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We provide the following practical and meaningful words of Rav Matisyahu Solomon, Shlita, as found in his Sefer With Hearts Full of Faith (Artscroll, p.124-125). We strongly recommend this Sefer, so directed to us and our times: 


“From time to time, during the various exiles of the Jewish people, there have been periods of deep darkness, of exceedingly terrible suffering. And if we look back, we see that these usually took place right before periods of redemption. People refer to these times as the deeper darkness that comes before the dawn. But why should it be this way? Why should there be periods of such intense darkness before the dawn of redemption? 


“...When God wants to redeem us but finds insufficient merit to justify a redemption, He intensifies the darkness. As the suffering of the Jewish people reaches unbearable levels, certain people rise to the occasion. They feel for each other. They bear the burdens of their suffering brothers, and they move heaven and earth to help them. And this extreme empathy brings the dawn of redemption for the entire Jewish people. 


“The times in which we live certainly qualify as a period of intense darkness. The Jewish nation as a whole finds itself in a precarious position, under attack from all sides, persecuted, abused, maligned. Blood flows on the holy soil, and there is no end in sight. In Jewish homes in all parts of the globe, there is also an unusual amount of suffering. All around us we see heartbreak and heartbreak and more heartbreak. 


“I do not believe that all of this misery is being visited upon us only in order to exact punishment for transgressions. I believe that it is rather to bring us to reach up to God with higher levels of prayer and to reach out to our fellow Jews with higher levels of compassion. Our generation has apparently not accumulated enough merit to earn redemption. But we are nonetheless in the final days of our long and bitter exile. We are finally on the threshold of redemption, but we lack the merit to actually make it happen. But God wants it to happen. Destiny has brought us to our appointed time, to the last moments before the dawn, but how shall we move forward? How shall we cross the final barrier between oppression and liberation? 


“God has given us the key. He has darkened our world, sending down so much suffering that we cannot help but see it everywhere we turn. But suffering is not always a punishment. It can also signal the opening of the shaarei rachamim, the gates of mercy, and it is important that those of us who suffer accept their lot with trust and faith. As for the rest of us, this is our opportunity to respond to our suffering brothers.... This is our opportunity to rise above our safe and comfortable little corners and truly feel for our brothers and sisters who live with…pain, anxiety and sorrow. This is our opportunity to experience and express extreme empathy, to show that we hurt and weep with our people, that their pain and grief are our own. If we do this, then God will also bring to bear, middah keneged middah, measure for measure, His own attribute of extreme empathy and send us the final redemption speedily and in our days.” 


Let us take these words to deep heart--and act upon them, each person in his/her own unique and special way, and may the result be our full and final redemption-- speedily and in our days.




Question: How many times do we ask for Sholom in the last brocha of Shemone Esrei?

Answer: We refer to Sholom 4 separate times within the brocha.  We should have Kavana each time to request Sholom from Hashem.


Question: As we conclude each Shemone Esrei and take three steps back, away from the King, what do we specifically ask for as we depart?

Answer: Oseh Shalom Bimromav…--He Who makes peace in His Heights, may He make peace upon us, and upon all Israel .


Question: In the Kadish Shalem, Kadish D’Rabanan  and Kadish Yasom, what are the last 2 things we ask for?

Answer: a.Yehei Shelama Raba…--May there be abundant peace from Heaven, and life, upon us and upon all Israel .

            b.Oseh Shalom Bimromav…--He Who makes peace in His Heights, may He make peace upon us, and upon all Israel .


Question: How does Birchas Kohanim conclude?

Answer: V’Yasem L’Cha Shalom--And establish peace for you.


Question: What can we do to demonstrate that we want peace?

Answer: The Sefer Pele Yoetz (Chapter on Sholom) makes the following two points:

1. Stop a dispute, fight, exchange of words, or any potential machlokes today--whether it is your own or someone else’s, and whether it is family or friends.

2. Greet everyone with a sincere brocha of Sholom Aleichem (it is much more meaningful than “Hi”)--especially those who will be honored or uplifted by a warm smile and a brocha--the downtrodden, depressed, and those who you can see need chizuk today.


As we focus on our many requests throughout the day to Hashem for peace, we must focus on our own personal quests for peace throughout the day, as well.  With the war news that we hear every day, we should have our own “peace news”--which should be an important part of bringing an end to that other kind of news.


The Sifsei Chaim (3:273) incredibly writes that the Churban Bais HaMikdash was not a punishment for Sinas Chinam, for needless hatred.  Rather, because of a lack of unity, or brotherly love amongst Klal Yisroel, the foundation of the Bais HaMikdash no longer had a ‘zechus kiyum’--right to exist--because the entire Second Bais HaMikdash stood only in the zechus of our achdus.  Making, enhancing and pursuing peace is essential for us at this time and during these times.




One of the rare dates mentioned in the Torah is today’s date, the first day of Av (once again, last week’s Parsha!)


What happened on this date? It is the day of the petira, the passing of Aharon HaKohen.  Chazal teach that the Ananei Kovod, the protective clouds of Glory, which surrounded us in the desert (and will once again surround us in the future) were in the Zechus of Aharon HaKohen (see Rashi on Bamidbar 33:40).  Once the Ananei Kavod left us, the initial reaction of the outside world was to attack us, as is described in the Torah there (Bamidbar 33:40 ff.).  What did Aharon HaKohen do for which he merited the protective clouds both for himself and for the rest of Bnei Yisrael?  We may suggest the following: The Mishna in Avos ( 1:12 ) teaches that he was an Oheiv Shalom V’Rodef Shalom- that he loved peace and pursued it.  The midah k’neged midah--the measure for measure reward becomes very evident.  Because Aharon made peace among people, he merited peace being brought upon all of Klal Yisroel with the Clouds of Glory.


Indeed, Hillel in the aforementioned Mishna, enjoins us all to “Be among Aharon’s students” in this regard--to learn the value of peace among brothers.  In a recent letter issued by HaRav Elyashiv, Shlita, and HaRav Shteinman, Shlita, they especially asked that we be very careful in these perilous times “not to fall prey to the opposite of Gemilas Chasodim” which is to cause pain or suffering to your friend.  They point out that in the generation of the wicked king Achav, Bnei Yisroel were victorious at war because there was no Machlokes, no strife, among brothers.  The Gedolim therefore request that we are “meod mishtadel”--that we put in greater effort at this time to make peace among ourselves.


