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Short Quiz on Adon Olam:


1.  What does “L”Hamshil Lo L’Hachbira” mean? 

2.  Later on in Adon Olam, what does “V’Hu Nisi U’Manos Li” mean?


Special Note One: In last week’s Parsha, Rashi (to Shemos 2:14) writes that Moshe Rabbeinu wondered as to why the Bnei Yisroel--like no other nation--was being subjected to such hard labor.  When he witnessed the Doson-Aviram beating and tried to stop it, he received the response of “Who appointed you…Do you propose to murder me, as you murdered the Egyptian?”  Rashi writes that Moshe now understood the reason for the harsh servitude--it was BnaiYisroel’s use of harsh words and their improper use of the tongue.  While other nations may improperly use their fists--for that is their tool, the parallel for Bnei Yisroel is improper use of the tongue, for which Hashem must punish and redirect them.


We list below seven quotations, which we can constantly review, to remind us to keep our mind and tongues in check, so that we can finally, once and for all, get out of the Galus are in.


  1. Whoever guards his mouth and tongue is enveloped in a spirit of holiness (Zohar).

  2. Devote greater consideration to uttering a word--than to spending your money (Orchos Chaim of the Rosh).

  3. For every moment that a person remains silent, he merits reward that is beyond the comprehension of even angels (Vilna Gaon from Midrash).

  4. The primary means of obtaining Olam Habo, is guarding one’s tongue.  This is of greater value than the entire Torah and good deeds, for the mouth is a Holy of Holies (Igeres HaGra).

  5. Nothing purifies the soul as much as the sealing of one’s mouth (Yesod V’Shoresh HoAvodah).

  6. He who guards his mouth and tongue, guards his soul from suffering (Mishlei 21).

  7. [Ultimately,] life and death is in the hands of the tongue (Mishlei 18).


Let’s make a special effort this week to let the appropriate phrases above ring and chime within us, to move ourselves--and all of Klal Yisroel--closer to the Geulah!


Special Note Two:  In a recent Hakhel Shiur, Rabbi Yosef Viener, Shlita, showed that, even if there is a huge block of ice separating the Torah Jew from his secular and uneducated friend, one can readily melt that ice by demonstrating the beauty and depth of Torah in a touching way.  As an example of this, Rabbi Viener noted the well-known but moving Dvar Torah about the chasida (stork).  That is, although the chasida (“kind ”) bird is known by that name because it displays kindness toward others of its species by sharing food with them--it is still an unkosher bird.  Why is that so?  After all--since you are what you eat (no carnivorous animals are kosher)--why would one not want to consume a chasida in order to improve upon his midah of Chesed?


The Rezhiner Rebbe (quoted by the Artscroll Chumash, Stone Edition) responds that this is because the bird displays its kindness exclusively towards its fellows, but will not help other species.  To the Torah Jew, this is not an acceptable characteristic.


Poignant lessons such as these can be derived from every Parsha, and can be related to co-workers and neighbors and other acquaintances in the course of the regular conversation, or in providing a Torah thought at a friendly meal.


There are many English books that are available which can help in this regard, such as Rabbi Zelig Pliskin’s Growth Through Torah or Love Your Neighbor.  If you have had particular success with another sefer or book in this regard, please feel free to share its title with us.  When together with the secular or uneducated, we should demonstrate our love for them by constantly thinking about how we can put them on the path that will guide them through Olam Hazeh--and get them to a wonderful and noble position in Olam Haba!



Special Note One:  We are providing a link which lists the Bikur Cholim organizations associated with each particular hospital in the New York area.  This list is available on the Medical Referral Associates website by clicking here.


Special Note Two:  Several days ago, we had referred to the opinion of HaRav Shternbuch, Shlita, that 40 consecutive days of Tefillah for something will work not only at the Kosel HaMaaravi, but could also work outside of Yerushalayim and even in Chutz L’Aretz if one specifically went to a holy place such as a Bais Medrash daily for the sake of his particular request, and stated that he is going to daven there for that specific purpose.  An astute reader who read through the Teshuva noted that Rav Shternbach also writes that one should first give “18 Prutos to Tzedaka to Amalei Torah”--to those who toil in Torah, before each dedicated prayer.


