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15 Marcheshvan

Special Note One:  There are obviously very, very many lessons from the Hurricane whose effects and after-effects have impacted on so many millions. At this time, we share with you only the words of the Ben Yehoyada to Brachos 59A (the sugya which discusses the bracha on strong and ferocious winds). We understand that HaRav Yeruchem Olshin, Shlita and HaRav Shmuel Kamanetsky, Shlita have urged that these words of the Ben Yehoyada be publicized. The Ben Yehoyada writes as follows: The pasuk teaches: " Ki hinei yotzer harim uvorei ruach umagid leodom ma seicho (Amos 4:13) -- Hashem forms the mountains and creates the winds and tells a person what he has spoken about". This means that the mountains are formed to hold back the winds--and the winds are made to punish man for his improper speech. Indeed, the Torah describes our lives as Nishmas Chaim (Beraishis 2:7) -- which the Targum Yonasan specifically translates as a Ruach Memallela -- a being with the wind, or the spirit, of speech." The Ben Yehoyada continues: "The greater the sin of speech is, the stronger the winds will be. From this a person should take Mussar and not treat his words and discussions lightly. When a person witnesses the strong winds himself, he should especially take a Mussar Gadol to guard himself from the sin of speech...".

Hakhel Note: We live in times of an especially heightened awareness in Shemiras Halashon. What more can we do? This is where every person can look into his own personal life. One common denominator for us all may be those situations in which the discussion turns to the topic of a particular person in an informative and even positive way -- but we all know where it may lead -- even if it is 'only' to avak lashon hora. Avoiding this pitfall -- which means falling into the pit -- is by diverting the conversation from anywhere near the pit. May our especially improved pure winds of proper speech obviate any further Hurricanes from the world's surface-- ad biyas Moshiach Tzidkeinu!


Special Note Two:  Several points and pointers on Parshas Vayeirah:

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

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

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

D. Many have toiled over the Chazal that teaches that “Hachnosas Orchim is greater than greeting the Shechina”--as we see that Avrohom Avinu asked Hashem to wait so that he could greet the strangers approaching. HaRav Shach, Z’tl (whose Yahrzeit is, once again, Sunday) teaches that Hachnosas Orchim is greater because through Hachnosas Orchim one is not only in the presence of the Shechina, but is actually emulating the Shechina, thereby becoming one with it. If one would think about it from a parent-child perspective, a parent would have much greater Nachas from the child doing what he does--rather than the child simply being together with him in his presence.

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




14 Marcheshvan

Special Note One:  In this week’s Parsha, we find a special emphasis on Hachnosas Orchim, the Mitzvah of Hospitality.  We provide below important excerpts on this fundamental Mitzvah from the monumental work Journey to Virtue, by Rabbi Avrohom Ehrman, Shlita (Artscroll): 


1.  Chazal extolled the Mitzvah of Hospitality as follows:


Extending hospitality to wayfarers is greater even than receiving the Shechina, as we see from Avraham Avinu who interrupted his conversation with Hashem and ran after three passersby, begging them to accept his hospitality. (Bereishis 18:3)


Sarah Imeinu (see Bereishis 18:1-14) and the Shunamis (see Melachim II 4:8-17), both childless, were rewarded with children because of this Mitzvah.


2. Even though there is a Mitzvah to extend hospitality to both the rich and the poor, receiving poor guests is more important since it includes the Mitzvah of Tzedakah as well.


When one feeds a poor person, he is considered as having brought an offering on the Mizbe’ach. If his guest is a poor Torah scholar, he is considered as having brought the daily Tamid offering.


3.  The Mitzvah of extending hospitality to guests applies even when the host is ill.  He should still expend as much effort as he can to see to his guests' needs, just as Avraham exerted himself on behalf of his guests even though he was ill, recovering from the Bris Milah at an advanced age.  Similarly, one should educate his children to distinguish themselves in this Mitzvah, as Avraham did with Yishmael.


4.  Avraham ran after wayfarers to invite them in.  One should seek out guests and treat them with great warmth, as if each one were a wealthy person from whom one stands to realize a great profit.  

5.  Avraham said,Take water and wash your feet.”  When guests arrive one should immediately allow them to wash if they need to.  For this reason one should make sure that his facilities are kept clean and attractive for their use.


6.  Avraham said, "And they should rest under the tree."  When guests arrive, one should offer them an opportunity to rest from the exertions of their journey.  However, if they do not need to rest, they should be served a meal immediately, in case they are hungry and too embarrassed to ask to eat.


7.  Avraham said, "I will bring just a loaf of bread ... and shortly after you will be on your way.  If one sees that his guests wish to remain only a short while and then continue on their way, he should suggest that they eat only a small amount rather than delay them with a full meal.


8.  At the same time, guests often decline offers of food out of politeness or embarrassment, but when a meal is placed in front of them they are actually quite happy to eat.  Avraham, in fact, served an entire meal with delicacies. (Righteous people say little and perform a great deal.) Nonetheless, if the guests genuinely do not want to eat, they should certainly not be pressed to do so; the only consideration should be fulfilling the guests' needs and wishes.


9.  A host should not consider it beneath his dignity to personally serve his guests.


10.  Guests should receive cheerful treatment and not be burdened with any of the host's worries or concerns.  Mr. Schwartz, while serving his guests a lavish meal, related how his business was failing and he would have to declare bankruptcy. The guests did not feel very comfortable.  Even if the host is not a wealthy person, he should act as if he were and not make his guests feel as if they are an imposition, or lower their spirits in any other way. On the contrary, a host should always attempt to boost his guests' spirits and try to convey an impression of regret that he cannot provide for them more lavishly, in order to give them a sense of importance.


11. The host should serve his guests generous portions and not watch them closely or in any way make them self-conscious about how much they are eating. For the same reason, he should slice the bread and serve the other foods himself, since if they had to help themselves they might feel too embarrassed to take as much as they really want and thus go hungry.


12.  Guests should be given the best beds available, since the more comfortable one's bed, the better one rests.


13.  Once a guest has eaten and drank and is ready to leave, the host is obligated to escort him on his way.  The reward for escort is greater than all (other Mitzvos of kindness).  Avraham Avinu instituted the Mitzvah of escort, for after his guests ate and drank he escorted them on their way. The Mitzvah of hospitality is greater than receiving the Divine Presence, and escort is greater than hospitality.


14.  The basic Mitzvah of providing an escort involves walking minimally four amos [from the host’s property] with a guest and, if needed, giving him directions to his destination. If one honors the guest by escorting him further, that is an additional mitzvah. Conversely, if one is unable to provide an escort, but does give directions, that too is a mitzvah. When one finally parts from a guest, one should part with words of Torah.


15.  Each of the four activities involved in receiving guests--providing food, drink, lodging, and escort, is an independent Mitzvah. The Mitzvah of escorting applies not only to guests, but to anyone else as well. This Mitzvah can be fulfilled simply by giving a stranger directions, and all the more so by walking with him the distance of four amos.  In all these cases, the reward for the Mitzvah is limitless! (Sotah 46B)


Hakhel Note:  What significant lessons!  The Sefer Journey to Virtue provides invaluable Torah guidance in so many areas--it should be a treasured Sefer in every home.


Perhaps you can keep these guidelines handy--and review them before having over a guest!




13 Marcheshvan

Special Note One:  As in last year's hurricane, the Hurricane along the eastern coast of the United States has once again engendered much Ahavas Yisroel, and real Halachic queries and resolutions of the Poskim.  Let us once again hope that the way Torah Jews handled the unfolding circumstances gave nachas to Avinu She’Bashamayim.  We were not as busy as others hording supplies or with the meteorological details of the event--instead, organizations sent out instructions to their constituents with rules for proper conduct;  there are lively discussions as to which bracha to make (and when to make it)  over fierce winds and the requirement of Tefilla BeTzibbur in these circumstances; and of course the messages and lessons to be learned from the such 'natural' events even threatening us whether or not they did particular damage.  In this regard, we received the following Teshuva from Rabbi Pinchos Bodner, Shlita:  


“Chazal noted that powerful storm winds (and hurricanes), earth tremors (and earthquakes) and blazing meteors are creations which can be quite fearful and awe inspiring. They therefore mandated that a bracha be recited when one witnesses these phenomena--preferably Oseh Ma’aseh Bereishis.  [Hakhel Note: The other alternative would be She’Kocho U’Gevuraso Malei Olam, which in fact the Sefer Piskei Teshuvos (Volume II, p. 929) seems to suggest is the preferred bracha for more ferocious winds--but see Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim Mishna Berurah 227, seif katan 4.]  The bracha should be recited during the occurrence, or no more than a second or two after it occurs.  The Poskim explain that a bracha should be said if the winds are at least powerful enough to cause windows to shatter glass.  Category one hurricanes, although not considered ‘dangerous’, generate winds capable of breaking glass and causing minor damage.  Needless to say, winds of more powerful hurricanes definitely require a bracha. According to the Mishna Berurah one may make the Bracha of Oseh Ma’aseh Beraishis if the wind exceeds normal wind speed (which may be 50 mph plus).”


Special Note Two: We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 17 and 18:


17. Lo LeHenos Mitzipui Avodah Zara--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from obtaining benefit from the coverings or decorations of avodah zara [such as the jewelry that would adorn them]. This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.


18. Lo LeHenos MaiAvodah Zara U'Mitakrevoseha --this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from obtaining benefit: (i) from an avodah zara itself, nor (ii) from the items that are offered to the avodah zara, and nor (iii) from those items which are used to serve it--and one who does any of the above violates two negative prohibitions.  Any avodah zara which is not made by man, such as a mountain or a fruit tree that was initially planted for fruit, or an animal upon which no act has as yet been performed for the sake of avodah zara--are themselves permitted in hana'ah; however, that which is upon them is assur be'hana'ah. This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.


Hakhel Note:  One may ask how these prohibitions could arise in this day and age. We caution that certain homeopathic remedies or treatments may involve these issurim, and accordingly one should consult with his Rav or Posek before undertaking action in these areas.



Special Note Three:  This week’s Parsha begins with HaKadosh Baruch Hu teaching us the Mitzvah of Bikur Cholim.  Accordingly, we once again provide the following notes on Bikur Cholim:


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


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


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


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


5.  One should try to tidy up and make the atmosphere more cheery for the choleh, if possible.  The Gemara (Nedarim 40A) relates that Rabbi Akiva himself swept and cleaned the floor for his sick student.  As a result, the student told him, “You have caused me to live.”  Rabbi Akiva then taught, “He who does not perform the mitzvah of Bikur Cholim, it is as if he spilled blood.”  The reverse is also, of course, true.  In fact, the Gemara clearly teaches that one who acts wisely with the ill--will himself be saved from “a bad day” by Hashem (see Tehillim 41 and Gemara, Nedarim 40A).


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


Hakhel Note:  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, was asked whether one should take the stairs rather than take an elevator when going to visit one who is ill--for one is then exerting himself to a greater extent, and doing a Mitzvah with each step.  He responded that if it would involve bittul Torah, one should take the elevator.  [Hakhel Note:  The question teaches the great importance of Bikur Cholim on the one hand--and the great importance of Talmud Torah on the other!]  HaRav Kanievsky additionally commented that HaRav Elyashiv ,Z'tl, had raised the question as to whether one was obligated to travel to another city to visit one who was ill.  HaRav Kanievsky answered that Chazal (Nedarim 40A) teach that visiting a sick person causes him to live!




10 Marcheshvan

QUESTION ONE OF THE WEEK:  Why is Shem referred to in this week’s Parsha as a “Kohein LeKel Elyon” (Bereishis 14:18) if he in fact was not the bechor of Noach--and until after the Cheit HaEigel the Bechor served as the Kohein (which is why Yaakov purchases the Bechor rights from Eisav)?



QUESTION TWO OF THE WEEK:  At the conclusion of the Parsha, we learn that both Avrohom Avinu and Yishmael received a Bris Milah.  Who received the Bris Milah first--Avrohom Avinu--or Yishmael?  Why?  Hint:  See Ramban to Chumash there.




Special Note One:  HaRav Dovid Kviat, Z’tl, once related that the possibility of the world being formulated through a ‘big-bang’ is, to the intelligent mind, more farfetched than the wind blowing the sand up in a sand storm, with the sand settling to form a working 14 kt gold Rolex watch.  In the popular book: The Coming Revolution: Science Discovers the Truth of the Bible, Rabbi Zamir Cohen provides perhaps a related comparison:  The chances of life forming by itself, as opposed to being created by a Creator, are the same as a 747 jet being formed by a tornado sweeping through a junkyard.”  Hakhel Note:  Every morning we recite the words “U’vetuvo Mechadesh Bechol Yom Tamid Ma’aseh Vereishis--in His goodness Hashem renews daily and constantly the work of creation.”  Thus, the act of creation--which is so remarkable that it is astonishingly greater than the two Meshalim just given--did not just happen 5773 years ago, but is actually happening daily, each and every day.  In Modim, when we recite the phrase “VeAl Nifliosecha Shebechol Yom Imanu…for all Your wonders that are with us daily”--we have nothing less to be thankful for than the astounding and wondrous recreation each and every day! 



Special Note Two:  The Luach Davar BeIto provides the following reminders to us relating to today--the tenth day of Marcheshvan, and tomorrow, the eleventh day of Marcheshvan:


A.  30 days from Yom Kippur (the tenth of Tishrei) have now passed.  Moreover, today is an Asiri LaKodesh--a ten day interval (the third) since Yom Kippur, upon which Ba’alei Mussar conduct themselves in a more elevated, or more spiritually sensitized and especially careful state.  We may add that as the day of Erev Shabbos gets shorter and shorter in the Northern Hemisphere, today is certainly a day when we should be especially careful not to get agitated, upset or angry while preparing LeKavod Shabbos for the Shabbos day! 


B.  The Sefer Mo’ed Lechol Chai brings that Gad ben Yaakov was born today.  Gad is a Siman of Mazel (“Bah Gad--Bah Mazel Tov”, see Targum Yonasan)--and accordingly should be a day of Mazel Tov for one attempting to accomplish anything, for the zechus of Gad is with us the entire day.  Some have the custom today to read the Pesukim that relate to the birth of Gad, as well as the brachos that Gad received from Yaakov Avinu and Moshe Rabbeinu. 


Additional Hakhel Note on the 10th of Marcheshvan:  Today is the first yahrzeit of HaRav Dov Schwartzman, Z’tl.  The following is once again excerpted from In His Ways: The Life and Achievements of HaGaon Reb Dov Schwartzman, Z’tl, by Rabbi Shmuel Wittow, Shlita: “Reb Chaim Yehuda [a student], said that for a period of time he had a chavrusa with the Rosh Yeshiva before davening that began at 5:00 in the morning.  The first day he was surprised to see the Rosh Yeshiva close his Gemara at 6:30, as davening did not start until 7:00.  When he asked the Rosh Yeshiva to explain, Rav Schwartzman answered that he had a Kabbalah to do a Chesed before davening; so each morning he would take that portion of time to go home and prepare chocolate milk for his children’s breakfast.


C.  Tomorrow is, of course, the Yahrzeit of Rochel Imeinu.  The Imrei Emes related that when the leader of Nazi Germany yimach shemo vezichro attempted to enter Eretz Yisrael in the summer of 1942, great Tzaddikim went to daven at the Kever of Rochel Imeinu, and that Rochel Imeinu appeared to them and advised that the gezeirah against the Jews living in Eretz Yisrael had been nullified! 



Special Note Three:  The Pasuk in Yirmiyahu (31:14) writes that Rochel cried over the exile of her children and that Hashem, in turn, responded to Rochel that she need not cry further.


