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Hakhel Email Community Awareness Bulletin


Special Note One:  In honor of Tu BiShevat, we once again provide important information from Jerusalem Kosher News on how to properly inspect various fruits for infestation.  Please click here for the report.   We note that one should be careful to inspect his Tu BiShevat fruits *before* Shabbos, in order to avoid issues of borer and muktza.  Lest you say that you will forego the custom of eating fruits this Tu BiShvat, we refer you to the Sefer Shevet Mussar, which calls it a “Minhag Vasikin”--an ancient Minhag.  We also refer you to the Magen Avraham and Mishna Berura to Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 131 (M.B. seif katan 31), who write that the Ashkenazic Minhag is “Leharbos Az BeMinei Pairos Shel Ilanos--to eat many different fruits on this day.”  Some have the custom (see Sefer Bnai Yissochar), of davening for a kosher and mehudar Esrog on Tu BiShevat.  One should consult with his Rav as to whether one can daven for this personal request on Shabbos, based upon the theory that it is an Eis Ratzon.  One final note:  Fruit stores and larger stores such as Costco carry Israeli fruits (clementines, dates, etc.).  Accordingly, one should be careful to purchase only those fruits from which terumos and ma’asros have been properly taken.



Special Note Two:  A reader asked us if anyone could translate or summarize Rabban Gamliel’s Yiddish Shiur provided yesterday by audio link, so that a larger audience could benefit from his teachings.  Is there anyone who could provide this service--to help others grow?  Please contact us.  We will start you off--Rabban Gamliel gave a mashal of a refrigerator or washing machine and electricity.  You can have the newest, most powerful appliance in the world--but unless it is plugged in, it does nothing.  We are all very special and valuable--but we must first connect to our Source--recognizing where all of our power comes from in everything that we do!


Additional Note:  One way to accomplish this connection is Tefillah.  Chazal (Brachos 6B) teach that Tefillah is Berumo Shel Olam--it stands at the top of the world.  In fact, Rabban Gamliel (in his Sefer Tiv HaTefillah, p.39) teaches that when one prays, he is really there--at the top of the world--and that, accordingly, one should put *great effort* into improving his Tefillah.  Rabban Gamliel adds that one should attempt to add his own insights into the words and phrases--and that any insight that he has which arouses fear or love of Hashem within him is “bevadai emes”--is certainly true.  This is so because Chazal formulated our Tefillos with Ruach HaKodesh, and included all of these thoughts within their meaning (see Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh to Beraishis 46:8)!  Accordingly, he urges everyone to engage in moving, thought-provoking Tefillah--connecting to Hashem through your own “bevadai emes”--true and powerful initiative!



Special Note Three:  We received the following important reflection from a reader:  “In response to your cell phone question, from personal experience, a suggestion that I think can be very powerful to control both Internet overuse (Internet addiction) as well as cell phone/smart phone overuse:  Under no circumstances do I go onto the Internet whether via the computer or via the phone after 8pm. (I chose 8pm because I get home around 7 and it doesn’t leave time for more than 5 minutes on the Internet, at most.  But you can choose an earlier hour if you get home earlier).  In a best-case scenario the time after 8pm is reserved for learning, time with spouse, kids, chesed, self-improvement.  It is not an easy resolution but it has been one of the best I ever took on and it has improved my life substantially.  (So when do I use the Internet when I need it--for online banking, research etc?  I find a few minutes during lunch at work or on Sunday.  That doesn’t leave much time for Internet, which is exactly the point!”



Special Note Four:  A reader advised us that he has 11 different explanations as to what the word “Chamushim” means in this weeks Parsha.  We are not surprised, as there are “Shivim Panim LaTorah”--so that number of explanations could be increased many times over.  One remarkable explanation is that the term Chamushim means one-fifth, and teaches us that Bnai Yisroel’s primary servitude in Mitzrayim lasted for 86 years--from the time Miriam was born. This number, 86, is exactly one-fifth of the 430 years of galus decreed upon us (Shemos 12:41 ).  Thus, Hashem in his great mercy let us go after having served only one-fifth of the decree!  (Sefer Shenayim Mikra in the name of the Toras Chaim).



Special Note Five:  The Sefer Shenayim Mikra also brings an astounding question and answer from Rebbe Avrohom Yeshaya Berman, Z’tl.  The reshaim who did not want to leave Mitzraim died during the Makka of Choshech, the plague of darkness.  Yet, at the Yam Suf, the Malach of Mitzrayim argued that “the Mitzriim are idol worshippers, but so are the Bnai Yisroel-so why save one and put the other to death?”  No one seemed to dispute this claim.  But how could this be--that there were still idol worshippers among the Bnai Yisroel?  Weren’t all of them killed during the darkness?  Harav Berman answers that the ones who were killed were those who were complacent with their lot, and had no desire to change, or to leave Mitzrayim.  Hashem saved everyone else--even if they were still idol worshippers--as long as they had *the ratzon--the will and desire* to change, those who were not at peace, happy with their situation.  This was their rope--this is how they remained alive, were zoche to redemption--and, in fact, quickly succeeded--as the Torah testifies tomorrow “VaYa’aminu Bashem UveMoshe Avdo”--they completed their Teshuva at the sea.  The lesson for us is clear--as we live in the Ikvasa DeMeshicha, as we stand at the portals of Geulah, and as we know that the final Geulah is derived from the Geulah of Mitzrayim, we must show the ratzon--the dedication, the sincerity, the willpower, the overriding desire to forsake false ideologies and ideals--and to cling to Hashem through His service.  We can be saved from the Makkas Choshech, but it must come through our own thoughts and through our own efforts--through our personal initiatives, mesirus nefesh, sincere Tefillah and extra Torah study, and an improved adherence to the careful performance of Mitzvos.  When the time comes, the Malach of Edom may argue against us, but we can make ourselves ready starting today--and be zoche to be part of a full, final and everlasting Geulah--which is so very much within our capabilities and reach!



Special Note Six:  In this week’s Parsha, we find the Bnai Yisroel’s acceptance of the Mitzvah of Shabbos at Marah (Shemos 15:25), and of the Mon “resting” on Shabbos as well, as a stark lesson for all future generations that our Parnassah comes from Hashem on the six days of the week, and that financial matters are simply not part of the Shabbos experience.  The Rema (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 242:10) writes that some eat “pashtida” on Leil Shabbos (food covered on top and bottom with a filling inside) to remind us of the Mon.  The Chofetz Chaim asks, why do we need to be reminded on Shabbos of something that *didn’t fall* because it was Shabbos?  Our lesson above could answer this query--the remembrance is in order to keep Parnassah matters in the proper perspective--in Hashem’s hands--and help to prevent monetary and financial discussions at the table.  The Sefer Toras Chaim, however, gives another splendid answer.  He writes that our meals on Shabbos are not those “all you can eat” experiences that we alluded to the other day.  Instead, they represent the future spiritually endowed meals of the days which are “Kulo Shabbos”.  The basar--meat--represents the Shor Habar--the special animal creation that Hashem will use as a meal for tzaddikim; the Shabbos fish makes us recall the Livyasan which we hope to be zoche to partake of; the wine is representative of the Yayin HaMeshumar--the special wine waiting for the tzaddikim; and, finally, the pashtida (and the Challah covered from above and below) serve to remind us of the Mon that tzaddikim will be zoche to once again enjoy.  May that be in the very near future--and may we share in their lot!



Special Note Seven:  We continue our Erev Shabbos--Halachos of Shabbos Series with notes on the Melacha of Ma’avir, as selected from the great work The 39 Melachos by Rabbi Dovid Ribiat, Shlita (Feldheim).


1.  Use of electric lights, or appliances with indicator lights that blink on, is considered the Melacha Mi’Doraysa of Ma’avir.  Battery powered appliances are Halachically identical to any other electrical appliances.


2.  Friction toys and other devices which create actual sparks are forbidden to be used on Shabbos.  However, it is permitted to wear and handle synthetic garments and materials even if this may unintentionally cause static sparks.  One should not deliberately and intentionally rub the material to create sparks.


3.  One may open the door to his house on a cold winter day with no particular precautions, even if the blast of cold air may affect the thermostat and cause the heat to go on.  However, one should not open the door specifically to activate the heat.  A deliberate act of drawing cold air in order to raise the heat could not be considered a Dovor She’Aino Miskavein, and is prohibited.


4.  Moving an oil lamp poses serious Halachic problems, because any movement can cause the burning oil in the lamp to shift inside the cup--which could result in either Ma’avir (the oil being drawn closer to the flame) or Mecahbeh (the oil being removed further from the flame).  Accordingly, for those who perform Hadlakas Neiros on oil, or on wax which turns into liquid soon after lighting, special precaution should be taken that the oil not be subjected to moving within the cup.  Hakhel Note:  It would appear that one should consult with his Rav as to whether moving the table or banging on the table could have a prohibited affect on the burning liquid--and, if so, as to where the “liquid” neiros should be placed.



Special Note One:  We are pleased to provide by the following audio link a recent outstanding Shiur on Emunah (which is related to this week’s Parsha) given by the world- renowned Rabban Gamliel Rabinovich, Shlita.  The Shiur is in a clear Yiddish, and is approximately 40 minutes in length.  All who understand Yiddish are urged to listen, for some very special guidance and chizuk.  The MP3 file can be accessed by clicking here.



Special Note Two:  In the recent daily lesson in the Sefer Chofetz Chaim, the Chofetz Chaim makes a remarkable point with respect to the prohibition of “Lifnei Iver Lo Sitein Michshol--not placing a stumbling block in front of others.”  The Chofetz Chaim writes that although usually it is the speaker (as opposed to the listener) who violates the prohibition of Lifnei Iver, and then in proportion to the number of those listening to him, listeners generally do not violate the prohibition of Lifnei Iver--because the speaker would have spoken to the other(s) who were there in any event.  The Chofetz Chaim cautions, however, that this limitation on culpability for Lifnei Iver is not true regarding the first listener--because without him letting the speaker spew forth those forbidden words--the Lashon Hara would not have occurred!  There is an incredible lesson here.  In the negative vein, we see that the hill of snow at the bottom of the mountain began with the culprit who rolled that little snowball down from the top--i.e., it all started somewhere.  However, the lesson works the other way, as well.  Imagine if you start the right thing moving--starting a Shiur, a Minyan, a Gemach, a collection for Hachnasas Kallah or a family in need….  How much more so will you be credited for building the foundation of a beautiful edifice!  We are familiar with the phrase “Kal Haschalos Kashos--all beginnings are difficult (Mechilta, quoted by Rashi to Shemos 19:5).”  This is because the Yetzer Hara is wise, and knows what a great zechus this will bring to you and to K’lal Yisroel.  He therefore provides you with invisible inertia and doldrums in order to thwart and stop the plethora of goodness and bracha that can and will result.  Be an initiator--of the right things!



Special Note Three:  In this week’s Parsha, we are provided with the first words of Shira in the Torah.  In fact, the Shabbos is called “Shabbos Shira” in honor of the great significance of this event.  . We provide several important notes from HaRav Shimon Schwab, Z’tl, on the Shira, as presented in the monumental work Rav Schwab on Prayer (Artscroll):


  1. We stand up during its recitation in recognition of the central point of the Shira--which is Kabbalas Ol Malchus Shomayim.


  1. Once Bnai Yisroel experienced the salvation of Kriyas Yam Suf, the result was not just a temporary Fear of Hashem and Emunah--but it left an indelible impact upon us, as recorded with the words “…VaYa’aminu Bashem U’VeMoshe Avdo.”


  1. The communal recitation of the Shira at the Sea was a miraculous event in and of itself.  After all, how could it have been possible, before the advent of loudspeakers and sound systems, for hundreds of thousands/millions of people to recite the Shira together!  (Note: See Sotah 30B--they repeated at least the first words of each Pasuk after Moshe; R’Eliezer ben R’Yosi Ha’Glili holds they repeated the entire Pasuk).  Accordingly, by repeating it in our Pesukei DeZimra *after* the other songs and praises (which, chronologically, actually occurred after Kriyas Yam Suf), we further raise our level of praise to Hashem--by remembering the miraculous way in which He assisted our forefathers in expressing their feelings of joy and thankfulness to Him through the nes of its recitation together.  (Hakhel Note:  We likewise should thank Hashem daily for the miracle of our being able to express our thanks to Him through our faculties of thought and speech--for starters.)


  1. The four-letter name of Yud Keh Vav Keh appears ten times in the Shira--alluding to the ten Makkos and ten salvations from the Makkos that the Bnai Yisroel experienced even prior to Yam Suf, as well as to the ten nissim by the Yam Suf--and further indicating that it all transpired through Hashem’s four letter name of rachamim--of great mercy.  Hakhel Note:  We should endeavor to recall this when reciting these Shaimos in the Shira


  1. The Pasuk of “Mi Ch Amocha BaAilim Hashem…who is like You among the heavenly powers, Hashem….” is a critical portion of the Shira, and for this reason it is repeated in the Brachos of Kriyas Shema both at Shacharis and at Ma’ariv.  With this Pasuk, Bnai Yisroel demonstrated that they reached a level of Emunah in which they accepted--and even sang about as part of their Shira--the tza’ar of galus together with the geulah.  How could Hashem remain apart from the cries and screams for so long?  The answer is clear--He didn’t have to or need to-as there is no one as powerful; and just as there is no one as powerful, there is no one who is as far removed from our understanding as He.  Bnai Yisroel acknowledge that our being placed into a suffering-filled galus is for reasons we acknowledge that are good but that we simply do not and cannot comprehend--and we thank Him for the galus, as well.