Special Note Three:  With the conclusion of Sefer Bereishis and the commencement of Sefer Shemos tomorrow, we take leave of the Avos, and even of Yosef, whose life took a good part of the last four parshios.  What was the special quality, the unique aspect, of Yosef which made him so deserving of our attention--as the successor to Yaakov Avinu, and the Avos, and as the fitting person with whom to conclude Sefer Bereishis--which is also sometimes known as Sefer HaYoshor (our Guidebook for Proper Conduct)?


There are obviously many different aspects of Yosef’s tzidkus--his righteousness.  HaRav Matisyahu Salomon, Shlita, however, recently focused on a common theme which extends through various events described in the Torah about his life.


First, we find that Yosef was taken down to Mitzraim in a “bed of roses”--not in the typical slave-trade manner, but amongst sweet smelling spices.  Why?  Because Yosef, even in his forlorn state, could still appreciate a pleasant aroma or a calming scene.  Later, we find that Yosef, while muddled in a deep-and-dark dungeon kind of setting (the Torah states that he was in a bor--a pit--not exactly like the prisons of today) asks the ministers placed there with him: “Why do you not look good?”  Is Yosef’s line of questioning a logical one?  The answer seems to be a resounding--Yes, to Yosef, it was quite logical--because of Yosef’s true equanimity, his presence of mind, and his clarity of thought.  He was simply telling those ministers--do not sulk over your state; do not overindulge in self-pity, for it will get you nowhere.  Maybe I can help you in some way…


Then, when Yosef is taken out of the pit/prison to be admitted to Paroh’s presence after not one, two, or even three or four--but twelve--years, Yosef does not start running head first towards the palace.  Instead, despite the fact that “VaYeritzuhu--they rushed him” from the pit to bring him to Paroh, nevertheless “VaYegalach VaYechalef Simlosav” (Bereishis 41:14)—Yosef--by himself and for himself--shaved and changed his clothes, for, as Rashi (ibid.) teaches, it would simply not have been “Kavod HaMalchus”--the proper respect due to a king, if he had presented himself before Paroh in his prison garb and appearance.  Yosef’s clarity of mind and spirit once again triumphed over his erstwhile instinctive reactions.


What follows next is--rather than Yosef ingratiating himself to Paroh, or accepting any form of aggrandizement--he tells Paroh “Biladai--it is not me” whom you should attribute anything to, I am truly only a Hebrew slave--it is all up to Hashem.  I have no special secrets, powers or even sagacious advice--anything and everything I do or say will not come from me.  Once again, his menuchas hanefesh overcame any of the easily-attainable ambitions before him.


Finally, in the end, Yosef explains to his brothers that he is not angry with them; as it is obvious that Hashem directed them in their mission to send Yosef to Mitzraim--and, in Yosef’s words “Al Tirau…--fear not, I will sustain you and your young ones.  He spoke to them and comforted their hearts” (Bereishis 50:20, 21).


The Menuchas HaNefesh, the calmness and clear thinking Yosef exhibited even in difficult situations, is, HaRav Salomon states, the hallmark of true bitachon--faith.  A wonderful by-product of this bitachon is that Yosef is able to keep his hopes and spirits up in all situations--ranging from the dark dungeon to the viceroy’s palace.


With the opening of Sefer Shemos, we quickly find ourselves as “The Jew in Galus.”  It is apparent that the Torah, by providing us with the model of Yosef, is teaching us how to best survive the ordeals of suffering and exile.  The Ramban (in Parshas Vayechi) writes that our current Galus, Galus Romi, is a mirror of Galus Mitzraim, and explains why (see there).  We should, then, take some time out from the lessons of Yosef’s life to help us better manage our current Galus Romi, as well.  Perhaps one can try to take a seemingly “negative” event that has occurred, and try to look at it in a calm and reasoned light--recognizing the positive--the sweet aroma or the silver lining--that may be found in Hashem’s guiding hand.  If this is difficult to do on your own, one can attempt to do so with a relative or friend.


May the lessons from Yosef in bitachon building help to bring us out of the Galus--and into the Geula that we will B’Ezras Hashem be witnessing--as the parshios of the coming weeks unfold upon us!



