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Hakhel Email Community Awareness Bulletin

JULY 2010 DAILY EMAIL ARCHIVE

   

Special Note One:  Hot Summer Alert!  Because the summer in New York and perhaps the greater US Northeast has been very hot and humid, there is a greater possibility of insect infestation in fruits, vegetables and flour.  We have spoken directly with Kashrus experts who have advised that consumer-purchased flour is actually more of an issue than commercial (bakery) flour, as it may sit in a supermarket storage area or retail shelf for many weeks, as less consumers may be present (or heating up the kitchen) during the summer months, while new shipments of bakery flour are usually delivered every two weeks.  Last week, a Kashrus expert in this field actually purchased a bag of heimishe "Challah Flour" for personal use, and while sifting with a70 mesh sifter (which he does and urges others to do year round, as a matter of caution) found twelve worms in about 2 pounds of flour.  He went back to the supermarket where the flour was purchased--and learned that the large supermarket had been storing the flour for many weeks--since it had last had a large shipment.  Accordingly, it is highly recommended that consumers sift their flour utilizing a 70-mesh sifter (easy-to-use electric sifters are available in electronics stores).  As far as we know, the only retail bakeries in New York that sift their flour as a matter of course are Weiss' and Korn's bakeries.  We spend time, effort and money to have a wonderful Shabbos meal (and some are careful to make it yoshon as well)--it certainly behooves us to make sure that our Challahs and cakes are beyond reproach--with no unwanted insects (many Torah prohibitions are involved in the consumption of even one insect) in our flour, in our ovens, and in our digestive systems.  It only takes a few extra minutes to sift--and  thereby preserve your sanctity--and the Kashrus of your Shabbos Table!

 

 

Special Note Two:  We are excited to provide by the following link http://www.prayingwithfire.org/images/Newsletter10.pdf  the tenth issue of the Praying with Passion Series, with the issue focused on the bracha of Al Netilas Yadaim, produced by The V’Ani Tefillah Foundation.  Please spread this especially useful and inspirational publication to others!

 

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

a. In the Shabbos davening we recite "Chemdas HaYomim Korasa Lo"--you have referred to Shabbos as the "most coveted of days".  Where in Tanach is Shabbos actually referred to in this way--as the 'Chemdas HaYomim'?

b.  Chazal, based upon the Pasuk of "VeDaber Dovor" teach that one's speech on Shabbos should not be the same as on a weekday (Shabbos 113A).  This is brought to light in many Halachos in Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 307, many having to do with worldly-related matters.  Based upon this Halacha, the use of many words may be questionable on Shabbos.  Here are some examples:  Netanyahu, oil spill, Obama, health care, market (any one ), emailed and even ... 'my cell phone'.  You may think of several other words and phrases.  If one truly believes that Shabbos is Mai'Ain Olam Haba--why would he speak Olam Hazeh language there? 

c.  On Shabbos we are blessed with more Aliyos then any other day of the year. What would happen if one called up to the Torah mistakenly first recited the after bracha of "Asher Nosan Lanu Toras Emes" and finished the bracha before he could be stopped.  Is it a bracha levatala and does he have to re-start with the bracha of "Asher Bachar Banu", which is the appropriate first bracha before laining?  The Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 139, seif katan 15) rules that the bracha of Asher Nosan Lanu will be valid bedieved--and that the order of the brachos should then be reversed--with Asher Bachar Banu then being recited after the laining of the aliyah is completed. 

d. Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita taught the people of the bungalow colony he was with many years ago that the Rema (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 336:3) advises against eating on the grass on Shabbos, for people will quite likely then spill drinks on the grass (which involves two melachos-Zore'a and Choresh)--and  should therefore be avoided.  He related that the people listened to him, and took the Kiddush after davening off the grass on to the cement.  However, two families wanted to join together for Shalosh Seudos, and the only way they could do so was on a park table on the grass.  So, they agreed that no liquids would be served at Shalosh Seudos (which may be problematic for other reasons).  Everything at Shalosh Seudos went well--until one of the men was in a rush to wash Mayim Acharonim, had somebody quickly bring him some water in a cup, and promptly unwittingly proceeded to wash his fingers under the table --right unto the grass!  After realizing what he had done, he found Rabbi Reisman and exclaimed--I now see how great, how invaluable the advice of a Gadol really is!

e.  The Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch,Orach Chaim 182, seif katan 1) rules that if there is a zimun, it is a Mitzvah Min HaMuvchar to bentsch over a Kos (a Kos Shel Bracha).  The Aruch Hashulchan writes that if one does so "Yisborech Min HaShomayim--he will be blessed from Heaven."  Most certainly if we have a zimun present at the meal this special Shabbos, in which the Mitzvah of Birkas HaMazon is given to us, we should bentsch with a Kos Shel Bracha--which B'Ezras Hashem will bring much bracha into the home!

 

 

Special Note Four:  The Parsha begins with the words "Vehaya Eikev Tishmiun." Chazal teach that the Mitzvos that a person treads upon  with his Eikev--with his heel, i.e., the Mitzvos that a person deems 'relatively unimportant' will surround him after 120 years at the time of judgment.  It may be these Mitzvos that surround him that ultimately determine his fate--and his level in Gan Eden (or chas veshalom elsewhere).  In honor of the Parsha, perhaps we can select one of these Mitzvos in our daily routine--remove it from under our heel, and elevate to a high position in our head!  Hakhel Note:  The Rabbeinu Bachaya explains that there is another reason that Mitzvos are referred to here with the heel and not with the heart. The heel is the furthest, most distant part of the body.  The reward for Mitzvos may not be evident immediately--but will be forthcoming in unfathomable measure... at the end!

 

 

Special Note Five:  Yet another mitzvah in the Parsha is the Mitzvah of Yiras Hashem.  Rabbi Elias Schwartz, Shlita notes that very often we refer to fearing Hashem not as 'Yiras Hashem', but as 'Yiras Shomayim (Fear of the Heavens)'.  Rabbi Schwartz explains that this may be so because the heavens have never moved nor changed since the very beginning of creation--the heavens today are the very same heavens of the first and second days of creation!  We must demonstrate that our service of Hashem is also immutable--without faltering or compromise, without being pliable to the winds of time, without being torn by the problems of modern civilization.  Yiras Shomayim means that we will follow the path that Hashem has set for us in this world--and will not deviate, diverge, swerve or sway from our life's mission.  From time to time--you can look up at the sky--and remind yourself that you, too are blessed with Yiras Shomayim!  Hakhel Note:  The Parshas HaYirah, which many recite daily, is the fifth aliyah of the Parsha.  Even if one does not recite this Parsha every day (it is found in many siddurim after Shacharis), it would certainly appear to be timely and appropriate to recite it with kavannah this Shabbos!

 

 

Special Note Six:  We present below several points and pointers relating to the second Parsha of Kriyas Shema, Vehaya Im Shomoa Tishmiu,  which is also found in this week's Parsha:

1.  Before reciting the Parsha daily, one should understand that after having been Mekabel Ohl Malchus Shomayim in the first Parsha of Shema, he is now ready to be Mekabel Ohl Mitzvos.  One does not perform Mitzvos because they are nice, practical or logical--but because of Malchus Shomayim--Hashem has guided you and directed you to do so.

2. The Parsha also teaches one of the cornerstones of our faith--Sechar VeOnesh--reward and punishment; what we do right and what we do wrong is not of a fleeting or temporary nature --its effects are everlasting, for the good and for the bad.  Food is an easy Olam Hazeh reminder of this--a portion of satiating food can keep you going for many hours, while just a small portion of spoiled food can make you feel really sick for the same amount of time.

3.  The Parsha contains the Mitzvah of Tefillin.  The Gerrer Rebbe. z'tl is said to have remarked that if one of the batim of Tefillin r'l falls down in its casing, we will hurry to pick it up and kiss the casing, then hurry to take the Tefillin out of the casing to examine if everything is OK, kiss the Tefillin and give tzedaka over the occurrence.  Clearly, all of this is the proper and appropriate thing to do, taught the Rebbe--for Tashmishei Kedusha, albeit encased, have fallen to the ground.  Most certainly, he added, when we see that a person has fallen (emotionally or physically), we should likewise 'kiss' him, show how hurt we are, examine how we can help, and give charity--take action to help in any possible way that you can to rectify the situation--after all, when it comes to  fallen Yid--he is even more than Tefillin--he is a living Sefer Torah!

4.  In the parsha, we learn that we must first feed our animals before we eat ourselves, based on the Pasuk--"VeNosati Esev...Levhemtecha VeAchalta VeSovata..."-first the Beheimos eat--and then you eat.  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, likewise rules that fish have to be fed first as well, so that if breakfast or dinner is around your aquarium's feeding time, the fish must be fed first.  By analogy, anyone who is dependant on you should be taken care of first as well--after all isn't Hashem taking care of you!

5.  The mitzvah of Tefillah is also found in the second parsha of Shema--with the words "Ul'Avdo BeChol Levavchem".  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita was asked the following question by friends of a young man who was  seriously ill:  They have gotten together several times to reciteTehillem and daven for him.  He is unfortunately still ill.  Is there something else they should do--perhaps take upon themselves a special Mitzvah together...?  If so, what should they do?  HaRav Kanievsky answered that Chazal teach: "Im Ro'eh Adam SheHispallel Velo Ne'eneh, Yachzor VeYispallel  (Brachos 32A)...if a person sees that he prayed and that his prayers were not seemingly answered, he should pray again."  He thus advised the friends, ahead of all else, to make another Kinus of Tefillah on their friend's behalf.  From this P'sak we should grow in our appreciation of the utter potency of Tefillah.  As Chazal teach--Moshe Rabbeinu davened 515 times to enter Eretz Yisroel--and Hashem did not let him daven again--for on that 516th time he would have been answered!

6.  In the Siddur Avnei Eliyahu, the G'ra teaches that "Yoreh U'Malkosh" refers to Nevuah and Ruach Hakodesh, and that "Degonecha Tiroshecha Veyitzhorecha" refers to Chochma, Binah and Da'as.  Hakhel Note:  The G'ra crystallizes for us that Hashem's reward goes way beyond rain in its proper time, food and parnassah--which are certainly incredible miracles in and of themselves!

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Special Note One:  At a recent Hakhel Shiur, Rabbi Moshe Weinberger, Shlita ( Brooklyn ) asked why it was that Moshe Rabbeinu, although 120 years old, did not suffer from weakness or even dimmed vision--why did he not age like everyone else?  He explained in the name of HaRav Hutner, Z'tl, as follows:  In actuality, none of us should really age because Hashem is recreating us as he recreates the world and everything and everybody in it every millisecond. We should really always stay young because we are always fresh and new.  If we were to be immune to the effects of age, however, we would lose our bechira chofshis--our free will--because the only way of our explaining our recurring agelessness is by the Creator recreating us.  How then could we ever, ever sin?!  Hashem therefore placed the 'natural' progress of aging into the world so that we could do battle with the Yetzer Hora, as we allow ourselves to forget about the constant re-new-al of the world, and the incredible Yad Hashem in every fraction of time in world history.  Moshe Rabbeinu, because of his closeness to Hashem, because he was as the Torah describes "Bechol Baisi Ne'eman Hu", did not need to be subjected to the ruse of aging.  He truly lived in the real world--the world in which Hashem was the essential and integral part of every moment and every place.  In the Bais Hamikdash, we likewise experienced the Lechem HaPonim which was baked on Erev Shabbos, put on the Shulchan on Shabbos afternoon about a day later while still piping hot, and removed and consumed a full eight days later--the next Shabbos--still piping hot!  An unbelievable miracle?  Not exactly, if you realize that in reality prepared food should stay piping hot as it is being re-heated every moment once baked or cooked.  The Lechem HaPonim, then, like Moshe Rabbeinu represents a dugma, a sample of the *real* ever-renewing world.  With this thought in mind, we can understand something about Teshuva as well.  We each have the opportunity to be like Moshe Rabbeinu (see Rambam in Hilchos Teshuva who actually compares us to Moshe)--we each have the opportunity of rebirth, of rededication, of renewal, daily--because we are granted new life from moment to moment as well.

 

Knowing that Hashem is with us and infusing us with the miracle of life all the time will help us better appreciate the Pasuk in this week's Parsha which teaches--U'vo Sidbak--one should cleave to Hashem--the source of your constant renewal (Devorim 10:20).  Certainly, the claim of "Kochi Veotzem Yodi--my own power and prowess brought me to my position in life (Devorim 8:17 )--flies so in the face of the truth--of Hashem's reality--that it becomes absurd and smirkfully amusing.

 

The more that we feel Hashem always with us, renewing us and invigorating us, the more we will be able to instill the freshness and newness in the Mitzvos we perform that they so rightfully deserve.  This Shemone Esrei is not the same as the last, this Daf or this Pasuk is a new opportunity, this restraint from Lashon Hora is not simply a repeat of my last bout with the Yetzer.  Just as today's life is a new wardrobe, a new gift, a new treasure separate and beyond that of yesterday's, so too are today's acts of patience, kindness, perseverance, resolve and love a new step and level beyond that of yesterday's as well.  This is the real world--the world of truth--the world of Moshe Rabbeinu, the world of Teshuva.  Breath in and breath out and feel your Maker's renewal.  Then, through your own actions throughout the day, do your part to make the renewal meaningful, worthwhile, inspired...and alive!

 

Special Note Two:  This week's Parsha contains the famous phrase "VeLo Savi So'eiva El Baisecha--do not bring something abominable into your home (Devorim 7:26 ).  The Torah is of course referring to Avodah Zara related matters.  We can take the hint, though, as to other related various and sundry to'eivos which confront us.  In order to demonstrate that we not only read the Torah, but learn from it (and especially from the Weekly Parsha--for it is appearing in my life now for very good reason), we should perhaps go through our homes and see if there is something there that should not be there.  Improper reading or viewing material is what first comes to mind even if in the guise of children's books or educational materials.  If some of those magazines or circulars that are dropped at your doorstep never make it into the house--you may literally be fulfilling the sacred words "do not bring them into the house".  You may have some other ideas as to what to purge from your home (even if it is only for the news and sports).  The Sefer HaChinuch adds on this very Mitzvah (Mitzvah 429), that money gained improperly or inappropriately falls within the definition of to'eiva as well.  We should take a good look around the house--does everything here really belong to me--and even if it does belong to me --does it really belong here with me?

 

 

Special Note Three:  In his commentary to Mesechta Brachos, Rabbeinu Yonah refers to the Mitzvah of Mezuzah (see this week's Parsha, of course --Devorim 11:20 ).  He teaches that through the Mitzvah of Mezuzah one demonstrates that the possessions (in this house, in this room) are dedicated to the service of Hashem.  The Mitzvah serves not just as a protection from harm--but as a statement-in-deed that you have a deeper understanding of what your worldly possessions mean and to what purpose they should be dedicated.  One thereby is actually Mekabel Ohl Malchus Shomayim through his earthly possessions --with the proper intent of the Mezuzah on his doors.  

 

When looking at or kissing a Mezuzah upon entering or leaving the room, one can momentarily reflect upon the great and famous words of Dovid HaMelech in Tehillem --'LaShem Ho'aretz Umeloah--To Hashem is the earth and its fullness!

 

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As this week's Parsha contains the Mitzvas Aseh of Birkas HaMazon, we provide below several important recollections and refreshers relating to the Mitzvah, much of which has been culled from the Sefer VeZos HaBracha by HaRav Alexander Mandelbaum, Shlita:

 

1.  Before commencing Birkas HaMazon, one should have in mind or recite that he is about to fulfill the Mitzvas Aseh of Birkas HaMazon--with awe and love.

 

2.  One should Bentsch with 'Simcha Yeseira'--an extra measure of joy, as one would feel after having received a beautiful gift.

 

3.  The Pasuk which sets forth the Mitzvah is actually itself recited in the second bracha of Birkas HaMazon: "VeAchalta VeSavata U'Vairachta..." We note that, just as in Kriyas Shema where the emphasis on the word 'VeAhavta' is on the last syllable--the 'ta', and not on the middle syllable of 'hav'(which incorrect pronunciation would change the meaning of the word to past tense), so too the emphasis on the word VeAchalta is placed on the 'ta' and not on the 'achal' (which mispronunciation would likewise alter the meaning of the word is to the past tense).  The same is true for U'Vairachta--the emphasis is on the last syllable (and not as the children's tune to bentsching has it).  Hakhel Note:  Tunes are pleasant and helpful for remembering--but should in no way be used when they distort meaning or pronunciation, nor when they promote lightheadedness, as opposed to joy.  Joking around with the tune of bentsching such as stretching out the word Hu to Huuu or clapping every few words at a point, or saying something like dadada in the middle of a bracha (remembering especially that three of the four brachos of bentsching are *MiD'Oraysa*, while the fourth bracha is over the solemn miracles that occurred in Beitar) is offensive to the sacred words written with Ruach HaKodesh.  Children should certainly be taught to recite Bentsching with joy--however, as HaRav Yaakov Kamentzky, z'tl taught, a Mezuzah should not be placed very low on a kindergarten door in order for the children to kiss it.  Rather, they should stand on a chair and reach up to the Mezuzah.  So too with Bentsching--a beautiful Nigun is wonderful, if it helps learn and understand the Mitzvah--not impinge upon and even harm and do damage to its proper recitation and meaning. 

 

4.  LeChatchila, in the first instance, one should Bentsch from a Siddur or Bentscher, and bentch out loud, or at least loud enough to hear the words you are saying .

                                                                                                                  

5.  One should be sure to be respectably dressed.  It doesn't make a difference that you are home alone--for you are never home alone!

 

6.  One should bentsch while sitting, to increase Kavanna.

 

7.  One should leave some bread on the table for bentsching, and if none was left, one should bring bread from somewhere else ( but not a whole loaf). This demonstrates our awareness of Hashem's beneficence in giving us more than we need, and provides something for bracha to be 'chal' on going forward

 

8.  On weekdays, any knives left on the table should be removed or covered, for our Shulchan is like the Mizbeach, which brings kapara and extends a person's life. According to the Kaf HaChaim in the name of the Arizal, knives should be removed on Shabbos and Yom Tov as well, and this may be the Minhag in some Sefardi families.

 

9.  If one is thirsty, he should be sure to drink before Birkas HaMazon, for some opinions require drinking if thirsty in order to fulfill the Mitzvas Aseh D'Oraysa to Bentsch.

 

10.  One should eat a kezayis of bread within a three(3) minute span at some point during the course of the meal, so that he will have eaten the minimum shiur required for Birkas HaMazon "bichdei achilas peras". If one does not do so, than according to HaRav Moshe Feinstein, z'tl, he should not bentsch. It is for this reason that many are careful to eat a kezayis of bread bichdei achilas peras ( once again, three minutes according to HaRav Feinstein) at the beginning of the meal, rather than nibbling on bread or challah in between courses of a meal.

 

11.  One must bentsch in the place that he ate.  If one left that place, and it is possible to return within 72 minutes after his meal was completed, he should return, unless there is real reason that he cannot return, in which event, a sheas hadechak or bedieved, he is Yotzeh bentsching elsewhere.

