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As we move closer to the Nine Days, as evidenced by our beginning to wear freshly-laundered garments now, so that they will not be freshly-laundered then, we begin to reflect upon the causes of our most recent Churban, our behavior with our fellow man, Sinas Chinam, as highlighted in the Gemara with the story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza (Gittin 56A).


Improper behavior can manifest itself in different ways in different generations.  We all have trials that we have to pass.  Just one example in our generation would be reading emails, texting or playing with your cell phone while simultaneously talking to others.  As you go through your day, you may find the particular “up-to-date” situations which need a takana—correction--in our technologically advanced times.


It is for this reason that we present several brief but important excerpts from the absolutely essential guidebook Journey to Virtue: The Laws of Interpersonal Relationships-In Business, Home and Society by Rabbi Avraham Ehrman, Shlita (Artscroll).  In this monumental work, Rabbi Ehrman provides a thorough review of the Halachos and Hashkafos that the Torah wants us to practice in order to be successful in this world.


1. V’Ahavta L’Reyacha Komocha includes the expression of love and caring for one’s fellow in practical ways. For example, we are commanded to:


~          Speak only in a positive manner about others.

~          Be as protective of their money and property as of our own.

~          Show the same degree of concern for their honor as we do for our own.

~          Help those in need to the best of our abilities.

~          Camouflage others’ deficiencies just as we would wish our own faults to be overlooked.

~          Try to deflect and defuse a person’s anger at another individual through any means available.


All types of kindness (emotional support; physical and financial assistance, large or small; and even a friendly smile) are included in this mitzvah.


2. The mitzvah of loving a fellow Jew applies to anyone included in the category of “your fellow,” namely any upright Jew who believes in the Rambam’s Thirteen Principles of Faith and observes the fundamentals of Torah Law.  In the present era, we consider all Jews to be included in this mitzvah (as well as all other interpersonal mitzvos), even those who are not observant, since they have not yet been exposed to true Torah values.


3. One should constantly look for ways to give to others the zechus--the merit of helping other people, for Chazal said that causing others to do good is greater than doing good oneself.


(a)        Identify a needed action.

(b)        Consider who would be appropriate to perform it.

(c)        Suggest the mitzvah to that person.

(d)        Assist him to overcome any obstacles that may arise.


4 .Included in the mitzvah of doing kindness to others is praying for their well-being and feeling for their concerns as if they were one’s own.  Chazal said that anyone who is in a position to pray for someone in need of prayer, and does not do so, is considered a sinner.  In particular, if the person in need is a Torah scholar one should go to great lengths when praying for him.


5. Rabbeinu Yonah writes: “A person is obligated to exert himself to be beneficial to his people and to attempt with persevering toil to search for helpful solutions to the problems of his friends, whether rich or poor.  This is one of the most serious and fundamental obligations demanded of each person.”


6. Chazal taught that Yerushalayim was destroyed because people insisted on their rights and did not compromise.  Apparently, this is not merely an abrogation of a positive commandment--but indicates a lack of something very basic to the Torah personality.


7. In the course of interpersonal relationships it is quite natural for one person to feel dislike toward another.  Such instinctive feelings are not included in the Torah prohibitions since they are involuntary.  However, the Torah does command: (a) not to act negatively to this person on the basis of these feelings, and (b) not to allow the feelings to fester.  Rather, one must remember that Hashem created and lov­ingly provides for every person.  Every human being (including oneself) has positive and negative aspects, and our reaction to negative traits of others should be sorrow and a desire to help them overcome those traits.  When you feel, say, or hear the following types of statements; you should immediately remind yourself about the prohibition against hate.


~          “I hate...”


~          “I can’t stand…”


~          “He/she is such an obnoxious person!”


~          “I won’t talk to him.”


~          “Nobody likes him!”


The Torah teaches us that when we feel dislike for someone we should perform acts of kindness for him; in this way our feelings toward that person will slowly change.


8. Certain modes of speech, while not exactly crude, are nonetheless unseemly.  Chazal taught us never to allow even this form of speech to emerge from our mouths.  It is better to utilize lengthy circumlocutions or strained euphemisms, than to speak in such an unseemly manner.  Furthermore, it is a mitzvah to choose words that are as refined as possible.


Do not say: This stinks.

Instead, say: There is a highly unpleasant odor.


Do not say: This room is as filthy as a pigsty.

Instead, say: This place needs a major cleaning.


In situations where one must, according to Halacha, convey negative information:



Do not say: He is a lazy, good-for-nothing.

Instead, say: He really has no interest in achieving any potential in life.


Do not say: He is a big slob.

Instead, say: He is not a neat person.


Do not say: He is a stupid idiot.

Instead, say: He is not very smart. (When it is necessary to empha­size the point one may add: That is an understatement.)


There are two reasons to avoid unseemly speech: (a) to make sure that we never come even close to speaking crudely; (b) when we are careful not to belittle anyone or anything, even inanimate objects, we are less likely to ever deprecate a human being; we are thus protected from speaking lashon hara.


In the coming days, may we pay very special attention to our interpersonal relationships.  Perhaps we can begin by going out to buy a Sefer such as this--or at least taking one that we already own off the bookshelf--and starting our own self-styled plan to learn more about--and better practice--the love that Hashem wants us so much to display and demonstrate to the rest of His children!



Special Note One:  Which letter of the Alef Bais is not found in Benching--and why?


Special Note Two: We received the following moving thought from a reader:


“At a United States convention of neurologists from all over the world, one of the main topics was the phenomenon of people fainting upon getting up from bed.


“One of the speakers was Professor Linda McMaron of Great Britain and she gave a lengthy speech regarding her study on this issue.  She elaborated that after many years of study and investigation on this subject, she came to the conclusion that such fainting is caused by the sharp transfer between laying down and standing up.  Professor McMaron said that it takes 12 seconds for the blood to flow from the feet to the brain.  But when a person quickly stands up upon waking up, the blood gets ‘thrown’ to the brain too quickly and the result is fainting.  She suggested that each person, even one that does not have a tendency to faint, upon waking up should sit on the bed, and count slowly to 12 to avoid dizziness, weakness, and/or fainting.


“Her speech was rewarded with loud applause and enthusiastic feedback.


“Another professor, a Jewish religious man, asked permission to speak.


“He said, ‘With us, the Jews, there is an old tradition, thousands of years old, to say a prayer of thanks to the Creator of the World for providing us with the opportunity of a new day for accomplishment.  The prayer is said immediately upon waking up, while one is still in bed and lying down.  There are 12 words in this prayer and if one regulates himself to say it slowly with concentration, it takes exactly 12 seconds to say it...12 words in 12 seconds.’


“He said the prayer slowly in Hebrew, ‘Modeh Ani Lefanecha Melech Chai VeKayam, Shehechezarta Bi Nishmasi Bechemla, Raba Emunasecha--I thank Thee, O living and eternal King, because Thou hast graciously restored my soul to me; great is Thy faithfulness.’


“The auditorium burst into a standing applause that roared throughout the auditorium. This time…it was for the Creator of the World.”


Perhaps each of us should APPLAUD EVERY MORNING AFTER WE HAVE RECITED Modeh Ani as well!


Special Note Three:  Rabbi Moshe Goldberger, Shlita, provided the following insight to us:  Why does the Torah list the 42 places the Bnai Yisroel stayed during their travels?  We may learn from this that every place has its purpose.  When a person travels somewhere he should know that Hashem has reasons for sending him there….


Special Note Four:  We note that not only does this week’s Parsha refer to all those travels (that Rabbi Goldberger mentioned) that Bnei Yisroel had to undergo prior to reaching Eretz Yisroel, but it also provides us, in detail, with the actual borders of Eretz Yisroel itself.  It is by no means coincidental (as it never is--when you hear someone say the word “coincidence”, you should immediately be thinking of its replacement term “Hashgacha Pratis”) that we learn of the travelings in exile--and the borders of Eretz Yisroel that will eventually be reached--during the Three Week Period.  Our wanderings have an end and a goal.  Indeed, the primary Navi who prophesied about the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash and our Galus, and who wrote Eichah, was Yirmiyahu HaNavi.  What does his name mean?  It means that “Hashem will lift up”, indicating as downtrodden as we may get, and as lonely and different as we may feel in the last throes of our Galus, we will yet be raised up.


Perhaps all of the travels of Bnei Yisroel in the desert symbolize that we have to continuously change to reach our destination.  If we are not yet successful, we must try something else.  We cannot rest on our laurels or on our past, nor be complacent with our current level if we are still in Galus.  If someone is stuck in the mud--does he do nothing and enjoy his new surroundings?  Pigs are said to play in the mud--and they are treif!  We--each and every member of Bnai Yisroel--must try to get out of the mud.  We must change.  Change the way we get up in the morning (see Special Note Two above).  Change our Siddur if we find that our Tefillos are becoming too rote.  Change the way we put on Tefillin in the morning from a sleepy, routine experience, to a privileged and exuberant one (the Mishna Berura in Orach Chaim 25, Seif Koton 15 writes that the “Ikar Mitzvah” is dependent upon the Kavannah one has when fulfilling this mitzvah).  Change the way we eat by refining it in some personal way that needs refinement.  Change the way we do Chesed by branching out into new areas (such as involvement in Shidduchim, starting a Gemach of any kind of goods or services that you know is needed (or contribute money to a free-loan fund here or in Eretz Yisroel), or doing a private chesed a day).  Change the way you learn by adding on five minutes a day--at least until Tisha B’Av.  Change the way we go to sleep (making sure to forgive everyone, say Viduy, or otherwise end the day with Torah learning or on a spiritual note). You can add what you know needs change in your personal life.


Many have the custom to read all of the sojourns of Bnei Yisroel in the desert as one Aliyah this Shabbos morning, and not to break them up into two Aliyos.  This custom is based upon the fact that they all together represent the name of Hashem (al pi kabalah).  With our actions we, too, can “complete” Hashem’s name here in Galus--and start the new name of Hashem that will begin with the Geulah, as the Pasuk we recite three times daily teaches--Bayom HaHu Yehiye Hashem Echad U’Shemo Echad--On that day Hashem will be One and His name will be One!





By now, much of the Torah community has heard or read of the recent story of the young girl who did not eat for a couple of hours after she got home because her family had accepted upon themselves (as a zechus for their departed mother) not to recite a bracha unless there was someone present to answer Amen—and there was no one home to answer.  The reward for her selfless act, as was revealed in a dream, was that another girl in her class was completely healed from an extremely serious illness.


In actuality, an extremely significant Sefer, HaMevorech Misborech by HaRav Yaakov Moshe Shechter, Shlita, was published prior to this event.  In the sefer, HaRav Shechter demonstrates the power and effect that our daily brachos have, and how a mere change in the manner in which we make the brachos (which we are reciting anyway) every day, can literally guard our lives physically, enhance our lives spiritually and serve as a source of  tremendous Shemira--guardian--for all of Klal Yisroel.


In this very special sefer, HaRav Shechter provides us with the following essential insights and information:


1.      Rabbeinu Bachya (in the Kad HaKemach) writes that one who is careful with making brachos (both on Mitzvos and over food), “demonstrates the quality of his Emunah, the purity of his heart and testifies about himself that his Yahadus is deeply rooted within him.”

2.      Similarly, the Rashba (to Brachos 7B), writes that proper recital of brachos causes an increase of Rachamim, of mercy, from HaKadosh Baruch Hu.  The Maharsha (to Brachos 64A) adds that brachos are “marbeh shalom--they increase the peace” between Klal Yisroel and our Father in Heaven. 