Language Lesson


  1.  How do you say the word “I” in Yiddish? What do you think the onomatopoeia is teaching us if you say this word too often?


  1. How do you say “You are welcome” in Lashon HaKodesh (not modern Hebrew)?  Why do you think this is the case?


More on Happiness:


We received the following comment on happiness from a reader:


“The other day, I passed by a young shaven-head not well-dressed (to say the least) youth, who was making dance motions in the street as he was walking while listening to his iPod.  This man is happy, I thought to myself--but for what and over what!?  I looked down into my right arm and stared at the talis and tefillin bag that I was holding, as I was walking home from Shul after having davened Shacharis and learned the Daf Yomi.  Didn’t I have much, much, much, more to be happy about than that fellow?  I didn’t want to start dancing in the street--but I began to sing in my mind “Ashreinu Ma Tov Chelkenu U’ma Naim Goraleinu.”  I have direct access and a direct relationship with my Maker through tefillah, and am connected to Him and to eternity through Torah--how great is my lot--even in this world!”


Thank you.   We welcome your beautiful thoughts and comments.


Even More on Happiness:


It is interesting that we only recite Hallel at certain times or periods during the year.  One would think that Hallel should be the cornerstone of our daily life--after all, does not Dovid HaMelech teach us in the last Pasuk of the entire Sefer Tehillim: “Kol HaNeshama Tehallel Ka Halleluka--let all souls say Hallel to Hashem!”  Chazal to this Pasuk comment--“Al Kol Neshima”--on each and every breath that I take Hashem should be praised.


Thus, the language of “Hallel” applies, as Dovid Hamelech teaches, to all souls, and as Chazal further expound, to every breath.


So, why is it then that we do not recite Hallel every day of our lives?  The preliminary response might be that we would simply get “too used” to its recitation and it would not have the forceful effect that it is intended to have.  However, we do, in fact, recite Shema at least twice a day, and Shemone Esrei at least three times daily, and we are enjoined and expected to have the proper thoughts and feelings in its recitation.  Why should Hallel be any different?


Perhaps the answer lies in the following:  Hallel begins with the word “Halleluka”.  One would expect that Hallel would end with this word, as well.  However, in fact, Hallel ends with the Pasuk “Hodu Lashem Ki Tov Ki L’Olam Chasdo (Tehillim 118:29)--give thanks to Hashem for He is Good; for His Kindness endures forever.”  Thus, we conclude, we walk away, from Hallel not with the word Halleluka but with a thought that is to be impressed upon our minds and in our hearts on a daily basis.  It is not Hallel that we are to achieve daily, but Hodu Lashem Ki Tov Ki L’Olam Chasdo--not an expression of intense exuberance, but a steady and consistent appreciation and understanding.


As we go through the winter months, when life seems more tedious and difficult, when even daily chores and responsibilities appear to be more of a struggle, we should try to keep that Pasuk that we left the portal to winter, the last Hallel of Chanukah, with: “Hodu Lashem Ki Tov…”, foremost in our minds.  Whether it is the green light or the red light, the broken phone or the new computer, the compliment or the criticism--it is all for my good--and Hashem, thank You for it!!


A New Project:


A recent email that has been making the rounds worldwide, which you most likely have received, is entitled “101 Ways to Annoy Someone”.  Obviously, if you have not received it, we will not supply it to you.  Instead, we would like our readers to join forces together so that we can produce a new item for circulation entitled “101 Ways to Make Someone Else Happy.”  Please consider this a personal invitation to provide us with at least one submission.  You may want to consider what makes you happy in order to get your mind going.  We will start things off with a simple suggestion:


“Provide a friend or acquaintance with a specific, detailed compliment relating to something they have just done or said, or relating to their appearance--especially if it is clear that they have made an effort to look good.”


We look forward to hearing from you!



Rabbi Moshe Goldberger, Shlita, provides the following meaningful suggestion:


Four words that sum up the secret to being happy:  The last four words in Chapter Two of Tehillim read, “Ashrei Kol Chosei Vo--Happy are those who trust in Hashem.”


Try saying this phrase (in Hebrew or in English) ten times from time to time with thought and feeling.  According to Rabbi Goldberger, you should feel inspired, and more ready to accept and meet life’s tests and challenges.


