Daily Email Archives

Bulletin Archives

Summer Archives

Gemach List

Public Announcements

Shatnez Publications

Past Events

Hakhel Recordings


Audio-Visual Resources


Hakhel Email Community Awareness Bulletin



16 Kislev

QUESTION OF THE WEEK:  The Parsha of Yaakov meeting Eisav is sometimes referred to as the “Parshas HaGalus”, and trains us how we are to behave with those seeking us harm or antagonistic to us in Galus.  Yet, this Parsha occurred as Yaakov is on his way back to Eretz Yisrael--and not on his way out to Chutz LaAretz.  It would have seemed that we would learn the Parshas HaGalus not from Yaakov’s encounter with Eisav--but from his encounter with Lavan, which is when Yaakov was exiting Eretz Yisroel for a while--and not on his way back!  Moreover, Lavan was a genuine Akum, whereas Eisav is described by Chazal as a Yisrael Mumar (Kedushin 18A).  Thus, wouldn’t Yaakov’s conduct with Lavan be the better standard and guide for us to learn from?



YIRAS SHOMAYIM FROM ERETZ YISRAEL--FOR SOMEONE DAVENING AT THE KOSEL:  Rebbitzen Altusky, may she be well BS"D, once told our Sunday morning shiur with her, that it's good to look above the golden 'kippa' and daven for Yiras Shomayim for ourselves and for all of K’lal Yisrael.”


Special Note One:  Questions and Answers on the Parsha from a reader who carefully studies the Parsha: 




1.  Where is this week's Parsha can we find a Pasuk, that all the words end with an Enda-Mem?? 

2.  Where in this week's Parsha can we find the only Pasuk that ends with Vayomer Yaakov??  

3.  Where in this week's Parsha can we find a Pasuk that has 5 straight words that all begin with the letter of aleph?? 




1.  Perek 32, Pasuk 15.


2.  Perek 32, Pasuk 28.


3.  Perek 36, Pasuk 41.



Special Note Two:  We remind our readers that the Steipeler Gaon, Z’tl, would recommend (based on the Sefer Kaf Hachaim, Orach Chaim 281 in the name of Rebbi Yehuda HaChossid) that a person who is in an eis tzara and in need of a yeshua undertake as a kabbala to recite Nishmas Kol Chai with joy in the presence of a minyan--when the Yeshua is received.  The undertaking will serve as a great zechus for the needed Yeshua. 



Special Note Three:  Many may have seen the letter recently published (in Hebrew) by HaRav Eliyahu Mann, Shlita, in the name of HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita.  In the letter, HaRav Kanievsky was asked what our response should be to the recent war in Eretz Yisrael and super storm, which affected so many.  HaRav Kanievsky answered that when Hashem brings oppression upon us, it is in order for us to do Teshuvah. Chazal (Sanhedrin 7A) teach that a person is first judged upon his Torah study.  Accordingly, HaRav Kanievsky concludes, we must strengthen ourselves “Be’Ikar Belimud HaTorah--primarily in Torah study.”   He urges those in Yeshiva to learn with Hasmada Gedolah, and Ba’alei Batim to be very, very careful to keep their regular times for Torah study.  HaRav Kanievsky then concludes that the zechus of Torah is very great, and that Torah will shield us and save us.  In honor of HaRav Kanievsky’s heartfelt directive to us, we provide the following few simple points, from the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, Siman 28 and Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, Chapter 155:


1.  When one studies Torah immediately after davening, he fulfills the Pasuk of “Yeilchu Meichayil El Choyil”…and is zoche to be Mekabel Penei HaShechina (Brachos 64A, as brought by the Mishna Berurah, ibid. seif katan 1).  Hakhel Note:  While we may not know what exactly the term Mekabel Penei HaShechina means--we do know that it is certainly an extremely great reward that is rarely referred to.  


2.  In addition to a regular set time for Torah study in the day time, one must have a set time for study at night as well, as the Pasuk instructs:  VeHagisa Bo Yomam VaLayla” (Yehoshua 1:8).  The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (71:1) adds that:  “Surely, a person who has a fixed measure of Torah study that he usually completes during the day should compensate at night if he was forced to negate it during the day.” 


3.  When a person is forced to leave his place of study, he should not leave his Sefer open, for this causes him to forget his learning (ibid., 27:4)


4.  A person must take care to study out-loud, verbalizing that which he studies to the extent that he hears his voice, as the Pasuk states:  Lo Yamush Sefer HaTorah Hazeh Mipicha…the Torah should not depart from your mouth.” (ibid., 5)


5.  The Kitzur (ibid. ) additionally rules that the person who pronounces the words of Torah even without understanding them fulfills the Mitzvah of Torah study.  It is for this reason that an am ha’aretz recites Birkos HaTorah every morning, and before he receives an aliyah.  The Kitzur concludes:  “Whoever occupies himself with Torah study, even though he does not understand it because of his limited comprehension, will merit to understand it in the World to Come!” 



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


1.  As we are only a week before Chanukah, we note that Chazal (Shabbos 23B) teach:  HaRagil B’Ner Havyan Lai Banim Talmidei Chachomim--if one is careful to properly perform the Mitzvos of Ner Chanukah and Ner Shabbos, he will have children who are Talmidei Chachomim.  Rashi (ibid.) explains that this is based upon the Pasuk (Mishlei 6:23):  Ki Ner Mitzvah V’Torah Ohr--through the Ner Mitzvah of Shabbos and Chanukah will come the light of Torah.”  It would certainly be appropriate for one to begin and to study in a careful and meaningful way the Halachos of Neiros Shabbos and the Halachos of Neiros Chanukah--the reward will certainly shine on!  Lest you think this is a ‘drasha’--what we have stated is brought in the Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 671, seif katan 1).


2.  The following is excerpted from Praying with Fire II by Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, Shlita: 


A.  Asking for personal requests on Shabbos is prohibited.  Some say that this includes even spiritual requests, while others permit this.  In either case, one may not pray for healing unless the person's life is in imminent danger. Instead, one may think of a sick person's name when saying “V'Rofei Cholim - [He] heals the sick,in the Atta Giborportion of the Shabbos Shemoneh Esrei, as one is allowed to think about personal needs on Shabbos.


B.  Despite the fact that in general Tehillim may be recited on Shabbos, it should not be recited in public for a sick person unless he is in imminent danger.  One may say Tehillim privately for a sick person who is not in danger--since it is not obvious to others that the Tehillim is being said for a sick person.


C. It is permitted, and recommended, at the time of Shabbos candle-lighting for a woman to pray for her children to be successful in Torah learning.  The Zohar adds that lighting Shabbos candles ‘with gladness of heart’ also brings peace to the Jewish people and long life to the members of the woman’s family. 



Special Note Five:  We continue our series on Yiras Shomayim with additional thoughts from va’adim given by HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, on this essential topic.




A.  Dovid HaMelech (Tehillim 145: 19) teaches us “Retzon Yereiav Ya’aseh V’Es Shavasam Yishmah V’Yoshieim--the will of those who fear Him, Hashem will do; and their cry He will hear and He will save them.”  How can one establish himself as a Yerei Hashem?  Yesterday, we discussed the tremendous significance of our daily brachos.  HaRav Friedlander teaches that there is another extremely important element to Yiras Shomayim.  That is, the careful adherence to the takanos and gezeiros of Chazal.  Chazal built fences for us in places where they knew that pitfalls could exist if we were allowed to step further.  Our care with what they were careful to institute demonstrates our concern, our desire to make sure, that we keep the word of Hashem fully and sincerely. 


B.  Picture a ba’alas habayis who places drinking glasses on the table.  If the glasses are ordinary weekday glasses, she may not be overly concerned even if they are relatively close to the end of the table.  However, if the glasses we are talking about are family heirlooms--then she will not take them out at all, and if she does take them out on an extremely important occasion--she will place them in middle of the table and she will keep a constant eye on them. Most certainly, the concern that she has for the glasses that are precious in her eyes is incomparable that of the ordinary glasses.  So, too, must it be for us--and our Yiras Shomayim.  Even if we do not think that we will come to carry on Shabbos, to mix milk and meat, to cheat someone in business…Chazal instituted takanos , which we must ever so carefully follow, because by doing so we demonstrate that our relationship with Hashem is precious to us, at least as much as the heirloom glasses are to the ba’alas habayis!  When we additionally institute our own particular safeguards based upon our own situation and circumstances, we are taking even better care of the heirloom in our possession!


C.  At the akeidah, after Avraham Avinu is ready to bring Yitzchak as an olah temima, a Malach tells Avraham “Ki Atta Yadati Ki Yerei Elokim Atta VeLo Chasachta Es Bincha Es Yechidecha Mimeni…for now I know that you are a Yerei Elokim, since you have not withheld your son, your only one from Me.”  It appears from this Pasuk that the akeidah proves one thing--that Avraham Avinu was a Yerei Elokim.  This, of course, once again demonstrates to us the tremendous importance of striving to be a Yerei Elokim.  In what way, however, did the akeidah actually demonstrate Avraham’s Yiras Shomayim?  HaRav Aharon Kotler, Z’tl (Mishnas Rebbi Aharon Vol. I, p. 103) teaches that it was by hisbatlus muchletes--his complete and utter submission and assent to the word of Hashem.  Avraham cast aside all doubts, all questions and followed Hashem’s will--simply because he knew that it was Hashem’s will.  This, in fact, the Maharal writes, is the Middah of Malochim--for they too are referred to by the Middah of Yiras Hashem (see Yecheskel 1:18 and Chagiga 13B).  HaRav Friedlander adds that there is a second great aspect of Yiras Shomayim that we derive from the akeidah--that is--it is not enough to feel Hashem’s greatness in one’s heart, to be awed by Hashem’s Omnipotence and contrast it to one’s own humanity in one’s mind alone--but rather one must actualize it by one’s actions.  By lifting up the knife and by all of the steps that Avraham Avinu took over the three days that led to that point--it demonstrated that Avraham’s Yiras Hashem was not just in mind--but in deed!  This is the lesson for us to follow--every day of our lives! 



Special Note Six:  We provide the following points and pointers on this week’s Parsha:


A. Although Hashem had promised Yaakov Avinu that he would be sustained, Chazal teach that Yaakov was worried “Shemah Yigrom HaCheit--maybe an aveira would do away with the Brachos that would otherwise come.  What aveira 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, easy to get angry there, come 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 shouldn’t, miss a learning seder, eat of an unknown Hashgacha, or engage in conduct that he would not feel comfortable with if it was Rosh Hashana or Yom Kippur--he should picture himself both as a little child and as a well-respected adult--and then make the choice of getting dirty--or staying clean!


B.  We provide the following outstanding excerpt from the Sefer Aleinu L’Shabei’ach, containing the teachings of HaRav Yitzchok Zilberstein, Shlita, as presented by Artscroll in an outstanding English translation. 


The Posuk states “Im Lavan Garti--I have sojourned with Lavan” (Bereishis 32:5).  Rashi notes: “Yet I kept the 613 Mitzvos.” HaRav Zilberstein comments:  “R’ Gershon Kalivensky told me something about the self-sacrifice of Jews for Mitzvos, even in the land of their enemies-and especially for the Mitzvah of tefillah.  During all the years that we were in Siberia, our ‘library’ consisted of a single Sefer--a Siddur.  And even that would not have remained with us, of not for the incredible self-sacrifice of my righteous mother, who guarded that Siddur fiercely and would not let the suspicious Siberian police steal it from her.  The police conducted a search through our barracks, and found the stained Siddur.  They wanted to take away with them.  My mother, with all the meager strength in her body, refused to let them so much as touch it with their polluted hands. “Those accursed men stared at her sternly--a stare that meant something much more menacing than a punishment.  In Siberia that kind of stare meant only one thing--a bullet to the head.  But, amazingly, those evil men backed down from the confrontation and left us alone.  I shook with fear.  Had those policemen decided to shoot Mother, r’l, there would seemingly have been no one to defend her, for anyone who dared open his mouth would have been finished.  But only ‘seemingly.’  At that moment, I witnessed with my own eyes fulfillment of the verse (Tehillim 97:10), ‘He guards the lives of His devout ones; from the hand of the wicked He saves them.’  I later passed this story on to my children and grandchildren, along with the message that a Jew need not fear anyone--no matter what happens.  A Jew fears only Hashem.


This is what the Gra meant when he wrote, ‘Akshanus B'ruchniyus Yatzliach--Obstinacy in spiritual matters will succeed!’  And I heard from HaGaon R' Adess that the letters of the word ‘Ivri’ also hint at this idea, as the acronym of ‘Akshanus B'ruchnius Yatzliach’ spells ‘Ivri.  In other words, anyone who is called an ‘Ivri’--a Jew--must be stubborn in his service of Hashem.  And then he will succeed.”


Additional Note: One example of Ivri on these short Shabbosos, is the proper performance of the Mitzvah of Shalosh seudos.  Neither the Torah nor Chazal provide an exception for the third meal in the shorter, winter months.  Neither man nor woman should fall prey to the weak attitude of those who may be around him, and should plan ahead (perhaps eating less at the earlier Seudah) in order to properly fulfill this Mitzvah.  Chazal teach that one who eats three meals on Shabbos is saved from three Puroniyos--three difficult times--the Chevlei Moshiach, the Din of Gehinnom, and the Milchemes Gog Umagog.  This teaching is, in reality, quoted in the Mishna Berura, a Halacha work, in Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 291, seif katan 1.


C.  Yaakov then meets Eisav, and they have their world-effecting encounter.  The Sefer Sechel Tov notes that Eisav, upon Yaakov taking leave of him, had Kefitzas HaDerech in traveling to Se’ir.  We can well understand why Eliezer or Yaakov would have Kefitzas HaDerech--but why would Eisav HaRasha--who is even referred to as a Yisrael Mumar have Kefitzas HaDerech?  The Sechel Tov answers that Hashem sped his departure so as not to cause Yaakov Avinu undue discomfort in being in close proximity with the Rasha.  This is the degree to which Hashem watched the righteous.  If you have a Rasha who is bothering you--you must remember that it is your fault--not his!


D.  Shimon and Levi are each referred to in this week’s Parsha as an Ish in describing their battle against the wicked people of Shechem--as the Pasuk states “Ish Charbo” (Bereishis 34:25).  We derive from here that that the age of Bar Mitzvah is 13, since Levi was 13 at the time and the Torah goes out of its way to specifically refer to him as an Ish.  As Rabbi Maimon Elbaz, Shlita, puts it: this is because the true sign of being a man--is to be able to stand up against evil!


Hakhel Note:  Indeed, this is the great lesson in preparation for the time that we are in--as the Chashmonaim dedicated their lives to fight those who thought that they were really ‘men’.  In the end, it was not the Greeks who were the ‘Ish’--it was the Chashmonaim who fought against all odds for the honor of Hashem and his Torah.  This too is our mission--to be the Ish…in our times! 



15 Kislev

FROM A READER:  “Thank you for your focus on Yiras Hashem.  I wanted to remind readers that after Tefillas Shacharis in the section “Bakashos L’achar HaTefillah” in some siddurim, there can be found Parshas HaYirah (Devarim 10).   There is a beautiful Yehi Ratzon at the end, where one can beseech Hashem for his own Yiras Shomayim and for Yiras Shomayim for all of K’lal Yisrael. I am assuming that if one is too busy to recite the entire Parshas HaYirah given people’s work schedules and other obligations, he can just carefully recite the three line Yehi Ratzon….  Directly after Parshas HaYirah, Parshas HaTeshuvah is printed.  If one says the three line Yehi Ratzon daily, he can ask Hashem for help in his quest for Teshuva Bechol Yom!”



95%!  Rabbi Bentzion Klatzko, Shlita, reports in the name of an Adam Gadol that, after 120 years, 95% of the Bein Adam L’Chaveiro that one is judged upon will be the Bein Adam L’Chaveiro within one’s own home!  It may be much easier to be nice, pleasant, courteous and understanding to someone whom you see less often, or upon whom it is important to make a good impression.  It is in one’s own home where the essence of one’s Derech Eretz, Middos Tovos, and ways of pleasantness are the true indication of his inner self…and in which they must sparkle and shine!



ENERGIZE!  Several to many times a day, one receives brachos of various kinds from various people:  “Have a good day!”; “Hatzlacha!”; “Be gebentsched!”; “Zei Gezunt!”; “Stay well!”; “Yasher Kochacha!”; “Auf Simchas!”; “Make a lot of money!”….  We suggest that aside from answering “Amen” to the bracha--that one do so in a relatively resounding way--with feeling and gusto (“Amen!!”), which will have the effect of not only accepting the bracha wholeheartedly, but of also energizing the one giving the bracha to give brachos to others as well!  Hakhel Note:  We add that the Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 215, seif katan 10) brings that when one hears someone davening for another or giving a bracha to someone else, he must answer “Amen!!” as well! 



TODAY!  Today is the Yahrtzeit of Rabbeinu Hakadosh, who was mesader the Shisha Sidrei Mishna--also known as “Rabbeinu Yehuda HaNasi” and “Rebbi” (R’ Yehuda Ben R’ Shimon Ben Gamliel).  At the very least--let us learn a Mishna for his aliyas neshama--as a symbol of Hakaras HaTov for all that he has done for us!




Special Note One: We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 37 and 38:


37. Lo La’ashok--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from withholding payments or monies owed to another, such as loans and rental fees.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.


38. Lo L’Acheir Sechar Sachir--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from withholding timely payments to employees, each worker in accordance with the type of work that he performs (day/night/hourly).  If one’s property is in the hands of another for repair, the payment is not due until one actually picks it up, even if it is otherwise ready.  If one does not make a payment on time, he violates this Lo Sa’aseh in addition to the Aseh of BeYomo Titein Secharo.  The prohibition applies not only to payment for human labor, but also for the lease of personal property and animals.  Additional prohibitions which are MiD’Oraysa and MiD’Rabbanan may be involved as well. When one who withholds payment from a worker, it is as if he took his soul.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.  Hakhel Note:  For a masterful Halachic work in English on this topic discussing many contemporary situations, we refer our readers to Halachos of Other People’s Money by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita.



Special Note Two:  As we approach Chanukah, let us reflect upon the fact that these days, the days immediately preceding Chanukah, are those in which the Chashmonaim successfully fought key battles against the Yevani oppressors--to the point in which Chanukah could finally be celebrated on the 25th of Kislev.  It is certainly a time in which we too can fight--and win--battles of the spirit as well, even if a particular task appears to be a formidable one.  Remember--these are days of victory…Teshuvah Bechol Yom! 



Special Note Three:  Points and pointers on davening for the wellbeing of others from the monumental Sefer Praying with Fire II, by Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, Shlita:


1.  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, rules that saying the name of a sick person is preferable to merely thinking it (based on the Pasuk in Tehillim 21:3).


2.  HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, rules that when a group is reciting Tehillim for an individual, one should be careful to mention the name before praying.  In that way, each member of the group will have that person in mind, and the unique merit of the Tefillos of a Tzibbur will be effective on the person’s behalf. 


3.  If one does not know the sick person’s mother’s name, than the father’s name should be used.  The Iyun Yaakov (Brachos 34) writes that one can mention the father’s name--especially if the father has many merits that will stand in good stead for the sick person.  If one does not know the name of the mother or father, he can say the family name or just the name of the person. 


4.  When one davens for himself and others, he should mention the other names first, and then his own name.


5.  HaRav Kanievsky also rules that if one intends to pray for a lengthy list of people, one can pray for them collectively by saying:  “For all those on this list”, rather than reciting each individual name, which may be difficult especially when under a time constraint. 


6.  Even though by maintaining privacy others will not pray for him, HaRav Kanievsky rules that one must respect a person’s request and his name may not be revealed.  Even if the patient has not requested secrecy, but the family has requested it, one must obey the family’s wishes.  However, the Yesod V’Shoresh HaAvodah (Sha’ar 5) writes that one can daven for a sick person even if the sick person did not ask him to pray on his behalf.  Doing so fulfills the Mitzvah of VeAhavta LeReiacha Kamocha! 



