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Hakhel Email Community Awareness Bulletin


In the incredible Sefer HaTodaah (translated as The Book of Our Heritage [Feldheim Publishers]), Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov writes as follows:


“Shir HaShirim is unique among all of the Kisvei Kodesh, all of the works of Scripture, for Hashem’s name is not mentioned even circumspectly (although Hashem’s name is also not recorded in Megilas Esther, it is clearly alluded to, as Chazal point out).  Shir HaShirim is written entirely in the form of a parable of the exalted love between Hashem and Bnei Yisroel…  Through this metaphor, Shlomo HaMelech teaches us that all earthly desires are merely a method to enable us to understand the love that we should have for Hashem.  When man immerses himself solely in the parable--in the material world--he is not able to understand the higher message that the parable conveys.  On Pesach, the spiritual essence that exists in the material world is revealed before us.  Paroh and his army, all creatures, the sea and its tempest, the earth and the sky, are all subordinate to our relationship--yes, our relationship with Hashem.  On Pesach, we are all freed from the slavery of Mitzraim and from the slavery to our evil inclination.  At this time, we are most apt to understand the song of love between Hashem and His People.”


Hakhel Note:  As we all know Shir HaShirim is the holiest of all things holy (Shir HaShirim Rabba 1).  Obviously, then, once we better appreciate the meaning of Shir HaShirim for us, we must be sure not to pack away this teaching with our Pesach supplies until next year.  Instead, we must make the effort on a daily basis to “sing” the Song of Songs--if not by physically reciting its sacred words, then by constantly remembering what is the parable--and what is the reality.  It is no coincidence (as it never is), that this week’s Parsha, Kedoshim, reminds us to continue in the path of finding the reality of holiness in the parable of a material world.  Try to see how many times you can catch yourself during the day, whether you are on the phone, in the store, walking, or even while studying or davening, and remind yourself that you live in a world, in a reality, in which its spiritual essence is so clear that Hashem’s name need not even be mentioned.  So why let the Yetzer Hora muddy the waters with his earthy parable when you can sing the Song of all Songs--each and every day!


Special Note One:  There are only a few more opportunities for us to recite “Mashiv HaRuach U’Morid HaGeshem” and “V’Sein Tal U’Matar L’Vracha” in 5768.  Please remember to make them really count!

Special Note Two:  We provide the following email address which will send you a daily Sefira Count Reminder via email:  Omer-request@dafyomireview.com

Special Note Three:  The Otzar Miforshei Hagaddah presents the following insights regarding the “Shefoch Chamosecha” Tefillah which we recite after Birchas HaMazon at the Seder:

a.       When opening the door for Eliyahu HaNavi, some have the custom of reciting “Baruch HaBa!”

b.      There are four Pesukim which comprise this Tefillah, three of which are from Tehillim, and the last is from Eicha.  These four Pesukim represent the “Four Cups of Punishment” that will be meted out against the Four Nations which subjugated us in the Four Galios.

c.       The opening of the door signifies that unlike the redemption from Egypt in which we could not leave our houses during Makas Bechoros, and which was only immediately realized in its entirety by Bnei Yisroel and not by the other nations of the World, at the time of our final Geulah we will witness the punishment of the wicked, and all the nations of the world will openly and immediately appreciate our Redemption.  Additionally, our opening of the door reminds us of the opening of the gate of the Bais HaMikdash exactly at Chatzos on the Seder night.  Even when we open doors, it has great significance!

Special Note Three:  Click here for a special Tefillah to be recited before commencing the Seder from the Siddur Ha’Arizal, which is not found in many Haggados.  May this Tefillah make its way directly to the Kisey HaKavod, and may it inspire our entire Seder.



Special Note One: As we move closer to our freedom from the yoke of servitude, let us pray for Jonathan Pollard, Yehonoson Ben Malka, who is still imprisoned, even after legal experts assert that he should have been freed many years ago.  Let us always remember that Yeshuas Hashem K'Heref Ayin--that Hashem's salvation
can come with the blink of an eye--and we should plead with Hashem for him!  We have received a letter from the Agudath Israel of America relating to Yehonoson's plight.  It is available at the following link.  The National Council of Young Israel has, of course, been spearheading a campaign of action.  Please say a Perek, make a call, do whatever you can to help him be free of his bondage!

Special Note Two:  Today is the Yahrtzeit of the Ramban.  The Luach Dovor B’Ito quotes the Shailos U’Teshuvos HaRashba regarding the Ramban as follows:


“…and we do not have anyone greater than him in wisdom, numbers, and in fear of sin.” 


The Luach suggests that it is auspicious to study the Igerest HaRamban in his memory, and as a zechus for us all.




