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Hakhel Email Community Awareness Bulletin



 In our fast-paced world, we often follow certain impulsive responses, not all of which are necessarily proper.  In fact, the most current bus signs in New York City advise us to “Run with the devil”.  Hurrying into a room and turning on the light switch is almost a mindless activity.  If one enters a room on Shabbos and, without thinking, turns on the light switch, it may be deemed a mere “misasek” (i.e., an activity in which one is engaged, and a melacha unexpectedly and unwillingly occurs).  However, at some early point, if one finds that this “unexpected occurrence” is happening every Shabbos, every other Shabbos, or even every third or fourth Shabbos, he must ask himself if he should really be considered a “poshea”, one who recklessly or wantonly sins in a given area.  In fact, Rashi (Shabbos 21A and Beizah 15B) defines a poshea as one who is simply lax in the performance of mitzvos.


In a previous issue of The Hakhel Community Awareness Bulletin (Volume II, Number 3, Adar 5762), we had written about what to do when faced with the “Oops, I have a tissue in my pocket” situation.  However, we should not really allow this to happen.  The halacha requires us to check our pockets each time before leaving one domain for another (See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 252:7).  We should not allow laxity or bad habit to override halacha.  As someone once explained, the very first Al Chait of “b’Oness uv’Ratzon”--by accident and with intent--means that at some point the “accident” is deemed to become intentional.


This very same concept may be applied to one who consciously remains not sufficiently knowledgeable, or acts without adequate concern, in the area of Muktza--by moving questionable items, opening up Muktza drawers, not knowing what to do with Muktza items in pockets, not being careful about the family’s handling of Muktza, etc.


The Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzva 228) writes that the reason the Torah repeats a prohibition many times is for our own good--so that we recognize the severity and harm to the person who violates it.  The Mishne Berurah (Introduction to Volume 3) writes that the Torah reiterates the mitzvah of Shabbos no less than 12 times.  With this unique level of reiteration, we can understand the great import of Shabbos, and its impact on ourselves and our families.


Practical Suggestion:  This Shabbos Chanukah--so special in that we take out three Sifrei Torah--should be marked by a new rededication to the honor and spirit of Shabbos itself!  Beginning this week-try this:  At one of the Shabbos meals, five to seven minutes before benching, read/teach from one of the practical Hilchos Shabbos seforim (such as The Shabbos Home (R. Cohen), The Halachos of Muktza (R. Bodner) or The 39 Melachos (R. Ribiat)) to those around you.  This will certainly serve as an awesome guide and inspiration for you and your family.  A little knowledge can be a… great thing--especially if you keep adding to and reinforcing it-every Shabbos!


An adult grabs something from a child and holds it in his hand behind his back.  When the child wants to take it back, the adult jokingly places it into the other hand and lets the child open the now-empty hand.  “See—it’s not here!”  “I want it back--Gimme it back!”  “Ha, ha.  Where is it--I don’t see it--Do you?”  “But I want it!”


Has the adult violated the lo sa’aseh of stealing, according to Torah law?  According to Rav Avrohom Pam Z’TL, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Torah Vodaas (in Atera L’Melech page 117), he has violated:


1)  The negative prohibition of Lo Signov-stealing, m’Doraysa (NOTE: stealing, even in jest, falls within this prohibition).

2)  The negative prohibition of Lo Sonu Ish Es Amiso--not hurting with words, causing anguish or pain to another, m’Doraysa.

3)  The positive commandment of V’Ahavta L’Reyacha Komocha--loving your neighbor as yourself (not doing anything that you would not want done to yourself)-m’Doraysa.

4)  The positive commandment of V’Halachta B’Drachav--going in Hashem’s ways.  Hashem does not act with cruelty, insensitivity, by taking advantage, bullying, mocking or enjoying himself at the expense of others.


Yes, it is a negative “jackpot”, two negative prohibitions and two positive commandments--from the Torah--violated by having “a little fun” at the expense of others not as strong, powerful or capable as you.


It is important to remember that although one’s life includes several very major experiences, the vast majority of life is the day-to-day, seemingly “minor” situations and events.  Chazal teach “Mitzvos She’Odom Dash B’Akeiev Misavavin Lo Bishaas HaDin”--the everyday mitzvos that a person steps on with his heel-these are the ones that surround him [after 120 years] at the time of his judgment (See Rashi, Devorim 7:12 ).  It is most likely that in every language we will find something comparable to “It’s the little things in life that count.”