Special Note Four:  We continue our series on Yiras Shomayim with additional thoughts from va’adim given by HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, on this essential topic.




Because the recital of brachos daily is so fundamental to the maintenance and development of Yiras Shomayim, HaRav Friedlander, provides the following essential teachings about brachos:


A. A bracha has five parts:  (i) Baruch Atta--the initial acknowledgement that bracha is due to Hashem, before Whom one stands; (ii) The mention of Hashem’s name of Yud-Key-Vuv-Key--which indicates Hashem’s empowerment of, and mastery over, creation; (iii) Elokeinu--recognition that Hashem is Omnipotent and watches over us personally; (iv) Melech HaOlam--teaching that Hashem’s Malchus is over all; and (v) specifying the actual item or matter that you are reciting the bracha over--whether it be a Mitzvah, thanks, praise, or an item of food or fragrance. 


B.  Usually, when addressing a great person we say “HaRav” or “The Rosh Yeshiva”.  When reciting a bracha, Hashem, in His great kindness allows us to refer to Him directly by name.  When we do, however, recite the Name it should be with the appropriate feeling of awe, and not just as one who casually mentions other words in his repertoire. 


C.  It is important to take certain brachos which are recited several times a day and to especially focus upon them, reciting them slowly.  For instance, in the bracha of Asher Yatzar, we bless Hashem as the “Rofeih Chol Basar U’Mafli La’asos (Who acts wondrously)”.  To what wonder do we refer?  The Rema writes in Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 6:1) that it is the wonder of the Neshama and Guf--which are from two different worlds and which otherwise have no connection to each other wondrously coming together in the process of digestion.  Indeed, the Mishna Berurah (ibid., seif katan 6), writes that the Neshama benefits from the Ruchniyus of the food, and the body benefits from the Gashmiyus--so that the body and soul are remarkably joined together through the food itself!


D.  Perhaps the first thing to do is for a person to momentarily think that he is about to make a bracha--and what that means.  It means that I stand before Hashem, and am about to bless Him for something--accordingly, I thank Him for the Chesed, whether it is for the Mitzvah, the food, the fragrance, or for another item or matter of shevach and hoda’ah.  With these few seconds of forethought--one creates an otzar--an edifice, a treasure house of Yiras Shomayim--which he constantly adds on to, develops…and beautifies! 



14 Kislev

Special Note One:  The Sefer Sichos BaAvodas Hashem by Rav Yaakov Meisels, Shlita writes that the root of the word Chanukah is chinuch--indicating that Chanukah requires chinuch--real preparation in order to perform the mitzvah properly. One sure way to begin the preparations is to recognize what the days of Chanukah were intended for--’LeHodos U’LeHallel’--to thank and praise Hashem.  With this awareness, we look to Leah’s naming of her fourth child Yehudah--when she stated “This time, I will thank Hashem”.  Incredibly, this one name--Yehudim or Jews--is the name that has lived with us for the last 2,000 years.  The Sefas Emes (in the name of his grandfather, the Chidushei HaRim) explains that this appellation has remained with us because it serves as a daily reminder to live our lives with the recognition and awareness to thank Hashem--for everything--not just the Six-Day War type of miracles--but the daily miracles as well.  Our preparation for Chanukah, then,  is to begin by thinking and thanking--especially in Modim of Shemone Esrei--to which we will soon be only adding Al HaNisim --to all else that we recognize and thank Hashem for.


Rav Meisels beautifully concludes that the reason the bracha of Sim Shalom, which contains so many brachos for us, was placed by Chazal immediately after Modim, is because if we properly demonstrate our thanks to Hashem--we will be deserving of more  and more and more  brachos!


PRACTICAL  SUGGESTION:  After remembering in Modim to thank Hashem for some of those everyday things in life, recite Sim Shalom with steady concentration--because your recognition and expression of the thanks due will only bring more bracha to you--and to all of K’lal Yisroel



Special Note Two:  We bli neder begin a series on Yiras Shomayim. 




The following thoughts are from va’adim given by HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, on this essential topic:


1.  The Rambam (Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah 2:1, 2) writes:  How does one get on to the path of love and fear of Hashem?  It is by contemplating Hashem’s great and wondrous deeds and creations, realizing Hashem’s inestimable wisdom.  With proper reflection, a person will praise, glorify and thank Hashem and yearn to be close to Him.  Proper reflection should, however, also cause a person to take a step back and realize that he is frail and small, standing before Hashem with only human abilities and mortal powers.  This being so, why is man here?   Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, provides the answer in the penultimate Pasuk of Koheles ( 12:13 ) with the following famous words:  Sof Davar HaKol Nishmah Es HaElokim Yirah V’Es Mitzvosav Shemor Ki Zeh Kol HaAdam--the sum of the matter, when all has been considered: Fear Hashem and keep His commandments, for that is all of man.”  After 12 chapters of consideration of so many varied and sundry aspects of life, the wisest of all men concludes that all of the various wisdoms, pleasures, offers and benefits of the world-at-large are all insignificant in light of life’s goal--Yiras Shomayim.  Only to the extent that they can be used towards the goal of Ki Zeh Kol HaAdam do they have meaning. 


2.  Yiras Shomayim is accordingly not a one-half hour or hour a day exercise, or something that is practiced during Tefillah alone, but it is a daily and continuous essence of one’s life.  Yes, one should spend one-half hour a day simply focusing in on the topic by studying Mussar or related Seforim, but there are other parts of the day as well which should bring one to a heightened awareness of the fear of Heaven.  Every bracha should engender it.  Indeed, Chazal (Menachos 43B) teach that a person is obligated to make 100 brachos a day--and derive this Halacha from the Pasuk (Devarim 10:22 ):  Mah Hashem Elokecha Sho’el Mei’imach Ki Im LeYirah…--what does Hashem ask of you, but to fear Him.”  Chazal comment: Do not read the word as ‘Mah’--what, but ‘Mei’ah’--100--meaning the 100 brachos that we recite daily will bring us to Yiras Shomayim. 


3.  One would imagine that Hashem would instinctively place within a person, together with a fear of wild animals, a fear of lightning and thunder, a fear of deep canyons and steep cliffs, the most essential fear of all--of Heaven--of Hashem Himself.  Yet, HaRav Yitzchak Blazer, Z’tl (in the Sefer Ohr Yisrael) notes that we do not have innate fears of the spiritual in the same way that we have fears of the physical.  To be clear, fear is a good thing.  Because of fear, a person avoids getting too close to fire, allowing himself to get sick, going to dangerous places, and getting involved in dangerous situations.  These innate fears save the person from many potential dangers and catastrophes.  Shouldn’t we likewise be born with a fright of gehennom, an apprehension of punishment in this world and in the next, and most certainly trepidation and fear of Hashem--as part of our very nature and being?!  HaRav Blazer answers that because Yiras Shomayim is the purpose of man--Hashem wants man to attain his purpose on his own--through his own bechirah chafshis, through his own sechel, through his own intellect and choice.  Each and every one of us is charged with the life-duty and obligation to overcome the obfuscations and confusions in the world in front of us, and appreciate and develop our own Yiras Shomayim.  This is exactly what the Pasuk means when it says:  “What does Hashem ask of you…?”


4.  If one recognizes the principle that Yiras Hashem is the essence of life, then through it, he will get to Kol HaTorah Kulah--for through it one attains all aspects of Avodas Hashem, Ahavas Hashem, Shemiras HaMitzvos and walking in His Ways.  Look back at the Pasuk in Devarim 12:20--it is now all clear! 



Special Note Three:  In light of the previous Special Note on Yiras Shomayim, we once again provide the following basic test: 


Which of the following thoughts would DEFINITELY NOT be in order prior to making a bracha and partaking of food or drink:


a.  In Whose presence you are.


b.  What the bracha is on, including the incredible process that brought this item from its creation (in Eretz Yisrael, Idaho, China or your backyard) to your consumption.


c.  That you are consuming this item in order to have a strong and healthy body so that you can serve Hashem and fulfill your life’s purpose.


d. That Gomel Nafsho Ish Chosed’--one who treats his body properly is actually performing a Chesed to none other than himself.


e.  That you intend to elevate the food by its consumption and  extract  the ‘nitzotzos of kedusha’ within the food.


f.  That the bracha you are making will include all other items in your home that you may also consume now that share this same bracha.


g.  That even if you move into another room within the house, your bracha in this room will lechatchila cover your consumption in all other rooms as well.


h.  That you have Hakaras HaTov to Hashem for this, and that you are not a ‘kofui tova’-one who does not properly recognize Hashem’s beneficence to you. Instead, you are expressing your thanks and praise to the Source of All Creations.


i. That making a bracha prior to eating is a Mitzvah D’Rabbanan, and making a bracha after eating is either a Mitzvah D’Oraysa or D’Rabbanan (depending on what you have eaten)--so that even the most basic physical act of eating ( which for the right reasons, is  a mitzvah in and of itself!) is ‘sandwiched’ by Mitzvos!


j. That the reason the food is providing you with nutrition and energy is not because “Al HaLechem Levado Yichye HaAdam” there is power within the bread itself, but rather “Ki Al Kol Motze Fi Hashem Yiche HaAdam--only because Hashem wills it and orders it every single time you eat.


k. An animal is hungry, and I am hungry. An animal eats and I eat. Human beings live here on earth with animals, and are far, far away from the malochim. Actually, some even call us ‘two-legged animals’. Let me make a quick bracha now because this is what I know I’ve gotta do so that I can eat, and snatch some of that food.



Special Note Four:  If your answer to the above was k--you are correct!  Perhaps you can now review a-j again and perhaps add some more thoughts of your own….and remember:  While eating is a great time to remember…Teshuvah BeChol Yom!




13 Kislev

Special Note One:  The Luach Davar BeIto points out that today is the Yahrtzeit of Ravina (brei D’Rav Huna), who together with Rav Ashi were mesader the Talmud Bavli.  The Luach specifically asks Maggidei Shiur to specifically note this at the beginning of the Shiur. 



Special Note Two:  What Tefillos do we recite for the next generation?  The Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 47, seif katan 10) writes as follows:  Tomid Tiheyeh Tefillas HaAv VeHaEim Shegurah Bephihem…--fathers and mothers should constantly recite Tefillos for their children, davening that they be Lomdei Torah, Tzaddikim and Ba’alei Middos Tovos.”  The Mishna Berurah then points out that a person should have special Kavannah for this in three specific places in Shacharis--in the bracha of Ahava Rabbah, in Birkos HaTorah when reciting the words Veniheyeh Anachnu V’Tzetzaeinu and in U’Vah L’Tzion when reciting the words “LeMa’an Lo Nigah LaRik VeLo Neileid Labehalah”.  Hakhel Note:  One can also daven for the children of others!



Special Note Three:  Several gems from the Hakhel Yarchei Kallah last Thursday. To order tapes or CDs of this or other past Hakhel events, please contact 718-252-5274:


A.  Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita:


1.  The Navi (Hosheiah 2:21 ) states:  Ve’eirastich Li LeOlam--I will betroth you to Me forever.”  We know, however, that betrothal is only the temporary period before marriage.  Why would we want Hashem only to betroth us to Him forever--what about the permanent relationship of marriage?  HaRav Yaakov MeLisa (the Ba’al Nesivos HaMishpat), in his introduction to Shir HaShirim writes that with this phrase the Navi is teaching us that we should be in a constant state of longing for Hakadosh Baruch Hu and Giluy Kevod Malchuso, just as those who are betrothed really want to be married.  This is what the author of Yedid Nefesh means when he says “Nafshi Cholas Ahavasecha--Hashem, I yearn for Your closeness.”  It is not enough, however, Rabbi Reisman teaches just to yearn--one must take his quest into the Olam HaMa’aseh--doing deeds which demonstrate his love of Hashem.


2.  An example of the burning desire one must have can be taken from the Sefer Pachad Yitzchak, which contains the lessons of HaRav Yitzchak Hutner, Z’tl (Purim, 1:3).  Rav Hutner writes of two individuals who are of the same age--one who has studied Torah for most of his life and now has some feelings that perhaps he should have done other things besides.  Then there is his colleague who had worked during the same time that his friend was learning, and knows very little--but now he really wants to learn full-time.  HaRav Hutner writes that the latter individual is closer to Torah than the former individual--even if the first knows Shas and the other knows almost nothing.  The burning desire, however, is not enough. To take its true place--one must bring the desire to reality in this world!


3.  The phrase “Chalav U’Devash” (milk and date honey) is mentioned in Tanach 12 times, while the reversal of the phrase--”Devash V’Chalav” is mentioned only once.  Milk is almost always mentioned first because it symbolizes sustenance, whereas the date honey may be viewed as a luxury--the candy after the meal.  However, only when it comes to Torah does the Pasuk state “Devash V’Chalav Tachas Leshoneich”--for the sustenance of Torah is the sweetness that one experiences from it!


B.  Rabbi Yosef Viener, Shlita:


1.  In his Shiur on the Halachos relating to whether one can sin in order to save/help his friend, and when one’s life comes ahead of that of his neighbors, Rabbi Viener discussed many questions, among them the following:


(a) A young lady is kidnapped by a meshumad on Shabbos, and the danger exists that the more she is with him the more she will be pulled to his way of life. Can one be mechalel Shabbos to save her? 


(b) Two people together have a kezayis of Matzah on the night of Pesach--who should eat it?


(c) Can one ‘volunteer’ to miss his regular Shiur in order to help another?  Can a woman who is staying home on Yom Kippur to watch her children agree to watch other children, which would result in her inability to daven at home at all?


(d) A father refuses to eat something treif, although the doctors have ordered him to.  His son tries to trick him and says that it is not treif.  The father says:  “So you eat it first yourself!”  Should the son do so?


(e) A child keeps on tugging onto an adult during Shemone Esrei.  Can one interrupt his Shemone Esrei in order to show him the place, wipe his nose, give him a drink, etc.


2.  Avraham Avinu is known as ‘Avraham Ohavi’.  Why?  The Chasam Sofer teaches that it is because he devoted himself to teaching others and bringing them close to Hashem’s service.  Because he demonstrated his love of Hashem to others, Hashem loves him as well.  This is the deeper meaning of what Rebbi Akiva taught is the K’lal Gadol Batorah--VeAhavta LeRei’acha Kamocha--for it demonstrates one’s love of Hashem as well!


3.  We have come into this world in order to avoid Nahama Dekisufa--the embarrassment of our souls obtaining free gifts from Hashem without our working for them.  What is so terrible, so wrong with receiving free gifts?!  The answer is that we are created b’tzelem elokim--in Hashem’s image.  Hashem does not take--He only gives.  We, too, then are here to look for opportunities to give to others. 


C.  Rabbi Sholom Smith, Shlita:    


1.  The Chofetz Chaim (in the 1880’s) writes that when the middas hadin has been empowered--the eitzah is to strengthen ourselves in Chesed--because Chesed below arouses Chesed above.  If an opportunity for Chesed arises, one should not complain. Do not say: “Don’t bother me” or “Ask someone else”.  Instead-- recognize that Hashem has sent the opportunity!  In last week’s Parsha, the Pasuk teaches that “Veyizkor Elokim Es Rochel--Hashem remembered Rochel and she too gave birth.”  What did Hashem remember?  Rashi writes that Hashem remembered how she gave her Simanim to Leah.  This means that it was because of the great Chesed that she did to Leah…that she was able to give birth! Indeed, what eventually resulted was Yosef HaTzaddik and his descendants and Binyomin in whose Nachala the Beis HaMikdash was built! 


2.  HaRav Pam, Z’tl, points out that the Trei Assar is a compilation of twelve different nevi’im who span a time period of 1,250 years.  Why were they all combined together?  Because they are relatively small in size, and Chazal did not want them to get lost.  We, too, should value the little things, such as the little bits of time, and not let them get lost.  Rabbi Smith pointed to a real life example of a person who he knew who studied entire Mesechta Bei’ah while waiting for his Chavrusah who came late every day.  He could have spent the time taking a coffee, saying “Good Morning” to others--instead he made the little time here and the little time there, count in a really great way! 


3.  Chazal (Shabbos 67A) teach that it was customary to put a red mark on a tree as a sign that it was losing its fruit early, and asking passersby to pray for it.  When one sees the pain of another in any form--he does not have to be a Tzaddik to offer up a prayer.  When one hears a Hatzalah siren for example, let him at least say:  Shelach Refuah Sheleimah LeCholei Amecha”!


4.  Rabbi Smith concluded that after a time of din, opportunity knocks.  When Noach came out of the teivah, whatever he touched would have turned to gold.  He ended up planting a vineyard.  We should perhaps learn from that mistake and utilize a Ruach of Tanchumin--a spirit of consolation properly.  In a beginning sense, we are post Superstorm Sandy and Operation Pillar of Defense--let us use the time wisely, very wisely!




12 Kislev

KASHRUS ALERT ON NEW POPULAR PRODUCT:  Edamame Beans (Soy Beans in Pods)--We received word from a Kashrus expert that this product has been found to be quite infested with worms. Each pod should be very carefully checked before eating.




Special Note One:  We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 35 and 36:


35. Shelo Ligzol--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from robbing a shaveh perutah--although even less than a shaveh perutah is forbidden such as is any chatzi shiur.  Chazal explain that the Torah considers someone who robs his friend of a shaveh perutah as if he stole his soul.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.


36.  Lo Lechacheish Mamon--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from denying that he must return either money or an object of his friend that is in his possession (whether by loan or withholding of payment, by theft, or through finding a lost object and not returning it or because one was watching an object for his friend).  One who denies a valid claim in any of the above situations violates this prohibition and is pasul l’eidus.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.



Special Note Two:  The Be’er Haitaiv to Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 185 (seif katan 1) writes that the only os missing from bentsching is the pheih sofis--and this is so because anyone who bentsches with Kavannah will not have af or ketsef (anger) come upon him, and moreover, his sustenance will be plentiful and honorable all his days!  Let us remember that the Be’er Haitaiv is a Halachic commentary!



Special Note Three:  Although the term “Hurricane Sandy” seems like a friendly one, it in fact left tremendous devastation in several Torah communities.  Yesterday, three trailer loads with tens of thousands of Seforim from the Five Towns area tragically destroyed by “Hurricane Sandy” were buried in Woodridge , New York .  The following message by Rabbi Yaakov Bender, Shlita, the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Darchei Torah in Far Rockaway was distributed before Shabbos:  “As you are all well aware, one of the most difficult consequences of Hurricane Sandy was the terrible loss of Seforim and other Kisvei Kodesh.  K’lal Yisroel has always had a special relationship with the holy printed word.  When a Sefer falls on the floor, we immediately pick it up and give it a kiss.  We treat our Seforim with dignity and Kedusha.   There are so many in our community who lost valuable Seforim.  Many youngsters, particularly bar mitzvah Bochurim, lost their bar mitzvah gifts to the storm.  I am reminded of a story that took place about 25 years ago in yeshiva. One of the local builders had room for burial of Shaimos and they offered Yeshiva Darchei Torah the opportunity to bury Shaimos there. I felt that not only should we bury the Shaimos there, but the children should all walk there to see how we are Machshiv and honor our Seforim.  At the time, one of the Rebbeim complained that it is ‘bitul torah’ to close the Gemaras.  I called Reb Elya Svei, Z’tl, who started screaming on the phone:  “This is Kiyum HaTorah, training children to be Machshiv Seforim.”  Unfortunately, this community lost three full truckloads of Seforim.  We asked one of the trailer trucks of Shaimos to pass by the yeshiva on its way to burial.  All of the Talmidim of Grades 1 through Beis Midrash will be coming to the parking lot on Beach 19 Street to say a Kepitel Tehillim, as we escort the Seforim to their final resting place….” 


Hakhel Note:  Perhaps each of us can, bli neder, buy a Sefer and donate it to a Shul to show his desire to replenish the Seforim that were lost (if one would give it to a Shul in one of the communities hit, it would be all the more appropriate).  Rabbi Yosef Eisen, Shlita, Rav of Kollel Bnei Torah in Flatbush, and the Rabbinic Administrator of the Va’ad HaKashrus of the Five Towns and Far Rockaway, made the following two extremely important related points:


1.  It behooves us all, in light of what has happened, to take some additional step to demonstrate Kavod HaTorah and Kavod HaSeforim.  Two simple but significant suggestions Rabbi Eisen made were: 


A.  When opening a Sefer and closing it, kiss the Sefer to show your honor and affection for it. (Remember you used to do that as a child--why should it be different now?!)