Most are familiar with the following famous incident:  HaRav Chaim Shmuelevitz, Z’tl, while once at Kever Rochel, was overheard to have said that although Hashem had instructed Rochel Imeinu not to cry, he, “Chaim,” was asking her to cry for her children.  The question is clear--if Hashem told Rochel Imeinu not to cry, how could HaRav Shmuelevitz--“Chaim”--seemingly go against this order and ask her to cry?


Some say, that HaRav Shmuelevitz himself answered the question by explaining that while a father (Hashem) could tell his daughter to calm down and not cry, a child (such as HaRav Shmuelevitz) could ask his mother to show a special care and concern for her children.


A second explanation is given in the name of HaRav Moshe Aharon Stern, Z’tl, who teaches that Hashem, by telling Rochel that she didn’t have to cry, was actually inviting further supplication and tears.  HaRav Stern draws the parallel to Hashem’s response to the sin of the Golden Calf, where He tells Moshe Rabbeinu “Leave me alone and I will destroy them,” even though Moshe had not yet asked for mercy from Hashem for the Chait HaEigel (See Shemos 32:10 and Rashi there).


There is an extremely important lesson for us here.  HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, notes that the Bais HaMikdash is referred to as the “Sukkas Dovid HaNofales” (Amos 9:11)--as the falling/fallen booth of Dovid.  He explains that the word ‘Nofales’ is meant to inspire us to picture a person or a precious object as it is falling and as it finally falls.  He or it is not in its natural or proper position.  Something that is falling or has fallen, must be picked up and placed where it is supposed to be.


The Navi teaches that Rochel Imeinu cried for her children.  HaRav Shmuelevitz asked her to keep crying.  Likewise, the Navi tells us that we must recognize that the Bais HaMikdash is Nofales.  We, too, must do everything in our power to pick it back up.  How?  May we suggest that at some point in the day we follow in the footsteps of our Mama Rochel.  We should take a moment out to envision the fall in front of us--and do what we can to stop the fall by asking Hashem to raise up, and keep up, that most precious possession, to him and to us, the most special place on earth, the Bais HaMikdash.


May the words of Hashem to Rochel--“there is a reward for your actions--and your children will return to their borders” ring true for our actions as well, speedily and in our day!


Hakhel Note:  We received the following moving thoughts from a reader:   “When we speak about Rochel Imeinu, we say, ‘Kol B’ramah Nishma...Rochel Mivaka Al Baneha Ki Einenu...--a voice is heard on high...Rochel is crying about her children....’  The word ‘mivaka’ seems to be grammatically incorrect.  The definition of ‘mivaka’ is to cause someone else to cry.  The question is why do we use this term for cry?  If Rochel is crying for us on High (as we know that Hashem says that her tears are going to bring the Geulah) why is the term ‘mivaka--causing to cry’--used?!  The Pasuk should simply say, ‘Rochel Bocha--Rochel is crying’ because she is constantly crying for us to come out of Galus!  The answer could be that Rochel Imeinu is crying because we are not crying!  She is trying to get us to cry out of the pain of Galus because we seem to forget where we are.  What we have to do now is cry out to Hashem and beg and plead for Him to take us out!  Rochel is trying to get us to cry, to feel uncomfortable in Galus.  If we don’t feel like we are in Galus and we don’t cry out to Hashem, then why should He take us out altogether?!  If we are fine where we are, then why should anything change?  The only way to get out is by asking for it!  So take out your Siddur, take out your Sefer Tehillim or use your own words to BEG Hashem to bring us out of Galus!  And THEN Hashem will be able to tell Rochel Imeinu, ‘Minee Koleich Mibechee V’einayich Midim’ah,’--Rochel, you can stop crying, because ‘V’shavu Banim Ligevulam,’ Bnei Yisrael will return to their boundaries.  May we all have the zechus to see these very words come true!” 



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


A.  From the Sefer referenced earlier on HaRav Schwartzman, Z’tl: Reb Avraham [a Talmid] reminisced about the Rosh Yeshiva’s shiur given each Friday night; after Kabbalas Shabbos he would speak about the Kepitel recited in Friday night davening, Mizmor Shir LeYom HaShabbos.  The shiur never lasted less than one hour and ten minutes.  For seventeen years the Rosh Yeshiva would speak weekly on this Kepitel, and never once repeated the same material!   


B.   After Avraham Avinu defeats the mighty kings in this week’s Parsha, Shem greets Avraham Avinu and gives him a bracha:  Baruch Avraham LiKel Elyon U’Varuch Kel Elyon” (Bereishis 14:19, 20).  We make two Shabbos points:


1.  The Sefer Peleh Yoetz, as well as the Sefer Elef HaMagen both bring that one should first give a bracha to Hashem before giving a bracha to others--we assume in order to indicate that one recognizes that Hashem is the Source of all brachos.  Accordingly, one who gives a bracha to his/her children on Leil Shabbos, first may/should recite a Pasuk such as “Baruch Hashem LeOlam Amein V’Amein” (Tehillim 89:53)--and then proceed to give the bracha. 


2.  Just as last week, for Parshas Noach, we sang Yonah Matzah Vo Manoach, it would certainly be appropriate to joyously sing Baruch Kel Elyon this Shabbos!


C.  The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (9:11) writes that it is permissible to borrow another’s Tallis without asking him, for we can assume that the person would want a Mitzvah do be done with his property.  One doing so should not remove the Tallis from the room in which it is kept, and on weekdays he should refold it after finishing to use it.  However, continues the Kitzur, on Shabbos one should not fold it, for most likely his friend will not object, as there is a Halachic issue with folding a Tallis on Shabbos.  On this point, the Mishna Berurah (Orach Chaim 14, seif katan 15) writes that one may fold the Tallis,  but just not on its original folds, and adds that the Magen Avraham writes that one need not fold it at all (as the Kitzur writes).


D.  The following pesokim are excerpted from the newly published Volume 2 of Sefer LeHalacha, by Rabbi Aharon Reichman, Shlita:


1.  One is not permitted to insert shoelaces into his shoes on Shabbos because of the issur of tikun kli.  However, if it done in a manner for which one will have to remove the laces after Shabbos in order to readjust them (such as putting it in only part of the laces, or putting a brown shoelace in a black shoe), then it would be permitted.  One may reinsert a shoelace that has fallen out (perhaps it was removed by a child) on Shabbos if it does not involve tircha.  If one began to insert a shoelace before Shabbos and did not have a chance to complete it, one can complete the process on Shabbos. 


2.  Many Poskim permit the use of Lego on Shabbos, for children up until the age of bar/bas mitzvah.  However, when the child desires to build a house or structure which has a roof covering an area, there may be an issue of Ohel Ara’ee--creating a temporary structure, and one should not allow a child to do so.  Like Lego, one may be lenient with underage children regarding Clics.  The Lego or Clics are not muktzah for an adult to move, even though an adult should not use/play with them on Shabbos themselves. 


3.  After children finish playing a game with pieces, cards, or the like, they should be careful not to separate the pieces, cards or other items back into their proper place in the game box, as that would involve an issur of Borer.  Similarly, when different games on the floor or on the table are mixed together, one should caution his children against separating the pieces in order to put them away.  Instead, one should put all the games away together, and after Shabbos separate and put the pieces and games in their proper order.



Special Note Five:  Points and pointers on the Parsha: 


A.  In this week’s Parsha we find a stark contrast, as pointed out by HaRav Zelig Pliskin, Shlita, in his great work Growth Through Torah, as follows:


The Pasuk (Bereishis 12:5) writes: “Vayaitzu Loleches…VaYavou Artza Canaan--and they left to go to the land of Canaan, and they came to the land of Canaan.”  What is the Pasuk teaching us?  Where is the lesson here?


The message, Rabbi Pliskin teaches, is enormous for everyone!  The Torah teaches by this Pasuk that Avraham Avinu set out to get somewhere--and he arrived there.  Terach his father, however, who also set out from Ur Kasdim together with his son, did not get to Canaan, but instead stopped in Choron, “and settled there” (Bereishis 11:31).  The rest is history.  Terach died in Choron, and Avraham Avinu and his descendants have the eternal right to the land that Avraham reached--Eretz Canaan!  Avraham accepted upon himself to accomplish his goal and refused to become side tracked by the pleasures--or even the vicissitudes--of the situations around him.  To succeed in any venture, you must complete what you start.  You must be driven, and not lose sight of what you really must accomplish.


In fact, Rabbi Pliskin continues, it is a very important goal that you are attempting to accomplish; you should even become obsessed with it.  “While obsessions can be negative, they can also be very positive.  A person should never, ever quip ‘I never finish what I start.’  Rather, a person should recognize his own importance, and move aside the deterrents (however expertly dressed up by the Yetzer Hora) in order to fully and finally realize his objective.”


Hakhel Note:  The year is in front of us.  Let us take this great lesson presented to us by the Torah so early on in the year, so that we accomplish and reach our destination--this year--and in life!


B.  The term “Kel Elyon” uniquely appears four times in this past week’s Parsha (Bereishis 14:18-22).  Interestingly, the term then reappears in our first bracha in Shemone Esrei, Birchas Avos.  While the basic translation of the term would be “Supreme G-d,” there seems to be something more underlying the phrase, as it is repeated several times after the Torah describes Avraham Avinu’s war against the superpowers, and then again in Birchas Avos.  The Avodas HaTomid, a commentary on Tefillah, writes that the phrase uniquely describes that Hashem is the cause of everything--everything comes from Him.  Rav Schwab, Z’tl, in his peirush on the Siddur adds that we are to understand from “Kel Elyon” that Hashem’s knowledge is beyond that of any man.  He writes, therefore, that he advised people not to think about how something like the Holocaust could have happened because we simply cannot fathom Hashem’s supremacy over us.  Can one man defeat the four superpowers of the World?  Can a group of Kohanim quash the seemingly invincible Greek army?  More recently, could the Six-Day War or the Yom Kippur War...or more recent events... make sense to the common man?  The term “Kel Elyon” is therefore placed in the Birchas Avos (more on Birchas Avos to follow), for it is part of the legacy from our Avos, one of the foundations of our faith, which is immutable by time, place, or occurrence.  Let us not only recite but feel them, every time we recite the first Bracha of Shemone Esrei!  Hakhel Note:  More on the first bracha of Shemone Esrei to follow below. 


C.  At the Bris Bein HaBesarim, the Torah teaches that Avraham Avinu was commanded not to cut the birds (Bereishis 15:10).  Rashi there explains that this was to symbolize that no matter how downtrodden our lives may have gotten in galus, we would never be eradicated.  Rashi further explains that the birds were doves, because Klal Yisrael are compared to doves.  What makes doves so special is that when one wing may be wounded or tired, the dove will continue to fly, utilizing its other wing.  This is the lesson we are taught--we are to persevere over the criticisms, the obstacles, the bitterness of exile.  We can do this by not giving up, not letting ourselves fall, accomplishing that one extra mitzvah, doing that one extra chesed, “praying with fire” even when tired, and not letting that meeting interfere with our regular Torah study.  With this perseverance, with this drive, we will be zoche to spread open our second wing, as we enter the Geulah and more deeply appreciate our “Kel Elyon”.


D.  The Imrei Pinchas writes that: “...until Parshas Lech Lecha when we learn of Avraham Avinu and his deeds, the world is in a state of confusion and disturbance.  With Parshas Lech Lecha, the chesed of Avraham Avinu is aroused, and yeshuos begin to occur....”  May we experience and see them all around us!



Special Note Six:  In honor of our new encounters with Avrohom Avinu beginning in this week's Parsha, we focus this week on the first bracha of Shemone Esrei--known as Birchas Avos.  The Aruch HaShulchan (Orach Chaim 112:2) writes that this bracha actually originated when Avrohom Avinu was saved from the fiery furnace of Ur Kasdim--and was actually then recited by the Malachei HaShareis!  The Aruch HaShulchan also brings from the Tur (Orach Chaim 113) that the exact number of words of this bracha is 42 (obviously corresponding to the 42-letter name of Hashem referred to in Kiddushin 71A--which is also strongly alluded to in the 42 words of the “Anah BeChoach” Tefillah recited near the culmination of Karbanos and immediately before greeting Shabbos at Lecha Dodi--in fact, this allusion to the name of Hashem may be the reason that Ana BeChoach concludes with Baruch Shem Kevod).  Let us focus--42 words corresponding to the 42 letters--we must appreciate the weightiness of each word, for if one letter is missing, the name is not fully complete!


Several other important points about the first [the ‘Av’] bracha of Shemone Esrei:


1.  Why do we bow down as we begin Shemone Esrei?  The Anaf Yosef cites the following cogent explanations:  (a) the bowing reminds us before Whom we stand; (b) our looking down serves as a reminder as to where a person goes after 120 years; and (c) lowering the body alludes to your goal to bring the brachos from the heavens above down to the world below.


2.  This bracha begins with the customary words of Baruch Atta Hashem Elokeinu but then seems to be “missing” the important reference to Malchus--that Hashem is Melech HaOlam--Ruler of the World.  After all, did not Avraham Avinu publicize Hashem’s rulership over the world to everybody? Why is it not here?  Your thoughts are welcome.


3.  Hashem is referred to in this bracha as “Elokei Yaakov.”  However, once Hashem Himself changed Yaakov’s name to Yisrael (Bereishis 35:10 and Rashi there)--and we ourselves are referred to as the B'nai Yisrael and K'lal Yisrael--why does not the bracha also refer to Hashem as Elokei Yisrael?  Your thoughts are welcome.


4.  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, was asked why the words “Gomel Chasodim Tovim” are not, so to speak, redundant--after all, is there a Chesed which is not Tov--which is not good?  He responded that there, in fact, is, for a chesed could result in something good for one person, but have a detrimental effect on someone else.  Only Hashem can micromanage the billions of factors necessary for a chesed to be 100% good --when necessary--for each and every one of His creations!


5.  What does the term “Zocher Chasdei Avos” mean--what Chesed is Hashem remembering--is it: (a) the Chesed that Hashem promised that He would do for the Avos and their children--or, (b) to the contrary, is He remembering the “Chesed” not that He performed, but that our Avos performed in making Hashem's Name [see the reference to 42 letter name of Hashem within the bracha mentioned earlier] known in the world, or (c) perhaps are we simply referring to the great acts of Chesed performed by our Avos to other people in the world--all of which accrues to the merit of their descendants for 2,000 generations (Shemos 34:7--Notzer Chesed La'alaphim is one of the 13 Middos of Hashem).  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, holds that it is referring to Zechus Avos (see Tosfos to Shabbos 55A).  The Meshech Chochma writes that it refers to the Chesed that Hashem did to the Avos--and our awareness that for this reason He will do Chesed to their children, as well.  From this simple phrase, we can see how multi-faceted, how broad and penetrating, these holy words are--and how careful we must be in their recitation!




9 Marcheshvan

KABBALOS REVIEW:  One suggestion as to when to review one’s daily Kabbalos may be at meal time--when one’s total focus and concentration need not be on the food, drink and its consumption (more ketchup, less ketchup--does it make a difference?).  If it is not comfortable to keep a written record at that time, one can complete the record at a different time such as before going to sleep.



Special Note One:  We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times.  Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 15 and 16:


15.  Lo Le’echol V’lishtos Mitakroves Avodah Zara--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from eating or drinking of an item that was dedicated to avodah zara, including the wine of yayin nesech. If one eats or drinks any amount of an item of takroves avodah zara, he receives makos.  Stam yainam is assur to derive benefit from MiDivrei Sofrim, and one who drinks a revi’is of it receives makas mardus.  The wine of a Jew which was intentionally touched by an akum is assur behana’ah.  It is forbidden to eat at the wedding feast that an akum makes on behalf of his son or daughter, even if one has his own food and his own waiter.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.