 

12  Each guest should bless his host with the Birchas HaOreyach.  If  the siddur or bentscher given to him does not have it, he should ask his host for a siddur that does have it. It should be recited immediately after the conclusion of the fourth bracha ('Leolam al yechaserainu'), and before all of the other HaRachamans, as its nusach is found in the Gemara itself (Brachos 46A).  (Sefardim  may recite it before Magdil Yeshuos).

 

13.  One should avoid motioning or signalling with his eyes, hands, and the like while bentsching, unless it is  to stop something that is disturbing Kavanna.  Similarly, one should avoid moving crumbs, adjusting his clothing, or conducting any other activity while bentsching.

 

14.  The Pele Yoetz  writes that, according to Kabbala, the four Brachos of bentsching correspond to the four letters of Hashem’s ineffable name. we should especially try to have Kavanna in the words--and most certainly when reciting the opening and closing words of the bracha.

 

15.  The Yesod V’Shoresh HaAvoda writes that the Kavanna of Amein at the end of Bonei Verachamav Yerushalayim reflects both your belief that Yerushalayim will be rebuilt --and your expression of thanks to Hashem for its rebuilding!

 

16.  There is a well-known story that HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, ZT’L, once repeated the paragraph of “Nodeh Lecha”(We thank You, Hashem), in which we list many important things that we thank Hashem for.  When he was asked why he repeated it, he responded that he experienced a momentary lapse of Kavanna, and that saying “Thank you” without meaning it is not true thanks.  In a related way, Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, teaches in the name of HaRav Pam, Zt’l, that one may put out a finger and count each one of the things that you are thanking Hashem for every time you recite “Nodeh Lecha”.  Example: “Al Yisrael Amecha-one finger, V’Al Yerushalayim Irecha-two fingers, etc.”  If you try this, you will see that it is a great method of focusing your appreciation, and rejoicing in what Hashem has given you.  Rabbi Reisman adds from Rav Pam that if you count on your fingers the number of items that you *thank* Hashem for in the bracha of Nodeh, and then count the number of items you *ask* Hashem for in the bracha of Rachem--you will note that Chazal emphasized the thanks more than the requests!  Hakhel Note:  We may add, however, that Dovid Hamelech and Shlomo Hamelech, who composed the nussach of Rachem (including the requests it contains to  bring our lives back to normal), teach us that it is not only at weddings that we are to break a glass and place Yerushalayim above our greatest joy, but even after so simple and daily act as a good meal, are we to remember that life in its entirety--to the point of even a basic meal--will be greatly enhanced with a rebuilt City and Mikdash.  Especially at this time of year, as Tisha B'Av becomes distanced, should we remember our people--and our hopes--in the third and fourth brachos of Yerushalayim and Hatov U'Maitiv (Beitar).

 

17.   If we would simply focus on the powerful words of bentching, and would take the extra minute or two necessary to recite bentching with the meaning of the words in mind , we would gain a greater appreciation of its hallowed words.  For instance, just look at the paragraph of “Bamorom Yilamdu Aleyhem V’Oleinu Zechus--in Heaven may a merit be pleaded for them and for us for a safeguard of peace....

 

18.  We asked HaRav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, Shlita, whether it would be better for a newcomer to Torah Judaism to recite the bentching in English or to listen word-for-word to the bentching of another in Hebrew.  He responded that the newcomer should recite the bentching in English.  While a major reason for this may be the difficulty encountered by a newcomer in following the entire Birkas HaMazon in Hebrew, an ancillary reason for this P’sak may be so that the person who has just eaten can truly appreciate the nature and beauty of Birkas Hamazon.

 

May our recitation of Birkas HaMazon  be a time that we anticipate and enjoy--so  much so that we thank Hashem for the very opportunity to recite it!

 

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Special Note One:  Our readers may recall a recent alert we provided relating to Snapple--and the similar packaging of Kosher and non-Kosher flavors.  We pointed then to the need for consumers to read each and every label of an item purchased.  By clicking here we provide a graphic of a different example of two product labels which appear relatively similar--one for 'Oneg Kosher Gourmet' Mozzarella Cheese and the other for 'Schtark' Mozzarella Cheese.  In fact, the back of each package indicates that each product is actually distributed by Oneg Foods.  There is, however, a material difference between the two packages--the Schtark Mozzarrella is Cholov Yisroel (as clearly indicated on the top line), and the Oneg Kosher Gourmet is not (the product's two Hashgachos are on the top line, but the words "Cholov Yisroel" do not appear anywhere on the package, and one of its Hashgachos confirmed to us that it is not Cholov Yisroel).  Thus, although the two items may be placed close to each other in the cheese section of a supermarket refrigerator, and may look somewhat alike in packaging, a careful consumer will be sure to differentiate between the two--and bring home the Cholov Yisroel product if that is his requirement.  However, there may be occasion when the judicious consumer himself/herself does not go the store--but instead sends a child or perhaps places an order which is filled by a store worker (many of whom do not have a strong command of English).  In this case, the wrong package could end up in one's home refrigerator.  Accordingly, when not going to the store, one should pay special attention to review all products brought into the home. One should also, of course, educate his family and friends in how to properly read a label.  Hakhel Note:  If one eats only Cholov Yisroel, he should consult with his Rav or Posek if he discovers that non-Cholov Yisroel products were placed into his utensils--at the very least a waiting period of 24-hours and thorough cleaning may be required.

 

 

Special Note Two:  It is now a full week since Tisha B'Av.  We provide some closing thoughts regarding our transition from a downtrodden Galus mode of existence to one of inspired and everlasting Geulah.

 

1. The Sefer Chaim SheYeish BaHem brings the words of HaRav Baruch Ber Lebowitz, z'tl.  "After 120 years I will be asked what I accomplished in this world. I will say that I learned Torah.  But what if they say --you call that Torah?  Then I will say that I had some I had some Yiras Shomayim.  But what if they say--you call that Yiras Shomayim?  I will still be able to say that I had some Ahavas Yisroel--for when another Yi d would be near me on the street I would say--"Brachos Ahl Rosho--may brachos come upon his head!" This will certainly serve as  some kind of limud zechus for me....  Hakhel Note:  At least in this regard--we too can be like Reb Baruch Ber!

 

2.At the outset of Kinah 24 over the Churban Bais HaMikdash ,we recite that 'Espod Bechol Shona VeShona Misped Chadash'--we lament with a new elegy every year.  If this year's Tisha B'Av is different than last year's, than this year's post-Tisha B'Av has to be different as well.  This year, being one step closer to Geulah puts us in a different position, and we must be up to the task.

 

3.  The Kinnos refer to Chavetzeles HaSharon--the Rose of Sharon.  Rabbi Wallerstein points out that a rose must be attached to the ground to live--in water it eventually wilts and dies.  So too, our life is our connection to HaKadosh Baruch Hu, and we must strive to keep the connection vibrant and lasting.  One way to do this is by not faltering in Kavannah in our daily Shemone Esrei--no matter how tired, harried, frazzled, or side-tracked you really think you are.

 

4.  The damage, death and destruction perpetrated to us over the years as reflected in the various Kinnos demonstrate how unfulfilling the pursuit of Gashmius, in the long run, really is.  When people's lives were at stake or even sacrificed, the earthly possessions turned out to be inconsequential.  If an anti-semitic tyrant would take power in any country even today, our first reaction would be to flee for our lives to a safer haven.  Now take a look at the so-called great and powerful King Nevuchadnezzar.  His temporal grandiose palace is another old ruin in Iraq , and there is not even a surviving likeness that we are sure is him.  When you feel too involved in gashmius, look at the world around and realize that life has much more to offer.  When stretching to look for the next bus, or for your luggage on the baggage carousel, think about the other, more needed and more permanent things we search for as well.  As the Navi in Eicha bemoans--Betzipisiyaseinu Tzipinu--we longed for the aid of the Egyptians-when we should have been stretching out our necks--and longing for the Shechina!

 

5.. Rabbi Shmuel Dishon, Shlita, points out that the shortest Sefer of Navi and the longest Sefer of Navi each begin with the same word--Chazon (the vision).  The shortest Sefer is Ovadia which is one perek and relates to the destruction of Edom (from whom Ovadia had originally descended), and the largest Sefer is Yeshayahu (whose close relatives were the Kings of Yehudah at the time) which has 66 Perakim, and which contains many nevuos of consolation.  Everyone has a task and a role in making K'lal Yisroel succeed--and one should spend the time to determine what it is.  Hakhel Note:  It is said that HaRav Zundel Salanter, z'tl, was once seen practicing how he bowed during Shemone Esrei in the middle of the day.  When asked why he was doing so, he responded that he couldn't wait until Shemone Esrei--when he was already standing before the King of Kings--to figure out what to do and how to do it.  In the aftermath of Tisha B'Av and in anticipation of redemption, we too should not wait very much longer in order to figure out what exactly it is that we have to do !

 

6..  The Geulah from Mitzrayim happened miraculously.  The Geulah from Galus Bavel happened in the so-called 'ordinary course' as part of the apparent plan of King Koresh to re-unite us with our homeland.  Which will the final Geulah be?  It is said that the Chofetz Chaim did not rejoice at all when he heard of the Balfour Declaration--for the third and final Geulah could come either way--and the miraculous route is much preferred.  Perhaps with this we can appreciate the special, double entendre in our daily Shemone  Esrei as we recite the words "VeSa Nes LeKabetz Goluyoseinu--and lift up a banner [a miracle] to gather together our exiles.  If the Chofetz Chaim preferred a miracle--certainly so too should we!  Let us remember at these words to daven with sincerity that Hashem lift the Nes--high up for all of us to see--Bekarov Bimeheira Veyameinu!

 

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Special Note One:  We are privileged to present by clicking here the exceptional Shiur presented by Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein, Shlita at the Hakhel Program on Tisha B'Av.  The Shiur should most certainly have the effect of "Devorim Hayotzim Min Halev Nichnasim El HaLev...--that which sincerely leaves one person's heart is able to penetrate another's."  Let these practical and moving words penetrate deeply and very well!

 

 

Special Note Two:  After Rabbi Yehudah Landy's outstanding audio-visual presentation on the Churban Bayis Rishon at the Hakhel Tisha B'Av Program, there were those who asked whether Rabbi Landy is available to give tours in Eretz Yisroel.  Rabbi Landy advises us that in addition to lecturing, he is available to give tours, and is in fact a licensed Ministry of Tourism Tour Guide!  If you would like to contact him in EY, please let us know.

 

 

Special Note Three:  Since last week's Parsha contained the essential three-word message we carry with us 24/7 of "Ain Od Milvado--There is none beside Him (Devorim 4:35)", we once again provide by clicking here the legendary words of HaRav Chaim Volozhiner, z'tl in the Sefer Nefesh HaChaim, which HaRav Chaim himself describes as a Segulah Gedola VeNifla'ah to one who can properly attach itself to the special words.  What an opportunity!

 

 

Special Note Four:  We look to a key lesson in last week's Pirkei Avos.  The Mishna (4:5) there teaches that "Kol Hamechallel Shem Shomayim Begalui...one who is desecrates the Name of Heaven in secret, will have punishment exacted from him in public."  The question here is obvious--does not the world work on the basis of Middah Keneged Middah--with a divinely perfectly exact measure of justice?  If so, why is somebody who desecrates the name of Hashem in *private* to be punished in *public*?  The answer, of course, belies the question.  When one's conduct desecrates the name of Hashem--one has demonstrated a wanton lack of concern, disregard, and contempt r'l of Hashem Himself--whose glory fills the entire world, and for whom there is no 'sesser'--no nook or cranny which is beyond Him .  One's act of Chillul can ostensibly be be'sesser--but nevertheless demonstrates the same contempt and insolence to Hashem who knows all and is everywhere.  One who ignores this, further aggravates his iniquity.  Indeed, as the Mishna continues, one's claim that his action was beshogeg--not intended or careless, is meritless in regard to the egregious Chillul Hashem.  It is essential to add that Chazal teach that the act of Chillul is subjective--as it will depend on the individual, how he is perceived, and how he should behave.  For one simply to ignore his significance and his relationship with Hashem, and what Hashem expects of him, is a grave sin--whether in the confines of his kitchen, at the check-out counter, on the phone, talking to colleagues at work, by himself at the computer, or on the street.  Do you wear a yarmulke or hat, sheitel, tichel or long dress?  If you answered 'yes' to any of the above, you are not a corporal or sergeant, or even a lieutenant or captain. You are a general--whose standard is rightfully high, and who must be on a more elevated level of guard to conduct himself beyond reproach.  This week, can we try to make it Chilul Hashem free--even be'sesser--even when ostensibly discrete and otherwise private?  If this request seems too tall to pursue--then we must certainly pursue it!

 

 

Special Note Five:  Today, joyously, is the 15th day of Av, Tu B'Av.  We are all too familiar with the five major tragedies that occurred on Tisha B'Av through the fall of Beitar and the plowing over of Zion (succeeded by other later tragedies as well).  We may be equally as familiar with the five corresponding great events of Tu B'Av:  Very briefly:  1.  It was finally determined that the final group of men aged 20-60 (previously part of the decree to pass away in the Midbar) were allowed the privilege of entering Eretz Yisroel.  2.  The shevet of Binyamin was saved from extinction by the shevatim being permitted to marry their daughters to the few hundred men left---so that there would be a kiyum of the shevet forever.  3.  The guards posted by the Kings of the Aseres Hashevatim for hundreds of years, which prevented the ten tribes from freely traveling to the Bais Hamikdash, were removed--and all were allowed to make their way to the Mikdash.  4.  The people of Beitar who were murdered by the Roman legions, and whose bodies miraculously did not decompose for years, were finally allowed by the Romans to be buried (and as a result the bracha of HaTov U'Maitiv was composed).  5.  The people would no longer cut firewood for the Bais HaMikdash commencing on this date, because the sun's rays had begun to weaken, and the people celebrated the completion of the Mitzvah (which also allowed for more time for the study of Torah, as explained by the commentaries). 

 

There is, however, an additional significant point about this day mentioned in the
Mishna in Ta'anis (4:5).  There were nine days during the year in which families donated necessary wood to the Bais HaMikdash and celebrated the privilege by bringing a special sacrifice--a Korban Eitzim along with it.  One of these special nine days of the year was Tu B'Av.  However, there was something more special about the wood brought on Tu B'Av than on the other eight days--for on the other eight days the wood brought was limited to one particular family's gift--but on Tu B'Av, as the Mishna specifically records it was a particular family --"the children of Zeitu ben Yehuda"--but *together with* Kohanim and Leviim; and *together with* anyone who no longer knew which shevet he was from, and *together with* other families who had demonstrated mesirus nefesh to reach the Bais Hamikdash in the past (see Bartenura there for details). In other words, there was a unique achdus on this day which went well beyond the singular family donation, and extended it to a united gift from various groups together.  It was almost as if the events of Tu B'Av were to be a blatant demonstration as to how the issues of Tisha B'Av have to be resolved--with togetherness and selflessness.  Indeed, the Bnai Yissoschar explains that it is no coincidence (did you really think that it was?!) that all of this happened on the fifteenth of the month--and that the fifteenth letter of the Aleph Bais is a Samech.  The Samech has no top and no bottom, no beginning and no end--indicating unity, harmony and accord.  It is for this reason, as the Mishna teaches, that the unwed girls would go out on this day in shared clothing (so that there was equality among rich and poor as well)--and dance in a circle --demonstrating that although one may be a Kohen, another a Levi, a third not know which shevet he was from, another rich, another poor--we are all joined as one, and will always be one.

 

The last Mishna in Ta'anis teaches that there were no greater Yomim Tovim for K'lal Yisroel than Tu B'Av and Yom Kippur.  On the surface, we could explain that this is because on Yom Kippur we united with Hakadosh Baruch Hu, and on Tu B'Av we united with each other.  The Kopshitzer Rebbe, z'tl teaches, however, that when we dance with each other on Tu B'Av--holding on to the next one's hand and going around in that undefined circle joined together--HaKadosh Baruch Hu's hand is very much holding on to ours as well.

 

Most certainly, when we dance together at any simcha, we should feel the spiritual elevation--the unity and oneness with everyone in our circle, and with HaKadosh Baruch Hu who joins with us as well.  On this very special day, Tu B'Av, let us consciously demonstrate that we appreciate and understand the very special juxtaposition of Tisha B'Av and Tu B'Av.  Let us practice extra-special acts of love and caring for our brothers--holding on tight and joyously dancing in that broad and meaningful circle with everyone--whether or not we may actually be on any one plywood floor together! 

 

Don't miss the day's opportunities!

 

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Don't Lose The Opportunity !  We are privileged to make available to our readers by clicking here a Shiur (in MP3 format) given by Rabban Gamliel Rabinovich, Shlita on Motza'ei Tisha B'Av, just two nights ago.  The Shiur is in easily understandable Yiddish, and is slightly less than 30 minutes in length.  According to one who attended the Shiur, it is one of the most powerful he has ever heard Rabban Gamliel give.  It is on Golus Hashechina, Kedushas Beis Haknesses, thanking Hashem... and how Yom Kippur is two months (now less than two months) from today.

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Special Note One:  We are excited to provide by the following link http://www.prayingwithfire.org/images/Newsletter9.pdf   the ninth issue of the Praying with Passion Series, with the issue focused on Yigdal, produced by The V’Ani Tefillah Foundation.  Please spread this especially useful and inspirational publication to others!

 

 

Special Note Two:  We received the following important comment from a reader:  “You write that the Kinos are in ‘disorder.’  Superficially, it certainly seems so.  However, this year I used the new Koren Kinos with Rabbi J. B. Soloveitchik's commentary on each Kina.  He discusses the seeming thematic inconsistency among the Kinos but brings interesting and convincing reasons why Kinos on, say, the Crusades, are interspersed with Kinos about Jerusalem .  The sefer changed entirely my experience of Tisha B'Av.  I recommend it highly.”

 

 

Special Note Three:  We now approach Shabbos Nachamu, after having just attempted to appreciate the enormity of the devastation that has befallen us.  Shabbos Nachamu is intended to enlighten us as to how great the consolation will be.  There is no Pasuk that says “Eichah, Eichah.”  There is, however, a Pasuk which repeats “Nachamu, Nachamu--be consoled, be consoled...!”

 

Chazal teach us that “Kol Hamesabel al Yerushalayim--Anyone who mourns over Yerushalayim,” is “zoche v’roeh--merits and sees”--its rejoicing.  HaRav Meir Schuck, Zt’l, notes that Chazal do not teach that the person who mourns over Yerushalayim **will** merit and see its rejoicing, but rather, in the present, **now** merits and sees its rejoicing.  How is this so?  After all, do not Arabs still occupy the Temple Mount ?  Is not the Bais HaMikdash still in ruins?  HaRav Schuck explains that if someone truly appreciates the loss of a rebuilt Yerushalayim, he takes action, practical and meaningful steps, towards its rebuilding, just as someone with a tattered roof on his home, or a car in his driveway that doesn’t start, will do in order to fix things--to bring them back to normal.  How does one “fix” the situation in this instance?  He davens hard when he reaches the places in Shemone Esrei asking for the rebuilding of Yerushalayim (as noted in yesterday's bulletin), and he undertakes special Mitzvos for the sake of the redemption.  His participation in the rebuilding brings him joy, much in the same way as someone still building a house envisions all of the room and conveniences it will provide when completed, or as a woman repairs the hem of a dress hums, realizing that she will be wearing it to a chasunah in just a few hours.