B.  When reciting the words Veha’arev Nah in Birkos HaTorah, one should have in mind that he is davening to Hashem that the words of Torah be sweet to him, and also the Kavannah of the Sefas Emes who teaches that the word Veha’arev also indicates a mixture (like eruvin)--that we ask Hashem that we ‘mix together’ or become one with the Torah that we study! 


2.  As many know, because of the hurricane, so many are still in extremely difficult straits--without homes to live in, without Parnassah, with mental anguish….  Perhaps before entering one’s home he should hesitate or wait for five seconds or so and thank Hashem that upon entering he will find his house in order--no rooms destroyed, with Seforim on the shelves, electricity and heat working, food in the refrigerator, and the like--no longer taking anything for granted.  We should all awaken to help others--and awaken to thank Hashem for what we have!




9 Kislev

OBVIOUS QUESTION OF THE WEEK:  In this 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?!



FROM A READER:  I was walking past a park and noticed a father sitting on a bench in front of the playground....his eyes fixated straight.....not for a split second does he take his eyes off his precious child.  Our Father does not take His eyes off His precious children for a split second.”




Special Note One:  Ceasefire I. With the tenuous ceasefire in place, we add a Kabbalah suggestion for the next two weeks until Chanukah, which could truly result in superlative results:  It is, in a sense, one’s own kind of ceasefire.  When a thought, deed, or word to be expressed is of questionable legitimacy or is impulsive or reactive in nature, then ceasefire and do not continue the thought, take the action or say the word.  There is a positive corollary to this as well.  When a Torah study or Mitzvah opportunity presents itself, do not, to the extent possible, delay it at all, so that nothing gets in the way--and it truly comes to fruition as soon as possible.  May your dedicated atzlus in aveiros and zerizus in Mitzvos over the next two weeks bring nachas to Hashem, to the people of Eretz Yisrael--and to yourself!  Hakhel Note:  We learn from this week’s Parsha how if we act properly, all of the eitzos, all of the tachbulos of our enemies--all of which appear to be insurmountable and even impossible to overcome--are handily taken care of by Hashem for us.  All we have to do is our part--which we can, and which we must! 


Ceasefire II.  Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, teaches us in Koheles (3:15) VeHaElokim Yivakeish Es Nirdaf--Hashem seeks those who are pursued.  The Midrash Rabba teaches that we can see this clearly from the kinds of Karbanos that Hashem accepts in the Bais HaMikdash:  An ox is chased by a lion, a goat is pursued by a leopard, and a sheep is hunted by a wolf.  Hashem is not at all interested in the pursuers--but only in the pursued.  Based upon this, the Chofetz Chaim writes, one should learn and appreciate how far he should stay from even associating with those who pursue Machlokes--for Hashem rejects them outright.  In the end, they will be called to task and punished.  However, one who ceases fire--one who avoids any tinge of Machlokes in the end will be honored before all--as the very same Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, teaches Kavod LaIsh Sheves MeiRiv--abstention from quarrel is a man’s honor  (Mishlei 20:3).  Hakhel Note:  A quarrel does not have to mean a battle between two sects or large groups--the Hadfields and the McCoys and their like.  It can also mean a disagreement among friends, among family, and yes, even among siblings or spouses.  Why should we be among the pursuers--when we can be counted among the pursued--and enjoy all the true honor of being human--guaranteed to us by the wisest of all men?!



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


A.  First, we provide a sample from the outstanding new Sefer just published by Artscroll entitled What If…: Fascinating Halachic Discussions for the Shabbos Table According to the Weekly Torah Reading. The Sefer is based on the pesokim of HaRav Yitzchok Zilberstein, Shlita, adapted by Rabbi Moshe Sherrow, Shlita.  What a tremendous addition to the Shabbos table’s Torah/ Halacha Discussion! The sample below is based on the words of Lavan to Yaakov in this week’s Parsha:  Ach Atzmi U’Vesari Attah--nevertheless you are my flesh and blood” (Bereishis 29:14), and the Halachic discussion is:  Does Family Always Come First?:


“Rochel and Leah were shopping for groceries. Leah asked the storekeeper for a bottle of olive oil. The storekeeper replied that the oil was out of stock but would be available the following day. Leah was perturbed as she was in the middle of a recipe and needed the oil that night. Her friend Rochel told her that she had a little olive oil at home that she did not need, and that Leah could borrow it from her so she could proceed as planned. Leah was relieved and arranged to pick up the oil later that afternoon.  An hour later, Rochel received a call from her mother, with a request for a little olive oil. Her mother had also checked at the store and they were out of stock. Both Rochel's mother and Leah need all of the oil. According to halacha, one who reneges on an offer is lacking trustworthiness. The question is:  Is Rochel obligated by kibbud eim (honoring one's mother) to give her mother the oil even though it was already promised to Leah, or perhaps it is more important that she keep her word and give it to Leah as planned?


The Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 204, 7-8) writes: One who commits himself with an oral agreement should keep his word, even though no payment has been made. One who does not keep his word has exhibited a lack of faithfulness and is disdained by the chachamim. So too, one who said he would give his friend an inexpensive gift, and did not do so, has exhibited a lack of faithfulness. Moreover, if Leah would be a poor person as well, by offering the oil to her, it would be considered a vow to give tzedakah. Certainly the mitzvah of honoring one's mother would not absolve her from her vow, and Rochel would have to give the oil to Leah. If Leah is not poor, perhaps her mother's need would come first. Rav Zilberstein brings a difference of opinion, regarding an inexpensive gift, as to whether the words of gift themselves transfer ownership or not. Even though the oral agreement is certainly not binding to the extent that one could renege although he is certainly obligated not to do so, the question remains as to whether the words actually create a transfer of ownership. A ramification of this would present itself in a case of someone who told his friend that he would give him a gift and subsequently died. Would his heirs be bound by his words? If it is only an obligation on the person who promises to keep his word, the heirs would not be bound by his statement (Rabbi Akiva Eiger on Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 204). Conversely, if the words themselves actually transfer ownership, even the heirs would have to honor the wishes of their inheritor (Mishnas Ya'avetz ibid. 204:33). In our case, it would seem that according to both opinions, kibbud eim would not take precedence either to take away from Leah that which Rochel had already granted, or to stop Rochel from keeping her word, as the Torah did not obligate one to fulfill the mitzvah to honor one's parents when improper behavior is involved. On the other hand, the (Rema ibid. 204:11) brings an opinion that if the price of the item in question rose, one could retract his words and it is not considered a lack of faithfulness. Thus, one could argue that since the oil has the potential to be a vehicle to perform the mitzvah of kibbud eim, it could be considered the value of the oil has changed and Rochel could retract her previous offer!”


B.  As the Daf Yomi is currently studying the Perek of Bameh Tomnin, primarily relating to Hatmana (insulating or unwrapping hot food), we provide the following basic points and pointers relating to Hatmana, as excerpted from the magnificent work The 39 Melachos, by Rabbi Dovid Ribiat, Shlita (a true must-have for every home):


1.  Hatmana literally means to hide.  Chazal use the term relating to the prohibition to insulate hot foods for the purpose of intensifying or even just retaining a food’s heat.  Hatmana is prohibited because it can lead to the melachos of Bishul and Ma’avir. 


2.  Some forms of Hatmana are prohibited even if the foods were insulated before Shabbos.  For example, one may not wrap a hot water urn with an insulator jacket or towel, even if this was done before Shabbos. 


3.  There are four conditions that must be present for Hatmana to be prohibited:  (a) the food must be completely enwrapped by the insulating material; (b) the food must still be in its kli rishon; (c) the intent must be for insulating purposes; and (d) the wrapping material must be in direct contact with the food or the container.   All four conditions must be present for Hatmana to be prohibited.  Common examples include:  (a) one may not completely wrap a hot potato in aluminum foil on Shabbos to keep it warm because of Hatmana; however, it is permissible to wrap the potato if the foil is left open slightly, thereby exposing a part of the potato; (b) it is permitted to cover a glass of hot tea with a towel or the like to keep it hot, because the hot tea is presently in a kli sheni--i.e., a kli that was never on the fire.  One may likewise cover a hot bowl (a kli sheni) of soup, or pour hot water or coffee into a thermos (a kli sheni), to retain its heat; (c) it is permitted to cover a hot pot of food with its lid, even though the lid acts to keep the contents of the pot warm, since the primary purpose in covering the pot is to protect the food, even if one knows or intends for the food to be kept warm as a result of putting the lid back on; (d) it is forbidden to completely wrap a pot of soup that is on the blech with toweling or the like even before Shabbos, because the flame under the blech provides a steady source of heat. By retaining this added heat, the toweling effectively increases the heat within the insulated area, and is therefore classified as a davar hamosif hevel; (e) if one would take the pot off the fire and completely cover it in toweling--then the toweling will now serve as a davar she’eino mosif hevel, which does not produce any heat, but merely retains heat.  Here, we have a distinction between Friday afternoon and Friday night.  This type of Hatmana--even if it is to a kli rishon, but provided that it has been taken off the fire--may be done Friday afternoon, but not Friday night--when even Hatmana in a davar she’eino mosif hevel is prohibited; (f) the crockpot presents its own issues as to Hatmana, and if one has not already done so, he must consult with his own Rav or Posek as to how to properly use his crockpot on Shabbos. 



Special Note Three:  Several points on the great opportunity of answering “Amen”! from the Sefer Piskei Teshuvos (IV: p.428-431):


A. The Rema (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 167:2) teaches that the Mevarech should have Kavannah to the meaning of Amen that is being answered--as the Amen completes his bracha in a more refined manner!


B.  The Chayei Adam (6:1) writes that it is a serious offense for one to hear a Bracha and not answer Amen.  Accordingly, if a person sees that people around him are not paying careful attention to his making a Bracha, it is better for him to recite the Bracha silently, so as not to potentially hurt others.  It is for this reason that we recite the HaRachamans in bentsching in an undertone, unless we know that the people around us will answer Amen to each HaRachaman.


C.  One must definitely answer Amen to the bracha of a Katan who has reached the age of Chinuch (i.e., one who knows how to make a bracha and who knows to Whom a bracha is made).  However, many authorities rule that even if a Katan has not reached the age of Chinuch, one should still answer Amen to his brachos--as this will train him in the answering of Amen to the brachos of others.  The Steipeler Gaon, Z’tl, would, for example, answer Amen to a child’s bracha if a child was three or older.



Special Note Four:  We provide the following points and pointers on this week’s Parsha, Vayeitzei:

A. At the outset of the Parsha, Rashi teaches that the Torah goes out of its way to state that Yaakov left the place, to teach that when a Tzaddik leaves a place, it leaves an impact. Why was this lesson taught to us by Yaakov Avinu--and not by Avraham and Yitzchak? HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, explains that Yaakov Avinu was an Ish Tam Yosheiv Ohalim--one who spent his time in the Bais HaMidrash, and would not otherwise be known to the people in the same way as others. Nevertheless, we must know that his departure from a place makes a lasting impression--just as in the same way as Avraham Avinu who was known to all! 

B. There is a notable question many have asked relating to the Parsha--and an incredible response, given by HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, which we have provided in the past, but which we repeat because of its incredible lesson to us. 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 Shomayim”. 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 Berurah (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. Let us be smart and inculcate this great lesson from Yaakov Avinu--now is the time to rededicate and reenergize ourselves in the daily study of a classic Mussar work!


Additional Note: HaRav Kanievsky, teaches that the Yeshiva of Shem V’Eiver where Yaakov studied for 14 years was actually in Be’er Sheva itself. Why, then, was he not worried that Eisav would find him there? It must be, HaRav Kanievsky teaches, that Yaakov knew that Eisav would not set foot into a Yeshiva--notwithstanding the primary importance he placed on attacking Yaakov. 


Hakhel Note: If Eisav had such an overbearing revulsion to entering a Yeshivah, we must appreciate this and conversely instill within ourselves a great passion for entering a Yeshiva at each and every opportunity that we can!

C. If Yaakov was told by Rivka not to come back from Lavan’s house until she called for him--why is Yaakov held accountable for not showing Kibbud Av, to the extent that Yosef was separated from him for the same 22 years that he did not demonstrate Kibud Av V’Aim to his parents? HaRav Kanievsky, Shlita, incredibly explains that it was Yaakov’s responsibility to daven that he should not be put into a position in which he would not be able to honor his parents! 

D. Yaakov Avinu came back to the place of the Bais HaMikdash when he realized he had passed it, exclaiming “Can it be that I passed by the place where my fathers davened and I did not daven there?!”(Rashi to Bereishis 28:17) HaRav Kanievsky explains that we should learn from here that one should daven in a place that a Tzaddik davened, and that it is a special zechus to daven in a place where Tefillos previously had been accepted. 

E. How could Rochel have given the Simanim to Leah, when she knew that Yaakov thought that he was marrying her? She was helping Leah--but was she not hurting Yaakov!? HaRav Kanievsky explains that Rochel understood that Yaakov would accept Leah as his wife as well--so that in this way she was saving her sister and at the same time fulfilling Yaakov’s quest for marriage. As the Pasuk shows, she was in fact correct--as Yaakov remained married to Leah, who gave birth to the majority of his children! 

F. Yaakov Avinu told Lavan “Im Asher Timzah…--with whomsoever you find your gods, he shall not live.” Rashi cites the Midrash which states that because of this curse, Rochel died shortly thereafter. This teaches how careful one must be with his words--even if he feels totally in the right and otherwise fully protected. Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita, in Love Your Neighbor, brings this teaching, and the following story to further illustrate the point:

The Chofetz Chaim was once eating a meal at an inn together with Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman and a few other people. One of the guests present mentioned that the, food lacked salt. The Chofetz Chaim whispered to him, “That’s loshon hara.” At first Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman did not understand how such an innocent statement could be construed as loshon hara. But a short while later when Rav Elchonon entered the kitchen, he saw the owner, who had overheard the guest’s comment, strongly censure the cook for not having taken sufficient care in preparing the meal for his prominent guests. (Heard from Rabbi Aharon Paperman, who heard the story from Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman)

G. After Lavan accused Yaakov of stealing his idols, and did not subsequently find anything to verify his accusation, Yaakov did not say anything that would antagonize Lavan or stir up further animosity. He merely defended himself and restated his own innocence. The Chofetz Chaim teaches that we learn from here that a person should avoid becoming involved in a dispute even when he knows that he is right. (ibid.)



Special Note Five:  The Bnei Lavan bitterly complained that Yaakov had taken their father’s wealth and made for himself “Es Kol HaKavod Hazeh” (Bereishis 31:1).  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 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 Bentsching 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 Igeres 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 Six:  As we encounter two Chasunahs in this 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, Z’tl, 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].




8 Kislev

Special Note One: We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 33 and 34:


33. Shelo Lignov Nefesh MeiYisrael--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from kidnapping.  One is likewise prohibited from selling one who is kidnapped.  A kidnapper is chayav misah if upon kidnapping he brings him into his domain, makes the victim serve him and sells him to others.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.


34.  Lo Signov--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from stealing a shaveh prutah from anyone--adult, child or non-Jew, and the amount stolen must be repaid.  One may not steal any amount, as even a ‘chatzi shiur’ is prohibited by the Torah.  One is prohibited from stealing as a joke, on the condition that it will be returned, or on the condition that one will pay for the item.  It is also forbidden to buy an item upon which there is a chazaka that it has been stolen.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.



Special Note Two:  Additional points and pointers relating to the matzav of K’lal Yisrael at this time:


A.  How can we get close to Hashem in these trying times?  We suggest that we recite the answer three times a day:  Karov Hashem Lechol Kore’av Lechol Asher Yikreuhu VeEmes--Hashem is close to all those who call out to Him, all those who call out to Him sincerely” (Tehillim 145:18).  In fact, in another Kepitel, Dovid HaMelech exclaims (Tehillim 102:18):  Panah El Tefillas Ha’ahrahr VeLo Vaza Es Tefillasam--Hashem turns to the prayer of the one who cries out to Him, and does not despise such prayers.”  It is for this simple reason that the satan desperately, and often successfully, derails our prayers--even if we get up early, arrive on time, use a helpful  Siddur, and otherwise try to avoid distractions.  Rabbosai, we are at the point where we must go beyond knowing that we must improve our Kavannah in Tefillah--we must in some way actually improve it.  Perhaps we can bli neder add a two week Kabbalah until Chanukah to improve some aspect of Kavannah--even if it only one bracha such as Re’eih VeAnyeinu or Shema Koleinu! 


B.  At the Flatbush Kinus Tehillim on Tuesday night, Rabbi Moshe Tuvia Lieff, Shlita, taught that when the Torah writes “Yaakov Chevel Nachalaso,” it means that we are all part of a chain, a rope, and that accordingly all of our deeds, all of our supplications, all of our Shemirah from aveiros, is essential to all of the others who are part of the same rope--whether they are in the same home, 1,000 miles away, or 6,000 miles away.  Simply stated, we are responsible to keep the rope strong, taut and firm.  There is also a second layer of responsibility that we have.  That is because many people (yes, even your neighbors and perhaps even your relatives and friends) do not feel the same degree of care, concern, distress and alarm that you feel at this time.  There may be various explanations for this:  It may be the way that they were raised; perhaps they may have other issues taking up their focus or their time; maybe they are repressing their feelings; or it could be that they simply feel detached from something that is far away.  One person, for instance, who lives in the center of Eretz Yisrael, casually remarked to a Rav early last week:  “We don’t have to worry, we don’t live in the South.”  Accordingly, it is up to us to strengthen and bolster that part of the rope as well.  Forgive the harsh words, but there is no choice. 


C.  Following is the eerily applicable translation of the first nine Pesukim of Tehillim, Chapter 35, “L’Dovid Riva Hashem Es Yerivai…”  (The translation is excerpted from the Artscroll Tanach): “By Dovid: O Hashem, fight my adversaries, battle those who do battle with me.  Take hold of shield and buckler, and rise up in my defense.  And draw the spear, and bar the way before my pursuers; say to my soul, "I am your salvation."  May they be shamed and disgraced, those who seek my life; let them retreat and be humiliated, those who plot my harm.  May they be like chaff before the wind, with the angel of Hashem thrusting them away.  May their way be dark and exceedingly slippery, with the angel of Hashem pursuing them. For without cause they have hidden for me the snare of their net, without cause they have dug pits to kill me.  May disaster come upon each of them while he is unaware; and may his own net which he concealed ensnare him, may he fall into it in disaster.  Then my soul will exult in Hashem rejoice in His salvation!”


D.  When we left Egypt, there were two separate and distinct miracles that we celebrated: the first was the punishment of the Egyptians; the second was our miraculous escape to freedom.  The Sefer Tomer Devorah (Chapter 1) teaches (from the Pasuk in Yeshaya (57:20):  VeHaresha’im KaYam Nigrash”) that Hashem will give just retribution to those who sinned against us, for even if we had done something wrong which rendered us deserving of some kind of punishment, their violence and murder was carried out for their own purposes, and whatever the terrorists do, they intend to do with innovative, painful and torturous designs.  What we should do is to pray for the miracle of our enemy’s punishment in the same way that we pray for the miracle of our salvation.  For example, when we recite the words:  VeHazeidim Meheirah Se’aker U’Seshaber U’Semager BiMeheirah V’Yameinu--let us think about the meaning of each and every word--and the miracles, and the Kiddush Sheim Shomayim that will result from their fulfillment!



