special Note One:  We noted yesterday that eBlaster Mobile is a program to monitor the use of one’s child’s BlackBerry Smartphone.  We would now like to add three additional points:


1.  Our reference to this important monitoring device is not meant to any way endorse or suggest that any child or young adult should be using a BlackBerry Smartphone.  The purpose of the phone, as we understand it, is to make a businessman’s life easier and more manageable, and free him up to be out of the office to a larger extent.  It is not generally meant for children--especially in a Torah home.  eBlaster or no eBlaster, to the absolutely greatest extent possible, this phone (and any of its competition) should not be made available to children.


2.  A reader advised us that he asked his Rav whether there would be a violation of the Cherem Rabbeinu Gershom if he monitors his child’s emails.  His Rav advised him that it would be best to just skim the emails--because he is only really looking for inappropriate material and not the content per se.


3.  A reader asked us whether we were aware of any similar type of monitor for the iPhone.  Inet Safety Bubble is a parental control Internet filter for the iPhone.  We refer you to  www.inetsafetybubble.com   for further information.



Special Note Two:  Wrigley’s ORBIT gum produced in England has made its way to the Israel and United States marketplaces.  The Gum has a Hashgacha on it; it previously had at least one other Hashgacha, which is no longer on the product.  Different Kashrus agencies outside of the United Kingdom may have different approaches as to its acceptability.  Accordingly, if your child is nagging you for this gum, we urge you to contact your Rav, or your local Kashrus Agency, for their ruling on this product.



Special Note Three:  The following “Frequently asked Questions” are excerpted from the most recent issue of the OU’s excellent Kashrus publication--The Daf HaKashrus (November 2010):


Q:  I see a plain OU on a Worcestershire sauce, but when I looked at the ingredient panel, I noticed that anchovies are listed.  Can I use it on my grilled meats? 

A:  It is the opinion of the OU Poskim that fish can be Batel Beshishim.  For this reason, Worcestershire sauces containing a minute amount of fish are labeled as OU Pareve (or plain OU).  Worcestershire sauces with fish greater than Shishim are always labeled OU FISH.  However, many OU BBQ sauces containing fish are being labeled as OU FISH, even when the fish is Batel.  This is to alert consumers who are Machmir, as they might not have otherwise known that it contains fish.


Q:  I noticed that an OU certified product lists grape juice in the ingredients.  Could you tell me whose grape juice they are using?

A:  The OU takes confidentiality very seriously.  For that reason, the OU will not reveal sources of ingredients, private labels, or anything else that would violate confidentiality.  Very often, consumers seeing grape juice in an OU product will call asking for the source of the grape juice.  Disclosing the source violates these rules.  In cases like these, the consumer is informed that the grape juice comes from an OU certified Kosher and Mevushal source.  As to the exact source, it is suggested that the consumer calls up the company, since it is the company’s right to disclose such information.


Q:  Is it true that products bearing the Half-Moon K are now certified by the OU?

A:  All products bearing the Half-Moon K are currently OU authorized and OU endorsed.  Companies will switch to the OU on their packaging when they run out of their old labels.


Q:  Which Slurpees are Kosher?

A:  7-11 Slurpees are kosher only when they use Kosher syrups.  If a syrup is observed as coming from Coca Cola which is OU certified it is permitted.  Consumers should look at all 7-11 canisters of syrup to be certain they have a reliable Hashgacha.



Special Note Four:  We all know that Kavannah in the first Bracha of Shemone Esrei is a serious requirement and real responsibility, every day.  As we continue through the Parshios of the Avos, we should be especially rededicating ourselves to proper Kavannah in this primary Bracha.  There is truly a great and additional incentive--if one would count he would realize that there are actually nine (9!) Sheimos of Hashem within this Bracha.  How can we rush or brush through a Bracha that has nine (9!) Sheimos of Hashem within one short Paragraph?!  On the contrary, let us use our care in reciting the Sheimos of Hashem in this Bracha to assist us with the proper Kavannah in each of its other precious and counted words as well!



Special Note Five:  At the outset of Tachanun daily, we recite the words: “Hashem Maleih Rachamim Racheim Alai--Hashem Who is Full of Mercy, have mercy on me….”  This is a Tefillah for the living.  The most well known Tefillah for the departed is “Keil Maleih Rachamim”--Hashem Who is Full of Mercy….  Thus, both for the living and for the departed, we recognize that we appeal to Hashem as the One who is Full of Mercy.  We should especially appreciate that unlike a pot, jug, barrel, or container in this world, which becomes emptier when its content is poured out--Hashem always is and remains “Full” of Mercy!  When pleading with Hashem for Mercy, we should recognize and understand that His container is always full, because it is truly limitless, unbounded by any natural law whatsoever, and incredibly infinite.  He is the complete source of all Mercy that we could ever need or want.  His container for all remains full and available at all times--to our great benefit and for our great use!



Hakhel has received a notice from SpectorSoft that it now offers eBlaster Mobile, a program to monitor the use of one’s child’s BlackBerry Smartphone.  Once the program is installed on the device, it automatically records both sides of email messages, text messages, and details about incoming and outgoing calls.  All recordings are organized into an easy-to-read Activity Report that is sent to the parent’s email address as frequently as one chooses.  With the program’s Instant Notification feature, an EXACT copy of every email and SMS/text message sent and received can be sent to the parent’s email address, even if a message was deleted from the phone.  In addition, settings can be changed remotely, eliminating the need to gain access to the child’s BlackBerry to modify the email address where reports and notifications are sent, how frequently they’re sent, or the activities to be recorded.


This program is available for download at http://www.spectorsoft.com/.  More information is available by calling 888-598-2788.



Special Note One:  We learned last week that it is the voice of Yaakov, rather than his muscle, that will defeat our enemies in war (as we see clearly with the Chashmonaim a little later this month).  If this is true for war, it is also most definitely true for terrorist attacks, as well. Three Times Daily, as part of our personal requests in Shemone Esrei, we plead “Vechol HaChoshvim Alai Ra’ah Meheira Hofair Atzasam Vekalkel Machashavtam--and for all those who plan evil against me, quickly annul their intent and thwart their plans.”  We certainly can have special Kavannah here for ourselves and the rest of K’lal Yisroel.  Dovid HaMelech goes out of his way to teach us the efficacy of our prayers in this regard:  “Dorashti Es Hashem Veannani U’Mikol Megurosai Hitzilani--I sought out Hashem and He answered me, and from all my terror he delivered me (Tehillem 34:5).  We can take these few moments during the day to PRE -EMPT TERROR as only our Tefillos can.  Let us bli neder make the commitment to help ourselves and K’lal Yisroel at this crucial time in world history--in an incredibly real and result-filled way.


