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22 Kislev

PREPARE WITH TZEDAKAH! As Tzedakah is also very much associated with Chanukah--especially giving money to Torah scholars it would certainly be wonderful for us to commence our special Tzedakah giving on the days before Chanukah!





Mexican Coke and Pepsi information:

COCA-COLA PRODUCTS FROM MEXICO, including Coca-Cola, Sprite, Fanta and Fresca products, are not OU certified and are not recommended.


PEPSI PRODUCTS FROM MEXICO, including Pepsi, Mountain Dew (except Kickstart) and Mist Twist products, are Kosher. (Mountain Dew Kickstart energy drink is Kosher only when bearing the letters XG in the middle of the second line of the inkjet code on bottom of the can, or when bearing a reliable certification on the label.)


BELL PEPPERS FROM ISRAEL (red, yellow and orange) will soon begin appearing in U.S. stores, and will require taking of Terumos and Maaseros. Consumers should carefully check the fine print on the package, or the sticker on individual peppers sold loose, for the country of origin. Often the same brand has some peppers from Israel and some from other locations, so each individual package or pepper should be checked. Details of the tithing procedure can be found (courtesy of cRc Chicago) at http://kshr.us/cRcMaaser


One should always be careful when buying produce to check the sticker, bag label or original case for the country of origin.


Some additional examples of Israeli produce commonly found in the U.S. include tomatoes, carrots, citrus fruit (oranges, grapefruit, lemons, mandarins, clementines and pomelos), persimmons (“Sharon Fruit”), mangos, dates, dill and parsley.


RICOLA COUGH / THROAT DROPS: Only the following five varieties are recommended by the cRc (Chicago Rabbinical Council).

They do not require a certification sticker: Honey Herb, Lemon Mint - regular and Sugar Free, Mountain Herb - Sugar Free,  and Natural Herb (Original). -- Please note that this does not include Ricola Swiss Herbal Sweets.


TESHUVAH MOMENT: Amen is a very powerful word recited many times daily. One should review and internalize the following succinct Halachos, provided by Rabbi Hillel Litwack, Shlita, as a starting point to answering Amen properly:


1. One must answer Amen immediately after a bracha ends (i.e, no later than toch kedei dibbur)--and if one cannot or will not be able to answer Amen during this immediate time period, then he should not answer Amen at all--for that would be an Amen Yesomah.


2. If a bracha is recited in a Tzibbur, then one can continue to answer as long as most of the Tzibbur has not answered Amen, provided that the Shaliach Tzibbur has not started the next bracha, or began to recite something else. To be clear, once the Shaliach Tzibbur has started something else--one cannot answer Amen even toch kedei dibbur.


3. Accordingly, is imperative that the Shaliach Tzibbur wait at the end of a bracha so that the Tzibbur has time to answer Amen. Similarly, the Shaliach Tzibbur should wait for the Tzibbur to respond the entire nusach of “Amen Yehei Shemei Rabba…” before beginning Yisborach.


4. One should not answer an Amen Chatufa--which is commencing to answer Amen before the bracha is completed (such as during the last word of the bracha). It would also be an Amen Chatufa if the kamatz under the Aleph of Amen was slurred so it sounded like a chataf kamatz. Similarly, one must make sure that thenun in Amen is properly enunciated and not cut off.  


5. One’s Amen should be in the time frame for one to say the words “Kel Melech Ne’eman” during that time.



WHERE EMBARRASSMENT PAYS: The Chofetz Chaim clearly writes that when one realizes after he has begun speaking that his speech will lead to Lashon Hara or other Dibur Assur in some way, he must immediately steer his words elsewhere--and that even if he suffers embarrassment because of his obvious change in the course of his speech, or simply because he begins to fumble for the right words--this embarrassment is precious in the eyes of Hashem. Certainly, if one realized that he was eating something unkosher or milk and meat together--he would immediately expel the food--no matter how embarrassed he might be. Lashon Hara or other Dibur Assur might involve many more prohibitions than consuming a forbidden food--and most certainly, one must suffer the embarrassment if need be. One thing is for sure--moments of perceived shame are much better to experience, than other, more infinitely difficult suffering in this world and the next!



 QUESTION OF THE WEEK ONE: In this week’s Parasha, the Pasuk (Bereishis 37:28) provides detail on how the brothers sold Yosef. Rashi explains the Pasuk to mean that Yosef was sold “Pe’amin Harbeh--many times.” Why was this so--why did Yosef have to be sold many times--what was the Middah K’negged Middah in these multiple sales until he arrived in Mitzrayim?



QUESTION OF THE WEEK TWO: Chazal (Sotah 10B) teach that in the zechus of Tamar’s Tzinyus, she was zoche to have the Malchus Beis Dovid (who come from her son Peretz) as her descendants. What is the relationship between Tzniyus and Malchus--aren’t they at first blush the opposite of each other--as the king would appear to be the most public figure possible?!





1.  The Sefer Besomim Rosh (brought in the Siddur Otzer HaTefillos) writes that one should be careful not to tarry after Davening in Shul on Leil Shabbos, and one should certainly be careful not to stop and gather on the street and speak “Sichas Chulin”--about non-Shabbos matters--for not only is Sichas Chulin highly inappropriate on Shabbos, but the Malochim that accompany a person home will take leave of him if he begins to engage in unnecessary conversation before he gets home.


2.  In Birkas HaMazon on Shabbos, we add the Tefillah of Retzei VeHachalitzeinu.  The Kuntres Avodas HaTefillah explains the word Retzei to mean “May our Mitzvah performance and our Shabbos observance give Nachas Ruach to You.  The Kuntres continues with the meaning of the word VeHachalitzeinu as Vezarzeinu--please give us the ability and alacrity to properly perform these Mitzvos.  On the phrase “Lishbos Bo VeLanuach Bo,” the Kuntres explains that these are words of tefillah in which we ask for Hashem’s assistance in preventing us from performing any melacha or violating any shevus (Rabbinic prohibition) at all on Shabbos. 


3.  The following teachings relating to Shabbos are excerpted from the Sefer Shenei Luchos Habris (the classic work of the Shelah Hakadosh).


A.  The Ri bar Yuda reported that he heard from Rav Hai Gaon when they were together in Rome  that the reason we arise later on Shabbos to learn or daven is because unlike the weekdays where the Torah uses the phrase Baboker (i.e., early in the morning) in offering the Korban Tomid Shel Shachar, the Torah uses the term U’Veyom HaShabbos (on the day of Shabbos with no special morning emphasis) when alluding to the Korban Tomid of Shabbos Shacharis --indicating that they are brought at some other point during the day and not Baboker.


B.  It is forbidden to fast past Chatzos on Shabbos--even if one is otherwise learning.  Hakhel Note:  We must be especially careful about this in the winter when Chatzos is early--before 12 noon in the New York area, for example.  One should be sure to make Kiddush prior to that time and be motzi all those of his family or guests who have not heard Kiddush yet as well--so that they can all eat or drink something prior to Chatzos.


C.  Even if one is doing Teshuva, he should not cry over his past sins on Shabbos, as one should try to experience Oneg and not Tza’ar on Shabbos.


D.  The reason we sing Eliyahu HaNavi on Motz’ai Shabbos is because he cannot come on Erev Shabbos as Chazal teach--so we once again  reaffirm our belief and prayer that he will come soon.  Another reason is because the Tosefta teaches that Eliyahu Hanavi himself sits on Motz’ai Shabbos and writes the zechusim of the Shomrei Shabbos.


E. At Havdala, one should pour enough wine into the cup at the outset for it to spill out and over the becher.  The Teshuvas Maharil adds that after Havdala is completed, the mavdil should sit down to drink the cup, and not drink standing up--as it is not the derech of a Talmid Chochom. 






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


Accordingly, we review the extremely important rules of Avak Lashon Hara. The Chofetz Chaim (Hilchos Lashon Hara, Chapter 9--recently studied in Shemiras Halashon Yomi) provides us with seven kinds of statements or expressions of Avak Lashon Hara:


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Additional Notes:


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


2. We must especially remember that notwithstanding publicity or news items which reflect negatively upon any person--we cannot accept the news in any manner as being true--and Ahl Pi Halacha must be Dan L’Chaf Zechus. No judge, jury, politician, businessman, psychologist, attorney--or anyone else--can adversely impact upon our view of another, unless in line with the Sefer Chofetz Chaim as determined by a  Rav or Posek. The news is a nisayon--and we must overcome and succeed!


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


C.  In the Parasha, we learn how Tamar was willing to give up her own life in order to avoid embarrassing Yehuda in public.  Chazal considered shaming another in public to be a form of murder.  Rabbeinu Yonah writes that just as a person must give up his life, rather than commit murder (unless in self defense), so too, a person must give up his life rather than shame a person.  Chazal teach that one who shames another in public loses his share in Olam Habba. 


The Chofetz Chaim teaches that the strong Halacha against shaming a person applies not only in public but in private, as well.  Even when giving tochacha to another, one must not shame him (except in certain very limited circumstances).  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, was asked what one can do if he shamed a child, after all, a child is incapable of Mechilla.  Rav Chaim answered, one had no choice, one must wait until the child is bar or bas mitzvah and then ask for Mechilla. Indeed, it is reported that the Steipeler Gaon, Z’tl, went to a child’s bar mitzvah in order to ask him mechilah because he was afraid that he wrongly rebuked the boy when he was young (the boy was making noise when Rav Chaim was trying to learn).  Let us take the great lessons of the Parasha with us--publicly and privately!


D.  We provide the following essential teaching from Love Your Neighbor, by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita: The Torah records that when Yosef noticed that Pharaoh’s officials were dejected, he asked them the cause. Yosef had good reason to keep to himself and concern himself only with his own welfare. He had been sold into slavery by his brothers, and now he was in prison due to a false accusation. Nevertheless, he cared about his fellow man, and when he saw someone with a problem he was eager to help.