  1. The Pasuk of “Hashem Yimloch Leolam Vo’ed--Hashem will reign for eternity” expresses the universal recognition that a worldwide Malchus Shomayim will happen at some time in the future.  With this exclamation and proclamation we conclude “VeNamlichecha”-- the final portion of praise of Pesukai DeZimra--in which we declare that, once and for all, Hashem will be king over us all for ever and ever--and that is really something to sing about!



Special Note One:  With all of the conversation and even debate that went on about the “Tefillin Flight,” it appears that many missed one of the most glaring lessons from the story--the subtle fulfillment of the Pasuk (Devorim 28:10) “Veyaru Kol Amei HaAretz Ki Shem Hashem Nikra Alecha VeYaru Mimeka--the nations of the world shall see that the name of Hashem is proclaimed over you and will fear you.”  Chazal (Brachos 6A) expressly teach that this Pasuk refers to the Tefillen Shel Rosh--where the name of Hashem is visible for all to see.  The terrorist murderers are feared because of their ruthlessness and brazenry...whereas we are feared not for our cruelty nor our weaponry, but actually because we fear Hashem.  The world received a taste of the difference between what is felt now in the Galus of Eisav and Yishmael--a fear of brutality and inhumanity, and an appreciation of the true and ultimate fear--the fear of Heaven.  At the very least, we should use this special awakening to inspire ourselves in the fear of Hashem while still in the Galus--to distinguish ourselves from the nations of the world.  As the Sefer Tomer Devorah advises--who should you really fear:  the lion or the bear--or the One who created them, empowers them and allows them to live?  The words of Yonah should likewise reverberate within us: As the boat was tossing, and everyone was busy trying to save themselves, they asked Yonah who he really was.  His exact response is revealed in Sefer Yonah (1:9):  “Ish Ivri Anochi...V’Es Hashem Elokei Hashamayim Ani Yoreh Asher Asa Es HaYam V’Es HaYabasha...I am an Ivri [distant from you, on the other side of you], and I fear Hashem who made the sea and dry land.”  With the earthquake from afar and the “Tefillin Flight” from near, let us heighten our awareness that Hashem and only Hashem controls and directs the world and all that is in it.  We must see the Yad Hashem in all events--large and small, personal and communal--whether it is finding the last bottle of milk in the store or being able to help save someone’s life--and with the proper prayer to Him, we can really be taken out of the suffering and misery, the fear of the merciless and the unknown, and into a final, awesome and everlasting Geulah.  May it come because of our awareness and based on these prayers, speedily--in an instant--today!



Special Note Two:  As cellphones become more and more powerful tools, serving as the “office-away-from-office,” we realize that this versatile tool has the capability of compromising one’s Ruchniyus when used in at the wrong times and in the wrong manner.  At a recent Hakhel Shiur, HaRav Simcha Bunim Cohen, Shlita, talked about the dangers of a person distancing himself--from himself--by constantly being engaged with his cellphone in one way or another, thereby precluding or limiting the time and ability to think about one’s life and where one can grow and accomplish other important matters.  It is interesting, for example, that at one end of the spectrum, the Chofetz Chaim was known to go off alone into the forest to do cheshbon hanefesh, and on the other end of that very wide spectrum, a similar time for personal reflection and dveikus with Hashem, or “hisbodidus,” is the hallmark of Chassidei Breslov.  Is the suggestion of a cellphone-free one-hour a day out of the question??  It shouldn’t be.  There is another aspect of this discussion, however, which we would appreciate your thoughts on.  If you were designated to provide the draft guidelines in your Shul for the permitted use of a cellphone (including all of its capabilities) in the Shul or Bais HaMedrash--both during and not during davening or at a shiur--what would those rules be?  Would you impose any sanctions on one who did not follow the rules?  Would there be any suggestions for the home or use at a chasuna as well?  We would very much appreciate your input, as we would like to help in stemming the tide of greater, and perhaps unjustified, use and permissibility.



Special Note Three:  As many recited the Parshas HaMan yesterday, we provide the following essential insight provided to us by Yeshiva Torah Vodaas.  HaRav Moshe Wolfson, Shlita, asks the following question:


“When the Malachim came to save Lot , the Torah tells us that Lot welcomed them into his home and performed the tremendous mitzvah of Hachnosas Orchim.  It is common knowledge that the mitzvah of Hachnosas Orchim in the city of Sedom was practically suicidal.  We see how the people surrounded Lot ’s home and threatened to kill the Malachim, Lot , his family, etc.  Why was it necessary for the Ribono Shel Olam to engineer this entire story?  Why couldn’t the Malachim just arrive in Sedom, give Lot a fifteen-minute warning, and take him out?  Why did Lot have to do the mitzvah of Hachnosas Orchim under such circumstances?”


Rav Wolfson answers as follows: “It may be that Lot did not have enough merits to be saved.  During the years that he lived with Avrohom Avinu, he performed mitzvos, but they were mitzvos without Mesiras Nefesh.  Possibly now, to warrant Hatzolas Nefoshos, he needed an especially charged mitzvah; a mitzvah performed with Mesiras Nefesh!”


Rav Wolfson concludes that it is rather evident that we are living in the Chevlei Moshiach, and that we can no longer assume the safety and security to which we had been accustomed prior to 9/11. The entire financial meltdown was perhaps necessary in order to give us the opportunity to do study and support Torah and to give tzedakah, under more difficult circumstances--with more Mesiras Nefesh than in the past.”


So…whenever we recite Parshas HaMan, we should consciously and wholeheartedly remember that a primary goal in the financial success that we seek is the support of Torah and those who study it!”



Special Note One:  Every day, three times a day, we recite in Birchas Avos that Hashem is “Maivi Go’el Livnei Venaihem Lema’an Shemo BeAhava--that Hashem brings the Redeemer...with love.”  To what does this “love” refer?  We provide the following insight of HaRav Moshe Cordevero, Z’tl, at the end of the first chapter of the classic Sefer Tomer Devorah.


“When our Zechus Avos and our other merits are exhausted, what can Hashem do for us when we are unworthy?  He does as it is written: ‘Zocharti Lach Chesed Ne’uarayich Ahavas Kelulosayich--I recall for your sake the kindness of your youth, the love of your bridal days, how you followed Me in the wilderness in an unsown land.’ (Yirmiyah 2:2)  Hashem takes the time and makes the effort, if you will, not to forget us and forget about us, but to reach back and recall the olden days and the previous love He had towards us--and rekindles His mercy anew upon us.”  With this recollection, HaRav Cordevero continues, “He remembers all the Mitzvos we have fulfilled since our birth as a nation and all the favors and good qualities with which He conducts His world.  From all these, He fashions something especially auspicious with which to be merciful for our sake.”  This, we suggest, is the Ahava which we recall at every Shemone Esrei--it is the Ahava that began in the upcoming Parsha of Beshalach as we began “the love of our bridal days”--as we followed Hashem in the desert, and undertook our observance of the “Chok U’Mishpat”--of Hashem’s loving guidelines to lead us properly through life.  What a touching and precious time and recollection--like the day of your chasuna or the chasuna of a loved one.  Every time we recite the word “BeAhava” we, too, can recall that love and reciprocate with the feeling that our people had for Hakadosh Baruch Hu at that incomparable time, as well.  Feel it as you say it.  May the Geulah come--from that reciprocal love--when we will once again experience it afresh and anew!


There is something more to say.  Aside for the love that Hashem and we recall towards each other, HaRav Cordevero writes there is a lesson we must take from Hashem’s conduct towards us.  “Just as Hashem goes way back to find that love, so, too, must we go back and delve, if necessary, to improve our attitude and outlook and to find the merits of others.  Even if one ‘cannot find a reason’ for loving or having mercy on his fellow, he should say, ‘There was surely a previous time when he had done something right.’  This way, he will not find a single person unworthy of benefit, praying for his well-being and having mercy on him.”  With this superb outlook on life, our Ahava extends to others in meaningful and powerful ways--and the word itself takes on a special, personal, sublime and inner meaning, as you feel the attribute of Hashem working within you!



Special Note Two:  As many will be reciting Parshas HaMan today, we provide the following essential insight:


Many of us will undoubtedly receive several emails today reminding us to recite the Parshsas HaMon, it being the third day of the week in Parashas Bishalach.  We would like to remind everyone of the story that we related from HaRav Matisyahu Salomon, Shlita, just last year.  The message remains as powerful now as it did then:


HaRav Matisyahu related:  “I walked into a Shul in which someone was reading Parshas HaMon on the Tuesday of Parshas B’Shalach, as is the custom in some Chassidic circles.  Another individual walked in and noticed that he was reading Parshas HaMon.  He exclaimed, “You might as well stop doing that.  I have been reading it for 50 years on this very day, and nothing has ever happened for me!  HaRav Solomon reprimanded this person.  “How could you say that it hasn’t helped you?!  Have you had what to eat for the last 50 years?  Have you made Shabbos and Yom Tov? You are wearing clothing, aren’t you?”


We must remember, whether or not we recite Parshas HaMon today, that every ounce and morsal of parnassah and kalkala that is gifted to us by Hashem--whether or not we are millionaires or multi-millionaires--is part and parcel of the Mon that began falling for us more than 3,300 years ago!



Special Note Three:  In the financial world, one of the best ways to get rich quick is to invent something useful or discover/uncover a need that others have not yet realized.  The physical world is, of course, a dugma for the spiritual world.  There are constantly new opportunities to find or realize spiritual needs and fill them as soon as possible.  If you realize that your community or block needs a certain Gemach, establish it.  If your Shul davens Nusach Sefard and only has a few Nusach Ashkenaz siddurim for those who come in, buy some and put them in the Shul.  If you realize that you continuously face a particular situation (halachic/hashkafic), find out how to best handle it.  Remember--the thought, the situation, the opportunity came to you--it’s your discovery--just as minivans or MP3 players or Chipwiches were someone else’s.  Don’t let someone else capitalize on your opportunity.  You saw the need, you discovered the necessity, you realized that something needed improvement, correction or a little bit of help--now become the spiritual success that Hashem wants you to be!



Special Note One:  Today is Asiri LaKodesh--use the daily wisely with an especially dedicated greater awareness in an area of Bain Odom LaMakom (such as davening at some point with a tear) and Bain Odom Lechaveiro (speaking especially softly and ona’as devorim free!).


Additional Note on Asiri Lakodesh:  Perhaps one of the most important things we have to realize is that our lives are (believe it or not) really important.  Incredibly, there are people that go through the day belittling that importance.  Here is a true story that was just related to us:  There is a restaurant that has an “All You Can Eat Night.”  Obviously, the Kashrus agency supervising the establishment believes that one can bifurcate Kashrus from other areas of Torah conduct, and allows this conduct.  In any event, a young man had eaten four full plates of meats and side dishes and was left with a fifth plate that he had taken--a plate full of large home fries--lying all in front of him.  Almost ready to vomit, he looked to his friends and joked--“this plate of fries will be my ‘Ta’anis HaRa’avad’” (we have previously referred to this concept, in which one controls his desire to eat more while in the course of eating, having the force of many fasts).  He continued, “Do you hear this--I’m not going to eat these--it is my Ta’anis!”  The boy then burst out laughing and everyone around him laughed and/or cackled with him, as well.  For $22.95, this young man had degraded and defiled himself, taking an act as sublime as a Shulchan HaTahor (a person’s table can be compared to a mizbeach) and turning it into a mockery of the gift of kapara through controlled eating (as taught by one of the Rishonim--the Ra’avad--and as brought by Rabbeinu Yonah in the Yesod Hateshuva).  How did this happen?  We suggest that it begins with a person not appreciating how much he and his actions really count.  You don’t have to be a Rosh Yeshiva, a Rav, a Maggid Shiur, or a Rebbe in a Yeshiva to be held to a higher standard--because in fact and in deed, your davening, your speech, your brachos, your eating, your method of walking down the street, the way you talk to others, how and what you look at on the Internet--they all count--they all really do.  You don’t have to make yourself important, you don’t have to feel important, because you and *everything that you do* simply is important.  One should not leave it to HaRav Matisyahu Salomon, Shlita, to daven correctly, or to HaRav Shmuel Kamenetsky, Shlita, to eat appropriately, or to HaRav Aharon Leib Steinman, Shlita, to speak properly, one must focus on himself, for the Gedolim fall within the bracha of “Bonim Atem LaShem Elokeichem”--and so does each and every one of us.  Today, as Asiri LaKodesh, should be our launch into a greater appreciation of ourselves!



Special Note Two:  On Erev Shabbos, we had posed the question as to why the Makkos are divided into two Parshios--seven in Parshas Va’Aira and three in Parshas Bo.  We would like to suggest that perhaps one reason they have been so divided so that, after experiencing a majority of the Makkos, we have the time to take a step back and appreciate them without getting too used to all of the miracles.  If we keep going straight through all of the Makkos, by the eighth miracle, everything seems “old hat,” already too expected, and not as “miraculous.”  This indeed is a trap that we can fall into in our everyday lives, as well, with all of the daily miraculous events and occurrences around us not being properly appreciated.  It is perhaps for this reason that we are to re-ignite ourselves daily with a lively and joyous Mizmor LeSodah every Shacharis (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 51:9), as well as a meaningful Pesukei DeZimra and Birchos Kriyas Shema--reacquainting ourselves with the wondrous miracles and thanking Hashem for them anew.  Remember how you felt at “the once in 28 year event”--not so long ago--how different are the daily miracles?!