3.      It is said in the name of HaRav Elchonon Wasserman, Z’tl, H’YD, that, because the proper recitation of brachos can prevent “mageifos, machalos, u’pegoim raim min haolam--plagues, sicknesses, and negative events from occurring in the world,” if a person does not recite his brachos properly, he can actually be said to be violating the requirement of “Lo Saamod Al Dam Reyacha--do not stand idly by when your brother’s blood is being spilled” (Vayikra 19:16).  “There is no greater cruelty than this, may Hashem spare us from it.”

4.      There are many points to be made about the great maalos of being careful to recite “Meah Brachos”—100 brachos every day.  We will refer to only a few here:

  1. The Halacha regarding the requirement to recite 100 brachos every day is explicitly stated in Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 46:3.

  2. The basis for reciting 100 Brachos a day is the fundamental Pasuk in Devorim (10:12) which asks: “What does Hashem [actually, really] ask of you….”  Chazal (Menachos 43B) teach about this Pasuk “Do not read it as: What {Ma} does Hashem ask of you?” but rather “One hundred {Me’ah} [brachos] is what Hashem asks of you.”  This Chazal is far from a play on words.  While many first associate 100 Brachos with Dovid HaMelech (when, upon his insistence, the people were careful to recite 100 Brachos daily, 100 people stopped dying daily), Rabbeinu Bachya and the Chida actually write that 100 brachos were recited in the times of Moshe Rabbeinu, but, over time,  the requirement was forgotten.  We were then, unfortunately, “reminded” to renew the practice by the plague in Dovid’s time. Indeed, the Bach (to Tur, Chapter 46) writes that reciting these brachos properly saves one from mortal danger…even in our time.

Hakhel Note:  The Sefer Piskei Teshuvos (Orach Chaim, 46), brings a Ma’aseh with HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl.  A Torah scholar who was seriously ill came to visit him, seeking Chizuk in his illness.  HaRav Auerbach responded that his best advice would be for the scholar to recite his daily brachos slowly and with Kavannah.

  1. The Chida writes that there are 26 words in the Pasuk of “What does Hashem ask…”, and that the Pasuk begins with a Vav and ends with a Chaf (26, in total), indicating that Hashem’s Name of mercy (with the gematria of 26) will surround us in reward for our efforts in reciting the 100 Brachos properly.

  2. There is a machlokes haposkim as to whether women are obligated to recite 100 brachos every day, or whether it is a mitzvas asei shehazman grama, from which women are exempt (but could perform!).  The Shevet HaLevi, Shlita, and HaRav Moshe Shternbuch, Shlita, for instance, rule that women are exempt.  HaRav Elyashiv, Shlita, and HaRav Ovadia Yosef, Shlita, rule that women, too, should recite 100 Brachos a day.

  3. HaRav Shimshon Pincus, Z’tl, writes that if we were entitled to speak to Hashem 100 times a day, and spoke to Him properly those 100 times--it would be absolutely impossible for Hashem to be upset or angry with us.  Need anything more be said?

  4. For further detail on how to ensure that you recite 100 brachos every day, see the Mishna Berurah to the Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 46, Seif Katan 14, and other commentaries to Shulchan Aruch there.


5.      HaRav Yerucham Levovitz, Z’tl, teaches that if a person would know what goes on in his body from the time food enters his mouth until it is utilized or leaves, he would send a telegram home to his house not to worry, that everything went well.  In a similar vein, HaRav Eliyahu Roth, Z’tl, taught, “Do you know what the bracha of Asher Yotzar is?!  You have just undergone difficult and complicated surgery, which has been accomplished without anesthesia, and without terrible pain and suffering, by the greatest Doctor--and for free!!”

6.      The Chayei Odom (5:26), writes that before making a bracha, one should reflect for a moment on the wondrous Chesed that Hashem has granted you with the fruit, the bread, etc.

7.      Likewise, before concluding each bracha of Shemone Esrei--i.e., before Boruch Ata Hashem of each bracha, one should focus on the simple meaning of the bracha that he is about to make.  The Tur (Orach Chaim 101) writes that there are exactly 113 words in the aggregate in the “chasimos” (from Baruch Ata Hashem on) of the brachos of Shemone Esrei --corresponding to the Tefillos Chana!  How Powerful!

8.       In compiling the thoughts of Chazal, Rishonim and Achronim, the HaMevarech Misborechconcludes that the following are practical means to maximize the literally super-human powers contained in one’s daily brachos.  To the extent possible, one should recite them:


a.       First thinking for a moment of “L’Mi Hu Mevorach, V’Al Ma Hu Mevorech--to Whom he is reciting the Blessing, and on what he is reciting the Blessing.”

b.      aloud

c.       slowly, with patience (even/especially if you are hungry)

d.      clearly

e.       pleasantly

f.        while not doing anything else; and

g.       sitting (for brachos over food).


9.      The above simple change in one’s daily routine could truly effect a change in one’s entire life (and the lives of others around you).  A person can feel a heightened sense of Kedusha, and can actually feel uplifted when making a bracha.  If starting with “100 Brachos a Day” seems too difficult a task at first (although remember you are doing it anyway!), you can start with ten Brachos or so a day and build up at your own pace from there…

10.  The Chida writes that the word Bereishis--the first word of the Torah--is an acronym for “B’Kol Rom Avorech Shem Hashem Tomid--I will bless Hashem out loud always.”  Thus, with the first word in the Torah, Hashem has already signaled to us the purpose of our creation….

11.  Finally, the Medrash Tanchuma (Bereishis) advises: “…and just as a person blesses Hashem, so does Hashem bless him!”


May beautiful Brachos abound in our World!



Tomorrow, Shabbos Kodesh, Tammuz 23, is the Yahrtzeit of HaRav Moshe Cordevero, Z’tl, author of the Sefer Tomer Devora and many other works.  In honor of HaRav Cordevero, we present the following sentence, with which he concludes Chapter 4 of the Tomer Devora:  “This is the level of Teshuva that a person should conduct himself in accordance with--every day one must think about Teshuva, and do Teshuva in some way, so that all our days in this World are days of Teshuva!”


Sunday, Tammuz 24, is the Yahrtzeit is HaRav Yaakov Yoseph Joseph, Z’tl, the literally irreplaceable first and only Chief Rabbi of New York, who was niftar in 1902.  His Kever is known internationally as a Makom Tefillah.  For Metropolitan New York City residents, we provide simple driving directions to his Kever at the end of this email.


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


1.      Rabbi Eliyahu di Vidas, Z'tl, one of the great students of HaRav Cordevero, Z’tl, writes in his Sefer Raishis Chochma (Shaar HaKedusha, Chapter 3), that Shabbos is holy because of the additional neshamos which are added on this day (the neshama yesaira of each and every one of us), and that it is fitting for us to help sanctify the Neshama Yesaira through our deveikus to Hashem on this day through our kavanah in Tefillah and the study of Torah.  We should, therefore, endeavor to daven with more Kavanah on Shabbos than we may otherwise have on a regular weekday.  If one can begin this Shabbos to focus on the meaning of the words of Nishmas and each of the unique Shabbos Shemone Esreis, we will raise the Kedushas HaShabbos for ourselves--from within and without.

2.       The following Halachos are excerpted from an essential Shabbos Sefer, The Shabbos Home (Volume 2) by Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen, Shlita (Artscroll, 2003):


  1. If a colored liquid spills, it should preferably be wiped up with a disposable napkin or towel.  If no disposable item is available, one may use a cloth.  However, the cloth should preferably not be the same color as the liquid that spilled.  If no cloth of another color is available, this one may be used (as well).

  2. There is dissent among the contemporary Poskim regarding the colored blocks of deodorizer commonly placed in toilet bowls.  Some hold that they may not be used on Shabbos, for they cause the water to become colored during flushing.  Others maintain that these deodorizers are permitted for use.  Therefore, it is best to remove these items from one’s toilet before Shabbos.  In the event that they were not removed, one should remove them on Shabbos.  If this is not possible, and no other bathroom is available, one may rely on the Poskim who permit the use of these deodorizers on Shabbos.

  3. Bending a safety pin that is unusable in its present state is prohibited from the Torah.  If it is usable in its present state, bending it back into shape is prohibited Rabbinicaly.  Likewise, it is forbidden to bend back a key into shape, or to straighten out a bent hook, even if they are usable in their present states.


Special Note Two:  We received the following important communication from a reader:


“Regarding the Parsha of Nedarim--where the Parsha provides that one can take something otherwise permissible to him, and promise not to eat it or use it--how could it be that a mortal being can have the power to actually change or convert something that is Muttar (pemissible) from the Torah’s (Hashem’s) perspective to become Assur (forbidden)?   The Nesivos Sholom explains (based upon Rabbeinu Yonah in Avos) that a mouth is a Klei Shares--holy utensils.  Just as a Klei Shares in the Bais Hamikdosh is Mekadesh--sanctified--what you put into it and, accordingly, everything that is taken out of it is Kadosh, so, too, are the words that come out of your mouth Kadosh.”    Hakhel Note:  Every once in a while, picture your mouth as a Klei Shares--as a utensil in the Bais Hamikdosh!


Special Note Three:  One way to approach the multiple tasks we face throughout the day is to pick one Mitzvah Bein Odom L’Makom, and one Mitzvah Bein Odom L’Chaveiro, and make sure that you are especially careful in the way you perform them.


For instance:


1.      In Bein Odom L’Makom--Davening and Deveikus:  As we need Hashem’s mercy so desperately during these turbulent times, perhaps we can try to focus on the word “Rachamim” (mercy) and its various forms in the brachos of Shemone Esrei.  It may surprise you to find how many times we ask Hashem for mercy in Shemone Esrei alone.  Our request will certainly be more potent if we actually mean what we say…and we will be helping not only ourselves and our families--but all of Klal Yisroel!

2.      In Bein Odom L’Chaveiro, for instance, being careful to stand for any person over the age of 70 years old  , thereby fulfilling the Mitzvas Aseh of  “Mipnei Sevah Takum” (Vayikra 19:32; See Shulchan Aruch, Yorah Deah 244:1).  Baruch Hashem, we live in a time where there are more elderly people than in prior generations--we should utilize this special opportunity to fulfill this Mitzvah not so prevalent in past history!


Special Note Four: Rabbi Moshe Goldberger, Shlita, posed the following important question:  When you need to choose what to do first every day, should it be that which is most important--or should you undertake the smaller things--to get them out of the way?  He answers the query based upon a Chazal in this week’s Parsha (brought by Rashi to Bamidbar 32:16).  Chazal teach that the Bnei Reuven and the Bnei Gad made a mistake when they said that they would first build pens for their animals, then cities for their children and then accompany Bnei Yisroel to war across the Yarden River.  Moshe reprimanded them for their priorities.  Instead, Moshe Rabbeinu instructed them to first build cities for their children--and only afterwards corrals for their animals (Bamidbar 32:24).


The Parsha clearly teaches us, Rabbi Goldberger concludes, that we are to take care of the most important things first!




Jackie Robinson (Interboro) Parkway from Brooklyn—first exit, Cyprus Hills Avenue.  At stop sign, make left turn, and travel until the first light.  Make right turn at light, cemetery is then on the left.  Make a left into the cemetery.  HaRav Yaakov Yosef is in section 42.  The cemetery is open from 7:30AM until 7:30PM.



