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Hakhel Email Community Awareness Bulletin

SEPTEMBER 2014 DAILY EMAIL ARCHIVE

 

 

6 Tishrei  

THE RAMBAM’S LANGUAGE: There is no ambiguity. The Rambam (Hilchos Teshuvah 3:4) writes exactly what we are to do during the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah: “LeHarbos BeTzedakah U’VeMa’asim Tovim VeLa’asok BeMitzovs Yoser MeKol Hashana--we must give more Tzedakah, do more good deeds and be very involved in Mitzvos--to a greater extent than the rest of the year.” This is what we are supposed to do--it is up to us to do so!

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TWO REMARKABLE POINTS ON TESHUVAH:

1.      Rabbi David Ashear, Shlita, astoundingly points out that not only are we gifted the ability to do Teshuvah—which could mean not only making amends for what we have done, but even potentially turning our iniquities into Mitzvos—but on top of it all Hashem made Teshuvah a Mitzvah in the Torah—for which we get sechar for performing!

 

2.      The Sefer Tomer Devorah (Chapter 1) writes that just as Hashem accepts our Teshuvah and in the place where a Ba’al Teshuvah stands not even a Tzaddik Gamur can stand, so too, should we accept the Teshuvah of others when they apologize to us.  We should not begrudgingly forgive them and thereafter treat them in a distant and cold manner—but instead should bring them closer to us, and treat them with the newfound warmth with which Hashem treats the Ba’al Teshuvah. After all, we have to emulate the ways of Hashem!!

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ANOTHER THOUGHT ON KABBALOS: Very often, much precious time during the year is lost as one walks from place-to-place (such as from home to the bus) without any focus. The mind is allowed to wander. Sometimes it is good, and one reminds himself of things to do--but very often it may be more of a waste of time, and even destructive as one considers ‘why he said this’ or ‘why she did that’? It may be a better idea for one to attempt to bli neder commit to think about what he is going to think about before he starts his walk (perhaps keeping items that need to be thought about on a piece of paper and looking at it before leaving). Of course, the item to be thought about can most certainly be Divrei Torah--as Chazal (Shir HaShirim Rabbah) teach that the sechar for learning Torah while traveling is five times greater than for learning Torah in a regular study position. Imagine the constructive hours you can gain in just one year!

 

Hakhel Note: We welcome your thoughts on firming up your Kabbalos!

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NOT JUST CLEAN INSIDE…: Chazal teach that because we do not eat or drink on Yom Kippur as a matter of course, one of the ways that we can accord Kavod to the day is by wearing a kesus nekiyah--clean clothing in honor of the day. May we recommend that one take out the clothing now, and make sure that it is free of spots or stains--so that one becomes clean--both inside and out!

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HILCHOS SUKKOS: We continue our two Halachos a day in the 30-day period before Sukkos:

 

1. As we all know, the Rema writes that one should begin building his Sukkah on Motza’ei Yom Kippur so that he leaves one Mitzvah and enters another. If one finds it difficult to begin the actual building either because he is weak from the fast or he needs the help of others, the Kaf HaChaim writes that he should at least speak with his household members regarding the Sukkah. In a similar vein, the Aruch HaShulchan writes that one unable to build a Sukkah should be involved in learning Mesechta Sukkah or the Halachos of Sukkah. Likewise, the Mateh Ephraim writes that if one has purchased his Lulav and Esrog prior to Yom Kippur, he should check them on Motza’ei Yom Kippur to make sure that everything is in order (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 624; and 625, Dirshu Notes 3 and 4).

 

2. When eating one’s kezayis or preferably more than a kebeiyah of challah in the Sukkah on the first night of Sukkos [or in Chutz La’aretz on both nights of Sukkos], one should lechatchila have in mind that he is doing so Zecher Leyetziyas Mitzrayim and Zecher Le’ananei Kavod, which surrounded us and protected us from the elements around us in the desert (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 626, Mishna Berurah seif katan 1). According to Rebbi Akiva, the Sukkah is actually a remembrance to the actual physical Sukkos or huts that every family of K’lal Yisrael possessed in the Midbar. Rabbi David Ashear, Shlita (Emuna Daily), in the name of HaRav Yitzchak Scher, Z’tl, asked what is so remarkable about our dwelling in simply huts, which brings us to commemorate it with the Sukkos holiday. HaRav Scher answers that the great miracle of the huts is the personal Hashgacha Pratis that each family experienced in the Midbar--a miracle which continues through our day! As we sit in the Sukkah on the first night(s) of Sukkos--let us revel in Hashem’s Hashgacha Pratis over us!

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 Special Note One: ASERES YEMEI TESHUVAH ALERTS: 

 

A.  In Birchos HaShachar one thanks Hashem for taking care of all of my needs--She’asah Li Kol Tzarki.  What a wonderful inspiration for one to remember daily--Hashem is there to take care of me!  Is it not my responsibility to spend some time and effort considering how I can act differently, how I can change for the better--in honor of Hashem!

 

B.  U’Chesov LeChaim Tovim Kol Bnei Brisecha--inscribe all the children of Your covenant for good life.”  What is a good life?  The Kuntres Avodas HaTefillah explains that it is life in this world which will be good for Olam Haba. 

 

C.  The following points are excerpted from Nachpesah Deracheinu VeNachkora--a pamphlet issued in Lakewood , which is available (in Hebrew) by the following link -  http://tinyurl.com/d54y4uc 

 

1.  The Aseres Yemei Teshuva are different than the other days of the year, in that during these hallowed days, Hashem actually wakes us up to do Teshuvah, while throughout the year a person must initiate the process in some way on his own (Sefer Ya’aros Devash, 1:1).  This is the meaning of the Pasuk that we recited on Tzom Gedalya and that we have recited in Selichos:  Dirshu Hashem BeHimatzoh--Hashem presents Himself to us without our having to find Him.” (Yeshaya 55:6) If a person would take the matter seriously, he would realize that his heart is yearning for Teshuvah during these days.  Hakhel Note:  Imagine that HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, or HaRav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, Z’tl, came into the room to wake you up--wouldn’t you spring out of bed?!  Here we have the Melech Malchei HaMelochim Who has come to wake us up--let us jump at the opportunity!

 

2.  We must search our ways--this may be difficult not only because it involves real thought, but also because people forget what they do, or repress what they have done--or at least the seriousness of what they have done.  It is for this reason that the expanded version of the Vidui (such as that of the Chida or the Chayei Adam) have been published.  On the above link, one will find an expanded Vidui for one to reflect upon.  One should take specific notes on what he would specifically like to correct, and how he will do so. 

 

3.  The reason that one recites Vidui even over sins that he believes he did not commit is threefold:  (1) Kol Yisrael Areivim Zeh LaZeh--we are all responsible for each other, and so we must ask forgiveness for our mutual aveiros; (2) One may have committed the sin in a previous gilgul; and (3) One may have committed the sin, and not have focused or remembered it.

 

4.  The Rambam in Chapter 4 of Hilchos Teshuvah brings 24 items which are me’akev (hold back, or limit a person’s ability to do) Teshuvah.  One of them is HaPoresh Min HaTzibbur--someone who separates himself from doing something together with others, for he lacks the collective merit that they have engendered.  Another is Sonei Es HaTochachos--one’s failure to listen to and apply the words of Mussar that are related to him (everyone should grow at least in one way from the Shabbos Shuvah Drasha that he heard).  A third is somebody who receives honor at the expense of another person (even if that person is not there, and even if the other person is not embarrassed).  The last item listed by the Rambam is HaMischaber LeRasha--one who associates with a person who sins--for they leave a mark whether or not one realizes it.  We all can stay farther away from one person or another of this sort (see the Rambam there for the complete listing of items which are me’akev Teshuvah).  Hakhel Note:  If one’s car would not go over 20 miles per hour and he did a lot of highway driving, would he not take the car in for repair?  The 24 items which are me’akev Teshuvah simply do not let us get up to the speed we need to be at! 

 

D.  The period that we are in is a serious one and should be treated as such.  One should think twice before joking around or acting with levity in order to ‘lighten the mood’.  As we all know, each new day during the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah corresponds to one’s intending to do Teshuvah for all of these days in the prior year. 

 

E. When preparing for Yom Kippur, and certainly on Yom Kippur itself, when one recognizes or brings to mind a sin which he has particularly transgressed, he should certainly stop and feel remorse for it.  In the Yom Kippur davening, we will recite, “K’Dalim U’Chrashim Dafaknu Delasecha.”  This means that we should view ourselves before Hashem as, rachmana litzlan, a poor person knocking on someone’s door and asking for funds that he needs to survive.  This is what we are doing as we stand before Hashem.  Fortunately, though, we are blessed with Someone who will answer the door and receive us warmly and with love.

 

F.  We must remember and spend some time working out the “Aveiros Kalos”--the so-called lesser transgressions.  The Sha’arei Teshuva ( 1:38 ) writes that we should not look at the “smallness of the transgression” but the Greatness of He Who warned against it.  Secondly, if one persists in a small transgression, the successive accumulation of Sin could be analogized to a delicate and weak strand of silk which, through constant redoubling, becomes a stout rope.  Moreover, even as to a “small transgression,” a person can be considered, rachmana litzlan, a “mumar--an apostate”--in this particular respect(!).  Finally, Rabbeinu Yonah writes, if the Yetzer Hora gains even a “small victory” over a person today, it can gain a greater victory tomorrow--so you must stop him today!

 

G.  HaRav Shach, Z’tl, once traveled during the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah to Tel Aviv to the Admor of Strikov.  A student asked him why he was traveling to Tel Aviv at a time when every minute was being scrupulously measured.  HaRav Shach responded that he had a Kabbala that before Yom Kippur one should go to get a Bracha from a “Gutter Yid--a Good Jew.”  Let us take this essential lesson from Rav Shach-- and be sure to get Brachos from our Rabbanim and other “good Jews.”

 

H.  Rabbeinu Yonah (in the Sha’arei Teshuva, outset of Sha’ar 4) teaches that Teshuva is to the soul what a panacea is to the body.  This is beautifully reflected in the Avinu Malkeinus we have been reciting daily, in which we ask Hashem:  “HaChazireinu B’Seshuva Sheleima Lefanecha”, and then immediately follow this plea with “Shelach Refuah Sheleima LeCholei Amecha.”  Once we have healed our soul, the healing of our body takes on greater meaning.  This is of course, also similar to the Mi Shebeirach for a Choleh in which we first ask for a “Refuas HaNefesh,” and then for a “Refuas HaGuf.”  Remember, all of this healing is free, and the extent of all of our healing is directly proportional to the sincerity and effort we invest in its achievement.

 

I.  HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, notes that in the second Bracha of Shemone Esrei which relates to Hashem’s Gevurah, we add the important phrase “Mi Chamocha Av HaRachamim--who is like You Hashem, the Father of Mercy?”  What, HaRav Moshe asks, does Gevurah have to do at all with mercy?  Doesn’t Gevurah represent Din or justice?  HaRav Moshe answers that with this precise language Chazal are teaching us how we are to perform acts of mercy--with Gevurah!  We should not, for example, wait for the poor person to come knocking at our door, or for the neighbor to ask for the favor.  Instead, we should strengthen ourselves and look for the opportunities of Chesed.  We should be Giborim in Rachamim.  To do so is to emulate Hashem, and to do so is the mark of the Torah Jew.  Hakhel Note:  At the end of the day, you may want to think about where you were a true Gibor in Rachamim.  If you cannot find a shining example, perhaps you could put it high on your list for the next day!

 

 

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5 Tishrei

 

WELCOME TO 5775! MAY IT BE A YEAR WHICH IS MALEI BIRKAS HASHEM!

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THE AHL CHEIT LINK : As Yom Kippur approaches, we provide for your use by the following link  http://tinyurl.com/p8ewl7d  a compiled review of the Ahl Cheits. Please feel free to print-out, and share the link with others!

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YOU CAN STILL DO IT! There are ten days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, and ten chapters in Hilchos Teshuva of the Rambam. Do you think that the Rambam is suggesting that we learn one chapter a day over the Aseres Yemei Teshuva? Well, at this point, we can learn two chapters a day ... and still finish before Yom Kippur!

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REMEMBER TO GIVE TZEDAKAH TODAY--PLEASE!

 

Hakhel Note:  The Yesod VeShoresh Ha’Avoda writes that one should be “Marbeh BeTzedakah” because giving Tzedakah is a “Segulah Neflaha LeKapparas HaAvonos U’Veyichud LaEvyonim MeHuganim Ba’alei Torah--giving Tzedaka is a wondrous Segulah for forgiveness of sin--especially if it is to poor Torah Scholars.”  Over the next several days, let us especially remind ourselves:  Give!  Give!  Give!  and then…Give!     

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QUESTION OF THE DAY : Chazal teach that during the Aseres Yemei Teshuva we recite HaMelech Hakodosh, rather than HaKel Hakodosh. Why is it that HaMelech must replace HaKel in the bracha? Can’t we just add HaMelech before or after HaKel, so that it is HaKel HaMelech Hakodosh? After all, as we concluded U’Nesaneh Tokef, did we not cry out that Hashem is Melech Kel Chai V’Kayam? Moreover, Kel is even in the Shelosh Esrei Middos that we have been reciting and will continue to recite so many important times through the end of Yom Kippur. Why not continue to include it in the bracha, as we do on the other 353 days of the year?! We look forward to your thoughts!

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HILCHOS SUKKOS: We continue our two Halachos a day in the 30-day period before Sukkos. Our notes are excerpted from the Dirshu Edition of the Mishna Berurah, Volume VI:

 

1. It is forbidden to place the sechach down before putting up the walls of the Sukkah, as the placement of the sechach should be the final act which makes the Sukkah kasher. It is likewise of utmost importance that when placing the sechach on the Sukkah any shlak or awning is rolled up. After the sechach has been fully placed on the Sukkah and the Sukkah is kasher, one may then roll the shlak or awning on it (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 134:8). No trees may be directly above the Sukkah. However, if the branches of trees next to the Sukkah (but not on top of the Sukkah) block the sunlight from reaching the Sukkah, the Sukkah is still kasher (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 626:1, Bi’ur Halacha d’h Tachas).

 

2. One typically makes Kiddush on Yom Tov morning and recites a Leisheiv BaSukkah. If one will not be washing his hands in the Sukkah, but instead will be going back into his house, by going inside he has interrupted between his bracha of Leisheiv BaSukkah and eating Challah in the Sukkah, over which the Leisheiv BaSukkah has been recited. Although this may be acceptable bedi’eved, the Sefer Sukkah KeHilchasa provides other eitzos--either eating sufficient cake after Kiddush before one leaves the Sukkah, or drinking a revi’is of wine at the time of Kiddush (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 643 Dirshu Note 10). One may want to consult with his Rav based upon his personal facts and circumstances.

 

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Special Note One:  Now that we have concluded our Nineteen Week Kavannah campaign of the nineteen brachos of Shemone Esrei, we conclude with our focus on our personal requests in Elokai Netzor.  For example: “P’sach Libi BeSoresecha U’VeMitzvosecha Tirdof Nafshi --open my heart to Your Torah and may my soul pursue Your commandments.”  Here, we ask not only that we be given the ability to study--but that Hashem open our hearts so that our study is deep and successful.  We also ask for Hashem’s assistance not only to perform the Mitzvos--but to pursue the Mitzvos, indicating an understanding and appreciation of them.  When one cherishes something, he runs after it.  We then continue to plead with Hashem as follows:  VeChol HaChoshevim Alai Ra’ah Meheirah Hafer Atzasam VeKalkel Machshevasam--and for those who intend to do me harm, speedily void their plans and spoil their intentions.”  What an important request--especially at a time when different enemies--from terrorists to so-called leaders seek to r’l harm us, if not to r’l obliterate us or compromise our dedication to Torah study and to Mitzvos.  Here is our opportunity, daily--three times a day to ask Hashem to thwart their intentions.  Why?  Asei LeMa’an Shemecha, Asei LeMa’an Yeminecha, Asei LeMa’an Kedushasecha, Asei LeMa’an Torasecha--so that Kiddush Hashem will prevail in the world, with everyone recognizing the Malchus of Hashem, and the world is brought to its fulfillment!” We provide by the following link additional notes on Elokai Netzor for the years 5771 and 5772 http://www.hakhel.info/TefillahArchive.html

 

 

Special Note Two:  We provide Aseres Yemei Teshuva Alerts relating to this precious week which holds the majority of the Aseres Yemei Teshuva within it. We especially note that there are still six days left-- six days of action--which can help us attain the Birkas Hashem and the sweet year that we so long for:

 

A.  Last week at this time we were blowing Shofar. This week, we no longer hear the wondrous and piercing sound. Why is this really so--if the Shofar is to move us to Teshuva should we not continue to hear its sublime message through Yom Kippur-- as we reach the epitome of Teshuva?’ We may suggest that the Shofar heralds the Days of Judgment--that the King will soon be arriving to sit in Judgment and will stay close to us (Dirshu Hashem BeHimatzo) from Rosh Hashana through Yom Kippur. Once the King arrives on Rosh Hashana, though, it would be superfluous and even perhaps insulting to the King and even to His subjects that any kind of reminder is needed that the King is here. We must accordingly be acting in a very special way at this time--with the knowledge and awareness that the King is here this week visiting with us.  Our learning, our tefillos, our mitzvos, should be and feel different. It would not hurt for a person to make a little sign for himself to place on his desk, refrigerator or other conspicuous place that reads ASERES YEMEI TESHUVA--just so that the extra caution and precaution, care and vigilance, is exercised during these precious days.

 

B.  Next week at this time we will no longer have the privilege of reciting the incredible and powerful Avinu Malkeinu tefillah. We must treasure each opportunity this week--and each and every plea for mercy should be heartfelt. Rabbi Yosef Eisen, Shlita teaches in the name of HaRav Yitzchok Hutner, Z’tl that Avinu Malkeinu provides a very special combination: A father sometimes wants to give to his child but is unable--he doesn’t have the ability, the time, the funds, etc. A king, on the other hand, has all of the above--but he simply may not have the willingness or desire to help his subject. Hashem, however, is different. As a Father--Ich Vill--I want to give, and as a King--Ich Kenn--I can give! We therefore approach Hashem as our Father and King who can certainly actualize our requests! The Father and King needs only to see and hear that we are His loyal son and subject. Indeed, even if we have gone astray in the past, he can see the sincerity of our current requests--as we heartfully plead with Him “Chaneinu VaAneinu ...Asei Imanu Tzedaka VaChesed VeHoshieinu.” Suggestion: Perhaps we can stretch out our hand and have a Hirhur Teshuva as we ask for this Tzedaka VaChesed here to demonstrate our fervent belief in the Dirshu Hashem BeHimatzo that this week so especially and uniquely houses!

 

C.  When we recite the words in Selichos and on Yom Kippur of “Aval Anachnu VoAvoseinu Chatanu--but we and our forefathers have sinned,” we must remember that they are actually part of the Viduy itself. In fact, the Rambam in Hilchos Teshuva (2:8) calls these words the “lkar” of Viduy. Accordingly, it would appear that one should be slightly bowed over as he recites these words, as in the remainder of the Viduy.

 

D.  Everyone must realize that not only is he a judge, as he is constantly judging other people (hopefully-favorably--for everyone’s sake), but that he is also a Rebbi--teaching others by his behavior. What time he arrives in Shul or to learn, how he treats Seforim, how he demonstrates respect to others when talking to them, how appropriately he dresses, how careful he is in reciting brachos, how he treats a person asking for charity or help, are just some of the most daily activities where are ‘students’ learn from us. We can create daily Kiddush Hashem or c’v Chilul Hashem which can carry on for years (and maybe even generations) in and through the conduct and behavior of others who learn from us--our neighbors, friends and family. Our thoughtful actions not only have ramifications in the heavenly worlds now--but in the future in this very world! Let us go for daily Kiddush Shem Shomayim--making it a part of our daily awareness and our daily goal!

 

 

Special Note Three:  Teshuva for a Life of Wrongdoing:  The wonderful Sefer, Journey to Virtue by Rabbi Avrohom Ehrman, Shlita (Artscroll), provides the following essential guidance for one who feels inundated by past wrongdoings: 

 

Even if one has regularly offended people (through Lashon Hara, Rechilus, verbal abuse, etc.) for many years and caused incalculable damage during that time, one should not despair, for nothing stands in the way of Teshuvah.  No matter how low a person has stooped, Hashem is ready at all times to accept his Teshuvah.  Furthermore, Hashem desires and awaits his return.  “And until the day a person dies You wait for him, if he will return to You, You will immediately accept him” (Tefillah of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur).

 

The Rambam writes in Hilchos Teshuva (7:4, 7): Let not a person who has done Teshuvah imagine that he is far removed from the greatness of Tzadikim because of his sins and iniquities.  It is not so; rather, he is beloved and desired before the Creator as if he had never sinned. Furthermore, his reward is great because he ‘tasted sin and then left it’, and overcame his evil inclination….  How great is Teshuvah. Yesterday (before he did Teshuvah) he was distanced from Hashem…if he cried out to Him he was not answered…when he performed Mitzvos they were taken away (i.e., they were unwanted)…and today (after he has decided to return to Hashem)…when he cries out he is answered immediately…when he does Mitzvos they are accepted with pleasure and joy…and furthermore, Hashem desired them! (ibid)

 

Although it may be impossible to recall the identity of all those who were harmed, one should at least make efforts to placate the ones whom one does remember having wronged.  A person who wants to do Teshuvah for years of wrongdoing should engage in four different activities:

 

(a)  He should rectify whatever he possibly can.

 

(b)  He should take steps to distance himself as much as possible from repeating his old patterns of behavior. He should make efforts to avoid situations in which he will be tempted to repeat those wrongs, and should take active steps to ensure that his resolution to change his ways is carried out.  For example, he should study Mussar and the laws pertaining to the wrongs committed.  If his personality led him to abuse others or speak Lashon Hara, he should examine the sources of the problem and get help to change his behavior patterns.

 

(c) Torah and acts of kindness are atonements for wrongdoing.  Thus, if a person wants to atone for previous behavior he should engage in Torah study and act with kindness to others.

 

(d)  The righteous find favor doing precisely those activities with which they had previously sinned.  Thus, someone who wishes to atone for Lashon Hara, verbal abuse, cheating, etc. should try to teach and spread knowledge of these Mitzvos and prohibitions and encourage others to observe them.  At the height of the ecstasy of rejoicing on Sukkos, those who repented said, “Fortunate are our older years that have atoned for our younger years.”  Most important is the need to firmly resolve that from now on these wrongs will not be repeated.

                                                                             

Hakhel Note:  Hashem has given us an unbelievable opportunity to cleanse ourselves of years of accumulated grime.  Let us make the effort at this special time to come clean!

