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Hakhel Email Community Awareness Bulletin

NOVEMBER 2017 DAILY EMAIL ARCHIVE

 

12 Kislev

FROM A READER: A reader pointed out that the halacha brought in the Mishna Berurah  relating to not drinking more than a revi’is in one act may apply only to wine and not other beverages, and that this is suggested by the language of the Mishna Berurah (Orach Chaim 170:seif katan 22). The Sefer Piskei Teshuvos agrees with our reader’s understanding of the Mishna Berurah, but suggests that other poskim may disagree.

 

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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.

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ASHER YOTZAR: How should the bracha of Asher Yotzar be recited? According to HaRav Yehoshua Vildman, Z’tl, the author of V’Imru Amen, it should be recited with Ahava, Yirah--and Simcha Rabbah!

 

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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 the Waldorf Astoria 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!

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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 Yosef Viener, Shlita 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!

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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!

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REMINDER--PRESENCE OF MIND FOR BRACHOS:  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 kindness 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.

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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!

 

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11 Kislev

FROM THINK HASHEM DAILY!

 

A THOUGHT TO HELP US THINK ABOUT HASHEM:

“Our Tafkid (purpose) in this world is to take a fleeting moment and transform it into an eternal moment.”

HaRav Shach, Z’tl

 

To subscribe to Think Hashem Daily, email: thinkhashem@ateresshimon.org

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ENERGIZE YOURSELF! 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!

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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!

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PARASHAS VAYEITZEI--1943! The following D’var Torah on last week’s Parasha, 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!”

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ENJOYING OLAM HAZEH! It is reported that when HaRav Shmuel Berenbaum, Z’tl, was told of a certain gvir who gave in the 5-6 figures daily to Tzedakah, he was very impressed, and added: “I don’t know who will have a greater Olam Haba, but I am privileged to learn Torah all day--so I don’t think that he can have a greater Olam Hazeh than I do!”

 

Additional Note: 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!

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DAN L’CHAF ZECHUS! Rabbi Naftali Kaplan, Shlita, provides a wonderful suggestion for improvement in judging others favorably: Try to find and write down two or three examples a day (day after day) in which you judge another in a favorable light--even if the favorable light is a highly unlikely one. The cheshbon is a simple one. Every person has faults, and knows of them. Yet, he tries to justify or explain his actions whether for this reason, that reason or various and sundry reasons. Every person has his own background and his own experiences. 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! There are exactly two weeks until Chanukah--try writing down two or three examples a day, and see whether you can build your mental muscles in Dan L’Chaf Zechus! 

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WEALTH MANAGEMENT:  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! 

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KAVEY! 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!

 

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10 Kislev

FROM OUR READERS:

 

A. Is it not interesting that the master trickster -- Lavan -- is upset when he is the “victim” of trickery, while not caring a whit that he has always tricked others all the time, causing THEM to be “victims” of his own trickery? Is this not a great example of middah-kneged-middah--that he should feel for himself what he bestowed on all around him?

 

B. I was moved by the following excerpt from the new Sefer Leading with Love-- the teachings of HaRav Aharon Leib Shteinman, Shlita (Aharon Yehuda Leib ben Gitel Feiga L’Refuah Sheleima): “In his Derech Eitz Chaim, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato writes that during the terrible period of persecution known as “Tach v’Tat” (1648-1649), the Satan was forced to explain why he was inflicting such persecution [on the Jewish Nation]. He replied, “If you will agree to annul Torah study…I will stop the persecution.” The Satan wanted there to be no Torah study. It pains him if we learn Torah, for Torah is the main threat to the Satan’s existence. It is for this reason that in every generation there are decrees against Torah study.” HaRav Shteinman’s directive--Let’s Win the Battle!

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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. 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.

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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!”

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THE 10TH DAY OF KISLEV:  Today is the 10th day of Kislev--two months from the 10th of Tishrei --Yom Kippur (!).  We may add that it is certainly not just another one of those coincidences that the Haftorah for this past Shabbos actually incorporated the Shabbos Shuva Haftarah of “Shuva Yisrael Ahd Hashem Elokecha--return, Israel, to Hashem your G-d.”  The Yetzer Hara, disguising himself as Mother Nature, the cold of winter [for those in the northern hemisphere] or whatever else you may want to call him (Chazal say he has seven names) makes sure to remind us that we’ve got to slow down now--after all, birds fly south, animals hibernate, it’s dark when we wake up in the morning and already dark again in the late afternoon by the time we get home.  He shows us how cold, nasty or treacherous it is to go outside to the shiur or do the chesed, and how easy--and “important”--it is to turn over in bed just one (or two) more times.  Our response must be that we are not weakened by the external stimuli, by what the world looks like or does around us, but instead remember Shuva Yisrael--always keep your priorities straight, and keep the proper focus.  Today, on our Asiri LaKodesh, let us invigorate ourselves with a fresh breath of cold air--as we invite in the challenges of winter with a renewal of our own, personalized Avodas Hashem in a way that only we ourselves would know---and be proud of!

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FROM THE SHA’AR HEBECHINA: We provide below some essential excerpts from the Sefer Chovos HaLevavos in the Sha’ar HeBechina--the Gate of Reflection--in which we are urged to consider the constant goodness we receive in this world.  The translation is from the highly recommended Duties of the Heart (Feldheim, two volumes, translation by Rabbi Daniel Haberman):

 

A. “Reflect further on the good which Hashem has bestowed on man by [granting him] speech and coherence of language.  Through speech he can express what is in his soul and innermost self, and can communicate with others.  The tongue is the heart’s pen and the mind’s messenger.  Without speech, a man would have no social relationship with his fellow, and would live the [solitary] life of an animal, through speech it becomes apparent that one man is superior to another.  Through speech, bonds of friendship are formed among men, and covenants are made between Hashem and His servants.  Through speech a man turns from his mistaken path and seeks atonement for his sins.  The way a man speaks is the best proof of his worthiness or unworthiness.  It has been said that a man [in essence] is his heart and tongue.  Speech is the defining element of a human being.  For a man is defined as “a living, speaking, and mortal being”; it is speech that distinguishes man from beast.”

 

B. “…The third reason [people fail to perceive Hashem’s graces] is that misfortune befalls them in this world and harm comes to them in body and property.  They fail to discern how these serve as means to their ultimate good, [nor do they appreciate] the benefits to be gained from the trial and discipline [which these provide], as it says: “Happy is the man whom You discipline, Hashem, whom You teach from Your Torah” (Tehillim 94:12). They forget that they owe their own existence and all that belongs to them to the graces which the Creator-- in His generosity and love--bestows on them, and that His decrees upon them are just, in accordance with the dictates of His wisdom.  They are resentful when His judgment is visited upon them; they do not praise Him when His loving-kindness is manifested to them; and their ignorance brings them to deny both the benefits and the Benefactor.  Ignorance may even bring many of them to assume that they are wiser than He is in regard to His acts and the various created things which He created for their benefit. How closely they resemble in this regard men who are not able to see and who are brought to a house prepared for them with everything that could benefit them:  Everything in it is arranged perfectly; it is fully equipped and ideally suited to benefit them and provide for their welfare.  In addition, effective medications--and a skilled physician to administer them--are provided for their treatment, so that their sight be restored.  Nevertheless, the men neglect to undergo treatment for their eyes, and disregard the advice of the physician who was to treat them.  They walk about the house, handicapped greatly by their blindness, stumbling over the very things that had been prepared for their benefit, falling their faces; some suffer bruises, and others broken limbs.  They suffer much, and their troubles are compounded.  They complain bitterly about the owner and builder of the house and condemn his actions.  In their eyes he has been negligent and a poor leader, and they believe that his motivation had not been to do them good and show them kindness, but to cause them pain and injury.  This leads them to deny the benevolence and kindness of the owner.  As the Wise One said: “Even while the fool walks on the road, he has no sense, and he says of everyone: ‘He is a fool’ (Koheles 10:3).  Since this is so, it is the obligation of men of wisdom and knowledge to rouse those who fail to perceive the favors of the Creator and to teach people to recognize these blessings intellectually.  For there are many blessings which people possess and yet fail to profit from altogether--do not fully enjoy--simply because they are not aware of them and do not appreciate their value.  Once they are alerted to the many benefits of these blessings--and what had been hidden from them is revealed to them, they will sing the praises of and express full gratitude to their Benefactor--and as a result find pleasure and enjoyment in this world--and a fitting reward in the next!”

 

Hakhel Note:  Please reread each one of these excerpts!

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TEFILLIN! We once again provide the amazing story related by HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, that he himself heard from HaRav Shmuel Greineman, Z’tl: There was once a gathering at the house of the Chofetz Chaim which was attended by the Roshei Yeshivos in order to find a way to fund the Yeshivos and provide food for the Talmidei HaYeshivos. Those gathered sat together for an extended period of time but could not come to any conclusion, and agreed to reconvene the next day. The Chofetz Chaim was very pained and remained sitting in his place. HaRav Greineman, who was in attendance, could not bear to see the Chofetz Chaim so pained, and decided to rest with the hope that he could come up with an idea. He came up with what he thought was a fantastic idea. He was going to put on Tefillin the next morning. Since Tefillin is such a great Mitzvah, it must be that the reward for it would be enough to support all of the Yeshivos on an ongoing basis. He was therefore prepared to give his reward for the Mitzvah of Hanachas Tefillin that day to the Yeshivos--so that they could sustain themselves on an ongoing basis. Before he did so, however, he wanted to make sure that this was the right thing to do, and went to the Chofetz Chaim--who was still sitting and thinking in the same place. He approached the Chofetz Chaim and told him: “Rebbi, I have found the solution!” The Chofetz Chaim’s face lit up and asked him what it was. HaRav Greineman answered that he was going to give his reward in the Mitzvah of Tefillin today to the Yeshivos, so that they could support themselves! The Chofetz Chaim looked at Rav Greineman, smiled and said: “Mein Kihnd--my son, the Ribono Shel Olam will not accept this.” The Chofetz Chaim then went on to explain: “If a small child found a check for a million rubles on the street, he would probably take it to the candy store thinking that he could obtain a bag of candy for it. What would a responsible storeowner do upon looking at the check--would he take it for a bag of candy?! Of course not--he must tell the child that the check is worth much more than a bag of candy, and that the child should take it to his father.” The Chofetz Chaim then powerfully advised: “If you would only know how much more putting on Tefillin just one time is worth than supporting all of the Yeshivos! Hashem will most certainly not accept your request! This is what Chazal mean when they teach that there is no reward that can be given for a Mitzvah in this world--the whole world is not enough to satisfy the greatness achieved by the performance of one Mitzvah!”

 

Hakhel Note: One should contemplate how great the performance of each and every Mitzvah is. Before putting on Tefillin every morning--men can certainly think of this story. We can also think of the same story before the myriad of Mitzvos that we perform as well!