Myzmanim has a wonderful new service available.  You can obtain the daily zemanim for your zip code area on your cellphone everyday simply by responding with your zip code to any previous message myzmanin has sent you.  For further information, please see the following link: http://www.myzmanim.com/mobile/


The Kof-K Kosher Supervision organization recently provided a helpful list of Summer Kashrus Reminders, available here.


Special Note One: We received the following important note from a valued reader: “I once learned this from my teacher, and I think this is very helpful for those people who just don’t have the time to say the “whole” Parshas HaYirah at the end of davening, one can say this short pasuk right before Yehiyu L’ratzon at the end of Shemone Esrei:


“Horeini Hashem Darkecha, Ahaleich B’amitecha, Yached Levavi L’Yirah Shemecha--Teach me Hashem, Your Way, that I may walk in Your truth; purify my heart to fear Your Name” Tehillim (86:11).”


Special Note Two:  At a recent Shiur, Rabbi Shmuel Smith, Shlita, pointed to the fact that the Three Week Period in which we mourn over the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash occurs **non-coincidentally** in the summer months.


The summer is a time when one’s attention and adherence to Halacha and proper Hashkafa may be sacrificed or compromised in the face of the reduced morals of those around us, the intense heat, and a general “vacationing” atmosphere.  It is interesting to note, Rabbi Smith teaches, that the Parshios of Balak and Pinchas are typically read around the commencement of the Three Week period, as well--for they remind us of the terrible consequences of falling prey to the Yetzer Hora of desire.  Bilaam could accomplish nothing negative--he could only give brachos to Bnei Yisroel--until he advised our enemies to entice our men.  “Their G-d hates immorality, so…” he told Balak.  His advice was taken, and our men, sadly, succumbed--24,000 almost immediately fell.  It took the extraordinary act of Pinchas in killing a Nasi to curtail the horrific effect of immorality on our people.


This is a great lesson for those of us in the northern hemisphere in the summer months--especially now, as we have began the hottest days of summer.  Women should be especially careful to dress and behave in an appropriate fashion, not getting caught up in the mores of the streets in the summer.  Men, too, must be careful not to look at every one of the advertisements on the bus, subway and street, and need not observe every passerby on the street.  Indeed, it is said that Shemiras Ha’Einayim generates great zechusim.  One can actually say to oneself, “Now I will guard what I see as a zechus for…”


Sometimes a little bit of something is good.  Here, however, the Vilna Gaon (Even Shelaima 1:7), in his great wisdom notes: “A man should never say, ‘I will follow my physical lust and acquisitive desires a little and afterwards will withdraw from them.’  For as a man begins to draw toward them he becomes busy and forfeits his eternal life completely.  For it is very difficult to withdraw from them.  Even the man who fears Hashem, who is versed in the Torah, and observes the mitzvos, when he draws toward lust, he will lose all.”


As HaRav Belsky, Shlita, once told men walking on the streets of New York City, “To the extent possible, put your head down, and walk in a determined manner to your destination.”  One cannot argue that what is around us is the “normal” way of the world, and that we cannot get around it.  What is--or should be--considered normal is the way Hashem wants us to conduct ourselves.  As HaRav Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, teaches, a Kiddush Hashem is not doing what people like or think is right--but what Hashem says is right.


The task is a difficult one--both from the Yetzer Hora within, and the Yetzer Hora without.  Chazal teach that according to the effort is the reward (Avos: 5:26). We are in Galus, a bitter Galus.  Rabbi Smith concludes that the Three Weeks are positioned right here in these summer months as if to teach us that if we really want to leave this Galus and achieve Geula, we must demonstrate that we are different, and that we conduct ourselves by a different set of rules.


It is “hand-to-hand combat” out there for each and every one of us--but what greater victory can there be then each of us doing more than our part in bringing the Geulah!



Special Note One:  We received the following from a valued reader who is a mathematician:


“Many scientists estimate the chances of the human species coming into being simply by chance, to be smaller than 1/100, or 1/1000, or even 1/1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.


“The proper fraction is in fact one over 1 followed by a string of zeroes so long, that it would take a man at least ten million years to write all the zeroes.  It would take a modern airliner, at cruising speed, about 400 years of straight flying to fly over the string of zeroes.  I did the calculations according to data in the book Beyond a Reasonable Doubt by Rabbi Shmuel Waldman, Shlita.  The actual number we're talking about is one over 10 to the googolplex power (googolplex is one followed by 100 zeroes).  To clarify things, 10 to the 9th power is a billion. So can you fathom 10 to the 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000th power?!”


Special Note Two: HaRav Chaim Shmuelevitz, Z’tl, relates that when he was learning as a bochur in the Grodno Yeshiva, he once went to visit his uncle, HaRav Avraham Yoffen, Z’tl, the Rosh Yeshiva of Novardok.  While there, he asked his uncle who the “best” bochur in the Yeshiva was.  His uncle toured the yeshiva with him.  He pointed to one young man and said “He is the greatest in-depth studier we have.”  He pointed to another bochur and said, “He is our biggest masmid.”  About another bochur he said, “He is the sharpest that we have.”  About another, “He has the greatest body of knowledge.”


Rav Chaim pressed his uncle--but in the end, who is the best bochur in the yeshiva?!  The Rosh Yeshiva pointed to another student whom he had not previously mentioned.


“Why is he the best?!”


“Because he is the greatest ‘mevakesh’--the greatest seeker in his service of Hashem.”  This young man turned out to be the Steipler Gaon, Z’tl.


Thus, we see, that even if we may not be blessed with the greatest memory, the most proficient skills, or even simply the most dedicated hasmada, each and every one of us still has the ability to be the best, if we would only excel in the aspect of personal bakasha--in our sincere quest and drive to fulfill our potential in this world.


When we look around at others in this world, we can see the failed lives of those like Bilaam, who had such capabilities of greatness, yet squandered them over temporal and fleeting desires.  On the other hand, there are people like Pinchas who rise above what others, and perhaps even they, perceive as their limitations, and reach greatness through their actions.


While there is a concept of “Yesh Koneh Olamo B’Shaah Achas”--one can acquire greatness in one hour, as Pinchas did (and went on from there), there is a second, more paced road which the mevakesh can follow.  It is the serious and deliberate growth in areas which one has not previously developed.  We find this in last week’s Parsha as well--with the life of Yehoshua Bin Nun.  There are those who may have been stunned with his selection to be the next leader--were there not other, more recognized and great personages of the generation?  Yehoshua’s bakasha--his drive to stay associated and learn from Moshe Rabbeinu on a day-in, day-out basis--his relentless quest--made him the next leader over and above everyone else.


Each one of us can and should demonstrate to Hashem--and to ourselves--that we are also a mevakesh.  Our measured steps need not necessarily demonstrate anything superlative, they need only show our desire to grow bigger and better.


Here are just a few really down-to-earth examples:


1.      Looking at the Parsha of the week and taking something away from it on a going-forward basis.  In this week’s Parsha, for example, the Torah details the foibles of nedarim, of promising.  Simply undertaking that you will never use the words “I promise,” and encouraging family members and others to do likewise, demonstrates your desire to raise yourself up in a constant and consistent way.

2.      Similarly, undertaking, as best as you can, not to utter witty, sarcastic or caustic remarks to others, demonstrates a goal to refine your attitude towards others over the course of your lifetime.

3.      As a result of an informal poll taken by one of our readers, he concludes that women daven for others in Rifaenu or Shema Koleinu on a much, much, more frequent and consistent basis than men.  If you are a woman and not doing so consistently, add the cholim that you know to your daily Shemone Esrei.  If you are a man, you can grow in your sensitivity towards others by davening with feeling on their behalf during your Shemone Esrei--thinking of others personally during your private audience with the King.

4.      Working on thanking Hashem in some of the circumstances that you so often take for granted throughout the day.  The Badchan, Reb Yankel Miller, once told his audience, “I get a Mazel Tov, my son put on Tefilin today!”  Everyone shouted Mazal Tov! Mazel Tov!  He continued, “In fact, my son is 25 years old, and has two children, but I am still overjoyed every single day that he puts on Tefilin.”  Taking less and less for granted, and saying “Thank You Hashem” or “Baruch Hashem” throughout the day more and more, is evidence of your increased awareness of your dependence and relationship with the World’s Provider.

5.      Finally, at the end of Shachris in most Siddurim, one can find both the “Parshas HaYirah” and “Parshas HaTeshuva,” both of which are relatively brief excerpts from the Torah, and are followed by a short Tefillah.  Reciting either one of these Tefillos--relating to attaining true Yiras Hashem and doing Teshuva daily is certainly an indication of what you are striving to do and where you are yearning to reach!!


You don’t have to be the wisest or the strongest to meet your potential--you just have to be a true mevakesh!!



For those who made inquiry relating to the Jewish Laws of Inheritance (as found in last week's Parsha)-—yes, there have been two Hakhel Shiurim on this topic.  One can obtain tapes or CDs of these shiurim by calling 718-252-5274.


Special Note One:  Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, teaches in Koheles (9:10), "Kol Ma Sheyash B'Kochacha, Asei...--all that is within your power to do, you must do."  When it comes to Mitzvos and Ma'asim Tovim, we cannot rest on our laurels, but must try our hardest, literally putting in our best efforts, to accomplish and grow.  When Hillel taught "If I am not for myself, who is for me?" (Avos 1:14), he was not suggesting that a person act selfishly or even just in his self-interest.  Instead, he was giving meaningful advice.  As the colloquial expression has it: "Do as much good as you can, to as many people as you can, for as long as you ever can."  If anyone is satisfied with their accomplishments, they must realize that "mitzvah goreres mitzvah--one Mitzvah should, per force, lead to another Mitzvah."  We should take the lesson from  bodybuilders that we can build our souls, as well.


Practical suggestions:


a.         Think of an aveira that seems to burden you every day, or, perhaps, that one aveira that you can identify that you are most prone to (eating too fast or otherwise in an unhealthy manner, Lashon Hora, lack of Kavannah in Tefillah...) and try to go through one full day free of this aveira.


b.         Conversely, identify a Mitzvah that you have been meaning to perform but have not "gotten around to," and try to perform it today (giving Tzedaka before you daven, standing still and reading Asher Yotzar from a Siddur or card, making a Kiddush Hashem on the street or in the workplace...). 


Remember--ShlomoHaMelech was the wisest of all men--and he is giving you the wisest advice!


Special Note Two:  What is more valuable than speech?  After all, is not speech the identifying factor of man?!  Actually, as Rabbi Jonathan Rietti, Shlita, pointed out (in his Shiur on behalf of the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation), silence is even more precious.  As Chazal teach: "A word for one sela, silence for two". HaRav Avigdor Miller, Zt'l, makes a fascinating point here.  Rabban Shimon Ben Gamliel (Avos 1: 17), teaches: "All my days I was raised among the Chachamim, and I found nothing better for the **body** than silence."  Silence is not only better for the mouth, for the brain and  for the soul, but is actually better for the body as well!  Rabbi Rietti suggested that a person especially practice silence in a situation where speaking could lead to Lashon Hora by picturing himself receiving $100,000.00 for each time that he remains appropriately silent.  In fact, the spiritual reward really is much greater, and the average person challenged with such situations perhaps ten times a day, can become more than a millionaire daily!  It is interesting to note, as Rabbi Rietti averred,  although Rebbe Yisroel Meir HaKohen Kagan, Zt'l, wrote a six-volume Mishne Berurah which is such a great source of our Halachos today, and although he authored many other Seforim as well, he is known to us all as the "Chofetz Chaim" because of the primacy of this work, and its effect on the last generations before the Mashiach.  "Who is the Chofetz Chaim--he who guards his tongue from speaking evil, and his lips from guile" (Tehillim 34:15).  Perhaps we can try Rabbi Rietti's suggested exercise several times today.  Practice that silence...and start raking in the profits!