 

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29 Elul

HILCHOS SUKKOS! Today, we continue to provide Halachos on Hilchos Sukkos. Our notes are excerpted from the Dirshu Edition of the Mishna Berurah, Volume VI  (please continue on your own until we B’EH resume on Monday!):

 

1.   Continuing with the Halachos of Hakafos, one must fully circle the Bimah in order for it to be considered a Hakafa.  After the Aron Kodesh is opened to take out a Sefer Torah for the Hakafos, it should be left open.  There is a question as to whether the Sefer Torah that is taken out must be held or can be placed on the Bimah.  HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Z’tl, rules that if everyone in the tzibbur has a Lulav and Esrog, the Sefer Torah can be placed on the Bimah.  However, it is reported in the name of the Chiddah that it is better to hold the Sefer Torah than to perform the Hakafa (but most preferred, according to the Chiddah is to quickly perform the Hakafa) while someone else is holding the Sefer Torah, and then take the Sefer Torah.  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, rules that the one who holds the Sefer Torah is considered as if he is actually doing the Hakafah.   However, the Kaf HaChaim and the Kuntrus Acharon rule that it is better to do the actual Hakafah.  (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 660, Dirshu Notes 2 and 3).  

 

2. There is a difference among the Poskim as to how to hold the Lulav and Esrog during the Hakafa. The Shulchan Aruch HaRav rules that the Lulav should be held in the right hand and the esrog in the left, and with the Ben Ish Chai adding that people who hold both in one hand are mistaken.  However, the Steipeler, Z’tl, and HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, do rule that the Lulav and Esrog can be held in one hand (with the Siddur in the other).   The Bikurei Yaakov writes that the Lulav and Esrog should be held until after the Kaddish after the Hakafos, so that it does not appear that one views holding them c’v as a burden in any way by putting them down quickly (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 660, Dirshu Note 2).

 

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ROSH!  HaRav Dessler, Z’tl, explains that Rosh means ‘head’ and just as the head of a body contains the mind which controls and runs the entire organism (and if there is a problem in the head, the rest of the body is affected as well), so too, is Rosh Hashanah--the head of the year essential for the health and well being of the rest of the year.  The more that one is successful in his Avodah of Rosh Hashanah--the more successful he will be the entire year! 

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HONEY!: HaRav Gamliel Rabanovitch, Shlita, explains part of the symbolism of honey on Rosh Hashanah.  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!

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SHIRA!  In last week’s Parasha (Devorim 31:19), we learned that Moshe Rabbeinu 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 put into our mouth--but we still must ingest it on our own!  Additional Note:  HaRav Dessler, Z’tl, explains why the Torah is suddenly referred to as Shira in last week’s Parasha, 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!

 

Hakhel Note: Here is Shira in practice--FOUND YESHIVAS MAICHAYIL EL CHAYIL IN YOUR SHUL OR COMMUNITY:  For the last several years we have seen the great success of Yeshivas Maichayil El Chayil--where men, boys, and fathers and son, COME BACK TO SHUL after a post Yom Kippur Seudah to study Torah for 45 minutes or an hour to show their rededication for the new year to the Mitzvah of Talmud Torah which is KeNeged Kulam. To spur the boys on, gifts and a raffles for Seforim and Yom Tov prizes can be offered--and those donating the funds for the prizes, and purchasing them certainly have a Chelek in Talmud Torah DeRabbim--on Motzai Yom Kippur!  Please bring in your Shul or community--and what a sweetening Zechus it will be for you and yours in the Yemei HaDin!  Please contact us if you have any questions.

 

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SHOFAR ALERT: Some of the custom of reciting or looking at Yehi Ratzons after the initial blowing 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 ha’ish in the first Yehi Ratzon! The Artscroll and other more recent Machzor 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! 

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SPECIAL MESSAGE! The three Tefillos of Malchiyos, Zichronos and Shofros are parallel to the three Yesodos HaEmunah of Metziyus Hashem (Malchiyos), Sechar VeOnesh (Zichronos), and Torah MiSinai (Shofros).  As we recite these very special Brachos, let us do so slowly and meaningfully--every word, every Pasuk is important!  Our careful following of the Chazzan’s repetition of each of the ten Pesukim of Malchiyos, Zichronos and Shofros is as if we recited them again!  Remember--This is a great part of the essence of Rosh Hashanah, and we will discuss it a bit further below

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A NEW KABBALA OPPORTUNITY ! The Chofetz Chaim writes that when a person recites the words VeAhavta Es Hashem Elokecha, he should think about the Greatness of Hashem and how He gives life to all worlds, in comparison to one’s own smallness--and by this a person will recognize the goodnesses and gifts that Hashem constantly bestows upon him from the time he was born and through eternity.  If a person cannot focus on this during the Shema, the Chofetz Chaim continues, then at least he should try to think about it one time a day, and he suggests that this time may be after davening before one eats--just as other Mitzvos like Tefillin or Lulav, which one does not eat prior to their performance. What a wonderful pre-breakfast thought!

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Special Note One:  NOTES FOR EREV ROSH HASHANAH: 

 

A. Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, teaches us in Mishlei that “Yiras Hashem Tosif Yamim--the fear of Hashem provides us with additional life.”  It would be totally appropriate for us now to feel some real nervousness, some real fear before the Yom HaDin.  Of course, as we have pointed out, the fear should be coupled with a joy of knowing that our Teshuvah, Tefilah and Tzedakah can extricate us from a Din that we might chas veshalom otherwise deserve.

 

B. Specifically with respect to Tzedakah, Rabbi Jonathan Rietti, Shlita, points out that the words ‘miser’ and ‘misery’ are too closely related for comfort.  On the other hand, HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, rules that post-dated checks when given to a Tzedakah are counted for your immediate Zechus now before the Yom HaDin.  Let us take the time now to give additional Tzedakah, so that Hashem will, Middah K’Neged Middah treat us with additional Tzedakah on the Yom HaDin. 

 

C. If one asks for forgiveness now, and does not wait until Erev Yom Kippur, he has most certainly increased his merits prior to the Yom HaDin.  May we additionally suggest that one make a special effort not to annoy others with his conduct or speech, for if one treats others with courtesy, pleasantness and caring, there is a Middah KeNeged Middah for him to be blessed with the same.  Hakhel Note:  The Chofetz Chaim (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 606, Sha’ar HaTziyun 8) provides us with a truly amazing teaching.  He rules that if someone forgives his friend for something his friend did against him b’meizid u’bimered--maliciously or intentionally--then Hashem will forgive him even for the Mezidin--the intentional acts that he commits.

 

D. Please remember to have all clothing that will be worn on Rosh Hashanah checked for Shatnez.  Shatnez clothing inhibits Tefillos from rising to the Shomayim (as discussed in detail in Praying with Fire II).  If there is any doubt whatsoever as to any item of clothing for men, women, or children, it is urgent that they be checked before being worn on Rosh Hashanah.

 

E. There is the story of a Russian citizen walking in the dark in the middle of the night.  The Russian army soldier ordered him to stop once, twice, and three times, but he did not.  Finally, the soldier said:  “In the name of Nikolai the Great I order you to stop!” but the citizen did not stop.  The soldier shot him in the leg and then learned that the gentlemen was no terrorist or criminal, but a person who did not want to be bossed around for nothing.  When the citizen sued the soldier for hurting him--the soldier’s answer--accepted by the court--was:  “If all else failed, when I ordered him to stop in the name of Nikolai he should have.”  We must recognize that the time has now come for us to stop and realize the importance of the moment.  As HaRav Dessler advises, if one would only take a look back at the events of the prior year--he must realize that they all emanated from the several days ahead of us.  Let us use them wisely--and to their utmost!

 

F.  The Poskim remind us that we dare not get angry on Rosh Hashanah--and Hashem will hopefully act in a similar manner towards us--Middah K’Neged Middah...and may it be a Siman Tov for the year! Let us begin practicing today--on Erev Rosh Hashanah!

 

G. The Maharal (Gevuras Hashem Chapter 51) writes that the word “Shanah” (year) comes from the word “Shinui” (different, change) because each year is (or, at least, should be) different than the previous one.   Following this concept, Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of the time of change.  In fact, the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 603) brings a conduct change that it is customary to undertake during the Aseres Yemei Teshuva (eating only Pas Yisrael breads, cakes, pretzels, etc.). However--why is this conduct change limited to the Aseres Yemei Teshuva and not extended for the whole year?  We know of two possible responses:

 

Response One:  The changes, while limited, demonstrate to the person the he can break previous “hergel”, day-in, day-out habits and practices.  Yes, it is hard to get out of a rut (coming late to Shul, hurting others with words, tossing brochos out of the mouth), but one can and one must do so.  The real bottom line is – If I am not for myself, who is for me--and if not now when?

 

Response Two:  When a new employee starts to work, he is sure to go well above and beyond the call of duty the first few days (arriving early, doing extra jobs, etc.).  Certainly, at this time of year, when you now realize you are working for the King of the entire World and Universe, you will do your absolute UTMOST.  By undertaking the specific Aseres Yemei Teshuva changes, and by doing additional mitzvos-by going above and beyond the call of duty-we demonstrate that we are working for the King anew, which is a nice step in the right direction.  If we can keep the awareness going…we will even “Keep the Change”!

 

H. 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 Rachamei Shomayim 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 through which we can emerge innocent in justice B’Ezras Hashem. (Michtav M’Eliyahu Volume 4, page 313).”

 

Additional Note One: The following is a brief summary of a powerful, meaningful, and practical Shiur given by HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, relating to our Rosh Hashanah Tefillah:  Dovid HaMelech teaches in Tehillim (102:18) “Panah El Tefillas Ha’Arar Velo Vaza Es Tefillasam--Hashem turns to the Tefillos of one who is aroused and does not disregard their prayers.”  Chazal (in the Yalkut Shimoni to this Pasuk) teach that this Pasuk refers specifically to the generations “which do not have a Kohen, a Navi, or a Beis HaMikdash to achieve Kappara for them, but rather what is left for them is the Tefillos that they supplicate on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.”  Thus, according to Chazal, our Tefillos over the next several days are our Kohen, our Navi, our Beis HaMikdash to achieve Kappara, atonement. HaRav Salomon points out that our Tefillos on Rosh Hashana seem to be especially marked with the Malchus of Hashem, and do not appear to leave room to incorporate our personal needs or requests.  HaRav Salomon said that “we asked the Steipeler, Z’tl, whether one can make his own private Bakashos, his personal requests on Rosh Hashanah.”  The Steipeler responded that generally speaking this is a Machlokes between the Poskim who allow it, and the Mekubalim who teach that one should drive away his own needs on behalf of the Malchus of Hashem, and not act like dogs who bark out, “Hav, Hav--give, give.”  The Steipeler continues that according to all opinions--even according to the Mekubalim--a person can make his personal appeals, his personal requests to Hashem on Rosh Hashanah if they relate to Kavod Shomayim, to Kiddush Hashem.  If one just wants to be given this, or given that, he should not make the request.  However, if, for example, he wants to learn or daven better to enhance his relationship with Hashem, for Hashem’s honor; or if, for example, he wants to earn a Parnassah, so that he can fulfill the Mitzvos in a more beautiful way--then he is showing an appreciation of life which is a life LeKavod Shomayim.  This is a request which is befitting for Rosh Hashanah. Based upon this great teaching of the Steipeler, HaRav Salomon implores us all to compose our own personal Tefillos for Rosh Hashana, relaying to Hashem what we need and how it will bring Kavod Shomayim.  We should then recite our self-composed Tefillah (which can be in English) in Elokai Netzor at the end of Shemone Esrei--preferably before “Asei LeMa’an Shemecha--do it for the sake of Your Name”--which demonstrates that your request truly is for the sake of Hashem’s name.  HaRav Salomon concludes and urges:  “Don’t lose this priceless opportunity!  Write down on a piece of paper what requests you will make from Hakadosh Baruch Hu at the end of Shemone Esrei.  Discuss it with your spouse, what do you really need, Parnassah, shidduchim for a child, more Kedusha in the house, more respect from a child, health etc.  Fine tune that request list.  Anything that is important to you should be put on the list, just keep in mind that the end of the Tefillah is, Asei LeMa’an Shemecha…Asei Lema’an Kedushasecha…you are assured if the requests are for the Kavod of Hashem, for increased Kedusha, they will certainly be granted!”

 

Additional Note Two:  Chazal teach us that the Navi Hoshea was taught that he should have pleaded to Hashem on behalf of K’lal Yisrael with the words Bonecha Haim, B’nei Chanunecha, B’nei Avraham 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 seem Hashem’s compassion.  We should 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 YISRAEL.  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 even farther and wider!

 

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: NOTES FOR ROSH HASHANAH: 

 

A.  There are several reasons why challos on Rosh Hashanah are round (ibid., p. 206):

 

(a)   It is a Siman Tov, because round objects don’t have an end, symbolizing Arichus Yomim--life where there is no end in sight!

(b)   The round shape symbolizes unity among us--a King needs a unified nation!

(c)    The round shape is the shape of a crown.  This serves to remind us that even while eating our meal, we are involved in the Malchus of Rosh Hashanah.

 

B. FROM A READER: “Rabbi David Ordman told an audience of women at Um Ani Homa  in Bnai Brak that the best preparation for Rosh Hashanah is gratitude.  When we feel hakaros hatov for all that Hashem gives us, it brings us closer to Him and our awe of His greatness increases.  Rav Ordman recalled that Rav Elyashiv, Z’tl, once asked his son to teach him the correct English words to thank his American  surgeon.  When his son responded that he would be happy to thank the doctor in his father’s name, Rav Elyashiv informed him that hakaros hatov may not be delivered by a shaliach and cited as proof our davening Shemone Esrei.  The congregation can be yotzei with every bracha along with the shaliach tzibur except for one—Modim!”

 

C.  Chazal teach that one who answers Amen properly is granted length of days and length of years.  Over Rosh Hashanah, perhaps we can try to improve our Amen response.  With Amen, you affirm that Hashem is your ‘Kel Melech Ne’eman.’  There are additional Kavanos as well, depending on what you are responding to, regarding which you can consult your Rav or teacher.

 

D. The Zohar (Parashas Noach) teaches that when we answer “Amen, Yehei Shemai Rabba” with all our strength, Hashem “becomes full of mercy” for us.  May we therefore suggest that, especially over the Yomim Noraim, when answering “Amen, Yehei Shemai Rabba” in Shul you look into the Siddur and concentrate on the words.

 

E.  Especially when davening on Rosh Hashanah, starting with Adon Olam, and throughout the davening, search for the word “Melech” and reflect from time-to-time on Hashem’s Malchus relationship with you.  One should also realize that with Hashem’s Malchus comes the awareness that despite one’s apparent wealth, one has nothing and owns nothing but for the beneficence of the King, and should humble himself in Prayer.  For further elucidation of this concept see Sefer Tomer Devorah Chapter 9 (Malchus). 

 

F.  HaRav Shlomo Volbe, Z’tl, reports that Rebbi Yisrael Salanter, Z’tl, would be “Ma’arich Meod--spend considerable time” with the words in Shemone Esrei of “Kasveinu BeSefer HaChayim LeMa’ancha Elokim Chayim”--for this is the hope of a human being that his life be imbued with LeMa’anecha--with fulfilling true purpose and meaning in life.  We do not want to only live--we want to live life to its real fullest.  Additional Note:  HaRav Wolbe asked HaRav Yechezkel Levenstein, Z’tl, what to tell his students on Rosh Hashanah.  After many minutes of silence HaRav Levenstein told him “Zug Der Bnei Yeshiva Uss Iz A Ribbono Shel Olam in Der Velt--tell them that there is a Ribbono Shel Olam in the world.”  If one keeps this life-guiding thought on his mind, he will be focused and he will succeed.

 

G.  HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, explains that when we ask Hashem to remember the Akeidas Yitzchok, we are not asking Hashem to recall a gigantic event of the past--but rather, a metziyus in Ruchniyus that was created by Avrohom Avinu at that time and continues through our day--it is a metziyus of Mesiras Nefesh of Avrohom Avinu and Yitzchok Avinu to do the will of Hashem.  By referring to it, we connect ourselves to the Mesiras Nefesh of the Avos which still exists in the world. 

 

H. In truth, the Ruchniyus of our deeds--for the good and for the bad--also continue on in the world and do not dissipate after the Mitzvah, or r’l aveirah, has been performed.  When one does Teshuvah then, explains HaRav Friedlander, he is not erasing an event of the past--he is eliminating the current metziyus of negative Ruchniyus that exists as a result of the sin. Teshuvah transforms any inappropriate Ruchniyus that was created and exists into a Ruchniyus that gives Nachas Ruach to Hashem.  It is essential that we realize and act on this on Rosh Hashana

 

I.  Regarding the concept of crying during one’s Tefilos on Rosh Hashana, one should be sure to consult with his Rav.  One thing, however, is certain--whether or not one cries tears, one should certainly cry out. 

 

J.  HaRav Leib Chasman, Z’tl, asks why it is that of all of the possible Chapters of Tehillim to recite before Tekias Shofar do we recite Chapter 47, which is LamNatzeiach Livnei Korach.  He importantly answers that this Chapter reminds us of the Bnei Korach who were saved at the last possible moment from going to the depths of Gehennom.  Thus, with an earnest Hirhur Teshuva one can still now, a very short time before Din, save himself as the Tekios are blown!

 

K.  Rebbe Yisrael Salanter, Z’tl, in the Sefer Ohr Yisrael writes that the time of Tekias Shofar, when one is judged on his deeds, is like the time that the Kohein Gadol entered the Kodesh HaKodashim.  Accordingly, during the time of Tekias Shofar, one should consider himself-- and feel--as if he in the innermost chambers of the Bais HaMikdash.  One must, of course, have Hirhurei Teshuva before entering. 

 

L.  The Yesod V’Shoresh HoAvoda (Sha’ar 11, Chapter 3) writes: “And with each and every Tekiah that a person hears from the Tokea, he should with great joy think--’With my listening to this Tekiah, I am fulfilling a Mitzvas Asei of Hashem, and I want to give Hashem Nachas Ruach with this.’ 

 

M.  Rabbi Shlomo Pearl, Z’tl, teaches that even slight daydreaming may lead a person, who is otherwise listening to the Tekias Shofar, to not realize which blast is actually being blown.  This may result in his losing a Mitzvas Asei DeOraysa on this great day.  Accordingly, he urges each one of us to keep his finger in the Machzor on the Shofar blast that is then being blown.  Additional Note:  Lehalacha if one steps out after the initial 30 blasts to use the facilities, he does make an Asher Yatzar, notwithstanding that the 100 blasts have not yet been completed.

 

N.  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!

 

O.  We briefly noted above the tremendous significance of Malchiyos, Zichronos, and Shofros We must remember that the most essential part of Tefillas Mussaf both for the individual in his recitation of Mussaf silently, and in the Chazaras HaShatz, are the 10 Pesukim of Malchiyos, the 10 Pesukim of Zichronos, and the 10 Pesukim of Shofros.  One should very much endeavor to understand the meaning of the words of each of the Pesukim as he is reciting them.  It takes time.  One must also be very careful to follow the Shatz as he recites these Pesukim--as although they follow many Piyutim, and one may be tired, they are actually the most essential part of the Chazoras HaShatz.  These Pesukim are extraordinary, for through them one accepts upon himself Ohl Malchus Shomayim, and through them Hashem remembers us for the good.  Remember--Hashem in His abundant kindness, gives us the opportunity to recite theses Pesukim on our own, and then to carefully listen to the Shatz recite them again.  If you are a Shaliach Tzibbur, who has already put great Kochos into the meaningful Piyutim, please remember that when the Mishna in Maseches Rosh Hashanah talks about Tefillas Mussaf it talks about these Pesukim as the essence of Mussaf--so please recite them meaningfully, with deep feeling and intent. 

 

P.  We present below the essential words of the Sefer HaChinuch teaching his son both about Rosh Hashanah, and about the meaning of the blowing of the Shofar.  The following is excerpted from the masterful translation of the Sefer HaChinuch by Rabbi Charles Wengrov (Feldheim Publishers).

 

First, with respect to Rosh Hashanah (Mitzvah 311):

 

“… on this day all human beings in the world are judged for their deeds.  Chazal said by way of imagery--to make it clear that His providential regard extends over the activity of every single individual, and not over the species in a general way--that all human beings pass before Him like sheep in single file--in other words, one by one, and not mingled together.

 

“Well, at the root of the precept of this holy season lies the theme that it is of God’s kindnesses toward His human beings to recall them and regard their deeds one day in every single year, so that the iniquities should not become a great many, and there should be room for atonement.  Abundant in His kindness (Exodus 32:6), He tips [the scales of justice] toward loving-kindness, and if they [the sins] are few, He pardons and clears them away.  And if there are wrong deeds among them that require cleansing, He exacts payment for them bit by bit, in keeping with what Chazal taught (Avoda Zara 4A):  ’From his friend, a man will collect his debt bit by bit.’  But if He would not call the sins to account for a long time, then they [the sins] would become so very many, until the world would almost incur destruction, Heaven forbid.

 

“Consequently, this distinguished day ensures the endurance of the world.  It is therefore fitting to make it a festival day that it should be in the list of the precious holy times of the year.  However, since it is the ordained time for everyone alive to be judged, it is proper to behave then with reverent fear and awe, more than on all other holy times of the year.  This is the reason for the theme of the ‘memorial of the Shofar—sound’ (Leviticus 23:24) mentioned with it:  for the teruah (Shofar--sound) is a broken call, to intimate that everyone should break the force of his evil inclination and have remorse for his bad deeds.”

 

As the Sefer HaChinuch continues his instructions to his son with respect to the Mitzvah of Shofar (Mitzvah 405):

 

“At the root of the precept lies the reason that since man is a creature of physical matter, he is not aroused to things except by something stirring, in the way that people at the time of battle will sound horns and even shriek, in order to be well aroused to war.  Then so, too, on the day of Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the year, which is the day determined of old for all those who came into the world to be judged on it...  For this reason everyone needs to arouse his nature to entreat mercy for his sins from the Master of mercies; for Hashem is gracious and compassionate, forgives iniquity, wrongdoing and sin, and absolves those who turn back to Him with all their heart.  Now, the sound of the Shofar greatly stirs the heart of all who hear it, and all the more certainly the sound of the teruah, which means the broken (quavering) peal.

 

“Apart from the arousal that is inherent in it, there is a reminder for man to break the impulse of his heart that is evil with the cravings and sinful matters of the world, as he hears the broken (quavering) sounds.  For every person, according to what he sees with his eyes and hears with his ears, will prepare his heart…This is why R. Yehudah said:  ’On Rosh Hashanah, a shofar [horn] from male animals is to be blown’--in other words, the bent (curved) horn of rams, so that a man should remember when he sees it that he is to bend his heart in subservience to Heaven...”

 

Hakhel Note: It is clear from the Sefer HaChinuch that it is our mission at this time of year to experience feelings, true feelings.  Feelings of love, feelings of fear, feelings of awe, feelings of reconciliation, and feelings of happiness.  We must take a few moments to close our eyes and come to ourselves, perhaps with a few tears to show for it.  It is interesting to note that there may be both tears of sadness and tears of joy, but they are both tears--for they both represent what lies within us being brought forth.