 

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9 Kislev

BE’VIAS HAMOSHIACH! Many recite Ani Ma’amin Beh’Emunah Sheleima Be’vias HaMoshiach daily. A reader pointed out to us that the Gematria of Be’vias HaMoshiach is 778--the year that we are in--5778!

 

Hakhel Note: We must remember at all times the four brachos to recite upon Moshiach’s arrival. Let us daven--and be ready!

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TAKING A CALL… Taking a call while with friends or even the (supposedly) surreptitious glance down at a screen--aside from being rude--carries the implication that they are second to whomever is on the line.” [Excerpted from The Evolving Digital Challenge by Rabbi Nechemiah Gottlieb, Shlita].

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

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TIMING MATTERS:  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, than we are Tzaddikim--and we should dealt with accordingly by those who hired us.  Even if, however, we are treated more like Lavan treated Yaakov, then Hashem Himself will get involved in a way that He deems fit and either despoil the Lavan we are dealing with for our benefit--or take care of us in some other very special way---as the Pasuk unusually emphasizes--Me’od Me’od--his situation *very much* improved.  In these difficult financial times, let us take the lesson of Yaakov HaTzaddik--and may we not only give Nachas to Hashem and reap the rewards for our conduct in the Next World, but touch the Me’od Me’od very much so in This World as well!

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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.

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PESUKEI BITACHON: In these changing 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.

 

Hakhel Note:  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!”

 

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6 Kislev

HOW A CUP RUNS OVER:  On the words of Dovid Hamelech in Tehillim “Kosi Revaya--my cup runs over”--HaRav Avigdor Miler, Z’tl provides the following great insight (in his Sefer Shaarei Orah I, p.96, as brought in Growth Through Tehillim, by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita):  “A cup can only run over if it becomes full first.  If there is a hole in the cup, it will never become full and will never run over.  This is a lesson for us to constantly remember the good things that Hashem does for us.  Don’t forget them.  Then the good things will add up--and the happiness will flow!

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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:

 

1.  It is permissible to measure for the sake of a mitzvah. Therefore, when there is a medical need (refuas haguf for these purposes being a mitzvah), one can take his temperature with a (non-digital) thermometer, or take his blood pressure (non-electronically). There is a Machlokes HaPoskim whether one is allowed to weigh food for the sake of a mitzvah (such as Matzah on the Leil Haseder). The Sefer Piskei Teshuvos (3: p.102) rules that one should not measure a revi’is of wine in a measuring cup, although one would be allowed to put milk into a baby bottle even if there are measuring marks on the bottle--because unlike the measurement of the revi’is where no mitzvah per se being done at the time of measurement, feeding the child the proper amount is a mitzvah in and of itself.  For this reason, it would also be permitted to weigh a child after eating with a (non-electronic) scale if one must know if the child is gaining weight, for that knowledge itself is a mitzvah of refuas haguf. However, the Sefer Itturei Halacha (Illustrated Guides To Jewish Law, II, p.122-123) by Rabbi Ze’ev Greenwald, Shlita writes that one may measure a cup to determine whether it contains the requisite revi’is for Kiddush, and if one is filling a baby bottle, he should not fill it to an exact measure, but should instead fill it a little bit more or a little bit less. Accordingly, one should consult with his Rav for a definitive P’sak in his personal circumstances, and on similar and related issues (such as weighing a small challah roll or piece of challah to make sure it is a shiur, or weighing foods for diet purposes).  One should, in any event, avoid using a measuring cup for non-mitzvah purposes.

 

2.  It is permitted for a Maggid Shiur to prepare for a Shiur he will give on Sunday, for a child to study for a Chumash test he will have tomorrow, or for a ba’al kriyah to prepare the laining or Kriyas HaMegillah for the following week--for when it comes to the study of the Torah--you are definitely benefiting immediately --on Shabbos itself---and this is not considered as ‘hachana’-preparing for the following day.

 

3.  One is not permitted to hit his hand on the table or foot on the floor to a beat, nor to  bang a spoon or cup to the beat of the music. See Sefer Piskei Teshuvos 3:p.232, as to whether and how the prohibition to banging a spoon or cup applies to those authorities who are lenient and permit the clapping hands in an ordinary manner on Shabbos, (especially for the sake of a mitzvah such as on Simchas Torah).

 

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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-- 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 had 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 name 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!

 

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.) 

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CHASUNAHS!  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.

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A TORAH JEW’S THANKS:  Another of the many foundations for life that we learn 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 around the 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!

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‘MAKING’ MONEY:  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!

 

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5 Kislev

ANENI: Many may be familiar with the outstanding Sefer Aneni: Special Prayers for Special Occasions, truly a must for every home. By the following link-- http://tinyurl.com/yb6yzgul  we provide one Tefillah from the Sefer: Tefillah L’Kabalas Yissurim B’Ahava (Prayer for Accepting Suffering With Love), culled from the Sefer Shomer Emunim.

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FROM THINK HASHEM DAILY:

 

If we spend 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)

 

To subscribe to Think Hashem Daily, please contact ateresshimon@gmail.com

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HOW TO BEAT THE YETZER HARA: At a Hakhel Yarchei Kallah, Rabbi Yosef Viener, Shlita, explained how to defeat the Yetzer Hara, hands down. One does it ten minutes at a time. The Yetzer Hara’s role is not to go away as you get older--he may change his technique or his goal--but his task is a 120 year one. Remember, it is a matter of one putting his foot down against his worst enemy. If one is incapable of doing so on a one shot basis--he will always be successful ten minutes at a time. Hakhel Note: To energize oneself in this area, one’s mantra should be: “Chazak V’Ematz”!

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MECHALKEL CHAIM B’CHESED: It is important for each and every one of us to pay specific attention to the words “Mechalkel Chaim B’Chesed--Who sustains the living with kindness”, which we recite three times daily in Shemone Esrei. We should appreciate on a personal level the great kindnesses which we receive from Hashem on a daily basis. Indeed, if one would sit down, and begin writing the Chasodim down, he would realize that the detail would never stop. Let us not be counted among those who recite these words as mere lip service without thought--but among those who stop for a moment and think of just a few of the Chasodim that he has experienced since the last Shemone Esrei!

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THE TRUTH: This week, we continue learning of the quality of Emes LYaakov.  In fact, the quality of ‘Titein Emes LYaakov 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!

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THAT EXTRA LEVEL OF PATIENCE!  HaRav Moshe Cordevero, Z’tl, in the Sefer Tomer Devorah writes that the first two Middos of Hashem--described in the Pesukim of Mi Keil Kamocha (Michah 7:18-20, poignantly recited at Tashlich) both relate to the Middah of Savlanus--of the patience that Hashem has with us.  HaRav Cordevero explains that not only does Hashem bear our iniquities without displaying intolerance, anger or insult (allowing us to continuously move our limbs during the moment of sin itself!)--but also allows the mashchisim--the destructive creatures created by the sin to continue to exist.  As the Tomer Devorah writes: “The strict letter of the law would justify that Hashem state-- ‘I do not nourish destructive creatures! Go to him who made you, and derive your sustenance from him!’ It is thus with tremendous tolerance that Hashem conducts this world. From this, man must learn to what extent he, too, should be tolerant and bear the yoke of his fellow and the wrongdoing committed against him--even if the wrongdoing remains. He should tolerate one who sinned against him until the sinner actually mends his ways or the sin disappears of its own accord....”   Hakhel Note: We can all put this into real practice--EMULATING HASHEM’S MIDDOS!

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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)

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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!

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THE CHOFETZ CHAIM MAKES THE FOLLOWING ADDITIONAL 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!

 

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4 Kislev

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?

 

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

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“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?!” 

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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

 

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”. 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.

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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!

 

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3 Kislev

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!

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SEEING THE SMELL!  In last week’s Parasha, Yitzchok Avinu (Bereishis 27:27) exclaims:  “Re’eih Rei’ach Beni K’Rei’ach Sadeh Asher Bairecho Hashem--see the fragrance of my son (Yaakov) is like the fragrance of a 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 saw There is a great lesson for us here.  We are not to look at any situation from the perspective of that which we see with the naked eye.  Rather, a Torah Jew must endeavor to view not the mere physical aspect of the situation--but the spiritual aspect which is truly its essence.  The unnatural state of innocent people 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! 

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MORE ON SEEING! The following is excerpted from the wonderful Sefer: V’Haeir Eineinu: Enlighten Our Eyes, A Practical Guide to Shemiras Einayim.  

 

A. The Chida writes (Nachal Kedumin, Bereishis) that if Yidden look at forbidden sights, then the forces of Eisav and Yishmael gather strength. But if we take extra care to protect our sense of sight, then Eisav and Yishmael will be wiped out and Moshiach will come.

 

B. Sin entices with false fantasies, but with one’s awareness that it is truly a deception--a custom nisayon made for one to overcome and thereby earn vast reward for eternity-- the  infatuation, like a helium filled balloon, will soon deflate and drop down to the ground.

 

C. Though we hope to improve ourselves forever, it is more effective to set short term goals. Start with taking on a commitment for a day or two. If no hitches appear on the horizon, perhaps increase your goal to a week. Eventually, set month-long goals but not more than that. These ‘little’ victories are essential--especially in this area which can be so addictive. If we accustom ourselves to overcoming small temptations then, bit-by-bit, these little victories will lead to bigger ones. Good habit, rather than logic, will carry the day.

 

D. You might ask: “How can I unhook myself from something that has long been part of me?” Rabbeinu Yonah (Yesod HaTeshuvah) suggests imagining yourself as a newborn--with no credits and no debits. Picture a blank piece of crisp, clean paper, or a mystery gift waiting to be unwrapped, or a rose unfurling its velvety petals in the morning dew. You’re starting out today as a traveler on a brand new path--without any baggage. Every drop of Shmiras Einayim, then, is eye therapy--self administered, readily available, and wonderfully restorative. Every time we choose purity over impurity we are thereby rectifying our past.

 

E. Come let us picture a scene unfolding: a threadbare beggar crawls out of his hovel and finds himself standing face-to-face with the king. His majesty graciously hands the fellow a $1 million in cash. But, shockingly, no glimmer of thankfulness lights up the haggard face, no words of praise gush from his lips as the ingrate takes the fortune from the monarch’s hand without a smile, even begrudging the effort spent carrying it home. “What am I supposed to do with all of these mounds of green papers?” he wonders.

 

Sorry, but we do not recognize ourselves here? Don’t we realize that every time we are accosted with impurity, it is actually a golden opportunity for growth? We could be turning those aching temptations from stumbling blocks into stepping stones. In the Next World, our whole status and reward is dependent on our struggles in this world. Nisyonos are a gift and the recipient is none other than ourselves.