 

Let us begin to rejoice in the 'building' now--for there will be much more to rejoice about when our ultimate House is done, and when our great chasunah arrives.

 

 

Special Note Four  In a related vein, Rabbi Yosef Eisen, Shlita, brings an amazing teaching of the Ritva to Ta'anis 30B.  The Ritva explains that  there will be a unique Techiyas HaMeisim that occurs at the time of the rebuilding of the Bais HaMikdash which will especially occur for those who passed away in Galus but who were Mechakim LeYeshua--who awaited the redemption.  The general Techiyas HaMeisim for everyone else comes only later at the time of Final Judgment.  The Middah KeNeged Middah is as clear as it is remarkable.  Since you anticipated, you yearned, you pursued, the yeshua--you attain it far ahead of anyone else.  It's almost like the person who knows to goes quickly through the side streets to avoid the massive traffic jams at the bridge--turning a one-hour delay into a five minute ride--because he knew enough to anticipate and plan ahead---he knew how valuable the outcome really was, and succeeded to get there much faster!   

 

 

Special Note Five:  Tomorrow, we will read in the Torah the first Parsha of Shema, the cornerstone of our faith.  It is, then, no “coincidence” (as it never is) that we always read it on the Shabbos after Tisha B’Av, for it provides focus for our lives at all times and in all places.  It is certainly an extremely auspicious time now to review and renew our connection to the Shema, both as to its proper recitation, and the Halachos and Hashkofos which are associated with, and emanate from, its holy words.

 

Those who did not receive the invaluable Shema sticker handed out at the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation Tisha B'Av Event can immediately obtain copies free of charge, by contacting the foundation at 845-352-3505.  In addition to providing special reminders, it points out that between the ages of 13 and 90, reciting Shema twice a day, you will have fulfilled the Mitzvas Aseh of Kabbalas Ohl Malchus Shomayim 54, 516 times *if* you take just an extra moment at the recitation to have the right kavana!

 

We provide below only a few points regarding Shema, which we hope is only a brief starting point and motivator to improve your daily Shema (remember these words that we are privileged to recite daily are the very same words with which we conclude Neilah--the Final Service--on the Holiest Day of the Year!).

 

1.  Before reciting Shema, we should have in mind that we are fulfilling the Mitzvah of Kabbalas Ol Malchus Shomayim, and the separate Mitzvah of Kriyas Shema.

 

2. “Shema” means listen, understand and accept.

 

3.  “Yisroel” means to include **you**.  Rebbe Yisroel Salanter, Z’tl, used to say that while reciting the word “Echad,” we are to think about how Hashem By Himself rules over the Seven Heavens and the Earth, and all Four Directions of the world (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 61:4).  However, when thinking about this vast and limitless expanse--we must never forget that Hashem rules over us, as well, and we should sincerely subjugate all of our will and desires to Him.

 

4.  When reciting Hashem’s names--especially in the first two pesukim--we should understand what each name--i.e., “Hashem” and “Elokeinu,” mean and represent.  This can be accomplished quickly once you know the meanings well.

 

5.  When saying “VeAhavta (careful--emphasis on last syllable when pronouncing),” one should feel love for Hashem in his heart--at least for all the kindness that He bestows upon us!  See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 25, Mishne Berurah, seif katan 14.

 

6.  One should recite Shema from a Siddur which aids in the essential understanding of the words and in their proper pronunciation (the various Artscroll Siddurim, for instance, provide lines between words which could be slurred together if a small break is not made, and indicate through horizontal lines on the top of letters which Shevas are Sheva Na’s and which are Sheva Nach’s.

 

7.  One should not motion with his eyes or hands, even for the sake of a Mitzvah, during the first Parsha of Shema (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 63:6).

 

8.  Rabbi Moshe Goldberger, Shlita, teaches that there are seven (!) Mitzvos alone referred to in the first Parsha of Shema.

 

9.  Additionally, the first Parsha of Shema alludes to four of the Aseres HaDibros--can you find them?  The Mishne Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim, 61, seif katan 2) enumerates them.

 

10.  When reciting the words “Asher Anochi Metzavecha Hayom--that I command you **today**”--one should refresh himself with the knowledge that he has a new and special opportunity--this time--to acknowledge and properly serve His Creator!  (See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim, 61:2).

 

Once again, the above are just a few thoughts to help you get started.  May this week’s Parsha bring with it a reinvigoration of our recitation of Shema--so that we properly fulfill the words of the Navi--“Yisroel Asher Becha Espa’ar--the People of Israel--in Whom I Glory!”

 

 

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

 

1.  Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein, Shlita points out that this Shabbos is not called Shabbos Nachamu because it is a time of relaxation or comedy--but because it is a time to appreciate your closeness to HaKadosh Baruch Hu.  The notion of laxity associated with this Shabbos, and its related Motza'ei Shabbos, is immediately dispelled by the words of the Aseres HaDibros in this week’s Parsha (coincidentally?!) which read “Shamor Es Yom HaShabbos LeKadisho--watch out--this is Shabbos.”  These words should remind us that we are not to leave Tisha B’Av empty headed--but rather with mindfulness and care.

 

2.  The Rema (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 271:10) teaches that at the commencement of Kiddush one should look at the Shabbos Neiros.  The Mishna Berura brings that this provides a Segulah for Refuas Haeinayim, because running and taking large steps on Shabbos takes away 1/500 of a person’s eyesight.  What does the phrase “look at the Neiros at the commencement of Kiddush” mean--what is considered to be the beginning?  The Eliyahu Rabbah suggests that one should look at the Neiros both at the beginning of Vayechulu and then at the end of Vayechulu prior to reciting the two Brachos of Kiddush.  It would appear that not only the one making Kiddush, but all those present whom he is being Motzi, should also participate in this unique Segulah as well. 

 

3.  The Rema (ibid) then writes that one should look at the Kiddush cup when reciting Kiddush.  The Mishna Berura there explains that this will prevent any Hesech HaDa’as, any lapse in thought, because one is focused on the Kiddush cup.  It is apparent, once again, that this applies not only to the MeKadeish, the one reciting Kiddush, but also to those he is being Motzi as well.  This special focus helps relieve the Yeitzer Hara’s ‘wandering eye’ syndrome which somehow seems to take special hold at this unique time every week.

 

4.  The Gemara explains that from the one word in Yeshaya (58:13) of “Vechebadeto” we learn that we are to honor Shabbos with special clothing.  How does clothing honor Shabbos?  Rebbe Yochanan explains that clothing honors the person, which means that special clothing brings special honor.  Interestingly, Chazal (Shabbos 113B, as explained by Rashi there) go out of their way to teach that Rus put on her Shabbos clothing when going to meet Boaz.  Perhaps this is the source for the custom of some to wear their Shabbos clothing when out on Shidduchim, or when attending Chasunas.  Clearly, the clothing must be especially reserved for the Shabbos Kallah--and similarly related Kallah situations!

 

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Special Note One:  This week, we continue our extra effort for Chizuk and care in Shemiras Halashon.  The Chofetz Chaim (Hilchos Loshon Hora, Chapter 9) provides us with seven statements or expressions of Avak Loshon Hora.  It is said that Sefer Devorim begins with the word Aileh--Aleph Lamed Heh---which is an acronym for the words Avak Loshon Hora--especially warning us to be careful with speech of this kind.  Below are the Chofetz Chaim's examples of Avak Lashon Hora from which to beware (see Guard Your Tongue by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita):

 

1.  “Who would have thought that Ploni (Mr. X) would be where he is today…”  The implication to be gleaned is clear.

 

2.  “Don’t talk about Ploni--I don’t want to discuss what happened or what will be with him”. Or saying, “I don’t want to speak about Ploni because I don’t want to speak Loshon Hora.”

 

3.   Praising Ploni in front of those who dislike him (this includes his business competitors)--for we all know where this will go.

 

4.  Praising anyone excessively (for you will end up saying--“except for this” or “besides that…” or because the listeners will respond--“why do you praise him so highly? What about….”

 

5.  Praising anyone in public unless: (a) he is known as a Tzaddik, for anyone who tries to attack him will not succeed because of the Tzaddik’s reputation; or (b) you know that the listeners will not disparage him, for they do not know him.

 

6. A praise that implies a deficiency--“when he actually does something, he does it properly.”

 

7.  Praise that will result in harm or loss to (or ill will by) the individual spoken about.  For instance, “Ploni likes to cook a lot”--and, as a result, riffraff come knocking on his door, looking for meals.

 

Interestingly, the Chofetz Chaim adds that it is also Avak Loshon Hora to speak about someone in a manner which appears to be Loshon Hora (even though it really is not)--so that others suspect him of speaking Loshon Hora.  Thus, when speaking in a deprecatory manner about someone, one should explain to them why it is not Loshon Hora.

 

 

Special Note Two:  We continue with some practical lessons from Tisha B'Av, based to a large extent on the Hakhel Tisha B'Av Program (we hope to continue the lessons for a few more days as well, for they are huge and vast).  Hakhel Note:  If this was not the last Tisha B'Av in Galus, we are certainly getting much closer to that last one--wouldn't it be appropriate to gain the most that you can now--so that you can demonstrate that this Public Day of Teshuva and Mourning accomplished what it was supposed to for you while it lasted?!  We most certainly welcome and seek your own lessons and feelings as well.

 

1. The Kinnos are in disorder, with Kinnos about the Crusades interspersed among different Kinnos relating to Yerushalayim, the burning of Seforim and Yoshiyahu HaMelech, the Arzei Halevanon and children in exile, because, truth be told, our life in Galus is a life in disarray.  Nobody really wants to live with his life turned upside down.  We should pity those (and especially ourselves) who have gotten used to (and are actually content ) living in ephemeral conditions and unordinary circumstances.  Every so often--look around at the non-Torah world around you and say--'No, this is not my world'.

 

2.  Tisha B'Av is called a Mo'ed, for we 'meet' with Hashem on this day as well--the difference being that on the Yomim Tovim, the Moadim we meet with Hashem and He gives us a kiss, while on Tisha B'Av, we meet with Hashem and he gives us a potch.  Both the kiss and the potch are given out of His love for us--one is to reward us and show us how much He appreciates us, while the other is to help set us straight (Telzer Rav).  There is a significant difference, however, between the Yomim Tovim and Tisha B'Av in that the Yomim Tovim are referred to as  Mo'adei Hashem (Vayikra 23:4), while Tisha B'Av is referred to in Eicha as "Korah Alai Moed" --the Moed is called upon me.  Clearly, a Mo'ed of Hashem is superior to a Mo'ed of mine, a Mo'ed of Bnai Yisroel. We should move away from the inferior encounter to the kind of meeting that Hashem would like.  All of the Mo'adei Hashem are marked by special activities in the Bais HaMikdash, and Tisha B'Av is not marked--but marred--by the absence of all such activity.  When all is said and done, at the end of our 19 Brachos of Shemone Esrei--we finally conclude with the Yehi Ratzon SheYibaneh Bais HaMikdash for it is ONLY there that, as the Yehi Ratzon itself explains, we will:  a.  finally attain our ultimate potential in Torah;  b.  serve Hashem with ultimate Yirah; and  c.  our service to Hashem will be fully and finally pleasing to Hashem.  With this realization--that we really and truly need the Bais HaMikdash to attain our own perfection--how can we not recite these concise words of Yehi Ratzon three times a day--paying close attention to the words and with feeling?  Perhaps we can even put a hand out while reciting this all-fulfilling request, as we ask and beg Hashem for his extreme consideration.  Let us remember that everything we do now is only a replacement for the real.  We pray that "Uneshalma Forim Sefaseinu...that the sacred words uttered by our lips serve as a replacement.  Lehavdil, if you have a replacement house or a replacement car--don't you want the original back--isn't that the true one, the one that is really yours?  Let us turn to what is real:  How incredible it was (and will be!!) to enter the Bais HaMikdash and be overtaken by an air of Emunah and Yirah, of Kedusha and Tahara!  Even the clothes of the Kohanim, and their partaking of the karbanos brought great Kapparah to us.  Outside of the Bais HaMikdash, Yerushalayim teemed with Ruchniyus--as one's physical needs were often met with karbanos and Ma'aser Sheni, and everyone always had a place to s ay.  To us, this is not all a world long gone--but a world very much expected back, and very, very much needed. Truly, nothing could be more important than reaching our personal and communal spiritual potential--forever, and ever and ever.  Even outside the Shemone Esrei's conclusion we should especially focus our Kavannah when reciting the third bracha of Bentsching (Rachem Na--counting each thing we are asking Hashem to have mercy on as listed there), and at other personal times during the day.

 

3.  The word Mikdash indicates holiness.  The Palgei Mayim (the commentary of the Nesivos on Eichah) explains that the antithesis of Kedusha is Tumah--such as when the Greeks or Romans came in and defiled the Mikdash.  Something we can do now to demonstrate our affinity to Mikdash is to bring Kedusha into our lives through acts of Kiddush Hashem (such as being punctilious in financial matters), and going to special lengths in avoid Tumah --avoiding and rejecting the pritzus around us --especially during the difficult (but potentially highly rewarding) summer months.

 

4.  A final note for today:  As Rabban Gamliel pointed out above--as of yesterday there were two months to Yom Kippur.  This also means that there are 49 days from today to Rosh Hashana!  It is no coincidence, as it never is, that there are 50 days of growth which connect Pesach and Shavuos, and 50 days of growth that connect Tisha B'Av and Rosh Hashana.  It is truly a great imperative to take the thoughts that we had and thoughts that we heard, the hirhurei Teshuva, that we experienced on Tisha B'Av and utilize them as we grow over the next 49 days. Most certainly, no one would fault you for counting the days up or down to Rosh Hashana--beginning today!

 

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Special Note One:  Short Quiz:

 

1.  In last week’s Parsha (always read before Tisha B’Av), Rashi teaches us an incredible fact.  On the words “Ba'eir Es HaTorah--explaining the Torah” (Devorim 1:5), Rashi brings the Medrash that Moshe Rabbeinu explained the Torah to the Bnei Yisroel in 70 languages.  Why?  After all, the people in the Desert knew Lashon Hakoesh and maybe a little Egyptian, but why teach them in 70 languages?!

 

2.  How many different names or titles is the Bais Hamikdash given in Sefer Eichah alone?  What does that teach us?

 

3.  If you were given a 10 minute notice that Eliyahu HaNavi was about to arrive-- or even a one-minute notice--how would you prepare?

 

 

Special Note Two:  Yirmiyahu HaNavi (Yirmiyahu 2:5), in the Haftora we recently read teaches us that the people severely erred because “VaYelchu Acharei Hahevel Va’Yehbalu--and they went after nothingness and turned into nothingness.”

 

There is a great, yet simple and practical lesson here--you are that which you pursue.  For example, if a person pursues Torah, he becomes a “Ben Torah.”  If, on the other hand, he pursues Lashon Hora, he becomes a “Baal Lashon Hora.”  Everybody has to take a good look at what they really are pursuing.  There is an old quip about an uneducated Jew who came to Shul, and was asked by the Gabbai whether he was a Kohen, Levi or Yisroel.  He responded: “I am none of those.  I am a businessman!”  We, as educated Jews, have to make sure that it is clear to us--and to others--who we really are, and where our primary focus is.

 

It is interesting to note that HaRav Dovid Kviat, z'tl, (the “Sukkas Dovid,” one of the senior Rabbonim in America today) when asked to make a remark to children (on Torah Umesorah’s “Shanghai Miracle” audio-visual presentation) asked them one thing only--to “Learn with Cheshek”--with enthusiasm.  Are we any different than children in this regard?  May we suggest that at the end of the day, one thinks to oneself--what did I pursue today--what did I do with enthusiasm?

 

It is up to us whether we pursue nothing and become nothing, or whether we pursue a life of Torah fulfillment--and literally become models for the entire world!

 

 

Special Note Three:  In the unparalleled Artscroll Kinos, by Rabbi Avraham Chaim Feuer, Shlita, Rabbi Feuer writes the following in the course of his introduction:

 

“The tears of kinnos are a never-ending stream.  When I began to translate and elucidate the Kinnos on the day after Succos, I called my rebbe, HaRav Mordechai Gifter, Shlita, and asked, ‘How can I get into the mood of writing about Kinnos just a day after Simchas Torah, while all the happy tunes of joy still resonate in my ears and Tishah B’Av is still so far off in the future?  Who can think of Kinnos now?’

 

“He replied, ‘You are mistaken. Kinnos are not only for Tishah B’Av, they are for the entire year, except that throughout the year we recite Kinnos in a whisper, while on Tishah B’Av we shout them out loud!  Whoever neglects Kinnos all year long and attempts to start reciting them on Tishah B’Av will not succeed in saying them even then, because he will recite the verses without any feeling and he will become bored.  We must cry and mourn over the Churban all year long, in every season, and then our Kinnos will reach their climax of pain on Tishah B’Av.’

 

“This concept of regular mourning over the Churban is codified in the very first chapter of Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 1:3).  It is proper for every G-d-fearing person to feel and anguish over the destruction of the Holy Temple .

 

“The Sfas Emes was once asked, ‘And what should someone do if he feels no anguish over the Churban of the Temple ?’  The Rebbe replied, ‘Then he should be consumed with pain and anguish over his own personal Churban.  If a Jew doesn’t feel real pain over the Churban, it shows that his soul is in a wretched, abysmal state!’

 

“True, kinnos are for all year round--but when does one begin to develop a feeling for them?  On Tishah B’Av.  If one truly comprehends and feels the Kinnos he recites on this day, he will be inspired to refer back to them throughout the year….”

 

 

Special Note Four:  Although Tisha B’Av is a sad and mournful time, it does not mean that we should quickly move away and shut the door on its meaning and import in our daily lives.  Indeed, it is interesting to note that immediately after teaching us the Halachos of Tisha B’Av, the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 560) provides us with the Halachos of what we must do Zecher L’Churban, in remembrance of the Churban--every day.

 

Accordingly, we provide below only a few lessons one could glean from Tisha B’Av:

 

1.      Kinah 29 states “Siman Tov L’Adom…--it is a good sign for a person if he is not eulogized or buried properly…. let him not fear the day of wrath.”  The Artscroll commentary explains that death in this way serves to fully purge a person of any stain on his soul caused by sin, and that such a person will be spared the punishments of the next world (Sanhedrin 46B; 47A).  This should serve as a great consolation for all of us who had relatives that perished in the Holocaust in so many diverse and cruel ways.