 

Let us properly prepare for Hashem’s Kingship over the world, by first experiencing kingship over ourselves!

 

We must remember how precious the moments on Rosh Hashana are, and when we feel we are tiring, refresh ourselves--as we pray for our lives, the lives of Klal Yisrael and the lives of the world!

 

 

 

Special Note Three: A NOTE FOR SHABBOS SHUVA:

 

A. This Shabbos is known as ‘Shabbos Shuva’ with the word Shabbos coming before the word ‘Shuva’ in order to teach us the preeminence of Shabbos even over matters which could otherwise help us with our Teshuva process.  

 

B. The Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 423, seif katan 2) writes that on each one of the days of the Aseres Yemei Teshuva a person should look into his ways relating to his activities over the year on that particular day of the week.  Perhaps this is easiest to do for Shabbos, in which a person’s schedule and activities are usually fixed.  A person should reflect:  What mistakes did I make in Hilchos Shabbos last year?  What improvement will I make to my Shabbos table?  How can I improve my Shabbos Tefillos?  What special Parashas Hashavua commentary will I bli neder undertake this year? Will I be careful to eat Melave Malka on Motza’ei Shabbos?  This Shabbos is the time to have these special thoughts and make some Shabbos decisions!   Hakhel Note:  As this is the first Shabbos of the year--let us make sure bli neder that we are mekabel Shabbos on-time--or even a few minutes before the time.  May it be a Siman Tov for one’s Kabbalas Shabbos for the rest of the year!

 

C. In this week’s Haftara, the Navi Hoshea (14:2,3), after urging us to do Teshuva (Shuva Yisrael!) immediately instructs us on how to do Teshuva with the words “Kechu Imachem Devorim Veshuvu El Hashem--take words with you and return to Hashem.  We must take our words with us--we must realize (as the Vidui Booklet points out) that a GREAT NUMBER of the sins we mention in the Vidui of Yom Kippur have to do with misuse and abuse of that great power that distinguishes us from animal--our power of speech.  The Chofetz Chaim teaches that if we are more circumspect with our speech, we can be free of the following Issurim:

 

1. Lashon Hara--brings many, many other aveiros along with it and can destroy relationships, families and lives

2. Rechilus--as above, and perhaps even more hurtful to the person

3. Sheker-while Hashem’s seal is Emes!

4. Chanufa--including egging on...’you’re right!’

5. Laitzanus--mockery, poking fun, ridicule

6. Ona’as Devorim--hurtful or insulting words

7. Halbanas Panim--one reader pointed out that embarrassing another in public causes                  one to forfeit his share in Olam Haba--and then asked if this is so --is this the greatest  aveira--even greater than Chillul Hashem....

8.  Divrei Ga’avah--words of arrogance--even though the sign of greatness is humility (Iggeres HaRamban)

9.  Divrei Machlokes--fighting, argumentative words

10.  Divrei Ka’as--words of anger that you won’t be able to take back.

 

Perhaps we can keep this list around near a place(s) where we can look at it before we are about to make a statement or comment, or have a conversation, that is not within our usual manner of speech.  Remember the VERY FIRST words of instruction of the Navi--Kechu Imachem Devorim--VeShuvu el Hashem!  May you hear your success--with your very own ears! 

 

Hakhel Note:  As noted above, if you can free yourself of an Aveira--you will then be reciting the Vidui exclusively on behalf of someone else (as Kol Yisrael Areivim Zeh LaZeh)--so you will be fulfilling an additional mitzvah of VeAhavta LeRayacha Kamocha!

 

                                TO ALL OF OUR BELOVED READERS:

 

We must remember how precious the moments on Rosh Hashanah are, and when we feel we are tiring, refresh ourselves--as we pray for our lives, the lives of K’lal Yisroel and the lives of the world!

 

Once again, we wish each and every one of you a Kesiva VeChasima Tova, a Year which is replete with Chayim Tovim and Shalom!

 

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28 Elul

REMEMBER TO RETURN!

* Sefarim that have been borrowed (from an individual, or Beis Midrash or shul)

* Money loaned to you (including when you ran short of cash and someone loaned cash to you at the checkout counter or otherwise)

* Keys you found

* Items children left in your home (jackets, tzitzis, yarmulkes, hats, gloves...)

* Items brought home from camp, but that belong to someone else

* Items which adult guests have left in your home

* Raincoats or umbrellas--or jewelry for a simcha that you borrowed from someone

* Misdelivered mail

 

This is a very important mitzvah for any day, but especially before Rosh Hashanah! Join us today, by doing this special mitzvah.

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TEFILLAH FOR TESHUVA:  We provide by the following link http://tinyurl.com/2dm686 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.

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PARASHAS HA’OLAH: Chazal (Menachos 110A) teach that a Karbon Olah is brought for a violation of a Mitzvas Asei, and for improper thoughts. In our current time, when we have no actual Korban Olah, recitation/study of the Parashas HaOlah stands in its place (Sefer Sha’arei Teshuvah, Sha’ar Daled). In the outstanding Siddur Tefillah L’Moshe, which contains notes by Rabbi Tzvi Yavrav, Shlita, of the teachings of HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, he brings the Parashas HaOlah, which we provide by the following link http://tinyurl.com/pzzj6w2   One should attempt to obtain the Siddur, for in it he will find a clearer print and much more treasure!

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REMINDER--THEY CARE ! Over the next two weeks, we will be hearing many drashos from our Rabbanim and teachers asking us to improve. One of the famous teachings of the Rosh is that “one should be happy when hearing words of Mussar, as if having found a great treasure.”  As we have already noted, 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?!  Let us keep this analogy in mind and listen carefully and closely--and seriously ponder and think about-- how to thrive and grow from their words!

 

Hakhel Note: Remember--Hakol Tolui Bi--it all depends on me!!

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HILCHOS SUKKOS! Today, we continue to provide Halachos on Hilchos Sukkos. Our notes are excerpted from the Dirshu Edition of the Mishna Berurah, Volume VI:

 

1.  The Bais Yosef explains that the reason that on Yom Tov the Maftir reads from the Mussaf Karbanos is because Hashem told Avraham Avinu that when the Bais HaMikdash is standing we will attain Kaparah through the Karbanos--but when it is not standing and we read the Seder Karbanos, then Hashem will consider it as if we actually brought the Karbanos and forgive us for our sins (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 659, Dirshu Note 2).  Hakhel Note: What a special time!

 

2.  There are different opinions and a difference of Minhagim as to whether Hoshanos in Shul are recited after Hallel or after Mussaf. The Bikurei Yaakov proves that in the Bais HaMikdash the Hakafos were done before Mussaf, but writes that we do not have the ability to change Minhagim.  The Kav HaChaim writes that ahl pi kabbalah, they should be recited after Hallel.  The Bikurei Yaakov writes if a tzibbur does not have a Sefer Torah (and, according to the Aishel Avrohom Mi’Butschatch, if one is davening privately), one does not recite Hoshanos.  However, the Ben Ish Chai writes that one can circle around the Bima even if there is no Sefer Torah, and that accordingly, even if one is r’l not well and davening at home, can put a Tanach on a chair (according to the Kav HaChaim, on a table) and circle around it in order to fulfill the Hakafah (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 660, Dirshu Note 1).

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Special Note One: As we focus on Teshuvah, we recall the following teachings of the Rabbeinu Yonah in the Sha’arei Teshuvah:

 

A.  Lashon Hara is weighted against several chayavei misos.  Hakhel Note:  As the Chofetz Chaim points out, the act of murder kills one person, while the act of Lashon Hara can kill three--which is evidenced with the Ma’aseh of Nov Ir HaKohanim in which the speaker (Doeig), the recipient (Shaul HaMelech), and the one spoken about (Achimelech and the people of Nov) were all killed.

 

B.  The sin of embarrassing another person is so great because shame could be more bitter than death.  One who is Motzi Sheim Rah against a person or a family can effect a permanent p’gam upon him or them, and so the speaker can never attain a Kaparah.  Moreover, one who shames another person in public is among the people who go to Gehenom and do not leave.

 

C.  If one is unsure whether the road or path he is on has unclean matter, he should not mention Hashem’s name, nor speak Divrei Torah.

 

D.  The reason that Hashem ‘gives wisdom to the wise’ is because they honor the Torah and study it with a spirit of kedusha. 

 

E.  It is forbidden to join together with the person who is a Rasha not only in worldly matters--but even for the purpose of a Mitzvah.

 

F.  A person is obligated to think about ways in which he could provide good Eitzos to his friend--and this is one of the Ikarei Darchei Gemilas Chassodim.

 

G.  Although one is permitted to show respect to a powerful person even if he is wicked, one should not praise them or speak well about them to others.

 

H. The Sha’arei Teshuvah (Sha’ar Daled--the Elements of Kappara) notes that “Tzedakah Tatzil MiMaves--Charity saves from death”, and that it also therefore must save from yisurin as well! Remember--Tzedaka Today--Please! Hakhel Note: You can still help support the Bnei Torah in Eretz Yisrael--whatever dollar you give will be matched, dollar-for-dollar. Please go to www.yadeliezer.org.

 

 

Special Note Two: Significant Pre-Rosh HaShanah Alerts:

 

A.  Something easy to correct:  In the coming year, one can take upon himself, bli neder, not to ‘leave for a short while’ or ‘make a phone call’ before making any Bracha Achrona--whether it be bentsching, Ahl HaMichya or Borei Nefashos.  One can also take upon himself, bli neder, to be careful about not saying:  “I will bentsch now and eat/drink this after I bentsch--one should be cognizant to avoid any bracha she’aynah tzricha--any bracha that is not necessary at any point during the day.

 

B.  Something easy to remember: At this time of year we especially focus on the gift of life.  Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, teaches us that “Eitz Chaim He LaMechazikim Bah--the Torah is a tree of life for those who hold onto it.”  The Sefer Tomer Devorah (Chapter 8) explains what holding onto the Torah includes:  “One must help those who study Torah not only with money, but with deeds. One should honor them and encourage them in their studies, strengthening their desire and ability to study.  One can honor the Torah and those who study it through words, through the actions of his body, through his monetary possessions, and by stirring others to honor Talmidei Chachomim as well....”  Let us all grasp on to this tree of life--in the many valuable ways that we can!

 

C.  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!

 

D.  The story is told of a man who brought his son to the Chofetz Chaim, and asked the Chofetz Chaim for a bracha that his son become a Talmid Chochom.  The Chofetz Chaim looked at the young man in front of him, and then looked at the father and said to him:  “Un Vus Vet Zahn Mit Dem Tateh?!--And what about the father?!”  Now is the time to focus on expanding our own potential, in order to maximize our lives.  It is very important for us to realize that everything that we will be doing over the next crucial days does make a difference and will make a difference. 

 

E.  Each one of us is really very wealthy in many ways.  Among those ways is that commencing on Rosh Hashanah we can begin many different programs which are broken down into daily segments, including: Positive Word Power; Praying with Fire; Praying with Fire II; and The Chofetz Chaim a Lesson a DayWhich treasure will you choose?  Truth be told, you can choose more than one!

 

F.  We provide the following words from HaRav Shimon Schwab, Zt’l, (as found in Day 83 of Praying with Fire): “For Hashem’s sake, let us be quiet in the Beis Hakenesses.  Our reverent silence during the Tefillah will speak very loudly to Him, Who holds our fate in His hands.  Communicating with Hashem is our only recourse in this era of trial and tribulations.  There is too much ugly noise in our world today.  Let us find peace and tranquility while we stand before Hashem in prayer!”

 

 

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27 Elul

WELCOME TO THE LAST THREE 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?  Additional Note:  PLEASE REMEMBER--Because of the great importance of these last three days, the Yetzer Hara will undoubtedly work overtime to make one feel upset, depressed, angry, and even strangely to “get in” those last Aveiros of the year before the awesome day of Rosh Hashanah begins.  These days are the days in which we can show our Gevurah, and end the year on a most positive note by not falling prey to his tactics and guile, and instead filling the days with Mitzvos and Ma’asim Tovim, in a good temperament and in positive preparation…for the first day of the New Year 5775!

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WHAT AN OPPORTUNITY FOR THE COMING YEAR! We provide by the following link -- http://tinyurl.com/pfdv3jw  a calendar for the study of Sefer Mesilas Yesharim over the two-month period of Tishrei and Marcheshvan 5775. We have it available on large postcard stock as well. Please feel free to print out, make your own postcard, and spread the word!  This Program is for men and women--there are outstanding English translations of the Mesilas Yesharim available both through Artscroll and Feldheim.  This bli neder two-month undertaking will most certainly demonstrate your real desire for improvement in the coming year! PLEASE JOIN US!!

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THE ROSH PROVIDES THE FOLLOWING POINTED TEACHINGS IN THE ORCHOS CHAIM LAROSH:

 (1)  In the week of Rosh Hashanah, one should study the Igeres HaTeshuvah of the Rabbeinu Yonah (found in the back of many editions of the Sefer Sha’arei Teshuvah). 

 (2)  Always remember MiDevar Sheker TirchakAs we continue in the last few days of the year, perhaps we can be especially careful to make sure that even the whitest of untruths does not leave our mouths. 

 (3)  Chaver Tov Heyeh LiYirei Hashem--be a good friend to those who fear Hashem.  It may be a wonderful suggestion at this time of year to decide to befriend or get closer to someone who you feel is more lofty or elevated in his actions and pursuits. 

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EITZOS FOR THE YOM HADIN: We provide by the following link http://tinyurl.com/bry8ykl  a wonderful summary (in Hebrew) of Eitzos to be zoche on Yom HaDin. 

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ERUV TAVSHILIN REMINDER: This  week, we will be blessed with the opportunity to make an Eruv Tavshilin! To assist in properly performing this wonderful Mitzvah, we once again provide by the following link --   http://tinyurl.com/43svvmg  the Halachos of Eruv Tavshilin, as reviewed by HaRav Yisroel Belsky, Shlita. Please feel free to distribute further!

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IMPORTANT--FROM  A RAV:  The  classic  Halacha sefer for the Yomim Noraim--Sefer Mateh Ephraim (533:4) writes that one should learn the four Perakim of Mesechta Rosh Hashanah on Rosh Hashanah because they correspond to the four letters of the Sheim. It is for this reason that Machzorim bring that one should learn one Perek of Mishnayos Rosh Hashanah at each Rosh Hashanah meal--thereby completing the Mesechta in Mishnayos by the completion of Rosh Hashanah. The Elef HaMegein (ibid., seif katan 23) writes that it is a ‘Segulah Nifla’ah She’Yizkeh L’Yom HaDin!’ The Rav advised  us that he knows of nothing else that the Elef HaMegein writes is a Segulah Nifla’ah--and accordingly urges Shuls to have Shiurim to review Mishnayos Rosh Hashanah on Rosh Hashanah, and if possible for one to study the Mesechta at or around the time of one’s meal.

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HILCHOS SUKKOS! Today, we continue to provide Halachos on Hilchos Sukkos. Our notes are excerpted from the Dirshu Edition of the Mishna Berurah, Volume VI:

 

1.  Although noi Sukkah may be used to read from on Yom Tov--such as those that contain the Ushpizin on them, they are nevertheless Muktzah and one can not move them on Yom Tov.  If the noi Sukkah contain divrei kedusha and have fallen on the floor on Shabbos or Yom Tov, can one pick them up?  This may be a Machlokes HaPoskim and accordingly one should consult with his Rav or Posek.Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 630, Dirshu Note 17).

 

2.  The Shevet HaLevi rules that decorations which are really manufactured with the intent of being utilized by other religions (such as lights that blink on and off)  may be purchased from the store and used--as they are made by machines which cannot  have an avoda zara  intent,  never made it into a house of avoda zara, and in any event could have alternative uses.  HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, agrees--but nevertheless rules that it is me’chu’ar--inappropriate--to  use such an item. (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 630, Dirshu Note 15).

 

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THE NACHAS RUACH PROJECT!:  A wonderful project to start today and continue for at least 30 days is to do one Mitzvah or Ma’aseh Tov a day which is for the express and only purpose of giving Nachas Ruach to Hashem. 

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Special Note One:  WEEK OF ROSH HASHANAH ALERTS: 

 A.  As we are now reciting Selichos, we must remind ourselves that Chazal teach us that our supplication of the essential 13 Midos of Rachamim--does not return empty-handed.  We accordingly provide by the following links the “plain meaning of the words” in both Hebrew by the following link --   http://tinyurl.com/2d63u8   and English by the following link  http://tinyurl.com/yq9k42   of the 13 Midos.  We should study these words and their meanings (made available in the links, and from other sources such as the Artscroll and Metsudah Selichos) so that our supplications have more powerful and effective force.

Additional Note One:  The Elef Hamagein notes that Selichos is structured as an additional Tefillah during the day--beginning with Ashrei, continuing with Selichos (whose supplications parallel Shemone Esrei) and concluding with Tachanun.  What a special privilege it is to recite this special Tefillah every day until Yom Kippur--with especially detailed requests on Erev Rosh Hashanah when we need them so much!

 Additional Note Two: 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 for the days of Selichos that follow. 

  B.  Now that , as part  of Selichos, we have begun to recite Viduy on a daily basis, we recall the holy words of the Sefer Tomer Devorah in which HaRav Moshe Cordevero, Z’tl, writes that when one recites Viduy he should have in mind to bring upon himself Tahara--a wellspring of purity.  Indeed, HaRav Cordevero writes, that Dovid HaMelech in the Kepitel of Teshuvah (Tehillim 51:4) exclaims:  Herev Kabesaini Mei’avoni U’Maichatasi Tahareini--abundantly cleanse me from my iniquity, and from my sin purify me!”

 

C.  One can easily brush over the Ashamnus and the Al Cheits boldly disclaiming any sin in this regard or at least thinking that what he has done is ‘Nisht Geferlach’--not so bad.  HaRav Ezriel Erlanger, Shlita, Mashgiach of the Mirrer Yeshiva in New York , teaches that Nisht Geferlach’ is ‘Geferlach’.  We know two things: 

 

(1) The Navi (Yirmiyahu 2:35 ) teaches:  Hineni Nishpat Osach Al Amreich Lo Chatasi--Hashem judges a person by separate judgment for the person’s claim that he did not sin.”

 

(2) It is not the ‘major aveiros’ that may necessarily affect many people, but as Chazal teach it is the “Mitzvos that a person steps upon that surround a person at the time of his judgment”.  One must get serious in his reflection as to some of the everyday matters and situations that REQUIRE rectification. Below are some simple examples:

 

 

          (a) Tzararnu--going through the day making the conscious effort not to hurt anybody with one’s words or actions.  Even if the other person is not a timid, weak, poor or suffering person--and even if that person is your parent, wife or child--one must take his own pain and care to avoid causing pain, suffering, anguish, or distress to another. 

 

           (b) Kishinu Oref--we must not be stubborn and rigid, but flexible and attentive.  “I know better”; or “I will teach him”, without working with the person on his own level and in a way that bests suits the person is not only counterproductive--but offensive and wrong.  The prohibition against being stiff-necked likewise applies to an attitude of “I can’t change the way I daven”, “I can’t learn more than I do”, and “That’s the way it is--every once in a while Lashon Hara comes out.”   We add that as part of taking stock on Kishinu Oref, one think about something about himself that he knows bothers others, but that he has failed to correct because it is “him.”  If one realizes that a particular mannerism or ‘custom’ really does irk family, friends, or colleagues, 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.

 

          (c) Overdue Items--one should not overlook the items or money he has borrowed or lent to others, or to whom he owes a phone call or an apology before Rosh Hashanah.

 

          (d) Brachos Recitation--were there any times this year that you failed to make a Bracha Achrona?  Was there any time this year when you were unsure whether you recited an Asher Yatzar or not?  Was there any time this year that you recited the wrong bracha on a product?  Do you let your family/friends get by with the way they recite brachos--even though you know that they should do better?  Fascinatingly, the Orchos Chaim LaRosh teaches that one should be careful to instruct his family to be careful in three items:  Kavannah in Tefillah; the proper method of Netilas Yadayim; and proper brachos recitation.  It is not a long list--but it is a powerfully meaningful one!  Our dedication to improvement in brachos recitation is a demonstration of the honor that we feel in bringing Hashem into our life every day--throughout the day! 

 

 D.  We refer to Hashem as Avinu Malkeinu, and we typically interpret Avinu (Our Father) as the kind adjective and Malkeinu (Our King) as the stricter adjective.  This is not necessarily the case.  Malkeinu also means that Hashem is All Powerful.  Just as one comes to a king with a request that only a king can grant, we come to Hashem making our requests as someone who is a loyal subject now--even if we need to be pardoned of past disloyalties. We provide by the following link  --  http://tinyurl.com/3ndysle  based upon an incredible Shiur given by HaRav Shlomo Brevda, Z’tl.  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 Two:  We provide a few brief notes below from the Sefer Kovetz Halachos:  Yomim Noraim  by Rabbi Doniel Kleinman, Shlita, containing the pesokim of HaRav Shmuel Kamenetsky, Shlita:

 

A.  One must recite Birkas 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 Midos together with the Tzibbur.

 

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

 

D.  One need not recite Hataras Nedarim on Erev Rosh Hashanah in the morning--one may recite it the night before as well.

 

E.  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 Berurah 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.  

 

G.  It is the custom not to eat Egozim on Rosh Hashana. 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 Rosh Hashana. 

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 Three:  Remember--Tzedaka Today--Please!

 

 

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24 Elul

FROM A READER:  ”Regarding your note about Simhon Levov and not acting in a hurried manner, in HaRav Avigdor Miller’s beautiful commentary on Chovos Halevavos, he comments in Sha’ar Habechina that the fact that Hashem created the world with so much variety, is to show us that this is a world of PLAN and PURPOSE.  I was thinking that we are commanded to follow in Hashem’s ways.  Planning is the antithesis of acting with behalah.  Besides all of the obvious benefits of not acting with confusion, another benefit is doing the mitzvah of V’halachta B’Drachav. “

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HILCHOS SUKKOS! Today, we continue to provide Halachos on Hilchos Sukkos. Our notes are excerpted from the Dirshu Edition of the Mishna Berurah, Volume VI.  We will now turn to the Halachos relating to the Sukkah. We provide two halachos for each of today, Shabbos, and Sunday:

 

1.  The Chayei Odom writes that it is a mitzvah min hamuvchar to build a Sukkah with four walls, and many Poskim rule this way as well. In fact, the Chazon Ish was makpid to have four complete walls, without windows (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 630, Dirshu Note 26).

 

2.  If schach was placed so thickly on a Sukkah that stars cannot be seen through it, the Sukkah is still kosher. However, the Mishna Berurah writes that if the schach was so dense that rain could not fall through even in a heavy rain, one should be machmir and not utilize it even when it is not raining. Even then, however,  it is better to sit in such a Sukkah than not in a Sukkah at all. Indeed, the Shevet HaLevi rules that one could even make the bracha of Leshev Basukkah while sitting in such a Sukkah. The Kaf HaChaim rules that a bracha should not be recited (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 631:3 Mishna Berurah seif katan 6, Dirshu Note 7).