[    ]    Thanks to Hashem
[    ]    Shalom Bayis (throughout everything on list)

    Simanim for the Seder:
[    ]    Charoses
[    ]    Zeroah
[    ]    Maror
[    ]    Roasted Baitzah
[    ]    Radishes or other Karpas
[    ]    Salt Water


[    ]    Burning of the Chometz (no Kol Chamira—as it is said on Shabbos)
[    ]    Haircut
[    ]    Cut nails
[    ]    Mikvah
[    ]    Open Wine
[    ]    Cut Paper Towels
[    ]    Open Tissues

[    ]    Open boxes of plastic bags

[    ]    String or Rubberbands around Chometz Doors—Mark as “Sold”

[    ]    Clean Kittel
[    ]    Heseyba Pillow(s)
[    ]    Seder Candles for both days
[    ]    Everybody has Hagaddah that is right for them
[    ]    Knowing where everybody sits

[    ]    Brush teeth thoroughly

[    ]    Make sure Chometz broom is available for Shabbos morning
[    ]    Pesach toothbrushes, toothpaste and mouthwash
[    ]    Nothing left in the car

[    ]    Open soda bottles (for those who do not do so on Shabbos)

[    ]    Open diapers (for those who do not do so on Shabbos)
[    ]    Ensure that everything is Non-Shatnez
[    ]     Call three people who would really appreciate it to wish them a Good Yom Tov:__________________,___________________, ___________________.

[    ]      Remove all tags from new clothing and from cleaners

[    ]      Open Matza boxes and check for Kefulos
[    ]      If appropriate, Matza and/or Maror measured out and put into Ziploc bags in order to save time at the Seder.

[    ]      Empty (or throw out) vacuum cleaner bag.

[    ]      Eruv Chatzeiros.

[    ]      Close all lights in the refrigerator and freezer

[    ]      Set Shabbat clocks to go off very late on Seder night
[    ]      Vidui maasarot for those fortunate enough to live in Eretz Yisroel
[    ]      Sleep Shabbos afternoon but don't verbalize why and don’t verbalize to children why

[    ]      Special 2-wick candle for Havdalah (Yaknahaz Candle)
[    ]      Make sure you have a Pesachdik Blech

[    ]      If you have and use the 'Sabbath' mode on your oven for Yom Tov (acceptable to your Posek), set it

[    ]     Ask Rav any Shailos


[    ]     Other: _________________________________




As mentioned in a prior Bulletin, Rosh Chodesh Nissan marks the beginning of the season for Birkas Ha'Ilanos--the blessing recited annually upon seeing fruit trees in bloom.  At the link available here is a PDF file containing list of known fruit trees in selected cities across the United States and Canada upon which this brocha may be said.


Special Note One:  Today is the tenth day of Nissan, which is marked by at least three great milestones:


  1. It is the day that the Bnei Yisroel took the Egyptian gods--their sheep--away and tied them to bedposts in order to inspect them for blemishes before Shechita four days later.  This was an act of tremendous faith by Bnei Yisroel, not only in taking them for slaughter, but also in holding them this way for four days--and the Egyptians, in fact, ended up being powerless to stop them or harm them.


  1. Towards the end of our stay in the Desert, Miriam HaNevia passed away.  Miriam was so great that, even as a young girl, her suggestion to her father Amram, the Gadol HaDor, was accepted and the decree he had made to have the husbands and wives of Bnei Yisroel separate was annulled.


  1. Just one year after Miriam’s passing on this date, Yehoshua Bin Nun and Bnei Yisroel crossed over the Yarden River which had been dried up through a miracle.  Some recommend reading from Sefer Yehoshua, Chapters 3 and 4, and reciting Tehillim Chapter 114, in honor of the occasion.


Special Note Two:  For a masterful treatment of Kitniyos in our times (from peanuts to paper towels, and from Aspartame to Sodium Erythorbate), we refer you to the most recent issue of Halachically SpeakingHalachically Speaking can be obtained by contacting mdl@thehalacha.net


Special Note Three:  One of our readers informed us that he was at the Shabbos HaGadol Drasha of HaRav Leibel Katz, Shlita, in Boro Park.  HaRav Katz asked everyone to stand for a moment, and told them the following story.


Once, HaRav Shach, Zt’l, was talking with a bochur at breakfast time.  HaRav Shach urged the bochur to eat while they were speaking.  The bochur replied that he would feel uncomfortable to eat unless the Rosh Yeshiva was eating as well.  HaRav Shach replied that he could not bring himself to eat between 8 and 8:30AM on any morning, because during this time 800,000 Jewish children were on their way to public school.


Hakhel Note:  Now we know why the word “gadol” means great.


Special Note Four:  In last week’s Parsha, Metzora, we learn that the purification process of the metzora involves the shechita of one bird, and the sending away of its counterpart alive.  The birds, of course, symbolize inappropriate chattering which was the source of the tzoraas affliction.  HaRav Yerucham Levovitz, Zt’l, asks, however--if the bird symbolizes chattering, why was one bird sent away--why were both birds not shechted, in order to symbolize the Metzora’s total cessation of needless speech as part of his teshuva process?


HaRav Yerucham answers that, indeed, much speech needs to be corrected.  Sharp, biting and sarcastic remarks, words of hurt and derision, Loshon Hora in all its forms, must all come to a complete halt.  However, this does not mean that one should stop talking completely.  Friendly words, words of encouragement, good advice, compliments and even properly worded constructive criticism, all have an important, and, indeed, essential place in an individual’s life.  We note that before the live bird is sent away, it is dipped in the shechted bird’s blood, as if to remind it to always remember to avoid the wrong messages, the inappropriate comments and the wrong expressions.  Then, and only then does it take its charge.  It is set free upon the open field--to use life to its absolute utmost!  As we enter the aura of Pesach, in which the Hagadah, our manner of conveying the lessons of Pesach, becomes so crucial, let us take the lessons of last week’s Parsha and work hard to purify our speech before the onset of the holiday--particularly when tensions run high, and the pressures of time and money and disagreement in approach, may be more prevalent than at other times during the year.


