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Hakhel Email Community Awareness Bulletin

SEPTEMBER 2016 DAILY EMAIL ARCHIVE

 

27 Elul

L’ROSH VELO LEZANAV: On Leil Rosh Hashana, at one of the simanim, we are mispallel that we will be a Rosh and not a zanav. We may typically understand this to mean that we daven to be at the top or leaders, and not at the bottom or the end. We actually find the term L’Rosh VeLo Lezanav in last week’s Parasha (Devorim 28:13). There, the Targum translates rosh as takif (strong), and zanav as lash (weak). Accordingly, we should have this Kavannah in mind as well when reciting this Yehi Ratzon. “Hashem, may You please grant us a year of strength and not of weakness!”

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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:  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 Hashana 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 5777!

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LASHON KAVOD: On Rosh Hashana, we will be judged as Torah Jews, and as to how Torah Jews should conduct themselves. Of primary importance is not only what we speak about, but how we speak. The Ba’alei Mussar write that one should speak B’Lashon Kavod--honorably at all times. If one keeps this in mind, he can avoid many volatile and challenging situations. You are an honorable human being--and you speak that way!

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GET CLARITY! The Sefer Sha’arei Teshuvah notes that Tefillah is an essential part of Teshuvah.  Not only does this mean that we are to daven to Hashem for forgiveness, writes the Sha’arei Teshuvah--but we must daven to Hashem, asking Him to help us in the Teshuvah process.  Every person needs to gain clarity as to the Teshuvah that he should be doing. 

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PLEASE CONSIDER! 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.

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NACHAS RUACH! A wonderful project to start today and continue for at least 30 days (which will take you to Simchas Torah) 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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AVINU MALKEINU! 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.

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HILCHOS SUKKAH!  We provide two halachos for each of today, Shabbos, Sunday and the two days of Rosh Hashana:

 

1. The spine of the Lulav (the shedra), and not the Lulav itself, must be at least sixteen inches, and must be one tefach (four inches) more than the Hadassim and Aravos when tied together (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 650:2). Many people think that only the Lulav need be taller, but actually it is the spine of the Lulav that must extend so that the Hadassim and Aravos must stop four inches below the highest point of the shedra--which is the point at which the centermost branch last splits.

 

2. All of the Daled Minim must be properly acquired--from the most expensive Esrog through the most reasonably priced Aravah. This means that when one ‘is left with’ purchasing fresh Aravos on Erev Sukkos, he must be sure that the person selling them has the authority to sell them and is of an age who can legally transfer ownership of an article that he has acquired. If one is not careful with his Aravos in this regard, he will not be Yotzei the Mitzvah of the Daled Minim--notwithstanding that the other three minim may be perfect(!) (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 649)

 

3. On the first morning of Sukkos, one recites two brachos over the Daled Minim--Ahl Netilas Lulav and Shehechiyanu. He should not shake the Lulav until after he has recited the Shehechiyanu. The Bikkurei Yaakov writes that one should make the brachos over the Daled Minim before davening in the Sukkah ahl pi kabbalah and also to demonstrate zerizin makdimin lemitzvos. Certainly, even for those who have the custom to wait until immediately prior to Hallel in Shul to recite the brachos, it is best to daven K’Vasikin so that one can perform the Mitzvah as close to sunrise as possible. However, even if one is not davening K’Vasikin, the Seder HaYom writes that if it is the Minhag of one’s Shul to recite the bracha in Shul together before Hallel, one should not deviate from the Minhag. The Bikkurei Yaakov adds that in such an instance it is best for a person to come home after davening and shake the Lulav in the Sukkah (SA OC 644, Mishna Berurah seif katan 3 and Dirshu Note 1).

 

4. In order to be yotzei the Mitzvah of Daled Minim per se, one need merely pick up the Minim and put them down, without even performing na’anuim. If one has done so, it is still better to at some point pick them up again and shake them in accordance with his Minhag. In all events, the more one holds the Minim because they are precious to him, the more he demonstrates his Chibuv HaMitzvah (it is for this reason that some do not put the Minim down immediately after Hallel, but keep holding the Minim until after Kaddish Shaleim following Hallel). When one holds the Minim in a holder, it is considered as if he is holding them directly, as he is doing so to demonstrate honor and respect for the Mitzvah. (SA OC 652:1, Rema; Dirshu Notes 8 and 11). 

 

5. Although there is an opinion that one should not pick up his Lulav and Esrog the first night of Sukkos, as it is not yet time for the Mitzvah to be performed and they would otherwise be Muktzah, most Poskim rule that the Daled Minim may be picked up and moved on the first night. In fact, it is known that the Ba’al Shem Tov, Z’tl, and Rebbi Yisroel Salanter, Z’tl, would practice the na’anuim on the first night of Sukkos in preparation for the morning. Rebbi Yisroel explained that we should look at the military which undergoes training and exercises in preparation for the actual battle, so that when the time comes, their actions are conducted with care and precision. Most certainly, he continues, should we do the same for the na’anuim, which is an “Avodah Gedolah LeYotzreinu Bechol Tenu’ah U’Tenu’ah--a great service to our Creator--with each and every movement!” (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 658, Dirshu Note 4). Hakhel Note: Let us remember that we are performing an Avodah Gedolah during the na’aniim!

 

6. The Bikkurei Yaakov writes that the Old City of Yerushalayim has, according to the Rambam, the Halachos of the Beis HaMikdash as to Lulav--which would mean that on all seven days of Sukkos, even in our time, it is a Mitzvah D’Oraysa to take the Daled Minim there. HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, when going to the Kosel on Sukkos day [apparently, other than the first day], would accordingly take the Daled Minim a second time--for perhaps he was now fulfilling a Mitzvah D’Oraysa of Daled Minim--in addition to a Mitzvah D’Rabbanan of Daled Minim he had performed earlier in the day. It is reported that HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, was nota lehachmir to the opinion of the Bikkurei Yaakov. The Chazon Ish, Z’tl, ruled not to enter into the Old City because of this safek, because perhaps one would have a Mitzvah D’Oraysa to fulfill the Daled Minim, and his Daled Minim would not be kasher--resulting in his voidance of the Mitzvah. HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, disagrees with the premise of the Bikkurei Yaakov, and writes that even according to the Rambam, the Mitzvah D’Oraysa is only in the Beis HaMikdash--and not in Yerushalayim--which would mean that the Old City outside of the Beis HaMikdash has no special rule in our day with respect to the Mitzvah of Daled Minim (ibid., Dirshu Note 1).

 

7. One should physically join together the Lulav and Esrog when reciting the bracha and when shaking them. The Aruch HaShulchan rules that one should join them together when reciting Hallel and the Hoshanos as well. The Kaf HaChaim brings from the Radvaz that one’s fingers around the Lulav or around the Esrog would be considered a chatzizah, a separation between the Lulav and the Esrog, and that accordingly, one’s fingers should not be totally wrapped around them (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 651:11, Dirshu Note 80).

 

8. When one places his esrog back in a nylon or plastic container on Yom Tov, isn’t he being molid reiach--creating an esrog odor in the lining and in the box? The Be’er Moshe rules that it is not--for it is not the derech b’nei adam to benefit from the minimal amount of fragrance that the temporary containers absorb and emit (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 658, Mishna Berurah seif katan 7 and Dirshu Note 7). 

 

9. It is a Hidur Mitzvah to use new aravos every day of Chol HaMoed (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 137:6).

 

10. A Lulav is Muktzah on Shabbos, and one may not move it l’tzorech gufo u’mekomo--even if one needs the place that it is in (ibid. 137:7).

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PARASHAS HATESHUVA!  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 the Shacharis prayers.  It would most certainly be appropriate to recite the Parashas HaTeshuva and the subsequent Tefillah today…leading into Shabbos…and then on Sunday...leading into Rosh Hashana.  We especially 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 are certainly taking important strides--in both thought and speech!

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WE CONTINUE WITH OUR EREV SHABBOS--HILCHOS SHABBOS SERIES:

 

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 when it 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. HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, 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 Kanievsky 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.

 

D.  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!

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

 

D.  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 in Chovas HaShemira (Chapter 3) teaches that learning the Halachos of a Mitzvah removes the Koach of the Yetzer Hara regarding it.

 

E.  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!

 

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26 Elul

SPECIAL HILCHOS SUKKAH ALERT: A Rav asked us to alert our readers to an important Halacha, which may not be well-known. Many will be building their sukkahs over the next few days to add this merit before Rosh Hashana. The Mishna Berurah (Orach Chaim 626, seif katan 18) writes that when placing the sechach on Sukkah, one must be careful that any awning or shelach over it is not in place at the time, for if it is in place--when the awning or shelach is removed at some later time, the sukkah has been built in violation of Ta’aseh Velo Min Ha’asui, as it was not a kosher sukkah when the sechach was placed (because of the overhang or covering) and is only rendered kosher upon the removal of the overhang or cover. If one has built a sukkah this way, the sechach must be placed down again properly. See the Mishna Berurah there for further detail.

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NO SHAILAH?! We all know of the existence of the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation’s Shemiras HaLashon Shailah Hotline. One should take a moment to reflect as to whether over the past year he has used the hotline services to answer a Shailah that he had relating to information about a person for Shidduch, business or other purposes. If one did not, it should give him pause for concern, and one should think further about aveiros he r’l may have done with his speech. Perhaps part of his Teshuvah is to keep the Shemiras HaLashon Shailah Hotline’s numbers handy, and to spread the word further about the Hotline in his Shul or neighborhood.

 

In the United States, the Shailah Hotline’s number is 718-951-3696 and the hours are 9:00 PM-10:30 PM from Sunday through Thursday and Motza’ei Shabbos, and in Europe: HaRav Yaakov Wreschner, Shlita (Manchester) is available between 9:15AM and 10:15AM and between 1:15 and 2:15PM. His mobile number is 07980641399.  Dayan Aharon Dovid Dunner, Shlita, is available at 02088008555 (no set hours).

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HASHEM HANICHBAD: Many of us may believe that the word ‘Hashem’ simply means the Name--and refers to our G-d without wanting to pronounce His name. In fact, the word Hashem may actually be derived from last week’s Parasha, in which the phrase “Hashem Hanichbad V’Hanorah Hazeh Eis Hashem Elokecha” (Devorim 28:58) is used in the Pasuk itself. Thus, the one word ‘Hashem’ may simply be an abbreviated way of referring to this entire phrase of the Torah. In any event when mentioning the word ‘Hashem’ we can think of the entire phrase to inspire us with the proper honor and awe!

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IMPORTANT QUESTION AND ANSWER ON TESHUVA: 

 

QUESTION FROM A READER:  Can you find a mekor to inform us of a proper Teshuva for one who missed Brachos Rishonos and Brachos Achronos?

 

ANSWER FROM HARAV PINCHOS BODNER, SHLITA, MECHABER OF THE HALACHOS OF BROCHOS This is an excellent and timely question. I have not personally seen any Rishonim or Achronim who discuss this issue per se. However, since the question begs to be answered, I offer my own thoughts on the matter.  The basic requirement for Teshuvah for any wrongdoing is well-known:   Regret for what was done, verbalizing the sin (Viduy), and accepting on oneself to act correctly in the future.  The Mishna Berurah writes in his introduction to Hilchos Shabbos that there is no way that one can observe Shabbos properly without learning the Halachos. It stands to reason that acceptance of making brachos properly cannot be accomplished without a resolve to spend at least a few minutes on a daily or regular basis studying the Halachos.  There is, however, another requirement for Teshuvah in this case. The Gemara relates: (Brachos 35B) Reb Chanina bar Papa said “Anyone who derives pleasure from this world without making a bracha is (in a sense) stealing from Hashem, stealing from his fellow Jew, and a comrade of Yeravam ben Nevat.”  By neglecting to make the bracha, he not only withholds the expression of gratitude due to Hashem, he also causes the flow of abundance to be withheld from his fellow Jews. We know that if someone steals, it is not sufficient just to repent--he must also return the money or compensate the victims. How does one compensate for somewhat withholding the flow of abundance to his fellow Jews? The Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 366) states that the Teshuvah for persons who stole from the public is to fund a community need that will benefit the victims. Thus, he could donate to a food or clothing distribution organization, or to an organization that assists persons with obtaining a livelihood, etc. (The money should be given in a quiet or anonymous manner, so that he should not receive recognition or honor for his ‘donation’).

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

 

1.  The Elef HaMogen (in the Sefer Mateh Ephraim (626:18)) writes that every minute that one spends in the Sukkah is a separate Mitzvas Asei M’Doraysa.  (See also Yesod V’Shoresh Ha’avoda for a moving discussion as to how much one should treasure his moments in the Sukkah.)

 

2.  On Yom Tov, we will be reciting the Bracha of Shehechiyanu both in the Sukkah and over the Arba Minim.  It is important to once again review the words of the Sefer Ma’aseh Nisim (Rebbi Yaakov MiLisa, also known as the Nesivos), who explains the difference between the three words Shehechiyanu, Kiyemanu, and Higiyanu.  The word “Shehechiyanu” refers to the physical life Hashem is granting us in spite of the difficulties and dangers of Galus.  The word “Kiyemanu” refers to our eternity--Hashem has given us the opportunity of eternal existence through the performance of Mitzvos in this world.  The word “Higiyanu” expresses our acute awareness that we are only here at the moment of the Bracha because of the true Chesed of Hashem.  It is no small wonder then, that we are urged to recite this very meaningful Bracha with great Simcha and thanks to Hashem for bringing us to this moment so special in so many ways! Hakhel Note: Please note that the above may be used as we recite the Shehechiyanu on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur as well!

 

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ELUL ALERTS: 

 

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

 

B.  We provide by the following link  http://tinyurl.com/3ndysle  a wonderful Malchus card 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!

 

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 Kevodecha--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 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.  Now is an auspicious 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 Kovod Shomayim coming through your Tefillos being answered, you could very literally be bringing Yeshuos to yourself, your family, and all of K’lal Yisrael--and there are a lot of things that we need Yeshuos from both individually and collectively.

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

E.  The most important part of the Simanim is to Be Me’Orer BeTeshuvah when one recites the Yehi Ratzon.  As a matter of fact, even if one does not have the different species--he can still recite the Yehi Ratzon because the ikar is the Tefillah and Bakashas Rachamim.  Note:  Rabbi Kleinman adds in his notes that since the Simanim are all for a Siman Tov, the Mishna 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.  Otherwise, he should recite the Yehi Ratzon before partaking of the food.

 

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

 

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

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AN ESSENTIAL REMINDER:  As we have previously provided in the past, the following is a brief summary of a powerful, meaningful, and practical Shiur given by HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, relating to our Rosh Hashana 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 Shemoni 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 Hashana 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 Hashana.”  The Steipler 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 Steipler 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 Hashana 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 Hashana.

 

Based upon this great teaching of the Steipler, 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!”

 

Hakhel Note:  Please reread this note--and take action!

 

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25 Elul

TODAY, 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!  

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AN OUTSTANDING AND TIMELY OPPORTUNITY! We have obtained an entire Sefer which has recently been published, Sod HaTeshuvah (Hebrew), and have permission to make it available to our readers by the following link. The Sefer provides essential lessons in Teshuvah, and has excellent haskamos. You are also free to share the availability of the Sefer with friends by sharing the link! http://tinyurl.com/hp455wj

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SMILE! At this past Sunday night’s Kinus hosted by the Agudah and Hakhel on V’Asisa HaYashar V’HaTov, HaRav Moshe Tuvia Lieff, Shlita, taught a remarkable lesson. He said that HaRav Avigdor Miller, Z’tl, was asked by a student what one’s Avodah is at this time of year. HaRav Miller responded that it is to smile. Noticing the student’s astonishment, he explained that when one smiles he exhibits a feeling of happiness to others, demonstrating that Torah observance is satisfying and meaningful. The Mashal would be to a factory owner who must lay-off workers. The wise factory owner will not lay off a happy worker--for he needs him to inspire all of the workers that are left. Hashem is also looking for those who are joyful--demonstrating to themselves and to others that they truly value their relationship with Hashem, His Torah and His Mitzvos! 

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NINETEEN WEEKS: As we especially dedicate ourselves to the nineteenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei this week, we provide the following words of instruction from the great Praying with Passion Series (in order to go through this entire outstanding series on Tefillah, please visit http://prayingwithfire.org/archives.html):

 

“This nineteenth and final bracha of Shemone Esrei corresponds to the Bircas Kohanim, the blessings of the Kohanim recited by the Shaliach Tzibbur immediately prior to this last bracha: In beseeching Hashem for Shalom, Tova U’Bracha, Chein VaChesed V’Rachamim--peace, goodness, blessing, graciousness, kindness, and compassion upon us and all of Klal Yisrael, the word Sim is used because it implies not only that the blessings should come to us, but that they should remain with us. (Adapted from Sefer Boruch She’Amar) But what is the key to enable the brachos that we request in this bracha to remain with the Jewish people? Peace is the key; as Chazal (Uktzin 3:12; Jerusalem Talmud, Berachos 2:4) teach, Hashem did not find any ‘container’ as effective as peace for the purpose of holding the Jewish nation’s brachos intact. For the other brachos (i.e. intrinsic goodness, blessing, graciousness, loving kindness, and compassion to the Jewish nation) to remain in place, we first must have peace--and we must daven with sincerity that this peace stays with us. (Iyun Tefilah on Sim Shalom)”

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SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT: What does one think when listening to the Shofar blast? One suggestion, found in the Sefer Kav HaYashar (Chapter 48) is that one plead: “Chaneinei, Chaneini Hashem…”. One should speak further with his Rav or Posek of the Kavannos and/or thoughts he should have when hearing the Shofar’s unique sounds.

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DON’T RUN AWAY! Over the next two weeks we will be hearing serious and important words of guidance, chastisement and rebuke. One may feel that he really does not need to listen to all of this--as he knows best what he needs to correct and what he must do to implement it. One should, however, overcome these feelings and recognize that whatever he reads and whatever he hears is meant for him, B’Hashgacha Pratis, to read or to hear--and can be applied in some way. HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, relates that the Brisker Rav, Z’tl, was once visiting the town of Mir with one of his sons, who attended the Yeshiva there during their stay. One day, the son came home early from Yeshiva, and the Rav inquired as to why he had come home before seder ended. He replied: “It is now Mussar seder--so I left.” The Rav looked at him and responded: “There may be a disagreement as to whether Mussar should be instituted in Yeshivas to begin with--but once the seder is there, one does not run away from it!” Hakhel Note: Let us take the lesson to heart!

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

 

 1. 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).  

 

2. 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, Z’tl, and yblch’t, 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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ELUL ALERTS:

 

A.  The Chofetz Chaim writes:  “HaDibur Hu Ashro VeHatzlachoso Shel Adam--one’s speech is the source of his achievement and his success.”  We should not let ourselves down in what is our pride and joy.  In fact, we can help ourselves in the area of Lashon Hara in a very important way.  Many believe that if someone who he is speaking in front of already knows about somebody else’s issue, he can continue to speak about it, because it is already known.  This is not so, and the Chofetz Chaim consistently emphasizes that the cheit of Lashon Hara gets worse and worse with the more people who hear it, and even if a person has heard it once, his hearing it again (and again) can solidify his belief of the item, or add new details which he did not know before.  Two people who can legitimately talk about an event or situation should not talk in front of others, whether on the telephone or in person, if others will be listening--even if that person (such as a sibling or friend) knows what the issue is.  

 

B.  The Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 606, Sha’ar HaTzion, Note 8) rules that if one forgives a friend for something that the friend had done intentionally, then Hashem will also forgive him for what he had done intentionally--Midah K’Neged Midah!  The Chofetz Chaim proves this from the following Pasuk in Micha (7:18):  “Noseh Avon V’over Al Pesha--Who forgives intentional iniquity and passes over intentional sin”, which Chazal interpret to mean “Lemi Noseh Avon, Lemi She’over Al Pesha--whose intentional iniquities are forgiven…the one who passes over another’s intentional sins against him.”  Hakhel Note:  In this regard, Rabbi Ezriel Erlanger, Shlita, provides the following exceptional insight:  “Most people are not excited to hear about Yom HaDin.  People have anxiety.  That is because they approach Yom HaDin with emotion, but without the proper understanding.  The basis of the world, the concept upon which the world was founded and exists, is Din or justice.  This is not negative.  It is, instead, a statement that the world is not free, and that the world has a purpose.  If Hashem wanted us just to receive without action, He would simply give and give and give--as He is All-Good.  Instead, Hashem wants something to be demanded of us, so that it elevates us.  If we are Ma’avir Ahl HaMidos, we look away at what others have done to us, and we are not makpid, then Din--then justice--the world order, dictates that Hashem will do likewise. If we give Tzedaka to others, then Hashem will give Tzedaka to us.  Succinctly stated, if we say that we do not want to do anything, then we are not living in the world’s reality.  As noted above, today, the 25th of Elul, is the first day of creation (according to Rebbi Eliezer), with man being created on Rosh Hashana.  It is a time for us to contemplate the order that Hashem has placed into the world, to understand that just as punishment is part of Din, so too, is mercy, compassion, complimentary words and proper conduct--all of which Hashem recognizes and registers for every person individually, for K’lal Yisrael, and for the world as a whole.  This is not a free world, this is a world of meaning--the actions we undertake which give Nachas Ruach to Hashem return to bring Nachas Ruach to ourselves individually, to K’lal Yisrael and to the world! 

