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18 Kislev

THE CHOFETZ CHAIM ON FASTING IN TODAY’S TIMES: The Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 571, seif katan 2) writes:  “I have seen in a sefer that when one feels that he must accept a ta’anis upon himself, it is better to accept a ta’anis in dibbur, rather than to accept a ta’anis from food upon himself--for from this kind of ta’anis he will not weaken or hurt his body or constitution--and the G’ra in the Iggeres HaGra writes likewise....


Hakhel Note: Because of the extreme importance of speaking properly, and of avoiding any stain of negative speech on one’s soul, may we suggest that one keep a separate notebook or other written record, on a daily basis, of issues in speech that one has encountered. Not only should this help him rectify that which he has done wrong, but it will serve as an inspiration and guide for him not to repeat his mistakes…!



ON CHANGE OF WEATHER: As ‘change of weather’ season continues in the northern hemisphere, we remember that it is not the extra-strength Tylenol, or any of the other remedies filling our pharmacy-aisle that gives us our cure.  Instead, we should know that there is a reason that we received this ailment (which could include not properly taking care of yourself), and that it is Hashem--and ONLY HASHEM--Who gives the relief and refuah, and not that acetaminophen or other ‘Special Formula’ which serves to ameliorate the symptoms, or, if it is a better medicine, serves as Hashem’s agent in the actual cure.  Before taking that aspirin or other tablet or fluid, we should especially reflect upon this, and recite the Tefillah before taking medicine with true recognition and feeling. Once again, The Tefillah Recited before Visiting the Doctor or Taking Medications, is available at the following link  http://tinyurl.com/cc5rjq3   and the Tefillas HaBori--asking Hashem to keep us healthy--is available at the following link -- http://tinyurl.com/cex6xau    Stay well!



SHIRA! In last week’s Parasha we received a great re-awakening from none other than the Sar Shel Esav as to the power of our daily morning prayers. The Sar tells Yaakov--”Shalchuni Ki Alah Hashachar--send me for dawn has broken” (Bereishis 32:27). Rashi explains why he wants to go--’because I have to sing shira!”  If we take a step back for but a moment--it is none other than the Sar of Esav who is expressing how he does not want to MISS THE OPPORTUNITY to sing shira to Hashem in the morning!  Oh, how we should treasure our Pesukei D’Zimra--and allow ourselves the time and opportunity to recite the words meaningfully--each and every day!



ACHARON ACHARON CHAVIV: HaRav Shach, Z’tl, asks why it really was that Yaakov Avinu, when about to encounter Esav, sent the sons of the Shefachos first, then the sons of Leah--and kept his especially beloved Rochel and Yosef last and most protected.  HaRav Shach provides an incredible p’shat, which he says is “Emes L’Amito” The Shefachos and their sons suffered most, as because they had the least honor in the family, they were ba’alei yissurin--thereby attaining greater kapparah--and the greatest natural protection from Esav.  Next came Leah and her sons who were also lower in spirit because they were not the ikar of Yaakov’s household--so, although not as great as the Shefachos and their children, they too had a higher level of kapparah and protection afforded to them.  It was those who were chaviv--Rochel and Yosef who had to come Acharon, Acharon--last--because they had the least kapparah...and thus needed the most protection!




Special Note One: It is fascinating to note that the Mitzvah in last week’s Parasha of Gid Hanashe commemorates Yaakov Avinu’s fight with the Sar Shel Eisav, who was unable to defeat Yaakov, and so injured his leg. At first glance, the need to commemorate this event appears problematic. After all, was not Yaakov soon fully healed from the attack, as the Pasuk records (Bereishis 33:18): “Vayavo Yaakov Shaleim”--which Rashi explains indicates that he was healed from his injury? There are two famous answers (perhaps among the many) to this question. The Sefer Hachinuch (Mitzvah 3) movingly writes that the Mitzvah is to remind us that no matter how powerful Eisav is and no matter how much he tries to hurt us--we must be mechazeik ourselves--for in the end we will emerge victorious. This is something we must always remember, especially in the darkest part of the Galus night, right before Alos Hashachar, when all seems so discouraging, and there is so much despair in the world around us. In the end (may it come speedily), we will follow in the footsteps of Yaakov Avinu--and emerge healed and victorious! A second approach relates to a specific Mitzvah which we can all strengthen ourselves in. It is the Mitzvah of leviyah--that of escorting guests out of our home, which helps them attain Hashem’s protection. If Yaakov Avinu’s sons had accompanied him, the Sar Shel Eisav would never have been allowed to attack in the first place. The Mitzvah of Gid Hanashe, performed on millions and millions of Kosher animals over the years--reminds us of all of the times that we have the opportunity to perform this great Mitzvah! Hakhel Note: For further beautiful detail on the Mitzvah of leviyah, see the Chofetz Chaim’s Sefer Ahavas Chesed.



Special Note Two: As it is one week to Chanukah, we present a ‘Chag Sameiach’ question to get us going!


Q: I am aware that if I eat a large amount of Pas Haboh B’kisnin (bread family product), I must wash and bentsch. On Chanukah, my office supplies us with what seems to be an unlimited supply of jelly doughnuts. Some of us could get pretty full from coffee break. It would not be too comfortable to wash and bentsch, but if we have to we will. What is the halacha?


A: Doughnuts are generally made from dough which is deep fried. According to most Poskim they are not considered Pas Haboh B’kisnin, and there would be no requirement to wash and bentsch. (Halachos of Brochos, p. 497). 


Additional Note on Brachos:  In Alei Shur, HaRav Shlome Volbe, Z’tl, writes that the principal purpose that we were given our five senses is not for our mere sensual pleasures and satisfactions, but in order to better appreciate the benefits that Hashem bestows upon us.  If the physical, temporal taste and smell of an orange, as so beautifully seen by your eyes and picked up and peeled by your hands can evoke such pleasure and appreciation--then imagine its spiritual benefits in allowing your soul to gain eternity through the Brachos made over it, and through the Torah and Mitzvos that it energizes you to perform.  The next time you use realize that you are using one of the senses, try to take it beyond the immediate moment--and into eternity!



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



Special Note Four:  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 davening.  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!



15 Kislev

QUESTION OF THE WEEK:  The Parasha of Yaakov meeting Eisav is sometimes referred to as the Parashas HaGalus, and trains us how we are to behave to those seeking us harm or otherwise antagonistic to us in Galus.  Yet, this Parasha 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 Parashas HaGalus not from Yaakov’s encounter with Eisav--but from his encounter with Lavan, which is when Yaakov was exiting Eretz Yisrael 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?!



ON THANKS: While many recite a Kepitel Tehillim upon entering their car (typically one of the Shir HaMa’alos, which were composed by Yaakov Avinu), davening for a safe and successful trip--a Talmid Chochom advised us that upon reaching his destination he recites Mizmor L’Sodah--thanking Hashem for arriving safely (and, depending where one lives, for finding a parking spot!). He added that Mizmor L’Sodah is Kepitel 100 in Tehillim--which reminds us of the 100 brachos which we are to recite every day.


Hakhel Note: A beautiful thought--as we all must strive to make sincere HaKaras HaTov an essential part of our lives!



FROM A READER ON BRACHOS: In yesterday’s Bulletin, we noted how one should respond to the brachos given by one person to another with a hearty “Amen!” A reader very correctly pointed out that in addition to saying “Amen!”, he should also exclaim V’Chein L’Mar”--may you, the one giving the bracha--also be blessed!”







1.  Where is this week’s Parasha can we find a Pasuk in which all the words end with an Enda-Mem??


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


3.  Where in this week’s Parasha 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 One:  Today is the Yahrzeit of Rebbi Yehuda HaNasi, the Mesader of all of Mishanyos.  The Shelah HaKadosh writes that “Kabbalah BiYadi--I have a personal Kabbalah that a person who is a baki--well versed-- in Mishnayos will not be ‘Roeh Penei Gehenom’--will not see the face of Gehenom.”  The Maharal calls the study of Mishnah the “Yesod HaGadol VeAmud HaBarzel--the great foundation and the iron pillar to all of Torah” (Luach Davar B’Ito).  We provide by the following link an outstanding Limud Mishnayos Chart distributed by Congregation Darchei Tzedek of Baltimore, Maryland  http://tinyurl.com/yfgvc3e  The chart allows you to follow your progress in learning, on a Mishna-by-Mishna basis, and provides valuable information as to how many Mishnayos there are in each Mesechta and in each Perek of each Mesechta--for all of Shas!  Imagine the glee one will experience if he can mark off his success and complete the entire chart!  Even one Mesechta, and certainly an entire Seder is cause for great celebration as well!  May you be blessed with much success in filling in this very special chart!



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


A.  How many possible prohibitions could one violate by opening a food or drink packaging or container on Shabbos that should have been opened before Shabbos?  The Sefer Orchos Shabbos lists six possible Melachos:  (i) Makeh BePatish--completing a utensil, (ii) Boneh--building, (iii) Soser--destroying the previously existing structure, (iv) Kore’ah--tearing, (v) Mechateich--cutting to size, and (vi) Mocheik--erasing letters on the container.  Thus, when attempting to open anything on Shabbos that was mistakenly not opened before Shabbos--from a can of tuna fish to a bottle of black cherry soda--from a box of Matzos to a bag of potato chips--and from a freeze pop to a can of beer, one must be very certain that his Rav or Posek permits what he is about to do and the manner in which he proposes to do it.  Hakhel Note:  Many Poskim do not allow the opening of a soda bottle when a ring is left on the bottle as the cap is removed.  Accordingly, as part of the Erev Shabbos Checklist of many, one will find:  Open soda bottles--which means taking a knife or other sharp instrument before Shabbos and completely separate the ring from the cap (if one simply twists off the cap it will allow some fizz to escape, taking away from the complete Oneg Shabbos of the drink!).  One reader proudly advised us that he doesn’t remember “even one occasion when I forgot to open soda bottles before Shabbos--and I never had to come to open the bottle in a strange manner on Shabbos itself--by poking holes in the bottle or otherwise”.  Hakhel Note:  Let the Shabbos observer beware--and keep assiduously to his/her Erev Shabbos Checklist!


B. From Sefer Refuas Yisrael by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita:  On Shabbos: “…someone suffering from heartburn may not drink a bicarbonate beverage such as Alka-Seltzer (which may pass as a seltzer beverage), or eat an antacid tablet such as Tums (which may pass as candy).  Although these preparations are edible, because they are primarily used as medicine (in this case, to relieve heartburn), they are included in the prohibition, and may not be taken on Shabbos.”  We asked Rabbi Bodner about the permissibility of sucking cough drops on Shabbos.  He responded as follows:  “It may be that cough drops would not be treated like Tums, as people may suck on cough drops in place of candy. If this is so, perhaps cough drops would be considered ma’achel bri’im and would be permitted even if one eats it for a sore throat. We need a factual determination as to how the average person eats it.”  Hakhel Note:  One should accordingly consult with his Rav or Posek as to the permissibility of taking cough drops on Shabbos.


C. We received a request from one of our readers that everyone properly appreciate the ba’alei kriyah in their shuls—who spend so much time, and put in so much effort to be mezakeh us with a proper laining, including proper trop, dikduk and pronunciation. May we suggest that men in Shul should go out of their way after laining to express their Hakaras HaTov to the baal kriyah, with a personal compliment relating to the particular laining, if possible, as well.  Whether they get paid or not is really not the issue—it is your thanks and middos tovos that must be expressed!


D. As Chanukah is fast approaching, 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 an auspicious time for one to begin to study in a careful and meaningful way the Halachos of Neiros Shabbos and the Halachos of Neiros Chanukah--whatever  your particular reward may be--it will certainly be bright!  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)!



Special Note Three:  We provide the following points and pointers on this week’s Parasha, Parashas Vayishlach:


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 to 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, which they wanted to confiscate. 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. 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.”


HaRav Zilberstein concludes: “This is what the G’ra 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 Din of Gehinnom, the Chevlei Moshiach, and the Milchemes Gog Umagog.  This teaching is, in reality, quoted in the Mishna Berurah, a Halacha work, in Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 291, seif katan 1.


C. One other touching teaching excerpted from the Sefer Aleinu L’Shabei’ach:

The Posuk states “Vehuh Avar Lifneihem—then he [Yaakov] himself went on ahead of them “ (Bereishis 33:3)


HaRav Zilberstein comments as follows:


In the city of Holon, there lived a righteous Jew by the name of Elkanah Leisner. He attended the daily Daf Yomi Shiur in the Beis Dovid Kollel.  A punctilious man, R’Elkanah was never late.

There was something else that stood out about R’ Elakanah.  Though he could have made his way to the Kollel via side streets, he chose instead to march along Holon’s largest thoroughfares, holding a huge Gemara under one arm. Over the course of the years, he met many people who wondered why he bothered carrying the heavy Gemara from home, when the Kollel was equipped with many Gemaras.  And if he wished to learn only from his own Gemara, why take such a big one? When asked about this, here is what R’ Elkanah told them. “My goal,” he said, “is to publicize the study of Torah as much as possible.  That is the reason I try to carry the biggest Gemara I can find - so that everyone will see it, and perhaps more Jews will become interested in coming to the Daf Yomi.” That was the thinking of a Jew, a child of his Creator.


Hakhel Note:  We focus on the first name of this special man--Elkanah.  Elkanah was the name of the father of Shmuel HaNavi who Chazal teach us would take circuitous routes to get to the Mishkan in Shilo so that others would be inspired to come along as well, and was then zoche to a son who would be one of K’lal Yisrael’s great leaders.  The R’ Elkanah followed his namesake’s ideal.  Our names are one of our most precious commodities.  Perhaps we should take a moment to reflect upon our name--and how we can better live up to it.  It may take but one simple, consistent and dedicated act or mode of conduct—to live up to your namesake—and your name!


D. The Torah makes it very clear to us in this week’s Parasha that Yaakov Avinu had a long and difficult battle overnight--with none other than, as Chazal explain, the Sar Shel Eisav himself.  The Chofetz Chaim teaches that neither Avrohom nor Yitzchak had this incredible battle--only Yaakov. What was it that so upset the Satan--that he went to do battle head on at this point?!  The Chofetz Chaim explains that this was a pivotal moment in world history.  Avrohom Avinu was the Amud HaChesed which became a mark of his descendants for all time.  Yitzchak Avinu was the Amud of Avodah which separates us from all peoples.  Now, however, came Yaakov--who learned Torah in Eretz Yisrael--kept it in Chutz La’Aretz-- and was returning with Torah to Eretz Yisrael.  The Amud HaTorah would mean the ultimate effective defeat of evil--for it would prove that the Torah of Galus would last and be successfully transplanted back to Eretz Yisrael.  HaRav Elchanan Wasserman, Z’tl, in explaining his Rebbi’s teaching, writes that Torah is literally a Jew’s ammunition--without it, all of the guns, artillery, fighter jets and manpower can simply not do battle.  It is for this reason, Chazal teach, that even if Hashem is mevater on the sins of Avodah Zara, Gilui Arayos and Shefichus Damim--Hashem will not be mevater on the sin of Bitul Torah.  One who disregards his Torah study time and/or does not learn as he could or should is really like a sentry who has been asked to guard the ammunition depot--turns away and lets the terrorists steal it all. Yaakov showed the Sar Shel Eisav that even if he could be temporarily maimed, our essence of Torah could not be defeated.  It is our role as Yaakov’s progeny to follow in his ways.  This means EVER STRENGTHENING OURSELVES in the study of Torah--and not letting weakness set in.  As we are now more than two months after Yom Kippur and counting, with the detours and distractions of Esav’s Sar all around us--we must fight off the difficulties and temptations--to make sure that we are learning more this year--not less. We must make sure that we are utilizing our wisdom and our capabilities to devise and develop new ways to learn and new times to learn-so that we are constantly growing and modernizing our arsenal.  Finding another five minutes of ‘downtime’ during the day to learn, trying to help someone else grow in Torah, or utilizing another technique in modern technology for learning--are some of the actual examples of  the weaponry of our survival.  We are soldiers in a lonely army--but the world’s most important and the world’s best.  If we fail in our individual duty, we are hurting ourselves and making the world a more dangerous place.  If we succeed--then we will have realized the full and potential of Yaakov Avinu--and unite with him to together be called Yisrael!


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


E.  A second essential teaching on the battle of Yaakov and the Sar Shel Eisav:  The Aish Kodesh on Parashas VaYishlach (Bereishis 32: 27,28) poses two important questions:  Firstly, after the Sar Shel Eisav injured Yaakov, why did Yaakov ask him for a bracha--who needed a bracha from this mazik?  Moreover, hadn’t he already received a bracha from Hashem Himself--what more did he need?!  Secondly, why did the Sar Shel Eisav have to ask Yaakov his name--and why, upon hearing it, did he change it?  The Aish Kodesh astoundingly explains that Yaakov, by asking for the bracha, was establishing a precedent for his descendants (based upon Ma’aseh Avos Siman LeBanim)--he wanted a havtacha that after this “injury” something great--a yeshua--would come from it.  He asked for an assurance that when Bnei Yisrael have yissurim it should lead to bracha--not merely an ending of the yissurim--but an actual beginning of salvation and a showering of blessing.  The Sar Shel Eisav acquiesced to Yaakov’s request. Accordingly, he advised Yaakov that although you are called Yaakov now--i.e., getting brachos only after yissurim--your name will be changed to “Yisrael” and you will receive brachos without having to suffer first!  May we be zoche soon to always be referred to as Yisrael!


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


G.  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!


H.  Shimon and Levi are each referred to in this week’s Parasha 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! 


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



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


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


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



Special Note Five:  Sunday, 17 Kislev is the Yahrzeit of the Alter of Novordak, HaRav Yosef Yozel Hurvitz, Z’tl. The Sefer Hizharu Bichvod Chaveireichem, by Rabbi Avraham Tovalsky, Shlita, provides the following great lesson: What propelled the Alter of Novordak, to become the mussar giant that he was? HaRav Yozel was an extremely successful businessman who met Rebbi Yisroel Salanter in a city named Mamel. Rebbi Yisroel asked him to stay a few days so that they could get to know each other better. HaRav Yozel advised Rebbi Yisroel that he had already hired a wagon driver to take him home. Rebbi Yisroel thereupon urged him to hurry back  to his hotel as soon as possible--for perhaps the wagon driver was looking for him--and by being late perhaps he was causing him tza’ar and agmas nefesh.  Perhaps noticing a bit of hesitation, Rebbi Yisroel urged him on further: “No matter how precious the discussion we are having is--it should not be at the expense of another.” HaRav Yozel was so moved by this attitude and approach that soon after he gave up his successful business pursuits--and followed after Rebbi Yisroel to learn true Avodas Hashem!