PRACTICAL SUGGESTION:  It is essential that we take the lessons of Aharon HaKohen, as specifically reiterated by Rav Elyashiv and Rav Shteinman very much to heart.  We may even posit that the petira of Aharon HaKohen comes out at the beginning of the Nine Days to remind us that if we could rid ourselves of machlokes, of causing pain to others, and of the need quite to the contrary to love and pursue peace between and among ourselves, we can go a long way to bring immediate and long lasting Yeshuos.  Let us at the very least focus on one or two people over the next few days and try to promote a peaceful or more peaceful relationship with them.  Peace brings peace, for as Dovid HaMelech teaches in Tehillim (121:5)--”Hashem is Your Shadow.”





We look to the Parshios that have just passed us, Matos and Masei, as the war’s intensity continues.


In Parshas Maaei (Bamidbar 34:7-9), the Torah describes the northern borders of Eretz Yisroel.  According to the Artscroll Chumash (Stone Edition, p.923), much if not all of what is known today as “Lebanon” is in reality within the borders of Eretz Yisroel, belonging to the Shevatim of Asher and Naftali.  Hakhel’s Yarchei Kallah, beginning this Wednesday, Rosh Chodesh Av, will study and review the Sugya (topics relating to) Kedushas Eretz Yisroel commencing from the days of Yehoshua Bin Nun through the present day.


The Parsha in Matos (Bamidbar 31:4-12) describes how the Bnei Yisroel went to battle against Midian.  The Medrash teaches that, although the Pasuk lists 12,000 soldiers as having been chosen to do battle (1,000 from each Shevet), in fact there were at least 24,000 soldiers that served.  So, why does the Pasuk count only 1,000 per Shevet?  Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz, Shlita, replies that in truth, only 12,000 (1,000 from each Shevet) went to actual battle.  The remaining 12,000 or more were enlisted--but not to hold the finest of swords (whose current equivalent would be Apache attack helicopters) but TO PRAY.  Indeed, the Medrash teaches--Where were Moshe and Yehoshua during the battle?--They, too, were davening.  Just as the secular world believes that “wars are not won on the battlefield” but in the generals’ strategy room, so too we believe that wars are not won on the battlefield but in our one and only General’s quarters.  Every day, in the first brocha of Shema in the morning, we recite that Hashem is the “Ba’al Milchamos”--that He absolutely controls the who, what, when, where, and how of all wars.  We look to Him and only to Him for success.


It is said that as Julius Caesar’s troops were in the midst of climbing the cliffs of Dover , he ordered that the ships upon which they had landed be set ablaze.  As their only means of retreat were going up in flames, they now realized there was no choice--but to do their utmost. There was simply no other place to turn.


We must, must realize that those special young men in the northern and southern parts of Eretz Yisroel are not the only ones doing battle.  As Moshe Rabbeinu sharply rebukes the Bnei Gad and Bnei Reuven (of course, once again, in last week’s Parsha--Bamidbar 32:6): “Will your brothers go to war and YOU sit here?!”  Chas V’Shalom!  We, wherever we may live, and whatever we may do, are also soldiers enlisted in this War--not soldiers on the battlefields, but soldiers like those 12,000 additional capable individuals in the war against Midian--who joined in fervent, emotion-soaked prayer together with Moshe Rabbeinu and Yehoshua--to the Ba’al Milchamos.  We must pray with true feeling and sincerity--with that same fortitude and resolve as the soldier in raging battle.  Any false sense of salvation or security are gone, as the ships are burning behind us, and we look to the Ba’al Milchamos--who is also the Po’el Yeshuos--to provide the salvation we so desperately require.  As the brocha concludes, He will ultimately “shine a new light upon Tzion”--may we speedily and in our days merit its light.





Today, the 28th day of Tammuz, is the Yahrzeit of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, HaRav Shlomo Ganzfried (R’ Shlomo ben R’ Yosef), Z’TL who passed away 120 years ago today.  It is said that after the Tanach, the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch is the second-most distributed sefer ever in Jewish history.  In the last two years, the concept of Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Yomi has become very popular.  Following a set program (which even reviews the laws of Yom Tov prior to Yom Tov, etc.), one can complete the entire Kitzur Shulchan Aruch in one year in just 5-10 minutes a day.  Moreover, one is blessed with the brocha of the Tanna D’vei Eliyahu (Megillah 28B) who teaches:  “One who studies Halacha everyday is assured to be a Ben Olom Haba.”


What an awesome and monumental step it would be for everyone, men and women, the scholar and the uninitiated, the elderly and the young, to learn/review essential need-to-know Halachos in Hebrew or English, every day following this program.  NOW is the time to start this extremely important project--as a zechus for our brothers in Eretz Yisroel on the battlefield and in the cities, towns and villages.  As they cannot learn properly because they are loading mortars, driving tanks or too cramped in bomb shelters--then at the very least we can try to learn for their zechus.  To receive your own Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Yomi schedule by email or by fax, please contact us.




In the brocha immediately preceding Shema in the morning, we conclude: “And You have brought us close to Your great name forever in truth, to offer praiseful thanks to You and proclaim Your oneness with love…”


We see from this brocha that the FIRST listed reason that Hashem has brought us close to Him is so that we can offer appropriate thanks.  Let us consider the following:  Although every injury is traumatic and every death is equivalent to the death of an entire world, if we note the hundreds upon hundreds of missiles and other projectiles that have been hurled by murderers upon our men, women and children in populated cities, towns, and villages over the last days (140 missiles just during yesterday) and compare it to the actual number of tragic casualties, we will find what the murderers would deem to be an incredible (miraculous) failure.  On the very same days that the rockets were landing among apartment houses and city centers, individual suicide bombers and limited tsunamis in other areas of the world were taking seemingly far greater tolls.  We understand that stories have already been written about the miracles taking place in Tzefas and other areas where the missiles have fallen, or not fallen.


Thus, as we continue to implore Hashem to shower His mercy upon us, let us not forget to take the special effort to thank Hashem for the miracles that are with us daily, in war as well as in peace.  The most appropriate place for offering these thanks would appear to be in the brocha of Modim in Shemone Esrei each day.