More on Happiness:  This past Sunday, the 14th of Teves, one of the oldest members of Klal Yisroel, Mrs. Miriam Dier, A’H, passed away in her sleep at the age of 103.  Her grandson explained that he believed the secret to her longevity (“Arichus Yomim”) was based upon following attributes that she possessed:


  1. She would not be critical of another person not of her mindset, and instead would be accepting of others;


  1. She would greet everyone with sever ponim yafos--with a smile that made you feel good; and


  1. She possessed an imitable Simchas HaChaim--a joy of life, despite the sufferings and illnesses that she had experienced in her life.  She had once visited a doctor, who after many attempted treatments, suggested that her big toe be amputated.  When she came home from the doctor her grandson asked her what the doctor had said.  She responded, “Well, my big toe had served me so well for many years--and I still do have another nine toes to work with!”


It would seem appropriate, based upon the workings of Midah Kineged Midah, that if one feels Simchas HaChaim--the joy of life--he will be rewarded by Hashem with more life--to feel more joy!  May her memory be for a blessing and an inspiration to all of us!




We received the following Kashrus Alert from the Chicago Rabbinical Council:


It has come to our attention that produce from Israel, in particular, sweet peppers, is once again being sold in the stores.  The produce that is exported to the United States usually does not have any hashgacha.  Normally, this would only create a slight inconvenience to the consumer, since Maaser would need to be taken in order for it to be used.  Since we must assume that the product does not have any hasgacha (unless you know otherwise) and we are now in a Shmittah year, the produce can not be used at all.


All produce should be marked with the country of origin, so be careful when making your purchase.




Yesterday was Asara B’Teves, the date on which Yerushalayim was besieged before the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash.  Chazal (Medrash Tanchuma, Vayikra 9) teach that it was already fitting for the Bais HaMikdash to be destroyed on this day, but Hashem, in His incredible mercy, pushed things off to the summer, so that we would not have to be exiled in the cold.  We should take this as an important lesson and be especially considerate and helpful to those who are standing outside at your door, walking when you are driving, or even those who are suffering from colds and cold weather-related illnesses.  When you make sure that your family and friends are properly dressed, have soft tissues and the like, you are likewise demonstrating a middah of rachmanus, of special mercy and care, which warms those around you.


Along these lines, Chazal (Rosh Hashana 18A) teach us that, according to one opinion, Naval was granted an additional ten days of life because of the ten meals he fed to guests--Dovid’s men.  Doing the easy math, this means that Naval “bought” a day of life for each meal he served a guest.  Oh, how we should treasure the opportunities of doing a simple and seemingly short-term kindness to someone else, for it results in nothing short of life itself.


Interestingly, the last Pasuk we read in Kriyas Shema concludes with the phrase “Ani Hashem Elokaichem--I am the L-rd your G-d”, mentioned twice--once at the beginning of the Pasuk, and once at its conclusion.  Rashi there (Bamidbar 15:41), obviously troubled by the seeming repetition, concludes that it is to teach us that Hashem is faithful to punish those who do evil--and faithful to award those who do good.  As we leave Kriyas Shema (which provides us with a strong daily dose of the basic tenets of our faith) every day and notice the dual recitation of Ani Hashem Elokaichem, it should remind and spur us to “buy” life with our proper middos and conduct.




Today is the ninth day of Teves, which connects the eighth day of Teves (the tragic day upon which the Torah was translated into Greek, the Septuagint, which is marked as a Ta’anis Tzadikim) to the national fast day of Asara B’Teves.  Actually, today is also the yahrtzeit of Ezra HaSofer (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 580, Mishna Berura, Seif Katan 13), and is also a Ta’anis Tzadikim.


The Chasam Sofer in one of the drashos that he gave on the eighth day of Teves approximately 200 years ago provides the following insight, which will answer two of the questions that we had posed prior to Chanukah:


To jog your memory, the questions we raised were:


  1. Which of the Avos was buried on Chanukah? And

  2. When was Esav buried?


We may have answered that since: (i) according to tradition Yaakov Avinu was niftar on the first day of Sukkos, and (ii) that  the Torah records in this week’s Parsha that the Mitzri’im embalmed him for 40 days and mourned him for 30 days, that the 70-day period ended with his burial on the day which is 70 days (See Bereishis 50:3) after the 15th day of Tishrei (the day of his petira)--which is the 25th day of Kislev, or the 1st day of Chanukah.