 

C.  We must remember that when it comes to sins which are Bein Adam L’Chaveiro, we have a totally different Cheshbon, and we must seek pardon from our friends before we come to Hashem.  To help jog one’s mind in this regard, we provide below a short list of items to consider and reconsider:

 

·                     Have I disturbed another person while he was learning?

·                     Have I disturbed and deterred another person while he was doing a Mitzvah?

·                     Have I scoffed at, degraded or not paid proper attention to another as he shared a D’var Torah or personal Chidush with me?

·                     Have I allowed loose lips to reveal someone’s private information or secret?

·                     Have I misappropriated or borrowed without permission--even if I thought that I was justified in doing so?

·                     Have I embarrassed anyone in public (including relatives or children)?

·                     Have I been makpid, standing on ceremony or on principle because of my honor?

·                     Have I been sufficiently concerned for the money and possessions of others?

·                     Have I suspected others who had in actuality done nothing wrong?

·                     Have I given bad advice because I did not have the time to think things through, or to look into the matter further or because I am opinionated?

·                     Have I honored reshaim?

·                     Have I not paid workers or rent on time, when it was expected of me?

·                     Have I made it my unwavering practice to stand up in front of an elder (60 or 70) when he comes into the room?

·                     Have I shown proper respect to Talmidei Chachomim in my Shul and in my neighborhood (and certainly to my teachers)?’

·                     Have I been there ‘as a friend’ to accept the Lashon Hara of another?

·                     Have I held back my hand from giving Tzedaka when the opportunity presented itself?

·                     Have I caused tza’ar to my spouse or to my friends?

·                     Have I been jealous of the wealth, honor or wisdom of others?

·                     Have I fought with others?

·                     Have I acted deceitfully towards others?

·                     Do I know what Sinas Chinam is, and if I do not, how do I know that I am not guilty of it?

 

Hakhel Note:  Even though all of the above are Bein Adam L’Chaveiro, and one will need his friends’ forgiveness if he has violated any one of them, one should always daven (and continuously daven) that he not stumble in sins of Bein Adam L’Chaveiro--and that he successfully fulfill the Mitzvah of VeAhavta LeReiacha Kamocha each and every day! 

 

D.  HaRav Shmuel Berenbaum, Z’tl, teaches that the midah ra’ah which leads to all other midos ra’os is atzlus--laziness.  Laziness does not only mean that one has trouble getting up in the morning.  It can also include the failure of one to exert himself or extend himself a bit more than he has until this point.  Simple examples could include picking up one’s Siddur rather than having it rest on the table--if this will help one have more Kavannah; raising one’s hand in order to kiss one’s Tefillin periodically during davening; running or walking at a faster pace when one is in sight of a Mitzvah; taking the time to look up or ask about a Halacha that one is unsure of…  The world is a world of opportunities--the better that we are at acting upon them, the greater and more important the world is to us!

 

E.  Rebbi Yisroel Salanter, Z’tl, taught that a person should be careful to not walk around in these days of judgment with a forlorn or somber face, for one’s face is seen by others--it is a Reshus HaRabim--and one has a duty to make others happy, not sad.  The Ba’alei Mussar emphasize that one should show Panim Meir’im, a cheerful face, in order to encourage those around him.  In doing so, one can go much further in helping himself by helping others.  One should always serve Hashem in awe--and in joy!

 

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24 Elul

FLOUR ALERT!  In past years, after baking challah or kneading the dough, some have noticed insects in the challah or dough, and have had to dispose of the food and their hard work with it. A renowned Kashrus expert in the field of Bedikas Tolaim has advised us that before the heavy challah and cake baking season begins, one should take the following special precautionary measures:

 

1. Especially buy flour from a store that has a high product turnaround so that the flour has not been sitting on a shelf or in storage for while.

 

2. Even if the flour is ‘pre-sifted’--the label may also state that it is recommended to be sifted. One should not treat this recommendation lightly--as in the post-summer period that we are in there are higher levels of infestation.

 

3. The specially packaged ‘Wonder Flour’ is an excellent choice--because of the excellent seal that is placed around the flour when produced.

 

4. Flour should be sifted with a 70 mesh sifter. The electric Pelematic sifter is highly recommended for large amounts.

 

5. Since whole wheat flour cannot be sifted, one should place several samples of the flour on a plate and then scatter the flour around and look for black or crawling objects.

 

Hakhel Note: For any particular Shailos, one should consult with his Rav or Posek.

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PESUKEI D’ZIMRA: As we prepare for the great day of coronation, one should learn about and grow further in his appreciation of the Melech Malchei HaMelochim. One can accomplish this in a simple and straightforward way by reciting Pesukei D’Zimra with more feeling--paying more careful attention to the words. We do not have to travel to the Far East or ends of the globe in order to accomplish our potential and mission in life. Hashem provides the opportunities for us day in and day out wherever we are in our daily actions--and this itself is something else which should make us grow in our appreciation of all Hashem does for us!

 

Hakhel Note: Every day in Modim of Shemone Esrei we recite Nodeh Lecha U’Nesaper Tehilasecha (we thank You and we relate Your praise). While the thanks may be evident in Modim itself--when and where do we relate Hashem’s praise? One possibility may be…Pesukei D’Zimra!

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LESSON FROM THE TOES: In the sport of football, players are heavily padded and guarded because of the hard physical contact among players. The following lesson was provided by someone who used to follow the sport ‘many years ago’: “I recall that there was a star kicker who would not wear his football shoe when kicking the ball at kickoff. Instead, he would kick the ball eighty yards or so with his bare toes! How in the world was this possible? To this day, I don’t know. However, the lesson to me continues to ring true--if a person can accomplish so much beyond what one would think is possible physically--then all the more so, can we use our millions of neurons L’Sheim Shomayim and develop our Torah knowledge and our Mitzvah performance in ways which we literally didn’t think were possible!”

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ADDITIONAL LESSONS RECEIVED FROM READERS IN THE PAST:

 

1. “I get tremendous chizuk every day when, in the first bracha of Shemone Esrei, I recite the words ‘LeMa’an Shemo B’Ahava--that Hashem will redeem us for the sake of His name with love.’ As a parent, I know that I do things for my children even when they are undeserving. I do it out of love. This means that Hashem can redeem us even though we are undeserving--at any moment! I love the word B’Ahava!”

 

2. “We will soon say that Hashem is ‘HaTov V’Hameitiv Lara’im V’Latovim--to those who are bad and those who are good’. Shouldn’t it be ‘Latovim V’Lara’im’--with Hashem first doing good to the Tovim and then to the Ra’im?” Hakhel Note: We look forward to readers’ thoughts.

 

3. “HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, teaches that an ikar of Teshuvah is learning b’simcha. I think that before one learns, he should do something to show how happy he is to have the opportunity to do the greatest Mitzvah of all. If nothing else--at least say: ‘Thank you Hashem for the opportunity!’”

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MENTSCHLECHKEIT: HaRav Naftali Kaplan, Shlita, explains that the basic thrust of Mitzvos Bein Adam L’Atzmo is mentschlechkeit. A person must ask himself:  “Does it pahs (is it appropriate) for a Tzelem Elokim to do what I am doing or about to do?”  We are faced with numerous situations during a day:  Should I enter the elevator while talking on my cell phone?  Should I eat standing up at a smorgasbord?  Should I walk around at home not properly dressed even if ‘I am only going downstairs for a minute’?  Should I laugh when a person embarrasses himself?  One can think of other examples on his own. One must remember that Hashem did not create him as a rock, ant, deer, ape… One should regale in the fact that he is a Tzelem Elokim--and act the role in a way that our Elokim would be proud!

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

 

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

 

2.         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 the Shevet HaLevi, Z’tl, 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 necessary intent of l’shem tzel—for the sake of shade. (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 635, Dirshu Note 9).

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THE YAHRZEIT OF THE CHOFETZ CHAIM: As noted above, today is the Yahrzeit of the Chofetz Chaim, who serves as a driving force in all of K’lal Yisrael until today. The Chofetz Chaim teaches 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 Mitzvos 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, to someone who Torah and Mitzvos is most precious, he 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!

 

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23 Elul

FROM A READER: By the following link once can access clear shiurim by HaRav Elya Lopian, Z’tl,  http://tinyurl.com/jrekrgg

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A NOTICE FROM ONE OF OUR RABBONIM:  Leaflets were placed in Shuls for Shabbos, announcing a Dirshu International Yom Torah and Tefillah. Please be aware that these pamphlets contain the Sheim Hashem spelled out many times in Hebrew, included the Yud-Hei-Vov-Hei written out 7 or 8 times. Please check with your Shul Rav, as it would appear that these should be placed in Sheimos and not discarded as with the other pamphlets left in Shuls.

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NOT A BEAR! In the most recent issue of HaParasha B’Mechitzas HaChofetz Chaim, the Chofetz Chaim teaches that: “Teshuvah Iz Nit Kain Ber”--Teshuvah is not a bear. Importantly, the Chofetz Chaim is teaching us that Teshuvah is not something to be afraid of, and that it is not difficult. One must have remorse over a past aveirah, and accept upon himself not to do it in the future.

 

In fact, HaRav Nosson Wachtfogel, Z’tl, related that the Ponovezher Rav, Z’tl, was once traveling to Africa and asked the Chofetz Chaim what he could relate to the Jews there in the Chofetz Chaim’s name. The Chofetz Chaim answered:  “You should tell them that it is easy to do Teshuvah--one has charata and a kabalah for the future. It is only the Yetzer Hara who tells people that it is difficult to do Teshuvah!”

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HELPING MAKE IT A GREAT END OF THE YEAR: One week from today is Rosh Hashana.  This is the last week of the year.  Let us do our utmost to make it a most successful one. To help, we provide by the following link http://tinyurl.com/3w5semv  our flyer entitled HOW TO BE ZOCHE B’DIN.  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!

 

Hakhel Note: We once again provide by the following link http://tinyurl.com/6l5s2s  a Tefillah to Hashem that you judge others L’Chaf Zechus.

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SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT! In our Rosh Hashana Tefillos, we recite Yom Teruah Mikrah Kodesh Zecher L’Yetzias Mitzrayim.  HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, posed a straightforward but startling question:  We understand how the Shalosh Regalim are rooted in Yetzias Mitzrayim.  What, however, does Rosh Hashana have to do with Yetzias Mitzrayim--how is it a Zecher L’Yetzias Mitzrayim?!  HaRav Salomon explains 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 Rosh Hashana where the mark will be felt.  The degree, the extent to which one feels that Hashem is omnipotent, and knows and sees all of one’s thoughts, words, and deeds, is the extent to which one has internalized the Yesodos HaEmunah that Yetzias Mitzrayim represents.  Pesach is a time when we learn about Hashem’s power, Sechar V’Onesh and Hashgacha Pratis.  Rosh Hashana is a time when we live our belief.  Incredibly, HaRav Salomon continued 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 Ikrim--and put them into practice in our daily life.  The extent of our awe of Hashem’s Malchus on Rosh Hashana is indeed a direct result and outcome of the lessons of Yetzias Mitzrayim. 

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NINETEEN WEEKS! We are now in the final week of the nineteen week period prior to Rosh Hashana. In past years, we have proceeded weekly, Bracha by Bracha, through Shemone Esrei with a special emphasis on Kavannah on that week’s Bracha. This week’s Bracha is…Sim Shalom!

 

Both Sim Shalom and Shalom Rav conclude in the same way:  VeTov BeAinecha Levarech Es Amecha Yisrael Bechol Eis U’Vechol Sha’ah Bishlomecha Baruch Atta Hashem HaMevorech Es Amo Yisrael BaShalom…May it be good in Your eyes to bless Your nation Yisrael...Blessed are You Hashem Who blesses His people, Yisrael, with peace.  The Sifsei Chaim points out that the term blesses is in the present tense, because HaKadosh Baruch Hu constantly brings peace to us, both personally and on a communal level. Indeed, even to the casual observer, threats of war, threats of violence and threats of ill-will, sometimes suddenly vanish.  The Eitz Yosef teaches that Shemone Esrei ends with the word Shalom because each Shemone Esrei was instituted in place of an Avodah in the Beis HaMikdash, and just as the Kohanim would give us Birkas Kohanim (which ends with the word Shalom) at the conclusion of their Avodah, so too, we follow suit and conclude with the great and all-inclusive bracha of Shalom as well.  The Eitz Yosef  also explains that the reason the word Shalom is mentioned exactly four times in the bracha is to teach us that Hashem brings us peace after each one of the four galiyos--the four exiles.  As we recite the very last word of Shemone Esrei--BaShalom (i.e., the fourth time the word Shalom is mentioned), we should realize that we are both pleading with and thanking Hashem for the final and ultimate Shalom--from the fourth and last of exiles--may we sense and experience it speedily and in our day!

 

We provide by the following link additional notes to the Nineteen Brachos for the years 5771 and 5772 http://www.hakhel.info/TefillahArchive.html

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NOTES ON SELICHOS:

 

A. 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. HaRav Wachtfogel, Z’tl, teaches that one should not skip Selichos--but one should spend time on those Selichos that arouse him more--for the tachlis of Selichos is to be aroused to Teshuvah!

 

C. 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” of the 13 Middos, in both Hebrew by this link-- http://tinyurl.com/2d63u8  and in English by this link -- http://tinyurl.com/yq9k42  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.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

1. The Chayei Adam 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).

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PARASHAS HA’OLAH:  Chazal teach that a Karbon Olah is brought for not fulfilling a Mitzvas Asei, and for improper thoughts.  In our current time, when we have no actual Korban Olah, Chazal teach (Menachos 110A) that being osek in the Parashas Ha’Olah stands in its place and stead (see 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, the Parashas Ha’Olah and relevant Tefillos are provided, and are available at the following link - http://tinyurl.com/pzzj6w2    One should attempt to obtain the Siddur, for in it he will find much more wealth!

 

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20 Elul

SELICHOS WEEK! THE WORLDWIDE HASHAVAS AVEIDAH INITIATIVE! Hakhel and KEY invite all to participate in The Worldwide Hashavas Aveida initiative, all are encouraged to return any lost or unreturned items that might be in their possession, or to pay back any money that is owed. 

 

To participate, please review the list below and see if you can return any of these, or any other unreturned or found items that you have or are aware of:

 

* 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 Hashana! Join us, by doing this special mitzvah.

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NOTE ON SELICHOS: 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 Hashana when we need them so much!

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TEFILLAH FOR TESHUVA:  We provide by the following link -- http://www.hakhel.info/archivesPublicService/TeshuvahTefillah.pdf  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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HILCHOS SUKKAH!  We continue our two Halachos a day in the 30-day period before Sukkos. We provide two Halachos per day for each of Erev Shabbos, Shabbos and Sunday:

 

1. The Rema rules that one should commence building the Sukkah immediately after Yom Kippur, for he fulfills a Mitzvah in building the Sukkah as well. The Bi’ur Halacha writes that according to the Yerushalmi the building of the Sukkah is a separate Mitzvah (i.e., separate and apart from sitting in the Sukkah), and one would actually make the bracha of Asher Kideshanu BeMitzvosavLa’asos Sukkah; however, the Bavli disagrees, and holds that it is not the ikar Mitzvah. There is a Machlokes Achronim as to whether according to the Bavli it is still a Mitzvah to build the Sukkah (and a person should preferably perform the Mitzvah on his own), or whether it is a hechsher Mitzvah--which prepares one to dwell in the Sukkah over Sukkos. (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 641, Dirshu Note 1)

 

2. 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)

 

3. HaRav Yaakov Ettlinger, Z’tl, in his great work on Sukkos, the Bikkurei Yaakov, writes that person should act wisely when building his Sukkah so that he can fulfill the Mitzvah of Sukkah with greater ease--and allow himself the ability to stay in the Sukkah, rather than saying that he is ‘patur’--for one who adds on to his kiyum of Sukkah will have bracha added on to him Min HaShomayim. It is well known, for example, that the Chofetz Chaim, Z’tl, and HaRav Chaim Brisker, Z’tl, would bring a heater into the Sukkah in order to make it more comfortable, a more pleasant place to stay in, and a place where one could learn without difficulty. (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 639, Dirshu Note 34)

 

4. A child who becomes Bar Mitzvah over Sukkos would not recite a Shehechiyanu over the Mitzvah of Sukkah, as he already recited (or was Yotzei) the Shehechiyanu prior to his bar mitzvah. With respect to a Ger who converts to Yiddishkeit over Sukkos, the Bikurei Yaakov is unsure whether he would make a Shehechiyanu at that time, as the chiyuv came upon him together with all Mitzvos, and not as a special Mitzvah that only comes MeZman LeZman--at designated times during the year for which the Shehechiyanu would be recited. (SA, OC 641, Dirshu Note 8)

 

5. 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.

 

6. There is a question as to whether one should recite the bracha of Leisheiv BaSukkah when making Havdalah. Even if one is to recite a Leisheiv BaSukkah when reciting Havdalah, there are different opinions as to at what point it should be recited. One should accordingly consult with his Rav or Posek in this area. [HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, would, for example, make the bracha of Leisheiv BaSukkah before he made the bracha of Borei Pri HaGafen and then eat mezonos immediately after Havdalah, so that the bracha of Leisheiv BaSukkah would not only be on the drinking of the wine itself, but on the eating of a mezonos as well.] (ibid., Dirshu Note 37)

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DON’T LET IT HAPPEN! “The harm caused by Rechilus cannot be calculated--it is inestimable--for it increases hatred within the world and causes people to violate Lo Sisna Es Achicha Bilvavecha (Vayikra 19:17). The world subsists on peace and because of hatred, the earth and all of its inhabitants are left to dissolve…” (Sha’arei Teshuvah 3:22) [English translation excerpted from The Gates of Repentance, published by Feldheim]

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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!  A 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 Hu U’Varuch Shemo they feel the vibrance 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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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, or 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! 

 

3. 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, 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? 

 

4. 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. Even a person who davens b’yechidus should recite the Pasuk (SA OC 292 Mishna Berurah seif katan 2 and Dirshu Note 1). 

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ON TOCHACHA AND BRACHA: 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 Ve’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 bracha lies ahead--if we follow the path of blessing.

 

Hakhel Note:  In the Tochacha, we learn that one of the punishments we will receive for not properly observing the Torah is “Timhon Laivuv” (this term is, non-coincidently, the last of the Al Chaits).  Rashi interprets “Timhon Laivuv” as “Itum HaLev--having a stuffed heart.”  It is essential for us--especially at this time of year--to open our stuffed hearts--so that we do not suffer from a self-imposed Timhon Laivuv!

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LESSONS FROM BIKKURIM: 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. In this week’s Parasha, we find the Mitzvah of Bikkurim. 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.

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WE PROVIDE THE FOLLOWING POINTS AND POINTERS FOR THE LAST TEN DAYS OF THE YEAR:

 

A. 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.  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 LaMachazikim 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 Hashana 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 Haknesses.  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!”

 

G.  We received the following insight from a reader relating to Teshuva in personal relationships:  ”As people interact, they can ask themselves, ‘How would I react if my mother/father did/said this to me?’  This puts a person in a different mindset and can really help a person treat his fellow man with kavod.”   Hakhel Note on this insight:  The Chayei Adam (67:1,3), notes that true Kibud Av V’Eim which is a source of Arichus Yomim (we all need a special grant of that at this time of year!) is fulfilled not only in action and in speech, but also in thought.  If one is blessed with parent(s) who are alive, the Chayei Odom continues, he should view them as “Gedolim V’Nichbedei Aretz--great and honored people in the land,” even if he knows that other people do not treat them with special respect or importance at all.  In fact, the Chayei Odom concludes, honoring parents in one’s thought is the “Ikar Kibud--the most important way of respecting a parent”--perhaps because this demonstrates that you really mean it.  Our reader, with the thought above, has fulfilled the mitzvah beautifully!

 

H.  HaRav Chaim Friedlander, 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!

 

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19 Elul

REMINDER--THE BRACHA ON PRINGLES: The following is excerpted from the an issue of the Daf HaKashrus, published by the OU: “What is the proper bracha for Pringles and other such foods that are primarily made from potato flakes and potato flour? Rav Belsky, Z’tl, said that originally Rav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, held that on potato flakes one should say Shehakol. When potatoes are turned into powder, they lose their status as a vegetable; therefore even after they are reconstituted, they remain Shehakol. Rema (O.c. 202:7) explains that if a fruit or vegetable is pulverized to the point that it is no longer distinguishable, then it loses its bracha as a fruit or vegetable. Therefore, Shulchan Aruch (O.c. 208:8) says that the proper bracha to be said on corn or bean bread is Shehakol. Based on this pasuk, the Daf HaKashrus (Vol. 22, No.5, p.32) printed that the bracha on Pringles is Shehakol.  However, Rav Belsky clarified, that in later years, Rav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, reversed his position, and said that since reconstituted potato flakes are a common equivalent substitute for mashed potatoes, it is not considered as though they have lost their shape and form, and the bracha on reconstituted potato flakes remains Ha’adamah.  Rav Elimelech Bluth, Shlita, and Rav Reuven Feinstein, Shlita, confirmed hearing this change of psak from Rav Moshe, Z’tl, as well. Therefore, Pringles, though they are made from reconstituted potatoes, would be the same as though they were made from fresh mashed potatoes, and the proper bracha would be Ha’adamah.  However, it is worth noting that potato starch does not reconstitute back into a potato, and therefore products that are made from potato starch are Shehakol.”