With respect to our continuing Tehillim recitation, especially the recitation of Chapters 83, 130, and 142 in public, each shul’s Rav may have a particular p’sak about such recitation on Shabbos.  See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim (288:9) and Mishne Berurah there; also see Teshuvos V’Hanhagos (3:97).


Finally, we have received the text of a Public Proclamation signed by 30 leading Rabbonim and Roshei Yeshiva in the United States calling on Shuls and Yeshivos to gather together this coming Sunday between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. for Tehillim and Selichos on behalf of each and every member of Klal Yisroel who is in tzara--in captivity--or otherwise needs a yeshua.


May the coming days take us from distress to relief, from darkness to light and from subjugation to redemption.





Perhaps one of the most common denominators in our lives over these days of war/days of terror is that we are all reciting at least one time, and perhaps many times, a day Tehillim Chapter 130, entitled Shir Ha’Maalos Mi’Maamakim--A Song of Ascents: From the Depths.  Accordingly, we provide the following three important insights culled from Tehillim, written by Rav Avraham Chaim Feuer, Shlita (Artscroll Publications, Volume 5 Page 1562):


1.      In the second Pasuk, we plead “Hashem, hear my voice….”  Rabbi Feuer comments as follows:  “Apparently the supplicant described here is attempting to raise his voice as loudly as possible to attract G-d’s attention.  This appears to contradict the Talmudic dictum:  Whoever raises his voice in prayer is a person of meager faith; he resembles the false prophets who cried out to awaken their deaf idols. (Berachos 24B).  Such a person denies that G-d’s presence pervades the entire world and that G-d can hear even a whispered plea.  Pri Tzaddik (Rosh Hashana 9) explains that when the supplicant has the presence of mind to articulate his requests he need not shout.  However, in this instance, the Psalmist is extremely agitated.  Misery sears the depth of his being and robs him of his equanimity and peace of mind. That he cries out is symptomatic of his anguish.”


We suggest that the lesson from this to us is that we should truly feel the anguish of K’lal Yisroel as we recite these meaningful words.


2.      In the sixth Pasuk, we cry out: “My soul yearns for Hashem among those longing for the dawn.” Rabbi Feuer comments as follows:  “Th[is] translation follows Targum, Rashi and Radak, who render the prefix of “mi” of “mishomerim” as “from among.”  Thus the Psalmist declares:  I am among those who constantly are on the lookout for the first signs of the dawn of redemption.  The phrase “Shomerim LaBoker” is repeated for emphasis:  I have not been discouraged by the hopeful signs which prove to be unfounded.  Rather, I persistently watched for the morning, time and time again (Rashi)….  Ibn Ezra, however, translates ‘mishomerim’ as ‘more than [Yoser Min] those who long for the dawn.’  [According to this view, the phrase refers to guards who are changed with the night watch on the city walls.  They are weary after their nightlong vigil and eagerly search the horizon for signs of morning, when they will be relieved of their duty.  Although these watchmen eagerly await the morning, I am even more eager to witness the dawn of redemption, for the night of exile is far longer and more terrifying than any ordinary night.]”


3.      In the seventh Pasuk, we declare “And with Him is abundant redemption.”  Rabbi Feuer states as follows:  “Hashem has already had abundant opportunities to demonstrate His kindness towards Israel , for He redeemed us on many occasions in the past.  Remember how He redeemed you from the Egyptian exile, the Babylonian exile, and from countless other perils (Rashi).  Moreover, even when it appears to be humanly impossible for our nation to be redeemed, we should always bear in mind that God is not restricted by the limitations that arrest the efforts of frail humans.  The Almighty, the Omnipotent Master of the Universe, has infinite means of redemption at His disposal (Sforno).”




As we can see from these important and poignant comments, this five volume work by Rabbi Feuer (also available in pocket size) could serve as an excellent way to improve the quality of your Tehillim recitation.  Perhaps as a start you can study those chapters you most frequently recite, so that you have the great benefit of reciting your Tehillim with a more profound Kavanah.


May Hashem hear our voices as we long for Him like the dawn, and may we be blessed with the abundant redemption that we so desperately want and need--speedily and in our days.




Dovid HaMelech declares in Tehillim (34:5) "I sought out Hashem and He answered me, and from all terror He delivered me."  As hundreds of missiles have fallen in the Holy Land , and residents of the North are exiled to the South, we are reminded of the necessity to plead to Hashem for Yeshuos, individually and collectively.  The Rabbeinu Yona (Brochos 2B) writes that the Jews in Egypt were terrified that the tenth plague with which the Egyptians were smitten would also fall upon them.  They cried out to Hashem for salvation....  Chazal instituted the Tefillah of "Hashkiveinu" in Ma'ariv, which we also repeat a second time in K'riyas Shema al HaMita, to commemorate the event, and to remind us how we must constantly seek Hashem's salvation.


Let us try to say "Hashkiveinu" tonight with Kavana (word for word).

Today is the Yahrzeit of the RAMAK, HaRav Moshe Kordovero, ZT'L--R'Moshe ben R' Yaakov, about whom the Arizal said (it is reported) that he passed away without sin.  Among the many, many seforim he wrote is the Tomer Devorah, one of the classic Mussar works.  It would be appropriate to learn Torah l'iluy nishmaso today, and pray that in his zechus, and in the zechus of Tzaddikim of previous generations, Hashem speedily brings peace and brocha to his people.




Dovid HaMelech in Tehillim enlightens us with the following Pesukim:

  1. Tehillim 20:8  These trust in chariots and these in horses but we--we mention the name of L-rd our G-d.

  2. Tehillim 33:16, 17  The king is not saved with the vast army, a mighty man will not be rescued with great strength.  A horse is a false hope for victory and with his power he will not escape.

  3. Tehillim 147:10  He does not desire the might of the horse, nor does He take pleasure in the legs of man.


Indeed, Shlomo HaMelech, his son, the wisest of all men, continues the thought in Mishlei ( 21:31 ):  A horse is prepared for a day of battle, but the victory is the L-rd’s.