A disciple of Rebbi Yisroel Salanter once saw him standing on a street corner, engaged in commonplace chatter and jokes with a stranger. [The student was surprised that his Rebbi was acting in this way and] later asked his teacher about his out-of-character levity. Rebbi Yisroel explained to his student that the man had problems that were weighing very heavily on his heart, and he wanted to alleviate his depression! (Ohr Yisroel, p. 112)


Rebbi Akiva Eiger would adapt the length of his responses to halachic questions according to the nature of his correspondent. He wrote to his sons who were planning to publish his responsa: “[You may find] that I have digressed into lengthy discussions of theory, not directly concerned with practical law. Know that I was motivated by the knowledge that my correspondent was a man who had undergone many trials and much suffering. I have therefore lengthened my reply so that he may have greater pleasure and forget his troubles in the delight of the discussion!” (Introduction to Teshuvos Rebbi Akiva Eiger)


Many people would come to the home of HaRav Chayim Ozer Grodzenski in Vilna for assistance and guidance. Since HaRav Grodzenski was world-renowned, some of the people who needed his help were very nervous and apprehensive about speaking to him. HaRav Grodzenski would therefore jest with them in order to put them at ease! (Heard from Rebbi Simcha Wasserman, HaRav Grodzenski’s nephew)



WAR! On Chanukah we learn how different our approach is to war than the approach that many other nations of the world may have. To many other nations, war may be a means of conquering another people, taking over another property, or filling coffers with the spoils of others. To us, war is a means for us to attain spiritual ends. The Ahl HaNissim Tefillah that we will begin to meaningfully recite tonight clearly emphasizes this point. Unlike the other rules of war: “Masarta Giborim BeYad ChalashimYou delivered the strong into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few, the impure into the hands of the pure, the wicked into the hands of the righteous, and the wanton into the hands of the diligent students of Torah” [Artscroll translation]. Indeed, as the commentaries point out, at the outset of the Ahl HaNissim, we mention first the Nissim, then the Purkan, then the Gevuros, then the Teshuos, and only last, the Milchamos--quite the opposite from the way other nations would view the nature and chronology of things. We can take an additional, very significant lesson from this. Any human act--whether it be eating, sleeping, taking care of one’s bodily functions, working, communicating with others--can all be done in the framework of a human being who is closer in thought to the physical nature of this world, and to the animal creations that are here. These very same acts could, on the other hand, be done with the view and goal of Torah, Mitzvos and Ma’asim Tovim--elevating ourselves spiritually in this world, and forever and ever!



EVEN A MINHAG CAN CHANGE! Some might claim that they have the custom of lighting the Neiros, singing Maoz Tzur and proceeding to go eat latkes (or supper). As we will learn over Chanukah, our Chachomim teach us that there is much to be gained from spending time with the Neiros--after all, we declare--”HaNeiros HaLalu Kodesh Heim--these lights are holy.” It is for this reason that many make the point of staying near the Neiros--observing them, reciting Tehillim, perhaps repeating Megilas Antiochus or other stories of Nissim V’Nifla’os while close to the Neiros HaKedoshim. If one’s ‘minhag’ was to light the candles, sing Ma’oz Tzur, and leave, perhaps he can make the effort to change this minhag this year!



DREIDEL!  This world is not as simple as it might sometimes appear.  Dreidel seems to be a pleasant, fun-filled and seemingly inconsequential game, reminding us about how the Jews hid in caves to study Torah, playing games at the mouth of the cave to scout for Greek Army troops, right?  Yes, for sure.  The Bnai Yissoschar adds, however, that those four letters on the Dreidel--Gimel, Shin, Nun and Heh are actually very lofty--for they together have a gematria, a numerical equivalent, of 358--which is also the gematria of Moshiach(!), and also of “Hashem Melech Hashem Malach Hashem Yimloch”--Hashem is, was and will be King.  For Torah Jewry, there is profound depth and meaning infused even into what to the world is just fun and games!





A.  As we know, the days of Chanukah are known as the end of our Teshuvah and Kapara process that began on Rosh Hashana.  The Divrei Chaim of Sanz writes that on Chanukah a person can do Teshuvah and fix even the most serious of aveiros because of the closeness to Hashem that we experience during this time.  He brings the Mashal of a king for whom it is more difficult to grant pardons when he is sitting in his palace surrounded by royalty and royal servants.  However, when he travels the streets of the city, and enters private home, even the commoners who otherwise could not have gained access to him are heard.  With the Kedusha of the Hadlakas HaNeiros, the King of Kings makes his presence felt in our homes.  Some write that our lighting of the Menorah at a level of less than 10 tefachim is symbolic of the Shechinah coming so far down to earth, in a manner which does not ordinarily occur. Based upon this, as alluded to above, we should take the time to daven in front of the Neiros—both before and after Hadlakas Neiros (Sichos Ba’avodas Hashem).  The Sefer Kav Hayashar (Chapter 96) writes that “Malachim Kedoshim VeSarfei Ma’alah” (the Heavenly Host) arrive at a person’s home at the time of Hadlakas Neiros, surround him and answer Amen to his Brachos.  We can well understand why some have the custom of putting on Bigdei Shabbos in preparation for lighting! 


B. There is a beautiful short Tefillah from the Pele Yoetz (p. 426) to be recited prior to Hadlakas Neiros.  If you have (or can purchase) this wonderful Sefer, we highly recommend this meaningful Tefillah.


C.  We present by the following link  http://tinyurl.com/2btzd4 a Tefillah found in the Siddur Beis Yaakov by HaRav Yaakov Emden, Ztl, to be recited prior to kindling.  Its recitation, if possible, could put one in the proper state of joyous awe, as we bask--and indeed illuminate ourselves--in the Mitzvah over the last nights of Chanukah.  If you cannot recite this Tefillah, do your best to contemplate the moment!


D.  The Yesod VeShoresh Ha’Avodah writes that when one makes the bracha of She’asah Nissim at Hadlakas Neiros, he should have in mind great thanks and praise for the miraculous victories in war that occurred, considering it as if these incredible Nissim and Yeshuos were performed for him personally.  Moreover, the Kedushas Levi adds that Hashem does in fact perform Nissim, Niflaos and Yeshuos now (‘Bazman Hazeh”) for all of us both in ruchniyus and gashmius--each person in accordance with his individual needs.  Now this is real ta’anug!


E. For those who missed it yesterday: The Magen Avraham (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 676, seif katan 2) writes that one recites 36 words in Haneiros Halallu (corresponding to the 36 Neiros, excluding the Shamash, lit on Chanukah).  In most editions of the Siddur that we know of, the Nusach contains more than 36 words.  A copy of the published Nusach of the prayer consisting of exactly 36 words, which is found in the Siddur Rashban, is available at the following link  http://tinyurl.com/33uv5d


F.  When one lights a candle, it is used as a source of light and especially used to search for something.  In fact, Chazal at the outset of Mesechta Pesachim utilize the Pasuk “Achapes Es Yerushalayim B’Neiros--I will search Yerushalayim with candles” to teach that one uses candles for bedikas chometz.  This being so, what does one search for with the Neiros Chanukah?  The Sefer Zerah Kodesh suggests that it is Yiras Shomayim that one can find in the Neiros!


G.  The Sefer Ta’amei Dinim U’Minhagim brings from the Tashbatz (Siman 258) that before the Chashmonaim went to war, they recited the Pasuk of “Vihi Noam Hashem…” (Tehillim 90:17) seven times, and then the Pasuk “Orech Yamim Asbiayhu…” (91:16) two times, and were then victorious in war!  It is for this (great) reason that many have the custom of reciting these two Pesukim these specified number of times after Hadlakas Neiros.


H.  The days of Chanukah are days especially dedicated “L’Hodos U’Lehalel--to thank and praise”, for when all is said and done we remained and remain separate and distinct as a people--unaffected by the false ideologies, philosophies, and beliefs of the outside world.  Of course, both thanks and praise involve the spoken word.  However, when we speak, our words are intended to emanate from our hearts.  Every day, when reciting Al HaNissim and Hallel, they should not be viewed as an “extra” which lengthens the davening in honor of the Holiday, but rather as an opportunity to demonstrate your “Avoda Shebalev--your service of the heart” in true thanks and sincere appreciation for our lives--and for the ordinary and extraordinary miracles that we have, and B’ezras Hashem will continue to be blessed with.


I.  In the Sefer Sichos Ba’Avodas Hashem by HaRav Yaakov Meisels, Shlita:  The Kedushas Levi, Rebbi Levi Yitzchok, Ztl, once found a group of his acquaintances talking about the wealth and pleasures of the Polish magnate Grof Pototsky.  ”There is no ta’anug--no pleasure--that he has not enjoyed,” said one of the people to the Rebbi.  ”Does he light Neiros Chanukah?” asked the Rebbi.  ”Certainly not, I’m sure that he doesn’t even know how or what it is.”  “In that case,” responded the Rebbi, “he has no clue--no idea whatsoever--of what true ta’anug really is!”


J.  The Sefer Piskei Teshuvos (Volume 6, Chapter 670) brings the following remarkable note from the Chasam Sofer (Yoreh Deah, Teshuva 233):  “The establishment of a special day on the day that a miracle has occurred is a Mitzvah D’Oraysa, and, therefore, the days of Purim and Chanukah are D’Oraysa…and one who violates this and does not make any remembrance of the days of Chanukah violates a Mitzvas Asei D’Oraysa…and it is possible that reciting the Hallel on Chanukah fulfills this Torah obligation.”  These words of the “Heilige Chasam Sofer” have, of course, drawn lively discussion in the Achronim (see Piskei Teshuvos there).