 

F. The Ben Ish Chai writes (Od Yosef Chai, Va’eschanan, shana 1) that a major source of pleasure in this world is eating and drinking. In the Next World, we first enter the lower Gan Eden where our souls enjoy delightful fragrances, after which we ascend to the higher Gan Eden to partake of the marvels of seeing the Divine Glory. This progression is demonstrated by the structure of the face. Lowest is the mouth, above that the nose, and topmost are the eyes; therein lies a message: At all costs preserve your spiritual eyesight. It’s every Yid’s fondest and deepest hope to one day bask in the ecstasy of the profound luminescence of the Shechinah--Lachazos BeNo’am Hashem (Tehillim 27:4). This is the highest dimension of experience.

 

Though the light of the Shechinah is infinitely more powerful than any blazing sun, this will pose no problem for the eyes that are spiritually healthy and clean. For all eternity, their owner will delight in the wonder of glazing at phenomenal luminescence of Hashem’s Presence!

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SEEKING BRACHOS!  In last 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 stingy 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--they 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!

 

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2 Kislev

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

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SEVERAL LESSONS FROM LAST WEEK’S PARASHA, PARASHAS TOLDOS:

 

A.  The Pasuk teaches:  “Vayisrotsetsu HaBanim Bekirba--the boys agitated within her.”  Rivka, as a result, exclaimed--”If this is the case, why am I?”, and she then went to inquire of Shem as to what was really taking place.  HaRav Yoshe Ber Soloveitchik, Z’tl, 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.   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!”

 

C.  HaRav Aryeh Malkiel Kotler, Shlita (whose Zeide--HaRav Aharon Kotler, Z’tl’s, Yahrzeit is today--see 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.

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ON THE YAHRZEIT OF HARAV AHARON KOTLER: Today, is the 55th 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, Z’tl:  “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?!

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TODAY!   It is 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 are marked on our calendar on the 24th/25th of Kislev--just a few short weeks away.  This, then, means that the actual miracle-filled clashes of the physically weak against the bodily strong, of a few brothers against armored battalions, of the piercing Kol Yaakov against the adroit Yedei Esav as portended by last week’s Parasha, took place on our calendar perhaps today and certainly in the days just ahead.  In last 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 power 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!

 

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28 Marcheshvan

YAHRZEIT OF RABBEINU YONAH: Today is the Yahrzeit of the Rabbeinu Yonah (Rabbeinu Yonah B’ R; Avrohom of Gorona). We accordingly provide just a few of his many and monumental teachings:

 

1. Chazal (Erchin 15B) teach “Kol Hamisaper Lashon Hara Ke’ilu Kofer BaIkar”, as the 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 teach that one who relates a p’gam Mishpacha--Ein Lo Kapparah Olamis, can never be forgiven.

 

3. 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.

 

4. 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.

 

5.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!

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REMEMBERING THE MUMBAI KEDOSHIM: As may be known to you, tomorrow will be the ninth 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.

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THE ROAD TO CHANUKAH:  As we are about to reach Rosh Chodesh Kislev on Sunday--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!

 

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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!

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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. 

 

The following Pesokim were provided in a shiur on bishul, by HaRav Shlomo Pearl, Z’tl:

 

1.  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.  

 

 2..  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. 

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QUESTIONS IN PREPARATION FOR THE PARASHA:

 

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)?!

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QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS OF HARAV CHAIM KANIEVSKY, SHLITA, ON THE PARASHA:  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!

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FOOD FOR THOUGHT: 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.

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IT’S ALL ABOUT CARING! 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!

 

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27 Marcheshvan

THE FOLLOWING IS AN AUDIO LINK TO HARAV ELYA BRUDNY’S OUTSTANDING SHIUR ON THE TESHUVAH OF YISHMAEL (30 MINUTES):

http://tinyurl.com/y9ogw6gx

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…!”

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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 K’lal Yisrael!”

 

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

 

Hakhel 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 the note that immediately follows.

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TO LOVE AND TO APPRECIATE:  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, 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!

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TEFILLAS HADERECH: We learn of Eliezer’s trip to and from Aram Naharayim. We most certainly assume that 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 is 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.

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RULINGS ON SHIDDUCHIM:  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!

 

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26 Marcheshvan

PESUKEI BITACHON: Bitachon is the mainstay of our existence. We accordingly 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.

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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!  

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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)

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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!

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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)

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FROM SARA IMEINU:  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?”

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CHESED SHEL EMES:

 

A. 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.

 

B. 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!

 

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25 Marcheshvan

TAG! With new iPhone upgrades constantly being produced, we urge our readers to be in contact with TAG: 732-730-1824, to get the most updated filter and other important information.

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FROM A READER: “You must warn people not to text and drive at the same time. If each of your readers warns at least one person not to text and drive at the same time--who knows how much injury, and perhaps how many lives, can be saved?  The same is true about talking on a cell phone while driving without a Bluetooth.” Hakhel Note: Our hallmark is to be rachmanim and gomlei chasodim--what better way to demonstrate these traits than by exercising care and caution with our lives--and the lives of others!

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CONNECTED OPPORTUNITIES:  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 hara 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!

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CONCLUDING POINTS AND POINTERS ON LAST WEEK’S PARASHA:

 

A.  Avrohom Avinu spoke directly to the Bnei Cheis: “U’Figu Li BeEfron Ben Tzochar--please introduce me to the person whom I want to meet.” There is no point in meeting this person or that person, or going through formalities. The lesson:  If it is at all possible, do not make meetings--but go directly to doing!

 

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 be 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. A reader had once inquired as to why many Siddurim, immediately after Hallel, bring the Pasuk 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, the Shelah HaKadosh writes that reciting this Pasuk after Hallel is a Segulah for Ariychus Yamim.  We can well understand that the Pasuk 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!

 

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 Yitzchak 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 Yitzchak’s wife with certainty now destroyed any hope that Eliezer had for Yitzchak 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 (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?  We may suggest that what makes us different is that we not only recite ‘Baruch Hashem’, but ‘Baruch Atah Hashem--we acknowledge the You--the presence of Hashem before us.  Hashem is not a Great Diety who is far away, but rather he is our Hashem, whose presence we acknowledge that we stand in at all times.  Moreover, our relationship is so personal and direct that it is not chutzpa--but rather a sign of love and affection--to refer to our G-d in the ‘second person’ personal, as no one else in the world can.  When reciting a Bracha, we should note that it is not just Baruch Hashem--but Baruch Atah Hashem--- and especially rejoice with the word ‘Atah’--for it so distinguishes and elevates us from the billions in the world around us!

 

F. The Seforno writes two specific points in Derech Eretz that we learn from the Parasha:

 

1. From Eliezer’s request of Rivka to give him water only for himself--we see that a guest should ask for less than he really needs.

 

2. From Rivka’s beautifully effusive response--feeding all of the camels as well--we learn that a host should do more than he really has to.

 

G. HaRav Ezriel Erlanger, Shlita, notes that from the Torah’s detail and ostensible repetition relating to the events in last week’s Parasha, we learn what a premium the Torah places on Derech Eretz. However, most acts of Derech Eretz must arise from our own common sense and sensibilities. For example, one should be careful not to disturb someone else’s sleep, not because if he does so it would be ‘gezel sheina’ or because he would be deemed a ‘mazik’ for doing so--but simply because a person is not acting like a mentsch if he does not sufficiently care about the sleep of another . Every person must at a minimum conduct himself in accordance with a code of behavior that all people living in a society should understand. A person must always be concerned that he acts as a Min Hayishuv--part of a civilized society. The reason that gezel was the sin that brought down the Dor HaMabul is because everyone should have understood that gezel is wrong--and yet they all did it anyways. There is a greater chiyuv on a person to act in a way which is self-understood to be the good and proper conduct of a human being. One should not ask: “Where is it written that I can’t do that?” It should be written in your head and your heart--even if it is not written in the Torah or in any Sefer. A person should always take into account the feelings and needs of those around him to, as HaRav Erlanger teaches be a chaver tov to the chevras bnei adam--all of those in the world around him!

 

H. There is a Yiddish term sometimes used by those who wish to perform a Mitzvah in the most perfunctory manner--yotzei tzu zain--so that he has fulfilled the Mitzvah. The yotzei in a sense can mean here--to leave the Mitzvah--to shake himself off, to patur himself from it. In the context of Chesed, this may occur when a person does the minimum that he has to in order to be recognized as having performed it. Bikur Cholim, for instance, when one only has a couple of minutes to perform it saying “Sorry I have to go”, or especially arriving for Nichum Aveilim at a time that the room is crowded and one will stay for a few moments and recite the Hamakom…may, depending upon the circumstances fall within the yotzei tzu zain category which we suggest a person should avoid. After all, is that the way the Avos would perform the Mitzvah?!--Let us once again recall our guideline--“Masai Yagiyah Maasai LeMa’asei Avosai, LeMa’asei Avrohom, Yitzchak V’Yaakov.” To avoid this from being mere lip service, we must pay special attention not only to an act of Chesed--but to the quality of its performance!

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GEVUROS!   The second bracha of Shemone Esrei is known as ‘Gevuros’, which is the Middah of Yitzchak Avinu. Techiyas Hameisim (which may be a part of the Akeidah) referred to above is also known as ‘Gevuros’, for in this bracha we demonstrate HaKadosh Boruch Hu’s absolute Omnipotence.

 

The Ritva (Taanis 2A) notes that the concept of Techiyas HaMeisim is mentioned four (4) times in this bracha.  While Techiyas HaMeisim is certainly unparalleled gevuros--why need it be mentioned four different times within one short bracha?  As we know, the Anshei K’nesses HaGedola compiled each bracha B’Ruach HaKadosh, and each word is very literally counted and deeply meaningful (see the remarkable words of the Aruch HaShulchan, Orach Chayim 112:4,5).

 

In response to this question, the Ritva teaches that in fact there is no reiteration here at all.  Rather, there are four separate and distinct forms of Techiyas HaMeisim mentioned in this bracha:

 

FIRST:  “Mechaye Meisim Ata Rav L’Hoshia” is immediately followed by Morid HaGeshem, because this phase refers to Hashem’s bringing us to life with proper rain, which bring us our food and sustenance.

 

SECOND:  “Mechaye Meisim B’Rachamim Rabim” (which is followed by Somech Noflim) refers to people who are seriously or even deathly ill whom HaKadosh Boruch Hu brings back to life through miraculous healing power.

 

THIRD:  “Melech Meimis U’Mechaye” refers to the departed whom the Neviim (such as Eliyahu HaNavi and Elisha HaNavi) helped bring back to life, and additionally to those whom Hashem brings to life “B’Olom HaNeshomos” (obviously this is a niftar concept).

 

FOURTH:  “V’Neeman Ata L’Hachayos Meisim” refers to the ultimate Techiyas HaMeisim, which we all anxiously await.

 

We see here how Hashem’s greatest gevuros have always been with us, are currently with us and will in the future be with us, as well.

