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Sent June 28:


Special Note One:  We provide the following two important Halacha notes which are especially relevant at this time of year:


If a person eats less than a k’zayis of a food, and drinks less than a r’eviis of a drink, he does not make a brocha achrona, because we do not combine the shiur of food and drink for the purpose of brocha achrona (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 210, Mishne Berurah seif katan 1).


The Mishne Berurah (Orach Chayim 229, seif katan 1) writes that if one sees a rainbow, he should not relate it to others, because the rainbow is a sign that Hashem is upset with the world and is withholding His wrath because of the covenant He made at the time of Noach.  Thus one who relates this information is speaking badly of the world and violates the principles of “Motzei Dibah Hu K’sil”.


Special Note Two: The story is told of the Vilna Gaon’s brother, HaRav Avraham, Z’tl.  When he was very ill and suffering, the Gaon visited him and saw him writhing in pain.  When the Gaon asked him whether there was anything at all that he could do, HaRav Avraham responded that if he had the strength, he would get up and dance and rejoice in the suffering that he was experiencing in this world, which would save him from far greater pain and torment in the Next World.


In a similar vein, the Chofetz Chaim (Chofetz Chaim al HaTorah, Parshas Chukas) asks why Hashem does not now send Neviim, or Prophets, to exhort us to improve our ways and finally bring the Geulah.  The Chofetz Chaim answers that the suffering and tribulations that we go through in a world so ravaged of its spiritual content, and so full of germs and disease, can bring the Geulah in a more expeditious manner than even the Nevi’im(!) could.


This thought may seem too difficult, or at least too elevated, to be followed by the average person.  However, at the very least, when experiencing physical or mental pain, anguish, or distress, one should recognize that every **iota** of feeling experienced is not happenstance, coincidence, “Murphy’s Law”, bad luck or the like, but is actually a personal correspondence from Hashem Himself for some reason.  Every person will have to think about what that reason is--kapara for himself, kapara for the generation, to bring the Geulah closer….  Whatever it may be, even a headache readily cured by two Tylenol® tablets is also a purposeful communication from Hashem.


One additional point can be made.  One can always daven to Hashem for the future that, to the extent possible, the message of suffering and/or tribulation be replaced by other means.  As Shlomo HaMelech (the wisest of all men) teaches in Mishlei (16:6), “B’Chesed V’Emes Yechupar Avon--by acts of Chesed and Torah study, sins [otherwise deserving of painful punishment] can be forgiven.”  Of course, we can do our part to put more effort and energy into these activities--to replace the effort and energy that pain takes from us.


Special Note Three: The Torah teaches us “V’Halachta Bidrachav--you shall go in Hashem’s ways” (Devarim 28:9).  HaRav Yitzchok Hutner, Z’tl, asks a pointed question:


Hashem always acts as a Giver to us--never receiving anything He really needs from us--as He showers trillions upon trillions of blessings on the earth and its inhabitants daily.  We, in turn, are big takers, or receivers, as we imbibe ourselves with free gifts ranging from life in this world to the ability to acquire life in the Next, Eternal World.  This being said, how are we emulating, or even in any manner following , the ways of Hashem as required by the Torah, if He is the All-Giver--and we are the All-Takers?!


HaRav Hutner, Z’tl, provides a relatively shocking response.  He teaches that if we properly demonstrate the middah of “HaKaras HaTov”--of properly recognizing the gifts and the goodness given to us by Hashem--and by others--then we have removed ourselves from the status of receivers and put ourselves into the category of givers, for we have **given** recognition, we have provided due attribution to whom and when it is due.  Thus, when you make a proper Brocha, when you give proper praise and thanks to Hashem, when you rightfully acknowledge what someone else (including even a close family member or employee) has done for you--you become a giver, and fulfill the Mitzvah of “V’Halachta Bidrachav”--following in the ways of Hashem--after having “received” so much!  It is not surprising then, that HaRav Chaim Freidlander, Z’tl (Sifsei Chaim, Middos V’Avodas Hashem, Volume I, page 323) refers to HaKaras Hatov as the “shoresh hachesed”--the root of all chesed--the key to all giving and kindness!!


Sent June 27:


Special Note One:  As a Shemitah year will be arriving this coming year (5768) Haba Aleinu L’Tova, we once again refer our readers to the possibility of leasing land in Eretz Yisroel--this time to personally be mekayem--fulfill--the Mitzvah of Shemitah.  The Kinyan Ha’Aretz Association provides this opportunity at a fixed cost.  You may contact this Association at the website www.kinyan.org or by calling 718-663-1311.


We asked HaRav Yisroel Belsky, Shlita, whether there is merit to leasing land in order to “acquire” a Mitzvah.  He told us that in his opinion, there was some “Kiyum HaMitzvah”, although the extent of it could not be specifically defined.  If you are interested, you may want to look more closely into this opportunity, and consult further with your own Rav or Posek.