It would follow from this (erroneous) conclusion that since Yaakov’s brother (Eisav) was beheaded by Chushim the son of Dan on the date of Yaakov’s burial (in Eisav’s attempt to prevent Yaakov from being buried in the Me’aras HaMachpeila), that Eisav was killed on the first day of Chanukah, answering the second question as well.  The symbolism would have been latent and stark.


However, the Chasam Sofer suggests that in fact, **after** the 70-day period of mourning in Egypt ended, the Bnei Yisroel **then** traveled to Eretz Canaan and eventually buried Yaakov Avinu on Asara B’Teves.  The date of Eisav’s death is then--yes, Asara B’Teves as well.


There is much to learn from the Chasam Sofer’s conclusion, as Maaseh Avos Siman L’Bonim--that which occurred to our forefathers is a sign for future generations.  Firstly, Chazal teach us that “Yaakov Avinu Lo Mais.”  That is, even though it may appear to us that Yaakov passed away, in fact, he lives on--most certainly so in spirit.  We, too, having experienced the devastating blow of the events of Asara B’Teves more than 2,500 years ago have not rolled over and died as scores of other nations have in the meantime.  Moreover, what ultimately happened on Asara B’Teves was the death of Eisav.  This, the Chasam Sofer writes, is symbolic of Asara B’Teves in the end being turned from a date of sadness to a day of “Sasson V’Simcha”--joy and happiness.


The missing link to bring us to what Asara B’Teves is supposed to be is Teshuva.  We all know that this is the shortest fast of the year, so it should be the easiest.  That is a gift in and of itself.  However long or short the fast is, in order to be meaningful, it must be accompanied by Teshuva.  We must do something.  We must make a move to revitalize Yaakov, and to once and for all, put Eisav away.


In a recent shiur, HaRav Shlomo Pearl, Shlita, suggested that the Teshuva be as basic and simple as possible.  He recommended that once a day--yes, just once a day, we, b’li neder, take it upon ourselves to recite one (1) brocha a day--as short as SheHakol Neheye B’Dvaro--slowly and with Kavannah for the meaning of the words while making the brocha.  This determined effort, while ever so small, is a clear demonstration of your determination to come closer to Hashem.  With this, Rabbi Pearl suggests, you have fulfilled your minimal mandate for this Asara B’Teves.


We note that, just last week we had suggested that you undertake this for the 40-day period between the end of Chanukah and Tu B’Shvat.  If you have not already done so, perhaps Asara B’Teves is the day to start, as Rabbi Pearl, Shlita, suggests.


One final, but important comment:  Rashi explains that when Yosef and Binyamin fell on each other’s necks in last week’s Parsha (Bereishis 45:14), it was to symbolize the destruction of the two Batei Mikdashos, and the Mishkan of Shilo, which were located in their respective territories in Eretz Yisroel.  The Avnei Nezer explains that the “necks” symbolize the Bais HaMikdash and the Mishkan, because just as the neck connects the head (which is the resting place of the soul) to the rest of the body, so, too, does the Bais HaMikdash (and the Mishkan) fully and finally connect our physical lives to our spiritual existence.  When we yearn for the Bais HaMikdash, we are yearning to connect our corporeal life to the highest spiritual plane it can achieve.  By making a brocha (the spiritual) over food (the physical) properly, we demonstrate that we are sincerely preparing--and awaiting--for the day when we truly can connect our bodies to our souls in the most absolute and outstanding way that we can!


Special Note One: We received the following comment from one of our readers:


“Regarding the Note about the names Matisyahu and Yochanan, you can add to that list the word ‘Chashmonaim’ itself, as seen in Tehillim 68:32 (which I ‘happened’ to be reading last night) ‘Ye'esoyu chashmanim mini Mitzrayim,’ which in the English translation in my Tehillim meant “Gifts will be brought from Mitzrayim.”


Special Note Two: Yesterday, we referred to the Pnei Yehousha’s question--why did we need the miracle of finding a jar of pure olive oil--after all, tumah (or service in the Bais HaMikdash in a status of impurity), is “hutra b’tzibur”--permissible in circumstances where the majority is impure?  The Chashmonaim could simply have used impure oil?!


