Daily Email Archives

Bulletin Archives

Summer Archives

Public Announcements

Shatnez Publications

Past Events

Hakhel Recordings



Hakhel Email Community Awareness Bulletin



Special Note One:  Yesterday, we discussed how crucial Hashem’s Compassion is for each and every one of us in these difficult, dangerous, and perhaps we may say, scary times.  In last week’s Parsha, Moshe Rabbeinu was taught by Hashem to invoke the Thirteen Middos of Mercy (Shemos 34:6, 7) because of the danger facing the Bnai Yisroel.  Remarkably, the first four of these Attributes relate directly, as you may have guessed, to Hashem’s Compassion.  We present below the basic meaning of each one of these four Attributes--which are “Hashem,” “Hashem,” “Kel” and “Rachum,” as published by the Irgun Harbotzas HaTorah of Lakewood, New Jersey:


“1. Hashem--Compassionate before one has sinned.  Even before a person has sinned he still needs Heavenly Compassion, for Hashem owes us nothing; all that we have is only due to His grace and compassion.  Also, even when Hashem sees that a person will sin in the future, His Compassion for him at present remains, since the person has not yet sinned.


“2. Hashem--Compassionate after one has sinned and repented.  Even after a person has sinned, after repentance, Hashem’s compassion is immediately rekindled towards him.  This is unlike the behavior of a human being, who will distance himself from a person who has wronged him, and will often never accept him back.  Hashem’s being, however, is unchanging (as hinted in this word), and therefore even after a person sinned (even seriously) His Compassion still remains.


“3. Kel--This, too, is an attribute of compassion.  There are different levels of compassion.  This is not the same type of compassion as is denoted in the name Hashem.  Some explain that the two letters of this Attribute--Alef and Lamed--denote total mercy.


“4. Rachum--Compassionate to ease even the punishment of sinners when they call out to Him.”


In addition to our recitation of these Thirteen Middos, we call out for Hashem’s Compassion throughout our daily Tefillos.  If we can back up all of these Tefillos with our own personal empathy and feeling for others--and with kind words and quiet actions which stave off their need to ask us for Chesed from us--we will be in a better position, a much better position, to beg Hashem to shower His Compassion upon us and all around us!


Special Note Two:  Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, brings the following parable in Sefer Koheles (9:14, 15):  “Ir Ketana Va’Anoshim Bah Me’at…”--there was a small town with only a few inhabitants, and a mighty king came upon it and surrounded it, and built around it a great siege.  Present in the city was a poor wise man who by his wisdom saved the town, and no one remembered that poor man.


Chazal (Nedarim 32B) explain this unique allegory as follows.  The small city represents a person’s body, and the few inhabitants represent the limbs within the body.  The mighty king who surrounds it, is the Yetzer Hora, and the siege he places around the person is sin of all kinds.  The poor wise man is the Yetzer HaTov, and the wisdom by which he saves the city is Torah and Maasim Tovim (good deeds).


HaRav Shalom Schwardron, Z’tl, explains this analogy as follows:


We all view the Yetzer Hora and the arsenal at his disposal as simply insurmountable--Loshon Hora here, a fleeting desire there, arriving late to Tefillah, feeling incapable of coping, so many excuses not to study Torah, and more and more and more...--we’re besieged by aveiros!


In fact, however, a “poor wise man” can--and does--overcome this entire siege.  How?  While it is true that a wax museum human look-alike cannot go beyond his shape and content, and certainly cannot escape his showcase, his divinely inspired human counterpart very much can.  What is needed is willpower.  What causes the Yetzer Hora to be victorious, as Shlomo HaMelech (once again, the wisest of all men) concludes is “no one remembers that poor man”--this means that the siege works only because of laxity and insufficient drive.  One simply forgets the Yetzer HaTov and all of its wisdom, and allows the Yetzer Hora to unnecessarily overtake him, as if he was a wax figure--instead of a Tzelem Elokim.


We should keep this empowering Mashal of Shlomo HaMelech in mind when we are faced with the daily tests that life has to offer--especially when we know that we are about to face one.  We are not--not--not--merely wax figures!  We really do know exactly who we are and all that we have to accomplish--and a little old wisdom can and will break that very large, but very surmountable, siege--so that we save our very own city!





In these perplexing and topsy-turvy times, we look around and realize that we really, truly, need Hashem’s pure compassion, both on an individual and on a collective basis, in order for us to survive and continue.  So many world and local events are troubling, painful and even worse, make no sense to the logical mind.  How can we obtain this compassion that we so desperately need?  What is Hashem looking for us to do for Him to shower His mercy--which we need in such large measure--upon us?  The Chofetz Chaim in Ahavas Chesed (Part II, Chapter 3) gives us absolutely invaluable and poignant instruction in this regard (translation from Ahavas Chesed, published by Feldheim, 1976):


“Of course, every person would like Hashem to treat him with the middos of kindness and compassion…  In so far as man’s conduct in this world exemplifies these characteristics, so does he attract the corresponding attributes towards himself from the Heavenly sources.  If, in his dealings with others, he is accustomed to act according to these middos, he calls forth the Divine attributes of Mercy, and then Hashem has compassion on the world for his sake.  Of necessity, man’s soul is fed by the fruits of his conduct, hence he deserves that Hashem extend the same consideration to him when he stands in need of compassion.  As Chazal have declared (Shabbos 15B), ‘Everyone who has compassion on his fellow creatures is himself granted compassion by Heaven.’


“So the holy Zohar expressed it (Parshas Emor): ‘The act below stimulates a corresponding activity above.’  If a man performs a worthy act on earth, he awakens the corresponding power above.  Thus, if a man does kindness on earth, he awakens Chesed above, and it rests on that day which is crowned therewith through him.  Similarly, if he performs a deed of mercy, he crowns that day with mercy, and it becomes his protector in the hour of need, giving him measure for measure.  Happy is the man who exhibits the proper conduct below, since all depends on his act to awaken the corresponding activity above.


“If during his lifetime a person was in the habit of not foregoing anything of his own for another, of not having pity on others, he reinforces the attribute of Heavenly justice.  So afterwards, when he is in need of such benefits, he is paid back with his own attitude. Hashem deals with him with that attribute.  This is the idea expressed in Yeshaya (3:10), ‘Say of the righteous that it will be well with him; for they shall eat the fruit of their doings.  Woe unto the wicked!  It shall be ill with him, for the work of his hands shall be done to him.’


“Here then is what Chazal intended to convey by declaring that HaKadosh Baruch Hu, accepts repentance and good deeds.  ‘Good deeds’ refer to the charity and Chesed which one dispenses in this world.  These acts cause one’s repentance to become acceptable in Heaven, even if it is inadequate from the point of view of pure justice.  By his good deeds, while still alive, the person has drawn the Divine attributes of Chesed and Rachamim (compassion) towards himself.  And so the very attribute of justice itself will be inclined to treat him with Chesed--to give him full credit in the end for his repentance and all his mitzvoth.


“Now we can appreciate why, throughout the Torah, Hashem pressed man to embody this trait, for as is well known from Scripture (Michah 7,18), ‘Hashem desires loving-kindness.’  Hashem’s desire is that His people be vindicated in their trials in the time to come and not, Hashem forbid, be declared guilty.  Therefore, many times over in the Torah, He commanded them to follow in all His ways, the paths of goodness and kindness, so that He will be able, in the end, to conduct Himself towards them in accordance with this middah.”


In light of these powerful words of the Chofetz Chaim, we must take concrete and discrete action.  The great majority of people reading this note are probably already “good-hearted.”  However, we need to take our lives to the next step in these disturbing and uneasy times.  We should find something every day, every single day, which we specifically and especially perform for the sake of another, with compassion and with selflessness.  Think about what would best suit you (think hard, it is very important).  Even if it is simply picking up anything and everything that you see on the floor in your home and/or at work (and certainly picking it up in Shul!), you will be demonstrating to Hashem your drive and desire for compassion.  The zechusim--merits--you engender for yourself and for Klal Yisroel will literally be unfathomable.  Today--now--is the time to start--and in the right time may we all thank you!



Question of the Week:  Why is it that in last week’s Parsha the mitzvos relating to the Mishkan are placed before the mitzvah of Shabbos, while in this week’s Parsha, the mitzvah of Shabbos is placed before the description of the building of the Mishkan?  What changed between last week’s Parsha and this week’s Parsha and why?


We received the following from Rabbi Moshe Goldberger, Shlita: “A person with a good heart/mind/attitude is always at a banquet” (Mishlei 15: 15).  We can ask, how big of a banquet?  A recent study claims that a smile can be as stimulating as eating 2,000 chocolate bars!  That sounds like a big banquet.  P.S. Rav Wolbe writes in one of his seforim that animals do not have the capacity to smile as humans.  We need to thank Hashem for the gift He has endowed us with and use it more!


