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Hakhel Email Community Awareness Bulletin



Special Note One:  What can there possibly be in “California Grown Cinnamon Almonds”?  Perhaps more than meets the naked eye.  The OU issued a Kashrus alert informing the public that a certain brand under its Hashgacha “contains dairy ingredients as listed on the ingredient panel, but the dairy designation has been inadvertently omitted.  Future packaging will be revised.”  This is yet another lesson in how careful a consumer must be in looking at labels and reviewing ingredient panels.  It is, indeed, the buyer who must always beware!



Special Note Two:  The National Council of Young Israel has set up “NCYI Jobs” as a free e-mail-based employment bulletin board to assist those in the Jewish communities in the United States , Israel and around the world in seeking employees and employment.  Subscribe at:   NCYIjobs-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.  Yasher Koach to the National Council of Young Israel.



Special Note Three:  Chazal teach that “Agra De’Taanisa Tzidkasa--in order to empower one’s fasting, he should give charity”.  One should be sure to at least give to Tzedaka the cost of the food for the meals that he did not eat (because of the fast).  We note that charity often accompanies Teshuva (which is the ikar of any fast), because a key element of improvement is extending the “I” within oneself to others.  If one has not yet given Tzedaka in connection with his Asara BeTeves fast, may we recommend giving food to the poor right now?  If you need a quick and important recommendation--Yad Eliezer at yadeliezer.org.  Now is the time to fulfill the words of Chazal, and make your fast especially meaningful.  Don’t let the mitzvah slip away!


Hakhel Note:  Two additional points about the fast and fasting-and what we can do to show that we are not immaturely leaving it behind, like something that is over and done with:


1.      The Sefer Pele Yoetz writes that one should not become angry on a fast day, as this is one of the day’s great nisyonos.  When one is hungry, he operates under greater strain, with less patience and forbearance.  If one feels that he may have become overly upset or intolerant, perhaps he can take another day in which he is especially careful to be fully tolerant and in control, Zecher LeAsara BeTeves!


2.      The Ra’avad, as brought by Rabbeinu Yonah teaches that breaking one’s desire by not continuing to eat when eating out of desire is considered as “a Ta’anis, a Korban and a Mizbeach Kapara--as a fast, a sacrifice and an alter of forgiveness.”  We must remember that these words are not expansive oratory, but the words of a Rishon brought in the Yesod HaTeshuva!  One can practice this truly remarkable opportunity on any day.  Nobody would really disengage from his physical desire unless he had a spiritual purpose (look at most of the world around you which is devoid of that purpose)--so by willfully and intentionally breaking your desire--you are on top of all else, undertaking a noble act of Kovod Shomayim, demonstrating that your dedication and striving is towards the ruchniyus of life, and what Hashem seeks of you in this world.



Special Note Four:  Several recent comments from our readers:

1.      Based upon Lachash we provided the other day, one reader prepared a small “Choking Instructions” poster for his kitchen.  We provide this poster by clicking here.


2.      Another reader suggested that everyone become familiar with the Heimlich Maneuver, which could also prove useful at any time.


3.      Another reader provided an acronym for our daily call of “E”mes, “E”munah, and “K”iddush Hashem--the first letters spell out “EEK”--everyone should be sure, he wrote, to “EEK” out his living!


4.      We had provided a distinction that one of our readers provided between the Hebrew term “Chelek” (which is equal to 3 and 1/3 seconds) being considered a “Chelek”--an actual portion of the day--in comparison to the English word “minute”--constituting eighteen Chalokim--yet which, to the world at large that does not properly value its time is only a “mi-nute,” or insignificant aspect of the day.  A reader pointed out that the English word for “face” is derived from the same source as “façade,” meaning the visible surface, for the face is only an outward manifestation, while the Hebrew word “Panim” is based upon “P’nim” or the internal part of the person, for the face shows one’s inner makings.  We can therefore understand why a person should always maintain a “Sever Panim Yafos--a pleasant countenance and disposition to others,” as this truly is intended to reflect upon his personal innermost Hashkofos, his true demeanor and attitude as well.  Indeed, it is said in the name of HaRav Yitzchak Hutner, Z’tl, that the reason Tzniyus does not require one to cover his/her face is because clothes are intended to cover outer portions of the body--and one’s face is only the outside part of his inner being!



Special Note One:  In the remarkable new Sefer, 28 Verses That Can Change Your Life, Rabbi Moshe Goldberger, Shlita, provides practical suggestions on practical improvement in one’s personal life based on famous Pesukim in Tanach.  We provide below a summary of one of these pesukim and some of its lessons.  Pasuk 22 (Sefer Yeshaya 26:4) teaches:  “Bitchu Bashem Adei Ad…--Trust in Hashem forever, for in Hashem is the strength of all worlds.”  This pasuk, which is recited at the end of U’va LeTzion, soon before we will be going out into and encountering the world for the day, reassures us that Hashem can handle all of the world’s issues and problems, let alone yours.  After all, let us be practical and realistic--Hashem has existed forever, and is with you for your entire life.  Don’t think you are ever on your own--It’s simply not true.  Hashem is always in charge, and at times he tests us to see if we recognize that.  When you face adversity, remember the pasuk, and say to yourself.  “Bitchu Bashem Adei Ad--Trust in Hashem forever.”  When one trusts in Hashem, he has a Powerful Ally, the Best one.  Many times it is a lack of sufficient bitachon that is the problem, not the challenge itself.


Based upon this, we can understand the message of other Pesukim “Ukraini Beyom Tzarah--call Me when you have trouble, I will help you....” (Tehillim 50:15).  This does not mean only that one necessarily should pick up the phone and dial the direct number only once.  Keep calling.  Sometimes, it may seem that one is not getting through, that the lines are down or are overly busy.  Chas VeShalom!  Dovid Hamelech explicitly teaches “Kaveh El Hashem, Chazal VeYa’ametz Libecha--hope to Hashem, strengthen yourself and hope to Hashem [once again].”  As Chazal (Brachos 32B) instruct, ”If a person sees that his prayers were not answered, let him pray again!”


There is even something more.  It is a special blessing to trust in Hashem--as the Pasuk teaches “Baruch Hagever Asher Yivtach Bashem--blessed is a person who trusts in Hashem, and Hashem will fulfill his trust.”  It follows then that the **more* we trust in Hashem--the more blessings we will receive!


Hakhel Note:  For additional Pesukim on bitachon, please click here  Bask in Hashem’s Greatness--you are indeed eternally fortunate!



Special Note Two:  HaRav Yaakov Meisels, Shlita, powerfully shows from Yosef how far one should go to avoid humiliating, embarrassing, hurting or paining another:


1.  When Yosef revealed his identity to his brothers, he first ordered all of the Mitzriim out of the room so that his brothers would not feel the shame and embarrassment upon his disclosure.  Can one imagine the great risk literally of life that he had placed himself in?!  He had left himself alone in the room with his brothers, who had previously intended to take his life for Halachic reasons--and he had no knowledge or basis for determining that they had changed their Halachic Ruling!  The Medrash Tanchuma teaches, in fact, that Yosef had determined--better that I be killed than that my brothers be embarrassed before the Mitzriim.


We must remember that Yosef had gone through the entire episode with his brothers because he understood that his dreams had to be realized, not for personal purposes, but for K’lal Yisroel--and ultimately world history.  He had gone through such torment in Mitzrayim physically and spiritually awaiting fruition of the dreams, and was so close to their fulfillment (and to once again seeing his father which he so longed for in its own right), but made the decision that none of this--even fulfillment of the dreams for the world--was worth it--and he was going to very literally risk his life with the good possibility that his brothers (who could have taken on all of Mitzrayim) would kill him--all of this so that his brothers would be saved the pain and embarrassment before the Mitzriim who were in the palace at that moment.


2.  When Yosef revealed his identity, and he saw that his brothers were so ashamed, he put aside all of his years of disgrace, disgust and exile, being away from his father, his home and environment, and instead immediately tried to mollify them with words of appeasement--so that they should not even feel hurt before him.  He told them that they had not done wrong...as through their actions the future of K’lal Yisroel would be assured.  He kissed them--and even told them not to argue among themselves over this on the way home!


3.  Once Yaakov Avinu came to Mitzrayim, and Yosef was so desperate to make up for those 22 years of loss and lost time, he actually did not and did not keep company with Yaakov Avinu--because he was afraid that he would reveal to Ya’akov how he had gotten to Mitzrayim and embarrass his brothers (for even though Ya’akov knew of it from other sources, Yosef would not be the source of the disgrace).


These Middos of Yosef may be beyond our comprehension, but the lesson is manifest and clear for each and every one of us.  How far must we distance ourselves from shaming another, from the hurt or disgrace they may feel, from the opportunity for even “justified” revenge, from making someone the subject of a cute joke, from making him feel foolish, childish, silly, ignorant or wrong.  Situations arise all the time, at home, at work, while driving, at the checkout counter.  We are faced with daily challenges where we can use that one line, that one opportunity, that one time that you can (finally) teach someone a real lesson.  In truth, these are all opportunities of life--not to demonstrate your mastery, superiority, prowess, verbal skills, wit or wisdom--but to show that you, too, can treat your brothers with the notion of concern and kindliness, with the compassion, with the sensitivity and caring, that Yosef did his!



Special Note One:  In this week following Asara BeTeves, let us remember--“Emes, Emunah, Kiddush Hashem!”


Special Note Two:  Several years ago, in our “old” hard copy Bulletins, we published the paragraph below.  We are pleased below to add two Additional Notes to this life-saving topic.


The Last Remaining Lachash.  Chazal (Shabbos 67A) teach that if a person, R’L, has a bone stuck in his throat, one should bring a bone of the same type and place it on the person’s skull and say “ Chad chad, nochis bola, bola nochis, chad chad.”  Rebbi Akiva Eiger (Yoreh Deah 335, D’H Nasnah) brings from the Maharil that this lachash is the last one we can generally use even in our days--as it is still “boduk um’nuseh.”  Indeed, Rabbi Elimelech Lebowitz, Shlita, noted Rav and Posek in Flatbush, related that he himself was in the presence of someone choking on a fish bone, and that he used this lachash.  The bone immediately dislodged itself, and the choking person quickly recovered, b’chasdei Hashem.  Suggestion:  Keep this lachash handy--you could become a one-man Hatzaloh team!


Additional Note 1:  Last week, a Doctor reported to us that a senior Rav (his patient) called him in the morning, and asked him for a specialist, as something from breakfast (apparently a vegetable) had gotten lodged in his throat and he did not want to have to go to the emergency room to be treated for this dangerous predicament.  The Doctor suggested that he put a piece of the same item that was lodged in his throat on his head, and then say the Lachash.  The Rav said he would, but requested that a specialist call him in any event with medical advice. By the time the specialist called the Rav a few moments later, the Rav had said the Lachash and was fine, telling our Doctor that he was a “stikele Rebbe”!


Additional Note 2:  We asked HaRav Yisroel Belsky, Shlita, some questions regarding use of the Lachash.

Q.  Would it work with any food upon which one is choking--and not only on a bone, as seems to be evident from the previous story which involved a vegetable?  A.  Yes.  It works with any food.


Q:  If one did not have more of that food--could he place something else on the head?  Yes, he could place the empty plate from which the food came.


Q:  Did the person choking have to recite the Lachash—or could it be another?  It could be someone else close by.  In fact, Rav Belsky related that he was at a small seudah at which one of the participants began to choke, and he (Rav Belsky) immediately put an empty plate on the choking person’s skull, and said the Lachash.  The food immediately dislodged with no pain.  This was, of course, the talk of the balance of the seudah--a miracle in front of their eyes!  Incredibly, about a year later, Rav Belsky attended a similar seudah with the same attendees--and someone began choking again.  Rav Belsky once again took action with the Lachash, and the food dislodged, although the person choking this time experienced discomfort afterwards for about ten seconds.  After this life-saving event, the people only seemed to discuss that this time there was pain for several second afterwards…They were already used to the miracle from last year!