There is more.  In this week’s Parsha, we learn that Yaakov Avinu instituted the Tefillah of Ma’ariv--the evening Tefillah.  It is particularly befitting for Yaakov to have instituted this Tefillah on his way to Galus--which is symbolized by darkness--or the absence of the light of the Shechina before us.  Ma’ariv is so important to us in Galus that although it was initially a Reshus, an optional Tefillah, it became a Chovah (at least for men).  Especially in the darkness we must turn to Hashem and appeal for his protection.  Rabbeinu Yonah (in his commentary to Meseches Brachos) writes that the Jews in the Galus of Mitzrayim (during Ma’akas Bechoros) actually originated the Tefillah of Haskiveinu, which is such an integral part of Ma’ariv every evening.  In this Tefillah, we ask Hashem to protect us from all of the dangers, difficulties, hazards, and perils that lurk around us (whether we know of them or not), and to shelter us and safeguard us.  In these turbulent throes of Galus, what a powerful Bracha to have special Kavannah in each and every evening!  Even women who do not Daven Ma’ariv have the opportunity to recite Hashkiveinu (albeit without the concluding Bracha) every evening in Kriyas Shema Al HaMitta.  Men, then (perhaps as the Jewish warriors), recite Hashkiveinu twice every evening.  Let us understand the message that is being conveyed to us--and act upon it with care, concern, thoughtfulness, and sincerity.  Perhaps, for this Bracha, we can move our finger along in the Siddur word-for-word!



Special Note Two:  Many have seen the wonderful work by Rabbi Shalom Arush, Shlita, (translated by Rabbi Leizer Brody, Shlita) The Garden of Emunah: A Practical Guide to Life.  A careful reading of this book can certainly change one’s perspective on life.  Of course, one’s questions and thoughts relating to the deep and essential subject matter should be shared and talked through with one’s Rav or Posek.  The following is just a brief excerpt from this superb Sefer:


“Sorrow, hardship, and deprivation are perfect loving kindness when they are the agents that bring about one’s Tikkun - the correction and perfection of the soul, the greatest achievement on earth.  When we accept life’s difficulties with Emuna - calmly and happily, knowing that Hashem is doing everything to help us achieve the loftiest of aspirations-we become candidates for eternal happiness and inner peace, in this world and in the next.


“An athlete is prepared to implement grueling demands from a seemingly-merciless coach; not only that, but a top athlete usually loves and respects his or her coach.  Why?  The athlete knows the coach, and trusts that the coach wants to build him or her into a winner and champion.  We should have the same knowledge of and trust in Hashem.


“Imagine that we’re driving a car and want to make a right turn, but Hashem blocks the way; we decide to make a left turn, but Hashem has set up an obstacle to block that way also.  Without Emuna, we’d be subject to anger, frustration, and disappointment.


But, with Emuna, we believe that life’s stumbling blocks, barriers, and hindrances are agents of Hashem’s Divine Providence.  We don’t sink to frustration, anger, and depression when armed with the knowledge that life’s setbacks are milestones, guiding lights, and personal gifts from Hashem.”



Special Note Three:  HaRav Salomon believes, is that we do not realize how far-reaching are the consequences of inappropriate behavior “Bein Odom L’Chaveiro”--between man and his fellow man.  Somehow, we associate the Churban Bais HaMikdash, and the failure of the Mashiach to come, with our inadequacies in our direct relationship with Hashem.  However, at the end of the day, HaRav Salomon points out, it was Sinas Chinam--needless ill-will--that caused and continues to maintain, our current state of galus and churban-exile and destruction.  


This teaching, the Mashgiach demonstrates, is made in this week’s Parsha, when Leah calls her first-born son “Reuven”.  Rashi there explains that Leah, by this name, meant to indicate how one Jew is supposed to act to his brother.  “See,” Leah said, “the difference between Eisav who wanted to kill his brother even though Esav had actually sold him the birthright-- and my firstborn son Reuven, who actually saved Yosef from the deadly pit, even though Yosef would take away his primogenitor (through the tribes of Ephraim and Menasha) in his place.


What must distinguish each and every one of us is an ability to excel in care and concern for others--even in the face of hurt and harm that those very people may have caused you.  To forgive, forgo and forget is, in actuality, HaRav Salomon teaches, “is the essence of being a Jew.”


The Mifal Ohr HaChaim has instituted a Program to learn the entire Sefer Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh over a two year period by learning small segments every day. To obtain further information, please contact mifalohrhachaim@gmail.com



Question of the Week:  There is a Pasuk that we recite in both Shacharis and Maariv in which three names of Hashem are mentioned consecutively.  Imagine the privilege of saying the name of Hashem three words in a row!  Can you identify the Pasuk?  Hint: It is in Sefer Tehillim.  When we recite this Pasuk twice daily we should treasure it and the message it conveys (which you will find, when you find the Pasuk!)



Point to Ponder of the Week:  Should one give Tochacha to a person who is wearing a bluetooth during Davening?  If the answer is yes, we refer you to Special Note Two below.



Special Note One:  The Pasuk teaches:  “Vayisrotsitsu HaBanim Bekirba--the boys agitated within her.”  Rivka, as a result, exclaimed--“if this is the case, why am I”, and she then went to inquire of Shem as to what was really taking place.  HaRav Yoshe Ber Soloveitchik, Z’tl, the Rav of Brisk, learned a tremendous lesson from these words which he taught should be applied by everyone in their daily life.  Rivka realized that there was something not right going on within her--and she wanted no part of it--even if this meant not having the good out of it either.  Shem essentially advised her that it would not be her choice--for Eisav was necessary for Yaakov’s existence in this world.  However, her original thought--that fostering evil did not pay even if good was fostered along with it--was correct. 


Similarly, HaRav Soloveitchik teaches, Chizkiyahu HaMelech did not want to have children because he realized that resha’im of the caliber of Menashe and Ammon would be among his progeny.  He felt this way--even though the great Tzaddikim Yoshiyahu and Tzidkiyahu would be numbered among his descendants as well.  Thus, even though much good would have come out of his children, it would not have been justified because of the evil that would have also resulted.  Yeshaya HaNavi (as Shem did with Rivka earlier) had to tell Chizkiyahu not to be involved in Hashem’s Cheshbonos--and to do his part and have children if he could.  The great daily lesson that HaRav Soloveitchik derives is that any action to be taken or word to be spoken which will have some clearly bad or negative ramification or result can and will never be outweighed by the good that will also be produced.  We cannot put both the good and the bad on the scale, and use our best judgment to weigh it--instead, we are duty bound not to perform the act at all--and even though the good will not happen, neither will the evil--and that is your first duty, obligation, and purpose.  What a powerful lesson!