Hashem Himself confirms this in Iyov (39:19):  Did you give the horse his strength [as I did]?  The Radak there clarifies the Pasuk to mean that when Hashem does not wish to grant the horse might, He causes him to stumble, and the rider is not saved.


With this we can well understand why at the splitting of the Red Sea all of Paroh’s horses are described by the Torah in the singular as “Sus”--one horse--for, in fact, it really makes no difference how many horses there are.


The Torah commands Jewish Kings not to have “too many horses” (Devarim 17:16 ).  The Ramban there explains that the purpose of this prohibition is so that the King never entertains the thought that his success is based upon his horsepower.  Rather, his trust is to be placed only in Hashem, and in Hashem only.


As we look at our current situation, we note that one small rocket can kill many people, and one large bomb can do no damage at all.  It is all Hashem’s Will.  In a published letter, Rav Elyashiv, Shlita, and Rav Shteinman, Shlita, have written that the current matzav--situation--“is very likely to be an aspect of the birth pains of Moshiach”.  It behooves us at this time to strengthen and restrengthen our Emunah in Hashem--our complete and entire faith in His Omniscience, Omnipresence, and Omnipotence.  Perhaps we can take it upon ourselves to have especial Kavana during this week as and when we recite the 13 Ani Ma’amin affirmations after Shacharis each morning.





The Navi (Tzefania 2:3) teaches: “Bakshu Tzedek Bakshu Anava, Uli Tisasru BeYom  Af Hashem--Seek righteousness, seek humility--perhaps you will be concealed on the day of the L-rd’s wrath.”


The Navi immediately continues in the next Pasuk with the words: “Ki Aza Azuva Teehiyeh...--For Gaza shall be deserted...”  Rashi there explains that if we do as the Navi teaches, i.e., pursue righteousness and humility, then we will be spared, and instead “I will punish your evil neighbors-- Philistia , Ammon and Moav”, as described in the Pesukim that follow.


These Pesukim seem to be directed strikingly at us.  For those of us not already quivering at the bombardments being showered upon our people because we ourselves do not live in Tzfas, Haifa, Nahariya or the tens (!) of other Jewish cities, towns and settlements in the North, we need only imagine hearing the sound of gunfire as we walk or drive to shul, or the small explosion of a rocket landing a block or two over.


So then , what is the “Tzedek” and what is the “Anava” that the Navi tells us to seek in order for Hashem to remove His retribution from us, and instead deliver it to the dwellers of Philistia and our other enemies?  We refer you first and foremost to your Rav for guidance.  We present the following two thoughts as a starting point:


1.  Of course, the simple p’shat in the Navi’s words would mean that we are to act righteously and humbly.  Righteousness would suggest being sure to be honest, and being sure to do the right thing, as opposed to the questionable act.  With respect to acting humbly, the Sefer Orchos Tzaddikim (Chapter 2) writes that the ikar of Anava, the primary aspect of humility, is to be humble to those who may otherwise be considered subservient to you, such as your workers, your household members, the younger, the weaker, and the poorer.  Rather than lording over them, or acting with some level of arrogance, one should act humbly even with them--almost in the same way as he would act with the wiser and stronger--for, after all, do we all not always stand before Hashem?  It is almost as if Hashem brings the Yom Af, the Day of Anger, upon us in order to remind us that it is He, and not us, who is in power.


2. The Malbim on our Pesukim brings a second p’shat.  He writes that “Tzedek” and “Anava” collectively refer to humbling yourself before Hashem with fasting and tefilla.  With respect to fasting, since we are physically weaker than in previous generations, perhaps it can be replaced in some way with watching what goes out of our mouth, in lieu of what goes in.  Indeed, the Pasuk in Mishlei ( 21:23 ) teaches “One who watches his mouth and tongue, saves himself from tzaros”.  The Rambam in Hilchos Deos ( 4:15 ) explains that guarding the mouth refers to watching what you take in, and guarding the tongue refers to what you let out.  The two--intake and output--are thus equated by the wisest of all men, and each saves us from tzaros.  Another possible kind of replacement for fasting is to break your desire for, and not consume, one food or spice you may have otherwise wanted at your meal (ketchup, etc.), as suggested by the Ra’avad.  Yet another possibility is to give tzedaka in lieu of fasting, as the halacha brings in certain situations where one, Rachmana Litzlan, drops a holy item.


The second aspect of the Malbim’s definition, tefilla, needs very little further comment, as it seems to be the true recurring requirement of our times.  The more we realize its great importance, the more we really work on it, the more we will build up some level of Kavana.  As one davens, he should attempt to look for and focus in on key words such as “matir asurim”--releasing the bound, and other special words--such as “geula” and “yeshua.”


Let us try TODAY to work on our Tzedek and on our Anava, so that we are spared from further negative occurrences, and merit the ultimate redemption--speedily and in our days.




Below are the names of the three Israeli soldiers being held captive by terrorists, Yemach Shemam.  Please recite special Tehillim for them.  As the Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah (252:1) writes, there is no greater Mitzvah than Pidyon Shevuyim.


  • Gilad ben Aviva

  • Ehud ben Malka

  • Eldad ben Tovah


Even though you may not know any of these soldiers or their families, you should try to personalize your feelings toward them.  The names should not sound distant or strange.  One way we can be sensitive to the pain and suffering of others is by identifying them as close relatives or friends.  HaRav Chaim Shmuelevitz, ZT’L, made this point in the Mirrer Yeshiva Beis HaMedrash during the period that captives were being held in Entebbe .  Our entreaties obviously helped then--may they be received now, as well.


You may want to further disseminate the names of the captives by placing them on pocket-sized strips of paper for people to carry around and daven for.  The more people that are involved in a cause, the greater chance for success in that cause.  (See, for example, Tosfos Rosh Hashanah 16A d.h. K'Maan and Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 335:6 and Nosei Keilim there).




Before Yaakov Avinu passed away, he told his son Yosef (Bereishis 48:22) “As for me, I have given you Shechem--a portion more than your brothers, which I took from the hand of the Emori “b’charbi u’vkashti”--with my sword and with my bow.”  Rashi (ibid.) explains that when Shimon and Levi conquered the city of Shechem, all the surrounding nations gathered together against them. Yaakov Avinu took up arms to do battle with them and triumphed by a hidden miracle. 