One can appreciate this in a startling way by realizing that on Shabbos one has violated exactly the same Av Melacha of Shochet, for which he receives the death penalty, whether he kills somebody in cold blood or whether he pricks that person’s finger and causes just one drop of blood to flow.  Why?  Tosfos (Shabbos 75A) explains that every drop of blood has a breath of life within it-and taking away one drop is taking away part of a person’s life.


This is why it is important for a person to take a more refined look at his daily activities--at his “day-to-day operations”--to get rid of the rough edges--of the need to have a “little fun” when the other person is not really having the same fun; at the accurate and irrefutable-but biting-word; the by-rote quick brocha ejection before or after food intake; or another irreversible kavana-less Shemone Esrei (for help with this last issue, come or get tapes from the Hakhel Yarchei Kallah this Monday, January 2nd).


Remember, it is your life and every little bit of it counts--alot!


Would you ever have expected the news to announce “A few tzaddikim defeat Hannibal ’s elephants”!  Yet, this is exactly what happened.  The mightiest army of its time fell prey to a small band of “Talmudists”.  How did this happen?  In what z’chus?


Rav Chaim Friedlander Z’TL teaches that the equation was straightforward and simple--since the Maccabim were moser nefesh--they broke their own will and were ready to give up their own lives to defeat the Greek influence, Hashem responded in kind, by breaking the rules of creation and nature, i.e., bringing us the miracles of Chanukah.  The Vilna Gaon in Mishle ( 4:13 ) writes that a person should especially focus his life on becoming a better person-that is, breaking his bad habits and bad character traits.


In a similar vein, Rabbeinu Yonah, in the classic Yesod HaTeshuva, states that the Raavad recommended that a person with a great desire for something should attempt to in some way break the desire, by either not fulfilling it at all or at least curtailing it or alleviating it in some way.


Dovid HaMelech in Tehillim (121:5) teaches us that in truth, Hashem “is your shadow”--meaning, that if we can improve ourselves by ridding ourselves of, or weakening, our jealously, anger, hatred or another bad midah or middos we possess, Hashem will also break the bad decree or remove or alleviate in some way the difficult situation in which a person might find himself.


Practical Suggestion:  Let us take the lesson of the Maccabim.  Try overcoming something that would otherwise seem impossible during the course of this week, such as a great desire or a midah which you have particular trouble with, and have almost given up on.  With even one victory, you may receive a miracle of your very own!




On Chanukah, we celebrate not only the defeat of the Greeks, but also our staunch dedication against the Greek influence.


It is interesting to note that the Chofetz Chaim, in his explanation of the siddur, writes that the brocha of “Sheloh Asani Goy” is intended to cover not only that we were not born goyim, but also that we don’t have the same conduct and thoughts as the other nations.


Chanukah is an auspicious time for us to evaluate our conduct--have we allowed into our mind or home something that would taint this brocha?  Some nice inner reflection may be in order.


In any event, a nice avodah over Chanukah would be to recite this brocha with a special thanks, and with a silent prayer, that we not be influenced in a negative way by the world around us, so that each and every one of us can fulfill our important special mission in life.




Your best friend is going to Eretz Yisroel to visit for a few days.  You give him your “wish list”--the things you really need him to bring back for you, and a couple of personal things to take care of.  “… and please don’t forget my list!”  Upon his arrival back to Chutz L’Aretz, you ask him, “Did you remember my list?”  He responds, “Yes, of course I did not forget it--I read the list every single day of my trip.”  With this response, you realize that he has not accomplished what you had hoped.


When we light the Neiros Chanukah, we read “She’asa Nisim La’Avoseinu”, and we say “Haneiros Halalu…K’dei L’hodos Ul’Hallel…”  It is imperative that we not merely read from the list, for if we do that, we are only reading it, without actually accomplishing our task of acknowledgement and thanksgiving.  Instead, we should take some time to think about the great revealed miracles of Chanukah--the few and the weak defeating the many and the strong; the oil continuing to burn--and through this to exuberantly give thanks and praise to Hashem for all of the miracles--small and large, open and hidden--that he has performed for our people and for each of us individually through the millennia, then and now.