We had the opportunity to ask the following other question to HaRav Belsky, Shlita, as well.


Is “U’Mibisorcha Al Tisalam (Yeshaya 58:7)--do not hide away from your family members”--a Halachic requirement?  HaRav Belsky, responded that, with respect to charity and according to Torah law, family members who are poor take precedence in charity giving, but that one should “disburse no more than one-half of his Tzedakah money to his family.”


Special Note Two:  Rabbi Moshe Goldberger, Shlita, presents the following fascinating question:  “How many places in the Torah does Hashem use the same expression twice in a row?”


We know that when Hashem calls to Avraham Avinu as “Avraham, Avraham”, or to Yaakov Avinu as “Yaakov, Yaakov”, Rashi teaches that the repetition of the name is an indication of endearment.  It would follow, then, that when the Torah repeats another phrase or expression a second time, it also indicates something dear to Hashem.


Rabbi Goldberger notes that in Sefer Devorim, the following expressions are, in fact, repeated:


Devorim 15:8--“Open, Open your hand [to the poor person]”


Devorim 15:10--“Give, Give [to the poor person]”


Devorim 15:11--“Open, Open your hand [to the poor person]”


If the message has not yet gotten across, Rabbi Goldberger refers us further to Devorim 14:22--“Give a tenth, a tenth…”


It is said to be a principle among fundraisers that one does not attempt to raise money during the summer months, because these are times when people “put away their checkbooks.”


These pesukim in Devorim, which are actually (on non-coincidentally, for nothing is by coincidence) read on Shabbos **during the summer months**, should move us, at least with respect to ourselves, to reject the fundraisers’ “summer rule.”


Indeed, in the Parsha that records and describes all of our Festivals (Emor, Chapter 23), the Torah seemingly in an unrelated fashion interjects the following pasuk between the description of the Festival of Shavuos and the next-following Festival of Rosh HaShanah: “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not remove completely the corners of your field as you reap and you shall not gather gleanings of your harvest; for the poor and the proselyte you shall leave them; I am Hashem”(Vayikra 23:22).  Rashi (ibid), in order to explain the insertion of this pasuk, which is so apparently unconnected to all of the Festivals, brings the words of Rav Avdimi in the Medrash (Toras Kohanim, 13:12):  “The Torah’s insertion here teaches that if one gives gifts to the poor, **Hashem regards it as if he himself has built the Bais HaMikdash, and brought (Festival) offerings in it**”.  The Chasam Sofer goes even a step further and adds that the reason the pasuk is placed especially after Shavuos--which is the Festival of Reaping, at the outset of summer--is to teach us that if one shares his prosperity with the poor, he has attained a level of holiness equal to the holiness of the Festivals themselves!  And one then comes into Rosh Hashanah, the next Festival, much more prepared…


Let us take this time of year, when others may be unfortunately lax/relaxed from the Mitzvah of Tzedakah, and utilize it, as the Torah does, as the bridge between Shavous and Rosh Hashanah, and let us constantly remember Hashem’s endearment to Tzedakah, as he teaches us over the summer Parshiyos of Devorim--“Open, open, give, give, open, open…!”


Sent June 26:


Special Note One:  Let us not forget the Shevuyim who are still being incarcerated by terrorists:


Eldad Ben Tova

Ehud Ben Malka

Gilad Ben Aviva


If we can each recite a chapter of Tehillim for each one of them today, we can Im Yirtze Hashem, and Bli Ayin Hora, generate thousands upon thousands of Prayers for each of them!  Remember it is not Hamas (Yimach Shimam) or Hezbollah (Yemach Shimam) which is in power; it is Hashem--at all times, everywhere!


Let us also not forget Yehonoson Ben Malka (Jonathan Pollard).  Everyone is still urged to say Chapter 121 and call the White House at 202-456-1111.  Once again, remember, Hashem Matir Asurim--Hashem releases the bound.


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


“When you contemplate sinning, when the Yetzer Hara is about to ‘pin you down for the count’, obliterate him by using this knock out punch--Go back in time, in your mind, to the last page of the Neilah Service of Yom Kippur and say to yourself the following, remembering how you felt when you said it in Shul.

(If **THIS**doesn't kill the Yetzer Hara, nothing will.)