Special Note Two:  As we take leave of Parshas Toldos, we provide the splendidly meaningful words of Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita, as he comments on the final Pesukim of the Parsha in his classic sefer Love Your Neighbor:

“VaYikrah Yitzchak El Yaakov VaYivarech Oso, VaYitzavehu VaYomer Lo, Lo Tikach Isha M’Binos Canaan (Bereishis 28:1)--And Yitzchak called to Yaakov and blessed him, and [then] commanded him saying, ‘You shall not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan.’”


“The Chofetz Chaim used to say that we can learn from Yitzchak the most effective way of admonishing others.  Before Yitzchak warned his son Yaakov what not to do, he blessed him.  Often, you will not be able to correct someone by shouting at him.  (Even if you are successful, you will have hurt the other person’s feelings, and will have caused ill will.)  But if you show a person first that you truly care about his welfare, he will much more readily listen to your advice or admonition (HaChofetz Chaim, Volume 3, p. 1114).”


Oh, what a great lesson this is if we can apply it to the way we speak to our immediate family members, friends, and colleagues at work.


Special Note Three:  There is a notable question many have asked relating to this coming week’s Parsha--and an incredible response, given by HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita.  Rashi teaches that Yaakov Avinu went to study in the Yeshiva of Shem and Ever for 14 years prior to traveling to Lavan in Charan.  What could he have studied there--after all did not Avraham Avinu come to the Torah on his own without being taught by any of his ancestors (including Shem or Ever)?  Indeed, the Torah teaches “Because *Avraham* …observed My safeguards, My commandments, My decrees, and My teachings” (Bereishis 26:5).  The Pasuk seems to indicate that it was Avraham Avinu--and no one else--who observed the Torah.  So, once again, what was being taught in the Yeshiva of Shem and Ever?  We might think that the Seven Mitzvos of Bnei Noach were being taught there in tremendous depth.  HaRav Kanievsky, Shlita, however, rejects this approach.  Instead, he simply and succinctly states that “they studied Yiras Shamayim”.  What an extraordinary teaching!  Yaakov Avinu, the “Bechir ShebeAvos--Chosen of the Fathers”, the last forefather, from whom came all of the Shevatim--and after whom we are all named as the “Bnei Yisroel”--studied fourteen years of Yiras Shamayim--the fear of Heaven--before going to meet the challenges of the world outside him!  We can now well understand why the Mishna Berura (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 603, seif katan 2) brings from both the Arizal and the Gra that one should study a Mussar text every day.  Thus, the it is certainly an appropriate and auspicious Parsha to rededicate or reenergize ourselves in the daily study of a classic Mussar work!


Additional Note:  The Medrash Rabba (68:11) teaches that although Yaakov slept at the Makom HaMikdash at the outset of the Parsha, he did not sleep during those 14 years in the Beis Medrash of Ever.  What was he doing all night?  There are two opinions.  According to Rebbi Yehoshua Ben Levi, he recited the 15 Shir HaMa’alos in Sefer Tehillim.  Rebbi Yehoshua Bar Nachma teaches that he recited all of Sefer Tehillim.  With this Medrash, we gain a better appreciation of the words of Rav Kanievsky above.  We also, of course, gain a better appreciation of the great d’veikus one can attain-- through the proper recitation of Tehillim in general, and of the 15 Shir HaMa’alos in particular!



Special Note One:  We look forward to a month of great Yeshuos.  Certainly, great Kochos--huge potential--lies within these upcoming days.  Let us remember that (although the war against the Greeks may have ensued for years hence) the battles for which we celebrate Chanukah culminating in the rededication of the Bais HaMikdash were successfully concluded on the 24th/25th of Kislev--just a few short weeks away.  This, then, means that the actual miracle-filled clashes of the physically weak against the bodily strong, of a few brothers against armored battalions, of the piercing Kol Yaakov against the adroit Yedei Esav as portended by last week’s Parsha, took place on our calendar perhaps today and certainly in the days just ahead.  In last week’s Parsha, we learned how powerful our Tefillos really are and can be in extricating ourselves from truly painful and difficult situations. Learning the lessons from the Parsha is such an important goal and accomplishment for us--especially applying them to our times and our situations in life. If we can take the lesson of the incomparable powerful of Tefilla--and especially infuse them with special pleas for Yeshua during this month--we may be able to bring ourselves over the top.  Yeshua is definitely not an insurmountable task--especially for a generation so befuddled by the admixture of terrorism, technology and turmoil that surrounds us. A very simple place we can begin is with the words “Ki Lishuasecha Kivinu Kol HaYom” (we await your salvation every day) in Shemone Esrei.  We have often heard that ‘Yeshuas Has KeHeref Ayin--the Yeshua of Hashem can come with the blink of an eye’. When reciting the words of Ki Lishuasecha three times daily--perhaps we can raise our Emunah level by closing our eyes and hoping, picturing and feeling the Yeshua coming in that instant.  With so much pointing in that direction at this perplexing point in world history and this special time of year...as we open our awaiting eyes--we may actually realize that the Yeshua really has come!



Special Note Two:  We continue now with another path to grow in Emunah.  With the onset of the third month of the Year--we now reach the Third of the Thirteen of the Ani Ma’amins which we have been corresponding to the Thirteen Months of the year.  This month, as we spend a few extra moments with the Third Ani Ma’amin when reciting it--our goal should be to reinforce the fact that we can not look at Hashem with our “Fleishige Oigen”, with our eyes of flesh--because Hashem has no body or form, and is unaffected by anything physical.  In contrast, we realize that it is we as physical beings who cannot adequately grasp a complete picture of circumstances, events and situations--for we can not properly incorporate and account for the Ruchni--the essential and pervasive spiritual realm of our existence.  By affirming Hashem’s non-corporeality--we are acknowledging and avowing that all that Hashem does is all-encompassingly good--and any fault in its belief is do solely to our lack of our understanding, and lack of basis for comparison whatsoever.  We are not equals to Hashem, or even His advisors with whom He must consult--we are His subjects who do not properly fathom our own (let alone the world’s) needs, and require his direction and guidance--Hashem’s Hand (we even need the anthropomorphism!) at all times.  This awareness should provide consolation to us in times of distress, and hope and direction to us in all events that we encounter. The Third Ani Ma’amin--an important stepping stone to understanding our lack of understanding--acknowledging it, and growing from it.