In fact, the Alter of Kelm (1:125) writes that the primary obligation of pirsumei nisa, spreading awareness of the miracles, applies to the person himself--when he lights the neiros, he should think about and feel the profundity of the miracles and accept upon himself Ol Malkus Shomayim with heartfelt simcha.  Source:  Sifsei Chaim (Moadim 2:29 )


Practical Suggestion:  Before reciting the “She’asa Nisim” every night, attempt to recall and appreciate some of the nisim of Chanukah, miracles through the ages, and miraculous events that you more recently have experienced.  Perhaps you can even shed a tear of joy at some point.  Is this too lofty a concept?  Would you merely read your friend’s list--or bring back what he wanted?


If you can do this, your “Maoz Tzur” will be more than a well-known jingle or nursery rhyme, but a song of appreciation as pure as the olive oil for our miraculous salvations throughout the ages, from Galus Mitzrayim through the unparalleled miracles of the “Ketz HaYeshua.”


In the zechus of our true appreciation of, and refinement through, Hashem’s miracles, may we be zoche to the fulfillment of “Oz Egmor B’Shir Mizmor Chanukas HaMizbayach.”




The Gemora (Shabbos 105B) teaches that “Anyone who angers – it is as if he worships Avoda Zara”.  An angry person may be a person without middos, a social misfit, or even a scoundrel—but an idol worshipper?!  He davens thrice daily, has a chavrusa, and gives tzedaka-how can he be likened to an idol worshipper?


Rav Chaim Friedlander Z’TL provides a revealing explanation (Sifsei Chaim II:34).  A foundation of our faith is that Hakadosh Boruch Hu presents us with our daily opportunities and challenges, as part of His loving Hashgacha Pratis over us (see the Rambam’s Thirteen Principles of Faith, Principle 1).  Anything and everything that happens to a person is Hashem’s will and for the person’s good.  Accordingly, when one becomes angry over a particular situation or event, he shows a lack of faith in Hashem’s direction, concern and kindness for him.  Even though he may otherwise be a “Believer”, when he angers he is allowing his personal ratzon (wishes or desires) to overrule Hashem’s Will.  His anger is grossly misplaced for he is making his personal predilections superior to Hashem’s guidance in life.


We can assume that the worship of Avoda Zara was generally not a 24/7 experience.  After all, it does not seem logical to conclude that someone spent a good part of every day taking his children through hoops of fire in serving Molech, or that he spent 12-15 hours of the day taking care of his bodily needs in front of Pe’or.  So, too, with anger—a person cannot excuse himself by saying that he only gets angry a few times a day.  Instead, in a moment when he consciously recognizes his growing anger, he should assess this as an opportunity to subjugate his will to the Will of Hashem, who in all situations, loves him and knows what is best for him.  The moment that anger is controlled, the danger of worshipping Avoda Zara becomes a moment of personal triumph, and a tribulation in life becomes Avodas Hashem.




The Ramchal, Rav Moshe Chaim Luzatto, Z’TL, writes as follows:


“No intelligent person can really believe that the purpose of man’s creation is for his condition in this world, for what is the life of a person in this world, and whose life is [totally] blissful in this world.…  Even the person who reaches 100 cannot properly function at that point.  Moreover, if the purpose of man’s creation was for the needs of this world, he would not need a neshama, which is spiritually greater than even the angels.…  Rather, the purpose of man’s creation is his condition in Olom Habah.”


The Ramchal continues to explain that when one searches for something at night, he faces two difficulties.  One is the sheer darkness obstructing his ability to search.  The second problem is even worse--the darkness causes him to confuse a pillar with a person, or even an enemy with a friend.


It is a difficult, but life-fulfilling, task to avoid the darkness with which we may be surrounded in this world and bring in the light of Olom Habah into our daily lives.


A nationally-renowned charity collector recently related that when he visits a certain benefactor, he notices that his hands begin to shake when he writes a check to the collector’s charity.  He fails to realize, the collector observed, that “you can’t take it with you” doesn’t apply to charity, which is one of the few things which “you do take with you.”


PRACTICAL SUGGESTION:  Once a day, for the next five days, take an Olom Hazeh type of activity, such as sleeping, eating or walking, and make it an Olom Habah activity by explaining to yourself what the true/spiritual purpose of your particular activity really is.