We provide the following additional thoughts on appreciation:


a.       Dovid HaMelech, in “Mizmor Shir Chanukas HaBayis L’Dovid” (Tehillim 30) which we recite every day exclaims: “Ma betza b’domi…--what gain is there by my death--will I acknowledge You in the dust?  Will I declare Your truth then?”  With these words, Dovid HaMelech teaches us what the basic difference is between being alive and not being alive--the difference is acknowledging and appreciating Hashem and his truth!  As we breathe, as we live, we should be constantly expressing the hoda’ah--the acknowledgement, appreciation and resulting thanks--that Dovid HaMelech tells us we will be unable to express in the same way 120 years from now.  One should spend special focus during the day specifically thanking Hashem for each and every one of his physical capacities, for his entire environment, and especially for all the Mitzvah opportunities that come his way on a daily basis.  Try saying “THANK YOU HASHEM” as often as you can throughout the day!


b.      After the miracles described in Megillas Esther occur, the Megillah (8, 16) teaches us “La’Yehudim Hoysa Orah--to the Jews there was light”.  Chazal teach that in fact “Orah” here does not literally mean light, but actually means Torah, i.e., the Pasuk is really teaching us that  the Jews experienced the Torah in a way that they had not before the Megillah miracles.  HaRav Yitzchok Sorotzkin, Shlita, at a recent Hakhel Shiur, asked the following pointed question:  If this is the case, why didn’t the Megillah simply state “La’Yehudim Hoysa Torah--the Jews had the Torah” in a way they didn’t have it before?  Why was it that Chazal had to explain that the word “Orah” (light) here meant Torah?  Rabbi Sorotzkin answered that there is a great lesson here.  The Jews did study Torah prior to the miracles, but it was without the appropriate luster, drive, feeling, sincerity and true appreciation of each and every minute of Torah study as a golden opportunity of growth and splendor.  Once Purim occurred, the Jews realized that Torah was in and of itself Orah--light.  The Torah now shined for them and literally illuminated their very existence.  We must take a lesson from this, and genuinely appreciate the Torah and what it does for the meaning and value of our lives every time we study and practice its eternal and infinite teachings.  It is no coincidence (as it never is) that we recite this Pasuk of “L’Yehudim Hoysa Orah” each and every Motzai Shabbos at Havdala--so that we properly and especially focus our attitude and approach for the coming week!


c.       In this regard, Chazal (Gittin 57B) shockingly note that the descendents of Haman HaRasha studied Torah in Bnai Brak.  Everyone’s immediate reaction to seeing this Chazal is “What?  Why?!”  The Baalai Mussar traditionally answer that Haman merited to have descendents who studied Torah because, whether he liked it or not, his actions caused the Jews to be brought back to Torah.  He was simply “rewarded” measure for measure for having had a hand in bringing about this Kiddush Hashem.  HaRav Shmuel Berenbaum, Z’tl, however, provides a different and wonderful insight here.  He brings the Gemara in Megillah (16A) which describes the encounter between Mordechai and Haman when Haman came to put Mordechai on the King’s horse while wearing the royal garments.  Haman finds Mordechai teaching Torah to his students, and asks what he is teaching them.  Mordechai responds that he is teaching them about the Korban Omer.  Upon hearing this, Haman responds that the laws regarding the “handful of kometz” that you taught your students have defeated the 10,000 talents of silver that I dedicated to annihilate the Jews.  HaRav Berenbaum points out that this terrible Haman HaRasha, this most horrible of horrible human beings, in spite of his unabashed and almost unequaled wickedness, still somewhat appreciated and fathomed the value of a few words of Torah, and understood its enormous power in that only a few words among a few Jews quashed what was something like “all the money in the world” to destroy the Jewish people.  Because he appreciated what a word of Torah was, he was rewarded with descendents who would further propagate Torah and its teachings.


Let us take the time now to begin appreciating that which we have with us--let us be better, much better than Haman HaRasha--and let our daily existence (and especially our Torah study itself) be guided and illuminated by our appreciation of the Torah and its wondrous and literally incomparable Orah--light!


Hakhel just received the following urgent warning from the author of “The Guide to Chodosh”:


Several bakeries, pizza shops and other establishments may be forced to discontinue producing Yoshon at this time, unexpectedly.


Over the last few weeks the price of wheat has skyrocketed.  Bakery flour has nearly tripled in price.  As a result, at least one of the smaller distributors of Yoshon flour has canceled his contract and has abruptly stopped delivering Yoshon flour to the bakeries he was supposed to supply.  It appears that most supplies of Yoshon flour are still being continued.  At this point we do not know how wide spread is this problem.  We don't know how many bakeries in the New York area are being forced to cancel their Yoshon service at this time.  We also do not know what effect this new development has elsewhere in the country.


We are urging mashgichim and consumers to check with their local bakeries, pizza shops, etc to confirm that their Yoshon service is continuing uninterrupted.  When you do inquire, ask the owner of the establishment, not the clerk behind the counter.


Please let me know via the Hot Line or email the name, address and phone of any establishment that you discover is stopping their Yoshon service to yherman@earthlink.net. I hope to issue further bulletins in the near future.


Yoseph Herman


Kashrus Alert: We received the following alert issued by the Chicago Rabbinical Council:  “This notice is meant to clarify the policy of the cRc regarding honey.  All honey sold in retail or foodservice packaging requires a reliable Hashgacha.  This is due to the fact that the kashrus status of the bottling process for these honeys may be compromised due to the possibility of non-kosher products being packaged on the same equipment.”


Some Notes On Brachos:  A noted Rav and Posek was asked what brocha rishona to make over peanut butter.  He responded that he is unsure whether it was a Borei Peri Ho’adoma or Shehakol (whether it was chunky or not, did not appear relevant to his response).  He was also asked what the brocha achrona on pomegranate juice was.  He responded that the answer would be based upon the pureness of the product.  We asked a Rav what the brocha would be on 100% whole wheat crackers, in which the whole wheat kernels are simply pressed together, with no other ingredient.  He responded that the brocha would be Mezonos.  Please note that some are of the opinion that the brocha rishona on “puffed wheat” products is Borei Peri Ho’adoma.


Special Note One:  As today is Shushan Purim Katan, it is time for us to consider how we will be preparing for Purim itself.  There are 33 Mishnayos in the entire Mesechta Megillah, 31 blatt in Mesechta Megillah, and 10 chapters in Megillas Esther itself.  Every person, man and woman, young and old, has the time over the next four plus weeks to properly prepare for this great day!  Indeed, one can even practice the other mitzvos of the day--by giving more Tzedaka, and by planning to do more acts of kindness to his fellow man during this period!


Special Note Two:  Yerushalayim is remembered on Shushan Purim, by our observing Purim on that day in its environs in order to increase its honor.  With the honor and glory of Yerushalayim so much at stake in our time, we provide the moving words of Dovid HaMelech in Tehillim 122: “Sh’alu Sha’lom Yerushalayim Yishlayu Ohavoyich…--pray for the peace of Yerushalayim; those who love you [Yerushalayim] will be serene.”  The Radak in his commentary to this Pasuk teaches that these are the words that Jews must utter in Galus--Pray to Hashem for the peace of Yerushalayim.  What is the “peace of Yerushalayim?”  The Radak (almost prophetically) writes that this can only be attained with kibutz galios--the ingathering of the exiles--because there will not be peace as long as the “Arailim” and “Yishma’aylim”--the Christians and Arabs--war over the City.


In his commentary to this very same Pasuk, HaRav Avrohom Chaim Feuer, Shlita, brings the following Chazal (from Meseches Derech Eretz Zuta):  “HaKadosh Baruch Hu said to Bnai Yisroel: ‘It was you who caused the Bais HaMikdash to be destroyed and My children to be driven into exile.  All I ask is that you pray for the peace of Yerushalayim and I will forgive you!’”


Based upon the teaching of Dovid HaMelech, as explained by Chazal and the Radak, it is incumbent upon us to do what we can at this pivotal point in our history.  We cannot place the blame on this Israeli politician, or that foreign Head of State, on this Arab terrorist, or that Arab terrorist, and be satisfied that we are doing all that we can.  After all, Haman was a Rasha, and Achashveirosh was a Rasha and/or a fool, but ultimately it was the Jews at that time that got themselves into that mess and had to get themselves out of it.  The responsibility for Yerushalayim--for our kibutz galios--which is so imminent, falls squarely on our minds and hearts.  We must hold ourselves accountable, not as a matter of guilt, but as a matter of responsibility--to ourselves, our families, and our people.  We cannot afford to sigh once or twice a day, and otherwise be callous and indifferent to the grave situation at hand.  Dovid HaMelech gives us the key to unlock the door- “Sh’alu Sha’lom Yerushalayim Yishlayu Ohavoyich”--Daven!  Daven!  Daven!