16.  Lo Lifnos Achar Avodah Zara--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from following avodah zara even with words, thoughts, or even by gazing at it.  One is forbidden to read the books of an avodah zara, or ask one who worships idols how he does so--for through this, one will turn to thinking about the avodah zara.  One who turns to the avodah zara by doing a ma’aseh receives makos.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.



Special Note Two:  We provide the following two important additional postscripts in Hilchos Brochos, as excerpted from the Halachos of Brochos, by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita (Feldheim):


A. Various Ingredients in Cake and the Bracha of Ahl HaMichya.  An Al Hamichya may be made only if a k'zayis of mezonos is eaten within a k'dei achilas pras (three minutes or less).  There are various opinions among the Poskim as to whether ingredients of cake other than flour should be counted towards the k'zayis.  For example, if the volume of a particular chocolate cake is half flour, half other ingredients (e.g., sugar, cocoa, etc.) the issue would be whether one k'zayis or two k'zaysim [because flour is only 50% of the ingredients] must be eaten within k'dei achilas praas for an Al Hamichya to be required.  Many Poskim rule that the other ingredients do not count towards the k'zayis. In the above example, unless two k'zaysim of cake are eaten an Al Hamichya should not be said.  The Mishna Berurah (Orach Chaim 208, seif katan 48) states that although it is preferable to follow this more stringent view, nevertheless the minhag haolom (generally accepted practice) is to make an Al Hamichya on a k'zayis of cake even though the piece being eaten contains less than a k'zayis of flour. HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl (Igros Moshe, Orach Chaim 1:71) rules, however, that it is not appropriate to rely on this minhag.  Even according to the ruling of the Mishna Berurah, cake fillings such as cherry pie filling, or cheese in a cheese cake are not counted as part of the k'zayis.  For example, for cherry pie containing one part pie dough and four parts filling, an Al Hamichya is not required unless five k’zaysim of pie are eaten within k'dei achilas pras.


B.  Medicines. 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 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 brocha on the water as well).



Special Note Three:  What was Avrohom Avinu’s profession?  From what did Yitzchak Avinu, Yaakov Avinu, and Moshe Rabbeinu earn a Parnassah?  The Torah certainly does not emphasize the answers to these questions, although we study and learn so much about the lives of the Avos, Moshe Rabbeinu and many other great Torah personalities throughout Tanach.  Indeed, one of the basic questions raised in the Mussar Seforim (Chovos HaLevavos/Derech Hashem/Mesilas Yesharim) is why one must do Hishtadlus at all to obtain Parnassah, with the knowledge that “A person does not stub his finger here below, without it being decreed by Hashem” (Chulin 7B), and with the further knowledge that:  “All of one’s Parnassah for the year is established on Rosh Hashana (except for certain additional expenditures that he makes for Mitzvos for which he is ‘reimbursed by Hashem')” (Bai’ah 16A).  Succinctly stated:  What purpose does it serve for a person to spend hours at work or even work at all--as everything he receives, to the penny, is exactly designated by Hashem?  Going beyond the concept of work being based upon the curse to Adam of “Bezaiyas Apecha Tochal Lechem--by the sweat of your brow shall you eat bread”  (Bereishis 3:19), HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, culls together the following important reasons: 


A.  Hashem directs us to work in order to test the individual--to see how he will go about attaining his livelihood.  Will he be fully honest and Emunah-filled in his pursuit, or will he engage in questionable acts which approach the gray area of geneivah and gezeilah?  (Chovos HaLevavos, Sha’ar HaBitachon, Chapter 3)


B.  Working also provides a different kind of test--how tied into the Olam Hazeh workings  the individual will become, and, to the contrary, the extent to which he can on a day-to-day basis, live the fact that Olam Hazeh is truly only a means to the end--Olam Habah.  (Derech Hashem, 4,5,2)


C.  For a person who is not disciplined enough to learn or perform Mitzvos on a full-time (day and night) basis, he may come to sin through boredom and lack of something constructive to do.  Keeping one’s mind occupied with legitimate matters which relate to helping other people and to ‘building the world’ most certainly combat the Yetzer Hara’s attempts to entice a person to sin.  (Chovos HaLevavos, ibid.)


D.  Because of a human being’s ability to reason and his chashivus as the pinnacle of creation on earth, Hashem gives him the special dignity to exercise his intellect, rather than to accept everything as a gift without work.  (Derech Hashem, ibid.)


E.  It is an opportunity for a person to improve in his Tefillah, as one recognizes that whether he is hired or c’v fired, whether the gets a promotion or a raise in salary, whether he does a good job, or whether he makes a mistake, is all truly B’yad Hashem.  When one recognizes that his Hishtadlus merely allows him to be zoche to the Birkas Hashem through his Bitachon based Tefillah--when he realizes that his Hishtadlus is not the source of his Hatzlacha, but the Divinely-decreed requirement to attain it, then he is well on the road to successfully satisfying the Parnassah aspect of his Avodas Hashem.  In this regard, we once again provide by clicking here the personal Tefillah for Parnassah that was composed by a reader, which he recites before he begins his daily work scheduleThere are, of course, many more formal Tefillos regarding Parnassah which have been published.  We merely add that when one uses his own words, the sincerity is evident in his personal formulation. 


Hakhel Note:  Remember--Im Ain Kemach Ain Torah; Im Ain Torah Ain Kemach--Chazal teach that our daily Kemach is inextricably bound to--our Avodas Hashem!




8 Marcheshvan


TEST YOURSELF!  For those who study Daf Yomi, Shabbos is definitely in the air--each and every day, and this blessing will continue for several months to come!  For those who wish to ‘Test Yourself’ on the previous week’s study, we provide the following sample Questions and Answers by clicking here and by clicking here for recently completed dafim (on separate links), as supplied to us.  If you would like to receive a weekly test on an ongoing basis (Questions and Answers supplied separately), please let us know. 



UNSCRAMBLE THE FOLLOWING WORD:  Mikreh (Mem-Kuf-Resh-Heyh)--which is commonly translated as ‘happenstance’, ‘by chance’, ‘coincidentally’, or ‘as it happened’.  HaRav Yaakov Galinsky, Shlita, teaches that if we unscramble the word--what it really spells is Rak MaiHashem (Resh-Kuf-Mem-Heyh)--it is all only from Hashem! 

Hakhel Note:  In this regard, we provide the following quotation from the Sefer Chovos HaLevavos, Sha’ar HaBitachon, Chapter 3 (translation from the Feldheim Edition--Duties of the Heart, Vol. I, p. 375):  “No one can benefit or hurt either himself or anyone else except with the permission of the Creator, may He be exalted. For if a servant has more than one master, and each of them is able to help him, it is impossible that he should come to rely exclusively on anyone of them, because he expects help from each of them. If one of his masters is able to help him more than the others, his reliance upon the former will be greater, in proportion to that person's power, though he will also rely on the others. If only one of them can benefit or harm him, he must necessarily place his trust exclusively in that person, since he does not expect help from anyone else.  So too, if a person realizes that not one of the created things can help him or harm him, except with the permission of the Creator, may He be exalted, he will turn his heart away from fear of them or hope in them, and will trust in the Creator alone, as it says: "Trust not in rulers, in a human being, in whom there is no deliverance…[praiseworthy is one…whose hope is in Hashem, his G-d]" (Tehillim 146:3,5).”  

Hakhel Note:  Let us unscramble what the world has scrambled--and live our lives with the absolute truth--Bitachon in Hashem in everything!




Special Note One:  News items have occurred of late, and appear from time-to-time, which draw much human interest, whether because they are sensational, highly unusual, or just out of the ordinary.  We must be careful not to be drawn in to read the contents of any of the ‘news stories’ when there is even the possibility that Lashon Hara is involved against a person who is claimed to have said something, done something or not have done or said something.  One must be honest with himself--indeed, he may be shocked, he may be curious, he may ‘need-to-know’ in order to be up on what is happening in the world--but none of this detracts at all from reading or possibly even accepting Lashon Hara without any to’eles whatsoever.  The Yetzer Hara, as crafty as he may be, would find it hard to provide a truly convincing rationale as to why one should read about the accusations or claims made against another person, when nothing at all is at stake or is truly relevant to the reader.  This kind of news item should be particularly categorized as an unnecessary or unwanted news item, and a blog relating thereto should most certainly be categorized as a superfluous and dangerous blog.  With the attempted obliteration of Lashon Hara in Torah-based periodicals, some explain that the Yetzer Hara is placing its last gasps upon the internet--looking for some public forum for the great and devastating aveirah of Lashon Hara to spread in our community.  Let us think for a moment--is what I am about to read:


1.  Truly relevant or at least important;


2.   Perhaps as irrelevant as the governor’s race in South Dakota; or


3.  Even worse--is it c’v spiritual poison to the reader--and to the rest of K’lal Yisrael.


If the answer is ‘yes’ to numbers 2 or 3 (or both)--SKIP IT--save yourself--and your brothers with you!



Special Note Two:  The Sefer Sifsei Chaim (Middos V’Avodas Hashem, Vol. II, p. 262) brings a remarkable teaching from the Alter of Kelm, Zt’l:  “When one is in doubt as to what he is to do, and does not know what is the eitzah of the Yetzer Hara and what is the eitzah of the Yetzer Hatov, he should know that the first thought that comes into his mind is that of the Yetzer Hara.  Chazal teach that “hedyot kofetz b’rosh--the foolish person jumps at the beginning”--without thought.  Accordingly, a person should not take action based upon his initial thought, but instead look further into the matter with follow-up thoughts--for the follow-up thoughts and the weighing of ideas come from the Yetzer HaTov within him.  With this in mind, explains HaRav Friedlander, we can understand why the absolutely first teaching(!) in Pirkei Avos (1:1) is “Hevu Mesunim BaDin--be deliberate in judgement.”  This is not merely an enjoinder to judges--but an actual, practical and essential guideline of life--to all! 



Special Note Three:  In this ‘election season’ in the United States , a bumper sticker reads: “I vote that we give up!”  In studying the first three Parshios of the Torah, we find that a cornerstone of the Torah’s teaching is to absolutely and unequivocally perish the thought of ‘giving up’.  Adam, after sinning and being exiled from Gan Eden, had the courage and determination to have another child--Shes--whose descendant, Noach, is the progenitor of mankind forever.  Kayin, after his dreadful sin, demonstrates the willpower and resolve to do Teshuva as well. [According to one Midrash, he then lived even longer than Mesushelach!]  Noach’s fortitude and perseverance before, during, and after the Flood, saves not only mankind--but the entire world--from extinction.  Avraham Avinu is ridiculed and degraded even by his own father, thrown into a fiery furnace, and told by Hashem to leave his country to a land inhabited by the descendents of the cursed Cham.  Nevertheless, his love, dedication, and purpose lead even Cham’s descendants to eventually refer to him as the “Nesi Elokim--the prince of Hashem.”


At this time of year, there are those who could feel depressed, or at least dejected, or down on themselves.  After all, Yom Tov was over two weeks ago, and many seem to be back to the same drudgery without visible signs of improvement.  The Torah, in these Parshios, however, shows how much, much greater obstacles were overcome by those who met the individual challenges that faced them.  What is needed is the fortitude to keep the Kabalos that we thought of or made and an uplifted spiritual state at least in some way, such as when reciting Shemone Esrei or Brachos during the day.


If your Plan A as to how this year would be different needs some tweaking, or perhaps a real adjustment or even a change, now is the time to focus and fix, so that the rest of the year can be, quite literally, elevated, successful and full of achievement.  Remember--in all events--keep the written record!




7 Marcheshvan


TODAY is the Yahrzeit of HaRav Meir Shapiro, Z’tl, R’ Yehuda Meir ben R’Yaakov Shimshon.  We therefore remind everyone--especially those who are currently studying (or have studied), or who are in any way benefiting from Daf Yom study. We urge you to do any or all of the following on his Yahrzeit l’ilui nishmaso:  Learn Torah—especially Mishnayos; Give Tikun; Dedicate your Daf Yomi Shiur or Daf Yomi study, and/or review the Daf one extra time, in his memory.




Special Note One:  Select a Kepitel:  In these trying times, with the potential for so much military, social and political upheaval looming over and across the four corners of the earth, may we suggest that among the Tehillim that one is in any event reciting daily, one choose at least one Chapter to recite slowly and deliberately, with the Kavannah of each word, phrase or Pasuk in mind.  Of course, the proper Tehillim Sefer, such as an Artscroll transliterated version, or some of the recent meaningful translations and commentaries, would go far to help, and the Kepitel could be recited in a relatively short period of time--but will have Oh, so much more meaning--and effect!



Special Note Two:  We provide the following notes on Hilchos Brachos, as excerpted from the Mishna Berurah, Dirshu Edition, and in certain instances, from the Seforim written by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita (The Halachos of Brochos, Feldheim, and Rabbi Binyomin Forst, Shlita (The Laws of Brachos, Artscroll):


A.  If one is required to recite a Borei Nefashos, he cannot exempt it with the after-bracha of Mei’ein Shalosh (such as Al HaMichya or Al HaEitz), and vice versa, except for the situation where one ate a fruit (such as an apple), together with another fruit of the Shiva Minim, in which case the after-bracha of Al HaEitz would exempt the apple as well.


B.  If wine has started to ferment to the point that people would no longer drink it, then its bracha reverts to a Shehakol; however, if the smell of a wine is different (or even not good) because it was placed in an inappropriate container, the bracha remains Borei Pri HaGafen. 


C.  Why is grape juice awarded the bracha of Borei Pri HaGafen, if it is in fact not wine which has the unique qualities of both satiating and gladdening the heart (so'ed u'mesame'ach es halev)?  HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, writes that since it originally has the capability of becoming wine, even though it is pasteurized and can no longer become wine it retains the original status it had--as something which could have become wine--as long as it is potable. However, the Sefer Shevus Yitzchak reports that HaRav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, Z’tl, rules that the bracha on grape juice which can longer become wine is Shehakol--and that only if one mixed the grape juice with at least ¼ of wine, could one recite a Borei Pri HaGafen.  If the grape juice could become wine, it retains the bracha of Borei Pri HaGafen. 


D.  According to HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, the bracha on a lemon, if eaten on its own, is a Shehakol. 


E.  What would be the proper bracha on an esrog rind or esrog jam?  Although the Dirshu Edition does not appear to discuss the question directly; the Sefer The Laws of Brachos (by Rabbi Binyomin Forst, Shlita, Artscroll) writes as follows:  Unlike other fruits, whose inner fruit is eaten while the rind is discarded, the thick esrog rind is the primary portion of the fruit. Therefore, the proper brachos for an esrog are follows: (a) Esrog preserves:  One who eats esrog preserves or jam (which contains esrog solids) recites a Ha’eitz regardless of whether he eats the fruit itself or the thick rind; (b) the outer peel: the thin outer yellow peel of the esrog is similar to other fruit peels. One who eats it alone, even if it is preserved and sweetened, recites a Shehakol; (c) raw esrog rind: an esrog rind is not usually eaten raw and therefore requires only a Shehakol when eaten raw.


F.  Although there is a difference of opinion as to the proper bracha over the pit of a fruit, if one eats the pit after he eats the fruit, it is tofel to the fruit, and one need not make a separate bracha. 