 

2.      Dovid HaMelech, in perhaps the most renowned chapter of Tehillim (Chapter 130) begins “Shir HaMaalos Mi’maa’makim--a Song of Ascents.  From the depths I called you…”  HaRav Klonymous Kalman Shapiro, Zt’l, H’yd, (the Rebbe of Piazeczna) taught the following about the word “Mi’Maa’makim” to the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto with him:  Sometimes a person is in a situation from which he cannot extricate himself barring an absolute miracle.  For example, the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto, especially after the uprising.  Dovid HaMelech, by using the word “Mi’Maa’makim,” refers to this kind of situation, for he does not refer to only one singular depth (which would be Emek), but to the depth of the depths (Mi’Maa’Makim, in the plural).  The Piazeczner concluded that Dovid HaMelech was teaching us that we cry out to Hashem whether or not we can reasonably be saved--for there are two kinds of prayer.  The first, basic type of prayer is to make requests of Hashem, the Omnipotent One.  The second, more sublime prayer is one in which one prays not to achieve a personal request, but only to connect and cleave to Hashem.  This is the “Mi’Maa’Makim” in which we cry out to Hashem--not only because we realize that He is the only source of our salvation, but also to demonstrate to Him that, when all is said and done, what we ultimately seek is dveykus with Him.

 

3.      The Telzer Rav Zt’l, H’yd, before being murdered, was beaten by a ruthless Nazi with a hammer.  “Herr Rabbiner! Where is your G-d now?” he mocked.  The Telzer Rav responded, “He is your G-d too--and you will find that out later!”  Whenever we recite Av HaRachamim (on Shabbos or after Yizkor), we should take the few moments necessary to recite it slowly and thoughtfully (some actually stand, as a symbol of respect, but this is not required by Halacha).  Remember, we are praying not only for the Kedoshim, but also for the honor of Hashem and His People.

 

4.      The Pasuk in Eichah (1:2) states “Bocho Tivkeh Ba’Layla V’Dimasah…--cry, cry at night, and its tears….”  The Medrash teaches that there are three words for crying at the outset of Eicha to teach us that there are three tears--one for the first Bais HaMikdash, a second for the second Bais HaMikdash, and a third either for the Bitul Torah that the Churban has caused to this very day (we cannot attain our full potential without a Bais HaMikdash), or for the Kavod Yisroel, the honor of our People, which has been disgraced and defiled even by the nations which are friendly to us.  Thus, the last tear referred to in Eichah is being shed for us!

 

5.      What is left of the great Roman Empire are the many ruins in the ancient city of Rome together with the Arch of Titus, which remains standing, as if to remind us that although Rome and all those like it in history are gone, we are still in Galus, and that we should not forget it.  If we don’t picture the Arch of Titus in front of us to remind us of our plight, then every person can find his own simple method to help put things in perspective daily.  We may suggest:

  1. Reciting Tehillim Chapter 79 daily with feeling.

  2. Thinking about what a small percentage of World Jewry are Torah Jews, and how many Jews are being lost to Judaism **daily** through intermarriage and attrition--for no other reason than the churban we find ourselves in--and davening especially for them every day.  

6. Finally, it is important to note that Chazal teach that both Nevuzradan (the Chief General of the Babylonians), and Nero (the first Chief General of the Romans to besiege Yerushalayim at the time of the Churban) realized that the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash that they were involved in was only by the Hand of Hashem.  They each fled and converted to Judaism.  Perhaps this is to teach us that, ultimately, all the nations of the world will have the proper perspective on life.  It is up to us now to live each and every precious day of our life--a day in which we are a step ahead of the rest of the entire world (!)--staying as close to Hashem as possible in everything that we do--so that by next year, when Tisha B’Av arrives, we will experience the greatest joy possible, with the rebuilding of the Bais HaMikdash and the World in all of its Glory!

 

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Special Note One:  Several brief notes relating to the time period we are in, which we noted last year at this difficult time:

a.       The Gedolim of the previous generation determined that Tisha B’Av is the day to express our mourning over the Churban Europe.  As we cry over the Six Million Souls that were lost to us and all of the related harm, injury and destruction to those who survived, we must remember not to get lost in the numbers of hundreds of thousands and millions, but to remember each Neshama, and multiply it by millions.  A Holocaust Survivor, who had approximately 13 uncles and brothers who were murdered, observed one Yahrzeit for them all on Asara BeTeves, since he did not know the specific dates upon which each of them was killed (this is a practice among many, picking a date that a ghetto was liquidated, or that a transport arrived in a death camp).  He approached HaRav Chaim Baruch Faskowitz, Z’tl, on Asara BeTeves and asked if a Kel Moleh Rachamim could be made for them.  HaRav Faskowitz himself took the Sefer Torah and began to recite the Kel Moleh.  As the man was about to give him the list of all of the names to be inserted in the one spot, HaRav Faskowitz stopped him and advised him that he would making each one a separate Kel Moleh, for each of them had his own life, and that there would be no wholesale prayers or rememberances.  About half way through the Kel Molehs, HaRav Faskowitz could no longer bear reciting brother after brother, name after name, which concluded with the same father--“Ben Noach”--and with the Sefer Torah in hand, sat down crying, as his Kehilla cried with him.  Hakhel Note: HaRav Faskowitz’s Yahrzeit is on Tisha B’Av.

b.      The Rambam rules that one could r’l be chayav kares for entering certain areas of the Har HaBayis even in our day.  This is because “Kedusha Rishona Kidsha L’Sha’ata, V’Kidsha L’Osid Lavo”--the holiness initially instilled there never left, notwithstanding the destruction, devastation and defilement of the Makom HaMikdash.  This is an incredible teaching!  The area of the Bais HaMikdash is holy now--and we are missing it!  To analogize (lehavdil), in a material sense, imagine if someone was handed the title and keys to a brand new Lexus (with all gadgetry) and was told that he could not drive it, or that the most sumptuous steak and wine dinner was placed before him, with the reservation that he could look at it as much as he pleased, but that he could not eat it.  This kind of reality is even more painful in the spiritual sense, because unlike materialism which is fleeting, ruchniyus is, in fact, eternal--and every moment that we miss is a missed opportunity of eternity.

c.       With this understanding, we can appreciate an important teaching of HaRav Meir Schuck, Z’tl.  HaRav Schuck poses the following question both with respect to the brocha in Shemone Esrei relating to the rebuilding of Yerushalayim, and the third brocha of Birchas HaMazon relating to the rebuilding of Yerushalayim.  Each of these brochos request “U’Venei”--that Hashem rebuild Yerushalayim for us “B’mheira B’Yameinu--in the near future.”  Yet, each brocha concludes with the words “Boneh Yerushalayim”--which means that Hashem is building Yerushalayim now.  Which is it?  Will Hashem build Yerushalayim soon--or is Hashem building Yerushalayim right now (in the present tense)?  HaRav Schuck answers that if we sincerely look for the rebuilding of Yerushalayim than Hashem is, in fact, building it now.  It really is dependent on our feeling, our sensitivity, our desire, our will.  How great!  When we recite the words “U’venei Yerushalayim”, or “HaMachazir Shechinaso L’Tzion” with real sincerity, Hashem is building Yerushalayim as we meaningfully pray for it!  This is something for us to remember every day--three times daily!  Hakhel Note: HaRav Schuck's Yahrtzeit is on Tisha B'Av.

 

Special Note Two:  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, was asked whether we will continue to fast if the Moshiach came on Tisha B’Av.  He answered that it will depend if the Moshiach came before Chatzos or after Chatzos ( 1:02 New York time).  If the Moshiach comes after Chatzos, we will complete the day in fasting, for Tisha B’Av is not only a day of mourning, but a day of Teshuva, as well.  Let us not forget to do Teshuva on Tisha B’Av--wouldn’t it be so remarkable and special if the Moshiach actually came while you were doing Teshuva?

 

Special Note Three:  We provide the following Pesakim from the Sefer Ashrei HaIsh (Pesakim of HaRav Elyashiv, Shlita by Rabbi Yechezkel Feinhandler, Shlita) and from the Sefer Kovetz Halachos (Pesakim of HaRav Shmuel Kamenetsky, Shlita by Rabbi Doniel Kleinman, Shlita) relating to Tisha B'Av:

 

From the Sefer Ashrei HaIsh:

 

1. There are various degrees as to the extent one should clean/wash his hands after having touched a covered part of the body, his shoes, or dirtied part of his hand but not the whole hand.  Hakhel Note:  One should consult with his Rav or Posek as to the specific rules.

 

2.  One who rides on a bus on the night of Tisha B'Av or before Chatzos can sit on the regular seat (without having to remain standing), as this is not considered a special act of pleasure or comfort.  Of course, the same would be true for a cab ride, and one would not have to make himself uncomfortable in some way.

 

3.  One should not fly on Tisha B'Av, as it constitutes a Hesech HaDa'as from the Ta'anis.

 

4.  Although one should not say Shalom or Good Morning in the morning, wishing someone Mazel Tov is permissible.

 

5.  If someone has taken upon himself to go to the Kosel for 40 days in a row and recite Shir HaShirim as a segulah for a shidduch, he should go to the Kosel at the same time on Tisha B'Av but not recite Shir HaShirim (as it is Tisha B'Av), and then go back later after Tisha B'Av and recite Shir HaShirim.  With this, he should not lose the segulah.

 

6.  HaRav Elyashiv rules that although the area adjacent to the Kosel has the din of a Bais Tefillah, and although one should of course honor the makom and keep it clean, we should not clean the stones of the Kosel from the dirt that has accumulated since the Churban, for the darkened stones and any growing vegetation bring us to the realization of Churban--and serve as a constant reminder to us  to continue to beg and plead with Hashem for His mercy to restore the stones to their pristine state--it may be that because of these prayers the time will come when Hashem will replace the old black and uneven green with the glow and shine, with the wondrous splendor of everlastingly new and brilliant stones!

 

From the Sefer Kovetz Halachos:

 

1.  The requirement to sit on the ground begins immediately at Bain Hashemashos on Leil Tisha B'Av. If one is sitting on the ground itself (as opposed to a low chair), he does not have to put something like an article of clothing or towel between his body and the ground. While on or close to the ground (until Chatzos), one does not have to stand up for a zaken or talmid chochom who passes by, just as an avel is patur from this Mitzvah..

 

2. Although one can not greet another, one can say Lehitraot, or Refuah Shelaima, because these do not involve She'ailas Sholom.  One should in any event not engage in unnecessary conversation, because it removes one's mind from what it should be thinking about-- teshuva and aveilus of the rabim. Similarly, one should not take a baby unto his lap when not necessary, for he may come to laughter.

 

3. Although in Shul the lights are dimmed, they need not be dimmed in the home.

 

4. Whenever one sleeps on Tisha B'Av (day or night) he should take away something from his usual custom, so that he is 'mitzta'er ketzas'--a little pained or put out (such as one less pillow or the like).

 

5. One can complete reciting Kinnos after Chatzos, if necessary.

 

7.It is permissible to say Tehillem for one who is ill at any time on Tisha B'Av; one who usually recites  a certain number of Kepitelach every day can recite them after Chatzos.

 

8. On Tisha B'Av there is an absolute requirement of Talmud Torah--but only of the sefarim that it is permissible to learn.

 

9.It is best for men to daven Mincha early on Tisha B'Av, so that they can put on Tefillen at the earliest possible time.  Hakhel Note:  The mother of Rabbi Mordechai Zuckerman, Shlita, a noted Talmud Chochom in Yerushalayim, davened Mincha close to sunset (which is usually preferred, see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 233:1) every day of the year, except Tisha B’Av, when she would daven Mincha as early in the day as was possible.  Rabbi Zuckerman asked his mother why her practice on Tisha B’Av was different than the other days of the year.  She responded that the Mincha of Tisha B’Av is the one time during the year where we add a special Tefillah, asking Hashem to “Nachem”, to console, the mourners of Zion and Yerushalayim.  She simply could not wait to daven Mincha until later, as this would mean an extra few hours of delay in begging Hashem to console us.

 

 

Special Note Four:  The Gemara (Megilla 21A) teaches that Moshe Rabbeinu would learn the more difficult laws and concepts of the Torah sitting down.

 

As we sadly noted last year, if we have to sit down this Tisha B’Av, we should take the time out to go over in our mind some of the difficult concepts that we tend to ignore, or at least avoid, during the rest of the year—the churbonos and the tzaros that have accompanied us through the ages and into our day.

 

Can we not shed a tear over:

  • The pain of the Shechina over the chillul Hashem of the Galus (the Father’s pain is greater than the child’s)

  • The void left by the Beis Hamikdosh that is not with us and the concomitant void of sanctity within us (we could be closer to angels, and not closer to animals)

  • The honor of Klal Yisroel that has been cast to the ground and trampled upon

  • The hundreds of thousands of Russian Jews who have been numbed by Communism

  • The sorry hatred of secular Jews to Torah Jews

  • The  Shapiros and Horowitzes of the world who are not Jewish

  • The Crusades

  • The Pogroms

  • The 1648-1649 Massacres

  • The Holocaust

  • The Sbarros bombing, the bombing of Bus Number 2, the Leil HaSeder Attack, the drive-by murders, the tractor terror, the Mosad HaRav murders, the hundreds of other terrorist attacks, the murders and maimings, the mortars and bombs, the soldiers and the children all under attack

  • All of the unnecessary sickness and suffering for 2000 years (multiplied by each second of pain)

  • The desolation and ruination of the Har Habayis, Har Hazeisim, Chevron, Teveria…

  • Sinas Chinam—smiling at the mishap of another, failing to properly rejoice at another’s simcha, and finding it hard to accept another's honor and success

  • The Jews who do not even know that Tisha B’Av exists

  • The Jews who know that Tisha B’Av exists and do not grow in their resolve to do something to end this Churban as soon as possible

The Navi (Yeshaya 1:3, which we read as part of last week’s Haftora) teaches “Ami Lo Hisbonan--My nation did not consider.” 

Rashi adds that the people knew they were acting improperly but “tread with their heels” on this knowledge, and simply “did not take it to heart.” 

We all know too well the desperate straits we are in at this time, in which we deal with the Churban of Eretz Yisroel and Yerushalayim--the defiling of a land and of a people on the one hand; and the turmoil in Eretz Yisroel today--upon which the nations of the world have heaped additional disgrace and scorn, on the other. 

Haven’t we yet reached a point where we will, as the Navi asks, at least “consider”? It is not, it cannot, and should not, be beyond us to go off into a room--our bedroom, dining room, study, or even the floor somewhere, to sit down and cry: “Oh, what has befallen us! A nation in ruins, the holiest people on Earth berated by the lowest nations on Earth. What makes us better today than the captives of Judea taken by the Romans more than 1940 years ago.  We cannot allow ourselves to be fooled by the amenities, luxuries, or even just the relative comfort in which we live. We have been in exile far too long, and the longer we are here, the worse off we are.

L’Maaseh, living with reality and practically speaking, we are walking about badly wounded in this bitter exile.  Even in Eretz Yisroel itself, the very Holy Land , an estimated 40,000 Russian-manufactured missiles, many of which possess long-range capability, are said to be available in Lebanon alone (without even including what the murderers have in Gaza ).

We cannot be ashamed to cry. Ashamed?!--Why, and from whom?! Why can we not pour out our hearts to Hashem, as Yirmiyahu HaNavi cries out (Eicha 2:19) “Shifchi Kamayim Libeich--pour out your heart [to Hashem] like water.” 

At least today, on the eve of Tisha B’Av, and no less certainly tomorrow itself, on the day of pain and mourning over the Chilul Hashem that exists in the world today, over Hashem’s pain which is infinitely greater than ours, over a world that has been lowered to the bottom of the bottom-most depths, over all the individual and communal pain and anguish, over these and much more, we must cry real, very real, tears. 

Yirmiyahu HaNavi further teaches (31:14), “A voice is heard on high, lamentation, bitter weeping, Rochel weeping for her children, she refuses to be comforted for her children, for they are not.” On this Pasuk, the Mahari Kara (in the Mikraos Gedolos) writes that Rochel Imeinu represents K’lal Yisroel, and that our weeping in exile is heard by Hashem’s ears. 

So, as much as we would not like to, we must cry--really cry. We must realize that we are in the nadir of our exile. The Tay-Sachs test, when originally developed, required a person to shed a tear, which was then tested. One had to think of something sad to shed that tear. Is it such a great challenge to cry unabashedly over an unfulfilled world, over the world’s most precious possessions disgraced and derided, over all the unnecessary anguish, unnecessary suffering, destruction, and death that we are currently experiencing?

If, for some reason you cannot cry--at least cry out--as our forefathers did in Mitzrayim. Remember, the gates of tears--and the gates of ruchniyus--are never closed. If we have to sit on the floor in a few hours, it should do more than cause us some temporary physical pain. Plead to Hashem as Dovid HaMelech does: “El Dimosi Al Techerash--Do not be silent to my tears!” (Tehillim 39:13) Hashem, I will not find comfort with the few pleasures I have when the Heavens and the Earth writhe in pain! 

Please join with your brothers this Tisha B’Av, as our sincere tears and cries reach the Heavens. 

May these tears and cries turn into overflowing sounds of salvation for each and every one of us, as we join together to witness the comforting of our people and the ultimate final and glee-filled redemption--speedily and in our days.

 

MAY WE BE ZOCHE TO NECHOMAS TZION VEYERUSHALAYIM THIS TISHA B'AV.  ALL WHO MOURN OVER YERUSHALAYIM WILL BE ZOCHE TO SEE ITS REBUILDING!

 

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Special Note One:  Relating the Bain Odom Le Chaveiro improvement Bulletin of the other day, a reader commented on how important refined and proper speech is in the area of Shidduchim.  He related how he recalls that his mother would use words like “We're busy now”, rather than something like “This is not for us.”   Hakhel Note:  We must add that being involved in Shidduchim is not limited to the Bain Odom LeChaveiro realm at all.  Indeed, it is in this area that, according to Chazal, Hashem Himself 'spends his days', so to speak.  When one gets involved in helping others with Shidduchim, he is performing Hashem's shlichus here on earth. Indeed, Chazal teach that on Shabbos one's business affairs may not be tended to, but that 'Cheftzei Shomayim--Hashem's affairs' may be tended to.  As an example of Cheftzei Shomayim that one may undertake on Shabbos, Chazal (Shabbos 150A) specifically refer to being “meshadech tinokos'--arranging for matches even for young girls.  We conclude that when choosing a Chesed to get especially involved in--one should pay special attention to Shidduchim--after all, it knows no weekday bounds--and is an ultimate activity with which Hashem Himself stays very much involved. In addition to being Hashem's shaliach down here--you will be emulating your Creator as well!