If one does not feel he has any more time to recite additional Tehillim during the day, let him at least be sure to recite the brocha of “Vl’Yerushalayim Ircha”--which he is reciting in any event three times a day in Shemone Esrei--with purity of mind and heart.  For the next four weeks until Purim, let us use our Power of Prayer--for the sake of Yerushalayim, which is oh so much for the sake of ourselves, for the sake of K’lal Yisroel--and for the honor of Hashem!!



Special Note One:  We received the following response from a reader relating to our recent Note on the Amen Response:  “I asked my Rav and he said I should never answer ‘Amen’ to a brocha said over the phone, because the word ‘Amen’ itself has intrinsic sanctity to it, as it is an acronym of “Kel Melech Neeman--G-d, Trustworthy King.”  You may want to tell people that they should ask their local Rav about this issue, because I have heard a number of people responding ‘Amen” to brachos on teleconferences, while talking to a friend on the phone, etc.  It is said out of habit in answer to a brocha from a speaker, but it may not be the right thing for them to do.”  Hakhel Note: While speaking to your Rav about this, you may also want to speak to your Rav about hearing a brocha over the microphone--especially if you want to be yotzai with it.


Special Note Two:  In last week’s Parsha, we learned of one of the eight special garments of the Kohen Gadol--the Tzitz--the golden head-plate worn on his forehead while performing the avoda in the Bais HaMikdash.  The Rambam (Hilchos Tefillin 4:14) writes: “While wearing tefillin a person should be careful not to lose concentration over them because their Kedusha is greater than that of the Tzitz, for the Tzitz only had the name of Hashem written on it once, while the Tefillin Shel Yad and the Tefillin Shel Rosh each contains Hashem’s name 21 times (!)”  As we put on our Tefillin every morning, what a privilege and honor we should feel, as we place upon our head and hand Articles of Holiness which contain within them the name of Hashem 42(!) times more than the holy Tzitz of the Kohen Gadol as he performed the Avoda in the Bais HaMikdash.


Special Note Three:  In honor of Purim Katan, we remind everyone to spend some additional time in “Mishte V’Simcha”--in rejoicing--today.  The Rema, as well as the Mishne Berurah to Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 697, writes that one should at least increase one’s Seuda--at least a little bit--in recognition of the day.  If you are thinking of having a meat sandwich for lunch, or perhaps a small amount of wine, you can now transform it into a “L’Shem Mitzvah!”  HaRav Avigdor Miller, Z’tl, often pointed out that we could have been fueled by consuming gasoline just like cars.  Instead, Hashem in His great Chesed gave us the opportunity to look at, smell and taste thousands upon thousands of edible wonders of His creation.  Perhaps today is a day to especially reflect upon this.


Special Note Four:  The Rema cited in the previous Note who rules that one should increase his Seuda on Purim Katan, then immediately concludes his commentary to Shulchan Aruch with the words “Tov Lev Mishte Somid--the good of heart is always joyous (Mishlei 15:15).


It is important to note that this Pasuk in Mishlei opens with the words “Kol Yimei Oni Ra’im--all the days of a poor man are bad.”  Thus, Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, teaches us that the true contrast in life is not between a “poor man” and a “rich man”, or a “good-hearted” and “bad-hearted” individual.  Rather, the true contrast is between the poor [of heart]--and the good of heart.


Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita, at a Hakhel Shiur, explained that a “poor” person’s days are bad because he spends his day being poor of heart--looking at what is wrong, what has gotten messed up, what needs improvement--taking up his time with feelings of anger, negativity, disappointment and dejection, rather than looking at accomplishments, successes, appreciation, and anything and everything that has, in fact, gone right.  In this regard, Rabbi Pliskin suggests that a person try to control his negative tendencies, and move them in a positive direction.  One can remind himself to think positively and properly throughout the day, by finding reminder signals in his daily life.  For instance, when he hears a cell phone (which is not his) going off during a meeting, rather than getting annoyed (especially if the person answers the call while talking to him), one can instead appreciate that he heard the sound, the accomplishments of modern technology, etc.


In fact, HaRav Chaim Shmuelevitz, Z’tl, teaches that Aharon HaKohen wore the Choshen--the breastplate--upon his heart not only as a reward for “his heart being happy” when Moshe Rabbeinu took over his leadership position in Mitzraim (Shemos 4:15), but also to serve as a constant reminder to him to be glad of heart.  Each one of us could, and should, make similar reminders for ourselves in our daily life.  With this, we will be fulfilling the concluding words of the Rema to Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim, which teaches how we are, in point and fact, to conduct each and every one of our precious days!



Special Note One: In response to requests about more detailed information regarding Shemittah, we provide the following three links to Shemittah sites: http://www.shemittah.com




Special Note Two:  The Chazon Ish (Collected Letters, Letter 20) writes that a person should constantly plead with Hashem that he be saved from the Yetzer Hora.  He adds that a person can use any “nusach”, any language of request for this--as long as the Tefillah is sincere and from the heart.  We note that the last brocha in the Birchos HaShachar presents this request in four different ways.  The language of the brocha reads “V’Al Tashlet Bonu Yetzer Hora…V’Chof Es Yitzrainu L’Hishtabed Luch--a)Let not the Evil Inclination rule over us; b)Distance us from an evil person and an evil companion; c) Attach us to the Good Inclination and to good deeds; and d) Compel our Evil Inclination to be subservient to You.”  If one could focus well as he is reciting this brocha, without having to comprise his own nusach--and using the nusach of a brocha itself--he will be well on the way to fulfilling the Chazon Ish’s directive.  We note especially that included in this brocha to be saved from the Evil Inclination, is that Hashem “distance us from an evil person and an evil companion.”  This very much relates to the idea of Rebbe Yisroel Salanter, Z’tl, that a person has a Yetzer Hora from within and a Yetzer Hora from without.  We daven to Hashem that we should be saved from both.  It goes without saying that davening--even with Kavannah--is not enough.  At the very least, when  faced with a situation in which you know that you are confronting the Yetzer Hora, you should let your Yetzer HaTov emerge victorious!


Chazal teach that the Yetzer Hora enters a person when in his mother’s womb, while the Yetzer HaTov only enters at the age of Bar or Bas Mitzvah.  Thus, the Yetzer Hora has a 12 or 13 year advantage.  We can overcome this advantage in only one way, as Hashem instructed Kayin, “V’Ata Timshol Bo--and you shall rule over him.” (Bereishis 4:7)  Rashi (quoting in the Sifri) there explains “Im tirtze, tisgaber olov--if you want to, you will rule over him.”  In short, it is up to us--sincere willpower and sincere prayer.  We can do it.  Hashem, who made both the Yetzer HaTov and Yetzer Hora, says we can!


Special Note Three:  In last week’s Parsha, we learned that there were two articles of clothing of the Kohen Gadol which had to stay together when worn--the Choshen and the Aifod--the breastplate and the apron.  Thus, the Choshen was tied on all four corners to the Aifod.  This requires some explanation.  After all, the Choshen was intended to provide forgiveness for the sin of “Kilkul Hadin--perverting justice.”  On the other hand, the Aifod was to provide forgiveness for the sin of Avoda Zara.  Why did these two articles--which brought about kapara for such diverse sins need to be tied together? 


HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, explains that these two avairos are very much “connected”, for they both involve the grave sin of kefira--denial of Hashem.  When one worships Avoda Zara, even if he joins it with service of Hashem, he is denying Hashem’s Omnipotence.  So too, with someone who deals dishonestly in monetary matters.  If he feels that he can outsmart his colleague, customer or competitor, or if he shaves off some product that has already been weighed or gently pads his time…--all of these provide indication that the person believes that he is in control of his financial destiny--that it is he, his mental prowess, or his technical skill, who will determine whether he is or will be poor, middle-class or wealthy.  We are therefore, enjoined to always remember to keep the Choshen together with the Aifod--for we must always realize that just as we would never, ever, think of worshipping an idol, or the sun, or the stars--for that matter, so, too, should we never, ever cheat, lie or steal in any form or manner in our lives.


Special Note Four:  The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (71:3) provides us with superlative instructions as to how we end our waking day:


“It is proper for a person who fears God to examine all his actions of the previous day before he goes to sleep.  Should he discover that he committed a sin, he should express his regret, confess and wholeheartedly resolve not to commit the sin again.  [When undertaking this personal introspection,] one should pay special attention to sins which are frequently committed, e.g., flattery, falsehood, mockery and slander.


“Also, a person should forgive any colleague who wronged him, so that no other person will be punished because of him.  The Gemara [Shabbos 149a] teaches: ‘A person on whose account a colleague is punished is not allowed into the Domain of the Holy One, blessed be He.’  [Hakhel Note:  The Mishne Berurah adds here that one will be blessed with Arichus Yomim--length of days--for being forgiving on a nightly basis in this manner.]


“Finally, one should repeat three times: ‘I release all those who caused me distress,’ and then recite the prayer found in all Siddurim:  ‘Ribono Shel Olom, hareini’--Master of the World ...”


What a beautiful and thoughtful way to end the day!