AND REMEMBER that each and every time it works it is a miracle--together with all of those other wonderful miracles of everyday life (can you think of three new miracles every time you recite “V’al Nissecha SheBechal Yom Imanu” in Modim?)”



Special Note Three:  The Sefer Talilei Oros (to last week’s Parsha, Vayigash) presents an outstanding teaching from HaRav Aharon Leib Shteinman, Shlita.  HaRav Shteinman brings the Sefer Rokeach who writes that the reason we take three steps forward before commencing Shemone  Esrei is because the word “Vayigash” --and he approached--appears three times in Tanach:  First, “Vayigash Avrohom” (Bereishis18:23)--when Avrohom approached Hashem to plead for the people of Sodom;  Second, our Parsha—“Vayigash Eilav Yehuda”--when Yehuda approached Yosef to appeal for Binyomin; and Third, “Vayigash Eliyahu” (Melochim I 18:21)--when Eliyahu approached the people at Har HaCarmel--intending to bring them back to the service of Hashem.


HaRav Shteinman writes that this Sefer Rokeach requires explanation.  Yes, Yehuda approached Yosef, and Eliyahu drew close to the people, because when you want to engage another human being, you approach him, you come close to him.  Does one, however, come “close” to Hashem by taking three steps forward?  Hashem is everywhere--including immediately in front of you--even without taking three steps forward!  What does one accomplish at all by taking three steps in front of him?  There is, in fact, a great lesson here.  When one wants to draw close to Hashem in prayer, he must do something to show that he wants to draw close--that he is not standing in the same place as a moment ago and simply opening his mouth.  While one may not be drawing physically closer to Hashem, by deliberately taking measured steps forward, he demonstrates that is not staying in the same position and condition that he was in a few moments ago before this opportunity of personal tefillah.  Incredibly, the pasuk immediately preceding Vayigash Avrohom states that Avrohom Avinu was already “Omaid Lifnei Hashem--standing before Hashem” (attaining nevuah at the time)--yet before he could begin his entreaty on behalf of the people of Sodom, he still had to be Vayigash, he still had to take some action to indicate that he was about to begin a very special and privileged encounter-direct prayer before Hashem Himself!


Hakhel Note:  One should recite the introductory Pasuk to Shemone Esrei--“Hashem Sefasi Tiftach (Tehillem 51:17)…--Hashem open my lips…” only **after** having taken these three important steps forward (See Sefer Tefillah KeHilchasa 12:21 ).  One should be in his changed state--in his different place--prior to asking Hashem that in this Shemone Esrei He assist him by opening his mouth in prayer.


So, when taking those three steps forward prior to each Shemone Esrei--we must make sure that it is not only our feet that are moving--but our entire mind and being as well!



Special Note One:  Today is 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.  For further detail on the tragedy of the Septuagint, we refer you to the Sefer HaToda’ah, translated into English as The Book of Our Heritage (Feldheim), by Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov, Z’tl.


Tomorrow, the ninth day of Teves is actually also a Ta’anis Tzadikim, for it is the Yahrtzeit of Ezra HaSofer (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 580, Mishna Berura, Seif Katan 13).  As a zechus for Ezra Hasofer, one can review the Takanos that Ezra instituted, as described in Bava Kamma 82A.


These two days are then followed by a third Ta’anis, Asara B’Teves, which is observed by all.


The Chasam Sofer in a Drasha that he gave on the eighth day of Teves (approximately 200 years ago) suggests that after the 70-day period of mourning in Egypt ended for Yaakov Avinu, the Bnei Yisroel 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 in our observance of Asara B’Teves.  After all, 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.


One suggestion may be to take out your Vidui booklet, or other Rosh Hashana/Yom Kippur reminder.  We especially note that Asara B’Teves is also our next “Asiri Lakodesh”--the  next tenth day in a series of ten day periods since Yom Kippur--an especially auspicious day for personal improvement!


One final, but important comment: Rashi explains that when Yosef and Binyamin fell on each other’s necks in this 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 for--and awaiting--the day when we truly can connect our bodies to our souls in the most absolute and outstanding way that we can!



Special Note Two:  Chazal (Medrash Tanchuma, Vayikra 9) teach that it was already fitting for the Bais HaMikdash to be destroyed on Asara B’Teves, 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.



Special Note Three:  To some, fasting on Asara B’Teves may be perplexing for, after all, the Golus Bavel lasted only 70 years, and many great events occurred after Nebuchadnezzar’s initial siege of Yerushalayim--including Purim, Chanukah, the Nevuos of Chagai, Zecharya and Malachi, and the Bayis Sheni, which stood for 420 years.


Yet, we know that the fast of Asara B’Teves is so stringent that even it if occurs on Erev Shabbos--unlike all of the other fasts--we fast the entire day until Shabbos begins.  For the initial siege was, in fact, the horrifying beginning to the end of the most glorified time in our history to date--The First Beis Hamikdosh with all of its open miracles--the Shechina’s palpable presence, the Aron with the Luchos, and literally hundreds of thousands (!) who had reached the level of nevuah (Megillah 14A).  With the enemy surrounding the city, the downfall of this singularly unique period began.


As we look in the Torah, we find that very bad endings have to start somewhere, and that it is the terrible beginning that we need to control and avoid.  Perhaps the greatest example of this is one of the Aseres Hadibros.  The last of the Aseres Hadibros warns us “Lo Sachmod/Lo Sisaveh--Do not covet/Do not desire” (see Shmos 20:14 ; Devorim 5:18 ).  The Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 359:10, 11, 12) explains that desiring leads to coveting which leads to stealing--so that from the initial prohibited desire, three negative prohibitions can be violated.  It is telling that the Aseres Hadibros does not contain the prohibition to steal property--which is the last step in the process--but rather it contains the prohibition to desire and to covet which are the initial steps leading to the horrible end result.  The Torah teaches that it is the beginning of the process where your action is required--for the end may be too late.


Similarly, the parsha of Arayos (Vayikra 18:6, read on Yom Kippur at Mincha) begins with “Lo Sikrivu L’Galus Ervah--Do not get close to forbidden relationships”--which Chazal teach refers to prohibiting initial touching and thoughts.  Likewise, the Torah goes out of its way when prohibiting Loshon Hora to say “Lo Selech Rochil B’Amecha” (Vayikra 19:16 )--Do not even begin walking in order to speak Loshon Hora, for this will lead to downfall.


Of course, the flip side is also true.  It is known that the Vilna Gaon, prior to undertaking a mitzvah, would state, “Hareini Oseh K’mo She’tzivani Hashem B’Soroso--I am about to do what Hashem commanded in His Torah.”  See Haggadah of the Gra.


So, it is really the planning, or at least the forethought, which sets the tone and the standard for what is about to happen and what you are going to do.  Will it be up with Yaakov’s ladder--or down like the dominoes?


Practical Suggestion:  In the last bracha of Birchas Hashachar, have kavana when reciting “V’lo Lidei Nisayon” to ask for Hashem’s help not to come to the first step of a situation in which you can falter--and if you see such a situation coming, think “THIS IS THE BEGINNING-I must avoid or circumvent it.”


In the z’chus of our starting from the beginning, we can reverse the infamous, and literally world-shattering events, that began on Asara B’Teves, and we can start anew with “She’Yiboneh Bais Hamikdosh Bimheira V’Yameinu.”



Special Note Four:  The actual fasting begins at Alos HaShachar on Sunday morning.  In many areas, Alos HaShachar will occur relatively late on Sunday morning (in the New York area, for example, the fast begins around 6 AM, but please check with your local shul or other listing for an exact time).  Accordingly, some may want to arise early to have a bite to eat or drink before the fast begins.  We provide two cautionary notes:


1.  In order eat or drink upon awakening, one must first make an express “Tenai”--a condition--before going to sleep that he intends to arise before Alos HaShachar and eat and drink then before daybreak; and


2.  The amount of food that a man may eat within one-half hour of Alos HaShachar may be limited--consult your Rav or Posek for details.



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


1.  We refer you to the warm words of the Mishne Berurah in lauding one who acts on behalf of the public to promote Shabbos Observance which words include: “Ki Haim Mezakim Es Yisroel L’Avihem Shebashamayim--for they bring merit to Klal Yisroel in bringing them closer to Hashem.”  For additional detail please see: Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 256, Mishna Berurah seif katan 2.


2.  May one put out a fruit or vegetable in order to complete its ripening on Shabbos?  The Bi’ur Halacha (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 318:4) rules that there is no Halacha of “Makeh BePatish” with respect to food items per se.  Accordingly, the Sefer Chashukai Chemed (to Shabbos 102B) by HaRav Yitzchak Zilberstein, Shlita rules that this would be permissible.


3.  On Motzei Shabbos, we will undoubtedly be eating some additional food to give us strength for the fast.  One should have Kavannah that this is part of his “Melaveh Malkeh,” as well!


4.  The following Halachos are excerpted from Shmiras Shabbos K’Hilchasa:


    1. One may not, on Shabbos or Yom Tov, knock on a door with a knocker which is used on the other days of the week, but one may knock on a door directly with one’s hand.


    1. One may scatter sand on Shabbos to prevent people from slipping on an icy patch of ground.  If one knows in advance that it is likely to be icy, one should prepare the sand before Shabbos.  Where none has been prepared, one may use the sand that is available, despite the fact that it is Muktzah.


    1. It is forbidden to release air from a radiator on Shabbos by loosening the screw fitted for that purpose.  One should take care not to do so even after the heating system has turned itself off.


    1. One should not hold one’s wet hands near a warm radiator on Shabbos, even if its temperature is less than 45 degrees centigrade.  There is, however, nothing wrong with warming them at the radiator after they have dried.  In such instance, one should take care that his clothes near the radiator are not wet, even of one’s sole intention is to warm himself and not his clothes.



Special Note One:  The Vaad L’Kashrus Hamayim, formed in response to the copepod filtration problem in New York City, has researched and made available an updated listing of recommended and non- recommended filters for use in homes and mosdos. We provide by the clicking here the most recent guide the Vaad has published.  Should you have any particular questions, you may call the Vaad at 718-301-9032.



Special Note Two:  One reader advised us that just as others may thank Hashem for having their shoes next to their bed in the morning, he thanks Hashem when he remembers where he parked his car--for anyone can have “senior moments,” whether or not a senior.  We may add that one can also thank Hashem when he finds a parking spot in the first place (an expert in Tefillah advised us that when he needs to park, he always davens to Hashem that he find one quickly, as well).



Special Note Three:  Another reader advised us that he had determined how he could make his work day “excitingly meaningful.”  Work need not be defined only as “the hiring of one’s body while alive to provide food and shelter to oneself (and one’s family)”.  Rather, the work day itself, just as eating and sleeping, can--and must--be reframed and reconstituted into a period of the day in which one fulfills his role, goals and duties in this world.  The three great aspects and purposes of the work day, he writes, should consist of: 1) Emes, 2) Emunah, and 3) Kiddush Hashem.


Emes--Truth--is the chosam, the seal of Hashem as Chazal explain.  The Torah itself is called Toras Emes--for this is the loftiest praise.  As we have mentioned in the past, Rav Pam, Z’tl, reported that his mother never even uttered the word “lie” in order not to get anywhere near the concept.  Telling the truth--even when it may appear to “hurt” your chances for the promotion or the deal, and even if it exposes your mistake, misjudgment or ignorance (“I didn’t know that, I’m sorry”), is a key element of Avodas Hashem in the work day.