Hakhel Note: Of course, even when one does speak, it is important for it to be "B'Nachas Im HaBrios--with pleasantness to the creations".  If one would review the Igeres HaRamban, he may agree that the most oft-repeated theme in the Ramban's instructional letter to his son on how one should lead his life is this point-—to speak softly and respectfully to others.


Special Note Three:  Which brings us to our final point.  In this week's Parsha, Rashi (Bamidbar 31:21) provides an amazing insight.  It was Elazar HaKohen, Moshe Rabbeinu's nephew and student, who taught the Halachos of Kashering unkosher utensils, rather than Moshe Rabbeinu.  Why? Because Moshe Rabbeinu had recently become angry (see there), and as a result, had erred and forgotten these Halachos. In fact, Rashi there cites two other instances in which Moshe erred as a result of his becoming angry (all of the "anger" on his level, of course).  We all can gain tremendously from this teaching.  When one "loses it" and gets angry, he is losing more than his composure and control for the moment.  He is going to err, he is going to forget, other things—-important things-—as well.  The effects of anger go well beyond that momentary loss of mind.


This week, as we begin to carefully work on our Bein Odom L'Chaveiro during the Three Weeks, we should pay special attention to this great lesson from this week's Parsha and try as best as we can, to maintain ourselves despite the hot weather and the difficult environment, and always speak "B'Nachas Im HaBrios"--whether they be family, friends or others—-which will certainly bring Nachas not only to those around you--but to Hashem Yisborach and to Klal Yisroel, as well!



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


1.      The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 250:1) rules that one should awaken early (“Yashkim”) on Erev Shabbos to prepare for Shabbos.  According to the Biur Halacha there, this may even be a Mitzvah D’Oraysa.  The Mishne Berurah (seif katan 1), however, notes that if one can purchase items or otherwise prepare after davening Shachris, one should wait until after he finishes davening.


2.      The Mishne Berurah (ibid., seif katan 2) adds that there is a second part to the mitzvah--to prepare something in the afternoon.  Even if you are doing this anyway, you should nevertheless have specific intent to fulfill this second part of the mitzvah.  The Mishne Berurah writes that upon purchasing an object for Shabbos, one should state “Zehu L’chavod Shabbos--this is for the honor of Shabbos”--because hadibbur poel harbeh b’kedusha (speech has a significant effect on holiness).


3.      The Mishne Berurah there additionally gives the following instruction:  “One should picture in his mind that if an earthly king were coming to visit, how he would clean the house, make the beds, etc… and all the more so when Shabbos Malkasa comes.”  This is important for us to recognize--we are not mechabed Shabbos by our subjective standard, but by the King’s standard.  Thus, statements such as “It is clean enough for me,” “I don’t shine my shoes even on special occasions,” or “I don’t mind my nails not being cut,” are simply not halachically correct in fulfilling the Mitzvah D’Oraysa of Kovod Shabbos.


Special Note Two:  We add the following points about Chesed to yesterday’s note on Ahavas Chesed:


1.      It is interesting to note that Avraham Avinu represents the Midah of Chesed, and Yaakov Avinu represents the Midah of Torah, as the Pasuk (Micha 7:20) which we recite daily in Shacharis teaches “Titayn Emes L’Yaakov, Chesed L’Avraham…”  It would seem, then, that the Chesed of Avrohom had to come before the Torah of Yaakov.  Indeed, Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, teaches us in Mishlei (16:6) “B’Chesed V’Emes Yechupar Avon…--with kindness and truth will sins be forgiven.”  The placement of Chesed first may, once again, suggest a priority status to Chesed in effecting forgiveness of sin (See Shaarei Teshuva 1:47).


2.      HaRav Avigdor Miller, Z’tl, would suggest that one practice a discrete act of Chesed daily--with no one (no one) other than HaKadosh Baruch Hu to know what you have done.  Think about how many times Hashem performs these kinds of Chesed daily!


3.      One should exert thought and effort into making himself into a self-starter in acts of Chesed, and one should never compare his alacrity to the lack of performance of Chesed by others.


4.      A reader provided us with a suggestion that over the coming Three Week period one make sure to go out of his way to compliment at lease one person daily.  Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita, writes in The Power of Words, “Sincere compliments are a great act of kindness.  I frequently heard from R’ Chaim Shmuelevitz, Z’tl, in the name of HaRav Yisroel Salanter, Z’tl, that you should focus on making other people feel good, and not be overly concerned at that moment with the fear of causing conceit.  This fear is often used as a rationalization by people who personally find it difficult to say positive things to others… Besides helping the other person, when you compliment someone, you yourself feel uplifted.  The smiles and positive reactions of the people will add to your joy in doing Chesed.”


5.      We welcome your additional thoughts on how one can improve Chesed to one another during the upcoming Three Week Period, and provide by link  --  http://tinyurl.com/hakhel5 --  (see Item 31, page 7) and as a jumping board, “The Ahavas Yisroel Checklist“ that we have previously distributed.


Special Note Three:  Thought for food:


1.      The Steipler Gaon, Z’tl, (Peninei Rabeinu HaKehilas Yaakov 1:124) taught that we should understand and appreciate that life is essentially a compilation of minutes, and that someone who does not properly value his minutes does not value his life to the fullest extent possible.  That being said, the Steipler adds, how can one properly thank Hashem for life--if he wastes so much of it?


2.       Along these lines, HaRav Yaakov Neiman, Z’tl, teaches that there is something great to be learned from children running around, playing senselessly, or even fighting or acting mischievously, outside your window.  If the Yetzer Hora is leading these children by the hand in their own way, isn’t he doing the same to you as well?  Before teaching the children a thing or two about life, why not start with yourself?


3.      We begin a child’s study of Torah by putting honey on his tongue, to symbolize the sweetness of Torah.  Even as adults, we should feel that “honey on our tongue” prior to our Torah study.  To ensure this sweet taste daily, we ask every morning in the Birchas HaTorah, “V’Haarev Na…--Hashem, sweeten the words of Your Torah in our mouth, and in the mouths of Your People.”  As you are learning, think about how the best and finest Viennese Table cannot match up to this Pasuk, that Rashi…


4.      Why do the words “Mussar,” “davash--honey” and “eisha--woman” all have the same Gamatria, 306?!


5.      What will be the first thing that you will encounter on your desk on Monday morning?  Starting off the work day with the Tefillah of the Chofetz Chaim to save you from Loshon Hora (or another Tefillah) may be a beautiful way to start every work day.  Leave it at the front of your desk, to be ahead of the phone messages, beeping emails or review of all of the tasks to accomplish for the day.


6.      The Steipler would frequently say in the name of the Chazon Ish: “Im Zeh Tov, Ain Tzorech B’Tov Yoser--If this is good, I don’t need better!”  Can you practically apply this to one thing in Olam Hazeh that you were going to make “better”?


7.      Think about one mitzvah that you are going to do accomplish today--like you never did before!



Special Note One:  Together with all of Klal Yisroel, we mourn the passing of the soldiers for whom so many Tefillos were recited, Ehud Ben Shlomo, and Eldad Ben Tzvi.  As our Gedolim teach, our prayers on their behalf have certainly counted--and have brought about and/or will bring about Refuos and Yeshuos in ways that only Hashem determines and understands.  For an extensive treatment of what are sometimes referred to as ostensibly “Unanswered Prayers,” see Praying With Fire by Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, Shlita (Artscroll, 2006).

At this time, if we can each learn one Mishna or recite one Kepitel of Tehillim for each one of them today, L’Ilui Nishmasam, we will demonstrate our appreciation to them.  If you do not have a Mishnayos where you are now, you can find Pirkei Avos in most siddurim--say the Mishna and think about its explanation and how you can apply it in daily life, or say the Kepitel Tehillim with Kavannah.  Hashem Yinkom Domom.

Special Note Two:  We should remind ourselves today to daven for Gilad Ben Aviva who is alive, according to the most recent reports of his abductors, Yimach Shemom.  Please slowly recite a Kepital of Tehillim for him today, as well.

Special Note Three:  The Israel Seismological Institute reported an earthquake felt around Israel on Tuesday morning which measured 6.8 on the Richter scale.  There have been numerous earthquakes felt in Eretz Yisroel during recent weeks, with experts urging National Infrastructure Ministry and other government officials to take immediate action to prepare for a major quake, which they predict is an “unavoidable reality.” (Yechiel Spira – YWN Israel).

The Chofetz Chaim writes that “natural events” that happen around the world, whether or not they happen to the Jewish people, are messages from Hashem in place of Prophecy, which we do not now merit.  If the seismologists are warning that the “natural events” could Rachmana Litzlan take place within the holy borders of Eretz Yisroel, we must all the more so take heed, and think about what we can do.  As we recently noted, the Seforim bring that one should recite the Pasuk “Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh” to quell an earthquake.  Perhaps if we undertake to consciously perform some type of daily “Kiddush” Hashem now, whether “major” or “minor,” we may be demonstrating that we do not need any future lessons in this regard!

Special Note Four:  The Bais HaVaad L’Inyonei Mishpat, whose mission is to “educate and assist the religious public with all Halachic financial matters,” has recently commenced publication of a newsletter which is useful for everyone’s home.  We provide a link here  --  http://tinyurl.com/hakhel4  --to an excerpt of the most recent issue.  To contact the Vaad with Choshen Mishpat questions or other related matters, or to subscribe to the newsletter by email, you may call 1-888-ITL-VAAD.

Special Note Five:  The Haftora of last week’s Parsha concluded with the very well-known words of Micha (6:8), “He has told you, O man, what is good, and what Hashem seeks from you--only the performance of justice, the love of kindness, and walking humbly with Hashem.”

The Chofetz Chaim compiled an entire Sefer, Ahavas Chesed, or “Love of Kindness,” based upon this phrase in Micha.  The Sefer provides many specific and practical guidelines relating to Tzedaka, Hachnasas Kallah, Bikur Cholim, Nichum Aveilim, Loans, Chesed in Speech, etc.  The sefer is available in English, first published by Feldheim in 1967, and translated by R. Leonard Oschry.  Here, we provide only a few brief excerpts, with the hope that this will whet your appetite to study/review the Sefer either individually or with a Chavrusa.  Our translation provided below is from the Feldheim published edition.

A.     “We are [I am] certain that everyone properly engaging in Gemilas Chesed will secure atonement for his sins, as effectively as if he brought a sacrifice in times gone by....  We find in Avos D’Rebbe Nosson (4:1) the following story: “Once Rabban Yochanan b. Zakkai was leaving Yerushalayim.  Rebbe Yehoshua was following behind him, and saw the ruins of the Bais HaMikdash.  Rebbe Yehoshua said, ‘Woe to us for this!  The place where atonement was obtained for Israel’s sins is in ruins.’  Rabban Yochanan replied, ‘My son…we have another form of atonement which is equal to this.  And what is it?  Gemilas Chesed…’”

B.     “Why is it that Micha refers to ‘Ahavas Chesed--a love of Chesed,’ and not simply ‘Chesed?’  Obviously, a great difference lies between what a person does because of pressure and what he does out of love.  We see how we, ourselves, act towards our immediate family in providing them with their needs, and in all other circumstances in which we are motivated by love.  In these circumstances, one will range far beyond his duty.  For example, a father seeks to bring benefit to his son, even when the latter has not asked for it.  Moreover, he is happy and in good spirits when he does so.  So, if a person really loves this trait of Chesed, he will search for the means and ways to do good to his fellow man, and he will act generously.”