Special Note Three:  Do you like potato chips?  Even if you do, you certainly would not like that to be your first name or even your nickname. Yet, Esav was known by what he ate--why?!  Rabbi Mordechai Hammer, Shlita, explains that when we take a closer look at his sale of the Bechor-Right for a humble meal, we realize that this was not an act of absolute desperation upon which Yaakov was c’v taking full advantage (some even learn that although Esav did not ask for bread--Yaakov gave him bread first so that he would be satiated and make the decision with sound mind).  As we see from the Pasuk, this was a thought-through decision of “Lama Zeh Li Bechora--man’s end is death and so the pleasures of Olam Hazeh shall be my focus and that of my descendants.”  To be sure, after Esav ate and for the ensuing 45 years until it became an issue again at the time of the Birchas Yitzchak, we find no attempt whatsoever by Esav to reverse the transaction, based upon fraud, duress or the like.  No, this was an outright sale--with Esav feeling that he was getting his full money’s worth (!) with the food he had eaten.  The Torah itself “uncharacteristically” testifies that this was a despicable act--a bizayon --with the words VaYivez Esav Es HaBechora.  By selling the Bechorus for “ Edom ”--he demonstrated what was important to him--and “Ish Lefi Mehallelo---a man is defined by where he puts his priorities”.  That being said, a person must think about, must consider, what he is exchanging Torah or Mitzvos for when he takes away time from learning or from performing a Mitzvah that he could have otherwise performed.  If it is for ‘toys’, ‘candy’,or the like, then he is showing that he considers them to be more important---and if that is the case--who knows what he should be called!  We must demonstrate our proper value of the right things--by being careful and taking steps not to waste our most precious personal commodity--time--with the Edom-like enticements of this world.  Why be called ‘potato chip’--when you can be called a Ben Torah!


Additional Note:  Perhaps we can also learn from Esav’s request of ‘Haliteini’--pour into me from that  very Edom stuff, that we should not eat or drink in a manner that resembles the way that Esav did--like the glugging out of a water or other ‘gulp-styled’ bottle--even if the world around you (i.e., Esav) considers it normal to do so.



Special Note Four:  When Rivka inquired of Shem as to just exactly what was happening within her, Shem concluded with the words “VeRav Ya’avod Tzair--the older one will serve the younger one.”  HaRav Eliyahu Lopian, Z’tl asks when the older one ever did indeed serve the younger one--hasn’t Esav always been on the ruling end over us? HaRav Lopian brilliantly answers that this is not at all the case.  Esav has been serving us all along.  A King has different kinds of servants--butlers, chefs, charges d’affaires--and even a Palace doctor.  If we were to act properly, Esav would take on the more traditional roles in the Palace.  Now, however, because we need to improve--Esav is acting as the Palace doctor--serving us with r’l sometimes painful treatments.  The time will come, however, when he will serve us in a more common, expected and pleasant way--may it come through our Teshuva Sheleima (remember--Teshuva BeChol Yom!)--speedily and in our days!



Please continue to say Tehillim for HaRav Scheinberg, Shlita, Chaim Pinchas Ben Yospa, who is fighting an infection in Mt. Sinai Hospital .  Every day, three times a day in Shemone Esrei, we daven for the “Ziknei Amcha Bais Yisroel”.  Here is a true opportunity to demonstrate that we really mean it.  One other point: HaRav Scheinberg, Shlita, in delicate physical condition, came to the United States with incredible Mesirus Nefesh in order to raise desperately needed funds for the hundreds and hundreds who study in his Yeshiva in Yerushalayim.  These days in the hospital are not helping him raise these urgent funds--please show your honor and respect to a Zaken and Gadol HaDor (a true privilege and real opportunity) by calling 718-692-1144 and making a donation to Yeshiva Torah Ohr.



Special Note One:  We received a note from a reader advising that Rosh Chodesh Kislev is considered as a special time of Teshuva, as it culminates 40 days of time since Hoshana Rabbah--and is “a day of mechila like Yom HaKippurim.”  Even if we may not know an exact source for this, we can certainly take the non-coincidental lesson from the daughter of Yishmael--Machalas, the Forgiven One--taught to us from tomorrow’s Parsha on the day before Rosh Chodesh Kislev--and straighten something out from within.  If you have doubts as to where your endeavors should be focused, you can always go to your mouth--for this is how you start your day (Modeh Ani), end your day (Kriyas Shema Al HaMitah), and Daven, Learn, Make Brachos, Do Chesed, and otherwise Communicate everything else in between.  A voice of sure and consistent calmness, kindness, sensitivity, thoughtfulness and good expression--certainly goes a long way towards that day of Kedusha and Tahara for which you symbolically wash out your mouth every single morning.  Look in--to make sure that what comes out is right.  Rosh Chodesh Kislev is a great landmark (or perhaps timemark) to begin this wonderful endeavor!



Special Note Two:  As we indicated yesterday, today is the Yahrzeit of Rabbeinu Yonah, the author of the Sefer Sha’arei Teshuvah, Sefer HaYirah, and other classic commentaries and works.  We provide below only a limited sampling of the hundreds of thousands of lessons that are presented in the Sefer Sha’arei Teshuvah alone:


1.  “It is highly desirable that there be in every city a group of volunteers from among the enlightened, who are prepared and ready ‘L’Chol Davar Hatzoloh…’-- for any situation in which a man or woman of Israel must be rescued from distress.  We have been commanded to exert ourselves on behalf of the ox or the sheep of our brother that has gone astray, to keep it with us until our brother requires it.  How much respect and honor, then, should we accord their masters.”


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


3.  “A person is obligated to exert himself to be beneficial to his people and to attempt with persevering toil to search for helpful solutions to the problems of his friends, whether rich or poor.  This is **one of the most serious and fundamental obligations demanded** of each person.”


4.  “The explanation of the Posuk in Mishlei (26:11) “KeKelev Shav Al Kaio…as a dog returns to his vomit, so does the foolish person repeat his iniquities” is as follows:  A dog will eat unseemly matter, and after he regurgitates it, it becomes even more unseemly yet he goes to devour it again.  So, too, should a person who is about to repeat his sin view its second performance as more repulsive and disgusting than the first. Only the Kesil, the fool, will then be foolish enough to repeat his folly.” 


5.  “Although arrogance, Sinas Chinam, causing fear in people, not giving to the poor…are all serious Aveiros, Bitul Talmid Torah is “K’neged Kulam”--is the equivalent of them all!”


6.  “There are many levels to Teshuva, and every level will receive some kind of forgiveness.  Just as an article of clothing that needs to be washed will get whiter and whiter with more washing, so too, must a person strive to continuously cleanse himself to attain complete Teshuva.”


7.  It is befitting for any Ba’al Teshuvah to keep a written record of the matters in which he has stumbled, and his Mitzvos which need improvement, and to read from this personal “Sefer Zichronos” every day. 


8.  The sins of the eyes will be forgiven through tears. 


9.  If one serves Hashem privately and with Tzniyus, he demonstrates sublime submission to Hashem, in that he does not seek personal honor and glory in the performance of Mitzvos. 