Having said this (pun intended), a few additional points about what we are saying, and will be saying over the next little while:


  1. It could never, ever hurt--and may help in ways we will never know about--to sincerely daven over the next few days that we have a “Chag Kasher V’Sameach”.  Each one of these requests--Kasher and Sameach--is a mouthful (once again, pun intended).  People have reported, for instance, that they have found non-Kosher L’Pesach items on Kosher L’Pesach shelves in supermarkets.  Others may be fooled by a lot of Hebrew lettering on a label which is not meaningful, or perhaps, not even true.  The word “Sameach” is also loaded, as it is such an essential element of the Yom Tov, and may be challenged at any moment by any number of situations or events.  In addition to our earnest prayers for ourselves in this regard, when extending this wish to someone else over the next several days, we should likewise express it with sincerity and feeling.


  1. At the Seder, we will be reciting the word “Dayenu” fifteen times, multiplied by the number of times we sing the word.  Dayenu means “it would be enough for us”.  What “would be enough” for us?  Let us look at the first passage of Dayenu:  “If Hashem had taken us out of Mitzrayim…it would have been enough…”  Clearly, just leaving Egypt, in and of itself, would not have been enough. We would not have received the Torah, we would not have entered Eretz Yisroel and we would not have had the Bais HaMikdash, for starters so what would “have been enough?”  The Siach Yitzchak therefore explains that it would have been enough in and of itself to thank Hashem from the bottom of our hearts for that one thing he had done for us.  We then go through an additional fourteen items and realize that it would have been enough to thank Hashem for each and every one of them because he gave us such great gifts, and we did not deserve that which we received.  Thus, the springboard of all the Dayenus--of all of the realization of the enormous and eternal thanks that we owe Hashem is His taking us out of Egypt--the first of the Dayenus.  This is then the blastoff on the Seder night for us to express and discuss the great and unlimited thanks and gratitude that we owe to Hashem for each and every item that he provides us with.  Now, sing along--Day- Dayenu, Day-, Dayenu, Day-Dayenu, Day-Dayenu.  This is what we ought to be talking--and singing--about!


  1. Finally, on the matter of speech, it is important to note that after having thanked Hashem, and recited Hallel with true sentiment and emotion, we conclude the Hallel with the words “Ana Hashem Hoshea Nah--please Hashem save us.”  The Haggadas Seder HaAruch points out that after thanking Hashem, which demonstrates our recognition for what He has done, we must, as a matter of faith, immediately thereafter plead with Hashem to do more, which demonstrates our continuing faith in Him.  Thus, as conclude the Hagaddah, we verbally affirm that our Emunah is complete.


If we do it right on the Seder Night, then that bird which was kept alive to demonstrate that one could and should achieve with his mouth will have accomplished its purpose--and may well even feel the wind soaring at its back!



Special Note One:  At this time of year, time and our money may be tight.  However, this should not let us lose sight of one of the primary causes of our Redemption--the love and regard we have towards others.  In Mitzraim, Moshe Rabbeinu instructs the Jewish people to ask “May’ais Rayaihu--from friends”--silver vessels, gold vessels and garments (Shemos 12:36).  We typically understand this to mean that Moshe instructed Bnei Yisroel to request these items from their Egyptian “friends.”  However, the Vilna Gaon explains that Moshe Rabbeinu, was, in fact, referring to Jewish friends, and that the care and concern one showed for his true friend would serve as a zechus for him to obtain similar items from the Mitzriim, and, in addition, would create an air of giving in the whole land.  That is exactly what happened--the Torah testifies as to the end result: “VaYinatzlu Es Mitzraim--they emptied Egypt” (ibid., 36).


We, too, in these days before the Geulas Mitzraim, and, of course, prior to our imminent Geulah, should practice our reyus--our sharing and caring--with one another.  In this regard, as gas prices continue to skyrocket, we provide suggestions to our friends, as presented by The US Car Care Council (and as published in the Yated Neeman) on how one can save his and others people’s money--  the link is available here.



The Ritva in his Hagaddah (on the words “Vayehi Shum L’Goi), writes that our pe’rud, our lack of unity and friendship, is the “ikar gezeiras hagalus--the main reason that Galus is decreed” upon us(!).  This week, even with and in spite of with the possible tension and pressure that one may feel, let us do what we can to abrogate this decree by keeping our focus on helping our “reyim: in any reasonable way that we can--whether it be with an offer to get an item for someone else during a shopping trip or “How can I help you this week, I know that….?”--you can fill in the rest, depending on the status and situation of your neighbors and friends.  Hashem wants people who think, and certainly those who think about others.


Special Note Two:  Chazal teach that we needed the Mitzvos of Dam Pesach and Dam Milah--the blood of the Korban Pesach and the blood of Bris Milah in order to be redeemed.


HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Zt’l (brought in the Hagaddas Arzei Halevanon) asks why it was that these two Mitzvos were chosen specifically by Hashem to give us that final Zechus that we needed for redemption.  He answers that we know that the entire creation is dependent upon our kiyum hamitzvos, our fulfillment of mitzvos.  If we fulfill a mitzvah in a natural way, such as walking to Shul, eating kosher food, or lighting candles for Shabbos, then we keep the world going in an otherwise natural way.  However, if we fulfill a mitzvah by going against our nature, then Hashem in turn will conduct the world in a manner which is beyond its nature as well.


Since we needed something beyond nature, something miraculous, for us to leave Egypt, Hashem gave us two mitzvos which were extremely difficult to perform:  The mitzvah of Milah which involved making a wound in one’s own body, or in the body of a small child or infant, and the Mitzvah of Korban Pesach which involved taking the Egyptian god in front of them (at that time, our masters and tormentors) and slaughtering it, both certainly defy human instinct and reason.  The Torah even records that the Bnei Yisroel wondered, “How can we take their god from in front of them [for the purpose of slaughtering it] without their stoning us?!” (Shemos, 8:22).


Thus, through these two mitzvos which we performed with dedication and perseverance, the miracles that we so desperately needed for Geulah occurred.


There is a great lesson to be derived here.  We are all looking for Geulah.  There is a time that it will come naturally, by itself, no matter what.  However, if we want to change that nature and bring it closer, we have to try to perform mitzvos at a time or in a manner which may be considered against our nature.  Hashem’s message here is yet another one in the manner of middah k’neged middah--if you break your nature, I will break the nature of My World!


Each one of us can try to do his part in overcoming his teva--natural inclination--and producing that Dam Milah or Dam Pesach, those very specially-performed Mitzvos--to bring nachas and Simcha to Hashem, to us all, and to the world, with that so-yearned after Geulah.  Please, please pick that special Mitzvah right now--and may we be truly zoche to the Geulah!!



We are pleased to include the following link to a PDF document entitled “New York - Handbook For Erev Pesach That Falls on Shabbos”.  It was provided L'ilui Nishmas Rabbi Eli Teitelbaum, Z'tl, of the Torah Communications Network.  One should use it to understand the issues, but ask his Rav or Posek any Halachic shailos that he may have.


For those who would like to see or hear the address given by HoRav Aaron Feldman, Rosh Hayeshiva of Yeshivas Ner Yisroel and Chaver Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah, on the eve of Yom Kippur Koton, (27 Adar II/April 2), the following are the links:

Audio -  Please click here

Video - Please click here



Special Note One:  By popular request, we will, b’li neder, be providing a relevant, practical Halacha relating to Hilchos Shabbos in each of our Friday Bulletins.  We begin today with an express Halacha regarding Hadlakas Neiros.  The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 265:8) writes that one lighting Shabbos candles must be sure that “rov,” or the majority, of the wick is lit before removing the match or lighting utensil from the candle.  The Mishna Berura explains that this will ensure that the flame will remain lit well and not go out, and that this is the way the Menora was lit in the Bais HaMikdash.


Special Note Two:  We are all familiar with the claim made by the Egyptian people against us to Alexander the Great, that we had stolen their property and looted Egypt, and that they wanted Alexander to force us to give everything back.  Our successful response to Alexander was that hundreds of thousands of our people worked for scores upon scores of years without compensation, and this defense was accepted.  In fact, the Egyptians ran away because they feared they owed us even more than had been taken from them.  The proper treatment and payment of workers involves many mitzvos in the Torah, and many sugyos in Shas.  According to the most recent issue of Halachically Speaking, there are six Torah Commandments that deal with paying a worker his wages.  This publication is available directly by email (for a small annual charge) by contacting mdl@thehalacha.com


We have received correspondence from those who provide services in people’s homes or businesses, and who claim they are not properly treated or are not timely paid.  We note that the Halachos of paying workers on time relates to a wide range of services provided, from those of a babysitter who is under Bas Mitzvah, to paying an advanced Kollel student, and even to paying your rent on time.


We refer our readers to this most recent issue of Halachically Speaking, and, for a more detailed treatment of this topic, to the book Halachos of Other People’s Money by Rabbi Pinchos Bodner, Shlita (Feldheim Publishers).


Special Note Three:  In the Hagadda, we recite “Yachol Mai’Rosh Chodesh…--I might think [that the Mitzvah of relating the story of our Exodus from Egypt could be performed] from Rosh Chodesh Nissan and on.”  Why would I think this way?  After all did not the Exodus actually take place on the fifteenth day of Nissan, which is exactly the first day of Pesach--why would I think the Mitzvah could be performed earlier?  The Netziv (in the Chumash Ha’Amek Dovor, Shemos 34:18) writes, in fact, that the entire month is mesugal, is especially opportune, to instill within us true principles of Emuna and Avodas Hashem.  One need not and should not wait until the last moment of the Seder Night to stock up on all of the foundations of our faith.  Accordingly, we continue to provide the following insights relating to Pesach and our Emunah:


a.       The Vilna Gaon and the Maaseh Nissim Hagaddah teach that the Geulah from Egypt was called “Chairus Olam--eternal freedom”--because the Geulah of Egypt was the root of, and source for, all future Redemptions.  When one does Teshuva, he must always look back to the source, to the beginnings, of the avaira in order to uproot and destroy his connection to it.  Similarly, when yearning for our own final Geulah, we must study and review how our initial Geulah came about and what happened in order to properly connect to it.  This being the case, one can never learn enough of the Hagaddah, its discussions and its teachings.  While intellectually one may know the ten maakos by heart (including details from the Medrashim), shoot off the four reasons that we were redeemed, or list in perfect chronological order the Mitzvos we have on the Seder night, this is simply not enough.  Even if we “know it all,” we must come back year after year to the same concepts, the same lessons, and even to the same words, so that we continue to emotionally internalize Geulah through continuously developing a greater spirit of faith and belief in Hashem within us (See Michtav M’Eliyahu, Volume 4, Page 249).  The night of the Seder, with the uplifting four kosos, the Matzoh, the paradoxical Korech, the amazing Hagaddah, and the unrestrained Hallel, is given to us by Hashem to continuously expand this spirit of Cheirus Olam within us.


