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Hakhel Email Community Awareness Bulletin

SEPTEMBER 2011 DAILY EMAIL ARCHIVE

IMPORTANT--FOR BEFORE ROSH HASHANA.  Please click here for a special plea to show solidarity, Ahavas Yisroel and Chesed with Yaakov Yosef ben Raizel, who continues to languish in Japan .  Please spread the word as far and wide as you can. 

 

Hakhel Note:  Chazal teach us that the Navi Hoshea was taught that he should have pleaded to Hashem on behalf of K’lal Yisroel with the words “Bonecha Haim, B’nei Chanunecha, B’nei Avrohom Yitzchok VeYa’akov--Galgeil Rachamecha Aleihem!” We too must plead on behalf of Hashem’s children--who are the children of the Avos and our brothers as well!  A Rav asked us to focus our readers’ attention on the beginning words of our Selichos daily--KeDalim U’cheRoshim Dofaknu Delasecha--we are all impoverished as we seek Hashem’s compassion.  We must however recognize that *every person* has his own pekele of issues and difficulties-- AND DAVEN NOT ONLY FOR OURSELVES BUT FOR EVERY MEMBER OF K’LAL YISROEL.  There are those with physical problems, mental problems, Shalom Bayis problems, Parnassah problems, Shidduch problems--there are so many issues--we must expand our “me” our “I” to encompass those who are one with us.  During the Selichos Period and over the Yomim Noraim we are not only davening for ourselves! Let us make the effort to open our hearts far and wide--and may Hashem open the door to our pleas even farther and wider!

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SHOFAR ALERT--The Yehi Ratzons:  Some have the custom of reciting or looking at Yehi Ratzons after the initial blowings of the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah morning.  These Yehi Ratzons mention the names of Malochim.  Rabbi Ezra Rotkin, Shlita has brought to the community’s attention a Teshuva from the Minchas Elazar who teaches that in some Machzorim censors or other meshumadim were able to r’l implant Oso HaIsh in the first Yehi Ratzon!  The Artscroll and other more recent publications of the Machzor have removed this blight--but if you are using an older Machzor or know someone that is--and you recite or look at these Yehi Ratzons--please beware--the name is there!  For your reference, the Teshuva of the Minchas Elazar is provided by clicking here (the second paragraph of Siman 75).

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Special Note One:  In last week’s Parsha we learned that Moshe was instructed to “Sima Befihem--to put the Torah into our mouths.”  A Rav once explained that just as with a person who can be fed by others, but must swallow on his own, so too can the Torah (with all of the modern technological advancements and publications which assist us) be placed into our mouth--but we still must ingest it on our own!  Along these lines, HaRav Dessler, Z’tl, explains why the Torah is suddenly referred to as Shira in last week’s Parsha--especially when it comes to the Mitzvah of writing a Sefer Torah.  If we were to simply view Torah study as a requirement, an obligation, the right thing to do, or the like--then it is not a Shira, a song to us, and it will be difficult for it to be ‘written’--to have a Kiyum within us, and for the next generation.  We should reflect upon and appreciate the beauty and sweetness of Torah--the Shira of Torah!  For this is Torah study that is ‘written down’--that lasts and is everlasting!

 

 

Special Note Two:  Welcome to the last two days of the year--may we especially excel and stand out in our honesty, integrity and Kiddush Hashem as we enter and continue this practice into the New Year.  Ask yourself:  Will this be one of my primary Kabballos?

 

 

Special Note Three:  Remember--Tzedaka --today--please!

 

 

Special Note Four: Within the next month, we will be blessed with the opportunity to make an Eruv Tavshilin three times.  To assist in properly performing this wonderful Mitzvah, we provide by clicking here an Eruv Tavshilin Halacha Checklist, as reviewed by HaRav Yisroel Belsky, Shlita.

Please feel free to distribute further!

 

 

Special Note Five:  We provide by clicking here a wonderful Malchus Card, based upon an incredible Shiur given by HaRav Shlomo Brevda, Shlita.  The card is supplied on a ‘four pages per sheet’ format, so that you can print-out on harder stock, and distribute in Shul.    Let us excel this Rosh Hashanah in Kabbalas Ohl Malchus Shomayim! 

 

 

Special Note Six:  We provide a few brief notes below from the newly published Sefer Kovetz Halachos:  Yomim Noraim  by Rabbi Doniel Kleinman, Shlita, containing the pesokim of HaRav Shmuel Kamenetsky, Shlita :

 

a.  One must recite Birchas HaTorah before reciting Selichos. 

 

b.  It is better to recite less Selichos with Kavannah, than more without Kavannah--however one should always be careful to recite the 13 Middos together with the Tzibbur.

 

c.  We wash and take haircuts on Erev Rosh Hashana to demonstrate our faith that Hashem will perform a miracle for us and find us innocent on Rosh Hashana.  Even though one may take a haircut a day or two before Rosh Hashana, it is still a greater Kavod Yom Tov to take it Erev Rosh Hashana itself.

 

d.  One need not make Hataras Nedarim on Erev Rosh Hashana in the morning--one may make it the night before as well.

 

e.  The most important part of the Simanim is to Be Me’Orer BeTeshuvah when one recites the Yehi Ratzon.  As a matter of fact, even if one does not have the different species--he can still recite the Yehi Ratzon because the ikar is the Tefillah and Bakashas Rachamim.  Note:  Rabbi Kleinman adds in his notes that since the Simanim are all for a Siman Tov, the Mishna Berura emphasizes that all the more so should we be careful not to anger in these days--so that this too will be a Siman Tov for the coming year!

 

f.  There are different customs as to whether one recites the Yehi Ratzon with Hashem’s name (i.e., Hashem Elokeinu Vailokei Avoseinu) or not.  If one has made a Bracha on the food item, he should eat a little bit before reciting the Yehi Ratzon.  Otherwise, he should recite the Yehi Ratzon before partaking of the food.

 

g.  Egozim may include other types of nuts as well such as almonds and peanuts.  However, if a food is baked or cooked with any nut items, it is not an issue.  With respect to peanut butter, HaRav Kamenetsky, Shlita, distinguishes between creamy peanut butter (with no peanut pieces), which is permitted, and chunky peanut butter, which is not permitted. --

 

 h.  One can and should daven for Inyanim Ruchaniyim--fulfillment of his spiritual needs on all Yomim Tovim--including Rosh Hashana and every Shabbos as well. 

 

i.  As the Mishna Berurah states:  “When reciting Avinu Malkeinu the words Ro’ah Gezar should be recited together.”

 

j.  When hearing the Tekios DeMe’umad, one should not be leaning on anything.

 

 

Special Note Seven:  We continue with our focus on the Nineteenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Sim Shalom. 

 

A.  The Sefer Boruch SheAmar explains that the term Sim is the first word of this Bracha, in which we ask Hashem to provide Shalom, Tova, Bracha, Chain, Chesed and Rachamim upon us and all of Klal Yisroel.  The term Sim (place) is especially used, because unlike Tein(give) which may imply that it can be taken away, we instead ask--that the Bracha not only come but be placed--and remain with us!

 

B.  The Bracha of Sim Shalom follows directly after Birchas Kohanim and obviously mirrors its three Brachos--Yivarechecha, Ya’er, and Shalom.  Ya’er is represented in Sim Shalom by the words ‘Ohr Panecha’.  The Kuntres Avodas HaTefillah explains that we ask that Hashem shed His light upon us in a way that clearly shows His love for us to all. 

 

C.  We further recite that Hashem has given us a Toras Chaim.  What is the Toras Chaim?  The Kuntres Avodas HaTefillah brings from HaRav Pam, Z’tl, that it is a Torah that teaches us how to live!

 

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Special Note One:  Beautiful Messages From Readers:

 

A.  “In reference to your note that this is the last week of the year, make it a good one--Actually, the power of this week is awesome.  Since we know Hakkol Holech Achar Hachitum, if we behave properly on the last Yom Sheini--Monday of the year, it can be mechaper all of the Mondays of the year when we were remiss, the last Yom Shlishi--Tuesday has the power to be mechaper all the Tuesdays of the previous year.  (R’ Yonosan Eibeschutz and  Shelah HaKadosh.)  Interestingly enough, Hashem in His beneficence, gives us 2 chances to “replay the scene.”   The second is during the Aseres Yemai Teshuva, 10 days minus 3 days of Yom Tov (2 days Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur) leaves us with 7 days, where we can also achieve kapparah for the days of the week of the previous year where we did not behave correctly.”

 

B.  “In follow-up to your fundamental Diyuk in the Middah of Hakaras HaTov, I share the following insight, from my son:  My son asked why Rashi frames the underlying Middah driving the Mikrah Bikurim pronouncement in the negative, “She’Eincha Kfui Tova,” rather than in the positive, as, “She’Hincha Makir Tova”?  He suggested two possible answers to this Kasha: 1) A mortal being can never sufficiently be Makir Tov to Hashem, as we recite in “Nishmas,” “Ilui Finu Malei Shirah Ka’Yam, etc., Ein Anu Maspikim L’hodos Lecha Hashem, etc.”; or, 2) In the Tikun HaMidos arena, the primary effort is to reach the level of “She’Eincha Kfui Tova.”  Hakaras HaTov follows naturally thereafter.”

 

C.  “As of late Motza’ay Shabbos, there are over 14,000 signatures on behalf of Sholom Rubashkin!  Yasher Koach Klal Yisroel!  But we must, must remember that petitions and governments and whatever else – it’s all biydai Shomayim.  We must continue to daven on behalf of Mr. Rubashkin. Yes, we must do hishtadlus, but we CANNOT rely on petitions or anything of that sort.  Tefilla!”

 

 

Special Note Two:  We continue with points and pointers on the awesome period that we are in. 

 

A.  Remember--Tzedaka Today!--Please!

 

B.  There is a Pasuk in Tehillim (13:6) which serves as the climactic conclusion of the many Pesukim together that constitute the prayer and song of Hodu LaShem Kiru ViSh’mo recited in Shacharis every morning.  The Pasuk reads:  “V’Ani BeChasdecha Votachti, Yogail Libi Bi’Shuasecha, Ashira LaShem Ki Gomal Alai--As for me, I trust in Your kindness; my heart will rejoice in Your salvation, I will sing to Hashem, for He dealt kindly with me.”  The G’RA explains that this Pasuk consists of three parts--representing three different stages or circumstances in a person’s experience. Firstly, there is the complete and absolute recognition and awareness that “V’Ani BeChasdecha Votachti”--I know and affirm that whatever circumstance, event, predicament or situation I am in (You can save me with Your loving chesed.  Next, when I actually experience the salvation--such as on Yom Kippur, or perhaps upon realization that I have lived through the past year --then” Yogail Libi BiShuasecha--my heart rejoices over the Yeshua--with the recognition that it is You that have brought it about, that You have saved me.  Thirdly, and we have now reached the *crucial* conclusion--”Ashira LaShem Ki Gomal Alai--even after the Yeshua is complete, the Simcha is over, the medicine worked, the money came in to pay the bills, I have been granted another year of life... I will *not forget* the Yeshuos that You have graced me with, that which You have wrought on my behalf.  Accordingly, my davening--when I recite Modim, Nishmas, Nodeh Lecha (in Birkas HaMazon) is Kavannah-filled with my tribute and thanks for my health, my life, my possessions,...and all of the Yeshuos around and in between that I have experienced.  As if to get us started (in Nusach Ashkenaz)--the very next portion of Tefillah that we recite is the epitome of our thanks over the past--Mizmor LeSodah--which the Shulchan Aruch itself uniquely rules (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 51:9) should be recited “BeNegina--with melody”.  Let us focus on this essential Pasuk and remember daily these fundamental three stages in Avodas Hashem--and succeed at each one of them!

 

C.  Chazal teach that the *first* of six questions that a person will be asked when brought for judgment is “Did you conduct your activities with Emunah--was your give and take with integrity and honesty?”  Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, Shlita, points out that we are so fortunate to be given the questions we will be asked after 120 years--Hashem gives us the test and tells us to prepare the right answers!  We must certainly be sure to get the first answer on the test right!  Indeed, the Chofetz Chaim teaches that the last thing we Daven for in the Ne’ilah of Yom Kippur is to be saved from any aspect of Gezel, of misappropriation of monies, which could r’l seal a person’s fate in a way he would not want.  We can now look back to the King, whose conduct is to exemplify to the entire people how they are to behave.  The money part needs no explanation, because the lesson is beyond doubt.  Our actions in the financial area must be highly guarded; our goal is not the accumulation of wealth, but the integrity that we have in dealing with that which we do have.  In a little bit more than a month we hope to honestly and sincerely recite those very special words on Yom Kippur, affirming our honesty, our “NeKi Kapayim--our clean hands” in the money that we bring home, the money that we spend, and the money and possessions of others that passes through our hands.  Let us begin now to reflect upon where amends is necessary in this area, focusing on Kosher Money, at work, shopping, and in the home.  The Rav HaMachshir here is Hashem--who is also the Eid and the Dayan--the Witness and the Judge.  If we take the time now to put everything in order, our Din for the coming year will most certainly be a much easier, cleaner, and brighter one!

 

Additional Note:  As part of taking stock, one should not overlook the items or money he has borrowed or lent to others, who he owns a phone call or apology to, and, perhaps, that thing about him that he knows bothers people most, but that he has failed to correct because it is “him.”  If you realize that your mannerism or “custom” really does irk family, friends, or colleagues, maybe it should become part of the “Nachpesa Deracheinu”--the search of our ways so essential to steering us back to the proper path in life.

 

D.  The following lessons are excerpted from Elul: Inspirational Words and Tefillos for the Most Important Part of the Year by Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser, Shlita:

 

1.  “It is told that when the Chofetz Chaim heard thunder and saw lightning, he was overheard asking himself: ‘Vus Vil Der Tatta? Vus Vil Der Tatta?’--What does Father want, What does Father want--since our Chachomim have said that the only reason thunder was created was to straighten the crookedness of the heart, what crookedness did the Borei Olam wish to straighten out this time?  Likewise, Rabbi Goldwasser teaches, we cannot let these days simply slip by without absorbing its real and important message.  There is a great Avodah to be done during this time--introspection, reflection, and Teshuvah.  We are compelled to do some deeper thinking as to our purpose in this world.  Every day we should focus in on the question: ‘Vus Vil Der Tatta’?”

 ”

2.  “The Mashgiach of Yeshivas Bais Medrash Govoha of Lakewood, New Jersey, HaRav Nosson Wachtfogel, Z’tl, teaches that the main goal of the Yetzer Hora is to try to make a person forget his special quality--that he is a ben melech--the son of the King.  As a result of this degradation and resulting misperception, the person sinks to a low level and does things which are not fitting for his roya1 status.  Yosef HaTzaddik. at the time of the greatest test in his life, argued with the wife of Potifar”  ”I have a connection to my father and therefore, I cannot connect to what you are saying.”  Consequently, he emerged from the test unscathed.  This is the way that a person should conduct himself during Elul--raising himself to come close to the truth of “Ani LeDodi VeDodi Li.”  One must be aware of his inherent aristocracy, and his actions should reflect that awareness.  A chossid once asked the great tzaddik, Reb Shlomo of Karlin, Z’tl, ‘What is the greatest aveirah that a person could commit in his life?’  Reb Shlomo put his face into his hands, thought for a moment and then said, “The greatest aveirah a person could commit is to forget that he is the son if the King’!”

 

3.  Rabbi Goldwasser presents seven (7) moving Tefillos on Teshuva (in Hebrew) from various important sources--to help move you, and put you into a frame of mind for Teshuva.

 

5.  “The Gematria of Elul (67) is the same as the Gematria of binah, understanding--for when acquires sufficient understanding, he will be moved to do Teshuva.”

 

Hakhel Note:  With this awareness, we can perhaps suggest the answer to a question which may initially trouble many women.  Why is it that men have the benefit of the Shofar being blown every weekday morning in Elul to awaken them to the special times-while women davening at home have no such fearful reminder?  We have proposed that the Shofar is intended to instill the ‘binah’-the understanding in a person to recognize his position and situation and do Teshuvah. Women, on the other hand, are blessed with a ‘binah yeseira’-a special level of binah, which jump starts them without the actual need of the Tekias Shofar every morning.  Indeed, Binah’s sharing of the same gematria as Elul, may indicate to us that women are on a heightened level of awareness the entire year!  In a similar vein, the Yarmulke which men must wear to remind themselves to subjugate themselves to their Creator is not worn by women--because though their added level of binah--they are already Yarei Malka--they are a step ahead in the fear of their Creator.  The Shofar, then, is the great equalizer--men only have two more days to get the job done--let’s really succeed this year!

 

E:  As just noted, in two days it will be Erev Rosh Hashana.  There is so much to do, so much to think about, so much to look back upon--and to look forward to.  How do we put it all together?  Perhaps the first step is to ask Hashem for help--even for this!  When reciting the bracha of “Ata Chonen” every day, think of how much you need him to grant you the right insight, the right decisions, the right thoughts on self-improvement, the right goals…a tear (or complete sincerity) while thinking about the help that you need would appear very appropriate.  This is what we suggest you focus on in Shemone Esrei today and Sunday.  Remember, it’s your life--and no one cares, or should care, more about it--than you!

 

 

Special Note Three:  We continue with our focus on the Brachos of Shemone Esrei--reaching the milestone of the Nineteenth Bracha, Sim Shalom!

 

A.  HaRav Yonasan Eibeschutz, Z’tl, writes that Shalom is the “Kesher HaNechmad”, in which all of Klal Yisroel unites.  Accordingly, when one davens for Shalom, he is praying that there should no longer be any Machlokes, Kinah, or Sinah, but rather that we should unite with Ahavah Achvah and Reius.  In fact, HaRav Eibeschutz continues that one should have Kavannah here to fulfill the Mitzvah of the V’Ahavta L’Reiacha Komacha! The Sefer Olas Tamid specifically adds that we should daven to be free of war and of chayos (perhaps our contemporary form of this would be terrorist attacks). 

 

B.  In the Kuntres Avodas HaTefillah, HaRav Meir Birnbaum, Shlita, brings from the Rabbeinu Bachya and the Malbim that we should have Kavannah for the Shalom of our bodies, household, community, and all of our possessions--that no bad or pe’ga occurs to them. 

 

C.  As we have noted, the Bracha of Sim Shalom (in Nusach Ashkenaz) contains the word Shalom itself four times and the Shoresh of the word Bracha six times!  With this, we can well understand why every Siyum concludes with the bracha of Shalom--Hashem Oz LeAmo Yitein--Hashem Yivarech Es Amo BaShalom.  As Rabbeinu Yonah writes:  Shalom Hu Kollel LeChol Tov SheBaOlam V’Ein Tachlis Letoalto--Shalom includes all good of the world and there is no end to the benefit it provides.”  Accordingly, although we may be tired at the end of Shemone Esrei--just as at Neilah we lift our spirit to provide that essential last stage of Kavanna--so too here should we make sure to rise to the great occasion of asking Hashem to shower us with the bracha of Shalom in every circumstance--personally and behalf of all of Klal Yisroel!

 

 

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Hakhel Note One:  A Gadol once observed that people say: “I am going to ‘say’ or ‘recite’ Selichos.”  In fact, however, one is really going to be “Mevakeish Selichos--one is going to plead with Hashem for His mercy and forgiveness.”  Let us keep this in mind this Motza’ei Shabbos, and for the days of Selichos that follow. 

 

Hakhel Note Two:  A second observation on Selichos: 

 

Chazal (Bava Metzia 85A) relate that a calf being brought for shechita looked to Rebbe Yehuda HaNasi to help save him from his fate. Rather than empathize with the young animal, Rebbe Yehuda told him “Go, for with this you will fulfill your purpose in Creation.” Although Rebbe Yehuda was obviously factually correct in his statement to the animal, the Gemara there teaches that Rebbe Yehuda began to suffer yissurin--pain and affliction--for his failure to feel and display some sensitivity to, and mercy for, the creature. Indeed, the Gemara teaches, Rebbe Yehuda later showed true mercy to a chulda (a weasel), and his afflictions immediately ceased.

 

The Tomer Devorah (Chapter 3) writes that yissurin is a paradigm example of din--strict justice--for it represents what our lives would be like, and what we could be constantly subjected to, if we were taken to task for our iniquities.  What prevents this din from befalling us is Hashem’s mercy upon us.  His mercy upon us, in turn, is in direct proportion to our mercy upon His creations.  As the Tomer Devorah teaches, “One should not disgrace or unnecessarily kill any creation, for Hashem’s wisdom is infused into them all--inanimate, vegetable, animal and man.  It is for this reason that we are forbidden to shame food.  Similarly, one should not uproot any plant without reason or kill any living thing without purpose...and demonstrate mercy to the greatest extent possible.”

 

Contrary to the opinion of the unlearned, the recitation of Selichos is not only for the “big sinners.”  We--each and every one of us--need Hashem’s mercy very, very much, especially in times plagued by the din of previously unheard of tzaros, sickness and terror.  We must respond with inordinate and extraordinary measures of mercy.  Others may laugh at your avoiding pulling a leaf off a tree for no reason, or at using a plastic cup to pick up an ant in the kitchen, bringing it outside alive to its natural habitat.  You, however, know better, for you recite three times daily in Ashrei (Tehillim 145:9), “His mercies are on all His works.”  The word “all” is not to be taken or treated lightly.

 

It goes without saying that there are many opportunities to display sensitivity and mercy even before you get to the leaves and the ants.  Taking the time to lift someone’s spirits, caring about the well-being of an elderly person in your neighborhood, smiling at the grim-faced.  To test yourself, perhaps you can pick an hour during the day and work hard at especially applying your concern and mercy in the various situations that may come up during that time.  You may learn and grow from the experience.

 

So, this week as we ask for mercy, we should commit to practicing it--from not stepping on a bug, to helping arrange a Shidduch in the morning, to offering someone a ride in the afternoon, to giving time over the phone at night to someone who had a hard day, to not throwing your clothing across the room--remember, we are in an especially auspicious period for character growth.  May we excel at it!

 

HARAV GAMLIEL RABINOVITZ, SHLITA, asked that the sign provided by clicking here be placed in every single Shul.  It is a piece of Yesod Veshoresh Ha’avodah quoting the Zohar Hakodosh regarding the danger of speaking idle talk in Shul.  “We all know how Klal Yisroel is in great danger from our enemies, and on the sign there is a simple solution from the Chida on how to have our enemies destroyed”.  Please spread the word.

 

A PUBLIC ANNOUNCEMENT: The following was published in a major Jewish newspaper in the classified ads, and was sent to us by a reader: “Seeking forgiveness from woman in Boro Park , Eichlers, January, talking loudly on cell.  I want to apologize for embarrassing her. [the person then provides a contact number]” 

 

Hakhel Note One:  If you are the affected person and would like the phone number, please contact us.  

 

Hakhel Note Two:  Let us learn from this person’s unfortunate mistake and do our utmost not to embarrass others even under the most trying “or justifiable” circumstances.  

 

Hakhel Note Three:  The Chofetz Chaim points out that one cannot embarrass a person privately just between themselves--just as he can’t embarrass a person publicly. 

 

KASHRUS ALERT:  A reader sent us the following Kashrus alert, issued by the cRc: “Most of the Entenmann’s products sold in the United States bear an OU –D certification.  However, there has recently been some distribution of some Entenmann’s products in the United States that have a KDM certification from Mexico.  The KDM certification on Entenmann’s products is unauthorized.  Buyers should be diligent in checking each label of Entenmann’s products before making any purchase.”