G.  If one drinks olive oil even to heal his throat (even if it is mixed with other items, as long as the olive oil is the ikar), one would recite a Borei Pri HaEitz on the olive oil, and the after-bracha would be Al HaEitz (for a discussion of determining when and whether the olive oil is the ikar ingredient, see Orach Chaim 202, Sha’ar Hatziyun 33). 


H.  If a fruit or vegetable is mashed, but still contains some of the form and appearance of the original fruit or vegetable, its original bracha remains.  If it has lost its form entirely, and one cannot recognize its original source, then lechatechila one makes a Shehakol.  Hakhel Note:  Of course, this is a difficult determination for the average individual, and accordingly one must consult with his Rav or Posek on items such as kugels, snacks, corn flakes, and the like. 


I.  The juice that comes out of dates is considered to be zei'ah, and the bracha on it is a Shehakol. The term ‘devash’ referring to dates in the Torah (Eretz Zavas Chalav U'devash) refers to the actual date fruit itself--not the liquid that comes out of it. 


J.  The bracha on salt is Shehakol, for one has some benefit when he tastes it.  The bracha on sugar or sugar cane is Shehakol, and the bracha for one who would like to chew the licorice plant is also Shehakol.


K.  The bracha on sabras is Ha’eitz.  The Shulchan Aruch writes that the bracha on mauzis is Ha’adama.  What are mauzis?  The Dirshu Edition translates it--as bananas!


L.  If one eats the berries that are found on a Haddas branch, the bracha would be Shehakol, because they are not considered to be real fruits. 


M.  Tehina is a dressing made from ground sesame seeds, which is usually eaten as a spread on something else.  There is uncertainty among the Poskim regarding the bracha requirement of Tehina when eaten plain.  The Poskim therefore advise that one should not eat it plain; however, if it is necessary to eat it plain, one should make a Shehakol.  The bracha on Halava is Shehakol.  The bracha on Hummus, which is a dressing made from ground chick peas, is Shehakol if eaten by itself, otherwise, it would be tofel to the item it is spread upon (Halachos of Brachos, by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita) 


N.  Although the commonly accepted practice is to recite a Shehakol on chocolate, HaRav Elyashiv rules that if one recited a Borei Pri Ha’eitz, he would technically be yotzei.  According to HaRav Elyashiv, if one wanted to be ‘mehader’--to do things in the best possible way--he would make a Borei Pri Ha’eitz on one item (having in mind to exempt the chocolate), and then a Shehakol on the another item (having in mind the chocolate once again). Hakhel Note:  Oh what bracha a person can bring upon himself--if he is careful to properly thank Hashem for each and every kind of bounty that Hashem bestows him!



6 Marcheshvan


TOMORROW is the Yahrzeit of HaRav Meir Shapiro, Z’tl, R’ Yehuda Meir ben R’Yaakov Shimshon.  We therefore remind everyone--especially those who are currently studying (or have studied), or who are in any way benefiting from Daf Yom study.  We urge you to do any or all of the following on his Yahrzeit l’ilui nishmaso:  Learn Torah—especially Mishnayos;  Give Tikun; Dedicate your Daf Yomi Shiur or Daf Yomi study, and/or review the Daf one extra time, in his memory.


Special Note One: We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times. Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 13 and 14:


13. Lo Lishava Beshaim Avoda Zara--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from swearing or promising in the name of avoda zara, which includes not causing a goy to swear in the name of his getchka.  Moreover, one cannot say to his friend “wait for me next to that getchkala”, or the like. One is allowed to mention the name of avodah zaras which are mentioned in pesukim--such as pe’or, bal nevo and the like. This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.


14. Lo Lehadiach Ir MiYisrael--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from causing a Jewish city to worship avodah zara.  The death penalty for the instigator is sekila--even if the instigator himself does no worshipping! This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.



Special Note Two:  An important lesson in sensitivity:  Reuven, who did not usually act as a Shatz, was asked to daven Mussaf by the Gabbai on Shabbos, in order to boost Reuven’s spirits because of difficulties he was having with his children, of which the Rabbi and Gabbai were aware.  Reuven davened with feeling and emotion, and he truly tried to inspire others with his Kesser Yitnu Lecha.  After davening, someone approached him and said: “That was a nice davening, but did you have to put in all those Oy Veys into the niggunim?!”   Reuven responded--“You were really paying attention, I’ll try to be more careful next time.”  Reuven thanked the Gabbai for allowing him to daven, and proceeded to relay to him the only comment that he had received.  Perhaps a good part of what the Gabbai tried to achieve was washed away by the sincerely expressed--but unthinking--comment.  In a similar vein, let us say that one person relates to another whom he does not know so well the halachic discussion above as to whether a gett with the word Cheshvan alone in it is kasher or pasul.  What if that person in fact was divorced in Cheshvan--or has a relative who is getting divorced this month.  The ‘innocent’ words could be both biting and painful.  It is essential to note that what distinguishes man from the rest of the animal kingdom is Da’as and Dibbur--Thought and Speech.  If we pay attention to the order--Thought before Speech--we will go a very long way in fulfilling our Divinely-endowed gift--in both!


Additional Note: The comment made by the non-thinking critic is actually an important point to consider.  The word ‘Oy’ appears more than twenty times in Tanach (twice in Chumash--Bamidbar 21: 29 and 24:23), and the Targum (the Aramaic translation) of Oy is ‘Vay’--they are both actual words with meaning (such as Woe! or Oh!).  Thus, if a person recites Oy Vay in the middle of reciting words of davening--whether it be in Kedusha, Hallel or anywhere else--he is in a sense improperly adding two words to the davening--and, moreover, the words may be wholly inappropriate to the context of the Tefillah being recited.  If one needs to insert a pause, we suggest that it be with the tune itself--and not with real words.



Special Note Three:  The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 5) teaches the Kavanna one should have when reciting the names of Hashem--Ad-nai, Yud-Keh-Vov-Keh, and Elokim.  In the very next Siman (Orach Chaim 6), the Shulchan Aruch goes into great detail--in a manner that it does for no other bracha--in the meaning of Asher Yotzar.  We suggest that if one feels it is very difficult for him to have slow and deliberate Kavannah in the meaning of the particular name of Hashem being expressed in all brachos--at the very least a place to start is the bracha of Asher Yotzar--which the Shulchan Aruch non-coincidentally places immediately after the Kavannos one is to have on the recitation of Hashem’s names.  What a beautiful way to elevate your daily thanks to Hashem in Asher Yotzar--by taking the time to think of the meaning of Hashem’s name when reciting it!



Special Note Four:  At the outset of this week’s Parsha, Hashem advises Avraham Avinu:  Va’avarecha Mevorechecha (Bereishis 12:3)--and I will bless those who bless you.”  Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita in Love Your Neighbor (p.44) explains: “When the Torah states that Hashem will bless “those who bless you” it refers not only to someone who blesses Avraham, but also to one who blesses a descendant of Avraham (Chulin 49A and Tosfos there). Accordingly, Rabbi Yechezkel Levenstein teaches that when you bless another person, you merely offer a few words, in return for which Hashem gives you bountiful blessings.  Remember-when you greet a fellow Jew with a cheery “Good Morning” or “Good Night” you are blessing him, and you will be blessed.  Don’t merely mumble the words.  Be sincere and keep in mind that in essence you are saying, “I pray that you have a good morning!”


Hakhel Note:  May the beautiful brachos flow--in all ways and in all directions!



Special Note Five:  On the topic of brachos--what bracha would one make on candied Esrog peels, or on Esrog jelly--which are now ‘coming into season’--B’EH more on these tomorrow!  In the meantime, let us focus on all of our brachos--to Hashem, and to his creations!




3 Marcheshvan

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PARSHA QUESTION OF THE WEEK:  If we can interpret Noach’s status both Leshevach (in a positive way) and LiGenai (in a negative way)--why would we interpret it in a negative way?  Don’t we have an obligation to judge everyone favorably?  We welcome your response.



Special Note One:   This Motza’ei Shabbos, many will be reciting Kiddush Levana around the globe.  Early this week, we brought the Mishna Berurah’s (Orach Chaim 426: seif katan 4) quote from the Sefer Maggid Meisharim (the Malach who learned with the Bais Yosef), which states that those who recite Kiddush Levana on Motza’ei Shabbos will find Hatzlacha--Timtze'u Hatzlacha-- in the coming month!


We provide the following additional reminders relating to Kiddush Levana:


1.  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky (Derech Sicha I, p.44) teaches that for a toothache, it is a “segula mikadmonim--a segula from early generations”--which is also brought in the Siddur Bais Yaakov of HaRav Yaakov Emden, to add several words in Kiddush Levana at the right moment. After the words that one usually recites “Kach Lo Yuchlu Kol Oivai Lingoa Bee LeRoa--so should my enemies not hurt me”, one should immediately add “VeLo Yehiye Lee Ke’aiv Shinayim--and I should no longer have a toothache.” HaRav Kanievsky advises that his father, the Steipeler, recited this Nusach on his own behalf, and on behalf of others. Once, HaRav Kanievsky’s mother had a toothache, and the Steipeler felt badly, telling her, “I wish I had known before I recited Kiddush Levana!” Here is a real and simple opportunity to try to help others!


2.  If one makes Kiddush Levana outside of shul in an urban area, care must be taken that one is not within close proximity to trash or trash containers from local homes, apartment buildings or stores, all of which can be assumed to contain unclean matter.  Moreover, any dovor hamasriach (item which emits a foul, spoiling odor) would have the din of unclean matter (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 79:8, Mishna Berurah, seif katan 29). We observed a group of individuals reciting Kiddush Levana outside of their shul and in front of the garbage of a grocery store containing smelly spoiled fruit which would seem to fall within this prohibition.


3. In addition when reciting Kiddush Levana, one should be careful not to be facing passersby on the street, as they may not be properly dressed--even at this time of year! (Orach Chayim 75).


4. The Rema (Orach Chayim 426:2) writes that Kiddush Levana, contains the yesod of K’nesses Yisroel reuniting with Hakodesh Boruch Hu “...and therefore we perform joyous acts and dance at Kiddush Levana, as at a simchas nesuin.”   Hakhel Note: Accordingly, one should be careful to perform the Mitzvah of Kiddush Levana with joy, and in a place where he can properly exhibit his joy!



Special Note Two:  One final point on the concept of Mar--in which a person recognizes and understands that he must be master over himself in the Nisyonos that challenge him daily.  The Mishna in Idyos (5:7) teaches that the great Akavya Ben Mehalalel’s son asked his father to, in essence, put in a ‘good word’ to the Rabbanan of his generation on the son's behalf before Akavya was niftar.  Akavya refused.  The son inquired:  “Have you found anything wrong with me?”  Akavya replied:  “No, but Ma’asecha Yikarevucha U’ma’asecha Yerachakucha--your deeds will bring you close and your deeds will distance you…it is up to you!”  This is the great lesson of a father to a son. 



Special Note Three:  We provide the following few quotations from Simcha Minute, a booklet of inspiriting quotations of HaRav Avigdor Miller, Z’tl, as collected from the SimchaMinute daily email.  To subscribe to the SimchaMinute daily email (free), go to: www.bit.ly/smsefer:


1.  Is it enough to believe in Hashem with simple faith?  HaRav Miller: “The appeal to simple faith (Emunah Peshutah) is usually an excuse to do nothing. Without effort there is no belief, awareness or understanding.” (Awake, My Glory)


2.  What role do others play in our quest for greatness?  HaRav Miller: “Your generation is your world.  It is your sole opportunity.  One’s parents, one’s brothers and sisters, one’s kin, one’s wife, one’s children, one’s neighbors and employers and employees: are all his opportunities.  To fritter it away is the greatest of catastrophes.  By his relations with them he gains the success for which he came into the world.” (Sing, You Righteous)


3.  Where do we find an easy opportunity to be blessed?  HaRav Miller: “Bless your fellow Jews and you’ll be blessed.  It costs you money? It doesn’t cost you a penny.  And it’s such a good investment that you’re promised a bracha.  It seems so wild, so insane to lose the opportunity to bless your fellow Jew.  (Tape #93, Ten Easy Ways to Gain Real Wealth)


4.  Is there area of power that Hashem has endowed to people?  HaRav Miller: “The freedom to choose (bechira) is truly miraculous.  It is the one area in the entire universe in which Hashem has given authority to man.” (Ohr Avigdor, Sha’ar Habechinah)


5.  Does merely reading the Torah change a person? HaRav Miller:  Torah is a living entity.  The letters of the Torah affect our lives, affect history, and affect our character.  Merely by reading the Torah from “Bereishis--In the beginning” until the last words, “L’einei Kol Yisrael--before the eyes of all Israel ,” we effect change in the atmosphere, in the course of Jewish history, our characters, and our lives. (Tape # 6, Evil of Confusion)



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


A.  One can remind himself of this important theme every Shabbos in the Zimra of “Yom Shabboson Ain Lishkoach”--which concludes with the words “Ka’asher Nishbata Al Mai Noach”!  To start with, let’s remind ourselves of how to help others--as we sing these words tomorrow!


B.  The following pesokim are excerpted from the newly published Volume 2 of Sefer LeHalacha, by Rabbi Aharon Reichman, Shlita:


1.  One may need to take a frozen challah out of the freezer and to warm it up for use as Lechem Mishna, and as part of the Shabbos meal.  This, of course, involves issues of Borer, moving Muktzah, and Bishul.  If the freezer shelf in which the challahs are found contain other items in close proximity, so that each item does not appear particularly ordered, the first issue--Borer arises.  If one takes challah out of the freezer in order to use within one-half hour of the meal, and does not have to remove the other non-challah items from the freezer in order to get to the challah, then he has fulfilled the permissible conditions of Borer.  If one does have to move other items in order to get to the challah, there are Poskim who would permit their removal, if the challah will be used within one-half hour of the meal --for, as there is no other way to get to the challah, it would be considered like removing the peel of a fruit (or the wrapper on a candy), which is permissible immediately prior to consumption-even though it is removing the pesoles from the ochel.  If the challah will not be able to defrost within one half hour, HaRav Reichman writes that there are Poskim who rule that one has up to an hour (obviously totally negating the possibility of taking out the challahs at night for the day meal when an act of borer would be involved) to use the challah after the act of Borer has been performed, but one should only rely on this ruling in a time of necessity--otherwise up to one-half hour before the meal is the permissible time frame.  Before Shabbos, one should remove any muktzah items which may be in the freezer (uncooked fish, flour, etc.) which may block the challah; however, if one has not done, he should move the muktzah items kilachar yad (with his elbows, arms, or indirectly through an item that is not muktzah).  As far as warming up the challah: If it has no ice crystals or water on it, one may warm it by placing it on top of a pot on the blech, or on top of any other object which serves as a separation between a hot plate or blech, and the challah.  If there are ice crystals on the challah, or if it has water or melted ice crystals, it should not be warmed in a place where it could reach ‘yad soledes bo’, unless one removes or dries off the challah first. 


2.  One can open up a small sugar packet on Shabbos when one throws the empty packet away immediately, provided that he is careful not to rip any of the letters while opening.  There is a Machlokes HaPoskim as to whether one may rip along the line that is marked ‘tear here’.  HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, prohibits it, based upon the melacha of mechatech, while HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Z’tl, permits it, ruling that the person who tears along such a line does so only for convenience, so that the sugar should not spill and not because he means to carefully cut the packet, which also has no inherent worth. For a larger bag or box of sugar, however, some Poskim hold that one cannot open it unless he rips the bag, and empties all of its contents into another container.  Others hold that one need not empty the contents.  Finally, as far as opening covers on lebens and cheese packages, it is best to take them off in a destructive manner. However, one should be careful not to rip any words or letters.