K.  At a Hakhel Shiur, Rabbi Yisroel Dov Webster, Shlita, provided a masterful review of many Halachic Shailos relating to Chanukah.  As an example, he discussed the concept of women not doing Melacha for one-half hour after candles are lit.  Rabbi Webster explained that according to most Poskim, the Melachos that are prohibited are the Melachos that cannot be done on Chol HaMoed--laundry, sewing, ironing, etc.  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, rules that even baking and cooking (the latkes!) should only be done if there is a need to then do so, and one should not otherwise be washing the floor, washing the dishes, or the like.  Much of Rabbi Webster’s shiur was devoted to contemporary Shailos and the opinions of our Gedolei HaDor.  For CD’s, please call 718-252-5274.


L.  The Alter of Novordok, Ztl, was in hisbodedus, by himself in a hut in the forest for a considerable period of time.  One night, his candle burned out, and in complete darkness, he could not look into his Sefer.  He stepped out into the moonlight.  Suddenly, a man appeared, handed him a burning candle, and quickly disappeared, continuing on into the forest.  The Alter could now go back inside and learn again.  Upon returning home, he took what was left of the candle with him, to remember the great phenomenon that had occurred--how he had miraculously been given light at that moment of darkness.  Several years later, a fire broke out in his home, and the precious remnants of his candle were consumed.  The family feared telling him of this calamity.  When he learned of it, he actually expressed joy.  “This is a message to me from Hashem.  I should not only place emphasis on the great and obvious miracle that occurred to me, but on the miracles that literally occur to me every day.  I don’t need anything to remind me of them, either--I need only look around me, wherever I am and wherever I go!”  Hakhel Note:  If one visits a new doctor for the first time, he is asked to complete pages of questions relating to prior and current illnesses, operations, conditions, and medications.  BE’H, he will be checking the “No” box to most or all of these questions.  However, the fact that the questions are being asked is reason to believe that these conditions and concerns are, r’l, more prevalent than we think.  Every so often, one can imagine himself filling out those forms, checking “No” after “No” in each and every box--and exclaiming, “Thank You, Hashem, Thank You, Hashem for the Nissim Veniflaos that You bestow upon me--every day of the year!”



RAV VOLBE ON CHANUKAH:  Rav Shlomo Volbe, Ztl, (Alei Shor, Vol. 2, p. 455) observes that there were many constant, even daily, miracles that occurred in the Bais HaMikdash.  Upon quick reflection, thousands upon thousands of open miracles must have occurred there.  What, then, was so unique and special about the miracle of finding that one last container of oil?  Moreover, why is it that we do not observe the Holiday of Chanukah as a “Zecher LaMikdash”--as a remembrance of the miracles that occurred while the holiest place on earth was standing?  Indeed, quite to the contrary, Hadlakas HaNeiros is described as a Mitzvah of the home, and lighting the Menorah in Shul (as the Mikdash Me’at)--is by minhag, and not the Ikar Mitzvah itself.


In order to understand why the miracle of Chanukah is so special to us, HaRav Volbe brings the words of the Maharam M’Rottenberg.  The Maharam writes:


“The Hellenistic decrees principally arose because Bnei Yisrael were weak in the service of Hashem…and when they did Teshuva and were ready to be moser nefesh--to give their utmost--to properly serve Hashem; they were rescued--miraculously....”


HaRav Volbe continues that this is essentially the path that we have followed throughout our exile.  There is some weakening in the service of Hashem, followed by Teshuva--returning to proper service of Hashem with the proper level of Mesiras Nefesh, which results in salvation.  What exactly is the level of Mesiras Nefesh required?  It is putting in the fullest effort that one can--a demonstration of exertion to the limit in some important way.  Once “teva”, or nature, is taken to the limit, it opens the door for the “natural” next step--which is miracles.  A handful of Kohanim, of Torah Sages, battling--very literally--with the world’s best army—and...winning!  The lesson is that our Mesiras Nefesh is the key to our miraculous survival over the last 2,000 years.


But now, at the end of this long exile, we are tired, inundated with technology, scurrying about with rat race issues, so where does Mesiras Nefesh fit into our picture?  The answer belies the question.  Every person must find some way to rededicate himself to holiness, to purity--especially if it is something to which he has fallen prey in the past.  The Mesiras Nefesh for purity and holiness--for Kedusha and Tahara--is not a Zecher LeMikdash, for it is not relegated or limited to the Holy Temple.  Instead, its essence--as the Chanukah light--is to be brought into our homes, and consequently, into our hearts.  As we prepare for and await the Menorah’s pure light, let us make room for its essence to penetrate within us, and, bli neder, commit to an aspect of Mesiras Nefesh for holiness in some way--so that it is not only Bayamim Haheim--but Bezeman Hazeh!



P’SAKIM OF HARAV SHMUEL KAMENETSKY ON CHANUKAH:  We provide the following p’sakim of HaRav Shmuel Kamenetsky, Shlita, on Chanukah as excerpted from the Sefer Koveitz Halachos by Rabbi Doniel Kleinman, Shlita:


1.  Lechatchila, one may use Shemen Zayis which was placed under a bed that was slept upon.  


2.  Although one may not use a combination of oil and candles for his Neiros, one may use different oils on any given night, because they are considered similar enough to each other.


3.  One need not use the candle that was used as the candle to light the Neiros Chanukah as his Shamash. 


4.  Even if the glass cups which are inserted into a Menorah cannot stand on their own because of the narrow piece of glass that fits snugly into the Menorah, one can consider the cup to still be a Kli--for it is specifically manufactured to be used in this way. 


5.  One need not clean out his glass cup from oil residue of the previous night, for the residue is considered “shiurei mitzvah”, and is not ma’us.  Similarly, yesterday’s used wicks may light better than new wicks, and accordingly, one may lechatchila use the previous night’s wicks to light with. 


6.  There is no Hiddur Mitzvah in oil burning for longer than one-half hour after lighting.  However, there is still a ma’alah in putting in more oil as long as people are still passing by--for there is greater Pirsumei Nissa.  Pirsumei Nissa does not apply to Akum viewing the Neiros, but it does apply to non-Shomrei Torah U’Mitzvos who can view the Neiros out of your window.  In actuality, there is no difference between lighting in the dining room or bedroom--one should light where there is the greatest Pirsumei Nissa.


7.  The Halacha that the Neiros Chanukah be lechatchila lit more than three and less than ten tefachim above the ground applies if one places his Menorah at the doorway.  However, if one places his Menorah on the window sill, then the flame of the Ner is recognizable even above ten tefachim, and the neiros may be lit there lechatchila, even if the flames of the Neiros will be above ten tefachim from the floor. 


8.  One should wait for his wife to light if she is not home at the initial candle lighting time.


9.  It is better for the Ba’al HaBayis to designate someone else to light on time as his Shaliach, rather than push off the lighting until later so that the Ba’al HaBayis will be able to light by himself.  This is true even if the Ba’al HaBayis is always at work at this time on weekdays, and will have a Shaliach lighting for him every week night! 


10.  It is better to light with wax candles at the earliest time to light, than to light with oil even a little bit later. 


11.  If the Shamash goes out within a half hour of lighting, and no other electric lights are on, one should relight the Shamash. 


12.  If the Brachos on Hadlakas Neiros are recited out of order, one is still Yotzei.  However, if after the Brachos one said something unrelated to the lighting--even HaNeiros Halallu which should be recited later, then he must recite the Brachos again.  Similarly, if one mistakenly recited Shehechiyanu on the second night after reciting the first two Brachos, he must recite the first two Brachos again. 


13.  If somebody is traveling in a car from the time of Hadlakas Neiros until the morning, and no one is lighting in his home, he should stop off at the side of the road, and light Neiros Chanukah in the car with a Bracha.  Even if they are lighting at home, but because of his traveling he will not otherwise see Neiros Chanukah that night, he should light in the car, having in mind not to be Yotzei with the lighting in the home so that he can make a Bracha on his lighting.  Similarly, if a guest wants to light on his own, he should not do so with a Bracha if Neiros are otherwise being lit in his home, unless he has specific intent not to be Yotzei with the lighting back in his home.


14.  One may extinguish the Neiros after they have stayed lit for the shiur of a half-hour, and one may even benefit from them after the half-hour period.  The Minhag, however, is not to use the Neiros for one’s personal benefit even after the half-hour period has passed.  If one needs to do so, he should first extinguish the Neiros and then relight them. 


15.  A son or son in-law at his parents or in law’s home for Shabbos Chanukah should light at their home on Motzei Shabbos even if he intends to return to his own home that night, and he does not even have to eat Melave Malka in their home.


Hakhel NoteAll P’Sakim presented in our Bulletins are for the purposes of Torah study and discussion--but every person must consult with his own Rav or Posek on any Halachic Shailah that he may have.







TESHUVAH MOMENT: The Rosh (Orchos Chaim L’Rosh, 81) teaches: Ahl Tabit L’Mi She’hu Katan Mimecha Ba’avodah--one should not look at one who is weaker than him in Avodas Hashem or in fear of Hashem--but one who is greater.


Hakhel Note: This means that we should not put any item of Ruchniyus automatically out of our reach. If he learns five hours a day, or davens a ten minute Shemone Esrei, or has his own Gemach that he runs--although one may not be near this madreigah--one can still make some improvement to demonstrate the direction he wants to be going in, what he admires and where he would like to be!



AN INVITATION: We received the following precious suggestion from a reader: “Please invite a not-yet religious person to your home for Chanukah lighting. Not only will it inspire them, but it will inspire you and your family to have a Lichtegen Chanukah!”


Hakhel Note:  Your very own Project Inspire!



THIRTEEN! In the first bracha over the Neiros (if one does not recite the word Shel, as is the custom of many), as well as the second bracha over the Neiros, there are each thirteen words--corresponding to the thirteen middos of Rachamim from Hashem. Together, of course, the brachos combine to 26, the Sheim Havayeh. The Sefer Kav HaYashar accordingly and emphatically writes that one should recite these brachos in great Simcha over a Mitzvah that is so chaviv to us!