14 Kislev

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! 





1. Are you following our suggestion to give $1 when the news reports coming from Eretz Yisrael show that no one was killed that day in Eretz Yisrael? If so, we remind you that Boruch Hashem you owe a $1 for yesterday. Hakhel Note: If the $1 would be given b’seiser--privately--then it is all the better.


2. Are you following our suggestion to have special Kavannah for Acheinu B’nei Yisrael when reciting the words Bechol Eis U’Vechol Sha’ash Bishlomecha in Shemone Esrei?


3. As suggested yesterday, are you avoiding machlokes--which will promote Shalom in the world Middah K’neged Middah? Hakhel Note: We must be careful not to look at machlokes that other people may be having among themselves (other than in trying to help them). Instead--we must make sure that we have uprooted machlokes from our own lives.


4. The following questions were asked to HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita: (a) Does the principle of Eisav Sonei L’Yaakov apply to the Arabs as well? HaRav Kanievsky answered that it applies to all nations; (b) With the Arabs showing such ‘mesirus nefesh’ for their terrorist actions--what limud zechus can K’lal Yisrael have? HaRav Kanievsky answered that their actions are not born of ‘mesirus nefesh’--it is only the yetzer hara.




Special Note One:  Chazal provide, as one sign of a Shoteh, a foolish or crazed person, that he loses that which he is given.  Far be it from us to ignore, fumble, or simply allow to slip away the opportunity Hashem is giving us now--as the terrorists of the world clamor--to daven to Hashem and to increase our own piety through increased acts of Emunah, Avodah and Chesed.  As Dovid HaMelech exclaims, BaiElokim Na’aseh Chayil VeHu Yavus Tzareinu--Through Hashem we shall act valiantly, and He will trample our oppressors (Tehillim 60:14).  Hashem will ‘take over’ any army role that is necessary--if we act through Him


Hakhel Note:  We stress that it is of extreme importance that we daven for the Shemira of ourselves and of all of Klal Yisrael.  We have a Kabbalah from the G’ra that the world order--the world as we know it today--can change in a matter of minutes.  Thus, just an extra Kepitel of Tehillim with Kavannah a day, just an extra few minutes for the sake of Shalom for ourselves and our brethren can really accomplish an incomprehensible amount.  Consider then that if not only you--but hundreds if not thousands--of sincere brothers do likewise.  We can easily be taken from Tzara to Revacha, from Afeilah to Orah and from Shibud to Geulah--and this can happen very, very quickly--quite literally in minutes!  Let each and every one of us be a part of it!



Special Note Two: 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, as we have noted in the past, 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!


Hakhel Note: The Sefer Avodas Penim asks whether every time that we get Hana’ah, a benefit from this world, it actually detracts from a benefit we would have in Olam Haba.  He answers with the following Mashal:  A worker in a supermarket agrees to get paid his salary in kind with items from the store.  The storeowner permits him to take whatever he would like without payment, keeping a record of how much he has purchased on credit, and reduces it from the salary owed.  If, however, the worker elects to pay cash for the items purchased, then his salary will not, of course, be reduced.  When we give the proper recognition and thanks to Hashem for his beneficence, we are paying ‘in cash’ for the Olam HaZeh, and this will not reduce any of the salary that we work for in this world! 


The Chozeh of Lublin actually takes this lesson a step further:


Dovid HaMelech in the Posuk that begins and ends Chapter 118 exclaims “Hodu LaShem Ki Tov Ki LeOlam Chasdo--give thanks to Hashem for He is good; His kindness endures forever.” The Chozeh explains that Dovid HaMelech is teaching us by the juxtaposition of these phrases that the second half of the Posuk is actually a direct and proximate result of the first. If one recognizes and understands that Hodu LaShem Ki Tov--Hashem gives him everything that he has and rightfully and properly thanks Him for it, then Ki LeOlam Chasdo--he will merit that unparalleled second half of the Posuk--Hashem’s enduring kindness forever and ever!



Special Note Three: In the past, we have noted the four brachos to be made upon the coming of Moshiach, as taught by HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl. The Sefer Otzros Acharis HaYomim, by Rabbi Yehuda Chayun notes that according to the Sefer Lev Chaim (Volume 2, Orach Chaim 41), we would also recite the bracha Goel Yisrael.


Hakhel Note: The Sefer Otzros Acharis HaYomim also brings Rav Chaim Volozhiner, Z’tl’s description of the Moshiach’s arrival: “I will be sitting in my courtyard learning Torah, and my wife will rush in and exclaim: “Chaim--how are you learning--the Moshiach is coming?!” I will ask her: “How do you know?” and she will answer: “Go outside and you will see that everyone is out to greet him!” It is thus apparent that HaRav Chaim held that the Moshiach would come suddenly, as Chazal teach that the Moshiach will come at a time of hesech hada’as--unexpectedly (ibid. p. 135)


Additional Note One: It is well known that the Chofetz Chaim urged everyone to prepare as best as he could for the Moshiach’s arrival. In fact, he had prepared a special Shabbos Kapote which he put on from time to time and sat down with to await the Moshiach’s arrival. He also had a suitcase ready with essential items so that he would be ready to travel to Eretz Yisrael immediately.  Once on Erev Shabbos Bein Hashemashos a Gadol came to the Chofetz Chaim and the Chofetz Chaim promptly asked him whether they are talking about Moshiach on the streets. The Gadol did not have an answer. The Chofetz Chaim responded--this is the problem--they don’t talk about the Moshiach. Are we not taught--Achakeh Lo--I await him? How can we not await him?! (ibid. 147 to 149)


Additional Note Two: In the house of the Chozeh of Lublin the clock sounded every minute. Once a guest entered and told the Chozeh that as he hears the minutes tick by he is saddened--for he realizes that he is getting closer to his 120 years. The Chozeh responded: “As for me--with every passing minute I feel happier and happier--for every minute brings me closer to Moshiach’s arrival!”


Additional Note Three:  Let us take the messages to heart today!



13 Kislev

YOUR MESSAGES ARE MALOCHIM! At the outset of this week’s Parasha, which describes Yaakov Avinu sending Malachim to Esav, Rashi writes that they were “Malachim Mammash--real angels.  What does Rashi mean to add by teaching that they were real Malachim?  The Chofetz Chaim explains (in another context) that Hashem has many, many Malachim to do his work--and not all of them are angels. As Dovid Hamelech teaches us in Tehillim--”Oseh Malachav Ruchos--Hashem makes the winds His messengers....  It is up to us to realize that Hashem is constantly sending us messages through what other human beings say or do to you, through events in the world at large, through an event that occurred in front of your eyes, and through changes in the lives of those you know or are close to.  Yaakov Avinu was zoche to deal with Malachim mammash.  We may not be in a position to benefit from the assistance or teachings of the Malachim mammash--but we most certainly should recognize and benefit from the Hashgacha Pratis, direction in life and messages being related to us through Hashem’s messengers in all sizes, shapes and forms.


Hakhel Note: As a simple starting point in getting used to a constant appreciation of Hashem’s Presence in your life--the next time you are about to get angry, raise your voice or say the wrong thing to someone--stop and think--’wait a second he was Hashem’s messenger’!



PLEASE TAKE THE STEP! By establishing a Machsom L’fi--a group of only several people who commit to Shemiras HaLashon during a specific time period during the day so that the entire day is covered--one can produce a tremendous zechus for themselves and all of K’lal Yisrael. By the following links, provided by The Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation, we provide extremely important information as to how one begins a Machsom L’fi (clear guidelines and FAQs), Machsom sign-up form, and the Tefillah Ahl Hadibur that one recites before beginning his allotted hour.


Flyer   http://tinyurl.com/pzwsbpe

Guide:  http://tinyurl.com/n9a8aaj

Sign up (PDF version):  http://tinyurl.com/ptrvhyn

Sign Up (Excel version):  http://tinyurl.com/p5ges3u

Tefillah:  http://tinyurl.com/q2doum4


Hakhel Note: In these perilous and determinative times, none of us can leave it to the ‘next guy’ to do what he can to help save ourselves and our brothers. One can simply approach his immediate family and friends and try this for a month. Now is the time!



THE IMPORTANCE OF MATAN B’SEISER: The Rosh (Orchos Chaim L’Rosh, 80) teaches: Al Tisatzel Lehovi Ma’aser El Bais HaOtzar Ki Mattan Besaiser Yichpeh Aff--do not be slow, do not delay  to give Tzedaka privately--for giving Tzedaka privately (where the receiver does not know who the giver is) WILL COVER OVER HASHEM’S ANGER at us. What a special undertaking--endeavoring each and every day to give Tzedaka Besaiser.


We have the answers--we have to be smart enough to use them!



THE BRACHOS QUESTION:  We had previously presented the following question: 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? We asked Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, this question, and received the following response: As a general rule, no. (See Halachos of Brochos, p. 113) unless one had Kavannah to specifically to cover the cake or even to cover all Mezonos items that one will subsequently wish to eat. Alternatively, if the rice is choviv (one likes the rice better than the cake), then b’dieved it is considered the more choshuv and will cover the cake.


Hakhel Note: See also Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 213, Dirshu Note 26)




Special Note One:  The Ba’alei Mussar teach us that if we give thanks to Hashem properly, we can preempt the need to plead with Hashem to save us from danger. One way that we acknowledge Hashem’s great kindess to us and express our thanks to Him is in our brachos over foods. Accordingly, we once again provide the following quiz, in order to assist in proper focus from time-to-time during the day before making the bracha over a food item.


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 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 Two: 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 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 ilk.  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!


Hakhel Note: The Chofetz Chaim provides the following clear and definitive guidelines as to machlokes:


A. Even if one of the parties to a dispute is one’s close relative--even one’s father, one should not follow him in the dispute, and even if his father commands him to. This is no different than the Halacha (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 240: 15), that if a father directs his son to do an aveirah, the son should not listen.


B. When the sons of Korach did not listen to him, it was surely a bizayon to Korach --but it was the right thing to do, and their lives were spared as a result. Chazal incredibly teach that the very first words of Tehillim (1:1) “Ashrei HaIsh Asher Lo Halach BaAtzas Reshaim--fortunate is the person who did not follow the advice of the wicked-- is referring to the sons of Korach who did not follow their father’s direction!”


C. The above relates to a situation in which the son or relative could not influence his father or his relative who is a Ba’al Machlokes. However, if a father or a close relationship respects his son or relative, and the son or relative nevertheless remain silent, then the son will be punished for not taking action to bring peace. One who does bring peace will, as Chazal teach, ‘eat its fruits in this world’, and the keren, the principal amount will still be left for eternity in Olam Haba. Even if one sincerely believes, or even knows, that his father is right--he should nevertheless do what he can to quash the dispute. When one does so, aside from fulfilling the incomparable Mitzvah of Hava’as Shalom, one should realize that his considered opinion as to how correct his father or relative is may really be jaded because of his love or person negiyos.


D. To appreciate the extent of the need and requirement to quiet Machlokes, let us look no farther than Moshe Rabbeinu--who went out to Dasan V’Aviram in order to bring peace.


E. One should not tire from seeking to resolve a dispute--even if it has been going on for a while, and even for a long time.  Chazal teach on the Pasuk (34:15): “Bakeish Shalom V’Radfeihu”--Baksheihu HaYom VeRadfeihu LeMachar--seek Shalom today, and run after it tomorrow--not despairing and not tiring from attempting to reach the great goal.


F. The Chofetz Chaim refers to the seeking of Shalom as a Middah Kedosha--a holy Middah, and concludes that even if one is not successful with the Ba’alei Machlokes themselves, who refuse to get past the facts as they see them and their hurt feelings, one will still be successful in keeping away or assisting those extraneous to the Machlokes from getting involved or staying involved…and each and every ‘piece of peace’ is immeasurable and invaluable!



12 Kislev

SHUVA YISRAEL: It is no coincidence--as it never is--that last week’s Haftara incorporated the Shabbos Shuva words of Shuva Yisrael Ahd Hashem Elokecha. We are at a crucial point in our history--a time to return to Hashem as best as we can. This Chanukah, where will the Menorah be lit? Let us hope, let us daven…let us do Teshuvah!


Hakhel Note: After so many years, why did Chana finally succeed in her Tefillos for a son? Rabbi Yosef Viener, Shlita, teaches that one answer is that the time for Shmuel to enter and help the world had now come. It was for the sake of K’lal Yisrael. We never know when, how or why our Tefillos are answered, nor why they are answered in the way that they are. In our generation, we don’t know how or when the Geulah will finally come. If we do what we are supposed to do--in the best possible way--we may find that we have done the right thing--at the right time!



THIS IS A TEST! In this very fast-paced world, when everything and everyone seems to be moving faster and faster, we can justify our lack of proper middos based upon the exigencies of the world around us. Rabbi Viener teaches that we would be much better served if we could envision a neon sign in front of us that flashed: “THIS IS A TEST”! If one ‘sees the sign’, he will respond successfully. In fact, the most appropriate or favorable response may be to be simply remain silent--or simply hold on and not respond or react in any way for 30 seconds or so. Whatever the appropriate response may be--the recognition of the Nisayon is a great step towards success!



FROM A READER: “I am studying the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, and was amazed by the following teaching in this Code of Jewish Law regarding Tzedaka: A person may ask: How can I give away my hard earned money to Tzedakah?  His answer: The money is not yours--everything is a matanah from Hashem. Hashem gives it to you as a Pikadon and watches what you will be doing with His money.”



DAN L’CHAF ZECHUS! Chazal teach (Avos 1: 6): “Hevei Dan Es Kol Ha’adam L’Chaf Zechus--judge the entire person with favor”. HaRav Yaakov Yitzchok Ruderman, Z’tl, explains that Ha’adam refers to the entirety of the other person--which is something that no other person can know. You may understand 20% of another person, or perhaps 40%, 60%, or even 80%. However, you will never understand 100% of another person’s thoughts and actions. Moreover, when one judges another unfavorably, he is feeling superiority over that person--and that is wrong. On the other hand, Chazal clearly provide the wonderful reality that when one judges another favorably, he is judged favorably in Heaven as well--and this is for eternity!



DRESS CODE:  Why do Yeshivos stress a dress code for davening--isn’t that form over substance? Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, explains that this is absolutely not the case. It is really very sensible and meaningful. Picture an akum entering a fast-food restaurant for a quick $1.99 meal. He may be dressed in a T-shirt and shorts, perhaps barefoot, and possibly unshowered and unshaven. Then consider another individual who has been invited to a repast at a grand dining room in the Waldorf Astoria hotel celebrating a gallery opening. He will most certainly be dressed in his finest (perhaps even renting or purchasing formal wear), fully groomed and having spent good time preparing for the event. When a person approaches Tefillah, he must consider its value to him. Is it like the $1.99 meal--or like the $199 meal? The environment is up to you--and this is not only true for those who study in Yeshiva--it is a choice each and every day--for one’s entire life!



FIVE COMES BEFORE SIX: The Torah records that the fifth son of Leah was Yissachar, and her sixth son was Zevulun.  We know that Yissachar symbolizes the diligent study of Torah, and Zevulun --its unwavering support.  We may suggest that there is a great lesson in the juxtaposition of their births.  As great as the support of Torah is—what is first needed is the assiduous dedication to Torah--its support is an opportunity that is only thereafter then afforded to us.  We should hold in the highest esteem those who apply themselves to full time study—for only after the birth of Yissachar is there an opportunity of Zevulun to come into existence .  First and foremost, the Torah is an ‘Eitz Chaim He’ in and of itself--we are then blessed with the opportunity to be machazikim ba—who grasp on to it by supporting those who study.  When you are approached asking to help support a Yeshiva or student—remember it is only after Yissachar that Zevulun honorably follows!


Hakhel Note: The Pasuk in Iyov (5:7) teaches Ki Adam LeAmal Yulad--for man is born to toil.  Chazal explain that this refers to the toil of Torah.  The Maharsha to Sanhedrin (in further explaining this Chazal) teaches that the word LeAmal is actually an acronym for the words Lilmod Al M’nas LeLamed--learning in order to teach others.  We must strive to properly understand our studies and, having done so, we will be able to share our Divrei Torah with others.  In this way, the Maharsha teaches, we are fulfilling our Yulad--the purpose of our birth! 




Special Note One:  At the outset of last week’s Parasha, we learn that after Yaakov Avinu saw his great vision—”Vayashkaim Yaakov BaBoker –Yaakov arose early in the morning” (Bereishis 28:18) in anticipation of a great new day in his life. In huge contrast, we find exactly the same term “Vayashkaim Lavan BaBoker –and Lavan arose early in the morning” (Bereishis 32:1)  in order to get away from Yaakov and everything he represented as quickly as possible, and go back to his regular despicable lifestyle. Yaakov and Lavan were at opposite ends of the spectrum—but each was in a great rush to get to where he felt his life should be.  We must take the lesson when we arise each morning—there are those who will energize themselves each morning leaning towards Lavan’s lifestyle, goal and purpose. We must balance this approach with a hearty Vayashkaim BaBoker of our own very much weighted in the direction of Yaakov Avinu--as Yaakov, looking forward to a day of Hashem’s blessing and protection, a day of purpose, a day of successfully meeting any challenges that face us, a day of fulfillment. As we awake in the morning, let us appreciate that morning of Vayashkaim Yaakov BaBoker—and make it our day’s guiding light as well!



Special Note Two: We provide the following important points and pointers relating to one’s answering of Kedusha at Shacharis, Mincha and Mussaf:


A.  The Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 125, seif katan 4) urges us to have Kavannah in Kedusha LeKadeish Es Hashem Yisborach--adding that one should intend to fulfill the Mitzvas Asei of VeNekdashti Besoch Bnei Yisroel when reciting Kedusha.  The Mishna Berurah adds:  “U’Vezechus Zeh Yashreh Alav Hashem Yisborach Kedusha MiLemalah--in this merit, Hashem will cause Kedusha to descend upon him from heaven.” 