Special Note Three:  Red Alert to K’lal Yisroel in the name of HaRav Moshe Sternbuch, Shlita, provided to us through his close talmid Rav Daniel Travis, Shlita:


“The Jewish people are witnessing miracles in Israel. The missiles fired at us have the power to level buildings, yet miracles are taking place and we were spared from mass destruction. Even the most secular newspapers report that there is no way to explain these events according to natural law. While the word ‘miracle’ has been liberally splashed around by the media, neither the secular nor the religious press grasped the vital message of the hour. The situation arouses an urgent and critical obligation for each Jew to ask himself: “Why is Hashem performing these miracles for us?” “How should I be conducting myself in these extraordinary times?”  If we do not deal with these questions immediately, this current security crisis could c’v escalate into the most dangerous period in Jewish history. Hashem performs miracles for the Jewish people so that we will become more aware of His Presence in our lives. In recent days, He has made it perfectly clear that He alone wields power in the world and that no missile can harm so much as a hair on the head of a Jew without His consent. Every rocket has an address that He predetermines, though the terrorists may believe that they can aim at a particular target. 


Miracles are Hashem’s alarm bells, ‘a red alert’ that we must wake up and become truly conscious of Hashem’s hashgacha in our daily lives. If we ignore these messages and conclude that miracles are just a natural part of living in Israel, the tables could c’v quickly turn.  We could c’v in fact be handed over to natural law, and the missiles inexplicably could c’v begin to hit their targets with greater frequency. And that means that the lives of our fellow Jews--our brothers and sisters living in Israel could c’v be in mortal danger.


We must learn this lesson from the story of the meraglim (spies). When they returned from Eretz Yisrael they claimed this land was a place where miracles were apparent on a daily basis, and therefore an extremely high spiritual level would be demanded of those who dwelled there. There was no way that K’lal Yisrael as a nation could maintain such a level, and therefore the spies, who were all Gedolei Yisrael, ruled that the people should not enter the land. The opinion of the meraglim was brought before the Sanhedrin, and they concurred with their ruling. It may seem, on the surface that their reasoning was sound, and logic dictated that it was unwise to enter Eretz Yisrael. Yet, we see from the grave punishment incurred by that generation that they could not have been further from the truth. What was the mistake in their reasoning? The answer is simple. If Hashem told us to enter Eretz Yisrael, He obviously knew that we would ascend to the spiritual level necessary for a nation that sees miracles on a daily basis. For this reason, the claim of the meraglim was heresy, and we suffer from its bitter consequences to this very day. In more recent times, Rav Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg once told Rav Sternbuch about a meeting of secular non-Jewish and Jewish professors to discuss the authorship of the Torah. Their conclusion was that while the Torah was far too complex to be man-made, they were not ready to attribute it to a Divine source that they knew nothing about. Like the meraglim, they perceived the significance of the Divine influence, but refused to follow through by accepting the full import of this conclusion.  During the current military operation, we are facing the very same challenge. Hashem is sending us a message that we must make real changes in our lives and raise our level of consciousness of His Presence, to the point where we are worthy of such supernatural treatment. If we rise to the occasion and raise our level of Emunah as a result of these miracles, then we will pass the nisayon, and it is very likely that Moshiach will arrive shortly.


Chazal offer us practical advice in this area, and write that reciting 100 brachos every day and saying Amen Yehei Shemei Rabba has the power to annul decrees. Reciting Tehillim is important, but we need to make sure that our Tefillah is also said with the proper Kavannah. Everyone should take upon themselves to do something small to raise their level of Emunah.   We must consider ourselves warned by the lessons of our history: If Hashem shows us miracles and we do not respond by strengthening our Emunah, His mercy could c’v turn to fury and we are handed over to the forces of natural law. We dare not speak about what this could c’v lead to, but we all understand the ruthless nature and implacable hatred of the enemy we face.


Now is the time, while Hashem continues to shower His miracles upon us, to recognize His hand in our lives on a national and individual level, to turn to Him in Tefillah and Teshuvah, and eagerly watch the redemption unfold before our eyes.




7 Kislev


CURBING THE EXTRAS THESE DAYS!  We received the following notification from a prominent Shul:  In an effort to provide our mispallelim with options for making more modest kiddushim in furtherance of the Rav’s desire to “tone down” the frills by kiddushim in our Simcha Hall, we have spoken with a caterer who has agreed to offer our Shul the following kiddush options:


Standard Kiddush - $3 per person (includes cake, kichel, herring, soda, and paper goods)

Potato kugel (optional) - $1 extra/person.


While our mispallelim are free to continue to use any caterer, subject at all times of course to the kashrus and simcha guidelines of our Shul, the Rav and the Gabboim encourage those families who are interested to avail themselves of these new options.


We hope that the use of these kiddush options will enhance our ability as a tzibbur to share simchas together without undue stress and strain!”



Points and pointers relating to the matzav of K’lal Yisrael at this time:


1.  Today, we can see and feel the words of Dovid HaMelech that we recite daily in Pesukei D’Zimra (Tehillim 146:3) “Al Tivtichu ViNedivim Bevenn Adam She’ein Lo Seshuah…do not rely on nobles, nor on a human being, for he holds no salvation.”  A ceasefire with the rabid enemy and the assurances of nedivim to put the ceasefire into place are in the real world meaningless.  Rather, as Dovid HaMelech continues: “Ashrei SheKail Yaakov BeEzro Sivro Ahl Hashem Elokav…praiseworthy is one whose help is from Yaakov’s G-d, whose hope is in Hashem, his G-d.”


2.  Chazal (Shabbos 10A) teach us how we are to daven--especially in an eis tzara--”Ke’avda Kami Marei--like a servant in front of his master.”  What does this mean?  We suggest that it means with submission, with servitude, with sincerity and with a keen awareness of the meekness and frailty of the servant in front of his All-Powerful Master.  We have to stretch out our hand, we have to genuinely plead. After we have done so, we can then remember that we are not only avadim--but are also Banim Lamakom--children of a loving Father, as the Pasuk explicitly states:  Banim Atem LaShem Elokeichem!”


3.  It may feel a little bit strange going about our daily business when we know how so many of our brethren first in the northeastern United States who have been affected by the hurricane, and then in Eretz Yisrael have been affected by the bombardments, have not been able to lead their lives in what was their previously ‘normal’ manner or routine.  It is obviously Hashem’s Hashgacha Pratis that determines how each person is to serve his life’s purpose and his role in K’lal Yisrael and in the world every day and every moment.  One thought, however, is that as we go about our daily business, we can attempt to do so in a more spiritually heightened sense:  As we daven, perhaps we can try to focus more--discovering nuances in the words recited, and instilling particular meanings into the words (such as Someich Noflim--Hashem gives support to those who have fallen, or Matzmi’ach Yeshuah--Hashem makes salvations sprout);  maybe our Tehillim recitation should not be as fast; perhaps our learning should be with additional fervor and concentration; and hopefully the previously ‘wasted’ moments while waiting for someone on the phone, on a line or at a light can be specifically recaptured as a zechus for Acheinu Bnei Yisrael.  If we can accomplish this then it is not their lives that have changed--it is our lives!


4.  HaRav Gamliel Rabanovitch, Shlita (Tiv HaEmunah, p.261) teaches that in Tehillim 20 (Ya’ancha Hashem BeYom Tzara), Dovid HaMelech especially adds the phrase:  Neranena BiShuasecha…may we sing for joy at your salvation.”  This means that when a person is in a time of tzara and needs a Yeshuah--he should thank Hashem over the Yeshuah that will come.  The words become an outpouring of pure Emunah.  Dovid HaMelech teaches it all to us:  Tzara VeYagon Emtzah U’VeSheim Hashem Ekrah; Kos Yeshuos Esah U’VeSheim Hashem Ekrah.”  We cry out to Hashem in our pain.  We cry out to Hashem in anticipation of His salvation!


5.  HaRav Shlomo Volbe, Z’tl, (Alei Shur, Vol. I, p.281) teaches of the importance of Eretz Yisrael to each and every one of us.  It is the land about which the Torah testifies:  Tamid Einei Hashem Elokecha Bah.”  In fact, the Sefer Kuzari (2:14) writes that the entire land is Lifnei Hashem--present in front of Hashem.  Although every other country has a Malach which gives the country and the nation which resides within it its tzuras hachaim--its way of life, the same is not true for Eretz Yisrael--where there is no koach ruchni other than that of Hashem Himself.  It is only Hashem Who is mashpiah on the land and its inhabitants.  It is for this reason that Moshe Rabbeinu had such a tremendous desire to enter Eretz Yisrael, for although he spoke ‘Peh El Peh’ to the Shechinah in Chutz La’aretz--it simply could not match the madreiga of Hashra’as Hashechina that can take place in Eretz Yisrael.  The ruchniyus is so pervasive that the Bach (Tur, Orach Chaim 208) writes that in the bracha of Mei’ein Shalosh (Ahl HaMichya, Ahl HaEitz, Ahl HaGefen), we specifically ask Hashem that He rebuild the Bais HaMikdash, so that we will once again be given the ability of “VeNochal MiPiryah VeNisbah MiTuvah--of eating from its fruit and being satisfied with its goodness”--for by eating its fruits, we will sustain ourselves from the Kedushas HaShechinah U’Metaharasah.  The land is thus so Kadosh and Tahor, so holy and pure, that upon the return of our exiles, we will ingest great ruchniyus merely by eating.  Hakhel Note:  Now let us take a step back:  The arabs are attacking our people by means of bombs, bloodshed, and hysteria.  They are being mevatel our Talmud Torah, and causing a Chilul Hashem in the world by casting our people in a cruel and belligerent light.  But they are doing even more; they are taking the land that is Lifnei Hashem, whose essence is Hashra’as HaShechinah, and turning it into a terrorist playground, making a mockery of it to the world.  For all of this we should cry--even with all the great miracles of Acheinu Bnei Yisrael being saved despite the bombs falling upon them.  Let us properly reflect upon all that has happened and fathom its gravity and its intensity.  In the Zechus of our doing so, may we be zoche to the nechama of the Torah itself (Devarim 32:43):  Harninu Goyim AmoVechipeir Admaso Amo--nations, sing the praise of His people for He will avenge the blood of His servants and He will bring retribution upon his foes; and He will appease His land and His people!  Bekarov Viyameinu--today--Amein!




6 Kislev

Special Note One:  In last week’s Parsha, Yitzchak Avinu (Bereishis 27:27) exclaims:  Re’eih Rei’ach Beni K’Rei’ach HaSadeh Asher Bairecho Hashem--see the fragrance of my son (Yaakov) is like the fragrance of the field which Hashem has blessed.”  What does Yitzchak Avinu mean with the phrase ‘see the fragrance’--does one not smell a fragrance?  Rashi teaches that when Yaakov Avinu entered Yitzchak’s presence, he brought with him the Rei’ach of Gan Eden--something which Yitzchak Avinu did not only smell--but saw.  There is a great lesson for us here.  We are not to look at any situation from the perspective of that which we see with the naked eye.  Rather, a Torah Jew must endeavor to view not the mere physical aspect of the situation--but the spiritual aspect which is truly its essence.  The unnatural state of innocent people running out of their homes into bomb shelters, people in the midst of driving cars suddenly stopping them and lying down flat on the ground, Yeshiva bachurim driven into Galus in the middle of a zeman, and the threatened horror of hand-to-hand combat--must make us see beyond the news reports, the army statements, and the venomous lies and hatred of the murderers, and bring us to the realization that we must act like Yitzchak Avinu--getting to the essence, to the Ruchniyus of the matter--and making sure that we internalize it in our thoughts, words and conduct.  As desperate as the situation appears--especially when it seems that after one of the rotzchim is killed, another pereh adam somehow springs up in his place--we must not only believe but know that each one of our Teshuvah, Tefillah and Torah reactions is ‘seeing the Rei’ach’--and that they really do mean something and really do help.  If each one of us does our part in the eis tzara--we will all together be able to rejoice in the Yeshuas Hashem! 



Special Note Two:  The Rabbeinu Yonah (Brachos 2B) writes that the Jews in Egypt were terrified that the tenth plague with which the Egyptians were smitten would also fall upon them.  They cried out to Hashem for salvation....  Chazal instituted the Tefillah of “Hashkiveinu” in Ma’ariv, which we also repeat a second time in K’riyas Shema al HaMita, to commemorate the event, and to remind us how we must constantly seek Hashem’s salvation.  Let us try to say “Hashkiveinu” tonight with Kavannah (word for word).



Special Note Three:  Perhaps one of the most common denominators in our lives over these days of war/days of terror is that we are all reciting at least one time, and perhaps many times, a day Tehillim Chapter 130, entitled “Shir HaMa’alos Mi’Ma’amakim--a Song of Ascents: From the Depths”.  Accordingly, we once again provide the following three important insights culled from Tehillim, written by Rav Avraham Chaim Feuer, Shlita (Artscroll Publications, Volume 5, p. 1562):


1.  In the second Pasuk, we plead “Hashem Shimah Vikoli…Hashem, hear my voice….”  Rabbi Feuer comments as follows:  “Apparently the supplicant described here is attempting to raise his voice as loudly as possible to attract G-d’s attention.  This appears to contradict the Talmudic dictum:  Whoever raises his voice in prayer is a person of meager faith; he resembles the false prophets who cried out to awaken their deaf idols. (Brachos 24B).  Such a person denies that G-d’s presence pervades the entire world and that G-d can hear even a whispered plea.  Pri Tzaddik (Rosh Hashana 9) explains that when the supplicant has the presence of mind to articulate his requests he need not shout.  However, in this instance, the Psalmist is extremely agitated.  Misery sears the depth of his being and robs him of his equanimity and peace of mind. That he cries out is symptomatic of his anguish.”


We suggest that the lesson from this to us is that we should truly feel the anguish of K’lal Yisroel as we recite these meaningful words.


2.  In the sixth Pasuk, we cry out: “Nafshi LaShem Mishomerim LaBoker Shomerim LaBoker…my soul yearns for Hashem among those longing for the dawn.” Rabbi Feuer comments as follows:  “This translation follows Targum, Rashi and Radak, who render the prefix of ‘Mi’ of Mishomerim as ‘from among’.  Thus the Psalmist declares:  I am among those who constantly are on the lookout for the first signs of the dawn of redemption.  The phrase “Shomerim LaBoker” is repeated for emphasis:  I have not been discouraged by the hopeful signs which prove to be unfounded.  Rather, I persistently watched for the morning, time and time again (Rashi)….  Ibn Ezra, however, translates Mishomerim as ‘more than [yoser min] those who long for the dawn.’  [According to this view, the phrase refers to guards who are changed with the night watch on the city walls.  They are weary after their nightlong vigil and eagerly search the horizon for signs of morning, when they will be relieved of their duty.  Although these watchmen eagerly await the morning, I am even more eager to witness the dawn of redemption, for the night of exile is far longer and more terrifying than any ordinary night.]”


3.  In the seventh Pasuk, we declare “Veharbeh Imo Phedus…And with Him is abundant redemption.”  Rabbi Feuer states as follows:  “Hashem has already had abundant opportunities to demonstrate His kindness towards Israel , for He redeemed us on many occasions in the past.  Remember how He redeemed you from the Egyptian exile, the Babylonian exile, and from countless other perils (Rashi).  Moreover, even when it appears to be humanly impossible for our nation to be redeemed, we should always bear in mind that God is not restricted by the limitations that arrest the efforts of frail humans.  The Almighty, the Omnipotent Master of the Universe, has infinite means of redemption at His disposal (Sforno).”


Additional Note One:  As we can see from these important and poignant comments, this five volume work by Rabbi Feuer (also available in pocket size) could serve as an excellent way to improve the quality of your Tehillim recitation.  Perhaps as a start you can study those chapters you most frequently recite, so that you have the great benefit of reciting your Tehillim with a more profound Kavannah.


Additional Note Two:  When reciting Chapter 130, please recall that are three occasions in which the name of Hashem is written Aleph Daled Nun Yud, which has a different meaning than the more commonly appearing Name of Yud Key Vuv Key (which Name also appears in the same Chapter).  For the difference in meaning see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 5:1. 


May Hashem hear our voices as we long for Him like the dawn, and may we be blessed with the abundant redemption that we so desperately want and need--speedily and in our days.




5 Kislev

OUR PARTNERSHIP!  Four years ago, during the last Gaza war, the Bostoner Rebbe, Zt’l, had asked that there be an undertaking of a soldier in active duty with a civilian who would daven and learn on their behalf.  The concept has been reinstated for the present operation in Gaza with a global response by Jews from various walks of life.  If you want to daven and learn for a soldier or give a name of a soldier the number is:  02-5811911




Special Note One:  We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Saaseh 31 and 32:


31. Shelo Lishava Shevuas Bitui--this is the Mitzvas Lo Saaseh which prohibits one from swearing falsely, and it applies to a shevuah which one is otherwise capable of fulfilling, whether one falsely states that he did something or did not do something, or that he will eat something (and then does not), or will not eat something (and then does).  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.


32.  Lo Sirtsach--this is the Mitzvas Lo Saaseh which prohibits one from intentionally killing another person.  The death penalty for killing another person is sayaf (by sword).  If one intentionally indirectly brings about the death of another, then his punishment is misah b’yidei shomayim.  When one takes away the life of another, it is as if he has taken away the entire world.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.



Special Note Two:  As we focus on our many requests throughout the day to Hashem for peace, we must focus on our own personal quests for peace throughout the day, as well.  With the war news that we hear every day, we should have our own “peace news”--which should be an important part of bringing an end to that other kind of news.  Accordingly, we provide the following Questions and Answers on Shalom: 


Question: How many times do we ask for Shalom in the last bracha of Shemone Esrei?

Answer: We refer to Shalom four separate times within the bracha.  We should have Kavannah each time to request Shalom from Hashem.


Question: As we conclude each Shemone Esrei and take three steps back, away from the King, what do we specifically ask for as we depart?

Answer: Oseh Shalom Bimromav…--He Who makes peace in His Heights, may He make peace upon us, and upon all Israel.


Question: In the Kadish Shalem, Kadish D’Rabanan and Kadish Yasom, what are the last two things we ask for?

Answer: (a) Yehei Shelama Raba…--May there be abundant peace from Heaven, and life, upon us and upon all Israel; and (b) Oseh Shalom Bimromav…--He Who makes peace in His Heights, may He make peace upon us, and upon all Israel .


Question: How does Birkas Kohanim conclude?

Answer: V’Yasem L’Cha Shalom--And establish peace for you.


Question: What can we do to demonstrate that we want peace?

Answer: The Sefer Pele Yoetz (Chapter on Shalom) makes the following two points:

1. Stop a dispute, fight, exchange of words, or any potential machlokes today--whether it is your own or someone else’s, and whether it is family or friends.  2. Greet everyone with a sincere bracha of Shalom Aleichem (it is much more meaningful than “Hi”)--especially those who will be honored or uplifted by a warm smile and a bracha--the downtrodden, depressed, and those who you can see need chizuk today.


Additional Note One:  The Sifsei Chaim (3:273) incredibly writes that the Churban Beis HaMikdash was not a punishment for Sinas Chinam, for needless hatred.  Rather, because of a lack of unity, or brotherly love amongst K’lal Yisroel, the foundation of the Bais HaMikdash no longer had a ‘zechus kiyum’--right to exist--because the entire Second Bais HaMikdash stood only in the zechus of our achdus.  Making, enhancing and pursuing peace is essential for us at this time and during these times.


Additional Note Two:  Chazal (Brachos 64A, among other places), teach that Talmidei Chachomim, through their Zechus of Torah study, are marbim shalom ba’olam.  During these trying times, we suggest that we should make extra special efforts to help support, and respect, Talmidei Chachomim.  We also suggest that each individual try to learn just a few moments more as a Zechus for the Shalom of our brothers. 


Additional Note Three:  We must always remember that although any situation may appear to be unsolvable, Hashem, Who made all of the heavens, and the earth and all that it is in it, and keeps it going on a 24/7 basis, can and does bring Yeshuos at the blink of an eye literally--Yeshuas Hashem K’heref Ayin.  One Talmid Chachom explained to us that in addition to the great deal of Chesed that the recent events affecting K’lal Yisrael has produced, it should also produce an increased level of Emunah in Yeshuah, together with Emunah in the Simchas HaYeshuah that will come! 