Emunah is the middah that Chazal teach is the cornerstone of all of life, as Chabakuk teaches, ”Vetzaddik BeEmunaso Yichye--the righteous person will live by and through his Emunah”.  Is there anything more important that we need to nurture and develop in these harrowing times?  Constantly viewing Hashem as being with us in our office or place of business, in the meeting and in on the phone call, and while talking, writing, eating and thinking is integral to our working hours.  Moreover, Emunah is the realization that the people you come in contact with and the successes and failures of the day are not perchance, or because you are having a “bad day” or a “good day”, or because the other fellow is a “gonif” or other kind of nogoodnik, or the result of your acute business acumen or incredible diligence--but ultimately because it is Hashem’s hand that is testing, rewarding and punishing.  Accordingly, “Baruch Hashem”, “Thank You, Hashem”, and “Please Hashem” should really be so commonly on your lips that those who are close to you associate and identify these terms especially with you.  This will also help to knock part of the Western Society (read GALUS) mentality out of you, much in the way that it helped Yosef stay afloat and survive--and actually thrive--in a Galus in which he was more alone than we are.


Finally, we come to Kiddush Hashem.  In a recent Shiur, HaRav Matisyahu Salomon, Shlita, taught of the primary importance of Kiddush Hashem in a person’s life.  HaRav Salomon brought the words of the Mesilas Yeshorim (Chapter 11), who writes--”Ki Harbeh Tzarich HaOdom Lehiyos Chas Al Kavod Kono--for a person has to be exceedingly caring about the honor of his Maker”. This means, teaches HaRav Salomon, that one must take care not to create an impression which is contrary to Kavod Shomayim.  Indeed, he continues, a person should be especially mechaven--have specific intent--to perform acts of Kiddush Hashem.  The Pasuk in Tzefania ( 3:13 ) records that the Shearis Yisroel--the remnant of K’lal Yisroel---will be those who “do not commit corruption, do not speak falsehood, and do not possess a deceitful tongue.”  The S’MAG explains why this is so--why these closely-related specifics are necessary to be part of the Shearis Yisroel.  It is because when Hashem brings the Geulah, He wants the world to say “B’Din Asah Hashem--Hashem acted justly”--for He redeemed a righteous and deserving people.  The pasuk thus teaches the elements of Kiddush Hashem--which Hashem takes pride in and looks so much for, and which are the hallmark of the people that Hashem will redeem.


“Emes, Emunah, Kiddush Hashem”-- all very much interrelated--and all to be very much an absolutely essential part of your entire day.  You can repeat this short phrase, “Emes, Emunah, Kiddush Hashem” over and over to remind you of your underlying and eternal task.  May each and every one of us be part of that Shearis Yisroel--speedily and in our days.



Special Note One:  In what merit was Yosef referred to as “Ain Navan VaChacham Komocha”--there is no one wiser in the world than you?  The Pasuk says it is “because Hashem revealed the dream and its interpretation to you” (Bereishis 41:39, 40).  The next logical question is then, what merit did Yosef have that allowed Hashem to reveal the dream and its meaning to him and be considered the wisest man in the world?  The Alter of Slabodka, Z’tl, explains with Chazal’s words (Medrash Rabbah 23): “Machshava SheLo Chashva Ba’Aveira Tavoh VeTikra Chachma--A mind which did not think of sin--let it come and take wisdom”.  According to this Chazal, the key to Yosef’s success was that he did not let the temptation even enter his mind.  He cleared his thinking of the Yetzer Hora’s influence and did not let the otherwise obvious sinful thought in at all.  Because he had made his mind open and free--there was an equal measure of great wisdom that could enter in its place and stead.  We may not always have the same great temptation and the concomitant great wisdom that can flow from overcoming it, but we must realize the very practical lesson from this Chazal--the more you prevent ta’avah and sin from entering your thought process in the first place--the wiser, very literally, you can and will become!  Your own measure of wisdom is up to--you!



Special Note Two:  We received the following meaningful note from a reader:  “As you’ve so often pointed out, Minhagai Yisroel are so very precious to us, on many levels.  Our daughter reminded us of the significance of playing dreidel (which I think comes from the Maharal):  Although in Chutz Laaretz we play with a dreidel that has a nun, gimmel, hey, shin, many even in Eretz Yisroel play with a dreidel that has nun, gimmel, hey, shin, as well, because these letters allude to the 4 exiles, so when the dreidel “falls” on a letter, it alludes to that malchus’ downfall: Nun=nefesh, which is Malchus Bavel who tried to destroy our nefesh, namely our ruchnius and gashmius.  Gimmel =guf, which symbolizes Paras U’Madai who tried to destroy our bodies.  Shin=seichel, which symbolizes Yavan, who tried to coerce us to accept their seichel (values).  Hei =hakol, all, which is symbolized by Malchus Edom which encompasses all of the previous three.  And Hashem is The Spinner, on top of it all, who allowed these kingdoms to fall and who will, speedily in our days, make the Malchus Edom fall, as well.  Hakhel Note:  Although Chanukah is now over, we can do our part in pleading with Hashem to make the dreidel fall on Hei--in which case the whole world will once and for all be the winners!



Special Note Three:  How many times is the Bais Aharon (from whom the Chashmonaim came) mentioned in Hallel?  Why do you think this is so?  [No, it is not eight.]



Special Note Four:  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 with which we left the portal to winter, the last Hallel of Chanukah, “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 slush and ice or the bright sunshine, the compliment or the criticism--it is all for my good--and Hashem, thank You for it!!



Special Note One:  Tomorrow, Shabbos Kodesh, is also Zos Chanukah, 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 the last day of Chanukah is also the last Day of Judgment from the Din that began on Rosh Hashana three months ago.  Hashem is a very gracious Father and allows us tremendous opportunities to return to Him.  We should spend some time on Zos Chanukah 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 K’lal 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 Motzei Shabbos, 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.


As we leave Chanukah, let us take the small jug of pure oil with us--and bask in the love of the Creator of our world.


Practical Suggestion:  Every day, for the next 40 days, make the Brocha of Shehakol Niheye B’Dvaro and the Brocha of Borei Nefashos, once a day with special Kavannah as to their meaning--including how Hashem loves you and provides you with **all** of your needs, even those that you don’t need--and how you, in turn, love Him as well!!



Special Note Three:  In V’Al HaNissim every day, we have been reciting the words “U’Leamecha Yisroel Assisa Teshua Gedola U’furkan KeHayom Hazeh…--and for Your people you worked a great victory and salvation as this day.”  What does “KeHayom Hazeh--as this day” really mean?  What is the day that we are referring to?


The Sefer Baruch She’Amar (written by the Torah Temimah) suggests it means to express that although we experienced great salvation then, it was not an eternal one, and that is yet to come--for just as this thing called day gets light (as it did at the time of the Chashmonaim), and then turns dark, so, too, will it get to be light once again--and it is that daylight (this time an eternal one) that we once again await.


The Sefer Rinas Chaim by HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, brings three additional possibilities.  First, “day” indicates clarity--the yeshua we experienced then was a clear and unambiguous one.  Second, in the name of the Eitz Yosef, HaRav Friedlander writes that “every year during these days the Nes is once again revealed, and Hashem infuses these days with yeshua and pidyon---the days which started then as days of salvation continue on to this very day to  be especially mesugal to nissim ve’yeshua.”  This means, then, that we can put our finger on these days in our very times--they are now as they were then!  Third, the purpose of tzaros and I’YH the yeshuos from them are for us to return to Hashem, to do Teshuva.  The yeshua is not an end--but a means to get closer to Hashem.  So, every year when we arouse our feelings for these times through Hadlakas Neiros, Hoda’ah and Hallel, we strengthen our bond with Hashem--which means we accomplish the same goals as were accomplished then by the Chashmonaim--so there was not only a “teshua gedola” back then--but also “kehayom hazeh”--on this very day--in our very own Chanukah celebration as well!  How Great--How Wonderful--the effect upon the Chashmonaim is mirrored in the effect upon us!



Special Note Four:  We continue with our Erev Shabbos--Halachos of Shabbos series:


The following Halachos are excerpted from Shemiras Shabbos KeHilchasa:


  1. Shoe trees may be inserted into shoes so that they will retain their shape--but NOT if their intention is to widen the shoe.


  1. Mud which is still wet may be gently, but not vigorously, removed from shoes or boots with the aid of a utensil which is not muktza, but dried mud cannot be removed from shoes or boots either by hand or with an instrument, since causing mud to crumble involves the issur of tochen, or grinding.


  1. Any article may be folded if one takes care not to fold it into its original creases, but one should take care to refold it into its normal creases after Shabbos or Yom Tov.


  1. Dry laundry may be folded, provided that one’s sole intention is to make it easier to put away in its place, and that one is not particular about the manner of its folding.  The folding is allowed even when one has no intention of using the articles folded on the same day, so long as the folding serves some purpose on Shabbos or Yom Tov, such as keeping the house tidy.

Hakhel Note:  The concept of keeping the house tidy should not necessarily be applied to other areas--such as washing dishes if one does not plan on using them.

  1. The prohibition against folding clothes on Shabbos or Yom Tov is not infringed by restoring the dents in a hat which has been crushed, or by adjusting to its proper position a trouser cuff which has become turned down.



Special Note Five:  Parshas Mikeitz is always read on Shabbos Chanukah.  There are many possible links.  Below are a few suggestions from the Sefer Baruch She’Amar (p.143):

  1. Just as in Paroh’s dream, the seven gaunt cows consumed the seven healthy ones, and the seven ears of wind-beaten grain swallowed the seven full ears, so too did the few Chashmonaim defeat the mighty Greek army--there is and can only be one explanation--for this is Hashem’s will!


  1. The Parsha begins with the word VaYehi--seemingly (from its sound) a word of tza’ar, expressing the anguish of the times.  Yet, this event ended with the reuniting of Yosef and his brothers.  So, too, with the Chashmonaim, they suffered immensely at the hands of the Greeks, but emerged victorious spiritually and physically.


  1. Most Chumashim, at the end of laining Shabbos morning, list the number of Pesukim just read.  At the end of Parshas Mikeitz, however, most Chumashim also list the number of words in the Parsha--2,025.  This total number of words alludes to the gematria of Ner (50 plus 200=250)--eight times for the eight days of Chanukah--totaling 2000--all of which started on the 25th of Kislev--for 2,025!

A Freilichen Chanukah!



Special Note One:  This world is not as simple as it might sometimes appear.  Dreidel is a pleasant, fun-filled and seemingly inconsequential game, reminding us about how the Jews hid in caves to study Torah, playing games at the mouth of the cave to scout for Greek Army troops, right?  Yes, for sure.  The Bnai Yissoschar adds, however, that those four letters on the Dreidel--Gimel, Shin, Nun and Heh are actually very lofty--for they together have a gematria, a numerical equivalent, of 358--which is also the gematria of Moshiach(!), and also of “Hashem Melech Hashem Malach Hashem Yimloch”--Hashem is, was and will be King.  For Torah Jewry, there is profound depth and meaning infused even into what to the world is just fun and games!