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Special Note One:  We received the following beautiful thought from a reader, on this week’s Parsha:

 

“The Ben Ish Chai explains the Pasuk in Nitzavim: Ki Korov Eilecha Hadavar Meod B’ficha U’vilvov’cha La’asoso, as follows:  It is possible to fulfill all the mitzvos with your mouth (by studying them)--even those mitzvos that you cannot actually perform.  The Kli Chemda (Parshas Tazria) cites a Gemara in Menochos (110a): It is written: This is the law of an Olah.  The Gemara teaches:  Anyone that studies the laws of an Olah is considered as if he brought a Korban Olah.  What would be if a poor person would recite the portion dealing with the rich person’s Korbanos?  Would it be regarded as if he brought the Korban?  The answer may be gleaned from the fact that the Torah concludes the portion dealing with the rich woman’s Korbanos with the following Pasuk:  Zos Toras HaYoledes--This is the law of a woman who gives birth.  The Torah is informing us that the recital of this portion is sufficient for anyone, even for a poor woman.  The Chofetz Chaim cites the Gemora in Bava Metzia (114b) that the Amoraim were fluent in Seder Kodoshim in the same manner as Seder Moed, Nashim and Nezikin.  This is because Kodoshim was relevant to them since the learning about the Korbanos was regarded as if they actually brought a Korban.  Implicit in his words is that for some reason this was only true regarding Seder Kodoshim and not to Seder Zeroim or Taharos which also has many halachos that do not apply outside of Eretz Yisroel and after the destruction of the Beis Hamikdosh.  The Taz in his Sefer Divrei Dovid maintains that the concept applies to all mitzvos and one who studies the laws of Zeraim, it will be regarded as if he gave Terumos and Ma’asros to the Kohanim and Levi’im and it will be considered as if he gave all the presents to the poor people.  This is the explanation in Yaakov’s words to Esav “Im Lavan Garti,” which Chazal understand to mean that Yaakov kept all 613 mitzvos in Lavan’s house.  There were many mitzvos that he was not able to fulfill at that time; it is evident that the studying of these mitzvos are regarded as if he fulfilled them all!”

 

 

Special Note Two:  We continue with our focus on the Eighteenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Hoda’

ah: 

 

A.  As a reader pointed out, one of the descriptions of Hashem in the Bracha is HaTov.  With this, we express that everything Hashem does is absolute good.  Hakhel Note:  We actually use the term HaTov again at the end of the Bracha itself--HaTov Shimcha. 

 

B.  We continue in the Bracha, by reciting that because we recognize all the goodness and wonders that Hashem performs on our behalf, we will bless and uplift His name Tomid and LeOlam VaEd.  Tomid indicates constancy, throughout the day.  With LeOlam VaEd, we exclaim that not only do we thank you daily now--but that these daily thanks will continue forever and ever! 

 

C.  We then exclaim that we will praise Hashem’s name B’Emes.  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, explains that B’Emes mean B’Kavannah.  If we are going to express our thanks, it must be with meaning, thought, and feeling--otherwise it is simply not thanks. 

 

D.  Towards the end of the Bracha, we recite-- Yeshuaseinu Ve’Ezraseinu Selah.  We note that the terms Yeshua and Ezra mirror the terms in the first Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Ozer U’Moshia.  The difference between Yeshua and Ezra is that by Yeshua we mean that Hashem saves us from c’v a Tzara.  By Ezra we mean that Hashem helps us in anything and everything that we do.  The word Selah teaches that Hashem is our Savior and Helper every moment and forever.

 

E.  Finally, we conclude the Bracha with the phrase U’Lecha Na’eh LeHodos.  We are not expressing our thanks simply because we have to, or because it is right--as one would have to say thank you to his host or benefactor--but because it really feels nice and beautiful to do so.  It gives us Hana’ah--we feel good about--expressing our thanks and recognition of the gifts, kindnesses, and eternity that Hashem bestows upon us!

 

 

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

 

1.         The Chasam Sofer was once asked how Avraham Avinu could have kept Shabbos, if the Halacha is that an Akum SheShavas is chayav misa.  Do you have an answer to this question?

 

2.         As this is the last Shabbos of the year, it is certainly a time to be especially careful with our Kedushas Shabbos--zemiros, the way we speak, our care with muktza matters, looking up those Shabbos halachos we were unsure of and that we have meant to look up for a long time… and any Inyanei Shabbos that we know could use our personal tweaking.

 

3.         HaRav Chaim Kanievski, Shlita, was asked the following question:  If it is forbidden to say Vidui on Shabbos, how can one do Teshuva--does he have to wait until after Shabbos to do Teshuva?  HaRav Kanievski responded that one should accept the other aspects of Teshuva upon himself--i.e., feeling sorry for what he has done, and accepting upon oneself not do the aveira again, and that the Vidui need not be done then.  The only reason that one does not recite Vidui on Shabbos, he added, is because we don’t generally recite personal Tefillos on Shabbos, and Vidui would be similar to a personal Tefilla.

 

4.         The following Halachos are presented in the essential work The 39 Melachos by Rabbi Dovid Ribiat, Shlita.  If you have particular questions as to application of the Halacha, please consult your Rav or Posek:

 

a.  One must be especially careful not to bite any loose skin on his lips or gums (even if its presence is disturbing to you) because of the Melacha of Gozez.  Similarly, pulling or rubbing off loose skin from between fingers or toes is forbidden.

 

b.  A Band-Aid has a small cloth pad in its center which is meant to cover the wound area.  This cloth may not be wetted on Shabbos, just as any cloth may not be soaked on Shabbos because of the Melacha of Melabein.

 

c.  If a drink spilled on a tablecloth, one may gently place napkins over the wet area to absorb the surface liquid.  However, one may not press a dry cloth or paper napkin against the wet area to draw out the moisture, because this is an act of Sechita.

 

d.  One may not suck his bleeding gums or bleeding wound (inside the mouth--if bleeding outside the mouth, one may not ingest the blood even on a weekday).  One may not use a toothpick on his teeth (or near his gums) if he knows that his gums are sensitive and will bleed easily when scraped or irritated.  Similarly, one may not scratch sensitive skin if he knows that it will probably cause bleeding.

 

 

Special Note Four:  Today is the Yahrzeit of the Chofetz Chaim, Z’tl.  In his honor, we present a few of his teachings.  May he be a Meilitz Yosher for each and every member of Bais Yisroel, whom he loved/loves so dearly:

 

A.  Everyone seeks an Eis Ratzon in which to daven.  Chazal teach that whenever the Tzibur davens together it is an Eis Ratzon.  One must utilize the opportunity with Kavannah-filled prayers!

 

B.  Throughout the Sefer Chofetz Chaim, we learn that the gravity of the Aveirah of Lashon Hara is consonant with the person committing it, and the person against whom the Lashon Hara is spoken.

 

C.  If one commits not to speak Lashon Hara, he will be rewarded even if he faced no challenges--just as a watchman or guard gets paid even if there are no attempted robberies.

 

D.  When one studies the laws of Lashon Hara, he also(!) fulfills the Mitzvas Asei of Zachor Es Asher Asah Hashem Elokecha L’Miriam BaDerech B’Tzeisichem M’Mitzrayim.

 

E.  Mi HaIsh HaChofetz Chaim refers to life in Olam Habba. Oheiv Yomim Liros Tov refers to Olam Hazeh.  The answer is Netzor Lishoncha Meirah….  The Chofetz Chaim comments “U’Segulah Zu Hi Tovah MiKol HaSegulos SheMichapsin Anashim L’Hatzlacha--and this Segulah is greater than any other Segulah that people could utilize for success.”

 

F.  When one consistently controls his power of speech, so that his mouth fulfills the Ratzon Hashem--then “BeVaday Zoche BaZeh LeChol HaDoros HaBaim Acharav--one surely brings merit [not only to himself] but also to all generations that come after him.” 

 

G.  Whenever someone saves his fellow Jew from sin, it is as if he is saving the son of the king from drowning in the river.  How the king appreciates it--and how the king will express his appreciation!

 

H.  For as long as a person is alive, the ikar tikun for his sins to be forgiven is through Torah and Chesed, as the Pasuk says in Mishlei BeChesed V’Emes Yechupar Avon.  If a child wants to bring merit to his parent at any time, the Ikar would be to do Torah and Chesed as well!

 

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Special Note One:  One week from today is Rosh Hashana.  This is the last week of the year.  Let us do our utmost to make it a great one!

 

 

Special Note Two:  Remember Tzedaka Today!--and every day--for the rest of the year (Bli Neder!).  Instead of counting down the days--make them count up!

 

 

Special Note Three:  We continue with our focus on the Eighteenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Modim Anachnu Lach:

 

A.  We especially thank Hashem for “Ahl Chayeinu HaMesurim BeYadecha.”  We should think as we recite these words that we are not only thanking Hashem for granting us life minute after minute, but also for every aspect of our bodies and souls within us.  We can quickly think up from the bottom of our feet to the top of our head--and recognize how much is working--that we must admit would not be functioning--but for Hashem’s empowerment and graciousness--oh we have so much to be thankful for.

 

B.  We note that the entire Bracha is in the plural form (as is the rest of Shemone Esrei).  We do not only thank Hashem for ourselves personally, but also for our immediate family, broader family, friends, community, and all of Klal Yisroel. 

 

C.  Ve’Ahl Nifleosecha” refers to the Niflaos HaBorei which we experience as’teva’--the sun shines, the car starts, gravity is keeping things (including me) on the ground, I can speak to (and even simultaneously see) someone 6,000 miles away by pressing a few buttons on a small object. You can think and thank for different niflaos all the time!

 

D.  There are two opinions as to what the term “Erev VaVoker VeTzaharaim” applies to--some say that it refers to the different kind of miracles, wonders, and goodnesses that happen at different times of the day--evening, morning and afternoon..  Others learn that the phrase refers to the times that we praise Hashem--i.e., our three Tefillos.  If you are unsure--you can certainly have both of the marvelous Kavannos!

 

 

Special Note Four:  Please take the following test:

 

Question 1:  You press the button on the elevator for the door to close and hit “3”.  The elevator doors close, but the elevator does not move.  You do it again, with the same result.  The reason is…

 

A.  The elevator doors do not stick properly.

 

B.  You are not pushing the buttons hard enough.

 

C.  The building owner did not pay his electricity bill.

 

D.  Hashem does not want the elevator to move for you at this time.

 

Question 2:  You go to the store especially to buy a container of milk--and there is none left.  Now, you do not know how you or others will eat their cereal or drink their coffee.  The reason is…

 

A.  The truck driver did not deliver enough cases.

 

B.  The cows did not produce enough milk in the last few weeks.

 

C.  It is your tough luck.

 

D.  It is a Nisayon for you to test your patience, and to see if you will get angry and unnerved.

 

Question 3:  You thought you charged your cell phone all night, but it still won’t turn on.  The reason is…

           

            A.  All these phones are especially designed to break.

           

            B.  Your friend gave you a used battery.

 

            C.  It’s the Japanese.

 

            D.  Hashem is reminding you to make a cell phone Takanah and to participate in the Day to

                 Disconnect.

 

Question 4:  You are selected over a group of other people for a certain position, or a certain project.  The reason is…

 

            A.  It works by seniority.

 

            B.  You called the right people, and used your ‘protektzia’ wisely.

 

            C.  You have always worked the hardest, and it is now paying off.

 

            D.  Your Parnassah was determined on Rosh Hashana for the year--and now is the time for you to make some more money.

 

Question 5: Your knee has hurt the last few days.  You woke up today and it stopped hurting as much.  The reason is…

 

            A.  The Tylenol finally built up in your system to quash the pain.

 

            B.  The stretching exercises that your friend taught you have worked.

 

            C.  You are not as old as you thought you were.

 

D.  Every pain, in every increment, and in every location is determined by Hashem who is Hatzur   Tamim Pa’aloh.

 

Question 6:  You thought of your own P’shat in a Pasuk today, and you told it to a few friends who liked it as well.  The reason is…

 

            A.  You are bright, and know how to ‘use your head’.

 

            B.  You finally got enough sleep.

 

            C.  You must be a gilgul of a great person.

 

            D. Ki Hashem Yitein Chachma--Hashem gives you wisdom.

 

Question 7:  You have a child who is often difficult or impossible to deal with.  He half listens when you ask him to do something, spends a lot of money and does not seem to realize it, and based upon what he knows in his homework is ‘wasting your money’ in tuition as well.  The reason is…

 

            A.  It is some kind of family ‘bad gene’.

 

            B.  He was given an ayin hara when he was young, even though you don’t really believe in ayin

                  haras.

 

            C.  This helps you balance out your stress--some at work and some at home.

 

            D.  Hashem wants to see if you can perform Chesed constantly, consistently, and in very

                  aggravating situations.  As time passes, you can get better and better!

 

Question 8:  You received a reimbursement check in the mail from your insurance company from an overpayment that you made in the amount of $485.16.  The reason is…

 

A.  The insurances company’s computers are programmed to catch mistakes.

 

B.  Your wife pays the bills and she was probably talking on the phone when she made out the check.

.

            C.  You also got your paycheck today--when it rains, it pours.

 

D.  Hashem is giving you money to pay your debit balance at the supermarket, and now you even have a small credit--so now you don’t owe them money, and the supermarket owner receives what he needs as well.

 

Question 9:  You woke up by yourself at 6:10AM --the usual time that you arise--even though your alarm clock did not go off.  The reason is…

 

            A.  You have programmed your body to arise at this moment every day.  Homeostasis, you know.

 

            B.  The garbage truck probably passed by and made a lot of noise.

           

            C.  You must have just ended a dream that you don’t remember.

 

D. You forgot to set the alarm, and Hashem gently stroked you so that you would not be late for Shul, so that you could get your child off to Yeshiva on time, or so that you could keep to your daily schedule.

 

Question 10:  Today, an otherwise nice person tells you “I haven’t seen you in a while--wow, you look older, um, um, but as they say you’re not getting older you’re getting better, um.”   The reason is:

 

A.  People are so quick to talk with their mouths, saying everything that comes into their minds. They have been raised poorly.

 

B.  You have been working too hard and look too stressed out--but you can change that.

 

C.  He corrected himself-- you are not getting older, you are just getting better.

 

D.  Hashem it telling you that it is a week before Rosh Hashana, and B’EH you will be a year older in the coming year.  It is a privilege to be a year older, but also a real responsibility to reach your potential. You must get older--and better!

 

A brief explanation of the Test:

 

In our Rosh Hashana Tefillos, we recite that Rosh Hashana is a Yom Teruah Mikrah Kodesh Zecher L’Yetzias Mitzrayim.  At a recent Shiur, HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, posed a straightforward but fundamental question:  We understand how the Shalosh Regalim are rooted in Yetzias Mitzrayim.  What, however, does Rosh Hashana have to do with Yetzias Mitzrayim--how is a Zecher L’Yetzias Mitzrayim?!  HaRav Salomon explained that, in truth, our experience at the Seder and over Pesach is supposed to leave a great and lasting impression upon us--to effect a change in our attitude.  However, after the Seder, although one may feel uplifted, he does not really know what effect, what mark, the experience has made on his life.  It is on Rosh Hashana  that the mark will be felt.  The degree, the extent to which one feels that Hashem is omnipotent, and knows and sees all of one’s thoughts, words, and deeds, is the extent to which one has internalized the Yesodos HaEmunah that Yetzias Mitzrayim represents.  Pesach is a time when we learn about Hashem’s power, Sechar V’Onesh and Hashgacha Pratis.  Rosh Hashana is a time when we live our belief.  We must tremble in awe and be overjoyed (Gilu BiReAdda) at the realization of the Malchus of the day.  This is an Ikar of Living our Emunah!  We must then take Hashem’s Power and Presence with us every single day and in every single situation.   Incredibly, HaRav Salomon brought that HaRav Chaim Brisker, Z’tl, taught that if a person does not learn parts of the Torah he is not an apikores--but if he does not know the Thirteen Ikarim--the Thirteen Ani Ma’amins, then he is!  It is therefore of utmost importance that we review and understand the Thirteen Ikarim--and put them into practice in our daily life.  The extent of our awe and joy over Hashem’s Malchus on Rosh Hashana is indeed a direct result and outcome of the lessons of Yetzias Mitzrayim. This is what we take with us and demonstrate on Rosh Hashana--and this is what we must take with us in the coming year!

 

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Special Note One:  We continue with points and pointers relating to the Sublime Period we are in:

 

A.  We would like to remind everyone that non-coincidently, this week’s Parsha, Parshas Nitzavim, contains the Parshas HaTeshuva (Devorim 30:1-10).  Many Siddurim contain the Parshas HaTeshuva together with a short Tefillah afterwards, and it is usually found immediately after the Shacharis prayers.  It would most certainly be appropriate to recite the Parshas HaTeshuva and the subsequent Tefillah over the next three days…leading into Shabbos…and then into Rosh Hashana.  We especially note that much of Teshuva has to do with thought and speech.  By reciting the Parsha relating to Teshuva contained in the Torah itself, and then davening to Hashem for help in this regard, you have certainly taking important strides--in both thought and speech!

 

B.  HaRav Chaim Freidlander, Z’tl, in Sifsei Chaim (Moadim 1), writes that Noach lived through three different periods in his life--first in the world before the flood, then in the Teiva, and finally in the postdiluvian New World.  In a remarkable sense, each and every one of us is like Noach. We experience three different times each and every year. During the year we may have committed misdeeds which must be rectified (like the world before the flood), followed by the period of Elul and the Aseres Yemei Teshuva--being the time in the Teiva to rectify them, and the new post-Teshuva world open for us to utilize to its utmost.  It is our role now to use our time in the Teiva to its utmost!

 

C.  We provide two great teachings from the Sefer Orchos Chaim of the Rosh--one in Bain Adom L’Makom, and the other in Bain Adom L’Chaveiro. Please read, review, and determione how you can apply them in your daily life:

 

1.  Do not look to somebody who is smaller than you in his Avodas Hashem or in his Yiras Hashem, but rather to one who is greater than you.

 

2.  Do not minimize the significance of even one enemy.

   

D.  An extremely important Middah to emphasize and develop over the coming month (today is exactly 30 days to Shemini Atzeres!) is the Middah of HaKaras HaTov.  Chazal teach that both Adam HaRishon, and the Bnei Yisroel at the Cheit HaEigel, were Kofui Tov--deniers of good.  One would expect that HaKaras HaTov and Kofui Tov are exact opposites…with one recognizing the good done to him and affirmatively expressing that recognition, and the second person expressly rejecting and even complaining about the act or deed done for him or on his behalf.  However, Rashi (ibid.) teaches us otherwise.  Rashi writes that one who simply does not recognize and appreciate the good that was done to him or on his behalf is *already* a Kofui Tov.  He doesn’t have to actually express his disdain of, or rejection, of the deed--he simply can be silent or unthinking about it, and already thereby falls into the terrible abyss of being a Kafui Tov.  If we want to begin to truly appreciate everything that Hashem does for us, we have to begin to appreciate what everyone else does for us as well, and not act as a Kofui Tov--someone who does not think or care about what others do for him and from which he benefits.  At the end of each day, one can look back and think about whether he was a thinking and thanking “Makir Tov” at work and at home, or an unthinking and unthanking “Kofui Tov”.  There does not seem to be much middle ground.  The choice is yours!

 

E.  Chazal teach:  “Al Tehi Rasha Lefnei Atzmecha--do not view yourself as a Rasha.”  This means that a person should not get down upon himself, or put himself down, and decide that “this is the way it is” or “this is the way I am.”  Quite the contrary, when a person realizes his thoughts, words, or actions are deficient in a particular area, he should view this realization or awareness as unique and personalized “Hashgacha Pratis”--a message from Hashem to take action and do something about that particular item or matter.  Hashem cares about you and wants you to succeed in all aspects of your life…you should care no less for yourself! 

 

F.  In fact and in deed, there are others who care about you as well.  One of the other teachings of the Rosh (not mentioned above) is that “one should be happy when hearing words of Mussar, as if having found a great treasure.”  HaRav Aharon Kotler, Z’tl, explains this passage with the following analogy:  A young soldier is suddenly surrounded by the enemy.  Out of nowhere, a senior officer appears and shows the soldier exactly how he can extricate himself from the situation--and even defeat the enemy.  Our Rabbanim, our Maggidei Shiur, our teachers are our senior officers who are extending a life-line to us with their guidance and teachings.  Should we not rejoice with, and should we not implement, their heartfelt words of direction and assistance!  Listen carefully and closely--and seriously ponder and think about-- how to thrive and grow from their words.

 

G.  We are happy to advise that the Chofetz Chaim, in his Sefer Chovas HaShemirah (Chapter 8) writes that if one is careful with Shemiras HaLashon, then “bevadai--with certainty”--in this zechus, in this special merit, Hashem will forgive even his Avos for their sins.  One should pay real and practical attention to these words as he rededicates himself to Shemiras HaLashon, in order to bring merit not only to himself, but to his Avos as well!

 

Hakhel Note:  We remind our readers of an extremely important point that we have referenced in the past.  That is, if one realizes that he has accepted Lashon Hara, the Chofetz Chaim advises that he immediately void this acceptance, and find a Limud Zechus for the person who was spoken about.  In this way, he will have saved himself (and the person who related the Lashon Hara to him) of the Bein Adam LeChaveiro violation of Lashon Hara--for the Lashon Hara was not ultimately accepted, and , in fact, a zechus was found for the person spoken against.  The Teshuva process would then only be on a Bein Adom LaMakom Level:  1. Charata--being sorry over having originally accepted the words.  2.  Kabbalah--accepting not to let this happen again.  3. Viduy--expressing to Hashem that what you had originally done was improper.  Most certainly the more one learns about the Halachos and Hashkofos of Lashon Hara, the more it will serve as a zechus for him--and his ancestors!

 

H.  The Mishna in Rosh Hashanah (1:2) teaches us how Rosh Hashanah is different than the other three times of the year (Pesach, Shavuous, and Sukkos) during which we are also judged.  Rosh Hashanah, the Mishna teaches, is different because “Kol Baei Olam Ovrin Lefanav--all who come into the world pass are judged individually, as they pass before Hashem as if they are walking in a single file.”  The Mishna brings a Pasuk in Tehillim (33:15) to explain how Hashem could judge the billions mixed together all over the world as unique, individual creatures.  The Pasuk says:  “HaYotzeir Yachad Lebam HaMeivin El Kol Ma’aseihem--because Hashem formed every aspect of every being, he can fully comprehend every single individual’s actions, words, and thoughts.”  In fact, the tenth Ani Ma’amin also quotes this very same Pasuk and reads as follows: (Artscroll translation)  “I believe with complete faith that the Creator, Blessed is His Name, know all the deeds of human beings and their thoughts, as it says, “HaYotzeir Yachad Lebam….”  This is the only Pasuk quoted in any of the Ani Ma’amins.