Special Note One:  We provide a fascinating link here to the Ohr Somayach website, which provides remarkable Gematriahs relating to the Priestly garments described in detail in this week’s Parsha.


Special Note Two:  For the many that have experienced it, the Tefillah for Lost Objects has brought incredibly quick results.  In order for all to have it readily available, we provide this link culled from the very popular and wonderful Sefer titled Aneini—Special Prayers for Special Occasions (Feldheim).


Special Note Three:  Question of the Week: As we know, neither the building of the Mishkan nor the Bais HaMikdash is doche Shabbos (pushes the Shabbos aside)--and, accordingly, the building of the Mikdash, even after it has already commenced, must be stopped and recommenced only after Shabbos departs.  However, the korbonos offered in the Bais HaMikdash, and the lighting of the Menorah (described at the beginning of this week’s Parsha) are doche Shabbos--we do bring the korbonos, and we do light the menorah even on Shabbos despite all of the erstwhile chilul Shabbos that they entail.  What would be an understanding of this--why is there a difference between the binyan, the structure, which is needed for the avodos (services) within it and yet is not doche Shabbos--and the avodos themselves which are performed on Shabbos?  As a starting point, may we suggest the Sefer HaChinuch in his lengthy discussion of the Mitzvah to build the Bais HaMikdash in the beginning of Parshas Terumah.


Special Note Four:  With all the shocking news coming to the forefront about “secret meetings” taking place about Yerushalayim, let us keep our proper perspective on its unique and special holiness to each and every one of us, and how it, in fact, serves us and impacts upon us on a daily basis--yes, even in our bitter exile.  We present below the moving words of HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, excerpted from the true Artscroll classic With Hearts Full of Faith (p. 188-189):


“Among the many works that flowed from the Chofetz Chaim’s prolific pen is a small gem called Sefer Machneh Yisroel, a handbook for Jewish soldiers conscripted into the Czar’s army.  The Chofetz Chaim offers these unfortunate men advice and guidance on how to live as Jews under these trying conditions.  Included in this work (Chapter 10) is a special prayer the Chofetz Chaim composed for the Jewish soldier to say before he goes out to the battlefield.  Facing such immense danger, unsure if he will live to see another day, he must prepare for his possible death, and at the same time, he must pray with all his might for survival.  As one can well expect, this very long and deeply moving special prayer is full of confessions of wrongdoing, pleas and supplications and expressions of trust and faith in Hashem.


“This prayer, comments the Chofetz Chaim, does not necessarily have to be said in Hebrew.  It can be said in any language the soldier understands well.  But there are two conditions that are very important:


“One, it must be said with absolute sincerity, emanating from the depths of the heart rather than the lips alone.  In fact, if the soldier could bring himself to tears it would be even better, since the Gates of Tears are never shut.  This condition is easily understandable.


“Then the Chofetz Chaim presents his second condition, which is truly astonishing.  The soldier should make sure that he directs his prayer through Eretz Yisroel, through Yerushalayim, through the Holy Temple, into the Holy of Holies and on to Heaven.


“Facing Yerushalayim is obviously very serious business.  This is not simply a nice refinement or embellishment to prayer.  This is what a soldier must keep in mind when he prays to Hashem on what might very well be the last day of his life.  Apparently, the advantages of a prayer offered up through Yerushalayim are critical.


“The Chofetz Chaim goes on to quote Shlomo HaMelech’s plea that Hashem accept prayers that rise to Heaven from the Holy Temple (See Melochim I-8:33-39).  This is what King Solomon accomplished when he built the Holy Temple.  He created a point of connection between the physical and spiritual worlds, a conduit for our prayers to rise directly to the Heavenly Throne and be accepted with favor.  Whatever plague, sickness or mortal danger a Jew may face, he can send his prayer straight to Heaven if he directs it in his mind and heart through Eretz Yisroel, through Yerushalayim, through the Holy Temple, right into the Holy of Holies and upward from there.


“Even if he is in a distant land, even if he is shivering with cold and fear on a brutal Russian battleground, the Jew can send his prayers to Heaven though the Holy of Holies.  As his prayers travel toward that vortex of holiness before rising to Heaven, they gather holiness as they pass through the Holy Land, the heritage of our forefathers.  They gather more holiness as they pass through Yerushalayim, the place of fear of Hashem, peace, perfection and unity.  They become even more deeply sanctified as they pass though the Holy Temple, the dwelling place of the Divine Presence.  All this takes place in the mind and heart of the Jew who is composing his prayer, and when his prayers finally enter the Holy of Holies, they are so thoroughly sanctified that they rise effortlessly to Heaven.”


Let us take the words of the Chofetz Chaim and HaRav Salomon deeply to heart.  Let us show our own individual, and our collective, hakaras hatov and appreciation for what Yerushalayim is, and what it does for us, literally on a daily basis.  Let us make a special effort, especially as we continue to go through the Parshios describing Hashem’s sanctuary, to pray with all of our hearts for “Vl’Yerushalayim Ircha B’Rachamim Toshuv--and to Yerushalayim your city, may You [fully and finally] return in compassion!”



Special Note One:  We received the following correspondence from a valued reader:  “I once heard on the posuk, ‘Kol haneshama t'hallel kah hallelukah’…that Chazal say, we should thank Hashem for every breath we take… ‘al kal neshima uneshima t'hallel kah…’  The question is, why does it say, ‘al kal neshima u'neshima t'hallel kah’--why does it say neshima, breath, twice?  Couldn’t it just say, ‘Al kal neshima t'hallel kah’ once?  The answer I heard is incredible!  It makes you realize just how much we need to thank Hashem…  The first ‘neshima’ is for when you breathe in…inhale…but just because you inhaled, does not mean you will automatically get to breathe out…so now exhale…that's what the second ‘neshima’ is written for…to show you that you also have to appreciate the fact that you can exhale!  We should appreciate each and every breath we take… So now breathe in…and breathe out…inhale…exhale…and thank Hashem for each breath!”


Special Note Two:  In this week’s Parsha, the Torah teaches us that the clothing of the Kohen Gadol--those eight very special garments--are to be worn “L’Kavod U’Lisifores--for honor and glory” (Shemos 28:2).  Fascinatingly, the Torah then teaches that the four simple garments of the regular Kohen are also to be “L’Kavod U’Lisifores--for honor and glory (Shemos 28:40).”  How could both sets of garments--so very different from each other--both be for the very same “honor and glory”?  We may suggest that the Torah is teaching us that whoever we may be--even if we are not the Rav or the Rosh Yeshiva--we must ensure that our particular clothing be L’Kavod U’Lisifores, for glory and splendor--especially when we enter our Mikdash Mi’at, the shul.  We should give special consideration, and really think very well about the kind of clothing we wear at all times, and certainly reflect upon our outward appearance (from head to toe) in the place for which the Torah teaches “U’Mikdashi Tirau--and you shall stand in awe of My Place.”  This week, because our Parsha is dedicated to this topic, may we each attempt a little Teshuva in this regard!


Special Note Three:  A reader had the following insight:  “I daven Nusach Sefard.  I don’t know about Nusach Ashkenaz, but I counted that over the course of Shacharis, Mincha and Maariv, I recite the Pasuk “Hashem Hoshea HaMelech Yaanenu B’Yom Korainu--[Hashem save!  May the King answer us on the day that we call (Tehillim 20:10)]--at least 16 times a day!  This must be a very special and powerful Pasuk.”


We appreciate this astute observation.  At a recent Kinus Tehillim for the situation which confronts us all in Eretz Yisroel, HaRav Feivel Cohen, Shlita, cited a Chazal as follows:  Unlike a land animal, which upon its death is tomai with the tuma of a nevaila (i.e., there is an animal corpse impurity associated with it), a sea animal, such as a fish, that dies does not contract any impurity, and is tahor, pure.  Now, what the halacha be for the “Kelev HaYam”, or the Sea Dog?  This is an animal that spends a lot of time on dry land.  However, when it senses that it is in mortal danger on land, it dashes for the ocean as fast as it can.  When it dies, is its corpse tamei or tahor?


That halacha is that it is tahor, pure, by virtue of the fact that when in danger it runs to the sea, it indicates that the sea is its better protection, its home, where is really belongs.  HaRav Cohen noted that we, too, must run to HaKadosh Baruch Hu when we sense that we are in mortal danger--for with Him is where we really belong--and it is obvious that He is our home and protection.


In these times of trouble, it is imperative that we dash in the right direction as fast as we can.  When we head towards Hashem, we are heading to none other than the Maker of the entire Heavens and Earth.  This is why, HaRav Cohen teaches, that Dovid HaMelech cries out in Tehillim (121:1-2) “…Esa Einai…Ezri Mayeem Hashem Oseh Shamayim Va’Oretz--I raise my eyes to the mountains--from where will my help come--from Hashem, Maker of the heavens and earth.”  Let us contemplate this for a moment.  The heavens and earth were created “Yesh Me’Ayin”--from utter and absolute nothing.  From this real nothing miraculously came vegetation of so many kinds, animals of so many types…the world…the universe…all way beyond our ability to fathom and comprehend.