B.  When reciting the Pasuk of Kadosh Kadosh and the Pasuk of Baruch Kevod in Kedusha, one should lift his opened eyes towards the Heavens.  The Mishna Berurah brings from the Sefer Heichalos that Hashem teaches:  “Ki Ain Li Hana’ah BaOlam K’osah Sha’ah…--for there is no pleasure for Me in the world, as those times when their eyes are lifted towards Me…at those times I grasp onto the Kisei HaKavod where the image of Yaakov is placed, hug it and kiss it, mention their zechusim and bring the Geulah quicker.” (Mishna Berurah, ibid., seif katan 5 and 6) 


Hakhel Note:  Although we cannot fathom these anthropomorphisms, we are given an absolutely essential glimpse into the true profundity of the moment!


C.  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita (in the Sefer Ishei Yisroel), states that he does not know of the source as to why people turn to their sides when they recite “VeKarah Zeh El Zeh VeAmar”. (Brought in the Dirshu Edition of the Mishna Berurah 125, footnote 15)


D.  Although the Kaf HaChaim (125:10) teaches that one should lift his body each time he recites Kadosh--or three separate times, the Aruch HaShulchan (125:3) writes that one should raise his body once and keep his body lifted for all three times one recites Kadosh.  We note that Rebbi Akiva Eiger, Z’tl, learns that even if one is standing and only listening to Kedusha because he is only in the middle of Shemone Esrei, he can still raise his body at this time, but the Kapos Temarim disagrees. (ibid.)


E.  If one finds himself constantly missing Kedusha because his personal Shemone Esrei takes longer than most of the Tzibbur, he should consult with his Rav or Posek on how to conduct himself.  


F.  HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, in the Igros Moshe (3:89) writes that even if one hears Kedusha 100 times a day, he must respond--for it is a Mitzvah of Kiddush Hashem and each and every time he responds, he fulfills the Mitzvah another time. 


Hakhel Note:  Those who are blessed with this daily opportunity should truly treasure and sincerely rejoice in the great moments!



11 Kislev

MATIR ASURIM! As we rejoice in the release of Yehonasan Ben Malka Pollard whom we have been davening for, for so long--we realize how Yeshuas Hashem can come for unexpected reasons, and at unexpected times. Even when we heard back in July that he was to be released--we were not sure that it would truly happen. We suggest that the politicians and administrators from the President down are still scratching their heads as to how all of this happened. The lesson to all is that Hashem and only Hashem runs the world and determines what will happen and when. With this in mind, we turn to Eretz Yisrael, and look and daven only to Hashem Who can turn our sadness, confusion and into joy, happiness and salvation--in an instant--to the perplexity of all including the most wanted Islamic terrorist/cleric. Yehonasan’s release in the midst of all of our current difficulties shows us that the future will be a bright one--let us daven our utmost that the future occurs as soon as possible!


ADDITIONAL NOTE: We should most definitely express our thanks to Hashem--at least in our mind--when reciting the bracha of Matir Asurim and Birchos Hashachar and/or when reciting the words Matir Asurim in the second bracha of Shemone Esrei!



PARASHAS VAYEITZEI--1943! The following D’var Torah on Parashas Vayeitzei was given over by HaRav Meir Schuck, Z’tl, the Rav of Temesvar, Romania in 1943. It was found among his writings:


Vayeitzei Yaakov…Vayeilech--Many Meforshim explain the double expression of Vayeitzei and Vayeilech. Perhaps the Torah is giving an understanding of the context of Yaakov’s trip. It is not just a description of Yaakov leaving home--it is a description of a very difficult state. His brother back home is out to kill him. He is going to Lavan who is untrustworthy and is ready to uproot his identity and uniqueness. He is traveling on a road that is full of wild animals…. Having told us the context of Yaakov’s trip, we are also told that Yaakov tries to protect himself from the danger--he takes stones and surrounds himself. He does what he can. But the message of the Torah is much deeper. The Pasuk tells us that Yaakov can sleep (Vayachalom)--in the middle of all of the danger he goes to sleep. His Emunah and Bitachon let him sleep! He then dreams. People dream of what they are busy with during the day. Yaakov dreams of Malochim and Hashem’s supervision at the end of the ladder. Yaakov’s doesn’t dream of danger--he dreams of Hashem’s protection. Going up and down the ladder in life is all up to Hashem. He gives life and He gives us salvation.  Masei Avos Siman Labonim!”



A DOLLAR A DAY: As we noted last week, HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, teaches that one in the midst of a tzara can pledge bli neder to do something once he has a yeshua, and that the pledge is effective in the ‘here and now’. During these days of intense Ikvasa D’Meshicha, one may want to consider bli neder pledging even a small amount--let us say a $1 to Tzedaka at the end of the day--if no one in Eretz Yisrael was killed by terrorists that day. If thousands would do this across the world--thousands of dollars would B’EH be earned every day for Tzedaka--and one could have a part in Yeshuas Yisrael on a daily basis!



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Hakhel Note: Shemiras Halashon in times like these is another obvious great source of zechuyos for oneself and for all of K’lal Yisrael!



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FROM A READER: “I saw a sign with the following message, which I think should be spread far and wide: I finally realized it…people are prisoners of their phones that’s why they are called Cell Phones.



WHAT’S IN A NAME?:  In last week’s Parasha, the Torah accords special attention to names and their meaning.  The custom of many at the end of Shemone Esrei before reciting Yiheyu LeRatzon and taking three steps back is to recite a Pasuk from Tanach which begins and ends with the same letters as one’s name begins and ends, or a Pasuk in which his name is itself mentioned.  This custom is referred to by the Chofetz Chaim (in the Sefer Shemiras HaLashon II:8), the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (18:15), and even by the Eliyahu Rabba to Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 124, seif katan 3).  The Maharsham brings that for one recites ‘his’ or ‘her’ Pasuk--the Torah itself will save him from Gehenom!  Hakhel Note:  What’s in a name--plenty!  Perhaps it is for this reason that calling someone by a nickname even if it is not derogatory--must be carefully reviewed, with a Shailah being asked in any question of a doubt. Making a nick in a name is not a Torah standard!




Special Note One: An important supplement to the suggestions offered above for our current painful and difficult matzav:


Dovid HaMelech, who lived through so much in his lifetime, provides a Pasuk in Tehillim which we can use to guide us. This Pasuk is recited every day, twice a day, from Rosh Chodesh Elul through Shemini Atzeres--a period when we know that our lives, and indeed the whole world around us, hangs in the balance.  The Pasuk is the climax--the final and concluding Pasuk of LeDovid Hashem Ori--it is “Kavey El Hashem, Chazak V’Yaametz Libecha V’Kavey El Hashem--Hope to Hashem, strengthen yourself and He will give you courage, and [once again] Hope to Hashem!”  (Tehillim 27:17)


The Pasuk’s lesson is clear: An important part of our nisayon in life (especially during these days of Chevlei Mashiach) is that our Emunah is confronted and challenged.  When this happens, after our initial hoping to Hashem, which may in the ordinary course be followed by feelings of weakness to cope, we must strengthen ourselves and hope to Hashem again.  Of course, improving one’s Tefillah (especially Shema and Shemone Esrei), one’s regular brachos (especially when reciting the word “Ata” and Hashem’s Names), and feeling Hashem’s actual Presence at times of challenge, helps one to reinforce and ignite the initial hope--and obliterate depression and despair.


We may additionally suggest that even reciting this very Pasuk when one experiences confusion, dejection or despondency can help a person get back on track to refocus--there is Divine Purpose, and Ani Maamin--I believe with all my heart in the details of the Shelosha Asar Ikarim--the Thirteen Principles of Faith (which can also be recited more than once a day!).


When we strengthen ourselves, we should not forget to strengthen others as well.  Remember--Kavey El Hashem…V’Kavey El Hashem--with faith--and joy!



Special Note Two:  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 here 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), then the money becomes sanctified and elevated as an object of Kiddush Hashem.


If we treat our assets and our wealth in the capacity of 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! 


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



8 Kislev

PESUKEI BITACHON: In these extremely difficult and moving times, we must emphasize and overemphasize Bitachon as the mainstay of our existence. We once again provide by the following link http://tinyurl.com/58jueq  Pesukei Bitachon for one to review, which have been excerpted from the Sefer Hamevorach Yisborach. A person will typically find one or more Pesukim which especially move him based upon his Techunas Henefesh, and his past experience. One should definitely keep a Pasuk of Bitachon close to him for reiteration in the Ikvasa D’meshicha.



DAM KADOSH: As we have noted in the past, HaRav Gamliel Rabanovitch, Shlita, explains that in this last Galus of Galus Yishmael, the Arabs seek nothing else but Jewish blood. He teaches that the way to prevent the Arabs from any future success in this area is by making our blood holy (‘Dam Kadosh’), so that they can have no shelita, no power, over it. How can we make our blood Kadosh on a going forward basis? HaRav Rabanovitch explains that there are two primary ways to do so:


1. We should be as careful as possible with the Kashrus level of the food and drink we consume--looking for Mehadrin products, and not settling for ‘bedi’eved’ Kashrus situations. The Kedusha of what we eat will be carried through our blood stream.


2. One should be careful to recite brachos over food and drink with Kavannah--thereby further instilling Kedusha invested in the food and drink into the blood stream of our bodies.



REMINDER--TZION BAMISHPAT TIPADEH: Yeshayahu HaNavi (1:27) reveals to us:  “Tzion BaMishpat Tipadeh VeShaveha B’Tzedakah--we will be redeemed through justice and through Tzedakah.” We are all familiar with the importance of giving Tzedakah for the sake of Geulah. But how does the first part of the Pasuk relating to ‘judging’ apply to us on a daily basis as well? Every day, we are engaged in the process of judging other people. Let us be sure at the outset to judge them favorably. Imagine the Moshiach telling you that you fulfilled your part--in both parts of the Pasuk!   Hakhel Note: We all, of course, should try to give Tzedaka l’ilui nishmos the Kedoshim, and as a zechus for the Refuah Sheleimah for those injured.



ASEI!  Every day, three times a day, at the end of Shemone Esrei we exclaim: “Asei LeMa’an Shemecha, Asei LeMa’an Yeminecha, Asei LeMa’an Kedushasecha, Asei LeMa’an Torasecha.” We plead with Hashem to bring us the Yeshuos that we need--not only for our sakes, but for Hashem’s name, Hashem’s power, Hashem’s holiness and Hashem’s Torah. As we think today about yesterday’s bloodshed, let us resolve to have great Kavannah in each one of these pleas--as we so longingly look to Hashem to bring the Go’el--B’Ahava.




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


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


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


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


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



Special Note Two: We provide the following additional notes and suggestions relating to these troubled times:


A. Let us also look at the last three Pesukim of Tehillim Chapter 6, which is the Chapter which forms the integral part of Tachanun every morning and afternoon. How powerful and timely these Pesukim are!:


Suru Mimeni Kol Po’alei Aven Ki Shamah Hashem Kol Bichyi. Shamah Hashem Techinasi Hashem Tefilasi Yikach. Yeivoshu Veyibahalu Me’od Kol Oyevai Yashuvu Yeivoshu Ragah--depart from me, all evildoers, for Hashem has heard the sound of my weeping. Hashem has heard my plea, Hashem will accept my prayer. Let all my foes be shamed and utterly confounded, they will regret and be shamed in an instant.” [Artscroll translation]


Perhaps we can recite this Kepitel with special fervor.


B. By the following link http://tinyurl.com/5a6qmy  we once again provide the words of HaRav Chaim Volozhiner, Z’tl, in the Sefer Nefesh HaChaim--words which bring home that everything---absolutely everything--is within Hashem’s power and control. Hashem determines EVERYTHING that has occurred, is occurring and will occur. Let us demonstrate our full faith in Hashem by perhaps reading these several lines and reminding ourselves that any desperate situation can become Simcha-filled in a very short period of time.


C. HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, teaches that when one is in a difficult situation, he can be mekabel upon himself to do something upon his being saved from it. For instance, one can be mekabel to give a certain amount of Tzedakah when the Yeshuah comes, or to recite Nishmas in the presence of a Minyan. For other examples of Kabalos, one should consult with their Rav or Posek.


D. As Chilul Hashem is perhaps the gravest offense, as is evidenced by its uniquely severe punishment, the converse--the performance of Kiddush Hashem should engender great zechusim for us. We should be especially cognizant and sensitive to perform acts of Kiddush Hashem during this Nisayon-filled period. The following event is brought in the outstanding work Touched by a Story, by Rabbi Yechiel Spero, Shlita:


Rav Yehoshua Leib Diskin lived in Yerushalayim. Once, in his old age, a new shamash came in the morning to bring him to shul. When Rav Yehoshua Leib emerged from his house, instead of setting out for shul, he made his way to a stairway outside his house that led up to the roof. He climbed the stairs slowly and painfully, looked around for something, then came downstairs with a sigh. The shamash could not help but ask-the rav for the reason for his peculiar behavior. Rav Yehoshua Leib explained, ‘The first two Batei Mikdash were built by human hands, but the third Beis HaMikdash is going to descend from Heaven in fire. That is something that could happen even overnight. I wanted to check if the Beis HaMikdash came last night. But it didn’t,’ he concluded with tears in his ryes, and turned to make his way to shul.”


Hakhel Note: The Bais HaMikdash does not have to be built at night--it can most certainly be built during the day as well. May the current matzav be our final taste of this bitter Galus--and may we be zoche to the Geulah Sheleimah!



Special Note Three:  We continue with our Erev Shabbos--Halachos of Shabbos Series. Of course, one must consult with his own Rav or Posek for a final p’sak:


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


1.  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 persons 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.


2.  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.


3. 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. 


B.  We provide below several Halachos taught by Rabbi Shlomo Pearl, Z’tl, relating to practical applications of Hilchos Bishul. As always, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek as to final p’sak in his particular situation or circumstance:


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. 



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


A. In the Parasha, Yaakov Avinu pledges that whatever he is given, he will take Ma’aser from. The Divrei Siach brings that HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita was asked the following question: Shimon owes money to Reuven, and is not paying him. Reuven does not want Shimon to be held accountable for gezel, and does not want to be involved in a machlokes with Shimon. Accordingly, for purposes of Shalom, he wants to waive the loan and deduct it from his Ma’aser obligation. Can he do so? HaRav Kanievsky answered that if one realizes that he cannot collect on a debt due to him, he cannot deduct it from Ma’aser.


B.  At the outset of the Parasha, 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 Avrohom and Yitzchok?  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 Avrohom Avinu who was known to all!


C. The Pasuk (Bereishis 29:1) teaches: “Vayisa Yaakov Raglav--and Yaakov lifted his feet.” Rashi comments that Yaakov felt especially good over the Besora Tova that he has received. We should appreciate the lesson of how important it is to relate Besoros Tovos to others, and additionally, to make people feel good!


D.  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--after all, was he not listening to his mother by not coming home until she called for him?  HaRav Kanievsky 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!


E.  Rashi (Bereishis 28:17) explains that Yaakov Avinu came back to the place of the Beis 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?!” HaRav Kanievsky teaches that we learn from here that one should daven in a place that a Tzaddik davened, and that it is a segulah to daven in a place where Tefillos previously had been accepted. 


F.  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!?  On this point, HaRav Kanievsky teaches 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!


G. Lavan told Yaakov (Bereishis 29:14): “Ach Atzmi U’vesari Attah--you are my ‘flesh and blood’--and Yaakov stayed with him for a month. If Lavan can say this--all the more so, must we consider our relatives--of whom the Navi expressly exclaims (Yeshaya 58:7): “U’Mibesarcha Lo Tisalam.”--do not hide yourself from your kin!


H. The name Yissocher is not pronounced Yissoscher. The Chazon Ish told the Ba’al Kriyah in his Shul, however, to lein it Yissoscher only in Parashas Vayeitzei. HaRav Kanievsky explains that a possible reason for this could be that Yissoscher gave a Shin in his name to his son Yov--so that his name would be changed to Yashuv, a more appropriate for him (as Yov was the name of an Avodah Zara at the time). Once he had given over the Shin after the events of this week’s Parasha, we refer to him as Yissocher--without the Shin.


I. We find that Yissocher is born before Zevulun. Zevulun’s great zechus is in supporting Torah--but Torah has to come first, in order for it to be supported. The Sefer Toldos Shimshon by HaRav Shimshon Chayim (B’R Nachman Michoel) Nachmani, Z’tl, writes that although the world stands on three things--Torah, Avodah and Gemilas Chasodim--we must remember that Torah comes first, for from Torah comes everything else. It may be the role of some to support Torah, and the role of yet others to be Gomel Chesed--but Torah Jews have the study of Torah as the priority! Hakhel Note: It is reported that HaRav Aharon Leib Shteinman, Shlita, has advised the Jews of France to strengthen themselves in Talmud Torah, and not to be afraid, for Chazal teach [as studied this past week in the Daf Yomi] the Torah is Meigin U’matzil--will protect him from future harm.


J. Upon reaching Yaakov, Lavan complains to him, Vatignov Osi (Bereishis 31:27). Literally, you have stolen me. Rashi explains that this means ‘Ganavta Es Da’ati’--you tricked me, or you deceived me. The lesson is a great one--when one tricks or deceives another--it is so severe that it is as if he has stolen him himself!


K. After all of Lavan’s complaints about Yaakov running away from Lavan, and of not allowing him to kiss his children, and say ‘Good bye’ to them, the Pasuk records that Vayashkeim Lavan Baboker--the next morning, Lavan got up early to leave. His actions were clearly not in-synch with his words. A person’s true feelings and true priorities can best be seen not by what he says--but by how he acts. If Tefillah or Torah study is important--would he not make every effort to be among those who ‘turn on the lights’, rather than those ‘who have time’, or who come a few minutes late? If Shemiras HaLashon is important enough--how often does he ask Shailos on the Shemiras HaLashon Shailah Hotline and to others? If giving Tzedakah is important, would one take the initiative of giving even when not asked…? If Lavan got up early in the morning to leave--showing his true essence, we too, have to demonstrate ours!


L.  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 justified. We must take to heart that life and death are in the hands of the tongue--it is not just an adage--it is a fact!


M.  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.  Once again, 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:  As we encounter two Chasunahs in this week’s Parasha, 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 turn down a Kibbud at a Chasunah, except for 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]. Hakhel Note: Each person must consult his own Rav or Posek.



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


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


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


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


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



7 Kislev



If we spent less time 

trying to make this world 

a better place to live in,

and more time 

trying to make ourselves

 better persons to live with

the world would be 

a better place to live in.