 

PRACTICAL SUGGESTION:  During this week, in which Yitzchak Avinu comes to the fore as the successor of Avrohom Avinu, we should especially appreciate the Middah of Gevurah of Hashem that Yitzchak Avinu did, by stopping at each of the four references to Techiyas HaMeisim and thinking for a second about its particular meaning.

 

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24 Marcheshvan

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 every day!

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HOW TO DEAL WITH PEOPLE:  HaRav Ezriel Erlanger, Shlita, teaches that not once does the Torah record any vikuchim, any debates that Avrohom 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 Avrohom 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 Avrohom 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.” Finally, in last week’s Parasha, Avrohom insisted on paying Efron in full for the Me’aras HaMachpeila. It was Efron who spoke a lot, but gave nothing.  On the other hand, Avrohom Avinu who gave was known by the very people of Efron as the Nesi Elokim--the prince among them. Perhaps one reason for the Torah recording the Ma’aseh with Avimelech, and Avraham reprimanding him, was for him to teach us that this was the exception and not the rule.

 

So, from the beginning through the end, Avrohom 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 Avrohom Avinu.  Avrohom’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. 

 

One 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 Avrohom Avinu! 

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L’EVED HASHEM:  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! 

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IMPORTANT HALACHOS RELATING TO DAVENING: The following notes are excerpted from the Mishna Berurah Hilchos Birchos Hashachar and Pesukei D’Zimra (Dirshu Edition). As always, one must always seek the guidance of his own Rav or Posek for final p’sak in any and all areas:

 

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, Mishna and Gemara. The Mishna Berurah, however, notes that one is only credited with learning Mishna and Gemara if he understands what 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 one should try learn Mishna and Gemara even if he does not understand them, and L’Asid Lavo he will be able to understand that which he tried to understand here. The Chida adds that the attempt itself is considered Talmud Torah, and that if one understands 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 even if he does not understand it, and 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 even makes it impermissible to recite the words “Boruch Hu U’Varuch Shemo” when reciting a bracha. It is permissible to recite “Amen” on 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. It is also permissible to answer Modim D’Rabanan and to 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, but should answer “Amen” to the rest of Kaddish.  It is also permissible to recite a Birchos Hoda’ah (such as a bracha on lighting and thunder), and Asher Yatzar in Pesukei D’Zimra. It is preferable to recite the Asher Yatzar at certain points which constitute “bein haperakim” (interim points) in Pesukei D’Zimra. (see SA OC 51:4 Mishna Berurah seif katan 8 and 9, 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.

 

Hakhel Note: To be clear, it is not the Mishna Berurah who rules that one would answer “Amen” after V’Yatzmach Purkanei. 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.

 

C. The main reason that we recite Ashrei daily is to recite the Pasuk of “Poseiach Es Yadecha U’Masbia Lechol Chaim Ratzon”--this is a Shevach to Hashem and we should Kavannah that He is Mashgiach Ahl Briyosav U’Mefarnisan--that Hashem watches over His creations and sustains them. The Magein Avrohom brings from the Rabbeinu Bachya that when reciting these words one should think about the Nifla’os Hashem, Hashem’s greatness and His chesed towards us. This 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 being again from Poseiach Es Yadecha 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 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 lechatechila 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 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 as to the order of priority. 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. Lachatechila 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 the 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’kedusha. 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! (Mishna Berurah 53 seif katan 1 and Dirshu Note 2)

 

I. 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)

 

J. 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)

 

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21 Marcheshvan

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 this 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?

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FROM A READER: “ANSWERING THE YETZER HORAH’S POTENT CHALLENGE:  In Mesechta Yoma, Daf 87, Rebbe Yishmael teaches that the various levels of aveira each require a different kaparah, until concluding with Chilul Hashem, which not only requires Teshuvah, Yom Kippur and hardships, but will only be atoned for on the day of death.  Rabbi Daniel Glatstein, Shlita (Morah D’asra of Kehilas Ahavas Yisroel, Cedarhurst, and Maggid Shiur, Kollel Agra D’Pirka, Kew Gardens Hills), quoting the Sefer Darchei Teshuvah (written by a talmid of the Remah m’Pano) brings a technique to assist a person.  In the Gemara, it is brought that various categories of people are considered like a meis, including a sumah, a blind person. The Darchei Teshuvah says that by looking away and making himself like a blind person, it is as if he suffered death, thereby rendering a degree of kaparah for even the most severe aveiros.  Even though the Yetzer Horah’s temptation regarding Shemiras Einayim is very great, especially in our generation, it is an opportunity of a lifetime to achieve atonement for all of one’s aveiros!”

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QUOTABLE QUOTE: “Kindness arouses Hashem’s mercy, even after the merit of our forefathers has been exhausted. These days, harsh judgments abound across the world. The only way to protect ourselves from the hardships that arise each day is to strengthen ourselves in the pursuance of kind deeds, and thereby arouse the Attribute of Kindness in heaven.”  [Excerpted from The Concise Ahavas Chesed The Classic Work of the Chofetz Chaim Adapted to a Daily Learning Schedule in English by Rabbi Asher Wasserman, Shlita]

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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 the 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. 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).

 

2. 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)

 

3. 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)

 

4. 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).

 

5. 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) 

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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.

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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!

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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!
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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!

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CAPTURE THE MOMENT!:  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!

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SOME ADDITIONAL SPECIFICS ABOUT THIS WEEK’S PARASHA, PARASHAS CHAYEI SARA: 

 

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!

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AT THE MIDPOINT: We are at the midway point between Sukkos and Chanukah. 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 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: It is a perfect time for a special 30-Day Kabbalah--thirty days before Chanukah!

 

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20 Marcheshvan

THE BA’AL CHESED: Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss, Shlita, teaches that it is important not only to do Chesed but to become a Ba’al Chessed.  A Ba’al Chessed is not necessarily someone who has money at all, but who is someone who sees the need and acts upon it.  For instance, he not only says “Assusa”, “Gezhuntheit” etc. when someone sneezes--but also pushes over the box of tissues. In order to train his young children in this area, Rabbi Weiss made a point of giving them extra snacks or drinks and told them to give it privately to someone else who did not bring snack that day.  We can apply this extremely significant Middah in many ways--in the most extraordinary and most ordinary of situations! 

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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 and Kallah and feeling sad from the void left by the passing of the person 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!”

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ADDITIONAL POINTS AND POINTERS ON HACHNOSSAS ORCHIM FROM 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 is 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--then 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! 

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SHIDDUCHIM! In the coming week’s Parasha, Chayei Sarah, the Torah focuses on finding one’s bashert. Upon reflection, the Torah teaches 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.

 

Our modest suggestion:  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!!”

 

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19 Marcheshvan

THE CONCLUSION OF LANDMARKS: Below are the final two suggested “Landmarks” in Shemone Esrei.

 

In the bracha of “Modim”--when reciting the words “Ve’al Nisecha Shebichol Yom Imanu”, recall that this refers to the daily miracles that each person experiences individually. Think about at least one (there are so many!) that occurred to you since the last Shemone Esrei (yes, it can be something physical or monetary)--and thank Hashem for it!

 

In the bracha of “Shalom” (Sim Shalom/Shalom Rav)--when reciting the word “Shalom”--one of the numerous times it is requested in the bracha, think about a separate area of Shalom that you really need (Shalom Bayis, Shalom at work, Shalom with a neighbor or acquaintance…Shalom in Eretz Yisrael) and ask Hashem to bless you with it!

 

We hope that our suggestions have been useful to you. Once again, please feel free to provide us with any additional insights and suggestions in landmarks in Shemone Esrei and Tefillah!

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AVOIDING RIBBIS WITH CARPOOL: Many families are involved in carpool arrangements in some form or another. At times the routes are similar, yet at times the routes differ significantly in length and congestion. Is there any ribbis issue with driving the longer, congested route in exchange for the other person driving the shorter  route? In response, one should avoid formulating these agreements as conditional and binding, rather they should be formulated in ways which clearly indicate that they are being performed as favors by all parties involved. The same would apply to carpool arrangements in which one driver agrees to do carpool on more days per week than the other driver. As long as there was no conditional agreement it would be permitted. Driving similar routes is permitted in any case, even if they are slightly different in length. [Excerpted from the recently published English Sefer The Ribbis Book by Rabbi Eliezer Cohen, Dayan, Bais HaVaad L’inyonei Mishpat]

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‘CHESED L’AVROHOM’: Last week’s Parasha teaches us the ‘Chesed L’Avrohom’ which is, and must continue to be, and grow and shine as, a hallmark of his descendants.  We provide below several excerpts from the Chofetz Chaim’s Sefer Ahavas Chesed, which provides so many essential Halachos and Hashkafos of Chesed, as a concomitant foundation of the World (Olam Chesed Yiboneh), the Torah (Techilaso Chesed VeSofo Chesed), and K’lal Yisrael (Sholosh Middos Yesh Bohem, Rachmonim...U’Gomlei Chasodim). The Chofetz Chaim teaches as follows:

 

1. If a person does kindness on earth, he awakens Chesed above, and the day is crowned with Chesed through his actions. Happy is the man who exhibits the proper conduct below, since all depends on his act to awaken the corresponding activity above.

 

2. One should be especially careful not to neglect practicing Chesed even for a single day of his life, *in the same way* that one takes care to set fixed times for daily Torah study.

 

3. The Gimmel and Daled of the Aleph Bais teach that we are to be Gomel Dalim--to act benevolently to the poor, to the extent that just as the foot of the Gimel stretched to the Daled, so too is it fitting for us to run after the mitzvah of performing kindness to another, not waiting for them to come to us for assistance.

 

4. When blessed with guests, one should promptly place food and drink before them, since the visitor may be ashamed to ask. When serving them, the host should be gracious, hiding his troubles from them, for he may break their spirit, when it is really his role to revive them and boost their spirits.  If the guest sleeps over, the host should give him the best bed available, since it is very important for the weary to rest comfortably.  Sometimes, the host who provides the guest with the opportunity to rest comfortably does better by him than in giving him food and drink....

 

5. There are many types of Chesed performed by word of mouth, for instance to pray that Hashem heal the sick.  This is included in the mitzvah of Bikur Cholim. A similar chesed of prayer applies to a situation in which harm threatens a person even if he does not know about it.  This we learn from Avrohom Avinu, who interceded on behalf of the people of Sodom in just such an instance.  More on the mitzvah of Bikur Cholim continues immediately below.

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AN AMAZING LESSON FOR TODAY’S TIMES!  The twentieth letter of the Chofetz Chaim in the Michtevei Chofetz Chaim is entitled Maamar 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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18 Marcheshvan

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. 

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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!

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FROM OUR READERS:

 

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 an inappropriate 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 Yisrael!

 

B. “Regarding your point of the malach asking Avrohom where his wife was in order to 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!

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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)

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THE FIRE OF TORAH: 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. 