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AN IMPORTANT REFLECTION: Certainly, a primary Avodah of these days is preparing for the Kabbalas Ohl Malchus Shomayim of Rosh Hashana. The Ba’alei Mussar point out that one can appreciate Hashem’s Malchus by reflecting upon all of the (underserved) kindnesses that He showers upon us daily, hourly and even on a minute-to-minute and second-to-second basis. Every aspect of one’s existence--whether it be physical or spiritual, is only by Hashem’s graciousness to us. Moreover, Hashem’s kindness is not just ‘current’--but is provided to us in a way in which we can be zoche to eternity--and receive that too! One easy way that one can reset his thinking from time-to-time to properly appreciate Hashem’s constant and continuous kindness is to repeat a Pasuk that we recite three times a day--even more frequently throughout the day. The Pasuk? “Tov Hashem Lakol V’Rachamav Ahl Kol Ma’asav--Hashem is good to all; His mercies are on all His works. “ (Tehillim 145: 9) Think about the Pasuk as you recite it!

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HILCHOS SUKKAH!

 

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

 

1. Why does the bracha of Leishev BaSukkah not have to be made while standing, as many other Birkos HaMitzvos? The Pri Megadim writes that just like the bracha over Hafrashas Challah can be made sitting because through doing so it is going to permit one to eat (which is done sitting), so too, the bracha of Leishev BaSukkah permits one to eat his meal in the Sukkah--and therefore it can be said sitting. The Pnei Yehoshua writes that only for a Mitzvah which is to be performed standing need the bracha be recited standing, but for a Mitzvah which can be performed sitting, the bracha over the Mitzvah can be recited sitting, as well. It does not appear that the Mishna Berurah would agree with the explanation of the Pnei Yehoshua, as he rules that Megillas Esther can be read sitting, although the brachos must be recited while standing. Note: The Rambam rules that the bracha of Leishev BaSukkah should be recited after Kiddush, both of which are said standing, and the person should then proceed to sit down (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 643:2, Dirshu Note 3)

 

2. If one had already eaten Mezonos and made a Leishev BaSukkah, and now wants to be Motzi others with the bracha of Leishev BaSukkah as they are about to make Kiddush and start a Seudah, HaRav Aharon Leib Shteineman, Shlita, rules that he may do so (ibid., Dirshu Note 7).

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WORD BY WORD: The Chofetz Chaim provides the following awesome teaching: Every word of Torah that a person speaks adds Kedusha to his soul…. There is no limb in the body which provides a person with the potential for more Mitzvos than the limbs through which he speaks. The overriding principle is that speech is the source of fortune and success of a person…through his words of Torah [Tefillah and Chesed]. The opposite is also true--there is no one limb that could hurt a person as much as his tongue, for with every word of ill-spoken speech, one creates a prosecuting angel. In one hour, one can create hundreds and hundreds of prosecuting angels or hundreds and hundreds of malachim who will speak only good of the person.

 

Hakhel Note: If one has to be careful about something during this time of year…! We additionally provide several powerful points from the Sefer Sha’arei Teshuvah (3:200-210) relating to the primacy of proper speech in one’s life. One should spend the extra time now to determine what in the area of speech can--and must--be improved upon. Rabbeinu Yonah calls out to us as follows:

 

1. Chazal (Erchin 15B) teach “Kol Hamisaper Lashon Hara Ke’ilu Kofer BaIkar”, as that Pasuk says: “Asher Amru…Mi Adon Lanu--with our tongue we will prevail, our lips are with us; Who is master over us?” (Tehillim 12:5).

 

2. Chazal (ibid.) also teach that Lashon Hara is the equivalent of the three sins of Avodah Zara, Gilui Arayos and Shefichas Damim combined. How could this be so? The Sha’arei Teshuvah provides three reasons: (i) one who is not careful with his words will repeat his transgression--word by word--several or even many times during the day. After all, it is easy to do, sometimes entertaining, free and not illegal (or perhaps even immoral) by Western standards; (ii) one’s tongue becomes so quick that it is almost as if his tongue induces his thoughts--and not vice versa. Accordingly, one’s Teshuvah is exceedingly difficult because he has trained himself to speak without thinking--and even when he thinks before he speaks, he will let the statement go--as he has done in past practice; (iii) often a person does not see the effects and hurt caused because the party directly affected is not present. Once the Lashon Hara has been released--just as an arrow--one will not know who it hit and where, and it cannot be retrieved. For all the archer knows, he has done nothing. However, he may really be guilty of murder.

  

3. Chazal teach that one who relates a p’gam Mishpacha--Ein Lo Kapparah Olamis, can never be forgiven.

 

4. Although the Torah usually protects in time of danger, it will not protect one who is a ba’al Lashon Hara, and, in fact, such a person is not worthy of studying Torah. When Chazal teach that an aveirah does not extinguish the Torah that one has learned--it only refers to an aveirah that happened in a sporadic way, and not to one who is not careful with his tongue as a matter of course.

 

5. Chazal teach: “Knesses Yisrael B’Kolah Ahuvah U’V’Kolah Senuah--through its voice K’lal Yisrael is beloved, and through its voice it is despised”. We know the voice of Lashon Hara that is despised--what is the voice that is loved? It is the voice that speaks Divrei Torah, Chochma, Mussar, peace among people, the view of people in a positive light, praising goodness, deprecating evil and defending the truth. With this, one can achieve his potential in life.

 

Additional Note: Especially at this time of year, we should take to heart the teaching of Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men (Mishlei 18:21): “Maves V’Chaim B’Yad HaLashon V’Ohaveha Yochal Pirya--death and life are in the hand of the tongue, those that love it will eat its fruit!”

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SEVERAL ADDITIONAL POINTS AND POINTERS RELATING TO THE ELEVATED DAYS OF ELUL:

 

A.  HaRav Yaakov Galinsky, Z’tl, brings the following two teachings from the Sefer Orchos Tzadikim: (1) “A small act performed with Anavah (humility) is accepted before Hashem 1,000 times more than an otherwise great act that is done with ga’avah; and (2) a Mitzvah performed with Simcha is worth 1,000 times more than a Mitzvah that is performed as a masah, a burden.”  HaRav Galinsky added that if we put these two together--Anavah and Simcha in our Mitzvah performance, we are in the 1,000 times 1,000 category (millionaires!).

 

B.  Chazal (Brachos 19A) bring the case of one who was put into nidui (excommunication) because he was mezalzel B’Netilas Yodayim--he did not properly treat the Mitzvah D’Rabbanan of Netilas Yodayim.  At a Hakhel Shiur, Rabbi Noach Isaac Oelbaum, Shlita, stressed how important it is to make sure that one washes his entire hand during Netilas Yodayim, and showed how one could do so in a hand-turning motion.  We wash our hands for various Halachic reasons so many times a week--and will certainly do so on Shabbos and Rosh Hashana--let us revisit our Netilas Yodayim and perhaps review with our Rav or Posek our proper performance of the Mitzvah--so that we are not c’v mezalzel B’Netilas Yodayim--but instead are mechabed this great Mitzvah of Netilas Yodayim--performed so often in our lives! 

 

C.  In s short while, most of us will fulfill the Mitzvah of Tekiyas Shofar by listening to the Shofar blasts.  In fact, the bracha (which we will hear) will be Lishmo’ah Kol Shofar.  The Chofetz Chaim points out that Kabbalas HaTorah at Har Sinai was also through our hearing--Na’aseh V’Nishmah.  What goes along with all of this, writes the Chofetz Chaim, are the words of Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men:  Mishlei (15:31) “Ozen Shoma’as Tochachas Chaim B’Kerev Chachomim Talin--the ear that listens to reproof of life dwells among the wise.”  The importance of listening to reproof is highlighted by Chazal (Bava Kama 83B) who teach us that if one destroyed his fellow’s eye or his hand, the court evaluates the victim in the same way as a slave being sold in the market--how much he was worth with all his limbs, and much he is worth now with one limb missing. But should he make the victim deaf, he must pay equivalent to the person’s complete value, because he can no longer hear reproof--that will bring him to the life of the World to Come!  (Presented in the English translation of Mishlei by Rabbi Avrohom Rosenberg; Judaica Press).

 

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18 Elul

NINETEEN WEEKS: As we especially dedicate ourselves to the eighteenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei this week, we provide the following words of instruction from the great Praying with Passion Series (in order to go through this entire outstanding series on Tefillah, please visit http://prayingwithfire.org/archives.html):

 

“In Modim, we thank Hashem for Nisecha, Your miracles, and for Nifleosecha, Your wonders. What is the difference between the two? Nisecha are occurrences whose miraculous nature is obvious to us, whereas Nifleosecha are Hashem’s “hidden miracles” in which we do not see Hashem’s involvement. (Malbim, Tehillim, 9:2; Eitz Yosef). All of nature is, in reality, the work of Hashem, Who performs many “hidden miracles” daily, giving us the capability to breathe, see, hear, walk, talk, use our hands to create and accomplish, and much more. In addition, He equips the world with food for every creature, a perfect atmosphere for breathing and the precise level of sunlight to warm the world; all are miracles. It is no coincidence that the gematria, (numerical equivalence) of Elokim—86—is the same as that of hateva, nature (Sefer Pri Tzadik, on Chanukah, Ose 14, page 82). It all comes from Hashem. Because Hashem’s wonders are all around us every day, we have constant access to a great source of spiritual inspiration. We need only focus for a moment on the amazing complexity and precision of just one gift we enjoy in order to experience wonder and gratitude for Hashem’s kindness. The more often we engage in these moments of recognition, the more we feel ourselves as the fortunate recipients of Hashem’s love and care. (Adapted from “My Father My King” (ArtScroll) by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita).”

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A PIECE OF CAKE! Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein, Shlita, reports that he spoke to a young man who drove HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Z’tl, home from Yeshiva for a two year period. The young man observed that HaRav Shlomo Zalman would take a piece of sponge cake out of a napkin and eat it on the way home. After he built up enough courage, he asked HaRav Auerbach why he was eating the sponge cake before he got home--after all, wouldn’t he be eating supper soon? HaRav Shlomo Zalman gently responded that after a full day in the Yeshiva involved in studies and with students, he feels hungry at the end of the day. If he entered his home hungry, he was worried that rather than spend some initial special moments with his wife, he would try to move supper to an earlier time. The piece of cake would tide him over, so that upon his arrival at home--he would treat his wife with the love and caring that she so rightfully deserved!

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THE BRIS RESOURCE: When the baby cries at a bris, it is a great Eis Ratzon. As we have noted in the past, it is recommended for one to recite Tehillim Chapters 6 and 12 at that time, and make one’s personal requests to Hashem. By the following link http://www.hakhel.info/archivesPublicService/BrisTefillos.pdf  -- we provide tefillos that one can recite at this auspicious time. A great moment--a special opportunity!

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REMEMBER THE PASUK! In these few days before Rosh Hashana, as we search for ways to improve and to give Nachas Ruach to the Melech Malchei HaMelochim, we should keep the tefillah of Dovid HaMelech himself with us (Tehillim 86:11): “Horeini Hashem Darkecha Ahaleich Ba’amitecha Yacheid Levavi L’Yirah Shemecha--teach me Hashem Your way that I may travel in Your truth, unify my heart to fear You.”

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

 

1. One must eat at least a kezayis of bread in the Sukkah on the first night of Sukkos MeD’oraysah (in Chutz La’aretz one must eat a kezayis on the second night as well). Lechatchila one should eat this kezayis within two minutes, but in no event should one delay more than four minutes. There is a Machlokes HaPoskim as to whether we compare the eating of bread on the fifteenth of Tishrei to the eating of Matzah on the fifteenth of Nissan to the extent that one should taste the bread and should accordingly not dip it into honey. The Yad Eliyahu rules that one should not eat it with honey because it takes away the taste of the bread, just as we do not do anything to take away the taste of the Matzah on the night of the Seder. However, HaRav Chaim Brisker, Z’tl and HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, rule that we do not take the limud from Matzah that far, as there the eating of the Matzah is the mitzvah itself, whereas on Sukkos the Ikar Mitzvah is sitting in the Sukkah through the eating of the bread. Indeed, to the contrary, there may be room to eat the Challah with honey to show Chibuv Mitzvah and perhaps for Simchas Yom Tov. For one who wants to be choshesh for the shitah not to eat with honey, he may eat a kezayis without honey, and then a kezayis with honey (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 639:1, Dirshu Notes 29, 30).

 

2. The G’ra holds that there is a Mitzvah to eat Matzah all seven days of Pesach. The Mishna Berurah writes that he has a safeik as to the opinion of the G’ra on Sukkos--i.e., as to whether there is also a Mitzvah Lechatchila to eat bread on each one of the seven days of Sukkos and to make the bracha of Leisheiv BaSukkah together with it (ibid., Mishna Berurah seif katan 24).

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SEVERAL ADDITIONAL POINTS AND POINTERS RELATING TO THE ELEVATED DAYS OF ELUL:

 

A.  IMPORTANT REMINDER!  The Seforim refer to the days of Elul as Yemei Ratzon; Yemei HaRachamim V’HaSelichos; and Yamim Kedoshim.  It is three weeks until Yom Kippur--let us treasure each day!  Please note that this is not the time of year when one should feel that he has ‘maxed out’, doing the best and the most that he can.  Just as to the wealthy, there is always room for an extra profit, another good deal, another asset, another gain, so too, we can expand our ‘I’ to bring in those extra mitzvos, and those extra improvements in character and in daily deeds which can truly improve a person’s life--in this world, and forever!

 

B. When reviewing our actions and inactions over the past year, we must remember to include the doubtful actions and possible misdeeds as well.  The Rema (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 604:1) writes that a safek aveirah needs more Teshuvah than a certain aveirah because a person feels more charatah when he knows that he did wrong than when he is in doubt.  In fact, it is for this reason that the monetary cost of an Asham Talui (brought when one is unsure he has sinned) is greater than that of a Korban Chatas (brought when a sin is certainly committed).  Hakhel Note:  Perhaps one can keep a separate (hopefully short) listing of matters of doubt.  We add that this is an especially important time to ask one’s Rav or Posek for final decisions as to how to properly conduct oneself in a particular area (such as a matter of Hilchos Shabbos or a particular item in Hilchos Kashrus) if one is not certain if what he is doing is correct, and does so either because he thinks it is correct or saw someone else do the same thing in a similar situation.

 

C.  At a Hakhel Yarchei Kallah, HaRav Don Segal, Shlita, related what HaRav Avrohom Kalmanovitz, Z’tl, the Mirrer Rosh Yeshiva heard from the Chofetz Chaim himself:  “What is the greatest tzara to a Jew?  The greatest tzara is if Hashem leaves us.  When does Hashem leave us?  The answer is found in the Torah itself [last week’s Parasha (Devarim 23:15)]:  “VeLo Yireh Vecha Ervas Davar V’Shav Mei’acharecha--and Hashem will not see a thing of nakedness in you, and depart from you.”  The Torah expressly states that it is the ervas davar that causes Hashem to leave our camp.”  Accordingly, the Chofetz Chaim concluded that any hidur that we can perform to avoid ervas davar is a hidur in keeping the Shechina close by to us.  We need to keep our Machaneh Kadosh for Hashem to be with us and save us from those who wish to attack us and destroy us.  In some ways, HaRav Segal added, the sight of erva could be worse than the aveirah of arayos itself.  He noted the words of Chazal who teach:  “Ain HaBracha Metzuyah Ela B’Davar HaSamui Min HaAyin--and suggested that one can interpret this teaching to mean that bracha can only be found when d’var erva is hidden from one’s eyes.”  HaRav Segal accordingly pleaded and encouraged all men and women to be especially careful and concerned with the way they dress, and also reminded everyone that it a Gevaldige Eis Ratzon to daven to Hashem for anything at a time that one consciously guards his eyes from looking at or towards something that he should not be looking at.

 

D.  HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, teaches that one of the most serious items that separates us from Hashem is our ga’avah--our arrogance, haughtiness, and simple belief that we ‘did it ourselves’.  We must be careful to avoid the feeling of “Kochi VeOtzem Yadi--it is my ability and my prowess that achieved the result.”  When one quashes this thought, he recognizes Hashem’s continuous presence in his life and moves closer to Him.  In this regard, we should take nothing for granted--it is not a sure thing that one knows how to go to a store, buy a loaf of bread and container of cream cheese, have the money to pay for it, and return home safely.  Every step of the way, it is only with Hashem’s guiding light and loving hand!

 

E.  “Talmud Torah K’Negged Kulam”. If one is, bli neder, mekabel this as Limud Beretzifus--knowingly and willingly not looking at the cell phone, nor allowing for words of batalah or extraneous words during his study session or Shiur, then he has obviously elevated himself to a wonderful level of ‘Na’aseh V’Nishmah’.  There is another simple method in which one can demonstrate on a daily basis his awareness and his oneness with Talmud Torah K’Negged Kulam.  That is, if one has two tasks that one could perform in front of him--to open up a Sefer and study Torah, or to do something else--and one consciously chooses the study of Torah as a matter of priority, a matter of principle--he has demonstrated that in his life--it is truly Talmud Torah K’Negged Kulam.  We must show that it is not simply a matter of Hashkafa, or even a significant Ma’amar Chazal--but that it is a Divine standard that we live by in our daily lives.  Each and every one of us can be a living embodiment of--Talmud Torah K’Negged Kulam!

 

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17 Elul

THAT IS OUTRAGEOUS! Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman, Shlita reports that HaRav Yaakov Galinsky, Z’tl, was once asked by a mother to speak to her son, who intended to marry a non-Jew.  When HaRav Galinsky met the young man he told him: “Did you know that the Chofetz Chaim married a shiksa?”  The young man responded: “That can’t be--you definitely have it wrong--that is outrageous!”  Rabbi Galinsky responded: “If I do have it wrong--then it is just as outrageous for you to marry a shiksa--for in truth your holiness comes from the same Source!” The Lesson: No one, no one can excuse himself with respect to any aveira with ‘the Chofetz Chaim does this--and I do that’--for it is equally as outrageous!

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SOME KABBALAH SUGGESTIONS:

 

1. Kissing a Sefer (with thought behind it) before and after learning from it.

 

Hakhel Note:  This is an effective means of affirmatively demonstrating one’s Chavivus HaTorah!

 

2. Being very careful not to disturb another when learning (not unnecessarily going near him or his place in a way in which he will look up; not going out of the way to greet him, and the like).

 

Hakhel Note: By doing so, one not only demonstrates his value for a moment of Torah learning, but also fulfills the Mitzvah of Bein Adam L’Chaveiro of allowing his friend to accomplish another moment of Talmud Torah K’negged Kulam!

 

3. Putting an end to complaining.

 

Hakhel Note: Chazal (Avos 5:6) teach that our forefathers through their complaints ‘tested’ Hashem ten times in the Midbar. The meforshim explain that the last test was that of the meraglim--which brought the devastation of another 38-plus years in the desert. The people had finally learned to stop the testing--there was nothing that amounted to an eleventh test in the next 38 years--but it was one complaint too late. Oh--had there been only nine complaints instead of ten--we would now be, quite literally, in paradise. We should take the lesson--and stop complaints--now!

 

4. Not embarrassing anyone in public for any reason.

 

Hakhel Note: Chazal (Bava Metzia 58B) teach that one who embarrasses another in public joins those who descend to Gehinnom and ‘V’ainom Olim’---do not ascend. Can you name any other aveira of which this is said?

 

5. Not checking emails before davening.

 

Hakhel Note One: Perhaps we can add not checking texts as well. After all--doesn’t d’veikus through davening come first?

 

Hakhel Note Two: Additional points about cell phone use--should it be the first thing that I take out when leaving Shul?  Is it right to be looking to see who is calling when talking with someone in person--without saying “Excuse me I am waiting for an important call” (provided it is true!)?  Is texting, and texting, and texting a healthy activity for my soul?  For those with email access, should I be sending or reading emails when walking on the street, when eating, at red lights (perhaps illegal in any event), or when spending quality time with a family member?  What did I do at all these times before cell phones were invented?  Consider the following comment: “The nisayon of a recent previous Dor was the haskala, and the nisayon of our Dor is technology.” Certainly, Hashem has given us many tools and gifts with which to improve our lives and serve him--let us then use them with the gift of sechel granted to us that accompany these gifts.  Elul is the time to re-focus.  Let us make a move to bring back a bit of our own kavod--which will bring with it Kavod Shomayim.

 

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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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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 constitutes Siman #90 of the Sefer: 

 

Do not minimize the significance of even one enemy.”

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THE CONTRAST: In the previous paragraph, we highlighted the avoidance of any enemy. In Lashon HaKodesh, the term for friend is ‘chaver’--very much related to the word ‘chibur’--joining together or attachment. The true feelings we should have towards another are those of joining together with him. His simcha is your simcha because you are joined together, and r’l his pain is yours as well. One should not only feel the ecstasy of the Chosson and Kallah--but that of their parents as well.  One should be more than a participant or bystander--but part of the wedding party! Bond together with others--and don’t lose the opportunity to do so at any Bris, Siyum, Bar Mitzvah.... The famous joy felt by HaRav Chaim Shmuelevitz, Z’tl, was that of a mother buying his child’s first pair of shoes....whatever evokes emotion in another--join in and feel it together with him! This is the essence of being a true chaver!

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HILCHOS SUKKAH! Today, we continue to provide two Halachos a day on Hilchos Sukkos. The following notes are excerpted from the Dirshu Edition of the Mishna Berurah, Volume VI:

 

1. One is required to promptly remove used food containers from the Sukkah. Although when one finishes Shalosh Seudos close to the end of Shabbos during the year, one generally does not clean off the table so that it is not a hachana for after Shabbos, HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, rules that it is permissible to remove the used utensils from the Sukkah in such a situation, because it is clear that one is doing so for the Kavod of the Sukkah--and not as a hachana for after Shabbos (ibid., Dirshu Note 7).