Additional Note 1:  A reader wrote to us that there were at least *23* recorded earthquakes since the beginning of 2009 until the most recent ones in Haiti .  Aside from the underlying message--you can definitely thank Hashem that you were not in a place in which any of them occurred.  Remember, the miracle of each Makkah was doubled by each makkah not happening in Goshen !


Additional Note 2:  As we move further in our Geulah, concluding the Makkos and actually exiting Mitzraim proper in this week’s Parsha, it behooves us to recognize the times and pay special attention to Yetzias Mitzraim in our tefillos, as well.  Where do we refer to Yetzias Mitzrayim in Pesukei Dezimra even before Vecharos Imo HaBris?  (Hint:  In Hodu).  Why do we refer to Yetzias Mitzraim both in Kriyas Shema and in Ezras Avoseinu?  (Hint:  See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 70; Mishne Berurah seif katan 2).  What is the result of Yetzias Mitzraim?  (Hint:  What do the last three Pesukim of Pesukei Dezimra immediately before Yishtabach and after the Shiras HaYam refer to?).  These are times of Geulah--we should show our sincerity and dedication, our yearning, our longing and desire to not only to be a part of it--but for it to be a part of us!



Question of the Week:  The Makos are split up between two parshios--seven Makos in last week’s Parsha, Parshas Va’era, and three Makos in this week’s Parsha, Bo.  Why are they split up in this manner?



Special Note One:  We provide by clicking here a new and great, short and simple, real and outstanding opportunity--”A Mishne A Day--at your computer--with basic text provided to you on your screen, and associated links to an audio shiur and more meforshim.  The program originally began with a sure but steady one Mishne a day in Mesechta Brachos and has this week already begun the next Mesechta, Peah.  As Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, teaches in Mishlei ( 13:11 ) ”Vekovetz Al Yad Yarbeh--one who gathers a little bit at a time ends up with a large collection!”  Join and accomplish!



Special Note Two:  One additional thought on the earthquakes from a reader:  “HaRav Tzadok HaKohen, Z’tl, teaches that when Hashem wants to bring some good on a person or community, he may bring some related fear, difficulty or trouble to them so that they daven to be helped.  Their prayers will then open the floodgates of mercy, allowing the good that Hashem really wanted to bring to flow forth.” (see Tzidkas HaTzaddik, 169-170).  “Sincere prayer is therefore a definitely appropriate response!”  Hakhel Note:  We agree!


Additional Hakhel Note:  In the Sefas Emes Al HaTorah (Parshas Bo, 5648), the Sefas Emes writes that the stories of Yetzias Mitzrayim actually have the ability to remove yissurin which could come at the time of our future Geulah.  It may be that what we are experiencing these very days are those yissurin.  May we suggest, then, that we take the time and effort to review and relate the stories of Yetzias Mitzraim--the Medrashim that we review this Shabbos describing the miraculous events in this week’s Parsha can literally have an important part in our very own Geulah, as well!



Special Note Three:  We present below an essential insight derived from this week’s Parsha by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita, in Growth Through Torah (p. 160):

“U’Lichol Bnei Yisroel Lo Yecheratz Kelev Lishono--To all of Israel the dogs did not bark” (Shemos 11:7).  One can imagine the great feeling of liberation experienced by the Bnai Yisroel when they were finally freed from slavery after so many years.  Would it have been so terrible if a dog had barked at them when they were leaving?  We see from here that even though the irritation experienced would have been slight, under the circumstances, it would have nevertheless still been a blot on their joy.  From here we can learn that when someone is experiencing a joyous occasion, we should be careful not to say or do anything that would decrease his joy.  A person might have just bought a new house and feels very happy about it.  At that time, do not needlessly point out the drawbacks of that house.  A person just got married and is very happy, do not voice any pessimistic comments that could cause a tinge of pain.  Some people have a tendency to make statements that deflate a person’s high feelings.  They might be motivated by a bit of envy, or they could be simply insensitive.  Allow others to savor their good fortune.  Don’t be like a barking dog and cause others irritation.”

Thank you, Rabbi Pliskin, for these sage and truly meaningful words!



Special Note Four:  In perhaps the most famous teaching of the Sefer HaChinuch, the author (in explaining Mitzvah 16) teaches that a person is “nifal lefi pe’ulosav--a person’s mind runs with his actions,” so that “even a rasha gamur will occupy his day with Torah and Mitzvos--and even if this was done ‘lo Leshaim Shomayim’ and for ulterior motives, he will quash his yetzer hora and become good.”  The opposite would also, R’L, be true--if a tzaddik spent his day in wasted activities, he would be moving himself into the yetzer hora’s clutches and become a rasha gamur.  With this we can understand why we should be busy--making sure that the strength and powers we have in this world are utilized positively--which impacts not only on our bodies--but very much on our souls as well!



Special Note Five:  How can we think of studying Parshas Bo without recalling the famous and fundamental words of the Ramban at the end of the Parsha ( 13:16 )?!  The following is excerpted from the monumental Artscroll work, Ramban on the Torah (as translated by a group of scholars):


“...For the ultimate objective of all the commandments is that we should believe in Hashem and acknowledge to Him that He created us.  And that is in fact the ultimate objective of the Creation itself--for we have no other explanation for the first creation, and the Most High has no desire for the earthbound creatures except this, that man should know and acknowledge to Hashem that He created him.  And the purpose of raising one’s voice in the prayers and the purpose of synagogues and the merit of communal prayer is this:  that people should have a place where they can gather and acknowledge to Hashem that He created them and caused them to be, and where they can publicize this and declare before Him, ‘We are Your creations!’”


The Ramban concludes by explaining the enduring lesson of the manifest wonders of the Geulah from Mitzrayim:


“Through recalling and acknowledging the great, manifest miracles of Yetzias Mitzraim a person ultimately acknowledges the hidden miracles of everyday life which are the foundation of the entire Torah.  For a person has no share in the Torah of Moshe Rabbeinu unless he believes that all of our affairs and experiences are miracles, that there is no element of nature and “the ordinary course of the world” in them at all, whether regarding the community or the individual.  Rather, if one observes the commandments his reward will bring him success, and if he transgresses them his punishments will destroy him--all by the decree of the Most High.”


Yetzias Mitzraim and its lessons are things that we should be sure to feel and experience this Shabbos--and remember every single day of the year!



Special Note Six:  We continue our Erev Shabbos--Halachos of Shabbos series with important halachos relating to the Melacha of Borer (selecting) from the Sefer Piskei Teshuvos:


1.  If items are mixed together (which includes items clinging or attached to each other, such as the cream on top of milk, or the peel on a fruit), even if they are separately recognizable, Borer will apply.  It is for this reason that one cannot remove an apple from a bowl in order to eat the remaining oranges or grapefruits in the bowl.  However, if one merely moves over the apple within the bowl in order to get to the orange and take it out, this is not an act of borer.


2.  Although some Poskim disagree, many Poskim allow the scattering (all at once, not a few or a little at a time) of items mixed together, so that they are no longer Halachically considered mixed, and can be put in their respective places.


3.  If guests arrive unexpectedly, one may peel fruits for them even if you know they will not eat everything, because peeling is permitted when one needs the fruits immediately--and honoring the guests is considered an immediate need.


4.  One may likewise select the food one wants to eat from its pesoles, i.e., that which one does not want to eat--if it is “le’alter”--immediately prior to consumption.  In preparing for a meal--how much time before a meal is considered le’alter?  Some poskim provide a maximum shiur of 1/2 hour; other Poskim allow up to an hour; the Mishne Berurah warns that more than an hour is a “karov lechiuv chatas” zone.  However, if more time is needed because of the crowd, or because the food will taste better if it is out for longer, many Poskim allow the Shiur that is necessary to accomplish the task.  One must consult with his Rav as to any particular practice.


5.  The skin of chicken or fish has the same halacha as the peel of a fruit, and may be removed immediately prior to consumption.


6.  Two different types of cake, and black and white bread, are considered two minim--two types--and one cannot be borer one from the other.  Some Poskim rule that sweet challah and water challah are also two minim.  Some Poskim also rule that white meat and dark meat are two minim.


7.  The prohibition of borer applies not only to food, but to utensils, clothing and seforim, as well.  Thus, one could not select clothing on Leil Shabbos to put on in the morning.  Likewise, one should not be borer from a pile of clothing.  Similarly, one could not set the table for the Shabbos morning seudah, if it would involve selecting the plates, or the spoons or the knives, etc. in order to set the table.


8.  If one is searching for clothing from a pile in the dark, he is allowed to pull out an item from the pile and if it is not the right one put it down (preferably put it back), and go on to the next garment.  The reason this is so is that one does not intend to select and is, in fact, hoping that this is the right garment that he is groping for.


9.  One may put a strainer in the sink to prevent large particles from going down the drain, as this is not considered selecting because the water going down the drain is also going to waste--so there is no real “ochel” or item that is wanted.  If spoons and forks are mixed in the sink with leftover food, however, one only could remove the spoons only for immediate use.


10.  If one has soda bottles of different flavors mixed together, and wants to put several of the bottles into the refrigerator early Shabbos morning so that they are cold for the meal--he should consult with his Rav as to how this may be done.  A good eitzah would be to keep the flavors separate before Shabbos--as all of the same flavored bottles together is only one min, and there would be no selecting when he took one from each group to place in the refrigerator a few hours before the meal.  Enjoy!



Hakhel was informed that Yaakov Yosef Ben Raizel, one of the bochrim imprisoned in Japan is currently on trial.  We ask that you recite Tehillim and give Tzedakah in his z’chus.



Special Note One:  Every Thursday afternoon from 2:15-2:30 pm , Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, provides an insightful 15 minute Shiur in Parshas HaShavua via teleconference.  To access the Shiur, please call (712)-432-1001, and insert access code number 483003375#.



Special Note Two:  With the initial devastating earthquake in Haiti, many tried to glean insights and lessons from the horrifying event.  Some of the lessons that came to us over the week included:  1) The Parsha of the week had seven Makkos, and this was an example of how truly devastating they were--sometimes we get lost in colorful Haggados, and don’t truly recognize the havoc wreaked upon the Mitzriim and the extent of the salvation in Bnai Yisroel being saved from them.  2) How we can explain away the Yad Hashem as an unfortunate tragedy and simply move on?  Great advancements which enable us to learn and see so much of the horrifying event makes us more responsible to act.  3)  The Kiddush Hashem of the Jews from Israel and ZAKA--acting in great disproportion to their world numbers and in a country almost totally bereft of Jews.  4) Chazal in Brachos (59A) teach that earthquakes stem from Hashem’s exasperation with the Bnai Yisroel in galus.  The word “ Haiti ”, so strangely similar to ‘hate’ reminds us of the continued cause of this galus--Sinas Chinam, the needless hatred, disagreements, disputes, ill feelings which keep us and the world mired in suffering and lack of fulfillment.  5) The Gemara on earthquakes (ibid.) actually brings as a source for its teachings the first words of the Haftorah of last week (in which the earthquake occurred!)--”Ko Amar Hashem, Hashamayim Kisii (Yeshaya 66:1)--So says Hashem, the heaven is my throne and the earth my footstool...we do not understand Hashem’s ways but we know they are true, just and infinite.  6) The word “ Haiti ” is also similar to the name of the Rav who was murdered by terrorists in cold blood--with the world than clamoring about why the Israelis had to kill the terrorists.  The murder of one innocent life is like the taking of an entire world (Sanhedrin 37A).


Now, with reports of an earthquake in the Cayman Islands and a second earthquake in Haiti, we are reminded of Yosef’s words to Paroh as to why his dream was repeated (Bereishis 41:32):  “Ve’Al Hishanos HaChalom...ki nachon hadavar---as for the repetition of the dream...it is because the matter stands ready before Hashem, and Hashem is hastening to accomplish it.”  Similarly, the Metsudos and Malbim write that when a theme in a Pasuk is repeated twice, it is done in order to strengthen, to intensify, the thought.  In other words, we are not to sit back, and wait to see if another earthquake or “natural disaster” will strike.  In Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s outstanding new work It’s Never Too Little, It’s Never Too Late , It’s Never Enough  (Artscroll, 2009), Rabbi Frand writes as follows:  “Rabbi Eliyah Svei, Z’tl’, was born in Lithuania in a small town called Poltava, not far from Baranovich.  When he was a young boy, he entered Shul to daven Ma’ariv and found the townspeople reciting Tehillim with passion and fervor.  Rav Elyah commented that he had yet to witness such an outpouring of emotion even in a yeshiva.  “Who is it that is sick?” he asked.  “Sick?” someone replied.  “No--no one is sick.”  “So why is everyone saying Tehillim with such desperation?” he asked.  “Didn’t you hear?! There was an earthquake and thousands of people died.  Hashem must want us to do Teshuva.”


Rabbi Frand continues: “Where was this earthquake? Not in the next town, or even on the same continent.  It was in some far-flung corner of the earth.  Yet the people of Poltava were frightened, because Hashem had shown His wrath.  This was enough of a message to inspire them to recite Tehillim as if their lives depended on it.  We are not speaking of Rebbe Chanina Ben Tradyon, or even the Chofetz Chaim.  These were ordinary Jews of the last century, who lived with enough sensitivity to hear the voice of Hashem calling to them.”  Rabbi Frand urges to be no better--or worse--than the Jews of Poltava.