2 Kislev

Special Note One:  The Navi (Tzefania 2:3) teaches: “Bakshu Tzedek Bakshu Anava, Uli Tisasru BeYom Af Hashem--Seek righteousness, seek humility--perhaps you will be concealed on the day of the L-rd’s wrath.”


The Navi immediately continues in the next Pasuk with the words: “Ki Aza Azuva Tiheyeh...--For Gaza shall be deserted...”  Rashi there explains that if we do as the Navi teaches, i.e., pursue righteousness and humility, then we will be spared, and instead “I will punish your evil neighbors-- Philistia , Ammon and Moav”, as described in the Pesukim that follow.


These Pesukim seem to be directed strikingly at us.  For those of us not already quivering at the bombardments being showered upon our people because we ourselves do not actually live in Ashdod, Ashkelon, Be’er Sheva, or the other Jewish cities, towns and settlements in the South and central portions of Eretz Yisrael, we need only imagine hearing the explosion of a rocket landing a block or two over.


So then, what is the ‘Tzedek’ and what is the ‘Anava’ that the Navi tells us to seek in order for Hashem to remove His retribution from us, and instead deliver it to the dwellers of Philistia and our other enemies?  We refer you first and foremost to your Rav for guidance.  We present the following two thoughts as a starting point:


1.  Of course, the simple p’shat in the Navi’s words would mean that we are to act righteously and humbly.  Righteousness would suggest being sure to be honest, and being sure to do the right thing, as opposed to the questionable act.  With respect to acting humbly, the Sefer Orchos Tzaddikim (Chapter 2) writes that the ikar of Anava, the primary aspect of humility, is to be humble to those who may otherwise be considered subservient to you, such as your workers, your household members, the younger, the weaker, and the poor.  Rather than lording over them, or acting with some level of arrogance, one should act humbly even with them--almost in the same way as he would act with the wiser and stronger--for, after all, do we all not always stand before Hashem?  It is almost as if Hashem brings the Yom Af, the Day of Anger, upon us in order to remind us that it is He, and not us, who is in power.


2. The Malbim on our Pesukim brings a second p’shat.  He writes that ‘Tzedek’ and ‘Anava’ collectively refer to humbling yourself before Hashem with fasting and Tefillah.  With respect to fasting, since we are physically weaker than in previous generations, perhaps it can be replaced in some way with watching what goes out of our mouth, in lieu of what goes in.  Indeed, the Pasuk in Mishlei ( 21:23 ) teaches “One who watches his mouth and tongue, saves himself from tzaros”.  The Rambam in Hilchos De’os 4:15 ) explains that guarding the mouth refers to watching what you take in, and guarding the tongue refers to what you let out.  The two--intake and output--are thus equated by the wisest of all men, and each saves us from tzaros.  Another possible kind of replacement for fasting is to break your desire for, and not consume, one food or spice you may have otherwise wanted at your meal (ketchup, etc.), as suggested by the Ra’avad.  Yet another possibility is to give tzedaka in lieu of fasting, as the Halacha brings in certain situations where one, rachmana litzlan, drops a holy item.


The second aspect of the Malbim’s definition, Tefillah, needs very little further comment, as it seems to be the true recurring requirement of our times.  The more we realize its great importance, the more we really work on it, the more we will build up some level of Kavannah.  As one davens, he should attempt to look for and focus in on key words such as “somech noflim”--picking up those who have fallen, and other special words--such as “geula” and “yeshua.”


Let us try TODAY to work on our Tzedek and on our Anava, so that we are spared from further negative occurrences, and merit the ultimate redemption--speedily and in our days.



Special Note Two: Today is the 50th Yahrzeit of HaRav Aharon Kotler, Z’tl (R’Aharon B’R Shneuer Zalmen), perhaps best known for his unwavering adherence, resolve and tenacity for what he knew to be right--whether it be the primacy of Chinuch Atzmai, learning undistracted in Lakewood, or properly voting in the elections in Israel. The Satmar Rebbe, Z’tl, who did not agree with HaRav Kotler in some of his opinions, was maspid with him with the words: I can testify about him that, like his namesake Aharon HaKohen,--he did not deviate (she’lo shinah) even in the slightest amount (even kekotzo shel yud) from the Torah’s directives”.  Just as one example, HaRav Aharon spoke out against the ‘eiruv’ in Manhattan .  He was asked by one of the key Lakewood Yeshiva leaders not to be so vocal about it, as it could antagonize some of the wealthy supporters of the Yeshiva who lived in Manhattan.  HaRav Aharon responded:  “It would be better for the Yeshiva to close down, than to deviate at all from the Halacha in Shulchan Aruch!”  HaRav Aharon is undisputedly one of the towering figures in rebuilding Jewry in America (and ergo the world) after Churban Europe. As many know, there is a major event taking place in Lakewood over Shabbos and Sunday in honor of his Yahrzeit, and booklets have been published in honor of the event which demonstrate his vast and enormous accomplishments. We provide below just two of his teachings as a zechus for his beloved neshama--and as a zechus for us all: 


1.  The Ramban writes in Sha’ar HaGemul that there are three Judgments that a person must succeed in. The yearly judgment, the judgment faced upon departure from Olam HaZeh, and a third judgment prior to Techiyas Hameisim.  What is the difference between the second and third judgments?  After all, the person was not alive any more to perform mitzvos or commit aveiros! HaRav Aharon explains that this judgment is most pervasive, because it also takes into account all of the ramifications of a person’s actions  since their demise.  What did you accomplish, what mark did you leave--did you lead others in the Derech Hashem--Torah and Mitzvos--by your sincere action and your exemplary conduct?  If so, all of the actions that succeed you in all future generations of those who learned from you--whether it be children, other relatives, neighbors, co-workers, acquaintances or friends(even of the impressed person sitting next to you on the bus or plane)--all of this accrues to your merit.  Chas VeShalom, the opposite is also true.  What we do in our lives is so important--not only for this moment or this year--but for a lifetime, and the generations that succeed them, until the end of days.  Appreciate the true significance, the incredible and everlasting effects, of your daily actions--so that their ramifications benefit you--and the world--literally, to the end of days.


2.  You are an Ish Chesed, a performer of Chesed of the highest caliber.  You come across the cruelest of the cruel--someone, in fact, world renown for his sadism, barbarity, licentiousness, and the sheer indignity he bestows on other human beings--a  shame and disgrace to the human race.  At best, you would have nothing to do with him.  At worse, perhaps you would join forces with those who would  do him harm.  Now, let us see  Avraham Avinu’s attitude and approach to the news that the people of Sodom were about to be handily taken care of, once and for all.  Avraham Avinu’s immediate response was --let us save what we can of these people. No vengeance, no joy, not even personal satisfaction that they and those with them were to be eliminated. Quite to the contrary, HaRav Aharon teaches, Avraham Avinu--who knew what Yiras Shomayim really was --went to the point of pleading that he twice said “Al Yichar”--Hashem do not be upset with what I am about to ask. Far be it from one with true Yiras Shomayim to anger Hashem--but Avraham Avinu knew that he must take it to the absolute limit for them. HaRav Aharon concludes that we are taught here how great our obligation is to assist and daven for Hashem’s children, both for the individual and for the K’lal. Aren’t we the descendants of Avraham Avinu--and don’t those in front of us need our help!



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


A.  We provide below several Halachos taught by Rabbi Shlomo Pearl, Shlita, in this past week’s Hakhel Yarchei Kallah Shiur on practical applications of Hilchos Bishul:


1.  If a crockpot plug gets unplugged on Shabbos, according to HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, it is an issur D’Oraysa to replug it in.  One could not ask his or another child to re-plug it in, for one would violate an issur D’Oraysa for asking them to do so.  Asking an akum to perform an issur D’Oraysa in this situation would not be permissible either.  Although one may be able to find a heter of moving the contents of the crockpot to a neighbor’s house where there is an eiruv between the homes, other factors come into play, such as the degree that the cholent is cooked, and whether or not it is still hot, warm or completely cooled off (and whether you are an Ashkenazi or a Sefardi).  By not eating cholent on Shabbos, one might think that he is not showing proper Kavod Shabbos.  In fact, however, Rabbi Pearl explained that “the biggest Kavod Shabbos is Shemiras Shabbos”--not eating cholent when the crockpot has been unplugged is Kavod Shabbos! [Note:  If the crockpot became unplugged during bein hashemashos--i.e., up to 30/40 minutes after shekiyah, one could ask an akum to replug the crockpot, because at that time it is an issur D’Rabbanan, and a shvus d’shvus b’makom mitzvah would be permissible.]


2.  Although some Poskim rule that a Styrofoam cup should be treated as a kli rishon, HaRav Moshe Feinstein and the Chazon Ish both ruled in a similar context that a thermos is a kli sheini, as a thermos is never on the fire, so that it cannot be deemed a kli rishon.  The same would be true of Styrofoam cups, which of course are never placed directly on the fire. 


3.  One is allowed to put ice cubes in hot tea, for adding water to a kli sheni is permissible. 


4.  HaRav Moshe Feinstein ruled that one may place ketchup or coleslaw on or next to hot cholent. 


5.  There is a Machlokes HaPoskim as to whether one needs to wipe water droplets out a cup in order to pour new hot water into the cup.  HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl and HaRav Aharon Kotler, Z’tl, both held that one must do so, whereas HaRav Moshe Feinstein ruled that it is a chumra to do so. 


Hakhel Note:  Rabbi Pearl listed twelve p’sokim in which Rav Moshe is more meikil than other contemporary Poskim (such as Rav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach), and twelve p’sokim in which he is more machmir than other contemporary Poskim.  Rabbi Pearl explained that one cannot ‘pick and choose’.  One must follow a Posek--it is in a sense, a ‘package deal’. 


Additional Note: Let us bli neder take upon ourselves an extra level of care in our Shemiras Shabbos (which includes our Kavod Shabbos) this week--and may it be a special Zechus for our brothers in Eretz Yisrael bechol makom she’heim. 



Special Note Four:  The Pasuk teaches:  “Vayisrotsetsu 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 Five:  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 Eisav always been on the ruling end over us? HaRav Lopian brilliantly answers that this is not at all the case.  Eisav 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, Eisav would take on the more traditional roles in the Palace.  Now, however, because we need to improve--Eisav 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!



Special Note Six:  Do you like egg salad?  Even if you do, you certainly would not like that to be your first name or even your nickname. Yet, Eisav 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 Eisav did not ask for

bread--Yaakov gave him bread first so that he would be satiated and make the decision with a sound mind) .  As we see from the Pasuk, this was a thought-through perverse 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 Eisav ate and for the ensuing 50 years until it became an issue again at the time of the Birkas Yitzchak, we find no attempt whatsoever by Eisav to reverse the transaction, based upon fraud, duress or the like.  No, this was an outright sale--with Eisav 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 Eisav 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 for adults--the equivalent, 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 ‘egg salad’--when he can be called a Ben Torah!


Additional Note:  Perhaps we can also learn from Eisav’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 Eisav did--like the glugging out of a water or other ‘gulp-styled’ bottle--even if the world around you (i.e., Eisav) considers it normal to do so.



 Special Note Seven:  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 VaYevarech Oso, VaYetzavehu VaYomer Lo, Lo Tikach Isha Mibnos 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 Eight:  At the end of the Parsha (Bereishis 28:7), the Torah records that Vayishma Yaakov El Aviv V’El Imo --and Yaakov listened to his father and to his mother, and went to Padan Aram.. HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita in his Sefer Ta’ama DiKra notes that the Torah specifically records that Yaakov listened to his father and to his mother in order to teach us that a person should recognize that when he listens to both of his/her parents--he could actually fulfill two Mitzvos--one of Kibbud Av, and a second one of Kibbud Aim--as the Torah requires us not to simply listen to our “Horim”(“Respect Your Parents”) --but rather to properly honor each of our parents!  When one brings a glass of tea to each of his parents, or visits them, or separately quotes them--his Mitzvos abound!




1 Kislev  

ON SEGULOS:  Some readers objected to our reference to the Segulah relating to the Sefer Kan Mefureshes, stating that their (or other notable) Rabbanim strongly objected to the concept of “Segulos” in general.  Every person should consult with his own Rav or Posek in this area; we wish only to provide our readers with important ideas and information, which they should use in accordance with their particular station in life.





1. We find that Yitzchak Avinu finally digs a well which the Plishtim do not dispute--and so he calls the place Rechovos--Ki Atta Hirchiv Hashem Lanu--for now Hashem has granted us ample space.... (Bereishis 26:22). Yet, in the very next Pasuk we learn VaYa’al Misham Be’er Sheva--and Yitzchak went up from there to Be’er Sheva!  Why did Yitzchak Avinu seemingly immediately leave--if he had just found and founded an indisputable place for his family to dwell?


2. There is a custom in some Shuls to sell one of the Aliyos in this week’s Parsha--which one and why?


3. At the end of the Parsha, we learn that Eisav married Yishmael’s daughter--Machalas--and we derive from this name that a Chassan and Kallah are Mochul--forgiven for their past iniquities on the date of their wedding (of course Teshuva must be done). Why would we learn something so important from a Shidduch which involves the joining of none other than Yishmael and Eisav (of whom we specifically recite in Selichos--Kalei Se’ir VeChosno)?!




Special Note One:  Today is the 40th day since Hoshana Rabba.  The Luach Davar B’Ito writes:  VeHu Yom Selicha K’Yom HaKippurim”.  In fact, the Luach relates that once, on Rosh Chodesh Kislev, the Chenobeler Maggid woke up and related that he was in the higher world and heard a loud noise.  He asked:  “Why is today different than other days?”  They answered him:  “Today is Rosh Chodesh Kislev, which is a day of Mechila, Selicha and Kappara for K’lal Yisrael--for on Chanukah the gemar hachasima l’tova takes place--and the light of Chanukah begins at the beginning of the month!”


Additional Note:  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 Eisav as portended by this week’s Parsha, took place on our calendar perhaps today and certainly in the days just ahead.  MAY IT BE A SIMAN TOV FOR THE CURRENT WAR IN ERETZ YISRAEL AGAINST OUR WICKED ENEMIES THERE.  We should especially infuse our Tefillos with special pleas for Yeshuos at this time and during this time period.  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 B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Saaseh 29 and 30:


29. Shelo Lishbah LaShav--this is the Mitzvas Lo Saaseh which prohibits one from swearing falsely, which includes four different situations: (i) swearing to change the obvious--such as saying that a man is a woman, or that a rock is a piece of gold; (ii) swearing for no reason--such as saying that a rock is a rock; (iii) swearing not to perform a Mitzvah; or (iv) swearing to do something that is impossible to fulfill--such as not sleeping for three full days, or not eating for seven full days.  If one swears in any one of the foregoing ways intentionally, he receives makkos.  If one recites a bracha levatalah, or uses Hashem’s Name in vain, he violates this prohibition as well.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.


Hakhel Note:  The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (6:3) rules as follows (excellent translation by Rabbi Eliyahu Touger, Mozna’im Publishing):  “It is forbidden to write His name, blessed be He, on a letter in any language.  Many err in this regard and write His name, blessed be He, in Yiddish, or the word Adia [adieu], which in French means “with G-d.” This is absolutely forbidden, because ultimately, the letter will be thrown into a garbage dump.  This popular use, and, how much more so, the dishonor to G-d’s name, causes great poverty in Israel, and much effort and wisdom must be employed to nullify it.”


30.  Shelo Lishba BaSheker Ahl Kefiras Mamon--this is the Mitzvas Lo Saaseh which prohibits one from falsely denying a monetary claim against him (other than claims relating to real property and shtaros).  One who violates this prohibition, also violates a separate prohibition of Shevuas Bitui.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.



Special Note Three:  HaRav Yaakov Galinsky, Shlita, provides a powerful mashal for appreciating the difference between Olam Hazeh and Olam Habba.  Picture yourself on a modern train, sitting back in a comfortable car, with a new and splendid MP3 player, listening to the best philharmonic orchestra in the world playing the piece that it is most famous for.  Someone taps you on the shoulder and advises you that in the next train car there is an amateur musician playing on a homemade harmonica--the performance is both free, and live!  The choice is yours--is it really even a choice?!  Let us think--and act--accordingly!




29 Marcheshvan

QUESTION OF THE DAY :  If someone has fish and rice for dinner, and makes a Mezonos on the rice and a Shehakol on the fish, intending to cover all foods that he may eat with these brachos, will the Borei Minei Mezonos over the rice cover a piece of cake for dessert?


Special Note One:  Today is the Yahrzeit of the Mumbai Kedoshim. We provide their names below, and ask that whatever you do for them as Karbanos on behalf of K’lal Yisroel-whether it is Tehillim, Mishnayos, Tzedaka, etc., please do it separately for each one--as each one had his/her own precious neshama. The names are R’ Gavriel B’R’ Nachman (the Shaliach), Rivka Bas R’Shimon (his Rebbitzen), R’Aryeh Leibush B’R’ Nachum, R’ Ben Zion B’R’ Chaim Zvi, Yocheved Bas R’ Yaakov and Norma (Nechama) Bas Avrohom.  May Hashem Avenge their Blood--and may we see the fulfillment of  the words of Devorim 32:43 speedily and in our day.



Special Note Two:  As we reach the milestone of Yom Kippur Katan Kislev today--the first Yom Kippur Katan of 5773--we quickly realize that we are CLOSER TO CHANUKAH than we are to the Yomim Tovim of Tishrei!  We must accordingly strengthen ourselves in our Teshuva B’Chol Yom as the year moves on to its next phase.  It is our special duty to be vigilant not only in the words that we speak but in the words that we hear. When we hear certain catch phrases--we must know how to react and stymie the Lashon Hara that is about to come:  “This is how my Rebbi talks....;  She always....;  He has this...;  That kid gets me so angry....;  Listen to this (with facial expression)...;  I don’t want to say Lashon Hara....    With a bit of prevention--we can save ourselves--and our family member, friend or acquaintance from serious sin--as a few words here and a few words there can literally make the difference in a person’s success in this world.  The Chofetz Chaim says it beautifully:  “If we are enjoined by the Torah to help our friends in monetary matters--which are relative only to this fleeting and transitory world--all the more so (‘Kamma VeChamma Kiflei Kiflaim’)  should we extend our goodness to their souls which will last for eternity!”  When we protect ourselves from Lashon Hara--we are gaining access for ourselves--and our friend--to everlasting life.  What a beautiful Avodah--an excellent Teshuva B’chol Yom example--to work on with sincerity and drive--as we take our right step forward ...to Chanukah!



Special Note Three:  At the Hakhel Yarchei Kallah this past Monday, Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, made a tremendous point.  We all know that HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, stated at his wife’s levaya that he did not have to ask her mechilah for anything he had done.  Years later a student of his in Yeshiva Kol Torah, attempting to emulate his ways, advised HaRav Shlomo Zalmen that he had not had an argument with his wife in 2½ years.  HaRav Shlomo Zalmen told him:  “I am sorry, I did not know that something had happened to her.”  Rabbi Reisman explained that HaRav Shlomo Zalmen was making it clear to his talmid that disagreements were inevitable between spouses, and among people who must communicate constantly and on a close-knit basis--but that the key is for both parties to recognize their togetherness, their oneness, and quickly reconcile once the point of disagreement has been clarified or conceded to.  This is true love. 



Special Note Four:  Several points and pointers from the Rabbanim at Monday night’s Kinus arranged by Agudath Israel of America , relating to the Hurricane Sandy disaster in the New York area:


A.  The Novominsker Rebbe, Shlita, explained, based on the Pasuk in Yeshaya: “Vayigarshu Maimav Refesh Vatit” that the sea is the great receiver of the refuse and mud from the earth.  When the sea brings the refuse and mud back to us, it is the sign that we must look into our ways and rid ourselves of the rubbish and waste that we have brought into our lives and into our homes.  All of K’lal Yisrael must understand the gravity of the situation--thousands misplaced, many with their lives in quandary and flux, and tens of millions of dollars of property damage just within our community alone (much of which is uninsured).  The Rebbe noted that the Rambam brings the Mitzvah of VeAhavta LeReiacha Kamocha both in Hilchos Dei’os, (indicating it is a Mitzvah of thought and of middos), and in Hilchos Avel (where the Rambam describes the various actions of Gemilas Chesed that a person can perform: Hachnossas Kallah, Bikur Cholim, Halvayas HaMeis, etc.).  We must accordingly learn from the Rambam that we must both feel for our brothers and take action to help them from what may seem to be unsolvable situations.  Additional Note:  We once again remind our readers of our suggestion to recite the 15 Shir Hama’alos on behalf of those who lost their personal possessions, lack a home to go to and peace of mind. 