 

 

Special Note Two:  As many may know, today is the Yahrzeit of the Arizal.  It is particularly noteworthy during this time of year that the Arizal is known for instructing us to be mekabel the Mitzvas Aseh of VeAhavta LeRayacha Komocha before davening.  What greater Mitzvah can we be involved in on his Yahrzeit--knowing that our lack of brotherhood (Sinas Chinam) drove us away from meriting the Bais Hamikdash--and how its repair --through VeAhavta LeRayacha Komocha -can bring us back home.  There is a fascinating Maharal at the outset of Sefer Gevaras Hashem, in which the Maharal explains that the word for exile (Golah--Gimel, Lamed, Heh), and the word for redemption (Goel--Gilel, Aleph, Heh) are different in that the word for exile contains a Heh, and the word for redemption contains an Aleph.  He explains as follows:  A Heh has the numerical equivalent of five--and this symbolizes the four corners of an object (such as the earth), together with its fifth point-- its center.  The letter Aleph has a numerical equivalent of one--symbolizing the center point which unites all else around.  In the Galus we are in, we are spread to the four corners of the world--but we have not lost the center--the power of unity that brings us all together (as most recently evidenced in our campaigns for Martin Grossman, a'h', and yblc't, R'Shalom Rubashkin).  We must always remember that our Galus is not marked by a Daled--with only four corners--but instead is made up of a Heh -- a fifth point at the center at which the four points can unite.  We have not lost this bond in thousands of years--as Jews from such diverse Galus-countries as Afghanistan , Argentina , Russia , France and the United States will all get together in camaraderie and to help each other.  This link has never been, and will never be, broken. Our role in Galus is to bring the four corners closer and closer towards the middle point--bonding closer and closer to achieve an Aleph.  When we have made sufficient gains with each other-- we will be zoche to bond with Hashem in the Bais HaMikdash again. When this happens and the Geulah Shelaima comes--the Aleph will be permanent--and our bonds with ourselves with Hashem will be unshakable, unbreakable, eternal and everlasting.

 

 

Special Note Three:  Today is also the Yahrzeit of HaRav Chaim Oizer Grodzinski, Z'tl, who passed away in 1940. It is said that just as the passing of the tzaddik Iyov in Cana'an allowed the Bnai Yisroel entry into the land because the tzaddik could no longer protect the inhabitants, so too lehavdil did the passing of HaRav Chaim Oizer remove the protection that K'lal Yisroel desparately needed from the ruthless enemies yimach shemam, who proceeded to devastate our people.  We see the power of one person--and how he can affect and protect so many.  Although HaRav Chaim Oizer was known as the Ga'on HaDor ( he could write two Teshuvos at a time with two pens in his hand), he was also known for his great tzidkus.  He was once not feeling well, and ruled that he was Patur from staying in his Sukkah as a Mitzta'eir.  A Rav from another place came to visit, and was given a meal in the Sukkah, but was advised that HaRav Chaim Oizer could not join him because he was not feeling well.  A few minutes later, HaRav Chaim Oizer came into the Sukkah.  The Rav asked him not to stay--for, after all, he was ill and a Mitzta'eir.  HaRav Chaim Oizer refused to leave --and advised the Rav that a Mitzta'eir is Patur from the Sukkah-but not from the privilege of Hachnosas Orchim!  On another occasion, a wagon driver burst into a meeting he was in and shouted--”I am a Kohen-can I take a Gerusha ( a divorced woman)?!” HaRav Chaim Oizer softly turned to him and said yes, that would not be a problem at all. All the onlookers were amazed--firstly, how could he be so calm at the brash Chutzpa of the wagon driver bursting in. Secondly, a Kohen cannot marry a divorced woman--why here did Rav Chaim seemingly permit it?  Rav Chaim explained--that this man's Parnassah is to take people in his wagon where he can make a little bit of money to support his family.  He had a potential customer for his wagon--who was a divorced women.  In his limited Torah background, he had learned or heard that a Kohen could not 'take' (really meaning marry), a divorced woman.  As he was a Kohen, he was worried that he would lose the customer--and wanted to know if it was really true that a Kohen could not 'take' a divorced woman--to where she had to go.  Rav Chaim--in his great Torah wisdom matched only by his Chesed--figured this all out within the moment!  Just two of the multitude of instances in which Rav Chaim combined his Torah with his Ahavas Yisroel--the mark of our people--and the mantra of its leaders!

 

 

Special Note Four:  We continue our series on Chizuk and care in Shemiras Halashon.  We spoke to a Posek on the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation Shemiras Halashon Shaila Hotline, who has been answering Shailos on the hotline for approximately fifteen years.  Following are a few of the questions we asked:

 

1.  Q:  Is Jewish Geography (Oh, you're from Detroit --do you know...) always forbidden?  A. No, it is forbidden only if you are worried that the question will lead to Lashon Hora.  For instance, if the person you would like to ask about is someone who has a tainted past, or if the person you are asking does not appear to be prudent, one should not initiate the Jewish Geography conversation.

 

2.  Q.  If one violates the prohibition of Nekama (Ba'al Tikom), has he also automatically violated a second prohibition of Netira (Ba'al Titor)?  A.  Yes.

 

3.   Q.  If someone says in one sentence:  “Reuven is both very sloppy and ignorant,” --has he committed one aveira of Lashon Hora or two?  A.  It appears that these are two separate aveiros of Lashon Hora.  Additionally, the word 'very' further negatively impacts upon the quality of the aveira committed--the aveira is worse.

 

4.  Q.  When judging someone favorably, should someone first think about the fact that he is fulfilling the Mitzvas Aseh of BeTzedek Tishpot Amisecha?  A.  Actually, it should be so second nature to judge someone favorably, that one shouldn't have an initial negative reaction which then has to be corrected.  So, ideally, one should not have this pre-Kavannah in mind!

 

5.  Q.  Is it forbidden to show someone an article or letter with typographical or other errors if your intent is to really show them the content--but you know that the typos or mistakes in grammar are quite noticeable?  A.  It is permitted, if it is not your intent to poke fun or malign, but rather to supply the information contained in the writing to the other person, who will understand it that way.

 

To ask your own real life shailos (relating to shidduchim, business, neighborly relations, friends, etc.), you may call the Shemiras Halashon Shaila Hotline for a confidential P'sak, at 718-951-3696--evenings from 9PM to 10:30 PM New York time--and in emergencies.  Shemiras Halashon books, CD's, machsom lefi's, and The Shemiras Halashon Shaila Hotline--as we move closer to Moshiach's times we are given more and more of the wherewithal--and the amenities--to make it happen.  Let us take advantage of each and every one of them!

 

 

Special Note Five:  In a masterful shiur shown as part of the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation Torah Video Series, Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, Shlita recently explained some of the basic parameters of Tzipisa LeYeshua--Awaiting The Redemption.  The term 'tzipisa' is especially used by Chazal because it describes someone looking out in search of something--such as someone standing on a mountain in anticipation of the caravan with the life-sustaining supplies (Har Hatzofim has the same root).  It describes a state of real eagerness and anticipation, something that one really needs and has to have.  On a more advanced level, it is really an existential longing--as the longing of a parent, sibling or child who has not seen their beloved relative in more than five years.  As the feeling of what one is lacking continues to grow, so too does the intensity of his lacking.  Rabbi Kleinman very importantly teaches that we can demonstrate our earnest and true yearning not only in our Tefillos and in our tears, but also by our conduct in the world that we live in.  After all, our yearning is for the Shechina to return and for us to be closer to it.  We can bring the Shechina into our lives--in this world--through Kiddush Shem Shomayim, through the study of Torah, and through the care with which we undertake and perform Mitzvos.  If we can demonstrate to Hashem, and to ourselves, that we want to be closer to the Shechina in the very world that we live in--then Hashem will middah kenegged middah bring the Shechina closer to us in a grand and eternal way--speedily and in our days.

 

Hakhel Note: Rabbi Kleinman's newest compelling Sefer, Yearning with Fire (Artscroll), is on this very topic of practical fulfillment of Tzipisa LeYeshua, in which he develops and explains how we can do our part *in this world*in these the last throngs of our Galus--and thereby once and for all not only be zoche to the yeshua's anticipation --but to its full and final fulfillment! 

 

 

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

 

  What more needs be said about the Kedusha of Shabbos than-- even as the intensity of the Nine Days grows --many of us today will take hot showers and put on our Shabbos finest!  The power of Kavod Shabbos and of Oneg Shabbos (on Shabbos itself) simply overtake the limitations and prohibitions of the point in time we may otherwise find ourselves in.  We urge our readers to turn to Yeshaya 58:13, which perhaps contains more Shabbos instructions than any one Pasuk in all of Tanach.  In this Pasuk, we are taught about Kavod Shabbos, Oneg Shabbos, a required No-Business Mode, and the need to even walk and talk differently on Shabbos, all of which are defined in Halacha (See, for example, Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 242:1  and first Mishna Berurah there, and ibid., 301:1-6, and 307).  Interestingly, just like the rules of the Bais HaMikdash are different in many respects from Yerushalayim which adjoins it--so too is the course of one's conduct on Shabbos--to the point of talking and walking --different than the rest of the week!  Since one is overcoming the Nine Day Halachos that would otherwise apply because of the requirements contained in this Pasuk, it would appear meaningful to take a few moments on Shabbos to study the Pasuk, and at least some of the related Halachos (cites referenced above) which emanate from it.  We will leave you only with the additional thought that if one views (and studies) the Pasuk immediately preceding and the Pasuk immediately succeeding our Pasuk of Yeshaya 58:13 and its fulfillment --perhaps he will gain an even greater appreciation of the well-known Shabbos Zimra “Mai'ain Olam Haba--Yom Shabbos Menucha!”

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We are excited to provide by the following link http://www.prayingwithfire.org/images/Newsletter8.pdf   the eighth issue of the Praying with Passion Series, with the issue focused on Yigdal, produced by The V’Ani Tefillah Foundation.  Please spread this especially useful and inspirational publication to others!

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Special Note One:  Those who may have counted, or at least focused upon, the number to times we mention “Leivav", as opposed to simply “Lev” in davening, will have noticed that in Kriyas Shema we do mention the word “Libecha” or “Libechem” at all--but *always* use a word with the double vais, such as “Levavecha” and “Levavchem”.  In fact, there are six times in Shema after our 'Kabolas Ol Malchus Shomayim' in the first Pasuk in which we use the root “Levav”, indicating that we will serve Hashem both with our Yetzer Hatov and our Yetzer Hara.  Each one of these six points can serve as a special point of refocus during our recitation of Shema.

 

 

Special Note Two:  Today is the Yahrzeit of the Maharam MiPanu (R’Menachem Azarya ben R’Yitzchak Berechia), Z’tl.  The Maharam taught that the word Tzedaka in "Aat Bosh" (equating the first letter and the first letter of the Aleph Bais, the second letter with the second to last letter, the third letter with the third to last letter, through the whole Aleph Bais ) also spells Tzedaka --with the tzadik (the fifth letter from the end of the Aleph Bais) being the equivalent of the hey (the fifth letter from the beginning of the Aleph Bais), and the daled (fourth letter from beginning)being the equivalent of the kuf (fourth letter from end), and the same analysis continuing for the final two letters of Tzedaka--the kuf and the heh.  Tzedaka is thus Tzedaka--no matter which end of the Aleph Bais you start from!  The great lesson is that one who gives Tzedaka in the beginning (represented by counting from the beginning of the Aleph Bais)--loses nothing, for Hashem ensures that in one way or another he receives it all back (represented by the counting from the end of the Aleph Bais).  Let us remember these words as we prepare to give Tzedaka over the next several days in order to fulfill the words of the Navi Yeshaya--“VeShaveha Be'Tzedaka--and those who return…with acts of charity!”  If you need an important Tzedaka address to help feed the poor in Eretz Yisroel--we refer you to yadeliezer.org

 

 

Special Note Three:  Many Halachic issues arise during the Nine Days, and perhaps a Rav must be consulted more often during these days than throughout the year.  At a recent Hakhel Shiur, Rabbi Dovid Ribiat, Shlita, provided an important guideline in areas of doubt or in instances when your Rav is not reachable:  Remember, you are observing this period because of the “Shechinta BeGalusa--the Shechina is in Galus.”  If the issue at hand it is a question of your personal comfort, you should  remember that the Shechina is also not comfortable.  He ruled, for example, that while it may be permissible to sleep on freshly laundered linen in your hotel room because you ostensibly have no choice--it would truly be better for you to bring your own linen from home, or at least try to make the linen not feel so freshly laundered.  It is not a matter of how to treat yourself--but how you feel towards the Shechina, and the rest of us suffering in Galus together with you. 

 

Special Note Four:  Today is marked on the Jewish calendar in an incredible way.  On the Fourth day of Av, Nechemiah, the leader of the Jewish people who had returned from Galus Bavel, began to repair the broken walls of Yerushalayim. Indeed, portions of this rebuilt wall can still be seen today.  The repair process took 52 days, and was completed on the 25th of Elul.  Thus, the 'repair' of Yerushalayim began during the very Nine Day Period in which we commemorate and commiserate over its destruction and loss.  It is no coincidence, as it never is, that those studying Daf Yomi, spent a couple of days beginning on *Rosh Chodesh Av* (and in Mesechta Shevuos of all places!) describing Nechemiah’s rededication of the Azara in the Bais HaMikdash at the outset of Bayis Sheni as well.  There is no doubt that the time period we are in reverberates with our relationship to Yerushalayim and the Bais HaMikdash.  It is up to us to steer it away from the direction of destruction and ruin and towards the course of an everlasting rebuilding and rededication.

 

HaRav Elyashiv, Shlita, makes a wonderful point in this regard.  Chazal teach that when adding on to the Mikdash, one of the chapters of Tehillim that was recited was Tehillim Chapter 30, appropriately entitled “Mizmor Shir Chanukas HaBayis LeDovid--a song for the inauguration of the Bais HaMikdash by Dovid HaMelech.”  We are all very familiar with this Kepital, for we recite it in Shacharis every morning, and daily on Chanukah when we also commemorate the rededication of the Bais HaMikdash.  HaRav Elyashiv asks a stark question--after we recite the first Pasuk of Mizmor Shir Chanukas HaBayis--what does the rest of the Kepitel have to do at all with the Bais HaMikdash?  Take a look at the rest of the Pesukim, such as “Shivati Eilecha Vetirpaeini--I cried out to You, and You healed me.”  “Histarti Phanecha Hayisi Nivhal--You conceal Yourself, and I am confounded.”  “Hashem Heyei Ozer Li--Hashem be my Helper.”  In looking at the Kepitel, it appears to be a moving and personalized plea for Hashem’s help.  But, once again, what does it have to do with the Bais HaMikdash?!  HaRav Elyashiv answers that Dovid HaMelech truly felt that as long as the Bais HaMikdash was not in a position of great prominence--he himself was suffering, he himself was in anguish and incomplete.  However, with a built Mikdash, he exclaims “He’elisa Min Sheol Nafshi--you have raised up my soul from the lower world!”  This, then is Dovid HaMelech’s lesson to us from Tehillim Chapter 30.  Because we lack the Bais HaMikdash in all of its splendor--we must inwardly feel the full measure of the Yiddish expression:  “Se Gait Mir In Laiben--it troubles me terribly, it troubles me personally.”  Please look at the Kepital again and envisage how your need for the Chanukas HaBayis bothers you as much as your own predicaments and circumstances, your own troubles and difficulties--and how the Chanukas HaBayis itself will usher in the utmost joy.  Every time we recite this Chapter (for Nussach Ashkenaz it actually inaugurates the Pisukei DeZimra)--we should have in mind not only our own trials and tribulations, but also how much the absence of a Bais HaMikdash personally means--after all it is the Mizmor Shir Chanukas HaBayis.  With this zechus of a true and proper recital of this Kepitel daily, we come to its the last, conclusory and climactic Pasuk--“LeMan Yezamercha Chavod VeLo Yidom, Hashem Elokai LeOlam Odeka--so that my soul might sing to you and not be still-- Hashem I will thank you forever!”

 

 

Special Note Five:  To some, it may seem puzzling that suddenly during the Nine Days there are so many Siyumim which don’t appear to occur to this extent the rest of the year.  The Luach Davar BeIto, has a beautiful Limud Zechus in this area.  The outward appearance of the lower- level person craving meat during a time when it is otherwise forbidden should be largely overshadowed in our minds by two important purposes that are being accomplished simultaneously.  First, there is an increase in pride in Torah study.  As we know, after the Bais HaMikdash was destroyed what remains with Hashem is the “Daled Amos Shel Halacha--our world of Torah.  By studying and accomplishing a Siyum, we demonstrate to Hashem that we want to do our best with what He and we have left in these sorry circumstances of Galus.  Second, we invite others to join along with us in friendship and togetherness, thereby demonstrating the Ahavas Yisroel so necessary to extricate us from our Galus condition.  In most, if not all, events and circumstances, an act is really determined by the intentions behind it.  The turkey platter or corned beef sandwich can simply serve to satisfy one’s desires--or be a byproduct of Talmud Torah and Ahavas Yisroel! 

 

 

Special Note Six:  What will Eliyahu HaNavi accomplish upon his arrival?  The last Mishna in Edios (8:7) brings different opinions as to Eliyahu's actual role, and concludes with the words of the Chachamim:  “Eliyahu will not come to make distant those who are currently close, or to make close those that are currently distant.  Rather, his purpose it to make peace in the world."  The world and all its inhabitants, including parents and children, students and teachers, all of the estranged, and the erstwhile enemies, will no longer have a shread of Machlokes between them.  Peace and only peace will be the common thread of all humanity.  With this realization--that the singular task of Eliyahu HaNavi is to bring peace to the world--perhaps we should realize what an important goal peace really is even now--and place especially important focus and attention on the last Bracha of Shemone Esrei, and the other areas of Davening in which we plead for peace.  If we conclude Shemone Esrei with this plea, conclude Birkas Kohanim with this plea, conclude Bentching with this plea…and Eliyahu HaNavi's sole role will bring its ultimate realization, then we must do our part to realize its essential and unparalleled place in our lives, and in the lives of our family, community, and the world at large.  The next time (and every time!) you say Sim Shalom, Shalom Rav, Hashem Yivarech Es Amo BaShalom... or even Shalom Aleichem--give it the special meaning and inspired intent that it actually, realistically and so very truly deserves!

 

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As Tisha B'Av draws a step closer, and yet another international flotilla confrontation reminds us of our Galus even as millions live in Eretz Yisroel itself, we must 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 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.  Rabbi Ehrman teaches as follows:

 

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.  The Mitzvah applies to children as well--as they are our "fellow" no less than adults. anything that one does to make them happy, given their age and level of develpopment, is included in the Mitzvah--when one brings children happiness--have the Mitzvah in mind!

 

5. 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.

 

6.  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.”

 

7.  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.

 

8. 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.

 

9.  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; and (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!

 

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We are happy to advise that the first five short Special notes today are contributions from readers, or have much to do with their comments.

 

Special Note One:  Upon being asked how Moshiach can come in a generation such as ours, without the great luminaries of yore--R' Shmelke of Nickolsburg responded, "after a war leaves a great mess in a city, the simple workers come to clean up...”