Actually, what would the Chofetz Chaim say today?  There are at least two published letters of the Chofetz Chaim (Michtevei Chofetz Chaim, Letters 10 and 12)--one responding to an earthquake in Eretz Yisroel, and the other to an earthquake in Russia .  In Letter 10, the Chofetz Chaim actually borrows a Pasuk from the Makkos--”Lema’an Taidah Ki Lashem Ha’aretz--we are being starkly reminded that the world and all of its fullness is Hashem’s”--man’s pride and advancements notwithstanding.  We present below an excerpt given to us by a Rav on what he learns from the Chofetz Chaim and his letters.


“On September 1, 1923 , one of the most powerful earthquakes in recorded history hit the Kanto plain in Japan and laid waste to Tokyo , Yokohama and surrounding cities and villages; well over 100,000 people perished.  When a student informed the elderly sage of the mass deaths in Japan , he was visibly shaken, immediately undertook a partial fast and insisted that the news should spur all Jews to repentance.”


In 1925, on Erev Yom Kippur, the Chofetz Chaim wrote a letter about the meaning of an earthquake.  It was an earthquake in Russia .


“Several weeks ago I publicized an essay concerning the great earthquake that happened in our land.  In that essay I encouraged Klal Yisroel to do Teshuva and that the earthquake was a warning to the entire world that they should repent of their evil ways and believe in Hashem Who controls all.


“Not for naught did all these terrifying and frightening things of this year come upon us. Certainly any thinking person should be gripped by fear and trembling as to what Hashem has done to us.  The One who is good and does good to all and is merciful on all of His creations, and does not even desire the death of the wicked, as it says “By My life, says Hashem, I do not desire the death of the wicked one, but rather that he repent and live” (Yechezkel 33).  The understanding person will realize that Hashem is urging us to do teshuva and is showing us all that He has the power to do as He pleases, and none of His creations of above or below can tell Him what to do.  And it is clear to me that if we had prophets sent from Hashem, they would without doubt be standing guard to urge Jews to do teshuva to our Father in heaven.


“Because, with our evil deeds we have no prophets or divine messengers in our times, He is urging us through other messengers to do teshuva, as it says ‘Oseh Malachav Ruchos--He makes winds-his messengers; burning fire-his servants.’”



The message is clear--an event that happened so far away to people we don’t know is really a message from Hashem to us.  We must take Hashem’s message in some real and tangible way. One reader advised us that, bli neder, they will recite the Ani Maamins with their finger on the siddur’s words while reciting them in order to increase concentration.  Whatever it may be--please do something!


For Tu B’Shevat and fruit lovers:  Please click here for the Jerusalem Kosher News page with the English text from Rabbi Moshe Vaya’s book addressing concerns of insect infestation in fruit and dried fruits.

Special Note One:  In light of yesterday’s note referring to Berich Shemei, one reader asked us to point out that, in his sefer Shorshei Minhag Ashkenaz, Rabbi Benyamin Hamburger brings 13 reasons why one should not say “Berich Shemei.”



Special Note Two:  For those who inquired, the source for the pronunciation of “shaw.a.tah,” as opposed to “she.a.tah”, in Modim, Birkas HaMazon and Shabbos Mincha is Shoftim 6:17.  We are told that Sefaradim, as well as perhaps other specific groups, actually recite she.a.tah. However, unless an Ashkenazi knows otherwise, he should carefully follow his siddur, the most common of which call for shaw.a.tah, based upon the pasuk in Shoftim.



Special Note Three:  A reader suggested an interesting and contemporary method of self-discipline.  Just as the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation has popularized the one-hour Machsom LeFi from 9 to 10AM every day, how about one hour in which you (perhaps with a group of others for a zechus for something) turn off your cellphones (and/or other personal electronic devices)?  If you can’t fight progress around you--perhaps you can create your own sphere of personal progress!



Special Note Four:  At his Hakhel Shiur on Bitachon on Monday, Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, noted the words of Rabbi Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, that Bitachon means that we are not bound by the predictions and conclusions--medical, military, legal, political, or otherwise--of others.  Statistics and odds are not binding upon us, for we live with an Omnipotent Hashem--to whom Holocaust survivor stories, medical miracles, Six-Day Wars, are just as much part of nature as night, day and everything in between.



Special Note Five:  The following meaningful lesson is excerpted from A Vort From Rav Pam, the most recent masterful work by Rabbi Sholom Smith, Shlita (Artscroll):  “After Egypt was engulfed with swarms of croaking frogs, Pharaoh appealed to Moshe to pray to Hashem that they be removed.  Hashem listened and all the frogs (except those in the river) died, leaving huge piles of foul-smelling reptiles all over the land.  Although the odor was unbearable, Pharaoh saw that there had been a relief and kept making his heart stubborn ( 8:11 ).  The pasuk stresses that once the immediate danger was over, Pharaoh hardened his heart and went back to his old, evil ways of stubbornly refusing to let the Jewish nation leave Egypt.  The Torah underscores Pharaoh’s fickleness, in order to show us all a common fault in human nature:  When a person faces a crisis, an illness, accident, or pending disaster, this awakens in him a need for tefillah, teshuvah, and emotion-filled appeals to Hashem.  But once the crisis ends, or even if the situation merely takes a turn for the better, and he sees the proverbial ‘light at the end of the tunnel,’ the hisorerus (inspiration) often quickly dissipates.  He suddenly doesn’t ‘need’ Hashem as much anymore.  This is exactly what happened to Pharaoh.  As soon as the immediate predicament passed, he hardened his heart and refused to let the Jews leave his country.  There is an essential lesson in this concept.  When a person facing a crisis davens to Hashem, he should continue to pray even when he sees that the yeshuah (salvation) is on the way.  This is clearly seen in Megillas Esther.  When the Jewish people were facing their impending extermination, Esther ordered a three-day fast to appeal to Hashem for mercy.  As the Megillah describes, Haman’s planned request to Achashveirosh for permission to hang Mordechai turned into a disaster.  Instead, he was ordered to parade Mordechai through the streets in a way befitting a man whom the king especially wants to honor ( 6: 11 ).  After this great setback for Haman and personal triumph for Mordechai, Mordechai returned to the king’s gate (6:12 ).  Rashi explains that although Haman’s downfall was now beginning, Mordechai nevertheless returned to his sackcloth and fasting, and continued to beseech Hashem for mercy, pleading for the rescue of K’lal Yisroel.  There are many situations in life when a person going through a difficult situation suddenly sees a turn for the better.  That is not a signal to discontinue one’s hisorerus.  A person must pray until the full yeshuah (salvation) comes--and then express his full-hearted gratitude to the One Above!”


Special Note Six:  A reader advised us of a startling and meaningful incident that he had heard from a Rav.  The Rav related that he knew someone who was driving his car and about to get on the highway for a short trip.  While getting onto the entrance ramp, he debated whether he should listen to the news or pop in the CD of a Torah shiur that he had in the car.  His good sense got the better of him, and he started the Shiur (after all, he could listen to the news in an hour--and it would even be newer news!).  Just a few minutes after getting on the highway and travelling at a crisp highway speed, he heard loud sirens, and could not identify their source so he slowed down and pulled into the right lane ready to get out of the way further, if necessary.  Still looking around, he saw nothing--until he realized that the siren noise had been from a passing emergency vehicle during the shiur which had gotten recorded.  Amused, he traveled for another minute or two--until he was at the scene of a serious multi-car accident which had just occurred moments ago.  As he swerved around it in horror, he realized that but for the siren on the recorded shiur that caused him to pull over and slow down a bit, he probably would have been in the middle of this dreaded event.  Not only did the Torah save him--the siren on the Shiur saved him!  Oh, not only do we do not begin to fathom what a word of Torah accomplishes--we don’t even fathom what just listening to the Shiur means!  The next time you have that choice…



Special Note One:  For those unable to attend yesterday’s wonderful Yarchei Kallah, tapes and CDs are available by calling 718-252-5274.  Rabbi Marburger’s clear and excellent Shiur is extremely essential for anyone who has written or intends to (or should) write a will.



Special Note Two:  At the Yarchei Kallah, Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, shared a crucial concept in Bitachon which we can remember daily as we recite the Ani Maamins:  The Brisker Rav, Z’tl, asks why, in the 12th Ani Maamin discussing Moshiach, there is an implied question--“and even though he may delay in coming I still await him”--affirming that a person senses a delay and still believes.  This, the Brisker Rav explains, teaches that an essential element of Bitachon is mesinus--patience--and that a real test of your bitachon is patience--until the yeshua comes!



Special Note Three:  We received the following potent advice from a reader: Rabbi Simcha Zissel Ziv (known as The Alter of Kelm), Z’tl, taught: “Always remember the favors people did for you.  Remember their good qualities and not their faults.  One who follows this path will be loved by all.“  Hakhel Note:  What precious words to live by!



Special Note Four:  Remarkably, we are already in the third week of the Shovavim period.  The Vaad Harabbanim (1-877-822-3427, or www.vaadharabbanim.com) has organized 25 Talmidei Chachomim to recite the entire Sefer Tehillim 1,000 times at Mekomos HaKedoshim during Shovavim on behalf of their donors, and have asked for donations based on the Arizal’s teaching that special tzedaka is in order during these weeks of tikun.  As the Vaad quotes the Arizal, “The Shovavim (from Parshas Shemos through Parshas Mishpatim) weeks are an auspicious time for yeshuos:  Let us see what occurs during these weeks--The Exodus from Mitzrayim indicates liberation from pain; the Bnai Yisroel taking the spoil from the Egyptians signifies achieving wealth; recovering during these weeks is likely, as Hashem healed us all before bringing us to stand at Har Sinai.”  In sum, there is great latent and blatant potential in these days.  We wish to add that we have discovered a Tefillah of the Chidah (found in his Sefer Yosef Beseder), in which he writes that a man who is too weak to fast during these days should give money to Tzedakah and recite the Tefillah that he composed, which is available by clicking here.  [We will not be further discussing the text of the Tefillah or how much Tzedakah you should give.  May we suggest that you speak to your Rav if you need further guidance?]


Additional Note:  It is also written in the name of the Arizal that our recitation of Berich Shemei (which is from the Zohar) when we take out the Torah should be with special concentration during this period (this kavannah which will definitely be enhanced by reading the words from a siddur--even if you know them by heart).  Why doesn’t everybody do this, then?  Remember--the difference between those in the know and those not in the know is only one thing--knowledge!



Special Note Five:  As we have recently begun the new cycles of The Sefer Chofetz Chaim (in its various versions), and of Praying With Fire II (a sure way of improving your tefillah), we provide a stunning insight from the Chofetz Chaim in last week’s Parsha.  The Chofetz Chaim asks why the tefillos of Moshe Rabbeinu to save the Mitzriim from further pain and misery brought on by the Zefardea were immediately listened to by Hashem, and the wicked Egyptians were immediately spared from further suffering--yet when the Misonninim--the complainers in the desert--were attacked by fiery snakes (Bamidbar 21:6) and Moshe prayed for them--Hashem did not immediately relieve them.  Instead Moshe first had to make a pole, place the shape of a fiery serpent shape on top--and the people then had to look at it in order to be healed and live.  This was not the same kind of immediate respite at all.  Why were Moshe Rabbeinu’s tefillos not listened to in the same way as they were in Mitzrayim?  Could anyone be more perverse, more rotten, more deserving then the Mitzriim--yet they did not have to suffer for an extra day?!  The Chofetz Chaim explains the difference as follows:  The Mitzriim were being punished for their cruelty and brutality, and the Bnai Yisroel and the world would concomitantly learn a lesson forever of Hashem’s greatness and power.  On the other hand, the Torah testifies that the complainers “Spoke against Hashem and Moshe, ‘Why did you bring us up from Egypt to die in this wilderness…’”(ibid., pasuk 5).  As a result of their lashon hora, not only was their own personal power of tefillah damaged because their tool of tefillah--their mouth--was sullied (can you eat a steak dinner with mud in your mouth?) and debased--but even the power of prayers of others on their behalf (indeed--even that of Moshe Rabbeinu who they spoke against) was weakened and undermined, as well.  What a great lesson of the after-effects of those few “irresistible” words--and how they terribly hurt the person saying them--for they stymie not only the tefillos of the speaker, but those innocent and clean-mouthed ones, as well, who daven on his behalf!  Imagine, on the other hand, a mouth, prompted by the proper halachos studied--saved from those inappropriate words and fallen moments--and visualize prayers being lifted to the heavens with additional force--together with those who daven for them for a shidduch, a simcha, a refuah, parnassah, or any yeshua or need they may have.  Let us realize that our speech about others combines with our daily speech to Hashem, and if played properly and wisely with the assistance of others results in a moving symphony which can stir the heavens!



Special Note One:  Over the next several weeks, we will be living through Parshios of Geulah, beginning with the first seven Maakos in this week’s Parsha--by which the Mitzriyim were sorely and severely punished and K’lal Yisroel came out unscathed and glorified.  Accordingly, may we suggest that this period is an auspicious one for reciting the Tefillah Al HaGeulah, available by clicking on the following links in both Hebrew and available in English.  Remember, if Moshe Rabbeinu would have had the opportunity to offer that 515th prayer--he would have entered Eretz Yisroel, as well.  It is no wonder, then, that Dovid HaMelech teaches us “Kaveh El Hashem…Vekaveh El Hashem---Hope to Hashem, strengthen yourself…and Hope to Hashem.”  Don’t give up--keep on coming and davening again and again.  There is a light at tunnel’s end--you have to have the drive, nightvision and unrelenting goal to get there.