Special Note Two:  What is the word “Macabi” an acronym for?  Many of us may be familiar with its acronym of “Mi Chamocha BaAililm Hashem--who is like You among the strong ones, Hashem?”--for the victory of the Chashmonaim was based upon their utter reliance on Hashem for victory against humanly impossible odds.  The Chasam Sofer, however, teaches that Macabi is also an acronym for “Matisyahu Cohen ben Yochanan,” referring specifically to Matisyahu, as the leader of the Chashmonaim.  What is the lesson for us in this term according to the Chasam Sofer?  We may suggest that it demonstrates the importance of mesiras nefesh by one individual.  Matisyahu, according to many, was not the Kohen Gadol (but the son of the Kohen Gadol, Yochanan), and did not have a leadership position.  He simply determined that action had to be taken, for the Jewish people faced defilement not only for that generation but for all future generations, as well.  He started with his five sons, who risked, and in some instances gave, their lives for salvation, and ended with a Kiddush Hashem of such proportions that the Sanhedrin decided to commemorate the nissim that resulted from this one man’s actions forever and ever.  We cannot underestimate the force--and the effect--that each one of us can have, not only upon ourselves and our families, but also on all of K’lal Yisroel.  Did Matisyahu realize that he and his tiny group of Talmidei Chachomim would bring down the Greek Army?  Did he realize that his single-handed actions would save Jewry from the reform movement of those days?  Quite possibly, he did not realize these effects--but he did what Hashem expected of him, for that was right.  Can we identify a Mitzvah that we, too, can do with mesirus nefesh--performing it fully against the popular or populist view because it is what is right and proper?  We each have tremendous power and potential within us.  We, too, can be a Macabi (what is your acronym--enable it now!).  Let us take the lesson from Chanukah--and empower our opportunities!



Special Note Three:  In a similar vein, HaRav Dovid Kviat, Z’tl, in the Sefer Sukkas Dovid writes that the Chofetz Chaim was asked how Hashem would bring Moshiach if the Jewish people had been experiencing deterioration in each succeeding generation.  The Chofetz Chaim responded that the Geulah will come based upon the pasuk in Malachi ( 3:16 ) “Az Yidbaru Yirei Hashem Ish El Raieihu--then they who fear Hashem will talk among themselves” [to strengthen the Jewish people]... and then Hashem will send Eliyahu HaNavi.  HaRav Kviat continues:  “Similarly, at the time of the miracle of Chanukah, the entire Jewish people had not yet repented.  It was only a small band that fought the Greeks.  The majority of the Jewish people were mired in sin.  But following the victory of the Chashmonaim and the miracle of the jug of oil, the nation repented.  Just as from the one small jug of oil, the Menorah was able to remain lit for eight days, so, too, did the few Torah-true Jews miraculously save all of Jewry.  We must understand that the miracle of Chanukah is different from other miracles because it happened at a time when only a minority was worthy.  Therefore, it was established for all generations.  This is alluded to in Al HaNissim, where we say that Hashem gave over “the many in the hands of the few.”  They were few not only in comparison to the Greeks, but they were also few in the people of Israel .  For this reason, their victory was exceptionally miraculous.  So, too, when Moshiach comes will the small knot of Yirei Hashem bring the entire people to salvation and repentance.”  Hakhel Note:  Wouldn’t you like to be among this special group?  We have the lessons and the lead of the Macabim to follow!



Special Note Four:  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 the first day of 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 HaYashar, 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!”



Special Note One:  Why do we eat ‘Sufgoniyo(s)(t) on Chanukah?  Many have a common answer on the tip of their tongue (or is it lips?).  However, HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Z’tl, has a different insight.  HaRav Auerbach teaches that after ousting the Greek forces from the Beis HaMikdash, the Chashmonaim were able to be me’taher--to purify--everything--except for stones of the Mizbeach which the Greeks had ruined and which accordingly had to be put away into genizah, and replaced with new stones.  In order for us to remember what happened to the Mizbeach, the custom was to eat something which required an after-bracha of Me’Ein Shalosh, such as Al HaMichya, for this is the only bracha which specifically asks Hashem to have Rachamim “Al Mizbachecha”--on Your Mizbeach.  Indeed, even Birkas HaMazon (in the third bracha), when asking Hashem to have Rachamim upon Yisroel, Yerushalayim, Zion and the Bais HaMikdash does not specifically request His Mercy for the Mizbeach as we do in Al HaMichya.  It is for this reason that we eat those wonderful doughnuts--so that we can remember what happened to the Mizbeach--and ask for Hashem’s Mercy in bringing it back to us!


Hakhel Note:  It is fascinating to note that when Megillas Ta’anis (Chapter 9-Kislev) describes Chanukah, it teaches as follows:  “Why was Chanukah established for eight days--after all, the dedication of the Mishkan was for only seven days (Aharon and his sons could not leave the Ohel Mo’ed for seven days), and the dedication of the First Bais HaMikdash was seven days (followed by seven days of Sukkos).  So, why here was Chanukah established for not seven, but eight days?  The Megillas Ta’anis answers that the Chashmonaim, upon retaking the Bais HaMikdash, had to rebuild and replaster the Mizbeach and prepare new utensils, new K’li Shareis, for it--and the Chashmonaim were involved with it for eight days.  In addition to providing another answer to the Bais Yosef’s question, this answer shows how our celebration of the rededicated Mizbeach is an important part of the Chag, and why we recite Kepital 30--Mizmor Shir Chanukas HaMizbeach--after davening and after Hadlakas Neiros during Chanukah.  If one reviews Megilas Antiochos, you will note that to the Greeks offering a chazir to their avoda zara on the alter that they had built in the Bais HaMikdash was especially important to them--but in the end it is our service to Hashem on the Mizbeach--the true G-d served on the true altar--that prevailed then and will prevail again.  It is always good to be on the side that ultimately wins--all you have to do is deserve it.  Chanukah is a time of rededicating ourselves to Hashem’s service--coming to Shul on time, davening with Kavannah, thanking Hashem and really meaning it, and realizing that five Kohanim can beat the Greek Army, elephants and all--through Hashem’s “Rachamecha Harabim”--through Hashem’s unrivaled, incomparable and incredible Great Mercy, which we should always believe in, and we should always beseech.  More about this essential lesson in the next Special Note.



Special Note Two:  In the Rinas Chaim on Shemone Esrei, HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, makes several important points relating to the Al HaNisim Tefillah.  [The Al Hanissim and what it describes is so pivotal to Chanukah, that the Siddur Rashban actually writes that Al HaNissim takes the place of a Korban Todah offering in gratitude for the Nes!]. The Rinas Chaim writes as follows:


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’LiHa’averum 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.  Hakhel Note:  Now is the time to begin a “special efforts” program in our Modim Tefilla three times a day.


2.      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!



Special Note One:  You can find the Megilas Antiochus in English by clicking here.  Why not read it after Hadlakas Neiros?



Special Note Two:  The Magen Avraham (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 676, seif katan 2) writes that one recites 36 words in Haneiros Halulu (corresponding to the 36 neiros lit on Chanukah).  In most editions of the Siddur that we know of, the Nusach contains more than 36 words.  A copy of the published nusach of the prayer consisting of exactly 36 words, which is found in the Siddur Rashban, is available at the following link  http://tinyurl.com/33uv5d



Special Note Three:  Now that you are assembling we hope at least 8 answers to the Bais Yosef’s great question as to why we observe 8 days of Chanukah and not 7 (because there was enough oil for one day so the oil only miraculously burned for 7 days), may we ask if you can identify:  A.  The Bais Yosef’s three answers, and a difficulty with each of the three answers; and B.  An answer that is alluded to in the Maoz Tzur itself (pay attention to what you are singing!)?



Special Note Four:  In response to our readers’ requests, we do intend to provide answers to our questions posed relating to Chanukah.  Below are two questions, and suggested responses:



1.  Why do we light 36 Neiros over Chanukah (excluding the Shamash)?


Answers:  a.  According to the Sefer Rokeach it is because Adam HaRishon used the Ohr HaGanuz for 36 hours before it was hidden away.  In fact, the Bnai Yissoschar in the name of R’ Pinchas of Karitz writes that although we may not see it when lighting, the Ohr HaGanuz itself is revealed at the time of the Hadlakas Neiros!


b.  The Neiros symbolize Torah SheBaal Peh, and there are 36 Revealed Mesechtos in Shas (Sefer Taamei Dinim U’Minhagim).



2.       How many words are there in the bracha of She’Assa Nissim and what does this symbolize?




Preliminary Note to Answers:  There are thirteen words in She'assah Nissim.  We note that, in fact, there are thirteen words in the first bracha as well of LeHadlik Ner Shel Chanukah, if you follow the ruling and custom of placing the last two words of the bracha together and read them as one word--SheLChanukah (also, some do not recite the word “Shel” at all, resulting in thirteen words).


a.  One answer would then clearly be that the thirteen words represent the Thirteen Middos of Hashem which we are me’orer, which we arouse by giving proper Hoda’ah to Hashem with the Hadlakas Neiros on Chanukah.  Moreover, the two brachos of LeHadlik and She’Assah Nissim would then collectively be twenty-six words, representing the gematria, the numerical equivalent of Hashem’s Name of Mercy--the Yud Key Vov Key.  With this, we can also understand the answer to another question we had posed:  Why didn’t the miracle simply occur all at once on the first day by the small jug turning into a large jug sufficient to last for eight days?  The answer (actually given by HaRav Shlomo Zalmen  Auerbach, Z’tl) is that Hashem wanted to give **us the opportunity** to express Hoda’ah to Him not just for one day but for eight days--thereby developing our connection with Hashem, our ruchniyus, and middah of Hakaras HaTov--and our zechusim!


b.  We received the following different and  beautiful response from a reader:  “There are thirteen words in She’Assah Nissim, which corresponds to the gematria of the word Echad (unity), and to all thirteen shevatim together, including Ephraim and Menashe.


“The Sefer Nissim V'Niflaos, which I bought on your recommendation (and it truly is wonderful), makes the point that the time of year between Chanukah and Purim entails an emphasis on communal Achdus--in contrast to the beginning of the year where the emphasis is on Teshuvah that usually involves personal introspection.  The initial Teshuvah period ends on Zos Chanukah, and simultaneously we expand our focus beyond ourselves to begin preparing for the nation's birth on Pesach, and Matan Torah on Shavuos, both of which have Achdus as prerequisites.


“On Chanukah the focus is on the Bayis, as we begin at home to repair any rifts in the family.  [Hakhel Note:  Readers please take note of this Chanukah Avodah!]  Then, on Purim the effort gets expanded to the community at large, where the Mitzvos of Seudah, Mishloach Manos and Matanos Le'evyonim create a social ingathering that brings together all Klal Yisroel.


“On Chanukah, the Mitzvah of Neiros is directed to the Bayis, and we also have family Seudos as part of the Simcha of the festival.  Amazingly, the Berachos (including She'assah Nissim) are also directed to the family unit, which is the only time of the year that they are not directed to individuals.  Thus, if someone forgot to make a Shehechiyanu the first night, he is to recite it when he lights on the next night.  But, if he was Yotzeh the first night through someone else in the Bayis, he is exempt from Shehechiyanu thereafter, even though he was not present when the Beracha was made and didn't say Amen.  This is unlike any other Beracha where one cannot be Yotzeh unless one actually heard the Beracha being recited.


“So She'Assah Nissim which is only recited on Chanukah and Purim appropriately has thirteen words because this time of year emphasizes Achdus, as we join together in recognizing our life’s purposes and goals--which will bring Yeshua and Geulah as well--as it did for us on Chanukah and Purim!”


Hakhel Note:  Chanukah, then, is a time of selflessness--a time of bonding with Hashem, and those around us… remember the thirteen words!



Special Note One:  Some questions and answers relating to Chanukah:


1. Why can we not use the Neiros of Chanukah--even to study Torah by?!  How beautifully we use the Neiros Shabbos to eat our Seudah by--and they are also Neiros Mitzvah!