10.  There are four reasons that one should be careful with “Aveiros Kallos--iniquities which otherwise appear minor and insignificant:  (a) One should not look at the smallness or insignificance of the Aveirah, but at the greatness of He who warned against it.  (b)All of the small and otherwise insignificant actions add up-- just as pieces of thin string wound over and over become a strong and inflexible rope.  (c) The more one performs or is prone to an Aveirah, the more lenient or permissible it becomes in his eyes, and he may even be considered r’l as a Mumar for that sin.  (d) If the Yetzer bests him on a small matter, he will use it as a stepping stone to move to larger matters.  As Chazal teach:  “One who breaks utensils in anger should be viewed as one who worships Avodah Zara” --for this is the way of the Yetzer Hara, today he says this, tomorrow that.   Hashem, however, at the outset of the Torah already advised Kayin not to let this happen with the life-guiding instruction “VeAtah Timshal Bo--you should rule over him.”  Hakhel Note:  As we had previously mentioned from HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita:  “The Torah lessons at the outset of Bereishis are there for a reason--as they are necessary prerequisites to fulfill the Torah and Mitzvos that will follow.”  Succinctly stated, the message of VeAtah Timshal Bo is of primary importance in each of our daily lives.  As we feel a challenge or a test coming on--remember Hashem--and His three guiding words “VeAtah Timshal Bo s!



Special Note Three:  Several points and pointers relating to this week’s Parsha:  


1.  A Pasuk that many of us remember from the time we were very young was that Yaakov was born “with his hand holding on to the heel of Eisav” (Bereishis 25:26).  The Malbim (on the Posuk) actually brings five different teachings the Torah means to convey which go very far beyond the physical way that these twins were physically born--and should serve as a lesson to us that we must always strive to find new and meaningful understandings in the Torah’s supernal words:


a.  Yaakov was the first to be conceived, which is why he wanted to be the first to be born, and why he was so intent on purchasing the Bechor Rights from Eisav.


b.  The fact that Yaakov was born holding on to Eisav would be a lesson for all time that their descendants would always be connected, and that when one would rise, the other would fall. 


c.  Yaakov holds onto the spiritual things that Eisav tramples upon.


d. That Yaakov’s descendents would be subservient under the ‘heel’ of Eisav’s descendents.


e..  That the true rulership of Yaakov will occur only when Eisav falls for good--the Moshiach’s time, may we witness it speedily and in our day.


We should recognize that every small detail in the Torah has lessons for eternity--and seek and search to discover them!


2.  The Torah teaches that Eisav came in from the field:  “Vehu Ayeif--and he was tired.”  HaRav Avigdor Miller, Z’tl, derives an essential insight from these words:  “It was Hashem’s plan to cause unusual weariness to Eisav on that day.  In their weariness, men sometimes are greatly disheartened and temporarily are bereft of their high idealism.  In a discouraged mood, men may forget the World to Come and even the glory of status and privilege [such as the Bechor Right] might be carelessly exchanged for a momentary gratification.   This teaches that one should refrain from making any decision when in a mood of weariness or dejection.”  Hakhel Note:  What a great and important lesson! 


3.  Yitzchak’s bracha begins with the word “Veyitein Lecha--and Hashem will give you.”  Many raise the question as to why the bracha begins with a conjunction--‘and’--shouldn’t it simply begin with the word “Yetein Lecha--Hashem will give to you?!”  One wonderful answer provided is that the true bracha is for one to constantly feel that his Parnassah is in the hands of Hashem--so that one is always aware that it is Hashem Who gives, gives, and gives.  As the Ba’alei Mussar explain, the great curse that befell the snake was that it would sustain itself on dirt, which is plentiful everywhere, thus never having to come back to Hashem for help or connection.  Yitzchak Avinu, wanted Eisav to develop a close relationship with Hashem--he wanted Esav to feel and experience the ‘VeYitein’--the giving and giving and giving-- which he hoped would straighten out his entire Hashkofas HaChaim.  Instead, the “Veyitein Lecha” became our Bracha--and we are privileged to come to Hashem with 100 Brachos a day, three Tefillos a day, and our personal supplications for success in Parnassah and everything else from time to time during the day, as we realize and appreciate the Shechina before us at all times!



Special Note Four:  We continue with our Erev Shabbos Halachos of Shabbos Series. Any specific Halachic Shaila in your circumstance should, of course, be directed to your Rav or Posek:


1.  One may not open a door or window on Shabbos, even gently, if candles are nearby, because the outdoor wind currents can blow in and extinguish the candles.  This is referred to in Halacha as “Geram Kibui”--an indirect act of Mechabeh.  However, if no wind is blowing outdoors and there is good reason to open a window [it is hot or uncomfortable in the dining room], then opening the window slowly and carefully (so that the act of opening itself does not create a wind) is permissible.  On the other hand, closing a window or door to prevent a draft is always permissible because no Melacha is involved.  (see Shemiras Shabbos KeHilchasa 13:38). 


2.  If prior to lighting candles a person placed a Challah, or a Sefer to learn from, or other significant Non-Muktzah item on the Shabbos table, then notwithstanding that the candle tray is also on table, the table may be moved if necessary.  This is so even if the candles are still burning.  The Mishne Berurah, however, cautions that if one lights olive oil rather than candles then he must be extremely careful (‘Yizaher Meod’) to carry the table gently so that the oil does not move closer or farther from the wick--a difficult task.  Thus, although it may be a special Hiddur to use olive oil, one must carefully weigh the needs of his/her home in this regard (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 277, Mishna Berurah seif katan 18). 


3.  In the Mussaf of Shabbos we recite the words:  “VeGam HaOhavim Devareha Gedulah Bacharu.”  The Kuntres Avodas HaTefillah explains that the “Devareha” refers to the Halachos of Shabbos--and that this important phrase means that one who loves the Halachos of Shabbos has chosen for himself a great reward.  The Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 290, seif katan 6) emphasizes the primary importance of learning Hilchos Shabbos on Shabbos itself.  Some have the custom of learning a Halacha or two at each Shabbos meal.  Over the year, hundreds of Halachos can be covered--resulting in enhanced Shemiras Shabbos--and which can most certainly indicate that you are truly a true Oheiv Devareha--one who loves the Halachos of Shabbos!



Special Note One:  As many of you may know, HaRav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, Shlita, was rushed to the hospital on Monday night.  Please say Tehillim for a Gadol Hador.  We have checked his correct name--it is Chaim Pinchas Ben Yospa.