Special Note Two:  Important Opportunity!  Every Thursday afternoon (including today!) from 2:15-2:30 pm, Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita gives a wonderful 15 minute Shiur in Parshas HaShavua via teleconference.  To access the Shiur, please call (712)-432-1001, and insert access code number 483003375#.



Special Note Three:  Today is the Yom Kippur Katan for Rosh Chodesh Shevat.  In just one day, we will have, Boruch Hashem, completed the first four months, or full one-third, of the Year 5770.  An interesting question can be raised.  As one gets older, is time worth more--or is time really worth the same as it was years ago, but one just appreciates it more when he is older than when he is younger?  We suggest that if one appreciates life more, than time is worth more, for the worth of anything is in accordance with its value to the person.  Someone in possession of a crown jewel understanding its priceless value, will guard and treasure it to an incredible degree--even beyond what others may think is feasible or achievable.  On the other hand, someone in possession of a crown jewel who thinks that it is merely a piece of stained glass, will treat it as mere glass.  The same thought is true relating to Mitzvah performance:  the more you appreciate and understand the greatness of a Mitzvah, the greater the challenge of the Yetzer Hora to perform it may become, resulting in potentially greater reward or greater punishment.


So, in addition to the worth you may attribute to yourself, the worth that you give to your time and that which you do with it is really very important, because it is **you** who determines the extent of its value in your life, for better or for worse, for punishment and for reward.  As we approach the upcoming two-thirds of the year, may we think about, focus on, and actually grow in the sense of placing greater value on that which is truly valuable, making our lives all the more successful and worthwhile.



Special Note Four:  For those who have not necessarily kept up with the most recent news in the Torah world, just last week the “Mivtzah Brachos Program” began.  The goal of this unique and important Brachos program is to promote the proper recitation of Brachos--to thank Hashem properly for all the good Hashem constantly does on our behalf.  The Program is for people ages 3-120--so you fit in!  Each person is, upon request, supplied with a Brachos card, which is completed and entered into drawings for monthly prizes.  Families are urged to join the Program, and may be the winners of a trip for four to Eretz Yisroel.  This is how it works:  Short Brachos, such as a Bracha Rishona on food and Borei Nefashos, must be recited aloud, and someone must answer Amen in order to “fill in a circle on the card.”  Longer Brachos such as Asher Yatzar, Al HaMichya, or Birchas HaMazon must be recited from a Siddur or chart in order to fill in the appropriate circle.  For further information, and to determine the locations where you can pick up a Brachos card, we invite you to click on this link or you may email zshain@koshernet.com.  Try to involve your family and those that you feel could benefit.  It can make the eating experience take on a totally different look for you and others.  Even if you do not complete or send in cards, follow the rules to improve your Brachos recitation and commitment.


As the Brachos Program reports, HaRav Bakst, Z’tl, the Rosh HaYeshivah of Detroit was instructed by the Chofetz Chaim as a young man to always recite Brachos with Kavannah.  “I went through many dangers in Russia , Japan , and China during World War II, and I was saved miraculously again and again in the zechus of the Chofetz Chaim’s advice, which I took very seriously.”  May we, too, be zoche to great success--VeHaMevarech Misbarech--the one who blesses will surely be blessed!



Special Note Five:  At the recent Lev L’Achim gathering in Flatbush, HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, taught a remarkable lesson he derived from a Pasuk that many of us know very well (or sing very often):  “Hinei Mah Tov U’Mah Na’im, Sheves Achim Gam Yachad--how good and how pleasant is the dwelling of brothers together in unity” (Tehillim 133:1).  HaRav Salomon explained that there is an important difference between Tov--good, and Naim--pleasant and “geshmak.”  Something can be Tov--good for you, but is not necessarily Naim--geshmak; and, on the other hand, something can be Naim--geshmak, but not always good.  There are times when our “Sheves Achim”--our relationships with our brothers are good, and there are times when they are geshmak.  In all events and under all circumstances, however, we must remember that they are our brothers.  Indeed, the Rambam in Hilchos Matnas Aniyim (10:2) provides a Posuk for the source that we must help our brother in need.  The Posuk the Rambam provides is “Bonim Atem Lashem Elokeiychem--we are all children of Hashem.”  Unlike other brotherhoods which may simply emanate or be established based upon a common goal or ambition, our brotherhood is based upon our roots going back to the Source--Hashem Himself.  When we help a brother, or when we are considering helping a brother, it must be with this thought in our hearts--with a feeling and emotion of—that whether it is Tov or it is Naim--it is with a full heart of one son to another.  Our very special brotherhood precludes an impersonal or perfunctory, dry act of simply extending a hand when needed.  It is, instead, an act of love to a person stemming back to an act of love for Hashem Himself.  When helping your brother, remember to inject it with the proper thought and feeling behind it--“Bonim Atem Lashem Elokeichem!”


Special Note One:  As we have noted earlier, the first item that we thank Hashem for in Modim is that He is our Hashem--that we have a relationship with the King of Kings--and, on top of all that, He takes care of us lovingly--with personalized Hashgacha Pratis.  A reader pointed out to us that there is something even more that we thank Hashem for in the first item of Modim--that is, that we are afforded this unparalleled relationship with Hashem not for just ten years or even twenty years--or even 120 years--but, as we recite--”LeOlam Vo’ed”--for all eternity!  How can one not shout out on the mountaintops about this incredible role and privilege!  If we are not shouting--we should at least have gleeful and thankful Kavannah when we recount this incomparable and consummate blessing “LeOlam Vo’ed!” each time we begin to recite Modim!



Special Note Two:  In response to our note on anger, a reader wrote the following:  “I have a few quotes on the topic of anger that could help put things into perspective.  Maybe your readers could even enlarge their favorite saying and hang it up in a prominent place to help them remember to work on this [devastating trait known as] anger.


    Anger is one letter away from danger.


    Your temper is one of the few things that will improve the longer you keep it.


    A man is never in worse company than when he flies into a rage and is beside himself.


    Anger is never without a reason, but seldom with a good [enough] one.


    People who fly into a rage always make a bad landing.


    Don’t lose your temper, nobody wants to find it.


    An angry man is seldom reasonable, a reasonable man is seldom angry.


    The emptier the pot, the quicker the boil--watch your temper.


    Be strong enough to control your anger instead of letting it control you.


    Anger makes your mouth work faster than your mind.


Hakhel Note: Please also remember the short tefillah in the morning….



Special Note Three:  As this Shabbos Kodesh will also be Rosh Chodesh Shevat, we begin a new cycle in several extremely meaningful and significant daily programs:  The Sifrei Chofetz Chaim, as well as the brand new Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation Shemiras Halashon Sefer, The Family Lesson A Day, and the awesome work The Power of Positive Words all begin this Shabbos--so much you can accomplish in just a few minutes a day with these daily bites.  Moreover, moving from Bain Odom LeChaveiro to Bain Odom LaMakom, the timely, thorough, and truly amazing work Praying with Fire II begins a new cycle on Shabbos, as well!  During these crucial and turbulent times, we must ready ourselves with our neshamos more than our bodies--with the words of our mouths over the might of our arms.  There is such a significant amount we can accomplish for our people by demonstrating our commitment to growth.  Unlike the multitudes of the world who look to the military and the politicians, to the generals and the presidents for protection and victory, as citizens and civilians can do nothing but watch, we--each and every one of us--are all very much involved in the outcome of our people and the world at large--for we all can do so much.  Committing, bli neder, to study the (short) daily program in a Shemiras HaDibbur sefer and in a Tefillah sefer demonstrates your resolve to being an active part in geulos ve’yeshuos for us all.  HaKol Kol Ya’akov--you know it--be a part of it!



Special Note Four:  We provide several concluding points from the Sefer Tefillah KeHilchasa by HaRav Fuchs, which we had begun yesterday.  Look at the power of prayer--as we see in this week’s Parsha, it could even stop a ravaging and otherwise unstoppable Makkah against a horrible enemy.  Think of what well-meaning and reflective words could do for you!


  1. The Minhag Ashkenaz is for Birchos HaShachar to be recited standing, although Sefardim may recite these brachos standing or sitting.


  1. The word “Baruch” is recited 13 times in Baruch She’Amar, in order to recall the 13 Middos of Rachamim that we seek as we begin to pray.


  1. Some have the custom of opening their hands when reciting “Poseach Es Yodecha …”, as it is a symbol of our request that Hashem open His heavenly “hand” to shower us with blessing.


  1. The Aruch HaShulchan (Orach Chaim 51:1) writes that each of the five “Hallelukahs” begins and ends with this word--because they collectively allude to “inyanim gevohim”--sublime matters, which are “keyadua lemevinim--known to those who understand.”  [At the very least, then, we should pause for a moment when reciting this word, to demonstrate our recognition of its significance!]


  1. The bracha of Yishtabach is a powerful bracha of praise, which was authored by Avrohom Avinu (his name can be easily found in the Nusach Sefard version of the bracha’s conclusion).  Shlomo Hamelech actually authored the beginning of the bracha, and his name can be readily found at the bracha’s outset in both Nusach Ashkenaz and Sefard versions.  We should not let this concluding bracha of Pesukei DeZimra go by without recognizing its power and import.  What a link you have to Avrohom Avinu and Shlomo HaMelech--you are not merely stepping where they stepped--you are sharing meaningful and momentous words with them!



Special Note One:  Rabbi Yosef Eisen, Shlita, relates how HaRav Pam, Z’tl, would constantly relate a great lesson he learned from another Rav regarding Chinuch.  The Pasuk (Shemos 4:3) states that when Moshe Rabbeinu threw down the Mateh--his staff--from his hand, it immediately became a snake.  Yet, when he picked it up--holding on even only to its tail, it became a staff in his hand.  With this incident, Moshe Rabbeinu, as a teacher of the multitudes, was being taught how to treat all--even the weakest and poorest of his students and disciples.  If you cast them down, they will end up as snakes--by and through your doing.  On the other hand, if you grab hold of them--even to any part of them, they can be rebuilt into the Mateh--and we all know the Mateh’s subsequent history.  It is, then, very much up to the teacher, the Rebbe, the Partner-In-Torah, the Ben Torah, to demonstrate an affection and caring to those who can learn from him.  Casting another aside may be justified under the circumstances, and is certainly the easier approach, but it is that grabbing hold of and drawing near, the real concern and the “no-let-go and no-give-up,” caring feeling that will ultimately prove successful.  In the Mateh’s case, taking hold and holding on literally brought miracles--and in the successful mechanech and Ben Torah’s case, no less is to be expected.  Success will be found in the overriding love, the reaching out in affection, of parent to child, teacher to student, and frum to not-yet-observant.  All you have to do is bring close and keep near, and the rest will be history--that we hope keeps repeating itself!



Special Note Two:  At the outset of his Siddur, HaRav Yaakov Tzvi Emden, Z’tl (the “Ya’avetz”), brings a powerful and concise Tefillah from the Zohar Chodosh to battle Ka’as (Anger) throughout the day.  Of course, seforim and books have been written on means and methods to control this terrible Middah (including the relatively recent great work Anger, by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita).  The Ramban brings in the Igeres HaRamban that “Kol HaKoes, Kol Minei Gehinnom Sholtim Bo--anyone who angers, subjects himself to ‘all kinds of Gehinnom.’”  Why to “all kinds” of Gehinnom--why is anger deemed so deleterious??  The Ba’alei Mussar explain that from this one bad Middah, one is catapulted into sins of all kinds--ranging from Ona’as Devorim to murder, and from Chillul Shabbos to Chillul Hashem.  A primary tool in combating anger is tefillah, because by praying to Hashem, you show that you care enough about it to ask Hashem for assistance in helping you prevent it.  Accordingly, by clicking here you can view the short tefillah brought by HaRav Emden to be recited at the beginning of the day.  As you will see from the link, the Sefer Techinos U’Bakahshos (from which the typeset has been excerpted) writes that the Chidah states that this Tefillah is a Segulah Nifla’ah--a wonderous Segula--to be saved from anger.  [We have not independently verified this statement as to the Chidah’s words--but even the claim is highly significant.]  May the tefillah’s recitation at the outset of the day provide a source of Siyata DeShemaya, of calmness and serenity, of shalom bayis and shalom bachutz...until the next morning!



Special Note Three:  This week, we move from the Parsha of Shemos describing the horrors of Golus to the beginnings of redemption with the first seven of the Makkos in the upcoming Parshas Va’eira.  What brought us to the Geulah--what turned the tide?  The Posuk is pellucidly clear:  “Vayishma Elokiym Es Na’akasam--and Hashem heard their cries.”(Shemos 20:24)  It was the pain of Golus that we could no longer stand and which Hashem would not let go unnoticed.  As the Parshiyos are a signal in time for us, we must understand that these days are also days in which we must cry out from the pain of Golus and beseech Hashem in His great mercy for redemption.  We must be especially careful to recite the Brachos of Shemone Esrei relating to ending this Galus and beginning the Geulah with special fervor and real feeling.  As we have noted, the Golus Mitzrayim and the Golus Edom that we currently live in have a strong and direct correlation.  With these proper Kavannos, may we, too, experience in the upcoming days some of the Nissim described in the coming Parsha and Parshiyos.