(A Candle By Day - S Silverstein)


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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?



PUT YOUR MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS! The Chofetz Chaim spent so much of his life dedicated to helping others avoid Shemiras HaLashon. He obviously wanted the impact of his words to lead us to Moshiach. If a person finds himself generally adhering, or wanting to adhere to the words of the Chofetz Chaim--we may suggest that he put some additional aids in place to assist him with his honored and hallowed goal. One method would be for a person to fine himself if he realizes he spoke or wrote something that was a violation of the laws of Shemiras HaLashon (and perhaps even if it was a ‘gray area’). Supplementing this idea, or perhaps in the alternative, one can pledge bli neder an amount per day to the cause of Shemiras HaLashon (such as The Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation), and give the aggregate amount on a periodic basis. Help bring the Geulah to yourself and to your people!



NOTES ON ANSWERING AMEN YEHEI SHEMEI RABBA! Notes on answering Amen Yehei Shemei Rabbah:


A. The Shulchan Aruch itself writes that one should try to run (‘Lehishtadel Larutz’) in order to hear Kaddish (SA OC 56:1)


B. Answering Amen Yehei Shemei Rabba is a ‘Mitzvah Gedola Me’od’, and takes precedence to answering Kedusha or Modim. (ibid., Mishna Berurah seif katan 6)


C. One should answer Bekol Rom--aloud. The Mishna Berurah writes that this arouses one’s Kavannah and is mevatel gezeiros kashos. (ibid., Mishna Berurah seif katan 5)


Hakhel Note: Experience dictates that looking into and reading the words from a Siddur greatly assist a person’s Kavannah.


D. One should pause between Amen and Yehei Shemei Rabba, just as one pauses after answering Amen before answering Modim D’Rabanan--because the Amen goes on the previous phrase, and Yehei Shemei Rabba (as well as Modim) are new statements. (ibid., Mishna Berurah seif katan 2)


E. If one entered the Shul when the Tzibur was already in the middle of answering and up to Mevorach--he does not answer Amen, but should still recite Yehei Shemei Rabba. (ibid., Mishna Berurah seif katan 9; for further details on other circumstances, see Mishna Berurah there and Dirshu Notes 17, 18 and 19)




Special Note One:  The Chofetz Chaim makes the following powerful points:


1.  When a person looks at his friend, he can see a physical being--human, mortal, frail and insignificant.  All the more so will he take this view if the person has done something negative (especially if that negativity was addressed towards him).  Hashem, however, knows better--for He knows that the root of the Nishmas Yisrael is Gadol VeNorah Ad Me’od.  Indeed, the Zohar writes several times that the source of the Nishmas Yisrael is LeMa’alah BeMakom Norah Ad Me’od.  It is for this reason that Hashem views our importance and loves us--Ad LiMe’od as well! 


2.  When a person judges his friend below, he stands in judgment above as well--so that with one’s very words he decides his own case in Shomayim--the place that counts. 


3.  A person must not only judge his friend favorably--but must use all of his kochos, all of his strength to do so.  One must picture himself as the object of judgment--and as people suspect him of this or accuse him of that--he should imagine how he would deflect and reject their words  with this reason, that rationale, these grounds and those explanations. 


4.  Ultimately, [as the Sefer Mesilas Yesharim writes], our goal is to give Nachas Ruach to Hashem.  A father never wants his child to be looked down upon, degraded, shamed or disgraced.  Hashem is much more than a loving father--He loves us beyond human love.  We must follow suit to the greatest extent possible--with each and every one of His children!



Special Note Two:  In this week’s Parasha, we learn how Yaakov Avinu dealt with business matters--with complete reliance on Hashem. In today’s economic climate, many of us may be faced with financial strain, and be placed in situations in which our honesty and integrity are put to the test--sometimes to a smaller, and sometimes to a larger, extent. We must understand that whatever happens to each one of us on a financial basis is--just as the rest of our lives--Hashgacha Pratis for us, and that if we were meant to lose $3,156.23, that is exactly what we are to lose, or to gain $7,248.99, that is exactly what we are supposed to gain. Of course, even who we lose the money to--or gain the money from--is part of the very same unfathomable Divine Providence.


An important Avodah in these troubled times for us is to understand that everything comes from One Source and Only One Source. If we remember Hashem by reciting Tehillim Chapter 23 before we eat, by reciting Birchas HaMazon with increased Kavannah, and by realizing and appreciating from time to time that every ounce of food, our shelter, our clothing, all comes from Hashem Yisborach.   By understanding and appreciating the relative wealth that we do have, we will move closer to the great accomplishment of a close relationship with Hashem Yisborach.


In order to bring this point home, we remind ourselves of the following popular mashal from the Sefer Orchos Tzadikim in Shaar HaSimcha:


“This may be likened to 100 blind individuals walking one after the other, with each one placing his hand on the shoulder of the one in front of him, with one person who can see at the head of the line leading all in back of him. Everyone on line knows that though he is placing his hand on the shoulder of his friend, and that his friend is in front of him, he is not really being led by his friend. Rather, all are being led by that one man who could see at the head of the line. If this first man would move away...they would all stumble and fall.”


This, the Orchos Tzadikim teaches, is what every thinking person must take to heart. He must realize that HaKadosh Baruch Hu is the Leader, and that we are the people who cannot see following in back. Although we may have our hand on the shoulder of the one in front of us, we may be helped by our “friends” (i.e., bosses, business colleagues, partners, customers and clients, etc.), in fact, no one of these friends could succeed but for Hashem Yisborach at the beginning of the line, Who lovingly, unswervingly, and with limitless omnipotence and omniscience, knows how to lead!


Hakhel Note: If this is so true in the realm of finance, business and money--oh, how true it also is in the realm of talents, capabilities, health…and life itself!



6 Kislev

PEH TAHOR PROGRAM: Rabbi Dov Brezak, Shlita, has now made available a beautiful “Peh Tahor Program”, in which one can instill in his children--in a real and practical way--the importance of appropriate speech. The Program includes a story, questions for discussion and the Peh Tahor Tefillah. (The Peh Tahor discussions and stories should occur at one of the Shabbos meals). To subscribe, one can send an email to Brezakworkshop@gmail.com



IMPORTANT INSTRUCTION FROM THE ROSH! In the Orchos Chaim LaRosh (20), the Rosh instructs: “Yaniach Kol Asakav VeYispallel--one must put to the side all of his business dealings and all matters that could distract him, in order to engage in direct and meaningful prayer to Hashem.” Perhaps, at least before beginning Shemone Esrei, we should think of these four words--”Yaniach Kol Asakav Veyispallel--clearing our heads for the great and comparable opportunity before us!”



EMPOWERING THE FIRST BRACHA: HaRav Herschel Zolty, Shlita brings the G’ra on the first bracha of Shemone Esrei.  The G’ra explains that there are 18 praises of Hashem in the first bracha because the way one begins is a true portend of how things will continue.  If we have Kavannah in the first bracha...our Shemone Esrei can then go places! 


Hakhel Note: Let us begin today in a strong an uncompromising way--not allowing the Yetzer Hara to stick his perverse logic into ruining that Tefillah, missing that learning opportunity, or not performing the Mitzvah as completely as you really can....  Let’s put all 18 Shevachim into today’s beginning Avodos--and be zoche to see its fruits the rest of the year...and beyond!




Special Note One:  In last week’s Parasha, Yitzchok 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 Yitzchok Avinu mean with the phrase ‘see the fragrance’--does one not smell a fragrance?  Rashi teaches that when Yaakov Avinu entered Yitzchok’s presence, he brought with him the Rei’ach of Gan Eden--something which Yitzchok Avinu did not only smell--but sawThere 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 being stabbed on the street and shot at from passing cars, of horrific plans to hurt and kill the young and the old--must make us see beyond the news reports, the press office statements, and the venomous lies and hatred of the murderers, and bring us to the realization that we must act like Yitzchok 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 absurd and 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:  This week, we continue learning of the quality of Emes L’Yaakov.  In fact, the quality of ‘Titein Emes L’Yaakov’ is the Tenth Middah of Hashem, as explained in the Sefer Tomer Devorah:  “and to those who conduct themselves in this world with uprightness, Hashem also conducts towards them with this quality of truth, having mercy on them in a way that is upright and just.  So, too, must a person act towards his fellow in a way that is upright and true, never perverting the justice of his friend.  He should have true mercy on him, just as Hashem has true mercy on his creatures [even of] average stature.  We see from the Tomer Devorah that even Hashem’s truth relates back to the truth--of mercy.  If this is the truth that we seek from Hashem--this is the truth that we should mete out to others!



Special Note Three:  Perhaps one of the most common denominators in our lives over these 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 Shema Vekoli…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 Hashem’s attention.  This appears to contradict the teaching of Chazal:  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 Hashem’s presence pervades the entire world and that Hashem can hear even a whispered plea.  HaRav Tzadok HaKohen, Z’tl (Rosh Hashana 9) explains that when a supplicant has the presence of mind to articulate his requests he need not shout.  However, here, the one reciting Tehillim 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 Yisrael 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 one reciting Tehillim 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 teaches as follows:  “Hashem has already had abundant opportunities to demonstrate His kindness towards K’lal Yisrael, 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 Hashem 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:  Additional Note:  As we have noted several times in the past, 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

HOW TO ANSWER “AMEN YEHEI SHMEI RABBA”: The Mishna Berurah (SA OC 56, seif katan 1) writes that when one responds “Amen Yehei Shemei Rabba”, he should do so not only with full Kavannah, but Bechol Eivarav--with his entire body. Chazal teach that if one does so, then any gezar din against him is torn up. Let us remember--Bechol Eivarav--with our entire body!



QUESTION OF THE DAY: The monumental event of Yaakov Avinu studying at the Bais Midrash of Shem and Bais Midrash of Ever for fourteen years is not mentioned in the Torah Sh’Bichsav at all. Why?



HE DID IT! The Chofetz Chaim writes that after 120 years when a person’s life is replayed, the Phamalyah Shel Ma’alah--tens upon tens of thousands of Heavenly Hosts behold a person’s deeds in this world as his life is reviewed. While the thought of this may be cause enough to prevent a person from speaking Lashon Hara here, words of Ona’as Devarim there, getting into a machlokes with someone, or coming to davening or a Shiur late for no good reason--one should perhaps consider even more that it is not only those tens upon tens of thousands of Malochim viewing a person’s misdeeds--it is Hashem Yisborach Himself!



RETZEI! The last Radak in Sefer Shmuel writes that the mageifa described there occurred because K’lal Yisrael did not sufficiently desire the building of the Bais HaMikdash--as we see clearly that when Dovid HaMelech bought the goren (the threshing floor) from Aravnah as the place upon which the Bais HaMikdash would be built--the mageifa suddenly stopped! The Radak penetratingly continues that if the generation of Dovid HaMelech--the generation which had not yet seen a Bais HaMikdash--was held accountable for not properly yearning for it--all the more so should the generations after a Bais HaMikdash existed--yearn and aspire for it! It is for this very reason, continues the Radak, that Chazal instituted language of true longing in the bracha of RetzeiVeHasheiv Es Ha’avodah L’Dvir Beisecha…Vesechezenah Eineinu Beshuvcha L’Tzion B’Rachamim. Thus with this bracha, Chazal are giving us the opportunity to express and demonstrate what we pine for. Let us make sure that these meaningful and potent words are recited with the feeling that they truly deserve!




Special Note One:  HaRav Mattisyahu Salamon, Shlita, teaches that we do not realize how far-reaching are the consequences of inappropriate behavior “Bein Odom L’Chaveiro”--between man and his fellow man.  Somehow, we associate the Churban Bais HaMikdash, and the failure of the Mashiach to come, with our inadequacies in our direct relationship with Hashem.  However, at the end of the day, HaRav Salomon points out, it was Sinas Chinam--needless ill-will--that caused and continues to maintain, our current state of galus and churban-exile and destruction. This teaching, the Mashgiach demonstrates, is made in this week’s Parasha, when Leah calls her first-born son “Reuven”.  Rashi there explains that Leah, by this name, meant to indicate how one Jew is supposed to act to his brother.  “See,” Leah said, “the difference between Eisav who wanted to kill his brother even though Eisav had actually sold him the birthright-- and my firstborn son Reuven, who actually saved Yosef from the deadly pit, even though Yosef would take away his primogenitor (through the tribes of Ephraim and Menasha) in his place.”  What must distinguish each and every one of us is an ability to excel in care and concern for others--even in the face of hurt and harm that those very people may have caused you.  To forgive, forgo and forget is, in actuality, HaRav Salomon teaches, “the essence of being a Jew.”



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



1. Let us simply review the last four Pesukim of Tehillim Chapter 25--and see how applicable they are to our times.


Re’eih Oyvai Ki Rabu V’Sinas Chamas Sinei’uni--see my foes, they have become many, and they hate me with violent [the English translation of Chamas] animosity.”


Shamra Nafshi V’Hatzileini Al Eivosh Ki Chasisi Vach--protect my soul and rescue me; let me not be ashamed, for I take refuge in You.”


Tam V’Yosher Yitzeruni Ki Kivisicha--perfect innocence and uprightness will guard me, for I hope to You.”


Pedei Elokim Es Yisrael Mikol Tzarosav-- Redeem Yisrael, Hashem, from all of its tzaros.”


Hakhel Note: Let us be careful to associate Tehillim as we recite it to the situation we find ourselves in!


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!”


Hakhel Note: The G’ra on last week’s Parasha notes on the words: “HaKol Kol Yaakov” that the first time the word “Kol” appears it is missing a Vav--so that it can be read: “HaKal Kol Yaakov”--when the voice of Yaakov is not strong enough…when this happens--then it is “HaYadayim Yedei Eisav”. However, when we have Kol with a Vav--our Tefillos and our study of Torah are passionate--then there are no Yadayim of Eisav to speak about!


3.  It may feel a little bit strange going about our daily business when we know how so many of our brethren 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--seeking the words related to Rachmanus--Hashem’s mercy, 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); 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.  As we have noted in the past, 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 bloodshed and hysteria. 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 terrorist acts all around them. One need only compare what happened on foreign soil in one day, to bli ayin hara, the salvations that have occurred in so many terrorist attempts in Eretz Yisrael. However, one death, one injury, and one feeling of hysteria is tremendous yisurin for our entire people. 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!



4 Kislev

“I’M STARVING!”:  A Rav commented:  “After the events at the outset of last week’s Parasha--is this a phrase to be used by a Torah Jew--or by those who follow in the ways of Eisav?!” 



PRE-EMPT TERROR:   We learned last week that it is the voice of Yaakov, rather than his muscle, that will defeat his enemies in war (as we see with the Chashmonaim a little later this month).  If this is true for war, it is also most definitely true for terrorist attacks as well. Three times daily, as part of our personal requests in Shemone Esrei, we plead: “Vechol HaChoshevim Alai Ra’ah Meheira Hofair Atzasam Vekalkel Machashavtam--and for all those who plan evil against me, quickly annul their intent and thwart their plans.”  We certainly can have special Kavannah here for ourselves, for the rest of K’lal Yisrael, and for the world. We can take these few moments during the day to PRE-EMPT TERROR as only our Tefillos can.  Let us bli neder make the commitment to DO OUR PART at this crucial time in world history--in an incredibly real and result-filled way!



NEWS AS HISTORY: In one of the beautiful footnotes in the Artscroll Edition of the Talmud Yerushalmi Mesechta Shevi’is, the Sefer Alei Tamar is quoted as explaining the Pasuk Zechor Yemos Olam (Devarim 32:7) as follows: “Through studying history, one sees how Hashem Yisborach runs the world and how He applies the principles of reward and punishment.” We may add that this is true not only of history--but of ‘today’s history’--the news. One must take care not to ultimately view or explain events--whether major or minor--based upon political, social, economic or any other intellectual, physical, ideological or ‘religious’ consideration. One should never believe a newspaper article’s suggestions or explanations to the contrary--notwithstanding where one may have seen or found the article. Instead, we should be guided by the truth--anything and everything that happens, not only that which happened 1,000 years ago, 100 years ago, or even one year ago--but anything and everything that happened yesterday, is happening today, and will happen tomorrow is Hashem Yisborach running the world! Remember it--and don’t let anyone convince you otherwise!

Hakhel Note: It is certainly a time for us to recognize that our Emunah is being tested--and that we must respond with reciting the Ani Ma’amins with an emphasis on ‘B’Emunah Sheleima’ as we have noted in the past that the Chofetz Chaim himself did!



OZER DALIM!  Hashem helps the impoverished--we recite this phrase prior to our Shacharis Shemone Esrei. to A reader pointed out to us from the Sha’ar HaKavannos: ahl pi kabbalah, that our Kavannah in these words should be that we join together with the Shechina which is also ‘impoverished’ with us in Galus--for the Shechina is now too without a home in this world. We affirm with Emunah Sheleima that together--the Shechina and us--will be brought back to our true and great wealth--and this time--forever!



PRECIOUS POINTS: The following important teachings of HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, are excerpted from last week’s Divrei Siach by Rabbi Yitzchok Goldshtoff, Shlita:


On Brachos:


1. An individual asked HaRav Chaim for a bracha to have Yiras Shomayim. HaRav Chaim responded that this is not accomplished by a bracha--that for this one has to learn Mussar.


2. Another individual asked for a bracha for wealth, because he was in heavy debt. HaRav Chaim gave him a bracha: “Shelo Titztareich L’Ashirus--that he should not need wealth!”


3. HaRav Chaim writes in his Sefer Orchos Yosher that one who is careful not to lie will have all the brachos he gives fulfilled--for just as he is careful not to be meshaker so too in Shomayim will they be careful that all he says is true as well--by fulfilling his bracha!


On Tefillah:


1. For the Ruchniyus of one’s children, there is no other eitzah in the world other than Tefillah.


2. When a plumber came to his apartment to repair something--HaRav Chaim asked him how he davens for his parnassah on Rosh Hashana. The plumber was silent. HaRav Chaim told him that he should daven that if a person had a gezeirah for tza’ar and yisurim--it should instead be fulfilled though a pipe bursting--so that everyone would benefit.


3. Many people asked HaRav Chaim what to strengthen themselves in--and he often responds: “L’Hispalel”--for there is no better eitza and hishtadlus than Tefillah! HaRav Chaim advises that every Tefillah helps, and no person returns empty handed from his Tefillah.