B.  Rabbi Yaakov Bender, Shlita, taught that it is the trademark of the Torah Jew not to wait to see how insurance adjustments could be fruitful, how FEMA could help, or how the wealthy could provide millions of dollars in relief.  Rather, the Torah clearly taught us from the nesi’im that we cannot rely on any logical or ‘good’ sevaros--but simply take action.  During an eis tzara, we must strive to relieve the tension, the pressure, the difficulties of K’lal Yisrael.  We salute our brothers from Baltimore came with busloads of volunteers to New York last Sunday to help--and all other volunteers whose creativity and Chesed is astounding.  We want to see everyone happy.  Rabbi Bender pointed to Sara Imeinu who, when Yitzchak was born, exclaimed:  Kol HaShomeiah Yitzachak Li--if I am happy, I want others to be happy as well!” 


Every single Torah family, wherever they may live are urged to join in and help relieve the plight of their brethren.  Below are the sites to donate to: 








Chazal teach that “Becha Chosmin”--even though all of the Avos are precious, we end the first bracha of Shemone Esrei only with Magen Avraham.  Avraham Avinu is, of course, the symbol of Chesed.  Rabbi Yosef Eisen, Shlita, explains that Becha Chosmin can also be taken to mean that K’lal Yisrael will end its stay in this world and bring Moshiach through the teaching of Avraham Avinu--through the Chesed that it does.  May all of the Chesed that has been performed and that continues to be performed be the final steps that we so anxiously await--BeMeheirah V’yameinu Amein! Be a part of it!




28 Marcheshvan

QUESTION AND ANSWER OF THE DAY :  How can a person violate TWO MITZVOS LO SA'ASEH --to speak Lashon Hara and to receive Lashon Hara simultaneously?  Shocking Answer:  By merely uttering the words "I agree" to one who has just spoken Lashon Hara to you, or in fact even by nodding affirmatively to a Lashon Hara comment.--\


Additional Note:  When one relates Lashon Hara, and another listens to it, believes it, and passes it on further, the Chofetz Chaim writes that the person who originally related the Lashon Hara will also be held responsible for the consequences of his actions--his causing the second person to believe and the third, fourth, fifth, sixth… person for believing and passing on the Lashon Hara as well.  At yesterday’s Hakhel Yarchei Kallah, Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, related that Rav Pam, Z’tl, would say over from Reb Levi Yitzchak M’Berditchev:  Lo Nivrah Peh Elah Lilmod Torah V’Lilmod Zechus Ahl K’lal Yisrael…the mouth was created only to learn Torah and to speak of the merits of Klal Yisrael!”  Rabbi Reisman surmised that using our mouths in Tefillah was included in seeking the merits of K’lal Yisrael! 




Special Note One:  In last week's Parsha we find an extraordinary dialogue between Avraham Avinu and Efron.  Rashi (Bereishis 23:10) explains that this Efron had been a  commoner, but suddenly took on importance because Avraham Avinu , the "Nesi Elokim"--the recognized Prince of Hashem --needed to deal with him.  Rather than show his appreciation to Avraham from raising him from a no-name to prominence, Efron asks for a huge sum of money--'What is 400 shekel between me and you in exchange for the Meoras HaMachpeila?'  Rashi (ibid., 15) in explaining the extra words between me and you writes “between two people so beloved ('ahuvim') to each other such as us, what is 400 shekalim....”  Beloved?  Ahuvim?  What?  Avraham Avinu had nothing to do with this low and unscrupulous, perhaps despicable, person just a few moments ago--and would probably have nothing to do again with him for the rest of his life! What is the belovedness, the affection between them to which Efron is referring?!  We may suggest that these words shed great light on the quality of the Chesed of Avraham Avinu, which we, as his descendants must most certainly endeavor to emulate.  When Avraham simply spoke to another person, the love, the feeling, the caring was evident and tangible.  The next person was not a 'chesed case'; or someone on behalf of whom Avraham Avinu had just performed a unilateral chesed ( imagine how Efron's life, and perhaps his children's and descendants lives were now so fully turned around for good).  Rather, the next person was  someone who Avraham Avinu loved and appreciated--to the extent that the person felt it--it was real!  Efron's rishus, his wickedness, placed his love for money over his feelings of love back, but nevertheless, because of Avraham Avinu's demeanor and conduct--even a person as lowly as Efron appreciated that they were ahuvim --merely from their brief encounter.  As we have now taken leave of Avraham Avinu in the Parshios for the moment, we must realize the practicality of his teachings and apply them as we perform chesed for others --the warmth and beauty, the caring and love should be evident from our attitude and  demeanor--the 'Chesed l'Avraham' can and should most certainly live within us in our daily life!



Special Note Two:  Since last week’s Parsha is the source of Shidduchim in the Torah, we present below the rulings and advice of HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita relating to this crucial topic, as found in the Sefer Derech Sicha (I, p.110-121). Of course, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek in any particular situation:


1.  A Shadchan's job is not over after (s)he has made a match. The Shadchan should continue to daven for the couple (if they are young enough) to have progeny--for once you start the Mitzvah...! 


2.  Even though Shidduchim are "min HaShamayim" one should take concern for older singles--because even though the Shidduch is from Heaven--when they will become engaged is not--and this requires hishtadlus.


3.  Yes, even every proposed Shidduch is a step closer to the right one.  Hakhel Note:  In the Parsha, we find that Eliezer thanked Hashem after he met Rivka--even before his receiving the final agreement of Rivka’s family, and returning to Eretz Yisrael.  HaRav Moshe Feinstein; Z’tl, teaches that we see from here that one must thank Hashem for every step along the way as well!  


4.  Once a Shidduch has been attempted and turned down, one has fulfilled his hishtadlus as to that Shidduch, and does not pursue it further.


5.  One should pay a Shadchan, even if he is a relative. The relative can return the money if he wants to--but should first take it.


6.  A Bas Talmid Chochom has two ma'alos--the zechus of Torah, and the chinuch that she saw in her home!


7.  Eliezer did not mention anything about the Akeida or about Yitzchak's righteousness to Besuel and Lovon because this is not what they would appreciate.  One must know who he is talking to when discussing a shidduch.


8.  If one asks an Adam Gadol what to do--he should listen to his advice-and not excuse himself from listening for this reason or that reason.


9.  Tefillah helps for everything--even if a person's zivug was destined to be an am ha'aretz based upon his current conduct, a girl's tefillah to marry a talmid chochom with yiras shomayim could turn all of that around.


10.  Tefillah helps for everything--even if a person's zivug was destined to be an am ha'aretz based upon his current conduct, a girl's tefillah to marry a talmid chochom with yiras shomayim could turn all of that around.




27 Marcheshvan

SHEMIRAS HALASHON!  The Sefer Mishulchan Govoha writes that shortly after his petirah, Rebbe Itzele Blazer, Zt’l, appeared to Rebbe Chaim Berlin in a dream. HaRav Berlin asked HaRav Blazer what the din was most stringent upon in Shomayim. He responded: “HaIkar Al Dibburim Issurim.” The material portion of the din is in forbidden speech. What more do we need than first-hand testimony of a Gadol HaDor?  If you have not done it yet:  In last Friday’s Bulletin, we noted that there were thirty days left before Chanukah, and that it would most appropriate for a person to take upon himself a 30-day Kabbalah until Chanukah.  If one has not yet done so, one can still start today, and perhaps continue the Kabbalah into the first few days of Chanukah.  Based on the foregoing--Shemiras HaLashon may be the area for the Kabbalah! 




Special Note One: We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 27 and 28:


27. Shelo Lehisnabos BiShem Avodah Zara-- this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from prophesying in the name of an avodah zara--even if what one says happens to be true.  Doing so carries the death penalty of chenek.   This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.


28.  Lo Ligdod V’Lisrot Bivesasro--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from wounding his flesh for the sake of an avodah zara, or over the deceased.  The prohibition applies whether one does so with his hand or an instrument if it is done for the sake of a the deceased; however, if it done for the sake of an avodah zara, then one receives malkos if he injures himself with an instrument, and if he injures himself by hand, he does not receive malkos.  Included in this prohibition is a different kind of Lo Sisgodedu--which prohibits two batei dinim in one city from following different minhagim.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.



Special Note Two:  Last week’s Parsha contains the Chesed of Avraham in Halvayas HaMais--showing the proper respect in burial.  What more can we, Avraham’s children, do to show special caring and respect to the departed?


The Chofetz Chaim in the Sefer Ahavas Chesed (2:15) brings the words of the Shelah HaKadosh-one who gives tzedaka for the soul of a departed one-even if he is unrelated (provided that the deceased is not a rasha) has certainly accomplished a “hatzola gedola”, a great salvation, and nachas ruach to the neshama.  He continues that if a person has departed this world without descendents, then one should attempt to provide for him with a “mitzvah hakavuah ledoros”, a lasting mitzvah, for his neshamah.  If one cannot do this, one should at least buy a sefer needed by the tzibur (such as one’s shul) and write the deceased’s name in the sefer-and EVERY TIME one learns from the sefer-it brings nachas ruach to the niftar.


By doing Chesed for a departed soul, we perform an ultimate chesed-because we do mitzvos for him in this world-the world of mitzvah performance-which he is unable to perform.


As Naomi said about Boaz “Blessed is he to Hashem, he has not failed to perform chesed to the living and to the deceased (Megilas Rus 2:20 ).”


It is important to note that the Rambam brings the Halachos of Chesed, which are all derived from the mitzvah of V’Ahavta L’reiacha Kamocha, in Hilchos Avail (the Laws of Mourning), Chapter 14.  Perhaps this is because the most Chesed, both quantitatively and qualitatively, can be performed for and on behalf of, the departed.


PRACTICAL SUGGESTION:  Think of someone, who need not be a relative, who perished in the Holocaust, or in Eretz Yisroel in a terrorist bombing or in war, and learn a Mishnah, give tzedakah, or buy a sefer needed by your shul on his or her behalf [perhaps on a periodic basis].


Perform an ultimate in Chesed!



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


A.  We find the phrase Baruch Hashem’ recited by Eliezer in last week’s Parsha, which follows the Baruch Keil Elyon’ recited by Malki Tzedek in Parshas Lech Lecha.  In Sefer Shemos, we will learn that Yisro also recited Baruch Hashem’.  Thus, blessing Hashem is something that the B’nei Noach are eminently capable of.  We suggest that what makes us different is that we not only recite ‘Baruch Hashem’, but ‘Baruch Atta Hashem--we acknowledge the You--the presence of Hashem before us.  Hashem is a Great Deity who is not c’v distant or aloof, 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 Atta Hashem--- and especially rejoice with the word ‘Atta’--for it so distinguishes and elevates us from the billions in the world around us! 


B.  A reader had inquired as to why many Siddurim, immediately after Hallel, bring the Posuk (from last week’s Parsha) of “VeAvraham ZaKein Bah Bayamim VaHashem Beirach Es Avraham BaKol…and Avraham was elderly, coming with his days, and Hashem blessed Avraham with everything.” Moreover, the Shelah HaKadosh writes that reciting this Posuk after Hallel is actually a Segulah for Ariychus Yamim.  What does this Pasuk have to do with Hallel? And while we can well understand that the Posuk describes Avraham Avinu’s Ariychus Yamim, 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 Avraham 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. 


C.  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 Avraham 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!




24 Marcheshvan

QUESTION OF THE WEEK ONE:  As one can see from the end of the Parsha, Eliezer had men who accompanied him on his journey, yet, there is no apparent reference to them in the Pesukim in terms of Rivka’s Chesed.  According to the Pesukim, she drew water for Eliezer, and for the camels that accompanied him.  What happened to the ostensibly thirsty men who needed her Chesed as well--did they not get drinks?



QUESTION OF THE WEEK TWO:  When Eliezer saw that the Shidduch was going through, the Pasuk records that he bowed down to Hashem.  Rashi brings the Midrash Rabba on these words as follows:  “From here (from Eliezer’s bowing) we learn that one must give thanks to Hashem upon hearing good news.”  Would we not know this by ourselves--isn’t this self understood?  Moreover, if we need to learn it from a Pasuk--did we not already learn it from Avraham Avinu himself when he was told by Hashem that his descendents would receive Eretz Yisroel (Bereishis 12:7)?  Why do we have to learn, or relearn this from Eliezer--the Eved of Avraham?




Special Note One:  As the Torah world continues to reel from the suffering of its brethren in the north eastern portion of the United States , we recognize how the outstanding degree of Chesed extended so sincerely and creatively--both physically and monetarily, came about just as we study the Chesed of Avraham Avinu in the Parshios of the week.  We hope we have given Avraham Avinu nachas and will continue to give him nachas through the loving kindness that we demonstrate.  However, in addition to the Chesed we perform physically with our bodies, and monetarily with our possessions, we must remember to daven to Hashem for those in need--as, after all, Hashem is the Source of all blessing.  Chazal (Pesachim 87A) teach that Hosheiah HaNavi was reprimanded for not asking Hashem to have mercy on K'lal Yisrael and for not invoking the zechus avos from which we come.  Chazal teach that he should have exclaimed:  Banecha Heim Benei Chanunecha Bnei Avraham, Yitzchak V’Yaakov Galgel Rachamecha Aleihem--nevertheless Hashem, they are Your children, the children of Your beloved ones, Avraham Yitzchak and Yaakov, heap mercy upon them!”  Dovid Hamelech says it clearly in Tehillim (116:3-4):  Tzara V’Yagon Emtzah; U’Vesheim Hashem Ekrah…-- I find pain and agony; I call out to Hashem.”  We suggest that not only through one’s actions, but through one’s personal Tefillos, one can tell how Nosei B’ol Im Chaveiro he really is.  Let us make this a priority in the coming days!



Special Note Two:  We are at the midway point between Sukkos and Chanukah, but we now seem to find ourselves in difficult straits.  Looking back and looking forward there is joy; what are we to make of the times now?  In a Shiur given before the Six Day War, when the situation in Eretz Yisrael was dire and desperate (to say the least), HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, taught as follows:  When we feel a heavy hand of Hashem upon us, it is for two purposes--to attain atonement for our sins, and to reprove us so that we improve our ways.  When the entire community suffers, each individual must recognize that a community does not have a separate and distinct existence.  Rather, a community is made up of many individuals.  In fact, Hashem does not make a gezeirah against the K’lal unless each individual in that K'lal is supposed to receive exactly that which he receives.  This is a cardinal principal of our Emunah--“HaTzur Tamim Pa’alo--Hashem’s actions are perfect” (Devarim 32:4).  This means that each individual’s particular tircha and tza’ar is, in a manner which is beyond our comprehension, fully decreed and accounted for by Hashem.  With this in mind, it is imperative that we remember Who it is that is bringing the difficult times, the yissurin, the punishments upon us.  It is Avinu HaAv HaRachaman.  In fact, Chazal (Sanhedrin 46A) teach that when Hashem metes punishment upon a person, Hashem Himself kavyachol feels the pain along with the person.  We must accordingly remember the words of Dovid HaMelech in Tehillim (85:10):  Ach Karov Liyireiav Yisho…--surely His salvation is close to those who fear him.”  We are not to fear, be depressed or dejected--we are to realize that the Yeshuah will come.  The key now is not to hide in a time of tzara, not to ‘get lost in the crowd’.  Rather, one should view himself as responsible to work for the Yeshuas HaTzibbur through his own personal Teshuvah and Ma’asim Tovim, recognizing that every ma’aseh tovah katan--every little good deed that he does really could tip the scales to zechus and hatzalah.  Indeed, it is not even only physical actions that could accomplish this--it is every machshavah tovah, any additional Kavannah in Tefillah, every minute of learning, and any iyun in learning that could turn things around for himself and his people.  Shmuel HaNavi enlightened Shaul with the following words (Shmuel I, 15:17 ):  Halo Im Katan Atta BeAinecha Rosh Shivtei Yisrael Atta--you may be small in your own eyes, but you are a leader for K’lal Yisrael.’  This, teaches, HaRav Friedlander, are the guiding words which each and every one of us must live by.  These days are precious.  We are all perturbed, we are all wondering, we all don’t know why the suffering happened, why it is now continuing, and what will happen in the future.  Unlike the other nations of the world, however, we are blessed with the words of Chazal and our Talmidei Chachomim who guide us and enlighten us on the path of righteousness, on the path of truth.  Each and every one of us has to remember who we are--and how we can help ourselves and K’lal Yisrael.  Remember--soon, very soon, we will experience the light of Chanukah--may our thoughts, our tefilos, and our actions bring us there joyously and successfully! 


Additional Note: what a perfect time for a special 30-Day Kabbalah--thirty days before Chanukah!



Special Note Three:  We especially note that Chazal (Brachos 26B) learn from a Pasuk in this week’s Parsha (Bereishis 24:63) that Yitzchak Avinu instituted Tefillas Mincha.  In Praying With Fire II, Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, Shlita brings the powerful teaching of the Rashba (Shailos U'Teshuvos HaRashba 5:1):  Just as the Aseres Yemei Teshuva is the Eis Ratzon ( most auspicious period for Heavenly Grace) of each year, so too is our daily davening of tefillas Mincha the Eis Ratzon of each day.  Eliyahu HaNavi actually waited until Mincha time to pleadfully exclaim "Aneini Hashem Aneini--O' answer me Hashem, O' answer me!"  Chazal therefore teach that we should be ever-so-careful with Mincha--for although we are in the middle of the day's activities, and people, places and events swerve around us--a Kavannah-laden Tefillah can soar to unparalleled heights at this most efficacious time of the day.  Let us focus--for we have an Aseres Yemei Teshuva-like opportunity every day-and do not have to wait ten months to attain it! 


Additional Notes on Tefillas Mincha: 


1.  One is required to wash his hands before each Tefillah.  If one is in a situation where it is impossible to wash his hands before Mincha, he/she should at least clean them with a cloth or other midi demenaki--‘item that cleans’. 


2.  If possible, one should try to give Tzedakah before each Tefillah as well. 


3.  One should attempt to arrive in Shul to daven Mincha in plenty of time before it begins, so that he can sit down and recite Ashrei without the feeling that he is ‘chapping a Mincha’.  If one did come late to Mincha and finds the Tzibbur already davening Shemone Esrei, he should immediately begin reciting Shemone Esrei without first reciting Ashrei.  After davening, he should then recite Chapter 145 of Tehillim as a regular Kepitel. 


4.   HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, writes that when one does not think about his business affairs on Shabbos, he is demonstrating his Emunah that all of his Parnassah really comes from Hashem--and that it is not one’s personal powers and strengths that give him his livelihood.  Likewise, he continues, when one davens Mincha with Kavannah in the middle of a busy work day or in the middle of a busy day at home--he/she is affirmatively demonstrating that all of life is b’yad Hashem--and that Hashleich Al Hashem Yehavecha VeHu Yechalkelecha--cast upon Hashem your burden and He will sustain you”  (Tehillim 55:23).


5.  After davening Mincha, it is a wonderful idea to spend an extra few moments learning a Mishna, a Halacha, a Pasuk with Rashi, or reciting a Chapter of Tehillim slowly--so that one takes the elevated time and continues to remain elevated for a few moments longer.  Over the course of a year, one will have learned an extra 365 Mishnayos, Halachos or Pesukim, or recited 365 chapters of Tehillim.  How beautiful!