 

3.  If one places a sheet of plastic on top of the schach when it is raining, the Shevet HaLevi rules one should continue to sit in the Sukkah. Other Poskim hold that when it is really raining, you can not fulfill Mitzvas Sukkah--even if you do not feel the rain.  (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 629, Dirshu Note 41).

 

4.  If the schach was blown up off the top of the Sukkah because of the wind, and then falls back down on to the Sukkah and covers it again, HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, and yblch’t the Shevet HaLevi rule that the Sukkah is pesula, because the schach as newly placed down by the wind (or which fell because of the lack of it) was not then placed with the with the necessary intent of l’shem tzel—for the sake of shade. (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 635, Dirshu Note 9).

 

5.  Likewise, if a nachri put up schach, but did not do so l’shem tzel--but only because he understood only that he was doing it for a Jewish need, HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, rules that the schach is pasul (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 635, Dirshu Note 4).  

 

6.  It is muttar lechatchila to place noi Sukkah within four tefachim of the schach. If the noi would continue down more than four tefachim, however, HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, holds that the minhag is to be machmir and not use it, as it is no longer batel to the schach.  The Shevet HaLevi and HaRav Nissim Karelitz, Shlita, however, rule that it is perfectly permissible, as it is considered batel to the schach because it originates from an area that is batel to the schach (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 627, Dirshu Note 12).

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KABBALA SUGGESTION:  Taking steps to clear one’s mind before davening Mincha. As we have noted in the past, the Rashba writes that Tefillas Mincha is an Eis Ratzon. Making the effort to clear one’s mind in the middle of a busy day can raise your Tefillos to the highest of heights--accomplishing great things for your own life and for all of K’lal Yisrael!   Hakhel Note:  HaRav Nosson Wachtfogel, Z’tl, teaches that one should make Kabbalos relating to the beginning of something--the beginning of davening, the beginning of learning, the beginning of a Mitzvah--for when the beginning is proper there is a greater opportunity for the remainder of the act to be much more uplifted and elevated.

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

 

SHABBOS--THE 25TH OF ELUL IS THE CELEBRATION OF THE BEGINNING OF THE CREATION OF THE WORLD, AS MAN WAS CREATED ON ROSH HASHANAH--SIX DAYS LATER. LET US APPRECIATE THE GREATNESS OF THE WORLD’S ANNIVERSARY-- AND USE THE OPPORTUNITY TO RAISE OURSELVES UP FOR THE COMING YEAR!

 

A.  As this is the last Erev Shabbos of the year, we may want to think about those Erev Shabbos activities we undertake that may have an effect upon others on Shabbos itself.  For instance, if one living in America sends an email on Erev Shabbos to an uneducated Jew who lives or is vacationing in Eretz Yisrael or Europe where it may already be Shabbos--what are the potential issurim that he may be machshil the uneducated Jew in when he reads that email, and then responds by taking action such as making a phone call to a third party--or even simply by answering the email-- typing something in response and exacerbating his conduct clicking “To All”(remembering that an uneducated Jew is still obligated to perform all Mitzvos--whether D’Oraysa or DeRabbanan)?  Similarly, if one sends a ‘cc’ or a ‘bcc’ of an email to someone ‘local’ before Shabbos, but that local person might take action because of the email on Shabbos, one may want to think twice about sending such an email close to Shabbos, before ‘closing up shop for the day’.  Who would want the chilul Shabbos (perhaps even multiple chilul Shabbos) of another Jew on his head--even if the uneducated Jew would quite likely be mechallel Shabbos in some other way during the very same time period, and even if one could perhaps assert in his defense that he wasn’t the direct cause, etc..  Perhaps to rectify any prior misdeeds or borderline types of activities in this area relating to the great and holy Shabbos, one can talk about and explain Shabbos to not-yet-religious Jews, and be decidedly cautious in sending out emails on Erev Shabbos (and Erev Yom Tov)--especially in the afternoon.  Remember, we are to be so careful with Hilchos Shabbos that we are proscribed from blowing the Shofar on Rosh Hashana which falls out on Shabbos--as a gezeirah that someone may come to repair musical instruments. We certainly should be careful to avoid any culpability, responsibility or horrible feeling engendered by a non-thinking electronic communication with someone who does not yet know enough to fathom the transgressions he is committing with that seemingly innocent, cc’d email.

 

B. Likewise, 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 improvement.

 

C.  With the slower paced davening on Shabbos, or at least with the greater ability to start Shacharis a few minutes early if one needs more time--may we once again 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!

 

D.  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.

 

 

Special Note Two:  As in just a few days, our Din will be before the Beis Din Shel Ma’alah, we provide by the following link our flyer “HOW TO BE ZOCHE B’ DIN http://bit.ly/aKol3o  We urge you to make a real and special project of following Chazal’s sage advice especially over the next week, and perhaps turn it into a family or more expanded project as well.  If even only a little bit of Chazal’s guidelines can stick with us  over the coming year--such as being freer with compliments, and in always looking at the flipside before judging someone (would I want to be judged in this way?!)--imagine what a purer person we will be at this time next year!

 

 

Special Note Three:  As we will soon be reciting Selichos, we note that the Elef HaMagen (in the name of the Birkei Yosef and Maharik), writes that while reciting the Thirteen Middos (Hashem, Hashem), one should be in a slightly bowed position--to indicate humility and regard for the hallowed words that one is reciting.

 

 

Special Note Four: We provide the following additional points and pointers regarding the crucial period that we are in:

 

a.  We should try to remember that there are three elements to our lives--Bain Odom LaMakom, Bain Odom Lechaveiro, and Bain Odom LeAtzmo.  We should definitely think about at least one aspect in each area in which to improve our lives in the coming year.  In this way, our lives will simply become more complete.  HaRav Yerucham Levovitz, Z’tl, makes a wonderful observation on the Pasuk we recently read in Devorim relating to the Bais HaMikdash: “LeShichno Sidreshu U’Vasa Shama--you shall seek the Shechina and come there [to the Bais HaMikdash].”  HaRav Yerucham asks--shouldn’t the Pasuk have read in the reverse--U’Vasa Shama, VeShichno Sidreshu...You shall come there and seek the Shechina?!  The answer, HaRav Yerucham writes, is that the Pasuk is teaching us that we must FIRST seek the Shechina --and only if we first seek the Shechina do we take the SECOND STEP of coming to the Bais HaMikdash.  It is the time now of LeShichno Sidreshu--to seek the Shechina through our introspection and improved thoughts, words and deeds.  If we can do this, if we yearn to grow in Ruchniyus, we will be zoche to the great SECOND STEP of U’Vasa Shama--we will get to the highest places of Kedusha.  What a great guideline in every life activity--LeShichno Sidreshu!

 

b.  The Orchos Chaim LaRosh teaches us the value of our words in a very special way—’Hotza’as Picha MaiHotza’as Ma​moncha’--one should be more careful taking the words out of his mouth than taking money out of his pocket.  While this may seem an insurmountable task for the average individual in the course of his everyday life, one can certainly put this essential analogy into practice when he is in doubt as to whether to say something or not.  Think about it from time to time as you take out your wallet or pocketbook!

 

c.  More real Tachlis:  We are almost at the time where at the forefront we will be pleading for nothing short of  Chaim--life for ourselves, our families, K’lal Yisrael and the World.  Let us consider that the Torah is also called the Toras Chaim--a living Torah, and that the Torah is in and of itself an Eitz Chaim--a Tree of Life to hold on to.  In fact, Chazal in Mesechta Avos (2:8) teach us specifically that “Marbeh Torah Marbeh Chaim--the more Torah, the more life”.  Remarkably, Rabbeinu Yonah writes in the Sefer Sha’arei Teshuva that “VeNasasi LeChol Hamakom Ba’avuram--and I will save the whole place for them” refers to those who study Torah and bring [further] life to the world.  Perhaps it is for this reason that the Techilas Dino Shel Odom--the first judgment that a man must face after 120 years is over his Torah study--in a real sense, over how much he attached himself to life.  No one can truthfully say that what Hashem has given him in life until this point is because “Magi’yah Li--I deserve it.”  What we can try to do, however, is take strides to be more deserving than we have been until this point.  What makes us more deserving of life itself is Torah study--the Toras Chaim, the Eitz Chaim, the Marbeh Torah--Marbeh Chaim.  We must accordingly highly recommend that all--young and old, men and women-- take some real and practical step to bring Torah closer to their lives--to spend a few extra minutes with Torah study each day and/or to improve the quality of our Torah study.  If one is not careful to study even for a brief moment at his breakfast or dinner table--maybe he can bli neder commit to some form of Torah study at this special time ( a Mishna, a Pasuk, a Vort) --thereby indicating and acknowledging that even one of the key moments of daily bodily care is also dedicated to...life!!

 

 

Special Note Five: Today is the Yahrzeit of the Chofetz Chaim, who serves as a driving force in all of K’lal Yisrael until today.  In his honor, we provide a brief thought of his, which so symbolizes the practicality of his teachings:  “The Seforim teach that when a person is accustomed to a particular middah ra’ah (bad character trait) and acts in that way in front of others, they copy him and he is held accountable for the negative influence he has had on their lives (see Yoma 86A, Rashi d’h kegon).  Now, continues the Chofetz Chaim, it is known that Hashem’s rewards are greater than His punishments (Sanhedrin 100B)--and so, all the more so will a Mitzvah or middah tovah that one has and which is copied by others become a source of great merit for him--as he obtains a chelek in their Ma’asim Tovim.”

Hakhel Note:  As an example, if one consistently uses his tongue for the power of the positive, complimenting, thanking, and really not speaking Lashon Hara, then others readily recognize (especially with a little encouragement!) that there is a standard to live up to and a beautiful reality to follow--and every time they do so, they bring merit to the originator!  The Chofetz Chaim’s lesson to each and every one of us is that no one is isolated, no one stands alone.  As we do Teshuvah in a particular area or in a particular way, let us take the words of the Chofetz Chaim to heart and bring those around us who may have had a similar fallibility or fault back with us--for our own merit and the merit of all of K’lal Yisrael!

 

We additionally provide a sampling of his essential teachings, excerpted from the excellent sefer Give Us Life, collected and edited by HaRav Mendel Weinbach, Z’tl:

 

1.  Everything approaching its end summons all of its energies for a last stand.  A candle’s brightest flame appears before it dies, and it is always darkest before dawn.  The power of evil is approaching its end so it has summoned all of its resources and massed the greatest attack in history on the forces of good.

 

2.  People often say “This world is also a world,” but the truth is that “Only this world is a world” because only here can a person improve and accomplish.  This is the World of Action, the World to Come is only for the reward.

 

3.   Good manners require a person to carefully prepare for an audience with an important official.  If one is privileged to see the king, he takes several days to get ready.  So if Chazal tell us that we must prepare for a lifetime before entering the palace of the King of Kings we must appreciate how supremely exalted this palace must be.

 

4.  The reward mentioned by the Torah for certain Mitzvohs such as honoring parents is not their real payment for that is only due in the World to Come.  The small reward we receive in the meantime is like the meals given to the king’s soldiers which are not subtracted from their pay.

 

5.  Teshuva must be performed with great energy. A person should return to Hashem with at least the same degree of enthusiasm and energy with which he had sinned.

6.  The greatest sinner will be called to account for the slightest wrongdoing because his terrible record is no license for further evil.  The Rambam writes that the wicked King Yerovom will be punished for not fulfilling the mitzvah of Eruv Tavshilin.

 

7.  Just as there are rich and poor, strong and weak, so do people vary in their talents and abilities in Avodas Hashem.  The Torah therefore commands; “You shall love Hashem with *your* heart, *your* soul and *your* might--each man according to his particular powers.  Additionally, the real meaning of “all your might” is whatever is most precious to you--Chazal knew that to most people money is the most precious item.  However, someone to whom Torah and Mitzvos is most precious must be prepared to sacrifice even these, if necessary, for the honor of Hashem.  A Rosh Yeshiva, for example, must be prepared to sacrifice his own Torah study--his “all your might”--in order that Torah may flourish among his disciples.

 

8.  An orderly, efficient shopkeeper knows exactly where each item in his stock is located and its precise value. An orderly Jew does every act with Hashem in mind because he knows that the simplest act--like the simplest ware--can bring a tremendous profit if it is used correctly.

 

9.  I am neither a Chosid or a Misnagid.  My only ambition is to fulfill what is written in Shulchan Aruch.  Chazal teach that a person will be asked whether he set aside times for Torah study and whether he dealt honestly in business.  There is no mention of ever being asked whether one is a Chosid or Misnagid.

 

10.  If you should ask your wife for Shabbos Kugel on Friday she will suggest that you eat something else because “this Kugel is for Shabbos”. Honor is like Kugel and is only to be enjoyed on the day which is forever Shabbos--Olam Haba.  If you eat the Kugel today, you may go hungry on Shabbos.

 

11.  Even a small storekeeper keeps a record to know  the small amounts that his customers owe him. Let us not fail to keep records of our life in this world--for it affects us for eternity.

 

12.  A Torah supporter gives a few copper coins and the institution he supports gives him a share in an eternal Torah.

 

13.   HaRav Yisroel Salanter, Z’tl, compared momentary interruption in Torah study to the uprooting of two feet of railway track from a line stretching for thousands of miles.  Just as this seemingly insignificant act can wreak havoc upon the railroad, so too can a break in Torah study.

 

14.  One of the signs given by Chazal of a madman is that he sleeps overnight in a graveyard.  A man has the opportunity of returning from the grave to a new and eternal life by studying or supporting Torah.  If he wastes this opportunity and remains forever sleeping in the graveyard, he is truly a madman.

 

15.  What good is our Selichos if all we do is tell Hashem our sins?  He knows them well enough already.  Our duty is to resolve not to repeat our foolishness!

 

 

Special Note Six:  Thoughts on Parashas Nitzavim:

 

A.  The Parasha (29:9) begins with the words “Ahtem Nitzvaim HaYom Kulchem--we all stand before Hashem”. The Ba’alei Mussar explain that this is to teach us that this time of year nobody can hide behind the Rabbis, the teachers, the Tzaddikim, the leaders of the generation or anyone else--but that everybody, yes everybody from the woodchopper to the water carrier stands before Hashem and must accordingly do his part to come closer to Him and bring life and success for oneself and for K’lal Yisrael during the coming year!

 

B.  The Pasuk (Devorim 30:12) teaches “Lo VaShamayim Hi—It is not in the heavens….The Seforno learns that the Pasuk is teaching us that to do Teshuva one does not have to hear from a Navi or other heavenly voice—each and every person is capable of Teshuva on his ownusing his own sechel and his own willpower!

 

C.  On the Pasuk (Devorim 30:14): “Ki Karov Eilecha HaDavar Me’od Bephicha U’vilvavecha La’asoso”, HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, learns that a person who wants to do Teshuvah should learn Hilchos Teshuvah. The Sefer Derech Sicha explains that the Chofetz Chaim (once again, his Yahrzeit is today) in Chovas HaShemira (Chapter 3) teaches that learning the Halachos of a Mitzvah removes the Koach of the Yetzer Hara regarding it.

 

D.  The Parasha (30:19) also provides the powerful teaching of “U’Vacharta BaChaim--and you shall choose life”. The Rabbeinu Yonah in the Sefer Sha’arei Teshuvah learns that this is a Mitzvas Asei from the Torah. Let us choose life--and fulfill a Mitzvas Asei in doing so!

 

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 coming year, Be’Ezras Hashem, can be a great one for us and all of K’lal Yisrael--let’s try to put the effort in NOW !

 

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23 Elul

HILCHOS SUKKOS! Today, we continue to provide two Halachos on Hilchos Sukkos. Our notes are excerpted from the Dirshu Edition of the Mishna Berurah, Volume VI.  We continue with the Halachos of the Daled Minim:

 

  1. The Rosh rules that the definition of hiddur is not dependent upon what one subjectively may consider beautiful, but rather what the chachomim established as hiddur.  The Tiferes Yisroel writes, for instance, that the hiddur of the esrog is for the pitom to be perfectly aligned with the oketz. Likewise, the Chasam Sofer rules that “Veanveyhu” is determined by what our chachomim determine to be beautiful—and that, if we may borrow the expression, in this regard, beauty is not in the eyes of the beholder.  Similarly, the shiurim, which indicate what the Torah considers to be a complete Min is Halacha L’Moshe M’Sinai, and is not based upon a human determination as to when the Min is fully grown or developed (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 648, Dirshu Notes 102, 106 and 125). 

 

  1. The degree of dryness of a hadas and an arava which would render it unfit for use, is not determined by the leaf breaking when touched by one’s fingernail. Rather, the halacha is a more lenient one. In order for the hadas and arava to be rendered invalid because it is yavesh, its initial green appearance must have changed to a whitish-appearance (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 647, Dirshu Note 8). 

 

Hakhel Note: If one starts today and learns just two Mishnayos of Mesechta Sukkah every day, he will complete all of Mishnayos Mesechta Sukkah before Sukkos is over.  Slow but steady strides mean great accomplishment! 

 

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Special Note One:  One week from today is Rosh Hashanah.  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 an exciting Monday/Thursday series on the practical aspects of Sta”m, written by Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz, Shlita, author of Inside Sta”m--An Insider Reveals The Answers To All The Questions You Should Ask When Purchasing Or Maintaining Tefillin, Mezuzos, Megillos, Sifrei Torah And Nevi’im.

 

PART 76

 

Question

 

Does an elevator in a condominium/apartment building (in which all residents are Jewish) require a mezuzah?

 

 

Answer

 

There are more opinions regarding this question than perhaps any other in Hilchos Mezuzah. Before presenting them, however, we must clarify that this question relates to two distinct “doorframes.” One is the doorframe of the actual elevator compartment itself. The second is the doorframe on each floor through which one enters and exits the elevator compartment.

 

With that in mind, we can now present the various opinions:

 

Opinion 1 – The actual elevator compartment itself requires a mezuzah on the right side as one enters.

 

The logic behind this is based on the concept of “beis sha’ar” – a doorway through which one walks to enter the house. Inasmuch as one walks into and out of the elevator in order to enter one’s home, the elevator takes on the status of a beis sha’ar.

 

Opinion 2 – The doorframe on each floor requires a mezuzah on the right side when exiting the elevator.

 

The logic behind this is as follows: The actual elevator lacks permanence since it is often in motion. As a “temporary” structure, it requires no mezuzah. Upon exiting the elevator, however, one is walking through a doorway leading to a proper hallway or lobby. This certainly requires a mezuzah.

 

Opinion 3 – The doorframe through which one passes upon entering the elevator at the entrance level requires a mezuzah on the right side. On all other floors, however, it should be on the right side when exiting the elevator.

 

The logic behind this is as follows: The usual way to get to all apartments or condominiums in the building is by walking into the elevator on the entrance level and walking out on the desired floor. Hence, the beis sha’ar to each apartment is on the right side while entering the elevator on the entrance level, and the right side while exiting on all other floors.

 

Opinion 4 – An elevator does not require a mezuzah.

 

The logic behind this opinion is as follows: The doorframe on each floor does not require a mezuzah on the right side leading into the elevator since it usually leads to an empty shaft. A doorway is obligated to have a mezuzah only if one can always walk through it. If, however, when walking through that doorway, one would r’l fall into a shaft, that is certainly not what the Torah had in mind. Nor is a mezuzah required on the right side of the doorframe of each floor when exiting the elevator, because it is like a doorway in the middle of nowhere – with no permanent staircase or ladder leading to it.

 

The actual elevator itself requires no mezuzah since a beis sha’ar must be stationary. Nowhere do we find any mention of a beis sha’ar which is constantly changing locations. Furthermore, one cannot actually exit the elevator when it is in motion. Hence, during those moments, it is like a sealed doorway (not merely locked). Such a doorway requires no mezuzah.

 

·        The prevailing custom in America is like this last opinion – not to place a mezuzah on an elevator.

 

·        In Eretz Yisrael as well, most elevators have no mezuzah. Nevertheless, many scrupulous people do place mezuzos on elevators in accordance with Opinion 3 (no berachah is recited).

 

 

Special Note Four:  In the past, we have provided the following test.  Even if you have already taken it, can you please take it again to see how you do this time?

 

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.

 

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 Hashanah 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.

 

            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 Hashanah, 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 Hashanah Tefillos, we recite that Rosh Hashanah is a Yom Teruah Mikrah Kodesh Zecher L’Yetzias Mitzrayim.  At an important 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 Hashanah 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 Hashanah 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 Hashanah 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 Hashanah is indeed a direct result and outcome of the lessons of Yetzias Mitzrayim. This is what we take with us and demonstrate on Rosh Hashanah--and this is what we must take with us in the coming year!

 

 

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22 Elul

ACQUIRE MANY NEW FRIENDS!  Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, teaches in Mishlei (19:4), Hon Yosif Rei’im Rabim….  Taken on a simple level, this means that when a person attains wealth, he obtains many new-found friends.  The G’ra, however, understands the pasuk on a deeper level. He explains that through the study of additional Torah, one obtains more and more malachim who are his ‘friends’ when it counts--for eternity--in front of the Bais Din Shel Ma’alah. This is so because with each and every word of Torah uttered, a Mitzvas Aseh is performed and a new and trustworthy ‘friend’ is created!

 

Hakhel Note One: The Chofetz Chaim, based upon this pasuk in Mishlei and the Gra’s explanation, writes that the great rule is: “HaDibur Hu Ashro V’Hatzlachaso Shel Adam…” speech is the source of happiness and success for a person if one uses it wisely.  If c’v one does not—there is no one organ of the body that could do more damage than the tongue, for with each word of forbidden speech one creates a kateigor, an antagonist in front of the very same heavenly tribunal.  The choice is ours—if we can sincerely focus on the words that we utter—we will most certainly and without doubt be wealthier than the wealthiest person imaginable to us!

 

Hakhel Note Two:  The pasuk (Mishlei 16:26 ) teaches “Nefesh Ameil Ameila Lo–a soul that toils, toils for itself.”  HaRav Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz, Z’tl, writes that Shlomo HaMelech is teaching us with the seemingly repetitive term that when one places effort into his Torah study he will not only attain the fruits of his labor—but Hashem will reward him with additional and unexpected Torah knowledge—as if he had toiled in that as well!  HaRav Lefkowitz instructs that the first place to begin one’s efforts in Torah is to physically express the words of Torah that one is learning—and not merely read them with his eyes (see the Gra’s words above!).  We must look at life practically--air is so important, so indispensable to live in this world--and it is free! Torah is not only indispensable in this world--but in the next--and Hashem will shower us with more and more of it at no cost, if we only put in the effort that we can!   