b.       The more one prepares and speaks about Yetzias Mitzraim--yes, even in our technologically-advanced world--the more praiseworthy he is.  So says the Mishnah in Pesachim, which we repeat in the Hagaddah itself.  We provide three short related Meshalim, or parables, to bring this point home beautifully.


(i)                  The Dubno Maggid compares this situation to a shipful of people which nearly capsizes.  The poor and wretched people on the boat who are saved do not express the same measure and level of thanks and joy as the wealthy or successful people saved, who feel greater appreciation of life and what it has to offer.

(ii)                 Similarly,the K’Sav Sofer, compares it to a master and servant, both of whom are taken into captivity by bandits.  While in captivity, there is no difference between the master and the servant.  They both are subjected to the same horrible and life threaten ing ordeal.  However, when free, the master speaks in great detail of all of the discomforts and tribulations that he experienced at the hands of the bandits, and his ecstasy in being saved, while the servant makes much less of it, and barely discusses it.

(iii)               The Geulas Avrohom (in the name of the Zohar) compares our situation to a king whose son, the prince, is kidnapped and tortured.  Eventually, the king rescues his son and punishes the kidnappers severely.  However, the king is never assuaged, and continuously speaks about what was done to his son, how he was saved, and how well he is now doing back again in the palace.


Let us not forget that the Torah itself, in which Hashem is infinitely careful with each and every word, bothers to repeat Yetzias Mitzraim 50(!) times--for it brings Nachas Ruach to Hashem.  All of the discussion, repetition, detail and nuances should bring the same Nachas Ruach to us!



Special Note One: As we continue in this exhilarating period between Purim and Pesach--a time of Geulah--we provide the following two insights made by the Steipeler Gaon, and published in Sefer Orchos Rabbeinu:


  1. He once remarked on Purim that we are very close to the coming of the Moshiach, as that we have passed over most of the “Chevlei Moshiach--the birthpangs of Moshiach”, the principal part of which occurred during World War Two.


  1. Once, in the course of Nichum Aveilim, he remarked not to be “metztaer harbeh--not to feel great suffering”--because we are very close to Techiyas HaMeysim.


We all expect Eliyahu HaNavi to come and be the harbinger of Moshiach, and the Kos Shel Eliyahu has a prominent position on every Seder Table.  What will Eliyahu HaNavi actually do?  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, in Sefer Ta’amah D’Kra writes that he will have three tasks:


1.      He will advise us that the Moshiach will be coming tomorrow (See Malachi 3:23);

2.      He will make peace in the world; and

3.      He will resolve all difficulties in Torah.


Each and every one of these is an outstanding accomplishment in and of itself--imagine one person performing all three!  One reader noted to us that at a Bris, there is a chair for Eliyahu, but no drink, and at the Seder there is a drink but no chair.  He asked if we could reconcile this paradox.  Can you?


Special Note Two:  We continue with points relating to the Seder and Pesach:


  1. The Rema (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 480:1) writes that we open the door at the Seder when we recite Shefoch Chamosecha “in order to remember that it is a ‘Leil Shimurim--a night of protection’--and that in the merit of this Emunah, the Moshiach will come and will pour forth the wrath of those who deny Hashem.”  Thus, we see the powerful impact that the Emunah we experience on the Seder night has on bringing about our ultimate Redemption--from none other than the Rema in Shulchan Aruch itself!


  1. As we all well know, this coming Erev Pesach falls on Shabbos.  As a result, many of us will rise ahead of the usual hour in order to have one or two Shabbos meals quite early Shabbos morning.  Why do we really have to do this--even though we cannot eat chometz, why can’t we simply eat matzoh for the two Shabbos Day meals, and enjoy our Shabbos in the otherwise usual manner?  The answer is that we are not permitted to eat matzoh on Erev Pesach, because, if we did, our matzoh would not be eaten with the same “tayavon--with the same anticipation and appetite”--on the Seder night.  Rabbi Eliyahu Schneider, Shlita, points to a great lesson we derive from this.  In order to perform one mitzvah, the eating of matzoh, with a greater “cheshek--with a greater feeling and desire,” we get up early, are very careful in eating Chometz rolls over a plastic receptacle, squeeze in a meal or meals, and don’t have much to eat the rest of the day.  All for a better taste on that first k’zayis of matzoh.  We see how important it is to not only perform a mitzvah, but to perform it with a sense of zest and longing.