The Gemara (Baba Basra 123A) asks, “Could Yaakov Avinu have really taken this portion with his sword and bow?”  After all, Dovid HaMelech teaches us all in Tehillim (44:7) “For I do not trust in my bow, nor does my sword save me”?  The Gemara therefore concludes that the word “b’charbi--my sword” refers to his prayer and “u’vikashti--my bow” refers to his supplication.   The Meshech Chochmah (Bereishis 48:22) reconciles the plain meaning of the words “my sword and my bow” with the Gemara’s explanation of “my prayer and my supplication” as follows.  In fact, Yaakov Avinu did go to war with a sword and bow, in much the same way as Avraham Avinu went to war with Eliezer his servant against the four superpowers of his time.  They each made all of the efforts they could make as human beings, and placed all else--and most importantly the outcome--in Hashem’s hands with their Tefillos.


The Chazon Ish further crystallizes the point.  He writes (Kovetz Igros Chazon Ish 3:62) that we must always remember that we are powerless to accomplish anything.  Our actions, really our efforts, arouse Heavenly mercy to fulfill our intentions.  The Chazon Ish continues that, in fact, the one who davens and intensely supplicates to be saved, accomplishes more than the one who puts in the effort.


At this point, all of our brothers in Eretz Yisroel, and not only those on the front-lines, are being Moser Nefesh to the highest extent possible--following in the footsteps of Avraham Avinu and Yaakov Avinu against a horrible enemy.  We are one with them.   There is one thing left to do--we need to daven, and they need to daven.  Their tefillos may be likened to the “charbi--the sword”, for it is needed for its short-range effects.  Our tefillos, from New York to Sydney, and from London to Phoenix, are to serve as bows--with long-reaching effects extending to our Holy Land.


As the war in Eretz Yisroel has escalated, it is our primary responsibility, and we are duty-bound from all perspectives--Bein Adam L’Makom, Bein Adam L’Chaveiro, and Bein Adam L’Atzmo--to intensify our prayers and supplications to Hashem that we win this war speedily and that He bring the final brocha of peace to his people and the world.




Today is the Seventeenth day of Tammuz, a fast day by Takanas HaNeviim, which is no small matter.  If we look at the number 17, we will soon realize that it is concomitantly the Gematria of each of “Oy”, “Chait”, and “Tov”.  Thus, we see that the power of the day need not only lie in the negative, but can and must extend to the positive and good, as well.

We typically remember that the first frightful event that happened on this day was Moshe Rabbeinu’s breaking of the Shnei Luchos which contained the Aseres Hadibros, as a result of the sin of the Golden Calf.  If only the people had shown enough faith to wait one more day for their venerable and venerated leader, their happiness and dancing would have resulted in the greatest Simchas Torah ever(!).  Instead, we still feel the pain from the torturous event.


In fact, there was one prior significant event on this fateful day which preceded the breaking of the Luchos.  The Luach Dovor B’Ito writes that the Yona, the dove sent by Noach out of the Ark, could not find a place to land and so returned to the Teiva (Bereishis 8:8).  The obvious question is, why would Noach bother sending the dove out without any indication whatsoever (from Hashem directly, or otherwise) that the waters had receded?  Was he taking a stab in the dark?  We may posit that Noach sensed or knew that the day was right for renewal and joy.  The fact that the dove returned indicated to him that it was he and his family, representing all of mankind, who were the ones not ready for this renewal.  The same lesson carried through on this date to the Golden Calf, and thereafter the subsequent tragedies on this day in which our people’s spiritual growth was stunted rather than cultivated.


Today and the three weeks in front of us should not be viewed as a burden to be overcome, evidence by our expression to others to have “an easy time of it.”  Instead, it should be a meaningful and important time in which we hope, pray and take action.  Depression and despair should not be the hallmark of these days, for they may evidence a breach or lack of faith which is the antithesis of spiritual growth.  We should learn from the gift of gravity that Hashem has given us to always keep both feet firmly on the ground despite the forces working against us.


It is the custom of some to recite “Tikun Chatzos” during the Three Week period--some even in the middle of the day.  We may not as yet be on this level.  However, we should remember that every day, three times daily in Modi’im, we thank Hashem “for the goodness given to us in the evening, in the morning, and in the afternoon.”  What goodness is it that Hashem gives us at these especially designated times?  We suggest that it is Tefillah itself.  If we can conclude the Yehi Ratzon at the end of Shemone Esrei with Kavana during these three weeks, three times a day, we will have sincerely davened for the Beis Hamikdash and our redemption more than 60 times during this short period!  Rather than wallowing in self-pity, we will demonstrate a renewal of our faith and have beautifully affirmed our supreme goals.


In the merit of our prayers, may we see with our own eyes the ultimate redemption at the beginning of the short period of special thought that lies ahead.




With the crisis situation and tragedies of the previous weeks, we experience a feeling of fear and strict justice.  Bilaam himself exclaimed, "Oi-Mi Yichyeh M'Sumo Kel-- OH! who will survive when He imposes these?" (Bamidbar 24:23)


It would seem appropriate, especially as we enter the period of the Three Weeks, for each one of us to do what we can to avoid this din, this strict justice, upon us individually and upon our families.  After all, Hillel teaches in Avos, "Im ain ani li mi li--If I am not for myself who will be for me?" (Avos 1:14)  Last week, we wrote about the importance of  Chessed, especially Chessed which is infused with Rachamim--True Mercy.  The following are three additional recommendations--life vests supplied in turbulent waters:


1.  The Gemara (Rosh HaShana 17A) teaches "For one who passes over his Middos (e.g., does not anger, does not take vengeance, and does not react--even when the situation may completely justify it)--Hashem will, in turn, pass over his sins.  The Cheshbon is simple-you control yourself even when justified, and Hashem likewise controls His anger against you--even when justified.


2.  The Gemara (Sotah 21A) teaches that the study of Torah does not only save one from punishment once punishment has commenced--but actually even shields and protects one before the onset of any new punishment, as well.  The Gemara explains (based upon the Posuk in Mishlei (6:23)), that Torah is compared to the light of the sun, which unlike the light of a candle that eventually is extinguished, successfully provides light for a person day after day.  In the summertime, when the Tinokos Shel Beis Rabban--the schoolchildren--study less than when in school, we should try to make up the slack by learning a little more ourselves.