4. A woman was waiting to hear positive results regarding a medical test--what should she accept upon herself in the interim. HaRav Chaim responded that she should add an additional Tefillah to what she had previously been accustomed to.


5. It is brought in Shulchan Aruch that one should give Tzedaka before davening, and some do so before reciting the words: “V’Ata Moshel BaKol” [as we had recently noted]. What if one does not have on money on his person at Shacharis time? HaRav Chaim responded that he has this question from time to time--and it is for this reason that he segregates a sum of money and has Kavannah to be mezake from it a peruta for tzedaka every morning before Tefillah.



MAKING OTHERS HAPPY! How does one make others happy? Chazal (Ta’anis 22A) teach that Eliyahu HaNavi showed Rebbi Beroka two men who were Mezuman L’Chayei Olam Haba. The reason for this was that they were Semeichim U’Mesamchim B’nei Adam--they were happy and made others happy. It is evident that in order to make others happy--one must first be happy himself!




Special Note One:  From the Sefer Toldos Shimshon by HaRav Shimshon Chayim (B’R Nachman Michoel) Nachmani, Z’tl: In the first bracha of Shemone Esrei, we exclaim that Hashem is HaGadol HaGibor VeHaNorah--these are the shevachim we are allowed to say, even though the shevachim of Hashem are truly limitless (and it would be otherwise disrespectful to mention any--which could be mistakenly taken to mean that that they are limited)--because Moshe Rabbeinu specifically mentions these three shevachim in the Torah itself (Devorim 10:17). The meforshim explain that HaGadol corresponds to Avrohom Avinu and the Middah of Chesed; HaGibor corresponds to Yitzchok Avinu and the Middah of Avodah--Service of Hashem; and HaNorah corresponds to Yaakov Avinu and the Torah.  Chazal teach that because of the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash and our exile, Yirmiyahu removed the word Norah from our Tefillos, and Doniyel removed the word Gibor--but that the Anshei K’nesses HaGedola re-inserted them. Why did they re-insert them--what made them overturn the decisions of none other than Yirmiyahu and Doniyel? As the Middos relate to Hashem Himself, Chazal teach that the fact that K’lal Yisrael is able to survive--a sole sheep among seventy wolves--shows Hashem’s unfathomable Gevurah, and the fact that He is able to allow akum (now Arabs) to prance on the Makom HaMikdash shows us Hashem’s unimaginable Nora’us.  HaRav Nachmani teaches that the re-insertion of these Middos also relate to us--even if our service of Hashem is currently incomplete without Karbanos (HaGibor--Avodah), and even if our Torah study cannot be at its highest level without a Bais HaMikdash which allows us to reach our potential (HaNorah--Torah)--we nevertheless mention these Middos in order to demonstrate that we know what we must do on our end to keep the world going (Avos 1:2)--the Nora’us of Torah and Gevurah in the service of Hashem--which, even for the moment without a Bais HaMikdash--must be done to the best of our ability!



Hakhel Note Two:  On the topic of Tefillah, there are two items we recite in Shacharis which are the Retzon Hashem--what Hashem wants. The two are: (1) In the second Halleluka (Tehillim 147) Rotzeh Hashem Es Yerei’av Es HaMeyachalim LeChasdo--Hashem wants those who fear Him, those who yearn for His Kindness, and (2) The fifth bracha of Shemone Esrei-- HaRotzeh BisShuva--Who wants repentance. Observation:  We should remember the words of Chazal (Avos 2:4) Asei Retzono Kirtzonecha...treat His will as your own will--so that He will treat your will as if it were His will.  If we can only focus on the two items above that Hashem wants this month...perhaps THIS KISLEV we will be zoche to what we all want--new and everlasting Yeshuas Yisrael! All you have to do--is your part!



1 Kislev

TODAY!  To put things in their proper perspective, today, Rosh Chodesh, is the fortieth day from Hoshana Rabbah (i.e., the same distance traveled between Rosh Chodesh Elul and Yom Kippur).  It is also a full two months since Rosh Hashana.  To reiterate our point of earlier in the week, it is the time for us to evaluate and re-evaluate our kabalos, goals and accomplishments thus far--and make the great part of the year ahead of us--just that--great!


Hakhel 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 Esav as portended by this week’s Parasha, took place on our calendar perhaps today and certainly in the days just ahead.  In this week’s Parasha, we learn how powerful our Tefillos really are and can be in extricating ourselves from truly painful and difficult situations. Learning the lessons from the Parasha is such an important goal and accomplishment for us--especially applying them to our times and our situations in life. If we can take the lesson of the incomparable powerful of Tefillah--and especially infuse them with special pleas for Yeshua during this month--we may be able to bring ourselves over the top.  Yeshua is definitely not an insurmountable task--especially for a generation so befuddled by the admixture of terrorism, technology and turmoil that surrounds us. A very simple place we can begin is with the words “Ki Lishuasecha Kivinu Kol HaYom” (we await Your salvation every day) in Shemone Esrei.  We have often heard that ‘Yeshuas Hashem 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!



VOLUNTARY PREPARATION:  As we know, we are required to prepare for Pesach by studying its Halachos 30 days in advance, and according to many Poskim, the same is true for Sukkos and Shavuos. The Dirshu Edition of the Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 429, Dirshu Note 1) writes that the same is not true for Chanukah--and one is not required to study its Halachos in the preceding month. This means that when in preparation for Chanukah we do delve into the 15 Simanim of Hilchos Chanukah in Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 670-684)--we are doing so on a voluntary basis--and hopefully L’Sheim Shomayim! Enjoy!




Special Note One:  We continue with our Erev Shabbos--Halachos of Shabbos Series. Of course, one must consult with his own Rav or Posek for a final p’sak:


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, care 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. 



Special Note Two:  Several lessons from this week’s Parasha, Parashas Toldos:


A.  The Pasuk teaches:  “Vayisrotsitsu HaBanim Bekirba--the boys agitated within her.”  Rivka, as a result, exclaimed--”If this is the case, why am I?”, and she then went to inquire of Shem as to what was really taking place.  HaRav Yoshe Ber Soloveitchik, Z’tl, 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 going on that was not right --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 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 and overriding  duty and obligation.  What a powerful lesson!


B. When Rivka inquired of Shem as to just exactly what was happening within her, Shem concluded with the words “VeRav Ya’avod Tza’ir--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!


C.   Rabbi Moshe Goldberger, Shlita, makes the following great observation:  ”Of all parts of Eisav’s body, why did Yaakov grab hold of Eisav’s heel?  We can suggest that it is to teach us a secret of greatness--hold on to those things that others may be stepping on!”


D.  HaRav Aryeh Malkiel Kotler, Shlita (whose Zeide--HaRav Aharon Kotler, Z’tl’s, Yahrzeit is tomorrow--see Special Note Five below), teaches the importance of the description of Yaakov Avinu in the Torah as a “Yoshev Ohalim--one who dwells in tents” (Bereishis 25:27).  After all, the Torah’s description of Yaakov focuses on his difficulties with Lavan, with Eisav, and with Mitzrayim, his encounters and his travels, and does not appear to spend even one precious word describing his Torah studies.  How could this be so?  In fact, however, Yaakov was the true “dweller of tents” because he took his Torah teachings wherever he went and in every situation that he encountered.  This is why the Torah does not state that he dwelled in a “house”--but in a “tent”--through the many sojourns of Galus.  A tent of Torah is not transient--it is impregnable and unconquerable by Eisav--and that is how it will remain until our final Geulah.


E.  The Torah’s first description of Eisav’s evil relates to the way he spoke and ate.  Eisav tells Yaakov “HaLiteni Na--pour into me now some of that very red stuff…” thus, it appears, that the early warning sign of Eisav’s evil related to his mouth--what came out of it and how he put things into it.  Below are some additional lessons, based upon the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 167 and 170:


1. One should not stare at someone or look at his food while he is eating.


2. One should not drink an entire cup in one gulp. Hakhel Note:  As we have noted in the past, it has become a matter of custom for people to drink from all size water and juice bottles, both at the table and in public. Even if this is society’s norm, it may be that society around us does not effuse the level of Kedusha that we do into our daily needs such as eating.  Would you drink from a bottle (any size) in front of a King?


3. One should not bite from a piece of bread and put the remaining bread on the table.


4. If you are a visitor, wait to be served; do not ask to be served.


5. The older person at the table should be served first, or take his portion first.


F.  HaRav Avigdor Miller, Z’tl, teaches that not all deceit is to be frowned upon.  In his incisive and insightful way, he teaches:  “You should deceive your mate all his or her life and make them think that they got the very best thing in the world!”


G.   We provide the splendidly meaningful words of Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita, as he comments on the final Pesukim of the Parasha in his classic Sefer Love Your Neighbor: 

VaYikrah Yitzchok El Yaakov VaYivarech Oso, VaYitzavehu VaYomer Lo, Lo Tikach Isha M’Binos Canaan (Bereishis 28:1)--and Yitzchok 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 Yitzchok the most effective way of admonishing others.  Before Yitzchok warned his son Yaakov what not to do, he blessed him.  Often, you will not be able to correct someone by shouting at him.  (Even if you are successful, you will have hurt the other person’s feelings, and will have caused ill will.)  But if you show a person first that you truly care about his welfare, he will much more readily listen to your advice or admonition (HaChofetz Chaim, Volume 3, p. 1114).”


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



Special Note Three:  Do you like sushi?  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.  As we see from the Pasuk, this was a thought-through decision of ‘Lama Zeh Li Bechora--man’s end is death and so the pleasures of Olam Hazeh shall be my focus and that of my descendants’.  To be sure, after Eisav ate and for the ensuing 45 years until it became an issue again at the time of the Birchas Yitzchok, 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 Esav Es HaBechora.  By selling the Bechorus for ‘Edom’--he demonstrated what was important to him--and “Ish Lefi Mehallelo---a man is defined by where he puts his priorities”.  That being said, a person must think about, must consider, what he is exchanging Torah or Mitzvos for when he takes away time from learning or from performing a Mitzvah that he could have otherwise performed.  If it is for ‘toys’, ‘candy’, or the like, then he is showing that he considers them to be more important---and if that is the case--who knows what he should be called!  We must demonstrate our proper value of the right things--by being careful and taking steps not to waste our most precious personal commodity--time--with the Edom-like enticements of this world.  Why be called ‘sushi’--when you can be called a Ben Torah!



Special Note Four:  In this week’s Parasha we learn of the special emphasis and significance placed in the Torah on receiving brachos from others--especially from a parent and/or a great person.  We once again provide several important reminders from the Sefer Pele Yoetz relating to the giving and receiving of brachos from other people:


A. .Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, teaches in Mishlei (22:9) “Tov Ayin Hu Yevorach...” Chazal (Sotah 38B) teach that this Pasuk alludes to the fact that one with a good eye always gives brachos to other people.  The one who blesses others will, in fact, also be blessed himself, as the Pasuk also teaches (Bereishis 12:3): “Va’Avorecha Me’Varachecha--I will bless those who bless you!”


B.  One gives Nachas Ruach to Hashem by blessing others, and if the bracha is successful and produces results, one has performed a special act of Chesed to that person.  In fact, some Poskim allow one to give a bracha to his friend even if it is immediately before he makes a bracha to Hashem (such as on a food item), because it is considered an honor to Hashem as well to bless another person!  The Zohar, however, teaches that before blessing another person he should first bless Hashem (such as by reciting “Yisborach Shemo Shel HaKadosh Baruch Hu”) as the Source of all bracha.


C.  One should not be tightfisted in giving brachos, as Shlomo HaMelech teaches (Mishlei 3:27) “Al Timnah Tov…--do not withhold good from the one who needs it, when you have the power in your hand to do it.”


D.  Likewise, one should always be mishtadel to receive brachos, as Chazal teach (Rus Rabba 7:15) “Were it not for the brachos that the elderly women gave to Na’ami--there would never have been a Bais Dovid!”


E.  One should also seek brachos from the poor and indigent, for Hashem listens to their calling.


F.  One should especially desire and seek brachos from Talmidei Chachomim and Tzaddikim, because their bracha is ‘kerova lehiskayeim--close to being fulfilled.’  In any event, continues the Pele Yoetz, Hashem will bless this person directly, because in seeking their brachos, he demonstrates his esteem for Torah and Tzaddikim!



Special Note Five: Tomorrow, Shabbos Kodesh, 2 Kislev, is the 53rd 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 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”. HaRav Aharon is undisputedly one of the towering figures in rebuilding Jewry in America (and ergo the world) after Churban Europe. We provide below just a sampling 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 the impressed person sitting next to you on the bus or plane)--all of this accrues to your merit.  Chas V’Shalom, 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 Avrohom 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.  Avrohom 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, Avrohom 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 Avrohom 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 Avrohom Avinu--and don’t those in front of us need our help!


3. A close talmid of HaRav Aharon in Lakewood (now a senior Rav himself) related to us that HaRav Aharon would always emphasize the fact that a person must be a misbonein--one who seriously contemplates his actions.  It is not in vain that the Sefer Mesilas Yesharim, when instructing a person on how to acquire a particular character trait, would often teach that one should be misbonein regarding that trait.  If one was truly misbonein, for instance, about ridding himself of anger, then when an anger-inspiring event would arise he would have been trained to first be misbonein before getting angry.  Serious and sincere reflection, then, is the secret to improving all Middos.


4. The following is described in Bimchitzasam, the two-volume work on gedolim of our generation by Rabbi Shlomo Lorincz, Shlita:  “HaRav Kotler held that the greatest Chesed that one could do with another was a Chesed Ruchni--spiritual Chesed, whether it be assisting a person to learn, or any other proper spiritual influence.  As Rav Kotler put it, “Torah is life--is there any greater Chesed than giving life to another?!



30 Marcheshvan

BEAUTIFUL HEIGHTS IN BEIN ADAM L’CHAVEIRO: For a wonderful lesson from the Chazon Ish (Sefer Emunah U’Bitachon) on how elevated and pure one’s Bein Adam L’Chaveiro can be, we urge you to review (and review again!) the following link:  http://tinyurl.com/nc2vawb



A GEM FROM YESTERDAY’S YARCHEI KALLAH: Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, raised the following question from the Chasam Sofer: Why was the akeida more of a nisayon for Avrohom Avinu than it was for Yitzchok Avinu? After all, it would be Yitzchok’s life that would be sacrificed. The Chasam Sofer answers that nisayon in a person’s life is identified by Hashem taking away the sense of connection that one has with Him--when a person could feel distant, dark, unloved--a sad situation of Hester Panim. Passing a nisayon means overcoming darkness. Although Avrohom Avinu was asked by Hashem to sacrifice his son and successor, the Torah records: “Vayar Es HaMakom Meirachok”--which can be understood to mean that Avrohom saw Hashem [HaMakom] even though he seemed so far away. It is fascinating to note that when Hashem, at the outset of Parashas Ha’akeida called to Avrohom He mentioned the name Avrohom only once (Bereishis 22:1). After Avrohom Avinu passed the test, the Malach called out to him (Bereishis 22:11): “Avrohom, Avrohom”, the repeating of the name being, as Rashi teaches, a sign of closeness and endearment. Let us take a step back. We are now in our nisayon of the longest galus--a period of the darkness of Eisav and now Yishmael cast upon us. We are downtrodden and despised by the world, who deride us and discriminate against us. It is our job to demonstrate that we are children of Avrohom Avinu, and cast aside this abnormal Hester Panim darkness--so that we too can in our lifetimes witness the culmination of “Avrohom, Avrohom”--the clear and loving endearment which concluded Avrohom Avinu’s last nisayon--and which will conclude ours!


Hakhel Note: For CD’s of yesterday’s Yarchei Kallah or past Hakhel Yarchei Kallahs, please call: 718-252-5274.



IT’S WORTH IT! The Rabbeinu Yonah (Igeres HaTeshuvah 111) writes that one who does not properly guard his eyes actually injures his Yetzer Hatov, and his personal being, in an irreparable way (see Sanhedrin 92A). On the contrary, one who practices Shemiras Ha’Einayim will merit, Midda K’negged Midda will merit to gaze upon the Noam Hashem. Indeed, Chazal teach: “Kol Hakoveish Einav Min Ha’arayos Zoche U’Mekabel Penei Hashechina.” The basis for this potent teaching is none other than the words of the Navi himself (Yeshaya 33:15,17) with the words: “V’Otzem Einav Meri’os Berah…Melech B’yafyo Techezenah Einecha--[when one] shuts his eyes from seeing evil…his eyes will behold the King in His splendor!”


Hakhel Note: Shemiras Ha’Einayim is not only a summer exercise--we can be a great source of nachas to Hashem and ourselves in the winter as well!





1.  We find that Yitzchok 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 Yitzchok went up from there to Be’er Sheva!  Why did Yitzchok 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 Parasha--which one and why?


3.  At the end of the Parasha, 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 Seir VeChosno)?!




Special Note One:  Several questions on the Parasha, and the answers of HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, as published in the Divrei Siach, by Rabbi Yitzchok Goldshtaff, Shlita, and the Sefer Ta’ama D’Kra:


QUESTION: At the outset of the Parasha we learn that Eisav asked Yaakov for the ‘very red stuff’. The Pasuk then records that Yaakov gave him bread. Why did he give him bread if he did not ask for it?

ANSWER: There is a machlokes in the Gemara (Brachos 38B) as to what bracha to make on cooked vegetables. Although the Halacha is that one makes a Borei Pri Ha’adama--Yaakov Avinu did not want to get himself or Eisav involved in a Machlokes--so he gave him bread to avoid the shailah! Hakhel Note: It would appear from here that a person who provides or serves food to others has an obligation to clarify the appropriate bracha before serving the food item.


QUESTION: How could Yitzchok have eaten from the shechitah of Eisav if he was a mumar?

ANSWER: Chazal (Eruvin 69A) teach that if one is embarrassed to do an aveirah in public in front of someone, then he is not a mumar--and here Eisav was embarrassed to do aveiros before Yitzchok.


QUESTION: What do we learn from the Pasuk (Bereishis 46:7), recording that Vayishma Yaakov El Aviv V’El Imo --and Yaakov listened to his father and to his mother, and went to Padan Aram?

ANSWER:  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 Kibud Av, and a second one of Kibud 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!


Hakhel Note One: When one brings a glass of tea to each of his parents, or visits them, or separately quotes them--his Mitzvos abound!