HaRav Yaakov Neiman, Z’tl, provides an insightful answer.  He writes that with this one pure jug, HaKadosh Baruch Hu is teaching us that we should not search for “heteirim” for leniencies, in order to accomplish our goals, because if one does so, doing so will become part of his character.  In a recent Hakhel Shiur, Rav Yosef Viener, Shlita, noted that in the course of a work day or even while attempting to draw a friend or acquaintance closer to Torah Judaism, one may believe leniencies are in order, or even required, in order to properly accomplish one’s goal or task.  Rav Viener averred that in many cases one need not exercise the leniency, and his caution will in many cases be respected and even rewarded.


Let us remember that little jug of pure oil the next time we are about to say this, eat that, watch this, participate in that...




Special Note One:  Today, Zos Chanukah, is the last day of our celebration of “Chanu-Kah”--our resting from war on the 25th day of Kislev.  While other nations may celebrate victories in war, we celebrate our rest from the war--the **result** of the victory--which is for us to return to our Avodas Hashem.


The Sefer Taamei Dinim U’Minhagim brings that today is the last Day of Judgment from the Din that began on Rosh Hashana more than three months ago.  Hashem is a very gracious Father and allows us tremendous opportunities to return to Him.  We should spend some time today contemplating how we can complete this process of judgment on a positive note--how we, too, can celebrate this period in which we rejoice in the result of the victory--with a renewed Avodas Hashem.  Some introspection and renewed commitment is certainly within the order of the day.


Special Note Two:  Many of us may be familiar with the famous question of the P’nei Yehoshua--if the Halacha is that “tuma hutra b’tzibur”--impure objects are permitted to be used by the tzibur--then what was the problem using all of the oil rendered impure by the Greeks?  The menorah had to be lit for all of Klal Yisroel and, accordingly, the impure oil was perfectly permissible for use by the tzibur.  Succinctly stated, the miracle of the oil was simply not necessary according to Halacha!  There is a beautiful answer to this question; given by HaRav Chaim Shmuelevitz, Z’tl (whose Yahrtzeit is today, 3 Teves).  HaRav Shmuelevitz asks why we place such a great emphasis on the miracle of finding the oil--even over and above winning the wars against the Greeks themselves.  After all, it is much easier to find things one would not expect to find--than for a handful of people to defeat the mightiest warriors in the world!  Furthermore, with the finding of the small jug of oil, a miracle happened for only an additional seven days.  Yet, because of the successful wars, the Jewish people and their fulfillment of the Torah were saved forever.


To answer this question, HaRav Shmuelevitz notes that the Torah goes out of its way to teach us that when Yosef was brought down to Egypt by the merchants, they were carrying all kinds of  fine-smelling  spices, rather than the odorous items that they usually carried (See Beraishis 37:25, and Rashi there ).  At first glance, it is difficult to understand why what they were carrying mattered at all.  Yosef is at the nadir of his life.  A few days ago, he had been learning Torah with his father, the Gadol HaDor, and now he was surrounded by idol worshippers who are going to sell him into slavery in a morally bereft country.  In a time of darkness such as this, would it make any difference at all what the odors were around him?


The answer is a most definitive “Yes!”  The sweet smell of the spices and fragrances were intended to be a sign to Yosef that even in his darkest hour Hashem was with him, and that he was not lost or forgotten.  Yosef now understood that there was purpose, meaning, and a plan to what was going on around him.  Every miracle, large or small, indicates a “Haoras Panim”--a light from Hashem which shines upon the person and reminds him that he is at all times in Hashem’s embrace.


So, too, here, the miracle of finding a jug of pure oil does, in fact, pale in significance to the miracles that took place during the incredible wars, and the glorious result for the Torah and the Jewish people.  Nonetheless, we celebrate the small jug because it demonstrates Hashem’s “Haoras Panim”--His singular love, His unique care, His special concern for us as His children at all times and in all circumstances.