3.  It is said that in the name of Gedolim, that one should make Brachos aloud in order to cause others to answer "Amen."  This special level of gratitude and faith serves as an affirmation and reaffirmation of Hashem's control over the world, obviating the need for Hashem to remind us personally in other ways.  For an excellent review of this concept, you can order the tape "Attitude of Gratitude" (Rabbi Jonathan Rietti and Rabbi Yechiel Spero) from the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation at 845-352-3505.


As is evident from all of the above, Hashem is not asking that we stand on our hands, stretch or shrivel, or do 180 degree flips!  Some nicely-made Brachos, some additional Torah study, some self-control in situations which last only a fleeting moment anyway, can be literally life-saving--and as troubles reach from Itamar to Flatbush, and from Lakewood and Monsey to Sderot and Ashkelon, we must light up the darkness long enough and strong enough for us to survive until daybreak.





Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita, has arrived in the United States for a brief stay. In honor of his arrival, we present the following important lesson, as presented in his outstanding work Growth Through Torah, pages 350-352. 


The Talmud (Makos 10b) takes note that the Almighty initially told Bilaam not to go with Balak's messengers, who requested that he accompany them to curse the Jewish people. Hashem later told Bilaam that If these people came to call you, arise, go with them." 


From here the Talmud derives the principle, "in the way a man wishes to go, he is led." 


If a person wants to do evil, he will be able to do so. Of course, he will have to pay a heavy price for the successful completion of his evil wishes. Conversely, someone who wishes to study Torah and fulfill the Almighty's commandments will be successful. For this, he will be greatly rewarded. When you wish to travel along the proper path in life, you will be divinely assisted. Nothing stands in a way of a strong will. There are many things that you may wish for half-heartedly, but when you strongly set your mind on a particular goal, you will have the strength and abilities necessary to meet that goal. What a person truly wants in life, he will usually obtain (Alai Shur, pages 120-121). 


Rabbi Avigdor Miller (Rejoice O Youth, page 1) comments that the Almighty guides that person who seeks wisdom, and the amount of guidance is in proportion to the earnestness of the seeker. 


When you feel a strong need for something, you will not feel the difficulties which you encounter insurmountable, even though you might have to work very hard to accomplish your goals. On the other hand, when you are not strongly motivated to do something, you will procrastinate and it will take you a very long time. Moreover, you will not do a very good job (Chochmah U'Mussar, Vol.2, p.180). 


It is up to you to intensify your will to do good. The stronger your will, the more you will actually accomplish. Lack of spiritual accomplishment does not come from lack of ability, but from lack of will. Work on developing a strong desire for spiritual growth and you will be amazed at the positive changes you will experience. 


Rabbi Ben Zion Yadler used to quote the Alter of Navardok, "There is no such thing as 'I cannot.' What happens is that a person is missing the will and then he claims that he cannot" (Betuv Yerushalayim, p.116).




Rabbi Moshe Soloveichik, Z'TL, notes that one of the 10 items described in this week's Perek (Avos 5:9) as having been created on Erev Shabbos at Bain HaShemoshos is the "Pi Ha'Ason"--the capacity of Bilaam's donkey to speak.  Indeed, it is in this  very week's Parsha that the Torah describes how  Hashem opened that donkey's mouth--and how  strongly and cogently the donkey  responded to Bilaam's beating (some learn that this Posuk is  the source for the prohibition to cause animals pain).  Rabbi Soloveichik, however, queries, Is it not, in fact, two separate miracles that took place here which do not seem to be adequately described by merely referring to the "mouth of the donkey"?  Firstly, the donkey spoke, which no animal had ever done to date, and no animal has ever done since.  Secondly, however, and  more importantly, the donkey articulated his point in a poignant and coherent manner.  Should not this incredible accomplishment  be given an even greater stature in the Mishna in Avos, perhaps using the term  "Chochmas Ha' Ason", wisdom of the donkey, or the like?

Rabbi Soloveichik responds that Chazal are teaching us a lifelong lesson by teaching that the donkey's actions constituted only one miracle.  When one speaks, but speaks nonsense, gibberish, in trivialities, or generally not to the matter at hand, it is viewed by the Torah as if he is not really speaking at all.  After all, when the Torah describes the creation of man (Beraishis 2:7), it states "...And He blew into his nostrils the Soul of Life."  What exactly is the Soul of Life?  The Targum Onkelos (which the Gemara in Megilla 3A teaches was given with the Torah at Sinai) defines it as the "Ruach Memallalah", or Speaking Spirit.  Thus, the power of speech is not independent of the thinking mind, but the key trait that defines and distinguishes human intelligence, and is  furthermore considered according to the Targum given at Sinai,  to be the essence of the Soul of Life itself.

HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, in his inimitable brilliance, adds to the concept.  Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, teaches (Koheles 3) that there are times and places for everything--for extremes and everything else between those extremes: for example, a time for love and a time for hate--including, of course, everything else in between; a time to carefully guard and a time to lose--including, of course, everything else in between; a time of war and a time for hate--including, of course, everything else in between.   However, one of the contrasts listed in the Pasuk there is 'a time to talk and a time to remain silent'--here there does not seem to be any in between, for you are either talking or not talking.  Not so, says HaRav Kanievsky, because some people talk without saying anything, and so are lost somewhere in between. There are, indeed, extremes within speech itself.  The word of Torah being infinitely distant from the word of Lashon Hora, or hurtful or insulting words.  However, we must remember that there are many kinds of other words in between--words of consolation, words of encouragement, words of endearment, words of advice, words of business, words of interest, words to pass the time, words of trivialities, words of non-meaningful politics, and other kinds of words, before getting to Lashon Hora, in between.

We should really try, at least from time to time during the day, to measure our words just a bit more.  Was the extra comment to  the person of the opposite gender at work really necessary?  Does he really care about what I am telling him?  Does what I am about to say have any meaningfulness or relevance?  A short thought before making a comment can mean the difference between speaking--and a Speaking Spirit.  We need only once again look to this week's Parsha--if only Moshe Rabbeinu, on his exalted level, had spoken the right words to the right rock just that one time, mankind would have been guided to eternal bliss some 3,300 years ago.