With the primacy of tefillah in mind during these times, we provide several Halachos relating to tefillah from the Sefer Tefillah KeHilchasa by HaRav Yitzchak Yaakov Fuchs (author of the Halichos Bas Yisroel):


  1. The place where one davens (even for a woman at home) should have windows.  One can look up at the sky before starting Shemone Esrei, or look up when feeling that his Kavannah is weak, in order to arouse himself to Hashem’s greatness and one’s own humility.


  1. A man should not daven in a place when facing a “Tefach Meguleh Beisha--the part of a woman’s body which should be covered.”  Ideally, he should turn to another direction.  In cases of exigency, he can close his eyes.  The Yabi’ah Omer adds that Tefach Beisha is also prohibited if the exposed part of the woman is seen through a mirror or even in a picture.  However, if one is on a plane and has a choice between sitting for Shemone Esrei so that he does not see any “Tefach Beisha,” or standing and turning away, then it is better to stand and turn away or at least close one’s eyes (Oz Nidbiru 12:27).


  1. If one has the choice between davening Mincha earlier in the day, which will allow others you are unsure will daven with a Minyan to so daven, or to daven later in the day closer to sunset (which is otherwise the Halachically preferred time to daven Shemone Esrei--immediately after sunrise in the morning and immediately before sunset in the evening), then it is better to daven earlier to allow the earlier Minyan to take place.  Additionally, it may in any event be better to daven at the first possible Minyan that you encounter, notwithstanding any other benefits of a later Minyan.


  1. One should not daven opposite pictures or artwork.  If one is already in such a position, he should keep his eyes closed.  One should not daven in front of a mirror, even with closed eyes.  In the evening, when davening opposite a window, he should pull down the shade, so it does not appear that he is bowing down to his image.


  1. There is a special zechus to be among the first ten assembled to daven.  Even within the first ten, the earlier you are, there the greater the zechus.  Indeed, even after the first ten, the Iturei Zahav writes, “the earlier you are, the closer you are to the “Shoresh Hakedusha--to the source of holiness(!).”  If is difficult for one to be among the first ten in the morning, he should try to be among the first ten for Mincha and for Ma’ariv.  Always remember--the earlier--the better!



Special Note One:  In light of recent notes relating to food product alerts, the need for review of ingredient panels, brachos and the like, we urge our readers to be tied-in to the ever-changing Kashrus world.  One important way to be connected is simply by subscribing to Kashrus Magazine, the world-renowned periodical with updated information, alerts and essential insights.  In the most recent issue (Teves 5770/January 2010), there are 134 consumer alert items, and four reports, together with articles on kosher news around the world, hard cheeses, sifting flour and new products.  Here is one alert:  “Buyer Beware--Nutritional Drinks, Weight Loss Products, Supplements, etc. are being sold by ‘frum’ individuals (often in a multi-level marketing merchandising program), as well as by ‘frum’ businesses, in Boro Park, Monsey, Williamsburg, Flatbush, as well as other places with no hashgacha or with a Not Recommended hashgacha (and in one case ‘certified’ by a Rabbi who has recently passed away).  Verify the kosher status BEFORE purchasing!”  To subscribe to such an essential publication as Kashrus Magazine, you may go to wwwkashrusmagazine.com, or call (718)336-8544.  Remember-you can always plead for mercy regarding your ignorance--but there are other, better and more respectable things to plead for!


Additional Note:  One reader suggested that the major Kashrus Organizations get together and provide a uniform symbol for brachos rishonos or achronos on products where there is a question--the symbol would then be placed next to the organization’s symbol on the product (a small M next to the OU, for example would symbolize Mezonos, and a BN would symbolize Borei Nefashos).  Undoubtedly, this system would save many brachos levatala, and would, better yet, ensure correct, effective brachos on the product.  If someone can trailblaze this effort, he would most surely bring many “blessings” upon himself--middah keneged middah!



Special Note Two:  In last week’s Parsha, we find that Moshe Rabbeinu was placed into a teivah which was composed of clay on the inside and pitch only on the outside, so that Moshe should not have to smell the strong and unpleasant odor of the pitch.  Similarly, when Yosef was brought down to Mitzrayim, it was through Yishma’ailim who were selling spices, rather than their usual tar or other foul-odored product.  There is an important lesson here for everyday life.  When smelling the sweet aroma from a bakery down the block, the aroma of cake, stew, or kugel emanating from someone’s home or apartment or even from your kitchen to the bedroom, or, on the other hand, when being surprised by a foul aroma when passing by a not-so-clean area on the street, know and be aware that this aromatic encounter is actually an act of Hashgacha Pratis for you and you personally--and acknowledge it as a symbol of Hashem’s watchful presence in your life.  For example (you can expand or adapt the following):  “What a beautiful smell.  Thank You Hashem (hmm…what did I do to deserve this--did I make someone else ‘smell’ good to another—or maybe it’s a reminder that I should?)”, or “What a foul odor--the stench of an aveira must be even worse!  Thank You Hashem for the reminder to be careful on that phone call I am about to make!”  The Torah teaches that when Yaakov entered into Yitzchok’s presence, Yitzchok smelled the fragrance of Yaakov’s garments (Beraishis 27:27)--“Vayevarchayhu--and immediately blessed him.”  We, too, should use the unique and intangible from Hashem--our daily sense of smell--to bring bracha into our lives, as well!



Special Note Three:  The Torah teaches that only after all of Yaakov’s sons, the fathers of the 12 Shevatim, passed away, could the Mitzriim begin to take action on subjugating and enslaving the Bnai Yisroel.  The Ba’alei Mussar suggest the reason for this--it simply cuts against human nature and logic to hurt and oppress someone whom you truly respect.  Yosef’s brothers had established themselves in Mitzrayim as the greatest and most noble of people.  Even the highest-ranking Egyptian official--even Paroh himself--would have been embarrassed to harm them.  Only with the “next generation” was there someone to pick on, someone to attack.  What great and lifelong lessons we can derive from this teaching!  Firstly, we must demonstrate to the Yetzer Hora that we are honored and highly respected people--and that he must leave us alone and not hurt us.  When you feel his yank, his tug, his tempt, his “C’mon, try this,” his overthinking, his incredible recalcitrance--remind him that you are part of the “Am Kadosh”, have him recall who your ancestors were, and curtly advise him that where he wants to lead you is simply not where you want to be headed.  “I am a man of stature, and it is befitting for me to learn Torah and perform mitzvos--so don’t subject me, don’t have me building your pyramids--I am actually surprised at your audacity--don’t let it happen again!”


A second and perhaps equally important lesson from the Mitzriim’s regard of the 12 fathers of the Shevatim is what will result if we give each and every person his or her proper respect.  You may not see eye to eye with them, and in your mind they may even be more rotten than good, but they have their own upbringing, nature, background and experiences, and are also human beings brought into this world with a purpose--so respect them out of respect of your common Creator--and respect them for their own purpose in life (even if it may be hidden from you, and even if it is to test you and others like you).  If you do so, then, in much the same way as the Mitzriim would/could not hurt those they respected, so, too, will you subject yourself to less Ona’as Devorim, Lashon Hora, and ill-will.  In short, you, too, will not be able to hurt those whom you respect.  Imagine if the Mitzriim would have taken the respect that they had for the 12 Fathers of the Shevatim, and brought it to the next generations--they would have saved their lives, their children’s lives, their children’s children’s lives… their property, and their pre-eminence.  In short, everything!  Instead, they are remembered only to be mocked and to show what Hashem does to their like.  We, then, have our related opportunities--will we make the Yetzer Hora treat us with the proper respect which is due to us so that he can not subjugate us?  Will we treat others with the proper respect so that neither we nor they come out looking like the fallen Mitzraiim--but instead like the nobility and royalty of Bnai Yisroel that Hashem has imbued us with, and that He so seeks of us--and is so proud of?



Special Note One:  One more important point regarding our, by now, old friend, the granola bar.  As we discussed over the last two days, one would not be making a Borei Nefashos over the toasted whole grains of the granola bar if he ate less than 1 ½ bars within two (or according to some opinions, up to five) minutes.  There are, however, other ingredients in the granola bar which would require a Borei Nefashos lechatchila.  In reviewing the matter with a Rabbinic coordinator at the OU, we concluded that if one consumed one whole granola bar in less than two minutes, he should make a Borei Nefashos on the bar, based on his consumption of a kezayis of non-toasted whole grain content within a Kidei Achilas Pras.  At this time, we do not plan to continue our discussion on this topic.  Instead, we provide the entire article as it appeared in the Daf Hakashrus, by clicking hereEnjoy!



Special Note Two:  In last week’s Parsha, we find an emphasis on Yosef and his descendents not being subject to Ayin Hora.  In this week’s Parsha, we likewise find that Bnei Yisroel multiply at an absolutely incredible rate--with the Mitzriyim being unable to stop it, either by brutality or sorcery.  What is the secret of success--how can one avoid the, R’L, potentially devastating effects of an Ayin Hora?  HaRav Dessler, Z’tl, in the Michtav Me’i Eliyahu (4: p.6) teaches that if one lives a life of giving, and his days are full of doing for others, then no one will be jealous of him.  It is only when one conducts himself in a manner which could engender jealousy that the Middas Hadin could be aroused against him, and an Ayin Hora result.  A person whose life is centered around Chesed and helping others, as opposed to the “I” and a self centered life, will simply fall under the radar, be “hidden from the eye”, and will enjoy the resulting benefit of an Ayin Hora-free life! 



Special Note Three:  There is another remarkable lesson from the fact that the Bnei Yisroel were able to multiply to such an extent under the horrifying conditions under which they lived.  That is, you may sincerely and legitimately come to a logical analysis and conclusion about a particular person, circumstance, situation, or event, and quite a different conclusion may (and in so many cases will, in fact) result.  There should have been no way for an oppressed, beaten, and downtrodden people to continue to exist for two hundred years, let alone thrive.  Yet, “the more they were afflicted, the more they increased and spread out in the land.”  Similarly, in last week’s Parsha, after Yaakov Avinu’s Petira, Yosef no longer sat with his brothers to eat their seudos together.  Rashi explains that the brothers “concluded” that Yosef was now showing his true feelings towards them--avoiding them at all costs because of his anger and disdain for them.  The Sifsei Chachamim to Rashi teaches that Yosef’s feelings were really just the opposite.  He did not want to eat a meal together with them, because he felt that as a younger brother it would be inappropriate for him to sit at the head of the table.  On the other hand, it would not be “Kavod HaMalchus,” showing the proper respect for royalty if he simply sat among them, and let his older brothers sit in the more dignified positions.  He therefore determined that it would be best to avoid the issue (the Sifsei Chachomim does not explain why he didn’t explain this to them, but it may be related to halachic concerns relating to mechila, or that he did explain it, and they were concerned about the other reason as well, but we certainly cannot judge).  So, from both last week’s Parsha and this week’s Parsha, we know that “jumping to a conclusion” albeit perfectly logical and justifiable, is absolutely incorrect.  One’s attitude towards another person should not be determined by a one-time look over, a few cursory conversations, or even a few misstatements, insulting remarks, or mistakes.  Very often, conclusions, even if scientific, can be wrong, and one must realize that Hashem runs the world, that there is more than meets the eye, and that if one consciously reframes his initial analysis, determination, or conclusion into a more favorable and positive one--he will ultimately see that this will prove constructive not only in his interpersonal relationships, but for his own personal optimism and happiness, as well.  Now, you may “conclude” that you know all of this--and that it is not you, but the other guy, who jumps to those conclusions.  Nevertheless, we ask that you reconsider this very conclusion--and, one by one, as they happen, catch yourself from jumping to those negative, unwarranted, and simply incorrect conclusions--instead seeing the beauty of Hashem’s Guiding Hand, and the beauty of His Wonderful Creations and His Wonderful world!



Special Note Four:  Every day, we should identify new life skills upon which we can improve.  Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen’s recent Hakhel Shiur focused on this in the sense of Mitzvos of the Mind.  Here are some suggestions we have culled from readers relating to simple life “fix-its”:


  1. As you are walking, avoid looking in cars stopped or passing by for no reason.  What is the point?  Who will you see?  Why invade anyone’s privacy?


  1. In response to a difficult question posed to you, or a question that you do not know the answer to or do not particularly care about, do not respond with the word: “whatever”, or with the phrase “it’s too complicated”.  Rather, respond honestly.  You have your rights as an individual, and the person asking the questions has his respect (whether or not you feel that he deserves that respect).


  1. Show special honor or regard for someone, even if you feel that they are not up to your par or level.  Don’t dishonor or disregard them by coming late to a meeting, or speaking in a more condescending tone than you would to an elderly person or to someone whom you otherwise respect.


  1. Spend money to save someone, especially a parent, from aggravation or even potential aggravation.


  1. Never say “I have no patience”, or “I’ve ran out of patience.”  That may be the very test, and Hashem gives you **everything** you need to pass it!


  1. Stop yourself from engaging in a wasteful activity, such as looking out from the bus stop to see if the bus is coming (unless you must consider another alternative to the bus).


  1. When finding an item that you needed in front of you or very close by--such as a tissue, towel, cup, piece of paper, pen, phone, parking space…make sure that you recognize the Hashgacha Pratis and express your thanks to Hashem for making it so easy!



Special Note Five:  We continue our Erev Shabbos Halachos of Shabbos Series.  The following Halachos are excerpted from Shmiras Shabbos KeHilchasa:


  1. An empty notebook is Muktzeh.  However, when a notebook is only partially empty, but the written pages are of some importance, one is permitted to move the notebook, but it is best to refrain from leafing through the unused sheets.  If one attaches no importance whatsoever to what is written in the notebook, one should not handle the notebook at all.