 

Additional Notes:

 

1.  HaRav Avrohom Yaffen, Z’tl was the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Navordok and the author of the Sefer Derech Aison and other works, and was constantly sought after for advice and guidance --with lines of people coming to see him. Once while in Bialystok, his son-in-law, HaRav Chaim Boruch Faskowitz, z’tl, asked him how he ever had a chance to learn if he was constantly besieged by others seeking Brachos and counsel.  He responded that he studied in the five minute intervals between one person and another.  “For if a person cannot focus and concentrate in the five minutes that he has, than he cannot do it in the five hours that he has either….”

 

2.  Rabbi Yosef Eisen, Shlita notes that the word ‘Aish’ in ‘Aish HaTorah’ is an acronym for Ahava and Simcha--love and joy--for if a person truly learns with love and joy--with true appreciation of the opportunity--his Torah study will not only be a spark --but a flame of Kedusha to light and warm a world of darkness!

 

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17 Marcheshvan

WHY ARE WE HERE? HaRav Eliyahu Brudny, Shlita, teaches that we are here to:

 

Achieve

Make a Difference

Be Marbeh Kevod Shomayim

Bask in the Ohr HaTeshuvah

Jointly March to Greet Moshiach

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THE SECRET OF UNITY: The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (12:2) provides a great lesson for us in the incredible effects of unity--or at least one’s own personal sincere attempts to obtain it:  “Before davening one should have especial kavannah to genuinely accept upon himself the Mitzvah of VeAhavta LeRayacha Komocha.  For when there is separation among K’lal Yisrael below, then there is no unity in the heavens either. Conversely, when we unite with our fellow Jews below, it causes the souls above to be united--and this oneness also allows our Tefillos to become united as they reach the heavens. When our Tefillos are united, they are pleasing to Hashem.

 

Hakhel Note:  This demonstration of Bain Adam L’Chaveiro, then, directly branches to Bain Adam L’Makom--and produces huge gains--Bain Adam L’Atzmo!

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YOU MADE A WEDDING AND YOU DIDN’T SEND ME AN INVITATION?! In the Divrei Siach, Rabbi Yitzchok Goldshtoff, Shlita, writes that to those who have been asking HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, what they can do in an Eis Tzara, HaRav Kanievsky often responds to add onto and strengthen one’s Torah study--for as Chazal testify, Torah study shields and saves from harm. In this regard, Rabbi Goldshtoff brings an amazing incident with the Chebiner Rav, Z’tl. The Rav was once invited by an acquaintance to the marriage of his son. The Rav did not attend as he could not attend all of the simchas that he was invited to. When this gentleman was ready to marry off his second son he did not send the Rav an invitation, understanding that the Rav would not be able to attend. Several days after the wedding, he saw the Rav and asked the Rav for a bracha for his son. The Rav replied: “You made a wedding and you didn’t send me an invitation?!” The acquaintance--stunned by the question--responded: “I understood that the Rav would not be able to attend the Chasunah, just as he was unable to attend my first son’s wedding.” The Rav responded: “You should have sent an invitation for two reasons: Firstly, when one receives an invitation it makes him happy, and he gives a bracha and wishes the ba’alei simcha well. This is reason enough to send a hazmana.” The Rav continued: “For me, there is a second reason to send an invitation--because for every invitation I receive for a simcha in which I will be unable to participate I estimate the time it would take me to travel to, remain, and return from the simcha--and dedicate that time to the additional study of Torah. Because you did not send me an invitation--I lost out on the additional time of learning that I love to do so much!”

 

Hakhel Note: How many practical lessons can you derive--and implement from this story?!

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WHERE WE FIT IN!  In last week’s Parasha we find the name of Hashem ‘Shakai’ mentioned for the first time.  As Chazal teach, this Name refers to: “Ani Hu She’amar L’Olom Shyehei Dai--I was the One Who told the world to stop from further creation.”  HaRav Boruch HaLevi Epstein, Z’tl, in his Sefer ‘Torah Temimah’ asks why stopping the process of creation deserves that a name of Hashem be called after it.  After all, wouldn’t it have been fantastic to have even more wonders in the world?!  He answers that Hashem, only because of His great beneficence stopped the world from further creation --for if He had allowed creation to go further, man would have had nothing more to do or accomplish in this world.  Our existence would have been an insignificant, non-meaningful, ‘nahama dechisufa’, one.  Accordingly, the Name, Shakai, is a great praise of ours to Hashem-- for it thanks Hashem for giving our lives meaning and purpose-- to complete the world in a way that only each and every one of us can!

 

Hakhel Note: Based upon this wonderful explanation, we can understand why, of all of the names of Hashem that could possibly greet us as we go from room to room in our homes, buildings and institutions, it is that name --‘Shakai’-- on every doorpost--as if to remind us as we constantly come and go to reach our Shleimus--and, by doing your part, helping the whole world achieve its Shleimus as well!

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BIKUR CHOLIM: As last week’s Parasha taught of the primary importance of Bikur Cholim, as Hakadosh Baruch Hu visited Avraham Avinu after his bris, we provide the following additional reminders on Bikur Cholim:

 

1.  According to the Chochmas Odom (151:3) the ikar (main point) of Bikur Cholim is davening for the sick person while visiting him.  In fact, the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (193:3) paskens that one has not fulfilled the mitzvah of Bikur Cholim if he visits, but does not daven to Hashem while there.  This is because the Shechina is present above the head of the sick person, and your tefillos are, k’viyachol, in front of the Shechina itself (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Dei’ah 335, Shach seif katan 3).  In your tefillah, you should ask for Hashem’s mercy for that particular choleh “B’soch Cholei Yisrael” (amongst the other sick of Israel), because, in the merit of the many, your tefillos will be better received (ibid., Shach seif katan 4).

 

2.  Bikur Cholim should not be performed when it is convenient for the visitor, but when it is best for the choleh.  As the halacha states, one should not visit in the first three hours of the day… the last three hours of the day…, etc. (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 335:4).

 

3.  In addition to tefillah, there is a mitzvah to give the choleh ‘nachas ruach’ (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 193:3).  This does not mean that one should speak on and on, or even with witticisms.  Statements such as “You’ll now have to take that medicine for the rest of your life,” or “Next time, you’ll be more careful,” or even “How will this affect your life going forward?” may be equated with smacking a poor person across the face and knocking out a few teeth as you hand him a hundred dollars with a smile.

 

4.  The Chazon Ish (Collected Letters, Volume I:138) writes that everyone has the mitzvah to perform “Bikur Cholim” upon himself, as well.  This means that he must take care of his body and use the most effective means possible for his personal health.

 

5.  One should try to tidy up and make the atmosphere more cheery for the choleh, if possible.  The Gemara (Nedarim 40A) relates that Rabbi Akiva himself swept and cleaned the floor for his sick student. It is no wonder, then, that one who acts wisely with the ill will himself be saved from ‘a bad day’ by Hashem (see Tehillim 41 and Gemara, Nedarim 40A).

 

6.  Finally, one should consider a choleh’s status after he leaves the hospital, and even after he returns to shul or to work.  The fact that he has somewhat healed does not necessarily mean that he is not suffering pain or is otherwise in distress.  One should continue to daven for, and inquire as to, a person’s welfare, until he is confident that the choleh has received his Refuah Shleimah!

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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14 Marcheshvan

THE TEFILLAH OF THE CHAZON ISH: As tomorrow is the Yahrzeit of the Chazon Ish, we provide by the following link the famous short Tefillah that he composed for one to recite on behalf of his son - http://tinyurl.com/qfakgle

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SHALOM BAYIS! Rashi teaches that the Malach inquired of Avraham as to where Sara Imeinu was so that Avraham would realize and respond that she was inside--in the tent: “Kedei Lechavevah Ahl Ba’alah--which would cause Avraham to cherish Sara Imeinu for her tzniyus.” This is a great lesson for us--no matter what the age of spouses--Hava’as Shalom Bein Ish LeIshto, bringing peace between husband and wife--should be a great goal of everyone! 

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TAKING THE ELEVATOR: This week’s Parasha contains the Mitzvah of Bikur Cholim. HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, was asked whether one should take the stairs rather than take an elevator when going to visit one who is ill--for one is then exerting himself to a greater extent, and doing a Mitzvah with each step.  He responded that if it would involve bittul Torah, one should take the elevator.  [Hakhel Note:  The question teaches the great importance of Bikur Cholim on the one hand--and the great importance of Talmud Torah on the other!]

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A GREAT INSTRUCTION IN BIKUR CHOLIM: Chazal (Pesachim 118B) teach us that when Rebbi Yishmoel B’ R’ Yossi was ill, Rebbi Yehudah HaNossi asked of him to relate “two or three teachings in the name of your father.” At first glance, one would think that Rebbi asked for these teachings, so that if c’v Rebbi Yishmoel would leave this world because of the illness, the teachings would be left behind and known. However, we may suggest that the reason Rebbi asked Rebbi Yishmoel for these teachings when he was ill was to help heal him. As we know, the Torah teaches that the reward for honoring one’s parents is Arichus Yomim--length of days. By Rebbi Yishmoel relating teachings in the name of his father, he was fulfilling the Mitzvah of Kibbud Av--and could therefore be zoche to Arichus Yomim--being healed from his illness--and having length of days! The lesson to us would be that if and when possible, cause the person who is ill to perform the Mitzvah of Kibbud Av VaEim--and hopefully the Arichus Yomim will come!

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51 NOT 52: Rashi teaches that the fifth city that was to be destroyed together with Sedom, Amora, Adma and Tzevoyim was the city of Tzo’ar. It was not destroyed in the end because it was one year newer than the other four, and accordingly it was ruled innocent--just one year can be the difference between total destruction and total salvation! Indeed, we find Tzo’ar mentioned again in Parashas Vezos HaBeracha (Devorim 34:3)--as a city that Moshe Rabbeinu was shown as part and parcel of Eretz Yisrael! Our actions this year--just this one year--can bring about our salvation. Let us do our utmost to make it happen!

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WE CONTINUE WITH OUR EREV SHABBOS HALACHOS OF SHABBOS SERIES:

 

1.  The Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 320, seif katan 12) rules that if one is eating grapes or olives on Shabbos, he should put the entire grape or olive into his mouth and chew it then, rather than suck on it when it is only partially in his mouth, because of issues relating to Sechita on Shabbos.