As we demonstrate to Hashem that we want to fulfill our role in creation--that we want to be the true Speaking Spirit for which we were created, may we be blessed with the words of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, as he speaks to us and tells us that he can now arrive!


The G'RA in Even Shleima (4:1) writes as follows: "Sediment preserves wine when the wine rests on it.  But if the sediment rises, the wine becomes unfit for drinking.  The same is true of the evil inclination. As long as it is  subordinate to the good inclination, it is beneficial to the world.  But once it rises to the top, it ruins everything."

We generally believe that we do as best as we can, aside for some slip-ups here and there (more here then there) along the way.  Every individual's issue falls squarely on the true meaning of "as best we can"--or, how far has the sediment risen in the barrel?  Unlike barrels, which have no control over the movement of that sediment, we CAN keep that sediment down.  The Torah itself,  in the very first Parsha of the  Torah--Beraishis--testifies about the Yetzer Hora: "V'Ata Timshol Bo"(Bereishis 4:7)--and you shall rule over it, to which Rashi comments--if you wish, you will rule over it.

So, how can one demonstrate that he is really in charge, that his wine remains potable--very potable?  Thank G-d, we are not the kind of people who typically get involved in heinous crimes, in murders, robberies, or the arayos--the improper relationships.  What we do get involved with on a daily basis is everyday life, its joys, its foibles, its disappointments, and its habits.  It would be most appropriate, then, to look to our average day in order to ensure the preservation of that most precious wine within ourselves.  Is there no real way we can make some
small, small, small even seemingly insignificant improvement in the way we:

Recite the first Posuk of Shema--having  Kavana for 3 additional seconds when reciting the words "Hashem Elokeinu" for their literal meanings, which are actually explicitly set forth in Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 5)?

Say Boreh Nefashos--how about once a day being careful to recite it from a Siddur or bencher?

Smile at or greet a person a day--by taking the initiative to do so before he does the same to you--the Baal HaTurim (in Birchas Cohanim)points out that the gematria of Shalom and the gematria of Eisav are equal (376) in order to teach us to greet others pleasantly, even if we may otherwise have nothing in common?

Eat a meal or a snack--with the dignity of a human being, not while walking around or even standing, or in a manner which you would be otherwise embarrassed of--if this was a first date?

Look at--avoiding that extra glance, and certainly not intentionally putting yourself in a position to see the wrong things?

Show  a  tangible level of respect to those who deserve your respect--Rabbis, elders and parents--in a manner that a Western man would refer to as "above and beyond the call of duty"?

Care for another person's property--or even our own property (after all, is it really ours for keeps?)-- no, there is no need to throw or step on clothing, even if it is going to the cleaners tomorrow?

Speak--avoiding the very, very witty remark which may be, only may be (to the best of your tainted judgment) colored with lashon hora or onaas devorim, and avoiding the "white" lie, and those extra few words in a conversation which have absolutely no purpose and can only do you in?

In truth, you know more about your day then even us, so you will have your own additional or different appropriate suggestions. Just remember that the sediment tries to raise itself up your barrel every day, every single day.  Make him fight gravity, and let your wine be a connoisseur's delight.

In this regard, we provide one additional outstanding piece of advice from the G'RA in Even Shleima(4:10): "At times a person begins to go on the proper path, but after a while begins to give up because of the difficulty involved.  He grumbles at G-d for not having given him Divine aid.  In truth, though, the man ruined it for himself by seeking to jump to the highest level at once."   So, we have to do our part to keep our sediment down--not with extremely powerful pumps or complex pharmacological reactions, but by slowly working our way through our very own day, so that we, just as wine, become better, and better, and better---with age!



We are all familiar with the Chofetz Chaim.  We should be at least as familiar with the Chofetz Chesed, for the Posuk in Micha (7:18) teaches about Hashem himself: "Ki Chofetz Chesed Hu"--for He is one who desires chesed.  HaRav Moshe Cordevero Z'TL in the classic Tomer Devorah (Chapter 1) writes that there are special malochim, angels, who are especially designated to receive the chesed that one does in this world, and
when the midas hadin, strict judgment, is being enforced by Hashem in this world, these angels bring the chesed being performed by mankind before Hashem, and though we may be otherwise undeserving, Hashem saves us, because he is a Chofetz Chesed.

We asked HaRav Yisroel Belsky, Shlita, whether when we learn or give tzedaka for the zechus of someone else--such as a sick neighbor, the people of Sderot, the kidnapped soldier, or others who need special zechusim--does that mean we are losing our own zechus in the Torah learned or the mitzvah performed and that it is all credited to the recipient of our chesed?  He responded that there is no question that the one who
studies Torah or gives the tzedaka retains zechusim himself--"It is only a question of how much. Most likely he shares equally with the beneficiary, in addition to being credited with an act of chesed."

In these trying times, it behooves us to invoke that very special midah that Hashem possesses--being a Chofetz Chesed--by learning, giving Tzedaka, and doing Mitzvos specifically as a zechus for those who seem to really need it very badly at this time. We will invoke Hashem's mercy with the very act, while concomitantly generating zechusim for ourselves and for those who desperately need them at this time as well.

PRACTICAL SUGGESTION: Learn  something special or different today and give tzedaka after reading this request, as a zechus to protect our people from terrorism and suffering in the current Gaza Strip situation.  Pray to Hashem that He invoke his Midah of Chofetz Chesed to save our people from harm and danger, and ask Hashem to shower us with peace.


Chazal (Shabbos 151B) teach that "Anyone who has mercy on others, HaKadosh Baruch Hu will have mercy upon him, as the Pasuk says '...and He will give you mercy and be merciful to you'"(Devorim 13:18).  The two phrases contained in the Pasuk quoted seem redundant--if Hashem gives us mercy--He is being merciful to us, so what does the second phrase come to add?  HaRav Pam, Z'TL, explains that the Torah is teaching us that in order to be worthy of Hashem's mercy, we must act with mercy ourselves.   Hashem therefore gives us opportunities to act mercifully ("and He will give you mercy").  If we succeed at these G-d given opportunities by acting mercifully to others, then He, in turn, will be "merciful to you".  Mercy in our time is more than necessary.  The Chofetz Chaim, at the end of Sefer Ahavas Chesed, writes as follows:  "Nowadays we see with our own eyes that the attribute of strict justice is increasing in strength each and every day in the form of many types of sicknesses and strange types of death and there is a lack of Hashem's influence in the world.  Also, we have reached a point that there is not a day whose curses are not greater than the previous day's.  Therefore, a person should try to increase his acts of Tzedaka and Chesed all the more, and perhaps in that merit the strict justice will be overturned and the world will become filled with Hashem's mercy."  (Translation from The Laws of Tzedeka and Ma'aser by Rabbi Shimon Taub, (Artscroll) page 180).