 

We now would like to share with you a stunning thought, which can provide a tremendous source of guidance, and special zechuyos, for the time period that we are in.  Let us go to Tehillim Chapter 33, and review the Pesukim which immediately follow this telling Pasuk quoted both in the Mishna in Rosh Hashanah and in the tenth Ani Ma’amins.  After this Pasuk, Dovid HaMelech continues by teaching us what the upshot, what the consequence, is of Hashem’s having created us and comprehending all of our deeds.  Once again, we provide the Artscroll translation (may they be blessed for all they have done for K’lal Yisroel):  “A king is not saved by a great army, nor is a hero rescued by great strength; sham is the horse for salvation; despite its great strength it provides no escape.  Behold the eyes of Hashem are on those *who fear Him*, upon those *who await His kindness*, to rescue their soul from death, and to sustain them in famine.  Our soul longed for Hashem--our hope and our shield is He.  For in Him will our hearts be glad, for in His Holy Name we trusted.  May Your kindness Hashem be upon us, just as we awaited You.”

 

With these revealing words, Dovid Hamelech paves a pathway for us to follow in our Avodas Hashem.  Now that we know that Hashem knows every single thing about us--What is it that Hashem really would like to see?  As highlighted above, Hashem looks to those who fear Him, who are awed by His all-knowing, all-encompassing, and infinite greatness and who look to Hashem for His closeness, for His kindness.  Surely, if we would fear a lion, a bear, a terrorist, a car that is out-of-control, we should be in absolute and unfettered awe of the Creator of all creatures and all circumstances and events!  When we realize Hashem’s omnipotence, we also realize that everything we have is wholly the result of His kindness, as we partake of the Royal Table in various ways throughout the day.  Throughout the day we should express our needs to Hashem, and thank Him for what we realize he has given us and continues to give us.  As we look at our hopes for the coming year, we must look back at the highlighted Pasuk, and realize how powerful its teaching really is, and how crucial it is in our life.  If we can remind ourselves of this Pasuk daily, we can go far in avoiding the strictness of Din, and bring Hashem’s kindness upon us…just as we awaited it!

 

  I.  Remember--Tzedaka Today!  As we look for additional zechusim, let us remember Yad Eliezer’s matching program where and Tzedaka dollars B’EH earn us more! Donate at www.yadeliezer.org

 

 

Special Note Two:  We continue with our focus on the Eighteenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Hoda’ah:

 

A.  The Sefer Seder HaYom beautifully points out that not only does Hashem save us from Tzara V’Tzukah, and not only does He provide Nissim V’Nefla’os on our behalf (the multitude of which we do not even know about)--but all of this is done within the context of the Galus that we are in--surrounded by enemies of all shapes and sizes--who or which may even be in the diverse forms of friendly world leaders on the one hand, and technological advancements aimed at our youth on the other.  Yet, we miraculously continue to thrive as Torah Jews, because Hashem saves us from their schemes, plans and designs.  The Seder HaYom writes that this in fact is why the Bracha of Hoda’ah is placed immediately after the Bracha of Avodah--for although we were deserving of the Mikdash to be destroyed and for us to be driven into this exile--Hashem has not forsaken us or been repulsed by us--but rather His Chesed continues to be with us, and He longs for the day when He can fulfill His Bris with us--and have full Nachas from His children.  

 

B.  It is certainly no coincidence (as it never is) that the only two critical Brachos in which we bow to Hashem are Avos and Hoda’ah, at the beginning and end of the Bracha.  One should consult with his Rav as to how the manner of one’s bowing when reciting Modim Anachnu Lach at the beginning of the Bracha differs from the bowing at Baruch Attah Hashem at the end of the Bracha.  The Kuntres Avodas HaTefillah writes that our bowing is meant to indicate our humility at the realization that we are unworthy of all the gifts that Hashem gives us, and that in truth we can never ever thank Him enough.  As one bows, one should accept upon himself Hashem’s Mastery and Kingship, as a subject bows before his king.  See the Sefer Yesod V’Shoresh HaAvodah for further detail. 

 

C.  The Bracha continues with the words Nodeh Lecha U’Nesaper Tehillasecha--we thank You and we relate Your praises.  We should recognize that there are instances in which we may not go into detail when thanking Hashem--but there are other instances in which our thanks and appreciation should be expressed in detail (Nesaper--like a story).  With the words of Nodeh and Nesaper, we recognize that we must think about and express our Hoda’ah to Hashem both quantitatively and qualitatively!

 

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Special Note One:  We provide the following points and pointers for the last Ten Days of the Year:

 

A.  It is said in the name of a great Rav:  “One should view the entire world as being in a freezer--everyone around seems to be extremely cold, in fact frozen and perhaps even numbed, to that which is truly meaningful and important.  One can warm himself up to the Real World through the study of Sifrei Mussar.” 

 

B.  As noted last week, the Chofetz Chaim relates that our powers of sight, hearing, and speech, are not bodily strengths or capabilities, but instead truly emanate from our souls.  Let us make sure that we review our acts and deeds especially with respect to these three powers--and literally come to our senses!

 

C.  There is a famous parable of the Dubno Maggid that relates to how one can tell the difference between a regular worker in a factory and the son of the owner who also works in the very same department.  The regular worker is sure to clock in at 9:00, clock in and out for lunch, and clock out at 5:00.  He then goes home to take care of his real business there.  The son of the owner, however, will arrive early, work through lunch, and won’t even realize that it is 5:00PM--after all, it is his father’s business.  We will soon ask Hashem to treat us not only as Malkeinu but also as Avinu Malkeinu--and we well know that we may not be able to make it based upon Malkeinu alone.  If we want Hashem to treat us like His sons--should we not act like a good son acts towards his father ?  Do we arrive at davening or to a shiur exactly on time or a little bit late--or a little bit early, without looking at the clock too much in between?  What is our real business--Are we yotzei a Mitzvah--or do we appreciate and even enjoy its sweetness?  Do we feel our Father’s love throughout the day by recognizing His Presence and embrace?  Do we treat our friends and acquaintances the way our Father would expect that His sons will treat each other?  If our Father was to ask us if there is anything that we would not do for Him--how would we respond?  Let us take the time to take the Yiddish expressions which may have fallen out of contemporary practice “Tatteh Liber” and “Tatteh in Himmel”--and try to bring them back into our daily thoughts and vocabulary!

 

D.  The following is excerpted from a truly remarkable book entitled Reb Chatzkel, on the life of Rabbi Yechezkel Levenstein, Z’tl, by Rabbi Yitzchak Kasnett (Artscroll, 2007).  This book is highly recommended:  “The Chofetz Chaim told several relatives and students that he had a secret to tell them that would reveal a deep and fundamental concept of Torah.  However, he would only disclose it at the end of the “third watch” of the night, just before dawn, and that they should prepare themselves to be present.  The Chofetz Chaim’s intent in meeting at that hour was his desire that his words should make the greatest possible impression upon his listeners.  Anticipating that their great Rebbe would reveal secrets of the future Redemption, all were gathered and ready. The Chofetz Chaim began by reciting the bracha of  “Elokai Neshamah...”in its entirety, emphasizing the word LeHachazirah — to return [my soul] to me in the future to come.  The Chofetz Chaim explained that the mapik (dot) in the last hey of the word LeHachazirah indicates that the very same soul taken from a person at the time of his death is returned to him when the dead are brought back to life.  If the soul was befouled by sin during the person’s lifetime, it will be returned to him befouled and sullied with spiritual impurities; exactly as it was taken, it will be returned.  He further explained that the bond of closeness one establishes with Hashem in this world remains forever, as does the distance from Hashem one creates.  This was the great secret the Chofetz Chaim wished to reveal just before dawn that day, when he finished, all of those present said Shema Yisroel with great intensity.”

 

E.  As we hear the order of Tekiah, Shevarim, Teruah, Tekiah, we realize that the first sound may represent us in our current state--solid--believing that we are doing pretty well as a Shomer Torah U’Mitzvos in a spoiled, degenerate and perhaps even decadent environment and world--and that our behavior is really a Tekiah.  However, upon a little thought, reflection and analysis represented by the Teshuva process--we arrive at Shevarim, we break ourselves down a little bit and realize that there really is something to correct.  Once we have opened up the thought process enough, we get to Teruah, in which we thoroughly break through, shattering our self-contained aggrandizements and illusions--and realize that much work is to be done for us to reach our true and great potential.  If we go through the process of Tekiah, Shevarim, Teruah--then we will be able to complete it with another Tekiah--a new and different Tekiah of advancement in Avodas Hashem.  If one repeats the process enough--he can complete it in its entirety-- resulting in a Tekiah Gedolah!

 

F.  Remember--Tzedaka Today!  As the year draws to a close, we can go only right by using our money, which otherwise presents us with so many Nisyonos through the course of the year, in a way our Father would like us to--helping his other sons--our brothers! 

 

 

Special Note Two:  We continue with our focus on the Eighteenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Hoda’ah. 

 

A.  From a reader, as taught by Rabbi Pinches Friedman, Shlita:  “It may be difficult to have Kavannah for all 100 brachos a day.  Perhaps we can take solace from the words of the Da’as Zekainim MiBa’alei HaTosfos (Parshas Eikev), who teach that the Chachomim established saying Modim three times a day, to correspond with the 100 Brachos, and by saying Modim, which has the numerical value of 100, with proper concentration, it is considered as if we said all 100 Brachos with proper concentration.”  Hakhel Note:  Let us be guided by the words of the Da’as Zekainim!

 

B.  As noted last week, the Bracha of Retzei is the Bracha of Avodah--our great desire to return to the complete service of the Bais HaMikdash.  After we conclude this Bracha, we immediately bow down to the words of Modim Anachnu Lach.  HaRav Yosef B. Soloveitchik, Z’tl, (Boston; RIETS) explains that our bowing down as we begin Modim is an immediate reaction to our heightened awareness of the Avodah of the Bais HaMikdash that we seek--as we now sense ourselves awed and as if in the Bais HaMikdash--concomitantly humbled and spiritually elevated by the moment! Hakhel Note:  Feel the sublimity each and every time--and it will be much easier when the actual moment arrives!

 

C.  It is extremely important to note that the first thing that we thank Hashem for in Modim--even before thanking Him for our life every moment (i.e., “Al Chayeinu HaMesurim BeYadcha”) is Sho’atah Hu Hashem (Yud-Key-Vuv-Key--the Name of Mercy), Elokeinu (our G-d--Who watches over us with Hashgacha Pratis),  V’Elokei Avoseinu (our relationship goes back thousands of years--through Avrohom Avinu!), LeOlam VaEd (not only has this been the case for thousands of years, and is the case now--but it will be so forever and ever).  No one  else can come anywhere near making these claims--this is a tremendous amount to be thankful for--and we should not let these precious diamond-studded words pass us by without appreciating their monumental meaning!

 

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Special Note One:  In last week’s Parsha, we are taught that the punishments found in the Tochacha come as a result of not serving Hashem “B’simcha U’VeTuv Levav--in joy and with a good heart.”  Because of its powerful and permanent lesson, we repeat a fascinating account brought in the Sefer Chayim Shel...about HaRav Boruch Ber Lebowitz, Z’tl.  Once while on a visit to the United States to raise funds for his Yeshiva, some ba’alei batim honored him by renting for him a private apartment in which he could quietly learn and rest when not raising funds.  The ba’alei batim did not realize, however, that the windows of the apartment faced directly towards a statue/idol outside of a church.  This caused HaRav Boruch Ber much consternation, but he would never think of reporting his displeasure to the ba’alei batim who were kind enough to supply him with the dwelling.  He then came upon the following story with HaRav Nosson Adler, Z’tl, which changed HaRav Boruch Ber’s outlook forever.  HaRav Adler was asked by emergency messenger to try to help the Jewish community in another area of Germany , which was being threatened by the local poritz with expulsion and everything that goes with it.  The community felt that the great stature of HaRav Adler could reverse the designs of the lord, and they begged HaRav Adler to come hurriedly and save them.  Although it was the middle of winter, and snow and ice blanketed the ground, HaRav Adler agreed, and was accompanied by his great talmid, the Chasam Sofer. They hired a non-Jewish wagon driver, Johann, to get them there as soon as possible.  The night was frigid and the snow was deep. Suddenly, the wagon got stuck in a ditch of ice, and the two horses drawing it were powerless to extricate the wagon.  HaRav Adler gave Johann a considerable sum, and convinced him to go to ride one of the horses to the closest possible city--and to hire another two horses, with the hope that the four horses together could extricate the wagon. Three hours later, with the great Rabbonim sitting in the frigid wagon, Johann returned with one horse--and one powerfully-looking big ox.  “This should really do it”, he exclaimed--”we should have enough power now to get us out of the ditch”.  HaRav Nosson, upon seeing the huge ox, jumped out of the wagon and began to dance in the snow in exuberance.  “Rebbe--why are you reacting like this?!  the Chasam Sofer asked.  HaRav Nosson responded:  “I never in my wildest dreams thought I would ever be able to fulfill the Mitzvah of “LoSachrosh Beshor U’VaChamor Yachdov --of not coupling two species of animals together to work”.  Now, because I have been moser nefesh to help save my poor brothers from expulsion, Hashem has been mezakeh me with a special gift--a special Mitzvah!”  “Is this not a great cause for joy!”  The Chasam Sofer had certainly learned a life-long lesson. He approached Johann, gave him even more money and told him that Jewish law did not allow the ox to work with the horse.  Johann would have to take back the ox to its owner--and bring another horse instead.  The startled Johann, after yelling that they would have to spend another three hours in the freezing cold while he searched for a horse, took the money and agreed. 

 

HaRav Boruch Ber reflected upon  the joy that HaRav Nosson Adler felt from just one Mitzvah--and thought to himself as follows:  In Kamenitz, I face no problems whatsoever such as this. Hashem has graced me here in America with the powerful Mitzvah of “Lo Sosuru Acharei Levavchem V’acharei Einiechem--not to follow after my heart or my eyes --and he has given it to me*every single day* during my stay! How overjoyed should I be!  With this, and from then on, he celebrated his situation--and served Hashem--with that ‘getchka’ outside-- with joy and gladness of heart. 

 

Each and every one of us must take the lesson of the Parsha ( it is certainly no coincidence, as it never ever is, that the Parsha teaches us this lesson at this time of year). We must take the lesson of HaRav Nosson Adler and HaRav Boruch Ber Lebowitz--we must celebrate that we too are blessed with Mitzvos which Hashem sends directly to us and for us in our own unique way.  Let us take our Mitzvos and rejoice in them.  Let our hearts be full of gladness and our minds full of thanks--as we take each and every one of the Mitzvos of Hashem not for granted--but as a Heavenly Grant!

 

 

Special Note Two.  The Sifsei Chaim (HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Zt’l), in Moadim I teaches:

 

A.     After Adam HaRishon sinned and his Teshuva was accepted (all on Rosh Hashana!), the Torah records that Hashem placed the Lahat HaCherev HaMishapeches (the flame of the ever-turning sword) to prevent him from re-entering Gan Eden at that time.  With this, the Torah provides essential guidance for us in Teshuva.  It is not enough just to “decide” not to fall prey to the sin again.  One has to actually create some type of fence or system to prevent the possibility of falling again.  One out of thousands of examples one can think of would be for a person who comes late to shul, almost as a matter of course.  His true Teshuva may be to start a learning Seder with someone before davening even if only for 10 or 15 minutes (thereby ensuring that he will be on time), or to “penalize himself” in some way for having been not as respectful as he could have been for his audience with the King.

 

B.     As we see in this coming week’s Parsha, a person can delude himself into thinking “Shalom Yiheye Li--and walk in the way his heart sees fit” (Devorim 29:18).  We must remember, however, as Rabbi Frand points out in his Teshuva Shiurim that no one has any contracts with Hashem--and having noted this important fact--every action and reaction has ramifications.  If a person acts or reacts “as his heart sees fit,” or “as his heart says,” by whim or fancy, he should be sure to give the matter some second thought.

 

C.     “Derech *Chaim* Tochachos Mussar--the road to life is words of reproof”--with these words of Mishlei, Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, is teaching us that the road to *life* is paved not by shunning the reproof and constructive criticism of others, but, quite to the contrary, by allowing it to enter and penetrate your heart.

 

D.      We should make sure that, at least at this time of year, we fulfill the following words of Rabbeinu Yonah in the Yesod HaTeshuva, “One should not fill all of his desires in food or drink, and so said the Ra’avad…the great and wonderful pathway to Teshuva is by curbing one’s desire while eating….”

 

 

Special Note Three:  Rosh Hashana is next week.  It is said that a Chassidishe Rebbe once came to an inn in Elul and heard two gentiles talking. One said to another--”It’s planting time now--if you don’t do a good job planting now--what will you have to eat for the rest of the year?!”  The Rebbe understood the message.

 

In fact, it is reported that many Gedolim would shake and tremble during this time, to the point that their knees would knock (as the phrase is actually used in Sefer Doniel--”Dah LeDah Nakshan”).  Even if one may not be at this level of trepidation, one can most certainly privately shed tears to the Ribono Shel Olam in fear and shame--as the Pasuk states “Bamistarim Tivkeh Nafshi-- my soul weeps in private”.  By this suggestion, we do not mean to express negative fear.  What we mean to convey is that the judgment we are to face is not tilted or stilted, perverted or fiasco-filled as we might have otherwise seen in the Rubashkin trial, appeal or elsewhere.  Our judgment will be true and just, and there is much that we need to make amends for.  Having come to the realization, having faced the facts--that one’s life and the lives of others really are truly being weighed in the balance--we can then begin to fully value and appreciate that we are incredibly gifted with the instructions--just exactly what we need to do in order to emerge successfully and even gainfully on the Day of Judgment!  Does it make any sense at all to not make the sincere effort, or at least demonstrate the willingness, to be guided by these life-bearing and fulfilling instructions?  The instructions are direct and to the point:  “Teshuva, Tefillah and Tzedakah Remove the r’l Evil of the Decree Against Us”--of course we all know the words--but when we get up to reciting or even crying out these words on the Yemei HaDin we must have already begun to demonstrate that they are more than just poignant words in a Machzor or even terror-filled lip service.  Lehavdil, even the best recipes in a recipe book that one already owns are not worth more than the paper they are written on until such time as someone actually puts together the ingredients and properly follows through; after having worked hard and carefully in the kitchen, however, not only will the cook or baker benefit, but all those around will share in the wonderful success as well.

 

Dovid HaMelech (Tehillim 14:2) summarizes this all in one Pasuk: “Hashem MiShomayim Hishkif Ahl Bnei Odom Liros HaYeish Maskil Doresh es Elokim--Hashem looks down from the Heavens to see if there is a wise person who seeks Him.”  What does Dovid HaMelech mean?  How does one seek Hashem--we all know that He cannot be seen and has no body, shape or form?!  Moreover, Hashem is omnipresent --He is everywhere-- so what is there to seek--He is right here and right there and there and there and there?!   We suggest that we seek Hashem through our clear and concise guide and formula--Through Teshuva, Through Tefilah, and Through Tzedakah.  Through ‘Teshuva’, we seek Hashem by searching through for stains and washing as best we can our middos, our thoughts, our words and our actions.  Through ‘Tefillah’, we seek d’veikus with Hashem--if we make the effort, we will be, and feel, in direct contact with the Omnipresent through prayer.  As we daven Shemone Esrei, can we not try to picture Hashem’s Presence in front of us, listening to us (yes--us!) talking with Him, pleading with Him, thanking Him?!  Because children daven four minute Shemone Esrei’s does it mean that we must follow suit--and, moreover, should we daven in the same way as we did twenty or ten or five or even one year ago?  Every year, our seeking through Tefillah--our d’veikus--our connection to Hashem must mature and grow.  Finally, we seek through ‘Tzedakah’--by seeking Hashem through kindness to his creatures--through extending our hand and giving while seemingly receiving nothing in return.  In this regard, we must unfortunately advise you that the Yad Eliezer Matching Funds Program--for chickens for families for Yom Tov, and for Yesomim and Almanos for Yom Tov-- still have a ways to go before reaching the Matching Funds limit.  You have the opportunity to double the merit of your Tzedakah, hopefully thereby doubling the level and quality of your seeking by going to yadeliezer.org  (or calling 718-258-1580  to donate directly), and by telling others about the opportunity as well.  Remember--in all events--Tzedaka B’Chol Yom--now enhanced by LeKavod Yom Tov and the Matching Program!

 

We must be especially warmed and encouraged by the words of Dovid Hamelech--that Hashem looks to those who seek him--for it means that we are all in the running, we all have the chance, we all are capable and we all can succeed.  We are now certainly close enough to Yom Tov to begin writing things down--events of the past year, middos to be changed, items to be taken care of, before Rosh Hashanah ...in order to make the words we shall soon cry out “Teshuva Tefillah U’Tzedaka” all the more meaningful and all the more successful on the upcoming Yom Tov.

 

 Additional Note One:  Some in the western world criticize and mock us--claiming that we are made to feel ‘Jewish Guilt’ for our actions.  This myopic view looks at Olam Hazeh and can see no further.  We know that our actions have far reaching effects now--and will stay with us for eternity.  The story is related of a dibbuk who spoke nivul peh--unbecoming language.  When asked how he could  do so--after all wasn’t he already in the next world--he responded that a person in the next world is only what he makes of himself here in this world.  His nivul peh stayed with him there too--and serves as an eternal source of shame and discomfort (to say the least).  Having noted this--just begin to imagine what Teshuva, Tefilah and Tzedakah will look like and feel like--for eternity!

 

Additional Note Two:  In a Teshuva Shiur presented by video in Brooklyn last year, Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman, Shlita provided remarkable solace and encouragement in the name of the Chasam Sofer.  In the ordinary course, we are taught that Teshuva performed out of Ahava (love of Hashem) converts Aveiros which were performed even intentionally into actual Zechuyos, while Teshuva performed out of Yirah (Fear) turns Aveiros performed intentionally into Shegagos--unintentional sins--which Hashem will obviously treat much differently on the Yom HaDin, but which are still sin.  The Chasam Sofer, however, adds that if the other two key “seeking”components besides Teshuva--i.e., Tefillah and Tzedakah--are present, than even Teshuva performed out of Yirah will be able to convert those intentional Aveiros into Zechuyos!!  What a bonus! What an opportunity!  What a gift!!  Let us take the days ahead to make our search a very, very successful one...and may we blessed with an outpouring and overflowing of Zechuyos for ourselves... and for our people!

 

 

Special Note Four:  We continue with our focus of the brachos of Shemone Esrei, this week we reach the milestone of the Eighteenth Bracha of Hoda’ah.   Several preliminary points:

A.  From a reader on proper pronunciation of two words in the bracha: 

Ki lo chaLU Rachamecha

Ki lo SAmu

 To mispronounce  as CHAlu makes it into a ches and means exactly the opposite, that His rachamim is not chal, c”v.

Ki lo chaLU with a chaf means that His Rachamim has not finished!

 

B.  The Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 101, seif katan 3) brings that according to some Poskim the Kavannah in Peirush HaMilos of this Bracha is so essential, that if one has not done so --it is me’akev--just as in the Bracha of Avos!  Review the bracha--is there any word that you do not understand--and if not--is there any reason why you cannot dedicate yourself to thanking Hashem with every single word of the bracha?

C.  In fact, HaRav Yonasan Eibeschutz, Zt’l, in the Sefer Ya’aros Devash teaches:  “ In this bracha one should give personal shevach to Hashem for the wonders that Hashem provides on his behalf daily.   One must realize that the Ba’al HaNess does not always appreciate the Nissim that occur to him, and that each and every one of us is the recipient of many nissim nistarim daily.  Additionally, based upon the Zohar, HaRav Eibeschutz  writes that one must be especially dedicated to giving hoda’ah daily on the return of his soul to his body the previous night.  This may be the basis for the special thanks in the bracha for “VeAhl Nishmoseinu HaPekudos Loch”. The gift of our Neshamos returning daily--something never, ever to forget as evidenced by the bracha of Elokai Neshama--and the Anshei Kenesses HaGedolah help us tremendously by giving us the reminder--and even the Nusach--to especially thank Hashem for this in the bracha of Hoda’ah three times a day!