Special Note Two:  In response to our inquiry about the significance behind changes in the way we tell time over the centuries, we received the following stirring comment about the advancement in timepieces:  “…have we gotten to the point that the clock RULES our lives?  To the exclusion of What REALLY matters, which is HaShem Yisborach?  Are we so busy filling our minutes with activities that we often forget to make time for HaShem in our lives?  We rush through davening, hardly paying attention to any of the glorious words we say.  We gulp a coffee and scarf down a doughnut as we drive to work, maybe texting on the way or shaving in the rear-view mirror as we hurtle down the highway.  When we get to work it is eight, no make that nine or ten full hours of time-bound torture, with a ten-minute Mincha sandwiched in between all those phone calls, memos, meetings, ad nauseam.  We rush home to our loving family, but don't have time to spend with any of them, because time requires us to do other things with friends or business acquaintances until it's time to go to Ma'ariv, following which we dash home, grab a few hours of troubled sleep, and start the whole routine over again the next morning.  Hakhel Response:  We believe that your point is that time is very important, but that we have to rule over time--and not let time rule over us.  Perhaps this is the reason that our time pieces have advanced--for if even they can be accurate to the millisecond, all the more so should we use our brain power, our Seichel, to properly appreciate, apportion, allot…and excel in the use of our time, on a daily basis, towards the accomplishment of our life’s goals! Additional Note:  Perhaps one can make a mental note that when he looks at the time (whether it be on his watch, clock, cellphone or computer), he remembers not only its value-- but also thinks of a Mitzvah that he can do now, or a way that he can use this irreplaceable commodity, in a way that demonstrates his appreciation and mastery of time's worth, meaning and purpose.



Special Note Three:  In a note earlier this week, we provided the Chofetz Chaim’s amazing insight into how one can “undo” believing Lashon Hara--simply through positively modifying the original belief by being Dan LeKaf Zechus (“Yes, he did that because…").  The Chofetz Chaim does, in fact, add that in order to obtain a “complete” kapparah in this instance one must be Mekabel not to accept Lashon Hara in the future, and also recite Viduy over the initial iniquity. 



Special Note Four:  Today is Yom Kippur Koton before the month of Kisleiv--the first Yom Kippur Koton of 5771!  The concept of Yom Kippur Koton was initiated by the Chochmei Tzefas, lead by HaRav Moshe Cordovero, Z’tl.  Most recently, the Steipler Gaon, Z’tl, strongly endorsed the observance of Yom Kippur Koton which is “Tova U’Mo'ila” Lechol Gezeira Kasha--good and beneficial against any harsh decree.”  Even if one does not recite the Yom Kippur Koton, it is certainly a day upon which to do Teshuvah--especially recognizing that by Sunday, Rosh Chodesh Kisleiv two full months will have already passed since Rosh Hashana!  It may be a very good day to once again look at your Kabalos card and think about what needs to be adjusted and improved--now that 15% of the year has passed!



Special Note Five:  Today in the Hebrew calendar is actually the day upon which the horrible murderer of the innocent, and ignoble founder of modern terrorism, Y. Arafat, Yimach Shemo, died (in Yiddish--“Peigert”), and the day upon which he began his life of eternal punishment in the manner clearly described in Mesechta Gittin (56B and 57A).  Thus, it would appear that this very day has within it the spark and capability for the destruction of Sonei Yisroel like him.  Perhaps we should take the time out today to recite several chapters of Tehillim (such as 79, 83, 91, 120, 121, and 130), directedly asking Hashem to protect us from our current enemies--who are armed to the teeth and even in this 'modern' age make our destruction the primary focus of their lives-- and let us especially plead to Hashem that He safely bring us through these last throes of exile, and lead us to the final Yeshuah we so desperately need and wait for. 



Special Note Six:  It is Rabbeinu Yona's Yahrzeit tomorrow.  As a very brief indication of the tremendous practicality of his classic Sefer Sha’arei Teshuva, we provide the following three succinct comments.  The Sefer of course, contains hundreds more of essential teachings:


1.  If one asks another to do something for him, and he knows the other will do so out of fear or embarrassment, and for no other reason, then, even if it only something like boiling water or going to the store to buy a loaf of bread, one has violated the Torah prohibition of “Lo Sirdeh Vo Beforech” (Vayikrah 25:46). 


2.  If one is not careful in speaking honorably about Talmidei Chachamim (whether or not in their presence), he will become an Apikores who will not have a Chelek in Olam Haba.  


3.  A person must keep records of the promises he makes and the obligations that he has.  He must realize that people are forgetful, and take action in some way to avoid violating his obligations, his pledges, his trust.  As the Pasuk says in Koheles (5:5) Ve'Al Tomar Lifnei HaMalach… do not tell the angel that [your forgetting] was unintentional… for this is simply not considered an acceptable excuse...as you are blessed with the abilities to ensure that you fulfill your duties, your commitments and your words.


B'EH, we hope to continue with Rabbeinu Yonah's words of instruction and guidance--words of special awareness of our privileges and our role -- tomorrow, on the Yahrzeit itself.



Special Note Seven:  The Sefer Toldos Adam asks us to consider for a moment how careful a person will be to avoid a dangerous or potentially dangerous situation--how far he would go out of his way, and how much extra effort he would expend to avoid getting hurt.  One can then similarly reflect upon how much time and effort, care and concern, a person would invest in order to protect his money or other assets prior to giving them over into the hands of another as a loan, or even for safekeeping.  If one is so concerned and protective about his personal safety, his health and welfare, and his physical wealth and monetary possessions, than all the more so must a person select the surest and most secure approach in observance of Torah and the performance of Mitzvos.  If there is doubt as to whether something is permitted, if there is ambiguity as to the effectiveness of a “Kula” or other approach, if one is unsure whether this is a violation of a Torah or Rabbinic prohibition, if one feels even slightly uncomfortable about the Kashrus of a product, if performance of a particular Mitzvah or avoidance of a particular Aveirah may seem technically correct but not ‘smell right’--then all the more so must the danger be avoided.  After all, we are talking about something worth far more than a $100 bill or a possible temporary physical ailment--for the wrong decision in the realm of spiritual danger will directly impact upon one's achievements, and ultimately on his home and position for Olam Haba--his eternal lot.  Hakhel Note:  The concept is a powerful one, and something we can and should use for those situations which challenge us daily in which the Yetzer Hara is suggesting that we have “wiggle room”--which we really may not have-- and even if we do, which we shouldn’t use!



Question for the Way Home:  Why do you think that the method of telling time has advanced from a sundial, to a town clock, to a pocket watch, to a Rolex, to an atomic clock?



Special Note One:  We provide by clicking here a series of questions presented to HaRav Shmuel Kamenetsky, Shlita, regarding healthy habits and eating properly, and HaRav Kamenetsky’s important responsesTo subscribe to the weekly Soveya newsletter please contact info@soveya.com.



Special Note Two:  This week we reach the stage where we no longer have the singular Av of Avrohom Avinu, but our second Av as well, Yitzchak Avinu.  At the outset of Shemone Esrei every day, we specifically exclaim that Hashem is “Zocher Chasdei Avos--He recalls the kindnesses of the Avos.”  What is the import of this phrase?  The Sefer Rumo Shel Olam teaches that the purpose of reciting these exact words is twofold: 


1.  To humble ourselves into recognizing that we should look to the merit of our forefathers, and not rest on our own laurels.