So, when we look at a truly impossible situation, we must realize that it is Hashem, and only Hashem who can bring the Yeshua--the salvation--from Ayin, from absolutely nothing.  We now turn to our reader’s comment, who noted that he recites the Pasuk “Hashem Hoshea…B’Yom Korainu--Hashem save…on the day that we call.”  If we can intensify our belief, our conviction, our Kavannah, in these words--that we say so many times a day for good reason--we will be helping not only ourselves, but, quite literally, all of Klal Yisroel!



Special Note One:  We provide below some additional information on Shemittah.  After all, this is a Shemittah year, and we should try to touch upon its holiness.  Chazal (brought by Rashi in Shemos 23:12) actually record that the Torah had to use additional words to teach us that the weekly Shabbos must still be observed in the Shemittah year, lest one say that since the whole year is called ‘Shabbos’ by the Torah, we do not need to observe and celebrate the weekly Shabbos(!).  Accordingly, we provide the following Question and Answer, which was submitted to Rabbis Barclay and Jaeger, Shlita this past week:



I have a bottle of Carmel wine in my house that has been sitting there for a few years now.  There is no hechsher on it, but says that it is ‘yivul shevi’is, al pi heter mechira-Rabbanut Reishit.’  What can I do with it?



There is a mitzvah called ‘bi’ur’.  This means that once produce is no longer available in the field in the Shemittah year, one must remove this type of food from his house.  With respect to wine, the time for bi’ur is Pesach of the eighth year (5769).  If a person receives or accidentally buys a bottle of heter mechirah wine after this time, he may not drink it or give it to anybody.  The forbidden wine should not be poured down the drain, as this degrades its sanctity.  Rather, it should be poured out over a non-fertile area far from trees and plants, in order not to benefit from it.  The wine you have is from last Shemittah, so the time of bi’ur has certainly arrived, and you must dispose of it properly, as set forth above.”


Readers asked us which Hashgachos could be relied upon relating to Shemittah.  We posed this question to Rabbis Barclay and Jaeger as well, and they responded as follows:


“With respect to hechsherim that may be relied upon, it would be accurate to say that generally speaking, bnai Torah in Eretz Yisroel rely on the following for all matters of kashrus: Bedatz Eidah Chareidis, She’eris Yisroel, Rav Rubin, and Rav Landau.”


Hakhel Note: Of course, one should consult his own Rav or Posek regarding the Hashgacha you are to rely upon.


Special Note Two:  As today is Wednesday, we begin to look towards the next Shabbos, as we recited the Pasuk of “Lechu Neranina” at the end of today’s Shir Shel Yom.  Accordingly, we provide the following brief note relating to Shabbos, in order to give you enough time to look into it, if you feel it is necessary, prior to Shabbos. 


In the extremely resourceful The Shabbos Home by Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen, Shlita (Artscroll, Volume 1, p. 53 et. al.), Rabbi Cohen discusses the kind of materials that one is permitted to read on Shabbos.  He writes that, generally, reading secular material is not permitted on Shabbos, lest one read “shtarei hedyotos”, or business-related documents.  The prohibition against reading this material applies to scanning the material with the eyes as well as enunciating the words.  See there for further details.  We wish to discuss “business-related documents” for a moment.  Examples of these typically include reading ads printed in newspapers and magazines, catalogues offering merchandise, and advertising in pull-out sections of newspapers.  However, what about Shul bulletin boards?  These boards, which are typically found near the entranceway to Shuls, or in close proximity to coatrooms or commonly-used places, usually display and provide various important information and announcements, including business cards, “for sale” and “for rent” signs and other information which Shul members wish to exchange with each other.  While there may be some permissible items on the Board relating to Shul events and the like, it may not be permissible to scan the Board in order to get to the permissible writings.  One should consult with his Rav relating to this matter, and, in fact, perhaps it would be a good idea to have the Board covered over Shabbos and Yom Tov, so that the unsuspecting or the unknowledgeable do not fall prey to the prohibition against “shtarei hedyotos”--in the portals of the Shul itself!  Once again, as we go through the Parshios of the Mishkan, we should be especially sensitive to increase our awareness of the sanctity and stature of our Mikdash Mi’at in our own eyes, in our family’s eyes, and in the eyes of all those around us!



Special Note One:  In response to inquiries from readers regarding flowers from Eretz Yisroel during Shemittah, the Sefer entitled Guidelines on Shemittah, previously referred to writes:


“A person who wishes to buy flowers or plants must ascertain that the nursery or store observes the laws of Shemittah, and must not buy from roadside peddlers (unless it is clear that the flowers are not from Eretz Yisroel).”


Special Note Two:  We received the following thoughtful comment from a reader regarding text messaging in a Shul, and our conclusion that one should consult with his Rav regarding its permissibility:

“Why is this a matter that requires consultation?

“If a person were standing in the palace (Mishkan/Bais HaMikdash), before a melech basar vada--physical king--that provided all his needs and had the power of life and death, would he dare take out a cell phone or other hand held device and send a message?

“If he was in a meeting with the CEO of IBM negotiating a major contract would he dare take out a cell phone or other hand held device and send a message?”

Hakhel Note:  We may add that there is a general Mitzvas Aseh, positive Torah commandment, of “Es Hashem Elokecha Tira--you shall be in awe of Hashem” wherever you are, at any time.  The Torah adds a second, pointed, positive commandment of “U’Mikdashi Tirau--and you shall be in awe of My Holy Place” (which, according to the Sefer Yeraim quoted by the Chofetz Chaim, also applies M’Doraysa--according to Torah Law to our Shuls).  Thus, there is a special, second layer of appreciation (and accountability) when it comes to our conduct in Shuls and our realization of the Presence before Whom we stand.

Special Note Three:  Today, the sixth of Adar, is the yahrtzeit of HaRav Naftoli Amsterdam, Z’tl, one of the leading disciples of Rebbe Yisroel Salanter, Z’tl.  HaRav Naftoli was a tzadik and talmid chacham of great stature (serving as a Rav in various cities in Europe), whose astounding humility brought him to become a “baker” in Yerushalayim.  Below are but a few brief excerpts about his teachings from Sparks of Mussar by Rabbi Chaim Zaitchik, which are brought both L’Ilui Nishmaso and for us, to once again, attempt to touch the Midos of the Tzadikim in our own way:


  1. Two things are necessary for man’s self-perfection.  One is to arouse and inspire himself.  The other, by far the harder, is to carry out his good resolutions and retain the inspiration when it comes down to action.

  2. A Jew once came before him asking for the "permission of a hundred rabbis" necessary to take a second wife without divorcing the first.  In the course of talking, the man spoke badly of his wife.  R' Naftoli interrupted him and asked, “Have you already received the permission of a hundred rabbis to violate the prohibition of Loshon Hora?”

  3. When serving as Rabbi, he never sat in the front rows of the synagogue, but fixed his place among the common folk.  When he served as Ray of Helsinki, he always entered the Shul with a Sefer under his arm.  In that way when the congregation rose as he entered, it could be that they were honoring the holy Sefer rather than himself.

  4.  A resolution to bring all of Jewry back to the Torah was found in his satchel.  When asked how he planned to carry out this resolution, he replied, "I have resolved to keep all the laws of the Shulchan Oruch strictly.  In this way I will serve as a living Shulchan Oruch, and anyone who wants to keep the Torah will be able to see in me a living example of a complete Jew and learn from me how to return to the Torah."


Special Note Five:  In these times of great consternation and trouble in Eretz Yisroel, with bombs falling on Sderot and Ashkelon as if it were a commonplace occurrence, and with Yerushalayim--yes, Yerushalayim itself--being used by politicians as if they were in the Shuk, we all must remember that “Achainu Kol Bais Yisroel--we are all brothers,” and if it hurts in one place, it hurts us all.  There are many things that we can do to help even if we do not hear or see the bombs, or live in Ramot or Nivei Yaakov.  We provide one recommendation from the Tomer Devora by HaRav Moshe Cordevero, Z’tl, (Chapter 1, Number 6) which may not be so easy to accomplish, but which could yield great results for our brothers [read: ourselves] far and near.  The translation is by Rabbi Moshe Miller (Targum, Feldheim, 1993).


“We have already explained elsewhere that angels in a certain celestial chamber are appointed to receive the kind deeds man performs in this world.  When the attribute of severity accuses Israel, these angels immediately exhibit acts of kindness before the Heavenly Court, and the Holy One, Blessed Be He, shows compassion to Israel, since He delights in kindness.  And even though [the people of Israel] may be guilty, He shows them mercy if they are kind to one another.


“This can be compared to when the Holy Temple was destroyed, when G-d said to the angel Gavriel: ‘Go in between the galgal, beneath the keruv, and fill your hands with burning coals from among the Keruvim, and throw them on the city…’ (Yechezkel 10:2).