Hakhel Note Two: A benefit in Bentsching, which shouldn’t be minimized, is the opportunity to be mekayaim the mitzvah of Kibud Av V’Aim, in the section where we ask that our parents be blessed!


Hakhel Note Three: The Pele Yoetz (Chapter on Brachos) brings the Midrash that “all of the good and the power that Eisav’s descendants possess come from the importance he attached to his father’s brachos when he cried out bitterly and said ‘Borcheini Gam Ani Avi.’“ Accordingly, the Peleh Yoetz writes, one should go out of his way to receive brachos from his parents because, besides the fact that these brachos are closer to being fulfilled because they come from the heart, one also fulfills the mitzvah of Kibud Av V’aim for which he will be rewarded.  We should treasure and seek these irreplaceable brachos!


QUESTION:  At the end of the Parasha, 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 Seir VeChosno)?!

ANSWER: We could not have learned it out from the marriage such as Yitzchok and Rivka because they had no sins to be forgiven--even if they had sinned in some small way, they would have done Teshuvah immediately. Accordingly, we must learn it out from someone who clearly had sins to be forgiven!



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



29 Marcheshvan

WHAT WAS REALLY MEANT: Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, makes 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 explains that HaRav Shlomo Zalmen was making it clear to his talmid that disagreements are 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.



AN AMAZING FACT! If a boy was born on Rosh Chodesh Kislev in a year in which there is only one day of Rosh Chodesh for the month, and his Bar Mitzvah year has two days of Rosh Chodesh Kislev--he becomes Bar Mitzvah on the first day of Rosh Chodesh! (SA OC 55 Mishna Berurah seif katan 45)





1. The reason that Avrohom Avinu is referred to in the Torah as Av Hamon Goyim is because he taught the whole world Emunas Hashem. (SA OC 53 Mishna Berurah seif katan 50)


Hakhel Note: To the world around us we can follow suit…in name…and in deed!


2.  The reason Pesukei D’Zimra is referred to by this name is because external forces (kelipos) attempt to stop Tefillah from rising upward, and with Pesukei D’Zimra (Zimra meaning cutting) they are cut down. It follows then, that if one talks during Pesukei D’Zimra he is sent back as a representative of the Jewish people in a time of milchama. How important it is for us not to speak during Pesukei D’Zimra. (SA OC 54 Mishna Berurah seif katan 5, explaining one of the instances of return from milchama described in Devorim 20:8)


3. It is better to allow someone who you feel is not hagun to daven, if a machlokes will result as to who should daven. Moreover, the Chasam Sofer rules that if someone davened when another should have davened instead, the Tefillah will nevertheless be a benefit for the neshama of the person who should have benefited. (SA OC 581 Mishna Berurah seif katan 11, and Chasam Sofer SU’T Chasam Sofer Yoreh Deah 345, both as quoted in SA OC 53, Dirshu Note 72)



REMEMBERING THE MUMBAI KEDOSHIM: As may be known to you, today is the seventh 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 Yisrael-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!


Hakhel Note: At a Hakhel gathering at that time in memory of the Mumbai Kedoshim, HaRav Shmuel Dishon, Shlita, pointed out that the kedoshim were killed in the week of Parashas Toldos.  The Parasha, in one Pasuk, remarkably teaches us both the proper and improper reaction to the tragedy.  The Pasuk states “VaYazed Yaakov Nazid--and Yaakov prepared a stew,” and Eisav came in from the field and he was exhausted (Bereishis 25:29).  Chazal teach that Avrohom Avinu, the Gadol HaDor, was just taken from this world, and, in the aftermath of his passing, Yaakov Avinu prepared a Seudas Havra’ah to comfort and to give chizuk for his father Yitzchak, understanding that Avrohom’s Petira was HaKadosh Baruch Hu’s will, and that it would be up to those remaining to carry on what Avrohom Avinu represented and stood for.  Eisav, on the other hand, was exhausted from the gross aveiros that he committed upon hearing of Avrohom’s passing, responding to the tragedy with despair and dejection.  This is a great lesson to all of us in these last years of exile.  Our reaction to the tragic events that occur in Galus prior to our ultimate Yeshuah should not, c’v be of a weakening in Emunah, a “there’s nothing you can do” attitude, a ye’ush, a disregard of what happened as if it were not a message from Hashem.  Rather, our conduct should be like that of Yaakov Avinu, strengthening our Emunah and embracing and strengthening the sacred trust that we have in these turbulent times.




Special Note One:  As we reach the milestone of Yom Kippur Katan Kislev today--the first Yom Kippur Katan of 5776--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 Rebbe 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!


Hakhel Note: The following important points in the Teshuvah process are excerpted from The Power of Teshuvah An Effective Day-by-Day Guide, by Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, Shlita (p. 142):


-Acknowledge that you are solely responsible for the choices in your life.

-Realize that you cannot blame others for the choices that you have made.

-Refuse to indulge in self-pity, but rather, take charge of your life and give it direction and reason.

-Internalize that Hashem equips each person to perfection. If He did not equip you with a certain asset or trait, then that trait cannot help you achieve your potential!



Special Note Two:  Our annual winter reminder: As we enter the winter season (above the Equator), more and more of us will be wearing dark coats and black galoshes and boots, and bringing umbrellas to shuls, simchas and other public places.  The inevitable (well, almost-inevitable) happens:


         My coat is gone and a look-alike with someone else’s name is left in its place!

         Reuven must have taken my boots!

         I took someone else’s umbrella and I won’t be going back to shul until tonight!


HaRav Moshe Feinstein Z’TL (Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 5:9, paragraph 7) provides us with his p’sak in these situations.  His response is beautifully presented by Rabbi Pinchos Bodner, Shlita in The Halachos of Other People’s Money (Feldheim Publishers) page 199:


“If someone found that his coat, hat, rubbers, etc. was mistakenly switched, he is permitted to use the other person’s coat until he can find the owner and switch back.  Although generally one may not use a found item without permission from its owner… when items are switched, it is customary for people not to mind if the other person uses theirs [unless there is reason to believe that the owner would object].  However, if it turns out that the other person did not switch with him, he must ask the owner if he wishes to be compensated for the use of his coat.


Any institution that has a coatroom with a lot of traffic where coats are occasionally switched should, preferably, institute a switched coat policy.  The policy should state that anyone who leaves his coat or other article there, is doing so on condition that if it is switched, each party explicitly agrees in advance to give the other party permission to use the other person’s item.  This policy should be posted on the bulletin board or in the coatroom for all to see.”


We ask that you discuss with your Rav, gabbai, executive director, etc. the possibility of instituting such a policy.  You may save people walking home without a coat, hat, galoshes or the like in the winter weather.  You will certainly feel your own inner warmth in accomplishing this very special Bein Adam L’Chaveiro!


For further reference in this area, see Aruch HaShulchan, Choshen Mishpat 136:2); and the following contemporary Shailos u’Teshuvos:  Shevet HaLevi 6:238, and Teshuvos V’Hanhagos 1:818.



28 Marcheshvan

AT LEAST AS GOOD AS THE GUESTS! We know that Avrohom Avinu, after feeding his guests, would urge them to recognize where the food came from--resulting in a Bracha to Hashem.  Each and every one of us should be no worse than Avrohom Avinu’s guests!  Before making a Bracha over a food item, let us think for a brief moment (just as Avrohom Avinu urged his guests to) that this food is from Hashem and that it is a great kindness for Hashem to give it to me.  Then, begin with a much more meaningful “Boruch…!”



A SERIOUS MATTER:  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.  Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, relates 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!”


Hakhel Note One: Rabbi Reisman surmised that using our mouths in Tefillah was included in seeking the merits of K’lal Yisrael! 


Hakhele Note Two: We provide by the following link a summary review of the seven prerequisites that are necessary in order to relate what would otherwise be considered Lashon Hara http://tinyurl.com/3n7kbk2  You can print it out, cut it into the size of a card, and leave it in your wallet.  On the other side, you can put the following notation:  “Any questions--call the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation Shemiras HaLashon Shailah Hotline. In the United States, the Shailah Hotline’s number is 718-951-3696 and the hours are 9:00 PM-10:30 PM from Sunday through Thursday and Motza’ei Shabbos, and in Europe: HaRav Yaakov Wreschner, Shlita (Manchester) is available between 9:15AM and 10:15AM and between 1:15 and 2:15PM. His mobile number is 07980641399. Dayan Aharon Dovid Dunner, Shlita, is available at 02088008555 (no set hours).


Hakhel Note Three: See additional thoughts in Special Note One below.




Special Note One: Today is the Yahrzeit of the Rabbeinu Yonah (Rabbeinu Yonah B’ R; Avrohom of Gorona). We accordingly provide just a few of his teachings:


1. Chazal (Erchin 15B) teach “Kol Hamisaper Lashon Hara Ke’ilu Kofer BaIkar”, as that Pasuk says: “Asher Amru…Mi Adon Lanu--with our tongue we will prevail, our lips are with us; who is master over us?” (Tehillim 12:5).


2. Chazal (ibid.) also teach that Lashon Hara is the equivalent of the three sins of Avodah Zara, Gilui Arayos and Shefichas Damim combined. How could this be so? The Sha’arei Teshuvah provides three reasons: (i) one who is not careful with his words will repeat his transgression--word by word--several or even many times during the day. After all, it is easy to do, sometimes entertaining, free and not illegal (or perhaps even immoral) by Western standards; (ii) one’s tongue becomes so quick that it is almost as if his tongue induces his thoughts--and not vice versa. Accordingly, one’s Teshuvah is exceedingly difficult because he has trained himself to speak without thinking--and even when he thinks before he speaks, he will let the statement go--as he has done in past practice; (iii) often a person does not see the effects and hurt caused because the party directly affected is not present. Once the Lashon Hara has been released--just as an arrow--one will not know who it hit and where, and it cannot be retrieved. For all the archer knows, he has done nothing. However, he may really be guilty of murder.


3. Remarkably, Shaul HaMelech told Do’eg (who had spoken ill of the people of Nov Ihr HaKohanim): “Sov Attah U’fega BaKohanim--you turn and kill the Kohanim”. (Shmuel I, 22:18) Chazal explain that this means: “You have smitten with your tongue, you should strike with the sword”. Do’eg was made to understand the lesson.


4. Chazal teach that one who relates a p’gam Mishpacha--Ein Lo Kapparah Olamis, can never be forgiven.


5. Although the Torah usually protects in time of danger, it will not protect one who is a ba’al Lashon Hara, and, in fact, such a person is not worthy of studying Torah. When Chazal teach that an aveirah does not extinguish the Torah that one has learned--it only refers to an aveirah that happened in a sporadic way, and not to one who is not careful with his tongue as a matter of course.


6. Chazal teach: “Knesses Yisrael B’Kolah Ahuvah U’V’Kolah Senuah--through its voice K’lal Yisrael is beloved, and through its voice it is despised”. We know the voice of Lashon Hara that is despised--what is the voice that is loved? It is the voice that speaks Divrei Torah, Chochma, Mussar, peace among people, the view of people in a positive light, praising goodness, deprecating evil and defending the truth. With this, one can achieve his potential in life.



Special Note Two:  In last week’s Parasha we find an extraordinary dialogue between Avrohom Avinu and Efron.  Rashi (Bereishis 23:10) explains that this Efron had been a commoner, but suddenly took on importance because Avrohom Avinu , the “Nesi Elokim”--the recognized Prince of Hashem --needed to deal with him.  Rather than show his appreciation to Avrohom 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?  Avrohom 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 Avrohom Avinu, which we, as his descendants must most certainly endeavor to emulate.  When Avrohom 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 Avrohom 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 Avrohom 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 Avrohom 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 Avrohom Avinu in the Parashios 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’Avrohom’ can and should most certainly live within us in our daily life!



Special Note Three: We learn of Eliezer’s trip to and from Aram Naharayim. We most certainly he would have recited Tefillas HaDerech both to and from, notwithstanding that he was a Shaliach Mitzvah. We provide the following reminders relating to Tefillas HaDerech, as excerpted from the Dirshu Edition of the Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 110). As always, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek regarding a final p’sak in his particular facts or circumstances:


A.  The Mishna Berurah (seif katan 19) brings that although Tefillas HaDerech is expressed mostly Belashon Rabbim--in the plural, the words ‘Us’naini lechain’ should remain in the singular (it is not a mistake in the Siddurim)!.  The Magein Avrohom explains that the reason we use the plural is because “it is not possible that there is not a traveler somewhere else in the world at the same time whom you can pray for as well and which thereby causes your Tefillah to be more accepted--and the reason for the unique switch to the singular for one word  is al pi sod.


B.  It is possible that one can be yotzei Tefillas HaDerech on a bus through a microphone?  Although the Minchas Yitzchak and HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl do not allow it, it is brought in the name of the Chazon Ish and Igros Moshe that one perhaps could be yotzei. Accordingly, one must consult with his Rav.  Additional Note:  Even if one can be yotzei in this way, many Poskim (including HaRav Shmuel Vozner, Z’tl, and yblch’t HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita hold that because Tefillas HaDerech is a  Bakashas Rachamim--a request for mercy--it should preferably be recited by each individual separately.  Additionally, if one is going to be yotzei with someone else, HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, rules that it should be someone who is still obligated to recite the Tefillah--and not someone who was already yotzei and just reciting it for you.


C.  If one began reciting Tefillas HaDerech by heart and realizes that he does not remember the exact Nusach--HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, rules that if he mentions in his Tefillah a request for :”Hatzlachaso Vehatzalaso Mipegah Ra” --then he can conclude the bracha, even if he did not recite the remainder of the Nusach correctly.


D.  The Mishna Berurah (seif katan 20) rules that one must take his Tallis and Tefillin with him whenever he is Yotzei Laderech--even if the place he is traveling to is close and he intends to return the same day.  [HaRav Kanievsky learns that this does not include a trip within a city--but it otherwise includes short trips.]  The Mishna Berurah strongly writes that one who does not follow his ruling has an “Avon Gadol” on his hands--as he may very well end up having to wear someone else’s Tefillin which don’t fit properly or daven after the zeman.


E.  For trips on a boat which are longer than one day, one should consult with his Rav as to the recitation of Tefillas HaDerech every day--although in other circumstances Tefillas HaDerech is generally required every morning of a journey.



Special Note Four:  Since last week’s Parasha 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 Parasha, 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 Lavan 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

EXTREMELY MEANINGFUL MESSAGE: “There is no lifestyle that is as beautiful, fulfilling and joyful as a Torah lifestyle. It is our responsibility to convey this truth to others by the way we conduct ourselves. To give the impression that because we are Torah observant we are deprived in some way is a disgrace to Hashem’s Name and is the height of ingratitude. Conversely, when an observant Jew radiates genuine happiness with his lot in life, this brings glory to Hashem and His Torah.” (Excerpted from Let There Be Rain: A Lesson a Day on Making Gratitude a Part of Our Lives, by Rabbi Shimon Finkelman and Rabbi Zechariah Wallerstein)



IMPORTANT REMINDER! YOUR FIRST BRACHA IN THE MORNING: For most, the first bracha they will recite in the morning, is the bracha of Ahl Netilas Yadayim. The Sha’ar HaKavanos writes that there are thirteen words in this bracha, corresponding to the thirteen Middos of Rachamim from Hashem. Have this in mind…a tefillah for Hashem’s mercy…as you start your day!



QUOTE OF THE DAY:  “Tzarich Ha’oseik BaTorah Sheyilmod Mikol Adam--one who is [truly] involved in Torah must learn from everyone…”. (Sefer Tomer Devorah, by HaRav Moshe Cordovero, Z’tl, Chapter 8)




Special Note One:  The following thought 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.” (Bereishis 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 parashios 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 Two:  We learn that Yitzchok Avinu was consoled after the passing of his mother (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 De’ah 376:2) importantly tells us what one should not say. “Do not say, however, ‘What can one do, one cannot change what happened,’ for that is not consolation but blasphemy.”  The Aruch HaShulchan (ibid., at paragraph 5 ) explains that making such a statement implies that you must resign yourself to what happened against your will, rather than comforting the mourner with words of faith, with words that Hashem loves us all and that only He, in His infinite wisdom knows what is best.  HaRav Shamshon Refoel Hirsch, Z’TL, echoes this thought and adds that it “is the murmuring of the helpless against his helplessness, not the recognition of the blessed wisdom of G-d” (Horeb page 433, cited in Love Your Neighbor, page 93). HaRav Feivel Cohen, Shlita, in 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.



Special Note Three: This week’s Parasha continues with the Chesed of Avrohom in Halvayas HaMais--showing the proper respect in burial. What more can we, Avrohom’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 descendants, 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 Yisrael 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 Four:  Several additional points and pointers on Parashas Chayei Sara:


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


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


C.  In the Divrei Siach, Rabbi Yitzchok Goldshtaff, Shlita brings from HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, that a segula to find a shidduch is to daven at a be’er mayim , a well--as we see that the Torah especially records that the Shidduchim of Yitzchok Avinu, Yaakov Avinu and Moshe Rabbeinu all very much involved wells! (See Shemos Rabbah 1:32)


D. Last week, we had posed the question as to why the Torah had to teach us by Eliezer bowing down that we are to give thanks to Hashem over good news. After all, did we not already learn this lesson from Avrohom Avinu at the outset of Parashas Lech Lecha?  We may possibly suggest that Avrohom Avinu was expressing great thanks to Hashem for the goodness that He had given him and his descendants.  Eliezer’s expression of thanks was, however, very different.  He was thanking Hashem for a Besorah Tova for the benefit of another, from which he did not benefit at all.  Indeed, quite to the contrary, because Yitzchok had a wife, Avrohom could have future generations, which meant that Avrohom’s great wealth would not be bequeathed to Eliezer.  Moreover, the fact that Rivka was to become Yitzchok’s wife with certainty now destroyed any hope that Eliezer had for Yitzchok to marry his daughter.  Nevertheless, and despite all of this, Eliezer thanked Hashem for the Besorah Tova--for the good news to another.  Certainly, then, in situations where we hear of the Simcha or good news of a friend we should remember the lesson of Eliezer--and express thanks to Hashem for the good news of another, very much as if it was one’s own!  


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



24 Marcheshvan

A ‘MUST REMEMBER’:  By merely uttering the words ‘I agree’ to one who has just spoken Lashon Hara to you, or in fact even by merely nodding affirmatively to a Lashon Hara comment--makes you both a speaker and an accepter of Lashon Hara.