THE KEPITELECH OF TEHILLIM: As to which Kepitilech should be recited after kindling the Neiros Chanukah, there are various Minhagim. Perhaps the most well-known Kepitelach to be recited (in addition to of course Vehi Noam seven times and Yosheiv BeSeiser Elyon (Tehillim 91) seven times) are Kepitelech 19, 30, 33, 67, 100 and 133. Some additionally recite all of Kepitel 119, and all of the Shir HaMa’alos (120-134). When reciting Chapter 67, some recite it as it is published in the form of a Menorah, ahl pi kabbalah. Finally, some recite the powerful Shiras Chana (Shmuel I, 2:1-10). Hakhel Note: The great Rebbi Pinchas Koritzer, Z’tl (the Imrei Pinchas) writes that: “On Chanukah at the time of Hadlakas Neiros the Ohr HaGanuz descends to us…!” Oh, how we should stay close to the Neiros after lighting them!



ON GIFTS:  As we have noted in the past, HaRav Ezriel Erlanger, Shlita, points out that one of the greatest lessons Yaakov Avinu taught us in his encounter with Eisav was to avoid Eisav and that which he represents to the greatest extent possible.  Yaakov did not seek to be hurt by Eisav, nor did he seek his friendship.  HaRav Erlanger continued that while Chanukah Gelt is a holy minhag, the concept of Chanukah gifts is one that is taken from Eisav--and one that we must avoid.  A similar misconception taken from Eisav is the thought of the ‘Macabee’ being a strong and heroic figure--as inappropriately adapted by Jewish secular teams and events.  In fact, however, as we recite many times over Chanukah:  “Masarta Giborim BeYad Chalashim--Hashem delivered the strong Greeks into the hands of the weak Macabim.”  It is no ‘coincidence’ that Yaakov’s lessons to us in Parashas Vayishlach always come out…before Chanukah!  Hakhel Note: HaRav Erlanger is not giving a p’sak in Halacha regarding giving gifts on Chanukah. He is providing a lesson that he derived from the encounter between Yaakov and Eisav. One should, of course, consult with his Rav or Posek as to whether giving non-monetary gifts on Chanukah is to be frowned upon, encouraged… or treated in any other way!


On this point, from a reader: The Ponovezer Rav, Rav Yosef Shlomo Kahaneman, Z’tl, said that after the Greeks forbade the Jewish children from learning Torah, their parents had to ‘bribe’ them with gifts to get them to learn once again. Giving gifts on Chanukah commemorates that aspect of the Chanukah miracle.  Indeed, children should be told when receiving gifts that it is for this reason and that they are expected to increase their Torah learning because of the gifts (see Sifsei Chaim from Rav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl; Moadim Vol. 2 page 134). See also Shu’t Avnei Yashfeh Vol. 1 Siman 129:2 and Sha’arei Halacha U’Minhag Vol. 2 page 283.





AN ESSENTIAL CHANUKAH ACTIVITY! The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (Hilchos Chanukah, 139:1) writes, “We increase our Tzedaka during the days of Chanukah, for these days are especially endowed with the ability to rectify shortcomings of the soul through Tzedaka--and especially Tzedaka which supports Torah Scholars in need.”  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, explains that the custom to give Chanukah Gelt to children comes from this concept of Tzedaka on Chanukah--putting oneself into a frame of mind to help all those who cannot subsist on their own.  In fact, HaRav Kanievsky notes, his father, the Steipeler Gaon, Z’tl, would give the Chanukah Gelt to children in his family every year on the fifth day of Chanukah--apparently because it can never occur on Shabbos!



MORE HACHANOS FOR CHANUKAH:  We continue with our Hachanos for Chanukah.  The SeferSichos BaAvodas Hashemnotes that on other Chagim, we went into the Bais HaMikdash to bring karbanos and become inspired.  On Chanukah, however, we bring the Kedushas HaChag primarily into our own home with the lighting of the Menorah.  Just as Chassidim may wear Streimals on Chanukah, it is reported that HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, wore his Shabbos shoes--to indicate the importance of this very special time.


There is a fascinating ma’aseh with the Bnei Yissoschar (R’Zvi Elimelech MiDinov).  He had always felt a higher level of kedusha, of ruchniyus on Chanukah.  His state was elevated in an unusual way over the eight days.  He decided to ask his rebbe, the Chozeh of Lublin why this was  so--after all, he was not a Kohen and thus in all likelihood was not the descendant (or gilgul) of a kohen back then, and was not a descendant of the Chashmonaim...so what was this heightened feeling about?  The Chozeh answered that at the time of the Chashmonaim he had been on the Sanhedrin --who came from Shevet Yissochar (the B’nai Vinah, referred to in Ma’oz Tzur).  R’ Zvi Elimelech therefore called his great work the “Bnai Yissoschar” in commemoration.  We too should ready ourselves to be inspired by the uplifting kedusha of the Hadlakas Neiros, the Hallel and the hoda’ah of Al Hanissim. We may not have a Chozeh of Lublin to tell us who we are or where we came from, but we most certainly recognize and appreciate this unique and powerful period that families and communities have utilized to raise themselves closer to Hashem for more than 2,000 years--and we should take special care to nurture the momentous occasion of Hadlakas Neiros not in the Bais Hamikdash but in our very home...and all of those other precious moments with Torah, Tefillah, Hallel and Hoda’ah.



GETTING READY!  We provide the following Pre-Chanukah Notes from the Luach Davar BeIto:


1.  One should prepare Menorah and wicks in the morning or during the day so that they are ready in the evening without undue delay. 


2.  It is related that Hungarian Jewry preferred to use olive oil from Eretz Yisrael


3.  The Gerrer Rebbe stated that Chanukah gives koach to the day before as well--and the proof of this is from Tehillim.  What did he mean?  The Rebbe’s mechuten explained the words of the Rebbe as follows:  If one divides Tehillim by the month, the Chapters of Tehillim that we recite on the 24th day of Kislev are those of Hallel--Tehillim 113-118!


4.  No matter how early one lights (some in New York light 15 minutes after shekiyah)--the neiros should remain lit until at least a half-hour after tzeis hakochavim


5.  When lighting each Ner with the Shamash, one should not move the Shamash away from the wick until most of the wick has been lit. 


6.  The Sefer Mekor Chaim writes about the Hadlakah:  “Ikar HaMitzvah Lirosam Lismoach Bahem Zecher LeSimchas HaHadlaka Achar HaNeis--it is essential after lighting to look at the candles and rejoice in them--which serves as a remembrance to the simcha that was experienced after the miracle occurred.”


 Hakhel Note:  It is interesting to note that the epitome of the Greek culture, the Olympics, are symbolized by the burning torch.  Compare our neiros, lehavdil, to their torch--it is the illumination of ruchniyus, of closeness to Hashem, to the illusory illumination of corporality and self-satisfaction.  Additional Note:  In a shiur he gave after the Mumbai massacre, HaRav Shmuel Dishon, Shlita, said that he had recalled several years ago that a terrorist attack in Eretz Yisrael, rachmana litzlan, had occurred immediately prior to Chanukah.  It is the custom in his family to dance after lighting the Chanukah Licht.  One of his grandchildren asked whether they would dance that year after what had just happened.  His response to his grandchild was “Of course, all the more so, because this is just exactly what they are trying to stop us from doing!”  Let us use the time after the Hadlakas Neiros--in front of the Neiros--to thank Hashem for the nissim and yeshuos He has granted us in the past, and to pray for further nissim and yeshuos in the near future--the very near future! 



CHANUKAH! We provide the following notes on Hilchos Chanukah, as excerpted from the Dirshu Edition notes to the Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, Chapters 670-671):




A. When we have a Seudah to give Shevach or for Pirsumei Nisah, it is a Seudas Mitzvah (ibid. 670; Mishna Berurah seif katan 9). The same would be true for anyone who made a Seudas Hoda’ah over a miracle that occurred to him personally--for any Seudah that one makes to remember the Nifla’os Hashem is a Seudas Mitzvah (ibid. 671, Dirshu Note 25).


B. Just as there is a requirement to study the Halachos of each chag on the chag itself, so too, it is appropriate for one to study Hilchos Chanukah on Chanukah (ibid. Dirshu Note 26).


C. With respect to lighting the Menorah at gatherings in public places, HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, and the Minchas Yitzchak all rule that no bracha should be recited. Even if Ma’ariv will be davened there, such as at a simcha hall, HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, rules that it is not considered a Makom Hameyuchad L’Tefillah and that accordingly reciting a bracha over Hadlakas Neiros there would be a bracha l’vatalah (ibid. Dirshu Note 70).


D. There is a great Machlokes Haposkim as to whether a katan can light the Menorah in Shul. Some Poskim are of the opinion that since no one is really fulfilling his obligation there, a katan may light. Others rule that a katan should not light, as, among other matters, it is not Kavod Hatzibbur. HaRav Elyashiv rules that if a katan lit in Shul, the tzibbur is obligated to extinguish the neiros, and relight with a bracha (ibid. Dirshu Note 75). Hakhel Note: Of course, every Shul will follow the p’sak of its own Rav.


E. There is also a difference of opinion as to whether one who lit in his home and recited Shehechiyanu can recite Shehechiyanu again when he lights the Menorah in Shul. In fact, some Poskim rule that if everyone present in Shul had lit the Menorah prior to coming to daven Ma’ariv in Shul, the bracha of Shehechiyanu would simply then not be recited in Shul (ibid. Dirshu Note 75). Hakhel Note: Of course, once again, every Shul will follow the p’sak of its own Rav.


F. When Chazal teach that one who is ‘Ragil B’Ner’ will have children who are Talmidei Chachomim, they refer to one who goes beyond the letter of the law, and is careful to light the Menorah in a clean and beautiful manner, and with olive oil. Others say that they refer to one who fulfills the mitzvah of Neiros Chanukah b’chol perateha v’dikdukeha--taking care as to the details of the mitzvah! (ibid. Dirshu Note 1)



20 Kislev

TESHUVAH MOMENT: Yargil Es Atzmo She’lo Lichos Afilu Ahl Davar HaRaui Lichos --a person must accustom himself not to get angry, even over something that it would be appropriate to get angry about.”  What is the source of this quote-- a book on anger? a book on bad middos?  Actually, it is a Halacha Sefer--the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (29:4).  Please read the quote another time, and another time and another--as Halacha LeMa’aseh!  