A parent who does not appreciate his child will only provide him with the absolute essentials that he really needs.  On the other hand, a parent who truly loves his child will go beyond what the child absolutely requires, and will, in fact, go overboard and indulge the child.  If the miracle of Chanukah had only been to give the “mighty into the hands of the weak” or the “many into the hands of the few”, this would have exemplified Hashem providing for our absolute needs only, for He had assured our forefathers that we would continue to exist as a Torah people, and His word must be kept.  But the miracle of Chanukah went well beyond that--it reached to the jug of oil.  It is this Haoras Panim that we celebrate--that Hashem’s affection for us is so great that it extended to that little jug.


Yes, tuma may be hutra b’tzibur--but His love for us goes so much beyond that, and we can and should reciprocate this feeling.



Special Note One: we received the following wonderful thought from a reader:


“In the Al HaNisim, we recite ‘V’Hidliku Neiros B’Chatzros Kodshecha--and they kindled lights in the Courtyards of your Sanctuary.’  There is an obvious question regarding this statement.  The Menorah in the Bais HaMikdash was regularly lit in the Heichal, the Sanctuary inside the Bais HaMikdash.  Why then do we say that the Chashmonaim lit the Menorah not in the Sanctuary, but only in the Courtyards outside the Sanctuary?  The Chasam Sofer answers that had the Menorah been lit in its usual location in the Sanctuary, only the Kohanim who were allowed to enter there would have been witness to the miracle of the lights.  The Chashmonaim, however, wanted to publicize the miracle by lighting the Menorah in full view in the Courtyard for everyone to see.  From this, we see the importance of Pirsumai Nisa--of publicizing the miracles of Chanukah.  We should make it a point to talk to others, and discuss with others what transpired on Chanukah--details and explanations as to how the oil miraculously lasted for eight days, and details as to how a few Kohanim battled the mighty Greek army which had assembled in Eretz Yisroel.  One can read and review with others details about the wars found in the Megillas Antiochus (published in the Snider Otsar Hatefillos among other places).  If the Chashmonaim deemed it important enough to move the Menorah, we should deem it important enough to go out of our way to spread the word and thank Hashem for all of His miracles!”


Hakhel Note: We always welcome readers’ important comments!



Special Note Two: In the recently published “Rinas Chaim” on the Shemone Esrei, HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, makes several important points relating to the Al HaNisim Tefillah, as well:


  1. The leader of the Chashmonaim was Matisyahu Ben Yochanan.  Interestingly, and non-coincidentally, the name of both father and son essentially mean the same thing in Hebrew--a gift from Hashem.  Since a person’s name is indicative of his character (see Yoma 83B), we must surmise that both Matisyahu, and his father Yochanan, lived by the guiding principle that everything in this world was, is and always will be, a gift from Hashem.  HaRav Friedlander writes that a person who lives with this feeling--that everyday life, that even “natural” events and occurrences, are Hashem’s gifts--is worthy of having extraordinary, or “unnatural” gifts, otherwise known as nisim or miracles, performed for or on his behalf, as well.  It is for this reason that in the Al HaNisim text Chazal wrote “V’Ata B’Rachamecha HoRabim--and You, in Your great mercy”--for Matisyahu recognized that the salvation from the 52-year long Greek oppression would not come by military strategy or genius, but only come by and through Hashem’s outstretched hand.  Indeed, in the Al HaNisim, Chazal do not glorify or even praise the Chashmonaim, but instead focus only on thanking Hashem for fighting the battle in oh so many ways.  With this text, Chazal teach us that the essence of Chanukah is to recognize what the Chashmonaim themselves recognized--the outstretched and giving hand of Hashem in all aspects of life and at all times.  It is once again, non-coincidental, that the Greeks were of the completely opposite philosophy.  They believed that man himself was the master of wisdom, and through his own power and prowess he controlled and governed over his own successes and achievements.  It was, therefore, their ultimate goal “L’Hashkicham Torasecha--to cause Bnei Yisroel to forget” the divine and infinite nature of the Torah, and “U’LiHaaverum Maychukei Ritzonecha--to cause them to violate the chukim, the G-d given laws” which we as mortals do not understand but which we merely practice because they are “Ritzonecha--the Will of Hashem.”  Chanukah, then, is the victory of man’s eternal recognition of Hashem over man’s fleeting recognition of himself.  Al HaNisim is placed into the regular Modim prayer to reinvigorate and reestablish our connection and reliance, and our faith and belief that from Hashem come both our nature and our nurture.  Now is the time to begin a “special efforts” program in our Modim Tefilla three times a day.