  1. It is forbidden to sort books with the object of putting them in the proper places in the book cases.


  1. A telephone directory is Muktzeh as a Kli She’Milachto LeIssur.  However, one may look up in it an address that one needs for Shabbos (as a Kli She’Milachto LeIssur is Mutar Litzorech Gufo).


  1. Stop watches and sand glasses are likewise Muktzeh as a Kli She’Milachto LeIssur.  If they are needed Litzorech Gufo, such as for an ill patient who has to be fed at regular intervals or whose pulse must be measured, their use would be permitted.


  1. Electric alarm clocks are of course, forbidden to be used on Shabbos.  A manual alarm clock may be used by winding the alarm mechanism before Shabbos and depressing the appropriate button or lever to prevent it from operating before it is required.  On Shabbos, one can then release the button or lever, so that the alarm will operate at the desired time.  After it goes off (so that one can arise for davening or to study Torah!), one can stop the ringing or buzzing--unless it is electrically (or battery) operated in which case stopping the alarm would break an electrical circuit.


  1. One may not use a door knocker on Shabbos.  When one knocks on the door itself, he should not knock with a musical tune, even if it is merely done to identify him.



Special Note One:  Relating to the Kosher Haircut Guide, some readers inquired as to why regular hair clippers could not be used around the ear.  We submitted the question for a cogent explanation to those involved in preparing the Haircut Guide, and received the following response:  “The Halachos of peyos harosh are different than those of payos hazokein/shaving.  With regards to peyos hazokein only hashchosa is not allowed--that is, the hair may be removed in its entirety so long as it is not “destroyed” in a razor-like fashion.  Peyos harosh rules are based on not removing any hair that would need to be removed if one wanted to round-out one's hairline so that his frontal hairline is a continuation of his back-of-the-head hairline.  Removal of any hair in the area (the peya, or red section in our diagram) that sticks out below the "circle of hair" is part of this issur --even if the hair is removed using cream or a by a non-razor-like tool.  The hair in the peya area may be cut shorter unless it will be cut so short so that it is not considered as "appearing" and hence adding to the "rounding" of the head hair.  Using an electric clipper without a guard (or with a #1 guard) will result in a hair length below the minimum threshold.”



Special Note Two:  Several readers inquired about the Bracha Achrona on the Nature Valley granola bar discussed yesterday.  Once again, the difficulty in the proper Brocha Achrona to make on a granola bar revolves around what the proper Bracha Achrona is on toasted whole grains, which is a relatively unique consumable.  Tosfos leaves the matter in doubt, and suggests that perhaps even a new and previously unknown Bracha, Al Ha’adama Ve’al Pri Ha’adama (similar to the after Brocha on certain fruits of Al Haeitz Ve’al Pri Haeitz) should be recited.  Because of this doubt, it is most preferable that toasted whole grain products only be consumed in the course of a bread meal, in which a HaMotzi has already been made.  The second best alternative is not to consume the Shiur of toasted whole grains which would require a Brocha Achrona within the appropriate time span of Kidei Achilas Pras.  It is for this reason that the OU suggested that one eat less than 1½ granola bars every five minutes-- i.e, so that the minimum Shiur is not consumed and no Brocha Achrona is required.  In the “worst case scenario”, where one has definitely consumed a Shiur of toasted whole grains (two whole granola bars) within two minutes (definitely within the time span of Kidei Achilas Pras), then one has no choice but to not follow Tosfos’ opinion, and recite a Borei Nefashos.  With this explanation we will repeat the conclusion presented by the OU with the hope that our readers now better understand this conclusion and its rationale:  If a person consumed 2 granola bars in less than 2 minutes, he has no choice [i.e., he cannot comply with Tosfos’ conclusion], and he must recite a Borei Nefashos.  Ideally, one should eat the granola bars after having washed on a meal containing bread.



Special Note Three:  At the recent Hakhel Shiur, Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen, Shlita, made the following suggestions:


  1. When passing a McDonald’s or similar establishment, one should recall that he is part of an “Am Kadosh,” and think (or say) to himself: “I am an aristocrat--I can’t eat here!”


  1.  When taking the few minutes to put gas in your car in the gas station, contemplate how you had the presence of mind to make the right turns to get there, the sight to see the lights, stop signs, and other cars, the delivery of gas to the location near your home for your convenience, and you ability to put it in and drive for another 100 miles or so…and there is definitely a lot more one can add to the list!


  1. When in the presence of a family member or close acquaintance, think about what that person has done for you--all of the Chesed, encouragement, and support they have given you, and all that you have learned from them.  All this requires special thought, because the average person is pushed by his Yetzer Hora to gravitate towards negative feelings, and to avoid owing recognition or thanks to anyone.


  1. Keep a small notebook or paper handy to write down special Hashgacha Pratis that you have just experienced, or something new that you realize that you should be thanking Hashem for.  Look at it at the end of the day--and tell others about it. “Mah Gadlu Ma’asecha Hashem--how great and wonderful are Your deeds!”



Special Note One:  Today is the Yahrzeit of the Rambam, Rabbeinu Moshe ben Rabbeinu Maimon, Z’tl, from whom we have learned so much.  It would be more than appropriate to learn a Mishna, give Tzedaka, or learn from one of his Seforim, Le’Ilui Nishmaso.  If you can, please do it now!



Special Note Two:  What are the Bracha Rishona and Bracha Acharona on a Granola Bar?  In a recent issue of the OU’s Daf HaKashrus, Rabbi Eli Gersten, Shlita, Recorder of OU P’sak and Policy, writes, “If one does not understand the process involved in creating a granola bar, one could study the ingredient panel a hundred times and still not be able to answer the above question.  However, through our access to the companies that produce these bars we are privy to information that is important in resolving this issue.”


Hakhel Note:  This is the point we constantly refer to--one must consult with the Hashgacha as to the proper bracha to make on a product when one has any doubt.  For example, how can anyone know what bracha to make on “Multi-Grain Squares” or “Corn Cakes (made with rice)” unless there is a better understanding of the product itself?  There is a real risk, chas veshalom, of bracha levatala--both as to the Bracha Rishona and Bracha Achrona.  As far as the Bracha Rishona on granola bars, both Rabbi Belsky, Shlita, and Rabbi Schachter, Shlita, the final Poskim for the OU, rule that the appropriate bracha is Borei Pri Ha’Adomo.  The Bracha Achrona is more complicated--for it involves the doubt of Tosfos as to whether a possibly new Bracha Achrona--”Al HaAdama V’al Pri Ha’Adama” should be recited.  The OU’s conclusion is that if a person consumed 2 granola bars in less than 2 minutes, he has no choice but to recite a Borei Nefashos.  Ideally, however, one should either plan to eat less than 1½ Nature Valley granola bars every 2-5 minutes and recite a Borei Nefashos (avoiding the possibility of reciting an “Al Ha’Adama VeAl Pri Ha’Adama,” as an insufficient shiur of toasted whole grains has been eaten within the required Bracha Achrona timespan), or to only eat the granola bars after having washed on a meal containing bread.



Special Note Three:  We are now in the first week of Shovavim--special days of return to Hashem occurring over the first six weeks of Sefer Shemos--weeks which take us out of the Exile of Mitzraim (to which our contemporary galus is compared) and lead us to redemption and Kabalas HaTorah VeHaMitzvos.  Today especially, the 20th of Teves, is Asiri LaKodesh--the culmination of another ten-day period since Yom Kippur, in which we dedicate ourselves to a higher level of practice, at least in some way(s).  Remember how you were careful about something in particular on Yom Kippur?  Try to re-enact that special concern, that particular care, today.  Indeed, it is now more than three months since Yom Kippur, and as our female readers well realize, less than three months to Pesach(!).  We are at a pivotal point in the year--in what path will this year be directed?  One should contemplate where tangible improvement is necessary, and where that improvement can be effectuated, even if only to a small degree.  To get to your destination, you have to get on the road.


Here are some examples:   Honesty--Avoiding the appearance, taint, and if you will, stench, associated with marginal honesty or dishonesty, and behavior or conduct that your Rav (or someone else you look up to) would not be proud of;  giving up the extra few dollars to make sure that **you** are on the right side of the law.  Words--watching them in a new and special way, whether in the way brachos are expressed, or the elimination of sharp, rough, gruff or unbecoming words from your vocabulary (no matter how many letters they are)--so much purity or impurity can come out of that small aperture we call the mouth.  It is no wonder, then, that the Hebrew word for mouth is “Peh”--having exactly the same letters and root as “Poh”--here--as if to indicate that it all starts and ends here--at the mouth.  In fact, in this week’s Parsha, Moshe Rabbeinu pleads with Hashem--who am I to speak to Paroh, and Hashem immediately reminds him--“Mi Sam Peh LaAdam (Shemos 4:11 )--Who makes the mouth of man work”--is it not Hashem?  You must use it for what you are supposed to, recognizing that it is Hashem Himself who is making it work!.  Yiras Shomayim--was the joke really that necessary, especially in Shul (even in the hallway), or while in the midst of performing a mitzvah.  Other examples of Yiras Shomayim could include: (a) sitting straight in awareness of your Maker’s presence (as per HaRav Matisyahu Salomon, Shlita); (b) coming on time to daven (as HaRav Simcha Bunim Cohen, Shlita, pointed out in his recent Hakhel Shiur--what lengths would you go to not to be late to a meeting with HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita--and HaRav Kanievsky also serves Hashem!); and (c) choosing silence for a few moments in honor of your realization that you are in the Creator’s presence (as  per HaRav Avigdor Miller, Z’tl).  You can even talk about what you are doing--your personal acts of Yiras Shomayim--although your words may not be socially acceptable in Western society, for, after all, “Divrei HaRav VeDivrei HaTalmid, Divrei Mi Shomi’in--if one must choose between the words of the Teacher, and the words of the Student, whose words should he choose?”  Just in case you are really enveloped in the society--it is the words of the teacher!  There are, of course, those other Middos or Mitzvos you know you have to get to (the thoughts, the Kabbalos of just a few months ago)--this is the time, and this is the place...you need only utilize the G-d given opportunities that lie very much ready and waiting in front of you!



Special Note One:  We recently distributed the Kosher Haircut Guide Poster (available by clicking here).  We once again urge you to distribute this poster, which was reviewed and approved by HaRav Dovid Feinstein, Shlita.  In all events, one must be sure to tell his barber (who in almost all cases will be uneducated in this area), when the barber asks him what kind of haircut he would like:  “Please make sure to only use scissors when cutting around the ear.  Please don’t forget.”



Special Note Two:  At the recent Hakhel Yarchei Kallah, Rabbi Mordechai Becher, Shlita, related the definition of “forgiveness of others” he had heard from Rabbi Y.Y. Rubenstein, Shlita:  “It is the understanding that the past cannot be changed, and that one must move on.”  Something to think about the next time you are wronged.


In another vein, Rabbi Becher also pointed out that we are able to produce a plane that carries 400 people, flies 650 mph, and soars like a bird thousands of feet above the earth, yet on that very plane we cannot produce an armrest which comfortably serves two people!  There are most certainly lessons to be learned from this paradox!  We must always strive to understand and learn from the lessons of the world around us.



Special Note Three:  The new cycle of Positive Word Power (Artscroll/Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation), the masterful and monumental work on Speaking Positively will begin in less than two weeks on Rosh Chodesh Shevat.  This sefer is not just “recommended reading”.  It is a truly essential work, which provides for reasoned, directed, practical, and effective growth--both in the areas of personal development and in interpersonal relationships.  If you have not already done so, we urge you to obtain this sefer, and study and really apply its useful and true-to-life lessons.


The sefer is actually arranged in short and poignant daily lessons.  Below is a sample of a recent Daily Lesson.  Even for those who are already studying the book, the following can certainly be read, reread, and reread (and applied!).


“I just want you to know how much we enjoy having your son around,” Leah told her friend, Tova.  Leah lived in Israel , where Tova’s son was learning in yeshivah.  He spent many a Shabbos with Leah and her family, eager as he was to enjoy a family atmosphere and home cooking.  Tova sometimes wondered if he wasn’t perhaps overusing his welcome.


“He’s so helpful and such a terrific addition to the table,” Leah enthused.  Later on, when Tova spoke to her son, she was happy to relate her friend’s warm words.  Her son was happy to hear that his presence was welcome.  He felt valued and good that he was seen as someone with something to offer.  Thereafter, each time he visited Leah's family for Shabbos, he aimed to enhance his reputation further.  He made sure to bring an especially interesting Dvar Torah, he brought puzz1es and games for the family’s children, and cake from the bakery for the family to enjoy.  He wanted to maintain his status as a "terrific addition," and he did.


Everyone is well aware of the negative impact of hearing unkind words passed along about oneself.  People do not often consider, however, the ripple effects of good words being passed along.  Everyone loves to hear that something nice was said about them.  It enhances their self-esteem, and more importantly, it builds their desire to continue doing the good thing for which they were praised.  The child who was told, "Your teacher says you always have interesting ideas to add to the class discussion," will look forward to the next opportunity to raise his/her hand in class.  The husband who is told, "Your wife always quotes your opinion," will feel honored and admired by his wife, thereby encouraging him to continue earning her respect.  The wife who hears, "You husband says he couldn't manage anything without you," will be happy to dig in and provide the support her husband counts on.