Answers:  a.  By not utilizing the Neiros, we generate Pirsum HaNes, as people will discuss the miracles of Chanukah--because of their inability to use the Neiros which are in commemoration of the miracle.


b.  With our inability to use the light, we remember the Neiros of the Menorah in the Bais HaMikdosh, which were ‘huktza l’mitzvaso’--designated for that Mitzvah and that Mitzvah alone, and could not be used for anything else.


2.  To what Yom Tov does the Gematria of Mattisyahu match and why?


Answer:  To Rosh Hashana--with the numerical equivalent of 861.  Rosh Hashana is the beginning of the judgment period, and Chanukah concludes the judgment period, as is alluded to in the Pasuk (Yeshaya 27:9) “BeZos Yechupar Avon Yaakov”--with Zos (i.e., Zos Chanuka, the last day of Chanukah), will our sins be forgiven.


3.  When did the Chashmonaim win the war--on the 24th or the 25th of Kislev--if on the 25th--should not we begin to light on the 26th?


Answer:  There is a major dispute on this point.  The Meiri (Shabbos 21B) writes that the victory occurred on the 24th, and the Neiros were lit on the 25th.  The Pri Chadash brings that it is the opinion of the Rambam that the victory occurred on the 25th, and that we begin lighting on the night of the 25th (rather than on the night of the 26th after the victory) because Chazal established the night of the 25th for future generations to specifically remember the miracle of the victory in war which had occurred on that day.


The Har Tzvi (by HaRav Tzvi Pesach Frank, Zt’l) has a fuller discussion of this disagreement in his sefer on Chanukah, Chapter 2.  The Har Tzvi actually brings one authority who used a new Menorah on the second night so that he could make a Shehechayanu on the second night, as well--making a Shehechiyanu on the first night (the 25th) for the miracle of the war, and the Shehechayanu on the new Menorah on the second night (the 26th)--to also include the miracle of the oil on that night.


4.  Is it considered a Hiddur Mitzvah if you put more oil in the cup than you need?


Answer:  The Chayei Adam (154:21) writes that, when using wax candles, there is a hiddur to use longer ones.  This is because longer wax candles appear nicer, not because they will stay lit after the zeman.  See Magen Avraham to Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 672, seif katan 3.  Based upon this Magen Avraham, it would appear that the same hiddur does not apply to oil.  One can discuss this with his Posek.


5.  If one did not light at night, does he light in the day without a bracha?


Answer:  No, there is no Tashlumim, as a candle in daylight is ineffective (Chayei Adam 154:28).


6.  On the second day, if one does not have enough oil, is it better to light one cup of oil or light two wax candles?


Answer:  It is better to light two wax candles, to be among the “Mehadrin” who light the number of Neiros which correspond to the night of Chanukah. (Chayei Adom 154:24)


7.  How many words are there in the Bracha of V’liYerushlayim Ircha?  What is the next brocha?  Similarly, how many letters are there in Baruch Sheim Kvode Malchuso LeOlam Voed?  What is the next word in Shema?  What does this tell you about the 25th of Kislev?


Answer:  There are 24 words in the brochah of V’liYerushlayim Ircha, and 24 letters in Baruch Shem, which correspond to the 24 days of Kislev before Chanukah.


The next brocha in Shemone Esrei is Es Tzemach, alluding to the Yeshua of the Chanukah period (which, of course, we, too, can be zoche to during this time), and the 24 letters of Baruch Shem are followed by V’Ahavta, demonstrating the love of Hashem that was felt at that time (which we, too, should practice during Chanukah, as well!).



Special Note Two:  When one lights a candle, it is used as a source of light and especially used to search for something.  In fact, Chazal at the outset of Mesectha Pesachim utilize the Pasuk “Achapes Es Yerushalayim B’Neiros--I will search Yerushalayim with candles” to teach that one uses candles for bedikas chometz.  This being so, what does one search for with the neiros Chanukah?  The Sefer Zerah Kodesh suggests that it is Yiras Shamayim that one can find in the Neiros!



Special Note Three:  The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (Hilchos Chanukah, 139:1) writes, “We increase our Tzedakah during the days of Chanukah, for these days are especially endowed with the ability to rectify shortcomings of the soul through Tzedakah--and especially Tzedakah which supports Torah Scholars in need.”  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, explains that the custom to give Chanukah Gelt to children comes from this concept of Tzedaka on Chanukah--putting oneself into a frame of mind to help all those who can not subsist on their own.  In fact, Harav Kanievsky notes, his father, the Steipeler Gaon, Z’tl, would give the Chanukah Gelt to children in his family every year on the fifth day of Chanukah--apparently because it can never occur on Shabbos!



Special Note Four:  The days of Chanukah are days especially dedicated “L’Hodos U’LeHallel--to thank and praise,” for when all is said and done we remained and remain separate and distinct as a people--unaffected by the false ideologies, philosophies, and beliefs of the outside world.  Of course, both thanks and praise involve the spoken word.  However, when we speak, our words are intended to emanate from our hearts.  Everyday, when reciting Al Hanisim and Hallel, they should not be viewed as an “extra” which lengthens the davening in honor of the Holiday, but rather as an opportunity to demonstrate your “Avoda Shebalev--your service of the heart” in true thanks and sincere appreciation for our lives--and for the ordinary and extraordinary miracles that we have, and B’ezras Hashem will continue to be blessed with.



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


  1. It is reported that in the Beis Hamedrash of Reb Moshe of KAbrin, Z’tl, there were many Chasidim who would nearly faint (or even faint) from the great Hislahavus and Hishtapchus Hanefesh they experienced in giving Shevach V’Hoda’ah to Hashem while reciting Neshmas.  In fact, there were actually people appointed to revive them.  Certainly this Shabbos, in which the very atmosphere is especially infused with the Hoda’ah to Hashem inherent in Chanukah, should our Nishmas be inspiring and inspired.

  2. On Shabbos, we will be reciting Hallel for the first of eight times on Chanukah.  Why do we not recite the Bracha of She’Hechiyanu on this initial recitation?  Your thoughts are welcome.

  3. On Shabbos we light Neiros, and on Chanukah we light Neiros--what is the common denominator?  Your thoughts are welcome.

  4. HaRav Shmuel Greineman, Z’tl, (the brother in- law of the Chazon Ish) was sent on a mission to a different city for the sake of Kavod Shabbos.  Upon boarding the train, HaRav Greineman was hit by its closing doors, and his nose bled profusely as a result.  Upon his return and his relating the story to the Chofetz Chaim, the Chofetz Chaim responded “I am Mekaneh you, for you were wounded LeKavod Shabbos!”  Clearly, everyone can do something LeKavod Shabbos for his community.  There is someone in Flatbush who puts a small picture-framed printed notice in the windows of the local bakeries, takeout stores, and other “Erev Shabbos” locations, advising people that “Shabbos This Week is… PM.”  Even if you know when Shabbos is, it certainly reminds you to stay on time.  This special Shabbos, Shabbos Chanukah, should be suffused with a special Kedushas Shabbos, Kavod Shabbos, and some thoughts on how you can assist or inculcate your community with a higher level of Kedushas and Kavod Shabbos each and every week.  Be practical--and creative!



Special Note One:


Questions of the Day:


1.  Why don’t we make a She’hechiyanu on Hallel on the first day of Chanukah?


2.  Why don’t we make a bracha on a mitzva after its performance--such as on Hadlakas Neiros after the awe-inspiring event?  After all, we make brachos achronos on foods after we eat them (based on Birkas HaMazon which is even a mitzvah from the Torah!)--why wouldn’t we make a bracha achrona on the great accomplishment of mitzvah performance?


3.  Why wasn’t the Nes of Chanukah effected by the one small container that was found simply turning into a large container on the first day--with this miraculous container now sufficient to supply oil for all the time that was necessary--why did a new miracle have to occur every day?


4.  All together, we light 36 Neiros.  What symbolism do you recognize in the number 36?


5.  How many words are there in the bracha of She’Asa Nissim--what do you think this symbolizes?


6.  The Bais Yosef asks why Chanukah is celebrated for eight days-and not just seven--after all, the first day’s oil did not burn by miracle--but because it was actually found.  How many answers to this question do you now know?  (You should list them)?  What is your goal as to how many additional answers you will know by the end of this Chanukah?  Hakhel Note: Remember, celebration of Chanukah (and Purim) will never become botel--so all of the answers you attain will be for your eternal use!  Additional Hakhel Note:  It is interesting that the epitome of the Greek culture, the Olympics, are symbolized by the burning torch.  Compare our neiros, lehavdil, to their torch--it is the illumination of ruchniyus, of closeness to Hashem, to the illusory illumination of corporality and self-satisfaction.



Special Note Two:  More from the Sefer Sichos Ba’Avodas Hashem by HaRav Yaakov Meisels, Shlita:  The Kedushas Levi, Rebbe Levi Yitzchok, Z’tl, once found a group of his acquaintances talking about the wealth and pleasures of the Polish magnate Grof Pototsky.  “There is no ta’anug--no pleasure--that he has not enjoyed,” said one of the people to the Rebbe.  “Does he light Neiros Chanukah?” asked the Rebbe.  “Certainly not, I’m sure that he doesn’t even know how or what it is.”  “In that case,” responded the Rebbe, “he has no clue--no idea whatsoever--of what true ta’anug really is!”


Related Note:  The Yesod VeShoresh Ha’Avodah writes that when one makes the bracha of She'Asah Nissim at Hadlakas Neiros, he should have in mind great thanks and praise for the miraculous victories in war that occurred, considering it as if these incredible nissim and yeshuos were performed for him personally.  Moreover, the Kedushas Levi adds that Hashem does in fact perform nissim, niflaos and yeshuos now (‘Bizman Hazeh”) for all of us both in ruchniyus and gashmius--each person in accordance with his individual needs.  Now **that** is real ta’anug!



Special Note Three:  The Alter of Novordok, Z’tl, was in hisbodidus, by himself in a hut in the forest for a considerable period of time.  One night, his candle burned out, and in complete darkness, he could not look into his sefer.  He stepped out into the moonlight.  Suddenly, a man appeared, handed him a burning candle, and quickly disappeared, continuing on into the forest.  The Alter could now go back inside and learn again.  Upon returning home, he took what was left of the candle with him, to remember the great phenomenon that had occurred--how he had miraculously been given light at that moment of darkness.  Several years later, a fire broke out in his home, and the precious remnants of his candle were consumed.  The family feared telling him of this calamity.  When he learned of it, he actually expressed joy.  “This is a message to me from Hashem.  I should not only place emphasis on the great and obvious miracle that occurred to me, but on the miracles that literally occur to me every day.  I don’t need anything to remind me of them, either--I need only look around me, wherever I am and wherever I go!”  Hakhel Note:  If one visits a new doctor for the first time, he is asked to complete pages of questions relating to prior and current illnesses, operations, conditions, and medications.  BE’H, he will be checking the “No” box to most or all of these questions.  However, the fact that the questions are being asked is reason to believe that these conditions and concerns are, R’L, more prevalent than we think.  Every so often, one can imagine himself filling out those forms, checking “No” after “No” in each and every box--and exclaiming, “Thank You, Hashem, Thank You, Hashem for the nissim veniflaos that you bestow upon me--every day of the year!”



Special Note One:  We provide by clicking here a phenomenal poster, which took many months of effort, and which provides absolutely essential information relating to taking a “kosher haircut.”  The poster has the approval of HaRav Dovid Feinstein, Shlita.  The intent is for this poster to also come out in Yiddish, and in a larger, higher resolution format.  The originators of the poster need funding in order to further promote this important work.  As the large poster has not yet been printed, please do not call the phone number at the bottom of this poster to order it.  The information on the poster is necessary not only to those who give their children haircuts at home, but to those who must instruct their uninformed barber as to the cutting instruments/techniques that he may use.  Spread the word!