 

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HILCHOS SUCCOS! Today, we continue to provide two Halachos on Hilchos Sukkos. Our notes are excerpted from the Dirshu Edition of the Mishna Berurah, Volume VI.  We continue with the Halachos of the Daled Minim:

 

1. If the shipu’a at the top of an esrog is uneven on its two sides—then what is considered its chotem which should ideally be without blemish—for Halachic purposes?  HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, rules that once the shipu’a has started on one side, and continues for a longer distance, the entire area is considered the shipu’a for the second side as well.  This is because although the shipu’a has stopped on the second side, the entire area will be viewed by the individual as part of the shipu’a.  The Shevet HaLevi, Shlita, however, writes that a person will view the two sides independently.  HaRav Nissim Karelitz, Shlita, on the other hand, rules that the chotem  should be at the midpoint between the two areas of shipu’a.  Hakhel Note: One can learn from this alone how choshuv it would be to obtain an esrog with a shipu’a which is even.  It will hopefully result in an indisputably beautiful chotem (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 648, Dirshu Note 71). 

 

2. HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, rules that bletlech which do not rise above the esrog can be considered as part of the mar’eh esrog, and it is accordingly better to take an esrog with a nice shape which has these kinds of bletlech than to take an esrog whose gidul is not as beautiful which has no bletlach (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 648, Dirshu Note 91). 

 

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THEY WILL GET THEIR DUE: Rashi (Devorim 26:6) writes on the pasuk of Arami Oved Avi that although Lavan was not successful in his attempt to annihilate Yaakov Avinu and his progeny--the Torah nevertheless uses the term Oved, considering it as if he did destroy us, in order to indicate that he is punished as if he had accomplished his goal.  We can learn from this that our enemies who sought our destruction in the most recent war in Eretz Yisroel will also be avenged by Hashem as if they had r’l succeeded. May we witness this Nikmas Hashem in our days!

 

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HE CAN’T STAND-IN FOR YOU!  The Tosfos Yom Tov (end of Mesechta Rosh Hashana) explains that if a person is able to daven for himself, the Shliach Tzibbur cannot replace him: “…it is because one must ask for mercy by himself!” Who better than you and you alone know the kinds of mercy you are looking for--and how importantly you need it.  As we have emphasized many times, the word rachamim appears so often in our davening—even in places where one may not otherwise expect it.  Especially at this time of year, one should make the effort to have kavannah when mentioning Hashem’s rachamim in Pesukai Dezimra, Birchos Krias Shema, and Shemone Esrei. Remember—not even the Shaliach can stand-in for you!

 

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SIMHON LEVAV:  HaRav Yecheskel Levenstein, Z’tl (in 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. However, 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, answers that this must be part of the curse of the tochacha in last week’s Parasha which states “Yakecha Hashem BeShiga’aon U’VeIvaron U’Vesimhon 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 first begins with Ani LeDodi--I am to my Beloved Hashem and then-- Dodi Li--Hashem will be for me!

 

Hakhel Note: Another interpretation of the calamity of Simhon Levav is approaching matters in a confused or perturbed manner—without clarity and clear thinking.  As we have noted in the past, there are three words in the Sefer Orchos Chaim L’Rosh which were especially emphasized in Kelm and recited in a special nigun- Ahl Tevahel Ma’asecha— do not act in a hurried or disconcerted manner.  Calmness and orderliness are essential to making the right decisions and taking the right steps.  If one has any doubt as to what to say, what to do, or what to think, in a particular circumstance or situation—think about and focus upon what would give Hashem the most Nachas Ruach!

 

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

 

A.  Upon reflection, we now have one week left until the last day of the year, 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.  Remember, it’s your life--and no one cares, or should care, more about it--than you!

 

B.  As part of taking stock, one should not overlook the items or money he has borrowed or lent to others, who he owes 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 one realizes that any mannerism or particular attitude really does irk family, friends, or colleagues, maybe it should become part of the “Nachpesa Deracheinu”--the search of one’s ways so essential to steering back to the proper path in life.

 

C.  As we continue to contemplate Hashem’s Malchus in preparation for the Yomim Noraim, may we suggest that one consider why we mention the word “Melech” in the bracha of Refaeinu in Shemone Esrei, and why we refer to Hashem’s “Kisei Kvodecha--Throne of Glory” in the bracha of Asher Yatzar.  Indeed, it may be a good idea to reflect upon this very important notion for a moment every time we recite Melech in Refaeinu and Kisei Kvodecha in Asher Yatzar!

 

D.  At this time of year in which we expand our efforts in search of a Good Year, and in which we seek a nullification of any difficult decrees against us, we note the primacy of answering “Amen; Yehei Shemei Rabba” with Kavannah as a special means for assisting us with our goals.  We provide by the following link -- http://tinyurl.com/mnkaaz   the words of HaRav Chaim Volozhiner, Z’tl, in the Sefer Nefesh HaChaim regarding this Kavannah and its potency.  We remind our readers that now is the time to improve your “Amen; Yehei Shemei Rabba” by looking at the words in your Siddur/Machzor as you say them, reciting them aloud, and understanding each word as you recite it--with the intention of ever-increasing Kavod Shomayim in the world.  In addition to the Kavod Shomayim coming through your Tefillos being answered, you could very literally be bringing Yeshuos to yourself, your family, and all of K’lal Yisroel--and there are a lot of things that we need Yeshuos from both individually and collectively.

 

E.  The Rambam in Hilchos Teshuva specifically enumerates 24 items which are “Me’Akvin Es HaTeshuva--which are obstacles to Teshuva,” making Teshuva more difficult.  Please see there for the entire list.  We will only mention one of these Teshuva obstacles at this time:   Sonei Es Hatochachos--one who does not like to be reprimanded.”  Over the next several weeks, we will be hearing many Drashos and Shiurim by our Rabbanim, and many of these Shiurim may have involved great, dedicated and directed preparation by the Rabbanim.  We should make the effort, at each and every one of these Shiurim (whether we are attending “voluntarily”, or whether it is a drasha in middle of davening) to apply something practically to ourselves from what is being said.  Remember, it is Hashgacha Pratis that you are being presented with these words.  Do not be a Sonei Es Hatochachos!  Instead, demonstrate your desire and ability to grow from each and every learning experience that Hashem provides you during this extremely opportune time!

 

 

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21 Elul

TEKAH BESHOFAR! HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita teaches that our Tefillos are so significant, and so great, because the path has already been laid for them by the Avos--Avrohom Avinu laying the ‘train tracks’ upon which we can subsequently ride for Tefillas Shacharis, Yitzchak Avinu for Mincha, and Yaakov Avinu for Ma’ariv.  There is one particular bracha in Shemone Esrei, HaRav Salomon continues, which is particularly vital at this time of year.  We ask that the great Shofar be sounded to herald the Mashiach.  This Shofar is not physically large--but it is great. In fact, it is even greater than the Shofar of Matan Torah.  This is because although the Torah is an antidote to the Yetzer Hora (Borasi Yetzer Hora, Borasi Torah Tavlin K’negda), the shofar of Mashiach will bring in its aftermath the total eradication of the Yetzer Hora--so that our Ruchniyus will no longer be impeded, thwarted or damaged in any way.  If, then, one SINCERELY PRAYS for Bi’as HaMashiach at this point--one  clearly demonstrates that his attitude, his true goal, his sincere aspiration is for Teshuva--for the time that he can finally--once and for all--be able to live a life of unabated Ruchniyus.  Sincere tefillos of this kind at this time of year, concludes HaRav Salomon, counts one among those who seek the path of Teshuva!

 

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HILCHOS SUCCOS! Today, we continue to provide two Halachos on Hilchos Sukkos. Our notes are excerpted from the Dirshu Edition of the Mishna Berurah, Volume VI.  We continue with the Halachos of the Daled Minim:

 

1.  If an esrog becomes spotted through much hand-holding, the well-known Chasam Sofer (Sukkah 36A) writes that this is its true beauty.  The Chazon Ish, Z’tl, and Steipeler z’tl, both explain this to mean that the esrog is not more mehudar as a result--rather, it is to say that because this is part of the esrog’s function and use--the spots become part of the mareh esrog--which is an item of beauty.  HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, and yblch’t HaRav Vozner, Shlita, take one additional step and rule that the Chasam Sofer would not want his sevarah relied upon on the first day of Yom Tov, in which the mitzvah of Daled Minim is MiD’Oraysa (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 648, Dirshu Note 89).

 

2.  If an esrog was stored under a bed, is it rendered unfit for use because of the ‘ruach ra’ah’ that has come upon it?  The Binyan Olam rules that one should use it only if he has no choice.  The Sedei Chemed writes that one should rinse off the esrog three times with water before using it.  The Steipeler, Z’tl, writes that it is only an issue on the first day when there is a requirement of Lachem--and it cannot be eaten, but on subsequent days one may take it lechatchila.  Hakhel Note: For those transporting an esrog and putting it under their train or plane seat, this may be an issue, as well (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 649, Dirshu Note 82).

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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.”

 

Hakhel Note: HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, brings the teaching of the S’mak (Mitzvah 9), who writes, based squarely on the Pasuk U’Maltem Es Orlas Levavchem V’Orpechem Lo Sakshu Ohd that it is a Mitzva Aseh MiD’Oraysa to listen to words of rebuke. Accordingly, concludes HaRav Salomon, since the study of Mussar is grounded in taking rebuke and trying to become a better person from doing so--one fulfills a Mitzvas Aseh MiD’Oraysa according to the S’mak each and every time he studies Mussar!

 

B.  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. Accordingly, we will have these abilities in Olam Haba--but only to the extent we properly used them in this world. One not careful with Lashon Hora could quite literally be speechless--while others around him are talking Torah and communicating on a Ruchniyus plane. One who has misused his eyesight may be unable to bask in the Shechina’s light. One not careful to protect his ears may be unable to hear the teachings of the heavenly academy. These results are eternal. Accordingly, concludes the Chofetz Chaim, it is most imperative 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.  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!  Hakhel Note: Please match a Yad Eliezer fund--if not now--when?

 

 

Special Note Two:  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!

 

We would like to remind everyone that non-coincidently, this week’s Parasha, Parashas Nitzavim, contains the “Parashas HaTeshuva” (Devorim 30:1-10).  Many Siddurim contain the Parashas HaTeshuva together with a short Tefillah afterwards, and it is usually found immediately after Shacharis.  It would most certainly be appropriate to recite the Parashas HaTeshuva and the subsequent Tefillah over the next four days…leading into Shabbos…and into Rosh Hashanah.

 

We note that much of Teshuva has to do with thought and speech.  By reciting the Parasha relating to Teshuva contained in the Torah itself, and then davening to Hashem for help in this regard, you have certainly taking important strides.

 

 

Special Note Three:  As we move closer to Rosh Hashanah, we must remind ourselves of the essential teaching of Chazal: “Mitzvos She’Adam Dush B’Akeivov Misavevin Lo B’Sha’as HaDin--the mitzvos that a person ‘steps upon’ surround him when he is being judged.”  Let us think about what “being surrounded” at the time of judgment means.

 Picture a city in siege, a prisoner surrounded by guards, a cowboy surrounded by Indians.  There is simply nowhere to go, no room to escape.  It is a very, very difficult situation.  It is our job to make some holes--preferably gaping holes--in the encirclement, in the siege, in those mitzvos that we “step upon” in our daily life by curing them, healing them, fixing them.  What “stepping upon” a mitzvah could entail may be treating the mitzvah either lightly, not carefully enough, or not with the degree of respect that it deserves.

 

The Mesilas Yesharim (in the Trait of Nekius--Cleanliness) puts middos into the same category as mitzvos regarding our need to improve and refine them in our lives in this World.

 

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.

 

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

 

 

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20 Elul

KABBALAH SUGGESTIONS FROM READERS:

 

1. Reciting the second paragraph of Aleinu with kavanna for the plain meaning of its awesome words—perhaps by using a finger to point word-by-word or line-by-line.

 

2. Come to Shul fifteen minutes before the start of Hodu, so that you can say brachot and all the davening before Hodu.

 

3. Turn off your cell phone one hour before Shabbos.

 

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REMINDER--OPPOSITES DON ’T ATTRACT: The Sefer Mesilas Yesharim (in discussing the Middah of Tahara) contrasts Chochma V’Yirah to Ta’ava V’Cheit. In his notes on the Mesilas Yesharim, HaRav Yecheskel Sarna, Z’tl, writes that we learn from here that Ta’ava (following one’s desires) is the opposite of Chochma--and Cheit is the opposite of Yirah. Ta’ava vs. Chochma. Cheit vs. Yirah--the choice is ours!

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FEEL THE LIFE !  The Mashgiach Ruchni in a major Yeshiva advised the Bochurim that the tremendous difference between us and the other nations of the world is that our G-d is very much alive and together with us as part of our everyday lives. He suggested to the Bochurim that the next time they exclaim Baruch U’Varuch Shemo they feel the vibrancy of, and closeness to, Hashem Yisborach Himself!

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THE TEN DAY CHALLENGE! Perhaps one of the most famous teachings of the Rambam is his Hilchos Teshuvah. If one begins today, and learns one Chapter a day of the Rambam’s Hilchos Teshuvah, he will have completed the Rambam’s teachings in time for Rosh Hashana…an undertaking which may be a real sign of one’s sincerity in his Teshuvah process!

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HILCHOS SUCCOS! Today, we continue to provide two Halachos on Hilchos Sukkos. Our notes are excerpted from the Dirshu Edition of the Mishna Berurah, Volume VI).  We continue with the Halachos of the Daled Minim:

 

1. The minimum stated Shiurim for the Daled Minim are MiD’Oraysa. According to the Kiryas Sefer and the Levush, the spine of the Lulav extending a tefach above the Hadas is also required MiD’Oraysa, although the Aruch LeNer rules that this requirement is MiD’Rabbanan. When holding the Lulav, it is ahl pi sod that the spine should be facing the person (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 650:1, Mishna Berurah seif katan 7 and Dirshu Note 1).

 

2.  A lefty should perform the na’anuim in the same manner as a righty, since the na’nuim to the right are based on “kol pni’os she’attah poneh…”--one should move towards the right. There is a Machlokes HaPoskim as to how one should perform the na’anuim when he finds himself in a minyan which does the na’nuim differently than his Minhag (such as a nusach Ashkenaz individual in a nusach Sefard minyan).  The Chayei Adam, the Steipeler Z’tl, and yblch’t HaRav Vozner, Shlita , HaRav Karelitz, Shlita  and HaRav Chaim Kanievski, Shlita rule that one should follow the minhag hamakom and avoid Lo Sisgodedu issues. However, the Aruch HaShulchan, the Aishel Avraham (Butshatch) and HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, rule that there is no issue of Lo Sisgodedu in this regard. Hakhel Note: Accordingly, one should ask the Rav of the Shul in which he is davening for a p’sak halacha as to how he should conduct himself. Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 651; Dirshu Notes 74 and 75).

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Special Note One:  HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, gave an essential Shiur to explain the extreme significance of the period we are in. Elul is not a time period that was discovered 200 years ago, 500 years ago or even 1,000 years ago. Rather, it was Moshe Rabbeinu himself who demonstrated the power of Elul to us, as through his Tefillos during this time he was able to bring the Luchos Sheniyos and the Torah back to this world. HaRav Salomon brings from HaRav Aharon Kotler, Z’tl, that people  mistakenly believe that when we exclaim on the night of Yom Kippur “VaYomer Hashem Salachti Kedvarecha”--that we are referring to the Tefillos that we are about to begin reciting on Yom Kippur. However, it is really the process of our Tefillos over the 40 days from Rosh Chodesh Elul that bring about our forgiveness on Yom Kippur. We must understand that our Tefillos NOW until Yom Kippur are important and effective as we are in Yemei Rachamim and Yemei Ratzon. What is Tefillah? It is not an exercise in which we attempt to ‘persuade’ Hashem to change His mind. It is rather an Avodas HaLev--a sincere and heartfelt experience in which we declare that we are entirely dependent upon Hashem. It is the acknowledgement that it is Hashem Who has the power and control over everything--and anything that I have comes from Him. With this heartfelt internalization, a person becomes a different person, and may receive what he asks for. The essence of Tefillah is for a person to feel that he stands before Hashem and recognizes who Hashem truly is and what Hashem means in his life. Chazal teach that “in our current times when we do not have the Mitzvah of Bikkurim, we instead daven three times a day”. This is because one who brings Bikkurim does so ‘Lifnei Hashem Elokecha--before Hashem’ (Devarim 26:10). Our davening three times a day is for us to attain this level of Lifnei Hashem Elokecha even in our times and in our day. HaRav Salomon brings the famous teaching of HaRav Chaim Brisker, Z’tl, that if one does not know that he is standing in front of Hashem when davening Shemone Esrei, then he has not in fact davened. The difference between a young child davening and an adult davening is that a child simply looks into a Siddur and says the words--whereas an adult stands before and talks to Hashem while doing so. As the Arizal explains, the Nusach of our Tefillah as established by the Anshei Knesses HaGedolah has all the powers necessary to reach the Olamos HaElyonim. What we have to do is say them, simply understanding the meaning of the words and knowing before Whom and to Whom we are talking. HaRav Simcha Zissel, Z”tl (the Alter of Kelm), adds that if we can conquer the Yetzer Hara of foreign thoughts in Tefillah--then Hashem will, Middah K’negged Middah, conquer any anger or Din that He might otherwise have upon us. We learn this from Avrohom Avinu, who was koveish, who conquered, his mercy over his son and brought him to the akeidah, in whose zechus Hashem is koveish, conquers any anger or Din He has against His people in the Yemei HaDin. It is therefore a tremendous and invaluable undertaking to work on controlling foreign thoughts during davening, and to recognize before Whom we stand. If one realizes he has a foreign thought--then, as with all bad thoughts--at the very least he should not enjoy it and do whatever he can to ‘throw it out’ of his mind. He will then be acting like Avraham Avinu who was a koveish--and Hashem will then be a Koveish Ka’as MeiAleinu--showering Chesed and Rachamim upon us, and bringing us the Geulah Sheleimah B’Karov BeMeheirah V’Yameinu.

 

Special Note Two: We continue an exciting Monday/Thursday series on the practical aspects of Sta”m, written by Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz, Shlita, author of Inside Sta”m--An Insider Reveals The Answers To All The Questions You Should Ask When Purchasing Or Maintaining Tefillin, Mezuzos, Megillos, Sifrei Torah And Nevi’im.

 

For a fuller treatment of all topics to be discussed, we urge you to purchase the Sefer, which provides practical and meaningful information and ideas.

 

PART 75

     

Question

 

My walk-in closet, as well as the walk-in pantry, are smaller than 4 x 4 amos. Can I assume that there is absolutely no need for a mezuzah in these areas?

 

 

Answer

 

There is actually a three-way machlokes regarding such rooms, as explained below:

 

·        R’ Moshe Feinstein maintains that there is no need for a mezuzah since the “room” is smaller than the halachic requirement.

 

·        The Chamudei Daniel (R’ Daniel ben Yaakov of Horodna, d. 1807) maintains that the room requires a mezuzah on the right when entering. The reasoning behind this opinion is that 4 x 4 amos is given in the Shulchan Aruch as the minimum size of a house. While others understand this to refer to a room as well, the Chamudei Daniel takes it literally. He therefore rules that while the minimum size of a house is 4 x 4 amos; a room within a house requires a mezuzah even if it is smaller – provided that it is functional.

 

·        The Chazon Ish maintains that a “room” of this sort requires a mezuzah on the right side when exiting the room. The reasoning behind their opinion is that the closet and pantry require no mezuzah in their own right since they are both smaller than 4 x 4 amos. However, when exiting these rooms, one is walking through a doorway into a room which is larger than 4 x 4 amos. Such a doorway always requires a mezuzah.

 

Although some in Eretz Yisroel follow the Chamudei Daniel, many contemporary poskim in Eretz Yisroel rule in accordance with the Chazon Ish.

 

In America , the custom may generally be in accordance with the ruling of R’ Moshe Feinstein.

 

 

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17 Elul

THE 611TH MITZVAH: This week’s Parasha contains the 611th Mitzvah. What it is? Can you explain why we remind ourselves about this Mitzvah prior to Rosh Hashana? Real Halacha Lema’aseh!

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PLEASE REVIEW MORE THAN ONCE: The following teaching contained in the Sefer Orchos Chaim of the great Rishon and one of the greatest Poskim of all time, Rabbeinu Asher, its once sentence constitute Siman #90 of the Sefer: 

 

Do not minimize the significance of even one enemy.”

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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?!

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HILCHOS SUKKOS! Today, we continue to provide two Halachos on Hilchos Sukkos. Our notes are excerpted from the Dirshu Edition of the Mishna Berurah, Volume VI. We continue with the Halachos of the Daled Minim. Of course, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek for a final ruling in his facts and circumstances. We are providing a total of six halachos--for today, Shabbos, and Sunday!:

 

1. Is there an obligation to check the Daled Minim each day before making a bracha, just as there is an obligation to check one’s Tzitzis everyday before putting them on?  The Minchas Yitzchak rules that  because the Daled Minim were scrupulously checked when purchased and will only be used for a short period of time (unlike Tzitzis whose use is ongoing), one can assume that they are still kosher, and that nothing has occurred which would render them pasul. If there is reason, however, to believe that they may have become pasul (such as a communal set of Daled Minim being used by many), one should check them before reciting a bracha. (SA OC 651 Dirshu Note 43).

 

2. If one forgot to recite the bracha over the Daled Minim before being yotzei , he can still recite the bracha--as the na’anuim are part of the Mitzvah. If one forgot to recite the She’hechiyanu over the Daled Minim on the first day of Sukkos, the Aishel Avraham (Butshatch) rules that is preferred that one wait until the next day and recite the She’hechiyanu when taking the Daled Minim then.  HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, however, rules that the She’hechiyanu could be recited the same day before Hallel, as the na’anuim in Hallel are an extension of the Mitzvah. In fact, according to HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, the bracha can be recited during Hallel itself bein haperakim--in between kepitelech. (SA OC 651 Mishna Berurah seif katan 26 and Dirshu Note 44).

 

3.  One should pick up the Daled Minim while standing, and make the bracha while standing as well, but b’dieved one is yotzei the Mitzvah (even if he is healthy) if the bracha is recited and the Mitzvah performed when sitting. (SA OC 651 Mishna Berurah seif katan 27).

 

4.  One makes only one bracha over the Daled Minim per day, even though it is a Hiddur Mitzvah to pick up the Daled Minim several times throughout the day, as was the  practice of the Anshei Yerushalayim.  The reason one makes the bracha only once is because the actual Mitzvah is to take it only one time a day (U’Lekachtem Lachem)--but one demonstrates Chibuv Mitzvah by picking it up more times throughout the day. There is definitely no issue of Ba’al Tosif if one continues to pick up the Daled Minim when the express purpose is showing his special affection for the Mitzvah. (SA OC 651 Mishna Berurah seif katan 28 and Dirshu Notes 47 and 48).