C.     “One is able to ransom one’s soul, to avoid the ultimate suffering, by the constant stimulation of one’s intelligence during his lifetime, to devise ways and means of assisting the poor with charity and benevolence.  As Dovid HaMelech (Tehillim, 41:2), teaches: ‘Ashrei Maskil El Dal--happy is he who deals intelligently with the poor,’ for Hashem will deliver him on the day of evil.  Evil here refers to Gehenom (see Mishlei 16:4).  How can a person fail to have pity on himself?!  How can he refuse to escape from Gehenom and all the other dire punishments that may await him to purify him from sin?!  His dedication to Chesed can save him!”

D.     “…our discussion so far refers to extending Chesed to all; how much more necessary is it to lend a Talmid Chacham sums sufficient for his support.  Then the merit of the giver is certainly great.  For, through this assistance, the Talmid Chacham is free to devote himself to Torah study and these consequences will be credited to the giver’s account.  He will be worthy to sit among the Chachamim in the Heavenly Academy.”

 E.     “As is known, charity and chesed overcome the attribute of strict justice.  On the verse (Devorim, 13.18), ‘And He will give you mercy and have compassion on you,” Chazal have commented (Shabbos 151B), “Whosoever has mercy on human beings will be granted mercy from Heaven.”  In these times, we see with our own eyes how the attribute of strict justice grows stronger in the world from day to day.  All kinds of maladies and unnatural deaths abound.  There is a lack of Divine influence in the world, so that each day is more cursed than the day before.  How much must we increase the prevalence of tzedakah and chesed!  Perhaps in this way, we shall succeed in averting the severity of the judgment and the world will become filled with mercy.”


Hakhel Note: All we can do--and need to do--is try.  Learning how to perform Chesed, and thinking of ways that you can be a “lover” of Chesed, is a good place to start!



Among the important comments we recently received from our readers are the following:


1.      “There is another version of the Chazon Ish story.  His brother-in-law, Rav Shmuel Greineman, had an appointment, but was needed for the minyan.  The Chazon Ish told him that lo yachel d'varo--one should not violate his word--obligates him to be on time for the appointment, and that supersedes the minyan.  Both stories could be true.”


2.      “I don’t think everyone realizes what it means to daven b’tzibbur, they think it is davening in shul, which is great, but in reality davening b’tzibbur means to start Shemone Esrei together with a minyan.  All the late-comers to shul, they start davening and they don’t know what tefila b’tzibbur is.”


Hakhel Note:  Our note on the Halachos of Travel has engendered many various and sorted questions of interest.  We highly recommend that one think about the Shailos that he may have in his particular travel or vacation situation, and ask his Rav or Posek.  As Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men teaches, “HeChochom Einov B’Rosho” (Koheles 2:14)--The wise person plans ahead!



Kashrus Alert:  Prince Macaroni and Cheese, Product: Mac & Cheese Dinner UPC# 0 41129 01050 1, Company: New World Pasta- Harrisburg, PA, Issue: This product bears an unauthorized OU symbol and is being withdrawn from the marketplace.  Consumers spotting this product are requested to contact the Orthodox Union at 212-613-8241 or via email at kashalerts@ou.org.


Special Note One:  We received several questions and comments regarding the distance one must travel in order to daven with a minyan.  The relevant Halachos are found in Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 90:16 and commentaries there.  The Mishna Berurah rules that one need travel 72 minutes to daven b’tzibbur only when he is in the process of traveling.  If he is “Yoshev B’Vaiso--in his home”--the Mishna Berurah rules that one need travel only the distance of a “mil” (taken to mean 18 minutes) in order to daven with a minyan.  Interestingly, HaRav Dovid Weinberger, Shlita, points out that the Shulchan Aruch HaRav (163:1) rules that even from one’s home one must travel 72 minutes in order to daven with a Minyan.  HaRav Weinberger adds that some Poskim hold that if one lives in a large city, and there is a minyan on the other part of town, one must travel up to 72 minutes (within the city limits) in order to daven with a minyan.


These few brief Halachos shed a bit of light on the importance of Tefilah B’Tzibbur.  As Chazal (Brachos 8A) teach, HaKadosh Baruch Hu will not despise (reject) the Tefillah of the tzibbur.  In fact, Chazal teach it is an eis ratzon--a very special time for our tefillos to be accepted (ibid.),


Special Note Two:  With this glimpse of Tefillah b’tzibbur, we can appreciate the remarkable ruling of the Chazon Ish.  One of his students was rushing off to a meeting and was stopped by somebody in front of a shul who asked him to be the “tzenter”--the tenth man for a minyan.  He was faced with the dilemma of joining in the minyan before him at the expense of being late for the meeting.  He later asked the Chazon Ish what he should have done, and the Chazon Ish responded that he should have been on time for the meeting, for he had an obligation of bein odom l’chaveiro to be on time, which preceded the later request that he help make the minyan.  Hakhel Note:  One cannot pasken for themselves from a story, but the bein odom l’chaveiro lesson is incredible.  We can truly appreciate what it means to be on time and to **not** keep someone waiting!


Special Note Three:  The Sefer HaMidos of the Meiri is a compilation of the teachings of one of the most prominent Rishonim, R’ Menachem B’R Shlomo, whose clear and practical multi-volume commentary on Shas, the Bais HaBechira, has a prominent place in shuls, yeshivas, and many homes.


We provide below several of his powerful and succinct comments as they relate to life, as compiled in the Sefer HaMidos:


a.       A person should always act with enthusiasm when it comes to learning Torah, because his life is dependent upon it.

b.      A person should always try to find time to study Torah, and neither the burdens of war, affliction, poverty nor other reasons which could prevent him from studying should completely thwart him from doing so.  When one studies in spite of his personal problems, his reward is “Kaful Umechupal--multiplied many times over,” and he will reap tremendous benefits.

c.       A person must always feel that his Tefillah, when davened properly, will annul any Gezaira upon him.  One who has a tza’ar or sick person in his house--or any other kind of tzaros--should visit a Chacham and when there should both learn from him how to pray, and ask the Chacham to ask for mercy on his behalf.

d.      One who runs after the mitzvah of Tzedaka is assured that HaKadosh Baruch Hu will give him money to do the mitzvah with, and will also produce for him “bnai odom mehuganim--people really deserving of Tzedaka.”  In this way, his act of giving will serve as a great merit for him and last forever.  Hakhel Note:  The next time you see someone collecting, and perhaps every so often after that, run after the person collecting--instead of waiting for him to come to you!

e.       A person should always be careful not to allow the thought of an aveira to foster within him, for the hirhur--the thought--can actually come to fruition.  Moreover, even if one thought of the aveira, and satiated his Yetzer Hora with that alone, and did not do the aveira itself, it is nevertheless a sin which requires Kapara.  This is what Yeshayahu HaNavi teaches when he exclaims: “Let the sinful man leave his thoughts…”  (Yeshaya 55:7).  The most preeminent sinful thoughts, and **the source of most sin**are jealousy, desire and arrogance.  Since sinful thought is the route and cause of sin, one must be especially careful to control these three most significant and notorious sinful areas of thought.

f.        If one is seeking success in monetary matters, he must daven for the zechus to have this hatzlacha, and he must be “mishtadel”--he must put in some effort to attain this success.  The most important part of a person’s hishtadlus is to be Nosei V’Nosein B’Emunah--to deal in monetary matters with Emunah.


Hakhel Note:  Now, what does it exactly mean to be a “Nosei V’Nosein B’Emunah”?  The Orach HaShulchan in 156:3 writes as follows:


“To be ‘Nosei V’Nosen B’Emunah’ does not mean that one should not steal or rob or utilize false weights and measures.  One who engages in any of these practices against any human being is simply a Rasha Gamur--a completely wicked person.  Rather, what dealing with Emunah means is that a person’s word is his word, and that what he says is true and correct.  If someone would ask him how much the product cost him, or whether it is good, one must respond accurately and completely.  Additionally, one should speak ‘B’Nachas Im Ha’Brios--in a soft-spoken and respectful manner,’ and one should not raise his voice, use coarse language and should not get angry.  If he follows this rule, his good name will travel, his parnassah will be taken care of, he will be known as trustworthy and Hashem will surround him with kindness, as the Pasuk says ‘V’HaBoteach Bashem, Chesed Yisovevenu--one who believes in Hashem will be encompassed by Hashem’s kindness.’”


How wonderful it would be to work on our own personal Nosata V’Nosata B’Emunah on a daily basis.  May we make this one of our daily goals--and may we look back at the end of each and every day--with Hashem (and ourselves) proud and happy with our accomplishments!



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


1.      The Sefer Penei Shabbos advises that on Erev Shabbos one open all of the boxes and containers that he believes he will need on Shabbos.  Although there are various lenient opinions which relate to various types of containers, it is best to avoid all of the conflicting opinions--for on Shabbos, we try to avoid Machlokes!

2.      The Sefer Piskei Teshuvos (Orach Chaim, Chapter 13) states that before putting on one’s Tzizis or Tallis on Shabbos morning, he should not tighten the knots, and should not separate or untangle Tzizis which are significantly entangled.  He highly recommends following the advice of the Bi’ur Halacha (ibid.), who writes that if you tightened the knots and untangle the tzitzis Motzai Shabbos when putting away the Talis, you need not check them Shabbos morning, and you may put on your tallis right away.

3.      If one finds muktzah in his pocket, he should not directly hold or move the muktzah.  Rather, he should shake his pocket inside out until the muktzah item falls out.

4.      The Apter Rav, Zt’l, teaches that “When a person comes to the next world after 120 years, with the only mitzvah in his hand being the mitzvah of shining his shoes on Erev Shabbos in honor of Shabbos, and he sees the great reward that he receives for this, he will begin to wail and cry over the many great mitzvos that came before him to which he did not turn.”  Remember--with your polished shoes you honor not only yourself--you honor the Shabbos Queen!

5.      One should perform an act L’Kavod Shabbos ** in the morning** on Erev Shabbos (cutting your nails, setting the table, etc.) (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 250:1).

6.      When is it that a woman lighting candles is mekabeles Shabbos?  There are two opinions. The first opinion is, immediately upon completing to light the last candle.  It is for this reason that many have the custom to drop their match on the candle tray as soon as they have lit the last candle--for it is muktzah, and they can no longer hold onto it.  This is the opinion of the Ben Ish Chai, and to our knowledge, is followed in many Chassidic and other circles.  The second opinion is that one is only mekabeles Shabbos upon making the Bracha of Lehadlik Ner Shel Shabbos.  According to this opinion, one can physically extinguish the match and then make the Brocha.  This is the opinion of the Aruch HaShulchan.  Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen, Shlita in The Radiance of Shabbos reports that HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Zt’l, followed this opinion.  There are, of course, other differing results, depending upon which opinion you follow, and one should consult further with their Rav or Posek relating to this interesting and important point.


One final note:  Many will not blow out a candle or a match with their breath at any time.  Indeed, it is reported in the Halachos and Halichos of the Steipler Gaon, HaRav Yaakov Yisroel Kanievesky, Zt’l, that he did not blow out candles with his breath.