Note, if you find this difficult, then try first doing the same with a mitzvah that you are about to perform.


Source of quote:  Mesilas Yeshorim, Chapter 1.  For further reference, see Mesilas Yeshorim, Chapters 1, 2 and 3.


 As we enter the winter season (above the Equator), more and more of us will be wearing dark coats and black galoshes and boots, and bringing umbrellas to shuls, simchas and other public places.  The inevitable (well, almost-inevitable) happens:

  • My coat is gone and a look-alike with someone else’s name is left in its place!

  • Reuven must have taken my boots!

  • I took someone else’s umbrella and I won’t be going back to shul until tonight!



HaRav Moshe Feinstein Z’TL (Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 5:9, paragraph 7) provides us with his p’sak in these situations.  His response is beautifully presented by Rabbi Pinchos Bodner Shlita in The Halachos of Other People’s Money (Feldheim Publishers) page 199:


“If someone found that his coat, hat, rubbers, etc. was mistakenly switched, he is permitted to use the other person’s coat until he can find the owner and switch back.  Although generally one may not use a found item without permission from its owner… when items are switched, it is customary for people not to mind if the other person uses theirs [unless there is reason to believe that the owner would object].  However, if it turns out that the other person did not switch with him, he must ask the owner if he wishes to be compensated for the use of his coat.


“Any institution that has a coatroom with a lot of traffic where coats are occasionally switched should, preferably, institute a switched coat policy.  The policy should state that anyone who leaves his coat or other article there, is doing so on condition that if it is switched, each party explicitly agrees in advance to give the other party permission to use the other person’s item.  This policy should be posted on the bulletin board or in the coatroom for all to see.”


We ask that you discuss with your Rav, gabbai, executive director, etc. the possibility of instituting such a policy.  You may save people walking home without a coat, hat, galoshes or the like in the winter weather.  You will certainly feel your own inner warmth in accomplishing this very special bain odom l’chaveiro!


For further reference in this area, see Aruch HaShulchan, Choshen Mishpat 136:2); and the following contemporary Shailos u’Teshuvos: Shevet HaLevi 6:238, and Teshuvos V’Hanhagos 1:818.


Dayan Aaron Dovid Dunner of London recently related the following:


There is a practice among tzadikim to choose a specific time to fast a “Taanis Hafsaka”, which is a fast for three consecutive days and nights.  This taanis effects a very great kaporas avonos (forgiveness of sin).  It is said about the Steipler Gaon Z’TL that by the third day of this taanis, he would be learning in bed because of weakness.  We cannot, of course, fathom how these fasts effect kaparah for all of Klal Yisroel.


The Vilna Gaon’s wife once accepted this taanis upon herself in the Shabbos Shemone Esrei, at Mincha (the place to accept a voluntary taanis upon oneself is in Shemone Esrei of the preceding Mincha).  She would be fasting for three days straight.  The Gaon searched for her on Motzei Shabbos and was told she went to bed.  “Without Melave Malka?” he asked.  He was told she had accepted upon herself a Taanis Hafsaka.  He woke her, explained the greatness of Melave Malka, and was mefer (voided) her Kabolas Taanis (her vow to fast).  She ate Melave Malka that Motzei Shabbos.


What a great opportunity Malave Malka is.  As the Mishne Berurah (Orach Chayim, 300:2) teaches, the niskoi limb, from which our rebirth commences in Techiyas Hamasim, is nourished only from Malave Malka.  Let us not waste this great opportunity with “diets” on the one hand, or snacking and nibbling on Motzei Shabbos, on the other.  This is kovod Shabbos.  The Shaarei Teshuvah (Orach Chayim, 300:1) writes that the kavana of Melave Malka is to escort the Shabbos, bring brocha to the weekday meals and draw from the light of Shabbos.  If the Melave Malka in escorting the Shabbos Queen has such inherent power, how can we adequately describe the seudos Shabbos themselves, which are in reality already me’ein Olam Haba, more than a “taste” of the Next World?  This Shabbos, as you enjoy the fish, chicken soup or cholent, regale in the fact that we are the irreplaceable Am Mikadshei Shevii, the one and only nation that brings in the Shabbos while the rest of the world is still in the middle of its workday, and escorts the Shabbos in a manner which will keep the rest of the week well-lit!


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