Special Note Five:  We provide the following notes on the Parsha: 


A.  The Mabul described in tomorrow’s Parsha is sometimes referred to as the “Mai Noach“--the flood waters of Noach.  We could understand that the Teivah would be known as Noach’s Ark , but why would the flood waters be known by Noach’s name?  Shouldn’t it instead be attributed to the sinful people at that time?  After all--the flood was their fault-not Noach’s!  The Maharsha explains that Noach is, in a sense, held responsible for the flood because he did not do everything in his power to save his generation.  Obviously, he did a lot--building a Teivah for all those years, and undoubtedly subjecting himself to ridicule, intimidation and threats.   The conclusion:  Sometimes we don’t realize that we can really--and should--do more. 


We provide two practical and great lessons which result:


1.  Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita brings the following mashal adapted from the Chovos HaLevavos (Shaar Ahavas Hashem, Chapter 6): Two businessmen come to a particular fair at the same time.  One has merchandise which cost him $10, marks it up 10 times, and sells it for $100.  He makes $90 clear profit!  The second businessman has merchandise which cost him $5,000.  He marks it up only two times, and sells it for $10,000, leaving him with a profit of $5,000.  Although the second businessman’s percentage of profit was 8 times less than that of the first, he earned $5,000.00, as opposed to $90.”  The parable illustrates that if someone’s improvement of only himself will pale in comparison to the one who improves himself and others, for his merits are increased by the merits of everyone else that he has improved.  We should try to make an effort to help someone else (even a family member) with a Halacha or Torah thought to benefit from everyday--let the new merchandise continue to flow in!


2.  When it comes to the health, safety, and welfare of others, we should try to do something more than we think that we are capable of.  In fact, this was the path of Avrohom Avinu who was ill and elderly, yet searched outside in a heat wave in order to help others--and to teach those of us in future generations how to behave!


B.  The Sefer Derech Sicha, based upon the teachings of HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita (Volume 2, p. 10) explains that Noach did not daven for the people of his generation to be saved because he felt that it was only through the beneficence of Hashem that he himself would be saved, so it would be inappropriate to ask Hashem that others be saved as well.  This is similar to the concept of “Ayn Oreach Machnis Oreach--one guest should not invite another guest” on his own volition.  Nevertheless, Noach was criticized for not davening for the people.  HaRav Kanievsky, Shlita, gives the explanation as to why, based upon the following incident (which we have reported in the past:  HaRav Shach, Z’tl, once related that a Karlin Chosid had the occasion to spend Shabbos in Vienna with the Chutkover Chassidim.  The Karlin Chassidim recite the davening very loudly, and the Chutkover Chassidim, softly and calmly.  The Karlin Chassid asked the Chutkover Rebbe whether he could shout his davening, as was his tradition.  The Chutkover Rebbe responded that the Chutkov custom was not to daven loudly, and that he should adhere to this custom while davening with Chutkov.  The Karlin Chassid was able to adhere to the Rebbe’s ruling, and restrain himself through Kabalas Shabbos and the beginning of Shacharis on Shabbos, but when it came to Nishmas, he could no longer restrain himself and burst out the remainder of the davening, crying out with great fervor and intensity.  After Shabbos, he came to the Rebbe to ask his forgiveness, for he had violated the Rebbe’s ruling.  The Rebbe responded that he had nothing to ask forgiveness for, for the Rebbe had only prohibited him from crying out his regular Tefillos.  However, a Tefillah which is cried out from within, that is a different kind of Tefillah, and his ruling did not apply to that special kind of prayer.  Based upon this distinction between “Regular Tefillah” and “Aroused Tefillah,” HaRav Kanievsky explains Chazal’s teaching (Brachos 32B) that Tefillah is greater even than the bringing of Karbanos.  How could this be?  After all, the process of bringing a Korban involves many, many more mitzvos than Tefillah!  HaRav Kanievsky explains that yes, a Korbon is greater than Tefillah if one is praying because he is commanded to pray--for a Korbon involves so many more Mitzvos.  However, if one prays from the depths of his heart--crying out to Hashem with sincerity and feeling--this, Chazal teach, is greater than the tens of Mitzvos accomplished by Karbanos!  Noach may have felt that his Tefillos could not save his generation, because they would have been inadequate to save even himself.  Nevertheless, the status of man and the World at the time--and what was going to happen to them--should have in all events brought him to that special, Aroused Tefillah which may have saved the generation


C.  If the three great sins of the Generation of the Flood were Avoda Zarah, Gilui Arayos and Gezel--why would the seemingly least heinous of the three--Gezel--be the decisive factor to Hashem in bringing the flood?  Many have provided important insights here.  A particularly practical lesson is that the victim of Gezel will cry out--and, as the Torah records elsewhere:  “...it will be when they cry out to me, I will surely listen to the cries.”  Something to avoid at all costs is someone (even if a parent, spouse or child) who has a ta’anah against you--someone who will cry out or complain--for even if your fault pales in significance to other, ostensibly more serious aveiros, Hashem takes into special account the hurt and cries of others-- just as you would expect Him, as your Father in Heaven, to take your hurt and cries into account as well.  Hashem will deal with the inanity of idol worship as He sees fit--but will not allow the pain of others to go unanswered.  This lesson is so important--that it is taught even before we get to the Avos!


D.  HaRav Avrohom Kalmanowitz, Z’tl, once asked why Noach had to suffer at the hands of the lion, who smote him for not having been properly “served” his food.  After all, was not Noach taking care of all of these creatures as best he could?! HaRav Kalmanowitz answers that Hashem was providing Noach--and each and every one of us--with an essential lesson.  Noach was ALWAYS TO REMEMBER that by Hashem’s grace he had survived when so many had perished, and Noach was ALWAYS TO REMEMBER that he had survived for a great purpose--to take care of those who had also survived, and who needed his help.  The lesson to us is fundamental: We are all survivors of a Holocaust of our people (and we must ALWAYS REMEMBER that we are survivors for a purpose.  Moreover, we must help those who have also survived, but may not be as capable as we are--teach them the Torah’s ways, assist them with Chessed, and see to it that they too continue to survive and reach their own purpose in life.  It is quite likely that more of our people perished in the Holocaust than those who perished in the Flood.  This makes our role all the more responsible...and our task all the greater.


E.  The Chofetz Chaim points to the Oreiv being unable to serve as the Shaliach on Noach’s mission--and being replaced by the Yonah instead.  Not everyone is capable of, or right for, a particular job, and not always should one send a Shaliach if the job is best left done by himself.  The next time one asks someone to do something for him or sends someone on a mission, he should think about whether the decision not to do it by himself is really warranted (is it laziness?), and whether the other person is the right person for the job (will they be embarrassed, will someone else possibly suffer, is there someone else who should be doing it but for an ulterior motive..).  Most certainly when it comes to Mitzvos, a Halachic principle that must be considered is Mitzva Bo Yosair MiBeShelucho--it is better for YOU to do the Mitzvah then ‘be mezakeh’--find someone else--to do it.  it is  said about the Steipeler that he did not ask anyone (even his children) to do anything for him unless he could not do it himself (it is said that he would change the lightbulbs in his home)--we may not be on this madreiga, but perhaps we can at least consider it in our decision-making process!


F.  After Noach leaves the Teivah, the Posuk records “Vayivareich Elokim Es Noach…--Hashem blessed Noach and his children” (Bereishis 9:1).  Promptly thereafter, the Posuk records that Noach began his activities after the Mabul by planting a vineyard.  The bracha that he had just received was thus chal, first-placed, on a vine--leading him to become drunk.  Oh!  If only Noach had taken the bracha and used his first opportunity in a great way for the world’s (or at least his own) benefit--how much better off he and the world would have been!  We can take great note of this in our everyday lives.  When receiving a bracha from someone--we should not let it go by without immediately letting it be chal--rest upon--something important.  For example, after the bracha--open a Sefer and learn, try to make a Shidduch, or try performing a Mitzvah you have had particular Nisyonos with in the past--and hope that the Bracha will elevate and uplift you to a new and greater height!  (HaRav Itzele Volozhiner, Z'tl).




2 Marcheshvan

NOTE FROM A READER!  “Actually, the name of the month is one word, Marcheshvan. You are making the common error of confusing a cute derashah (Mar meaning bitter, or a drop of water) with actual etymology.  After explaining what "Mar Cheshvan" would mean, again, as derashah, he concludes one must write Marcheshvan with one vav two vavin are okay, bedi'eved.  (This is a real problem. There are batei din that avoid writing gittin in the month after Nisan rather than get involved in the machloqes of spelling Iyar vs. Iyyar.)  The origin of the name, like all of our month names, is from Akkadian--the language spoken in Bavel during our galus there. (Yerushalmi Rosh haShanah 1:2 vilna ed. 6a, Ramban Shemos 12:2) The original Akkadian is actually "Warachsamnu", a portomento of "warach" (yareiach / month) + "samnu" (shemini / eighth). The split, if there were one, would be after the ches, not before.  Hebrew flips v/w with m when borrowing a word. Kind of like what Aramaic does with shin to tav when shalosh becomes teleas, sheish -> shis, mishnah -> masnisin.... Or tzadi to ayin in words like beitzah -> bei'ah. So, "warach" became "merach" and in the opposite direction (m->v), "samunu" became "shevan".  Yemenites use the vowels "Merachshewan", not "Marcheshvan". They have a folk etymology relating the word to laying the grain out to dry for storage during the rainy season.  Marcheshvan simply means "eight month". And unlike October, which also means "eighth month", it actually /is/ the eighth month. Anyway, have a great month, whatever you want to call it, and may shalom bayis spread so that we don't need to utilize the halakhah lemaaseh I brought from the Arukh haShulchan above!”




Special Note One:  We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times.   Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 11 and 12:


11.  Lo Lehistachavos LeAvodah Zara--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from bowing down to any avodah zara, even if that is not how that avodah zara is usually worshipped.  The same would be true if one offered a sacrifice, threw blood, offered incense or poured wine to an avodah zara, as these are means by which Hashem is worshipped in the Bais HaMikdash.  One who does so is subject to the death penalty of sekilah.  One must give up his life rather than do any of the foregoing for an avodah zara.  If one’s money falls down or if one has a thorn in his leg and he is in front of an idol, he is not permitted to bend down in front of the avodah zara to pick up the money or take out the thorn, but rather should turn the other way and bend down. This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.


12.  Lo La’avod Avodah Zara Kedarka--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from worshipping an avodah zara in the way it is usually worshipped--even if it is an act of disgrace, such as relieving oneself in front of it, or throwing stones at it.  If one hugs or kisses, or sweeps or cleans, or performs any other act of honor in front of an avodah zara, he violates a Lo Sa’aseh but does not receive malkos therefor. If there is something which sprays water in front of an avodah zara one should not put his mouth to it to drink as it will appear that he is kissing the avodah zara.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.



Special Note Two:  The following moving words are provided by the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (6:1), in the name of the Sefer Chassidim, on the momentary thought that a person should have before reciting a bracha:  Yechaven Libo Levarech Lesheim Boroh Asher Hifli Chasdo Imo VeNasan Lo Peiros O Lechem Leihanos Meihem Vetzivanu Al Habracha--when a person washes his hands for bread, recites a blessing over fruit, or over the Mitzvos, he must focus his attention on making a bracha in the name of his Creator Who has performed wondrous kindnesses to him and given him this fruit or bread or commanded him regarding this Mitzvah.”  Hakhel Note:  It is so important for us to realize that we  not only should think about the words Mafli La’asos--how wondrous it is--after we take care of our body’s needs--but the same concept of Hifli Chasdo--the wondrous deeds that Hashem performs on our behalf--are something to think about before eating as well!  Indeed, whenever we realize our mind is blank--let us fill it with: Hodu LaShem Ki Tov Ki LeOlam Chasdo!



Special Note Three:  Although our reader above so eloquently showed that Marcheshvan should be considered one word, we provide one additional thought on the concept of ‘Mar’--how important it is for us to show our mastery over our yetzer hara as we continue into the month after Tishrei…and the rest of the year.  In this regard, we emphasize that an initial improper thought, improper sight, or improper words or music heard may have occurred against a person’s will and without any malicious aforethought on the person’s part.  THIS IS THE TEST:  What will happen in the next moment--will the person divert the thought, close his eyes or change his line of vision, plug his ears or move away…or will he give in and think:  “It started out wrong, it might as well continue.”  This is where one must show mastery over himself and demonstrate that he IS THE MASTER--as he proudly deflects the challenge, succeeds at the Nisayon, overcomes the test.  Yes, this is the feeling of Mar that one should take with him into Marcheshvan and beyond!  What nachas to Hashem!



Special Note Four:  The Chofetz Chaim, based on the Midrash Shochar Tov to Tehillim 42, writes that one who violates the Torah’s rules as to speech actually loses the Torah that he had been previously credited with.  Moreover, the reason that a metzorah must ask others to daven for him is because his Tefillos are ineffective--they are simply not listened to as a result of the Lashon Hara that got him into his mess.  Now, let us think for a moment.  We know, of course, that Hashem’s measure of reward is always greater than His measure of punishment. If one is especially careful with the power of speech granted to him as a human being, it would follow that his power of Torah study will improve, and the Tefillos uttered by his mouth which is Shomer Torah U’Mitzvos will travel the billions of miles necessary to reach their splendid destination.  We have the ability to go way beyond that which scientists can think about or imagine--it is up to us daily--word by word--to r’l abuse--or to successfully use!



Special Note Five:  We learned in last week’s Parsha that man was created B’Tzelem Elokim--in Hashem’s Image.  The Sefer Tomer Devorah--at the very outset--explains the import of this term as follows:  Ikar HaTzelem VeHademus HaElyon Hain Pe’ulosav…Lefichach Ra’ui Sheyidameh…Shehein Shelosh Esrei Middos Shel Rachamim Elyonos U’Remuzos Besod HaPeskuim ‘Mi Kel Kamocha…’(Micha 7:18-20)--the essence by which Hashem acts in this world are through His Thirteen Attributes as alluded to in the Pesukim of Mi Keil Kamocha….  In order for us to properly fulfill our role as the Tzelem Elokim--emulating ‘Hashem’s Image’, we too must be guided by and follow the Thirteen Attributes.  Incredibly, the Tomer Devorah explains that the essence of the first two of these attribute, Mi Keil Kamocha and Nosei Avon, is none other than Hashem’s Savlanus--His great patience, and His withstanding and withholding from taking one to task, exhibiting anger, or rightfully punishing under the circumstances--giving all the possible benefits of doubt before exacting ‘just measure’.  So too, must each and every one of us, as a Tzelem Elokim, emulate this Middah, and withstand the offensive conduct and hurt brought upon us by others--even if it is actually ongoing--and instead continue on as a Ba’al Chesed and a Maitiv--one who does only good to others--for a longer time than we had previously thought we were capable of.  Even at the most trying of moments, one must always remember to look at himself in Hashem’s mirror--as a Tzelem Elokim!