 

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Special Note One:  As we hope and anticipate daily that the Moshiach will come, we must be prepared with the proper brachos to be recited upon his arrival.  HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl (in Minchas Shlomo 91:27), writes that four brachos will be recited:

 

1.         “Baruch…Chacham HaRazim”

(As there will certainly be at least 600,000 Jews gathered together--see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 224:5).

 

2.         “Baruch…Shechalak Meichachmaso LiReiav”

(As he will certainly be a great Talmud Chochom--see ibid. 224:6).

 

3.         “Baruch…Shechalak MiKevodo LiRayov”

(The bracha recited over Malchei Yisroel--see ibid. 224:8).

 

4.         “Baruch…Shehechiyanu V’Kiyemanu”

(As we Baruch Hashem have arrived at this time!)

 

May we be zoche to greet Moshiach today and recite these four Brachos! Keep them handy!

 

 

Special Note Two:  We provide the following simple, but profound words of the Sefer Sharei Teshuvah (3:210), based upon Chazal:

 

Chazal (Yalkut, Tehillim 721) teach, “The Congregation of Israel through its voice is beloved and through its voice is despised.  Through its voice it is beloved, as it is said, ‘Hashimini Es Koleich….Let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet’ (Shir Hashirim 2: 14 ); and through its voice it is despised, as it is said, ‘Nasnah Alai BeKolah…She has uttered her voice against me; therefore, have I hated her’ (Yirmiyahu 12:8)”.  And this is the meaning of “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and they that love it shall eat its fruit” (Mishlei 18:21 ).  The interpretation of “and they that love it shall eat its fruit” is that the proper eitzah for one who loves his tongue, that is, one who wishes to speak, is to eat its fruits i.e. not to engage in idle words, but in words of Torah, wisdom, and instruction, in the fostering of peace between man and his neighbor, in the improvement of the community, in the praising of good and reviling of evil, and in being zealous for the truth.  For one can acquire unlimited merit for his soul through his tongue, life, as previously indicated, being in the power of the tongue.” 

 

Hakhel Note:  Let us re-read this teaching--and then continue with the next Note.

 

 

Special Note Three:  The Rambam in Hilchos Teshuva writes that Teshuva applies not only to correction of aveiros, but to improvement in middos as well.  Clearly, one of the most insidious of middos ra’os is Ka’as or anger. Even the sound of the word ‘Ka’as’ is foreboding.  The following very powerful and very practical lesson on controlling anger is excerpted from yesterday’s daily lesson in the monumental work Positive Word Power (Artscroll/Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation):  “When we lose ourselves in anger, we immediately forget one salient fact:  It’s another human being on the receiving end of the diatribe.  It’s a person with a heart, with feelings, hopes, and struggles.  It’s a person like ourselves.  Finding the moment to connect to this reality is one of the most effective means available to curtail Ona’as Devarim in our lives.  Effective as it is, this strategy is difficult to enact when one’s temper has been lost and he is in the middle of an angry tirade.  It helps to plan the strategy now, when one is not being pulled by the undertow of powerful emotions.  What will you do the next time you feel the urge to launch a verbal attack?  Look into the person’s eyes as you speak to him.  See that there is a person there, with his own thoughts, his own problems.  Will your words disturb his sleep?  Will they arouse anger in him that he will take out on someone else?  Cause him to lost confidence in himself?  We don’t have to inflict pain on each other.  If we can feel the other person’s suffering, rather than blocking it out of our consciousness, we will be motivated to find another way: a gentler, more sensitive and respectful way.  The way we, ourselves, would like to be treated”.  Hakhel Note:  The next cycle of Positive Word Power will begin on Rosh Hashana.  Learning the practical and effective lessons from this Sefer in its beautifully written and easy-to-read daily format would truly be a meaningful and worthwhile project for the coming year!

 

 

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

 

1.  With the slower Shabbos davening, or at least with the greater ability to start Shacharis a few minutes early if you need more time--may we suggest a special focus on such words as”Melech”, ‘Chasdecha” and “Rachamim” this Shabbos.  As we have pointed out in the past, the Sefer Mateh Ephraim, the great halachic handbook on the Yomim Noraim, refers to Elul as Yomim HaKedoshim.  By connecting to the Yomim HaKedoshim of Elul on Shabbos Kodesh, we will have added a new and wonderful dimension of Kedusha to our lives.  It is all there for the taking!

 

2.  The following Halachos are excerpted from the Sefer Mishna Acharona by Rabbi Dovid Lichtenstein, Shlita:

 

A.  There are those who are melamed zechus for those who buy challos from a bakery (rather than bake them on Erev Shabbos).  The limud zechus is based upon the fact that generally we do not bake bread during the week, and so we are not used to baking bread properly.  Bakeries, on the other hand, produce challos which are special in their nature and taste, thereby enhancing Kavod Shabbos.

 

B.  The Mishnah Berura brings that one should not wash his clothes on Erev Shabbos (this is actually one of the Takanos of Ezra HaSofer).  The Shemiras Shabbos KeHilchasa writes that there may be room to permit washing on Erev Shabbos by a washing machine, as the reason for the original Takanah was for people to be able to properly prepare for Shabbos--and with a washing machine doing the washing you will have the needed time.  Hakhel Note:  We note that the use of a washing machine to wash clothes on Erev Shabbos is a Machlokes HaPoskim in our day, and accordingly one should consult his Rav or Posek. 

 

C.  The Shaarei Teshuva brings in the name of the Arizal that sweating on Erev Shabbos for Shabbos needs is a Segulah to erase sin--as the sweat is considered like tears! 

 

D.  In the Sefer Shem Olam by the Chofetz Chaim, it is brought in the name of the Zohar that one who is Shomer Shabbos in this world, and must suffer the punishment of Gehenoim for other sins in the next world, will not be punished on Shabbos--and that the Shabbos reprieve will begin for him from the time that the person began preparing his needs for Shabbos!

 

E.  In the Kisvei HaArizal, it is brought that tasting Shabbos food on Erev Shabbos is like tasting food that is being prepared for a king.  Accordingly, one who does so will be “Zoche L’Chaim Elyonim.”  According to the Sefer Shulchan Shlomo, the active tasting is a Mitzvah in and of itself.  Furthermore (the Sefer Mishna Acharona continues) it appears from the Pri Megadim that the Mitzvah of tasting is not only on the person preparing the food, but on every member of the household. 

 

 

Special Note Five:  On the teaching of Chazal “Tichleh Shana U’Keleloseha--let the year and its curses [represented by the tochacha in this week’s Parsha] end,” and let the New Year and its brachos begin:

 

1.  HaRav Gedalya Schorr, Zt’l, teaches that we must treat our foibles and faults of the previous year as a seed.  We must plant them in the ground out of sight and touch, and nurture our past experiences into a beautiful and blossoming new fruit during the coming year.  We should most definitely not let the sins of the past, and despair over them, obstruct the beautiful potential from growth that we have in the coming year.  We must realize that much brocha lies ahead--if we follow the path of blessing.

 

2.      The Pele Yoetz, in a beautiful discussion of Teshuva, makes the following essential points for all to know, among others.  If you have the time and capability, they are found near the end of the Sefer Pele Yoetz.

 

A.  The most important portal to Teshuva is the Study of Torah--to learn the Halachos that one needs to know, and to study works of Mussar and Yiras Hashem.  Anyone who learns on his own or attends Shiurim is per se closer to Hashem.  In fact, this is why the brocha of Teshuva in Shemone Esrei first begins with Torah--HaSheveynu Avinu L’Sorosecha (Bring us back to Torah)--for the study of Torah is a prerequisite to Teshuva.  Hakhel Reminder:  In this regard, we provide one incredible point for your Kabbalah consideration.  If a person takes just seven(7) minutes a day and turns it into a new learning Seder--a time for learning anything that he wants to, or always intended to but never got around to it, this will aggregate into 210 minutes of additional learning a month.  Not a lot?  According to the G’ra and the Chofetz Chaim, because every word of Talmud Torah is a mitzvah, and one can say 200 words a minute, one is performing 200 mitzvos a minute when he studies Torah.  Let us do the simple Halachic math: 210 minutes a month times 200 mitzvos a minute equals 42,000 mitzvos a month, or an additional 511,000 mitzvos for a 365 day year--and these are mitzvos of the literally incomparable quality of Talmud Torah, regarding which Chazal teach “VeTalmud Torah KeNeged Kulam.”  How would you like to dedicate 7 minutes a day (i.e., more than half a million mitzvos a year) to Teshuva in Talmud Torah in the coming year?!  Hashem certainly provides us with unbeatable opportunities!

 

B. The Yetzer Hora attempts to minimize avairos.  It is “only this” or “only that”…”but this” or “but that”.  When you see yourself thinking or using these kinds of phrases, be on the lookout for sin.

 

C. Chazal teach how severe the penalty of taking or withholding another’s money is.  [Chazal actually teach that “Someone who takes from his friend even something worth only a  peruta, is viewed as if he took his life and the life of his descendants.”]  The Pele Yoetz succinctly states, “and someone who has his friend’s possessions in his hands will not have his Tefillos heard…and if his Tefillos are not heard on the Yomim Noraim--does he have any hope?!”

 

D. The way one can tell whether his soul is pure is by the Kavanah--which includes the fear, love and great joy--that he places into his Tefillah.  Everyone should try and work on purifying his soul!

 

3.  The following precious gems were provided by Rabban Gamliel Rabanovitch, Shlita:

 

A.  Every day of Elul is filled with Gevaldike Rachamim.  Indeed, as we get more deeply into the month, every day has greater Rachamim than the day before [perhaps because there is a ‘buildup’ of Rachamim in the world as Elul moves along!]

 

B.  Elul is, of course, an acronym for “Ani LeDodi VeDodi Li.”  The word “Dodi” means not only “My Beloved,” but also “My Uncle.”  There is a difference between a Father and an Uncle--for a Father must provide for his child, whereas an uncle who gives something to his nephew is doing so out of voluntary benevolence and warmth.  Receiving a piece of chocolate from an Uncle is a more special and treasured experience--and Hashem as our “Dodi”--is extending that “chocolate” to us now. 

 

C.  Rabban Gamliel noted the particular Chessed of Hashem in letting us know that the Yom HaDin is coming.  Looking at the rest of the world around us, they appear clueless to, and certainly unprepared for, their impending judgment.  He related the very famous Mashal, which cannot be repeated enough, of the merchants who were trying to smuggle contraband over the border by putting it into a coffin, and asking the border guard to let the coffin through so that the deceased could be buried with respect in his hometown.  The guard, who was otherwise very busy and should have been easily distracted, insisted upon prying open the coffin notwithstanding the claims of its bearers that he would be disgracing the deceased by doing so.  He got a few guards together to open the box--and found not a body, but an incredible amount of merchandise packed into a small area.  Upon their arrest, the terrified merchants began to sob uncontrollably, and asked the border guard why he had especially insisted on making sure that the box was opened.  He replied that it was very simple--he saw no one crying over the deceased, and realized that something was awry.  ”Frankly, he said, I would really rather not have done this--if you would have cried before, you would not be crying now.”  Hakhel Note:  Unlike the merchants who even failed to cry at all, our tears before the Yom HaDin:

Should be heartfelt, real and sincere

For who can fathom the value of each and every tear

Before the Kisei HaKavod at this very special time of year?!

 

D.  The Arizal teaches how each part of Tefillah brings special Hashpa’os--special influences--to the different worlds--Asiyah, Yetzirah, Beriah, and Atzilus.  Where, then, does Tefillah bring a Hashpa’ah Tova--a positive influence, upon ourselves?  Rabban Gamliel answered that it is at the conclusion of Tefillah, in Aleinu LeShabeiach, that the Hashpa’ah of Tefillah come to rest upon us.  It is therefore essential for us to have Kavannah in Aleinu--for after helping all of the worlds, we must also help ourselves.  He emphasized that Tefillah is the major source of Hashpa’os Tovos--of Hashem’s Goodness coming upon us, and that it is for this reason that most of the day on the Yemei HaDin of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are spent in prayer, so that we have the greatest opportunity for the Hashpa’os Tovos to move and settle upon us.  HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, once saw someone walking out of Shul at Aleinu.  He turned to him and said:  “Aleinu is not Tefillas HaDerech.”  We should instead appreciate very well the words of the Rema in Shulchan Aruch who writes (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 132:2) “VeYezaher BeOmro BeKavannah”--and one should be careful to recite Aleinu with Kavannah.  The Mishne Berurah (ibid. seif katan 8) adds that we should recite Aleinu “BeAimah U’Veyirah--with awe and fear,” because all of the Heavenly Hosts stand together with Hashem and together they all exclaim:  “Ashrei HaAm Shekacho Lo….”  How powerful our Aleinu really is!

 

E.  Rabban Gamliel provided a remarkable recommendation for Teshuvah in the coming year.  He noted that the source of many Aveiros is simply not knowing what to do in a given situation.  All kinds of havoc can be wreaked on a person because of his sheer ignorance on how a Torah Jew must act in or under the circumstances.  Ignorance is not bliss, because it creates prosecuting angels against a person, against his family, and against his people.  Even any lowly officer will tell you that ignorance of the law is no excuse, and that it indicates a disregard and disinterest in doing that which is right.  One’s failure to study Halacha may be viewed in a similar light--this is not serving the King, but dishonoring him.  How can one rectify all of this?  By studying the proper Halachos for the situations in which one finds himself.  Rabban Gamliel specifically recommended the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch because it covers so many facets of our lives clearly and concisely.  Several English versions are available, including Metzudah and Artscroll.  Rabban Gamliel further emphasized that many, many of these laws are appropriate for women as well as men, and that women should study the many apposite sections that apply to them.  Undertaking this study is a demonstration of Kabbolas Ol Malchus Shomayim--because by doing so one demonstrates that he wants to live your life the way the King teaches it is best for him to do so.  The study of Kitzur Shulchan Aruch--an excellent source of Teshuvah!

Hakhel Note:  We provide by clicking here a Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Yomi calendar, in which you can complete the entire Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Yomi calendar in one year.  What an undertaking and what an accomplishment! 

 

F.  Finally, Rabban Gamliel explains part of the symbolism of honey on Rosh Hashana.  Why do we need honey--after all, everything that Hashem gives to us is sweet, for no one cares about us and knows what is best for us in all circumstances more than Hashem.  The truth however is that we do not always recognize, we do not always “taste,” this sweetness.  With our honey, honey cake, tzimmes, and other honey products during the Yemei HaDin, we ask Hashem to shower us with those kinds of sweet things during the coming year in which we ourselves can actually taste, and savor the incredibly powerful and delectably delicious sweetness!

 

 

4.      Finally, we suggest once again the importance of a cell phone takana.  To some, the takana will be a special restraint while in the car, to others--it will be self-control while walking on the street or in a store, and yet to others it will be personal discipline in the hallway of a shul.  We are not even suggesting total ‘perishus’ in any one of these areas--but perhaps at least beginning with thinking twice before taking it out and making it into another appendage of your body at these points of your day.  A person can really get to know himself or develop a thought, for example, while walking--is that phone call, text or email so absolutely necessary, so really urgent for the moment?!

 

We are soon reaching the climax of our Teshuva season.  Our hopes, our wishes are soon to converge into moments of destiny for ourselves, our family, and the world.  This year, Be’Ezras Hashem, can be a great one for us and all of K’lal Yisroel--let’s try our very best to make sure we are a part of it!

 

 

Special Note Six:  We continue with our focus on the Seventeenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Avodah.  The Sefer Avudraham writes that the last three brachos of Shemone Esrei are distinguished in that they are focused on Kavod Shomayim.  Our bracha of Avodah, for instance, pleads for the final return of our Avodas Hashem to its optimum state in the Bais HaMikdash.  We conclude the bracha with the words V’Sechezenah Aineinu BeShuvcha L’Tzion BeRachamim--may our eyes see Hashem’s return to Zion with mercy.  The Chofetz Chaim notes that our abilities to see, hear and speak are not based in our Guf, in our body--but are really empowered by our Nefesh.  What we see, hear, and speak in this world will then be translated into what these abilities accomplished for, or against, the Nefesh in this world.  We therefore plead here for our very eyes see the Shechina return to Yerushalayim--thereby fulfilling their true purpose and goal.  The Sefer Baruch SheAmar further explains that the reason that we specifically ask for our eyes to see the return (as opposed to the experience by our other senses) is based on [the deeper meaning of] the Pasuk (Yeshaya 52:8-see there) Ki Ayin BeAyin Yiru BeShuv Hashem Tzion.  We then add that the return should be BeRachamim, also based on the Pasuk (Tehillim 102:17)--Atta Takum TeRachem Tzion.  The reason that we conclude our request with the word BeRachamim is because the Chevlei Moshiach could c’v bring extreme distress.  As the Gemara (Sanhedrin 98B) records “May it come, but I not see it”--therefore we ask that the Moshiach come (and all of the brachos listed at the top of this Bulletin on his arrival be recited) not out of or in a state of Yesurim and pain--but B’Nachas U’Vehashket--so that we will want to and can see it with our very own eyes!  May our tefillos in this bracha be sincere and fulfilled!

 

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GENERAL MILLS COOKIE CRISP:  We received some interesting correspondence regarding this product. In fact, the correct bracha combination is Shehakol and Borei Nefashos.  Hakhel Note:  This brings to mind the issue of chocolate lace cookies.  We understand that the proper bracha combination on this bracha will depend upon the content and purpose of flour in the product--and that this may vary from bakery to bakery.  Accordingly, one should consult with his Rav or Posek as to the manner in which one may eat lace cookies.

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Special Note One:  We continue with our focus on the Seventeenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Avodah. 

 

a.  Our note yesterday was on VeIshei Yisroel U’Sefillasam, and our next point of discussion for today would have been the punctuation of this phrase.  A reader ‘did our work for us’ by beautifully explaining as follows:  “The G’ra avoids the problem saying that Bizman She’ein Bais Hamikdash Kayam, the punctuation should be moved, so that the period is after Ve’Ishei Yisroel and before U’Sefillasam . So that the bracha reads:

   ... Vehasheiv
       Es Ha’avodah Lid’vir Baisecha
       Ve’Ishei Yisroel
       U’Sefillasam Sekabel BeRatzon...

   ... And restore:
       (a) the service to the Devir of Your home
       (b) and the fires of Israel.
   And may You accept their prayers willingly...

If we say the phrase is “ VeIshei Yisroel U’Sefillasam BeAhava Sekabel” together , or even that this was the phrase originally when the Kohanim said the bracha in the Bais Hamikdash (Tamid 5:1), the question remains: What did Anshei Keneses HaGedolah mean by Vehasheiv Es Ha’avodah Lidevir
Baisecha
-- this was being said during the Avodah?!!?

Perhaps we can say that “Devir Baisecha” refers to the Kodesh HaKedoshim only when it contains the Aron.  Thus, the Kohanim are asking not for the Avodah in general, but the Avodas Kohein Gadol as it was done on Yom Kippur in Bayis Rishon.  They were asking HaKadosh Baruch Hu to return the Aron to Bayis Sheini, so that it too may have a Devir, and thus we can return to having an Avodah in it!”

 

Hakhel Note:  Thank you for this wonderful thought!

 

b.  In the bracha of Retzei, the Shoresh of ‘Ratzoh’ represented in Retzai and Ratzon is mentioned three times in this one bracha.  With this we clearly indicate that we desperately need Hashem’s Ritzui--His appeasement, His desire and His willingness to bring us back to the Avodah in the Bais HaMikdash.  If we are pleading Hashem for His Ratzon (whether or not we may deserve it)--all the more so must we demonstrate our Ratzon when reciting the bracha!

 

 

Special Note Two:  REALITY CHECK!  Two Weeks From Today is Rosh Hashanah!

 

 

Special Note Three:  Remember--Tzedaka Today!

 

Hakhel Note:  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, rules that Tzedaka in and of itself can remove the evil decree--even if it does not effect the Kappara that Teshuva would!

 

 

Special Note Four:  We provide the following powerful, sobering words of the Sefer Sharei Teshuvah (3:195), based upon Chazal (see Shabbos 54B):

 

All those who are in a position to reprove the members of their household, and do not do so are held accountable for the sins of the members of their household; those who are in a position to reprove the people of their city, and do not do so, are held accountable for the sins of the people of their city; and those who are in a position to reprove all men, and do not do so, are held accountable for the sins of all men”.  And it is said, “And they shall stumble one upon the other” (Vayikrah 26: 37), which Chazal teach as “one will fall because of the transgression of another,” and in conjunction with which they said that all Israel is responsible one for the other (Sanhedrin 27b).

 

Hakhel Note:  Everyone, especially at this time of year, must investigate not only his own actions, but the actions of those for whom he is responsible, or upon whom he has influence.  Are the members of his household acting honestly?  Is their speech truthful and proper?  Is Brachos recitation given elevated importance in the home?  Is one’s office mate, next door neighbor, or close friend learning the wrong things from what I say or do?  Would they listen to me if I ask them to improve in a particular area?  Remember--a best friend is not the one who buys a chocolate bar or electronic toy for another, but is one who helps his friend grow and develop more and more of his Olam Haba!

 

 

Special Note Five:  The Mishna Berura (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 93, seif katan 1) suggests that it is not only a tremendous Ma’aleh to be one of the first ten in Shul, but that it is also a Ma’aleh to be one of the last ten to remain in Shul.  He explains, from the Sefer Seder HaYom that this is so because sitting in a Shul is a Mitzvah Bifnei Atzmah--a Mitzvah in and of itself!  We may simply add that the Kedushas Bais HaKnesses continues to envelop the person--elevating his own personal Kedusah for the entire time that he remains in Shul.  Let us utilize the daily opportunities--those extra few minutes every day in the right place will quite literally bring everlasting effects!

 

 

Special Note Six:  The Ba’alei Mussar suggest that one should have Pesukim ready on his lips to inspire himself throughout the day.  As we have noted in the past the Sefer Chayei Odom (Chapter 143) writes that there is a Pasuk in Tehillim Chapter 86, which if recited daily (i.e., is on the lips of the reciter) will help save a person “Mikol Chait--from any sin”.  The Pasuk is actually the very Pasuk in which the Sefer Mesilas Yeshorim concludes his Introduction--Horeini Hashem Darkecha Ahaleich Ba’Amitecha Yached Levovi LeYirah Shemecha--Teach me Hashem your way so that I may travel in Your truth--unite my heart to fear your name.  If one takes this Pasuk with him during the trials and tribulations of the day, he will be truly traveling a long way even if only going a short distance--or even staying home!

Hakhel Note:  The Sheloh Hakadosh points out that we see the value of each and every day in one’s Avodas Hashem from the words of Paroh who demands  “Callu ma’seichem devar yom beyomo--complete your work--the daily amount each day.”  Everyone can give excuses--but it is an uphill battle to get them accepted--and, after all, it is your life that is in question--and your life that is so important.  The daily tzedaka, the daily Pasuk (Pesukim) of Yiras Shamayim, the daily attempt or drive for Teshuva--especially in these auspicious days--will certainly move us very well towards our life’s goal and our life’s purpose.  Who is it all up to--you only have to look in--to make the wonderful discovery!