Special Note Two:  We present below several Halachos presented by HaRav Dovid Weinberger, Shlita, at the recent Hakhel Shiur on the Halachos of Travel.  Rabbi Weinberger is author of Around the World the Halachic Way:


1.      One should avoid davening in an open field or garden, unless the area is enclosed by walls, fences, or bushes.  Of course, a building (with a roof overhead) is preferred, or at least an area between trees which is more secluded.

2.      If it is difficult to have proper Kavannah while standing on a plane, and if people are moving around you, it is better to daven in your seat, standing up only when it is necessary to bow.  During Shemone Esrei, your feet should be together even when sitting. 

3.      You are obligated to travel from where you are (i.e., hotel, rest stop, bungalow, etc.) 72 minutes ahead of you, or 18 minutes behind you, in order to daven Tefillah b’tzibur.

4.      When traveling from the U.S. to Eretz Yisroel on a night flight, you must be aware of the time zone change.  If you fall asleep, you may wake up after the z’man Shacharis.  Therefore, you must either stay up until you finish davening Shacharis or have a “Shomer”—someone who will wake you.

5.      One should give Tzedaka before going on a trip.  


For the tape of the entire shiur (approximately 80 minutes), please call 718-252-5274.


Special Note Three:  In this week’s Parsha, we find the Pasuk that one recites upon entering a Shul “Ma Tovu Ohalecha” (Bamidbar 24:5).  At first blush, it may seem strange to us that we recite a Pasuk first expressed by Bila‘am as we enter our Shul for the first time in the day.  However, upon reflection, we must realize that all of the brochos in tomorrow’s Parsha are really the mirror image of the intense klalos--the sincere and penetrating curses--that Bila’am really intended to give to Klal Yisroel.  Hashem, in turn, flipped and reversed these klalos into brochos.  They undoubtedly retained their extreme potency and poignancy.  Our Shuls are places of intense brocha!  Every time we enter a Shul and recite this verse, we should have in mind the great brocha that Hashem has bestowed upon us--a Sanctuary of Kedusha and Dveykus B’Hashem!



Special Note One:  We received the following important insights from a reader:


Your point about teshuva brought two thoughts to mind:


1.      My grandmother just mentioned the other day that it's almost Rosh HaShanah.  It hit me – it is less than three months to Rosh HaShanah!

2.      We should take note that even though Shabbos still starts quite late, we are already seeing that Shkiya--sunset--is getting earlier.  The days are getting shorter, albeit slowly.  It seems that HaShem is sending us a message through nature: just like the days are becoming shorter, the time we have left to this year is decreasing.  Just like we have to start being more careful about how much time we have for Mincha or until Shabbos, so, too, our time for positive action to affect this year's cheshbon is growing shorter . . .”


We always value your thoughtful comments.


Special Note Two:  In last week’s Parsha, we find that snakes bit those who had sinned.  The people who were bitten were then, in turn, told to look at a copper snake hung from a mast, and that they would then be healed.  Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita (in Growth Through Torah), writes what he had personally heard from R’ Chaim Shmuelevitz, Z’tl, to explain this paradox--the “snake bite” and the “snake heal.”  HaRav Shmuelevitz explained that Hashem can demonstrate His love to each and every one of us in two very divergent ways.  One way is through the brochos of happiness, health and accomplishment.  There are days when you feel really good.  On the other hand, there may be times of reproof, difficulty and illness.  We must realize that both are an expression of Hashem’s personal care and caring--it is not the snake that is doing the healing, and it is not the snake that is doing the biting.


Indeed, it is reported in the name of HaRav Shmuelevitz, that if you do not feel you understand the message that Hashem may be trying to relate to you through the circumstances you find yourself in, you should at least pick one thing which is in the realm of possibility and try to work on that one item.  Hashem will then consider your sincere response as being on the mark--and respond to you accordingly.


Try this one: You burned your tongue--what are you going to work on for the rest of the day?!  The myriad of other examples we leave to you.


Special Note Three:  In this week’s Parsha, Balak, we learn a practical and crucial lesson.  Bila’am himself, the nations’ greatest prophet, saddles his own donkey in order to attempt to curse B’nai Yisroel (Bamidbar 22:21).  Rashi there writes that Hashem acknowledged Bila’am’s dedication and zeal to curse the people--putting aside his own extreme arrogance, and undertaking a task reserved for menial workers.  However, Hashem exclaimed “Rasha!  Avraham Avinu preceded you, when he saddled his own donkey as a 137 year-old man in order to take Yitzchak to the Akeida.”  Accordingly, Bila’am’s “Lishma”--his enthusiasm and devotion to do the aveira--was superseded and overcome by Avraham’s love and sincerity in performing his particular mitzvah.


There is a great lesson to be drawn here.  We must be a step ahead, and proactive in our mitzvah performance.  In war, one wins only by taking the offensive, and will not succeed merely by demonstrating great defensive maneuvers, no matter how valuable and important they may be.  This being said, we must realize that we cannot wait simply for mitzvos to come to us--we should seek out mitzvos to perform.  It is frightening to think about what could have happened if Avraham Avinu had not “made the first move.”  This same concept is reflected in Megillah 16A, where Chazal advise us that our donations of Shekalim to the Bais HaMikdash preempted and overcame Haman’s exorbitant 10,000 talents of silver, saving K’lal Yisroel from extinction.


Today, let us try to demonstrate how we, in our own personal lives, can advance those Shekalim, or even saddle that donkey, in order to demonstrate and improve our special relationship with Hashem.  It would be best to pick a “Mes Mitzvah”--a mitzvah that you feel is neglected by you or others around you--yet should and could be performed by you--even if, at first blush, it may not seem easy.


Think for a few moments.  Is it making a private “Shidduch meeting” with your friends to think about those who are single?  Is it to start a new Gemach in your neighborhood?  Is it to make sure to compliment at least one person a day every day for the next 30 days?  Is it to close your eyes when you say the name of Hashem when reciting a brocha before and after food?  Is it to make sure that you have learned at least something--a Pasuk, a Mishna, a Vort, after Shacharis and Maariv?  Is it to go over to the poor person and give him Tzedaka before he comes to you?  …


We, too, can act like our forefather Avraham Avinu, and like our forefathers who donated the Shekalim.  We, too, can bring success we so desperately need to our generation and to all future generations as well!  All we need to do

is take action!  Now!  Today!



Special Note One: In addition to the remarkable service provided by www.myzmanim.com that we mentioned yesterday, we are pleased to also provide you with another great resource.  Here, you can put in your flight information, and will receive zmanim information for your flight! http://zemanim.org/air/ or http://zemanim.org/air/flightinfo.htm. If you take advantage of this service for the flight, you will feel more elevated in more ways than one!


Special Note Two:  Chazal (Shabbos 32A) teach that one should be careful to daven before he becomes sick, because more mercy is required from Hashem after a person gets sick, than before.  Accordingly, for those who are Baruch Hashem in relatively good heatlh now, we provide the Tefillas HaBori, to be recited from time to time, as found in the Sefer Mitzvas HaBitachon, page 132.


Special Note Three: Last week, we provided some important teachings from HaRav Avigdor Miller, Z’tl.  We would like to especially highlight and reiterate one of these teachings.  That is, in order for us to focus and pay special attention to the incredible truth that we are standing before Hashem as we daven Shemone Esrei, HaRav Miller advised that we focus on the word “Ata—You”--in the Shemone Esrei while davening, so that you realize at least at that moment in whose Presence you stand.  Of course, every one of the nineteen brochos of Shemone Esrei, in its concluding words, ends with the word “Ata” in “Baruch Ata Hashem”--making us focus at least as we conclude the brocha.  However, it is remarkable to note how many times the word “Ata”--You, Hashem, in whose Presence I STAND--is mentioned in the text of many of Shemone Esrei’s brochos prior to their conclusion, as well.


May we suggest that, in your next several Shemone Esreis you attempt to find the word “Ata” every single time it occurs in a brocha, and focus on its meaning?  When one stands in front of the King, or in front of the President, or of a Great Personage, and knows who he is standing in front of, his experience is incomparable to the one who engages in an almost thoughtless conversation with a passerby on the street.  Your Shemone Esrei, quite literally, will not be the same--as you realize, no matter how tired or burdened you are--with Whom you are talking!


Special Note Four:  Some additional points on Emunah and Bitachon:


1.      The Chofetz Chaim (Collected Letters) urged that we all be careful to recite the Thirteen Principles of Faith (found in almost all Siddurim) every day.  For those who have no time immediately after Shacharis, we note that there is no set prescribed time for them and that one can recite them at any time of the day or night, although it is definitely a good way to start the day.  In any event, we recommend (as we have in the past) that every day you especially take heed of at least one of the 13 principles recited, and, even after closing the Siddur, think about it a bit during the day.

2.      We had mentioned that Chazal (Sotah 49A) teach that in the end of days, we will have no one “L’Heyshaeyn--to lean on”--except Hashem.  It is interesting, and not coincidental (as it never is), that we actually use the term “Mishon--supporter” in Shemone Esrei in the brocha where we daven for the Tzadikim of our generation--and for ourselves--and in which we ask that we receive “Sochor Tov--good reward”--for all who are sincere believers in Hashem.  Indeed, we conclude the brocha with the essential words “Ki V’Cho Botochnu--for we trust in You.”  At this crucial time in our history and in our lives, it behooves us to pay special attention to this particular brocha in which we emphasize our Bitachon, and in which we declare to Hashem that He is the support of Tzadikim, and we pray that we be among them.

3.      Last week, we had provided the words of Chazal (Shabbos 118A), who clearly and explicitly state that one who is mekayem the three meals of Shabbos will be saved from the three sufferings--the pangs of Moshiach, Gehinom, and the war of Gog U’Magog.  For those who inquired as to the Midah K’Neged Midah, as to the connection, between the three meals and the corresponding yeshua from these three punishments, we provide the wonderful explanation of the Bach found in his commentary on the Tur, Orach Chaim 291.  The Bach writes that the first meal of Shabbos celebrates our recognition that Hashem created the world in six days without any “birth pains” whatsoever and that Adam HaRishon was thus able to partake of his first Shabbos meal without any difficulty.  Our Emunah in, our recognition of this fact, in turn, saves us from the birth pangs of Mashiach.  The second meal, the Bach continues, saves us from the judgment of Gehinom, because the second meal corresponds directly to the meal partaken by Klal Yisroel after Matan Torah which, of course, occurred on Shabbos.  We learn from this meal, that Shabbos was given not to engorge in personal pleasures, but so that we could be in the proper, pleasant and satisfied frame of mind to engage in Torah study.  The fire of Gehinom, in turn, will have no power over those who study Torah, which is in of itself “fire” (aish das), as the Torah testifies.  The fire of Torah quells the fire of retribution.  Finally, the third meal saves us from the war of Gog U’Magog, because it represents the Shabbos of the future, in which the Tzadikim come to fully and finally reap the rewards for all that they had planted in this world, leaving no room for this War’s difficult retributions and sobering effects.


Thus, we see, as both the Mishna Berura and the Aruch HaShulchan explain in their introductions to Hilchos Shabbos, that Shabbos is a real cornerstone of our faith.  Putting in the extra effort to make our Shabbos meals more elevated and sanctified will certainly provide us with great benefits--both in the near future--and forever and ever!



Special Note One: We remind our readers that according to some, Tammuz is an acronym for “Zerizin Makdimin V’Osin Teshuva--those who act with alacrity begin to do Teshuva now!”  Wouldn’t you like to consider yourself among the “zerizin”!?!