 

2. HaRav Nissim Karelitz, Shlita, rules that it is permissible to bring a trash container into the Sukkah when cleaning it, provided that he takes it out as soon as he has completed cleaning (SA, OC 639, Dirshu Note 6).

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TESHUVA IN RELATIONSHIPS:  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 lose 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!

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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!

 

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16 Elul

CONCLUSION OF OUR SUMMER IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM! We conclude our Summer Improvement Program, with simple suggestions, on a weekly basis, in each of the areas of Bein Adam LaMakom, Bein Adam L’Chaveiro, and Bein Adam L’Atzmo. Of course, these are only suggestions--but every person has the opportunity to join with others who will be attempting the same successes.

 

CONCLUDING WEEK--SUMMER 5776

WEEK 12--PARASHAS KI SAVO

 

Bli neder, at least one time today, consciously do the following:

 

Bein Adam LaMakom:

As we draw closer to the Yomim Nora’im, in which a great emphasis is placed upon our Tefillos, we must make a new and special effort to improve our Tefillos--before the Yomim Nora’im--in some real and tangible way. Please remember that the Teshuvas HaRashba (5:1), writes that just as the Aseres Yemei Teshuva is the Eis Ratzon of the year, so too, is Tefillas Mincha the Eis Ratzon of the day.  Let us appreciate and utilize each and every Tefillas Mincha for the tremendous opportunity that it is--starting today!

 

Bein Adam L’Chaveiro:

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. Try to follow up, at least once a day with a person or project that you had started to assist with several days earlier.

 

Hakhel Note: An important consideration: When a person does Chesed with another, his ‘I’ should be expanded so that it is as if he is doing Chesed with himself, and accordingly one should perform the Chesed in the manner that he want it done to himself.

 

Bein Adam L’Atzmo:

We are all familiar with the famous Ma’aseh reported of the Chofetz Chaim, Z’tl, being given the room in an inn next to Rebbi Yisroel Salanter, Z’tl. The Chofetz Chaim reported that the whole night he could hear Rebbi Yisroel Salanter repeating the following teaching (Avos 4:28): “Rebbi Elazar HaKapar Omer: HaKinah V’HaTa’avah VeHakavod Motzi’in Es Ha’adam Min HaOlam--jealousy, desire, and honor, r’l remove a person from the world.” One must constantly remind himself of these three horrendous middos which seek to undermine a person’s very existence in this world. If he can do battle with them, then they will not succeed in removing him from the world--and the great and clear implication is that doing battle will bring a person further life. As Rebbi Yisroel Salanter did, one should remind himself of Rebbi Elazar HaKapar’s teaching--and implement it, as Rebbi Yisroel certainly did as well!

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NINETEEN WEEKS! We are now in the eighteenth of the nineteen week period prior to Rosh Hashana. In past years, we have proceeded weekly, Bracha by Bracha, through Shemone Esrei with a special emphasis on Kavannah on that week’s Bracha. This week’s Bracha is…Modim!

 

HaRav Yonasan Eibeschutz, Zt’l, in the Sefer Ya’aros Devash teaches:  “In this bracha one should give personal shevach to Hashem for the wonders that Hashem provides in his personal life daily.   One must realize that the Ba’al HaNess does not always appreciate the Nissim that occur to him, and that each and every one of us is the recipient of many nissim nistarim each and every day.  Additionally, based upon the Zohar, HaRav Eibeschutz  writes that one must be especially dedicated to giving hoda’ah daily on the return of his soul to his body the previous night.  This may be the basis for the special thanks in the bracha for “VeAhl Nishmoseinu HaPekudos Lach”. We especially thank Hashem for “Ahl Chayeinu HaMesurim BeYadecha.”  We should think as we recite these words that we are not only thanking Hashem for granting us life minute after minute, but also for every aspect of our bodies and souls within us.  We can quickly think up from the bottom of our feet to the top of our head--and recognize how much is working--that we must admit would not be functioning--but for Hashem’s empowerment and graciousness--oh we have so much to be thankful for.

 

We provide by the following link additional notes to this Bracha, provided for the years 5771 and 5772 http://www.hakhel.info/TefillahArchive.html

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A THOUGHT ON THINKING! HaRav Naftali Kaplan, Shlita, importantly points out that as we get closer to Rosh Hashana, we may be thinking about whether or not to do something based upon the reward or punishment involved--or which could result. While this is important, and definitely a thought that a person can have several times a day, there is a more sublime level of thinking. A person should more appropriately recognize that as a human being, he is a Tzelem Elokim, attached to Hashem in an infinite and incomparable way and must therefore act accordingly. At least five times a day, before undertaking any activity--whether positive or negative--one should stop and think that: “As a human being I am chashuv, and if I do not act in an upstanding manner I am not doing what Hashem expects of me. On the other hand, if I act responsibly, I am giving Nachas Ruach to Hashem and coming closer to Him.” This reflection can be made, for example, before one begins to learn, bentsch or do a Chesed on the one hand, or is about to insult someone or speak Lashon Hara on the other. The crowning glory of a human being is his ability to think. The crowning glory of a Jew is elevating this incredible ability in ruchniyus-- and reaching towards the heavens in fulfilling one’s potential in life!

Hakhel Note: As always, HaRav Kaplan points out that it is best to jot down the times during the day that one preceded his action with this thought so that it could become more and more a part of his essence and being.

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IT IS NOT ABOUT 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 truest 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 Mitzvah tomorrow, that Chesed tomorrow, learn double tomorrow, come on time tomorrow, daven better tomorrow, do Teshuva 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 likewise not delay fulfilling the suggestions, the counsel, the urgings of his best of all friends--the Yetzer Hatov--to do good not tomorrow--but today!

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FEELING THE TIMES! 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!

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HILCHOS SUKKAH! Today, we continue to provide two Halachos a day on Hilchos Sukkos. The following notes are excerpted from the Dirshu Edition of the Mishna Berurah, Volume VI:

 

1. Some Poskim rule that on the Yom Tov of Sukkos one should place a tablecloth only on his table in the Sukkah, and not on his table in the house--in order to indicate that the house is not his dira over Sukkos. Others, however, hold that one can put a tablecloth on even in the home LeKavod Yom Tov (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 639, Dirshu Note 4).

 

2. Some have the custom of kissing the Sukkah’s walls when they enter and leave the Sukkah, as a sign of Chibuv HaMitzvahVeAshrei Me She’oved Hashem BeSimcha--fortunate is the one who serves Hashem with joy! (ibid.; Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 477, Mishna Berurah seif katan 5, quoting the Shelah HaKadosh).

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WITH CERTAINTY! As last week’s Parasha contained 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!

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YOUR NESHAMA’S PARADISE!  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”? One can review the above Bulletin (or previous Bulletins over the last two weeks) to determine whether there is anything that is relevant to him. In any and all events, one must take some serious time with himself, reviewing his day, reviewing his successes and failures over the past year, reviewing the need to grow in certain areas--and come up with some real and realistic ideas for the coming year--Haba’ah Aleinu L’Tova!

 

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13 Elul

THE COMPLETE NUSACH: The following complete Nusach of the Mi’Shebeirach of the Tosfos Yom Tov for those who are careful not to speak during davening, as printed at the end of the Sefer Megillah Eivah is available by the following link http://tinyurl.com/zv463cy. We understand that many shuls recite this beautiful Tefillah every Shabbos.

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WHAT ARE YOU PURCHASING? There are a large number of food products now available in which one must have a second thought as to what the bracha rishona and/or bracha acharona are. For instance, snack bags now read “twice baked bagel chips freshly baked on premises”, “corn slims”, “multi-grain pop cakes”, and the like. We suggest that these new-fangled products are part of a nisayon to us--and that we must understand that making the proper bracha before and after is an essential aspect of our achila u’shesiya. When picking up the product in the supermarket--first think--do I know the bracha rishona and acharona on this product, or will children or guests know what brachos to make on this product? When purchasing a food item--you are doing oh so much more than preparing to place something into your mouth for digestion!

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OVERHEARD: A second grader was expressing her concern over her first test ever--a spelling test the next day: “I’m so scared!!” A second thereafter, she happily took several enjoyable licks of the delicious ices she was holding. Hakhel Note: As we approach closer and closer to Rosh Hashana we cannot simply have the intellectual realization that it is coming--but one must take it to heart, and actually do something--it is not now a time to rest on one’s laurels--it is the time for action!

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YOU ARE NOT SURROUNDED! In this week’s Parasha, we learn that when we go to war against our enemies, Hashem will give it over to us. If there are many enemies, shouldn’t Hashem give them over to us? The Ba’alei Mussar explain that this is one of the ruses of the Yetzer Hara--for a person to feel surrounded by enemies, with no choice but to give up and surrender. The Torah, however, specifically attests that this is not true! It is really only one enemy--the Yetzer Hara--and you are not surrounded-- if you don’t give up, but instead go out to fight and take the offensive--then the perceived encirclement will be lifted for you by Hashem Himself--as the Yetzer Hara goes down to splendid and thorough defeat!

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SMELL THE KETORES! In the Parasha, we also learn 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 a time of 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 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 for the upcoming day.

 

Hakhel Suggestion: After saying Modeh Ani upon awakening in the morning, it may be a wonderful Kabbalah for one to state that he intends to be a Shomer Piv U’Leshono in all of his endeavors today! 

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NEW OPPORTUNITY! If you begin on Shabbos with Mishnayos Mesechta Yoma, and study just three Mishnayos a day, you will complete Mesechta Yoma before Yom Kippur, and if you then continue to study three Mishnayos a day of Mesechta Sukkah, you will complete Mesechta Sukkah before the end of Sukkos.

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HILCHOS SUKKAH! On Sunday, 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. The following two Halachos are for your review on Sunday, and are excerpted from the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 134):

 

1. It is a Mitzvah on every man to be personally involved in the building of his Sukkah and in the placement of his schach. Even if one is a highly respected person and does not usually engage in this kind of activity--he should recognize that this is his greatest honor--to be personally involved in a Mitzvah. In fact, concludes the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, one would recite a Shehechiyanu on the building of the Sukkah, but for the fact that we rely on the Shehechinayu made at the conclusion of Kiddush on the first night of Sukkos to encompass the Mitzvah of building the Sukkah as well.

 

2. On Erev Sukkos, one should not eat bread after Chatzos [the Mishna Berurah writes after the tenth hour of the day] so that he will be able to eat at night with tei’avon. A commentary on the Kitzur points out that this means that one should not eat any other food which would also prevent him from eating l’tei’avon on Sukkos night. What one should do on Erev Sukkos is give a generous amount of Tzedaka.

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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:  “Yismechu VeMalchusecha Shomerei Shabbos V’Koreei 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 Be’ito 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. 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?  A reader once 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, the need to study the Halachos of Shabbos (certainly on Shabbos itself!)--and the need to consult with a Rav on matters of which one is not totally sure.

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POINTS AND POINTERS ON THIS WEEK’S PARASHA, PARASHAS KI SEITZAI:

 

A. Rabbi Pliskin, in another one of his outstanding Seforim, Growth Through Torah on the Parasha (p. 494-495), brings the following.  “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.

 

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. 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.

 

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

 

QUESTION: Is there an obligation to perform Shiluach HaKain 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 HaKain 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 HaKain--will it be a segulah for him even when he becomes a Gadol?

ANSWER: Yes!

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AS NOTED ABOVE, THE PARASHA BEGINS WITH THE FAMOUS WORDS: “WHEN YOU GO TO WAR AGAINST YOUR ENEMIES...”

 

What makes this world so special is that it gives us the opportunity to succeed against the Yetzer 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 HaMovess.  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 Harriet, 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 Loshon 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 Klal Yisrael!

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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.  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 he is simply too set or established in a particular way of conduct or speech to be able to change it.  If a person got into a bad habit such as continuously blinking, picking at parts of his body, or coming so late to work that it drew the attention of others--he would certainly do whatever he could to extricate himself from what is not simply a habit--but a problem. Spiritual bad habits are even more problematic. Moreover, one should recognize that when he 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! 

 

3.  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.

 

4.  The concept of Shevisi Hashem LeNegdi Somid--I place Hashem before me at all times (Tehillim 16:8) is mentioned by the Rema in the first Siman of Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim (1:1), and is referred to there as a K’lal Gadol BaTorah.  We all strive for this goal, and as we have recently mentioned, it is certainly of great importance now as we prepare to accept Hashem’s Malchus on Rosh Hashana.  HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, in the Sefer Middos V’Avodas Hashem (I:p.465) suggests as a Kabbalah L’Ma’aseh that one pick 15 minutes a day in which he does everything--whether it be davening, making a bracha, learning, or even eating, in a way where he feels that he is in front of Hashem and wants only to please HimEverything during this period should be designated and designed to find favor in the eyes of Hashem.  The dedication to the task is a wonderful indication of where one’s mindset lies--although he may be distracted from time-to-time in the remaining 23 hours and 45 minutes of the day--at least he knows that his true goal is to follow the first Rema in Shulchan Aruch! 

 

5.  HaRav Eliyahu Dessler, Z’tl, (Michtav MeiEliyahu III: p. 275) teaches that a story is not the only thing with two sides to it.    Fire can forge, bind and build, or destroy and obliterate.  Water can clean, irrigate and nourish, or pollute and flood over.  Similarly, every Nisayon has two sides--from which one can pick himself up, or c’v stumble and fall.  When traveling, one can utilize the opportunity not only to overcome his instincts and avoid the unsightly distractions of the road, but also as a time for introspection and study, or, c’v, one can use the time to ‘let go’ a bit and stumble and fall in the spiritual sense, even if not in the physical sense.  With this in mind, all of life--every moment of it, becomes an opportunity for more and more and more--success! 

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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 bracha 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. Please submit three additional examples to us based upon your reflection. If you cannot come up with three of your own, then your introspection needs introspection!

 

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12 Elul

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FROM THINK HASHEM DAILY:

 

“When we prepare for Rosh Hashana during the month of Elul with Teshuva, Hashem creates Malachim in proportion to that preparation that will escort us in and testify on our behalf during the days of judgment.”

 

(Rav Tzvi Mayer Zilberberg, Shlita, based on Seforim)

 

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

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REMEMBERING THE PURPOSE OF LIFE! As we encounter many people during a given day, we may notice that most of them do not have specific direction in the purpose of life. The Mesilas Yesharim provides the purpose to us in one supernal sentence. It is: “La’avod, V’La’amod B’Nisayon, U’Lekayeim HaMitzvos--to serve Hashem, overcome tribulations and fulfill Mitzvos.” Whenever we are faced with a particular feeling, encounter, event or situation--we should recall this eternity bearing guidance of the Mesilas Yesharim, and think about and actualize how one’s attitude, approach or reaction will fit into--his purpose of life!

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RETZEI IN THE BEIS HAMIKDASH: This week, we are working on the seventeenth bracha, (referred to by Chazal as the bracha of Avoda), in which we plead and appeal to Hashem to return the Avoda to the Beis HaMikdash. How was this bracha recited in the Beis HaMikdash itself--and how will it be recited B’EH in the near future? Following is the Nusach provided by the Rosh and the Tiferes Yisrael: “Retzei Hashem Elokeinu Avodas Amecha Yisrael V’ishei Yisrael U’sefilasam Sikabel B’Ratzon U’sehi L’Ratzon Tomid Avodas Yisrael Amecha. Baruch Atta Hashem Shochein B’Tzion.”


Hakhel Note: As we recite the bracha of Retzei--let us contemplate how wonderfully the bracha will change, and let us long to recite those modified words!

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MAKE IT WORK FOR YOU! We will soon be definitively working on Kabalos for 5777. Let us, bli neder, commit to make those Kabalos practical ones that will be written into a notebook or kept in a log on an ongoing basis in order to assist in compliance--to be reviewed next year at this time--hopefully, in its zechus, in the Beis HaMikdash!

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 SEVERAL ADDITIONAL POINTS AND POINTERS RELATING TO THE ELEVATED DAYS OF ELUL:

 

A.  In the Seforim that give Eitzos L’Yom HaDin--advice as to how one can succeed at the time of judgment, one of the leading items on every list is to be Dan L’Chaf Zechus--to judge others favorably.  This means that just as one can, in almost all cases, find a rational reason or excuse for what he has done, one must do the same for others.  The critical view of another, especially in the difficult and self-centered western society we live in, may be viewed as a more cautious and more appropriate approach in many circumstances.  We note, however, that this is an absolutely incorrect approach when viewing your family members and your friends, who are serious Torah Jews.  If one indeed finds that he ‘naturally’ looks at everything and everyone with that critical eye, we may suggest that, just as we noted yesterday--that one can and should daven for Hashem to help him with Teshuvah (Hashiveini V’Ashuvah Ki Atta Hashem Elokai!)--so too, should he daven to Hashem to help guide him to judge others in a more favorable light.   The very fact that we daven for Hashem’s help is an indication of the direction we wish to turn. 

 

B.  The Ba’alei Mussar teach that one great technique to defeat the Yetzer Hara is to simply delay, push off that which he is trying to accomplish--whether it be anger, overindulging, the inappropriate word, the questionable charge, or any of the other tests that face us daily.  There is an important counterpart to this.  It is--when a Mitzvah presents itself, not to in any way defer or delay it, or condition it upon something else happening--but rather perform it without allowing time for the Yetzer Hara to negotiate.  Just as one succeeds by slowing down the path to an aveirah or even a questionable act, he should speed up the path to the Mitzvah before the surprising detour or road block can be deceitfully placed.  The concept, of course, applies to one’s Torah studies as well.  If one needs to look up something, he can write it down to look up later, and it may end up on a ‘to-do’ list--or he can exert the effort of standing up, going to the Sefer that he needs, opening it, finding what he needs--and bringing the matter to its prompt conclusion.  Every step along the way--the standing up, the walking, the opening of the Sefer--and even the pleasure of finding what one was looking for--are all separate parts of the joyous accomplishment of a Mitzvah in its prompt and proper time! 

 

C.  Chazal (Brachos 29B) teach that Eliyahu taught Rav Yehuda:  “Lo Tirtach VeLo Sechetei--do not get angry, for through your anger you will come to sin.”  If we are looking for ways at this time of year to avoid sin, avoiding anger at all costs is certainly an important one!  As we feel a moment of frustration, irritation, annoyance or anger setting in or coming on--let us remember the teaching of none other than Eliyahu HaNavi-- Lo Tirtach VeLo Sechetei

 

D.  A fascinating point made by HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, is that when Hashem remembers each and every one of our deeds on Rosh Hashana, He not only remembers them on a singular and individual basis, but how on an aggregate basis all of the actions over the year shape a person into a different human being--reaching towards his potential, or c’v, away from it.  We must know that Hashem’s remembrance of us is (Zichronos)--are not dry notations on a computer, but are Hashem’s notes of what we had done ‘Lifnei Chisei Chevodecha--before Hashem’s throne.”  Hashem’s notes contain everything that needs to be read between the lines, and especially give everything we do, whether we perceive the action to be ‘major’ or ‘minor’, the true importance they deserve--because of who we really are. 

  

E.  The Ba’al HaTurim (Shemos 38:27) teaches that the 100 brachos we make every day correspond to the 100 adanim that supported the walls of the Mishkan--for just as the 100 adanim were the base upon which the Mishkan rested, so too, are our 100 brachos the base for our Avodas Hashem, which brings the Shechina into our lives on a constant basis.  Through a bracha, HaRav Friedlander writes, we not only remind ourselves about Hashem’s presence in the world, but remind ourselves that Hashem is before us and close to us--as, after all, we recite the word ‘Atta’.  HaRav Friedlander especially suggests that in the days of Elul, as a preparation for Malchiyos and Zichronos, one strengthen himself in the area of brachos.  He specifically suggests the following two items:  (1) After reciting the words ‘Baruch Atta’ one should stop before reciting the word ‘Hashem’ and think:  ‘I am about to mention the name of Hashem; and (2) When reciting the words ‘Hashem Elokeinu’ one should think that Hashem is ‘Master of All, He Was, Is and Will Be, and at His Will keeps everything in existence.’  If one feels that these two wonderful steps are too difficult for all brachos, HaRav Friedlander suggests that it be done when reciting Birkas HaNehenin (HaMotzi, Shehakol, etc. and Asher Yatzar).  Through this, one will bring himself closer to Hashem at various points of the day…and Hashem is close to all who are close to Him!

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LESSONS FROM THE TENTH ANI MA’AMIN:  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’amin.  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 recognize Hashem’s complete authority and control, 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!

 

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11 Elul

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NINETEEN WEEKS: As we especially dedicate ourselves to the seventeenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei this week, we provide the following words of instruction from the great Praying with Passion Series (in order to go through this entire outstanding series on Tefillah, please visit http://prayingwithfire.org/archives.html):

 

“What are we davening for when we ask Hashem to restore His Shechinah to Tzion? For most people, the Shechinah remains an enigma. The efficacy of our tefillos, therefore, depends on our willingness to look more deeply into the nature of this unseen Presence, and gain an understanding of how it manifests itself in our world. The Gemara (Berachos 6a) teaches that the Shechinah resides in places of holiness, such as in the Beis HaMikdash and in a Shul when a minyan davens together. The Shechinah is also present when three judges sit in judgment, and when even one person studies Torah. A fundamental question arises: If Hashem is Omnipresent, why do we single out the Shechinah’s presence in certain holy places such as a Shul during

tefillah? What is the significance of the Shechinah’s presence in these sacred places if Hashem is everywhere? Rav Chaim Friedlander (Sifsei Chaim, Pirkei Emunah V’Hashgachah, Volume 1, page 170, citing the Ramchal) provides an explanation that “Shechinah” — from the phraseology “that which resides in your midst”--represents our relationship with Hashem. Thus, although His Presence is indeed constant, our awareness of the Shechinah is stronger when we are inspired by an occasion or a place of holiness. To the extent that we seek the Shechinah, we find it.”