 

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Special Note One:  We continue with our focus on the Seventeenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Avodah.  The Sefer BeRumo Shel Olam brings in the name of the Shelah HaKadosh that in this bracha one should plead with Hashem, Beshivron Lev, that his Tefillos be accepted in the place of a Karbon, until the day that our Karbanos come back--which we also pray for with the words VeHashev Es HaAvoda LiDvir Baisecha.” The Ya’avetz incredibly writes that if one does not answer Amein to this bracha in Chazaras Hashatz he could be “MeAkev Bias HaMoshiach chas veshalom”.  This is an especially important remark to those who hastily answer Modim without first answering Amein to our bracha of Retzei.  Instead, one should clearly enunciate Amein, stop for a moment, and then begin his recitation of Modim D’Rabanan.  We now come to perhaps the most well-known phrase in the bracha--VeIshei Yisroel U’Tefillasam BeAhava Sekabel B’Ratzon--may the Karbanos which we will bring, and our Tefillos at all times, be accepted because of the love You have for us.  The Midrash teaches that the term Ishei Yisroel applies even in today’s day, as the Malach Michoel offers the Neshamos of Tzaddikim on the Heavenly Mizbe’ach.  (Although, beyond our understanding, what we can understand at a minimum is that much is happening on our behalf in the Heavens above).  The Shulchan Aruch HaRav adds that the Tzaddikim in this world, by their pure and holy actions, are our Ishei Yisroel in the here and now--as their Tefillos, their words and actions have a purifying effect on us all. 

 

 

Special Note Two:  We continue with points and pointers for the month of Elul:

 

A.  By the following link, we provide wonderful information from the AOK Initiative which originated in the Five Towns.  The Initiative has provided these tools for worldwide use, and we hope that you can now make use of its precious messages in your Shul, neighborhood or community.  Spread the word!

Flyer  --  click here

Card with schedule -- click here

 

B.  From a reader:  “Relating to the threat of war in Eretz Yisrael, it appears from the reports that the terrorists really have more advanced weaponry than was originally thought.  The point you made about improving our acts of Chesed to Premium Chesed should definitely be part of our response--this is OUR advanced weaponry.”

 

C.  A son recently related how careful his father was to properly describe his actions in the finest way possible:  “He didn’t say I am going to eat--he would say I am going to wash.”  “He didn’t say I am going to sleep--he said I am going to say Kriyas Shema.”  There is a Mussar Haskel that we all can learn from--refined speech helps redefine the very acts we perform--from a wholly physical perspective to a totally different and spiritual light.  Hakhel Note:  Think about the lasting effect on all those who hear these words and expressions day -in and day-out!

 

D.  Chazal teach that if one says “Echta V’Ashuv, Echta V’Ashuv”--I will sin and repent, sin and repent--he will not be able to do Teshuva.  Why not--as long as the Teshuva is the final step?!  One answer may be because he will continue to do the aveira “just one more time and just one more time”--and he will not be able to end at the Teshuva stage.  A reader advised us of the story of a smoker who because of blood clots r’l had a leg amputated.  The doctor sternly warned him to stop smoking entirely, so that he would not have the same fate happen to his other leg.  However, the smoker continued to smoke from time-to-time daily--based upon the ‘logic’ of ‘what could one cigarette do?  We must realize that each aveira does damage, and that because one aveira leads to the next (aveira goreres aveira), the damage is multiplied many times over.  Accordingly, one can never be in the mode of sinning and doing Teshuva and then sinning and doing Teshuva again--because if he permissibly allows the ‘first cigarette’--which is inherently destructive, and which leads to the next ‘just one more cigarette’. 

Hakhel Note:  The opposite, is, of course, true of Mitzvah performance.  Each Mitzvah has incomparable inherent riches associated with it--and then leads to further Mitzvos multiplying the wealth many times over. 

 

E.  Kepitel 51 of Tehillim is sometimes known as the “Chapter of Teshuva”.  It would be a worthwhile investment to read this Chapter slowly and with feeling.  Dovid HaMelech there teaches (ibid, Pasuk 10) Tashmieini Sason V’Simcha--advise me of joy and happiness.   Rashi and the Radak there explain that the joy and happiness being referred to is Selichas HaCheit.  With this, we can understand the Kol Sason VeKol Simcha that we sing about at a Chasunah--it is the forgiveness that that Chassan and Kallah attain on their wedding day!  Indeed the Sefer Peleh Yoeitz writes that one should be MeSame’ach the Chassan and Kallah by reminding them that they are now free of sin.  By undertaking the Teshuva process, we are effectively preparing ourselves for great joy-- actually the joy shared by a Chassan and Kallah!

 

F.  As we have noted in the past, the last Chapter of Tehillim (150) may be divided into phrases--with each phrase corresponding to a month of the year.  The sixth month of the year is Elul--corresponding to the sixth phrase of Haleluhu BeSeikah Shofar--praise Hashem with the blast of the Shofar.  As we hear the sound of the Shofar this month, we must realize that if we follow its lesson and meaning, we are indeed praising Hashem.  For men to hear the Shofar blasts every morning in Shul, it should not simply serve as a few second interruption before L’Dovid Hashem Ori--but it instead should be imbibed with a sense of awe and Yiras Hashem.  One should feel the Shofar going through him and try to have a Hirhur Teshuva.  In this way, we will fulfill in ourselves the words of the Posuk--and the purpose of this month-- Haleluhu BeSeikah Shofar!

 

G.  Perhaps the single greatest Nisayon to overcome in Elul is Mitzvos Anashim Melumada.  We do so many good things, we perform so many nice acts, daily.  But we do so much out of rote and habit--not properly appreciating the greatness and profundity, the everlasting effects, of the Mitzvos that are being performed.  As the Chofetz Chaim points out, a person’s goal in this world is not to perform 70 years of good deeds here, so that he will have 70 years of heavenly bliss in the world to come.  Rather, it is to maximize one’s 120 years here, which will have defining and everlasting effects--forever and ever and ever.  The opportunity of reciting Kriyas Shema, for example, two times today may simply be part of 14 times this week, and many hundreds of times over the course of a year--but each and every Kriyas Shema, each and every Pesukei D’Zimrah, each and every daily Chesed and each and every daily Torah study lasts forever--and its everlasting effects are very much dependent upon the way in which it was performed.  It is for this reason that one may otherwise feel that the ‘Yetzer Hara is ‘leaving me alone’--because he may be relatively satisfied with the banal and/or lackluster performance of Mitzvos.  Elul is a time to reignite and reenergize, to re-appreciate and re-instill within us the invaluable and incomparable gifts of Mitzvos given to us by Hashem daily.  Recognize the Melumada--and Stamp it out!  The mark of success will be literally everlasting!

 

H. We are all searching for ways which will help us be Ma’arich Yamim--gain length of days.  Chazal provide us with many different instructions which can help in this regard.  See, for example, Megillah 27B-28A.  The Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 79, seif katan 5), provides one instruction which we can all follow:  “for one who is careful not to mention Divrei Kedusha in an unclean place--it is said about him U’Vadar HaZeh Ta’arichu Yomim--and through this, one’s days will be lengthened!  Let us remember this throughout the day--and gain life--simply by properly revering that which is holy!

 

I.  We provide by the following link the Tefillah, as published in the Sefer Kav HaYashar for one’s self, one’s family members, and one’s friends to do Teshuva--especially invaluable at this time of year.

 

J.  Reminder--Tzedaka Today…if for no other reason than you never know whose precious life you may be saving!

 

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Special Note One:  Special Consumer/Laymen Alerts:

 

1.  Notwithstanding its name, the bracha on General Mills Cookie Crisp cereal is not Mezonos, and the after bracha is not Al HaMichya.  Children should be alerted to these Halachic facts….Do you know what the proper brachos on this cereal are?

 

2.  Back-to-school season has begun, and children sport new knapsacks of various kinds and colors.  A ‘higher-end’ knapsack goes under the title ‘Swiss Gear’ and sports a Swiss flag image, containing a cross in the center in many locations on and about the knapsack.  According to Worldflags101.com:  “The white cross on the red base of the flag represents faith in Christianity….In the late 14th century, Swiss soldiers going into battle started wearing emblems that featured a white cross on a red base as a sign of their Christian faith and to distinguish themselves from their enemies.”  It would appear to be inappropriate for Jewish children to tout such a knapsack.  In all events, one should consult with his Rav or Posek, as it may be a matter of Halachic concern. 

 

3.  As the shoe industry further develops, we note that even shoes may have issues of Shatnez.  A girl’s shoe, for instance, had the following composition on its label: “Polyester, wool, acrylic, rayon and other fibers”.  Let the buyer beware!

 

4.  In the local New York election to take place today, a State Assemblyman who voted for the to’evah bill is running against Bob Turner, a Republican businessman.  A Kol Korei with the signature of many Rabbanim has urged voters to (go out) and vote for Mr. Turner.  By doing so, one can at least demonstrate his disgust with the to’evah law and those who voted for it.  As one Rav put it, “It is Kavod Shamayim to take the time and demonstrate that which Torah Jews stand for.”

 

5.  Many of us are familiar with the Tefillah to be recited before taking medication.  We note, however, that this Tefillah should not only be recited before taking medicine, but before receiving any treatment.  Accordingly, one should not forget even if he is simply putting on an ointment or salve to recite the Tefillah as well.  All healing comes from Hashem.  For your convenience, we once again provide the Tefillah by clicking here.

 

 

Special Note Two:  With threats of war against our people in Eretz Yisroel emanating from in and about Artzeinu HaKedosha, we all know and realize that we are all one, and that the threat is to and upon us all.  In the last Bracha of Shemone Esrei, Sim Shalom, we note that (in Nusach Ashkenaz) the shoresh of Shalom is repeated over again four times, and that the shoresh of Bracha is repeated over again six times--even when the shoresh of Bracha in Bareich Aleinu is only mentioned four times.  We must recognize that the greatest bracha in the world, the epitome of bracha, is Shalom--and when we look for and recite the words rooted in Shalom and Bracha in the last words of Shemone Esrei, we should appreciate  this essential fact.  Chazal (Shabbos 32A) teach that it is better for one to daven that he stay healthy, than for one to get sick and then pray for the return of his health--for the latter situation requires many more Zechusim.  We too, must daven for the Bracha of Shalom now with extra Kavannah, and with knowledge that our Tefillos make the difference.  There is a wonderful P’shat from the Ben Ish Chai (whose Yahrzeit was yesterday) on the Pasuk in Tehillim (20:2) “Ya’ancha Hashem B’Yom Tzara Yisagevcha Shem Elokei Yaakov--may Hashem answer you on the day of distress, may Yaakov’s G-d protect you.”  The Ben Ish Chai asks--why is it that only Elokei Yaakov is mentioned here?  After all, isn’t Hashem the Elokei Avraham and the Elokei Yitzchak as well?  He answers that Yaakov referred to Hashem as the One who answered me ‘BeYom Tzarasi’ (Bereishis 35:3)--who answered me in the day of my distress.  He explains that Yaakov had perceived impending difficult moments at the hands of Lavan, Eisav, the people of Shechem, and the people of Mitzrayim.  Yet, he was remarkably redeemed from each and every situation.  Turning to this pivotal Chapter of Tehillim, Kepitel 20, the Ben Ish Chai explains that we affirm to Hashem that we recognize that this appears to be a situation of danger, but that we know that Hashem can instantaneously turn the tables--as he did as the Elokei Yaakov--and bring us the Yeshua that we so immediately need! 

 

 

Special Note Three:  Remember--Tzedaka Today!  Additional Note One:  Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, teaches us in Mishlei (16:31) “Ateres Tiferes Seivah B’Derech Tzedaka Timatzeih--an aged head is a crown of glory--it will be found in the way of Tzedakah.”  Rashi there explains that through Tzedaka a person lengthens his valuable days in this world--and the Metzudas Dovid adds that this length of days will actually be granted B’Gedulah V’Siferes--with greatness and glory!  Additional Note Two:  “V’Haya Ma’aseh HaTzedaka Shalom”.  By giving Tzedaka you can help bring about immediate peace.  To give Tzedaka for a zechus for our brothers in Eretz Yisroel, may we suggest our affiliate www.yadeliezer.org.--which helps support thousands of needy individuals in Eretz Yisroel. 

 

 

Special Note Four:  We continue with our focus on the Seventeenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Avodah.  Many ask why this bracha is grouped together with the last two brachos under the title of Hoda’ah, as opposed to being grouped together with the other brachos of Bakasha.  After all, even the first word--Retzeih--is a plea to Hashem to be pleased and look favorably towards us, with the bracha continuing with the plea for Hashem to restore the Avodah to the Bais Hamikdash.  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, answers that all of the prior brachos of Bakasha can refer to an individual’s needs as well.  From Retzeih and on we are not asking for individual needs--but only for communal needs--and we thank Hashem because it is only He who can respond to the needs of the millions and of the entire world.  HaRav Kanievsky also explains (based upon the Yerushalmi) that when we ask that the Avodah be returned LiDvir Beisecha, the word Dvir refers to the Kodesh HeKedoshim because it is from there that Hashem is ‘Medaber’--communicates to His people in this world.  Finally, HaRav Kanievsky was asked why we ask Hashem in this Tefillah to again accept our Tefillos (U’Sefillasam BeAhava Sekebel B’Ratzon)--after all, didn’t we just ask Hashem to accept our Tefillos in Shema Koleinu?!  He answers that here we are asking for an elevated level of acceptance--an acceptance not only B’Rachamim or even B’Ratzon--but B’Ahava--showing His love for us!  Remember to have Kavannah when reciting the word B’Ahava--as we ask for Hashem’s loving acceptance!

 

 

Special Note Five:  We continue with additional points and pointers for the month of Elul:

 

A.  Our enemies plan war--we plan and go to a different kind of war:  The Chofetz Chaim makes a great point from the first Pasuk of last week’s Parsha--Ki Tzeitzeih: When you go to war against your enemies Hashem will give them over into your hands, and you will take from them captive.  It is only if one goes to war, teaches the Chofetz Chaim, that Hashem will assist him against his enemies--which is all the Yetzer Hara disguised in his various forms of bad and inappropriate Ma’asim and unacceptable Middos.  When one exerts the effort to go to war, not only will Hashem give the Yetzer Hora over into your hands--but you will actually take them captive.  This means that with the proper Teshuva one’s Aveiros can even be ‘taking captive’--and converted into Mitzvos.  Start the war--and Hashem can help you with everything to fall into place.  Here are some ways to start the war: 

 

·        Eliminate any action which you would justify by saying ‘It’s not Rosh Hashana/Yom Kippur today’.

·        Consider: ‘What bad examples have I set that others (friends/family) could learn from?  After all, when I recite ‘HeEvinu, VeHirshanu’--I know that I will be held accountable for them. 

·        Consider--Does anyone have a claim against me for money--if so, should I try to rethink it or settle it?

·        In last week’s Parsha there is both an Asei and Lo Saseih regarding Lashon Hara--HiShamer/Zachor.  In what way can I improve my Shemiras HaLashon before the Yom HaDin? 

·        In what way will I ‘raise the bar’ against the Yetzer Hara in something that I have found myself falling prey to in the past?

 

B.  An important aspect of Teshuva is in the area of Tzniyus.  More than one prominent Rav uses the following as a guideline for Tzniyus behavior:  “If a person will look twice at you for what you are wearing, or what you are doing, then you are drawing attention to yourself, which is a breach in the concept of modesty and reservedness.”  It is for this reason that many have objected to a group of women who began to dress like Arab women, with a large part of their bodies and faces covered.  This is a great ‘rule of thumb’--if what you are doing or wearing or saying will cause a ‘double take’--avoid it! 

 

C.  In the secular world, an emphasis is placed on the concept of Premium.  Premium checking.  Premium gas.  Premium credit cards.  Premium Health insurance. Premium finance.  We too place an emphasis on Premium--but of a different sort.  We are marked as Gomlei Chasadim.  This means that we do not simply perform Chesed, but that we do so in a heightened, elevated--premium way.  The next time you perform a Chesed, think about whether it is a Chesed that a lot of other ‘nice’ people would perform--or whether it is of the premium Chesed variety.  Is it more than regular, more than special--is it on a higher plane--is it premium?  Chazal (Shabbos 104A) teach that in the Aleph Bais, the Gimel precedes the Daleth to symbolize that we are Gomel Dalim--that we run (symbolized by the leg of the Gimel extending towards the  Daleth) to the poor person to help him.  As we strengthen ourselves this Elul, let us make sure that our acts of Chesed are acts which follow closely behind the footsteps of our Avos--not just regular Chesed or even special Chesed--but instead Premium Chesed!

 

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Special Note One:  Last week’s Parsha highlights “When you go to war against your enemies...”

 

What makes this world so special is that it gives us the opportunity to succeed against the Yetzer Hora.  Each success against the Yetzer Hora is a great victory, and these are the greatest of all earthly battles (Mesilas Yeshorim, Introduction).

 

But just like an army needs the best equipment and strategies in order to emerge victorious, so too must we be prepared with the best tools and weapons for our success.

 

There are two basic “War Room” strategies which we have previously provided for success against the Yetzer Hora.  Remember, the Yetzer Hora is exceedingly sly (“orum”), and also acts as the Satan and the Maloch HaMovess.  We must meet the challenge and respond in kind.

 

Strategy One: Eliminate the Choice.  The Yetzer Hora often outwits his victim by presenting a choice to him and coaxing him to make the wrong choice.  To avoid making the wrong choice, one should see himself as a “muchrach”, as one being forced to do the right thing, and not have any choice in the manner.

 

Here is a simple example (you can come up with the harder ones):

Should I give this quarter to tzedakah before Shacharis?  I could, but it is my last quarter, and I may need it for a parking meter later today, and then what will I do?

 

The muchrach will respond “I must give the quarter to tzedkah because it is Shacharis time, and it is appropriate to give tzedakah now (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 92:10).

 

Simply stated, you must eliminate the choice.  Just as in Olam Haba, there will eventually be no choice because everything will become so clear to us, so too, one can make it all clear now, as well.

 

Strategy Two: Strategy One is, of course, successful when you realize that in front of you lies a choice.  What if the Yetzer Hora simply “blindsides” you by placing you in a situation where you are face-to-face with an aveirah?

 

Simple example one (you can come up with the harder ones):

You turn around on a crowded subway and the only person facing you is Harriet, the Loshon Hora monger.

 

Simple example two: You sit down in a restaurant with a non-Jewish co-worker, are about to order, and you realize that the hashgacha is inferior.

 

Strategy Two involves the use of mental imagery to defeat the Yetzer Hora.  One form of mental imagery is thinking about a situation that could come up, and how to handle it before it happens—what happens if I meet up with a person who starts speaking Loshon Hora—how will I deal with it?  Or, how can I explain kashrus and its stringencies to the non-Frum or non-Jew?  If one has already imagined the situation, he may be very well-equipped to deal with it when it really happens.

 

A second, perhaps more powerful, image is a picture of a human being confronting some kind of vivid punishment or “Gehinnom”, thinking, is it really worth it for me to do what I am about to do?  Chazal tell the story of a great person, who, when confronted with sin, ran over to a hot stove, and said “He who does this, falls into this.”  What an image!

 

In a more positive light, one can imagine a very bright, immense and infinite paradise for following the Torah’s ways.  Overcoming the situation will bring beautiful victory for a person, his family, and Klal Yisroel.

 

The above are two proven strategies.  As the clocks ticks up towards Rosh Hashanah, we urge you to try the winning side. 

 

May this year be a year of victory for all of Klal Yisroel!

 

 

Special Note Two:  As we travel deeper and deeper into Elul, we become more strongly sensitized to the words of Dovid HaMelech in Tehillim--“V’Ani Kirvas Elokim Li Tov--as for me, I realize that being close to Hashem is good.”  There is an incredibly penetrating Chapter of Tehillim--Chapter 139--which also very much relates to the time period that we are in.  We urge each and every one of our readers to slowly read this Kepitel in the Hebrew, and study it in the English, as well.  If you are moved, you are certainly heading in the right direction!

 

 

Special Note Three:  We provide the following essential points made in Praying With Fire II by Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, Shlita, relating to the “Eis Ratzon Period (Time of Favor) that we are in from Elul through Yom Kippur--40 days of Paradise for the Neshama!:

 

a.  R’ Itzele (Blazer) Peterburger, Z’tl, in Sefer Kochvei Ohr examines this seemingly illogical order of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.  He asserts that logically, Yom Kippur should have come first, allowing the Jewish people to begin by confessing and cleansing themselves of their sins.  After that process, they could arrive at the Day of Judgment, Rosh Hashanah, deserving of a good year.  However, Rav Blazer explains that a person’s first priority must be to recognize that Hashem is the benevolent King Who likewise renders judgment.  Only then can one truly comprehend the magnitude of the forgiveness one must seek on Yom Kippur.

 

b.  Our plea for a renewed lease on life is not limited to simply keeping our heartbeat and breathing going for another year.  HaRav Yechezkel Levenstein, Z’tl, writes (Sefer Ohr Yechezkel, 109):  “Zachreinu LeChaim is not just a request for life itself; it encompasses everything.  That which is connected to life is also called life--health, sustenance, removing obstacles and hardships are all included in our request for life.”  With so much at stake, we cannot afford to “stand in the shade” during this crucial Eis Ratzon, when Hashem’s radiance is at its peak.

 

c.  To better appreciate the role of Elul, Rabbi Kleinman provides the following allegory:  There was once a king who occasionally set out among the general populace to stay in touch with the realities of his subjects’ lives.  Prior to his arrival, he would send out letters to a random selection of families, announcing his visit.  On one such occasion, a poor couple living on the edge of town received a letter announcing that the king would be visiting them. The couple, who lived in abject poverty, began to discuss what to do.  “We have to repair the front stairs and weed the lawn and paint the walls and borrow at least one good chair for him to sit on,” the husband insisted.  “Who are you trying to fool?” the wife contested.  “We don’t have money for all that.  And besides, the king knows he’s visiting paupers.  We should just be ourselves.”  “No,” the husband countered.  “We have to put in our best effort.”  We have to show him that we prepared for his visit in the best way we can.  He has to see that we’re his loyal subjects and that we are proud that he is our king.”  It is for this reason that we undertake extra efforts, and are more meticulous and punctilious, in the learning of Torah and the performance of Mitzvos.  We must remember that, during this very 40-Day Period, Moshe Rabbeinu worked very hard in Shomayim pleading our case for eternal survival--and was successful.  The grace of the Period renews itself annually for each and every one of us.  However, it is not easy.  There are no “push-button” solutions.  Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, teaches us (Mishlei 24:16) “Ki Sheva Yipol Tzaddik VeKam…for a righteous man can fall seven times and rise, but the wicked shall stumble upon evil.”  It is the Tzaddik who realizes that even though he has fallen in the past he can nevertheless rise and become great.  It is actually a Rasha, a wicked person, who believes that because he has stumbled once, he has hopelessly fallen forever.  We have to take the time and make the effort to get up, as Hashem is *now* extending His hand to help us in an extraordinarily merciful, compassionate, and forgiving way, in a way which is beyond our wildest dreams or imagination.  In what ways can we help ourselves “up”?  Spending more time in Tefillah, true care in Shemiras HaLashon, opening the hand a bit wider to give Tzedakah, and in bleaching our Middos.  A sincere and tangible plan to avoid anger, jealousy (including looking at another person in the wrong way) and the need to gratify every last desire, will go a long way towards pulling you from last year’s fall to standing up ably and with pride on your own two feet.  Let us try to get up all together--for if not now, then when?!