 

5. One should physically join together the Esrog and Lulav even during the recitation of Hallel and the Hoshanos. The Kaf HaChaim brings that one should not even put his fingers in between the Lulav and Esrog.  (SA OC 651 Mishna Berurah seif katan 48 and Dirshu Notes 80 and 81).

 

6.  If one does not have Daled Minim with him at the time of Hallel, HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, rules that it is better to recite Hallel b’yechidus later with the Daled Minim so that he could perform the na’anuim. HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita agrees--unless one can quickly borrow his neighbor’s during the na’anuim. (SA OC 651 Dirshu Note 61).

 

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AT THIS TIME OF YEAR! We note that HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, teaches that one of the reasons that we read Parashas Bikkurim (whose essence is recognition of Hashem’s gifts to us) at this time of the year is to remind us to have HaKaras HaTov and thanks to Hashem for life and the gifts of the past year. 

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

 

1. The Luach Davar B’Ito brings that in Kelm there was a takanah for a person to pay a k’nas of money if he exhibited any anger or kapeida in his house on Erev Shabbos.

 

2. Through the week, and especially on Erev Shabbos, we purchase or put away the best for Shabbos…whether it be cake, flowers, clothing. Chazal teach that Shabbos is Mei’ein Olam Haba. Accordingly, as we enjoy our special Shabbos treats and treatment, we should reflect upon the fact that the one who has properly saved up in ‘Olam Hazeh’, he will enjoy infinitely greater treats in Olam Haba!  

 

Hakhel Note: Chazal, based upon the Pasuk of “VeDaber Dovor” teach that one’s speech on Shabbos should not be the same as on a weekday (Shabbos 113A).  This is brought to light in many Halachos in Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 307, many having to do with worldly-related matters.  Based upon this Halacha, the use of many words may be questionable on Shabbos.  Here are some examples:  Netanyahu, Obama, elections, market (any one), emailed and even ... ‘my cell phone’.  You may think of several other words and phrases.  If one truly believes that Shabbos is Mai’Ain Olam Haba--why would he speak Olam Hazeh language there? 

 

3. The Mishna Berurah (ibid., seif katan 21) writes that at Shalosh Seudos, which, unlike the first two meals does not have a Kiddush associated with it, it is Tov VeHader--good to beautify the meal by making a bracha and drinking some wine during Shalosh Seudos (which is the Shita of the Rambam). HaRav Nissim Karelitz, Shlita, teaches that the amount can be less than a revi’is, and one only need to drink a little bit--as the point is to demonstrate the importance of the meal.

 

4. The Mishna Berurah writes that lechatchila one should have delicacies in this meal in accordance with his capabilities (ibid. seif katan 22).

 

5. The reason that women are equally obligated in this meal is because as to all matters of Shabbos men and women are equal, and also because they also benefitted from the miracle of the Mon, in which Parasha the three meals of Shabbos are alluded to (ibid seif katan 26).

 

6. Shalosh Seudos is more important than Melave Malka; accordingly, if one has a limited amount of meat, fish or other delicacies, it is better to serve them at Shalosh Seudos (ibid., Bi’ur Halacha d’h U’lefachos, and Dirshu Note 20).

 

7. On Shabbos at Mincha, we uniquely recite the Tefillah of VeAni Tefillasi…Eis Ratzon--which demonstrates that although we have eaten and drank, we still look to the Torah. Accordingly, we will not recite this Pasuk this year--on Yom Kippur which falls out on Shabbos, since we will not have eaten or drank before then. During the course of the year, however, even a person who davens b’yechidus should recite the Pasuk (SA OC 292 Mishna Berurah seif katan 2 and Dirshu Note 1).  Note: On Shabbos Yom Kippur we will also not recite Tzidkasecha Tzedek at Mincha, because there we state (Tehillim 69:14) Mishpatecha Tehom Rabba--Your judgments are very deep---and on Yom Kippur we ask for Hashem’s Rachamim!

 

 

Special Note Two:  In this week’s Parasha we encounter the Tochacha. Chazal explain that we read the Tochacha before the end of the year so that “Tichleh Shana U’Kileloseha--let the year and its curses end,” and let the new year and its brachos begin. 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.

 

 

Special Note Three:  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 bracha of Teshuva in Shemone Esrei first begins with Torah--HaShiveynu Avinu L’Sorosecha (Bring us back to Torah)--for the study of Torah is a prerequisite to Teshuva.  Hakhel Note:  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.  Now let us do the simple Halachic math, which we have provided in various ways in the past:  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 Hara attempts to minimize aveiros.  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!

 

 

Special Note Four: The following teachings of HaRav Nosson Wachtfogel, Z’tl, the Mashgiach of the Lakewood Yeshiva, are excerpted from the Sefer Leket Reshimos (on Elul and the Yomim Noraim):

 

1. The growth of a person is measured by the toil and effort he puts into his Avodas Hashem, and one who does not put in the effort really has nothing. No drop of sweat goes to waste.

 

2. One should not treat Elul as the rest of the year, for the whole next year will be dependent upon how one progresses in Elul. In Bein Adam LeChaveiro, one should work on being Noseih B’Ohl Im Chaveiro--joining as one with another, viewing his burdens as one’s own burdens and his joys as one’s own joys. This is the actualization of V’Ahavta LeRei’acha Kamocha.

 

3. Elul is the acronym of “Ani LeDodi VeDodi Li--if we view ourselves as the son of the King, we will act in a different light”. We act irresponsibly only because we push aside our true royalty and bearing. Hashem told Yirmiyahu HaNavi (1:7): “Ahl Tomar Na’ar Anochi--do not say “I am but a youth”--Hashem tells this to each and every one of us.

 

4. Chazal teach that one who is Ma’avir Ahl Midosav will be forgiven for his sins. The reason that this is so is because by being Ma’avir Ahl Hamidos, a person demonstrates that he is not only concerned with himself--but cares about others as well. Here therefore joins in with the merits of K’lal Yisrael.

 

5. It is the end that is important--if a person was a Tzaddik all of his days, and then c’v becomes a Rasha, he will be judged as a Rasha. Happily, the vice versa is also true. Now, looking back at the beginning of the year, we may have started off Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur in a great way. It is, however, important to end the year in a great way--with the Sha’arei Rachamim and Ratzon open wide to help us.

 

6. Before going to sleep and upon arising, HaRav Wachtfogel advised that one daven that he be zoche to Teshuvah Nechonah-- proper Teshuvah.

 

7. It is hard for us to feel awe because we do not have world leaders who inspire it. What we can do, however, is think about Kriyas Yam Suf, and how the Torah records: “Az Nivhalu Alufei Edom Eilei Mo’av Yochazeimo Ra’ad Namogu Kol Yoshvei Kena’an.” If these akum sensed Hashem’s Gevurah through these awesome sights--we should likewise envision similar Gevuros to appreciate Hashem’s Majesty.

 

8. A person should never despair or get depressed over the thoughts, words or actions of his past--as he is judged only according to his deeds at the time of judgment. If at that time he is a Tzaddik, he will be judged as one. It is accordingly the Avodah of Elul to prepare for Rosh Hashana so that one is a Tzaddik at that time.

 

 

 Special Note Five:  The Mishna in Rosh Hashanah (1:2) teaches us how Rosh Hashanah is different than the other three times of the year (Pesach, Shavuos, and Sukkos) during which we are also judged.  Rosh Hashanah, the Mishna teaches, is different because “Kol Ba’ei 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, knows all the deeds of human beings and their thoughts, as it says, “HaYotzeir Yachad Libam….”  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:  “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! Special Note One:  In the Parasha of Bikurim while recounting our servitude in Mitzraim, records “Vanitzak El Hashem--and we cried out to Hashem,” the G-d of our Fathers, and Hashem heard our voices.  The Chofetz Chaim notes that the Pasuk does not state that Hashem heard our prayers, but that Hashem heard our voices.  This is to teach us that we must cry out with our voices in times of trouble (obviously not in a manner which will disturb others).  The Chofetz Chaim adds that when crying out, one should plead for the “K’lal Kulo--for the entire tzibur,” and one should make his request after having performed a mitzvah.  It is for this reason, he writes, that all of the “HoRachaman” requests are made after Birkas HaMazon. 

 

Special Note Six:    Some special  Hisorerus from the Sefer Sifsei Chaim, HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Zt’l ( Moadim I) teaches:

 

A.     After Adam HaRishon sinned and his Teshuva was accepted (all on Rosh Hashanah!), 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 an essential lesson 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 Parasha, a person can delude himself into thinking “Shalom Yihiye Li--and walk in the way his heart sees fit” (Devorim 29:18).  Yet, no one has any contracts with Hashem--every action 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….”

 

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!

 

 

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16 Elul

A TEST: The following is excerpted from Life is A Test, by Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis:

 

“You might argue, surely, Hashem, Who is all-knowing, Who foresees that which will occur in the future, was surely aware that Adam and Chava would violate His instructions, and that He would banish them from Gan Eden. So, if He knew beforehand that His plan was doomed to failure, why did He go through with it? Why didn’t He just bypass Gan Eden and immediately place Adam and Chava into a world of struggle, toil and sacrifice?

 

Perhaps one of the reasons was to offer us a lesson in parenting--so that we might be fortified and better prepared when our children do not turn out as we had hoped. When reality does not mesh with our dreams, when the pain is so intense that we actually feel as if our hearts had been cut out, at such times, we must remember that, if Hashem can be disappointed, who are we to complain? And if He does not give up on us, who are we to give upon our children?!”

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REMINDER: By the following link http://tinyurl.com/kcy82vz we provide an essential Tefillah from the Sefer Taharas HaKodesh, as provided to us by the Always Our Kids Organization.

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WELCOME TO DAF YOMI MESECHTA CHAGIGA! UTILIZE THE NEW OCCASION TO BEGIN DAF YOMI REVIEW:  In the past we have mentioned the wonderful Daf Yomi Chazara website http://www.shaschabura.org.  We provide the Chazara program for the Mesechta by the following link  http://tinyurl.com/mye4wfz   We thank a reader who helped us with this important link. 

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ANOTHER GREAT RESOURCE FOR MESECHTA CHAGIGA! Daf Notes (www.dafnotes.com) produces a wonderful daily review of the Daf, also takes questions by email relating to the Daf Yomi Mesechta being studied and responds--as yet another one of its outstanding free services.  To correspond with Daf Notes, or to ask any questions that you like relating to the Daf or the Mesechta contact info@dafnotes.com

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HILCHOS SUKKOS! Today, we continue to provide two Halachos on Hilchos Sukkos. Our notes are excerpted from the Dirshu Edition of the Mishna Berurah, Volume VI).

We continue with the Halachos of the Daled Minim:

 

1. The Rema writes that the minhag is for a Lulav to have three kesharim. The Mishna Berurah writes that the three kesharim represent the three Avos. The Mishna Berurah also writes that according to the Taz the kesher that holds the three minim together should be considered as one kesher, so that one should make two kesharim above it, but that according to the Eliyahu Rabba there should be three kesharim besides the kesher that hold the three minim together (SA OC 651, Mishna Berurah seif katan 14).

 

2. When picking up the Daled Minim, the Chayei Adam rules that one should first pick up the Lulav with the three Minim on it, and then the Esrog. However, the Magen Avraham brings in the name of the Shela that one should pick up the Esrog first because the Torah refers to the Esrog [Pri Eitz Hadar] before it refers to the Lulav [Kapos Temarim]. When putting down the Daled Minim, the Magen Avraham writes that one should place the Lulav down and then the Esrog. However, HaRav Yaakov Emden, the Dagul Meirevavah and HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, all hold that one should place the Esrog down first and then the Lulav (SA OC 651, Dirshu Note 36). Hakhel Note: Find out what your minhagim are or should be--and be consistent!

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Special Note One:  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 Two: Additional notes on the Yemei Rachamim of Elul:

 

A. In last week’s Parasha, Rashi teaches: “Pirtzah Korah L’Ganav--a breach in a wall calls out to a ganav to enter.” It would be a tremendous step in a person’s Teshuvah process to identify those breaches which are large enough to let the ganav in!

 

B.  The Sefer Tomer Devorah points out that the three Pesukim in Micha of Mi Keil Kamocha Nosei Avon V’Over Ahl Pesha… (Micha 7:18-20) contain all of the 13 attributes of Hashem’s mercy. The Sefer therefore advises that one constantly recite these three Pesukim, so that he reminds himself of Hashem’s  13 attributes--which each and every one of us must emulate. It is no wonder, then, that these three Pesukim conclude the Haftaras of both Shabbos Shuvah and Yom Kippur Mincha!

 

C.  Chazal teach that if one is Dan L’Chaf Zechus--judges his friend favorably, then Hashem will judge him favorably as well. The Ben Ish Chai asks--we can understand why we should judge favorably--after all we really may not know the truth, the details, the nuances. But how could this apply to Hashem--what does it mean for Hashem to judge us favorably--after all, He knows all of our thoughts and actions--without any doubt or uncertainty whatsoever?! The Ben Ish Chai answers that because you have judged another favorably, Hashem will look at your situation in a different light than what had actually transpired. For instance, if one did not give Tzedakah when he had a particular opportunity--Hashem will say: “If he had more money, he would have given Tzedakah.” If one did not daven with the Kavannah that he should have, Hashem will say: “If he had just a little more sleep he would have certainly davened with more Kavannah.” If we can judge others l’chaf zechus…imagine how much more infinitely Hashem can do so for us!

 

D.  HaRav Shmuel Kamenetsky, Shlita, points out that some people may place greater focus on the Bracha in Shemone Esrei of Bareich Aleinu than for Atta Chonein L’Adam Da’as. He notes, however, that when one asks Hashem for Chochma--and especially Chochmas HaTorah--he is asking for help with his eternity, and the request could therefore be much more profound and everlasting! Hakhel Note: Perhaps one should consider stretching out his hand (“Ke’ani BaPesach”) when reciting this Bracha, in order to move himself to a better level of Kavannah-- and reality!

 

E.  The Mishna in Avos ( 4:17 ) teaches that there are four different approaches to going to the Bais HaMidrash: One who goes but does not study when there obtains reward for going. One who studies at home but does not go earns reward for accomplishment. One who goes and studies is a chossid, and one who does not go and does not study is a rasha. It is clear from the Mishna that in order to do best--to be a chossid--in one’s Torah study, he should go to the Bais HaMidrash and learn there. Even if a person feels that he may be better suited, equipped and prepared to learn at home, to achieve completeness in one’s studies and get to the highest level--to be a chossid in Torah-- if at all possible, one should be sure to go to the Bais HaMidrash and learn there!

Special Note Three:  The following points were made by Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman, Shlita:

 

A. Why did Hashem create us? Yishayahu HaNavi (43:21)  teaches: “Ahm Zu Yatzarti Li Tehillasi Yesapeiru--our role is to bring Kiddush Sheim Shomayim to the world--causing Hashem’s Name to be praised!”

 

B. The Chofetz Chaim would quote the Pasuk in last week’s Parasha--that if Hashem sees an ervas davar in us--then He recoils and stays away from us. Improving in Tzniyus is an essential element of improving ourselves--for by doing so, Hashem will stay with us and not remove His Presence from us. Now is the time to reflect upon our wardrobe and our conduct--to keep Hashem’s Presence with us!

 

C. The Midrash teaches that when the Malach HaMaves comes to snatch a person from this world, there are three drops that come from his sword. The Panim Yafos explains that these three drops represent the three traits which are Motzi’in Es Ha’adam Min Haolam--Kinah, Ta’ava and Kavod.

 

D. A person should humble himself to take the first step to put an end to a fight he is having with another.

 

E. When it comes to Tzedaka, some people may say that “the Mosdos HaTorah are having problems”. What does this mean?! We are all part of the Mosdos HaTorah--they are not ‘third parties’ or ‘others’--we are all joined as one in strengthening and spreading Torah to the greatest extent that we can.

 

F. The Alter of Kelm would say that a Kabbalah that one establishes for the Yomim Noraim--and then keeps during the year, has the same tokef--the same strength for the person as the Yomim Noraim do themselves. Accordingly, one should choose Kabbalos that he can adhere to and fulfill--so that he has the Kedusha of the Yomim Noraim with him the entire year!

 

 

Special Note Four: We continue an exciting Monday/Thursday series on the practical aspects of Sta”m, written by Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz, Shlita, author of Inside Sta”m--An Insider Reveals The Answers To All The Questions You Should Ask When Purchasing Or Maintaining Tefillin, Mezuzos, Megillos, Sifrei Torah And Nevi’im.

 

For a fuller treatment of all topics to be discussed, we urge you to purchase the Sefer, which provides practical and meaningful information and ideas.

 

PART 74

Question

 

A neighbor was here yesterday looking at my porch door. He insisted that I put the mezuzah on the wrong side of the door! How can this be? Everyone knows that the mezuzah must be on the right side of the doorway as you walk into the room. Why should a porch be different?

 

Answer

 

We must now explore what is the status of a porch--and whether it truly requires a mezuzah.

 

If a porch does indeed require a mezuzah, then your mezuzah is in the right place. If, however, a porch does not require a mezuzah – as some poskim rule – then your neighbor is correct: the mezuzah would have to be affixed on the right side going from the porch into the house (which obviously does require a mezuzah).

 

Other poskim, who are of the opinion that a porch does require a mezuzah, nevertheless rule that the mezuzah should be on the right side of the doorway (from the porch to the house) since the house is considered the primary obligation relative to the porch.

 

However, when the porch has an entrance from public property as well, many more poskim agree that the mezuzah ought to be placed on the right side of the doorway (from the porch to the house). This is common for the back porch of many homes where the back porch is easily accessed from the street without having to enter through a gate.

 

Ø      In a situation where there is no entrance from public property, R’ Moshe Feinstein maintains that the mezuzah is affixed on the right side of the doorway going out to the porch. In America that is indeed the prevalent custom.

 

The consensus among contemporary poskim (HaRav Elyashiv z’tl, ybl”ch HaRav Vosner, HaRav Karelitz.) in this situation is to have the mezuzah affixed to the right side of the doorway going into the house – as your neighbor insisted.

 

 

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15 Elul

FROM A READER: “In the Zechus of our sincere Tefillos, may we soon be zoche to daven on the other side of the Kosel’s wall!”

 

Hakhel Note: At the recent Hakhel Yarchei Kallah, Rabbi Avraham Chaim Feuer, Shlita, suggested that when reciting Es Tzemach Dovid in each and every Shemone Esrei, before concluding the bracha with Baruch Atta Hashem--one should actually say or think the words: “Ani Ma’amin B’Emunah Sheleimah B’vias HaMoshiach V’af Ahl Pi Sheyisma’meiah…” This is truly a wonderful suggestion for one to increase his Kavannah in this pivotal bracha! For CD’s of all of the Yarchei Kallah Shiurim, please call: 718-252-5274.

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A KABBALA SUGGESTION FROM A READER: Being in a sitting position for every bracha rishona and bracha acharona on food. Hakhel Note: We look forward to your Kabbalah suggestions!

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WHAT AN OPPORTUNITY FOR THE COMING YEAR! We provide by the following link -- http://tinyurl.com/pfdv3jw   a calendar for the study of Sefer Mesilas Yesharim over the two-month period of Tishrei and Marcheshvan 5775. We have it available on large postcard stock as well. Please feel free to print out, make your own postcard, and spread the word!

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HOW MUCH DOES HASHEM LOVE US? For an idea as to how much Hashem loves us, and how exactly He shows us His love, we urge you to recite the second bracha in Ma’ariv tonight with special Kavannah!

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HILCHOS SUKKAH! Today, we begin the thirty day period prior to Sukkos. Many learn that the obligation to study the Halachos of Sukkos begin thirty (30) days in advance (see Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 429, Ba’air Heitev). Accordingly, we bli neder intend to provide two Halachos per day. Our notes are excerpted from the Dirshu Edition of the Mishna Berurah, Volume VI). B’EH this year we will begin with the Halachos of the Daled Minim:

 

1. The Daled Minim must contain two Aravos and three Hadasim. The Mishna Berurah rules, for example, that if one used only one Arava, he must take the Daled Minim again and make a new bracha (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 651, Mishna Berurah seif katan 3:4).

 

2. The Hadassim must be higher than the Aravos. There are various reasons given for this. The Levush writes that it is because the Hadas is mentioned first in the Pasuk. The G’ra writes that it is because the Hadas is compared to the eyes and the Arava to the lips--and the eyes are higher than the lips. The Mishna Berurah writes that it is ahl pi kabbalah. The Hadasim should be to the right of the Lulav, with the Arava to the left--and this is true whether or not the person holding the Lulav is right-handed or left-handed. See, however, the Bikurei Yaakov (seif katan 9) who leaves this issue as a tzarich iyun (SA OC, Mishna Berurah seif katan 12, Dirshu Notes 18 and 19).

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Special Note One:  Welcome to the last two weeks 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 Two: Two Weeks from today will be Erev Rosh Hashana.  It is reality check time--real reality check.

 

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 Doniyeil--”Dah LeDah Nakshan”--with the English word ‘knock’ quite possibly having this Torah source).  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 “Bemistarim 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, perverted or fiasco-filled as we might have otherwise seen in the courtrooms of basar vadam.  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 and truly hanging 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 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 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. When one does so, 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 Tefillah, and through Tzedakah.  Through ‘Teshuva’, we seek Hashem by searching through for stains of various shapes and sizes 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, we must sincerely try to picture Hashem’s Presence in front of us, listening to ‘me’ (yes--me!) talking with Him, pleading with Him, and thanking Him.  Although young children and the uneducated daven a four-minute Shemone Esrei--it does not mean that we must follow suit--and, moreover, if we are attempting to improve our lives, we should not daven in the same way as we did ten or five or even one year ago.  Every year, our seeking through Tefillah--our connection to Hashem must certainly 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 refer you again to the Yad Eliezer opportunities--for Amalei Torah and for Almanos who seek out their brother’s assistance. 

 

Upon reflection, 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 guilty 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 an actual dibbuk which had uttered words of nivul peh--unbecoming language.  When asked how it could do so--after all wasn’t it already in the next world--it responded that a person in the next world is only what he makes of himself here in this world.  His nivul peh stays 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, Tefillah and Tzedakah will look like and feel like--for eternity!

 

Additional Note Two:  As noted in the past, Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman, Shlita provides 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 next two weeks 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!

 

 

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14 Elul

LOOK AND LOOK AGAIN! Rabban Gamliel Rabanovich, Shlita, teaches, “If one looks at his food while he is eating it--why would one not look at the words of one’s brachos in his brachos card, siddur or bentscher when thanking Hashem for it?!”