START DRINKING! With Chanukah advertising everywhere, and Chanukah products filling the stores, we should take it as a real reminder to begin our spiritual preparations for this very special period as well.  Is there a new Peirush on Chanukah that I will study, a new Sefer that I will buy?  ‘Water, water is everywhere--and there is plenty to drink!’



ON THE YAHRZEIT OF HARAV YITZCHAK HUTNER, Z’TL: Today, 20 Kislev, is the Yahrzeit of HaRav Yitzchak Hutner, Z’tl, (Yitzchak Ben R’ Chaim Yoel, Z’tl).  In the Sefer Pachad Yitzchak, HaRav Hutner teaches that just as there is a difference in the meaning of the word Amen when answering to a Birkas HaShevach or Birkas HaMitzvah (it is true, and I believe it), on the one hand, and a Birkas Bakasha (it is true and may my request be fulfilled soon) on the other--so too, is there a difference between the meaning of the word Baruch when recited in a Birkas HaShevach or Birkas HaMitzvah (when it connotes only praise--that Hashem is the All-Powerful Source and Grantor of all blessing), and that of a Birkas Bakasha (in which the word “Baruchincludes the request that Hashem as the Only Source provide you with the matter or item requested)



YOU ARE A CRAFTSMAN: Chazal, based upon the Pasuk in Tehillim (58:2) teach : “Mah Umnaso Shel Adam BaOlam Hazehwhat should a person’s expertise be in this world, in what way should he be a craftsman?--It should be in the area of controlling his speech.” Chazal teach…that it is in the area of proper speech--when to speak and when to refrain. Once again, for further assistance in practical, real-life situations, one should ask his Shailos to the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation Shemiras HaLashon Shailah Hotline, 718-951-3696, 9:00PM  to 10:30 PM, EST.



BITACHON--IT’S UP TO US! There is a powerful Pasuk that we recite every day in Pesukei D’Zimra: “Ahl Tivtechu Vindivim Bevehn Adam She’ein Lo Seshu’ah…do not rely on nobles, nor on a human being, for he holds no salvation.” The Radak on this Pasuk provides an astounding comment. He writes that just as Galus Bavel drew to a close by Koresh giving permission for the Jews to return to Eretz Yisrael, so too, the final Geulah will come through the nations voluntarily sending us back to Eretz Yisrael. This will only happen, however, the Radak continues--if we demonstrate our Bitachon in Hashem and in no one else. Do we want the Geulah to come?--it is up to us, and to our Bitachon in Hashem! Hakhel Note: To strengthen our bitachon on a daily basis, we once again highly recommend Emuna Daily, a 3-5 minute daily phone message which one can call at any time during the day for no charge. The number is 605-475-4799. The pin number is 840886#. To listen to today’s Shiur, one need only hit # again. To listen to all of the prior wonderful Shiurim (now more than hundreds on file), begin with the number 1…and keep on going! Yasher Koach to Rabbi David Ashear, Shlita, for these wonderful Shiurim! To subscribe to the related short daily Emuna email message: emunadaily @gmail.com.



SPECTACULAR OPPORTUNITY TOO! The following is the second and final part of our excerpt from Toras HaBayis, an English booklet adapted by Rabbi Shalom Naumann, from the Chofetz Chaim’s great work Toras HaBayis.  The Chofetz Chaim would constantly utilize practical analogies to everyday life, and to making money and earning a living, as we will see re.  The next time that you look at a dollar bill, see if you can see beyond it--to the so much that you can learn from it:


1.  Someone once found a farmer sobbing. “Why are you crying?” the person asked.  “You see these fields?  I paid an expensive fee to rent them for ten years. I didn’t work them, and I’m not even earning back enough to pay for the rent, let alone support my family.”  The person replied, “That is indeed a reason for distress.  But bemoaning your fate won’t help you.  What you can do is stop being lazy and work the field for the remaining time.  Maybe, with Hashem’s help, you will succeed in making a profit.” The lesson for us is clear.


2.  People commonly hide behind the wobbly facade that most people do not utilize their time to learn.  Unfortunately, many people eat without making a bracha. Does that mean we should follow suit?

  Learning Torah is no different.  If someone walking with friends noticed a large sum of money on the ground that his friends didn’t notice--would he ignore it because his friends did? This applies no less to the Torah, which is “more desirous than gold and multitudes of precious jewels” (Tehillim 19: 11).


3.  Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, reveals to us the secret of achieving greatness in Torah and fear of Hashem:  “If you seek it like money and search for it like hidden treasures, then you shall understand the fear of Hashem, and His wisdom shall you discover” (Mishlei 2:4-5).  A man once traveled to a distant country on business.  In the course of his short trip, he expected to earn enough money to last him for the rest of the year.  During a crucial meeting, someone offered him a newspaper to read.  The businessman looked at him in astonishment, “What are you doing! Can’t you see that I’m doing important business?!”  We are here in this world for a short time, during which we have to earn enough Torah and good deeds for the rest of eternity.  Do we have time to study newspapers? [The Chofetz Chaim’s message applies to a much greater extent today. The entire world revolves around news, media, Internet, and other forms of electronic communications.  The situation is far worse than during the time of the Chofetz Chaim, when newspapers were only one page. Today, one can spend an entire day doing and learning ‘interesting’ things--but it is like a newspaper offered to us at a time when we have infinitely and everlastingly more important business at hand.]


4.  We are careful not to lose our money by leaving it unguarded or investing it in a risky venture.  In the same manner, we must take care not to lose our merits by using our tongues improperly, by speaking slander, lies, or other forbidden speech.


5.  People are willing to try various means of earning money, even if their peers tease them or tell them that they will never succeed.  Likewise, we must learn and grow spiritually even if it means withstanding peer pressure.  Chazal (Avos 2:4) teach:  Do not say I will study when I am undisturbed, for perhaps you will never be undisturbed.  Remember that someone carrying an inappropriate heavy load puts down the load immediately at his earliest opportunity.  We too should not want our shortcomings to remain with us even one moment more than necessary.  If we can improve in some way in our Torah study, we must think about how we can do so--and act on it!


6.  If someone discovers an opportunity for a good investment, but he doesn’t have enough money for it, he borrows from others.  Similarly, someone who never learned how to learn should ask others for help.  He should look for a chavrusa who is willing to help him, or a shiur he can attend.  Hashem is the one who created us and knows the extent of our intelligence and memory, yet he still commands us to learn and desires to reward us for our efforts--in accordance with our talents.


7.  Even if a person has amassed a fortune, he wants to gain more.  If we would view spiritual achievement the way we do financial success, we would always yearn for more. The opposite end of the spectrum is also true.  If one’s business fails, he does not just say, “Oh well, I guess I’m just not cut out for earning money.  I’d better give up.”  Earning a living is a necessity; one does not give up even if he does not succeed initially.  Similarly, a person cannot survive spiritually without Torah and the fear of Hashem. If we do not succeed at first, we must continue and try again.  Sometimes, the effects of a drug are not immediately felt--rather, one must take it several times until your dedication...sees wonderful and lasting [in our case--everlasting] results!




LET US REMEMBER--HUGE AND AWESOME! In preparation for Chanukah, we recall the words of the Seder HaYom, who teaches as follows: “Yemei HaChanukah Ain LeHisatzeiv Bahem…--on the days of Chanukah one should not be sad, but should show joy and happiness for all the good that we received in these days…and the Mitzvah of Chanukah, although it is ‘only’ a Mitzvah D’Rabbanan should not be viewed lightly in one’s eyes, because it is one of our Mitzvos which are Gedolos V’Nora’os--huge and awesome, as it expresses appreciation for the great kindness that Hashem showed to us. One who is lax in the Mitzvah of Chanukah c’v demonstrates that he denies the goodness that Hashem has given him, that he does not rejoice together with K’lal Yisrael and that he does not care about their rejoicing and comforting….”


Hakhel Note One: The Rambam (Hilchos Chanukah 3:1-3) actually writes that the days of Chanukah are Yemei Simcha V’Hallel. There is much discussion in Halacha on this point--but we can certainly take the words of the Seder HaYom deeply to heart!


Hakhel Note Two: The Bach (to the Tur Orach Chaim 670) writes that the ikar gezeirah of the Yevanim against us was because we became weakened in our Avodas Hashem-- and this is why the decrees of the Yevanim affected our service in the Beis HaMikdash--as they ruined our Mizbe’ach and stopped us from bringing our Karbon Tomid. As a last straw, they attempted to stop us from lighting the Menorah, by defiling all of our oils. Through the Teshuvah brought about by the Chashmonaim who were moser nefesh for the Avodah--great miracles occurred with the very neiros--with the very Avodah--that the Yevanim wanted to prevent. We therefore continue every year Lehodos U’LeHallel --to thank and praise HaKadosh Baruch Hu--which is our very own Avodah Shebalev!



19 Kislev

TESHUVAH MOMENT: The Rabbeinu Yonah in Sefer Sha’arei Teshuvah (3:17) writes as follows: It is the practice of the upright to ignore offenses and to praise one in whom a good thing is found. An illustration of this principle, it is related is that a certain person and a chochom passed a neveilah, with the first person saying “How foul is the odor of this neveilah!” while the chochom said “How white are its teeth.” Each one of us should endeavor to put this important teaching as to attitude into daily practice of the Rabbeinu Yonah into daily practice.



AVAK LOSHON HARA:  Why are words which are prohibited because they could lead to Lashon Hara called Avak Lashon Hara?  What does the term Avak mean and teach us?