 

2.  Pomegranate juice has become a popular health food.  Since it may be obvious that you are taking it for health reasons--is it permissible to take on Shabbos?  We believe that one can draw the appropriate response to this question from the following excerpt from Halachos of Refuah on Shabbos by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita: “One may not take an enema on Shabbos.  Even though taking an enema does not necessarily involve medicine, nevertheless, since it looks like a therapeutic procedure, and there are medicines for constipation, if it were permitted, people might mistakenly assume that taking medicines is also permitted.   According to some Poskim, one may use plain water (without any additives) as an enema for constipation.  However, if the constipation is so severe that one feels weak all over, or one feels so incapacitated that he cannot function, he is permitted to use any type of enema, but should insert it by way of shinui.  More often than not, constipation is not incapacitating, in which case an enema may not be taken.  Nevertheless, if one can cure his constipation by taking a long walk, or by eating regular foods that are natural laxatives, such as stewed prunes, prune juice, licorice tea, or high-fiber cereal he may do so, since these are activities of healthy people, and would not be confused with taking medicine.”

 

3. The following is an inspirational thought from the Hilchos Shabbos Imitative, L’Zechus Refuah Sheleimah L’Chaya Malka Bas Bassheva. To receive the Hilchos Shabbos Initiative weekly Shabbos Halachos, email learnshabbos@gmail.com:

 

“The Mishna Berurah writes, ‘It is a mitzvah from the Torah to add on to the Shabbos at its beginning and at its end.” This is called ‘Tosefes Shabbos’. Why did Hashem bring the redemption from Mitzrayim after only 210 years, instead of the 400 that Hashem told Avraham? Chazal say they were redeemed earlier in the merit of Tosefes Shabbos. Why did that particular mitzvah bring the redemption quicker? The Yitav Lev explains: Hashem saw that the Jewish nation was keeping Shabbos beyond its exact times, so Hashem said, “I see that you are not being particular about time, therefore, I will also be flexible with time.” In this manner, the 400 years were decreased to 210. So too, if we add on to Shabbos, we can cause the arrival of Moshiach to happen sooner. Furthermore, we can be redeemed from all forms of difficulties and struggles sooner than they were ordained to end.” (As quoted from Rabbi Biderman – Torah Wellsprings)

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SEVERAL POINTS AND POINTERS ON PARASHAS VAYEIRAH:

 

A.  Although there are several answers to the question as to why Avrohom Avinu sought advice from Aner, Eshkol, and Mamrei on how to perform the Mitzvah of Milah described in last week’s Parasha, there is a beautiful Mussar thought from the Shelah HaKadosh.  The Shelah writes that Avrohom Avinu wanted to teach us all that a person should not perform a Mitzvah quickly and without thinking, based on his own intuition and personal intellect--but wherever possible one should speak to others about possible ways to perform and better accomplish the goal.  Sometimes, one can even learn from those on levels below him, and all insights are important.  In fact, according to the Midrash, Mamrei told Avrohom how he felt the Mitzvah could be performed with greater Hiddur, and was therefore Zoche for the Shechina to appear to Avrohom Avinu in the Plains of Mamrei,” as described at the outset of the Parasha!

 

B.  The Parasha teaches that as soon as Avrohom Avinu saw the Malochim approaching, “Vayaratz Likrasam--he ran to greet them.”  How could a 100 year old man who had just gone through a Bris Milah run to them?  Moreover, was it not Refoel, one of the three strangers coming, who was coming to heal him?  Finally, why did he need to be healed if he was already able to run to greet them--why was Refoel coming at all?  Some learn that once Avrohom Avinu saw Refoel he became healed immediately and was thus able to run towards them.  This serves as a reminder to us all that no medication or treatment, no therapy or regimen can or will be successful unless it is infused with Hashem’s direction and force to heal.  If Hashem willed it, it would not be the tablet that healed, but simply looking at the tablet that would heal.  When we recite the known Tefillos before taking medicine or before going to the doctor we should recognize that the Tefillah is more of the “Ikar” than the tablet, the shot, or the recommended advice to be followed!

 

C.  When Avrohom Avinu greeted his guests, he begged them not to leave without resting, and having something to eat and drink.  Why did Avrohom Avinu have to beg them--after all wasn’t he doing them a great favor--helping them on an extraordinary hot day?!  The Ba’alei Mussar explain that there is life-guiding advice here.  When helping another, one must do his utmost to make them feel not that you are doing them a favor, but that they are doing you a favor (in some way).  Additionally, one should not honor or glorify himself over the deed that he is performing.  We especially note that Avrohom Avinu begged the guests from the outset, and did not have to even respond to any initial expression of thanks with, “No, No, you are doing me a favor”--so that even ab initio the Chesed was pristine.  Hakhel Note:  This may not always be easy, but let us take Chizuk from Avrohom Avinu--a 100 year old man on the third day of his Bris Milah expressing his plea to three young and healthy strangers, whom he had never seen before and whom he would ostensibly never see again. 

 

D.   Chazal teach that although Avrohom Avinu worked so laboriously to feed and wait-on his guests, because Avrohom sent Yishmoel his son to bring the water to his guests, Hashem also sent us the gift of water through a Shaliach in the desert.  What was wrong with training Yishmoel in this task--after all was he not “the next generation”?  HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, answers that the best training for the next generation--even more than having them do something themselves--is for them to watch you perform the Mitzvah--and perform it properly.  Just as the image of Yaakov Avinu remained with Yosef, and prevented him from sinning, so too will the picture of Chesed be ever imprinted in the follower’s mind--to reflect upon, to replicate, and to emulate--when the time comes…and it is really their turn!

 

E.  Hashem praised Avrohom Avinu with the words “Ki Yedati…for I have loved him because I know that he will command his children after him to follow in the way of Hashem performing charity and justice.”  HaRav Isser Zalmen Meltzer, Z’tl, asks how charity can come before justice.  After all, one cannot do charity without money which has not been earned justly.  Charity should not precede justice--it should succeed justice in the order of the Pasuk!  HaRav Meltzer answers that sometimes Tzedaka is justice itself.  If a person is desperately in need of our assistance; if it is a matter of Pikuach Nefesh, if it is a matter of sustaining lives, then we can no longer leave it as a well meaning Chesed or extra-curricular Tzedaka activity, but must instead consider it as part and parcel of our daily requirement to act with Mishpat--of doing that which is just and proper today.  This would mean that if there is a genuine Pidyon Shevuyim call, a real Hatzolos Nefashos request, a matter of Pikuach Nefesh in the community, it is not a nice or appropriate “add-on” to a person’s day to respond in some way--it is an integral fulfillment of your “Mishpat,” your doing the right thing, your properly serving Hashem on that day!

 

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

 

G.  We now move on to the second part of Lots salvation--after he escapes Sedom.  At this point, we learn that Lot accomplishes something that even Avrohom  Avinu could not accomplish.  Although Avrohom davened for each one of the five cities to be saved, Hashem advised him that there was an insufficient number of Tzadikim in any city for the city to be saved.  However, we find that Lot requested that he be saved in the city of Tzoar --and he was, together with the entire city!  How was Lot, the recalcitrant nephew, able to save a city that his incomparable Rebbe could not?

 

HaRav Yecheskel Levenstein, Z’tl, derives two essential lessons from this.  First, we see how much more effective it is for the affected person to daven for himself than for a third party (no matter how great) to daven for him.  Here, Lot was asking for his life to be spared.  No matter how genuine and sincere the entireties of Avrohom  Avinu were, nothing can match the depths of someone pleading for his own life.  No one can act on your behalf more than you and you alone.   Of course, one should always ask a Talmid Chacham to daven for him, but this cannot replace or substitute for one davening for himself.

 

The second great lesson teaches us the extent of Hakaras Hatov that one must demonstrate if someone has even attempted to do good towards them.  Lot showed hospitality to the Malochim (who really didn’t need it), and their expression of Hakaras HaTov went to the degree of saving an entire city in order to save Lot.  Similarly, HaRav Daniel of Kelm, Z’tl, HY’D, the last Rosh Yeshiva of Kelm, explained that Elisha HaNavi was actually bound by his Hakoras Hatov to the Isha HaShunamis, to go to the extent of bringing her son back to the living--the greatest of miracles possible.

 

Thus, within one event, we learn vital lessons both on a Bein Adam LaMakom, and a Bein Adam L’Chaveiro, level.  In Bein Adam LaMakom--establish your own personal relationship with Hashem in Tefillah because no one can daven better for yourself than you.  Work on it, because no one can as you can.  On a Bein Odom L’Chaveiro level, make sure that you constantly and unwaveringly demonstrate your Hakaras Hatov for the many kindnesses you receive from those around you.  

 

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

 

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

 

J.  The Shelah HaKadosh writes that from the Akeidas Yitzchok we all can take a practical lesson:  Avrohom Avinu was mevatel his ratzon for the ratzon of Hashem--he broke his desire, he gave of himself, he went against his grain--all because he knew that Hashem wanted otherwise.  When a person encounters a particular aveirah or Mitzvah, he should think that perhaps Hashem is testing me, just as he tested Avrohom Avinu.  With Hashem on his mind in this way, the Shelah concludes, a person will be successful in the tests of his life. What life-bearing advice!
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AS WE CONTEMPLATE AVROHOM AVINU’S ACTS OF CHESED IN PARASHAS VAYEIRAH, WE PROVIDE THE FOLLOWING NOTES:

 

1.  Here is a good thought to keep in mind: “Zechus Kadima La’asos Tova L’mi She’asa Imcha Ra’ah”--one should try to make it a priority to do Chesed to those who have not performed Chesed with you--and to the contrary may have even hurt you.  You are thereby raising the bar with none other than yourself!

 

2.  The Sefer Pele Yoetz writes that when Dovid HaMelech writes that “Olam Chesed Yiboneh--the world is built on Chesed” (Tehillim 89:23)--it does not mean that one must perform incredible feats, or spend excessive amounts.  Rather, the Pele Yoetz advises, that one also performs a Mitzvah De’oraysa when opening the door for one who is knocking, making change for someone, or simply extending a hand when needed.  One’s thought and focus simply has to be in the right place.

 

3.  The following story was related to us by one of our readers (a Rav).  He had the honor of driving HaRav Shmuel Kamenetsky, Shlita from Philadelphia to another city to give a Shiur.  When stopping off for gas along the way, the driver asked the gas station attendant to check the oil.  It was pouring rain.  The attendant, who could hardly speak English, lifted the hood and motioned that he would need a minute to do something else first.  Upon hearing this, the driver told HaRav Kamenetsky that he was going to move the car underneath the station overhang, so that the exposed engine and wires would not get wet.  HaRav Kamenetsky immediately turned to him and said “No, no…you should move the car under the overhang so that the attendant does not get wet!”

 

4.  As we have noted in the past, Rabbi Avigdor Miller, z’tl would urge people to perform a private Chesed--i.e., a Chesed that others did not know about--every day.  

 

5.  The Chofetz Chaim in his Sefer Ahavas Chesed writes that one must love Chesed (as in the name of his Sefer), and not act out of a feeling of pressure (that person is so desperate for my help, how could I say no) or because he is required to do so.  If one loves Chesed, the Chofetz Chaim writes, he will search for ways and means to do good to his fellow man on his own, just as a father seeks to help his son even if he has not been asked for it.  Moreover, when a person feels a love for this mitzvah, he will motivate, encourage, inspire and arouse others to become engaged in similar and even different acts of Chesed as well.