“However, the Pasuk continues, ‘The form of a man’s hand appeared under the wings of the Keruvim’ (ibid., 10:8).  The meaning of this is that the Holy One, Blessed Be He, said to Gavriel, ‘Since they do kindness towards one another, even though they are guilty, they shall be saved….’  The reason for this is the attribute of  Hashem that ‘He delights in kindness,’ that is, the kindness that one Jew shows another, for He remembers it in [the Jews’] favor, even though, from another point of view, they are unworthy.


“Hence, a person should emulate this attribute in his own conduct.  Even if one is aware that another person is actually doing him evil, and this angers him, if that person has some redeeming quality, e.g., he is kind to others, or he possesses some other virtue, this should be sufficient cause for one to dissipate his anger and find the other person pleasing, i.e., to delight in the kindness he does.  One should say, ‘It is enough for me that he has this good quality.’  How much more so does this apply to one’s wife or close relative.  So too, should a person say to himself with regard to every man, ‘It is enough that he has been good to me or to someone else in such-and-such a way, or that he has such-and-such a positive quality.’  In this way, one should delight in kindness…in turn Hashem will delight in our kindness.”


In the zechus of this special degree of overlooking the faults of others and extending kindness beyond its regular barriers--may Hashem be the “shadow” of our conduct (Tehillim 121:5) and overrule the attribute of Judgment and Justice in which we currently find ourselves with the attribute of Kindness--may it be showered upon us beyond measure!



Special Note One:  Tomorrow, Shabbos Kodesh, the 3rd day of Adar, will commence Melochim Aleph in the Nach Yomi cycle.  This means that if you start tomorrow, you will have finished all of Sefer Melochim (One and Two) within a week after Purim!  A very nice goal, a very nice project.


Special Note Two:  A Rav in Manhattan issued the following caution:  “When I traveled on an El Al flight a few weeks ago, the tag that came on my tray said that Shemittah was only observed according to those who relied on the Heter Mechira.  Those who travel on El Al should know that none of the major kashrus authorities in the United States permit products which rely on the Heter Mechira.”


Further on the topic of Shemittah, we must remind our readers that there is Israeli produce, particularly vegetables, being sold under the tradename “Carmel” and perhaps other tradenames, in large chain stores such as Costco, and by smaller, local fruit and vegetable dealers.  One should be alert to locate stickers on the produce, as repackaging may occur.  We note that in addition to fresh fruits and vegetables, one must also be careful with the following products imported from Eretz Yisroel--canned foods, bottled drinks and wine.


In the valuable Sefer entitled “Guidelines--Questions and Answers About the Laws of Shemittah” (by Rabbi Elozor Barclay and Rabbi Yitzchok Jaeger, Targum Press 2007), the authors present more than 360 short questions and answers relating to all aspects of the Shemittah year.  Question and Answer 319 reads as follows:  Question- May a Visitor to Eretz Yisroel take Shemittah produce back to Chutz La’aretz?  Answer--This is forbidden, whether the intention is to sell the food or to eat it oneself.


Let the buyer beware!


Special Note Three:  We received the following interesting comment from a reader:


“Regarding the note on cell phones in Shuls, I would like to add that I believe it is inappropriate to text message in Shul as well.  After all, would we set up a typewriter or computer in Shul to communicate--why is text messaging someone any different, even if it is more clandestine?  We should fear Hashem--not people.  I believe this also falls within the category of ‘Sichas Chulin’, or inappropriate chatter, which should never be conducted in a Shul, whether or not one is davening.”


Hakhel Note: One can consult with his Rav on this question.


Special Note Four:  We are pleased to note that HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, is of the opinion that “Mishenichnas Adar Marbin B’Simcha” applies to Adar I as well, based on the fact that  there is a mitzvah to especially increase our Seuda on Purim Katan (the 14th of Adar I), as is brought by the Rema in his very last words to all of Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim (Chapter 697).  In reference to yesterday’s bulletin about proper conduct during Adar, HaRav Kanievsky continues that the way we can express this Simcha is “if one has a Siyum, or other Simcha to make, he should make it in Adar”(Derech Sicha p. 187).


Special Note Five:  This week, we are introduced for the first time to the Mishkan, which we sometimes view as only a “temporary” structure (actually used for over 400 years).  Chazal, however, teach us that the Torah emphasizes that the Mishkan was made from “Atzai Shitim Omdim”--“standing” Shitim wood--in order for us to know that the Mishkan will “stand” forever.  The question we pose is--why is this so?  After all, once the first Bais HaMikdash was built, were there not many more miracles and much more glory to Hashem there, being the holiest place in the world?  Why must the Mishkan “stand”--remain with us forever?  We look forward to your thoughts.


Special Note Six:  As this is the week in which we begin to learn about the Mishkan, it would be remiss for us not to mention how important it is to properly regard our “Mikdash Me’at”--our Shuls.  To get a better feeling of the awe and empowerment we should feel upon entering a Shul, we provide some of the closing words of HaRav Moshe Cordevero, Z’tl, to the Tomer Devora:


“As one enters the Bais Knesses, he should recite the verse “V’Ani B’Rov Chasdecha…--and I, through your abundant kindness, come into Your house; I bow toward Your holy sanctuary in awe of You” (Tehillim 5:8).  With this, one binds himself to the three Avos, as “Your abundant kindness” corresponds to Avrohom, “I bow toward Your holy sanctuary” corresponds to Yitzchok, and “In awe of You” corresponds to Yaakov.  His prayer will then be in a propitious time, for the outflow of His Compassion will be drawn downwards towards him.”


During the upcoming weeks, as we learn more and more about the holy Mishkan, let us make a special effort to have the proper regard, respect and appreciation for the sanctuaries of Hashem that are in our midst!



Special Note One: Welcome to Chodesh Adar!


As we all know, “Mishenichnas Adar Marbin B’Simcha--when one enters into Adar, we increase our joy” (Taanis 29A).  There is discussion in the Achronim as to whether this increased level of joy commences with Adar I--today.  The Sefer Adar U’Purim by HaRav Yoel Schwartz, as well as the Aishel Avrohom (Butshatsh) both learn that in fact the joy commences with Adar I.  HaRav Schwartz understands this from the term “Mishenichnas”, which indicates that the initial entry into Adar warrants the increased degree of happiness.  He adds from the Sefer HaTodaah (by HaRav Eliyahu Kitov, Z’tl) that the Mazal of Adar is “Dagim”, which is “fish” in the plural (as opposed to Dag, in the singular), in order to indicate that the Mazal of both months of Adar is identical, and that they are both to be infused with joy.  The Shaalos Yaavetz (2:88), however, regards only the Adar which is close to Purim as the Adar of Simcha.


If we are “strict” in this matter, and rule that we must begin our increased Simcha today, how can we begin to manifest it?  The Sefer Nimukei Orach Chaim (to Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim Chapter 685) writes that each person should engage in activities or do things that make him personally happy.  HaRav Schwartz adds that it is a nice custom to post signs in your home reading “MiShenichnas Adar Marbin B’Simcha”--in order to have a constant reminder to feel and experience an increased level of Simcha.


Increased Joy for two consecutive months--yet another benefit of a Jewish Leap Year!


Special Note Two:  Why do we read Hallel on Rosh Chodesh, at the beginning of every new month?


The Tanya Rabosi (quoted by the Sefer Taamei Dinim U’Minhagim) provides us with the following answer: Dovid HaMelech in the last Chapter of Tehillim (Chapter 150--Halleluka Hallelu Kel B’Kadsho), which we recite every morning, uses the word “Hallelu” twelve separate times in order to express the different kinds of Hallel that we are to give to Hashem during each of the twelve corresponding months of the year.  Thus, for example, the sixth time Hallelu is used in this chapter, is in the phrase “Hallelu B’Teka Shofar”, corresponding to the sixth month of the year--the month of Elul--in which we blow Shofar the entire month, and the seventh time Hallelu is used is “Halleluhu B’Nevel V’Chinor” (with lyre and harp), corresponding to the Simchas Bais Hashoeva of Sukkos, so befittingly culminating the month of Tishrei.  Now, the twelfth Hallelu, which corresponds to the 12th month of the year--Adar I--is climactic--“Kol HaNeshama Tehallel Ka”--Let all souls praise Hashem!  In fact, the reason we repeat the same Pasuk--Kol HaNeshama (i.e., a thirteenth Hallelu) when reciting this Chapter in the morning is to take into account second month of Adar--the thirteenth month of the year!  What appears clear from this is that our Avoda, our sacred and wonderful task, for this month (and continuing into Adar II), is to raise our souls in the service of Hashem.


This month, as we recite “Kol HaNeshama” daily, let us feel within ourselves a raising of our souls, a heightening of our spiritual awareness, a supernal inner joy--in our lot (pun intended)--and in our life!