 

Hakhel Note: The extent of one’s awareness of the Shechinah will depend on the particular holy place he is in. Obviously in the Beis Hamikdash, it is at its highest. The Meforshim on the Pasuk of”Ki Ayin B’ayin Yiru B’shuv Hashem Tzion” (see Metzudas Dovid and Malbim) explain that the repetition of the word Ayin as “Ayin B’Ayin” indicates that there will be a great clarity in the vision, and that which is only heretofore seen as a Nevuah--will have the clarity of reality. We will actually see Hashem’s Presence return to Tzion. Oh, how we should have Kavannah when we recite the words “Vesechezenah Eineinu B’Shuvecha L’Tzion B’Rachamim”.

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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 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 not 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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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.     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.

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SEVERAL ADDITIONAL POINTS AND POINTERS RELATING TO THE ELEVATED DAYS OF ELUL:

 

A.  Yiras Shomayim has true life-sustaining qualities (Tehillim 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 Hara 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.

 

B.  There is a word that has negative connotations that we usually do not like to associate with ourselves:  zilzul--to hold in contempt, to degrade or to disgrace.  One generally does not feel that he conducts himself in a manner which degrades or disgraces other people or things, yet, in the Al Cheit, we actually recite:  “Al Cheit Shechatanu L’fanecha BeZilzul Horim U’Morim--for the sin we have committed against You by degrading parents and teachers.”  This particular sin is obviously so pervasive that it is found in the Al Cheit recited by us all.  The concept of zilzul not only applies to parents and teachers, but can also apply to the way we treat other people and their feelings as well.  Zilzul even has ramifications in Hilchos Shabbos--where leaving on noise making objects on Shabbos and other public actions which show disregard for the sanctity of Shabbos are referred to as ‘zilzul Shabbos”.  We can also think about zilzul in the way some may treat Seforim, Siddurim and bentschers with broken bindings and with pages ripped out for many days, and their Tallis and Tefillin bags (with the Tallis and Tefillin inside), as they let them bang against the lower part of their bodies and leave them unattended in unlocked cars.  Perhaps a benchmark in this area would be how a third party whom one does not know would view what he is doing--as something sensible and honorable--or as something inappropriate, careless--or even disgraceful.  Although it may be a difficult thing to do--think of the word zilzul--and go through your day making sure there is no element of it in any aspect of your daily conduct, business, affairs or thinking.

 

C. Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman, Shlita, provides extremely meaningful guidance in the name of “Rebbe Shmelke”, Z’tl.  Rebbe Shmelke teaches that when a person travels through a difficult or treacherous area, the secret of success is in taking the trek piece by piece, part by part, goal by goal.  One goes until one indicator, travels until the next marker, then until a third milestone, until he gets to his location.  If a person says “I am not going to speak Lashon Hara for the next ten years, no matter what”, he is challenging himself in an admirable way, but not necessarily in a successful one.  A more measured approach such as:  “I will get through the week, and go from there”, may not be as admirable, but should achieve a far greater result.  Rabbi Wachsman told a story of a man who successfully climbed a mountain where all others failed.  When asked why he felt he was successful, he responded:  “I looked down at how much I had accomplished--not at how much farther I had to go!” 

 

D.  One must never forget the teaching of Hillel (Avos 1:14):  “Im Ain Ani Li Mi Li--if I am not for myself--who is for me?”  There is simply no one else that can substitute, replace, or stand in one’s stead in achieving his personal spiritual potential and personal spiritual goals.  If one looks to his right and looks to his left--he may see many fine and helpful people around him--but ultimately they must take care of themselves both physically and spiritually--and so must he!

 

E.  Looking back over the year, one may want to review how many Shailos he asked, and how many he could have asked but did not do so for one reason or another.  In regular circumstances, a Shemiras HaLashon Shailah should come up weekly, if not daily.  Making one’s own decision to say something or not say something--or even avoiding the Shailah--is not always the proper response at all.  Over the approximately 20 years of its existence, the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation’s Shemiras HaLashon Shailah Hotline has answered thousands upon thousands of Shailos running the gamut of Shidduch related questions, parent-teacher issues, the professional-client relationship, and issues among parents, children and siblings.  The Hotline is a vital tool to success in the life-giving area of Shemiras HaLashon.  After all, Mi HaIsh HehChofetz Chaim…Netzor Leshonecha MairahIn the United States, the Shailah Hotline’s number is 718-951-3696 and the hours are 9:00 PM-10:30 PM from Sunday through Thursday and Motza’ei Shabbos, and in Europe: HaRav Yaakov Wreschner, Shlita (Manchester) is available between 9:15AM and 10:15AM and between 1:15 and 2:15PM. His mobile number is 07980641399. Dayan Aharon Dovid Dunner, Shlita, is available at 02088008555 (no set hours).

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THE JEWISH PYRAMID:  One of the great aspects of Rosh Hashana is K’lal Yisrael proceeding in unity to declare Hashem’s Malchus over us, and our unified hope that His Malchus will reign over the whole world in the very near future.  The Torah (Devarim 33:5) teaches:  “VaYehi Vishurun Melech Behisaseif Roshei Am Yachad Shivtei Yisrael--He became King over Yisrael...the tribes of the nation in unity.”  The Ba’alei Mussar point out that we learn from this Pasuk that “Ain Melech BeLo Am--there is no king without a nation”.  Accordingly, we must strive for unity among disparity in preparation for Rosh Hashana.  In this regard, we provide the following practical and remarkable excerpt from the Sefer Yearning with Fire, by Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, Shlita (Artscroll):

 

There is a model of Jewish marriage that counselors use to help couples understand the goals of their union.  It is a pyramid, with each spouse at one corner of the base and Hashem at the pinnacle.  The greater the distance from Hashem that they stand, the farther apart are the spouses.  As they climb spiritually--toward the pinnacle-- they come ever closer to each other.

 

This model works for us as a nation, too.  When our striving is toward Hashem, the distance between us diminishes.  Rather than having our unity thrust upon us by our enemies, we can embrace it, and thereby stand ready to be redeemed.”

 

Hakhel Note: In a similar vein, Rabbi Yechiel Spero, Shlita, teaches that on the doors of the Yeshiva in Kelm, the following words were posted: “Achdus Ha’avadim Hi Kiyum HaMalchus”--our own unity crowns Hashem in a wonderful way. Rabbi Spero therefore suggests that every person take the initiative to be mochel another person, even if he knows that he is in the right--and the person he is being mochel is at fault. With this selfless act, the antithesis of self-centeredness, one is not only elevating himself as a human being--but elevating Hashem into a greater position of Malchus as well!

 

Additional Note: Try it--today!

 

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10 Elul

THIRTY DAYS FROM TODAY WILL BE THE YOM HAKADOSH--YOM KIPPUR!

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THIRD PERSON ADVICE: Before reacting or responding to somebody who said something or did something which is hurtful or painful (even if that person is a spouse or other close relative), Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein, Shlita, recommends that you take a step back and think about the advice you would give to another who asks you how he should react in this very situation--and apply it to yourself!  

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WHAT IS HOLDING US BACK FROM ERETZ YISRAEL?  Chazal teach that Ma’aseh Avos Siman Labonim--what happened to the Avos is a sign of what happens to their children. In English as well (and perhaps in many languages), it is said that ‘History repeats itself’. What prevented our forefathers from entering Eretz Yisrael after the remarkable Geulas Mitzrayim they had experienced? It was the Lashon Hara spoken by the Meraglim-which kept millions of people in the desert for 38-plus years longer than they should have been. We are all so disappointed, so frustrated, so horrified,  by what the Meraglim did--we should definitely not be following suit. We have got to realize what is keeping us out--and do something about it! Let us start today!  Hakhel Note: One place to start is the Shomer Piv Kaballah above....

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D’VEIKUS! 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’veikus 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: Once received 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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REMINDER--FROM THE ROSH: The Rosh--a Rishon--reminds us in the Orchos Chaim L’Rosh (81): “Ahl Tabit Lemi Shehu Koton Mimecha BeAvodah U’VeYirah Ki Im LeGadol Mimecha”--do not look at someone who is lower than you spiritually and compare yourself to him, but rather to someone greater than you--so rather than becoming smug and complacent, you grow into who you really can be.

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

 

Hakhel Note: Every night, in Ma’ariv, we recite the words:  “Ki Heim Chayeinu V’Orech Yameinu--for they [the Torah and Mitzvos] are our life and the length of our days….”  At this time of year--as we search for life and length of days--let us demonstrate that we know what life is all about! 

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UNTIL AFTER BREAKFAST: One splendid suggestion regarding a cell phone takana is, bli neder, barring extenuating circumstances, not to look at one’s emails or texts after arising until one has eaten that morning. Discipline. Self control. Priority.

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WE PROVIDE THE FOLLOWING POINTS AND POINTERS, AS WE HAVE JUST BEGUN THE SECOND WEEK OF ELUL:

 

A.  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 lead 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, in focusing on the word ‘rachamim’ in our tefillos, we 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!

 

B. 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!

 

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

 

D.  HaRav Shneuer Kotler, Z’tl, brings clear proof from the Rambam in Hilchos Edus as to how proper Teshuva must be performed. The Rambam writes that if one is pasul le’edus (disqualified from serving as a witness in bais din) because, for example, he lent money with ribbis, or because he was a mesachek bekuvia or a mafrichei yonim--he engaged in ‘professions’ which were tainted with ill-gotten gains-- then the only way he could get his credibility back and once again be a Kosher witness-- would be if he not only denounced his previous line of work, but also ridded himself of the paraphernalia of the job.  The contracts, the devices, the instruments, the tools that enabled his aveiros had to be removed from his home and from his reach.  Teshuva means more than saying that you are not going to do it again--even if you mean what you say.  It means ridding yourself of the objects, habits, and connections that brought you, and can bring you again, to where you shouldn’t have been--and certainly shouldn’t be going.  Look around the house, the office, the briefcase, the computer, the electronic gadgetry.  Is there something that shouldn’t be here, something which can bring someone down or hurt someone, something that will make it harder for me or others around to do the Teshuva that I or they want to do?  Now is the time to take the Rambam’s lesson--and demonstrate that you too want to be a Kosher Jew.

 

E.  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!” 

 

F.  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!

 

G.  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!

 

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9 Elul

DAN L’CHAF ZECHUS! By the following link-- http://tinyurl.com/6l5s2s  we present a Tefillah provided in the past in which one davens to Hashem for assistance in being Dan other L’Chaf Zechus. Chazal teach that it is a great merit for a person to judge others favorably for one will also then be judged favorably as well!

 

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A TREMENDOUS TEFILLAH--FOR PARENTS: By the following link--  http://tinyurl.com/ztdpqws  we provide a moving and meaningful Tefillah for parents to recite on behalf of their children from the Siddur Otzar HaTefillos, which the mechaber writes was brought from Eretz Yisrael. Please feel free to share with others.

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SUMMER IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM! We continue our Summer Improvement Program, with simple suggestions, on a weekly basis, in each of the areas of Bein Adam LaMakom, Bein Adam L’Chaveiro, and Bein Adam L’Atzmo. Of course, these are only suggestions--but every person has the opportunity to join with others who will be attempting the same successes. In the alternative, one can chart his own improvement course on a weekly basis as well.

 

WEEK 11--PARASHAS KI SEITZEI

 

Bli neder, at least one time today, consciously do the following:

 

Bein Adam LaMakom:

In last week’s’ Parasha, the Torah instructed us not to follow any of the wayward sorcery practices of the other nations in order to gain or retain knowledge beyond their immediate grasp. Instead, ‘Tomim Tiheyeh Im Hashem Elokecha’--we are to demonstrate wholehearted Emunah in Hashem. When we daven and make brachos, we personally assert this Emunah. Answering “Amen” to another’s brachos or Tefillos provides us with the opportunity not only to fulfill a personal obligation--but to reiterate it in a voluntary way. Seek out an opportunity--although not required--to answer “Amen” to someone else’s Tefillah or bracha, so that you can personally exclaim your wholehearted belief in the Omnipotence, Omniscience and Omnipresence of Hashem!

 

Bein Adam L’Chaveiro:

HaRav Chatzkel Levenstein, Z’tl, teaches that what was so special, so unique about Rivka’s Chesed to Eliezer, to his men and to their camels was that she did not take a step back and say: “I can show these able-bodied men where the well is--but there is certainly no reason for me, a little girl, to provide them with assistance.” Instead, she saw that a Chesed was necessary, and felt that she was capable of performing it. No other questions needed to be asked, no further thoughts would be necessary to divert her attention. This is a Ba’al Chesed. Before performing a Chesed--try not to think who else could do it and why--if the Chesed presents itself and you know that you can do the job--be a Ba’al Chesed--and do it!

 

Bein Adam L’Atzmo:

After the hundreds of teachings in Pirkei Avos, the Mesechta concludes (5:26) with the teaching of Ben Hei Hei: “Lefum Tza’ara Agra--according to the effort is the reward.” One should not delude himself into thinking that his personal wisdom, aggressiveness or connections got him anywhere, or will get him anywhere. Hashem looks solely at the efforts of the person in his particular position in life. Mesechta Avos is the Mesechta that is specifically dedicated to how we can grow personally. Its final words to us are: “With Effort”. If something is important to you, whether it be Kavannah in Tefillas Mincha, a Daf Yomi Shiur, helping a certain person find a Shidduch….whatever it may be, remember not to tire of it and instead reinvigorate and revitalize yourself to put your best effort into it--daily!

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NINETEEN WEEKS! We are now in the seventeenth of the nineteen week period prior to Rosh Hashana. In past years, we have proceeded weekly, Bracha by Bracha, through Shemone Esrei with a special emphasis on Kavannah on that week’s Bracha. This week’s Bracha is…Retzei!

 

 HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, points out that in the Bracha of Retzei we reference the terms Retzei, BeRatzon and LeRatzon.  The emphasis on Ratzon is based upon our pleading to turn the moment into an Eis Ratzon--a time when our Tefillos are more acceptable to and accepted by Hashem.  With the emphasis on Retzei and Ratzon, we additionally emphasize our absolute belief that everything in our life is based upon Hashem’s Will, and His Hashgacha Pratis over us.  Indeed, living itself is marked by Chaim BeRetzono (Tehillim 30:4).  There is one other point.  Just as a good son wants to please his father, in this Tefillah we express our desire that our Tefillos and our actions appease and please Hashem, as our Father in Heaven, as well. We continue now with the next phrase in the Bracha of:  “Vehasheiv Es HaAvodah LiDvir Beisecha--and restore the Avodah to the Kodesh HaKodashim.”  HaRav Friedlander explains that after having just asked Hashem to be pleased with us and our prayers, we immediately recognize that we are in a tekufah, a period, of galus--a time of sorely felt Hester Panim.  The light of Hashem’s Shechina will shine upon us only when the Beis HaMikdash is rebuilt, and the great Kedusha that reigns there, and in the services performed there, will draw us so much closer to Him.  The reason the Kodesh HaKodashim is referred to as the Dvir of the Bayis is because it is from the Kodesh HaKodashim only that the Dibur of Hashem comes forth towards His people, as the Pasuk (Shemos 25:22) teaches: “ViDibarti Itecha Mai’al HaKapores Mibein Shenei HaKeruvim.”  The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 94:1, Mishna Berurah seif katan 7) rules that when davening Shemone Esrei we should view ourselves as standing before this very Kapores. This is the one time that we refer to the Holy of Holies in the Shemone Esrei and our longing for it--let us make it count!

 

In addition to the above notes, we provide by the following link additional notes to the Nineteen Brachos for the years 5771 and 5772 http://www.hakhel.info/TefillahArchive.html May we highly recommend the Nineteen Week Program again this year--either based upon your own study (such as by utilizing the Praying with Passion Series (available at www.prayingwithfire.org), the magnificent Rav Schwab on Prayer, the Tefillah Tapes of Rabbi Berel Wein, Shlita, or other wonderful resources), or by utilizing the link provided on a daily basis throughout the week!

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FOR THOSE STUDYING DAF YOMI B’HALACHA: You can receive an outstanding daily email from Dirshu on that day’s Mishna Berurah Yomi study. To subscribe, email: daf-hayomi-behalacha@dirshunj.org.

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

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ADDITIONAL NOTES ON THE YEMEI RACHAMIM OF ELUL:

 

A. As a practical matter, if one does not know where to begin or what to do--he should plead with Hashem in his personal Tefillos during or after Shemone Esrei to help him and guide him. May we add that if he subsequently comes across a Sefer, Devar Torah, or statement which seems or appears to be ‘out of the blue’--why not treat it as a personal message of Hashgacha Pratis and be guided accordingly? Of course, any motivation, decisions and conclusions should be discussed with one’s Rav or Posek.

 

B. In last week’s Parasha, Rashi explained that the Shofar of the enemy was intended to throw us into trepidation. When we hear the Shofar blast--even if it is being blown by a friend--let us remember its purpose, and do something more than just listen and go on with the rest of the day. A good place to begin is a hirhur Teshuva. To the women who don’t hear the Shofar in the morning--there is certainly nothing from preventing them from having a hirhur of Teshuva in davening, as well!

 

C. 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….”

 

D.  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?!

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FROM TEACHINGS FOR ELUL FROM HARAV NOSSON WACHTFOGEL, Z’TL: 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. 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. He 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 reverse 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.

 

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6 Elul

THREE REMINDERS FOR ELUL!

 

1. Reminder--go through your home and office, to make sure that you are 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!

 

2. Reminder--Peshara and Lifnim Mishuras Hadin!

 

3. Reminder--Tzedaka (now)!

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WE CONTINUE WITH OUR EREV SHABBOS--HALACHOS OF SHABBOS SERIES, CULLED FROM THE DIRSHU EDITION OF THE MISHNA BERURAH:

 

A. Through the week, and especially on Erev Shabbos, we purchase or put away the best for Shabbos…whether it be special treats, cake, flowers, clothing or the like. 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 and put away in ‘Olam Hazeh’--will enjoy infinitely greater treats in Olam Haba!

 

B. 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 k’peida in his house on Erev Shabbos.

 

C. If a cheireish, shoteh or koton do a melacha for another Jew on Shabbos, the Bi’ur Halacha rules that it is forbidden to derive benefit from their act (ibid. 276, Note 1).

 

D. There is a Machlokes HaPoskim as to whether one can open a refrigerator or a freezer door if it has Muktzah items in it, and would accordingly be deemed a bosis l’davar ha’assur. HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, rules that the door is batel to the refrigerator or freezer itself. HaRav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, Z’tl, rules that bedi’eved one can open it even if the permissible items in the door are not as important as the Muktzah, because we can consider the refrigerator large enough to be deemed an ohel, which has the Halacha of a house. The door, then, would be batel to the house, and not to the Muktzah. HaRav Nissim Karelitz, Shlita, however, rules that the permissible items in the door must be more chashuv than the Muktzah--otherwise the door would in fact have the Halacha of a bosis l’davar ha’assur (ibid. 277, Note 18).

 

E. The Shulchan Aruch itself rules that one must have Kavannah to answer “Amen” to each one of the brachos made before and after the Torah reading, as well as to the brachos over the Haftara, and by virtue of his answering “Amen” these brachos will then count towards the 100 brachos that a person should make every day--for when one answers “Amen”, it is as if he made the bracha himself (ibid. 284:3, Mishna Berurah seif katan 6). As to whether one may answer “Baruch Hu U’varuch Shemo” over the brachos of the Haftara if he intends for the brachos to count towards his 100 brachos--the Elef HaMagein rules that he may, but HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, rules that he should not (ibid., Note 11).

 

F. The one who is called to Maftir recites seven brachos all together--two on the Torah, one before the Haftara, and four after the Haftara--which correspond to the seven people who were called to the Torah(!) (ibid. 284 Mishna Berurah seif katan 2). 

 

G. The reason that we wait until Gelilah is concluded to begin the Haftara is because it is an obligation on everyone to listen to the words of the Haftara in the same way as to the reading of the Torah. Accordingly, we rightfully delay beginning in order to give one person--the Golel--the opportunity to complete his task and be able to listen to the words of the Haftara(!) (ibid. Mishna Berurah seif katan 12).

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POINTS AND POINTERS ON THIS WEEK’S PARASHA, PARASHAS SHOFTIM:

 

A. There is a stunning lesson provided for each and every one of us by Rashi in this week’s Parasha.  The Parasha teaches us that before Bnei Yisrael were to go to war, the Kohen Moshuach Milchama was to teach them that it was a Mitzvah not to be scared of the enemy, and to provide words of encouragement.  He would begin his address to the soldiers with the words “Shema Yisrael Atem Kereivim Hayom...--Hear, O’ Yisrael, you are coming close to battle...let your heart not be faint, do not be afraid (Devorim 20:3).”  Rashi (ibid.) brings the words of Chazal:  The reason the Kohen begins his words with Shema Yisrael is to tell the warriors that even if they had only the zechus of Krias Shema, they would be worthy of being redeemed.  The war itself--life and death for the masses, as well as the security of all the people back home--could be decided by the proper recitation of Shema alone!  What a lesson for us at this time of year--life for the individual, life for the people could be gained by properly reciting Krias Shema!!  Let us take a moment before reciting the Shema to reflect upon the magnitude of the event--Kabalas Ohl Malchus Shomayim, Ahavas Hashem, Kabalas Ohl Mitzvos, the allusions to all of the Aseres HaDibros, and the many Mitzvos mentioned in Shema, and at least try to say the words with the proper pronunciation and with the understanding of each word.  If you do so, you can not only plainly emerge victorious in your own battle--you can literally also do your part in winning the whole war!