 

6.  Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss, Shlita, teaches that a Ba’al Chessed is not necessarily someone who has money at all, but who is someone who sees the need and acts upon it.  For instance, he not only says “Assusa”, “Gezhuntheit” etc. when someone sneezes--but also pushes over the box of tissues.  Rabbi Weiss related a telling incident which had occurred to him personally. He was running back to the supermarket to return a shopping cart, after having done some last-minute shopping for Shabbos.  He saw a non-Jewish woman walking towards the supermarket and he said to her “Here is a cart”, and she responded “I don’t need it”, even though, she was walking towards the supermarket anyway, and his rush to get it back was obvious.  A Ba’al Chessed would have perceived the obvious the need, and whether or not he needed the cart--and most certainly if he was going in that direction--would have returned the cart--and even offered to do so without even being asked.  In order to train his young children in this area, Rabbi Weiss made a point of giving them extra snacks or drinks and told them to give it privately to someone else who did not bring snack that day.  We can apply this extremely significant Middah in many ways--in the most extraordinary and most ordinary of situations! 

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A BIT DEEPER: If one delves a bit deeper into the Parashios describing the great Midos and conduct of Avrohom Avinu, he may have a perplexing question: On the one hand, Avrohom Avinu suspects Paroh, Avimelech, and Efron of dishonesty, and at least in the cases of Paroh and Avimelech, possible retzicha and ni’uf. Yet, on the other hand, Avrohom Avinu greets and treats royally people who appear to be idol-worshipping Arabs, davens for the wicked people of Sedom to be saved, makes a pact with Avimelech even after what Avimelech had done, and sets up an Aishel in Be’er Sheva to give free food, drink and lodging to nomadic and other wayfarers. Does not this behavior seem contradictory--on the one hand, understanding the evil ways of the people around him, and dealing with them appropriately, without flattery and without compromise--and on the other hand, treating people so different from him with great respect, dignity and kindness? HaRav Ezriel Erlanger, Shlita, explains that this is truly not contradictory behavior at all. Avrohom Avinu understood that man has within him both tov and rah. Avrohom was not born a Malach--he too worked to restrain and overcome the evil within him. It is for this reason--from his own personal experience--that he believed in people. Yes--bad can go very far--but within the very same person, the good can overcome it and change the die-hard Rasha into a true Tzaddik. It is our duty, Avrohom Avinu realized--not only to help ourselves conquer the evil within us and replace it with good--but to help others--who have that very same potential, as well! Everyone can ask himself--’when will my deeds reach the deeds of my forefathers?’...and everyone is capable of answering the question--successfully!

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YAHRZEIT OF HARAV SCHACH, Z’TL:  Sunday, 16 Marcheshvan, is the Sixteenth Yahrzeit of HaRav Schach, Z’tl (HaRav Elazar Menachem Mann B’R’ Ezriel).  It is well known that Rav Schach wrote in his Tzava’a that anyone who learned from him, any of his ‘talmidim’ who gained from him either in Torah, Yiras Hashem, or Midos, should do Chesed with him and learn a Mishna or a Machshava of Mussar, and that in turn, Rav Schach will do what he can to be Meiltiz Tov for those who do so. On this note, we provide the following teaching of HaRav Schach on this week’s Parasha: Chazal (Shabbos 127 A) teach that welcoming guests is greater than greeting the Shechina, as we see from Avrohom Avinu in the beginning of this week’s Parasha-- as he left his audience with Hashem in order to greet the wayfarers.  How could this be, Rav Schach asks?  After all, does not the Mesilas Yesharim teach that the whole goal of life is to come closer to the Shechina?!  Rav Schach explains that Avrohom Avinu was initially only standing in front of Hashem.  By running to greet the potential guests, he was doing better than ‘merely’ standing in front of the Shechina--for he was emulating the Shechina with his act of Chesed, thereby binding and becoming one (Kevayachol) with Hashem, rather than Hashem standing only in front of him.

 

Hakhel Note: Of the Thirteen Attributes of Hashem that we are to emulate, two of them involve Chesed--’Rav Chesed’ and ‘Notzer Chesed’. If one would think about it from a parent-child perspective, a parent would have much greater Nachas from the child doing what the parent does--rather than the child simply being together with him in his presence! 

 

We also provide two famous vignettes from the Sefer Conversations on the Life of Rav Schach, compiled by HaRav Asher Bergman, Shlita:

 

1. “Rav Schach recalled from the days of his youth how the Alter of Slobodka, Z’tl (Rav Noson Zvi Finkel) used to instill this fear within the bachurim - the dread of am-ha’aratzus - as he would urge the boys to learn seriously, saying, “If you don’t take care, you will become am ha’aratzim! Go learn!” “When the Alter said these words to us,” Rav Schach related, “we felt in our very bones that this would be the worst catastrophe that could possibly occur to us--that we should become am ha’aratzim, and lose out on the essence of life. Whoever heard the Alter issue this stern warning with his trembling voice, ‘You will be am ha’aratzim!’ did not require any further musar shmuz That person immediately and clearly understood the pathetic tragedy of a person fated to waste his life as an am ha’aretz, with no possibility of gaining spiritual stimulation or satisfaction in life.”

 

2. “Rav Schach would often encourage avrechim to become involved in teaching Torah to younger students in both junior and senior yeshivos. The reason, aside from the tremendous independent value of spreading Torah knowledge, is that developing such a relationship and bond with younger students is beneficial for the older Talmud scholar himself, in that it keeps him refreshed and invigorated. Rav Schach expressed a similar thought in a different matter as well. A tragic incident occurred in which both parents of a particular family had been killed, presenting the question of what should be done with the orphans, who had suddenly become bereft of a father and a mother. The children’s grandmother was interested in taking upon herself the task of raising them, and was willing to dedicate herself to this difficult job with all her heart and soul. Deep down, however, she had doubts as to whether it was beneficial for the children to grow up their whole lives raised by an “old grandmother.” The woman approached Rav Schach for advice, and as soon as he heard about her reservations, he told her, “Whoever is in the company of young people and constantly deals with them, himself remains young! You do not have to worry about becoming an ‘old grandmother’ in such a situation!”

 

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13 Marcheshvan

IMPORTANT DAILY QUESTION: What will I do better today than I did yesterday?

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A FEW PERSONAL QUESTIONS:

 

1. What do you do when you are the most awake? Some believe that they are ‘morning people’, others ‘afternoon people’, and yet others, ‘late night individuals’. In whatever manner a person views himself, ask yourself what you usually dedicate your ‘most awake’ hours for--is it Torah and Ma’asim Tovim…or something else? Conversely, is your primary Torah-study time when falling asleep after eating dinner and taking care of matters at home…?

 

2. Should you ever feel bitter?  The answer is actually--yes. The Chofetz Chaim (also see Sha’arei Teshuvah 1:13) writes that Ikar HaTeshuvah Lefi Merirus HaLev. When doing Teshuvah--you must sincerely sense the bitterness of the sin that you committed and its continuing effect upon your being and even upon the world--until Teshuvah makes life sweet again!

 

3. Should you ‘go behind his back to help him’? Before doing so, ask yourself this question out-loud--and pensively--three times. If the answer is not pellucidly clear in your mind, consult with your Rav or Posek before doing so.

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FROM A READER: Regarding Tzipisah L’Yeshuah I heard a nice thought. The Yeshuah can even mean our personal Yeshuah because that represents a small part of the Tzar HaShechina while we are still in galus. (For example, having the challenge of raising a child that is going off the derech can be compared to the Shechinah watching His children, K’lal Yisrael, wandering blindly in this long and dark galus.) In this context we can understand it as: “Did we truly believe, b’emunah shelaima, that the Yeshua to our personal tzara can come k’heref ayin--and that the Yeshua is coming straight from Hashem?!””

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CAPTURED CITY:  Because the Yetzer Hara is a melech zakein u’kesil--an old and hoary king, we must ‘be smart’ and devise ways of dealing with his methods of deceit and entrapment. A Rav who does not live in the city itself advised us that whenever he must travel into the city, he is very much repulsed by what he sees and experiences--but, nevertheless finds that the Yetzer Hara is very much at work, pulling at one’s heart and at one’s eyes. When he does travel  into the city, he has found what helps him deflect the allurements of the Yetzer Hara is to view the city as ‘captured’--and the unchaste or improperly behaving people that he meets there as individuals who have gone over to the side of and are collaborating with the enemy. One who is loyal will keep his distance and stay clear of them--for even if the city is captured--one can still maintain his dedication and resolve, his faithfulness and devotedness to the side of that which is true, good and right!

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DO A GOOD JOB!  Tefillah is referred to by Chazal as Avodah SheBalev--the work of the heart. Likewise, in the Orchos Chaim L’Rosh (26), the Rosh refers to Tefillah as a Halacha Nichbedes--honored work. When one works honestly, and works hard, he does not slacken, let his mind wander, or try just to ‘get-by’--as these are never the keys to success--whether one owns his own business, or works for someone else. In the case of Tefillah, the diligent performance of one’s job will not only prove successful to the mispallel himself--but will overflow into all whom he is mispallel for--family, friends, K’lal Yisrael--and the world!

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: Kedusha requires effort. If one does not pay attention to his actions, he will go downhill in the ordinary course. If one does not make the effort to come to davening on time, he will find himself coming to davening later (and later). If one does not consider learning more, he may lose a Chavrusa here, and a daily Mishna Seder there. If one is not proactive in performing Chesed, he will find himself doing less of it. Life needs sustenance not only by eating and sleeping, but by the conscious effort to improve spiritually. One must be diligent not get caught up with the rush of society and apparent daily stresses--and be sure to remind himself that he is a descendant of Yaakov Avinu--who was taught by Hashem to take steps up the very important ladder--of life!  [Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, at a Hakhel Yarchei Kallah]  Quotable quote:  “There is no status quo; if you are not moving forward, you are slipping backward...”