 

 

Special Note Two:  “This past Friday, my husband went into a frum store and when he went to the refrigerator to get himself a drink, he noticed a new Snapple flavor.  He picked it up and looked for the hechsher and there was none.  He turned it around but still couldn’t find it. He brought it to the front of the store, showed the cashier who said they will take it out of their store immediately.  He went back to the fridge to choose a different drink and noticed another new flavor.  He looked for the hechsher and again, couldn’t find it.  He showed it to the cashier again and was told they will take the other Snapple drink off the shelves.  I am not mentioning which Snapple flavors he found without a hechsher on purpose – because one must always be careful and check before purchasing something.  The fact that a frum-owned store is selling a product does not guarantee that an item is kosher!”

 

 

Special Note Three:  “On the topic of the double “vais” in “bechol levavecha” – I just thought of something. We understand that we can love Hashem for creating us with a yetzer tov, but why for the yetzer hara?  Wouldn’t the world be a much happier place if people only focused on doing mitzvos and there was no bad at all?  In fact, we can say that we should be extremely thankful to Hashem for creating us with a yetzer hara because that is what brings us challenges and that is how we can overcome temptations--because they are there!  Then and only then can we reach great heights!  If there was only good in the world, there would be no test to fight the yetzer hara and try to be even better!  The fact that we have choices makes the sechar so much greater.  Now this is how we can truly love Hashem with both “levavecha” – the yetzer hara and yetzer tov!”

 

 

Special Note Four:  As part of our Chizuk and care project in Shemiras Halashon, a world-renowned mechaber submitted the following:  Why does a Metzora need to leave a city that is surrounded by a wall, but may otherwise remain in all other cities--as long as they are unwalled?  The Be'er Yosef provides a fascinating p'shat based on the Chazal in Erachin (15b) which states that Hashem provided for the tongue two protections -- two walls: one of flesh--the lips, and one of bone--the teeth.  A Metzora breached his very own walls of protection by speaking Lashon Hora; he cannot therefore remain in a city protected by a wall!  Hakhel Note:  An average city has only one wall--yet Hashem in his benevolence gives us a truly enhanced fortification--a dual safeguard!  How can a person be so imprudent, so unwise, so as to take down not only one wall made for his own protection--but two!  We will add one other point, as well.  One of the most famous Metzora scenes in Tanach is that of Gechazi and his sons outside the city of Shomron (the Haftorah for Parshas Metzora)--perhaps a lesson to us that the sin of Lashon Hora is easily spread within or among a family(Miriam and Aharon speaking regarding Moshe Rabbeinu provides a similar lesson)--and this may be why it is easier to succeed at taking down the 'double wall'--it is an unfortunate and misguided team effort, and one family member encourages the next in what to the casual observer may otherwise be described as a self-defeating struggle.  If one sees a weakness in his family--or in a particular family member(even if that family member is himself)--he should bolster the fortifications--so that the security of the entire family is not breached--and the lips and tongue can take their noble places in protecting home, life and family!

 

 

Special Note Five:  During the week of Parsha Balak, we noted that according to Chazal, Bilam’s father was none other than Lavan.  A reader pointed out that “According to the Targum Yonasan Ben Uziel, Bilam himself was Lavan (Bamidbar 22:5).”  Hakhel Note:  According to either understanding, we see how important it is not to violate “Umebesarcha Al Tisalam--do not hide yourself from your own flesh and blood".  Chazal derive Halachos from this Pasuk as to the special way, and the special regard, in which we must treat family members.  Especially during this Nine Day Period, we should be advising others (and certainly family) of HaRav Elyashiv’s P’sak to avoid undertaking action which may be characterized as even minimally dangerous.  It may also be an especially important time to give Brachos as one leaves his home or takes a trip, in order to help protect them from harm.  Remember, your family member is not someone who you should be squabbling with, or looking down upon--he is someone the Pasuk enjoins you to give special attention to and assist--especially at special times and in special ways.

 

 

Special Note Six:  In last week’s Parsha, the Torah records that “Elef LeMateh, Elef LeMateh--or "1,000 soldiers, 1,000 soldiers" were to be taken from each Shevet to do battle with Midyan.  Why does the Torah phrase it as “1,000 soldiers, 1,000soldiers”--and not simply as “2,000 soldiers”?  It is because 1,000 soldiers actually went to war, and the other 1,000 were enlisted to daven for victory.  HaRav Yechezkel Levenstein, Z’tl, teaches that the 1,000 who were davening did not stay behind--but actually accompanied the fighting soldiers to battle, so that the soldiers would understand that it was not their military prowess ('Kochi VeOtzem Yadi') that was the basis of their victory--but rather it was Hashem who was the Source of victory through our Tefillos.  Hakhel Note:  During these times, as we wind down the Jewish People’s career in Galus, we may add that it is not only the soldiers who should be aware of the singular power of our Tefillos, but it is we ourselves who must know and understand that when we pray such tefillos as“VeLeYerushalayim Ircha", "Es Tzemach", "Shema Koleinu", and the like, with sincerity of heart, we are fighting--and defeating-- those who mean us harm from Teheran to Turkey, and from Moscow to Washington D.C.  There may be spies and counter spies, politicians and statesmen, military analysts and advisors and the most advanced of weaponry, but the battles are won in Hashem's Court, and Hashem's Court only.  Incredibly, Chazal teach that Nevuchadnezzar did not allow the Jewish people to rest upon exiling them, until they got to “Al Naharos Bavel” because he was fearful of their ability to wholly reverse the entire earth-shattering decree against them by simply turning and returning to Hashem.  Let us not lose the opportunities that the soldiers in battle were made aware of, that Nevuchadnezzar knew about, and that has been a recurrent theme of our existence since the days of Yetzias Mitzrayim.  Let us take out the time in these days to cry out to Hashem, as HaRav Leib Chasmin, Z’tl, teaches “KeShekoeiv Zoakim--when one is in pain, he cries out.”  Together we can turn this period from a time of nuclear armament to nuclear disarmament, from a time of swords into a time of plowshares, and from a time of terror to a time of love and peace.  This is Hashem's World and no one else's--we all know it--now is the time to feel it--and to meaningfully express it!

 

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KASHRUS ALERT--The following alert has been sent out by the OK

 

Please be advised that the 24 pack – 20 oz. plastic bottles of SNAPPLE made by Snapple Beverage Corporation has been incorrectly labeled OK pareve.

 

Each 24 pack contains 3 flavors; Mango Madness and Kiwi Strawberry are kosher, OK certified and have the OK symbol on the label. 

FRUIT PUNCH is NOT certified and NOT KOSHER.

 

Labels are being corrected.  The product may be returned to the store for a refund.

 

Any questions or comments regarding this alert should be sent directly to the OK at http://www.ok.org/

 

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The Ben Ish Chai explains that one of the reasons that our month is called “Av” is because it will be the Av, the Father, of a new joyous period which will commence in Av, and continue for a long period thereafter.  May it commence this Av!

 

 

Special Note One:  We continue with our Chizuk and care in Shemiras Halashon during this special period of reflection, realization and hope.  In last week’s Parsha of Matos, we learn about the importance of making promises and the dangers involved in breaking them.  Indeed, the Torah goes out of its way to add that if a person merely thinks they are breaking their promise, even if he is not in fact doing so, he still requires a “V’Hashem Yislach Lah”--Hashem’s direct forgiveness--a phrase not often mentioned in the Torah.  Accordingly, while we learn from many instances in last week’s large Parsha how careful we have to be about our speech in general, we learn in particular how vigilant one must be about using words like “promise,” “commit,” “swear,” or “guarantee,” all of which indicate an absolute commitment to act in a particular way.  In the Sefer Derech Sicha, HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, rules that it is not sufficient to respond on a wedding or bar mitzvah invitation that you are coming “Im Yirtze Hashem”--one must specifically add the words “Bli Neder”.  He adds that if one stated that he was coming to a simcha (without saying bli neder) and could not attend, he should ask mechila from the baal hasimcha.  Remember--Hashem holds us to a gold standard--because we are his gold!

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Special Note Three:  Chazal teach us that once Av enters, we are to reduce the amount of our joy.  Many have pointed out that the context Chazal use, even in Av, is one of joy.  We are not instructed to “increase our mourning,” but to “decrease our joy.”  This thought fits in beautifully with the commentary of the Tiferes Yisroel to last week’s Perek, Chapter 2 of Pirkei Avos (our lesson from Perek to apply for the week) .  There, Rabban Yochanan Ben Zakkai asked his five primary disciples, “What is the proper way to which a man should be "Yidbak"--to which he should cling?”  The first four primary disciples each responded in his own way.  Rebbe Elazar then responded that one should cling to “a Lev Tov--a good heart.”  Rabban Yochanan then said to his students, “I prefer the words of Elazar to your words, for your words are included in his words.”  What is so all-encompassing about the words “Lev Tov” that it per se includes the other responses of Rabban Yochanan’s other four top students?!  The Tiferes Yisroel explains that the phrase “Lev Tov” means “Leebo Tomid Sameach, U’mezuman L’Heitiv Lakol--that one’s frame of mind is a happy one, and that he is ready to help every one.”  It is this middah that Rabban Yochanan and Rabbi Elazar instruct us is so primary and all-encompassing.  Accordingly, even in these days of Av, and even as we approach Tisha B’Av, we should not forget these six Hebrew words as the attitude and approach to life that our Sages teach us to cling to.  We especially note that the Hebrew word “Yidbak” (cling) is utilized by Chazal--it is not simply a nice approach or a good thing, but something we should not deviate from--but practice sticking to--as if it were with glue or honey.  "Leebo Tomid Sameach U'Mezuman L'Heitiv Lakol let us live and act with these precious by-words, even in these difficult times.

 

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Question of the Week:  In the second Pasuk of Kriyas Shema, we affirm that one is to love Hashem "Bechol Levavecha...--with all of your heart".  Chazal note that the word is not simply "Libcha"--but that there is a double Veis--and that this double Vais refers to the two portions of the heart--the Yetzer Hatov and the Yetzer Hora.  We are accordingly especially reminded and enjoined at the outset of Shema not only to subjugate the Yetzer Hora--but to use the drive and passion he represents in our Avodas Hashem.  This special reminder--the term"Levav" and not just the term "Lev" --comes up at other times during davening--can you identify those special points?  If we focus on the word and remember its meaning at these times--we will be steering ourselves in the very right direction!

 

 

 Special Note One:  In a previous note, we wrote that Rabbi Moshe Vaya, Shlita, the world-renowned expert on bedikas tolaim opines that, because of infestation issues worldwide, strawberries should be eaten only if peeled, with the only other cumbersome alternative to soak in soapy solution and rinse *three* separate times (in the not so distant past, soaking and rinsing one time would have been enough).  A reader advised us yesterday that he has been in direct contact with Rabbi Vaya, who has advised that *in addition to* the three-time soak and rinse process--one must also then either cook or grind (crush) the strawberries, as well.

 

Special Note Two:  We are excited to provide by the following link http://www.prayingwithfire.org/images/Newsletter7.pdf  -- insights into the tefillah of Adon Olam, the seventh issue of the wonderful and meaningful Praying with Passion Series, produced by The V’Ani Tefillah Foundation.  Please spread this especially useful and inspirational publication to others!

 

 

Special Note Three:  We received the following from a reader relating to yesterday’s Bulletin:  “Apropos to your listing of the things we should be grateful for, someone once approached Rabbi Nachman of Breslov and mentioned to him something about the “good old days”.  Rabbi Nachman cut him short and said--Hashem runs the world nicer and nicer as time goes on--we are better off today than ever before!"   The reader then added on his own:  "I always tell my children that the Kings of France and England just 100 years ago did not have the comforts of life that a regular middle-class family enjoys today!”

 

 

Special Note Four:  The following wonderful Mashal is provided by Rabbi Hillel Litwack, Shlita in  his work The Amen Response:  A great and joyous event!  The King actually visits the city, and everyone  lining the streets is shouting in unison  "Yechi HaMelech, "Yechi HaMelech" --Long Live the King, as the King and his entourage  pass through the streets.  There was one person, though, who threw a small rock at the King's carriage, and it actually landed near the King's feet.  The Secret Service immediately investigated, and without much effort found a young Jewish boy to be the culprit.  The audacity!  They wanted to execute the boy right then and there, but the witnesses standing there said that the boy had been shouting "Yechi HaMelech" in sincerity, together with everyone  else.  "He must have thrown the stone because that is what boys like to do when they are happy and playful.  He obviously meant to hurt no one."  The secret service explained what had happened to the King, and the lad was exonerated, with a stern warning to ask adults how one should behave in the King's presence.  That is the Mashal.  The Nimshal is that one who answers Ámen, Yehei Shemai Rabbah with sincerity--with his Koach--Kavana and/or forcefully, he demonstrates that he very much wants to honor the King, and the acts he may have done which appeared to dishonor the King were simply childish acts--like the child throwing the stone.  For this, one will be exonerated--but he must remember in the future that he is truly an adult and endeavor to behave accordingly!

 

 

Special Note Five:  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.

 

As we carefully work on our Bein Odom L'Chaveiro during the Three Weeks, we should pay special attention to this great lesson from the 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, employees, co-workers 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 Six:  During the Three Weeks, we do not make or attend chasunas, may this be soon reversed and the Bais HaMikdash rebuilt speedily and in our days.  In the interim, we can, however, experience some aspect of a wedding while eating a regular (even weekday) meal in our own home.  The Mishna Berura (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 170, Seif Katan 45) brings from the Shelah HaKadosh that one should be glad of heart at all of his meals, whether large or small, and eat “b’simcha” in happiness [reflecting upon all of the goodness from Hashem, that the simple meal involves].  Moreover, the Mishna Berura continues, if one eats and drinks in a healthy manner, with the purpose of energizing his body for the sake of his soul, then his Seudah, his meal, is actually L’Halacha, deemed a “Seudas Mitzvah.”  Thus, just as at a wedding one is happy and partakes in a Seudas Mitzvah, one can make his own little “chasunah” at home at every meal!

 

Your thoughts and your feelings--these are what Hashem leaves up to you.

 

 

Special Note Seven:   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.

 

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 Geulah, 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 Eight:  We continue our Erev Shabbos-- Halachos of Shabbos Series:

 

a.  One last point on the Melacha of Koshair (Tying).  Although one can tie the underlying slipknot and then make a bow to enforce it when tying his shoes, this is only because one's intent is to untie the shoe within 24 hours (before going to sleep, or when otherwise taking off the shoe).  However, based upon this reasoning, one would not be allowed to tie a plastic garbage bag in the same manner as he ties his shoe--as one intends for the slipknot and bow of a garbage bag to be permanent--after all, he is disposing of the garbage forever.  Accordingly, if one wants to close the garbage bag, he should make only one simple wind knot (which is permissible, because it is weak, coming apart quite easily, and often loosens by itself).

 

b.  Although two people doing a melacha will lessen the severity of the offense if each could have otherwise done the same act on his own--there is at least one instance in which one person doing an act could be permissible, but the fact that two people do the very same act together renders it impermissible.  Can you identify the act?  Hint:  Shabbos 113A.

 

c.  The following two Halachos are found at the conclusion of The Shabbos Home (Volume 2), by Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen, Shlita, and relate to the prohibition of Tikun Monah--loosely translated as fixing an item to make it usable:

 

1.  It is forbidden to dilute flavored mouthwash with water, for one would thereby impart a scent into the water--and just as one cannot impart a scent upon clothing, one cannot impart a scent into water.

 

2.  In most instances, it is forbidden to fold garments along their original folds on Shabbos.  This is because folding a garment on its original folds smoothes out the wrinkles that developed while the garment was worn. Because this improves the garment, it resembles the melacha of Makeh BePatish.  Accordingly, one may not fold a pair of pants along the original crease on Shabbos. One is permitted, however, to simply hang the pants on a hook or hanger without attending to the crease (if the garment then simply falls on its existing crease on its own, one has not done anything impermissible).

 

 

Special Note Nine:  We continue our Chizuk and caring in Shemiras Halashon.  Rabbeinu Yonah in the Sefer Sha'arei Teshuva (Sha'ar Rishon) brings Chazal's full listing of the 24 Items which are "Me'Akev"--serve to prevent or delay-- a person's Teshuva.  It most certainly pays to take a moment out to look at the **first two** Items that are Me'Akev *you*--that thwart *you*--and which are accordingly so essential for *you* to overcome.

 

Once you have identified these two Me'Akvin--here is some help in reversing the process:  Dovid HaMelech, in the Kepitel sometimes known as the Perek HaTeshuva (Chapter 51), teaches "Alamda Phoshim Derachecha--I will teach those who sin your ways."  Thus, as part of Dovid HaMelech's Teshuva process, he felt it essential to teach others to do Teshuva as well.  Rabbeinu Yonah derives from this instructional phrase an invaluable lesson for us all--if we sincerely want to do Teshuva on a particular aveira--we should help others repent from this very aveira as well.  Accordingly, one who realizes that he may have sometimes slipped over the Yetzer Hora with inappropriate speech--should help others as he helps himself--sparing the world several times over from Lashon Hora--and bringing us all closer to the Teshuva and Ma'asim Tovim that we need not only for these times--but for this time of year!

 

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Special Note One:  Two other points on VeLirushalayim, Bishuasecha and Lishuasecha:

 

1.  One reader pointed out that it cannot be coincidence (as we know, it never is!) that the words we have to be careful with in Shemone Esrei relate to Yerushalayim and our Yeshua.  It is like asking the King for a special request and being very careful that you are clearly understood.  Could you imagine slurring the words or not being careful with the wording of your appeal?  If you are not so concerned with the essential request...maybe the King shouldn’t be either....On the other hand, if your stretched out hand is matched by a careful and pleading voice--the King will surely recognize your urgency and sincerity--and we will all be the better for it!

 

2. A reader explained in the name of HaRav Shlomo HaKohen of Vilna that the VeLirushalayim Ircha in the bracha refers to the Yerushalayim Shel Ma’alah.  At the time of the destruction, the people thought that, through their suffering and their Teshuva, Yerushalayim would quickly be rebuilt.  However, when they learned that the Yerushalayim Shel Ma’aleh was no longer above its counterpart below--they were no longer mechuven zeh kneged zeh--the devastating calamity was apparent-and everyone began to mourn.  Accordingly, with the words VeLirushalayim Ircha--And Yerushalayim Your City--we are not merely asking for our city below, but rather that Your City, the city above, is reestablished so that the Heavens and Earth can once again unite--at the Makom HaMikdash.  No one on Earth can fulfill this request--but we are pleading to the All-Knowing, All-Capable, and All-Merciful King of the Universe--Who wants to return to the City, both above and below, and see the world fulfill its purpose--that is why our plea is so essential!

Additional Note:  Our reader who pointed out the proper pronunciations asked us to clarify pronunciation of *Vayire’u* Es Hashem that we described yesterday with the following corrected words:  “It should be Va.Yee.R.u. four syllables with the chirik as a chiruk gadol.  VaYire’U, as you wrote, makes it sound like three syllables with the chirik as a chiruk katan.”  Hakhel Response:  Thank you, dear reader.  It is because of you that we all have a better appreciation of the word “careful”--we are full of care--over that which we care about!