 

B. In the Parasha, we are taught the Mitzvos of the king:  He cannot have many horses, “so that he does not bring the people back to Mitzrayim”; he cannot have many wives, lest “they lead his heart astray”; and he shall write for himself two copies of the Torah, “so that he learns to fear Hashem and observe the Torah”.  These three Mitzvos of the king each have an explanation provided in the Torah, as we have quoted.  There is, in fact, a fourth Mitzvah as well: “He shall not have much silver and gold.”  Here, strikingly, the Torah does not give a direct explanation.  What is so different about the excess wealth prohibition--that it needs no explanation?!

 

We may suggest an answer based on another Pasuk in the Parasha. The Pasuk (Devarim 16:20) teaches: “Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof--righteousness, righteousness shall you pursue.” Why does the Torah have to repeat the word Tzedek twice?  One answer may very well be that the Torah wants us to be quite sure that what we are doing is really Tzedek--by reemphasizing the word a second time (and we know how the Torah doesn’t use an extra part of a letter--let alone an extra word). Indeed, Chazal teach that the first of six questions that a person will be asked when brought for judgment is “Did you conduct your activities with Emunah--was your give and take with integrity and honesty?”  Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, Shlita, points out that we are so fortunate to be given the questions we will be asked after 120 years--Hashem gives us the test and tells us to prepare the right answers!  We must certainly be sure to get the first answer on the test right!  Indeed, the Chofetz Chaim teaches that the last thing we daven for in the Ne’ilah of Yom Kippur is to be saved from any aspect of Gezel, of misappropriation of monies, which could r’l seal a person’s fate in a way he would not want.  We can now look back to the King, Whose conduct is to exemplify to the entire people how they are to behave.  The money part needs no explanation, because the lesson is beyond doubt.  Our actions in the financial area must be highly guarded; our goal is not the accumulation of wealth, but the integrity that we have in dealing with that which we do have.  In a little bit more than a month we hope to honestly and sincerely recite those very special words on Yom Kippur, affirming our honesty, our “Neki Kapayim--our clean hands” in the money that we bring home, the money that we spend, and the money and possessions of others that passes through our hands.  Let us begin now to reflect upon where amends are necessary in this area, focusing on Kosher Money, at work, shopping, and in the home.  The Rav HaMachshir here is Hashem--Who is also the Eid and the Dayan--the Witness and the Judge.  If we take the time now to put everything in order, our Din for the coming year will most certainly be a much easier, cleaner, and brighter one!

 

C. As noted above, in the Parasha we find many Mitzvos relating to a king.  This should also serve to remind us that one of the primary Avodos of the month of Elul is preparing for the annual celebration on Rosh Hashana of the Malchus of Hashem.  In this regard, we provide the following notes of HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, based upon our awareness of the Malchus of Hashem:

 

1.  Many people live their lives with the goal of finding favor in the eyes of others--speaking, behaving and even dressing in a certain way in order for others to praise them and to associate with them.  One should instead primarily focus on finding favor in the eyes of Hashem--for what Hashem wants and expects of us is for us to reach our true potential and to lead eternal lives.  The essential question one should ask himself when making any decision or when deciding what to say or how to act--or even what to wear--is:  “Will this give Nachas Ruach to Hashem?”

 

2.  The Pasuk in Tehillim (14:2) teaches:  “Hashem MiShomayim Hishkif Ahl Bnei Adam--Hashem closely looks from the heavens upon man.”  Although we may consider our deeds to be small and insignificant--’minor’ or ‘really not important at all’, Hashem does not look at what we do in that way.  He looks at everything--everything--that we do from the heavens--from the higher perspective that it truly deserves.  We too, therefore, must consider our actions with the level of importance they deserve-- the level that they are regarded upon in the heavens.  Nothing is trivial, nothing is insignificant, nothing ‘takes only a few seconds’--it is all important, it is all elevated, and it all has heavenly implications! 

 

3.  One need not take much effort to see Hashem in everything around us, despite the thin gashmiyus veil that may be spread to separate the spiritual from the physical.  Here is a simple example:  When one sees a small insect, he notices the Niflaos HaBorei--in this tiny creature there are so many parts which work together in beautiful harmony (even to the extent that the sophisticated human being can become frustrated in trying to catch it!).  Likewise, even a sting should be viewed from a deeper perspective.  With the sting, one should recognize not only the Niflaos HaBorei--that little creature is not only able to hurt me(!), but it is also doing Hashem’s will in causing me to feel that pain or go through the particular trial.  Everything is the work of Hashem! 

 

4.  Dovid HaMelech exclaims: “Achas Sha’alti Mei’eis Hashem--the one thing I ask from Hashem is to dwell in the house of Hashem….”  We learn in Mishlei that this desire should not only be an aspiration of Dovid HaMelech, but should be the design of each and every one of us--as the Pasuk (Mishlei 8:34) teaches:  “Ashrei Adam Shomei’ah Li Lishkod Al Dalsosai Yom Yom--fortunate is the man who listens to Me to be by My doors day by day.”  From this, we learn that the fortunate person is one who constantly views himself at Hashem’s doors--always in Hashem’s presence.  If one does so, he attaches himself to life itself--for the very next Pasuk (ibid 8:35) is:  “Ki Motzi Motzah Chaim--for he who has found Me has found life.”  The more one brings himself closer to Hashem, the more Hashem comes closer to him--with life to its fullest--in Hashem’s sense of the word!

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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.  “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....”

 

2.  “The Mashgiach of Yeshivas Bais Medrash Govoha of Lakewood, New Jersey, HaRav Nosson Wachtfogel, Z’tl, teaches that the main goal of the Yetzer Hara 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 of the King’!”

 

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

 

4.  “The Gematria of Elul (67) is the same as the Gematria of binah, understanding--for when one 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 suggest 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!

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THE FOLLOWING POINTS WERE MADE BY RABBI EPHRAIM WACHSMAN, SHLITA, RELATING TO TESHUVA:

 

A. A Jewish man in the Russian army once related how he stood before the Czar with pachad and morah--even though the Czar could not see beyond his physical externality. Imagine, then, the awe that we should have in standing before Hashem Who is bodek ginzei nistaros--Who sees through everything that is hidden within us.

 

B. Why did Hashem create us? Yeshayahu 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!”

 

C. The Chofetz Chaim, based upon the Pasuk of VeLo Yireh Becha Ervas Davar, 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--d’veikus!. 

 

D. The Midrash teaches that when the Malach HaMaves comes, there are three drops that come from his sword. The Panim Yaffos explains that these three drops represent the three traits which are Motzi’in Es Ha’adam Min Haolam--which take a person out of this world--Kinah, Ta’ava and Kavod. If we can improve in these Middos--we can hopefully stay!

 

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

 

F. 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!

 

G. 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!

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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!

 

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5 Elul

TZEDAKA!  The following insights are excerpted from the Sefer Chaim Sheyeish Bahem, compiled by HaRav Yitzchak Shraga Gross:

 

The Alter of Kelm was asked why Hashem created a world in which a person must first give Tzedaka and only then receive a bracha from Hashem, as the Pasuk states “Ki BeGlal HaDavar HaZeh Yivarechica Hashem Elokecha.”  The Alter explains that this is to teach a person that he should not think that he is doing Chessed with the recipient, but that the recipient is doing Chessed with him by bringing blessing into his life.  This helps a person realize and recognize that there is always another perspective in each and every Bein Adam L’Chaveiro situation--and that the other’s perspective may be quite different than one’s original (perhaps tainted) perception.  This is brought to light by a wonderful story:

 

When the great Rav Hillel Kolemaya, Z’tl, was a bochur eating ‘teig’--(meals in a host’s home, as there was no Yeshivah or dormitory), one host was very strict with meal times.  One time the bochur Hillel was involved in a Sugya and missed the meal time, so he was just going to skip the meal.  However, he was concerned that the Ba’al Habayis was going to be concerned about where he was and what had happened to him.  He decided to arrive late knowing that he “would be in for it.”  After receiving a tongue lashing, Hillel responded earnestly “Everything you said is correct, but only based on the premise that I eat with you. In truth, however, you eat with me.”  The Ba’al Habayis well understood what R’ Hillel meant, hugged and kissed him, and shared a beautiful meal with him. 

 

Hakhel Note:  Fascinatingly, at the Yeshivah of the Nodah B’Yehuda, at which the bochurim also ate ‘teig’ at Ba’al Habatim’s homes, it was the custom of the bochurim to leave over a little of their food, or ‘shirayim’ on their plate.  The Ba’al Habayis then ate from the shirayim as a Segulah for Hatzlacha in all matters!

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FEELING THE HASHGACHA: Being that last Shabbos was Rosh Chodesh, we read the special Haftara of HaShomayim Kisi. On initial thought, this would be a bit disturbing--as we would be losing one of the Shiva D’Nechemta, read on the seven Shabbosos after Tisha B’Av through Rosh Hashana. However, any initial disturbance should be soothed by the words contained in the middle of the very same Shabbos Rosh Chodesh Haftara--”Sisu Es Yerushalayim V’Gilu Vah Kol Ohaveha Sisu Ita Masos--rejoice with Yerushalayim and be elated with her all who love her, exalt with her exaltation all who mourn for her…”. Even if the regular order of the Shiva D’Nechemta is disturbed--Hashem will not let us forget the consolation of Yerushalayim! If so--how can we? We dare not forget our commitment after Tisha B’Av to dedicate ourselves to bring the Geulah Sheleima. Even while working on our personal growth and on bringing zechuyos to K’lal Yisrael in the month of Elul--let us be sure to maintain our Kavannah in our Tefillos for the binyan Yerushalayim and the final and ultimate Geulah!

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SIMPLE” GREATNESS: One should never mistreat or speak badly about any person because who can know his true value and accomplishments! It may seem that the person is a nobody,” totally devoid of maalos (achievements) and positive attributes but in reality he can be someone of greatness. At times a simple person can reach spiritual heights that even tzaddikim cannot attain.

 

As an illustration of this point, HaRav Pam, Z’tl, would cite an incident from his youth. There was a poor widow who did household chores for HaRav Pams mother, Rebbetzin Pam, in their Brownsville home. She also worked for other rabbinical families in the neighborhood. Over a long period of time she saved up one hundred dollars, a small fortune in those times. One day a friend of hers, also a widow, asked her for a loan and the housekeeper gave her the hundred dollars she had saved up over years of penny-pinching. A short time later the borrower died, leaving behind no children or assets.

 

When Rebbetzin Pam came to the funeral, she saw her housekeeper there, walking behind the casket, softly mumbling “Ich bin dir mochel! Ich bin dir mochel!” (I forgive you! I forgive you!) The housekeeper realized that the debt would never be repaid and she did not want her departed friend to suffer in the World to Come because of it!

 

When Rebbetzin Pam saw this tremendous act of nobility, behavior befitting a tzadekes, she realized that this simple housekeeper was not so ‘simple after all. To wholeheartedly forgive such a large sum of money that was the product of years of self-deprivation was an act of true greatness. Who would have thought that this simple woman was capable of such an achievement?

 

It may seem that an acquaintance is nothing special’, and one need not view him with any special regard. This is, however, a terrible mistake. Only Hashem knows the true value of a person and the awesome deeds he or she has done with simplicity. At times, the person himself may not even realize the greatness of what he has done! Yet, in Heaven he is considered a tzaddik--and that hour of achievement makes him very special to Hashem. How can someone speak badly or mistreat anyone--for only Hashem knows all of the greatness contained in every human being! [Excerpted from Something To Think About! By Rabbi Sholom Smith, Shlita]

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LET US REMEMBER THE BRISKER RAV’S MASHAL: 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 to 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.

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IN THE SEFER SHA’AREI TESHUVAH (3:169), RABBEINU YONAH PROVIDES US WITH A STARTLING, TRULY EYE-OPENING TEACHING:

 

V’atah Nefareish Inyan Kas Ozvei Hashem…---and now we will explain the class of those who forsake Hashem. These are the people who are divested of the yoke of the fear of Heaven, performing Mitzvos by rote. When the Yetzer Hara prevails over such a person, and he changes his mind, passes from truth and commits an offense, he will not sigh or express concern over his sin. As the Pasuk teaches (Tehillim 36:2) us: ‘…Ein Pachad Elokim L’Neged Einav--there is no fear of Hashem before his eyes’.”

 

Hakhel Note: Rabbeinu Yonah is teaching us how serious the offense of Mitzvas Anashim Melumada really is. A person could be performing Mitzvos--and be called an ozeiv Hashem--one who has forsaken Hashem! We note that the phrase Mitzvas Anashim Melumada, as first used and so severely lamented upon by Yeshaya HaNavi, seems to have an extra word of ‘Anashim’ in the phrase. We would have already understood with Yeshaya HaNavi’s use of the phrase ‘Mitzvas Melumada’ that we are proscribed from performing Mitzvos by habit or rote. We suggest that the word Anashim teaches us that adults are not intended or supposed to perform Mitzvos like children--our davening should not be same, our learning Torah should not be the same, our acts of Chesed should not be the same--in the manner we performed these actions before we came to a more pristine understanding of how significant, life-giving, life-bearing and eternal they really are. Elul is a month in which we are to build our Yiras Shomayim--as we come closer daily to proclaiming Malchus Shomayim in 5777. Let us take the time and make the effort to bli neder commit to subvert one of the Mitzvas Anashim Melumada that we do daily, and reinvigorate and revitalize it. If we accomplish our task, we will be zoche to fulfill another Pasuk in Tehillim (34:10): “Yeru Es Hashem Kedoshav Ki Ein Machsor Li’Rei’av--fear Hashem His holy ones--for there is no deprivation to those who fear Him”!

 

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AT A TESHUVA SHIUR, AMONG HIS VERY MANY IMPORTANT WORDS OF ADVICE, RABBI YECHIEL SPERO, SHLITA, NOTED THE FOLLOWING:

 

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

 

B.  List Them.  Make a list of happy events and unhappy events that occurred in 5776.  Put this list in your Rosh Hashana Machzor--and look at it from time-to-time during davening... so that you realize what you are davening for in 5777.

 

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4 Elul

DON’T BE LEFT BEHIND--START TODAY! THREE MISHNAYOS A DAY PROGRAM: By learning three Mishnayos a day beginning with Mesechta Rosh Hashana, followed by Mesechta Yoma, and then Mesechta Sukkah--you will complete Mesechta Rosh Hashana before Rosh Hashana, Mesechta Yoma before Yom Kippur, and Mesechta Sukkah before the end of Sukkos.  Imagine what you will have accomplished in just about 50 days--and the auspicious time in which you will have accomplished it!

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NINETEEN WEEKS: As we especially dedicate ourselves to the sixteenth Bracha of Shemone Esrei this week, we provide the following words of instruction from the great Praying with Passion Series (in order to go through this entire outstanding series on Tefillah, please visit http://prayingwithfire.org/archives.html):

 

“We begin this blessing with the phrase – Shema Koleinu--Hashem, Hear our voice. The Anshei K’neses Ha’Gedolah, especially chose the words Shema Koleinu, hear our voice and not Shema Tefilaseinu, hear our tefillos. In this way, we are asking Hashem to hear our prayer on the basis of our Kol —our voice alone—even though we may lack the merit or the complete kavannah that would render our prayers worthy of His attention (Sefer Sifsei Chaim—Rinas Chaim, Page 211).

Sefer Dover Shalom (cited in ibid.) explains that the phrasing of this blessing asks Hashem to hear our Kol —our groans and cries— even if they are inarticulate. Finally, the Eitz Yosef writes (cited in ibid.) that with the word Koleinu, we plead for Hashem to accept our words of prayer with all their deep meanings, even though we recite the words without full awareness.”

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

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SEVERAL ADDITIONAL POINTS AND POINTERS RELATING TO THE ELEVATED DAYS OF ELUL:

 

A.  The Chofetz Chaim makes an amazing point on the distinction between the phrases “HehChofetz Chaim” and “Ohev Yamim Liros Tov (Tehillim 34:13).  The Chofetz Chaim explains that the term HehChofetz Chaim refers to reward in Olam Haba for one’s Mitzvah performance, whereas the phrase Ohev Yomim Liros Tov refers to reward even in this Olam Hazeh.  If someone excels in Bein Adam L’Chaveiro--if he fulfills the words Netzor Leshonecha Mai’rah U’Sefasecha MiDabeir Mirmah--(keeping his tongue from evil and his lips from guile)--he will see the fruits of his efforts not only in the next world--but in this world as well!  Hakhel Note:  How has our Shemiras HaLashon been to date this month--and how will we be improving it?  It is not only about Olam Haba--but about Olam Hazeh as well!

 

B.  There are 22 letters in the Aleph Bais. As we have noted in the past, 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. 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, available at the following link -- http://tinyurl.com/d54y4uc    This is the Aleph Bais of Teshuvah--start today!

 

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

 

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

 

E.  A reader suggested that many are involved in Tefillah and Teshuva daily in the month of Elul--but that people may not focus on giving at least some special Tzedaka daily in honor of the fact that “Teshuva, Tefillah and Tzedaka remove the evil decree.”  We pass along the important thought.

 

F.  Another reader made the following two comments regarding avoiding acts which others may find unacceptable.  First, one must appreciate the particular sensitivities of the person or people he is with--the standard is not an objective one--but a subjective one--just as chesed to one person may in no means be a chesed to another.  Secondly, it is not only something ma’us that should be avoided--but also annoying behavior --nudging, pacing back and forth, staring, and making the wrong comment at the wrong time, among other annoying mannerisms or actions. 

 

G. One can 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.

 

H.  At a special Teshuva Shiur, Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen, Shlita made many important points, including the following two special highlights:

 

1.  Tznius.  A person simply does not realize the effects of his non-Tznius behavior.  What will be the effect on the person he/she didn’t even see or know about?  It is for this reason that c’v the punishment can be so severe.  Tznius applies not only to women and older girls, but to men, boys and younger girls as well.  Family members and friends (and especially the heads of households) are responsible and duty bound to guide their relatives and friends in these areas which so distinguish and set apart the Jewish way of life.

 

2.  The Value of a Smile.  Rabbi Cohen suggested the following analogy.  If an employer has to choose between the continued employ of only one of two employees of equal capability, he would choose the one who greeted potential customers pleasantly and with a smile.  This employee is a much better representative of the employer and what he represents.  Hashem wants us to project a Sever Ponim Yafos to all--it is a chesed to all around us who benefit from the goodness--and may be the ultimate chesed to ourselves--as we remain in the employ of the greatest Boss of all!

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THE FAIR:  As we have noted in the past, we need not travel to the great Fair in the late summertime, because Hashem, in His great graciousness, brings the Fair to us.  HaRav Chaim Freidlander, Z’tl, (Sifsei Chaim I, page 38) compares the days of Elul to the days of a once-annually fair, through which an industrious merchant could find and purchase/sell the goods that could support both him and his family for the entire year.  Those individuals, however, who remain at the hotel, to wine and dine and enjoy its various and sundry amenities, walk away temporarily happy--but with empty pockets and warehouses.

 

The interesting thing about a Fair is that all serious attendees have the same goal--to do business and make profit.  Yet, everyone does so for his own unique business and in his own unique manner.  Reuven, for instance, buys gadgets from Levi, and sells them to Yehuda.  Shimon, on the other hand, buys the same gadgets--but with 220V--from Larry, and through his connections sells them to the U.S. government to distribute to third-world countries.  Levi buys a shipload of watches and sells them to Dan who will trade them for a container of Chinese novelties…

 

The point is that each and every one of us has a specific role, a specific time, and a specific place in this world.  What each and every one of us does at the Fair is--and should be--different.  A five-year old is elated with her new bicycle, yet a grown adult simply cannot sit down on it and try to start peddling.  Over the past year, the Yetzer Hara has tried, sometimes successfully, to obliterate or at least blur, for you where you are and what you should be.  He is quite satisfied--and enjoys--seeing you ride that too-small bike, even though it is embarrassing to you while riding, and will make you sore and limp afterwards.  We should make sure that our spiritual lives take a lesson from our physical experiences.  Would we stoop down to pick up five pennies or fifteen matches that have scattered across the ground?  Why then should we stoop down or lower ourselves to accomplish far less, or even far worse, goals?

 

So here we are at the Fair, and we have our heads on straight.  We are going to learn from the mistakes that we made last year, the things we shouldn’t have bought, the items we shouldn’t have sold, the people we shouldn’t have done business with, and the people we should have looked to build a relationship with.  Each one of us is here to use his/her own knowledge, talents, particular expertise--and special challenges--to make this year the most successful one ever.  We may have to think and work seriously over the next little while, but the time is precious and the gains to be gotten are oh so great.