  1. In the second brocha over the neiros, we thank Hashem for making miracles for our fathers BaYamim HaHeim--in those days and BaZman HaZeh--at this time.  Similarly, in the Al HaNisim we once again thank Hashem for the miracles… “BaYamim Haheim BaZman HaZeh”--at this time.  What is the significance of the words “BaZman HaZeh” both in the Brocha and in the Al HaNisim?  The Eitz Yosef explains that every year in these days the neis, the miracle, is once again revealed, and, accordingly, Hashem instills in these days the power of salvation and redemption for His people.  We still have a little while left to utilize the power inherent in these days for yeshuos for ourselves--and for Klal Yisroel!  Let us do our utmost to fulfill this mandate of the bracha and the Al HaNisim which we have recited so many times over Chanukah--and bring the BaYomim Haheim--those days--into BaZman HaZeh--our very own lives and times!



Today is Rosh Chodesh Teves.  As we all know, the Greeks attacked Shabbos, Bris Milah and Rosh Chodesh as the classic examples of Torah Judaism.  As we light the Menorah this evening, having passed through the sanctity of today's Rosh Chodesh, we should increase our appreciation of the Mitzvah in tonight’s Hadlokas HaNeiros.  To gain a greater and deeper feeling and appreciation of the neiros of Chanukah, we present below a selection from the Sefer Kav Haashar, as so recently beautifully translated by Rabbi Avrohom Davis, Shlita (Metsudah, 2007,Volume 2, p.455-456):


“…In commemoration of this miracle the Jews of every generation must observe the festival of Chanukah for eight days during which they must also kindle lights.  These lights have the status of mitzvah lights.  In many places we find that such lights are very precious in the eyes of Hashem.  Thus it states, "BaUrim Kabdu Hashem--Honor Hashem with lights” (Yeshayahu 24:15).


“Any lamp that is lit for the sake of a mitzvah has wondrous and immeasurable sanctity.  If we merited Ruach HaKodesh, we would recite the blessings over them and immediately attain understanding and insight into the future by means of their kindling--for a mitzvah light causes an outpouring of prophecy completely analogous to that of a prophet prophesying by the command of Hashem!”

While, based upon these words, we cannot begin to fathom the sanctity of our act when kindling the precious Chanukah lights, we present at this link a Tefillah found in the Siddur Bais Yaakov by HaRav Yaakov Emden, Z’tl, to be recited prior to kindling.  Its recitation, if possible, could put one in the proper state of joyous awe, as we bask--and indeed illuminate ourselves--in the Mitzvah over the last nights of Chanukah.  If you cannot recite this Tefillah, do your best to contemplate the moment!


We have received many requests for the answers to the questions in preparation for Chanukah previously submitted.

The responses to the first two questions are provided below:


The Tur (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 118) writes that the Anshei Knesses HaGedolah (the Men of the Great Assembly) provided for exactly 24 words in the bracha of V’LiYerushalayim.  The Aruch HaShulchan (Orach Chaim 118) actually writes that, based upon this  precise count , the correct Nusach within the bracha  is “V’Chisei Dovid Meheyra” and not “V’Chisei Dovid Avdicha Meheyra”, as the word “Avdicha” would constitute a 25th word, which is not part of the original nusach established with Ruach HaKodesh by the Anshei Knesses HaGedolah.  We suggest that these 24 words are then followed by the next Brocha of Yeshua, or salvation (Es Tzemach), for the 25th word, very much like the 25th day (of Kislev), brings salvation to Yerushalayim and the Jewish people.


The response to the second question posed regarding the number of letters in Baruch Shem Kevod… is quite similar:  There are 24 letters in Baruch Shem, which are followed in Shema by “V’Ahavta”--our expression of love to HaKadosh Baruch Hu.  In order to arrive at the 25th letter, the first 24 letters raise us to a degree of love that we were previously unable to obtain.


From all of this, at the very least, we should appreciate the words of our Tefillos which are imbued so accurately with Ruach Hakodesh.

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