Special Note Two:  The following questions relating to Chanukah were asked of HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita:

1.      Q:  Chazal teach that if one is careful with lighting the Neiros, he will have children who are Talmidei Chachamim.  Many people light and do not have children who are Talmidei Chachamim?

A:  Together with the Segulos--you still have to learn Torah!

2.      Q:  Is it better to prepare your own wicks as was done until recently, or to use the ready-made wicks, and save yourself ten minutes of preparation?

A: If it will involve Bitul Torah for a Talmid Chochom, it is better for him to use the ready-made wicks.  However, for all others, it is better to be Osek in the Mitzvah.  Hakhel Note:  The preparation of the wicks is a tradition in many families, and certainty in Chassidic circles, where Rebbes spend much time and effort preparing for the Mitzvah.

3.      Q:  If one arrives at his house at a late hour, and has not yet lit, can he wake his parents for them to be present while he lights?

A:  It depends on whether they will be happy about getting up.  If one is in doubt, he should not wake them.

4.      Q:  What is considered a greater Hiddur--a silver menorah of great value, but which is not so pretty, or a beautiful Menorah made of an inferior metal?

A:  Just as with the Se’ir Hamishtoleiach, a fat Se’ir is preferable to a nice looking one, so, too, here does the actual value of the Menorah take precedence over its appearance.

5.      Q:  Did the Kohanim light personal Menoros in the Beis Hamikdash, as they ate and slept in the Lishkos?

A:  It would be forbidden to light in the Azara because of Ba’al Tosif, but in the places where they ate and slept it would appear that they did light Menoros on Chanukah.

6.      Q:  The first day of Chanukah this year is Shabbos.  One therefore lights the Menorah on Erev Shabbos.  It is, of course, preferable to daven Mincha before lighting.  If one has not done so, lights the Menorah and goes to Shul to daven Mincha, should he recite Al Hanisim--as he has already lit the Menorah and brought Chanukah into his home?

A:  No, as he only lit on Erev Shabbos in anticipation of Chanukah coming.  There is no “Kabalas Chanukah” with the lighting.  Hakhel Note:  The Shailos U’Teshuvos Rivivos Ephrayim (II: 185: Note 11) brings in the name of HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, that although the accidental recitation of Al HaNisim in Shemone Esrei on other days of the year would be a Hefsek, on the Mincha of Erev Chanukah it is not a Hefsek, as it falls within the “Zeman Hazeh” of Chanukah.  Indeed, as the Meiri (2 Shabbos 21B) teaches, the miracle of the victory in war actually occurred on the 24th of Kisleiv.  Not only is there a Chanukah--there is an Erev Chanukah!



Special Note Three:  The days of Chanukah are known as the end of our Teshuvah and Kapara process that began on Rosh Hashana.  The Divrei Chaim of Sanz writes that on Chanukah a person can do Teshuvah and fix even the most serious of Aveiros because of the closeness to Hashem that we experience during this time.  He brings the Mashal of a king for whom it is more difficult to grant pardons when he is sitting in his palace surrounded by royalty and royal servants.  However, when he travels the streets of the city, and enters a private home, even the commoners who otherwise could not have gained access to him are heard.  With the Kedusha of the Hadlakas HaNeiros, the King of Kings makes his presence felt in our homes.  Some write that our lighting of the Menorah at a level of less than 10 Tefachim is symbolic of the Shechina coming so far down to earth, in a manner which does not ordinarily occur. Based upon this, we should take the time to daven in front of the Neiros--both before and after Hadlakas Neiros (Sichos Ba’Avodas Hashem).  The Sefer Kav Hayashar (Chapter 96) writes that “Malachim Kedoshim ViSarfei Ma’alah” (the Heavenly Host) arrive at a person’s home at the time of Hadlakas Neiros, surround him and answer Amen to his Brachos.  We can well understand why some have the custom of putting on Bigdei Shabbos in preparation for lighting.  We provide by clicking here a beautiful Tefilla to be recited prior to Hadlakas Neiros.  May we be zoche to imbibe the unique blessing of these special moments!



Kashrus Alert from one of our readers:  Snapple Juice drinks at Costco include a variety pack with Mango Madness, Kiwi Strawberry and Fruit Punch.  There is an “OK Kosher Parve on the shrink wrap covering of the case and on each bottle of mango and kiwi drinks.  The Fruit Punch bottles do not have an OK and they contain grape juice as one of the ingredients.



Special Note One:  We received the following comment from a reader in response to our note on the *possible* value of a fraction of a second in the Olympics--and the definite value of a fraction of a second to us:  “Many years ago when I was in yeshiva, we were discussing the concept of a ‘chelek,’ as we mention when we bentsh Rosh Chodesh.  A chelek is a very short period (3 1/3 seconds).  My rebbi said this is the difference between a Torah Jew and much of the rest of the world.  The world takes a 60 second period of time and calls it a “minute.”  It is mi-nute--insignificant and inconsequential.  There is therefore nothing wrong with wasting it, and passing the time.  It’s simply minimal and not important.  We, on the other hand, take 3 1/3 seconds--and call it a ‘CHELEK’--AN ACTUAL PORTION OF THE DAY, most certainly something that cannot be wasted!”



Special Note Two:  A question for consideration:  When you park without thinking about the next person who may want to park in back or in front of you, or when you give yourself some extra room to make it really easy to get out of the space--but as a result maybe taking away the parking space of another (because, for example, only two cars can now park there and not three), have you done anything wrong?  Are you stealing that third party’s time and causing unnecessary aggravation--or are you fending for yourself in “the tough world out there?”  Is there nothing wrong with it, is it “just” a lack of consideration or middos, or is it included in the Vidui words of “Gazalnu,” or perhaps “Chomasnu,” or perhaps “Tzararnu,” or perhaps “Shichasnu”?  Remember, what they did in Sodom had to start somewhere, too...and it may have started by thoughtlessness, or assuming that people were not looking, or of thinking that the next guy won’t do it for me, so why should I do it for him, etc.  This analysis is not necessarily limited to parking in the big City, but to other areas of conduct in which you may not know the person your conduct will be affecting, and when and how you will be affecting him.  Common examples of this (there are many more) include how tidy you leave the washroom, changing room in a clothing store, table in the pizza store and the like.  It is really a reflection of your personal level of caring for others--and your personal awareness of the chavivus--the endearment--to Hashem of all of his creations--a Bein Odom LeChaveiro, and a Bein Odom LaMakom.



Special Note Three:  A reader has suggested to us that perhaps as a hiddur one can purchase olive oil which is labeled as “Virgin” or “Extra Virgin.”  We provide the following important definition of Virgin Olive Oil which we obtained--“oil obtained only from the olive using solely mechanical or other physical means in conditions, particularly thermal conditions, which do not alter the oil in any way.  It has not undergone any treatment other than washing, decanting, centrifuging and filtering.  It excludes oils obtained by the use of solvents or re-esterification methods, and those mixed with oils from other sources.”  One can consult with his Rav or Posek as to whether any extra cost involved in purchasing this oil is considered a beautification of the Mitzvah, for its refinement excludes traces of other oils.  We do note that on Chanukah there is a special concept of Mehadrin Min HaMehadrin--so we certainly do look for hiddurim where we can!



Special Note Four:  A possible suggestion to answer yesterday’s question relating to Vesein Tal U’matar Livracha:  It is more powerful to specifically beseech Hashem for a need then to ask for matters in general.  When a child needs $5.00 from his parent, he will not be as successful if he says, “Abba, I need something, can you give it to me?” than if he says, “Can I have $5.00 for the siyum in school?  I thought I saw a $5.00 bill in your wallet before.”  Here, we are asking Hashem for the source of all forms of sustenance in this world--dew and rain--and we are moreover asking that it fall in the right places, in the right amounts and in the right times.  Moreover, by specifying it, we expressly acknowledge that all of this--and all other Parnassah that results from it--comes from Him, and only from Him.



Special Note Five:  We continue with our Hachanos for Chanukah.  The Sefer Sichos BaAvodas Hashem notes that on other Chagim, we went into the Bais HaMikdash to bring karbanos and become inspired.  On Chanukah, however, we bring the Kedushas HaChag primarily into our own home with the lighting of the Menorah.  Just as Chassidim may wear Streimels on Chanukah--it is reported that HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, wore his Shabbos shoes--to indicate the importance of this very special time.


There is a fascinating ma’aseh with the Bnai Yissoschar (R’Zvi Elimelech MiDinov, Z’tl).  He had always felt a higher level of kedusha, of ruchniyus on Chanukah.  His state was elevated in an unusual way over the eight days.  He decided to ask his rebbe, the Chozeh of Lublin, why this was so.  After all, he was not a Kohen and thus, in all likelihood, was not the descendant (or gilgul) of a kohen back then, and was not a descendant of the Chashmonaim...so what was this heightened feeling about?  The Chozeh answered that at the time of the Chashmonaim he had been on the Sanhedrin--who came from Shevet Yissochar (the B’nai Vinah, referred to in Ma’oz Tzur).  R’ Zvi Elimelech therefore called his great work the Bnai Yissoschar in commemoration.  We, too, should ready ourselves to be inspired by the uplifting kedusha of the Hadlakas Neiros, the Hallel and the hoda’ah of Al Hanissim.  We may not have a Chozeh of Lublin to tell us who we are or where we came from, but we most certainly recognize and appreciate this unique and powerful period that families and communities have utilized to raise themselves closer to Hashem for more than 2,000 years--and we should take special care to nurture the momentous occasion of Hadlakas Neiros, not in the Bais Hamikdash but in our very home...and all of those other precious moments with Torah, Tefillah, Hallel and Hoda’ah.


Hakhel Note:  A Rav asked us to remind our readers that Chanukah is not a time to cancel Shiurim or Motzei Shabbos Avos U’Bonim programs--but a time to encourage them, as the light of Torah shone so brightly on Chanukah that it was able to extinguish all of the darkness that the avodah zara of that time was encouraging--and has indeed lasted us to this very day.

Additional Note:  To assist in the inspiration, we recommend a recently published book, Nissim V’Niflaos: Halachic Perspectives on Chanukah and Purim, by Rabbi Chaim Gross, Shlita, available (at an online discount) by clicking here.



Special Note One:  A reader advised us that he found another bracha (besides Elokai Neshama) that has six Mapik-hehs--the bracha of Ma’Ain Shalosh, including Al HaMichya, Al HaGefen, and Al HaAitz!  Thank you for this important addition.  One should then, of course, likewise be especially carefully to pronounce the Mapik-Hehs in this bracha--which add the meaning of “it”--and refer to the Eretz Yisroel and Yerushalayim!



Special Note Two:  Now that even those who live in Chutz La’Aretz have commenced the recitation of VeSain Tal U’Matar Livracha, we may pose the following basic question:  True, we need and ask for rain during this winter season in Eretz Yisroel, but why leave the all-encompassing words of VeSain Bracha--please give us [all] brachos that we had been requesting the entire spring, summer and fall until this point--and replace the broad, omnibus request of bracha with the seemingly limited request of specifically “Tal U’Matar Livracha”--particularly dew and rain for a blessing.  Your thoughts are welcome.