 

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3 Elul

STARTING FROM THE BEGINNING!  At the outset of Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 1:1, the Rema states that “Shivisi Hashem Lenegdi Somid”--placing Hashem before me at all times is a ma’ale of tzaddikim. The Vilna Gaon there notes that this is the ma’ale of tzaddikim, meaning that Yiras Hashem is the sole element that differentiates between the tzaddik, the righteous, and those who are not tzaddikim. Perhaps the message of the Rema, by stating this at the outset of the Shulchan Aruch (which is a halacha and not a hashkafa sefer), is to teach us that we all can and must be “tzaddikim,” and that the attainment of that goal is not necessarily as complicated as we think if we keep ourselves focused on Shivisi Hashem, that we are in Hashem’s presence at all times.
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BARUCH SHE’AMAR: The Terumas HaDeshen would have special Kavannah in the Tefillah of Boruch She’Amar during the month of Elul.  If one focuses on the words (which were established by the Anshei Knesses HaGedolah based upon a note that fell from Heaven--Mishna Berurah, Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 51, seif katan 1), one can truly inspire himself to come closer to his Creator during this inspirational month.

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

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30 DAYS! Chazal teach that 30 days is a complete time period--for instance a standard (i.e., unless otherwise specified) vow of Nezirus is for 30 days, a standard loan is for 30 days, and the Yefas To’ar must stay in her abhorrent state for a period of 30 days.  In fact, Chazal teach that 30 days is such a whole time frame that it may even be treated for some purposes as a complete year.  Thus, with Elul, we have a complete period in which to prepare for Rosh Hashana.  The days of Elul are not only “Yemei HaRachamim VeHaselichos--days of mercy and forgiveness”, but are also referred to by the Sefer Mateh Ephraim (the classic Sefer on the Halachos of the Yomim Noraim) as “Hayamim HaKedoshim--the holy days.”  Even the English word for the secular calendar month of August denotes the majesty and eminence of the month!  The world around may have us believe otherwise--but each day of Elul we are not simply progressing one further day into the hot, vacation-laden summer (or cold, working days of winter, for those below the equator)--but, much more importantly, we are advancing one further day into holiness. We should be sensing, or taking some action, to help us sense this daily advancement.  Perhaps a few written notes daily of the Teshuva thoughts you had, and of some practical ideas for accomplishment (better yet if building on yesterday’s), would take you further into the real world--the Elul world of which your body and soul are so much a part.  It is fascinating to note that in the bracha of Teshuva in Shemone Esrei, we conclude that Hashem is “HaRotzeh Bis’shuva--The One Who wants or desires our Teshuva”.  HaRotzeh is certainly a very strong term--is there anything else in all of davening that you know of about which we say that Hashem is a ‘Rotzeh’ for?  Oh, what a great opportunity it is--to give to Hashem what He is a ‘Rotzeh’ for!  ...and what a great kavannah to have while doing Teshuva--to fulfill the wishes of the “Rotzeh Bis’shuva!”  Additional Note:  If one realizes that he has sinned in some way during the day--he should attempt to do immediate Teshuva--not letting it cool off until it becomes just another of the day’s events.  The three key elements to Teshuva are: (a) Charata--having genuine remorse for having done the misdeed; (b) Kabala Al HaAsid--resolving not to do it again; and (c) Vidui--confessing in words.  If the sin was Bain Odom Lechaveiro-than the affected or hurt party must be asked (and grant) forgiveness to effect a complete Teshuva.  The Mitzvah of immediate Teshuva is not limited to one time of the year or one time of the day--but should be undertaken without delay, and most certainly during the days of Elul!

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WE PROVIDE THE FOLLOWING ADDITIONAL POINTS AND POINTERS RELATING TO THE LOFTY MONTH OF ELUL:

 

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

 

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

 

2. Cell Phone Teshuva Suggestions: 

 

A. Getting the filter completely right.

 

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

 

C. Sending three less text messages a day from now until Yom Kippur.

 

D. When almost impulsively reaching for your cell phone, stopping yourself and doing a Mitzvah instead.

 

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

 

3.  Most certainly, we must attempt to the greatest extent possible to dispel anger (no matter how justified) from our midst, because of the serious and deleterious effect it can have on our growth during this month.  During a time in which we are to be Ma’avir Ahl HaMiddos, anger stands somewhere near the top of the list.  It is interesting to note that some do not pursue the collection of ‘chovos’--debts due to them during this period--because they don’t want Hashem to pursue the debts we owe him.  It would most certainly follow that we should not get angry at others--so Hashem will not be angry with us!

 

4.  Another practical item we should try to be especially careful about now is doing acts which may be unpleasant, or ma’us, to others.  If you have seen people--including your closest family members-- cringe at a particular  activity, or say “Uch” or “How could you do that?” or “Say Excuse Me”, or “That was uncalled for/not right”, or “I have never seen or heard anybody do/say that before!” you can be sure that you have exceeded your bounds.  Common sense also plays a role--showing the proper respect for yourself and for others in the way that you eat, the way you dress (even at night), the way that you shop, even what you do when stopped at a red light or the way that you pass others on the street, contributes to a more complete character.  The Pasuk teaches that when Eliyahu HaNavi went to battle with the Neve’ai HaBa’al, he challenged them to bring offerings and see whether fire miraculously would consume their offerings or his.  After they failed, the Pasuk records that he did not build a new Mizbe’ach to Hashem--but REBUILT the Mizbea’ch of Hashem that laid in ruins.  What a great lesson--if we are not working right, if we are in need of some repair--we don’t give up and start from scratch (with a new gilgul or the like)--no, we repair what needs to be repaired.  Eliyahu HaNavi was so successful that, in fact, the miracle he prayed for happened--and all the people exclaimed in unison “Hashem Hu HaElokim”--it is no coincidence (as it never is) that we too will exclaim this very phrase... as our concluding words on Yom Kippur. In the meantime we have that very same task--to repair any damage, any spoilage, any ruin that we have in our very own and personal Mizbe’ach Hashem.

 

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

 

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

 

6.  There is a stunning lesson provided for each and every one of us by Rashi in this coming week’s Parasha.  The Parasha teaches us that before Bnei Yisrael were to go to war, the Kohen Moshuach Milchama was to teach them that it was a Mitzvah not to be scared of the enemy, and to provide words of encouragement.  He would begin his address to the soldiers with the words “Shema Yisrael Atem Kereivim Hayom...--Hear, O’ Yisrael, you are coming close to battle...let your heart not be faint, do not be afraid (Devorim 20:3).”  Rashi (ibid.) brings the words of Chazal:  The reason the Kohen begins his words with Shema Yisrael is to tell the warriors that even if they had only the zechus of Krias Shema, they would be worthy of being redeemed.  The war itself--life and death for the masses, as well as the security of all the people back home--could be decided by the proper recitation of Shema alone!  What a lesson for us at this time of year--life for the individual, life for the people could be gained by properly reciting Krias Shema!!  Let us take a moment EVERY DAY OF THE COMING 40-DAY PERIOD before reciting the Shema to reflect upon the magnitude of the event--Kabalas Ohl Malchus Shomayim, Ahavas Hashem, the many Mitzvos mentioned in Shema, and at least try to say the words with the proper pronunciation and with the understanding of each word.  If you do so, you can not only plainly emerge victorious in your own battle--you can literally also do your part in winning the whole war!

 

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2 Elul

AN OUTSTANDING CALENDAR: To view and print a concise Hebrew calendar which contains the 5777 daily Nach Yomi, Mishna Yomis, Daf Yomi and Halacha Yomis, please see the following link http://tinyurl.com/jcp8y37   Spread this wealth of information to others!

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FROM A READER: “To obtain Ain Od Milevado magnets for your home, one may email info@divreichizuk.com.”

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SUMMER IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM! We continue our Summer Improvement Program, with simple suggestions, on a weekly basis, in each of the areas of Bein Adam LaMakom, Bein Adam L’Chaveiro, and Bein Adam L’Atzmo. Of course, these are only suggestions--but every person has the opportunity to join with others who will be attempting the same successes. In the alternative, one can chart his own improvement course on a weekly basis as well.

 

WEEK 10--PARASHAS SHOFTIM

 

Bli neder, at least one time a day during this week, consciously do the following:

 

Bein Adam LaMakom:

Our relationship to Hashem is that of son to a father. A loving and dedicated son would want to do that which his father would appreciate most. Chazal teach V’Talmud Torah K’neged Kulam--in Hashem’s eyes, the Mitzvah of Talmud Torah can be weighed against all of the other Mitzvos. Indeed, in the bracha of Teshuvah in Shemone Esrei, we first recite Hashiveinu Avinu L’Sorasecha--and only then V’Karveinu Malkeinu La’avodasecha. Accordingly, if we are to improve our relationship with Hashem during this month, we must take some action in Torah. But what can we do--what can we accomplish--after all, the Torah is so vast and there is only HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita?! Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, gives us the answer--as he teaches in Mishlei (17:24): “Ve’einei Kesil Biketzei Eretz--a fool’s eyes are in the ends of the earth.” Rashi (ibid.) explains that it is the fool who exclaims: “How can I learn Mishnayos of Mesechta Shabbos when there are 24 Perakim, or the Mishnayos of the Mesechta Keilim when there are 30 Perakim?” To the wise person--it is easy, for he says: “Today, I will learn a little, tomorrow I will learn a little…until I accomplish one goal after the other.” Set a goal for learning this month--and accomplish it! For one possibility, we provide the next headnote.

 

Bein Adam L’Chaveiro:

Rabbeinu Yonah (Sha’arei Teshuvah 3:109) perhaps surprisingly teaches that one who violates the Lo Sa’aseh of Kol Almanah V’Yasom Lo Sa’anu--do not oppress a widow or an orphan, subjects himself r’l to the punishment of Misah B’dei Shomayim--death at the hands of Heaven. In fact, the Rabbeinu Yonah importantly adds that Chazal teach that it makes no difference in this regard whether the almanah or yasom cry out or not--it is just that Hashem will punish more swiftly when the widow or orphan cries out to Hashem. [Rashi writes this as well in last week’s Parasha.] One must simply be exceedingly, exceedingly, careful. Accordingly, one should make a special effort to assist [monetarily or otherwise] an almanah or yasom.

 

Bein Adam L’Atzmo:

Rabbi Shmuel Dishon, Shlita, reported that he once heard in the name of a Gadol that just as one must believe in Hashem--he must also believe in himself. Yoshiyahu HaMelech became one of the greatest kings of all time, and was actually referred to as “Moshiach Hashem” by Yirmiyahu HaNavi. How did he begin? When a Sefer Torah was discovered when he was still a young king open to the words: “Arur Asher Lo Yakim”--he exclaimed: “Alai L’Hakim--it is my obligation to fulfill it!” On a Mitzvah by Mitzvah basis, one should reinforce this attitude within himself, and make the words of Yoshiyahu--”Alai L’Hakim!” his personal goal, his personal aspiration, his personal mantra!

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THREE MISHNAYOS A DAY PROGRAM: By learning three Mishnayos a day beginning with Mesechta Rosh Hashana, followed by Mesechta Yoma, and then Mesechta Sukkah--you will complete Mesechta Rosh Hashana before Rosh Hashana, Mesechta Yoma before Yom Kippur, and Mesechta Sukkah before the end of Sukkos.  Imagine what you will have accomplished in just about 50 days--and the auspicious time in which you will have accomplished it!

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NINETEEN WEEKS! We are now in the sixteenth of the nineteen week period prior to Rosh Hashana. In past years, we have proceeded weekly, Bracha by Bracha, through Shemone Esrei with a special emphasis on Kavannah on that week’s Bracha. This week’s Bracha is…SHEMA KOLEINU!

 

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

 

In addition to the above note, we provide by the following link additional notes to the Nineteen Brachos for the years 5771 and 5772 http://www.hakhel.info/TefillahArchive.html May we highly recommend the Nineteen Week Program again this year--either based upon your own study (such as by utilizing the Praying with Passion Series (available at www.prayingwithfire.org), the magnificent Rav Schwab on Prayer, the Tefillah Tapes of Rabbi Berel Wein, Shlita, or other wonderful resources), or by utilizing the link provided on a daily basis throughout the week!

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L’DOVID HASHEM ORI VEYISHI: During the month of Elul, we strive to come closer to Hashem in preparation for the Yomim Noraim.  In fact, we add Tehillim Chapter 27 (“L’Dovid Hashem Ori VeYishi”).  We all know that the word “Ori” refers to Rosh Hashana, which is light, and the word “Yishi” refers to Yom Kippur, which is salvation.  This being said, what word in L’Dovid refers to the month of Elul itself?!  Some have suggested that its second word, “Hashem,” alludes to Elul, for it is during this time that we are to feel Hashem closer to us. 

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IMPORTANT ADVICE FROM A READER: We once again provide important advice from a reader for this time of year:

 

“Don’t let the sound of the shofar go in one ear and out the other.”

 

“Every Jew can be a Tzaddik--you just have to want it enough.”

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WE REMIND YOU OF THE FOLLOWING OUTSTANDING POINTS AND POINTERS FOR THE MONTH OF ELUL, AS EXCERPTED FROM THE SEFER KODESH ELUL:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

4.  Rebbi Yeruchem Levovitz, Z’tl, taught that the basis of these days are Rachamim, from which comes Mechilas Avonos, forgiveness of sin.  Although we are blessed with Hashem’s mercy every day of the year, we need special gates of mercy to be forgiven of sin--and they are open in Elul! How important it is to put in the effort this month...for one to help save himself and his people!

 

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

 

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

 

7. An undertaking for Elul that so many Gedolim suggest is to especially dedicate time every day to study a Mussar Sefer, with emotion and feeling, applying the words to yourself directly.  HaRav Yechezkel Levenstein, Z’tl once told his talmidim that he had studied the Sefer Sha’arei Teshuva more than 1,000 times, and that every time he studied the Sefer, he found a chiddush or a new application of its words.  HaRav Moshe Schwab, Z’tl, the Mashgiach of the Gateshead Yeshiva would give a Sichas Mussar, which would be immediately followed by Ma’ariv--so that the hisorerus would immediately take effect in the next Tefillah.  It is for this very reason that some have the custom of reciting a Kepitel of Tehillim after studying Mussar--in order for the hisorerus to take hold in the person.

 

 Hakhel Note:  The Sefer Mateh Ephraim, the classic Halachic work on the laws of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkos, refers to the days of Elul as “Yomim Kedoshim”--Days of Holiness.  Let us picture ourselves developing this holy period, and not lose the precious daily opportunities we have to ensure our complete and optimum development.

 

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29 Menachem Av

REMINDER--STARTS THIS SUNDAY! THE POWER OF TESHUVAH --An Effective Day By Day Guide This is an outstanding absolutely must read Artscroll work by Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, Shlita, author of the Praying with Fire Series.  In 40 excellent lessons, Rabbi Kleinman provides practical strategies to start and succeed at the Teshuvah process all in a practical, positive and uplifting way.  A special foreword to the book is provided by HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, and it also includes important Halachos of Teshuvah. If you start on Rosh Chodesh Elul--you will finish this Sefer on Teshuvah on Yom Kippur! What a demonstration of your sincere, reasoned dedication to Teshuvah!

 

Hakhel Note:  Rabbi Eliyahu Roman, Shlita, recalled a remarkable and penetrating thought that he had heard from HaRav Shneuer Kotler, Z’tl.  Reb Shneuer brought the teaching of the Arizal regarding the 40-day period between Rosh Chodesh Elul and Yom Kippur.  The Arizal compares this 40-day period to the 40-day period in which a new embryo is formed, for during this time one must recreate himself, one must form himself anew.  Reb Shneuer added that just as each day of the 40 day period is absolutely essential to the embryo’s growth and development, so is each day of the 40-day period until Yom Kippur a vital link in our rebuilding.  Imagine, says Reb Shneuer, if the embryo would take a day off during this crucial period--what havoc it would wreak on the whole system--so, too, the Arizal teaches us, that we must view a day without plan, without goals, without development, without change during this period in the very same light!  Something to remember--every single day during this very special period.

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FROM AV TO ELUL: As we leave the month of Menachem Av, may we suggest that you make a list of only ten things that would change for the better if Moshiach came and the Bais Hamikdash was rebuilt?  Remember, when we fervently daven for the binyan Bais Hamikdash, we are not just davening for the return of one holy and glorious building. After studying our list, we will recognize that the kavana we have when we daven for binyan Beis Hamikdash should be enormous…and hopefully it will be!

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NO MERCY FOR THE MERCILESS! In this week’s Parasha (Devorim 13:18), the Torah advises us that when an Ihr HaNidachas and its inhabitants are destroyed, the ones who do so need not worry that they have committed an act of violence which will make an indelible impact upon their soul. To the contrary, “V’Nossan Lecha Rachamim VeRichamecha V’Hirbecha--Hashem will be merciful to them and they will multiply”. The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh (ibid.) remarkably relates that the Yishmaelim reported to him that when they perform executions on behalf of the king they have a cheishek gadol--a great passion and desire to kill the person, with no feeling of Rachamim whatsoever--they are complete achzorim, wholly unmerciful and invested only with cruelty. The Ohr HaChaim continues that when it comes to K’lal Yisrael--this Pasuk teaches us that even if we need to eliminate and eradicate our enemies, Hashem will shower His mercy upon us--and accordingly even in situations in which we have had to act with violence towards our enemies, Hashem assures us that the Koach HaRachamim will return to us (see Shabbos 151B). We are--and remain--Rachmanin Bnei Rachmanim. What a difference between them--and us! The Parasha’s lesson is clear for all to see in our very day! 

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A LESSON FOR OUR TIME! In this week’s Haftara, Yeshayahu HaNavi provides us with a powerful timely message from Hashem (Yeshaya 54:16, 17): “VeAnochi Barasi Mashchis LechabelKol Kli Yutzar Alayich Lo Yitzlach.” Rashi (ibid.) explains that the Pasuk is teaching that although Hashem has instigated the enemy against us--Hashem has also set up the very same enemy for downfall and punishment. Any weapons that they have prepared against us will not succeed. The Radak on this Pasuk (brought by the Artscroll Tanach) likewise writes: “You need not fear weapons, for I am the One Who created the producers of those weapons, and I have also created the power to annihilate them.” What do we have to do to make all of this bracha happen? The Navi concludes: “Zos Nachalas Avdei Hashem…this is the heritage of the servants of Hashem.”

 

Hakhel Note: How do we become Avdei Hashem? Let us consider for a moment that the Mitzvah of Tefillah we found in last week’s Parasha is based on the Torah’s words: “Ule’avedo Bechol Levavechem--and to serve Hashem with all of your heart.” Let us put as much Kavannah as we can in our Tefillos for our brothers in Eretz Yisrael--so that we can witness the Navi’s words--the Haftara of this week’s Parasha--come true in front of our very eyes!

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WE CONTINUE WITH OUR EREV SHABBOS--HALACHOS OF SHABBOS SERIES.

 

1. As Shabbos is also Rosh Chodesh, we add an additional food to the Shabbos meal, as a special Kavod to the Seudas Rosh Chodesh (see Mishna Berurah, Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 419 seif katan 2).  If one has not done so, he may do so on Motza’ei Shabbos at Melave Malka (Siddur Yaavetz, brought in the Sha’ar Hatzion, ibid., os 5).  Hakhel Note:  Some learn that one cannot properly have a Seudas Rosh Chodesh on Shabbos, nor even at the time of a Melave Malka, because it is not noticeable, and accordingly one should be certain to at least have a Seudah in honor of Rosh Chodesh should be on Sunday--see Magen Avraham to Orach Chaim 419. 

 

2. We remind you of the ongoing Hilchos Shabbos Initiative which provides practical Hilchos Shabbos reviewed by Rabbi Shmuel Felder, Shlita, as a zechus for a Refuah Shleimah for Chaya Malka Bas Basheva. To subscribe, email shabboshalachos@gmail.com

 

3. The following has been culled from the Mishna Berurah (Dirshu Edition):

 

A. HaRav Nissim Karelitz, Shlita, rules that if a baby is crying during Kiddush, it does not fall within the problem of trei kolei--two voices which cannot be heard. Rather, because the cry is so different from the words of Kiddush, one can pay attention to the words of Kiddush without being sidetracked by the cry (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 271, Dirshu Note 17).

 

B. If one listening to Kiddush did not hear the bracha of Borei Pri Hagafen, but otherwise heard the bracha of Kiddush, the Ohr Letzion rules that he has fulfilled the Mitzvah of Kiddush--and simply must make a bracha of Borei Pri Hagafen if he wants to drink wine afterwards (ibid., Dirshu Note 27).

 

C. The Igros Moshe writes that those who are being Yotzei the Mitzvah of Kiddush through another should not speak until the one making Kiddush has drank at least a melo lugmah from his cup. HaRav Nissim Karelitz rules that if one drinks the entire kos of Kiddush, he demonstrates a Chibuv Mitzvah (ibid., Dirshu Notes 66 and 80).

 

D. If one making Kiddush has in mind to drink wine during the meal as well, then he need not make a separate Borei Pri Hagafen during the meal. If he did not have this intent, then unless it is one’s common practice to drink wine during the meal, he should recite a separate Borei Pri Hagafen, before he drinks wine during the meal.

 

E. The Minchas Yitzchak rules that one may use a frozen challah for Lechem Mishneh, for nothing more needs to be done to it than let it defrost, and it could even be warmed in a permissible manner and be ready for eating quickly. HaRav Nissim Karelitz adds that it could possibly be eaten in its frozen state (albeit with difficulty). However, HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, writes that in order for it to be used, it must have the ability to defrost during the course of the meal. The Shevet HaLevi, Z’tl, was machmir and did not use frozen challah for Lechem Mishneh, if it was not then edible as regular challah (ibid., 274, Dirshu Note 1).

 

F. The Sefer Orchos Rabbeinu (p. 113) writes in the name of the Steipeler Gaon that if a little bit of the crust on top of the Challah came off, as is common to occur in stores, the challah is still considered a shaleim (ibid., Dirshu Note 4).