QUOTABLE QUOTE: No one is too old, too smart or too sophisticated to appreciate a sincere compliment. [Excerpted from Positive Word Power (Artscroll, Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation)]



GETTING READY:  At the end of HaNeiros Halalu we will recite words in which we thank and praise Hashem--Al Nisecha VeAl Niflaosecha VeAl Yeshuasecha.  Please recall or study the difference between these three important acknowledgments--Nisecha, Niflaosecha and Yeshuasecha



PEACE! As we daven daily for peace in Eretz Yisrael and the world over (remember to say with feeling--Bechol Eis U’Vechol Sha’ah Bishlomecha), we should recall the following two exceedingly important points:


1. If one is aware of a dispute among family or friends which he himself cannot stop, he must not take part in it in any way, as taking sides only fuels the dispute and could even enlarges it. Furthermore, if one of the principals in the machlokes simply stops in his tracks--he has eliminated the danger to the lives of himself and his family in this world and the next (Chofetz Chaim, Sefer Shemiras HaLashon, Chapter 16)


2. As we learned in last week’s Parasha, the only legitimate fight to have is with the Yetzer Hara. Let us look for a moment at the results of that battle: Yaakov was temporarily injured at his thigh and subsequently healed, yet his descendants for all time remember what the Yetzer Hara can do to a person through the prohibition of Gid Hanasheh. On the other hand, the Yetzer Hara, having been bested in battle, went back to sing shira to Hashem! Beating the Yetzer Hara is, simply put, a win-win situation!



WORLD OVERVIEW: “When we look at the world in general, we reach an important conclusion, based on its history since creation as well as on the predictions of the prophets. This is the fact that humanity as a whole can exist in four basic states. In this respect, the history of man is very much like the life of an individual. Like a single person, the entire human race is born and reaches maturity.


“The first state was one where ignorance and darkness prevailed among mankind, and true knowledge of God and His perfection were greatly obscured. Our sages call this period the “two thousand years of desolation.”


“The second state is somewhat better, and it is the one in which we now live. We have knowledge of both the existence and perfection of God, His Torah is available to us, and we can thus serve Him.


“Still, we live in a time when there is neither sign nor prophet, and the true enlightenment of Divine Inspiration (Ruach HaKodesh) is lacking. Even though man can gain very much knowledge through his own intellect and human endeavor, this cannot be compared to what he can gain through the spiritual inspiration granted by God. The two are as different as the body and the soul.


“The third state is still better, and this is the state that existed while the Holy Temple (Beis HaMikdash) stood. During this period, there were wonders and miracles, and prophecy could be found among men. Prophetic inspiration, however, was not granted to all mankind, but only to a few select individuals. Such inspiration was furthermore very difficult even for such persons to attain, for there were things preventing one from attaining it and otherwise holding it back.


“The fourth state is the very best, and this is the state that the prophets predicted for the ultimate future. This will be a time when folly will cease to exist completely. Divine Inspiration will be poured out on all mankind, and will be attained without any difficulty whatsoever. At this time, humanity will be considered to have attained full maturity. From then on, mankind will experience constant elevation, and will delight [in God] for ever and ever.”


[Excerpted from Derech Hashem by HaRav Moshe Chaim Luzatto, Z’tl (Feldheim Publishers, Translated by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, Z’tl)]



SPECTACULAR OPPORTUNITY!  The following is excerpted from Toras HaBayis, an exceptional English booklet adapted by Rabbi Shalom Naumann, from the Chofetz Chaim’s great work Toras HaBayis.


“There was once a prince, who was beloved by his father the king.  The pampered prince had everything he needed or wanted.  One day, the king summoned his son and told him he had an important task for him.  The prince was to travel to a faraway land.  His destination was a primitive land where he would dwell in a hut, wear coarse, uncomfortable clothing, and eat unsavory foods.  The inhabitants of this faraway country were not particularly sophisticated, and he would have no friends.


Why, the prince wanted to know.  Why would his wise, caring father send him to such a terrible place?  The king explained, “In this faraway land, there are millions of precious, shining gems, each one unique.  The gems lie on the floor, as common as pebbles in our lands, and are free for the taking.  The ignorant people of that land do not appreciate the treasure lying at their feet.  You, however, being well acquainted with precious jewels from the palace, will be able to evaluate each stone.”  Spending just a short time under uncomfortable conditions, the prince would collect the jewels and become one of the wealthiest men in the world, famous for his spectacular treasury.


Hashem is the King, and we are His sons.  Although we were happily basking in His presence, He sent us to this world, because only here can we accumulate mitzvos, valuable jewels in the World-to-Come.  To help us, Hashem gave us His precious Torah.  If we dedicate ourselves to its study, it will guide us on our mission.  Every word of Torah we learn is another mitzvah, so in a single twenty-four hour period, we can amass thousands of precious jewels. If we learn constantly, we can earn countless gems each year and many times more throughout a lifetime.


However, because the Torah is so readily available, not everyone appreciates its worth, much like the natives of that faraway land.  We must be wise like the prince and recognize the value of the Torah while we are still in this world. 


Shlomo Hamelech, renowned for both his knowledge of Torah and his vast wealth, declared (Mishlei 3:15): “It is worth more than pearls, and all of your possessions do not equal it.’ Chazal (Yerushalmi Pe’ah 1:1) explain that one word of Torah is worth more than all the physical possessions of the world combined. People scuba-dive to collect pearls. We need only to start learning!” Hakhel Note:  Especially remember the Chofetz Chaim’s analogy when it appears that you may have a learning roadblock--and figure out a way to get to the pearls!



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


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


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


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


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



18 Kislev

TESHUVAH MOMENT:  So much of our lives is dedicated to actions Bein Odom L’Chaveiro, through which so many Mitzvos are to be performed. In order to be more cognizant of the primacy of Bein Odom L’Chaveiro, at least once a day—before doing something for oneself—consciously and purposefully do something for someone else first (whether related or unrelated to what you were going to do for yourself).



A POSEK’S SUGGESTION:  A Posek on the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation Shemiras Halashon Hotline contacted us, and urged us to mention that learning even just one halacha in Shemiras Halashon in Shul after Shacharis (given by the Rav or Gabbai as men were putting away their Tefillen) could literally save thousands of words of Lashon Hora daily—and generate great, great zechusim for all of K’lal Yisrael.



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



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



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



BRACHA ON COUGH MEDICINES?: “We provide the following important reminder relating to cough medicines as excerpted from Halachos of Brochos, by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita (Feldheim):  “Foods which are unpleasant tasting, but are eaten for medicinal purposes (e.g., mineral oil), do not require a brocha.  However, foods which are eaten primarily for medicinal purposes, but are pleasant tasting (e.g., herbal teas, cough drops, chewable vitamins, etc.) are subject to a brocha. Medicines, such as Kosher cough preparations that are pleasantly flavored with a sweet syrup, are subject to a brocha. Some Poskim, however, rule that they are not subject to a brocha and it is advisable, therefore, to have intention to exempt the pleasant tasting medicine by first making a Shehakol on another food or drink other than water (unless he is drinking the water in order to quench his thirst, in which event one can recite a brocho on the water as well).” 



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





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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



15 Kislev

SHATNEZ ALERT: We were advised by the Flatbush SHATNEZ Lab that “SUIT SUPPLY” clothing have a very high incidence of Shatnez, and the consumer should beware.


A TESHUVAH MOMENT: At yesterday’s Hakhel Yarchei Kallah Rabbi Maimon Elbaz, Shlita, taught that one of the reasons that we cover our eyes when we recite the first Pasuk of Shema is to demonstrate that we do not need to see Hashem to believe, and in fact know, that He exists. Based upon this teaching, upon covering one’s eyes, one should feel a greater inner sense of closeness to the Borei Olam!



ON THE YAHRZEIT OF REBBI YEHUDA HANASI:  Today, 15 Kislev is the Yahrzeit of Rebbi Yehuda HaNasi, the Mesader of all of Mishanyos.  The Shelah HaKadosh writes that “Kabbalah BiYadi--I have a personal Kabbalah that a person who is a baki--well versed-- in Mishnayos will not be ‘Roeh Penei Gehenom’--will not see the face of Gehenom.”  The Maharal calls the study of Mishnah the “Yesod HaGadol VeAmud HaBarzel--the great foundation and the iron pillar to all of Torah” (Luach Davar B’Ito).  We provide by the following link an outstanding Limud Mishnayos Chart distributed by Congregation Darchei Tzedek of Baltimore, Maryland http://www.hakhel.info/archivesPublicService/LimudMishnayosChart.pdf The chart allows you to follow your progress in learning, on a Mishna-by-Mishna basis, and provides valuable information as to how many Mishnayos there are in each Mesechta and in each Perek of each Mesechta--for all of Shas!  Imagine the glee one will experience if he can mark off his success and complete the entire chart!  Even one Mesechta, and certainly an entire Seder is cause for great celebration as well!  May you be blessed with much success in filling in this very special chart!



DAVEN FOR ME!   “Daven For Me & I’ll Daven For You” is a great initiative in Ahavas Yisrael—emphasizing the power of both Tefillah and Chesed to our nation. To join, visit http://davenforme.org/step-page/



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





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


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



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






We provide below several teachings of the Shelah HaKadosh in his Sefer, under the subtitle ‘Meseches Shabbos’:


1.  Although there is a special Ma’aleh to buying food for Shabbos on Erev Shabbos, that is only true regarding foods which will be better if purchased closer to Shabbos.  With respect to foods for which it will not make a difference, it is better to purchase them earlier in the week, based upon the principle of Zerizim Makdimin LeMitzvos--one should act with special alacrity when doing a Mitzvah.  Additionally, when purchasing an item, one should declare “Lichvod Shabbos Ani Koneh!”