In preparation for Pesach, perhaps we can try to perform a few mitzvos in this manner now.  How about running to Shul or to learn, or quickly approaching a poor person before he approaches you?  Alternatively, you may start with a mitzvah that you already do well, and perform it with even greater zest and zeal.  You don’t have to wait until the Seder night to truly taste a mitzvah!



Special Note One:  The following note appeared in a publication of the Pirchei Agudas Yisroel. We leave it up to you to determine whether the lesson is only for children:


Once, a boy did not attend the voluntary Shiur that HaRav Shalom Schwardron, Z'tl, gave because of a local soccer game.  Rav  Schwadron  went to the boy's house and offered an interesting challenge: "Let's go to the field and kick the ball into the net with nobody stopping it!"  The boy laughed and said, "Only if there is a goalie is it considered an accomplishment!"  R' Shalom smiled.  "Your coming to Shiur is more valuable when you overcome challenges!"


Special Note Two:  From Rabbi Moshe Goldberger, Shlita--Of the first 23 Mitzvos of the Torah, 20 of them are related to Pesach.  It would be nice to study these 20 before Pesach!


Special Note Three:  As we move into the tevilas keilim "season", we remind our readers of the guidelines for tevilas keilim available here.


Special Note Four:  As we move towards Pesach, we hope to provide some brief useful thoughts relating to these wonderful days. We begin with the following:


a. At the recent Hakhel shiur, HaRav Belsky, Shlita, suggested that one search for chometz as if he were searcing for a valuable coin or piece of jewelry--would you  shrug your shoulder and not look here or there, or not make the extra effort when you realize how much is at stake? Go for the Gold!


b. At the same shiur, HaRav Belsky ruled that one could simply  place his stove top grates into the self-cleaning oven to kasher them, rather than subjecting them to intense heat via placement of a blech on top of the stove.


c. At the Seder, two out of the 15 Simanim (more than 10%) are comprised of washing of the hands--U'Rchatz and Rachtza.  Clearly, this is a meaningful and significant activity, and should be viewed as much more than a ministerial or perfunctory act that we do daily. To get ready for the Seder(if you wash Mayim Achronim you will actually wash a third time), may we suggest that rather than thinking about nothing too important or letting your mind wander when washing over the next 10 days, that with each pour of water over each hand you think--"Thank you Hashem! Thank You Hashem!" and think of something else you are thankful to Hashem for with each pour! Having difficulty starting? You can start as far back as Yetzias Mitzrraim, and as close by as having the ability  to pick up the cup and pour... and there is alot--alot--in between to be thankful for!



Special Note One:  We received the following interesting and important comments from readers:


a.       “I attended the Yom Kippur Koton you referred me to at the OU last week. Rabbi Belsky was the Shaliach Tzibbur.  I noticed his care in the proper pronunciation of words.  In particular, in the second brocha of Shemone Esrei, when we recite “Mi Chochomocha Baal Gevuros--who is like you Master of Strength,” he was careful to pronounce the ayin in “Baal” gutturally, because if one slurs the words “Baal—Master”-- it becomes “Bal”, meaning “without.”  The difference, then, is that when this phrase is properly pronounced we make Hashem the Master of Strength, and when improperly pronounced, we, chas v’shalom would be saying that Hashem is without strength.  I don’t think I’ll ever come close to slurring this word again.  How important it is to daven carefully…”


b.      “A lesson that I learned from the plight of the metzora is not only how bad it is to speak Loshon Hora--but how good it is not to speak Loshon Horah.  Chazal say that the middah tova from Hashem is five hundred times greater than Hashem’s punishment.  If this is what Loshon Hora can cause--imagine the Sechar and Brocha that my not speaking Loshon Hora can bring…”


Hakhel Note One:  Thank you for this extremely valuable insight.  In fact, the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation (845-352-3505) has published the following moving thought very much related to our reader’s comment: “Did you know that by defending somebody from Loshon Hora you are actually helping to defend yourself in Bais Din Shel Maaleh.  That’s the Torah’s promise.  By defending someone else when your inclination whispers ‘he’s guilty,’ the Malochim will rush to your defense when you’re guilty.  It’s that simple.  So the next time you hear a piece of Loshon Hora, don’t join in or listen with an amused ear.  Find an excuse for the person being defamed.  Tell the speaker that maybe they misunderstood the action, or that the person in question had the purest motivation, or he just didn’t realize what he was doing.  Come up with anything.  But come up with something.  Something that will make you think the person is innocent.  Remember:  It is the way the World works--Midah k’negged Middah.  ‘If someone speaks well of his fellow man, the Angels speak well of him before Hashem.’ (Midrash Mishlei)”


Hakhel Note Two: In this regard, it is said that one of the Gerrer Rebbes observed that the words “Oneg” (delight) and “Nega” (blemish)--have the same three letters, Ayin, Nun, and Gimel.  The difference between the two is that when the Ayin is placed first, it will result in delight--but when it is placed last, it will result in affliction.  The Ayin, of course, represents the eye which is “Roeh Es HaNolad”--which looks at and understands the ramifications of ones actions, including one’s speech and hearing.  Will it be nega--or will it be oneg?  The choice is yours!