SWITCH RATHER THAN FIGHT: In this week’s Parasha, we learn that although Avrohom Avinu could have simply ‘taken’ the Me’oras HaMachpeilah as something that was rightfully his--promised to him by Hashem Himself, Avrohom chose not to do so--and paid an exorbitant price instead. We likewise learned in Parashas Lech Lecha that Avrohom Avinu muzzled his animals though the land would be his in the future (an attitude with which Lot disagreed). The Torah is providing us with a great Ma’aseh Avos Lesson--Shalom is worth oh so much more than money--especially when one is dealing with the Umos HaOlam. Standing on principle may be technically just--but, as Avrohom Avinu teaches us, not ultimately worthwhile or correct. Money is finite. Shalom and Kiddush Hashem are infinite.



YOU CAN MAKE THINGS STAND UP!  Also in this week’s Parasha, the Torah records (Bereishis 23:17): “VaYakam Sedei Efron…”--Rashi explains that the Pasuk does not simply record that Avrohom Avinu acquired the field from Efron, but rather that the field was uplifted by Avrohom Avinu purchasing it. The field no longer had a simple, earthly Olam Hazeh kind of existence--but was elevated into a spiritual realm because Avrohom Avinu became the owner of it. As the descendants and heirs of Avrohom Avinu, we too have a similar capability with all of our encounters with Olam Hazeh as well. Whether it be money, food, clothing, furniture, or any of the other ‘pride and joy’ items of Olam Hazeh--we can lift each and every one of them up to a spiritual plane and purpose based upon how we treat them, and what we do with them. Proper brachos over food, clothing that will give nachas to Hashem, furniture which is necessary and not extra or excessive, are but a few of the many examples in our day-to-day life in which we too can create a ‘Vayakam’ on a daily basis in the world at large--uplifting ourselves, and the world along with us!



ONCE AGAIN--FROM ‘OUR AMAZING WORLD’! In order to get a better appreciation of the Chesed of our Avos and what we have to strive for, we remind our readers that the Sefer Our Amazing World by Rabbi Avrohom Katz, Shlita, and Tuvia Cohen, Shlita, writes that a camel drinks more than 34 gallons at one time!  Since Eliezer had 10 camels, this would mean that Rivka as a young girl, supplied more than 340 gallons of water--to Eliezer’s camels alone!


While we are talking about the great Chesed of the Avos and Imahos, we note just one of the millions of Chasodim that Hashem showers upon us, also mentioned in Our Amazing World:


“If all the veins and capillaries that transport blood in an individual would be laid end to end, they would encircle the world twice.  We are talking about a distance of approximately 72,000 miles!”


Thank You Hashem!  Thank You Hashem!



THE POWER OF A BRACHA! We find the bracha (Bereishis 24:60) given by Rivka’s family to her prior to her departure--was a huge bracha that came true!  This is yet another example of how powerful brachos can be--even if they do not come from the best of sources.  All the more so, when the bracha comes from a Talmid Chacham or Tzaddik.  A reminder that one never knows when they may meet a Tzaddik or Talmid Chacham; accordingly, one should always have his thoughts organized as to what brachos he would ask for when the opportunity arises!



QUESTION OF THE WEEK:  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 Avrohom Avinu himself when he was told by Hashem that his descendants would receive Eretz Yisrael (Bereishis 12:7).  Why do we have to learn, or relearn this from Eliezer--the Eved of Avrohom?



PESUKEI D’ZIMRA--HALACHA CLARIFICATIONS: Yesterday, we noted many important Halachos from the Mishna Berurah (Dirshu Edition) relating to Birchos HaShachar and Pesukei D’Zimra. In connection with these Halachos, we add:


1. One must always seek the guidance of his own Rav or Posek for final p’sak in any and all areas.


2. We brought a Dirshu Note that when one is reciting Pesukei D’Zimra one would not answer “Amen” after V’Yatzmach Purkanei. To be clear, the Mishna Berurah does not provide this ruling. It is the ruling of the Igros Moshe (Orach Chaim 4:14). We add that the Igros Moshe also rules that one would not answer “Amen” while reciting Pesukei D’Zimra to the Yehei Shelama Rabba and Oseh Shalom Bimromav portions of Kaddish as well. Once again, the Mishna Berurah itself does not make these distinctions.


3. We brought the Mishna Berurah (Orach Chaim 51, seif katan 13) which provides the areas which are “bein haperakim”. The Mishna Berurah actually lists the areas which are “be’emtzah haperek”--leaving the others areas to be “bein haperakim”. We once again urge our readers to mark off those areas which are “bein haperakim” in their siddur.


4. If one is in the midst of reciting the 15 praises of Hashem contained in Yishtabach (beginning with the words Shir U’Shvacha and ending with the words Brachos V’Hoda’os)--and then answers Yehei Shemei Rabba--he should once again begin with Shir U’Shvacha--so that he does not interrupt the 15 praises of Hashem, and recites them together. (SA OC 53 Dirshu Note 5)


5. The last two words of Yishtabach are Chei Haolamim. This means that Hashem rules over both Olam Hazeh and Olam Habah, and causes them to exist at every moment. (SA OC 54 Mishna Berurah seif katan 2 and Dirshu Note 2)




Special Note One: 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 kaveyachol feels the pain along with the person.  We must accordingly remember the words of Dovid HaMelech in Tehillim (85:10):  “Ach Karov Lireiav 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 this suffering is happening, why it is 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 we will experience the light of Chanukah--may our thoughts, our Tefillos, 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 Two:  We continue with our Erev Shabbos--Halachos of Shabbos Series. Of course, one must consult with his own Rav or Posek for a final p’sak:


A. Erev Shabbos Children’s Alert Reminders from Hatzalah:


1.                  Consult a Rav concerning where to light Shabbos candles when young children are            present.

2.                  Never leave children unattended with burning candles.

3.                  After lighting candles have someone place matches securely away.

4.                  Place the spout of a hot water urn away from counter edge.  Do not use an extension cord            or leave it within child’s reach.

5.                  Children should not be in the kitchen while preparations for Shabbos are being made.

6.                  Start Shabbos preparations early .Last minutes rushing causes hazardous and hectic           situations.

7.                  Never hold a child while drinking hot liquids.

8.                  Take all phones off the hook before bathing children.

9.                  Have all necessary equipment with you before putting your child in a bath .

10.              Never, under any circumstances, leave a child alone in the tub-not even for a moment!       Take the child with you!


B. We provide the following Halachos relating to hotza’ah--carrying on Shabbos:


1. A children’s winter coat may have gloves attached to the sleeves. HaRav Nissim Karelitz, Shlita, rules that a child cannot walk out with the gloves attached without his hands inside of them--for the gloves are not considered a part of the sleeves, and would be considered a masui, unless they are being worn (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 201, Dirshu Note 95).


2. If one’s coat or jacket has a loop which is used to hang it on a hook and the loop is ripped, the Chazon Ish rules that if one intended to fix it, it would be assur to walk out with the jacket or coat on Shabbos. However, if one has decided that he will not fix it, then it would be batel to the coat, and one could walk out with the coat on Shabbos. HaRav Nissim Karelitz, Shlita, adds that if one could fix the broken loop with a safety pin, then it is considered usable on Shabbos and is batel to the beged, and it is permitted to walk out with it on Shabbos (SA OC ibid., Dirshu Note 101).


3. With respect to reserve buttons on his shirt or jacket, HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Z’tl, rules that they are not considered to be a masui, and it is permitted to walk out with them attached to one’s garment on Shabbos because that is their place, and they are specifically sewn there for that purpose--so that they will be available whenever necessary. The reserve buttons are not similar to the broken and unusable loop (described in the last paragraph), as the buttons are only intended to perhaps be used in a different place on the garment in the future . HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, and HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, both agree. (ibid., Note 102)


4. Going out with a hat which could blow off in the wind is problematic. HaRav Nissim Karelitz, Shlita, rules that the hat must be on firmly enough so that when going out it will stay on one’s head if an average wind would blow in that place and at that time of year --whether or not a wind is actually blowing at that time. If, in fact, one goes out when a strong (greater than average) wind is blowing, the hat must be on so firmly, that it will not blow off even in the strong wind (ibid., Dirshu Note 107)


5. Can a woman walk out with a Tallis on? The Magen Avrohom rules that it would be considered Hotza’ah D’Oraysah--for this is not a beged that she wears. The Mishna Berurah notes that there are those who disagree with the Magen Avrohom. (SA OC, Mishna Berurah seif katan 158)


6. Finally, can one wear a gartel out of shul to his home on Shabbos? HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, rules that one can simply not place it over his regular belt, but one can wear it on the outside of his jacket where it has some utility. The Az Nidbiru (HaRav Binyomin Zilber, Z’tl), rules that even this is not permitted. If, however, one is wearing a beketsche around which a gartel is usually worn, the Az Nidbiru would agree that this should be mutar. On the other hand, the Minchas Yitzchok rules that since a gartel is considered to be a tachshit during davening for one who davens with it, it would also be a tachshit after davening as well--and accordingly, one could wear it outside even over his belt, and need not wear it over his jacket. The Minchas Yitzchok does, however, write that one can be machmir on himself in this area. (ibid., 301, Dirshu Note 89) 



Special Note Three:  Points and pointers on this week’s Parasha, Parashas Chayei Sarah: 


A. The Torah (Bereishis 24:17) relates that when Eliezer saw Rivka, he ran to greet her. The Torah has already taught us the importance of running to do Chesed, as it described in last week’s Parasha how Avrohom Avinu ran to the Malochim and hurried to take care of their needs. What is the Torah adding here by saying that Eliezer ran? We provide at least two suggestions:


1.  When it comes to redting a shidduch--do not wait until ‘tomorrow’ or ‘early next week’, or ‘until I finish with this or that’.  Instead, one should recognize that being involved in a shidduch is a multiple chesed--to the potential Chasan, the potential Kallah, and each of their respective immediate families. If one is in doubt--picture Eliezer--who could have said: “I made it here so quickly, let me rest for a while”, or “let me not rush into anything”--but instead wasted no time and ran to take care of it.


2. As we know, Eliezer desperately wanted Yitzchok for his own daughter. Although Avrohom Avinu had already advised him that he could not accept such a shidduch--Eliezer could have continued to dream of it very much. After all--there must have still been some possibility--and nothing short of eternity was at stake! Nevertheless, Eliezer, as a true student of Avrohom Avinu recognized that he must quash his own personal wants and desires for what was truly proper, for what was truly correct. His running to do the Mitzvah demonstrated how powerfully he had overcome his personal interests to do the will of Avrohom Avinu…and ultimately of Avinu SheBashomayim. If Eliezer, as a descendant of Chom could do so…how much more so we, as descendants of Avrohom Avinu can do so as well. VaYaratz--each and every one of us can do it!


B. When Eliezer asked Rivka if she could give him a drink, she first responded “Shesei Adoni (Bereishis 24:18), and only afterwards did she lower the jug into her hand and give him to drink. Let us reflect for a moment--How could he drink--if the pitcher was still on her shoulder?! We may suggest that the Torah is teaching us a great lesson in helping another in need. The immediate step is to say: “I am helping you.” Any extra moment of doubt, of uncertainty, of desperation, may cause the one in need unnecessary stress or pain--since he will not know for certain that you are helping him. Chazal (Ta’anis 21A) record this in stark terms in bringing the ma’aseh of Nochum Ish Gamzu, who told the poor person to “wait until I unload the donkey”--but the poor person was unable to wait any longer, and expired. Nochum Ish Gamzu then accepted upon himself suffering as an atonement for what had occurred. Let us take the lesson! When approached by one in need--especially when one knows that he can and will help at least in some way--remember the two words of Rivka--”Shesei Adoni”--I am helping you! For Rivka, this resulted not only in the great Chesed to herself of marrying Yitzchok--but in the building of all of K’lal Yisrael! Similar results are available…for all of her descendants as well!


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


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


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



23 Marcheshvan

FROM A READER: “Anger and danger are only one small letter apart...which should also be a good reminder where anger can lead us!”




Special Note One:  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 Two:  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! 



Special Note Three: The following notes are excerpted from the Mishna Berurah Hilchos Birchos Hashachar and Pesukei D’Zimra (Dirshu Edition):


A. The Shulchan Aruch writes that the reason we recite various parts of Karbanos in the morning is so that every day one will be sure to learn Mikra (Tanach), Mishna and Gemara. The Mishna Berurah, however, notes that one is only credited with learning Mishna and Gemara if he understands that which he is saying--otherwise it is not considered to be learning. There is a fascinating additional thought here. The Shulchan Aruch HaRav (Hilchos Talmud Torah 2:13) writes that even if it is not considered the mitzvah of Talmud Torah, one should try to learn Mishna and Gemara even if he does not understand, and l’asid lavo he will be able to understand that which he tried to understand here. The Chida adds that a sincere attempt itself is considered Talmud Torah, and that if one understands the meaning of the words but not the concept being conveyed, this also constitutes the Mitzvah of Torah study. The foregoing relates to Torah She’be’al Peh. With respect to Torah Shebichsav, even if one does not understand what he is reciting--as long as he realizes that he is reciting these words, the Shelah HaKadosh writes that he fulfills the Mitzvah of Talmud Torah. The Chida writes that this is true of the study of the Zohar as well--one should study it even if he does not understand it--as it is “mesugal leha’ir es hanefesh-- enlighten the person’s soul!” (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 50:1, Mishna Berurah seif katan 2, and Dirshu Note 3)


B. Once one has commenced Boruch She’amar he cannot speak about other matters until after Tachanun. The prohibition to speak during this period even makes it impermissible to recite the words “Baruch Hu U’Varuch Shemo” when reciting a bracha. One should however respond “Amen” to any bracha that one hears, even if one is in the middle of a Pasuk in Pesukei D’Zimra, if it is at the end of a thought. One should also answer Modim D’Rabanan and recite the first Pasuk of Kriyas Shema with the Tzibbur if they are then reciting it. One should also respond to Barchu and recite the Pesukim of Kedusha together with the Tzibur. One should not, however, answer “Amen” to Veyatzmach Purkanei in the nusach sefard Kaddish, but should answer “Amen” to the rest of Kaddish.  It is also permissible to recite a Birchas Hoda’ah (such as a bracha on lighting and thunder), and to recite Asher Yatzar in Pesukei D’Zimra. It is preferable to recite the Asher Yatzar at certain points which constitute “bein haperakim” in Pesukei D’Zimra (interim points) which are listed at Orach Chaim 51, Mishna Berurah seif katan 13. (SA OC 51:4 Mishna Berurah seif katan 8, 9, and 13, Bi’ur Halacha d’h Tzarich and Dirshu Note 12) Hakhel Note: It would be a good idea to mark the bein haperakim of Pesukei D’Zimra in your siddur!


C. The ikar reason that we recite Ashrei daily is to recite the Pasuk of “Poseiach Es Yadecha U’Masbia Lechol Chai Ratzon--this is a shevach to Hashem and emphasizes that He is Mashgiach Ahl Briyosav U’Mefarnisan--that Hashem watches over His creations and sustains them. The Rabbeinu Bachya writes that when reciting these words one should think about the Nifla’os Hashem, Hashem’s greatness and His chesed towards us, and doing so will keep a person distant from sin, and bring him great zechusim! If one realizes that he did not have Kavannah in reciting the Pasuk Poseiach Es Yadecha he should begin again from Poseiach Es Yadecha and continue again in order until the end of the Kepitel. If one realizes that he did not have Kavannah when he is well beyond that spot and does not have the opportunity to return, he should at least recite from Poseiach Es Yadecha until the end of the Kepitel after davening. (SA OC 51:6 Mishna Berurah seif katan 15 and 16 and Dirshu Note 18)


D. The Arizal would give Tzedaka in a standing position when reciting the words in Vayevorech Dovid of V’Ata Moshel Bakol. (ibid., Mishna Berurah seif katan 19)


E. The ikar of Pesukei D’Zimra is from Ashrei through Kol HaNeshama Tehalel Kah. (SA OC 52 Mishna Berurah seif katan 4)


F. If a woman is davening in Shul with the tzibbur but comes late, there is a machlokes haposkim as to whether she should skip in order to begin Shemone Esrei with the tzibur or not. The concept of skipping in order to begin Shemone Esrei with the tzibur is not lechatchila at all--as a man must come to Shul on time so that he does not need to skip. The Maggid (the malach) who learned with the Beis Yosef taught him that one must be careful to come on time and not to skip in order to ‘catch-up’--because when doing so he overturns the tzinoros (the channels) through which our Tefillah travels. If it happens that one did come late, then there is a specific order of priority. In such event, there is a machlokes haposkim as to whether one must make-up that which he skipped after davening. (ibid., Mishna Berurah seif katan 1-3, and Dirshu Note 3)


G. L’chatchila one should be careful not to recite Birchos HaShachar after the fourth hour of the day, but b’dieved one may recite them until chatzos. If one is lenient and recites these brachos even after chatzos, one should not reprimand him. (ibid., Mishna Berurah seif katan 10)


H. One should stand when reciting Yishtabach, both during the week and on Shabbos, and whether one is davening privately or B’tzibur. The reason for this is that it is considered a Birchas HaMitzvah which should be recited standing and also a Davar She’b’kedushah. Indeed, the Bach writes that one fulfills his obligation to speak praises of Hashem by reciting Pesukei D’Zimra, and accordingly Baruch She’amar and Yishtabach are brachos before and after the Mitzvah! (SA OC 53 Mishna Berurah seif katan 1 and Dirshu Note 2)



22 Marcheshvan

AT THE TOP OF THE LIST!: As we face the sword of the enemy, 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.



WHEN? Chazal teach that each and every one of us is obligated to say the words “Masai Yagia Ma’asai LeMa’asheh Avosai, LeMa’asei Avrohom Yitzchok VeYaakov”--when will my deeds reach those of my forefathers--the deeds of Avrohom, Yitzchak and Yaakov.  HaRav Yaakov Naiman, Z’tl, provides the following explanations to this extremely important teaching:


1.  A person must aspire to reach the level of the Avos.  Even if this may seem impossible, the desire and ambition must be there.  Indeed, he continues, Napoleon is reported to have said that a soldier who does not aspire to become a general--will not succeed even at being a good foot soldier. 