 

 

Special Note Four:  We continue with our focus on the brachos of Shemone Esrei--this week reaching the Bracha of Avodah, or Retzai.  The Seder Hayom writes that this bracha is the first bracha after our requests have been concluded, and in it we ask that Hashem find favor in our service of Him.  In fact, in the time of the Bais Hamikdash--may it speedily be rebuilt--the specific request was that the Avodah in the Bais Hamikdash should find favor in Hashem in Hashem's eyes--and that Avodah included the Ishei Yisroel--the fire offerings, the karbanos of K'lal Yisroel.  At this time, we daven that our Tefillos be accepted in place of the Avodas Bais Hamikdash, which is the Avodah Sheleima --and that we once again see with our own eyes (VeSechezena Aineinu) the original Avodah.  This essential bracha thus contains a great dual purpose and character--asking that our Avodah now give nachas ruach to Hashem--and demonstrating our yearning for the Avodah Sheleima of the Bais Hamikdash.  Oh--how we should utter the words Vesechezena Aineinu with longing--our very own eyes should be zoche to see the fulfillment of the greatest dream of all mankind and of all time!

 

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

 

A.  The following are brought in the Sefer Otzros HaTorah:

 

1.  HaRav Yehudah Segal, Z’tl, related that once the Gra touched the shell of a kitniyus item on Shabbos, and having realized what he had done, his entire body shook and he fainted.  When he was revived, and was shown the shell again, he fainted a second time.  The next time he was revived, the Gra’s Rebbetzin quickly took the shell and ate it in front of him--in order to demonstrate that it was not Muktzah, because it could be eaten.  The Gra’s spirit thereupon returned.  Hakhel Note:  Even if one may not faint when he realized he has touched a Muktzah item, let us at least perceive from this story how serious the matter really is, and be as careful as we can.  A nice Shabbos kabbala for 5772--being especially careful with Muktzah items!

 

2.  HaRav Chaim Falagi, Z’tl (in the Sefer Kaf HaChaim 30,48), relates that the Arizal once forgot and placed his hand on his beard on Shabbos.  The Arizal feared that he may remove a hair from his beard if he removed his hand--so he left his hand in his beard until Motza’ei Shabbos!  Hakhel Note:  Think ahead--for Shemiras Shabbos!

 

B.  The following Halachos are excerpted from the newest volume of Piskei Hilchos Shabbos on Hilchos Shabbos:

 

1.  Kavod Shabbos not only includes cleaning one’s home, setting the table and putting on nice clothing in honor of Shabbos--but also includes keeping the table and home clean throughout the day.  Even if one doesn’t necessarily mind so much that his suit is not kempt, his shoes are not shined, his nails are not cut, and his house is not so orderly--and even if he is alone for Shabbos--the Kavod of Shabbos itself requires the neatness, orderliness, and loftier living mode.  We may add that this is not only because Shabbos itself is a special guest as a “Queen”, but also because the purpose of Kavod Shabbos is to attain Deveikus B’Hashem--and when one has Harchavas Hada’as and Menucha, when the setting is pleasant, clean, and serene--the circumstances lend themselves to an elevated sense of living. 

 

2.  If one was given food for Shabbos by a relative or friend, he should not use it on a weekday unless it is not the kind of food he would eat on Shabbos, or unless it will otherwise spoil.  One would also be allowed to taste it on Erev Shabbos--for this is in fact LeKavod Shabbos--and one fulfills “To’ameha Chaim Zachu” by so doing.  If one personally bought something for Shabbos (let us say, soup mandels) and then found something better (let us say flavored mandels), he can consume the original purchase on a weekday, even though he had originally intended in his mind to use it on Shabbos. We learn this from Shammai who would buy something LeKavod Shabbos, and when he would find something better, he would thereupon replace it with the better item. 

 

3.  Even though there is a special inyan to eat fish at each one of the Shalosh Seudos (unless it is not to one’s liking), there is a special inyan Al Pi Kabbalah to eat fish at Shalosh Seudos.  We may suggest that the reason for this is that the Third Meal represents the Shabbos Le’Assid Lavo--at which time the Livyasan will once again be ready for partaking of!

 

 

Special Note Two:  We conclude our focus on the Sixteenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Shema Koleinu.  Firstly, we note that the term Shome’ah or Shema is mentioned four times (in Nusach Sefard five times!) within the bracha.  This may serve to remind us that we should be careful in listening to others--so that we can legitimately ask Hashem to listen to us.  In fact, the Sefer Avudraham writes that the basis for our asking Hashem within the bracha for “Reikam Al Teshiveinu” (do not send us away empty-handed) is the Posuk “Al Yashov Dach Nichlam” (Tehillim 74:21).  This is the very same Pasuk which teaches us l’halacha that we should not turn away a pauper begging for assistance.  (There are exceptions to the rule, which we will not delve into now.)  Thus, we must both listen to others if we want Hashem to listen to us--and similarly if we want Hashem not to turn us away empty-handed, we should endeavor to act in a like manner with others who need our help.  In many Siddurim one will find a Nusach of Vidui placed as a note underneath the bracha of Shema Koleinu.  This is based on the Zohar in Parshas Balak, which teaches how important it is for one to recite Vidui in Shema Koleinu.  The Mishna Berurah actually brings this concept in Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 119, Seif Katan 4.  The Mishna Berurah adds there that one should also ask for Parnassah in this Bracha [before Ki Atta Shome’ah], even if he is a wealthy person.  We conclude the bracha with the words “Baruch Atta Hashem Shome’ah Tefillah”.  The bracha is in the present tense, like all of the other brachos of Shemone Esrei, because we must realize that Hashem not only listened to our forefathers and fathers--but wants to listen to us in the here and now as well--and we must accordingly daven to Him in a manner which befits this wonderful and wonderous reality! 

 

 

Special Note Three:  Remember--Tzedaka Today!

 

 

Special Note Four:  A reader provided a great insight from the Malbim, which may be helpful in our understanding of why we recite L’Dovid Hashem Ori (Tehillim, Chapter 27) from Elul until Hoshana Rabbah.  In this Kepitel, Dovid HaMelech relates: “Achas Sha’alti Mei’eis Hashem Osah Avakeish Shivti B’Veis Hashem Kol Yemei Chayai--there is one thing I ask for and seek--to dwell in the house of Hashem all the days of my life.” Dovid HaMelech had many responsibilities and perhaps millions to care for.  Health, happiness, Shalom Bayis, Parnassah was definitely on his mind, but when all is put into perspective, all of the details and particulars of one’s personal, and one’s communal, needs--ultimately they all lead to one life goal--D’veykus B’Hashem.  One has (or should have) a lot on his mind in Elul.  With all that, he must keep his focus as to what it is all for, what it is all about.  We therefore recite this Kepitel twice every day--to keep us focused and aimed at our true, ultimate, and everlasting goal!

 

 

Special Note Five:  Set forth below is a listing of important reminders relating to Tefillah, which have been culled from the Dirshu Edition of the Mishna Berurah to Shulchan Orach Chaim 90:

 

A.  The Chasam Sofer writes that Chana davened within four Amos of Eili HaKohein because it is a Segulah Nifla’ah to daven at the side of a Tzaddik. 

 

B.  Although the Shulchan Aruch rules that a person should be Mishtadel (apparently meaning only to make an effort) to daven in Shul with a Minyan, HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl (Igros Moshe, Orach Chaim  2:27 and 3:7) writes that it is a Chiyuv B’Ikar Mitzvas Tefillah--it is an obligation going to the essence of the Mitzvah of Tefillah to daven with a minyan in Shul, for when one davens by himself, even if he is a Gadol and a Tzaddik, he is not assured of being answered.  Hakhel Note:  Obviously, women have a different basis and standard in this regard.  Everybody has their duties and their roles!

 

C.  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, rules that children who have reached the age of Chinuch and can answer to Kaddish and Kedusha are included in the principle of BeRov Am Hadras Melech--and their presence in Shul adds to the davening of the entire Tzibbur. 

 

D.  The Mishna Berurah (seif katan 55) writes that a Bais HaMidrash which is used by the many to learn Torah has greater Kedusah than a regular Shul, and that it is better to daven there with only ten people than in a Shul where there are many Mispallelim--even if one does not learn there at all!  If one does learn there, one should preferably daven within four Amos of the place that he learns, as it has a higher level of Kedusha for him. 

 

E.  One should not look at or face pictures and drawings (and certainly not a mirror or glass where he can see his own image) when davening.  The Steipeler Gaon, Z’tl, would not daven in a Sukkah in front of pictures of Gedolim which were placed there as decorations. 

 

F.  One should try to be among the first ten of the Mispalilim for a Minyan.  The Machatzis HaShekel writes that within the first ten, the earlier you are, the greater the inyan (and reward).  Even if one is not among the first ten, the Aruch HaShulchan writes, one should try to come as close to the first ten as possible, so that he will draw Kedusha earlier.

 

G.  The Mishna Berurah (seif katan 39) writes (directly from Chazal) that one who arrives in Shul early for Shacharis and Maariv is Zoche to Arichus Yamim. 

 

H.  If a person in Shul realizes that he is davening Shemone Esrei in the wrong direction, for example one in New York realizes that he is davening towards the west and not the east, he should pick up his feet and change them to the right direction.  If one is not in Shul, he should keep his feet together and move his head  to the right direction.  If this is not possible, he should keep his heart (his thoughts and intentions)  towards the Kodesh HaKedoshim. 

 

I.  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita,  rules that when at the Kosel it is not preferable to daven inside the ‘cave’ even though it has a roof and is enclosed which is usually a prerequisite for Shemone Esrei, because the entire area by the Kosel is a Makom Tefillah. Hakhel Note:  In the Zechus of our sincere Tefillos, may we soon be zoche to daven on the other side of the Kosel’s wall!

 

 

Special Note Six:  We once again provide a specific listing of “everyday items” that could use repair. 

Remember, as Rabbi Frand, Shlita, teaches, Elul is Jewish Tax Season.  Indeed, it may very well be that Tax Season was invented so that we could more properly appreciate and experience Elul.

 

1.      Coming to Shul on time for davening without having to skip.

2.      Coming to Shiur on time.

3.      Wearing truly appropriate clothing while davening.

4.      Making Brachos properly--slowly, with Kavannah, bentching from a Siddur, making sure to make the right brocha on the food; especially being careful with the brachos of Shehakol and Borei Nefashos which are recited so many times a day, and can really serve in someone’s stead when recited properly!

5.      Reciting at least the first paragraph of Shema and the first brocha of Shemone Esrei with Kavannah; spending the time now to properly have the necessary “quick” Kavannah ready when reciting Shema and Shemone Esrei.

6.      Reciting Modim and Aleinu L’Shabeach with Kavannah.

7.   Making a personal request at the end of each Shemone Esrei.

8.   Making sure to privately thank Hashem during the course of the day for something specific that you just realized or were made aware of, or that just occurred--by thinking or voicing the words “Thank You, Hashem.”

9.      Making sure that the Hashgacha you are eating from is truly a good one.

10.   Not wasting time in frivolous chatter or nonsensical discussions.

11.  Not making sarcastic comments, and not using biting words.

12.  Having Kavannah for the rebuilding of Yerushalayim and the coming of Moshiach three times a day in Shemone Esrei.

13.  Sticking to the Truth.

14.  Avoiding a response based on laziness.

15.  Curbing a particular desire in some way every day; certainly not overeating or overindulging.

16.  Avoiding inane or impure thoughts which hurt the Neshama.

17.  Making proper use of the eyes and ears.

18.  Having a plan in place to use if you feel you are getting angry or if you realize you are already angry.

19.  When being stubborn, stopping to think whether it is for the correct reasons.

20.  Showing respect for elders (actually standing up when they come within four amos of you); smiling at them and praising them.

21.  Showing the proper respect for Seforim (studying from, straightening out, cleaning and kissing them).

22.  Not being overly frugal when it comes to Mitzvos and to the needs of others.

23.  Not turning the desire for money (Chemdas HaMamon) into an Avoda Zora.

24.  Not doing something which is disgusting, or at least would not be viewed kindly by other people--whether or not they see you do it.

25.  Not doing something else in front of someone who is talking to you; showing them a pleasant countenance, appearance and smile.

26.  Looking up/asking the Halacha when you need to know it or are unsure; or, if it is too late, at least looking it up now for next time.

27.  Making sure that your Mezuzos are checked every three and a half years; if you are not sure of the last time you had them checked, but know that it was quite a while ago--then checking them now--before Rosh Hashana.

28, 29 30--These numbers are reserved for you to add your own personalized reflections.  If you cannot come up with three of your own, then your introspection needs introspection!

 

May we each make great and gaping holes in the above encirclements, so that we are far from surrounded by sin on the upcoming Days of Din--and instead are surrounded by walls of overflowing Mercy, Love and Kindness!

 

 

Special Note Seven:  Thirty days from today will be the Holy Day of Yom Kippur:

 

In tomorrow’s Parsha, Ki Seitzai (Devorim 21:13 ), Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita, brings the following thought in Growth Through Torah (p. 494-495).

 

“The Aishes Yefas Toar must cry over her parents for a period of thirty days.  The Ramban explains that thirty days is the amount of time necessary for her to remove the attachment to her idols from her mouth and heart.

 

“Rabbi Chaim Zaitchek, Z’tl, comments that we learn from here that to really change a trait it takes a thirty-day period of intense work.  This is the principle of the month of Elul which is a time for us to focus on our behavior and traits in order to make a major improvement in ourselves.

 

“A person tries to work on a trait for a day or two, and when he does not see improvement he becomes discouraged and gives up.  When you want to improve any trait, give yourself thirty days of serious effort in order to see visible changes.  While some people are able to make changes very quickly, even they need a significant amount of time in order to ensure that the new habits become second nature.  Even if you do not see any positive changes in the first week or two, if you will persevere for an entire thirty days, you will begin to see the fruits of your labor.”

 

Hakhel Note: Today would be an awesome day to begin your own personalized thirty-day self-improvement project--to conclude with Yom Kippur itself!

 

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Special Note One:  Valuable thoughts from our readers:

 

A.  “Just wanted to share a thought on your note about avoiding “nirganus”, and judging favorably.

“To motivate myself, I remind myself of the following truism that we all know:  Hashem runs the world according to the principle of middah k’neged middah.  If I will overlook people’s shortcomings, Hashem will overlook mine.  If I won’t be exacting with other people, Hashem will not be exacting with me, if I won’t scrutinize other people and look at their faults, Hashem will not scrutinize me and look at my faults.  I’ve heard Reb. Esther Baila Schwartz refer to this as the greatest “life insurance policy.”\

 

B.  “The prevalent tendency is to despair of improving oneself when past Kabalos and attempts have failed.  The Shem MiShmuel states that Mitzvas Krias Shma teaches us not to give up, even though our prior Kabolas Ol Malchus Shamayim (within Krias Shma) has been unfruitful and/or unsustained.  In other words, in the past we did not actualize or translate the “Kabolas Ol” into action in Avodas Hashem and Kiyum HaMitzvos.  Rather, we should persevere and action and again be observe the imperative of Kabolas Ol with our recital of Shma twice daily.  As long as this is done unfailingly with sincerity, Hashem will reward us with a favorable G’zar Din, even if we do succumb to the Yetzer HaRa at the translation phase in the future.  This, according to the Shem MiShmuel, is the message of the Torah, Al Pi Rashi/Chazal:  As we go out to battle against our enemies (within, as well as outside)--”Shma Yisrael”--even if we have solely the Z’chus of unfaltering Kabolas Ol within our armaments, it is fitting that we be saved in battle.”

 

C.  “My Kabalos suggestions for 5772: 

       1.  Spend 5 minutes a day with Mesilas Yesharim, easily understood on a p’shat level. just read it. You’ll finish it in a month. Very do-able monthly.

       2. Sit down for every Bracha Rishona.  Say a Bracha Achrona before moving on--bring a bencher to the table before you begin!“

 

D.  “For many years, the Rav of my Shul has delivered a 30-minute Shiur in Mussar and Yesodos Ha’Emuna on Shabbos morning prior to Shacharis, preceded  by a 15-minute period review of the previous week’s learning that I have led.  Over the years, we have learned the following Seforim: Mesilas Yesharim, Derech Hashem, Da’as Tevunos, Tomer Devorah, Sha’arei Kedusha, and Nefesh HaChayim.  I write to express my growing excitement that our Shiur is beginning Sefer Orchos Tzadikim on Shabbos P’ Ki Tavo, BE”H.  Given the accessibility of this easily understood, fundamental Mussar Sefer to, perhaps, a broader spectrum of Klal Yisrael across the age span and across the ages than any other Mussar Sefer, it was frequency inserted into the Talis Zekel of common Yidden and Bnei Torah, alike.  When asked which Mussar Sefer to learn with TaSHBa”R, the Steipler, Zt”l, would respond- Sefer Orchos Tzadikim and Sefer Peleh Yo’etz.  The Sfas Emes, Zt”l, would regularly instruct the Avreichim who came to him for Hadracha in Avodas Hashem to learn a Perek a day from either the Chovos HaLevavos or the Orchos Tzadikim (depending on the specific Avreich).   Thus, I feel a tremendous feeling of Shalsheles HaDoros of Derech Yisrael Sabba at preparing to learn this Sefer during these Y’mei HaRatzon.”

 

E.  “On your note about the triviality of the Yankees especially at this time of year, I do of course agree with you but would like to make two points.  First, it is not only the Yankees or professional sports--a person who is not a sports fan can’t ignore the point.  Women have their non-worthwhile issues, accountants have theirs and businessman theirs.  In short, saying Yankees is like saying Xerox machine--there are a lot of different copiers--this is just one.  You can’t pater yourself--excuses will get you nowhere.  Everybody has to focus.  Second, as a child I was a baseball fan.  When I grew up, it always bothered me why I had spent so much time watching in the past even though I was only a kid.  I thought of one redeeming quality--it taught me that you don’t give up--you have till the bottom of the ninth--even if you are losing 17-0.  As difficult as it may be with your Yetzer Hora--you are the home team, and you have the final chance...”

 

 

Special Note Two:  Three weeks from today is Rosh Hashana!  We continue with points and pointers during these special days of Elul:

 

 

A.  In order for one not to think that we relegate its great importance to the end--Remember--Tzedaka today!

 

B.   Please think about the following:  You are asked to give a practical Shiur on Contemporary Issues in Chillul Hashem.  Can you list items that you have either seen--or perhaps have fallen prey to in the past?  What line items would you add specifically as to contemporary technology and behavior you have seen with it?  Please feel free to share your thoughts with us.  We will most definitely accept your notes for a Shiur on Contemporary Issues in Kiddush Hashem as well!  In any event--what will your cell phone Takana be for the 5772 year--above and beyond the Day To Disconnect?  Examples of thoughts for Takanos:  Should it be the first thing that I take out when leaving Shul?  Is it right to be looking to see who is calling when already talking with someone in person?  Is texting without limit (sometimes referred to as ‘unlimited texting’) a healthy activity for my soul?  For those with email access, should I be sending or reading emails when crossing the street, when eating, at red lights, or when spending quality time with a family member? 

 

C.  Perhaps more circumspection in the acceptability of the Kashrus of products is in order.  If you are unsure about a product--why not ask your Rav whether he would eat it?  No matter how large the K or unknown Kashrus symbol is on the box--it does not mean that the standard is an acceptable one.  Cereals and candies that were eaten by the previous generation may no longer be even minimally acceptable without reliable Kashrus  standards.  There are so many ingredients on products today that we are not familiar with--better safe than sorry!

 

D.  We remind our readers that the Sefer Orchos Chaim LaRosh is especially recited in Yeshivos today during the month of Elul, after Shacharis, as it was in Kelm.  HaRav Yechezkel Levenstein, Z’tl testified that there was a special nigun in Kelm when the three word paragraph of this Sefer--”Al Tevahel Ma’asecha --do not act in a hurried and perturbed manner--were recited.  Calmness and orderliness are essential to success!

 

E.  As we continue to focus on Malchus, we note an extremely valuable insight from Rabbeinu Yonah in the Sha’arei Teshuva.  Rabbeinu Yonah writes that if one brings others closer to service of the King--if he brings the King more devoted subjects--he is truly proving his loyalty to the King, and demonstrating how important the King is in his life.  If one helps others--especially this month--in their Torah studies, in their Mitzvah performance, by teaching them a Halacha that they do not seem to know, by teaching an as yet uneducated Jew something about Yiddishkeit in general or Rosh Hashanah in particular, he will be showing how important it is to him to bring honor to the King.

 

F.  Yesterday, we noted that Yiras Hashem is so crucial to our lives.  In fact, has true life-sustaining qualities (Tehillem 33:15, et. al).  The reasoning is actually quite simple--if you demonstrate a better understanding of life, then you deserve more of it.  The Chofetz Chaim, almost at the outset of the Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 1, seif katan 4) provides great advice in the name of the Arizal on a ‘to’eles gadol--a great help’ to attain Yirah.  One should envision in front of him the four letter name of Hashem (Yud Keh Vov Keh), with the nekudos of Yirah (chirik, sheva, komatz) under the first three letters.  One should certainly try this at a time or in a place where his Yirah is being challenged by his Yetzer Hora from within or his Yetzer Hora from without.  Nothing, of course, can replace a meaningful Mussar Seder, but effective emergency therapy or treatment, or a needed boost at a down point of the day, can sometimes be life-bearing as well.

 

 

Special Note Three:  W continue with our focus on the Sixteenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei, Shema Koleinu:  The Bracha continues: Ki Keil Shomea Tefillos VeSachanunim Atta . The Kuntres Avodas HaTefillah explains that Tefillos refers to our set and designated Tefillos  such as Shemone Esrei, whereas Tachanunim are our private prayers and pleadings  for our personal needs. We then continue with the phrase U’Milefanecha Malkeinu Reikam Al Teshiveinu. The Sefer Baruch She’Amar explains that we address Hashem here especially as Malkeinu--for it is truly to the glory of a king--who is so powerful--that he can grant requests that no one else can.  Thus, even if we are wholly unworthy--please do not send us away empty-handed--please provide us with some of the relief and help we need--because You are a King who knows, cares and loves His subjects!

 

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Special Note One:  We continue with our focus on the Sixteenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Shema Koleinu.  After asking Hashem to be “Chus V’Racheim Aleinu”--we further our request with the phrase “V’Kabel B’Rachamim U’VeRatzon Es Tefilaseinu.  In Nusach Ashkenaz this is the second of three times that we will mention the term Rachamim in this one Bracha.  Once again, in asking for Rachamim we indicate to Hashem that we know that we are unworthy of His granting our requests and receiving His blessings.  When sincere, this expression constitute the optimum kind of Tefillah--Ke’Ani BaPesach--as an indigent person who knocks on Hashem’s door.  To better help visualize the moment, one can actually put his hand out in front of him as he recites these words.  We note that we not only ask Hashem for His Rachamim, however, but also for His Ratzon.  By Ratzon, we mean to indicate (at least) two points:  Firstly, we don’t want to act like mechutzafim, and that we are sincerely looking for Hashem to accept our prayers ‘B’Nachas Ruach’ (Kuntres Avodas HaTefillah).  Moreover, when something is done B’Ratzon, with willingness, it is performed in a more complete and perhaps more-than-complete way.  We thus respectfully ask Hashem to not only accept our Tefillos on a minimal basis, but accept them with a ‘breite hant’--in the most beneficial way possible--with a Ratzon that Only Hashem is capable of!