 

Special Note Two:  We are approaching Rosh Chodesh Av, with a little more than two months left to the year.  Taking a momentary, just a momentary, look back we realize that there have been painful and pain-filled moments, times of difficulty and tribulation, of tzaros and tza’ar.  Indeed, the Three Weeks and Nine Days--until such time as they are reversed to days of great joy, may it occur today--are days of consternation and unease.  The year, however, has also brought some successes and joys, some smiles and some cheer.  There has also been a measure of expected and unexpected simchas and news of nachas from family and friends, of new friends and special accomplishments.  On top of the special events, many have been blessed with the ability to continue their daily activities for weeks and months at a time--going to Minyan and starting Shemone Esrei together with the Shatz, getting to work and keeping a job, helping someone in need (including one’s own parents or children) day-in and day-out.  Then there is having food and being able to eat, having clothing and being able to put it on by yourself, taking a hot shower or a cold shower depending on the need, taking care of bodily needs in the comfort of one’s own home, seeing a hospital, ambulance or rows of medications (over the counter and not over the counter) and not needing any or many of them, benefiting from all sorts of appliances (let’s start with air conditioners!), and other technology and machines to help make things easier and more pleasant throughout the day, pocket-sized Seforim and CD’s or MP3 players for the road, a free live Shiur available in the neighborhood or any daf or almost any subject online at any time--you know, in the end, it is going to be incredible to finally discover what more Gan Eden has to offer.  Certainly, the English term “paradise” can apply to many of the pleasures and benefits we have been blessed with.  Obviously, everyone experiences different kinds of benefits--more or less, and qualitatively different, than his next door neighbor, or even his sibling or spouse.  But it is all measured, and all with discreet and exact purpose in mind.  What we can begin to do about all of this is to recognize the benefits and blessings--and renew our awareness and thanks daily.  In the Chazaras Hashatz, there are two highlights which involve the entire Tzibbur (aside from properly responding to each bracha)--they are Kedusha in which we sanctify the name of Hashem in public,-and Modim in which we reiterate and, if one carefully notes the words, actually amplify and extend the thanks we express to Hashem for all He does for us.

While there is something in between, much of life can be categorized either r’l in the trials and tribulations category, and, on the other hand, much can be placed into the tangible benefits section.  The entire range of life’s experience comes directly from Hashem--as Chazal demonstrate with both the bracha of Shehechiyanu and the bracha of Dayan HaEmes.  To most, experiencing the benefits and having and maintaining the “ordinary” and “extraordinary” abilities and benefits that we are given is much more appealing than experiencing suffering, pain, or anguish.  How can we better recognize these pleasures--and show Hashem our appreciation of them?  May we suggest that, from now until the end of the year, one keep a daily log, if you will, of some of the things you really feel thankful about on that day--the mazel tov event, the successful encounter, the good food, the particularly meaningful Devar Torah you thought of or heard, the good or improved health, the working computer, the good friend, the way you saved a large amount of money, or that unbelievable Hashgacha Pratis story you just experienced.  There is really plenty in each and every day.  As the year 5770 draws to its close, many of those who took us up on our suggestion last year to count the number of Asher Yotzars they recite a day--thanking Hashem for the unfathomable miracles of the body--are now at over 1,000 brachos of thanks for this renewing daily (hourly) miracle alone.

 

If we can appreciate what we have--if we record and thank Hashem for those things we perceive as good (although everything is good because it comes from the Source of all Goodness), we will most certainly be zoche, middah keneged middah, to more of the very same kind of good--the good that is tangible and palpable--and ultimately to the everlasting and supernal good that will come with an end to the Three Weeks as a time of travail --and its commencement as a time of Shiros and Tishbachos in a rebuilt and eternal Mikdash where we all can jointly exclaim --”Tov LeHodos LaShem!

 

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Special  Note One:  Mazel Tov!  Baruch Hashem we have moved to a new and improved server based in Eretz Yisroel, so that we now have the opportunity to be mekayem in some small way "Ki Mitzion Taitzeh Sorah" (Yeshaya 2:3). May we soon be zoche to see the fulfillment of this Pasuk not only in a virtual sense--but in a very real way (as described in Bava Basra 21A and Tosofos there), speedily and in *our* days.

 

 

Special Note Two:  The Hakhel Yarchei Kallah this past Monday morning provided extremely important yedios in Halacha and Hashkafa as to the time period we are in.  Then, in the evening, Rabbi Avraham Goldhar, Shlita presented a masterful Shiur with special methods of improving and retaining your learning.  For tapes and CD's of the excellent Shiurim, please contact (718) 252-5274.

 

 

Special Note Three:  Rabbi Moshe Tuvia Lieff, Shlita teaches that we must pay close attention to the special words in the last Parsha of Shema--not to go "acharei levavchem v'acharei enieichem--after our hearts and after our eyes."  First, we must take the necessary precautions in order to avoid a situation in which our hearts or our eyes may stumble, and in which we then fall as a result.  Moreover, if a situation arose and the heart or eyes were subjected and did fall prey, we MUST THEN be oh so careful not to allow a devastating 'ACHAREI'--a second slip, a second mishap, a second aveira, with which the Yetzer Hora can gloat--for this is where he cashes in on his efforts--demonstrating that the first time was not a mistake, and that his victim must be held fully accountable and responsible.  If we realize that we haven't set up the proper safeguard at the first fall--we must take whatever step is necessary to thwart his next attempt to hurt your heart and damage your eyes.  Rashi (Kiddushin 39B)  writes about one who does not do the aveira that he is subjected to--"Ain lecha Mitzva Gedola Mizu--there is no greater Mitzva than this!"  We may add that those moments in which an aveira could have been done but was not--are most certainly a great and auspicious moments for personal closeness to Hashem and tefilla.

 

 

Special Note Four:  Many of us are attempting to recite the Bracha of 'VeLirushalayim Ircha' over this Three Week period with extra zeal and feeling--knowing that Hashem Who destroyed his House with heavenly fire will build it once again with that very same heavenly fire (as we recite in the Nachem prayer on Tisha B'Av)--and that there may be no more appropriate time to rebuild it than the time it had previously been destroyed.  One of our readers pointed out to us that we should be careful to recite the word VeLirushalayim properly.  Because there are no nekudos under the first Yud in the word, the Yud is not pronounced at all--and it is as if the Yud is not there for pronunciation purposes--so that we say VeLirushalayim--and not VeLiYerushalayim.  Indeed, there are two more examples of this--where the Yud is not pronounced because there are no nekudos associated with it -- in the very next bracha of Es Tzemach--with the words BiShuasecha (and not BiYeshuasecha), and Lishuasecha (and not LiYeshuasecha).

 

Additional Note:  The reader also pointed to another word which some may read incorrectly.  Towards the conclusion of Pesukai Dezimra, at the end of VaYosha and immediately prior to reciting Az Yashir, we recite 'VaYire'u Ha'Am Es Hashem--and the people feared Hashem'.  If we misread the word as 'VaYiru'--without pronouncing the sheva na under the Raish--then the word and phrase take on a wholly different  and untrue meaning --for we are saying not that the people 'feared' Hashem--but that they 'saw' Hashem--which is not only not true--but, of course, impossible!  It is important to note that HaRav Yaakov Emden, z'tl, in his Siddur Bais Yaakov writes that a primary cause for this drawn out galus is our lack of care with Lashon HaKodesh.  We have to show ourselves at least desirous of meeting the loftier heights of Moshiach's times--by making at least some effort to properly speak our holy language.  One very special place we can accomplish this is in our Tefillos, where we speak to our Master--hopefully in a language that He wants to hear!

 

Second Additional Note:  Speaking Lashon Hakodesh is an elevating experience, for we are speaking the language that the Malachim speak, the language that the Torah was given in, the language that has so much Divinely inspired depth that a key punishment of the Dor Haflaga was to lose this great language (which essentially became the subsequent equivalent to the earth-changing Mabul for the Dor Hamabul in the very same Parsha).  K'lal Yisroel is now the only scion of this great legacy of the Holy Tongue.  When we see people of other religions with parts of the Torah in book form, it is typically in English, or Spanish or French, losing the power and potency, and indeed to such a great extent, the true meaning, of the Holy Words themselves.  We should be careful to pay proper regard to this priceless heritage, and strive to improve our pronunciation and dikduk.  Even if it may take some effort and care--would a queen not wear her crown jewels simply because they are too heavy--or would she remind everyone (and herself) that she was the queen--every time she put them on?!  We need only note that Chazal teach that the trop itself (Ta'amei HaMikra)in which the Torah is read and pronounced was given to Moshe Rabbeinu as part of Kabbalas HaTorah, and the numerous occasions in which Rashi in Chumash derives and explains Pesukim in the Torah based on the rules of Lashon HaKodesh.  Let us show the effort while davening and learning to properly pronounce the Holy Tongue--with the hope that in the zechus of our sincere effort we will merit Lashon HaKodesh in its pristine form--in a VeLirushalayim Ircha that we so desperately need, and for which we so long and strive.

 

 

Special Note Five:  We continue our Three Week special Chizuk and care in Shemiras Halashon.  The Sefer Sha'arei Teshuva by Rabbeinu Yonah teaches that if one has been sullied by Lashon Hora, he should do Teshuva by using his mouth to study Torah.  We were not created with two mouths--one for the mundane, and one for the holy--but with one mouth, just as we have one body and one soul.  And just as one can wash his body--he can also (after doing the other appropriate Teshuva Bain Odom LaMakom and LeChaveiro for Lashon Hora, as described in the Sefer Chofetz Chaim) cleanse his mouth by using it for the purpose Hashem intended--for Torah, and not for the designs of the Yetzer Hora.  If you have spoken Lashon Hora, even inadvertently--learn some Torah--to demonstrate to Hashem and to show yourself that you really can--and will--use your mouth for ....the Holy Tongue!

 

Additional Note:  The Chofetz Chaim teaches that, as a good general rule, anything that is not permissible to be said should not be listened to and certainly not accepted.  If a person realizes that he has heard something and accepted it, he should immediately dispel the acceptance by finding a reason not to believe it.  May we suggest, based upon this Rabbeinu Yonah, that one who finds he heard something that he shouldn't have try to *listen to* a Devar Torah--helping to cleanse his ears, and to purify his soul!

 

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Special Note One:  Tomorrow, 25 Tammuz, is the Yahrtzeit of the HaRav Meir Mai’Apta, the Ba’al Ohr LaShamayim.  A reader has provided us with a beautiful copy of the Tefillah that the Ba’al Ohr LaShamayim composed, which would most certainly be appropriate to recite on his Yahrtzeit.  The tefillah is available by clicking here.

 

 

Special Note Two:  Some additional important information about the Mishna Yomi--which today is only at Mishna 5 and 6 of all of Shas:  An audio shiur of each day's Mishnayos is available at www.dafyomi.co.il   Additionally, if you would like a daily reminder of the day's two Mishnayos, please send an email to mishnahyomit@gmail.com.  We have already provided links to calendars, which may be found on the Resources section of our website.

 

 

Special Note Three:  As we commence the Second Week of the Three Week period, we may address a fundamental question.  Every year, for almost 2,000 years, we have been observing the very same Three Week period, beginning with the calamities that befell us on Shiva Asar B’Tammuz, and ending with the catastrophes that occurred on Tisha B’Av.  There may be differences of Minhagim among the different communities, but the sullenness and solemnity of the days are common to them all.

 

So here is the fundamental question:  Do we simply continue observing the period that we are now in the same way as we did last year--10 years ago and 20 years ago--or do we do something different?  After all, on the one hand, we have been and are doing everything that we thought was, and is, right according to Halacha during this time--to the point that when we are doubtful, we ask a Rav.  On the other hand, it does not appear that we have succeeded, for the Bais HaMikdash is still in ruins and we find ourselves in a world pervaded by terrorism on the one hand, and materialism on the other, and with a value system completely incongruous to Torah.  So perhaps we should try something different, something else, and something we have not done before.  Perhaps we should approach the Churban and exile from a different angle.  After all, in the business and professional world, if something does not work one way, you try another way, before giving up.

 

In order to deal with this dilemma, in order to determine whether we should continue doing the same (proper) things we have always been doing, and that our fathers and forefathers have been doing for hundreds upon hundreds of years--or whether we should do something else--we look to the analogy of our Galus existence, as taught to school children.  You may recall being taught that while in exile, we rebuild the Bais HaMikdash brick by brick, with every Mitzvah that we perform being at least one brick in the new, magnificent, everlasting, Third Bais HaMikdash.

 

Thus, as we continue to do what we are supposed to do, and as our ancestors have done over all these years, we are continuously building and building and building an edifice that we can simply not currently fathom.  However, to continue the analogy, sometimes one can build faster if he has the right plans, the right equipment, and the right skill.  Yet at other times, the construction process may be quickened simply by pure effort, toil and exertion.  In Egypt , for example, Chazal teach that the bitterness of our toil significantly curtailed the decreed term of our exile (the “quality” of the labor making up for the additional time that had to be spent there).  It is for this reason, many teach, that Maror, the bitter herbs, are eaten **after** the Matzah on the night of the Seder--for through the Maror the redemption was hastened.

 

It is no secret that Tisha B’Av always falls on the same day of the week as the Night of the Seder (which is the reason, some explain, that we have the egg symbolizing mourning on the Seder Plate, and that some actually eat the egg at the beginning of the otherwise festive Seder Meal).  Obviously, we are to learn from the Exodus from Egypt how we are to accomplish the Exodus from our current exile as well.

 

We may therefore suggest that while we can and should continue to build the Third and Final Bais HaMikdash in the same manner as we have done in the past; there is room for us to perhaps further hasten the redemption by taking some new and different action so that those bricks are put up faster and faster.  Picture the difference between viewing a bricklayer building a wall in regular motion, and watching him build that very same wall in “fast-forward.”  It will most certainly take a much shorter time for the wall to be completed.

 

Let us try to avoid the Maror, the bitterness, as the catalyst for a speedy redemption if at all possible.  Instead, perhaps we should look at what caused the initial walls to fall in such a short period.

 

There are two items that we may readily suggest:

 

1.  Bein Odom LaMakom:  Chazal (Nedarim 81A) teach that at least one reason we lost Eretz Yisroel was because “They did not make the Bracha before studying Torah”.  Many find it difficult to learn that this means that the appropriate Bracha was not actually recited by the masses prior to Torah study.  Rather, it is suggested that the Bracha was not recited with the sufficient feeling and thought, as is befitting Torah and all that it is and that it represents.  After all, what makes me different from all of the nations, all other peoples, all of the beings around me?  It is the Torah--with its Divine source, and the Mitzvos and Ma’asim Tovim that emanate directly and unabatedly from it.  If we do not appreciate this, if we recite the Brochos hastily and/or sleepily, while walking in the home or to Shul, and not from a Siddur, then perhaps we ought to go out to (or stay in) Exile--among the nations--to study and finally appreciate what makes us different.  Accordingly,one tikun, one improvement that we can undertake over the next two weeks is to recite Birchos HaTorah a little more properly--from a Siddur, slowly, understanding the meaning of the words, and with an appreciation for what the Torah means to each one of us individually, and to us as a people.  If we do, we may be laying some of those last rows of bricks--at a “fast-forward” pace!

 

2.  Bein Odom LeChaveiro--As Chazal teach that the Second Bais HaMikdash was destroyed because of Sinas Chinam, and related Bain Odom LeChaveiro aveiros, it would seem appropriate for us to DO SOMETHING--to make a discrete effort in improving in this area.  Even for the "almost perfect" person, there is room to improve.  The Center for Jewish Values, under the auspices of Rabbi Yitzchak Berkovits, Shlita, delivers a daily portion of Kitzur Mishpatei HaShalom--a guide to Hilchos Bain Odom LeChaveiro--into your email box free daily, in either Hebrew or English. By taking a few moments to read and apply the daily halacha--you are showing that you really want to do more than clean up this mess that we are in--but actually complete construction of a new and everlasting structure.  You may subscribe to this type of "Korban Tomid"-your daily commitment to learn and improve at interpersonal relationships--by turning to www.jewishvalues.us  If you already receive this publication, may we suggest that you today ask someone else to subscribe as well. You never know what that final brick will be, and who will be the exalted one to place it--put yourself in position for the golden opportunity!

 

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We provide the following wonderful link for Mishna Yomis-- providing a weekly calendar with Audio Shiurim on line.  www.dafyomi.co.il  If you didn't start yesterday-start today!

 

 

 Special Note One:  Today is the yahrzeit of the unparalleled HaRav Moshe Cordevero, z'tl, perhaps most well known for the Sefer Pardes Rimonim and the Sefer Tomer Devorah, among his many other works.  According to the Arizal's testimony, the procession bringing HaRav Cordevero to burial was preceded by a pillar of fire, and, because he was so pure, his death could only be attributed to the chait of Adam HaRishon.  Chapter 4 of the Tomer Devorah concludes as follows:

 

"A person can purify his Yetzer Hora by leading it towards good, and then even his Yetzer Hora becomes rooted in holiness. This is the elevated level of repentance that a person should contemplate every day--and one should also repent in some [even minor] way every day--so that all his days will be spent in Teshuva!"

 

Hakhel Note:  See Special Note Three below for a few suggestions to accompany your thought of "Today, I will lead the Yetzer Hora--and not let the Yetzer Hora lead me.  When he starts up with me--I am going to use him to do a Mitzvah (perhaps the opposite of the aveira that he is suggesting)--ridding myself of the muck of sin, and clothing myself instead with a cloak of kedusha."

 

 

Special Note Two:   For New York City Metropolitan Area Residents:  Tomorrow is the Yahrtzeit of HaRav Yaakov Yosef, the first and only Chief Rabbi of New York over 100 years ago.  His kever in Brooklyn , New York is known as a remarkable makom of Tefillah.  We provide directions by clicking here.

 

Special Note Three:  Today is the beginning of another “work week.”  At this point, each one of us can ask themselves--what will I do this week that is going to be different--something that I know is right, that I have to improve upon--but that I just haven’t worked into my daily life as I should, or as I may be able to. 

Here are some suggestions for Monday through Friday of this week.  Now is a good time to try this, as the beginning of the next work week is Rosh Chodesh Av, which reminds us that there will be only 60 days left to Rosh Hashanah! 

 Please feel free to try any one of the following quick ideas, or any one of your own.  We always welcome suggestions:

1.  Not yell once (well, maybe not twice)--please see Special Note Four below.

2.  Give Tzedakah every day.

3.  Think about how you can help someone, and actually try helping them that day.

4.Recite Ashrei at Mincha a little more slowly while sitting (For Men: if necessary, come a minute or two early to Mincha, so that you will finish before Kaddish).

5.  Or, alternatively, say Aleinu with Kavannah as to the meaning of the words, and reading the words from a Siddur, even if it means that you will have to recite from Al Kayn Nekaveh on after Kaddish [suggestion Numbers 4 and 5 are from Rabbi Shlomo Pearl, Shlita].

6.  Study something about the upcoming Parsha (even Chumash with Rashi) for at least ten minutes a day.  It is a double Sedra this week, and there is so much to learn!!