 

G. The Mechaber rules that the Seudah on Leil Shabbos and the first Seudah of Shabbos day must be made with bread, ‘because they are the Ikar Kevod HaShabbos’ (ibid., Mishna Berurah seif katan 9). If one could not eat bread at night, he can push off his bread Seudah until the next day, and eat three meals during the day--but should still make Kiddush at night and either eat a kezayis of the five grains, or drink another revi’is of wine besides Kiddush (ibid.).

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TZEDAKA!  In this week’s Parasha, we find a special emphasis on the Mitzvah of Tzedaka.  HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, makes a remarkable point about Tzedaka by simply translating a Pasuk for us.  The Pasuk in the Parasha of Tzedaka states “Lo Se’Ametz Es Levovevca V’Lo Sikpotz Es Yodecha Mai’Achicha HaEvyon (Devorim 15:7)...do not harden your heart and do not close your hand to your destitute brother.”  HaRav Moshe notes that there are two Mitzvos here--the first is to be sensitive, to train your heart to feel for your brethren--not only when they stand before you, but also to be ready for them in the right frame of mind and with the right attitude when they do come.  Then, there is a second Mitzvah when you physically encounter a destitute person to not close your hand--to open it and give, as you not only visualize yourself as a giver-but actually give.

 

Hakhel Note One: With this in mind, we can appreciate a serious question and answer of the Alter of Kelm, Z’tl.  The Alter was very bothered by the Ma’aseh of Nachum Ish Gamzu--who told the poor person to wait a moment while he disembarked from the donkey so that he could unload and provide food for him.  In the interim, before Nachum Ish Gamzu was able to feed him, the poor person died, and Nachum was so troubled and distressed that he took an incomparable Kapara upon himself.  Based on these facts and circumstances, what, in actuality, did Nachum do wrong at all?  Undoubtedly, as a great Tzaddik (he was a teacher of Rebbi Akiva), he proceeded with great alacrity off the donkey, and surely intended to give the destitute person the best of what he had to offer.  What more could he have done?!  The Alter answers that Nachum realized that he should have been prepared--and had something ready--in the eventuality of noticing a famished poor person on the road.  This, perhaps, is the aspect of Lo Se’Ametz Es Levavecha--the preparedness and readiness--to which HaRav Moshe Feinstein refers.  If we have a checkbook ready, dollars or quarters available at a Chasuna or in Shul, a cold drink on a hot day for someone who knocks  at the door, if we give to a poor person before he approaches us, rather than waiting to be approached, if we think about how we can help the poor or those who need help in our neighborhood, if we can join or start Gemachs which turn leftovers from large or small Simchas into food for those who would appreciate it in our neighborhood--then we will not only be giving--but thinking about giving and how to give--which is what  the Torah truly (and, indeed, expressly) seeks of us!

 

Hakhel Note Two: It is not by ‘sheer coincidence’ that the Torah reminds us of the Tzedaka imperative at this time--on the portal of Chodesh Elul. As Chazal teach--even a poor person must give Tzedaka (Gittin 7B). Indeed, Rabbeinu Yonah in the Sefer Sha’arei Teshuvah (3:118) writes that ‘one who closes his hand to his needy brother and turns his eyes from his relatives is guilty of stealing from the poor--for once he is bound to give, it is as if he steals their gifts.” Happily, the converse is also true. As we read in this week’s Parasha (15:10): “Key B’Glal HaDavar Hazeh Yevarechecha Hashem Elokecha Bechol Ma’asecha U’vechol Mishlach Yadecha--for in return for this, Hashem will bless you in all of your deeds and in your every undertaking.”

 

We provide below several important points relating to the mitzvah of Tzedaka from the Sefer Me’il Tzedaka and the Sefer Pele Yoetz, among others:

 

1. One should commiserate with the poor person (Iyov 30:25), and then give BeSever Panim Yafos--with a pleasant countenance. If one has no money to give, one should at least give Tzedaka with his words of appeasement and caring.

 

2. There is a special accomplishment in giving Tzedaka to those who are ‘Amalei Torah’--to those who toil in Torah study. Chazal (Shabbos 105B) remind us that “Talmid Chochom Hakol KeKrovov”--all are like his relatives. Accordingly, he should be given preference in Tzedaka treatment, much as one gives a relative such preference. When one gives Tzedaka to a Talmid Chochom, he is also supporting Torah study quantitatively and qualitatively (for removing even a portion of his financial burden will give him greater peace of mind to learn), he is honoring the study of Torah, and is considered as if he brought Bikkurim to the Kohen in the Bais HaMikdash (Kesubos 105B), and increases peace in the entire world (for Talmidei Chachomim increase peace in the world). From a spiritual rewards perspective, Chazal (Pesachim 53A) teach that one who supports a Talmid Chochom will be zoche to sit in the Yeshiva Shel Ma’aleh, and that the currently unfathomable rewards of the future that the Neviim describe relate to one who supports a Talmid Chochom in business and to one who marries his daughter to a Talmid Chochom (Brachos 34B).

 

3. One should give more to those who obviously qualify as true aniyim, but one must always remember that ‘VeRachamov Al Kol Ma’asov’--Hashem’s mercy extends to all of His creations--and so should ours. If we recite this Pasuk three times a day in Ashrei, we must realize that Chazal are reminding and reinforcing this concept within us, day-in and day out.

 

4. The value of the Tzedaka is in accordance with the need and suffering of the poor person, and so Tzedaka before Yom Tov, or to help make a Chasuna, or if a child is born, are especially fitting moments!

 

5. One of the highest levels of Tzedaka is giving without the recipient realizing that he is receiving--such as buying items from him, or using his services, at a higher than usual price, or selling things to him or providing him with services at a discounted price.

 

6. The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (34:1) writes that what will walk ahead of a person  after 120 years are his acts of Tzedaka, as the Pasuk (Yeshaya 58:8) states--”VeHalach Lefanecha Tzidkecha Kevod Hashem Ya’asfecha...your acts of Tzedaka will precede you and the glory of Hashem will gather you in.”

 

7. According to the greatness of the Mitzvah is the Yetzer Hara which fights it.  Chazal (Eruvin 65B) teach that “Adam Nikar BeKiso”--one can tell much about a person by what he does with his money.

 

8. In addition to the Torah’s Mitzvas Aseh to give Tzedaka in this week’s Parasha, the Torah also warns us with a Lo Sa’Aseh  in the Parasha--”Lo SeAmetz Es Yodecha VeLo Sikpotz Es Yodecha Mai’Achicha HaEvyon....do not harden your heart and do not shut your hand against your needy brother.”  The Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah 478) movingly writes: “...but rather train your heart, under all circumstances, in the quality of generosity and compassion, and do not reckon that the matter will result in any lacking for you---because the Torah openly states Ki Biglal Hadavar Hazeh Yevarechicha Hashem Elokecha (Devorim 15:10)--because for the sake of this thing, Hashem will bless you.” The Chinuch concludes: “His bracha for you for a brief instant is better for you than any number of treasures of gold and silver!”

 

Hakhel Note: If someone handed you a check today for $1 million--how would you spend it? Perhaps you can take out a piece of paper and list your thoughts--the way you spend it and why. Your initial reaction should give you a good sense as to your approach to money and what to do with it!

 

Hakhel Note Three: The following are some questions and answers from Rav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, relating to Tzedaka from the Sefer Derech Sicha (Vol. I):

   

QUESTION:  Is there a Mitzvah of VeKidashto to give to a Kohen who is indigent, before giving to another?

ANSWER: Yes.

 

QUESTION:  If one intended to give Tzedaka to someone and did not, can he give it to someone else instead? 

ANSWER:  HaRav Kanievsky said that he once went on a bus and a poor person asked for Tzedaka on the street below.  When he turned to give the poor person money the door suddenly closed.  The Chazon Ish told me to give the money to another poor person, as he had definitely decided to give it to Tzedaka.

 

QUESTION:  Should one stand in the presence of a Gabbai Tzedaka based upon the rule that one stands in the presence of a person performing a Mitzvah (Yerushalmi Bikurim 3:3)?

ANSWER:  If the Gabbai Tzedaka is doing so Lishma (not taking money for it), yes, one should stand before him (see Pischei Teshuva to Yoreh Deiah 256:1). 

 

QUESTION:  If one gives a check in Elul which is post-dated for after Yom Kippur, will he have the Zechus of Tzedaka to be “Ma’avir Es Ro’ah HaGezeirah?” 

ANSWER:  Yes, when one does this, it is as if the Tzedaka has already been given.

 

QUESTION:  If one gives money on a credit card or bank card which deducts fees before giving the balance to Tzedaka, or if the collector himself takes off a percentage, is it considered that the donor  gave the full amount to Tzedaka, or only the amount after the fees are deducted? 

ANSWER: The full amount, because the Yeshiva needed the donor to give the full amount in order to get the amount it ultimately receives.

 

QUESTION:  If one gives a monthly donation by automatic bank withdrawal (Hora’at Keva), is it still considered to be a ‘Ma’aseh Tzedaka’ since he is not involved in the process every month?

ANSWER: Since he could cancel the bank withdrawal at any time, it is considered to be a ‘Ma’aseh Tzedaka’.

 

QUESTION:  If a poor person asks you for Tzedaka several times a day, are you obligated to give him?

ANSWER:  The poor person should not do so, but the person should give.

 

QUESTION:  If one has a Safeik in Ma’aser Kesafim, should he go LeKulah (as it may be a Din DeRabbanan), or should he go LeChumrah? 

ANSWER:  HaRav Chaim asked this question to his father, the Steipler Gaon, Z’tl.  The Steipler responded that one should always be Machmir, because when it comes to giving Ma’aser one will never lose, and will only gain!

 

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28 Menachem Av

TALMUD TORAH K’NEGED KULAM…:  In last week’s Parasha, we find the second of the three Parashios of Shema, in which one accepts upon himself the performance of all mitzvos, and in which one recognizes the sechar v’onesh--the reward and punishment--associated with their performance or (chas v’shalom) non-performance.

 

As we recite in Shema twice daily “Heshameru Lachem, Pen Yifte Livavchem V’Sartem--beware for yourselves lest your heart be seduced and you turn astray and serve gods of others.”  Rashi, in explaining the word “V’Sartem--and you turn astray”--writes that this means that you turn away from the study of Torah; and once you turn from Torah you are close to worshipping Avoda Zara.  Upon only a moment’s reflection, the Torah seems to be taking a very big leap once one does not study Torah, he is a step away from idol worship.  However, as we all know, the Yetzer Hara doesn’t seem to work this way.  He works on you slowly and deliberately, nibbling away daily and weekly to make sure that his negative influence grows steadily, so that the changes worked upon you actually stick.  So how here does the Torah describe the jump from lack of Torah study to idol worship (and its contemporary equivalents) so swiftly and conclusively?

 

The Chofetz Chaim provides a remarkable insight to explain.  Imagine two countries at war.  One day, one country wins a battle, the next day the other country wins a battle, and the battles go back and forth as the war continues.  These back-and-forth victories can only be true and continue if one side grabs a certain stronghold, the other captures some soldiers, the first wins an air battle, the second wins a tank battle, etc.  However, if on day one, one side captures all the ammunition of the other side, then the war, for all intents and purposes, is over.  The second side has nothing with which to do battle.

 

The Chofetz Chaim says that our Pasuk teaches us the same lesson in a powerful, spiritual way.  If a person forsakes the study of Torah (each man and woman, elder and child, in accordance with his /her own position), he has lost all of his ammunition to the Yetzer Hora.  He has lost the war, because he has nothing to fight back with.  Thus, he immediately leaps to complete defeat--the opposite extreme of Avoda Zora.

 

HaRav Elchonon Wasserman, Z’tl, H’YD, took the Chofetz Chaim’s (his Rebbe’s) words a step further.  Chazal (Yerushalmi Chagiga 1:7) teach that even if Hashem would forgo the sins of murder, avoda zara, and gilui arayos, he will not forgo the sin of Bitul Torah, of wasting time from Torah study.  Why is this stark statement so?  After all, are these not the three cardinal sins that Hashem would be forgoing versus that of Bitul Torah which does not appear to be anywhere near as heinous a misdeed?  The answer, Reb Elchonon teaches, is that, incredibly, the cardinal sins all are capable of Teshuva.  One can overcome these great failings through the Koach HaTorah, through the study of Torah.  However, if the Torah study itself, a Jew’s weaponry in this world, is taken away, then he has nothing left with which to fight.

 

There is a tremendous lesson here for each and every one of us, as we rapidly approach the days of reflection and introspection.  Do we want to enter Elul as a soldier without arms?  Don’t we want to equip ourselves as much as we can?  Where can we improve in our daily study (even for just a couple of minutes) after Shacharis?  After Mincha?  After Maariv?  On the bus or train?  Before going to sleep?

 

Also, what should we be studying?  What area of Torah study have we pushed off that we really need to know or in which we need improvement?  What Sefer have we never studied before that we really have been meaning to?  What Mussar Sefer will we be preparing for Elul?  What Halachos should we learn daily (especially that apply to us?).  How can we improve in our study of the Parasha?  There are so many new Hebrew and English Parasha Seforim.  Have we acquired any of them?  After we have made a mistake in Halacha, or we are not sure whether we said or did the right thing, do we learn what the proper Halacha or Hashkafa is in order to make sure that it will not happen again (i.e., Teshuva!).

 

As we all know, “Talmud Torah K’Neged Kulam--the study of Torah is equivalent to them all” (Shabbos 127A).  Let us take heed of the words of Shema that we recite daily--so that we succeed not only in our daily battle--but in our life’s purpose and goal!

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ADDITIONAL POINTS AND POINTERS ON THE SECOND PARASHA OF SHEMA: We present below several additional points and pointers relating to the second Parasha of Kriyas Shema, Vehaya Im Shomoa Tishmiu,  which is also found in last week’s Parasha:

 

1.  Before reciting the Parasha daily, one should understand that after having been Mekabel Ohl Malchus Shomayim in the first Parasha of Shema, he is now ready to be Mekabel Ohl Mitzvos.  One does not perform Mitzvos because they are nice, practical or logical--but because of Malchus Shomayim--Hashem has guided you and directed you to do so.

 

2. As noted above, the Parasha also teaches one of the cornerstones of our faith--Sechar VeOnesh--reward and punishment; what we do right and what we do wrong is not of a fleeting or temporary nature --its effects are everlasting, for the good and for the bad.  Food is an easy, temporary Olam Hazeh reminder of this--a portion of satiating food can keep you going for many hours, while just a small portion of spoiled food can make you feel really sick for the same amount of time.

 

3.  In the Parasha, we learn that we must first feed our animals before we eat ourselves, based on the Pasuk--”VeNosati Esev...Levhemtecha VeAchalta VeSovata...”-first the Beheimos eat--and then you eat.  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, likewise rules that fish have to be fed first as well, so that if breakfast or dinner is around your aquarium’s feeding time, the fish must be fed first.  By analogy, anyone who is dependent on you should be taken care of first as well--after all isn’t Hashem taking care of you!

 

4.  In the Siddur Avnei Eliyahu, the G’ra teaches that “Yoreh U’Malkosh” refers to Nevuah and Ruach Hakodesh, and that “Degonecha Tiroshecha Veyitzhorecha” refers to Chochma, Binah and Da’as.  Hakhel Note:  The G’ra crystallizes for us that Hashem’s reward goes way beyond rain in its proper time, food and parnassah--which are certainly incredible miracles in and of themselves!

 

5.  “Hishamru Lachem Pen Yifteh Livavchem V’Sartem V’Avadetem Elohim Acheirim V’Hishtachavisem Lahem--take heed lest your heart be deceived and you turn aside and serve strange gods and bow down to them.”  The following is excerpted from Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita:  “The Chofetz Chayim cites the statement of the Rambam that from this Pasuk we can see the dangers involved in taking words out of context.  If we begin reading from the middle of this verse, we will read, “serve strange gods,” which is the exact opposite of what the Torah is telling us.  So too, when we hear that someone has spoken or acted against us--very often if we would hear the entire original statement, we would see that it was not meant to be malicious or spiteful.  Therefore, let us give people the benefit of the doubt and judge them favorably until one hears the entire story (B’air Mayim Chayim, positive commandment 3).”

 

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NIMAS: The Rambam (to Avos, Chapter 1) writes that there are different categories of speech--including speech relating to learning Torah and Tefillah; speech relating to the performance of Mitzvos; speech relating to one’s daily activities--work, shopping, etc.; and prohibited speech such as Lashon Hara, Ona’as Devarim, and the like. However, he then adds that there is another level of speech which is nimas. The word nimas is generally translated as repulsive or abhorrent. To what kind of speech does he refer? He writes that it is speech: “Asher Ein Bo To’eles L’Adam B’Nafsho Velo Aveirah…it is speech which is not purposeful even if it is not prohibited speech, such as conversations about irrelevant past events, what the government did here or there, how a person passed away, how another person became wealthy--in short, he writes, it is ‘sicha beteilah’--meaningless speech. To the Rambam, meaningless speech is nimas--repulsive! abhorrent! The Rambam was not only writing to himself--he was writing to us…let us keep this in mind!

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HARAV AVROHOM PAM, Z’TL:  Today is the Yahrzeit of HaRav Avrohom Pam, Z’tl.  HaRav Pam once explained how Hashem can be both a Tzaddik and a Chassid at the same time (as we recite in Ashrei daily “Tzaddik Hashem Bechol…V’Chosid Bechol”), even though ‘Tzaddik’ implies acting in accordance with the letter of the law and ‘Chassid’ implies going beyond the letter of the law.  The solution to this apparent paradox, HaRav Pam explained, is found in the proper understanding of a Pasuk in this week’s Parasha.  After teaching the laws of an Ir HaNidachas (a Wayward City), which includes meting out the death penalty to its inhabitants, the Torah says that “V’Nosan L’Cha Rachamim V’Richamcha…--and Hashem will give you mercy and will be merciful to you” (Devorim 13:18).  Why is there an apparent redundancy in the Torah’s language relating to mercy--’giving you mercy’ and ‘being merciful to you’?  The answer is that when the Torah states ‘Hashem will give you mercy’, it means that Hashem will give you the opportunity to be merciful to others, and if you then act mercifully, Hashem will then be merciful to you.  This means, then, that Hashem is acting both as a chassid and as a tzaddik, because He is acting as a Chassid by giving us the opportunity to do Chesed, and if we do so, He will reward us as a Tzaddik--middah k’negged middah--according to the letter of the law!

 

As we approach Elul, which are known as the Yemei HaRachamim, we must be extra vigilant for these opportunities.  Chazal (Pesachim 87A) teach that the Navi Hoshea was punished when Hashem approached him and told him that Bnei Yisrael were sinning, to which he responded--so punish them!  Thus, he was punished for saying “punish them”.  What should he have said?  Chazal teach that he should have said “Nevertheless Hashem, they are Your children, the children of Your beloved ones, Avraham Yitzchak and Yaakov, heap mercy upon them!”  Based upon this teaching of Chazal, if one does not have immediate opportunities for mercy directly in front of him, at the very least he can daven to Hashem to heap mercy upon His people.  Let us make this a priority in the coming weeks!

 

May HaRav Pam’s zechus stand in our stead, as we properly apply his essential teaching in our daily lives.

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PLEASE REFLECT--AND ACT! In this week’s Parasha, the Torah teaches us that, once we come to the Beis Hamikdash, we will no longer be allowed to behave like the other nations who build altars and sacrifice wherever they may be.  Rather, we will have only the Mizbe’ach in the Beis HaMikdash with which to offer Karbonos to Hashem (Devorim 12:13, 14).  At first blush, this is difficult to understand.  After all, “Meloh Kol Ha’aretz Kevodo--Hashem’s glory and presence is everywhere.”  Indeed, another way we refer to Hashem is HaMakom--because He is indeed everywhere.  If so, why can’t we come close to Him with a Karbon anywhere?  Moreover, what does the Jew in Bavel, in Amsterdam, in British Columbia, in Buenos Aires or even in Tel Aviv or Be’er Sheva do--he can’t be in the Beis Hamikdash in an instant.  Why can’t he grow spiritually with a spiritual tool in his own backyard?  It would appear that for all that would be gained with a local connection to Hashem, the Torah is teaching us that more would, in fact, be lost.  As Tosafos (Bava Basra 21A) teaches on the pasuk “Ki MiTzion Taitzeh Torah...”--it is only in the hub of the universe--in Yerushalayim and the Beis HaMikdash--that we could achieve the Yiras Shomayim that we need to reach our true spiritual potential.  The daily open miracles, the tzidkus and chochma of the Kohanim, the spiritually elevated Neviim who lived there, the union of thousands and tens of thousands daily who had come for one purpose--to elevate themselves, was simply incomparable.  Getting used to anything less would simply fool the person into complacency and into not reaching his potential.  There is at least a dual lesson here:  First, we must appreciate our Mikdash Me’at--our Shuls--for providing us with at least a reflection of this--the Rav, the Maggidei Shiur, the place where we come together to daven, learn, and join together in chesed activities.  Second, we must recognize how far we are from reaching the potential that lies dormant within us simply because we have no Beis HaMikdash.  LeHavdil, imagine a champion swimmer who has only a small pool in the backyard of his attached house to swim in; consider how the educated lament over the overwhelming number of brain cells that are not utilized in a person’s lifetime.  Then think about what your life would be like--how it would be changed--with just a few visits to Yerushalayim.  Isn’t this too worth some serious davening over?  The Parasha is reminding us!

 

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