2. To recognize that in each and every generation, our enemies stand up against us to destroy us, and HaKadosh Baruch Hu in the zechus of our forefathers saves us from their hands--and that this very same zechus will also bring us to the Geulah Sheleimah--as we immediately continue with the words:  “Umeivi Goel Levenei Veneihem.”  Oh! How we need the Zocher Chasdei Avos in our days, as terrorists and terrorist leaders wave their flags of bloodthirstiness and enmity against us.  That extra special Kavannah in “Vezocher Chasdei Avos” may go a long way for all of Klal Yisroel!



Special Note Three:  We received the following from a reader:  “I am in the habit of thanking Hashem all day every day, even for something as simple as the traffic light going green when I approach it, or oncoming traffic suddenly disappearing until I can make my left turn.  A great Rebbetzin has advised me that just thanking HaShem is good, but it's even better if, after thanking Him, I ask Him for something, so I try to remember to ask for a refuah or yeshuah or hatzlacha for someone on my Tehillim list...and that way cover all bases.”


Hakhel Response:  It is interesting to note that in the Modim DeRabanan which is recited during Chazaras HaShatz, we thank Hashem for our lives and for sustaining us, and then continue on by asking Hashem to continue to give us life and sustain us, and gather in our exiles as well.  Yet, in the regular Modim in the Shemone Esrei that we all recite every day, after thanking Hashem for our lives and the return of our souls, and for the “miracles and wonders that He provides to us”, there seems to be no similar request of Hashem to continue to do so in the future.  However, if we look a bit closer, we note the phrase:  “HaTov Ki Lo Chalu Rachamecha…” in which we recognize that Hashem’s compassions are never exhausted, His kindnesses are never ending, and conclude MaiOlam Kivinu Lach-- we put all of our hope in Him.  These words may be the equivalent of our plea in the Modim DeRabanan, and the HaRachamans that we recite at the end of Bentching-- in which we ask Hashem for His further, ongoing, and continuous Brachos.



Special Note Four:  HaRav Yaakov Neiman, Z’tl (Rosh Yeshiva in Petach Tikvah), was once raising funds in America .  He did not know any English, and after having knocked several times on a well-to-do individual’s door without response, he was approached by the person’s neighbor who knew a little bit of Yiddish.  HaRav Neiman explained to him as best he could that he had been attempting to contact the person on whose door he had knocked to raise much-needed funds for his Yeshiva.  The neighbor welcomed him into his home as a guest, and invited him to stay until he could actually make contact.  That evening, he finally contacted by phone the well-to-do individual he had been seeking, and made an appointment with him.  HaRav Neiman, when taking leave of his short-term host, asked him “What can I do for you?”  The host responded that he would really like to have a child.  HaRav Neiman gave him a brocha that within the year, he would have one--and, in fact, he was blessed with a son within the year.


HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, upon hearing the story commented that HaRav Neiman’s brocha was fulfilled not only because it was the brocha of a Talmid Chochom, but also because it was a brocha that flowed from a sincere feeling of HaKaras HaTov--sincere gratitude--for what this caring person had done for him.  It is for this reason, HaRav Kanievsky continues, that Yitzchak Avinu had requested his son to bring him good food prior to giving him a blessing, so that the blessing would be all the more powerful.


We are all faced with situations every day--in the home, at work, in the store, and even in Shul--where we are either the giver, or the recipient of good bestowed upon us by another.  While it may be bolder for someone who has done a favor or helped someone out to ask his recipient for a heartfelt brocha, it most certainly would be in order for the recipient to initiate the blessing, and give a bracha to the giver for something that he knows is needed.


We have learned many times that negative words have reverberating affects in celestial spheres (See Introduction to Sefer Chofetz Chaim).  Since Hashem’s “Middah Tova” (attribute of reward) is much greater than His Midas Puraniyos (attribute of punishment), we can very readily assume that a brocha of one person to another in this world has even more powerful effects in the Heavens than the words of lashon hora or negative speech.


Undoubtedly, the brachos and the compliments one person gives to another pleases HaKadosh Baruch Hu greatly.  Making the effort to unite, to make another feel good, simply to wish another to be successful and well, is a simple, but essential, step in the bringing of the Geulah, our final redemption.  It is important to note, however, that Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, takes us a step further, as he teaches, “Simcha L’Ish B’Maaneh Feev…--A man has joy with the response of his mouth” (Mishlei 15:23).  When one speaks in a loving and appreciative tone, blessing others in a way that he himself would like to be blessed--it is the speaker himself, who will feel the joy and contentment in his very own words…it is the giver who feels a sense of accomplishment and of G-dliness, as he emulates Hashem’s ways!



The Torah Communications Network has available “ DVD Mishna”--Audio Shiurim of the entire Mishnayos in English or Yiddish on a single DVD in MP3-audio format.  The entire cost is $18.00.  For further information, please call 718-436-4999.



Special Note One:  HaRav Shlomo Brevda, Shlita, underwent serious surgery yesterday. Please be mispallel for him--his name is Shlomo Laib ben Miryam.  



Special Note Two:  A Short, but crucial, Quiz: 


Question 1:  How can a person violate TWO MITZVOS LO SA'ASEH --to speak Lashon Hora and to receive Lashon Hora--simultaneously?  Shocking Answer:  By merely uttering the words "I agree" to one who has just spoken Lashon Hora to you, or in fact even by merely nodding affirmatively to a Lashon Hora comment makes you both a speaker and an accepter of Lashon Hora.


Question 2:  How can one expunge the Lashon Hora that he has just believed--and thereby undo the issur of Kabbalas Lashon Hora that he has committed?  Relieving Answer:  By finding a way to now be Dan the person who you have accepted the Lashon Hora against LeChaf Zechus--so that even if the story was indeed true about him --there was a legitimate basis for what he had done. The original belief is thereby rendered innocuous!


Question 3:  In the Tefillah of "Elokai Netzor Leshoni Maira" at the end of Shemone Esrei which we recite three times a day, the first *three* personal requests that we make of Hashem all relate to our power of speech--why is this so?  Our Suggested Answer:  This is truly a rhetorical question--for if the power of speech separates man from animal--isn't it our first prerequisite--that we act like humans!