Special Note Four:  By *very important need*, we provide the following Note, as previously published:


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


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


Each one of us is probably familiar with at least one couple who were each other’s first date.  The much more common experience, however, is the difficulty and struggle of mixing and matching--especially for those who are not well-connected and are too kind to hound family, friends, and/or Shadchonim with their frustrations and their needs.  So, what can we do?  We are not professional Shadchonim, we are not social butterflies, and we barely have the time to take care of our own little needs, let alone having the time to actually work on, and sometimes convince, two families that your recommendation is solid, or to urge two “out-of-towners” to “go out” with each other.


Our modest proposal:  As tomorrow we will read the Parsha of Shidduchim, and, as Chazal teach that privately performed Chesed is especially meaningful, we suggest that you, together with your spouse or close friends, undertake b’li neder, to make just one date--just one good attempt at a match--in the year 5773.  Let the Torah, let the actions of our Avos, let your G-d-given and inspired feelings for others be your inspiration.


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


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


 Additional Note:  If one would redt a Shidduch for a Ger or a Giores, then in addition to the Mitzvah of VeAhavta LeReiacha Kamocha, he/she would also fulfill the Mitzvah of Vehavtem Es HaGer--demostrating special affection for one who went through so much to become a Torah Jew.


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



Special Note Five:  Additional points and pointers on the Parsha: 


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

Hakhel Note: This is an important lesson to us--the truth always matters, the truth always counts--in all situations, large or small--and at all times, at home, at work, and on the way.


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


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


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


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


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


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



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


We present the following excerpts from Guide to Medical Halachah for Shabbos by Rabbi Reuven Biala, Z’tl: 


1.  When it is permitted to take medication on Shabbos, it also permitted to puncture a capsule to remove the inside liquid or powder for use.  One may tear the wrapping around a pill, but should make every effort not to tear it in a place where there is lettering.  It is permitted to crush or chop a pill on Shabbos; doing so does not transgress the Melecha of grinding (tochein). 


2.  There is dispute among Poskim as to the conditions under which an adult may be permitted to take vitamins on Shabbos.  However, all children under the age of three are permitted to take vitamins.  If a child has a weak constitution, the child is permitted to take vitamins until the age of nine. 


3.  When removing a band-aid from its package, tear should be taken not to tear the lettering.  If possible, the wrapper should be opened at the ends (in brands which are not closed by glue) so as to avoid tearing the wrapper on Shabbos.  However, if this is not possible, the wrapper should be opened in a manner which renders it unfit for future use, once again taking care not to rip any printed lettering.  The bandage should then not be wrapped completely around the finger, so that one end of the bandage sticks to the other; rather, it should be applied in such a way that both sides of it stick to the skin of the finger.  If one has mistakenly applied a band-aid on Shabbos in a manner which leaves the ends of a band-aid attached to one another, care must be taken not to slip it off and discard it, thus deeming the attachment permanent (thus having in effect sewed the two ends together--i.e., tofeir).  Instead, the band-aid should be removed after Shabbos.  If the band-aid had been attached before Shabbos, then it may be removed in any fashion. However, one should not remove any adhesive if it will inevitably pull out hair. 


4.  If one perspires, he may use talcum powder, if it has not therapeutic additive.  The talc is permitted on Shabbos because it is not curative--it does not cure the perspiration.


5.  One is permitted to sprinkle surgical dusting powder on a wound to stop the bleeding, or to wash a wound directly with water or hydrogen peroxide.  One may also use tincture of iodine or alcohol to cleanse the wound and prevent infection.  Any powder or material that stops bleeding is permitted; however, anything that draws blood out is forbidden.  When using water or hydrogen peroxide, one should once again apply it directly, rather than taking an absorbent cotton or pad and dipping them into a liquid, as this could result in squeezing out the liquid, which is forbidden.




23 Marcheshvan

Special Note One: We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 23 through 26:


23. Lo Lahassis La’avod Avodah Zara--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits a person from attempting to sway another Jew to worship avodah zara.  If a person does so, whether he attempts to persuade an entire community or even a single person, he is punished with the death penalty of sekilah--even if no one ends up worshiping avodah zara, i.e., neither the persuader nor the one he attempted to persuade actually engages in a forbidden act.  No hasra’ah is necessary against the persuader--he does not have to be forewarned that his act is prohibited and what the penalty for the prohibited act is.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.


24., 25. and 26.  Lo Soveh Lo, Lo Sishmah Eilav, Lo Sachos Ainecha Eilav--these Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh prohibit a person from: showing love to one attempting to persuade him to worship avodah zara (24.); abandoning his hatred of such a person (25.); and saving him when one sees that he may die or be killed (26.).


Hakhel Note:  From the extreme severity--both in numbers of Lo Sa’asehs, and in the degree of strictness of the Lo Sa’asehs, we see how despicable the wrongful persuader is.  As we all know, Hashem’s Middah Tovah is so much greater than His Middas Puranus.  Imagine, then, the high regard Hashem holds a person in when he is mekarev another in any manner in Avodas Hashem! 



Special Note Two:  Yirmiyahu HaNavi laments (Eicha 5:8):  Avadim Mashlu Vanu Poreik Ain Miyadam--servants ruled over us, there is no redeemer from their hands.”  There are two basic interpretations of these words:


1.  Chazal (Eicha Rabba 8) learn that it refers to our exiles, and especially the rulership of Malchus Edom, which is the Galus that we are currently in.  Rather than the Bnei Yisrael being in the leadership position they should be in to show the world what to do and how to do it, the corrupt forces of Eisav, with no semblance of the seven Mitzvos of Bnei Noach take charge, and rule the world with their form of laws. 


2.  The Targum on this Pasuk, however, writes that it refers to the descendants of Cham, who were intended to be the servants of the descendants of Sheim, and instead rule over us.  What is worse, laments Yirmiyahu in the conclusion of the Pasuk, is:  Poreik Ain Miyadam--we have no ostensible way of getting out of this.”  A politician with no one who he feels he is accountable to, and who is not faced with the possibility or need for re-election certainly poses a danger-- and we have no apparent way out.  However, the politicians do not know what Chazal (Eicha Rabba 8) teach on the words of Poreik Ain Miyadam--it is “Ilulei HaKadosh Baruch Hu--except for Hashem’s mercy and compassion over us.” We do have a way out--it is up to us to turn to Hashem--and ask for it!



Special Note Three:  The following very meaningful teaching is excerpted from Growth Through Tehillim, by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita: 


Lamenatzei’ach L’eved Hashem…For the Conductor; by the servant of Hashem…” (Tehillim 18:1).  The term Lamenatzei'ach, which is the first word of this Chapter is translated as “Conductor.” The term “Conductor” is understood to mean that, when music was played, there was a conductor to lead the musicians and the singers. But the term can readily be understood to refer to the Ultimate Conductor of the Universe.  Hashem is the Ultimate Power and Mind behind all that occurs in the world.  We constantly need to increase our understanding that, all that happens to us in life, was orchestrated by the One Who directs all events, situations, and circumstances. We are, in a sense, the ‘actors’ who perform against the background that has been set up for us.  However, unlike an actor in a major play where the entire script of what will be said and done has been written by someone else, in our lives we have total free will to choose what we will say and what we will do. It is our choices of words and actions that will make our lives a tremendous success or an utter failure.  The criteria for success and failure has nothing to do with how eloquently we speak or how dramatically we carry out our actions.  Rather, success is speaking and acting according to the will of Hashem. Failure is the opposite. 


The background of events, situations, and circumstances is not always to our liking.  Many things happen in the world in which we live that we find challenging. That is however, exactly what makes a great actor--one who utilizes the difficult factors and performs magnificently, nevertheless.  Thus, with this in mind, when we are faced with a challenge, we should ask ourselves, “What are the wisest things for me to say and do now, that will ensure a great performance?” The Judge of our performance is Hashem, Creator and Sustainer of the universe.  If He approves of what we say and do, then our life performance is an unqualified success. If He disapproves, then even if we have the approval of other mortals, we have not yet accomplished our life's mission.  Let us be resolved to live our lives in ways that are pleasing to our loving Creator. The one thing to remember is that all that arises in our lives are more opportunities to serve Hashem in ways that will enhance us. 


Lamenatzei’ach--Hashem is the Conductor--we know He does His part.  The challenge of our daily lives is L’eved Hashem--for us to take what Hashem places before us and sanctify our lives with it! 




22 Marcheshvan

Special Note One:  Those who were left without electricity during or after the storm and said “we have no power” quickly understood the double entendre of their statement!  Indeed, even today there are areas without power, and the extreme difficulty in obtaining gas in New York reminds us that we cannot simply go where we want to, when we want to.  At this time, we would like to add two points as we continue to reel from the hurricane’s impact:


1.  One of the very devastating effects of the hurricane was the loss of so many Seforim, with r’l truckloads of Sheimos filled.  This certainly should move us to give greater Kavod to the Seforim that we do have--keeping them in good order, putting them away, kissing them, and if one picks up a Sefer from the floor, opening it up to learn something before reshelving it.  Perhaps we should think twice about leaving Seforim in open cars, letting children play with Seforim, and not binding Seforim that need to be bound.  Most certainly, Seforim should be kept away from areas where there is a danger of water seepage or other damage, without a plan as to how they can be protected.


2.  Those who have gone to the areas hit hardest in order to help have remarked that one cannot compare hearing about the devastation or even seeing it in pictures to actually living it.  Chazal teach that Tzedaka is so great that it overturns the Middas HaDin to Middas HaRachamim.  We recognize what the Middas HaDin could be like.  We must now exercise our opportunity to give Tzedaka, overturning c’v any future Middas HaDin.  If we are not at the points of devastation to witness what has happened to our brothers, then we can envision it in our minds and give (and give again) to each one of the following Tzedakos: 








May we witness the Middas HaRachamim to its greatest extent--speedily and in our days! 


A Note of Consolation:  A Rav in New York City remarked that before the hurricane hit he was quite sure that nothing would happen in the New York area.  After all, just a few weeks ago on Sukkos, millions of na’anuim--of the shaking of the four minim--had taken place all over the New York area.  Chazal teach that one of the effects of the na’anuim is to stop ruchos ra’os--bad winds.  After the hurricane did in fact hit, the Rav wondered what had happened.  He said that he did not have an answer.  Two ideas that he did put out, however, were:  1. Who knows?  Perhaps something much worse was supposed to happen, which was in fact stopped by the Lulav shaking. 2. Without wishing to scare anyone--perhaps the hurricane was, in fact, Rachamim, as an azhara, a warning to us to do Teshuvah and ma’asim tovim--now! 



Special Note Two:  HaRav Ezriel Erlanger, Shlita, teaches that not once does the Torah record any vikuchim, any debates that Avraham Avinu had, either in Ur Kasdim, in Charan or in Cana’an.  Instead, the Torah begins Parshas Vayeirah by showing the great lengths to which Avraham Avinu went to find guests, common wayfarers, so that he could show them hospitality and have them realize how Hashem takes care of them.  Then, right before the akeidah, the Torah once again writes:  Vayitah Eishel Bive’er Sheva Vayikrah Sham Besheim Hashem Kel Olam--and Avraham Avinu set up an inn, and through it he was able to call out in the name of Hashem, as the Master of the World.”  So, from the beginning through the end, Avraham Avinu’s success was not by lecturing to the non-believers, but by giving to them, and through this bringing them to Hashem.  Rav Erlanger related that in the earlier years of Bnei Brak there were some mechalelei Shabbos in town.  There was a person who would wash his car every Shabbos in public to the shock of the Bnei Yeshiva.  One of the bochurim went to Rav Shach, Z’tl, to ask him what he should do.  HaRav Shach answered-“You take care of his gashmiyus, and Hashem will take care of his ruchniyus.” 


How did HaRav Shach know this?  HaRav Erlanger suggests that it was from Avraham Avinu.  Avraham’s Derech HaChaim was one of giving.  Through giving to another, one establishes a relationship, an understanding with him that all you want to do is help--and if I am helping here then I am also helping there, and also mean to help over there and over there as well. 


HaRav Erlanger also related how his father in-law, HaRav Shlomo Wolbe, Z’tl, met an elderly lady, who as a little girl, studied in a girl’s school in Germany in which HaRav Samson Refoel Hirsch, Z’tl, was the headmaster.  We can imagine the reputation of this great Rav as a disciplinarian, and keeping the school in order according to the letter of the law.  The little girl once misbehaved and was told to go straight to the principal.  She stammered out to HaRav Hirsch what she had done.  Rav Hirsch responded by opening up his bottom left desk drawer and taking out a doll.  He gave it to the girl and said:  “This is yours.”  Then, he added:  “Will you behave from now on?”  HaRav Hirsch had taken the lesson straight from Avraham Avinu--don’t lecture; instead, give--and then say something.  The one to whom you are giving then understands that you are not doing something for yourself--but for his/her benefit.  It was Efron who spoke a lot, but gave nothing.  On the other hand, Avraham Avinu who gave was known by the very people of Efron as the Nesi Elokim--the prince among them. 


One final story from HaRav Erlanger to bring home the point:  Petach Tikvah was a small city in Eretz Yisrael which was established as a religious moshav.  In 1947/48, times were very difficult, and the young couples were struggling with their frumkeit.  The local avreichim, Kollel students got together to see what could be done.  They decided to bring great Rabbanim from Yerushalayim to give shiurim to the young couples in Halacha and Hashkafa.  Rav Wolbe, then a young man, thought that they were a step ahead of themselves.  First, he said, let us raise money and give it to the young couples to help them.  Then, we can bring in the Maggidei Shiur.  The others strongly disagreed:  “These people need to be educated,” they said.  Because of the disagreement in approach, Rav Wolbe went to the Chazon Ish.  The Chazon Ish told him that his approach was correct.


Be good, be giving, then the right thing will happen.  This is the legacy that has been passed down to us from generation to generation--directly from Avraham Avinu!




21 Marcheshvan

Special Note One:  So many of us know people who have been significantly affected by the Hurricane and its aftermath. After all, who in the Tri-State Area has not been impacted in some way--even if it as ‘trivial’ as spending precious time on gas lines?  When someone one knows has suffered damage or lost money or an object of value, one should feel his pain (Avos 2:17 ) and should give him the following brocha “HaMakom Yemalei Chesronecha” (May Hashem replace what you are missing).



Special Note Two:  As we have noted over the last several days, Shemiras Halashon should be foremost on our minds. The Chofetz Chaim (5:5) importantly writes “Me’od Me’od Yeish Lizaher --one must be very, very careful not to speak negatively against someone based on the premise that “I don’t mean to hurt him or put him down--I mean it for the to’eles that will result”, unless one is sure that the Halachic conditions for relating what would otherwise be derogatory information are really, truly satisfied. IF IN DOUBT, don’t say it! The Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation Shemiras Halashon Shaila Hotline is here to help us all in the real life situations and circumstances we face our find ourselves in --718-951-3696, between the hours of 9-10:30 pm New York time. Expert Poskim are there to guide you to make the RIGHT choice-free of charge.


Additional Notes on the Hurricane’s aftermath:


1.  One Rav commented that the most devastation occurred from the sea overrunning its borders, negating the sand boundary, with the water pouring over and gushing freely onto dry land.  He believed that one lesson to learn is to be more careful with excesses, luxuries and overstepping our boundaries on what we should look for in Olam Hazeh.  “Is every garnishment and dressing absolutely necessary, does meat at $80.00 a pound have a place in the Torah community?”, he wondered.  “Need everything be gourmet or at the epitome of the comfort zone?”, he continued.  “Can’t we curb, can’t we limit our whims and desires to be more in line with those of Rabbanim and Anshei Ma’aseh --people we look up to--after all, they are people too!”  Hakhel Note:  Anyone who goes shopping with this in mind, and doesn’t buy something Lesheim Shamayim--is demonstrating that he wants to grow!


2.  A little more of a frightening thought:  The Pesukim in Melochim ( 1:19 , 11, 12) teach that Hashem was going to speak with Eliyahu Hanavi.  First, Eliyahu witnessed a great wind which could take down mountains and break rocks--but Hashem did not come with the wind.  After the wind came an earthquake, but Hashem did not come together with the earthquake.  After the earthquake came a fire, but Hashem did not come together with the fire.  After the fire came a kol demama dakka--a still, thin sound.  Eliyahu HaNavi now recognized that Hashem had arrived to speak with him.  We all recognize Hashem’s Gevurah, and many of us recently witnessed its powerful force and repercussions.  We must NOW make it our goal to obviate the need for any further demonstration of ra’ash, eish, or anything else--anywhere in the world.  Through our earnest, personal improvement, may we arrive at the time when Hashem appears to us--in the thin, still sound.



Special Note Three:  Heard directly from HaRav Simcha Scheinberg, Shlita, Rosh Yeshiva Torah Ohr, son HaRav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, Z’tl:  “Once when I went on a trip to the States, my father asked me to make sure to bring back Ivory soap. I asked him why it was so important.  He explained to me that Ivory lathers faster and it would take him less time to take a shower--so that he could get back to learning more quickly.”  Let us use this simple, personal story to understand what a word, a sentence, a thought, of Torah study really is.  When you study Torah--it is literally--the time of your life! 

Additional Note:  HaRav Simcha also related that a talmid of his father was going through extremely difficult personal circumstances.  The student came to his rebbe and said: “Rebbe, I have a segula that I would like to undertake for a yeshua for myself --I would like to make you Tzitzis for some of the begodim that you wear!” HaRav Scheinberg looked at him, gave him a gentle tap on the hand and said--”The biggest segula that you can have is Torah study--don’t make me Tzitzis--learn more!”



Special Note Four: The Pasuk in last week’s Parsha teaches us that when the people of Sodom rejected Lot ’s pleadings, they attempted to break down his door.  They were thereupon smitten with “Sanveirim” (Bereishis 19:11 ), which Rashi translates as ‘Makkas Ivaron’, and which is colloquially translated as blindness, so that when they attempted to find the door, they could not.  When we investigate this matter only one step further, however, we may realize that the colloquial explanation may not be accurate, and we can begin to appreciate the value of a single, precious word of Rashi in Chumash. Rashi does not say that they were smitten with ‘Ivaron’, which would mean blindness--but Makkas Ivaron.  In order to understand this extra word--Makkas-- we look to how Rashi explains the subject word of ‘Sanveirim’ elsewhere --in Melachim II, 6:18 . There, Rashi explains that Sanveirim is a choli--a sickness--in which one is crazed and sees but does not know what he is seeing--i.e., he is hallucinating or suffering from illusions.  With this, we can understand why the people of Sedom could not find the door--for if they were blinded, they would know where the door was, as they had just been in front of it moments before--but if they were hallucinating--seeing the door there--no there--no there--then they were, as the Pasuk records, ‘trying in vain to find the door’.  Just one word in Rashi--brings pashut peshat in the Pasuk to light!



Special Note Five:  Additional points and pointers on the Parsha of Chesed--Parshas Vayeira:


A.  In the beginning of last week’s Parsha, we find that Avrohom Avinu exerted extra special efforts to fulfill the mitzvah of Hachnossas Orchim even when in the epitome of his own pain.  Perhaps there is a not-so-subtle lesson here.  When a person is experiencing pain, he should not only look inward to himself, feeling sorry for himself and in need of tender loving care--but also using the moment in some way to appreciate the pain of another, and perhaps in at least some small way to help someone else out who is concomitantly undergoing a painful experience, or has a need of some kind as well.  Thus, even at a time when one looks inward--he is using the moment as a sublime moment of growth--never forgetting the world around him that he is very much a part of as well!


B.  HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, asks why it pained Avraham Avinu so greatly that he had no guests and that he could not fulfill the Mitzvah of Hachnossas Orchim.  Why should there be anything to be mitzta’er about.  If there are no guests, there is simply no chiyuv, no obligation.  After all, would one be pained if it is not Sukkos and he has no Esrog?  HaRav Moshe explains that Avraham Avinu had such a love for Chesed, such a desire to do the Mitzvah, that he still longed for it even if it was actually not there for him to do--just like a person on a low level who desires a piece of cheesecake or ice cream cannot rest--even if he has to travel several miles--in order to satisfy the physical desire.  Moreover, HaRav Moshe adds, Avraham Avinu wanted to fulfill the Mitzvah especially when he was sick and suffering--because the yisurin he would feel for the sake of the Mitzvah would be precious and cherished by him. 