Special Note Two: Those in the United States and Canada recently celebrated Independence Days.  As we too celebrate these days in recognition of the great freedom afforded to Torah Jews here, let us not forget that there is another independence that we would also like to celebrate--our independence from the shibudim--the conscription--that we have to the Olam Hazeh around us.  Accordingly, we provide by the following links for you today, the Tefila Al HaGeulah, Hebrew version available here, English version available here, which we ask each and every one of you to recite with Kavanah--asking for our eternal and complete independence.


Special Note Three: As we travel around this Summer, we remind you of the fantastic service provided by MyZmanim.com, even if one is not near a computer.


You can get the zmanim you need as follows:

1) Call 516-7-ZMANIM (516-796-2646)--Currently available to US Cell phones only.

2) Enter your ZIP code or Worldwide MyZmanim Location ID (Your Location ID appears in the orange Location Bar on the daily zmanim page.)

3) Receive an SMS Zmanim Text-Message.


Special Note Four: We received the following messages from readers:


  1. The proper pronunciation of the Holy Tongue is not “Lashon HaKodesh” but “L’Shon HaKodesh.”


  1.  “HaRav Eliezer Shlomo Schik, Shlita, of Eretz Yisroel launched a special "Shmirat Eynayim" campaign in anticipation of the summer months of Tammuz and Av.  He quoted the Sefer Yetzirah as saying that these two months correspond to the two eyes of a person and explained that this is very understandable as the requirement of "Shmirat Aynayim"--shielding one’s eyes from immodesty--is at a peak in these months.  He reminded everyone that each time one has the opportunity to see something inappropriate and averts his head and eyes in another direction, he fulfills at that very moment the commandment of the Torah--"V'lo Sosooru Achrai Eyneychem" (you shall not stray after your eyes)--and multitudes of Celestial Angels applaud him and give honor to his name before the Heavenly Throne!  When one realizes the far-reaching extent of his seemingly simple deed--just a turn of the head or a shutting of an eyelid--he will be invigorated to do it again and again.  Eventually this will draw upon him a tremendous aura of "kdushah" and will cause all the Heavenly Blessings to be showered upon him.  Happy is the one who can be part of such a special undertaking!”



Special Note One: We continue with our Erev Shabbos--Halachos of Shabbos series.  The following is excerpted from the monumental four-volume work, The 39 Melachos by Rabbi Dovid Ribiat, Shlita (Feldheim Publishers).  This Sefer is an essential addition to everyone’s library:


1.  Chazal forbade one from allowing clean garments and linens to become wet on Shabbos for fear that one is likely to forget himself and come to wring and squeeze them out (S’chitah) to help them dry more quickly.  Since garments and linens are only usable in their dry state, one has an interest in causing them to dry out as quickly as possible, and may inadvertently wring them out.  The restriction applies to wetting clothing and linens with a basically clear, odorless liquid.  Accordingly, one may not wipe a clear water spill with a shirt, sheet, or towel.


2.  Although wet clothing is ordinarily Muktza, Chazal waived this Muktza restriction in the case of clothing that one is actually wearing.  Due to considerations of Kovod Habriyos (human dignity) and the excessive hardship that this would impose, they did not require a person to remove his wet clothing.  One may even put on his wet clothing (e.g., that became wet from a leak, flood, etc. while he was sleeping) if he has no other suitable garments to wear.


3.  Once one changes into dry clothing, the wet garments may no longer be handled because of the Muktza restriction that applies to wet clothes which then takes effect.  If the garment happens to dry out during the day, it reverts back to its non-Muktza status.


4.  One whose shoes and socks became soaked in the rain, etc. may continue to walk without concern for the fact that the wet socks are inevitably becoming pressed and squeezed with every step.  This is because the wearer is completely oblivious to the squeezing and has no thought or need for cleansing his socks.  Moreover, the moisture that becomes extracted with each step becomes instantly re-absorbed into the fabric of the sock, making this form of S’chitah Halachically irrelevant.  Similarly, one may walk on a wet carpet without concern for S’chitah.


5.  One whose wet shoelaces became untied may gently tie them in a somewhat loose bow-knot in order to continue walking.  This is permitted because any squeezing is neither deliberate nor inevitable.  However, the laces must not be tugged tightly while tying them (as is normally done when tying shoes), and the bow-knot must not be made very tight, otherwise the action would be considered a P’sik Reisha--an inevitable consequence--and forbidden.  Similarly, one may gently untie the wet laces to remove the shoes.  However, here too, care must be taken to avoid tugging hard at the laces or exerting other pressure that would inevitably cause moisture to be squeezed out.



Special Note Two:  We received the following from readers:


  1. “In regard to skipping by Psukei D'Zimro that was discussed several days ago, the way Horav Yisroel Dovid Schlesinger, Shlita  (from Monsey) explained "mehapech hatzinoiros", to bring it down to our terms:  If you are trying to call someone in Brooklyn and you dial 781 as the area code instead of 718, you can try all day and you will not get through [you may even reach an inappropriate party.]  There is a special order that must be adhered to.”


  1. “Relating to your note on improving your Shabbos meals, I have instituted a quick change.  Although I am still up to using plastic for the Shalosh Seudos meal, I will be getting a better quality (like they have at Sheva Brachos), and I will b’li neder from now on be buying an additional salad in honor of the Third Meal.”


Thank you for your correspondence!


Special Note Three:  In this week’s Parsha, we learn of the Petira of Miriam HaNevia.  We would be most grateful for our readers input as to the reasons they find for her Petira prior to Klal Yisroel entering into Eretz Yisroel.  We know that the “Mei Meriva” relate to Aharon and Moshe not entering into Eretz Yisroel--but what about Miriam?  In all events, there is one lesson that we must reflect upon when listening to tomorrow’s Parsha.  The miraculous water that traveled with us in the desert was not only in the zechus of Avraham Avinu giving his guests to drink, but was also in the zechus of Miriam standing over Moshe as a baby in the water.  Incredibly, we would not have had the water in the Midbar in the Zechus of Avraham Avinu alone!  We needed the zechus of Miriam, which may, in fact, have even been the “ikar” zechus for the water that was needed to survive.  This is a great lesson here for us.  Miriam must have considered herself very small in comparison to Avraham Avinu, her incomparable great-great grandfather.  Yet, it was **her zechusim** which actually enabled millions to drink for tens of years in the dry desert.  We, too, may consider ourselves insignificant in comparison to previous generations of Torah Jewry.  Yet, our actions, our words, and our thoughts are significant--and, moreover, a prerequisite for the ultimate Geulah.


When we study Torah, when we daven with Kavanah, when we perform acts of pure Chesed, when we are Mekadesh Shaim Shomayim with our conduct  to the world., we are not only helping ourselves, our family, our friends and our contemporaries--we are like Miriam--we are actually and directly enabling the Geulah for all of Klal Yisroel!



We received the following Kashrus alerts published by the Star-K and the OU, respectively:


1.      General Mills Honey Nut Chex Cereal -- Due to a formula change (since the last time Star-K published a brachos list for cereals), the correct bracha for General Mills Honey Nut Chex is hoadama.  The bracha achrona is borai nefashos.


2.      Herr’s Kettle Cooked Potato Chips -- Cracked Pepper and Sea Salt flavored Potato Chips contain dairy ingredients as listed on the ingredient panel, but the dairy designation has been inadvertently omitted. Future packaging will be revised.


Hakhel Footnote on this topic:  Our publication of Kashrus Alerts does not, of course, indicate Hakhel’s endorsement of any Kashrus Agency.  We applaud the Star-K on its efforts in producing a brachos list.  We note only that the particular Kashrus agency which supervises a product may be the best source to contact directly in order to determine the appropriate bracha for a product.  Kashrus Magazine has a separate stand-alone publication, The Kosher Supervision Guide, with over 850 Kashrus Agencies and their phone numbers and contact information across the world.  Kashrus Magazine can be contacted at 718-336-8544.  This special publication is available in your local Jewish book stores and is available online at http://tinyurl.com/2q9pua


Special Note One: We received the following valuable correspondences from our readers:


a.       “Last week, in Parshas Korach, we learned how horrible the punishment can be for spreading Machlokes in Klal Yisroel.  We know that Hashem’s measure of reward is at least 500 times as great as His measure of punishment.  Imagine the reward of those who spread shalom and achdus among their brothers.  If those involved in dispute sink so, so low into the abyss--think about how high the peace-lovers and peace-makers soar in Hashem’s Heaven!”

b.      “Relating to your point about Emunah in these scary times, I wish to tell you that I spoke to a Gadol, and told him that I was surprised that people are not walking around anxious.  He told me, ‘Then do something about it.’  I am not an alarmist, but what I keep on thinking about is that there were all kinds of talk and saber-rattling between the Communists, Nazis, and the Free World before World War II broke out.  But the World went on--people went to work, to vacation, etc, leaving the “World’s problems” behind.  Then, suddenly, on September 1, 1939, the sun came out as usual…and the Nazis invaded Poland.  The rest is devastating and horrific.  We had a more recent glimpse of this on September 11, 2001.  Why don’t we take things to heart, and, at least on a personal level, do Teshuva in some way before things happen?  In the Artscroll Yom Kippur Machzor, it brings the statement of Rebbe Meir, who said that we should endeavor to view the world as being in a 50-50 state--if we do one mitzvah we can really save the whole world!  I sometimes push myself to do a mitzvah (or avoid an aveirah, like Lashon Hora) with this in mind--and I hope I have a part in helping the world!  I ask your readers who think likewise to join me!”

c.       “Regarding the importance of Emunah and Bitachon in our times, I want to bring to your attention that we will. B’EH, soon (next week) be concluding Meseches Sotah in the Daf HaYomi Cycle.  What we learn in the Daf HaYomi is often relevant to the parsha or time period we are then in.  Meseches Sotah--next week--concludes with a description of what will happen in the times of Mashiach and, after describing the difficulties we will encounter, repeats the words “Ayn Lonu L’Heshuayn Ela Al Avinu Shebashamayim--all we will be able to do [in those/these times] is support ourselves in our Father in Heaven” (Sotah 49A).  I sometimes give a Daf Yomi Shiur, and I feel that the language of “L’Heshuayn”--to support ourselves--is significant.  We must realize that we cannot walk on our own--we need Hashem’s support.  We must constantly repeat this concept and these words to ourselves, and I thank you for each one of the suggestions you presented, each of which is useful in remembering how desperately we need Hashem to lean on in these times.”

d.       “Thank you for your much-needed note on Emunah and your practical suggestions.  I would like to add one.  The Gemara (Shabbos 118A), teaches that if one is mekayem--properly fulfills--the Shalosh Seudos, the three meals on Shabbos, he will be saved from three things--“the Chevlei Mashiach, the Din of Gehinom, and the War of Gog U’Magog”  This is a very tremendous reward--yet, this is what Chazal explicitly state.  I urge all of your readers to be very especially careful to properly fulfill the three Shabbos Seudos (men, women and grown children)--including the third meal, Shalosh Seudos--with the proper Kavod and Oneg.  By this, I mean, to make an extra special effort to have good food, Divrei Torah, zemiros, and whatever else every person in his condition could have to increase the Kavod and Oneg of the meal.  Hashem, is helping us by giving us the “refuah before the maka--the cure before the malady.  Let’s make the effort to increase our Kavod and Oneg Shabbos, and may the word of our Chazal be fulfilled in each of your readers (including me)!”