 We have been told by many that any project of this kind is more successful, if you take an extra minute to keep a record of your accomplishments.  Let us do what we can to make sure that the Chazak Chazak V’Nischazek that we are to recite this Shabbos applies personally to each and every one of us!

 

Special Note Four:  We continue our Three Week series on Chizuk and care in Shemiras Halashon.  Chazal teach: "A word for one sela, silence for two". Incredibly, the value of silence is even greater than the value of speech--even though it is with the power of speech ("Ruach Mellalela") that we are defined as human beings.  In fact, Rabban Shimon Ben Gamliel (Avos 1: 17 --which beautifully incorporates our lesson for the week from last week's Pirkei Avos) : "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 Avigdor Miller, z'tl).  In order for us to put this essential teaching into practice, --especially in a situation where speaking could lead to Lashon Hora, Rabbi Jonathan Rietti, Shlita suggests that a person picture himself as receiving $100,000.00 for each time that he remains appropriately silent.  Without doubt, the spiritual reward is immeasurably 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 teaches,  that 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 Moshiach.  "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.

 

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Special Note One:  One of our astute readers pointed out a typo in yesterday's email. The important cite to the teaching of the Chovos Halevavos (relating to one who speaks Loshon Hora losing his mitzvos to the one he had  spoken against, and obtaining his victim's aveiros) is in Chapter 7 of the Sha'ar HaK'niah, not Chapter 7 of Sha'ar HaBechina.  Thank you!

 

 

Special Note Two:  One of the six Mitzvos contained in this week's Parsha is the Mitzvah to offer the Korban Tomid, the daily offerings in the morning and in the evening--which demonstrated are constant and consistent closeness to Hashem.  It is no coincidence, as it never is, that one of the events for which we fasted this past week on Shivah Asar BeTammuz was 'Botel HaTamid'--the Korban Tomid ceased to be offered in the first Bais HaMikdash.  Obviously, the time period we are in is an auspicious one for instituting--or c'v' terminating--a dedicated and continuous closeness to Hashem, an ongoing deveikus, that the Korban Tomid generated.  Even in this bitter Galus, bereft of Mikdash and Mizbeach, we have the opportunity daily to strive for this same kind of deveikus, for Chazal teach that our daily Tefillos were instituted in place of the Korban Tomid ('Tefillos Keneged Temidim Tiknum').  How important it is, then, over the next two and a half weeks to raise our Tefillos to a higher degree.  It is a time in which we have just been commanded to bring the Tomid--to get closer to Hashem daily, and concomitantly a time in which we can demonstrate that we don't want the Korban Tomid to be botel--we want the Korban Tomid back--and we can show that by doing our best with what is currently standing in its stead--our Tefillos.  We recall the teaching of HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, mentioned a few weeks ago.  If you really want to improve your Kavannah in Tefillah--you can and will--for just like a developed bad habit puts you into a low-Kavannah mode--so too can a good habit raise your Tefillos to the level of Kavannah that you are truly capable of.  Now is the time to show that you have taken this great Mitzvah in the Parsha to heart, that you realize what you fasted for, and the extent to which you really strive for a rebuilt and everlasting Mikdash, so that all of K'lal Yisroel will once and for all bask in a continuum of deveikus.  To appreciate and understand the significance of deveikus in our lives, one need not go any further than the moving words of the Introduction to the Sefer Mesilas Yeshorim (please see there).  We especially emphasize that deveikus is contained in the Introduction to the Sefer because it is essential to us all--and is not a lofty level, relegated to a select few who reach the Madreigos of the Sefer’s end.  As each and every one of us begins each Shemone Esrei ...think DEVEIKUS!

 

Hakhel Note:  If one is pressed for time and cannot recite all of the Karbanos at the outset of davening, he should at least try to recite the 'Parshas HaTomid'--the nine Pesukim which directly relate to and describe the Tomid offering in the Mikdash--if one begins his davening showing that he values the closeness to Hashem that the Tomid represents--it bodes well for further gains in deveikus by the end of davening!  Indeed, HaRav Meir Schuck, z'tl, once asked and answered:  Why do some Shuls begin davening with Adon Olam and end davening with Adon Olam?  So that if a person starts off with the right intentions and properly proceeds through davening...he will sense a different Adon Olam by the end of davening!

 

 

Special Note Three:  World events continue their topsy turvy motions-like a boat rocking at sea.  One day the economy dives, another day the cold war reawakens, a third day terrorists or flotillas threaten, then an earthquake quivers, then Iran waves its ugly hand....  It came as no surprise to us that Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein, Shlita, the legendary educator who will be speaking at Hakhel's Tisha B'Av Kinus (if c'v' we are not yet celebrating the day in the Bais Hamikdash), advised us that his Shiur's topic will be “The Storm Before the Calm.”  The Ba'alei Mussar teach that we should not allow serious world happenings to be ignored--just as one riding on a ship does not blow off a storm at sea with the words “this too shall pass”.  Firstly, we are to commiserate with the people who have suffered or are suffering--for even if not your brothers--they are Hashem's creations and your co-habitants in this world.  Secondly, all that we learn of, witness or experience in our lifetime is BeHashgacha--being sent to us as a meaningful message from which we are to improve and grow, in only a way we individually know that we can (and must).  Incredibly, HaRav Elchanen Wasserman, Z'tl, H'yd, teaches that the words "Nachamu Nachamu Ami” refer to a required double nechama--one nachamu is needed for the disasters and suffering experienced by the world at large that we live through and experience together with them, and a second nachamu for the punishment meted out directly against us.  Living through these unparalleled times, where technological and scientific advances seem to be almost ironically accompanied by alarming incidents and unsettling occurrences, and as the threat of cataclysmic event looms and even swings uneasily above us, we should daven to Hashem that he provide the *double* nechama that we all need without the need of any further reminders, tribulations or harm. Especially during these days, where it is  a custom among some to recite Tikun Chatzos at midday--we should at least recite Tehillem Chapter 79 ( a part of Tikun Chatzos), where we implore Hashem to bring an end to our calamities...and as the Kepitel concludes--when our salvation occurs, ‘we will thank you forever, and will relate your praises for all (calm and peaceful) generations to come’!

 

 

Special Note Four:  This is a call and reminder for this Sunday’s commencement of the new Mishna Yomis cycle.  With the study of just two Mishnayos a day, one completes all Sedarim of Mishnayos in just five and a half years!  The two Mishnayos studied a day truly add up--by starting on Sunday you will complete Mesechtos Brachos and Pe’ah, and be entrenched into Demai by the time Rosh Hashanah arrives!  A Mishna Yomi calendar until Rosh Hashanah is available at hakhel.info in our Resources section-- and the calendar for 5771 is available by the following link  - http://tinyurl.com/2c2ll2g

 

In addition to the Zechus of Torah Leshma, and a Kviyus in Mishna (which very non-coincidentally is comprised of the same letters as Neshama), one is additionally studying Mishnayos relating to Eretz Yisroel--which will hopefully be Halacha LeMa’aseh for us all in the very near future.  If you believe you may have difficulty with some of these Mishnayos, there are many study aids, including the excellent Artscroll Mishnayos, Mishna on the Phone and Mishnayos by MP-3, both of which are available by calling the Torah Communications Network at 718-436-4999.  As we have noted, the Agudath Israel Bais Binyomin in Flatbush, 2913 Avenue L is starting its third cycle of Mishna Yomis (since 1999) this Monday--from 10:30 P.M. until 11:00 P.M., Rabbi Simcha Kallus, Shlita, teaches Mishna Yomis and Halacha Yomis, with a Ma’ariv preceding the Shiur at 10:15 P.M. and following the Shiur at 11:00 P.M.  Please join the Shiur!  If you are not in that neighborhood, why not form a Shiur in your Shul daily, after one of the Minyanim?  If not possible, you can also try a Chavrusa to accomplish your great and noble goal--perhaps even adding a brief period to an existing seder.  First, picture yourself a year from now--you will have completed all of Seder Zeraim, and will actually already be past Mesechtos Shabbos and Eruvin, and into Meseches Pesachim.  Then, picture yourself five and one-half years from now--having completed all six Sidrei Mishna.  It is up to you to make the dream a reality!

 

 

Special Note Five:  We continue our Chizuk and Care Series in Shemiras Halashon with the following excerpt from today’s daily lesson in the outstanding new work Chofetz Chaim: The Family Lesson a Day by Rabbi Shimon Finkelman, Shlita (Artscroll, 2010):

 

“The Chofetz Chaim points out that when a person believes lashon hara, his respect for the person about whom it was spoken has lowered.  The Mitzvah of Ahavas Yisroel requires us to think well of other Jews, not to think less of them because of something that was said about them.

 

If someone is told Lashon Hara and responds by nodding in agreement, then he is guilty both of accepting Lashon Hara and of speaking Lashon Hara.

 

Amazingly, the Rambam states that the punishment of one who accepts lashon hara is greater than that of the speaker.  Perhaps the reason is that if people would not accept Lashon Hara, then the evil report would be DOA (Dead On Arrival).  It would be harmless, and perhaps the speaker, seeing that his words were ignored, would not repeat this evil practice.  The fact that the listener accepts the report as fact encourages the speaker to spread more Lashon Hara in the future.”

 

 

Special Note Six:  Following on the heels (or perhaps leading the way) of Lashon Hara is Sinas Chinam.  The story is told of a person who would constantly ridicule the Vishnitzer Rebbe--that is, until one day when he needed money in order to marry-off his child.  The Rebbe had just received a nice amount of money for his personal use, and handed it all to his erstwhile, self proclaimed enemy.  Shocked, the onlookers later asked the Rebbe how he could do such a thing.  The Rebbe responded: “The term for enemy (Oyev) and the term for loved one (Ohev) are very close in spelling and pronunciation for a good reason.  It is to teach you that if a situation or event occurs in which you can turn an Oyev into an Ohev--take hold of the chance and complete it.  Hashem has just blessed me with that occasion.  If any of you have an Oyev like this, may Hashem bless you with a similar opportunity!

 

 

Special Note Seven:  In his Sefer Tiv HaEmunah, Rabban Gamliel Rabinovich, Shlita teaches that not only must we strengthen ourselves in Emunah daily--but we must strengthen ourselves in recognizing Hashem’s Hand throughout the day.  As Chazal teach that “IlMaleih HaKadosh Barch Hu B’Ezro, Aino Yachol Lo--without Hashem’s assistance, a person cannot quash the Yetzer Hara’s cunning, deceit and trickery.”  Rabban Gamliel suggests that a person should repeat this phrase of Chazal several times during the day--and that the level of his success against the Yetzer Hara will be directly proportional to the Emunah that a person instills and ingrains within himself with each repetition of these very special words.  If you feel the Yetzer Hara coming on--most certainly respond to him with “IlMaleih HaKadosh Barch Hu B’Ezro--stand far back, Hashem is helping me!”

 

 

Special Note Eight:  We continue with our Erev Shabbos Halachos of Shabbos Series:  For the last two weeks, we had presented the Pesakim of HaRav Elyashiv, Shlita, relating to Hilchos Shabbos.  We now return to the Halachos of Koshair (Tying), which we had previously begun (with the Halacha that one should not tighten his Tzitzis knots on Shabbos).  The following Halachos are based upon the Sefer Orchos Shabbos and the Sefer The 39 Melachos:

 

a.  If one regularly inserts and removes belts from his trousers, he may insert a belt on Shabbos.  However, one should not insert new shoelaces into shoes, because they are intended to remain there permanently (some permit putting in laces, if put only through the first two holes, which is a sign that they are placed there temporarily; others do not permit even this).  The foregoing Halachos actually relate to Tikun Mana, but are brought in the course of Hilchos Koshair, because they are related (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 317, Mishna Berura seif katan 16).

 

b.  One may tie his shoes on Shabbos with a bowknot, if he plans to untie them when taking them off within 24 hours.  However, if he usually slips his shoes off, and only ties them once in a while, he may not tie his shoes on Shabbos, unless he now intends to untie them within 24 hours.  The same Halachos would be true of tying a bowknot on a dress.

 

c.  If one is tying his shoes, and the bow slips into a regular knot, one may untie that knot. 

 

d.  Although some authorities prohibit making a necktie on Shabbos, many are of the opinion that one can make a necktie on Shabbos, provided that one is usually in the habit of untying the tie after its use (such as on Motza’ei Shabbos), and not leaving the knot in place.  Many are careful to only tie a necktie on Shabbos if they will actually untie it within 24 hours after it is tied.

 

e.  Even if knot already exist, another knot may not be added to it.

 

f.  If one wants to store food securely in a plastic bag (such as storing a container of cucumber salad in a plastic bag so that it does not spill on Friday night, for use at the Shabbos Seudah the next morning), he may only make a single wind knot, but may not make a long-lasting or double knot (even though he intends to open it the next morning).  Similarly, one cannot tie a knot around a box of cake even if he intends to use it again on the very same Shabbos.

 

As always, any and all particular Shailos should be discussed with your Rav or Posek.

 

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Special Note One:  We are excited to provide by the following link http://www.prayingwithfire.org/images/Newsletter6.pdf   the sixth issue of the Praying with Passion Series, with the issue focused on Ais Ratzon, produced by The V’Ani Tefillah Foundation.  Please spread this especially useful and inspirational publication to others!

 

 

Special Note Two:  As we move further in the Three Week Period, longing for the Geulah, we are reminded of the initial visit by Sir Moses Montefiore to the apartment of the Maharil Diskin in Yerushalayim.  It is related that upon seeing the great simplicity in which one of the Gedolei Yerushalyim lived, the beneficient Sir Montefiore offered to make the dwelling more dignified, and provide the great Rav with new furniture.  HaRav Diskin is said to have taken Montefiore to the window of his apartment and pointed towards the Har HaBayis:  “Thank you very much for your thoughts, but only after that house is refurbished, will my house be refurbished!” he exclaimed.  Is this only the outlook that a Gadol HaDor should have--or a view that we should also subscribe to--at least in some meaningful way-- in our lives?  We can join in with the tza’ar of the Shechina being exiled from its Home, by not allowing ourselves at least the last details of comfort in our homes (whether it be of furnishings or fixtures, or even of an electronic or pitchifke nature)--as Hashem’s Home lies in terrible ruin, and is being ruined even further by the conduct (and the demeanor, and the mere presence) of the Arabs there daily.  Let us commiserate together with Hashem over the tza’ar of the Shechina and of Bnai Yisroel in Galus.  Just as on Yomim Tovim we feel the Simcha through delicacies, clothing and the like--so too can we feel the pain of desolation with a lacking in at least some of those little things that we feel would really add to, or ‘complete’ our home.  When not buying this item or that item, or making this adornment or that decoration--verbally express why you are not doing so.  Through our thoughtful conduct, we can truly bring the Shechinta BeGalusa --the exiled Shechina --and ourselves--truly home.

 

 

Special Note Three:  HaRav Shimshon Pincus, z’tl, explains that while the Shechina is in our midst in some form even despite our Galus and our Tumah (‘Hashochen Itam Besoch Tumosam’), there is one thing that we must be very wary of--for it causes Hashem to absolutely withdraw from us. The Torah teaches “VeLo Yireh Becha Ervas Davar VeShav Mai’acharecha”--if Hashem sees erva in our midst, then He will recoil from dwelling among us (Devorim 23:15 ).  Rav Pincus explains that our proper anti-erva conduct, our true tznius, allows the Shechina to dwell with us; while an insufficient regard for tznius and a lackluster and relaxed treatment of immodest people and places, on the other hand, shows that we do not really welcome the Shechina --and the Shechina does not want to be there either.  With the hot summer days (among those who live in the  Northern Hemisphere) upon us, the nisayon of erva versus tznius presents challenges from within and without.  It is no coincidence--as it never is-- that we read at this time of year the Parshios of Balak and Pinchas, which describe the zealousness with which Pinchas had to act to repulse the attack made by Zimri and his followers on the kedusha of K’lal Yisroel.  As Chazal explain, Zimri, although a leader of his Shevet, was not immune to the rationalizations of the Yetzer Hora in this regard--and actually went so far as to compare himself to Moshe Rabbeinu who “also took a Midianite women(!)” Clearly, in the Yetzer Hora’s attack on our tznius--in his attempt for us to demonstrate a leaning towards ‘ervas davar’ so that the Shechina turns from us-- he will have no shame, and will go to an outrageous extent!  What can we do--we are, after all, only human?  We must always remember that Hashem gives us no battle that we cannot win.  Here are just a few simple--but winning suggestions.  Women and girls should make the special effort to act with concerted tznius under hot or other difficult conditions.  Men should avoid, to the greatest extent possible, those places or locations which could subject them to immodest behavior and immodest dress.  To the extent necessary and possible, even checkout counters can be avoided--perhaps the women and girls at home can spare the men a shopping trip, or a trip to the ‘outside world’, in a manner in which both men and women will be spared the immodest exposure.  For whatever short remaining period we have in this Galus--let us affirmatively and conclusively demonstrate that we *want* the Shechina to be with us even here--and perhaps we will be zoche, Middah Keneged Middah, to have the Shechina in all of its glorious presence with us forever thereafter--with the Geulah Shelaima, speedily and in *our* days.

 

 

Special Note Four:  We continue with our special  Chizuk and care in Shemiras Halashon during the Three Week Period.  The Sefer Peleh Yoetz writes that the pain of Lashon Hora is exacerbated when one speaks against a family, a community or a ''Shevet MiYisroel" and accordingly decries "Sefardim who speak about Ashkenazim, and Ashkenazim who speak about Sefardim".  In the words of the Pele Yoetz:  "One cannot speak about a family, or a community, just because of the deeds or even misdeeds of a few. If the punishment is so great for one who speaks against one individual, how multiplied is that punishment for one who speaks against a group. One should realize how much he is angering Hashem with this conduct--and should avoid even the slightest doubt."  The Sefer Sichos Ba'Avodas Hashem makes the following amazing observation:  Since the Chovos HaLevovos (Sha'ar HaBechina, Chapter 7) writes that one who speaks Lashon Hara loses his Mitzvos to the one whom he spoke against, and is concomitantly given his aveiros as well, it follows that one  who speaks against the many--whether it be a family, Shul, community, or group will be saddled with the aveiros of the whole group--and will be punished for it all.  What a horrible and horrifying situation one can bring upon himself. Moreover, if one follows the changing news and criticizes this group this week and puts down that group the following week and so on --he will be stuck with the aveiros-- and the punishments-- of a multitude of groups!"  Hakhel Note:  We must realize that the sin of Lashon Hora is increased both qualitatively by the manner in which it is spoken, and quantitatively by the number of people it is spoken to--and the number of people it is spoken about. One must avoid even the slightest 'sofek sefeika'--even the slightest doubt.  If one believes he is justified in speaking out against a group--he should first speak to his own Rav or Posek--or call the Shemiras Halashon Shaila Hotline for a definitive P'sak at 718-951-3696 ( 9-10:30 pm , and emergencies).  The wise person's eyes are in his head--as he is smart enough to 'see' the consequences of his actions--and act appropriately.

 

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