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THE MEANING OF L’SHEIM SHOMAYIM: We provide the outstanding words of the Chassid Ya’avetz to Avos 5:2, as brought by HaRav Yechezkel Levenstein, Z’tl, on last week’s Parasha:  We all know that the only reference to Avrohom Avinu being thrown into the fiery furnace are the Torah’s words “Ani Hashem Asher Hotzeisicha MeiUr Kasdim--I am Hashem Who took you out of Ur (fire), Kasdim.”  Why does the Torah not mention the great miracle of Avrohom’s salvation from the fire--and why doesn’t the Torah mention this tremendous challenge as one of Avrohom Avinu’s great Nishyonos over his belief in Hashem?  After all, at the Akeidah in this week’s Parasha, Avrohom was offering up his son--but in Ur Kasdim he was sacrificing himself, without any living descendants at that time?!  Moreover, the Nisayon of the Akeidah was in Avrohom’s older age by which time he had many students following in his path, and after he had already experienced the Bris Bain HaBisarim, and had received Hashem’s assurances of the continuity of his descendants.  At Ur Kasdim, however, Avrohom was still alone against the world, and was apparently not yet zoche to the Devar Hashem--yet he was moser nefesh to such a great extent--yet without any direct reference in the Torah!  The Chassid Ya’avetz answers that the nisayon of the Akeidah was due to the tzivui of Hashem, whereas at Ur Kasdim, Avrohom’s act was based upon his own knowledge, intellect and belief.  In a word, at Ur Kasdim Avrohom understood what he was doing and was willing to sacrifice himself because he knew it was the truth--just as a scholar or philosopher would be ready to have his life taken for what his mind told him was right and proper.  A Nisayon, however, is different.  It is to perform an act or do something L’Sheim Shomayim--even if one does not understand what he is doing or why--but simply and purely to fulfill the Mitzvah of Hashem.  Our success at a Nisayon raises our level of Deveikus BeHashem! Hakhel Note:  As we may go through our own individual Nisyonos, it may be important to keep this concept handy.

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LEARNING TIME!  HaRav Yitzchak Zilberstein, Shlita, was meshameish his father in-law, HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, for more than 50 years. HaRav Elyashiv, of course, dealt with the most difficult Shailos in the world--pikuach nefesh, ishus, ribbis…. Yet, no matter how complex the Shailah, HaRav Elyashiv was able to answer each and every one of them known to Rav Zilberstein with clarity and preciseness…except one. That one question is brought by Rav Zilberstein in his introduction to the new Sefer U’Piryo Masok, as follows:  The policy of the Kaminetz Yeshiva in Yerushalayim is not to have a ‘Bein HaZemanim’ period--so that Isru Chag Sukkos would be the beginning (or continuation) of the z’man in the Yeshiva. One year, the hanhalah of the Yeshiva approached HaRav Elyashiv, and asked him if, because the bachurim had experienced such a tiring Simchas Torah, and were so busy taking down the Yeshiva’s Sukkah well into the night, they could give the bachurim off on Isru Chag and begin the next day--even though this had not been the minhag of the Yeshiva. HaRav Elyashiv put his head into his hand and thought for a few moments--and said: “Eineni Yodeiah Mah Le’hashiv--I don’t know what to answer.” They then asked him what they should do--who they should go to. He answered that they should go to HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl. The hanhalah dutifully went to HaRav Auerbach. He also put his head into his hand and said that he did not know the answer and they should go to…HaRav Elyashiv! HaRav Zilberstein concludes that the tremendous lesson that he learned from this was how precious our learning time truly is…for it is time which can never be replaced, for eternity! 

 

Hakhel Suggestion: Chazal (Brachos 14A) teach that before going to sleep, one should study Torah, and also teach (Pesachim 117A) that if one wants to have good dreams he should go to sleep after having experienced a ‘simcha shel mitzvah’. Perhaps one can designate a five or ten minute specific Seder in a particular Sefer or study before going to bed--so that he culminates his waking hours and begins his sleeping hours in the greatest way possible…with precious time spent learning Torah!

 

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12 Marcheshvan

LHOSIR MICHSHOL: It has come to our attention that many well-intentioned individuals do not know how to properly tovel keilim. They may take the time and make the effort to tovel their newly purchased food utensils--but are not aware of halachos (found directly and specifically in Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah)--which could render their tevilah invalid, the bracha made a bracha levatala, and the ongoing usage of the keilim prohibited. There are important seforim published in Hebrew and English which could be extremely helpful--and which provide important need-to-know guidance in this area.  By the following link  http://tinyurl.com/nr4y6qz  we provide just several tevilah alerts as provided in the past.

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THE LAST LINE OF AVINU MALKEINU: The treasured last request of the Avinu Malkeinu tefillah that we recited many times over the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah, and which we recite on fast days, is Avinu Malkeinu Chaneinu V’Aneinu…Asei Imanu Tzedaka V’Chesed V’Hoshieinu. This beautiful, all-encompassing request is not limited to the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah and taneisim--in fact, we (at least, men) recite it every day in our regular Tefillos. We should not let this powerful and comprehensive request to be mere lip service--after all, it was the conclusion of Avinu Malkeinu at Neilah on Yom Kippur! One should most definitely make a special point of reciting it with feeling and zeal each and every day--twice a day!

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NEVER ACCEPTABLE! We suggest that there are certain activities which can never be acceptable, although the public at large may view them as commonplace or part of the way that ‘everyone’ acts. Among them: rolling one’s eyeballs at what another person says or does; twitching one’s nose or smirking when someone enters the room; making a sarcastic or stinging comment or retort; belching without first covering one’s mouth and sincerely saying ‘excuse me’; drinking from a bottle; and taking any other action for which a person of good bearing should feel embarrassed or would say excuse me. The world may forget--but not us--that we are a Tzelem Elokim--and always act accordingly!

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THE FOLLOWING NOTES ARE EXCERPTED FROM THE MISHNA BERURAH HILCHOS BIRCHOS HASHACHAR (DIRSHU EDITION):

 

PART 2

 

A. The Ramban, the Chinuch and the Rashba all rule that Birchos HaTorah is M’D’Oraysa. One should recite the Birchos HaTorah B’Simcha Gedolah. When Chazal teach that K’lal Yisrael were exiled because they did not make the bracha on Torah before learning it, it means that learning Torah was not considered special in their eyes. Accordingly, one must be very careful to express appropriate thanks to Hashem when making the bracha for giving us Kli Chemdaso--His beloved treasure. Indeed, according to some, the bracha of Asher Bachar Banu is a Birkas Hoda’ah V’Shevach, and only the bracha of Asher Kedeshanu B’Mitzvosav V’Tzivanu La’asok is a Birkas Mitzvah. (Orach Chaim 47, Mishna Berurah seif katan 1 and 2, and Dirshu Note 8).

Hakhel Note: Perhaps before reciting the bracha we can have in mind that the Torah is a Morasha to Kehillas Yaakov--what a great and invaluable thousands of years old heirloom I have received!

 

B. If one has children, when reciting the words V’Niheyeh Anachnu V’Tze’etzaeinu, he should have Kavannah that they be Lomdei Torah, Tzaddikim and Ba’alei Middos Tovos. He should have a similar Kavannah when reciting Ahava Rabba and in U’vah L’Tzion when saying the words LeMa’an Lo Niga Larik Velo Neileid Labehala. (ibid., Mishna Berurah seif katan 10)

 

C. Although women do not have the chiyuv to learn Torah in the same way as men, the Shulchan Aruch itself (ibid., 47:14) rules that women must recite Birchos HaTorah every day. The Bi’ur Halacha explains that this is because women are obligated to learn the Halachos that apply to them, and also because they must recite the Parashas HaKarbonos which are in the Torah.

 

D. HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, rules that if one travels on a plane at night and goes to sleep, it is considered as if he slept in bed, and he must recite Birchos HaTorah upon rising from his slumber. (ibid., Dirshu Note 25)

 

E. The Parashas HaTomid should in the first instance be recited before Pesukei D’Zimra. Additionally, it is preferable to recite the Parashas HaTomid in Shul because the Karbonos were brought in the Beis HaMikdash and our Shuls are our Mikdash Me’at. The Zohar brings that one who recites Karbanos in Shul with Kavannah attains the special benefit that Malochim who would otherwise seek his harm must do only good to him. (Siman 47, Dirshu Notes 1, 2 and 4)

 

F. One should recite the Parashas HaKetores daily--the Zohar writes that one is saved from devorim ra’im and more if one has Kavannah when reciting it. The Seder HaYom writes that the Parashas HaKetores that one recites should be written on a kosher k’laf and should be read B’Kavannah Gedolah. Reciting the Parashas HaKetores can have the effect of bringing the Ketores itself continues the Seder HaYom, and one who is careful to read it twice daily and to have Kavannah word for word causes Bracha V’Hatzlacha in all that he does, and Parnassah B’Revach. (ibid., Dirshu Note 3)

 

G. Although generally Pesukim may not be recited orally without reading them inside, those Pesukim with which all are familiar may be recited without reading them. The Teshuvas Chavos Ya’ir permitted all of Sefer Tehillim to be recited by-heart, for Tehillim is Me’orer Rachamei Hashem, and is considered like Tefillah. The Chasam Sofer adds that we see that Tehillim was made to be recited by heart, for the Levi’im sang various Kepitelech in the Beis HaMikdash and certainly did not do so from a Sefer. (Orach Chaim 49, Mishna Berurah seif katan 6 and Dirshu Note 4)

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TRULY WAITING: Chazal teach that one of the six questions that a person is asked after 120 years is Tzipisah L’Yeshuah-- did you eagerly await Yeshuas Hashem?” Upon first reflection, we may ask--what does this question mean; after all, do we not talk about the redemption many times throughout our davening daily? It accordingly appears then that Tzipisah L’Yeshuah is at a minimum something more.

 

Before providing short answers, we very importantly note that there is a beautiful English Sefer Yearning with Fire, by Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, Shlita. This Sefer provides a full treatment of this essential question, the answer for which a person must be fully-prepared with. In terms of more immediate responses, we provide the following three thoughts by different Rabbanim to whom we posed the question:

 

1. The Sha’arei Teshuvah to Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 118 brings the Mahari Tzemach who advises that in the bracha of Es Tzemach Dovid of Shemone Esrei--when reciting the words Ki Lishuasecha Kivinu, one should stop and actually have Kavannah that he is awaiting and yearning for the Yeshuah. Hakhel Note: HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl (in his Sefer Rinas Chaim on the Shemone Esrei), explains that it is not enough to simply recite the words. Ki Lishuasecha Kivinu, but one must ask for the Moshiach to come mei’omek halev--in a truly sincere and heartfelt way!

 

2. In the twelfth Ani Ma’amin, we recite that we believe in the coming of the Moshiach and that we await him every day. This means that just as we know that Hashem watches over our actions, our words, our thoughts each and every moment--we also must believe that Hashem has a plan--and that Hashem is leading us to Yeshuah. Our living is not day-to-day--it is with plan and purpose--a spiritual plan and purpose! This--we can (and should) think of many times during the day. This is Tzipisah L’Yeshuah….

 

3. One should take a step back--why are we awaiting the Moshiach? What is the hope, the yearning, the anticipation about? In the second paragraph of Aleinu--Ahl Kein Nekaveh (originally the Tefillah of Achan)--Chazal clearly set forth in detail for each and every one of us what we yearn for--what we have to look forward to. Accordingly, if one recites the Ahl Kein Nekaveh prayer phrase-by-phrase--he will be clearly demonstrating that he is awaiting and yearning--and what he is awaiting and yearning for!

 

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