Special Note Three:  As “change of weather” season takes effect in the northern hemisphere, we remind ourselves that if we are one of those who, R’L, are experiencing a cold, sore throat, headache, congestion, etc., we should remember that it is not the extra-strength Tylenol, or any of the other remedies filling our pharmacy-aisle that gives us our cure.  Instead, we should remember that there is a reason that we received this ailment (which could include not properly taking care of yourself), and that it is Hashem--and ONLY HASHEM--Who gives the relief and refuah, and not that “sure-fire” acetaminophen or other “Special Formula” which serves to ameliorate the symptoms, or serves as Hashem’s agent in the cure.  Before taking that aspirin or other tablet or fluid, we should especially remember this, and recite the tefilah before taking medicine with true recognition and feeling.  The Tefillah Recited before Visiting the Doctor or Taking Medications, is available by clicking here and the Tefillas HaBori--asking Hashem to keep us healthy--is available by clicking here.  Zei Gezunt!



Special Note Four:  In order to help move us further towards the tremendous ruchniyus we hope to experience when Chanukah commences, we prepare with certain important Questions and Answers, as presented in the Sefer Guidelines to Chanukah (part of the wonderful Guidelines Series by Rabbi Elozor Barclay, Shlita, and Rabbi Yitzchok Jaeger, Shlita).  The actual Sefer contains more than 200 Questions and Answers on Chanukah, and should be available in all Seforim stores.  Of course, any final Halachic decisions should be rendered by your own Rav or Posek.


Is one allowed to fast on Chanukah?

It is forbidden to fast, even if one has Yahrzheit for a parent.  A bride and groom do not fast on their wedding day.


Are there other special Mitzvos on Chanukah?

There is a special mitzvah to give Tzedaka on Chanukah and in particular to support needy Torah students.  In this way we recall the miraculous fall of the evil Greeks into the hands of the righteous adherents to the Torah.  The widespread custom to give Chanukah gelt to children may have developed from this mitzvah.  There is also a Mitzvah to devote extra time to Torah study.  This demonstrates the defeat of the Greeks who prevented Torah study by their evil decrees.


May one work on Chanukah?

All forms of work are permitted.  Women though have a custom to refrain from work for a short time every evening, since they were instrumental in causing the miracle.


When should women refrain from work?

From the time the Menorah is lit for half-an-hour.


What type of work is forbidden?

There are different customs about this.  The main custom is to refrain from heavy household chores such as laundering, house cleaning, ironing, and sewing.  In Yerushalayim, some women also refrain from cooking.


How far apart should the branches of the Menorah be?

They should be sufficiently spaced that a distance of one thumbwidth (2 cm) separates each light from the next.


Does one need to toivel the Menorah?

No, since this item has no direct connection to food.


May some lights be lit with oil and some with candles?

No, one should not mix the two.  All the lights should be either oil or candles. However one may use oil on one night and candles on another night.  This is particularly relevant to a person who must travel during Chanukah and is unable to take an oil menorah.


May one throw away used wicks?

Since the wicks were used for a Mitzvah one may not disgrace them by throwing them away in the garbage.  One should burn them or wrap them in a bag before discarding them.


Is it preferable to use oil but kindle only one light every night or to use candles but add one each night?

It is preferable to use candles adding one each night.  This is a bigger enhancement of the Mitzvah than kindling only one oil light each night.


What should be done if a person did not kindle enough lights?

If the lights are still burning, he should correct the situation by kindling the appropriate number.  The Brachos are not repeated.


May a child light the Menorah is Shul?

No, this is not respectable for the congregation.


May one benefit from the lights of the Shul Menorah?



Should the wife kindle the Shabbos lights only after all the Chanukah lights have been lit?

Ideally, yes, but if time is short, she may kindle the Shabbos lights as soon as her husband had kindled one Chanukah light.


If other Menorahs are also to be lit (e.g. by children, visitors) should the wife wait until all have been lit?

No, she may kindle the Shabbos lights as soon as her husband has lit his Menorah.


If the husband is not ready to light the Menorah and time is short, may the wife kindle the Shabbos lights first?

Yes.  The husband may still light the Menorah afterwards, provided it is still before sunset.  The same applies if the wife mistakenly kindled the Shabbos lights first.



Special Note One:  We received the following extremely essential information from a reader:  “I have found a wonderful website that lets you print a custom-made Luach for learning Mishnayos.  It generates a Luach that tells you which Mishnayos you are supposed to learn that day.  You plug in which Masechtos you want to include, how many Mishnayos you want to learn each day, when you want it to start, and which days of the week you want the Luach to include.  But most importantly, it generates a Chazarah program so you don’t just learn a Mishna once and forget about it.  For example, if you check off the 8 day and 38 day Chazarah programs, the Luach will tell you on day 8 and again on day 38 to review what you learned on day 1.  This Chazarah program is also customizable for how often you want to do the Chazara.  B”H, I have been using my Luach for 2 1/2 years now and in 2 months, I will IY”H be making a Siyum on my third Seder of Mishnayos.  And by just learning 2 Mishnayos and Chazering 6 Mishnayos a day, I wind up learning each Mishna once and Chazering it 3 different times.  This resource is available by clicking here.  I hope some of your readers will find this helpful.  The site also has Chazarah programs for Daf Yomi, Tanach, Rambam, and Halacha.”



Special Note Two:  Yesterday, we noted the powerful acronym of “Ivri”--Akshanus B’ruchniyus Yatzliach--one must be adamant about the proper performance of Mitzvos.  One example on these short Shabbosos, is the proper performance of the Mitzvah of Shalosh Seudos.  Neither the Torah nor Chazal provide an exception for the third meal in the shorter, winter months.  Neither man nor woman should fall prey to the weak attitude of those who may be around him, and should plan ahead (perhaps eating less at the earlier Seudah) in order to properly fulfill this Mitzvah.  Chazal teach that one who eats *three* meals on Shabbos is saved from three Puroniyos--three difficult times--the Chevlei Moshiach, the Din of Gehinnom, and the Milchemes Gog Umagog.  This teaching is, in reality, quoted in the Mishna Berura, a Halacha work, in Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 291, seif katan 1.



Special Note Three:  Here is food for (afore)thought:  Can a sarcastic statement, comment or response ever be useful?



Special Note Four:  We received the following comment from a personal trainer:  “In the Olympics, a portion of a second may make a difference--but in the Torah it will definitely make a difference!  Hakhel Note: Based upon the Gra’s calculation that one can learn 200 words in 60 seconds, that comes out to slightly more than three words per second--and each word is a mitzvah!



Special Note Five:  Can you identify the one bracha that contains *six* words with a Mapik-Heh, each of which then requiring a careful guttural pronunciation--because the Mapik-Heh actually adds the word “it” to the meaning of the word?  Once you identify the bracha and its unique import, you may come to the refined realization or belief that all of the Mapik-Hehs seem to be there in order to cause you to slow down and contemplate the words as you recite them!  Hakhel Note:  We provide a bit later in this Bulletin another (beautiful) thought that a reader had on this bracha (we are not providing it immediately here so that you can identify the bracha on your own, without the answer right in front of you).



Special Note Six:  From a Hakhel volunteer who now lives in Eretz Yisroel:  The Aish Kodesh on Parshas VaYishlach (Bereishis 32: 27,28) poses two important questions:  Firstly, after the Malach of Eisav injured Yaakov, why did Yaakov ask him for a bracha--who needed a bracha from this mazik?  Moreover, hadn’t he already received a bracha from Hashem Himself--what more did he need?!  Secondly, why did the Malach have to ask Yaakov his name--and why did he voluntarily and unilaterally then need to change it?  The Aish Kodesh wonderfully explains that Yaakov, by asking for the bracha, was establishing a precedent for his descendants (based upon Ma’aseh Avos Siman LeBanim)--he wanted a havtacha that after this “injury” something great--a yeshua, would come from it.  He asked for an assurance that when Bnei Yisroel have yissurim it should lead to great bracha--not merely an ending of the yissurim--but an actual beginning of salvation and a showering of blessing.  One day this Malach will change names from Samael to Sael (losing the “mem” of maves--death) and be a true Malach Kadosh, attaining a place among the other Malochim.  Yaakov, in turn, began that process of tikkun then--so the Malach wanted to give Bnai Yisroel a bracha that we should no longer be “Yaakov” i.e., getting brachos only after yissurim--but rather we should be “Yisroel” and receive brachos without having to suffer for them.  May we be zoche soon to *always* be referred to as Yisroel!



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


  1. The Satmar Rebbe, Zt’l, teaches as follows:  A person who exerts himself straightening up the house on Erev Shabbos, preparing the meals and baking the challahs himself, draws down the Kedusha of Shabbos already on Friday.  Hashem will repay him measure for measure.  At the present time, we live at the end of the sixth millennium since Creation, which has the character of the sixth day, Erev Shabbos.  For this person, then, Friday will be like Shabbos.  He will thus be spared from the “pangs of Moshiach,” the suffering that will precede the coming of Moshiach!  (Divrei Yoel, Sukkos, p. 293, brought in Shabbos Secrets, II, p. 16).


  1. The Mishne Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 308, seif katan 161) rules that Shatnez garments are Muktzah on Shabbos, and the Pri Migadim actually writes that because these garments may not be worn, if one wears them, he may actually be deemed to be carrying on Shabbos, violating the Halacha of Hotza’ah.


  1. A woman should not stick pins into a styrofoam wig head on Shabbos.  Each insertion creates a new pin hole, which may not be made because of the Issur of Boneh (building).  Accordingly, a woman should replace a wig on a wig head without affixing it to the wig head. (The 39 Melachos, by Rabbi Dovid Ribiat, Shlita).


  1. One whose feet feel uncomfortable or perspired may sprinkle talcum powder on them to relieve the discomfort.  This is not a form of Refuah, because the powder merely serves to absorb the troublesome moisture, but does not have a therapeutic effect, such as medicated powder (which is prohibited) would have.  (ibid.)


Special Note Eight:  From a reader:  “I wanted to share the following thought that came to me when reciting Elokai Nehasama:  The Anshei Knesses Hagedola could have written, ‘Attah Barasa, Yatzarta, Nafachta’--all in order without separating each verb with the word ‘Atta.’  Instead, they repeated the word Atta before each verb, to read, ‘Attah Barasa, Attah Yatzarta, Attah Nafachta.’  Perhaps this is to teach us the tremendous hashgacha pratis--the care that Hashem has taken to perform so many actions on behalf of MY neshama!  And what is my part in all of this--my response within this bracha to all of this hashgacha (and chesed)?  Modeh Ani Lifanecha--my role is just to be grateful!  And even in expressing the gratitude, the Modeh comes before the Ani.  By the way--To my knowledge (I could be wrong), I don’t know if there is any other Tefillah other than Modeh Ani when awakening and the expression Modeh Ani used in Elokai Nehasama, where the word Ani is used in our regular tefillos, showing me once again that my sole purpose as an ‘I’ is to be grateful!”



We received a request from one of our readers that everyone properly appreciate the ba’alei kriyah in their shuls, who spend so much time, and put in so much effort to be mezakeh us with a proper laining, including proper trop, dikduk and pronunciation.  May we suggest that men in Shul should **go out of their way** after laining to express their Hakaras HaTov to the baal koreh, with a personal compliment relating to the particular laining, if possible, as well.  Whether the baal koreh gets paid or not is really not the issue--it is *your* thanks and middos tovos that must be expressed!


We provide below two outstanding excerpts from the Sefer Aleinu L’Shabei’ach, containing the teachings of HaRav Yitzchok Zilberstein, Shlita, as recently presented by Artscroll in an outstanding English translation.  The excerpts relate to this week’s Parsha, Vayishlach.

The Posuk states “Im Lavan Garti--I have sojourned with Lavan” (Bereishis 32:5).  Rashi notes: “Yet I kept the 613 Mitzvos.”