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PAYING TOMORROW:  Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, teaches (Mishlei 3:28 ):  Ahl Tomar L’rei’acha Leich VaShuv U’Machar Etein V’Yeish Itach”--Do not tell your friend: “Go and return and tomorrow I will give, though you have it with you”. The Chofetz Chaim teaches that the ‘friend’ referred to in this Pasuk is the Yetzer HaTov--who is the true friend of a person, and advises him how to do good. What Shlomo HaMelech is teaching is that one should not say “I will do this good tomorrow, that good tomorrow, learn double tomorrow, come on time tomorrow, daven better tomorrow, do that Chesed tomorrow--for each day is independent of the next and is truly a world onto itself.” Just as one would not push away the good advice of his best friend, should he not delay fulfilling the suggestions, the advice, the urgings of his best of all friends--the Yetzer Hatov--to do good not tomorrow--but today!

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SMELL THE KETORES!  In last week’s Parasha, we learned that when we go out to war against our enemies, “Venishmarta Mekol Davar Rah” (Devarim 23:10 ).  The word davar (thing) is similar to dibur (speech), and accordingly, the Pasuk is interpreted to mean that a person should be especially careful from Lashon Hara and bad speech in order to be saved in war.  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, points out that because of the gravity of the aveirah of negative speech, it could literally be a deciding factor as to whether a person will live in a time of danger. Indeed, Shlomo HaMelech clearly teaches “Maves V’Chaim BeYad HaLashon--death and life are in the hand of the tongue.” (Mishlei 18:21)  It is truly fascinating to point out that Chazal (Pesachim 59A) teach that the only avodah which preceded the Karbon Tamid Shel Shachar in the morning was the Ketores.  Why was this so--why should any avodah come before the Karbon Tamid in the morning?  We may suggest that the Ketores brought Kapparah for the sin of Lashon Hara (Zevachim 88B).  Accordingly, before the Avodah of the Karbon Tamid and the rest of the avodos of the day could take effect, the sin of Lashon Hara had to be cleared--so that we could go on with life in the upcoming day.  

Hakhel Note: After saying Modeh Ani upon awakening in the morning, it may be a wonderful Kabbalah for one to state that he will bli neder be a Shomer Piv U’Leshono for the upcoming day! 

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MALEI RACHAMIM: The Berditchever Rebbe, Z’tl, provides a great insight as to the profundity of Hashem’s Rachmanus upon us. In the Selichos, we say that “Anu Melei’ei Avon V’Ata Malei Rachamim--we are full of sin and You are full of mercy.” The difference in our being malei avon is that we may have 150 lbs., 200 lbs. or so of sin that we are filled with--but Hashem fills the entire universe--and He is full of mercy!

 

Hakhel Note: Let us especially focus in our Tefillos in pleading with Hashem to shower upon us the mercy that He is so filled with! It is essential that we focus on the term Racheim, Rachamim, Rachamecha, etc. in our Tefillos!

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HIGHLIGHT QUOTES FROM THE RECENT HAKHEL YARCHEI KALLAH:

 

1. Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita: Every day we are met with challenges in which we must balance excellence and convenience. For instance, do we go to the better barber, or to the one who is closer by?; to the store with greater selection, or to the store with the shorter lines?.... A person’s striving for excellence should not only be in matters of Gashmiyus--but in matters of Ruchniyus as well. A person’s goal must be towards idealism and perfection. Why can’t he be among the first 10 at minyan, or really be careful not to hurt anyone with words at any time? Why can’t he go to shul and have a seder even when he would rather be relaxing at home? The measure of a person’s success in life--is the measure of his goal to achieve excellence! Hakhel Note: Test yourself during the day--Am I using the gold standard--for Ruchniyus?

 

2. Rabbi Pinchos Jung, Shlita: Tefillah makes a great impact upon a person. It is Hiskarvus HaLev and Hishtapchus HaNefesh. The Siddur is a Mikdash Hametaltel. When the time for davening comes, we should view it as if Shabbos has come--as if everything we had to do has been taken care of and can no longer be taken care of at this time!

 

3. Rabbi Avraham Chaim Feuer, Shlita: Yiddishkeit is not a religion. Its definition is a live connection to Hashem!

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Special Note One: The Sefer Mesilas Yesharim (Chapter 11) writes the following moving words about the primacy that careful Kashrus observance must have in our lives: “…for forbidden foods bring tumah mamish into the heart and soul of a person to the point that Hashem’s Kedusha leaves and moves far away from this person [when this happens] a person’s ability to have true knowledge, and his seichel that HaKadosh Baruch Hu gives to those that are pious leaves him. The forbidden foods enter his body and become a part of his being. Anyone with a brain in his head should view forbidden foods as poison, or in which some poison has been mixed. If one would be concerned for any portion of poison in any food--would he dare eat from it?! Even if one has the smallest doubt about it, he would not be lenient--and if he would risk it, he would be considered a Shoteh Gamur--a complete fool. Of this, concludes the Mesilas Yesharim, Shlomo HaMelech, writes (Mishlei 23:2): “Vesamta Sakin BeLo’echa Im Ba’al Nefesh Atta-and you should put a knife into your jaw if you are a man with a mighty appetite.” 

 

Hakhel Note: As we conclude the year 5774, we should look back at the food that we brought into our homes, or that we ate while we were out. Were we lenient when we did not know what the Hashgacha was? Did we ignore Kashrus issues that we knew existed, simply by placing the burden or responsibility on the Kashrus agency? Did we speak to our Rav before attending a Simcha at a facility that had to be Kashered and/or about the questions that one should ask at a restaurant or food establishment out-of-town, or with which he was not familiar. The parasha of Kashrus is reiterated in the Torah--after all, eating is something that we all do at least two or three times a day, and thousands of times a year. It is imperative that we review our ways, to ensure that our body and soul are nourished in Kedusha--so that our actions and deeds will be able to express that holiness in all places, at all times, and to all people!

 

 

Special Note Two:  More on Tefillah, which is so essential for us to focus upon at this time of year. 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 Mispalelim--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!

 

 

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13 Elul

A PLEA FROM HARAV ELIEZER GINSBURG, SHLITA: “From today until Yom Kippur let’s leave our cell phones at home or at least shut them off before entering a shul to daven. What a zechus this would be for all of K’lal Yisrael as we are faced by crises and unprecedented challenges. Let us rise to the occasion by showing the Borei Olam that we can better ourselves and protect our Mikdashei Me’at.”

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AIN OD MILEVADO: In addition to his great mastery in Halacha, Rabbi Shlomo Pearl, Z’tl, urged all of his students and listeners to constantly express “Ain Od Milevado” and “I love You Hashem!” He had recently completed his 1,000th Sunday morning Halacha Shiur at Agudath Israel Bais Binyonim in Flatbush. One can view a listing and a summary of some of his Shiurim in Halacha at www.seetorah.com In his memory, we once again post the link to the Ain Od Milevado passage from the Sefer Nefesh HaChaim http://tinyurl.com/5a6qmy--something each and every one of us should perhaps be reciting daily at this time of year.

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THE GYM VS. THE SPA : Rabbi Ben Tzion Shafier, Shlita, gives the Mashal of a person who checks into a five star hotel, and is shown the entrance to the state-of-the-art gym on the right, and the wondrous spa on the left. The person intends to enter the gym, workout hard and well--and then go to the spa as his after-workout reward. He mistakenly takes a left turn and ends up in the spa. He decides to stay and spends the entire time in the pleasure-filled experience, but remains an unhealthier person for it. The Nimshal is, of course, someone who ignores the purpose of this world--the gym in which to workout--so that he can enter the spa ready to enjoy its true rewards, and instead goes straight to the spa, whose experience in this way is worth infinitely less than had he gone to the gym first as he should have. Truth be told, we have many gym vs. spa choices every day--let us turn right to the gym in each and every case--so that we can attain the true measure of value of the spa--which, instead of for 120 years, will last for eternity!

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CLEANING UP MONETARY MATTERS: The Business Halacha Hotline notifies us that using a friend’s credit card or family member’s credit card for purchases or taking advantage of his special finance offers can involve serious ribbis issues. For more information, and to discuss options for rectifying a Halachically problematic situation, one can call the Business Halacha Institute at 718-233-3845, extension 41. The Business Halacha’s Confidential Shailah Hotline FOR ALL MONETARY MATTERS is 877-845-8455. By email, one may send the Shailah to ask@businesshalacha.com

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

 

The Ba’alei Mussar explain that this Pasuk--especially at this time of year--is meant to emphasize to us our battles against the Yetzer Hara. HaRav Meir Schuck, Z’tl, points out that the Torah begins with the concept of war against enemies (in the plural) and continues with the word “U’nsano--Hashem gives him over into your hand”. If there are many enemies--what does the Pasuk mean by turning the plural into the singular? It must be, then, that we are being taught that what appears to be many enemies--one against Mitzvos, one fighting for ta’avah, another for kinah, yet another for bitul Torah, lack of Kavannah in Tefillah…, it is really only one enemy--the Yetzer Hara! What makes this world so special is that it gives us the opportunity to succeed against the Yetzer Hara.  Each success against the Yetzer Hara 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 Hara.  Remember, the Yetzer Hara is exceedingly sly (“orum”), and also acts as the Satan and the Maloch HaMoves.  We must meet the challenge and respond in kind.

 

Strategy One: Eliminate the Choice.  The Yetzer Hara 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 tzedakah 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 Hara 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 Harry, the Lashon Hara 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 Hara.  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 Lashon Hara—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 Yisrael.

 

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 K’lal Yisrael!

 

 

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 an exciting Monday/Thursday series on the practical aspects of Sta”m, written by Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz, Shlita, author of Inside Sta”m--An Insider Reveals The Answers To All The Questions You Should Ask When Purchasing Or Maintaining Tefillin, Mezuzos, Megillos, Sifrei Torah And Nevi’im.

 

For a fuller treatment of all topics to be discussed, we urge you to purchase the Sefer, which provides practical and meaningful information and ideas.

 

PART 73

 

Question

 

The dining room and living room in our home are located on either side of the front hall, and have open arches at each entrance. Is it true that a doorway with no actual door does not require a mezuzah?

 

Answer

 

A doorway without an actual door is a subject of dispute among the Rishonim. A mezuzah must still be affixed, but a berachah is not recited.

 

Question

 

What if there is no area on the doorway to put a mezuzah? I have a porch door and a gate which each close in a manner that leaves no room to place a mezuzah.

 

Answer

 

Often, a hollow area can be created in the doorframe to put a mezuzah case. This would solve the problem.

 

Another possible solution is to add to the doorframe by attaching posts. The minimum addition would be a post ten tefachim high on each side of the doorframe, an extension of the lintel, as well as an extension upon which to place the mezuzah.

 

If these options cannot be implemented, Ashkenazim may affix the mezuzah, without a berachah, on the area in front of the doorway. In this situation, it should ideally be affixed to the front of the actual post. When not placed on the post, care should be taken that it not be more than one tefach away. (Sephardim may not rely on this solution).

 

 

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10 Elul

DVEIKUS! 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!

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MIDDAH K’NEGED MIDDAH: From a reader:

 

“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.”

 

Hashem has made Middah K’neged Middah a basis of the world’s existence--let’s be smart!

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FOLLOW-UP! Many times we do an important Chesed for another person--helping him with advice, being a good listener, taking the person’s name to daven for him…but as the next day comes, new and different circumstances and situations present themselves, and we may forget the person who we so helped or benefited just a day or two or three before. It would certainly be most beneficial for a person to keep a note to follow-up in a day or two or more on how this person feels, how that person fared, or whether he still needs this, or she is still looking for somebody for that. The follow-up to the initial Chesed not only provides shleimus, a completeness to the act of Chesed itself--it also provides a shleimus to the person completing it!

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

 

1.  As we continue to focus upon Hashem’s Malchus, and the re-coronation on Rosh Hashana, we note that every Shabbos we recite the words:  Yismichu BeMalchuscha Shomrei Shabbos VeKorei Oneg--those who observe Shabbos and call it a delight, rejoice in Your Kingship.”  Although there is no special Halacha of physical Simcha on Shabbos as there is on Yom Tov, there is a more sublime and supernal feeling of joy in Hashem’s Malchus…each and every Shabbos. 

 

2.  In tomorrow’s laining we are privileged to have two of the Sheish Zechiros, which many of us recite daily after Shacharis.  The Luach Davar Beito brings the Magein Avraham (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 60, seif katan 2) who writes that one should have Kavannah to fulfill the Mitzvas Asei DeOraysa of remembering what happened to Miriam when the words “Zachar Eis Asher Asa Hashem Elokecha LeMiriam…” are read in the sixth aliyah (Devarim 24:9).  The Luach recommends that an announcement be made before Shishi to this effect!

 

3.  Rashi (Sotah 49A) writes that when all the people gather together on Shabbos to hear the Rav’s Drasha, they fulfill not only the Mitzvah D’Oraysa of Talmud Torah, but also the Mitzvah D’Oraysa of Kiddush Hashem.  It is for this reason that the Gemara (ibid.) teaches that one of the bases for the world’s continuing existence is the answering of “Yehei Shemei Rabba…” to Kaddish at the conclusion of the Rav’s Drasha. The Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 290, seif katan 6) writes that the Ikar at the Drasha is to teach Halachos Shabbos--that which is permitted and that which is forbidden--and to bring the people to Yiras Shamayim.  Let us put the importance of Hilchos Shabbos into the time frame that we are in.  Rebbi Yisroel Salanter, Z’tl, teaches that the ‘Aleph-Bais’ of Teshuvah is learning the Halachos of the topic or item for which Teshuvah is required.  How many can look back at the previous year and affirm that there was no slippage, mistake, or ignorance, with respect to his Shabbos observance?  One reader advised us that he put  a pitcher of water into the freezer on Leil Shabbos before going to sleep, and took it out on Shabbos morning before going to Shul, so that he would have very cold water without ice at his Shabbos Seudah.  On the way to Shul that morning, he realized that he had two issues--1. Was he allowed to place the water into the freezer to freeze in the first place? and 2. Was he then permitted to take the frozen water out of the freezer to defrost into ice cold water in the  pitcher--or was he intentionally creating water from ice (‘molid’).  He looked up the Shailah on his own (without consulting a Rav), determined that his actions were permissible, and drank the water.  Whether or not his conclusions were ultimately correct, what he reported to us determines the need to think before you act, and the need to study the Halachos of Shabbos (certainly on Shabbos itself!).

 

A Jew who observes Shabbos is known as a “Shomer Shabbos.”  A Shomer is one who guards against intruders and casualties that may befall or attack that which he is guarding.  One can do his  job as a Shomer if he establishes a new or  special Seder in the Halachos of Shabbos--and especially studies those Halachos in which he knows he is weak, or in which he has made mistakes in the past.  In fact, he can ask his Rav to give the Rav’s Drasha on these topics on Shabbos!  Remember, as the Mishna Berurah points out, Shabbos is mentioned no less than 12 times in the Torah.  If even the point of the Yud in the Torah demands respect and interpretation, imagine the reverence and attention we must give to the Halachos of Shabbos…when the Torah emphasizes its extraordinary importance to us so many times and in so many places! 

 

 

Special Note Two: Points and pointers on this week’s Parasha, Parashas Ki Seitzai:

 

A. In tomorrow’s Parasha, 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!

 

B. The Sefas Emes provides two great lessons from this week’s Parasha for us to always take with us:

 

1.  Some of the most famous Mitzvos in the Parasha relate to returning lost objects to others.  Since, the Sefas Emes notes, we are duty bound to love others as ourselves--and not more--then we must most certainly endeavor to return lost objects to ourselves as well.  With respect to our physical possessions, we must be aware that Hashem has entrusted us with objects--and be sure to get them back if borrowed or taken (unless Tzedaka or chesed is involved), and certainly not squander them.  Spiritually--we must ‘return’ to be the person we are supposed to be.  Elul is a time when we can return to ourselves that which so much belongs to us--our strengths, talents, energy and goals in Avodas Hashem.  This Parasha, always read in Elul, clearly provides us a stark reminder to us to bring as much as we can back home.  Additional Note:  Whenever you help return a lost object to someone else--let it serve as a Hashgacha Pratis reminder to you that you should also be returning something lost to yourself!

 

2.  The Pasuk teaches that it is a Mitzvah to help its owner when an animal or the burden upon it has fallen.  The Torah specifically says “Hakeim Tokim Imo--you shall surely stand them up with him.”  The Sefas Emes notes that the Torah does not simply use the word “Oso”-help him, but “Imo”--with him, because when you are helping another, when you display Rachmanus, compassion and care for the difficulty of someone else, than you are really not only helping him, but helping yourself.  In fact, while you are helping him only once, you are helping yourself for a lifetime and beyond.  How remarkable!  You are not merely picking up a package--you are raising up yourself!

 

C. As this week’s Parasha contains at least one Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh and one Mitzvas Aseh relating to Shemiras HaLashon, 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, 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: In this week’s Parasha, we learn how the penalty for being motzi sheim rah--spreading a bad name (100 zuz) is twice as great as the penalty for oness (committing a horrible act) (Devarim 22:19 , 29). The Chofetz Chaim explains that the Torah is starkly teaching us how horrific the ostensibly ‘intangible crime’ of motzi sheim rah, really is.

 

D. The Torah states that one who is to receive makkos--lashes for his transgression is to receive up to 40, as the Torah states: Arba’im Yakenu Lo Yosif. Why does the Torah use the number “40”--especially if the maximum is really 39? See Ramban to Devorim 25:3.

 

E. The following Shailos U’Teshuvos relating to the Mitzvah of Shiluach HaKan are excerpted from the Divrei Siach on this week’s Parasha:

 

QUESTION: Is there an obligation to perform Shiluach HaKan every time the situation presents itself to a person?

ANSWER: No, but there certainly is an inyan ahl pi kabbalah to do so.

 

QUESTION: is it better to perform the Mitzvah of Shiluach HaKan by yourself--or to ask a Shaliach to do so, so that you can study Torah during that time?

ANSWER:Mitzvah Bo Yoser MeBeshelucho--it is better for him to do the Mitzvah himself.”

 

QUESTION: If a katan performs Shiluach HaKan--will it be a segulah for him even when he becomes a Gadol?

ANSWER: Yes!

 

 

Special Note Three:  We provide the following additional Elul points and pointers:

  

1.  “Ashrei Yoshvei Veysecha--praiseworthy are those who dwell in Your house.”  The Sefer Yesod VeShoresh HaAvodah explains that the ‘House’ we are referring to is the House of the King.  How fortunate, how happy we should feel for the privilege that we have of dwelling in the King’s house.  As we move further through Ashrei, we refer to Hashem’s Malchus several more times.  Chazal teach the importance of an appreciation of Ashrei when they say that one who is careful to [properly] recite Ashrei three times a day is Zoche to Olam Haba.  Perhaps we could take a great lesson from Ashrei with us throughout the day by singing the words, or humming the tune to, “Malchuscha Malchus Kol Olamin, U’Memshaltecha Bechol Dor VeDor--Your kingdom is a kingdom spanning all eternities, and Your dominion is throughout every generation.” 

 

2.  An extremely important Middah to emphasize and develop over the coming month (as noted above, today is exactly 30 days to Yom Kippur!) is the Middah of HaKaras HaTov.  Chazal (Avodah Zara 5A) teach that both Adam HaRishon, and the Bnei Yisrael at the Cheit HaEigel, were Kafui Tov--deniers of good.  One would expect that HaKaras HaTov and Kafui 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 Kafui 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 Kafui 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 “Kafui Tov”.  There does not seem to be much middle ground.  The choice is yours!

 

3.  Chazal teach:  “Al Tehi Rasha Lifnei 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! 

 

4.  In fact and in deed, there are others who care about you as well.  One of the teachings of the Rosh in the Archos Chaim L’Rosh 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.

 

5.  Elul is, of course, an acronym for “Ani LeDodi VeDodi Li.”  The word “Dodi” means not only “My Beloved,” but also “My Uncle.”  Rabban Gamliel Rabanovitch, Shlita, points out that 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--in the month of Elul! We have to come up with practical and concrete ways of extending our hand to receive the chocolate. Remember--the time is now!

 

 

Special Note Four: We once gain provide a brief, sample list of items one may consider improving upon, and especially working on in the month of Elul.  Let us not wait until the last moment--let us take action now!

 

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

2.      Coming to Shiurim on time.

3.      Wearing truly appropriate clothing while davening.

4.      Making Brachos properly-with Kavannah, bentsching 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 discussions which are not worthwhile.

11.  Not making sarcastic comments, and not using biting words (Remember: No shtuchs!) .

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 Zara.

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 and 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!

 

We very much look forward to any additional suggestions you may have!

 

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!

 

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9 Elul

WORDS OF GREAT INSTRUCTION FROM THE SEFER SHA’AREI TESHUVAH (3:145-146): “One who speaks libelously against the Torah is one who has the audacity to say about the Torah, things which are not so, such as, “In vain were these verses and accounts written into the Torah.” It is his pride and haughtiness which causes him to think thus. Because he is incapable of arriving at the essence of these things, he tells himself that there is no depth to them. It is said, For it is no vain thing for you” (Devarim 32:47), concerning which our Chazal have said, if it is vain, it is because of you--because you do not know how to interpret these things.” Also, one who abandons any Torah concept and does not acknowledge it, is considered one who speaks libelously against the Torah, as those who say, “Of what use to us are those who learn Torah? If they have become wise, they have become wise for themselves, and we have no share in their reward.” By so saying, they deny what is written in the Torah, “Venasasi Lechol HaMakom Ba’avuram--Then I will forgive the entire place for their sake.(Bereishis 18:26)

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FAMOUS WORDS: The famous words of the Sefer Mesilas Yesharim: “Kol Kulah Tzarich Bedikah--every kulah that one wishes to practice requires further investigation is taught by the HaRav Luzzato, Z’tl, in the Chapter on zerizus--acting with alacrity. We may derive from this that even if a person may actively seek a kulah--ultimately the reason for seeking or practicing a leniency may simply be spiritual laziness, and a lack of appreciation of the spiritual elevation one has in the diligent performance of a Mitzvah!

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WHERE DO WE BEGIN? HaRav Yechezkel Levenstein, Z’tl (Letter 208) writes that the first step in coming close to Hashem is through improving middos and conduct with other people. If a person recognizes and appreciates the ma’alas zulaso--the attributes of others, and accords them respect in accordance with their ma’alos, then, he concludes, how much closer he is to properly appreciating, respecting and drawing close to HaKadosh Baruch Hu! Additional Note:  On the Mishna in Avos (4:3) of Ahl Tehi Vaz Lechol Adam--do not treat anyone lightly…HaRav Levenstein notes that one should think improperly of anyone, including akum, for Hashem Himself has ordained that every person has his time, and every person has his place.

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Special Note One: We provide additional practical Elul Eitzos:

 

A. Rebbi Yisroel Salanter, Z’tl, suggested that many people fail to do proper Teshuva because they do not realize how important and honored they really are; yes, they realize Hashem’s greatness, but view themselves as too far below and too far beyond.  It is really quite the opposite.  We start out in the Royal Palace .  If we then move out or move ourselves away --does it mean that our Royal blood has been replaced, and that our ancestry and bearing have been expunged?   No, it means that we must take the first step of recognizing our Royalty--and then take the time and make the effort to move back into the Royal Palace .  The King wants us back--He has told us so.  We must put back on the Royal garments, and head back to the Palace --with longing and with dignity.  Appreciate who you are and do something about it!