Special Note Three:  Every Rosh Chodesh, in addition to the regular Shir Shel Yom, we also recite Barchi Nafshi (Tehillim 104).  The Tur writes that this is because this Chapter contains the phrase “Asa Yorayach L’Moadim--He made the moon for the festivals”--for through the new moon and the new month, we know when to properly celebrate our Moadim.  The Zohar (Medrash HaNeelam, Parshas Vayera) also adds to our understanding of this Chapter--writing that every Rosh Chodesh the souls of the Tzadkim in Gan Eden recite this very same Mizmor!


It behooves us to recognize and reflect upon the power and profundity of what we may sometimes view as “nice” Minhagim--and appreciate each and every one of our Minhagim for the sublime and purifying effect it truly has upon us--whether we know it or not!


In response to our note on Mizmor L’Sodah, we received the following marvelous comment from a valued reader:


“I would like to tell you part of a shmuss (lecture) I heard from Rabbi Dessler, Z’tl, about 56 years ago, and will explain that we see nissim every second.


“He asked a question, that in Modim we say “Al nisecha shebechol ais--we thank you for the miracles we see at all times”--this means every second.  Where do we see a miracle every second?  He answered that we take as “tevah”, as second nature, that we see, we walk, we move our fingers etc....  It is not nature.  It is a miracle that you can see.  Some people may be walking, talking, etc. and the next second they may no longer be alive.  So, every second we are alive and well and can move all of our limbs (avorim) is simply a miracle!”


In this regard, we provide the following notes from HaRav Shimon Schwab, Z’tl, relating to the Brocha of Asher Yotzar.  These are culled from the wonderful work Rav Schwab on Prayer (Artscroll-Second Edition, 2002).


1.  Asher Yotzar Es HaOdom B’Chachma--who fashioned man with wisdom”, is a universal expression of shevach v’hodaah (praise and gratitude) on behalf of all human beings, not only Jews.  We acknowledge in this brocha that the properly functioning normal, healthy human body is a marvelous gift that HaKadosh Baruch Hu has given to man.  The famous 19th-century naturalist, Alexander von Humboldt, is said to have commented that he had reviewed the prayer books of many religions, and found no other prayer comparable to Asher Yotzar.


2.  It behooves us to be aware of the miraculous endowment which HaKadosh Baruch Hu has granted us in the form of the human body.  Medical science continues to discover more and more knowledge of the human body and its miraculous workings.  What was modern medical practice 100 years ago is by and large obsolete today.  If a famous surgeon who lived in the late 19th century was to perform an operation in one of today’s modern operating rooms, utilizing the medical skills of yesteryear, he could be charged with gross malfeasance and endangerment of life.  Similarly, medical practice of today will most probably be considered obsolete in the future in the wake of ongoing new scientific discoveries about the human body.  Despite the enormous strides that medicine has made, and continues to make, a large part of the complex structure and functions of the human body remains unknown.  It is truly a source of wonderment and amazement.


3.  When we contemplate the miraculous workings of the various “chalulim” (cavities), such as the trachea, esophagus, bladder, rectum, and the entire digestive system, respiratory system and circulatory system--and realize that a sudden and unexpected rupture, or blockage, in any of these organs would pose mortal danger, we are all the more amazed at the marvelous wonder which HaKadosh Baruch Hu has granted us in the form of the normal, healthy functioning of these organs.


Most people take the normal functioning of their bodies for granted.  Unless one has pain, or is informed by a physician after an examination that chas v’shalom “all is not well,” one tends to ignore the crucial life-sustaining systems of the body.  It is therefore so important to utilize the brocha of Asher Yotzer to focus our recognition on the fact that it is only due to the real miracles regularly performed by HaKadosh Baruch Hu that our bodily organs function normally.


4.  In Kabalistic terms the human body is called the “Adam HaRuchani--the spiritual man,” because the human body contains not only “ramach aivarim--248 organs”, and “shesah gidim--365 sinews”, in the physical sense, but it also contains the same number of spiritual organs.  We have many expressions for our spiritual and emotional functions which utilize parts of our body as metaphors.  Some examples are “Lev Shomea--an understanding heart”, meaning intelligence (Melachim I 3:9); “Lev Nishbar--a broken heart”, meaning humility (Tehillim 51:19); “Hamu Mayai--my intestines pain”, meaning feelings of sympathy (Yirmiyahu 31:19); “Klayos Yoatzos--the kidneys advise”, meaning intuition (Berachos 61a).


So Asher Yotzar Es HaOdom means that man, and only man was created with “nikavim, nikavim”two sets of openings and “chalulim chalulim” two sets of cavities, a unique “parallel system” of organs.  For each physical opening and cavity there is a spiritual one.  We therefore thank HaKadosh Baruch Hu for having created man (Asher Yotzar Es HaOdom) to function as a dual being, utilizing our physical and spiritual aspects combined.”


Hakhel Note:  As the month of Adar approaches in which we begin to better recognize the miracles hidden in natural events, let us make an extra special effort to invest special Kavannah in the hidden miracles that exist within our very selves every single day.  For those who do not recite Asher Yotzer standing still and reading from a card or a Siddur, now is a time to do so.  For those who already do so, perhaps you can take some words of this very inspiring brocha and especially focus on their depth and meaning to you!


Today is the yahrtzeit of HaRav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, Z’tl, the great Alter of Slobodka.  His Gadlus built future generations in Europe, Eretz Yisroel and America through his students, among them HaRav Aharon Kotler, Z’tl, HaRav Yaakov Kamenetzsky, Z’tl, HaRav Yaakov Yitzchok Ruderman, Z’tl.  We have excerpted below some of his teachings from “Sparks of Mussar” by Rabbi Chaim Ephraim Zaitchik.


  1. To R’ Nosson Zvi, chesed was as important as fear of G-d and observance of mitzvos.  When his son R’ Moshe fell ill, R’ Nosson Zvi sent a messenger to three Yerushalmi’s asking them to pray for his son’s recovery:  The elderly Kabbalist R’ Shlomo Elyashav, another tzadik from the elders of Jerusalem, and a medic who was famous for his deeds of kindness.


  1. The cornerstone of R’ Nosson Zvi’s service of G-d was chesed.  This, to him, meant being careful of another’s honor and dignity, helping others, having one’s heart overflow with love and kindness, utilizing every opportunity to benefit others.  It meant that older students should learn in Chavrusa with younger ones in order to imbue them with the spirit of Torah and Mussar.  Above all, it meant that one should greet his fellow with a pleasant countenance, because it makes the other person feel good and binds people together in friendship.


  1. A senior talmid from a famous yeshiva in Poland stopped by in Slobodka on his way back from Lithuania.  R’ Nosson Zvi told him several times to smile. The talmid, who had been trained all his life to be serious and tense, could not change his habit, and did not smile.  R’ Nosson Zvi regarded this as a serious character flaw, and he refused to allow his grandson to cross the border in the company of that talmid.


  1. A short time after his wedding, one of the talmidim was asked by R’ Nosson Zvi whether he helped his wife in the house Erev Shabbos.  “Of course,” said the talmid. “Our Sages were always careful to honor the Shabbos by participating in the preparations.”  R’ Nosson Zvi smiled. “Tzadikel, is it only because of honoring Shabbos, and only from the words of our Sages, that man is obligated to help his wife?  The Torah explicitly commands us to help a stranger unload his donkey; how much more so must he help his wife, to whom he has special obligations, an particularly on Erev Shabbos, when there is much work to do and the wife is tired and rushing to finish everything before candle lighting, is there a bigger mitzvah between man and his fellow than this?”


  1. All human beings are precious, be they Jews or non-Jews for they were created in the image of G-d.  R’ Nosson Zvi showed honor and chesed to them all.


  1. On a walk through Slobodka with his son-in-law R’ Yitzchok, R’ Nosson Zvi was delighted to notice that a coffeehouse for non-Jews had opened near the highway.  “Until now,” he said, “I used to worry that travelers had no place near the road to eat and rest.  Now they will be able to eat and rest as soon as they arrive in the city.


  1. The first resolution that R’ Nosson Zvi wrote down in his diary , was “to try to be extremely careful of my fellowman’s honor, with patience, with a soft answer, never once to get excited, not to embarrass anyone in public, to find ways daily, at the very least weekly, of benefiting my friends.”


  1. At a German spa, R’ Nosson Zvi befriended an old man who was staying there. During the long walks they took together, R’ Nosson Zvi spoke to him at length, trying to convince him that Klal Yisroel’s purpose was to learn Torah.  “Just as a person has a soul, without which he is dead,” said R’ Nosson Zvi, “so does the nation have a soul, and that is Torah.  When the Sages learn Torah, they raise the nation’s soul and value.  That is why it is vital to establish kollelim where young men can develop into Torah sages and elevate the soul of the nation.”