We thank our readers for these essential comments.


Special Note Two:  Tomorrow begins the month of Tammuz.  We provide two important Bulletin points:


1.  On the first of Tammuz, we begin a new cycle of Praying with Fire, that very special Sefer which has helped tens of thousands with their Tefillah world-wide.  We understand that almost the entire Baltimore community is collectively learning the Sefer at this time.  What a zechus for this tzibbur!  It would be a wonderful undertaking for each and every one of us to conclude the year with a demonstration of our intent to improve in daily Tefillah.  Praying with Fire is available in large and pocket-sized copies in your local Jewish bookstore.  Even to the many who have gone through the Sefer once and more than once, perhaps do it with some family or friends, or others, and try to discuss with them the short five-minute segments presented daily.


2.  According to many, the first day of Tammuz is the date of the birth and petira of Yosef HaTzadik.  Chazal teach that Yosef was mekadesh shem shamayim b’seser--sanctified Hashem’s name in private--by not falling prey to the wife of Potiphar and withstanding this great test.  As a result, he was zoche to have a letter of Hashem’s name added to his name--and is known in Tehillim as “Yehosef” as well.  Accordingly, it would be extremely appropriate tomorrow to remember Yosef--and memorialize the day--by performing a Kiddush Shem Shamayim b’seser--by undertaking an act of Kiddush Hashem that only you know about.  We leave it up to you!



Special Note One:  On the issue presented in Friday’s email about pitchers being used to wash Netilas Yodayim at non-kosher catering halls, one reader questioned whether pitchers could, in fact, be used for Netilas Yodayim.  In fact, we believe that the caterers intend for the person washing to pour the water from the pitcher into a glass (usually not too large), and then wash over a bowl.  In any event, in response to the reader’s question as to use of a pitcher for Netilas Yodayim, we refer our readers to Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 159, Mishna Berura, Seif Koton 24.  HaRav Shmuel Smith, Shlita, summarized the halacha for us as follows:


“You can wash from a pitcher.  However, if the spout is below the level of the lip of the pitcher (as is most common), then you have to wash from the spout.  If the spout is above the level of the lip of the pitcher (rarely), you have to pour from the lip of the pitcher.  If the spout is on the same level as the lip of the pitcher, then you can wash from either one.”


Special Note Two:  Another reader questioned whether one could actually move the stem of a flower growing from the earth in order to smell it on Shabbos, as permitted in the Sefer Re’ach HaSadeh, cited last week.  After all, is not a flower attached to the ground muktzah?  The Shemiras Shabbos K’Hilchasa (26:22) does, in fact, permit it, based upon the Mishna Berura to Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, Chapters 312 and 336.


Special Note Three:  We received the following very short reminders from our readers:


  1. Do you want to be happy?  Hashem always works Midah K’Neged Midah.  Make others happy--you, too, will become happy!

  2. If a fellow Jews does something good for you, have a very long memory.  If one does something not so good to you, have a very short memory.


Special Note Four:  In a recent news article by Associated Press, the caption read, “Everything Seemingly Is Spinning Out Of Control”.  Among the recent occurrences listed in the article:  “Midwestern levees are bursting.  Polar bears are adrift.  Gas prices are skyrocketing.  Home values are abysmal.  Air fares, college tuition and health care border on unaffordable.  Wars without end rage in Iraq, Afghanistan and against terrorism…  Recent natural disasters around the world dwarf anything afflicting the U.S.  Consider that more than 69,000 people died in the China earthquake, and that 78,000 were killed and 56,000 missing from the Myanmar cyclone….”


The news article cites the following comment:  “It is pretty scary," said Charles Truxal, 64, a retired corporate manager in Rochester, Minn.  "People are thinking things are going to get better, and they haven't been.  And then you go hide in your basement because tornadoes are coming through.  If you think about things, you have very little power to make it change.”


As Jews, we can take the out-of-control spin even further and deep into the recesses of our hearts.  The crisis and tension between Our People in Eretz Yisroel and the enemies that surround them and live with them--and the nuclear showdown with Iran--appear to be coming closer and closer to some form of “resolution.”  It all, of course, boils down to the unified consensus of the Torah World that we are in the last throes of this Galus prior to the coming of Moshiach, and the concomitant need for us to responsibly and unwaveringly meet the challenges and goals of our generation.


The Shomrei Emunim Rebbe, Z’tl in the Sefer Shulchan HaTahor (pp. 75-81) writes that the reason that Chazal advised us of all the tzaros that would occur at the end of days is for us to be mechazek, to strengthen, ourselves in our faith in Hashem.  In this way we are not suddenly frightened by world events, and we are more able to withstand the tribulation and turbulence around us.  As a practical matter, the Shomrei Emunim recommends that people speak about Emunah and Bitachon.  He writes that the Gematria of the word “Boteach” is 25, which is the gematria of “Koh”, and that we should reflect upon this when we hear of yet another unusual, troubling or difficult event (Koh indicates that this is the way it is to be, because this is the way that Hashem has determined that it should be).


The Rebbe writes, that in our times everyone should attempt to have special Kavanah when reciting “Ahavah Rabah” (for some, “Ahavas Olom”) every day, asking Hashem to especially enlighten us and strengthen us in our Emunah and Bitachon, and, additionally, when we recite Shema Yisroel, our Kavanah should be that we proclaim and exclaim our Emunas Hashem with Mesiras Nefesh.


The Shomrei Emunim wants us to take his teaching very, very seriously.  He incredibly writes that the thrust of the Yetzer Hora during the period of the Chevlei Moshiach--the “birthpangs” of Moshiach--is to cool off our Emunah, because Emunah is the “Ikar Avoda”--our main method of serving Hashem--during this period.


Based upon these words, it would appear incumbent upon us to invigorate ourselves every single day during these troubled times with thoughts, words and teachings of Emunah.  We should discuss Emunah, and perhaps have Shiurim on Emunah and Bitachon, as well.  The Rebbe has helped us with the beginning--the Ahavah Rabah and Shema.  Additionally, we can also suggest individual or group study of perhaps the most famous chapters on Bitachon--the Shaar HaBitachon in the Sefer Chovos HaLevavos.


To help you further along in this absolutely vital area, you can access the Tefillah on Emunah and Bitachon, as printed in a Collection of Selected Prayers (by our affiliate, Yad Eliezer).  Finally, we add that it is reported that the Brisker Rav, Z’tl, would say the Pasuk “Leshuosicha Kivisi Hashem--I await for Your salvation, Hashem” (Tehillim 33:15) several times throughout the day.  We, too, can add this short-form dose of Emunah to our daily schedule as well!


In the Sefer, Walking with Rabbi Miller, Rabbi Mordechai Dolinsky, Shlita, provides some incredible memories of his walks with HaRav Avigdor Miller, Z’tl during the years 5715-5725 (1955-1965).  Rabbi Dolinsky, then a young man, took advantage of the opportunity, or perhaps more appropriately stated, created the opportunity, of becoming close to his Rav by making sure he was present when his Rav took his daily walks.  Chazal teach us of the tremendous importance and, in fact, the preeminence even over Torah study in being meshamesh--in serving--and learning by personal contact, with Talmedei Chachamim.  From the extremely valuable lessons HaRav Miller taught Rabbi Dolinsky below, which may be only the tip of the iceberg of the effect he had on Rabbi Dolinsky’s life, we can understand how important it is for each and every one of us to get close to a Talmid Chacham, and glean as much as we can from his personal conduct, actions and words.


Just a few essential lessons that Rabbi Dolinsky presents in his wonderful Sefer are excerpted below:


1.  When giving a bracha to another, it is important that we generate within ourselves the feeling that we are bringing an actual, real benefit to the recipient of our bracha--that we are doing a true chesed.  There is no comparison at all to that same brachah’s quality and strength when accompanied by positive mental concentration.  The fact that the bracha has so much power and can accomplish so much just even with “dry words” does not mean that saying it with intent does not play any role or have any effect.  To the contrary, a bracha said with proper, positive intent has a tremendously awesome effect, many times more than those “dry words” alone--so great, in fact, that HaRav Miller compared it to a nuclear explosion.


HaRav Miller taught that our brachos to others with kavavna have super-special effects even when they are salutation-oriented and made during conversational speech.  In the course of our normal, everyday life, in greetings and in reactions, in exclamations, proclamations, and best wishes for all sorts of occasions, we make statements that are, in actuality, real brachos.  Unfortunately, we may grow so accustomed to reciting them and their usage is so commonplace that we become callous about regarding them as actual brachos.  Rather than giving expression to the unique good wishes felt in each person’s heart, these greetings and blessings become a mere recitation of formulas.  Besides this loss of the uniqueness of people exchanging their intended good wishes, there is not even an awareness that it is a bracha!


This would mean that when wishing a traveler “Have a good trip,” one should bear in mind the words of the bracha, their implications, and then, in full concentration, itemize in your mind (at least) the brachah’s realization: a safe trip and return, as well as success in the endeavors undertaken.


Here are some further examples of good wishes we can concentrate on when we give the most common brachos (the examples are from HaRav Miller himself):

“Good morning”--to a Torah learner, we might intend this to mean, have a good learning session, and say a good Shiur.  To a businessman, complete some fortuitous deals.  To a housewife, that the washing machine should do its job and not break down.


“Hearty appetite”--digest the food well and enjoy it.


“Yasher Koach”--your strength should increase, to the gabbai or whoever has performed a task well.


“Gezundheit”--much good health to you.


“Mazel Tov”--good fortune on a million different occasions.


“Gut Shabbos”--the cholent should be tasty, and may you have a good rest, and may your Shabbos be meaningful.


“Gut voch”--Good week; may you suffer no indigestion from the cholent.


“Kol tuv”--Live and be well.


“Bon voyage”; “Happy birthday”; “Happy anniversary”; “Have a nice day.” And the list goes on!



2.  In general, our generation suffers from a special difficultly in focusing concentration throughout the entire Shemone Esrei.  HaRav Miller’s very practical suggestion was to divide the Shemone Esrei into three parts, and then, in each one of the three Tefillos of the day, to make an extra effort to concentrate on one of the parts.  This is more practically realistic and within our reach then when trying to concentrate through the entire davening, and Rabbi Dolinsky testifies that it inspired and motivated HaRav Miller’s students to invest special energy into improving their prayer.


3.  The defining characteristic of Shemone Esrei is generating within oneself the feeling of actually standing before Hashem.  HaRav Miller “came to the rescue with a very practical, workable exercise.”  Whenever you come to the word “Ata” in a bracha, pause for a moment and think about what the word means.  Its simple translation is--“You”--and you are addressing it to Hashem right in front of you.  When done properly, this can generate a feeling of actually standing before Hashem.


4.  HaRav Miller once said “It is perhaps a more fortunate destiny to have a taste for appreciating seashells than to be born a millionaire.”  He once asked his students to wiggle their toes before a lecture, so that they could experience the pleasure of what Hashem made them capable of.  When passing a gas station, he noted that unlike cars, we don’t pull our bodies in somewhere and say “Fill her up.”  Rather, Hashem created the enjoyable experience of eating for our appreciation.  Indeed, so much of the Creation is for our appreciation: beautiful flowers, beautiful birds, exquisite tropical fish, unique smells, special sounds, breathtaking sights--the world is full of beauty.  We should never let life pass over our heads.  Instead, we should utilize our appreciation of these moments to connect to our Creator.  In doing so, we turn the act of drinking a glass of water into an encounter with Hashem!!


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