With the tzaros we are facing worldwide, on a communal and personal basis, it behooves us to feel, utilize and excel in the opportunities Hashem is surely giving us daily.  It is important for us to realize that it is not only the dropping of a dollar into the Pushka, or the shiva visit that is important, but the manner, the way, in which the act of mercy is performed.  The Navi (Hoshea 10:12) writes, "Sow for yourselves charity and you will reap according to the kindness."  There is a bold lesson here, for we all know that the act of sowing pales in its significance to reaping--which is the goal of the planting process.  Yes, sowing is an absolute necessity in the food-making process.  But, if one sows for weeks and weeks from morning to night, and very little rain falls, the crop will be ruined and all will be for naught, or something close to it.   So, too, the Navi teaches, the act of tzedaka--the righteous act--is crucial, but the actual harvesting will be solely dependent on the chesed which nurtures the act to a successful reaping.  Tzedaka with Sever Ponim Yofos, with a smile; chasing after the tzedaka collector who was walking away from your front yard as you pulled up; offering to help someone before they ask you for the favor or help; visiting a mourner when it will be best for them, not for you; reading up on a sickness or thinking about things that will cheer up a sick person before going to visit; buying your wife a present that will really touch her; spending time to find the right tutor for your child; going out of your way to make five phone calls to find a shidduch for one particular single you have in mind....  The list can literally go on and on and on.  We must strive to infuse the Chesed opportunities we have--and that we perform many times daily whether we know it or not--with pure, down to earth, actual mercy.

As Dovid HaMelech teaches (Tehillim 121:5) "Hashem is your shadow"--Hashem will reflect your actions by shadowing them.  Now, we all know that shadows cast are much larger than the original image--our mercy, if it is strong enough to cast that original shadow can result in a much more magnificent mercy than was originally projected.  We know what we have to do.  We face the hard part--we have to do it.  But it is worth it--it is really worth it, so let's try.

PRACTICAL SUGGESTION:  That next Chesed opportunity that Hashem gifts to you--that you KNOW Hashem gifted to you--infuse it with the thought, with the feeling, with the mercy, with the compassion, that you would expect from Hashem Himself.



One of the six questions a person is asked after his 120 year stay in this world is “Tzipisa Li’Yeshua”--did you sincerely await the Redemption (Shabbos 31A)?  Indeed, the Rambam writes in the 12th Foundation of Faith that we must await Moshiach every single day.  Further, as we all know, in the 15th brocha of Shemone Esrei we all plead “...for your salvation we hope every day.”


We asked HaRav Yisroel Belsky, Shlita, for the Makor, for the source, in Torah that we must wait for this fundamental principle.  HaRav Belsky, Shlita suggested two possible sources. First, the Pasuk in Beraishis(49:18): “LiShuasecha Kivisi Hashem”--for your Redemption I wait Hashem.  It is well known that the Brisker Rav, Z’TL, could recite this Pasuk several times during any given day.  Various explanations may be given for his practice.  We suggest that perhaps he was careful to constantly remind himself throughout the day to await redemption--by reciting its Makor in the Torah.  Moreover, it is interesting to note that the nusach of the 15th bracha of Shemone Esrei seems to indicate that our longing for redemption should go on throughout the day (“KOL HAYOM”), and not necessarily be limited to our thrice daily recitation in Shemone Esrei.  Although the Avudraham and Radak in Tehillem seem to learn that “KOL HAYOM” simply means ever day and not throughout the day, it is conceivable that the Brisker Rav felt that the literal translation of the words “KOL HAYOM” mean that one has to await Moshiach throughout the day, and not necessarily at a formal or fixed time.


The second possible source for this fundamental principle of our faith suggested by HaRav Belsky, Shlita,is the Pasuk in Chabakuk (2:3) “Im Yismahmeah Chakeh Lo”--if he be delayed await him-- which is the phrase utilized by the Rambam in the Ani Maamin mentioned earlier.  For further explanation on the meaning of this Pasuk, see the Malbim there.


Now that we have identified Torah sources for our longing, WHY is it that we are to long in this way?  HaRav Belsky, Shlita, explains: “The main reason is that no one should come to terms with a world that is devoid of Kedusha, Chochma and Gilui  Shechina and a host of other attributes.”  HaRav Belsky, Shlita, referred us further to the words of the Rambam which immediately precede the 13 Foundations of Faith, which are presented by the Rambam in his Introduction to the 11th Perek of Sanhedrin. There, the Rambam writes that we strive for the times of Moshiach not for the resulting glory, grandeur or riches, but rather for man’s resulting advancements in wisdom, proper conduct and closeness to Hashem... so that at long last our hearts of stone are replaced with hearts of inspired and sincere, truly righteous behavior, from young to old.


Is this not worth thinking about more than in a flashing moment or two in the course of a day beset by the problems, or at least issues, of this world?


We are about to enter the heart of Tammuz.  We must recognize that the times and dates in the past which have been so extremely unpleasant for us and our people could provide just the opposite experience for us.  Have you thought about what would have happened on the 17th of Tammuz had B’nei Yisroel not made the Eigel--we would have forever possessed the unbroken, original first set of Luchos!


Similarly, if the spies would have come back with the right report on Tisha B’Av, it could have been a day of rejoicing--and not crying----all these years!  These days are days of happening.  Let us break away from the estrangement and void that we have brought upon ourselves--and strive to draw closer to man’s true fulfillment.


Perhaps we can start by especially thinking, hoping and praying for the Yeshua just a little bit more during these days--from time to time through the day. In this zechus, may we directly see and experience the Kedusha, the Chochma, the Gilui Shechina we so sorely, sorely lack--speedily and literally in our days!


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