      R’ Meir Chodosh, who came to visit R’ Nosson Zvi in the resort, thought the old man must be a person of wealth capable of building batei midrashim.  It turned out, however that he was a poor, sick old man who had become estranged from Yiddishkeit as a child.  Feeling sorry for the man, who would leave the world with no merit, R’ Nosson Zvi was trying to inspire him with the desire to work for the benefit of Torah. Since anyone who resolves to do a mitzvah is rewarded as if he has done it, the old man would thereby acquire merits to take with him to the world to come.


  1. On a visit to Slotsk, R’ Nosson Zvi asked the Mashgiach of the yeshiva who had been his disciple, to accompany him to the mikveh.  Fearing that this would lower his image in the eyes of his students, the Mashgiach asked to keep the matter secret.  When they left the mikveh, R’ Nosson Zvi asked his disciple whether the request for secrecy stemmed from modesty or from haughtiness.  “There is also a middle road between the two,” said the Mashgiach.  “Impossible!” thundered R’ Nosson Zvi, and rebuked him harshly for fooling himself and not acknowledging the truth.


  1. In my youth in Vilna,” R’ Nosson Zvi recounted, “I saw a vendor standing in the marketplace selling beans.  For some reason she got angry at her competitor and began to abuse her loudly.  Her wrath increased until she foamed at the mouth and became drenched with sweat.  At the peak of her rage, a customer approached her table and asked for a penny’s worth of beans.  In an instant, the vendor underwent an amazing transformation.  Her face beamed, her lips curled into a smile, and she graciously turned to wait on her customer.  This teaches us a great secret of the human personality.  A mere penny has the power to change a person from one extreme another and to make him control his stormiest emotions!  This is something no amount of wisdom can accomplish.  But if a penny can do it, so can praise, a compliment, or even a smile or a polite word.  All of these can win people’s hearts and dispel their wickedness.


This is not yet the end of the story.  After the customer had paid the penny for the beans, she started to thank him for his kindness and to heap blessings on him, his wife, children, and grandchildren.  “From here we see that not only can a penny cause a person control his bad midos, it can even transform him into a fountain of love and kindness.”


  1. The Chofetz Chaim was amazed at the way R’ Nosson Zvi transformed people.  “This craft can be practiced by R’ Nosson Zvi alone.  We accept talmidim who are faithful and raise them to Torah and fear of G-d; but R’ Nosson Zvi accepts unworthy talmidim and turns them into G-d fearing scholars.”  “I create books; R’ Nosson Zvi creates people.”


Perhaps the most we can do for the Alter of Slobodka’s great Neshama is to learn from these insights, and make the conscious effort to apply them in our daily life!


Special Note One: Today is the Yahrtzeit of Rebbe Yisroel Salanter, Z’tl.  Many have said that because of his great care in Ben Odom L’Chavero, his Yahrtzeit falls out in the week of Parshas Mishpotim, in which there are so many Ben Odom L’Chavero Mitzvos.  For a wonderful article on Rebbe Yisroel written by Rabbi Lipa Geldwirth, Shlita, please click here.


One of our important readers wrote the following to us:


“I once asked Rav Avigdor Miller if Reb Yisroel Salanter was a revolutionary.  He replied, "Of course he was a revolutionary!  You have to be a revolutionary!  Anyone who is not a revolutionary cannot be a true Oved Hashem!  Anyone who 'walks' like everyone else cannot be an Oved Ha Shem.”


Special Note Two: Tomorrow is the Yahrtzeit of the Taz, or Turei Zahav (HaRav Dovid HaLevi Segal, Z’tl), one of the great commentators on Shulchan Aruch, who wrote other Seforim as well.  HaRav Pam, Z’tl, would relate the following fascinating story relating to the Taz (as printed in The Pleasant Way by Rabbi Sholom Smith, Shlita):


“The Taz called his father-in-law, the Bach, to a Din Torah.  In the financial arrangements the Bach had agreed to when the Taz married his daughter, he had promised him a daily meat meal.  For a number of years the Bach did indeed supply the daily meat meal, but then he suffered a serious financial setback.  This precluded him from giving meat; and instead he gave cow’s lung as a substitute.  As a result, the Taz called his father-in-law to a Din Torah, which he subsequently lost--the Dayan deciding that by giving lung the Bach had technically not violated his agreement to supply a daily meat meal.


“After the Din Torah was over, the Taz was asked what motivated him to take his distinguished father-in-law to a Din Torah over food.  What was further perplexing was that, after losing the Din Torah, the Taz seemed to be happy and relieved.


“The Taz explained: ‘Since my father-in-law began to replace my daily meat meal with lung, I felt that my power of concentration was not completely up to par. (See Talmud Bava Kama 71B-72A for the importance of eating meat and its effect on the ability to render Halachic decisions.)  I was afraid that my father-in-law would be held accountable in the Heavenly Court for causing this slight diminution in my learning.  Therefore, I summoned him to a Din Torah, hoping to lose, so that it would be decided that lung is considered meat and my father-in-law was fulfilling his agreement and was not to be held responsible for my minute decrease in concentration...’


“The Chazon Ish would often retell this story (see Pe’er Hador, Vol. 2, p. 340) and would note to what extent the importance of full concentration in learning Torah goes and how damaging is even a slight loss of concentration.  In Yiddish, the expression is ‘Lernen mit halbe kup iz batt’lin mit halbe kup’--learning with half a head is wasting time with half a head!”


Hakhel Note: On this last point of the Chazon Ish, we have a lesson within a lesson: A Rav recently visited with HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita.  The Rav asked HaRav Kanievsky for advice on how he could better concentrate on his Torah studies without getting distracted.  HaRav Kanievsky answered him as follows: “If one davens with Kavana, one also learns with Kavana.”  The Rav then went on to daven Maariv with HaRav Kanievsky and noticed that he davened moving his finger from word to word!  A powerful lesson.


Special Note Three: In this week’s Parsha, we find the Pasuk: “MiDvar Sheker Tirchak”--Distance yourself from a false word (Shemos 23:7).  We provide the following significant notes on this Mitzvah, gleaned from Love Your Neighbor, by HaRav Zelig Pliskin, Shlita. 


* A storekeeper is forbidden to tell a customer that an item originally cost him more than it actually did.  He may say only, “This is my price and I won’t sell this item for less,” without telling any lies. (Chofetz Chayim in Sefas Tomim, Ch. 2)


*There are people who do not invent stories that are entirely untrue, but they embellish their stories and comments with false information.  Although this is not as serious an offense as distorting the truth for monetary gain, it is nevertheless forbidden.


*A person must become accustomed to admitting, “I don’t know.”  If a person finds it difficult to say this, he is apt to lie. (Mesechta Derech Eretz Zuta, Ch. 3)


*If two people agree on the sale of a certain item, it is proper for both of them to keep their word even when no kinyan (act of acquisition) was made.  If either the buyer or seller backs down, he shows a lack of trustworthiness, and the Sages look upon such behavior with disfavor. (Choshen Mishpat 204: 7)  A case in point: A few days before Sukkos, a dealer brought an esrog to Rabbi Yehuda Leib Chasman, Z’tl.  The esrog was undoubtedly kosher for use, but it was not particularly beautiful.  Rabbi Chasman told the dealer that at present he could not decide whether or not he would buy it, but that if he does not find a nicer esrog in two days, he would buy this one.  Before the first dealer returned but after Rabbi Chasman made his decision to purchase the first esrog, a second dealer brought some very beautiful esrogim to Rabbi Chasman.  Rabbi Chasman told his family, “I am not able to buy two esrogim, so I have to make a choice.  Although the esrogim of the second dealer are more beautiful, I am going to buy the esrog that the first dealer brought me, since I had already made up my mind to buy it before the second dealer came to see me.  To be truthful in thought is also hidur (beauty in fulfilling a commandment, which is particularly emphasized in the commandment of taking an esrog).  The first esrog is therefore a beautiful one.” (Ohr Yohail, Vol. 2, P. 12)


*If a person firmly resolves never to lie, it will deter him from doing wrong.  Before he commits any offense, he will think to himself: “How can I do this? If I will be questioned about the offense, I will be embarrassed to confess.  If I deny having done it, I will have broken my resolution.”  A resolution to be honest is in essence a resolution to lead a virtuous life. (Yaaros Dvash, Part 1, Drasha 15)


*As Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch wrote: “No one commits a breach of law without planning to save himself, in case of discovery, by lying.  If you are unable to tell a lie, you will never listen to anyone who wishes to persuade you to do a misdeed. Truthfulness is a protective armor against criminality.” (From The Wisdom of Mishlei, p. 102)


*If you inadvertently say something untrue, do not be embarrassed to admit, “I have just told you something untrue.”  By this means you will acquire the habit of never telling a lie. (Rabbi Mordechai of Tshernoble)


*Even one’s facial expressions should be honest.  For example, when you nod in a manner expressing yes or no, the nod should express the truth. (Sefer Chasidim, 47 and Emes Knaih, p. 46)


We add that HaRav Pam, Z’tl, said about his mother that she could not even mention the word “lie”.  May our striving for truth--help us get there!

Other email archives