Special Note Two: In last week’s Parsha, we find the difference between a Metzorah Musgar, who is someone locked away in order to determine whether he really has a definite Tzoraas affliction, and a Metzora Muchlat, who is someone who definitely has Tzoraas.  The person who is suspected of Tzoraas and is put away for a week or two, and then pronounced Tahor, clean, need only take himself and his clothes to the Mikvah.  However, the Metzora Muchlat, the definite Metzora, must live separated from people, letting his hair grow, with his clothing torn, screaming to people that he is tamei so that they do not get near him, and eventually, if and when he becomes Tahor, he must go through an entire purification process.  HaRav Yechezkel Levenstein, Zt’l, explains that the Metzora Musgar, who was merely locked away for a week or two recognized that he needed to rectify that which he was doing wrong and quickly did Teshuva for his actions.  As a result, he was spared much shame, pain and ordeal.  On the other hand, the Metzora Muchlat didn’t respond to his Tzoraas with a quick turnaround of Teshuva, and, as a result, had to wallow deeply in the mire of his avaira.


There is a great lesson here for all of us.  When one realizes he has done something wrong, he must not wait until tomorrow to rectify his misdeed or misbehavior.  Just as when there is a great sale at a store, one does not wait until the second day of the sale to get to the store, so too, does it not make sense **at all** to wait to do Teshuva.  This point is so vital that the Rabbeinu Yona actually begins his entire classic work Shaarei Teshuva with the great fallacy one commits against himself if he delays or pushes off even slightly Teshuva on something he knows must be rectified.


It is interesting to note that the Chofetz Chaim counts the negative prohibition of “HiShamer B’Nega Tzoraas--beware of the affliction of Leprosy”--as one of the negative prohibition that one currently violates if he speaks Loshon Hora.  While we may not have Tzoraas in its physical form in our day, we certainly do have the great lessons to be gleaned from it!



Special Note One: The book Praying With Fire is beginning a brand new cycle this Sunday, Rosh Chodesh Nissan.  Thousands upon thousands have literally become inspired to daven better (“with fire”) by this classic work, using the Five-Minute-a-Day Lessons in the book.  This is a great new opportunity to start improving your Tefillah.


It is important to note that there are about 150 simanim (chapters) in Shulchan Aruch relating to Tefillah, which is approximately the same number of chapters relating to all of Hilchos Shabbos, including the laws of Eruvin on Shabbos.


HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, rules as follows (Orchos Yosher, p. 100):


“It is an absolute obligation to be proficient in the laws of prayer, since a person who approaches the King, and does not know how to behave, will certainly be expelled [from the palace] by the King.  All those who are careless about this, will eventually be held accountable.  There is no doubt that the study of these laws takes precedence over all other studies, since they apply three times a day.”


[Translation from the original Hebrew provided by Guidelines, p. 14 (Targum Press, 2004).]


These powerful words of HaRav Kanievsky, Shlita, one of the great poskim of our generation, should be carefully considered.


We urge those who have not already done so to begin the new cycle of Praying With Fire over the next three-month period.  Your personal growth in Tefillah--and in your relationship with Hashem--will be extremely tangible.


Special Note Two: Since today, as Yom Kippur Koton, is a special day of Tefillah, we present below several very meaningful suggestions from the Chofetz Chaim on making your Tefillos more effective, as found in the Sichos Chofetz Chaim:


  1. When davening, one should actually cry out to Hashem, as we find that the Bnei Yisroel cried out to Hashem in Mitzraim (“Vanitzak”), and the Pasuk, in turn, records, “VaYishma Hashem Es Kolainu--and Hashem heard our voices.”

  2. A Tefillah for the Klal is more accepted than a Tefillah for the individual.  Thus, when praying for an individual, one should include him “B’soch Klal Yisroel.”

  3. It is a “Dovor Gadol”--a great thing--to daven immediately after having performed a Mitzvah, because the zechus of the Mitzvah helps the Tefillah to be answered.  That is why, for instance, we have the series of HaRachaman requests after we complete the Birchas HaMazon.  [Hakhel Note:  This is also why some have the custom to give Tzedakah immediately prior to davening.]

  4. When a person davens, he should make request of Hashem as if he is asking his mother for something.  You should realize that just as a mother will not turn down a sincere, respectful, and meaningful request, so too, will Hashem not be angered or upset when you repeat the same request over and over again--appreciate and respond to its sincerity.




In our Birchas HaMazon, we pray to Hashem to “VeHarvach Lanu Mehaira M’Kol Tzorosainu--grant us speedy relief from all of our troubles.”  The Steipler Gaon, Z’tl, citing the Gemara (Megillah 13B), explains that when it comes to Klal Yisroel, Hashem has always prepared the healing and relief already prior to the trouble or sickness setting in.  We learned this most recently in Megillas Esther, where the Megillah records “Achar HaDevorim Haeleh”--after Mordechai exposed the plot of Bigsan and Seresh--then and only then does the Pasuk continue “Gidal HaMelech Achashverosh Es Haman”--did Achashverosh elevate Haman to his high position.  Thus, Mordechai had found life-saving favor in the King’s eyes even before the terrible troubles began.  This, the Steipler says, is true of every single tzora that we face, individually and collectively, and we must dare not fall into despair even if the predicament seems impossible.