Special Note Three:  Before we take leave of Parshas Chayei Sora, several points and pointers:


a.  A reader had inquired as to why many Siddurim, immediately after Hallel, bring the Posuk (from last week’s Parsha) of VeAvrohom ZaKein Bah Bayamim VaHashem Beirach Es Avrohom BaKol…and Avrohom was elderly, coming with his days, and Hashem blessed Avrohom with everything.” What does this Pasuk have to do with Hallel?  In point of fact, it is the Shelah HaKadosh writes that reciting this Posuk after Hallel is a Segulah for Ariychus Yamim.  We can well understand that the Posuk describes Avrohom Avinu’s Ariychus Yamim--but how does that translate into Ariychus Yamim for us?  We may suggest that by reciting Hallel, we recognize the Source of all Life, and to Whom all thanks and appreciation is due.  This was truly Avrohom Avinu’s mission to the world.  By following in his footsteps, we, too, can be zoche to the long life that accompanies one who is properly fulfilling his mission in this world. 


b.  Why is Efron frowned upon as a money-hungry merchant, while Chiram the King of Tzor who was so handsomely paid for the materials he provided to build the First Bais HaMikdash, was nevertheless considered to be so virtuous that he was zoche to miraculously live for as long as the first Bais Hamikdash stood?  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita answers that like so many other things in life IT IS ALL A MATTER OF INTENT.  Chiram really did what he did to build the Bais HaMikdash--the money was nice, very nice--but it was secondary.  Efron's first goal was the money--although he also wanted to show respect to Avrohom Avinu as well.  Thus, while a person may believe that his thoughts are locked into his mind--and are--at most--limited  to his relationship with Hashem who knows all thoughts, this may not be the case at all.  The after-effects of a person's Kavannos and the mark they leave on this world may be demonstrated to all through the results of the very actions that were taken from those 'private' thoughts that may not really not so private after all.  We are all familiar with the Chofetz Chaim's advice to the pharmacist--when filling the prescription make it your primary goal to help the sick patient, and also take the full price.  You are then Osek BeMitzvah and being paid for it--as opposed to earning a good living and secondarily helping people while you're at it.  We are to live in two worlds --Olam HaZeh and Olam Haba--but they are not equal--and we have to put one ahead of the other.  The choice is ours.  Every task as mundane as it may seem during the day has so much potential in it--where will we steer ourselves in its performance--where will we put the LeSheim Yichud?!  As we move through our day's duties, if we could put the Olam Haba--LeSheim Mitzvah, LeSheim Shomayim focus on it--we will do much to move towards previously ordinary and now truly exemplary actions--which accurately reflect upon the beautiful thoughts behind them.


c.  We find the phrase 'Baruch Hashem' recited by Eliezer in last week's Parsha (following the 'Baruch Keil Elyon' recited by MalkiZedek in Parshas Lech Lecha).  In Sefer Shemos, we will learn that Yisro also recited 'Baruch Hashem'.  Thus, blessing Hashem is something that the B'nai Noach are eminently capable of.  Are we, then, any different?  We may suggest that what makes us different is that we not only recite 'Baruch Hashem', but 'Baruch Atah Hashem--we acknowledge the *You*--the presence of Hashem before us.  Hashem is not a Great Diety who is far away, but rather he is our Hashem, whose presence we acknowledge that we stand in at all times.  Moreover, our relationship is so personal and direct that it is not chutzpa--but rather a sign of love and affection--to refer to our G-d in the 'second person' personal, as no one else in the world can.  When reciting a Bracha, we should note that it is not just Baruch Hashem--but Baruch Atah Hashem--and especially rejoice with the word 'Atah'--for it so distinguishes and elevates us from the billions in the world around us!


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Special Note One:  We received the following memorable quote from a reader:  On the subject of coincidence in Friday’s Hakhel, here is a quote worth repeating:  “Coincidence is G-d’s way of appearing anonymous.”



Special Note Two:  We received the following additional phenomenal quote from a reader:  “Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Kotzk once said:  There are three types of people who are worse than the most evil of men.  One who learns Torah without struggling to understand it; one who sins and then forgives himself; and one who prays today only because he prayed yesterday.”



Special Note Three:  We received the following important comment from a reader:  “Relating to your urging us to have Kavannah in Mincha, thank you.  I really have wanted to do this for some time, and so I am bli neder committing myself to start with for this week (the week after the Parsha) to try and block out my work and really have a more successful Mincha.  When you think about it--it’s almost silly--till I get to a Minyan, daven and come back it’s almost half an hour (I am not privileged to have a Minyan in my office).  If I’m taking up so much time fighting the Yetzer Hora going, why not take the time when there to really daven better?  The real purpose of my writing is for you to also remind the Hakhel readers about two things before Mincha--you have to wash your hands, and it is better if you give tzedaka before Mincha just like before Shacharis to fulfill the Pasuk of Ani BeTzeddek Echeza Fonecha.”  Hakhel Response:  Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.



Special Note Four:  Another meaningful correspondence from a reader:  “Regarding stopping for a moment to focus before making a bracha, here is my idea.  The Gemara in Brachos says that a source for making a Bracha is the Pasuk in Tehillim of LaShem Ha’Aretz UMloah (24:1)--the earth and everything on it is Hashem’s, so that we would be taking food without permission of the Owner if we ate it as is.  Hashem so to speak let’s us acquire it by making a bracha--which is the right way of acknowledging that it is really all His and thanking Him for giving it to us.  So what I have recently started doing to put my mind in the right place before making a bracha over food is to simply say the three words of “Lashem Ha’Aretz UMloah” slowly-- after putting the food into my right hand ((I’m a righty).  I then start a more focused (and thankful) bracha.”  Hakhel Response:  Beautiful!  Your idea is actually very much related to a certain practice utilizing these very words brought by Chazal in Mesechta Shabbos.  We do not want to give it away--we will give you the opportunity to find it first.  Huge Hint (because of the preciousness of your idea): It is after Daf 100.



Special Note Five:  HaRav Avigdor Miller, Z’tl, provides the following great insight:  Avrohom Avinu told Eliezer that he did not have to worry about his mission because Hashem will “Yishlach Malacho Lefonecha…--will send His angel before you, and you will take a wife for my son from there” (Bereishis 24:7).  Yet, in the ensuing Pesukim and indeed for the rest of the Parsha we find no mention whatsoever of any Malach!  What happened to Avrohom Avinu’s assurance?!  HaRav Miller beautifully points out that the word Malach does not only mean angel--but that the word also means messenger, and that it is also very much related to the word “melacha” (work).  Hashem works by means of messengers--and even when there seems to be “natural” causes, in truth they were sent by Hashem to perform exactly in accordance with His plan.  It was the “malach” of Hashem that caused Rivka to come forth as Eliezer approached the well.  Avrohom Avinu perceived that all that took place in the world --whether by the agency of angels or the acts of other mortals--were all in accordance with Hashem’s decree and guidance.  Avrohom Avinu’s teaching was so powerfully conveyed that Eliezer was inspired by it--and it was so exhilarating that Eliezer was even able to convey it to Rivka’s family who openly and unabashedly declared “MaiHashem Yotza HaDovor...this has been brought about by Hashem! (Bereishis 24:50).  We, too, must recognize the “Malachim” of Hashem all around us in our everyday activities--and help all of those with whom we have some kind of contact--even the Lavans and Besuels of the world--to fully recognize and truly appreciate it as well!



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