2.  If one undertakes Shabbos preparations on his own without somebody else being his “Shaliach” for him, he is fulfilling the words of the Torah “La’asos Es HaShabbos--making the Shabbos on his own.”  One should even reduce his Torah learning to do so. 


3.  Chazal teach that the relationship between Erev Shabbos and Shabbos is a paradigm for the correlation between Olam Hazeh and Olam Haba--in which one prepares everything he needs now, so that he is fully ready for the great next step.  This also teaches us, the Shelah continues, that one should examine his ways and do Teshuvah on Erev Shabbos--so the he is prepared not only for his physical needs on Shabbos, but for his spiritual needs as well. 


4.  It is best for men to finish Shenayim Mikrah VeEchad Targum Friday afternoon after Chatzos.  If one cannot do so, he should try to finish before the Shabbos Seudah on Shabbos morning; if this is not possible as well, he should finish before Shabbos Mincha. 


5.  Because Shabbos is known as “Shabbos Kallah,” the first two meals are like the Seudas Erusin and Seudas Nesuin! 


6.  One should feel a high level of Shalom and Ahava on Shabbos, as on this day even the Reshaim in Gehenoim have a rest from their punishment.  If one gets angry on Shabbos, his Aveirah for doing so is ‘Kefulah’--doubled.  One should begin his special care against anger beginning at Chatzos on Erev Shabbos.  Indeed, continues the Shelah, the Sefer Chassidim writes that it is better to eat vegetables on Shabbos with warm feelings than to eat the fattiest of meats while unsettled or in a spirit of rife or dispute.


7.  In the Zechus of eating Shalosh Seudos, the third meal, one is saved from the war of Gog U’Magog.  The Gematriah of Gog U’Magog is 70, which teaches that one will thus be saved from all 70 nations of the world. 





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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



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



14 Kislev

TESHUVAH MOMENT: An important part of our Dveikus B’Hashem, the essence of our lives, is to feel for the Tza’ar Hashechina--Hashem without a home in this world while we are in Galus. It is sometimes hard for us to focus on the Tza’ar Hashechina, with the distractions of a whirlwind of facts, situations and circumstances we are faced with daily. Perhaps one thing that we can do to focus is to bli neder take it upon ourselves to recite one Kepitel Tehillim daily (at least for a period of time) for the relief of the Tzaar HaShechina through the Geulah Sheleimah!



HERE IS FOOD FOR (AFORE)THOUGHT:  Can a sarcastic statement, comment or response ever be useful?



THE FIRST OF THE ANI MA’AMINS: In the first Ani Ma’amin, we affirmatively state our belief that Hashem is the Borei U’Manhig Lechol HaBeru’im--that He creates and guides all creatures.  A reader pointed out that we must never forget that the term Lechol Heberu’im includes each and every one of us--and that it is HaKadosh Baruch Hu Himself Who is guiding one through life--whatever the situation, whatever the circumstance.



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







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


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


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




1.  Perek 32, Pasuk 15.


2.  Perek 32, Pasuk 28.


3.  Perek 36, Pasuk 41.



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


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


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


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


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



ADAM ATEM: At a gathering on behalf of Renewal, in Flatbush, Rabbi Moshe Tuvia Lieff, Shlita, taught a fantastic lesson. He stated that prior to the Mendel Beilis trial the Czar had for all intents and purposes announced that after Beilis was found guilty there would be a pogrom in Russia. The Jews united worldwide in Beilis’ defense. HaRav Meir Shapiro, Z’tl, then a young Rav, sent a letter to the defense team assembled that he felt that the main argument of the prosecution, who had allegedly gone through the Talmud, would be that Jews did not consider non-Jews to be human beings based upon the Talmudic teaching of ‘Adam Atem--Atem Keruyim Adam…’, and they were therefore given the license to kill non-Jews for religious (such as Matzah baking) purposes. HaRav Shapiro told the defense team that this was absolutely the wrong p’shat in Atem Keruyim Adam. In fact, the word Atem means you, in the plural--and means to convey that all of K’lal Yisrael together (i.e., you--in the plural) are called Adam--one human being--for you are all united. The nations of the world would not unite in defense of a person they did not even know--but Jews worldwide acted together as one. This is our mantra. When we know that Chesed is needed, it does not matter that we don’t otherwise know the person or that he or she may live 6,000 miles away. It only matter that we, as a collective unit, are called--Adam!



WHAT IS A BA’AL MIDDOS?:  We were advised by a reader that upon attaining bar mitzvah, a bachur from the U.S. visited with HaRav Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz, Z’tl, and asked him for various Brachos.  One of the brachos that he (or perhaps his father) requested was that he become a ‘Ba’al Middos’.  Upon hearing this, HaRav Lefkowitz asked: “Do you know what a Ba’al Middos is?”  After a moment of silence he continued “It is someone who is mevater--someone who steps into the shoes of the other person—and accedes to their needs and requests.”  Fascinatingly, a different reader advised us that he went to HaRav Binyomin Zilber, Z’tl, to receive various brachos from him.  When he asked for a bracha for Shalom Bayis, HaRav Zilber advised him that he would not give a bracha for that--because in order to achieve and maintain  Shalom Bayis, one needs only to be ‘Mevater Al HaKol’—step into the place and view of the other person and give in--thus creating your own Shalom Bayis!


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



DAVENING FOR THE WELL-BEING OF OTHERS:  Points and pointers on davening for the wellbeing of others from the monumental Sefer Praying with Fire II, by Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, Shlita:


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


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


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


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


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


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



13 Kislev

A TESHUVAH MOMENT:  Rabbeinu Yonah in the Sefer Sha’arei Teshuvah writes that when one shows true kavod to Talmidei Chachomim he is mekadeish sheim shomayim, because by doing so one demonstrates his recognition of the purpose of life. To the contrary r’l, one who does not show the proper respect does just the opposite, by not recognizing life’s purpose. One’s Kavod Chachomim should be infused with the depth of this essential insight of the Rabbeinu Yonah!



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


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


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


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


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



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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




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!



12 Kislev

TESHUVAH MOMENT: At a recent Hakhel Shiur, Rabbi Ozer Alport, Shlita, pointed out that there are the Aseres Hadibros and the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah. Anochi Hashem Elokecha corresponds to Rosh Hashana. Lo Sachmod (the last of the Aseres Hadibros) corresponds to Yom Kippur. From this we see how careful we must be not to covet what others possess, as Hashem gives everyone just exactly what he needs to fulfill his mission in life. As Rabbi Alport put it, Anochi Hashem Elokecha is Emunah, and Lo Sachmod is Emunah L’Ma’aseh. Let us keep this in mind when we see others who appear to be blessed in greater measure.



FREE SEFORIM IN SPANISH: By the following links http://tinyurl.com/osxmy4q

http://tinyurl.com/qzzozp8 we provide two Seforim written by Rabbi Fabio Pirowicz, Shlita, of Buenos Aires, which he has kindly made available for free distribution.



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!



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


Hakhel Note: 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!



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



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


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



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.



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!




A TESHUVAH MOMENT: The G’ra in Even Sheleimah writes that guarding one’s mouth from improper speech is better than fasting many fasts. To this end, one should take upon himself not to rationalize speaking about another (even if that person is a close relative) with the rationalization that “he/she won’t mind”. One should make the avoidance of this rationalization part of his every day life.





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 others around him?


B. I was moved by the following excerpt from the Sefer Leading with Love-- the teachings of HaRav Aharon Leib Shteinman, Z’tl: “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!






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

HaRav Shach, Z’tl.


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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!



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 if 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!



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!”



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!



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! 



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!



8 Kislev

TESHUVAH MOMENT: Every morning, our Birchos HaShachar should be a refreshed and invigorated, personalized, series of expressions of great thanks to HaKadosh Baruch Hu. When reciting the bracha, try to think of something specific relating to the bracha as it applies to you—through the conclusion of HaGomel Chassodim Tovim L’Amo Yisrael!



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!





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


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


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


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





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.) 



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.



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!



‘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!



SUNDAY--THE 10TH DAY OF KISLEV:  Sunday 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 Shabbos (according to Minhag Ashkenaz) actually incorporates 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.  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!



7 Kislev

TESHUVAH MOMENT: The Midrash (Midrash Tanchuma, Vayikra 6) teaches that there is no Teshuvah before HaKadosh Baruch Hu greater than giving thanks to Him. May we suggest that for a 10 day period, one take a notebook or create a document on his computer in which he records on a daily basis 5-10 specific things that he thanks Hashem for that day. With this, he will grow more accustomed to recognize the gifts that Hashem bestows upon him daily!



ESPECIALLY FOR THESE DAYS--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!”



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.



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].



OBVIOUS QUESTION OF THE WEEK:  In this 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?!



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--he became very wealthy.”  By bringing this as the concluding Halacha here, we can suggest that the Rambam intends to impart a great lesson to all workers.  Dedication and integrity in the workplace should be rewarded by our employers or those who hire us.  If we act as we are supposed to, then we are Tzaddikim--and we should be dealt with accordingly by those who hired us.  Even if, however, we are treated more like Lavan treated Yaakov, then Hashem Himself will get involved in a way that He deems fit and either despoil the Lavan we are dealing with for our benefit--or take care of us in some other very special way---as the Pasuk unusually emphasizes--Me’od Me’od--his situation *very much* improved.  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 very much so in This World as well!



REMINDER--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!”



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!



6 Kislev

A TESHUVAH MOMENT: The Sefer Chofetz Chaim teaches      that, since listening to lashon hara is an issur d’oraysa even if one has specific intent not to believe it, one cannot join a group of people or conversation in which the likelihood is that lashon hara will be spoken. This means that one cannot go to a website or blog, or read an article, where reading lashon hora, an issur d’oraysa, is in any way a risk.





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)


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NEWS AS HISTORY: 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 did!



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 be happy himself!



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 Shechinah is now too without a home in this world. We affirm with Emunah Sheleimah that together--the Shechinah and us--will be brought back to our true and great wealth--and this time--forever!