2.  One should actually place an emphasis on what one has learned from the ma’asim of the Avos in Sefer Bereishis--to treat guests with great respect, to run to do Mitzvos, to daven for others…TO TAKE SPECIFIC AND REAL ACTION to bring the world to perfection.


Hakhel Note: As noted above, Chazal teach that one is obligated to say these words--Masai Yagia...it is reported that HaRav Nosson Wachtfogel, Z’tl, was unsure how often to say (and obviously think about applying) these words--so he made sure to do so everyday!




Special Note One:  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 began Parashas 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. 


As we see in this week’s Parasha, 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! 



Special Note Two:  The Steipeler Gaon, Z’tl, over the course of any given weekday was advised of a tremendous amount of problems and tzaros that people from all over the world faced.  He also must have undoubtedly had his own personal and family challenges in life as well.  How, then, could he have had the Yishuv Ha’Daas--the presence of mind and the clarity of thought-- to produce such great works as the Kehillas Yaakov and his other seforim?  This may be the answer:  He once remarked that when it came time for him to learn, he put all else out of his mind and concentrated entirely on the Torah in front of him.  This is an immense and meaningful lesson for us.  While we may be unable to produce Seforim like the Steipeler, we too can make the effort to focus when we are studying--to the exclusion of all else.  With problems out of mind, without letting the mind wander, without responding to buzzing or vibrations, or even to phone calls (unless they are really, truly, absolutely necessary), one will be demonstrating that he too has or wants to have the attitude and approach, the respect and reverence, for the study of Torah that the Gedolei Hador know is necessary to succeed!



Special Note Three:  Chazal (Avos 4:2) teach that we should run to perform Mitzvos--and to run from Aveiros--a simple enough instruction, with no additional thought seemingly necessary.  However, Chazal do indeed add a word of further explanation--”For the reward of a Mitzvah is a Mitzvah, and the reward of an Aveira is an Aveira”.  A Mitzvah is not simply one grand act, and an Aveira one devastating misdeed.  A person’s deeds simply do not stand alone.  One moment’s action leads to the next, and a 360 degree turn away from the previous act requires much effort.  Indeed, if one studies his day, he will find that Mitzvos may be more bunched at certain times--such as in Shul in the morning where davening, tzedakah and other chesed may be performed in tandem, or in the evening when you know it is time to study, and to help this person in this way and that person in that way. On the other hand, one gesture of anger, one word of ona’as devorim or lashon hora leads to another and to another--for once you start it is simply harder to stop, and sets the tone for your next moment of life.  One can truly aid (and encourage) himself if he bothers to mentally note (and perhaps actually notate) during the day when he has fallen prey to the mud of one aveira sticking him on to the next one--and, to the contrary, when he has encountered the beautiful medley of mitzvos being performed in joyous concert. Every act that we perform has ramifications--not only to others and to the world--but to ourselves--because it will guide and direct us onto our next step important in life--which, like the one before it, is always an irreplaceable one!



Special Note Four:  We especially note that Chazal (Brachos 26B) learn from a Pasuk in this week’s Parasha (Bereishis 24:63) that Yitzchak Avinu instituted Tefillas Mincha. We remind our readers that 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 swirl 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!



21 Marcheshvan

DOVID HAMELECH’S GUIDANCE: In these troubled and heart-wrenching times in Eretz Yisrael--let us recall the words of Dovid HaMelech (Tehillim 108:13, 14): “Hava Lanu Ezras Mitzar V’shav Teshuas Adam Beilokim Na’aseh Chayil Vehu Yavus Tzareinu--give us help against the oppressor; man’s salvation is futile. Through Hashem will our valor come; He will trample our oppressors.”



A STORY AND ITS LESSON: Rabbi Yaakov Ornstein, a brilliant Yerushalmi scholar, went to visit a friend in the hospital. A patient whom the Rav did not know and who was noticeably worried about his poor condition, caught the Rav’s eye. Seeing a chessboard near the patient’s bed, he approached the patient and challenged him to a game of chess. In this manner he took the man’s mind off of his condition. (Love Your Neighbor, p. 53)


Hakhel Note: The Chofetz Chaim writes that it is a Mitzvah Gedolah for one to move a person away from his worries and feelings of tza’ar. When one does so, the Chofetz Chaim continues, one not only performs the Mitzvah of V’Ahavta L’Reiacha Kamocha--but also gives Nachas Ruach to Hashem Himself. For, just as a father with a troubled son in a distant city would very much hope and desire that his son find someone there to give him chizuk and to aid him--so too, does Hashem hope that there are those who will give His children chizuk, take them out of their downtrodden state, and make them feel better….





A. “The Torah relates that after the destruction of Sodom v’Amora, “Vayisa Mishom Avrohom,” and Avrohom departed from there.    Rashi gives two reasons for Avrohom’s departure.  The second reason was to distance himself from the disreputable and incestuous Lot.  But the first - and presumably primary reason was that ‘he saw that the cities had been destroyed, and that the passersby had ceased’.  Avrohom could not live in a place devoid of Kiruv opportunities!”


Hakhel Note:  A major figure in the Kiruv movement in the United States advised us that ‘Kiruv Rechokim’ was a misappropriate term--for who could really tell if someone already presumably ‘Karov’ was really more ‘Rachok’ than others. The appropriate term for all, he advised, was Ahavas Yisroel!


B. “Regarding your point of the malach asking Avrohom where his wife was in order to be Lechaveva al Ba’alah, I just wanted to add a beautiful vort I heard from HaRav Feivelson (of Nachlas Naftoli, in Tzfas): Rav Feivelson asked that we see throughout the parasha that a malach can only do one shelichus. In that case, how was this malach, who came for a different shelichus, able to do the shelichus of Lechaveva al Ba’alah? Rav Feivelson answered that the concept of saying something nice to a person so that it brings him closer to his wife (Lechaveva al Ba’alah) is not a ‘shelichus’. That is how one talks!




Special Note One: The following meaningful events are excerpted from Love Your Neighbor, by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita, as presented in last week’s Parasha:


1. A student of the Slobodka Yeshiva was walking down the street, carrying an uncovered plate of food to a fellow student who was ill. When he noticed Rabbi Isaac Sher, the Rosh Hayeshiva, coming, he felt embarrassed and tried to hide the plate under his jacket. He thought that the Rosh Hayeshiva would consider it beneath the student’s dignity to carry an uncovered plate of food in the street. Perceiving his student’s plight, Rabbi Sher called out, “You have nothing to be embarrassed about. Carrying food to an ill person is similar to carrying a lulav and esrog, which everyone carries in the street during Sukkos!” (Marbitzai Torah Umussar, vol. 2, p. 258-9)


2. One Rosh Hashanah, the Chazon Ish gave two unusual orders: not to hold the usual recess between Shacharis and the blowing of the shofar, and that the shofar be blown without previously reciting Lamenatzaiach Livnai Korach Mizmor seven times, as is the common practice. The people in Shul were all puzzled by the Chazon Ishs requests. Soon afterwards, they discovered the reason for the unconventional procedure. The Chazon Ish had heard a son say to his father, “Papa, you have a weak heart. Please eat something.” But the father refused, saying that it was his custom not to eat before he heard the shofar. The Chazon Ish wanted to enable the man with the weak heart to eat as soon as possible, and therefore he shortened the davening. (Biography of Chazon Ish, p. 113) Hakhel Note: The Minhag HaG’ra is not to recite Lamenatzaiach in any event.


3. In the European town of Pressnitz, there lived a wealthy man named Reb Hirsch Yervitz, brother-in-law of the Chasam Sofer. He would invite to his home all the poor travelers who were in that city for Shabbos. These needy people were always placed to the left and right of Reb Hirsch, who sat at the head of the table. A new maid was once hired at the Yervitz household. Unaware of Reb Hirsch’s custom, she set places for the poor at the far end of the Shabbos table. Arriving home from Shul with his guests, he was momentarily disturbed at the seating arrangements. Not wishing to embarrass either the maid or his guests, he quickly picked up his becher, challos, and setting, and put them at the end of the table, making the end of the table the head. (The Story of the Chasam Sofer, p. 31-2)


4. Rabbi Chayim Soloveitchik of Brisk had a warm and generous heart, and people who were troubled often turned to him as a source of comfort. Once, a mentally unbalanced man came to speak to Rav Chayim. The man took offense at something Rav Chayim said, and immediately left his house in anger. Minutes later, Rabbi Yecheskel Abramsky entered Rav Chayim’s house, and found him very worried and sweating profusely. “What happened?” asked Rabbi Abramsky with alarm:”I offended a person who is not able to forgive me” replied Rav Chayim. (Dmuyos Hod, vol. 2, p. 82-3)



Special Note Two:  In the coming week’s Parasha, Chayei Sarah, we learn more about Chesed and how to perform it properly.  The Parasha specifically details two distinct Chassadim--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. We refer you to HaRav Schach’s, Z’tl, beautiful elucidation of this, noted in yesterday’s Bulletin.


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 incredibly goes out of its way to teach not only how Yitzchok Avinu was paired with Rivka, but also how Adam was given Chava, Yaakov Avinu introduced to Rochel, and Moshe Rabeinu to Tziporah.  It is rare (to say the least) for the Torah to repeat one kind of event, albeit important, more than once.  Here, however, the basic reason for the repetition seems clear:  the primary importance of shidduchim as a basis for humanity, and for the continuation of K’lal Yisrael.  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 Yisrael, are inextricably bound together.


We once again provide our annual Parashas Chayei Sarah Appeal:


Each one of us is probably familiar with at least one couple who were each other’s first date--and yet were zoche to marry each other.  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 two ‘out-of-towners’ to ‘go out’ with each other.


 As this week is the Parasha 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.  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 Parasha 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 Shemiras 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--demonstrating special affection for one who went through so much to become a Torah Jew.


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



20 Marcheshvan


TROUBLED TIMES: In these very difficult times in Eretz Yisrael, where the mad and sadistic Arab attacks appear “unstoppable”--we, as Torah Jews, know that each and every one of these actions can be stopped, can be reversed--and, in fact, need not occur at all. It is up to us--our Tefillos and our actions--that is what Hashem is looking for, that is what Hashem is expecting. A Middah K’negged Middah in this area would clearly be our own personal pursuit of peace in everyday life. As the Chofetz Chaim writes: “What is Redifas Shalom--running after peace? It is speaking words of calmness and conciliation during a time of dispute or disagreement…and it is giving up of one’s time, and even of one’s business, in order to bring peace between a husband and wife, a man and his friend, and a teacher and his student.” Let us work seriously on our Tefillos--with a special Kavannah when asking Hashem for Rachamim, and let us work on sincerely pursuing peace--and may we see the Yeshuos that we so very much desire and that we so very much need!



FROM A READER: “Rav Shach, Zt’l, asks why it is that Chazal specifically highlight Halvoyas Hameis and Hachnosas Kallah as two mitzvos that should be performed “b’tznius—discretely”.  After all, there are plenty of other Mitzvos that Chazal could have used as an example of Chesed--b’tznius. Why pick something that seems the exact opposite of what is done “b’tznius”?  Rav Shach explains that Chazal specifically use these two examples to teach us that the Ikar Mitzvah of Halvoyas Hameis and Hachnosas Kallah is the feeling behind it, not the action. Simply going to a wedding and dancing, and “going to a Levaya” is not the complete Mitzvah of Hachnosas Kallah and Halvoyas Hameis. Feeling happy for the Chosson & Kallah and feeling sad for the Aveil is what Chazal meant by using these two examples.  Chessed is not a perfunctory act--but an act that energizes the good actions of the body--with the thoughtfulness of the soul!”



A BRACHA AFORETHOUGHT: In his approbation to the Sefer V’Zos HaBracha [one of the most popular Seforim on Hilchos Brachos in Eretz Yisrael, by Rabbi Aleksander Mandelbaum, Shlita], HaRav Binyomin Zilber, Z’tl, writes that when reciting a Bracha, aside from the necessary Kavanos when reciting the words, one must be sure to think that he is not a ‘Kafoi Tova’--a denier of the good and instead, that he is a ‘Makir Tova’--that he recognizes the good that Hashem is bestowing/has bestowed upon him and that he is expressing it with this Bracha.  Hakhel Note:  What a great way to focus prior to making any Bracha!



RE-INTRODUCING A HAKHEL PROGRAM--’The Five Minutes for Yourself Action Project’.  Throughout the day we are beset by so many requirements and requests—whether at home, in the office, or elsewhere, it does not appear that we have the five minutes a day that we need to think about how we can fix or solve the  issues or items in which the same mistakes, or repeated need-to-fix, below par, or mediocre performances, occur daily.  Now, during a five minute segment of the day of your own choosing (it may be while eating breakfast, while walking towards the bus, or when especially sitting on the couch for this five minute project), you can figure out how to better yourself in just minutes a day.     What can I do the night before to make my wake- up process easier?  What can I do to make better brachos—after all, I am reciting them anyway, I believe in them…?  How can I stop myself when I realize that I am getting angry, or from making the sharp comments that I make when I am tired?  In what way will I reward myself if I learn something I have been meaning to get to, but have not found the time?  What’s missing on my block or in my neighborhood that can easily be rectified?  What’s missing in my life that is within my capability to fix? Who do I really owe a phone call to?  What Halacha/Shaila keeps coming up that I keep on forgetting to ask the Rav about?  You can take it from here--the point is that a person should not allow a day to go by in which he did not take some time to catch up with--and elevate – himself! 




Special Note One: Additional points and pointers on last week’s Parasha:


A.  In the beginning of last week’s Parasha, we find that Avrohom Avinu exerted extra special efforts to fulfill the mitzvah of Hachnosas 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 Avrohom Avinu so greatly that he had no guests and that he could not fulfill the Mitzvah of Hachnosas 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 Pesach and he has no Matzah?! HaRav Moshe explains that Avrohom 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 Boston cream pie cannot rest--even if he has to travel several miles--in order to satisfy the physical desire.  Moreover, HaRav Moshe adds, Avrohom 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 Parasha--Avrohom and Lot.  In comparing the two acts of Hachnosas 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 Avrohom’s Chesed, and how Chazal learn and derive lessons from it, that Avrohom’s Chesed was oh so much greater.  Why?  What made Avrohom Avinu’s Chesed more elevated?  It is said in the name of the Bais HaLevi that Lot was doing Hachnosas Orchim to angels--and he knew it.  Even with Mesiras Nefesh--this cannot compare to the Hachnosas Orchim that Avrohom Avinu showed to simple wayfarers--even if it was without risking his life to do so. 


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


D.  One additional note:  Chazal (Shabbos 127A) teach that Hachnosas Orchim is greater than Kabalas P’nei HaShechinah--as we see that Avrohom Avinu interrupted his speaking to Hashem in order to greet the strangers. Chazal do not sayGadol Hachnosas Orei’ach YoserMiKabalas Pinei HaShechinah--that it is greater to bring in one guest than to greet the Shechinah--rather, it is Hachnosas 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! 



Special Note Two:  The twentieth letter of the Chofetz Chaim in the Michtevei Chofetz Chaim is entitled Ma’amar Chizuk HaEmunah. For those who have the Michtevei Chofetz Chaim, we urge that you read the letter inside. For those who do not, the Chofetz Chaim provides the following moving teaching:


At the outset of Parashas Vayeirah, the Torah describes in detail for us how the Malach came to advise Avrohom Avinu and Sarah Imeinu that they would have a child in the near future. The Torah then describes Sarah Imeinu’s reaction--how could it be that a couple of this age could have a child?! The Torah then further describes how Hashem came to Avrohom and advised Avrohom that Sarah Imeinu expressed some kind of doubt--and that nothing, of course, was beyond Hashem. The Torah then goes on further to relate that when Avrohom inquired of Sarah as to her reaction to the news, she denied a lack of Emunah, explaining that the words came out of her mouth without any negative intent. The Torah does not stop, and relates that Avrohom told her--no, something was lacking in her Emunah.


The Chofetz Chaim finds this tremendous detail difficult--as every word in the Torah is so highly weighed, and is invaluable, with not even a point of a letter being extra. What, then, is the Torah teaching with the great description of this event, and by mentioning that Sarah Imeinu had doubts?! The Chofetz Chaim concludes that there is a great lesson provided to us in the Torah here, and that “He’ir Hashem Einai--Hashem enlightened him”, in order to understand the lesson: Chazal teach that “Ma’aseh Avos Siman LaBonim”--and over time we have found that everything that happened to the Avos happened to us. The Torah’s description of the dialogues between the Malach, Avrohom Avinu, Sarah Imeinu and HaKadosh Baruch Hu alludes to the times of the Ikvesah D’Moshicha, the time preceding when Hashem’s Kavod will be revealed to the world. At that [our] time, there will certainly be Gedolei Yisrael who will urge the people to strengthen themselves in Emunah and do Teshuvah so that we can be redeemed. They will urge us to strengthen ourselves in Torah and Ma’asim Tovim so that the Moshiach will come. However, there will be people at the time who will not believe the Gedolim who urge us to do Teshuvah, and will say: “Is it really possible that this long and bitter Galus will end now, in our lifetimes, at this time?”; “How can it be that in the midst of these times the Geulah will suddenly come?” They will, accordingly, go about their everyday business and through their conduct demonstrate to others to do so as well. Hashem will be upset and exclaim: “HaYipaleih MeiHashem Davar--why are you doubting that Hashem will not bring the Geulah in the here and now?!” The people will respond that they do have Emunah, and that they do know that the Geulah is possible--but it could still be years off. What they should, however, realize is that each and every day the Geulah is possible--and they should very literally believe that it can happen each and every day. This means that when we don’t take active, real preparations for the Moshiach, our Emunah is flawed--and that anything that we say about the Moshiach is lip service--or at least not heartfelt. This is the response to Sarah Imeinu of “Lo, Ki Tzachakt--no, you doubted.”


Now, let us look around us--the tzaros of K’lal Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael and around the world, the ruchniyus of K’lal Yisrael so badly suffering--from the uneducated majority of our people--through the teens-at-risk. We can most certainly rationalize a level of flawed Emunah--how could the Geulah come in our lowly state--can the Geulah really come now?! It can, and will--through Teshuvah Sheleimah, Torah and Ma’asim Tovim. We must do what we can in order to greet the Moshiach B’Simcha--one who prepares for his coming each and every day--one who acts B’Emunah Sheleimah will bask in and reap all of the benefits--BeKarov BeMeheirah V’Yameinu!



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