 

 

Special Note Two:  We continue with additional points and pointers for the month of Elul, a time period referred to by HaRav Chaim Friedlander as the Yam HaRachamim (Sea of Rachamim), upon which we are so privileged to sojourn:

 

A.  How does one attain Yiras Hashem?  Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, teaches:  Im Tevakshenna KaKessef…if you search for it like money”.  Not all of us are money mongers.  What does Shlomo HaMelech mean?  The Ba’alei Mussar explain that just as one must search after money for his daily livelihood, for his daily existence--so too must one pursue Yiras Hashem in all of his daily activities.  One must sense Hashem’s Presence not only when he davens or gives Tzedaka, but also when he pays his workers, engages in a conversation with a person he newly meets, has the door slammed in his face, or finds himself drenched by a sudden rain storm while it looks sunny all around.  In Elul, we want to be smart about our lives…and about our future.  How does one become smart?  Reishis Chochma Yiras Hashem!  Let us search for it in a newfound way today…while shopping, walking, talking, eating--in our daily life!

 

B.  One way to constantly feel Hashem’s Presence is to sense the impending Nisayon when it begins to appear or has just appeared--and either meet or avoid the challenge.  You may have at some point encountered an ant or other insect crawling on the ground, and noticed that when it senses something strange or ‘unfriendly’, it veers in the other direction--and may continue doing so time after time--direction after direction--within a short period.  The reason?  It has an innate sense that it must protect its being and save its life.  It must be cautious--for no one else will be cautious for him.  If you have ever noticed this phenomenon-- take its lesson--after all, you saw it for a reason--and avoid the danger of each Nisayon--Nisayon after Nisayon!

 

C.  Rabbi Yissocher Frand, Shlita, on one of his fantastic Teshuvah tapes, reports that a bachur approached HaRav Dovid Kronglass, Z’tl, Mashgiach of Yeshivas Ner Yisroel in Baltimore , with an issue or complaint relating to ketchup.  HaRav Kronglass responded something like “Ketchup--you are talking about ketchup in Elul--who can eat ketchup in Elul?!”  While we do not know whether kosher ketchup sales are down this month, the point is clear--we must appreciate that over-indulging, or even simply indulging, in whims and desires--is antithetical to the theme and character of this special month.  Ta’ava or desire, is symbolized by the heart.  Chochma or wisdom, is symbolized by the brain.  There is a well-known vort that the difference between a Melech (a king) and a Lemech (a naïve, unsophisticated individual) is that the word Melech is spelled with a ‘mem’ before the ‘lamed’--meaning that he puts his Moach or his brain before his Lev, before his heart.  The Lemech, on the other hand, puts his Lev before his Mo’ach--letting his desires, and truly trivial matters get ahead of what wisdom says is important.  Perhaps we can consider and override some items that are more trivial at this time of year-- for instance, need one really mention the term “Yankees” this month, and will your knowledge of the final score really make a difference in your life?  Will the second helping ‘because it is so good’ help mold your future?  The knowledge that it is Elul, and that one is personally responsible for his future, should elevate one to greater personal accomplishments and heights during this month.  Remember--according to the effort--is the outcome!  Hakhel Note:  To obtain Rabbi Frand’s Teshuva Shiurim, contact yadyechiel.org

 

D.  Speaking of the future, we have begun receiving suggestions of Kabalos.  One person suggested that although he had studied the Mesilas Yeshorim and Orchos Tzaddikim in the past, he has never successfully studied the Sefer Chovos HaLevavos.  His project for 5772 will be, bli neder, to find a Chavrusah to study this Sefer with.  Please feel free to share your suggestions and Kabalos with us as well. 

 

E.  As a follow-up to our story of HaRav Chaim Volozhiner, Z’tl, of yesterday, it is said that HaRav Aharon Kotler, Z’tl, was asked--if the reward of one who supports Torah is so great--why aren’t the students of Torah themselves going to work and finding people to support?  After all, isn’t this a perhaps easier way of acquiring a great/greater portion in Torah than one could otherwise?  HaRav Aharon responded:  “Perhaps one could, but he will lose out on all the Olam HaZeh of Torah Study!”  Hakhel Note:  A reader pointed out that if one considers all of the Avreichim learning in Ponovezh, Mir, Lakewood and other Torah centers and Kollelim, large and small--what will be the total number of Avreichim studying worldwide?  His guesstimate was 20,000-25,000, on the conservative side.  When one considers that a large stadium seats 75,000--he begins to realize that Torah--and its support--is truly a precious commodity!  One should involve himself, in whatever way he can in this precious commodity!

 

F.  As we draw nearer to Rosh Hashana, one should especially try to have Kavannah in the fifth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--”HaShiveinu Avinu-- which is the bracha of Teshuva,  One should think not only of himself--but also of his family, friends, those not yet religious...and all of K’lal Yisroel!

 

G.  At the recent Hakhel Yarchei Kallah, Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, provided an insight from which all men can learn daily:  “It seems that there is some kind of time warp around the Amud where the Shaliach Tzibbur stands.  How is it that he always finishes Ashrei before Mincha before you do, and always finishes Aleinu at any davening before you?  He has to be reading the same words as you--and it is not very likely that your reading is so incredibly inferior to his.  So how can one cure this sad warp?  There are two methods:  (i) One can urge the Shaliach Tzibbur to realize that not everyone is in the great rush that he perceives them to be and that he has the time to recite the great words of Ashrei and Aleinu while breathing normally; or (ii) with an uncooperative Shaliach Tzibbur, one should make the time and effort to start Ashrei early, so that he can complete Ashrei when the Shaliach Tzibbur does.  [For Aleinu, one can consult with his Rav, as to the best solution to properly recite this great Tefillah and remember that according to the effort is the outcome.]

 

H.  Please continue to daven for the release of the last of the bochrim jailed in Japan , Yaakov Yosef ben Raizel.

 

I.  Remember--Tzedaka Today!

 

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Special Note One: We continue with our focus on the Sixteenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Shema Koleinu.  We begin (Nusach Ashkenaz) this bracha with the phrase Shema Koleinu--Hashem please hear, understand, and accept [similar to Shema Yisroel, in which we proclaim “Hear, understand, and accept, Yisroel: Hashem is our G-d, Hashem the One and Only.”].  What do we want Hashem to hear, understand, and accept here?  Our Kol, our voices, even if our Kavannah has not necessarily been full and complete.  Just we recite in the Haggada on Pesach (based upon Shemos 2:24)”Vayishmah Hashem Es Koleinu, so too, do we ask Hashem to turn to our voice itself and to hear, understand and accept our pleas for yeshuos--just as He understood it then and determined to release us from Mitzrayim.”  As HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, writes: the Anshei Kneses HaGedolah especially chose not to use the term Shema Tefilaseinu, but rather Shema Koleinu--for even if we lack the merit, and even if we lack the good sense to daven in a better manner--please consider our Kol alone and respond to it without exacting a measure of strict justice.  In a similar vein, the Sefer Dover Shalom writes that we ask Hashem to hear our Kol--our groans and cries, even if they are inarticulate and not detailed or exact.  Finally, the Eitz Yosef writes that with the term Koleinu, we plead with Hashem that He recognize that we do not know all of the Kavanos, Remazim, and Sodos--all of the deeper meanings and powerful requests contained within the words of our Tefillos--but that Hashem nevertheless considers as if we had included them all within the Kol of our Tefillos.  Then, with the next phrase after Shema Koleinu--Hashem Elokeinu--we use Hashem’s names of Mercy and Hashgacha Pratis to emphasize the depths of our plea for compassion.  In fact, there are two different kinds of compassion for which we plea--as we ask for Chus and for Racheim.  What is the difference between them?  The Artscroll Siddur, as well as Rav Schwab on Prayer, and HaRav Friedlander, all bring the explanation of the G’ra.  As beautifully put in the Artscroll Siddur:  “The term Chus, pity, refers to an artisan’s special regard for the product of his hands; while Rachamim, compassion, describes the emotion aroused by someone who is pathetically helpless.”  We therefore exclaim--”Hashem Elokeinu, pity us because we are Your handiwork, and be compassionate, because we need You so desperately!” 

 

Hakhel Note:  From HaRav Dessler in a letter to his son in 5695:  “…My dear son, please remember what is before you, the Day of Judgment, which requires great preparation.  You must daven from the depths of the heart to arouse Rachmei Shomayim (Mercy from Heaven) that we merit Heavenly Assistance, and that Hashem gives us success in attaining Teshuvah from the depths of the heart, for this is the ikar (essence) through which we can emerge innocent in justice B’ezras Hashem. (Michtav M’Eliyahu Volume 4, page 313).”

 

Remember, there are no limits to what we can accomplish with Siyata D’Shmaya, and just one sincere Tefillah can get us there!

 

 

Special Note Two: Rebbe Yeruchem Levovitz, Z’tl, taught that the basis of these days of Elul are Rachamim, from which comes Mechilas Avonos, forgiveness of sin.  Although we ask for Hashem’s Rachamim every day of the year (as noted immediately above), we need even more--special gates of mercy to be forgiven of sin--and they are open in Elul! How important it is to put in the effort this month...for one to help save himself and his people!

 

Here are some suggestions:

 

1.  Because we all live in a fast-paced world (and the pace keeps on getting faster and faster, as we race towards Moshiach’s times), we may look for the easiest or “more convenient” place to daven or to do a mitzvah, even if it is not necessarily the nicest or optimal way of performing the mitzvah.  For instance, one may go “to the shul around the corner” to “catch” a Maariv, even though one wouldn’t consider it to be his shul, and wouldn’t think of davening there on a Shabbos morning or on a regular basis without good reason.  Similarly, one may choose to call or visit a person not feeling well, or perform the mitzvah of nichum aveilim at a time which best suits the visitor’s schedule, as opposed to a time where the visit is really more needed or meaningful.  Consciously choosing to avoid the “most convenient” way of performing a Mitzvah is a beautiful way of demonstrating your belief that Hashem is in charge of the World, because you are fulfilling the teaching of Chazal: “Asei Ritzono K’Rtzonecha--treat His will as if it were your own will…” (Avos 2:4)

 

2.  As we are caught up in straightening out our relationship with Hashem (Bein Odom L’Makom) in Elul, all of the damage to people and property by the recent “natural disasters” could serve as a reminder to us to remember our Bein Odom LeChaveiro, as well.  In this area we have two basic suggestions:

 

a.  As we have noted previously, be sure to look for and sincerely compliment at least one family member or close friend or associate every day, and, perhaps, every night--at least this month!

 

b.  Shake off and eliminate any vestige of the “Nirgan” within you.  What do we mean by “Nirgan”?  Actually, it is someone who views people and situations negatively to the extent that he regularly judges people “L’Chaf Chov--as having done something wrong”--and even if they have done something right, it must have been for the wrong reasons.  We are constantly judging people in our daily life--family, friends, and acquaintances.  When you catch yourself and realize that you are in the process of judging someone--make the conscious decision--”I am not going to be a nirgan!”

 

3.  Make it a habit, after Shacharis, Mincha and Maariv to think about one thing that happened over the last few hours that you can correct, fix or change--and how you will behave or conduct yourself next time--so that if it happens again your response will be better or more appropriate.  Even if it happened to someone else--you can learn and grow from the experience (it is said that a wise person learns from the mistakes of others).  With this special focus on concern and caring for what is going on around you, you will be fulfilling the order of the day--thought, improvement and change.

 

4.  When reciting the words “Melech HaOlam” in the Brachos that one makes, one should make sure that the two words are separated and not slurred together, and take a moment to think about the entire, yes entire, universe that Hashem is King over (recommendation of HaRav Zaidel Epstein, Z’tl).  After all, if we are readying ourselves for the King of the Universe’s coronation, we dare not come with our minds unfocused on Melech HaOlam, and thus unprepared for the new Kabbalas Malchus on Rosh Hashana.  Indeed, if we would appreciate how we stand before the King as we pray every day, when we proclaim Hashem’s Malchus over the world on Rosh Hashanah--it will be more like someone already housed in the royal palace doing so--rather than like a commoner coming into the palace for the first time on Rosh Hashana and looking around in bewilderment.

 

5.  Besides reciting the Pesukim relevant to Elul such as “Ani LeDodi VeDodi Li”, “Umal Hashem Elokecha Es Levavecha…” from time to time during the day, one should be especially careful in reciting his “Me’ah Brachos --the one hundred brachos” one (in any event) recites throughout the day with an elevated level of Kavannah and feeling.

 

6.  The Terumas HaDeshen would have special Kavannah in the Tefillah of Boruch She’Amar during the month of Elul.  If one focuses on the words ( which were established by the Anshei Knesses HaGedolah based upon a note that fell from heaven--Mishna Berurah, Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 51, seif katan 1), one can truly inspire himself to come closer to his Creator in this inspirational month.

 

7.  Remember--Tzedaka Today!

 

Hakhel Note:  At yesterday’s Hakhel Shiur on Practical Halachos of Tzedaka and Ma’aser Kesafim, Rabbi Moshe Heinemann, Shlita, related the following startling incident:  “There was an individual who donated generous sums to the Yeshiva in Volozhin.  The man was apparently not very learned, and he asked HaRav Chaim Volozhiner, Z’tl, to learn Mishnayos for his Neshama after he was niftar.  After the generous man was niftar, HaRav Chaim felt that it would be appropriate for him not only to attend the Levaya, but to go to the Bais HaKevaros as well.  After coming back exhausted from outside the city, HaRav Chaim remembered that he had undertaken to learn Mishnayos L’Ilui Nishmaso.  He began to study a Mishna and had a tremendous Kasha on the Mishna.  He fell asleep in the depths of the difficulty, and was visited by the unlearned man who was buried just a very short while ago--who promptly provided him with a complete answer to his question.  HaRav Chaim awoke surprised:  “I realize that all those who support Torah are granted the Torah that they supported in the Olam HaEmes--but I did not realize that it happened so quickly!”  Hakhel Note:  As we attempt to strengthen ourselves in the crucial area of Talmud Torah in this month, let us be especially careful in our dedication to Hachzakas HaTorah--which bears fruit not only in this world for those who study--but also places the very Torah study into the mind and heart of the person who studied in the World to Come!

 

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Special Note One:  A reader had inquired as to whether one actually had to be outside in the hurricane in order to make the Bracha of Oseh Ma’aseh Bereishis.  We posed the Shaila to Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, Mechaber of The Halachos of Brochos.  Rabbi Bodner responded:  “It is not necessary to go outdoors and to feel the force of the wind in order to make the Bracha.  Rather, when one sees the effects of the winds through a window may make the bracha as well.  This is based upon the Birkei Yosef to Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 224, and the Shulchan Aruch HaRav, Birkas Hanehenin 13:9.

 

 

Special Note Two:  We have now reached the Sixteenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--the milestone bracha of Shema Koleinu--which encapsulates all of our previous requests.  The Sefer Ya’aros Devash movingly writes on this Bracha as follows:  “Here, one should turn to Hashem with all of his needs, whether big or small, and should leave out nothing, in his requests of Hashem.  There should be nothing that a person intends to undertake or accomplish that day in which he does not ask for Hashem’s success, and one should ask Hashem to place him on the proper and correct path.  It goes without saying that if c’v a person has a t’zara in his house that he should daven here for its successful quashing and removal, and that if a person is blessed with a Simcha, he should daven that it should be a successful one--not causing any kind of iniquity nor resulting in any negative impact or effect.  Before the concluding phrase of Ki Atta Shome’ah, one should daven in his own words--for it then per se will be Kava’anah-filled.  These Tefillos will be new and fresh, as they will relate to the situations and events of the day, and should come from the depths of the heart.  Through sincere Tefillos here, one can once and for all come to realize that his efforts and actions are meaningless on their own--and are all subject to Hashem’s determination and decree.  Moreover, anything he asks for Hashem here will be for a Kosher purpose--how would he ask Hashem for wealth or anything else in a way which would anger Him?!  Accordingly, one who davens for his needs from Hashem here will not readily sin--as he is asking Hashem Himself for the Bracha!  Additional Note One:  We can easily see how powerful this Bracha is in that five different names of Hashem are used within the Bracha: Hashem, Elokeinu, Kel, Atta, and Malkeinu. In Nusach Sefard there are actually seven Names of Hashem in the bracha, as we begin with the terms Av and HaRachaman.  Additional Note Two:  The Mishna Berura (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 122, seif katan 8) writes that it is better to daven the aforementioned Tefillos in Elokai Netzor after Yehiyu L’Razton, so that you will be able to answer Kaddish and Kedusha.  Accordingly, one must gauge his Tefillos, and the Minyan he is davening with, accordingly.  Additional Note Three:  In all events, the Kuntres Avodah HaTefillah brings from the father of the Shelah HaKadosh that the Bracha of Shema Koleinu should be infused with more Kavannah than the preceding Brachos, as it is the conclusion of all of the Brachos of request--and accordingly one’s heart and mind should be especially focused on asking Hashem to listen to the kol of his Tefillah and accept his Tefillah B’Rachamim. 

 

 

Special Note Three:  Some additional points and pointers relating to the great and auspicious period we are in:

 

A.  HaRav Yecheskel Levenstein, Z’tl, (in his Sefer Ohr Yechezkel--Elul) notes that on Rosh Hashanah all of man is judged relating to his Olam HaZeh and his Olam HaBah--Hashem’s great books are open before Him, and we all know about it!  There are no secret investigations, and we are given a great amount of time to prepare our cases and to rectify our misdeeds.  Yet, so many treat it as if it is only a matter of a few small coins that have, or may be, lost.  How could this be so?!  HaRav Levenstein, Z’tl, notes that this must be part of the curse of the tochacha which states Yakecha Hashem BeShiga’aon U’VeIvaron U’Besimhon Leivav--Hashem will strike you with madness and blindness and with confounding of the heart (Devarim 28:28).  Rashi there explains that Simhon Leivav means Otem HaLev--the essence of the curse being that our hearts become sealed, and we remain thoughtless and thereby actionless in the face of matters of extreme urgency and importance.  HaRav Levenstein concludes, however, that notwithstanding the curse, we can open our hearts--as is evidenced by the period of Elul (Ani L’Dodi where we demonstrate our love of Hashem) and the blowing of the Shofar--which is intended to open the blockage in the face of our awe and seichel.  Hakhel Note:  We add that the Chida, Z’tl (brought in the Sefer Otzros HaTorah) writes that Elul must first begin with Ani LeDodi--I am to my Beloved Hashem and then-- Dodi Li--Hashem will be for me!

 

B.  A phrase that we expressed several times on Shabbos should permeate the days of Elul, and perhaps we should exclaim the phrase from time to time during the day:  Vetaher Libeinu L’Avdecha B’Emes--Hashem please cleanse us, please purify our hearts to serve You in truth!”

 

C.  The Torah tell us about at least two things when it comes to giving Tzedakah:  (i) Lo Sikpotz--one should not close his hand to giving; and (ii) Nason Titein--give, and if necessary give again.  Rabbi Shlomo Schuck, Shlita, points out that these instructions are in fact true in all of our interpersonal relationships--which are also Tzedaka--dealing correctly and righteously with the other person.  Even if one perceives that he has been wronged by another and has an initial reaction of ‘closing his hand’--withdrawing away from the other person and rejecting him as a result, he should instead and to the contrary give and give more to that other person.  He will then rebuild the relationship, rather than destroying it.  We all can and should give tzedaka--even or especially when hurt of offended by the words or actions of another.  When we overcome our initial reaction of hurt, withdrawal and closure--through our interpersonal tzedaka, we can open up new paths and vistas in the relationship! 

 

D. On the topic of Tzedaka as well--remember--Tzedaka today!

 

E.  Chazal teach that Hashem’s Seal is Emes--truth.  In fact, Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, instructs Emes Knei Al Timkor--acquire truth and make sure that it stays with you--do not sell it any price.  Let us be especially vigilant that the words that we utter are true according to all opinions (except, of course, for those very unique exceptions for reasons of Shalom, Tzniyus, or Anivus, and as guided by your Rav or Posek). 

 

F.  The Chofetz Chaim writes that although Torah study is ‘Magnei U’Matzlei’--protects and saves a person--no siyum of a  Mesechta nor any Siyum of Shisha Sidrei Mishna or other Torah learning could protect a person when he brings a Ruach HaTumah upon himself by defiling his mouth through Lashon Hara and Dibburim Assurim.  There is an extremely important story related by HaRav Chaim Berlin, Z’tl, that occurred after the Petirah of HaRav Yitzchak Blazer, Z’tl,--otherwise known as R’ Itzele Peteburger, one of the primary students of Rabbi Yisroel Salanter, Z’tl:  HaRav Yitzchak appeared to HaRav Chaim in a dream on Leil Shabbos.  HaRav Chaim asked him what the Din in Shomayim was like. HaRav Yitzchak replied that the Din in Shomayim is very strict, in a way in which we cannot fathom.  He added that they are especially Makpid on Dibburim Assurim, in words spoken SheLo KeHogen. With this, he departed.

Let us be especially vigilant in the area of proper speech--especially before the Yemei HaDin of the Yomim Noraim ahead. 

 

G.  Chazal teach that when it comes to Mitzvah performance:  Yafeh Sha’ah Achas B’Tza’ar MiMe’ah Pe’amim Shelo B’Tza’ar--performing a Mitzvah once with difficulty is greater than performing the very same act 100 times without any tza’ar.  The Sefer Otzros HaTorah writes in the name of the Chofetz Chaim that this proportion was true in the time of Chazal.  In our time, however, the Chofetz Chaim continues, we require 1,000 times more effort to overcome the Nisyonos HaChaim.  Accordingly, when we perform a Mitzvah B’Tza’ar, it is worth at least 1,000 times more than a Mitzvah performed without Tza’ar! 

 

H.  A reader advised us that the Gematria of Shofar is the same as the Gematria of Yerushalayim (without the second yud at the end of the letter)--586.  When we hear the Shofar, we should close our eyes and have Hirhurei Teshuva “Shipru Ma’aseicheim--I am going to change myself and improve my ways.”  With these Hirhurei Teshuva--one can bring himself--and many others with him--to Yerushalayim Ir HaKodesh!

 

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Special Note One:  We continue with our Erev Shabbos--Halachos of Shabbos Series.  The following Halachos are excerpted from the Sefer Mishna Berurah LeMa’aseh (practical Shailos U’Teshuvos in Hilchos Shabbos) by Rabbi Yehoshua Horowitz, Shlita:

 

A.  The prohibition against engaging in Mekach U’Memkar on Shabbos applies even if a transaction is concluded verbally, and even without a Kinyan.  The same prohibition applies on Yom Tov.  Anything that one cannot do by himself on Shabbos, he may similarly not instruct other to do on his behalf either.  He may likewise not say “Tomorrow I will buy” or “Tomorrow we will measure it”.  One may likewise not borrow a specified amount on Shabbos, for instance, such as a “quart of juice” or a “liter of soda”.   One should not obtain fruits or vegetables from a non-Jew on Shabbos even if he does not discuss purchase with him because we suspect that they were cut on Shabbos itself. 