Special Note Six:  The following meaningful teaching on this week’s Parsha is from Rabbi Yaacov Haber, Shlita--www.torahlab.org:  “While reading this week’s parsha recently, I was struck by something that I had not noticed before.  Rashi says that it took 120 years for Noah to build the ark, and asks the question: Why did G-d make Noah go to all this trouble?  Rashi explains; so that people, seeing Noah engaged in this task, would ask him what he was doing, and, when he explained that he was building an ark to escape the coming flood, this might induce them to do tshuva, to repent of their misdeeds. (As it turned out, this didn’t work!)  But here is my question: If the purpose of all this was to encourage people to do tshuva, would it not have been more sensible for Noah to build yeshivas for baalei tshuva, or go on speaking tours, or go to the Western Wall and invite people there for a Shabbos meal, and all such activities that those of us involved in “kiruv” typically engage in? Why build a boat in the middle of a field?  I would like to suggest an answer: The best way to persuade others to change their lifestyle for the better is by our own deeds, by our example. Think how we try to inspire our children with the great figures of our history: the Vilna Gaon, or the Chafetz Chaim: it is usually not so much by quoting their halachic decisions, as by recounting their deeds!  There is a Gemara (Yuma 86a) in which Abbaye describes how a Torah observer should behave. If he studies Torah and respects it, is honest in his business dealings, and speaks pleasantly to those around him, people will say: “Happy is the man who studies Torah! Happy are his father and his Rebbi for teaching him Torah!” People will immediately give the credit for his good behavior to his Torah education.  We all know that if an observant Jew behaves well in public, this goes to the credit of his Torah observance; and if, on the contrary, an (ostensibly) observant Jew behaves badly, this is immediately taken as a confirmation of people’s prejudices against “frumkeit”. The first person has committed a Kiddush Hashem, and the second has committed a Chilul Hashem.  The Midrash tells a story. R’ Shimon ben Shetach bought a fish one day, just before Shabbos, and on opening it, found a pearl inside. He rushed back to the store (although Shabbos was approaching) and returned the pearl. The owner protested: “But I sold you the fish, with whatever was inside!” R’ Shimon replied: “No, you sold me just the fish, not the pearl!” Whereupon the owner exclaimed: “Blessed is the G-d of R’ Shimon ben Shetach!”  If we want to influence the behavior of our friends and colleagues towards greater observance, preaching is all very well, but the best way is by teaching with our actions.”




1 Marcheshvan

WINTER CLOTHING!  As we move closer to winter across the Northern Hemisphere, many may be purchasing jackets and coats (with linings), sweaters, vests and winter hats.  We caution the need to properly check for Shatnez any item whose constitution is in any matter doubtful, and especially one that comes from China , or which has a label which does not appear accurate or complete.  Let us feel not only physically warm--but spiritually warm--with the clothes that we are wearing! 



MORE THAN JUST THANK YOU!  A Rav pointed out to us that when one expresses his Hakaras HaTov to another by saying “Yasher Kochachem”--then he is not just saying “thank you”--but also giving an appreciative bracha to the one who has just acted kindly towards him.  They may both be just two words--but there is a great difference between them.  Of course, using both phrases “Todah Raba/thank you” and “Yasher Kochachem” could really be most appropriate under the circumstances. 



Special Note One:  In honor of Rosh Chodesh, we provide the following points and pointers relating to Hilchos Rosh Chodesh (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 217 et al.), as excerpted from the Dirshu edition of the Mishna Berurah:


A.  One should wear better clothing than usual on Rosh Chodesh.  The Yesod V’Shoresh Ha’avodah writes that one should wear at least one article of clothing which is more chashuv.  The G’ra wore his Shabbos hat on Rosh Chodesh.  Hakhel Notes:  1. It is a ma’aleh to have special clothing for Rosh Chodesh/Chol HaMoed, as both have more Kedusha than a regular weekday as evidenced by the four aliyos read on that day, as well as the Korban/Tefillas Mussaf of the day. 2. Fascinatingly, the Karbanos for Musaf on Rosh Chodesh match exactly the Karbanos for the Musaf of the Yom Tov of Pesach and of Shavuos [two parim, one ayil, seven kevasim and one seir]. 


B.  The Mitzvah to be Marbeh B’Seudah on Rosh Chodesh applies to women equally as well, and applies to each day of Rosh Chodesh.  The Steipeler Gaon, Z’tl, would drink a little wine on Rosh Chodesh, and would give the members of his household (including the women) a little wine to drink, explaining that we must honor the day--and that through drinking wine, we demonstrate that the day is a Yom Tov!


C.  The Shelah HaKadosh writes that the reason we recite Hallel on Rosh Chodesh is because Dovid HaMelech instituted it B’Ruach HaKodesh regarding Yetziyas Mitzrayim (see also Pesachim 117A). Accordingly, it is recited on all of the Moadim (all of which are Zecher L’Yetziyas Mitzrayim), and on Rosh Chodesh by and through which the Moadim are established.  Hakhel Note:  We were also of course taught the Mitzvah of Rosh Chodesh--HaChodesh Hazeh Lachem Rosh Chadashim--in Mitzrayim itself!


D.  Relating to Hallel: 


            (1) One should not repeat any Pasuk that it is not the Minhag to repeat--so that it does not appear that one is adding on to Hallel.


            (2) If one is behind the tzibur, and they are reciting together either Hodu LaShem or Anah Hashem, HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, rules that one should continue where he is and not answer together with the tzibur. 


           (3) HaRav Kanievsky, Shlita, also rules that although one is not permitted to answer Baruch U’Varuch Shemo while reciting Hallel, he can answer “Amen”; however, if one is in the bracha after Hallel of Yehalelucha and the Shatz or someone else finishes the bracha, one should not answer “Amen”, just as one who is in the middle of the bracha of Yishtabach should not answer “Amen” to the Shatzs conclusion of the very same bracha (see Bi’ur Halacha to Orach Chaim 51:2, d’h Baruch).  However, if one completed the particular bracha of Melech Mehulal Batishbachos together with the Shatz, he does answer “Amen” over the Shatz’s bracha (ibid., Mishna Berurah, seif katan 3). 


E.  Regarding Kiddush Levana, the Mishna Berurah (Orach Chaim 426; seif katan 4) brings the following remarkable quote from the Sefer Magid Meisharim:  Siman Zeh Yiheyeh BeYadecha-- BaChodesh Shetevarechu Birkas HaLevana BeMotza’ei Shabbos Timtzeu Hatzlacha--Keep this as a Siman: In a month in which you recite Kiddush Levana on a Motza'ei Shabbos you will find Hatzlacha…!”



Special Note Two:  We have now reached Marcheshvan!  A few important points:


A.  Now that we have left the Yerach HaEisanim (the month of the strong ones) of Tishrei, it is essential that we take its strength with us.  Imagine living the rest of the year--or at least the month of Cheshvan--with the guideline of Teshuva Bechol Yom (making sure to do Teshuvah in some aspect or way) each and every day.  It is really not as difficult as one may think.  One need only mark and check off a daily reminder in his calendar of Teshuva Bechol Yom--or at least before retiring for the evening--make sure that he has accomplished the task! 


B.  On a related note, now is the time to ensure that we take the Kabbalos we thought of over Elul, the Aseres Yemei Teshuva and Yom Kippur, and make them an ongoing reality.  Whatever the Kabbala or Kabbalos were--whether in matters of brachos recitation, middos improvement, speech, or interpersonal relationships--remember they can--and really must--last!


C.  One more related point.  This month has the unique term “Mar” placed in front of the word “Cheshvan”.  Some write that this is because there is currently no Yom Tov or public day of celebration during the month of Cheshvan, and that this will be rectified--as when the Bais HaMikdash is rebuilt there will be a Yom Tov of rededication in this month--may it be literally this month!  Others write that the term Mar refers to water, and that it indicates the blessing of the month--rainfall for the Parnassah of the world.  Indeed, in Eretz Yisrael, the recitation of V’Sein Tal U’Matar Livracha will begin in just a few days.  We may suggest another possible meaning to Mar.  In last week’s Parsha, Hashem told Kayin (Bereishis 4:7):  “'''...lapessach chatas rovetzveattah timshol bo--sin rests at the door, its desire is toward you, yet you can conquer it.”  Rashi (ibid.) explains:  Im Tirtzeh Tisgaber Alav--if you want to, you will be able to rule over it.”  Chazal use the word ‘Mar’ to mean master.  We are being reminded all month that the ‘theory’ of Tishrei can truly be put into practice in the next month--and that we can truly be the master over the Yetzer Hara--beginning in Marcheshvan--and forever thereafter! 


D.  The gematria of Marcheshvan (with the word), is in fact 611--the gematria of Torah.  Cheshvan, when written without nekudos, is spelled with two Vuvs and not one, so that it is not read as Cheshone, but Cheshvan. Check for yourself! One of our innovative readers wrote that if we take the second “Vuv” out of Marcheshvan and we don’t include the word as part of the gematria; the gematria becomes 604, which is the gematria of “Shas Gemara.”  This teaches us, our reader wrote,” that we must take the increased Torah commitment we made on Simchas Torah as we celebrated the completion of Torah She'Bichsav and also find some opportunity to increase our learning of Torah She'Baal Peh!”  Let's get going!




30 Tishrei

A CARING CONSUMER:  A consumer advised us that a few days ago she was in a take -out/restaurant with a good Hashgacha that promoted itself as serving only “Pos’tiv” brand bedika lettuce.  Standing at the counter waiting to order, she saw a worker take out a regular head of Romaine lettuce and begin chopping it into a salad.  Upon seeing the woman stunned, the manager of the store told the worker to “go wash it off.”  The consumer was not in the store to buy that product, but nevertheless cared enough to relay what she had seen to the Kashrus certifying agency.  The certifying agency was very thankful, as this had been the second Kashrus violation of the establishment in a very short period of time, and accordingly advised the woman that it would hold the establishment to a much more careful standard on a going forward basis--for the benefit of all.  Concern and love for others is what we need at all times, in all places--and in all situations!




Special Note One:  Rosh Chodesh Notes:


A.  There is a Halacha relating to Rosh Chodesh (found in Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 188:7), which is not well-known.  That is, if one is reciting Birchas HaMazon on Rosh Chodesh and realized that he forgot to recite Yaaleh V’Yavo after he has already recited the bracha of Bonei Yerushalayim, but prior to reciting the bracha of HaTov V’Hameitiv, he is entitled to (and should) add a new, complete bracha to his Birkas Hamazon, which is: “Baruch Ata Hashem Elokeinu Melech Haolam Asher Nosan Roshei Chodoshim L’Amo Yisroel L’Zikaron--Blessed are You Hashem…Who gave New Moons to His People Israel as a remembrance.”  This incredible Halacha (based upon Chazal--Brachos 49A), allows for a fifth brocha in Birkas HaMazon if it is timed just right.  Of course, it is better not to forget Yaaleh V’Yavo, but Chazal do allow for one to mend the situation in this way.  In fact, there are similar instances where an additional, similar brocha is recited at this point in Birkas HaMazon (between the third and fourth brocha)--for example, if one forgot Retzei on Shabbos, Yaaleh V’Yavo on Yom Tov, etc.  The exact text of these Brachos are found in some benchers, and in most siddurim at the end of Birkas HaMazon, but the page is typically skipped over as we move through the Siddur.  For example, see page 196 of the Artscroll English Siddur (Ashkenaz).  From this Halacha relating to Rosh Chodesh, we get a sense of the importance of eating a Seudas Rosh Chodesh--a meal on Rosh Chodesh for which Birkas HaMazon is recited--after all, a new brocha is provided for Rosh Chodesh, just as a new brocha is provided in a similar situation on Shabbos and Yom Tov!  See more on Seudas Yom Tov below.


B.  The Luach Davar B’Ito notes the following: 


1.  There are different customs as to the types of work that women do not perform on Rosh Chodesh.  Whatever is not performed by day should not be performed at night either, although others permit work at night.


2.  According to the Tzava’ah of Rebbi Yehuda HaChassid, we do not cut our hair or our nails on Rosh Chodesh. 


3.  The special bracha for Mussaf on Rosh Chodesh begins with the words Roshei Chadashim LeAmecha, whose first letters spell ‘Rochel’, who established Tefillas Mussaf (Birkei Yosef 607:4)!


4.  Regarding the actual Seudah of Rosh Chodesh, there is a Mitzvah to be marbeh (increase) one’s Seudah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 419).  The Mishna Berurah (ibid., seif katan 1) adds that one who eats and drinks in a goodhearted manner is praiseworthy, and that just as one is repaid his expenses for Shabbos and Yom Tov meals, he is also repaid for his Rosh Chodesh repast as well.  If one increases his Seudah during the day, he need not do so in the evening.  One should try to have a special additional food which is LeKavod Rosh Chodesh.  In fact, ‘many Tzadikim’ have the custom of eating Gefilte fish as on Shabbos on Rosh Chodesh.  The Sefer Ateres Tzvi brings that the Seudas Rosh Chodesh is a Segulah ‘Levatel Kol HaMachalos’--to rid oneself of all illnesses.


5.  There is an old Minhag on every Rosh Chodesh to learn one Pasuk (with at least the Peirush of Rashi) of the chapter in Tehillim which is the same number as one’s age.



Special Note Two:  As one Rav commented, perhaps we begin the Torah with Parshas Bereishis to teach us that there is a purpose for everyone’s life--and we are to take it from there.  It is fascinating that after Sukkos, in which we left our homes to demonstrate that we are under the shadow and protection of Hashem, we are immediately re-infused with the Emunah-filled Pesukim of Parshas Bereishis and Noach.  The following practical points on Emunah are excerpted from the Sefer Sifsei Chaim (Middos LeAvodas Hashem, Volume I):


A.  The Chofetz Chaim provides the following essential teaching:  Bechol Davar SheAdam Oseh Tzarich Levakeish MeiHashem Sheyihiyeh Letoeles--in everything that a person does, he should ask Hashem that it serve a good purpose (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 230; Sha’ar HaTzion, seif katan 8).


B.  Moreover, when one davens prior to doing something, it is the equivalent of putting the Refuah ahead of the makah--opening wide the proper and appropriate path in which to proceed.  When one davens, for example, to Hashem for success before starting his working day, he is demonstrating his awareness that it is not “Kochi V’Otzem Yadi--one’s own intuition, prowess or powers” that will bring about his success today or any other day, but rather it is Hashem Who is the Only Source of all Bracha.  It is for this reason that it is forbidden to engage in business activities before davening Shacharis (see Brachos 14A)--for it is futile for one to believe that he actually accomplishes anything on his own before davening--i.e., without Hashem’s guidance and gifts to him! 


C.  A Nevuah is not simply an experience by which Hashem reveals the future to a Tzaddik. Rather, the Ikar HaNevuah is the Deveikus experienced between the Navi and Hashem!  We can all work towards the goal of...a Navi!




29 Tishrei

VIGILANCE! Keeping up the extra vigilance we have in these special times as we recite Shemone Esrei, we suggest that you look for the bracha (brachos) in Shemone Esrei in which there is a word or words with a Mapik-Heh-- making sure to understand its meaning and pronounce it properly!


Additional Note:  Before beginning our Shemone Esrei at Mincha, we recite the Pasuk (Devarim 32:3): “Ki Shem Hashem Ekra Havu Godel LeiLokeinu--when I call out the name of Hashem ascribe greatness to Him.” We are about to recite the Shemone Esrei silently, to whom are we talking when we say “ascribe greatness to Him”?  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, explains that we tell this to the Malochim who are at our side.  We also ask them to answer ‘Amen’ at the end of Shemone Esrei when we recite “Oseh Shalom…VeImru Amen”.  With the Malochim at our side, we get an inkling of how important we are--and how powerful our Shemone Esrei really is--both at its beginning and its end!





Special Note One:  We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times.   Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 9 and 10:


9.  Lo La’asos Avodah Zara--this is the Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from making an idol, and if one either makes one or tells someone else to make one, he receives malkos.  If one makes an idol for himself he receives malkos twice.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.