People long to feel acknowledged and appreciated.  Praising someone to his face is one way to convey this recognition, yet there is always the lingering thought that perhaps the praise is meant "just to be nice."  When a person hears that he was praised to another, the praise rings that much truer, for there can be no ulterior motive.  Aaron HaKohen employed this method to foster peace and friendship among the Jewish people.  He would tell each person how much the other person valued him, thereby building friendship and warmth.  Often, we hear good things about someone, but fail to pass it on.  It just takes a little awareness to tuck that compliment away and bring it out when it counts.  Doing so takes the positive power of the comment itself and amplifies it a thousand times over, giving someone the encouragement to keep on doing what they do well, and the blessing of knowing they are appreciated.


Hakhel Note:  Remember:  When you hear a compliment or a positive statement about someone, you should try to pass it on to the subject of the comment.



Special Note One:  We received the following important information from a reader:  “I have always been bothered by how so many people who are makpid not to have Internet access in their house are able to walk around with BlackBerrys (myself included).  I was looking high and low and after crashing my blackberry by trying to remove certain directories from the operating system, I came across the following information.  The jnet --718-625-5638--has a way of filtering your BlackBerry to either no Internet access or to restricted usage.  There is obviously a charge for this (usually both on the carrier’s end and on jnet’s end) but so many of us follow the dictates of our Rabbonim and either don’t have internet at home or have proper filters now Baruch Hashem we can have the same on our BlackBerrys.


Special Note Two:  HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, teaches that one should be careful to always learn something immediately after Shacharis, as required by Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 155.  Indeed, even if it is only one Mishna, one should make this “Kevius Ittim LeTorah” inviolate--even if one will lose a big deal in the process (the Shulchan Aruch itself actually uses this language--”af im savur leharviach harbeh”).  HaRav Salomon explains why this K’vius Ittim is so, so important.  We recite in the Birchos HaTorah every morning that Hashem Himself is the Melamed Torah LeAmo Yisroel--Hashem Himself is our teacher as we learn.  Since, as Chazal provide, the Pasuk of Yailchu MaiChayil El Chayil adjures and instructs us to go straight from Tefillah to Torah, it is as if Hashem Himself is waiting for us to teach us right after davening--we have an incredibly special appointment to learn--with Him!  Most certainly, if we had a scheduled appointment with HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, in his apartment we would be sure not to miss it for any reason.  Every morning, we have an appointment with our Melamed Torah--our Teacher--Hashem Himself--and we definitely should not miss it, either.  The Pasuk of Yailchu MaiChayil even teaches us what will happen if you take the time and make the effort to attend the privileged meeting--for it concludes with the words “Yaira’eh El Elokim BeTzion”, which, HaRav Salomon explains, means that you will actually be zoche to the Siyata DiShemaya--to the Heavenly Help--that comes when one is in the presence of the Shechina--for you just are and have been!  Remember--it is the consistency and diligence--the commitment to the daily meeting--even if it is not for a long period--that is important.  Hakhel Note:  The Bi’ur Halacha (there, Siman 155, d’h Ais Lilmod) adds that one should have the same Chayil El Chayil at night, such as after Mincha and Before Ma’ariv (or after Ma’ariv)...for one also must study Torah--with the Greatest of Teachers--at night, as well.  Remember--this is no appointment that anyone would want to miss!!



Special Note Three:  HaRav Moshe Wolfson, Shlita, recently taught that “Vayigash Eilav--Yehudah”--if one really wants to come close to Hashem, it is with Yehudah--with admission to Hashem that all comes from Him--and with the great thanks that this awareness engenders.  Hakhel Note:  What is the **very first**, and therefore ostensibly the primary, item that we thank Hashem for in Modim every day?  Is it for our lives, our souls, the daily nissim....  No, it is actually “She’Atta Hu Hashem Elokainu VaiLokai Avosainu--we thank You for being our Hashem our G-d, and the G-d of our fathers”.  You could have distanced Yourself from us.  We could have lived our lives without your Hashgacha Pratis as most of the world does.  We could have not known You.  Instead, You have given us the opportunity to be close to You at all times--Torah, Tefillah, the Mitzvos--to do what is right, to lead meaningful lives, to have ruchniyus as our goal.  Thanks to You, we lead lives in a world of gashmius which can lead us to bask in eternity!  With this awareness, with this knowledge, shouldn’t we anxiously await each and every opportunity to recite Shemone Esrei--each and every opportunity to recite Modim!!



Special Note One:  At our recent Yarchei Kallah, HaRav Yisroel Belsky, Shlita, noted that one of the Avodos of our day is “overcoming the barriers” to Emunah.  Our barriers include the secular views of the events around us, as espoused by the public and in the media, even trickling into the reporting of politics and news events by persons or publications within the Jewish community.  We simply do not view the news and what it means as the rest of the world does.  There is a Guiding Hand.  What purpose is there in expressing anger at this politician, or in questioning the strategy of an army, when the wisest of all men has already told us thousands of years ago that “Lev Melochim Visorim Biyad Hashem--the conduct of kings and princes is the conduct of a puppet!”  If we hear the news, and it affects us, we should translate it into Yiras Shamayim and Tefillah.


Interestingly, HaRav Belsky recalled  that HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, had once come to Yeshiva Torah Vodaas to speak to the Bnei HaYeshiva.  He advised them to have special Kavannah when reciting the Brachos of Rifaeinu and Boreich Aleinu, for it is “easier” to have Kavannah when making requests of Hashem in spiritual matters, than it is when making requests in physical or more mundane matters.  One simply believes that he need only take a pill, undergo a particular therapy which will help heal him, or make him feel better.  Similarly, one can very readily conclude that his wise business decisions, or the right contacts he has made, are the source of his financial success or livelihood.  True Emunah is also overcoming these barriers--those that one may himself put in the way to his proper belief and expected relationship with Hashem.  Hakhel Note:  Perhaps when reciting these Brachos, one can have special Kavannah that “I am a Ma’amin, I am a Ma’amin!”  Of course, it wouldn’t hurt to have this in mind when your Emunah is challenged throughout the day by what you hear--or what you think!



Special Note Two:  We continue with our Erev Shabbos--Halachos of Shabbos Series.  The following notes on Makeh BePatish are based upon the essential Sefer The 39 Melachos by Rabbi Dovid Ribiat, Shlita.


  1. The Melacha of Make BePatish may be defined as any act of completion.  It need not be, of course, be accomplished by a hammer or any other tool.  Any manner of creating, perfecting, or repairing an item, making it fit and functional for its intended use, may be considered an “act of completion.”


  1. The following actions would therefore fall within this Melacha:

a.       Bending a safety pin back into its correct shape.

b.      Straightening a bent clasp of a necklace or bracelet so that it will open or close.

c.       Fashioning a hook out of a wire hanger to open a lock.

d.      Inserting new shoelaces into a shoe.

e.       Bending back the stem (temple) of a pair of eyeglasses which were bent out of shape.

f.        Pulling apart two connected plastic spoons left uncut by the factory.

g.       Rubbing off chalk marks left by a tailor.

h.       Replacing the handle of a knife that fell off or came loose.

i.         Opening the factory stitching in the pocket of a new suit.

j.        Scraping off rust from a metal pot or utensil.

k.      Reinserting the wheel of a stroller or carriage.

l.         Oiling the squeaky oil of a stroller or the joint of a folding chair.

m.     Spraying a Shaitel with hair spray (whether scented or unscented) for it is intended to hold the hair in place for as long as possible.

n.       Removing a shoe tap or shoe nail that has become loose on the bottom of a shoe.

o.      Inflating a ball, mattress, or toy for the first time.

p.      Inserting protective caps on furniture legs


There are many other applications of Makeh BePatish, perhaps the most popular being the Halachic controversy regarding the permissibility of twisting off caps, because the cap or container becomes fit for use, once the seal of the cap has been broken.  Additionally, the Halacha pertaining to a particular item will depend on the particular mode of packaging.  Accordingly, one must consult with is Rav or Posek when encountering a new or different kind of packaging than he is familiar with.



Special Note Three:  The Parsha teaches as follows:


“And the days of Yisroel drew near to die; and he called his son Yosef, and said to him, ‘If now I have found favor in your eyes, please…deal with me kindly and truly….’” (Beraishis 47:29)


Based upon this Pasuk, Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita, in Love Your Neighbor (page 125) brings the following story:


When Rabbi Moshe of Kobrin was seven years old, there was a severe famine in Lithuania .  Poor people wandered from village to village in search of food.  Many of them flocked to the home of Rav Moshe’s mother, who readily cooked and baked for them.  Once a very large number of the poor came to her home and she had to cook for them in shifts.  When some individuals grew impatient and insulted her, she began to cry, since she felt that she was doing her utmost for them.  Her young son, the future Rabbi of Kobrin, said to her, “Why should their insults trouble you?  Don’t their insults help you perform the mitzvah with sincerity?  If they had praised you, your merit would be less, since you might be doing the kindness to gain their praise, rather than to fulfill the Almighty’s command.” (Ohr Yeshorim, p. 50 footnote).


Based upon this extremely important concept, the principle of true and pure kindness, Rabbi Pliskin writes that one should not view many of his otherwise necessary daily tasks as a mere drudgery.  Instead, a person taking care of young children, or assisting someone who is ill and cannot otherwise take care of himself, is, in fact, providing a real chesed shel emes.  As Rabbi Pliskin quoting HaRav Chaim Pinchos Scheinberg, Shlita, writes, “If a housewife had the opportunity to perform the same tasks [i.e., tasks performed on behalf of small children] for, let’s say, the Chofetz Chaim, she would certainly be happy to do them.  It is no less a chesed for one’s own children.”


Each and every one of us, rather than having to perform a chesed shel emes only at, Rachmana Litzlan, a levaya, should attempt to perform pure acts of kindness with those incapable of paying you back, or not knowledgeable enough to pay you back, or in some cases, those not even saying thank you.  Providing behind the scenes, unappreciated chesed is the hallmark of the people of Israel .  Do the billions of people in the world today, for instance, know or appreciate that they are in existence only because of Torah and our study?  Indeed, with this thought in mind when learning, your Torah study, too, becomes a chesed shel emes!


As we leave Sefer Beraishis, let us proudly accept the legacy of our Avos--looking for opportunities in which we give for the sake of giving, and not give for the sake of getting something in return!



Special Note Four:  The Dubno Maggid relates the following Mashal:


A king once acquired a precious, very large diamond whose value would have been exceedingly great--but for one large scratch across the center.  The king searched his kingdom and made inquiry in all neighboring kingdoms to find the greatest expert to do something about this terribly unfortunate flaw.  Satisfied that he had found the greatest expert available, the king cautiously showed him the precious gem.  The expert studied it for a few moments and exclaimed, “How terrible!”  Everyone in the throne room winced.  The expert then continued, “A beautiful diamond such as this--without the king’s royal emblem upon it.  That line running through the middle is an absolutely perfect place for us to begin!”


The lesson, of course, for us to learn is that we must take the seemingly difficult, dreadful or even simply unwanted situation we are in, and turn it into an opportunity for usefulness and growth.  For example getting caught at a light, having to bear an insult, getting screamed at may seem wholly untenable.  Yet, if at all possible, we should try to use the situation for our value and benefit.  Rather than throw up your hands, for instance, at being the first car to be caught at a (two-minute) light, use the occasion for something it is that you have to think about--even if it is a moment only to reflect upon your middos or how you can help yourself(!)  After a while, you may find that you no longer feel the urge to race through a yellow light.



Special Note Five:  Relating to the concept of Brochos in this week’s Parsha, we add the following two points:


(a)   Prior to giving a Brocha, try to feel a greater closeness to the person.  Yaakov Avinu, for instance, first brought Menashe and Ephraim close to him, and kissed them and hugged them (Bereishis 48:10).  This may constitute an important component of the sincerity, depth and potency of the Brocha.


(b)  Having made this point, there is really no requirement that Brochos be made directly to human beings.  It is well known, for example, that the Alter of Slobodka once passed by the home of a Talmid Chacham and blessed the home and everyone in it.  We can analogize a bit:  When an ambulance speeds by, or even when you hear the ambulance siren, you can daven/give a Brocha that the person, whoever he or she may be, has a Refuah Shelaima.  Or, in another vein, when seeing the bakery line out the door on Erev Shabbos, you can silently bless everyone on the line to have an enjoyable Shabbos.  While at first all of this may appear a bit naïve, childish, or “overly frum”, it really only indicates that you are a thinking person with (or trying to develop) Ahavas HaBriyos and Ahavas Yisroel--love for Hashem’s creations and love for fellow Jews.  In fact, the Baalei Mussar denounce the term “frumkeit” as relating to observance and practice out of rote, rather than with feeling and freshness.



Special Note Six:  To put Notes Four and Five together, we provide the following remarkable pasuk (Yirmiyahu 9:22, 23 ) in which the Navi exclaims, “Thus says Hashem: ‘Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom, nor the strong man boast of his strength, nor the rich man boast of his riches; but, let him that boasts exalt in this, that he understands and knows Me, for I am Hashem who practices kindness, justice and righteousness on the earth, for in these things I delight’, says Hashem.”


In short, in whatever situation we find ourselves, Hashem tells us--what do we think that He would do in the same situation?  The man who “understands and knows Me” is the man in whom Hashem delights.  Who is more patient than Hashem and gives more Brochos than Hashem?  These are, of course, only two feasible examples, but they are important steps along the way to being Hashem’s delight!


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