 

B.  One may only wash dishes if he will need at least some of them later on that Shabbos.  [However, one may in all events wash all previously used drinking glasses--as there is no limit to how much one may drink.] One may likewise make all the beds on Shabbos, even if he only needs one bed to sleep in.  It is permissible to soak utensils on Shabbos in order to avoid food getting stuck to them (if the food is already stuck it would not be permissible, as it would then be considered hachana for the weekday).  One may soak utensils in order to avoid insects such as flies and ants from entering into them, as this is considered a Tzorech Hayom. 

 

 

Special Note Two:  We continue with our focus on the Fifteenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Es Tzemach Dovid.  In this Bracha, the word Keren, or horn, is used twice--in the term ‘VeKarno Tarum Bishuasecha’, and in the last words of the bracha--’Matzmiach Keren Yeshua’.  Why is the term ‘Keren’ used?  HaRav Shimon Schwab (in the classic Rav Schwab on Prayer, p.494-495), writes that the word Keren really has two meanings.  First, meaning ‘horn’, it is a metaphor for power, just as an animal expresses its power by goring its perceived enemies with its horns.  Second, the word Keren has the meaning of ray as in Karan Ohr P’nei Moshe--Bnai Yisroel could perceive the spiritual rays of light emanating from Moshe Rabbeinu.  The Moshiach, too, will have a dual role.  First, he will bring order into the world by eliminating the Reshaim (see Yeshaya 11:4).  He will not be some sort of a ‘superman’ who will simply overpower the Reshaim, but rather will use Tefillah as his staff.  Second, the Moshiach will bring spiritual rays and ligh to us.  He will cause a mass movement of Teshuva and elevate us to a level of V’Ameich Kulam Tzaddikim.  Hakhel Note:  We may add that perhaps this is the reason that the term Keren is used twice in the bracha--once to indicate the obliteration of the Reshaim--and the other to raise us with his spiritual rays to new spiritual heights!

 

 

Special Note Three:  As we noted yesterday, Teshuvah in the area of Torah is absolutely essential, because, as the Chayei Adam writes, Bittul Torah K’neged Kulam.  We should be coming up with ideas as to how we can refine and enhance our Torah study (i.e., that we already study) over the course of this month.  Perhaps we can be careful not to look up when we hear a routine noise as we are learning, or when we simply sense that someone enters the Shul or the room.  Perhaps we can make sure that there is enough light in the room, so that one does not easily get distracted or fall asleep.  Another suggestion would be to make sure to come on time to a Shiur or Chavrusah (which does not mean coming even a few minutes late).  If you have any suggestions, they would be most welcome.  It is fascinating to note that the Chofetz Chaim brings that if one studies two Halachos in the morning and two Halachos in the evening, he has fulfilled the Mitzvah of VeHagisa Bo Yomam V’Layla.  If one in any event learns in the morning and evening--this may be a very doable suggestion of fulfilling what may otherwise have appeared  to be a very high and tall order! 

 

 

Special Note Four:  Dovid HaMelech teaches in one of the key Kepitlach (Chapter 24) recited on the Yomin Noraim:  Mi Ya’aleh BeHar Hashem…Neki Kapayim U’Var Leivav.”  We know that Neki Kapayim refers to hands that are clean of theft or pilferege.  What is a ‘Var Leivav’?  The Chofetz Chaim writes that is refers to someone whose heart is focused on important matters, without truly trivial items becoming part of the admixture of his thoughts.  It is indeed for this reason that we ask Hashem every day immediately before Shema: “VeYacheid Levaveinu Le’Ahava U’LeYira Es Shemecha VeLo Neivosh LeOlam Va’ed--may our heart be united in our love and fear of You and [then] we will not be shamed for eternity.”  If our hearts are filled with the proper thoughts, it will have no room for irrelevancies, irreverencies and waste.  As the Chofetz Chaim continues, we affirmatively declare in the Zichronos portion of our Tefillah on Rosh Hashana “Ki Zecher Kol HaYetzur Lefanecha Bah…Machshevos Adam VeSachbulosav--for everything appears before You, Hashem… the thoughts of man and his designs.”  To what can this be compared?  To a merchant who leaves on a trip taking along with him his treasure chest, and who asks one of his relatives accompanying him on the trip to watch after the treasures.  The relative agrees, but asks whether he can look inside the chest.  The merchant allows him to, and the relative opens the chest--only to find it half-filled with precious gems and rubies--but that the other half is filled with dirt and grime.  The relative thinks to himself ‘what a fool this wealthy man is--how did he place the precious jewels side-by-side with the soil and muck?!’  The dirt is, of course, a Nimshal to the whims and desires that a person occupies his mind with--all of which will after 120 years turn to afar--the earth below.  When the person then sees that which he has done, he will wonder and lament: how could I have had this dual and contradictory love--loving the Torah and the Mitzvos and the Hevlei Olam Hazeh.  How could I have filled up my treasure chest with so much dirt--when there was so much room for more priceless riches?!  Therefore it behooves everyone, concludes the Chofetz Chaim, to drive away those Machshavos of Hevel which lead a person to fulfill his desires, cravings, and temporal wants--and instead pursue Yichud HaLev--the unification of one’s heart in the love, fear and service of Hashem.  Every day, one fills the treasure chest of his mind--it is up to him to determine whether he does so with something which will be eternally worthless--or everlastingly priceless!

 

 

Special Note Five:  Some additional points and pointers relating to the great and auspicious period we are in:

 

1.  The Seder HaYom writes that for all of the Moados we become involved 30 days before the Yom Tov (searching for Chametz, building Sukkos).  So too, must one be involved in a spiritual investigation for a 30-day period commencing on Rosh Chodesh Elul.  In fact, HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl (Halichos Shlomo, Moadim 1:1) teaches that the word Elul means “to search” in Aramaic (see, for example, Bamidbar 13:2--the Targum for the word VeYasuru).  HaRav Shlomo Zalmen added that a Ben Torah should show special care during this month, as others will follow his improved conduct.

 

2.  HaRav Velvel Eidelman, Z’tl, would say that the phrase “Ani LeDodi VeDodi Li” (whose first letters form the acronym Elul) specifically indicate the Avodah of the month--”Kirvas Hashem--getting close to Hashem!

 

3.  HaRav Yechezkel Levenstein, Z’tl, reported that Rebbe Itzele Petteberger, Z’tl, once spoke in Shul at the beginning of Chodesh Elul.  He opened up the Aron Kodesh and said “Modeh Ani Lifanecha Hashem Elokai Shenasata Lanu Es Chodesh Elul HaZeh.  Ribbono Shel Olam Anu Mekablim Es HaElul BeAhava U’VeSimcha--I thank You Hashem, for giving us this Chodesh Elul.  We hereby accept it upon ourselves with love and joy.”  The entire Kehillah then burst out crying (Ohr Yechezkel p. 297).

 

4.  If you have not yet begun, we remind you about both the study of Sefer Mesilas Yesharim over the next month (broken down by you, either by pages or chapters) for completion on or by Rosh Hashanah, and also about the Three Mishnayos a Day Program--by learning three Mishnayos a day beginning with Mesechta Rosh Hashana, followed by Mesechta Yoma, and then Mesechta Sukkah--you will complete Mesechta Rosh Hashana before Rosh Hashana, Mesechta Yoma before Yom Kippur, and Mesechta Sukkah before the end of Sukkos.  Imagine what you will have accomplished in just about 50 days--and during the important time in which you will have accomplished it!

 

5.  Some have the custom of reciting 10 Chapters of Tehillim daily during the month of Elul, so that the entire Sefer Tehillim is finished twice (150 x 2 =300) before Rosh Hashanah.  If this task seems too formidable, may we suggest as a possible alternative reciting one Chapter slowly and with Kavannah for the words (using, for example, a Metzudah Tehillim or an interlinear Artscroll). 

 

6.  Chazal teach that 30 days is a complete time period--for instance a standard (i.e., unless otherwise specified) vow of Nezirus is for 30 days, a standard loan is for 30 days, and the Yefas To’ar must stay in her abhorred state for a period of 30 days.  In fact, Chazal teach that 30 days is such a whole time frame that it may even be treated for some purposes as a complete year.  Thus, with Elul, we have a complete period in which to prepare for Rosh Hashana. We should be sensing, or taking some action, to help us sense a daily advancement.  Perhaps a few written notes daily of the Teshuva thoughts you had, and of some practical ideas for accomplishment (better yet if building on yesterday’s), would take you further into the real world--the Elul world of which your body and soul are so much a part.  It is fascinating to note that in the bracha of Teshuva in Shemone Esrei, we conclude that Hashem is “HaRotzeh BiS’Shuva--The One Who wants or desires our Teshuva.  HaRotzeh is certainly a very strong term--is there anything else in all of davening that you know of about which we say that Hashem is a “Rotzeh” for.  Oh, what a great opportunity is --to give to Hashem what he is a ‘Rotzeh’ for!  ...and what a great kavannah to have while doing Teshuva--to fulfill the wishes of the “Rotzeh BiS’Shuva!”  Additional Note:  If one realizes that he has sinned in some way during the day--he should attempt to do immediate Teshuva--not letting it cool off until it becomes just another of the day’s events.  The three key elements to Teshuva are: (a) Charata--having genuine remorse for having done the misdeed; (b) Kabala Al HaAsid--resolving not to do it again; and (c) Vidui--confessing in words.  If the sin was Bain Odom Lechaveiro-than the affected or hurt party must be asked (and grant) forgiveness to effect a complete Teshuva.  The Mitzvah of immediate Teshuva is not limited to one time of the year or one time of the day--but should be undertaken without delay, and most certainly during the days of Elul!.

 

7.  Rebbe Yeruchem Levovitz, Z’tl, teaches that the Avodah of the month of Elul is that of “Gilu BeRe’ada--to rejoice with trembling.”  He explains that neither the Gilu, the rejoicing, nor the Re’ada, the trembling, is to be at the expense of the other.  Gilu, rejoicing, is a manifestation of love, and Re’ada, of course, signifies fear.  This Avodah of Elul, Gilu BeReada, is evidenced by the juxtaposition of every morning of Tekias Shofar with the recital of “LeDovid Hashem Ori.”  The Navi Amos teaches us what Shofar is to accomplish: “will a Shofar be blown in the city and the people not tremble….”  The Kepitel of “LeDovid Hashem Ori,” on the other hand (as noted yesterday) contains the Name of Hashem symbolizing His mercy (Yud Keh Vuv Keh) thirteen 13 times, representing Hashem’s love for us.  The love is further symbolized in the Kepitel with the terms “Ori, Yishi, Maoz Chayai, and Yitzpeneini BeSukko, among others.”  In this vein, it is reported that the Terumas HaDeshen would spend extra time in his recital of Pesukei DeZimra in Elul, for the Pesukim demonstrate Hashem’s love for us, which in turn engenders our love for Hashem.  Indeed, it is said in the name of Rebbe Akiva Eiger, Z’tl, that the reason that the bracha immediately preceding Shema concludes with the words of “HaBocher BeAmo Yisroel *BeAhava*” is so that we can feel a reciprocity of this love, this Ahava when we recite the words of “*VeAhavta* Es Hashem Elokecha….” 

 

Additional Note:  The Sefer Kadosh Elul brings that HaRav Zaidel Epstein, Z’tl, was heard singing “Ata Vechartanu” during the days of Teshuva.  When he noticed the surprise of some around him, he advised them: “One should not act in a cold and dry manner during this time.  He should understand the great chesed, and the light of closeness to Hashem, that we benefit from, and bask-in during these days.”

 

  8.    At a Teshuva Shiur, among his very many important words of advice, Rabbi Yechiel Spero, Shlita, noted the following:

 

a.  Forgiving Others.  If we are seeking the forgiveness of Hashem, we should endeavor to forgive others, even if it is difficult, and even if they have not asked us to do so.  Hashem, of course, runs the world based upon Midda K’Neged Midda--so this ‘enables’ Him to forgive us-- if we forgive others.

 

b.  List Them.  Make a list of happy events and unhappy events that occurred in 5771.  Put this list in your Rosh Hashana Machzor--and look at it from time-to-time during davening... so that you realize what you are davening for in 5772. 

 

9.  Contemporary Teshuva Suggestions:  Even before arriving at the Day to Disconnect, the following are two brief thoughts on how one can demonstrate Teshuva--his resolve and ability to change--with his cell phone:

 

When receiving a beep, buzz, or ring on your phone while talking to someone or doing something important, controlling yourself and not looking to see who the party is.

 

Consciously and willfully Sending three less text messages a day from now until Yom Kippur.

 

Hakhel Note:  May we suggest that you personalize your own Teshuva for your own foibles and weaknesses with your phone or other electronic communication device.  We would very much be interested in your additional suggestions.

 

10.  We have begun wishing each other a “Kesiva Vechasima Tova.”  When we wish this blessing upon someone else and when we receive it, we must appreciate its true import.  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita (brought in Sefer Derech Sicha) teaches that the most important part of a Bracha from a Tzadik is our Bitachon and Emunah that Hashem will help in the merit of the Bracha.  Thus, if one does not truly believe that the Bracha will help, it will generally not help.  We therefore remind everyone to give Brachos--especially at this time of year--with sincerity (See Praying With Fire, Volume 2, Days 50-56), and to receive Brachos with the belief that Hashem will fulfill them.  A Bracha such as “Kesiva Vechasima Tova” is especially powerful because it is not specific or limited, but a general Bracha--for all good.  Indeed, at the end of the four Brachos of Bentching, after making many specific requests, we finally conclude with the words “Umekol Tuv Leolom Al Yechasereinu--and of all good things may He never deprive us.”  The all-encompassing conclusion assures us that we have covered our needs in totality.  We can now understand the popularity--and the necessity--of the meaningful Bracha--”Kol Tuv!”

 

Additional Note:  When one asks for the bracha of another--he also makes that person feel special and important.  A bracha, then, serves manifold purposes--benefitting the recipient, the giver--and giving Nachas to Hashem as He sees how His children love each other!

 

11.  HaRav Eliyahu Dessler, Z’tl, writes that he believes that the reason Teshuva is a difficult concept for many is that people find it too difficult to change, and, being honest with themselves, basically give up on the idea.  When they recite Selichos, say Viduy, or otherwise hear the Shofar or daven the special prayers of the Yomim Noraim, they are indicating that they would change if they could, but do not really feel that it can happen overnight--or even in the present or near future.  The Torah teaches that this seemingly realistic--but negative--attitude is misplaced and, in fact, incorrect.  If one would only recognize that each Mitzvah accomplished, each improvement in conduct or middos, every nice brocha recited, every victory against the Yetzer Hara, actually positively impacts upon and truly completes creation as a whole, he would have a much more constructive approach to the process of self-improvement and Teshuva.  One would view himself as extremely successful if he became a partner at Goldman Sachs or a senior executive at Sony.  Here, with every Mitzvah, one is actually being given the opportunity to be a partner with G-d in Creation itself.  The importance of every act of improvement between man and Hashem, man and man, and man and himself, is detailed in the Nefesh HaChaim ( 2:13 ).  There is truly an air of holiness which not only pervades, but surrounds, each Mitzvah and Mitzvah-doer.  It is quite possible that for this reason we are required to stand in the presence of one who performs a Mitzvah (see Mishna Bikurim 3:3, and Bartenura there).

 

By rejoicing in the prospect of Teshuva, by being happy over the opportunity to improve, by feeling good when giving nachas to Hashem and coming closer to Him, we can benefit from the upcoming unique and special days to their wonderful fullest.

 

12.  We received the following two thoughts from a reader: “Every Jew can be a tzaddik -- you just have to want it badly enough.”

  

 13.  The Gerrer Rebbe (the Sefas Emes) wrote that it is ‘bli safek, without doubt that Min HaShamayim a special hisorerus is placed within people to do Teshuva in this month.  It is our job to find the openings, and give ourselves the Eitzos, to arouse ourselves as well. 

 

14.   HaRav Yechezkel Levenstein, Z’tl once told his talmidim that he had studied the Sefer Sha’arei Teshuva more than 1,000 times, and that every time he studied the Sefer, he found a chiddush or a new application of its words.  HaRav Moshe Schwab, Z’tl, the Mashgiach of the Gateshead Yeshiva would give a Sichas Mussar, which would be immediately followed by Ma’ariv--so that the hisorerus would immediately take effect in the next Tefillah.  It is for this very reason that some have the custom of reciting a Kepital of Tehillim after studying Mussar--in order for the hisorerus to take hold in the person.

 

15.  Remember--Tzedaka Today!

 

16.  Rebbe Yisroel Salanter was known to say that “Truly the entire year you should feel like it is Elul--but at least in Elul you should feel like it is Elul!”

 

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Special Note One:  Important points and pointers as we enter into the month of Elul. 

 

A.  As a reader reminds us: It is each person’s duty to make sure that the sound of the Shofar being heard does not simply ‘go in one ear and out the other.’

 

B  Chodesh Elul Kedushas Tefillin Program is now underway--for more information on incentives not to talk with your Tefillin on (besides for the fact that it is not allowed and much more conducive for Tefillah), contact Rabbi Adler by emailing kedushastefillin@gmail.com

 

C.  Elul is most certainly an awe-inspiring time.  As we noted yesterday, one who walks around feeling scared, may not necessarily get the most out of this period which is actually reflected by Ani LeDodi V’dodi Li.  It is a time in which we show our love to Hashem, and Hashem show His love to us, and a period referred to as “Yomim Kedoshim”--Holy Days.  Accordingly, it would be appropriate to take steps which do not indicate fright, but rather an appreciation of the uniqueness of the time.  One suggestion would be to arise five minutes earlier for the entire period.  Another would be to recite at least the longer brachos (such as Al HaMichya) from a Siddur.  A third would be to compliment another person as early in the day as possible and as late in the day as possible when one is tired and may not otherwise be as thoughtful.  Your additional thoughts or practices would be most welcome.

 

D.  An interesting suggestion for one to get into more of an Elul mode (unless one is in Yeshiva, one does not necessarily note that it is Elul when walking outside--but it is very much the same Elul all over the planet) is to recite or at least read the Vidui D’Rabbeinu Nissim, which is published at the beginning of your Yom Kippur Machzor.  Let the words personally penetrate!

 

E.  Rabban Gamliel Rabanovitch, Shlita, points out that while the Sefaradim begin Selichos today, on the second day of Elul, the only additional public Tefillah of the Ashkenazim at this time is Chapter 27 of Tehillim--”LeDovid Hashem Ori.”  Accordingly, he concludes that it would be very befitting (especially for Ashkenazim!) to have Kavannah in “LeDovid Hashem,” for it is in a sense the replacement for Selichos at this time.  We remind everyone that Hashem’s name of especial Rachamim--Yud Key Vuv Key--appears 13 times in this Chapter--corresponding of course to The Thirteen Middos of Rachamim.  Perhaps a manner in which one can improve his Kavannah for the next several weeks as we recite this inspiring Kepitel is to try to focus upon Hashem’s Name as it is recited, thinking that Hashem, as Master of the World, Was, Is, and Will Be…and is All-Merciful.  A little bit of effort can make all the difference!

 

F.  What would Elul be without the special study of a Mussar Sefer?  As in the past, we recommend that one take one of the classic Mussar words such as Mesilas Yesharim or Orchos Tzaddikim and divide your volume up over a 30-or 40 day period, so that you will be making a special Mussar Seder effort every day through Rosh Hashana or Yom Kippur.  This doable project will probably involve the study or review of only about four or five pages a day. 

 

G.  Because Elul is known both as the Yemei Rachamim and the Yomim Kedoshim, we know that its moments are especially precious ones in preparation for the Yomim Noraim ahead.  Perhaps we can demonstrate our value for this special time by eliminating at least once a day some added or extraneous action that we might have otherwise taken or undertaken.  For instance, a witty repartee to another’s email or opening an unsolicited email without a real purpose or ‘just to see what it says’.  Similarly, one can avoid non-essential purchases, political and socio-economic discussions, and that ‘extra’ glance at the news.  We welcome your additional thoughts and experiences--on how you intend to proceed through this year’s Elul.  After all, it is crucial--especially at this pivotal point in Klal Yisroel’s history!

 

H.  Remember--Tzedaka Today!

 

 

Special Note Two:  When enumerating potential aveiros that one must do Teshuva on, the Chayei Adam notes that Bitul Torah K’Neged Kulam.  Before one personally broaches the topic of improvement or change in his personal Torah study, he must first adequately imbibe himself with the reality of Kavod HaTorah.  The Sefer Sharei Teshuvah (3:145) writes that there are those who say: “Of what use to us are those who study Torah?  If they have become wise, they have become wise for themselves and we have no share in their reward.”  The Sharei Teshuvah continues:  “By so saying, they deny what is written in the Torah, ‘I will forgive the entire place for their sake’. (Bereishis 18:26)”  The Sharei Teshuvah then continues that “one who shames Torah scholars is mevazeh the word of Hashem and has no share in the World to Come.  Moreover, he remarkably concludes based on Chazal:  “an Apikores is one who does not conduct himself with fear and respect towards Talmidei Chachomim, although he does not shame them, such as one who shames his neighbor in the presence of a Torah Scholar, and one who does not honor a sage’s Torah.  If one does not esteem Torah enough, he is reckoned among the desecrators of Torah.”  For this reason, Chazal teach:  Es Hashem Elokecha Tirah’ (Devarim 6:13 )--LeRabbos Talmidei Chachomim.”  Accordingly, we suggest that we revisit early on this month how we can do Teshuva in the area of Torah by perhaps first determining how we can personally improve in the area of Kavod HaTorah--which is such a vital prerequisite to a true appreciation of the Torah itself. 

 

 

Special Note Three:  We continue with our focus on the Fifteenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei--Es Tzemach Dovid.   The next phrase in this bracha is Ki LiYeshuasechi Kivenu Kol HaYom.  The Yeshua to which we refer here is importantly two fold.  The Kuntres Avodas HaTefillah brings the Mahari Tzemach that this refers to the Yeshuos of Hashem as He saves us from circumstances and events each and every day, (also including saving us from illness, keeping us healthy, healing us, giving us our daily needs, etc.).  The second more commonly known explanation is to the ultimate Yeshua in which Hashem’s people are finally and forever redeemed.  The G’ra (Mishlei 10:28 ) explains that the word ‘Tikvah’ (Kivinu) specifically refers to an anticipation of something happening immediately or in a very short time.  Accordingly, it very much relates to the term ‘Meheirah’ used earlier in the bracha.  Just as there are two different kinds of wonderful Yeshuos to which we refer, there are two different meanings to the concluding term in the bracha of ‘Kol HaYom.’  Some explain that the term ‘Kol HaYom’ literally means the whole day, and by this we indicate that the Yeshua is always at the top of our minds.  Others, however, explain that the word ‘HaYom’ really refers to the expanse of our entire Golus, but that our anticipation is not the entire day--but rather Kol Yom, every day (for one cannot truthfully say that it is on the foremost of his mind every moment of the day).  In either event, we note that the Sefer Olas Tomid writes that for every moment that one does in fact anxiously await the coming of Moshiach, he fulfills two Mitzvos M’Divrei Kabbalah--Im Yisma’mah Chakei Lo Ki Vo Yavo (Chabakuk 2:3) and Lachein Chaku Li Ne’um Hashem (Tzefanya 3:8)!  Go to it!

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