Indeed, when the Torah relates that Hagar sent her young son Yishmael away because she didn’t want to see Yishmael die of thirst in the desert, Hashem opened up her eyes, and she saw the well of water--a well that was really always there!  That is why the Pasuk does not say that Hashem opened the well--rather, the Torah emphasizes, He opened her eyes.  What one needs is the zechus, the merit, to see the refuah, or the yeshua, that really already exists.  How does one attain this special zechus--to merit our eyes being opened?  We know that in the days of Mordechai and Esther, everything became revealed--the years of history and intrigue became unraveled, just as the Megillah is unraveled when reading it--through Tefillah and Teshuva.  Similarly, with Hagar, the Pasuk records “Vatisa es kola, Vatevch”--she raised her voice, and she cried.


It thus appears that we must first earnestly turn our eyes to Hashem.  He, in turn, will let our eyes see what was there all along--the yeshuos that He had previously established and provided for His beloved people.


Tomorrow, even if one cannot make it to a Yom Kippur Koton Minyan  (we note that the Yom Kippur Koton Service takes about 30 to 45 minutes), everyone--man and woman, young and old--should spend at least a small amount of time in sincere Tefillah and Teshuva reflection.  Almost seven months of the year have passed, and six still remain.  We have plenty of time to point our eyes in the right direction--so that Hashem, as only He can, will enlighten our eyes and show us the clouds of love in the blue sky above us that will shower us with the refuos and yeshuos that we so long for ourselves, for Klal Yisroel, and for all of mankind.  Remember:  “Bimheyra Biyameinu” should never be viewed or recited as a banal or trite phrase--but as a sincere and heartfelt request!



Special Note One:  This week is also known as the week of the “Shivas Yemei Meluim,”the seven days in which the Mishkan was consecrated, prior to its final completion and dedication on Rosh Chodesh Nisan.  In fact, the Sefer HaTodaah (translated into English as The Book of Our Heritage, Feldheim Publishers) writes that these days in the future will likewise be days of dedication in the time of the third Bais HaMikdash.  Furthermore, just as the Yemai HaMiluim are a remembrance of the Mishkan that Moshe Rabeinu made, so, too, are they now  especially propitious as days of Prayer for the Geula Shelaima and the building of the Bais HaMikdash--in which Hashem will cause His Shechina to fully and finally permanently rest.


During these days of Yemai HaMiluim, some Chassidim do not recite Tachanun because of the special nature of these days we described above.  However, the custom among those who daven Nusach Ashkenaz is to recite Tacahnun this week.  So, for those who do, we note that the Tachanun recited this week will be the last Tachanun recited for an entire month, for according to all opinions, Tachanun is not recited during the entire month of Nisan.  We thus should make a special effort to recite Tachanun--especially this Thursday which is also Yom Kippur Koton--with a special kavana and zeal.


With respect to Yom Kippur Koton, we note that many who do not usually recite Yom Kippur Koton Prayers the rest of the year, do so on Erev Rosh Chodesh Nissan and Erev Rosh Chodesh Elul because of the unique time periods that they lead into.


We have received a request from a Manhattan professional as to the identity of any Yom Kippur Koton Minyan in Manhattan this Thursday.  If you know of one in Midtown New York, or other cities, please let us know, and we will try to pass on the information to those requesting it.


Finally, in the “Resources” section of our website, we provide a “Tefillah Al HaParnassah Mimamon Kasher,” which the Shelah HaKadosh writes should be recited before Rosh Chodesh Nissan (i.e., on Yom Kippur Katan).  The Tefillah is available here.


Special Note Two:  We have often heard the comment that a person’s attitude when he is sick will affect his cure.  In fact, Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, teaches us this in no uncertain terms, as the Pasuk states, “Ruach Ish Yichalkel Maacheleyhu…--a man’s spirit will sustain him in his illness,” but a broken spirit, who will bear it?  We thus see that the intangible spirit of a person can help control his physical being.  This is an important lesson not only for one who is ill to keep his spirits up as best as he possibly can--not only for the sake of others, but also to aid in his own Refuah--but it is also a lesson to each and every one of us for our spirit to rule over our corporal existence.  We should always remember our “Ruach Ish”--our innate spirit--whether at a lavish smorgasbord, at a superstore buying the newest, technologically advanced product, walking in the city streets as the weather gets warmer, or when engaged in a heated or intense personal or email conversation.


Indeed, the Chofetz Chaim (Toras HaBayis, Chapter 2) draws a fascinating Kal V’Chomer in this regard.  He writes that when a Sofer takes parchment for the first time and states that he is writing upon it “L’Shem Hashem” this one-time animal hide becomes sanctified with an awesome degree of holiness.  All the more so, when a person begins at any time of the day to study Torah L’Shma, for the sake of doing the Almighty’s will and properly performing His commandments, does a person’s soul become inculcated and imbibed with a spirit of holiness, and the person becomes sanctified with the kedusha of Torah.


As we go through the Parshios of Vayikra, much of which relates to the sanctification, dedication, and proper offering of animals, we can sense to a large extent how more so we can elevate ourselves to degrees of loftiness and purity which can supersede, surpass, and leave far behind the corporality within us.  How will this ever happen? ….As the Torah concluded in last week’s Parsha, “V’Hiskadishtem V’Hiyisem Kedoshim--if you sanctify yourselves, you will be sanctified.”


It is all up to the Ruach Ish within each and everyone of us. Try feeling it, and, making yourself holy as you go through the day today!

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