HaRav Zilberstein comments:  “R’ Gershon Kalivensky told me something about the self-sacrifice of Jews for Mitzvos, even in the land of their enemies-and especially for the Mitzvah of tefillah.  During all the years that we were in Siberia, our ‘library’ consisted of a single Sefer--a Siddur.  And even that would not have remained with us, of not for the incredible self-sacrifice of my righteous mother, who guarded that Siddur fiercely and would not let the suspicious Siberian police steal it from her.  The police conducted a search through our barracks, and found the stained Siddur.  They wanted to take away with them.  My mother, with all the meager strength in her body, refused to let them so much as touch it with their polluted hands.

“Those accursed men stared at her sternly--a stare that meant something much more menacing than a punishment.  In Siberia that kind of stare meant only one thing--a bullet to the head.  But, amazingly, those evil men backed down from the confrontation and left us alone.  I shook with fear.  Had those policemen decided to shoot Mother, R"L, there would seemingly have been no one to defend her, for anyone who dared open his mouth would have been finished.  But only ‘seemingly.’  At that moment, I witnessed with my own eyes fulfillment of the verse (Tehillim 97:10), ‘He guards the lives of His devout ones; from the hand of the wicked He saves them.’  I later passed this story on to my children and grandchildren, along with the message that a Jew need not fear anyone--no matter what happens.  A Jew fears only Hashem.

“This is what the Gra meant when he wrote, ‘Akshanus B'ruchniyus Yatzliach--Obstinacy in spiritual matters will succeed!’  And I heard from Hagaon R' Adess that the letters of the word ‘Ivri’ also hint at this idea, as the acronym of ‘Akshanus B' ruchnius Yatzliach’ spells ‘Ivri.’  In other words, anyone who is called an ‘Ivri’--a Jew--must be stubborn in his service of Hashem.  And then he will succeed.”


The Posuk states “Vehuh Avar Lifneihem--then he [Yaakov] himself went on ahead of them.” (Bereishis 33:3)

HaRav Zilberstein comments as follows:

“In the city of Holon , there lived a righteous Jew by the name of Elkanah Leisner.  He attended the daily Daf Yomi Shiur in the Beis Dovid Kollel.  A punctilious man, R’Elkanah was never late.

“There was something else that stood out about R’ Elakanah.  Though he could have made his way to the Kollel via side streets, he chose instead to march along Holon ’s largest thoroughfares, holding a huge Gemara under one arm.

“Over the course of the years, he met many people who wondered why he bothered carrying the heavy Gemara from home, when the Kollel was equipped with many Gemaras.  And if he wished to learn only from his own Gemara, why take such a big one?

“When asked about this, here is what R’ Elkanah told them.  ‘My goal,’ he said, ‘is to publicize the study of Torah as much as possible.  That is the reason I try to carry the biggest Gemara I can find - so that everyone will see it, and perhaps more Jews will become interested in coming to the Daf Yomi.’  That was the thinking of a Jew, a child of his Creator.”


Hakhel Note:  We focus on the first name of this special man--Elkanah.  Elkanah was the name of the father of Shmuel HaNavi who Chazal teach us would take circuitous routes to get to the Mishkan in Shilo so that others would be inspired to come along, as well, and was then zoche to a son who would be one of K’lal Yisroel’s great leaders.  This R’ Elkanah followed his namesake’s ideal.  Our names are on of our most precious commodities.  Perhaps we should take a moment to reflect upon our name--and how we can better live up to it.  It may take but one simple, consistent and dedicated act or mode of conduct to live up to your namesake--and your name!



Today is the Yarzheit of Rebbe Yehuda HaNasi, the Mesader of all of Mishanyos.  The Shelah HaKadosh writes, “Kabbalah BiYadi--I have a personal Kabbalah--that a person who is a baki--well-versed--in Mishnayos will not ‘roeh penei Gehenom’--will not see the face of Gehenom.”  The Maharal calls the study of Mishnah the “Yesod HaGadol VeAmud HaBarzel--the great foundation and the iron pillar” to all of Torah (Luach Davar BeIto).  We provide by clicking here an outstanding Limud Mishnayos Chart distributed by Congregation Darchei Tzedek of Baltimore , Maryland .  The chart allows you to follow your progress in learning, on a Mishna-by-Mishna basis, and provides valuable information as to how many Mishnayos there are in each Mesechta and in each Perek of each Mesechta--for all of Shas!  Imagine the glee one will experience if he can mark off his success and complete the entire chart!  Even one Mesechta, and certainly an entire Seder is cause for great celebration, as well!  May you be blessed with much success in filling in this very special chart!



Important Request:  If you had the opportunity to meet with one of the Gedolei HaDor and ask him one question, what would it be?  Please let us know.



Special Note One:  We were advised that upon attaining bar mitzvah, a Bochur from the U.S. visited with HaRav Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz, Shlita, and asked him for various Brachos.  One of the Brachos that he (or perhaps his father) requested was that he become a “Ba’al Middos.”  Upon hearing this, HaRav Lefkowitz asked, “Do you know what a Ba’al Middos is?”  After a moment of silence he continued, “It is someone who is Mevater--someone who steps into the shoes of the other person--and accedes to his needs and requests.”  Fascinatingly, a different reader advised us that he went to HaRav Binyomin Zilber, Z’tl, to receive various Brachos from him.  When he asked for a Bracha for Shalom Bayis, HaRav Zilber advised him that he would not give a bracha for that, because in order to achieve and maintain Shalom Bayis, one needs only to be “Mevater Al HaKol”--follow the rule of stepping into the place and view of the other person and then giving in, thereby creating your own Shalom Bayis!


Hakhel Note:  We only need add that in addition to raising one’s level to be a Ba’al Middos, and to achieving Shalom Bayis, being the one to be Mevater also works on a Midda K’neged Midda basis, so that in the Beis Din Shel Ma’alah, “Kol Hamavir Al Midosav, Ma’avirin Lo Al Kol Pisha’av--one who overcomes his own character”--his own inclinations and views in favor of the next person, and overlooks his needs, desires, and even possibly personal affront, embarrassment, insult and hurt--will, in turn have “his sins overlooked by Hashem and His Beis Din, as well!”



Special Note Two:  Regarding yesterday’s note on reflections before eating, a reader commented as follows:  “You make very important points regarding Brachos and eating.  All of these points may be too much to think about every time I eat, but I intend to do so at least once a day, the first time I eat in the morning.  However, I believe that I can at least say ‘I am going to make a Bracha,’ before making a Bracha over food.  I think that this will put me in the proper frame of mind.”


Hakhel Note:  Every person must gauge himself.  Brachos are a very important element of our Emunah as expressed on a daily, and even hourly, basis.  Accordingly, Brachos can always use our personal touch of improvement, as our Emunah can (and must) be continuously refined and elevated--especially in these trying times.  After 120 years, wouldn’t it be nice if they said about you, “He made beautiful Brachos!”?



Special Note Three:  The Sefer Avodas Penim asks whether every time that we get Hana’ah--a benefit--from this world, it actually detracts from a benefit we would have in Olam Haba.  He answers with the following Mashal:  A worker in a supermarket agrees to get paid his salary in kind with items from the store.  The storeowner permits him to take whatever he would like without payment, keeping a record of how much he has purchased on credit, and reduces it from the salary owed.  If, however, the worker elects to pay cash for the items purchased, than his salary will not, of course, be reduced.  When we give the proper recognition and thanks to Hashem for his beneficence, we are paying “in cash” for the Olam HaZeh, and this will not reduce any of the salary that we work for in this world!


The Chozeh of Lublin actually takes this lesson a step further:


Dovid HaMelech in the Posuk that begins and ends Chapter 118 exclaims “Hodu LaShem Ki Tov Ki LeOlam Chasdo--give thanks to Hashem for He is good; His kindness endures forever.”  The Chozeh explains that Dovid HaMelech is teaching us by the juxtaposition of these phrases that the second half of the Posuk is actually a direct and proximate result of the first.  If one recognizes and understands that Hodu LaShem Ki Tov--Hashem gives him everything that he has and rightfully and properly thanks Him for it, then Ki LeOlam Chasdo--he will merit that unparalleled second half of the Posuk--Hashem’s enduring kindness forever (and that is kindness for a very long time!).



Special Note One:  Which of the following thoughts would DEFINITELY NOT be in order prior to making a bracha and partaking of food or drink?


a.  In Whose presence you are.

b.  What the bracha is on, including the incredible process that brought this item from its creation (in Eretz Yisroel , Idaho , China , or your backyard) to its consumption by you.

c.  That you are consuming this item in order to have a strong and healthy body so that you can serve Hashem and fulfill your life’s purpose.

d. That “Gomel Nafsho Ish Chosed”--one who treats his body properly is actually performing a Chesed to none other than himself.

e.  That you intend to elevate the food by its consumption and to extract the “nitzotzos of kedusha” within the food.

f.  That the bracha you are making will include all other items in your home that you may also consume now that share this same bracha.

g.  That even if you move into another room within the house, your bracha in this room will lechatchila cover your consumption in all other rooms, as well.

h.  That you have Hakaras HaTov to Hashem for this, and that you are not a “kofui tova”--one who does not properly recognize Hashem’s beneficence to you.  Instead, you are expressing your thanks and praise to the Source of All Creations.

i.  That making a bracha prior to eating is a Mitzvah D’Rabbanan, and making a bracha after eating is either a Mitzvah D’Oraysa or D’Rabbanan (depending on what you have eaten)--so that even the most basic physical act of eating (which for the right reasons is a mitzvah in and of itself!) is “sandwiched” by Mitzvos!

j.  That the reason the food is providing you with nutrition and energy is not because “Al HaLechem Levado Yichye HaAdam” there is power within the bread itself, but rather “Ki Al Kol Motze Fi Hashem Yiche HaAdam”--only because Hashem wills it and orders it every single time you eat.

k.  An animal is hungry, and I am hungry.  An animal eats and I eat.  Human beings live here on earth with animals, and are far, far away from the malochim.  Actually, some even call us “two-legged animals.”  Let me make a quick bracha now because this is what I know I’ve gotta do so that I can eat, and snatch some of that food.


How did you do?  How will you do the next time you make a bracha?  We hope that you always pass--with flying colors!



Special Note Two:  In his Sefer Sichos BaAvodas Hashem, Rav Yaakov Meisels, Shlita, writes that the root of the word “Chanukah” is chinuch--indicating that Chanukah requires chinuch--real preparation in order to perform the mitzvah properly.  One sure way to begin the preparations is to recognize what the days of Chanukah were intended for “LeHodos U’LeHallel--to thank and praise” Hashem.  With this awareness, we look to Leah’s naming of her fourth child Yehudah--when she stated “This time, I will thank Hashem”.  Incredibly, this one name--Yehudim or Jews--is the name that has lived with us for the last 2,000 years.  The Sefas Emes (in the name of his grandfather, the Chidushei HaRim) explains that this appellation has remained with us because it serves as a reminder to live our daily lives with the recognition and awareness to thank Hashem for everything--not just the Six-Day War type of miracles--but the daily miracles, as well.  Our preparation for Chanukah, then,  is to begin by thinking and thanking--especially in Modim of Shemone Esrei--to which we will soon be only*adding* Al HaNisim--to all else that we recognize and thank Hashem for.


Rav Meisels beautifully concludes that the reason the bracha of Sim Shalom, which contains so many brachos for us, was placed by Chazal immediately after Modim, is because if we properly demonstrate our thanks to Hashem--we will be deserving of more and more and more brachos!


PRACTICAL  SUGGESTION:  After remembering in Modim to thank Hashem for some of those everyday things in life, recite Sim Shalom with steady concentration--for your recognition and expression of the thanks due will only bring more bracha to you--and to all of K’lal Yisroel!

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