10.  Lo La’asos Avodah Zara Afilu L’Nachri--this is a separate Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh which prohibits one from making an idol even for a non-Jew to worship. If one does so, he receives malkos. This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.



Special Note Two:  The Torah teaches (Vayikrah 18:5):  U’Shemartem Es Chukosai V’Es Mishpatai Asher Ya’aseh Osam Ha’adam V’Chai Bahem--You shall observe My Chukos and laws which man shall carry out and by which he shall live.”  The Chofetz Chaim importantly notes that the Torah does not state V’Chai Avuram--you shall live to perform them, but rather V’Chai Bahem--which means that you will live in Olam HaBah through them.  Accordingly, just as a person would do all that he can in order to keep his arms, ears, legs healthy and in good working order in this world, so too should a person realize that his connection to eternal life is through the Mitzvos, and that the more wholesomely and completely the Mitzvos are performed, the more wholesome and complete will be one’s Chiyus, one’s life in Olam HaBah.  This thought should provide us with an extra-special drive to rid ourselves of at least one Mitzvas Anashim Melumadah--Mitzvah done-by-rote, that we perform daily, and replace it with a sincere and inspired performance of that Mitzvah.  Examples:  In Tefillah--one place to start may be in one’s recitation of Pesukei D’Zimrah. In Torah--in the way one listens and interacts in a shiur he otherwise listens to or attends.  In Chesed--in attempting to perform at least one Chesed a day which has not been asked for, and is not expected. 



Special Note Three: Although many items in the physical world remind us of spiritual roles and goals as well (e.g., food for the body teaches that we must always feed the soul with Torah and Mitzvos; physical ailments represent spiritual ailments, the beauty of nature provides an inkling of the beauty of Olam Haba, etc.), there appears to be at least one item in which the physical in no way resembles the spiritual.


Here on earth, our streets and our highways are paved with tar, and our sidewalks with tar or cement. Yet, in the spiritual world, our path is paved with precious jewels, silver, and gold. The opportunities for Torah and Mitzvos, Emunah and Chesed, Teshuva and Ma’asim Tovim, impact and abound from all directions as we march through our day. Unfortunately, all too often, we write off the opportunity as a hindrance, annoyance, obligation, or as time that could have otherwise been spent doing something "productive" instead.


Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita, provides a perfect example of this misperception in commenting on last week's Parsha (Love Your Neighbor, p. 34). Rabbi Pliskin notes that the Torah goes out of its way to teach us that Hashem clothed Adam and Chava. We, by this, are taught to emulate Hashem's ways in providing clothes to the needy. However, Rabbi Pliskin writes that emulating Hashem in this area goes way beyond giving clothes to the needy when we clean out our closets. It also includes other activities such as helping elderly relatives on with their clothing, making sure that they are warm for winter, and dressing toddlers and little children--even if they may be your students or your children. When viewed in this light, going shopping for the family or for a parent or neighbor on a frigid winter night, or earning the money to pay a family credit card bill become glittering diamonds in place of a banal drudgery, a necessary and seemingly thankless task.


Hashem, in His great and incomparable beneficence, gives us whatever each and every one of us needs every single day in order to build a great eternity for ourselves.  We just have to identify, appreciate and cherish each and every opportunity for the special and precious jewel that it is. World economics may be in turmoil, but we remain as spiritually affluent as ever--and these are the riches that last forever!



Special Note Four:  In Love Your Neighbor, Rabbi Pliskin emphasizes another essential aspect of the concept of Chesed:  It is that man is actually created B’Tzelem Elokim--in the image of the Creator of heaven and earth.  A human being should accordingly be transformed in our eyes from ‘an inconsequential and insignificant being into one that is without parallel. ‘Although seemingly miniscule, he is the pinnacle of creation’.  Man was created in Hashem’s image and must always be viewed accordingly.”  Here are two examples that Rabbi Pliskin provides to bring the point home (ibid., p. 23): 


1. A Rabbi and his wife came to visit the Chofetz Chaim.  The wife complained to the Chofetz Chaim that her husband's good nature enabled people to take advantage of him.  “True,” said the Chofetz Chaim, “if someone is always good to others, he might sometimes suffer. However, if he were insensitive to other people, they would suffer because of him. In the long run, when a man's good and bad deeds are weighed against each other, he will realize that it is better for him to have suffered as a result of his doing good deeds to others, rather than for others to have suffered because of him.” (Amud Hachesed, p. 17)


2. Once while the Chazon Ish was walking with a disciple, a melancholy woman approached him and insisted that he take money from her to pray for her welfare.  She handed the Chazon Ish ten shillings which he readily accepted.  He blessed her wholeheartedly and cheered her with pleasant words.  When she left them, she was in good spirits.  Knowing that the Chazon Ish never accepted presents or donations from others, the disciple was puzzled why he agreed to take this woman's money.  Noticing the puzzled look on that person's face, the Chazon Ish told him, "Everyone is required to do chesed in every possible way.  In this instance, the biggest chesed I could do for this woman was to accept her money." (P'air Hadar, Vol. 4, p. 22)




26 Tishrei


KAVEI EL HASHEM:  Yesterday, we noted the last Pasuk of LeDovid Hashem Ori leaves us with a lesson for the rest of the year--“Kavei El Hashem…hope to Hashem, strengthen yourself and He will give you courage and hope to Hashem.”  Chazal (Brachos 32B) teach that if a person davens to Hashem and does not see his prayers answered, he should daven to Hashem again.  Over the course of Yom Tov, we davened so much in our Mussaf prayers for the rebuilding of the Bais HaMikdash, and for our ability to come there again. As of this moment, we have not yet seen our prayers answered.  For an inkling of what our Tefilos can accomplish, see Special Note One below.  Let us strengthen ourselves and daven again and again with true and sincere conviction--until our Tefilos are answered BiMeheira Beyameinu!  




Special Note One:  As we conclude the week after Sukkos, we can be enthused by the words of Chazal (Yalkut Shimoni to Yeshaya 60, Siman 503) who teach that in the future we will be taken by clouds to the Bais HaMikdash every Shabbos and every Rosh Chodesh to daven, so that, for instance, we would be taken tomorrow on Shabbos, and then again this coming week, on Rosh Chodesh.  Chazal ask--but what will be if Rosh Chodesh falls out on Shabbos--and Chazal respond that we will be taken in the morning to the Bais Hamikdash in honor of Shabbos, brought home, and taken to the Bais Hamikdash again in the afternoon in honor of Rosh Chodesh!  We have a lot to look forward to...In fact, Chazal conclude, that when Shlomo Hamelech, the wisest of all men, teaches (Koheles 1:9) 'Ma She'haya Hu She'Yiheye--that which was will be in the future'--he is referring to those Clouds [which transported our forefathers] that we will be transported in as well!



Special Note Two:  Tomorrow, it will be a week since we read Koheles.  We should take some life lessons with us from this great Megillah for the rest of the year--after all it has the dual zechus of being both words of Nevuah (see Targum to Koheles 1:1), and words of the wisest of all men. We mention only one example--a small portion of 1 of the 222 pesukim in this Megillah. Shlomo Hamelech (ibid., 7:14 ) teaches “Beyom Tova Heyeh BeTov”--remember to be happy when thing are going well.... This is a great teaching in and of itself, but the Targum takes it an important step further--the Targum here translates these words to mean--'when Hashem has done good to you--be sure that you, too, then do good to other people --sharing and spreading that  goodness and good feeling.'  Keep this great teaching in mind for those moments of simcha in your life, and even when you really realize that you have been blessed with something or someone...and make sure others can feel good in some way as well!



Special Note Three:  Shabbos Bereishis  is always a time of great excitement, as we discover the birth of the world and the creation of man anew every year.  Many thoughts may cross through our mind as to how, why and when events happened, but they must be firmly rooted in the Emunah Peshuta that Hashem Was, Is, and Will Be, and that we will only understand some more when the Moshiach comes.  As we go on to study the other Parshios in Bereishis, we remind ourselves that the Torah is not, chas veshalom, a history book, reminding us of the events of early Man. To the Torah Jew, history is not an interesting study, something that satisfies our curiosity as to past cultures and civilizations. Rather, it represents the continuing Hashgacha Pratis of Hashem to Whom “one thousand years is like one year” in his guidance and supervision of creation. The Navi teaches that, when the Moshiach comes, there will no longer be wars among people. The commentaries explain that this is so because the Moshiach will resolve all disputes among people, making war obsolete. It appears that we are living in a time of what the world would call “history in the making,” as the world’s finances totter, and all kinds of uncertainty stretches 6,000 miles from Eretz Yisroel to the United States. We should not view this as “history in the making,” but should instead utilize it as an advanced opportunity for coming closer to Hashem, and by replacing all of the secular analyses of current world events with an awareness of Hashem’s pervasive presence. It all brings us back to the first Siman in Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim--Shivisi Hashem LeNegdi Samid--let us keep Hashem before us all the time as we navigate our course through these pages in the 'history' books.



Special Note Four: We present the following two important excerpts relating to the Parsha from Rav Shach on Chumash (Artscroll) by his grandson, Rabbi Asher Bergman, Shlita, as translated into English by Rabbi Dovid Oratz, Shlita:


A. Rabbi Meir Heisler once mentioned to Rav Shach the opinion, advocated by several early commentators, that, although the fate of every human being and the details of his life are controlled directly by Hashem, this does not apply to animals. Hashem’s Hashgacha watches over the preservation--or lack of--the species as a whole, but does not concern itself with the fate of each and every butterfly and ant.  Rav Shach told him that this opinion was not accepted in mainstream Jewish thought.  The Talmud Yerushalmi says otherwise (Shevi'is 9:1): "Even a bird is not caught in a trap unless it is decreed so from Heaven." R' Heisler added that in Safra Detzniusa, the Vilna Gaon also explicitly disagrees with this concept, asserting that everything is hinted at in the Torah's account of Creation--all the details of the life of every animal, and even vegetables and plants.  "Why, this is the concept that has fortified me throughout my life!" declared Rav Shach. 'The knowledge that every single event that occurs to me is already foretold in the Torah. I am not rootless! I am not abandoned to 'blind fate'!"


B. The first Rashi in Bereishis cites the Midrash's question: "Why did Hashem see fit to begin the Torah from the story of Creation, and not from the first Mitzvah to all of Bnei Yisrael (Shemos 12:2): “HaChodesh Hazeh Lachem…this month shall be for you the first of the months?” Rav Shach would frequently quote this Rashi and comment: "How fortunate we are that Hashem did indeed choose to include the story of Creation in the Torah! The Chofetz Chaim used to read the entire first chapter of Bereishis each morning after reciting Birchos HaShachar, as a means of strengthening his faith in the Creator. If the Chofetz Chaim found this useful and necessary, how much more so should we!



Special Note Five:  We find in Parshas Bereishis that man is, in fact, distinguished from the animal kingdom in his 'deah' and 'dibbur'--his ability to think and express that thought to others.  To bring this powerful point home, we provide the following selection from the outstanding Sefer Positive Word Power  (Artscroll--Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation), which is truly a must-read sefer for every 'thinking and speaking' individual.


"Speech originates in the brain.  Before the word comes the thought; by definition, speech requires thinking.  The only question is whether one relies entirely on this involuntary process, or one works toward developing a conscious thought process that remains in gear at all times.  To avoid ona'as devarim, a person must dedicate his brain to filtering its output to a finer degree. Motivation is the key.   Someone who comes to the realization that ona'as devarim is really a negative factor in his life must then look for a different way, a means to ensure that impulsive, damaging words do not spill out of his mouth.  Even something as simple as posting a "Think before you speak" sign at the desk or on the kitchen counter can help.  Turning on the word filter and using it every time one speaks is ultimately nothing more than a habit which, like all habits, can be developed through repetition.  Where human effort leaves off, Divine Assistance will surely come into play to help all who devote themselves to protecting the dignity of their fellow man."


Hakhel Note:  Please re-read. What a life-long lesson to take with us from the Parsha!!



Special Note Six:  Let us now take the point a step further. Rav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, teaches that the Torah does not say that Hashem created Chava and brought her to Adam for the purpose of having future generations, but actually simply because “it is not good for man to be alone”(Beraishis 2:18). In fact, what was behind the mistake that Kayin made in killing Hevel was that he believed it would be better for him alone to succeed his father, then to do so jointly with Hevel. This was again Cham’s mistake when he prevented his father from having further children (there were already three brothers to live together, and that was more than enough)--and his punishment was--measure for measure--that he would be subservient to his brothers, and not co-exist with them on an equal par. Cham’s sin here was exacerbated not only by his failure to learn from the world shattering sin of Kayin, but also by the fact that the Torah provides conclusive evidence that Kayin himself corrected his error. Where does the Torah show us this? Immediately after he was banished from Aden , the Posuk (Beraishis 4:17) teaches “He built a city, and he called the city after his son ‘Chanoch’.” Who was Kayin building a city for--for the few people then alive? And why does the Torah tell us that he named it Chanoch? Rav Salomon, based upon the explanation given by the K’sav V’Hakabala explains that Kayin was demonstrating to the world forever that camaraderie, companionship, togetherness, and devotedness and dedication to others, is an essential element of mankind. We should not view ourselves as “paying a price for living in society”, but instead as reaping the real benefits of living with others. The reason that the Torah goes out of its way to teach that the name of the city was Chanoch (same root as chinuch--education), is because the Torah is telling us that we must constantly indoctrinate--educate and re-educate ourselves--in this teaching.

Secluding ourselves, living separate and apart from others is not good. We must foster and treasure relationships. We need only once again review the Viduy and Al Chait to realize what an important part Bein Odom L’Chaveiro plays in our lives. Indeed, Chazal teach (Avos 1:6) that we must even go to the extent of “knei lecha chaver--acquiring a friend.” We see the sincere dedication that Avrohom Avinu had to others in the upcoming Parshios--risking his life, for example, even for those who separated themselves from him. We should take all of these lessons seriously, and try to improve, over the next several weeks, upon our relationships with others--especially our own close family members. It is no coincidence (as it never is) that all the relationships described above were with close family. This is a great place to start--less painful words, less sharp criticism, less being annoyed and angry, and more of the love, appreciation, thanks, ...and a showing of true humanity!


Special Note Seven: We present several questions related to the Parsha, simply in order for us to think about what the Mussar Haskel--what the lesson is from it:


a.  Adam and Chava were banished from Gan Eden--but what happened to Kayin, Hevel, and their sisters born along with them--were they left in Gan Eden?


b.  Adam had named all of the animals in creation and even his wife, yet Chava named her son Kayin--why? Additionally, why was Hevel given such a name (apparently meaning in vain, vanity, nothingness--see Koheles 3:19) at all?


c.  Rashi teaches us that all of the elements of Heaven and Earth were created on the first day of creation, and that the Malochim were created on Monday.  Why were the Malochim created after the world's elements were put into place?


d. Why did the Rokia, the firmament above us--have to be suspended in 'midair'--hanging precariously between the heavens and the earth?



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


A.  The following is based upon the Luach Davar BeIto for tomorrow, as Shabbos Bereishis:


1.  Tosafos (Sanhedrin 37B) writes that every day of the week the Malochim sing with a different one of their six wings, and on Shabbos it is the Bnei Yisrael that sing.  Hakhel Note:  What a great thing to remember when singing Zemiros!


2.  Adam HaRishon recited “Mizmor Shir Leyom HaShabbos” (Tehillim 92) upon the onset of Shabbos just a few hours after his creation.  Hashem’s name is mentioned seven times in the Kepitel.  It became, of course, the Shir Shel Yom of Shabbos, but we recite it not one but three times over Shabbos.  Hakhel Note:  How wonderful it would be to bli neder resolve to have kavanna when reciting this Kepitel in honor of Shabbos every week!