 

B.  The Sha’arei Teshuvah (3:176) actually includes within the category of a leitz (a scoffer) one who does not accept tochacha, reproof.  Indeed, Shlomo HaMelech teaches (Mishlei 9:8):  Ahl Tochach Leitz Pen Yisna’eka--do not give reproof to the leitz, for he will hate you.”  One of the important items to work on in the month of Elul is to listen to the Drashos, the reproof, the guidance, and the comments of others--and take it to heart, rather than brush it off.  As many of us have or will soon begin to study Mussar Seforim in preparation for becoming better people, the natural tendency is to believe that ‘this comment is directed towards him’ or ‘I don’t really have that problem’.  One can go through life pointing harsh fingers at others, and kind fingers at oneself. In a sense, if one does so, he is a leitz, a scoffer--for he is not paying attention to the messages being conveyed to him through what he is hearing, reading or learning.  Instead one should think:  “This is B’Hashgacha  Pratis--it is directed towards me!” 

 

C.  During this delicate time of year, one should especially try not to say or to give a shtuch--a stabbing witticism which produces no gain other than to demonstrate the ‘quickness’ of the utterer, and to annoy, hurt and poke fun at the one who is the object of the shtuch.  We add that if one witnesses such an event, he should provide proper careful chastisement to the offender--and benefit all of K’lal Yisrael!

 

D. Many (if not all) of us recite Tehillim daily. What is the first Pasuk of Tehillim? “Ashrei HaIsh Asher Lo Halach BaAtzas Resha’im U’vederech Chataim Lo Amad U’vemoshav Leitzim Lo Yashav--praiseworthy is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, stand in the path of the sinful, or sit amongst the scorners.” Dovid HaMelech’s son, Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, provides a very similar teaching (Mishlei 13:20) “Holeich Es Chachomim Yechkam Ver’oa Chesilim Yeiro’ah--he who goes with the wise will become wise, and he who befriends the fools will be broken.” Many of us have at least one friend or acquaintance who we really believe we should not be friends or associate with because of how they act or think or what they say. We should remember that the very first words of Dovid HaMelech in Tehillim teach us that a person is praiseworthy if he avoids this kind of relationship and Shlomo HaMelech teaches us that one basically becomes who he associates with. Now is the time to focus practically upon at least one relationship that requires some separation, and one relationship that requires further bonding. We have the literally Sage advice--let us use it to its fullest!

E.  Yiras Shomayim 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 Two: We continue an exciting Monday/Thursday series on the practical aspects of Sta”m, written by Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz, Shlita, author of Inside Sta”m--An Insider Reveals The Answers To All The Questions You Should Ask When Purchasing Or Maintaining Tefillin, Mezuzos, Megillos, Sifrei Torah And Nevi’im.

 

For a fuller treatment of all topics to be discussed, we urge you to purchase the Sefer, which provides practical and meaningful information and ideas.

 

PART 72

Question

 

There is a small coatroom just inside the entrance of our house that measures less than 4x4 amos. Does our front door actually require a mezuza?

 

Answer

 

A room smaller than 4x4 amos does not require a mezuzah. The size of an amah is a subject of dispute.

 

1)      According to R’ Chaim Naeh, the size of an amah is 48 cm. (19 in.)

2)      According to R’ Moshe Feinstein, the size of an amah is 54 cm. (21¼ in.)

3)      According to the Chazon Ish, the size of an amah is 57.6 cm. (222/3 in.)

 

Hence, since your coatroom is less than 4x4 amos, as most coatrooms are, then indeed the front door should not require a mezuzah.

 

However there is another halachah that is relevant. We are referring to the requirement of a mezuzah for a beis sha’ar. Although a doorway ordinarily requires a mezuzah only if it leads to a room which is fit for “living purposes;” a doorway, gate or archway which serves as an entranceway to the home itself also requires a mezuzah. This is called a “beis sha’ar.”

 

Therefore, your front door serves as a beis sha’ar (entranceway) to your real “halachic” front door – which follows the coatroom.

 

Nevertheless, the answer is not quite so simple since the question of whether a beis sha’ar leading into a room smaller than 4x4 amos requires a mezuzah is also a subject of dispute among the poskim.

 

Accordingly, the universally accepted custom is to place a mezuzah on the front door; but not recite a berachah.

 

 

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8 Elul

A REMARKABLE CALENDAR: To view and print a concise Hebrew calendar which contains the 5775 daily Nach Yomi, Mishna Yomis, Daf Yomi and Halacha Yomis, please see the following link http://tinyurl.com/mclly3q   Spread this wealth of information to others!

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120 YEARS--120,000 YEARS: Sometimes we may be faced with the pressures of earning a livelihood or social pressures and turn aside at least a bit from the Torah’s true teachings.  In a more extreme form, a reader advised us that he was told by someone:  “Religion is religion and business is business.”  While none of us may extend ourselves to that extent, we may nevertheless take an ‘ignorance is bliss’ approach in Choshen Mishpat (business and shopping) and Yoreh De’ah (Kashrus and Ribbis matters).  We have, for instance, provided notices in the past as to issues with loans from Emigrant Savings Bank and Quicken Loans, and there may be other similarly-situated lenders.  One cannot simply ‘turn the other way’ on the assumption that ‘there must be some heter if it is such a common problem’, or ‘I leave Kashrus to the Kashrus agencies’, etc.  This world’s temptations last for 120 years; if a person falls prey to them, and rationalizes or simply refuses to think about or investigate a challenge--then he is giving up 120,000 years and more of the oneg of Olam Haba that he could have enjoyed from overcoming the Nisayon. Whether it is the justification of the need to support one’s family or the claim that ‘this is my personality’, one must simply be guided by the golden rule of the Mesilas Yesharim:  Key Im Eino Chas Ahl Atzmo--Me Yachus Alav--if a person does not care for himself, then who will really care for him?!”  Elul is the perfect time period for assessment and re-assessment. We owe it to ourselves.

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Special Note One:  We provide additional practical Elul Eitzos, as we have just begun the second week of Elul:

 

A.  In the past, we provided the idea of a pyramid of Mitzvos, where one’s good deed travels and effects others, with ramifications reverberating perhaps to the other end of the world. There is another kind of pyramid that a person can build. During Elul one searches for thoughts, deeds and actions of his that are in a state of disrepair. One does not have to look beyond his daily activities for additional zechusim during this period--correcting that which he does in the ordinary course on a daily basis should serve as a great zechus in and of itself to bring us a blessed and successful year. Eating is something that one usually undertakes three times a day. If one can correct some aspect of the eating process--then he is correcting something three times a day, which over the course of a year amounts to a thousand repairs. The correction can take the form of committing not to overeating, sitting when making any bracha over food, eating with dignity--as if there are others with him even if he is ‘alone’ in the room, not eating the food unless one is certain what bracha to make over it, or perhaps on a more advanced level, not making a bracha unless there is someone there to answer Amen.  There are, of course, many other possibilities in this area--but the commitment bli neder could certainly be a monumental one for the coming year!

 

B.  During this month we are preparing for judgment--and for mercy.  While this may seem paradoxical, it is really quite necessary.  If a person prepares only for judgment, he will tend to view all of his activities in a favorable light, explaining this away and that away, and actually leads himself to believe that he is much better than he really is.  Think about the way a lawyer may prepare a court case--viewing the facts in the most favorable light to his client.  Thus, in thinking about why one needs mercy over the coming days, he will take a better look at our actions and inactions--and resolve to do better--which, in turn, makes us much more qualified to receive the very mercy we seek!

 

C.  As we 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 appear to know or give other constructive, well-delivered words of advice or guidance, and certainly 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.

 

 

Special Note Two:  The following are important points on Teshuvah from Rabbi Moshe Tuvia Lieff, Shlita:

 

A. The Levush writes that even if we have strayed, we are like an aveidah hamisbakeshes--something that is lost which is being looked for.  Picture the sheep who has strayed who wants to be found by the Shepherd--and whom the Shepherd wants to find!

 

B.  A peasant allows more and more grime to collect until it is difficult to get out all of the stains, and the shirt loses more and more of its character as something that can be worn at all.  A city dweller takes a stained shirt and promptly sends it to the cleaners so that it is clean again.

 

C.  The Shofar itself is a symbol of how we can turn our lives around. Yesterday, it may have been attached to a filthy barnyard animal--by cutting it off, cleansing it and rededicating it, we can exclaim “Alah Elokim BeSeruah--Hashem is elevated with the Teruah of the Shofar.”--this is Teshuvah--a turnaround!

 

D.  As Elul is an acronym for Ani LeDodi VeDodi Li, we must realize that the process begins with Ani--with me. HaRav Yisrael Salanter, Z’tl, would say that even the fish in the water tremble during Elul--if that is the case, then most certainly the Ani--as a thinking, rational being--should take action as well. One can begin with Teshuvah MeYirah. On the Yomim Noraim, we will be reciting “U’vechein Tein Pachdecha--and so Hashem place Your fear…”  Imagine a child entering a dental office and hearing the sound of the drill coming from the next room.  The fear is palpable, although one knows that the dentist means the best.  We must have the same sense of awareness!

 

E. The Sefer Nefesh HaChaim 4:31 teaches that one who is Oseik B’Torah brings Kaparah upon himself in a wonderfully cleansing way. One shows love to Hashem by learning Torah properly-- and Teshuvah through Eisek HaTorah is Teshuvah MeiAhava. Through Eisek HaTorah, one is tovel in the Yam HaTalmud--purifying himself to a previously unknown extent. One Important Note: The Eisek HaTorah, must, however, be karaui--befitting. One should not in the regular course allow interruptions, cell phone recesses, or treat the study of Torah as just another daily obligation.

 

F. The story is told of the Berditchever Rebbe, Z’tl who saw a person eating a sandwich of chazir near Shul on Yom Kippur.

 

“Do you know it is Yom Kippur?”  “Yes”

“Do you know that you are eating an unkosher meat?”  “Yes”

“Do you know there are hundreds doing Teshuva just a short distance away?”  “Yes”

 

…and he continued to eat nonchalantly.  The Berditchever looked to Shomayim and exclaimed “Who is like Your people--even in difficult circumstances, they are careful to tell the truth!”

 

Hakhel Note:  This month is certainly a month for us to place an emphasis on always telling the truth--in a way which would make the Berditchever much prouder!

 

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7 Elul

JOIN THE KEDUSHAS TEFILLIN PROGRAM! This program is for any young man or man who has a ratzon to wear his tefillin without talking.  To find out more about the rules, rewards and how to join the program, send an email  to kedushastefillin@gmail.com or text Rabbi Adler at 216-235-4330. Please provide your mailing and school information.

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WHAT A WARM GESTURE! The following email was sent by the father of a Kallah a few days before the chuppah: “If anyone would like to submit names for shidduchim, parnassah, refuah, chinuch habanim or any other issue for my daughter to be mispallel under the chupah, please reply to this email.”

Hakhel Note: Let us learn from the kallah and her father’s thoughtfulness and concern for others!

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FROM A READER: “Here is a simple recommendation: if you’re going to Shul, do not take your cell phone with you. If you drive, leave it in the car; if you walk, leave it at home. We do this on Shabbos every week. Surely we can accustom ourselves to realize that our phones do NOT belong in Shul.”

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

 

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Special Note One:  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, the days of Elul can not 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 way to increase the utilization of our Kochos in Avodas Hashem is in increments: An additional bracha with kavannah , an extra call each week for Kibud Av VaEim, an additional commitment to Shemiras HaLashon every day....”

 

3.  “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’!”

 

4.  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 may propose 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--we all have a little over three weeks to get the job done--let’s really succeed this year!

 

 

Special Note Two:  From the Sefer Yearning with Fire:  One of the lesser-known Mitzvos, V’halachta Bidrachav teaches that as Hashem is merciful, we are required to be merciful; as He is compassionate, righteous, and holy, so must we be. Our potential to act in Godly ways arises, according to the Nefesh HaChaim is from our status as a Tzelem Elokim-- a being created in Hashem’s image.  Invested with this spark of Godliness, man possesses what no other living being possesses--a capacity for giving and compassion. Because this capacity for giving is embedded in man’s soul, giving should come naturally. However, until we apply that capacity, it remains nothing more than potential. V’halachta Bidrachav goes far beyond a spontaneous impetus to do someone a favor.  It is the policy that governs all of one’s interpersonal relationships, even when one feels overwhelmed, slighted, or wronged.  Hakhel Note:  In our Bein Adam L’Chaveiro this month, let us establish a policy--V’halachta Bidrachav--as the guiding light in all our interpersonal dealings and relationships!

 

 

Special Note Three: Additional notes on the Yemei Rachamim of Elul:

 

1. The Brisker Rav, Z’tl, once related that there were merchants during World War I who would cross the border illegally, smuggling goods in for a huge profit.  The penalty if one was caught, however, was death.  There was one merchant who wanted to smuggle valuable goods over the border and hired a wagon driver to do so in the middle of the night.  As they moved towards the border, the merchant became more and more frightened, and as they got extremely close to the border, even the wagon driver became fearful, for he too would be penalized, and probably even imprisoned, if caught.  However, the driver’s apprehension could not be compared to the fear and trepidation of the merchant, who would probably be shot on the spot.  Only the horses were unafraid, for they did not care where they were, as long as they were fed.  One thing us for sure, the Brisker Rav concluded, is that we are not animals, and not even ministerial wagon drivers, but human beings with much to accomplish, and with much at risk.  Accordingly, we should take the necessary action to save and elevate ourselves.

 

2. We should be focusing on the words “Melech HaOlam” when making a bracha--after all, if we are readying ourselves for the King of the Universe’s coronation, we dare not come unprepared.  One can also in the course of his Tefillos (especially Shacharis) focus on the word Melech--King--and be astonished at how often we use the term in our daily davening.  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 and looking around in bewilderment. Hakhel Note: More about Kingship below!

 

3. One should review his affairs, and perhaps go through his home and office, to make sure that he is not holding on to the property of others. Remember, even if you feel that the other person ‘does not care’--it is not yours--until he gives it to you!

 

4. As we recite every morning, ‘V’Talmud Torah K’neged Kulam’. One must definitely attempt to take some action to improve his Talmud Torah. Even if one is not in a position to learn shishim dakos retzufim--sixty minutes straight, without interruption--he can undertake not to be disturbed with interruptions, or by chatter, beeps, buzzes or the like [unless he knows that he is needed for something urgent] when studying on his own or attending a shorter Daf Yomi or other Shiur. By doing so--even when not technically adding on to one’s study time--one is demonstrating his Kavod HaTorah and Chashivus HaTorah by guarding these precious moments for Torah and Torah alone. Another possible Torah tikun is for a person to make sure that he learns two Halachos in the morning and two Halachos in the evening (perhaps immediately after Shacharis and Ma’ariv)--so that he knows that he has definitely learned something tangible both in the morning and in the evening....

 

5. Reminder--Peshara and Lifnim Mishuras Hadin!

 

6. Reminder--Tzedaka Today (now)!

 

 

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6 Elul

FROM A READER: “If you have to choose between being kind and being right--choose being kind--and you will always be right!”

 

Hakhel Note: It is no coincidence (as it never is) that in last week’s Parasha, the Torah teaches us (Devarim 16:20): “Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof--Righteousness, righteousness shall you pursue.” Many ask why the word ‘Tzedek’ is repeated twice. What kind of righteousness is not righteous? Some answer that repeating the term Tzedek twice teaches us that we are to go beyond Tzedek--beyond the letter of the law in our financial and other Bein Adam L’Chaveiro dealings. In just a few weeks, we will be looking for Hashem’s Lifnim Meshuras HaDin--the Parasha is reminding us that we should begin our efforts--now!

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FALLBACK THOUGHT: Last week, we had suggested that one have a fallback constructive thought to go back to after realizing that one’s mind had wandered into a trite area. If you are interested in the concept, may we suggest Ain Lanu Lehesha’ein Ela Ahl Avinu Shebashomayim.

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Special Note One: Additional notes on the Yemei Rachamim of Elul:

 

A. There are 22 letters in the Aleph Bais. This means that if one takes a letter a day for the balance of the month of Elul, beginning with Aleph today (or even tomorrow) and reviews the Ashamnu and the Al Cheit relating to that letter, and slowly proceeds each day with the next letter, he will have gone through the entire Ashamnu and Al Cheit, in a continuous and consistent manner over the month of Elul, concluding before Rosh Hashana! We recall that in addition to the one item per letter in Ashamnu and the two items per letter in Al Cheit, there is also a more extended version based on the Vidui of the Chida, which can be found in the following link  http://bit.ly/9Ybjkx.  This is the Aleph Bais of Teshuvah--start today! We provide by the following link  http://tinyurl.com/p8ewl7d  for your use a compiled review of the Ahl Cheits that we have briefly reviewed in steady steps in the past. Please feel free to print-out, and share the link with others!

 

B. Mending one’s ways is sometimes compared to mending a fence which has been breached. As the fence gets older, the items needed for the fence to properly mend may need to be stronger and installed in a better or more professional manner. As one gets older and continues to mend the areas of breach in his fence--he should remember that the repair, and the items used to make it, may be more intricate and complex--but should still be very much worth it!

 

C. When one wants to rid himself of wrongdoing, he must be sure to destroy the tools that led him to the wrongdoing to begin with. The Pasuk (Divrei HaYamim II, 33:15) records that although King Menashe did Teshuvah in the last 22 years of his reign, he only threw the avoda zaros outside the city--he did not destroy them. Rashi (ibid.) writes that as a result his son, King Amon was able to reestablish these avodah zaros and put them back into the people’s minds and hearts. In a similar vein, in last week’s Parasha, HaRav Shneur Kotler, Z’tl, brings the words of the Rambam (Hilchos Eidus) who rules that for one who had loaned money with ribis to once again become a kosher eid--he could not simply state that he would not collect ribis on his existing notes, or that he would never charge ribis in the future--he actually had to rip up the notes in his possession which provided for ribis. Part of the true Teshuvah process for an aveirah is not allowing the Yetzer Hara to creep back in any way. One must do what he has to--even if painful and even if costly.

 

D. The Chofetz Chaim writes that we should not only be careful, zariz and happy to perform only the Mitzvah of Shofar--for our great desire and happiness to perform the Mitzvah of Shofar should apply to all Mitzvos. As we recite every night, “Ahl Kein Hashem Elokeinu Beshavcheinu U’vekumeinu Nasi’ach Bechukecha VeNismach BeDivrei Sorasecha U’veMitzvosecha L’Olam Va’ed.” Just as each and every limb of our body is necessary to perform a vital function, so too, is each and every Mitzvah essential to the vitality of one’s soul. Every Mitzvah--whether easy or more difficult, quick or time consuming--is vital and indispensable. We should rejoice with each Mitzvah--in making our Neshama whole!

 

E. Every day in Elul and through Shemini Atzeres we recite the Pasuk (Tehillim 27:4):  “Achas Sha’alti Mei’ais Hashem Osah Avakeish…--one thing I ask of Hashem, and this is what I seek, to dwell in the house of Hashem all the days of my life.”  The Sifsei Chaim pointedly asks:  “How could it be that Dovid HaMelech who was king of a people and had great responsibilities could even think of sitting in the Beis HaMidrash all day--if he did so, would he not, in fact be shirking his responsibilities?!  The Sifsei Chaim answers that what Dovid HaMelech was really asking for was Siyata D’Shmaya to feel every moment of his life that he was in Hashem’s presence--in Hashem’s house.  He did not want to live a bifurcated life, consisting of his ‘private’ affairs and responsibilities, and his ‘religious’ life, rather he wanted at all times to feel that--wherever he was and whatever he was doing--he was doing so as Hashem’s guest, and every action, word and thought would be with the privileged sense that it was in the King’s presence.  Dovid did not want a weekly, daily, or even thrice daily meeting with Hashem--he wanted to feel Hashem with him at all times.  We, at the very least, must start with this increased sense of presence during our Tefillos--and hopefully it will branch out into our ‘everyday’ activities as well.  There is a very direct and very great Middah K’Neged Middah here as well. The more we strive to be in Hashem’s presence in this world--the more we will be zoche to feel a greater closeness to Him in the World to Come as well--and that is forever and ever!

 

F. As the Mesilas Yesharim concludes, ultimately our role in life is to give Nachas Ruach to Hashem in everything that we do. Keeping mentally alert of this fact should be able to guide us in the right direction in a significant way during the day!

 

 

Special Note Two: We continue an exciting Monday/Thursday series on the practical aspects of Sta”m, written by Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz, Shlita, author of Inside Sta”m--An Insider Reveals The Answers To All The Questions You Should Ask When Purchasing Or Maintaining Tefillin, Mezuzos, Megillos, Sifrei Torah And Nevi’im.

 

For a fuller treatment of all topics to be discussed, we urge you to purchase the Sefer, which provides practical and meaningful information and ideas.

 

PART 71

DOORWAYS: WHICH ONES NEED A MEZUZAH?

 

Because of the great variety of doorway shapes and designs, our obligation to affix a mezuzah is uncertain in many cases. In fact, an entire sefer would be necessary to deal with just a portion of them. Consequently, we will limit our forthcoming discussions to only a few of the most common examples. All other types of doorways – even similar types which do not exactly match the ones described here--should ideally be videoed or photographed and shown to a Rav who is knowledgeable in this area to determine their halachic status. Needless to say, it would be even better if the Rav came in person to see the doorway. Verbal descriptions are often inaccurate and misunderstood.

 

Question

 

Where exactly on the doorframe should a mezuzah be affixed?

 

Answer

 

·                    To make this determination, the height of the doorway should be divided in thirds. The actual mezuzah should be affixed entirely within the upper third (the mezuzah case is irrelevant)

 

·                    The top of the mezuzah should be distant at least one tefach from the top of the doorway

 

·                    There are a number of opinions among the poskim regarding the size of a tefach:

8 cm. (3.15 in.) according to R’ Chaim Naeh

9 cm. (3.55 in.) according to R’ Moshe Feinstein

9.6 cm. (3.78 in.) according to the Chazon Ish

 

·                    If the doorway rises high above the height of average people, most poskim rule that the mezuzah should be affixed at shoulder level

 

·                    For Ashkenazim, the top of the mezuzah should be tilted toward the direction of the room one is entering (some make a slight tilt, others a sharper tilt); for Sephardim, it should be straight

 

·                    If the doorframe is deeper than one tefach, the mezuzah should be placed within one tefach of the outer wall

 

·                    Whether the bottom of the mezuzah should be affixed just above the beginning of the upper third of the doorway – or may be placed anywhere in the upper third (other than the top tefach) – is a dispute among the poskim. Should one choose to place the mezuzah just above the beginning of the top third, he must be very careful to ensure that the entire mezuzah is above that point. If even part of the mezuzah is below that point, it must be moved up to be within the top third of the doorway

 

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