C.  There are two Machnisei Orchim mentioned in the Parsha--Avraham and Lot .  In comparing the two acts of Hachnossas Orchim, a person may think that the act of Lot was much greater because the Mesiras Nefesh of Lot was seemingly outstanding--knowingly putting his life and the life of his family in danger by bringing guests into his home in the face of the people of Sedom.  Nevertheless, we see from the Torah’s detail of Avraham’s Chesed, and how Chazal learn and derive lessons from it, that Avraham’s Chesed was oh so much greater.  Indeed, without the zechus of Avraham Avinu, Lot could not even save his life or the lives of his daughters.  Why?  What made Avraham Avinu’s Chesed more elevated?  It is said in the name of the Bais HaLevi that Lot was doing Hachnossas Orchim to angels--and he knew it.  Even with Mesiras Nefesh--this cannot compare to the Hachnossas Orchim that Avraham Avinu showed to simple wayfarers--even if it was without risking his life to do so.  Hakhel Note:  Many of us now have the opportunity to do perhaps even a more sublime Chesed--to people we do not actually know. We have brothers who have been left homeless, property-less, jobless, without their businesses, and at this moment do not know how or where to begin to pick up the pieces.  In addition to the great Chesed of davening for them (we had previously suggested the fifteen Shir HaMa’alos--and please do not complain that it is ‘so many’ Chapters of Tehillim); we once again also provide two important websites for contributions:






Remember--this is the way of Avraham Avinu, this is our legacy! 


D.  One additional note:  Chazal (Shabbos 127A) teach that Hachnossas Orchim is greater than Kabalas P’nei HaShechinah--as we see that Avraham Avinu interrupted his speaking to Hashem in order to greet the strangers.  Why, in fact, is Hachnossas Orchim greater than greeting the Shechina itself?  Many answers have been given to this important question.  Perhaps we may add another:  Chazal do not say:  Gadol Hachnossas Orei’ach YoserMiKabalas Pinei HaShechinah--that it is greater to bring in one guest than to great the Shechinah--rather, it is Hachnossas Orchim--in the plural--the bringing in guests as a way of life that it greater.  When one has established Chesed as his way of living, as a life goal and a life love; when one has established his life as an open heart to others--than that is greater than the one time greeting of the Shechinah.  One can and should by no means take the greeting of the Shechina lightly.  However, when it is for the purpose of actually fulfilling what Hashem wants from him in life--a life role and goal of giving--then one can and should interrupt everything else--including greeting the Shechinah itself--to fulfill it!




20 Marcheshvan

Special Note One:  The devastation and havoc that has affected the Torah world over the last week should leave us all seriously thinking, if not shaking.  Even if the Torah Jew may live in Australia, South Africa or Buenos Aires, the destruction of Shuls and Torah homes, the ruin of so many Seforim, personal property and businesses and the enormous and ongoing bitul Torah caused by floods and power outages over the eastern seaboard of the United States, should really leave every responsible member of K’lal Yisrael reeling.  Our Emunah must be unwavering--for even a major irreligious politician was alleged to have said:  “Only G-d could have done this.”  What can we do?  Yes, we learn, we daven, we do Chesed, but in these Chevlei Moshiach, we are obviously all receiving a message to do more.  Chazal (Shabbos 32A--non-coincidentally, yesterday’s Daf Yomi) teach that what saves a person in time of trouble is Teshuvah U’Ma’asim Tovim--Teshuvah and good deeds.  The enormous outpouring of good deeds--especially relating to The Five Towns and Far Rockaway area has created and continues to create an enormous Kiddush Hashem.  If you have not already helped monetarily, please go back now to the first paragraph of the Bulletin, and generously respond to help your brothers.  As Yishayahu HaNavi (58:7) teaches:  “U’mibesarecha Lo Tisalam--do not hide yourself from your kin.” What is left for us to do--is Teshuvah.  How?  We once again suggest it is by Teshuvah Bechol Yom--Teshuvah every day in some area--no matter how large or how small.  We especially note today that, as the twentieth day of Marcheshvan, is an Asiri LaKodesh--an especially designated day for one to spiritually lift himself.  Accordingly, may we suggest that one take upon himself to bli neder do Teshuvah Bechol Yom for the next thirty days.  By this, we will affirmatively demonstrate that we recognize it was and is the Gevuros Hashem that brought about the hurricane, and its after-effects in so many communities.  Take the lesson--Teshuvah Bechol Yom--and spread the word!


Additional Note:  This is also a time for us to put special Kavannah and focus into the bracha of Sim Shalom.  The Kuntres Avodah HaTefillah explains that the two words Sim Shalom mean--“Please give Shalom to our bodies, to our homes, to our belongings, and to the places that we live--keeping them free from any harm, hurt, injury or damage.”  One can daven for himself--and for all of K’lal Yisrael--for peace in every way! 



Special Note Two: We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 21 and 22:


21. Lo Laleches BeChukos HaGoyim--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from following the practices of the Goyim--including not wearing the particular type of garments that they wear, nor following their particular hair styles (such as a bluris), and one who does so receives malkos.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike. 


22. Lo Lishmo’ah Limisnabei B’Shem Avodah Zara-- this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits us from listening to one who prophesizes in the name of avodah zara, and includes not discussing matters with him or asking him for an os or a mofeis--signs.  Even if this false navi does give a sign, one should not pay attention to it, and if one thinks that the sign that the false navi gave is perhaps true, he violates this Lo Sa’aseh.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike. 




17 Marcheshvan

Special Note One:  As a thinking member of K'lal Yisrael, what are your thoughts about the Hurricane whose astounding effects continue--with damage to person and property, and continued power outages affecting so many.  We supplement the messages previously published with the following additional  thoughts:


1. Hashem is the source of everything--and we should be sincerely humbled in His Presence--especially when standing before Him in Tefillah.


2.  We should improve our Fear of Hashem--without any further reminders anywhere in the world being necessary to do so. By improving this Fear--we will help ourselves so much--for we will also then fear sin, and our Olam Haba will be oh so much more wonderful.


3. Everybody was uniquely impacted in his own way--even within a neighborhood, a block and the same home.  Hashem's Omniscience and Hashgacha Pratis over us is truly unfathomable.


4.  When undergoing suffering, ask Hashem that it be a Kapara for sin, as Dovid Hamelech teaches--Re'eh Anyi VaAmali Vesah Lechol Chatosai (Tehillim 25:18)--See my afflictions and my toil and forgive all my sins.


5  Many of us have been spared war--for those who experienced the Hurricane--it is as if being in a war zone on a temporary basis.  Feel for those who have been in war, and for who have been in difficult circumstances when there was no ostensible end in sight.


6.  Appreciate every day when you can go about your 'daily business.'  It is not boring or burdensome--it is a gift.


7. The school children being out of yeshiva is something to cry about--we need the Tinokos Shel Beis Rabban--whose Torah study may not, according to Halacha,  be impeded even to build the Bais Hamikdash.


8. Why did this happen during the week in which we lain about Sedom? Nevertheless, why blame the irreligious politicians who make laws which are immoral or are against religion--when we can look into ourselves, which is far more productive, leading to real and meaningful results.


9.  Hashem wanted us to do more Chesed for each other this week--as we read the Parsha of Chesed--Vayeira.  With the enormous Chesed extended by so many individuals and organizations--providing hospitality, shelter, Shabbbos lodgings, freezers and Chizuk--we hopefully have given nachas to Hashem. For those who have compiled or will compile a listing of the private and organizational Chesed they witnessed or are aware of--please share it with us.


10.  The after-effects of the hurricane resemble the after-effects of a Mitzvah or Aveira--it just doesn't leave after you experience it, it becomes a part of you.


Special Note  Two:  Two Halachic Remembrances Emanating from The Hurricane:


A. The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (11:21) rules:  "A person who rents a house in the diaspora is not required to affix a Mezuzah during the first thirty days he dwells therein--for a dwelling in the diaspora is not considered a Diras Keva--permanent dwelling."  Hakhel Note: We certainly were reminded of this.


B.  The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (12:2) provides a great lesson for us in the incredible effects of unity--or at least one's own personal sincere attempts to obtain it :  "Before davening one should have especial kavannah to genuinely accept upon himself the Mitzvah of VeAhavta LeRayacha Komocha.  For when their is separation among K'lal Yisroel below, then there is no unity in the heavens either. Conversely, when we unite with our fellow Jews below, it causes the souls above to be united--and this oneness also allows our Tefillos to become united as they reach the heavens. When our Tefillos are united, they are pleasing to Hashem."  Hakhel Note:  This demonstration of Bain Odom LeChaveiro, then, directly branches to Bain Odom LeMakom--and produces huge gains--Bain Odom LeAtzmo!



Special Note Three:  We continue our Erev Shabbos--Halachos of Shabbos Series: The following Halachos are excerpted from The Sanctity of Shabbos by Rabbi simcha Bunim Cohen, Shlita:


1. One is permitted to tell a Gentile to turn off a noisy, disturbing burglar alarm, fire alarm, smoke detector or alarm clock.


2. Foods enclosed in sealed bottles, packages or cans must be opened before Shabbos. If something was not opened, however, it is permissible to tell a Gentile to open it for Shabbos needs. 


3.  It is permitted to tell a gentile to do a melacha during bein hashemashos (up to 30 minutes after sunset) on Friday in order to enhance one's Shabbos enjoyment, to perform a Mitzvah, or in order to prevent a substantial loss. Examples include: Turning on an electric stove in order to warm even non-essential Shabbos food; turning off a bedroom light; turn on a living room light; lighting the Shabbos candles; buying food or drinks; drive one's car into the garage if one fears it can be stolen; or lock one's place of business and activate the alarm system .Whatever the permissible act is--it must be completed within the bein hashemasos--thirty minute period after sunset.


4. On Saturday night, it is best to refrain from telling a Gentile to do any melacha bein hashemashos. In case of extreme necessity, one may tell a Gentile to do a melacha for the same reasons which are permissible during bein hashemashos of Friday evening (Shabbos needs, Mitzvah, or substantial financial loss). 


5. A Gentile working in a Jewish home on Shabbos (such as a maid or cleaning lady) may not undertake any activity that degrades the sanctity of Shabbos--including washing windows, gardening work, using a vacuum cleaner, dishwasher, washing machine or dryer.


Special Note Four:  More points and pointers on Parshas Vayeira:


A. Hashem praised Avrohom Avinu with the words “Ki Yedati…for I have loved him because I know that he will command his children after him to follow in the way of Hashem performing charity and justice.” HaRav Isser Zalmen Meltzer, Z’tl, asks how charity can come before justice. After all, one cannot do charity without money which has not been earned justly. Charity should therefore not precede justice--it should succeed justice in the order of the Pasuk! HaRav Meltzer answers that sometimes Tzedaka is justice itself. If a person is desperately in need of our assistance; if it is a matter of Pikuach Nefesh, if it is a matter of sustaining lives, then we can no longer leave it as a well meaning Chesed or extra-curricular Tzedaka activity, but must instead consider it as part and parcel of our daily requirement to act with Mishpat--of doing that which is just and proper today. 

Hakhel Note One: This would mean that if there is a genuine Hurricane-related need, a Pidyon Shevuyim call, a real Hatzolos Nefashos request, or any other matter of Pikuach Nefesh in the community, it is not a nice or appropriate “add-on” to a person’s day to respond in some way--it is an integral fulfillment of your “Mishpat,” your doing the right thing, your properly serving Hashem on that day!  

Hakhel Note Two:  This would also appear to mean that all those who helped this week and continue to help are fulfilling two separate mitzvos--Chesed--and Mishpat!


B. Chazal bring that the reason Lot was saved from Sodom was because he remained silent and did not disclose anything to the Mitzri’im when they were told that Sora was Avrohom Avinu’s sister. While this silence by Lot is admirable, it would seem that he had much greater zechusim to save him than this one act of silence. Had he not just taken in guests at the risk of his own life, was he not willing to jeopardize the welfare of his own family members so as not to violate the trust placed in him by his guests...and had he not just baked Matzos in celebration of Pesach?! Why do we have to go back so long, to such a seemingly insignificant event as simply not disclosing Sara’s additional relationship with Avrohom to the wicked authorities? HaRav Aharon Kotler, Z’tl, answers that we learn from here how much more important it is in the eyes of Hashem if your act or deed is an expression of your own thoughts and efforts--your self-developed “Madreiga Atzmis”--a level that you have reached or attained by yourself, rather than simply acting in a certain (even good) way because you are used to it, because your parents did it, or because you are fortunately in that kind of environment. This point, HaRav Aharon continues, is incredibly true, even if the habitual or customary item is truly much greater--and even if it involves actual Mesirus Nefesh-in its performance. Lot ’s Hachnosas Orchim was par for the course, expected, and ordinary--in spite of the adversity and danger, because it was something that he had learned in his youth from Avrohom Avinu, and was something that simply had to be done and get done. Developing one’s own area or areas of growth in Avodas Hashem is especially treasured by Hashem. Putting it in further perspective--in Lot ’s case--and B’ezras Hashem in ours--it actually planted the seeds for Moshiach. Tread new ground, develop your own new path beyond that which you are used to and is expected of you--for this is your best measure of greatness!


C. We now move on to the second part of Lot ’s salvation--after he escapes Sedom. At this point, we learn that Lot accomplishes something that even Avrohom Avinu could not accomplish. Although Avrohom davened for each one of the five cities to be saved, Hashem advised him that there was an insufficient number of Tzadikim in any city for the city to be saved. However, we find that Lot requested that he be saved in the city of Tzoar --and he was, together with the entire city! How was Lot , the recalcitrant nephew, able to save a city that his incomparable Rebbe could not?  HaRav Yecheskel Levenstein, Z’tl, derives two essential lessons from this. First, we see how much more effective it is for the affected person to daven for himself than for a third party (no matter how great) to daven for him. Here, Lot was asking for his life to be spared. No matter how genuine and sincere the entreaties of Avrohom Avinu were, nothing can match the depths of someone pleading for his own life. No one can act on your behalf more than you and you alone. Of course, one should always ask a Talmid Chacham to daven for him, but this cannot replace or substitute for one davening for himself. The second great lesson teaches us the extent of Hakoras HaTov that one must demonstrate if someone has even attempted to do good towards them. Lot showed hospitality to the Malochim (who really didn’t need it), and their expression of Hakoras HaTov went to the degree of saving an entire city in order to save Lot . Similarly, HaRav Daniel of Kelm, Z’tl, Hy’d, the last Rosh Yeshiva of Kelm, explained that Elisha HaNavi was actually bound by his Hakoras HaTov to the Isha HaShunamis, to go to the extent of bringing her son back to the living--the greatest of miracles possible.  Thus, within one event, we learn vital lessons both on a Bein Odom L’Makom, and a Bein Odom L’Chaveiro, level. In Bein Odom L’Makom--establish your own personal relationship with Hashem in Tefillah because no one can daven better for yourself than you. Work on it, because no one can as you can. On a Bein Odom L’Chaveiro level, make sure that you constantly and unwaveringly demonstrate your Hakoras HaTov for the many kindnesses you receive from those around you.


D. The Zohar writes of the goodness that Hashem bestows upon those who are worthy: When a person needs Zechusim in a time of Din, Hashem may provide him with the opportunity for a Zechus--such as a poor person at his door. Through the act of Chesed, the person’s life can then be spared in the time of judgment, for Hashem will leave a protective mark upon him. Lot was saved from the punishment of Sedom because, the Posuk records, “Vayizkor Elokim Es Avrohom”--because of the Chesed that Avrohom Avinu, who would have been hurt by Lot’s passing performed for the Malochim on that great and fateful day. Hakhel Note: The rest is eternal history. As a result of Lot ’s rescue, Moav was born, from whom will come forth Moshiach--all dating back to the guests at Avrohom Avinu’s door.


E.  From the remarkably meaningful Sefer Loving Kindness (Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation; Artscroll) we referred to yesterday, we excerpt the  following thought:  "..an utterly repulsive individual banged on the door screaming, "Let me in!"  the man gluttonously ate his way through Shabbos, constantly demanding service and attention, which Reb Lieber patiently provided. When Shabbos was over, Reb Lieber went to the man's room and found that the rude brute had been transformed into an angelic presence. He was Eliyahu HaNavi...."  Hakhel  Note:  While we may not allow a person this inappropriate into our home, or be zoche to gilui Eliyahu, we should nevertheless learn to invoke enthusiasm for a chesed that would to the naked eye to be an annoyance. After all, maybe we will be zoche to gilui Eliyahu!


F. Avrohom Avinu davened for the people of Sedom. Chazal teach that a person should not daven for Reshaim to be taken away from this world, for if Hashem had removed Terach when he worshipped idols, Avrohom Avinu would not have been born…(and we know what would have happened to the world!).  Furthermore, Chazal teach that it is a Mitzvah to be Mispallel for Reshaim to do Teshuva-- so that they do not have to enter Gehenoim. See, for example, Dovid Hamelech’s entreaties for the Reshaim who wronged him in his moving words in Tehillim (35:13).  Let us take the lesson home every day--having this in mind in Hashiveinu, and in our private Tefillos!


G. The Shelah HaKadosh writes that from the Akeidas Yitzchak we all can take a practical lesson: Avrohom Avinu was Mevatel his Ratzon for the Ratzon of Hashem--he broke his desire, he gave of himself, he went against his grain--all because he knew that Hashem wanted otherwise. When a person encounters a particular Aveirah or Mitzvah, he should think that perhaps Hashem is testing me, just as he tested Avrohom Avinu. With Hashem on his mind in this way, the Shelah concludes, a person will be successful in the tests of his life. What life-bearing advice!




16 Marcheshvan

Special Note One: We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 19 and 20:

19. Lo LeHischaten Im Akum--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits us from marrying an akum. This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.  

20. Lo Lachmol VeLo Sechanem--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits us from displaying special regard for ovdei avodah zara. One may undertake certain actions in order to avoid aiva (enmity). Lo Sechanem also includes giving gratuitous gifts or praise.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.



Special Note Two:  As Parshas Vayeirah provides us with the foundations of the Torah concept of Chesed, we provide the following important derivative teachings from the Sefer Loving Kindness, based on the Sefer Ahavas Chesed (Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation; Artscroll),from the 'Step By Step' portion of the work, which contains so much practical advice. We highly recommend the Sefer's  study on a daily basis-it is divided into 178 short daily segments:


1.  When an opportunity for Chesed comes my way, I will try to think of the recipient as a beloved member of my family.


2.  In doing a kind act, no matter how small, I will focus on the fact that this small gesture is an essential support for the world.


3.  The next time my mind defaults to the thought, 'Someone else will probably take care of it,' I will motivate myself to be that 'someone else.'


4. Today, I will bli neder begin to give charity on a daily basis--through a pushka, in Shul or by any other accessible means--but it is part of my daily schedule, just as eating, sleeping, davening and saying Tehillim....


5.  The next time a person who I don't particularly hold in high regard is in need of help, I will try to offer whatever help I can.


6.  I will become more conscientious about returning borrowed items as soon as I have finished with them.


7.  In my future dealings with guests, I will attempt to project myself into their situation so that I can accurately gauge their needs.


8.  When I have the urge to put off an act of kindness, I will remember that the opportunity may never be available again.


9.  I will perform chesed and give tzedaka in a generous manner; I will try to rely less on material possessions for a sense of security. 


10.  The next time someone comes to me with a problem, I will try to focus more fully on what they are saying and how they are feeling.


11.  The next time I hear of someone's difficulties, I will daven to Hashem for help.


Hakhel Note:  Whether or not one experienced the Hurricane or its astounding after-effects, he should take the time to daven for those who did and are in difficult times--for their well being, replenishment of their material losses, and invigoration of spirit for the tremendous time and effort they will have to undertake to rebuild their lives.  Perhaps the 15 Shir HaMa'alos( Tehilim 120-134) would be a place to begin.


Additional Note:  Please review the above items--they are precious, enlightening and enriching!


Other email archives