3.  The Admorei Chabad would teach:  “The way that one behaves on Shabbos Bereishis is the way that he will behave the whole year.” 


4. This Shabbos we will bentsch Rosh Chodesh MarCheshvan.  One should stand when bentsching the new month, as a remembrance to the Kiddush HaChodesh in front of the Sanhedrin.  Even though we have not begun reciting VeSein Tal U’Matar Livracha yet, HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, rules that we should add the request of “U’legeshamim BeItam”--as we always seek rain in its proper time! 


5.  We begin reciting Borchi Nafshi after Mincha this week, as it relates to Ma’aseh Bereishis, and Hashem’s greatness. 


B.  We once again provide halachos relating to Hadlakas Neiros, for reasons set forth in Paragraph 1 below:


1.  A woman has priority over a man in lighting Shabbos candles, as they are more involved in a home's needs, and an essential reason for Hadlakas Neiros is Shalom Bayis--a feeling of serenity in the home which the women is eminently capable of.  Additionally, as we learn in this week's Parsha, woman caused man to eat from the Eitz HaDa'as, resulting in man's light being extinguished (death was introduced into the world), and so the lighting of candles is a form of takana and kapara for women.


2.  The Mishna in Shabbos (2:6) teaches that a woman may, r'l, pass away in childbirth because of a failure to be careful with Hadlakas Neiros.  The Rashash to this Mishna explains that simply failing to light Shabbos candles would not engender something as serious as the death penalty.  Rather, the Mishna is referring to someone who is not careful to light on time--which can/will (chas veshalom) result in Chillul Shabbos--for which the penalty is misah, death. Hakhel Note: Shabbos Candlelighting times listed on calendars, magnets and the like should not be viewed  merely as goals to strive for, or with the attitude of "I really have another fifteen minutes"--but should be taken seriously and stringently--staying far, far away from any danger zone--a time period in which one is literally playing with fire.  The zemanim are there for a reason--to avoid Chillul Shabbos, and to fulfill the Mitzvas Aseh of Tosefes Shabbos--adding on to the Kedusha of the Shabbos.  Indeed, the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (75:6) writes that one should light in weekday clothes if necessary in order to avoid getting involved in a 'Sofek Chillul Shabbos'', and that if a husband sees that his wife will be lighting in a Sofek Chillul Shabbos time--he should light himself instead and not be concerned with her anger!  The Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 262, seif katan 11) adds that it is a 'Mitzvah Gedolah' to sit in the dark rather than chas veshalom come to Chillul Shabbos.  Let us take special note of these words as we approach the shorter Erev Shabbos days of the winter months (in the Northern Hemisphere).


3.  When lighting candles, one should not move his/her hand away from the wick until most of the wick has been lit, so that the flame will be burning well--this is the way the Menorah was lit in the Bais HaMikdash, and the way we are to light Neiros Chanukah as well (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 264:8, and Mishna Berurah there).


4.  What should one do if it appears that a candle is going to fall on the table?  See ibid. 265, Mishne Berurah, seif katan 16--and perhaps ask your Rav for a shiur on the topic!  Hakhel Note:  To obtain a copy of a Hakhel Shiur given by Rabbi Shlomo Pearl, Shlita on "Emergency Situations on Shabbos", please call 718-252-5274.


5.  The Neiros must be long enough to burn into the night(so that one has actual benefit from the candlelight-otherwise there is a bracha levatala issue) and continue burning through the end of the meal (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 75:2).


6.  'The Radiance of Shabbos' by Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen, Shlita (Artscroll) devotes several important chapters to Hadlakas Neiros.  Rabbi Cohen brings from the Zohar to this week's Parsha that one should be sure to light the Neiros Shabbos with great joy


7.  Those who are zealous with the Mitzvah of Hadlakas Neiros will merit to greet the Divine Presence (Shabbos 32A)--what an accomplishment--for a little bit of zealousness!




25 Tishrei


IMPORTANT! Just a few days ago, we began reciting "Mashiv HaRuach U'Morid HaGeshem--He causes the wind to blow and brings down the rain." The Kuntres Avodas HaTefillah adds a bit more depth to its recitation. Hashem causes the wind to blow--bringing the clouds to where they are needed, and brings each drop down to its proper place at its proper time to fulfill its purpose--be it for punishment, be it for pleasure, or be it to maintain life itself. We must understand that each and every drop of rain has a place and a purpose, and we should reinforce this understanding every time we praise Hashem with these words. The added benefit to this one additional second of Kavannah at Mashiv HaRuach U'Morid HaGeshem is that you will definitely remember whether you recited Mashiv HaRuach in your Shemone Esrei.  Additional Point: One may want to keep his finger on the words of the first bracha of Shemone Esrei and continue doing the same through Mashiv HaRuach--as an additional assurance that one does not miss this very important addition!




Special Note One:  We B’EH continue our Monday/Thursday study of the Sefer Mitzvos HaKatzar, with the Mitzvos Lo Sa’asei which the Chofetz Chaim writes are applicable in our times.   Today, we present Mitzvos Lo Sa’aseh 7 and 8:


7.  Lo Latzeis MiTechum Shabbos--this is the Mitzvas Lo Saaseh which prohibits one from going out of his techum on Shabbos, as the Pasuk states:  Al Yeitzeih Ish Mimekomo BaYom HaShevi’i--one should not leave ‘his place’ on Shabbos.”  From the Torah, one cannot travel more than 12 mil (24,000 amos), and if one does so he is chayav malkos.  MiD’Rabanan, one may not travel more than 2,000 amos out of the city limits, and if one does so, he receives makas mardus.  These are the opinions of the Rif and the Rambam; there are other opinions.  Within a city, one may travel as he wishes, even if the city is very large.  This Mitzvah applies in all places and at all times and to men and women alike.


8.  Lo Yihiyeh Lecha Elohim Acheirim--this is the Mitzvas Lo Saaseh which prohibits one from considering that there is any other power (even a partner) with Hashem--and if one considers this thought, or thinks that there is something of substance to any avodah zara, then he is a Kofer BeIkar.  To be clear, a person who utters any statement which could be interpreted as Kefira, or as any admission to avodah zara is considered a Kofer Bechol HaTorah Kulah.  We are obligated to give our lives and all our possessions for the sake of upholding this Mitzvah.  The Mitzvah applies at all times and 'bechol rega'-- every minute, in the same manner to men and women alike.



Special Note Two: Our singing on Simchas Torah should remind us to revert back to the constant and eternal Simcha that we as a nation are especially blessed with because the Torah is such a part and parcel of our very essence and being. Every time we say “Oy” or sigh, or the like, perhaps we should try to follow it with a brief rendition of Ashreinu Mah Tov Chelkeinu, Toras Hashem Temima, or other unique or words which move us to highlight our incredible lot--our unparalled relationship with an infinite gift!



Special Note Three:  HaRav Yechezkel Abramsky, Z’tl, provides a beautiful teaching relating to the Na’anuim--the shaking of the Daled Minim during Hallel. He explains that the Na’anuim are intended to indicate that we thank Hashem for all that he does for us in this direction, in that direction, that direction, etc. If we thoughtfully demonstrate our thanks of Hashem with our Na’anuim, Hashem in turn will provide us with more blessing--and prevent harm and difficulties (symbolized by “bad winds”) from coming to us from these very directions. We can take this thought another step and reflect upon how important it is to have Kavannah and/or positive thoughts when undertaking activities which could be Mitzvos, but instead are undertaken mindlessly or because one feels required to do so (just as the Na’anuim can be thoughtlessly performed). Cleaning the home and dishes, traveling to work in the rain, running an errand in which others will benefit, all can bring greater bracha to you if performed with thought and purpose. Furthermore, just as with the Na’anuim we may not even fully understand all that we are achieving, so too when helping others or performing another Mitzvah we can never fully fathom what we are really accomplishing. At the very least, the Sefer Yesod VeShoresh Ha’avodah writes, with the performance of this task or that act we should have in mind that by doing it we want to give Nachas Ruach to Hashem.



Special Note Four:  One of the obvious and transparent results of Sukkos was that no two individual Sukkah dwellings were at all the same. One person may have been able to sleep all nights in the Sukkah without hindrance, another may have no mosquito bites to show for the hours he spent there, a third may have been able to eat all meals in the Sukkah without rain because the timing of the minyanim he attended were just right. One may have met all of his goals for Chol HaMoed, another may have exceeded his expectations for Simchas HaMoed, and others may have just managed at a minimum.  The key for us all is that each person’s Avodas Hashem is so special and unique that it is incomparable to the person sitting next to him in Shul--or even sitting at the same table together with him.  We should draw great Chizuk from this thought--as each and every one of us go through the year, it will be our personal tour with Hashem.  The more we feel our personal role in Avodas Hashem, the more real our spiritual lives and the more profound our relationship with Hashem will be.  It is fascinating to note that we concluded our daily recitation of L’Dovid Hashem Ori (Tehillim 27) on Shemini Atzeres with the words: “Kavei El Hashem Chazal V’Ameitz Libecha V’Kavei El Hashem--hope to Hashem, strengthen yourself and He will give you courage; and hope to Hashem.”   This is a tremendous lesson to take away--this is our tzeidah laderech--with the Yamim Noraim and the Yamim Tovim over, we are left with the greatest possible result--keeping Hashem close to us throughout the year!




24 Tishrei

Special Note One:  As this year’s Days of Awe and Days of Harvesting Joy can now be viewed only by turning around, we look ahead to what we will make of the coming year.  The hopes, the aspirations, the dreams...  At the end of this year, will we look back and find that we were truly better people, that we accomplished a worthwhile goal, that we fulfilled our potential in life?

In the Western Society (read “Golus”) in which we live, emphasis is placed on the physical and material reality around us, most recently, computers, smart phones, etc.  To some it may seem “childish”, to others “spir

itual”, to actually take a minute or two during the day (while taking a shower in the morning or eating lunch, or perhaps when walking to the subway or bus, or before retiring at night) to think, feel and appreciate Hashem’s gifts to us.  We can start with reflecting upon our knowledge-filled heads and then work our way down slowly to the toes we can wiggle when necessary.  Do not be surprised if the words “Thank You, Hashem” emerge spontaneously from your lips from time to time.

As the Rambam testifies, this is the where and the how our forefather, Avrohom Avinu, started his trek to greatness and how concomitantly K’lal Yisroel began its eternal journey through history and mankind.  This is the origin of our legacy and sacred trust.  Be a part of it.  It only requires some inner reflection.  If you feel lost as to how to begin or are in need of some assistance or guidance in this area, the Chovos Halevovos, Sha’ar HaBechina (published by Feldheim Publishers in English as Duties of the Heart (Gate of Reflection)) will certainly be a great tool.

Now, taking a step back, perhaps this is the great lesson of Sukkos as the culmination of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur—that we look up from our humble little booth and recognize that a few rain showers during the Yom Tov pale starkly in comparison to the brochos that Hashem showers upon us daily.

Practical Suggestion:  Keep a short written record of your daily reflections - and have a great Year!



Special Note Two: Some additional point and pointers on the post Yomim Noraim/Yom Tov Period:

A.  On Yom Kippur we recited as the Ikar Vidui “Aval Anachnu Va’Avoseinu Chatanu.” In stark contrast to this, the Mishna in Sukkah (5:4) relates that during the Simchas Bais HaShoeivah, the people in the courtyard who were leaving the Eastern Gate turned to the west, faced the Heichal and exclaimed: “Our fathers who were in this place turned their back to the Heichal, instead facing to the east and bowing to the sun--but our eyes are towards Hashem!” The great transition from Yom Kippur to Sukkos results in our abandoning the previously ill-chosen ways which had been etched in stone--even to the extent of their origin from our fathers and their fathers. To cleanse ourselves--and aid our parents (and their parents) with any previous malfeasance--let us take a good look at an old custom, an ‘established family practice’ and instead turn towards the Heichal-and proclaim we have chosen to abandon that--and that we are now facing towards Hashem! We have learned the lesson, we have made the transition--from Yom Kippur…to Sukkos!

B.  Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, teaches in Mishlei (29:22): U’Baal Chaima Rav Posha--a man of anger abounds in transgression. Succinctly stated, if we can avoid anger, we are avoiding an abundance of sin. In order for us to demonstrate our real dedication and desire to be sinful no longer--let us undertake a special program--to avoid the Rav Posha of anger!

C.  After seeing his Chassidim in a down mood on Motza'ei Sukkos as they were about to daven Ma’ariv, it is reported that Rebbe Moshe Sassover, Z'tl, gave them wonderful Chizuk by exclaiming “My brothers please remember that it is the very same Hashem who is the Atta Vechartanu and the Atta Chonantanu. Hashem demonstrates to us His midda of Atta Vechartanu with the special feeling that we experience on Yom Tov…and shows us His midda of Atta Chonantanu--by giving us the wisdom, insight and understanding to get through and even succeed during all of the weekdays of the year! As Chag Simchaseinu has just passed, we should study how we can bring Simcha with us through the rest of the year. The Mesilas Yesharim (Chapter 19) writes as follows: “Simcha Hu Ikar Gadol B’Avoda--Simcha is an essential part of our Avodas Hashem, as Dovid HaMelech teaches (Tehillim 100:2) Ivdu Es Hashem BeSimcha Ba’u Lefanav Birnana--serve Hashem with joy, come before Him with joyous song! The Mesilas Yesharim then explains (from the Midrash) that when one rises to daven he should feel elation in his heart that he has the ability to pray before One to Whom there is no comparison. In fact, the Mesilas Yesharim writes that this is THE SIMCHA AMITIS--the true Simcha--that a person rejoices over the fact that has merited serving the Master of the Universe, learn His Torah and perform His Mitzvos--all of which provides a person with the true and absolute fulfillment of his potential and everlasting eternity!


D.  Rabbi Avrohom Schorr, Shlita, gives a wonderful explanation as to why there are three Hadassim (Hadassim being symbolic of the eyes).  One Hadas teaches us of the ‘Tov Ayin’--the good eye that we should have towards others, the second Hadas represents the ‘Ayin Ra’ah’--the bad eye that we must avoid in all circumstances.  The third Hadas reminds us of Hashem’s watchful and loving eye over us--every day of the year, and every moment of the day!


E.  We began the month of Tishrei with the knowledge that on Rosh Hashana our lives and our livelihood will be determined for the coming year. We concluded the last Chag of Tishrei with the Tefillah for Geshem, asking for sustenance of blessing over the winter and the coming year. An essential lesson, then, that extends throughout the entire month is that Hashem is the Provider, and that “Kochi VeOtzem Yadi--my strength and the power of my hand that accomplished this” is simply not part of the Torah Jew’s lexicon. Every so often, when realizing what one has accomplished or attained, he should express (or at least think to himself) “Thank you Hashem for this accomplishment. It is not Kochi VeOtzem Yadi, it is You!!” With this thought or statement alone, one will demonstrate that he has taken much from Rosh Hashana…from Yom Kippur…from Sukkos and from Shemini Atzeres!

F.  As we often note, the Sefer Tomer Devorah urges the following three words: “Teshuvah Bechol Yom--Teshuvah every day!” By looking at your Kabbalah list every day, and reflecting/acting upon it just a little bit, you not only be performing Teshuvah for one day, ten days, thirty or forty days, but for seven days a week, 365 days a year. What Nachas Ruach to Hashem-- What Nachas Ruach to yourself!!


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