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.



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”!



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!



THE TRUTH: This week, we continue learning of the quality of Emes L’Yaakov.  In fact, the quality of ‘Titein Emes L’Yaakov’ is the Tenth Middah of Hashem, as explained in the Sefer Tomer Devorah:  “…and to those who conduct themselves in this world with uprightness, Hashem also conducts towards them with this quality of truth, having mercy on them in a way that is upright and just.  So, too, must a person act towards his fellow in a way that is upright and true, never perverting the justice of his friend.  He should have true mercy on him, just as Hashem has true mercy on his creatures [even of] average stature.”  We see from the Tomer Devorah that even Hashem’s truth relates back to the truth--of mercy.  If this is the truth that we seek from Hashem--this is the truth that we should mete out to others!



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!



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!





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!



5 Kislev

PRE-EMPT TERROR:   We learned in last week’s Parasha 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 and the rest of K’lal Yisrael. We can take these few moments during the day to PRE-EMPT TERROR as only our Tefillos can.  Let us bli neder make the commitment to help ourselves and K’lal Yisrael at this crucial time in world history--in an incredibly real and result-filled way.



NOTES ON ANSWERING AMEN YEHEI SHEMEI RABBA! In these perilous times, we need zechusim for great yeshuos. Chazal teach that reciting Yehei Shmei Rabba with Kavannah breaks terrible and otherwise long-lasting decrees. Below are important points relating to answering Yehei Shemei Rabba. May our implementation of them bring those zechusim that we need so desperately.


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)



A TESHUVAH MOMENT: Many times, when one is pressed to make conversation in order to be nice, ‘social’ or even respectful, he often is tempted to speak about another person or people. Even when one has no intention of speaking Lashon Hara—it is important that one not take this moment of pressure and speak about people—for perhaps the only place that it can lead is in the wrong direction. Consistently withholding the temptation to speak about others in these situations should bring a person to a level of phenomenal personal accomplishment!



STILL AVAILABLE: For CD’s of yesterday’s outstanding Yarchei Kallah, with Shiurim by Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, on “The War to End All Wars, Rabbi Ozer Alport, Shlita, on “Overcoming Jealousy: My Grass Is Greener”, and Rabbi Dovid Waldman, Shlita, on “Common Tevilas Keilim Shailos”, please call 718-252-5274.



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!




REMINDER--TEFILLAH ON TECHNOLOGY: By the following link we provide a meaningful Tefillah written by a Rav in the United States, and reviewed and approved by HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita. Our special Hakaras HaTov to TAG for supplying it to us. May we suggest that one recite it daily before opening his computer or other machshir!






1.  “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?!” 


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


3. BAS BESUEL HA’ARAMI MIPADAN ARAM ACHOS LAVAN HA’ARAMI: Rashi asks why these descriptions--all which we already know--are used to describe Rivka in the Parasha (Bereishis 25:20). Rashi answers that it is to teach us that despite her close relationship and proximity, Rivka was able to say ‘Lo Limadati MiMa’aseihem’--that she did not learn at all from the deeds of Besuel, Lavan or the people of Padan Aram. What an outstanding lesson for us. In our times, we have come far past the ‘deghettoizing’ industrial revolution--we are in the midst of a technology revolution which has brought all western and eastern societies, cultures and norms into the palm of our hand and its quick fingertips. Every day, every single day--let us be proud to say-- Lo Limadati MiMa’aseihem!!



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


On Brachos:


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


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


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


On Tefillah:


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


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


3. Many people asked HaRav Chaim what to strengthen themselves in--and he 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 asked what she should do to hear positive results regarding a medical test--what should she accept upon herself. HaRav Chaim responded that she should add an additional Tefillah to what she had previously been accustomed to.


5. It is brought in Shulchan Aruch that one should give Tzedaka before davening, and some do so before reciting the words: “V’Ata Moshel BaKol”. [as we had recently noted] What if one does not have on money on his person before Shacharis. 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.



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



4 Kislev

TODAY!  MISHNA YOMIS—STARTING NEZIKIN MASECHTA BAVA KAMA: To view and print a concise Hebrew calendar which contains the 5779 daily Nach Yomi, Mishna Yomis, Daf Yomi and Halacha Yomis, please see the following link   http://www.hakhel.info/archivesPublicService/MishnaYomit5779.pdf

Spread this wealth of information to others!



A TESHUVAH MOMENT: 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!



FOR THE MISHABEIRACH LIST:  At the request of a reader, we present the names of the two congregants wounded in the horrific attack in the Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburgh:


Chaya bas Raizel

Daniel ben Sara



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.



IT’S ALL ABOUT CARING! We provide the splendidly meaningful words of Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita, as he comments on the final Pesukim of last week’s 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!



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!




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!



1 Kislev

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



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



REMINDER--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!



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


Hakhel Note: We look forward to a month of great Yeshuos.  Certainly, great Kochos--huge potential--lies within these upcoming days.  Let us remember that (although the war against the Greeks may have ensued for years hence) the battles for which we celebrate Chanukah culminating in the rededication of the Bais HaMikdash were successfully concluded on the 24th/25th of Kislev--just a few short weeks away.  This, then, means that the actual miracle-filled clashes of the physically weak against the bodily strong, of a few brothers against armored battalions, of the piercing Kol Yaakov against the adroit Yedei Esav as portended by this week’s Parasha, took place on our calendar perhaps today and certainly in the days just ahead.  In this week’s Parasha, we learn how powerful our Tefillos really are and can be in extricating ourselves from truly painful and difficult situations. Learning the lessons from the Parasha is such an important goal and accomplishment for us--especially applying them to our times and our situations in life. If we can take the lesson of the incomparable 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!





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).




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!



SEEING THE SMELL!  In this 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! 





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.



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!



ON THE YAHRZEIT OF HARAV AHARON KOTLER: Shabbos, is the 56th 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?!



30 Marcheshvan

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


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





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


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


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


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



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.



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!





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)?!



29 Marcheshvan

KISLEV: By the following audio link, we provide Rabbi Eliya Brudny, Shlita’s recent Va’ad on Kislev:





TESHUVAH MOMENT: Today is Yom Kippur Koton, and tomorrow, Rosh Chodesh Kislev will mark two months since Rosh Hashana. Yom Kippur Koton is a special time for Teshuvah. May we recommend reviewing the Ahl Cheits today. An effective way to do so may be in the back of the Artscroll Yom Kippur Machzor (also published by Artscroll as a separate pamphlet on Vidui). Teshuvah--the time is now!


REMEMBERING THE MUMBAI KEDOSHIM: As may be known to you, today is the tenth 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.



EXCERPT OF THE DAY:Aimless surfing, compulsive news checking, and excessive preoccupation with email and messaging are some examples of “digital pull” with which we are familiar. The direct outcome of this is that all of the quality  activities in which we need and want to engage must compete against the powerful influence of “digital pull.”


The negative consequences of “digital pull” are experienced in two ways. Digital pursuits of little or no value rob us of time better spent learning, in pursuit of parnassah, engaging with family, and a host of other worthwhile pursuits. Additionally, even while engaged in truly valuable activities we often succumb to the commands/enticements borne to us through pings and vibrations.” [Excerpted from The Evolving Digital Challenge by Rabbi Nechemiah Gottlieb, Shlita].



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




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.



28 Marcheshvan

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!



A TESHUVAH MOMENT: In honor of the Yahrzeit of Rabbeinu Yonah (see below), we provide the following insight from the Sefer Sha’arei Teshuvah (3:141): “Chazal teach that someone who shames another in public (which is avak retzicha) does not have a chelek in Olam Haba, although Chazal do not say the same about a rotzeiach. The reason for this is because one who shames another does not realize how great his sin really is and does not feel sufficient remorse over his terrible sin—accordingly, he is far from Teshuvah.”


Hakhel Note: We must recall these words before getting to the point of shaming another.




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!



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





A. 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!


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!  





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].



27 Marcheshvan

A TESHUVA MOMENT: When one reads or listens regularly, each day, to Mussar, his study is like rain, which has the power to penetrate stone. So too, will Mussar eventually penetrate even a heart of stone.” [5779 Cheshbon HaNefesh Calendar, quoting Sefer Peleh Yoetz]



PESUKEI BITACHON: Bitachon is the mainstay of our existence. We accordingly once again provide by the following link http://www.hakhel.info/archivesPublicService/PesukimBitachon.pdf 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.



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!  



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



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



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



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.


Hakhel Note Three: See additional thoughts in the note that immediately follows.



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?”



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!



24 Marcheshvan

A TESHUVA MOMENT: At least one time a day when unsure what to do, reflect upon the fact that each and every word, thought and deed can have wonderful reverberations for eternity!



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?



FROM A READER: “ANSWERING THE YETZER HORAH’S POTENT CHALLENGE:  In Mesechta Yuma 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!”



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]





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. 



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



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



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


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


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


Thank You Hashem!  Thank You Hashem!


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





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. 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!


E. 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.


F. HaRav Ezriel Erlanger, Shlita, notes that from the Torah’s detail and ostensible repetition relating to the events in this 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!


G. 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!



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)

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.



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 to prepare a special 30-Day Kabbalah—when tomorrow is thirty days before Chanukah!



23 Marcheshvan

TESHUVAH MOMENT: Today is a month since Simchas Torah (in Chutz La’aretz)--23 Tishrei to 23 Marcheshvan--certainly a most auspicious time to rededicate and re-energize ourselves to Torah study!



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



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! 



IMPORTANT HALACHOS RELATING TO DAVENING: The following notes are excerpted from the Mishna Berurah Hilchos Birchos Hashachar and Pesukei D’Zimra (Dirshu Edition):


A. The Shulchan Aruch writes that the reason we recite various parts of Karbanos in the morning is so that every day one will be sure to learn Mikra, 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 which are listed in Orach Chaim 51, Mishna Berurah seif katan 13. (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.


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)



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 180 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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