Special Note Three:  Chazal teach of the importance of reciting “Meah Brachos--100 Brachos” a day.  This is codified in Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 46:3 (see also Mishne Berurah there).  [Note:  Many Poskim hold that this requirement does not apply to women, as they do not necessarily have the same opportunities as men in the course of a day.  See V’zos HaBrocha, page 186]  If you indeed do recite 100 brachos a day, simple arithmetic brings you to approximately 36,000 brachos a year.  This means that in just 28 years, you have made over 1 million (1,000,000) brachos!  If we can pay special attention to the brachos we make, we will have performed over 1 million high-quality Mitzvos by the time we reach early middle age.  This is quite an accomplishment!  We note that aside from making a brocha properly, it is also important that we make the proper brocha.  While we have not independently verified their research, we have learned that the Star-K has produced a listing of the appropriate brocha rishona and brocha achrona on cereals.  Set forth below from the “Star-K Online” are several cereals in which the brocha (or brocha combination) may not be as you would otherwise expect:


A. Cheerios—Fruity                 Shehakol                      Borei Nefashos


B. Cookie Crisp                       Shehakol                      Borei Nefashos


C. Kemach Fruit Whirls            Mezonos                      Al Hamichya


D. Malt-O-Meal Dyno-Bites;

Post Fruity Pebbles; and

Post Cocoa Pebbles                 Mezonos                      Borei Nefashos


If there is a food product you use whose brocha you are unsure about, the correct answer is only a phone call away.  In our experience, the particular kosher supervising agency (such as the OU, OK, Star-K, etc.) knows the accurate ingredient content and the proper brocha to make.  The extra effort of making that phone call--for you, for your family and for your friends--can save many Brachos L’Vatala, and can help you reach the one million brocha goal with honor!


Special Note Four: One final related point.  We asked HaRav Yisroel Belsky, Shlita, whether one can use on Shabbos for Lechem Mishna, a closed box of Matzos that one does not intend to open now as a “second challah”.  HaRav Belsky, Shlita, responded:


“One should remove plastic bags, boxes, and any separation between his fingers and the Lechem--one should hold both breads between all ten fingers in a manner that will allow him to cut from either immediately, and then make the brocha.”


We add, that the same is true for all food brachos--the item you are about to consume should be held in your right hand, and ready to eat (without having to unwrap it, separate it , or the like) after having made the brocha.  See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 206:4.  For one who is left-handed, the Mishne Berurah writes that he holds the food in his left hand.  The Piskei Teshuvos (volume 2, page 740) notes that the Mekubalim rule that one should hold the food object in his right hand, irrespective of whether he is left-handed or right-handed.


Which approach one follows, as he is making the brocha, he must always recognize Who placed the beautiful food in his hands to begin with!




HaRav Avrohom Pam, Z’tl, provides the following fundamental thought on this week’s Parsha, as presented in The Pleasant Way, by Rabbi Sholom Smith, Shlita:


The people spoke against G-d and Moshe, “Why did you bring us up from Egypt to die in the desert, for there is no bread and no water, and our souls are disgusted with the insubstantial bread (‘mann’).”  (Bamidbar 21:5)


In this week’s Parsha, the Torah describes how K'lal Yisroel complained bitterly about the mann, which was their main source of sustenance during their forty years in the desert.


In two other places Shemos (16:31) and Bamidbar (11:4-7) the Torah describes the greatness of the mann.  It was a heavenly food, the spiritual sustenance of angels!  It could be eaten without any preparation.  It was so sublime that it was absorbed into the body without producing any waste.  (See Yoma 75b.)  On a spiritual level, the mann injected into its consumers the emunah and bitachon--belief and faith--necessary to survive for forty years in the desolate surroundings of the wilderness.


In Parshas Beha’aloscha (Bamidbar 1:4-6) the Torah describes the first eruption of complaints against the Mann:  “The rabble that was among them cultivated a craving and the B’nei Yisroel also wept once more and said, ‘Who will feed us meat? We remember the fish that we ate in Egypt free of charge; the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic.  But now our life is parched; there is nothing.  We have nothing to anticipate but the Mann.’”  Rashi (there) notes Hashem’s reply to this: “See you who came into the world what My children complain about!”  What could be better than the Mann and you have the audacity to say that you are sick and tired of it--“mann in the morning and mann in the evening”!


HaRav Pam, Z’tl, applies this to us:


There are many situations in life where this scene plays itself out by people who are blessed with the good that life has to offer and yet grumble about their “unfortunate plight.”  Every person looks for “glick in leben--good fortune and happiness in life”.  But how does one attain it?  Is it through fame or fortune?  Neither of the above guarantees happiness.  There are many wealthy and famous people who are unhappy and depressed and make everyone around them miserable.


Happiness is attained by the realization that whatever blessing Hashem grants should be appreciated.  If one has such an attitude, then no matter how much or how little he has, he is happy.  This thought can be summed up in an old aphorism: “People search for the City of Happiness.  Where is the City of Happiness?  It can be found the State of Mind.”


The story is told of a Chassid who complained to his Rebbe that he had spent the previous night tossing and turning in his bed, unable to fall asleep.  The Rebbe shook his head and replied, “Yesterday I had to visit a critically ill person in the hospital.  Every few hours, two huge hospital orderlies came in and turned him from side to side to ward off bed sores...and you were able to do this all by yourself!  What are you complaining about?”


A yeshiva bochur comes home for supper.  His mother has spent the better part of the afternoon preparing a chicken dinner with a vegetable salad aesthetically arranged on a platter.  The son takes one look and exclaims, “Oh, chicken, again!  It’s coming out of my ears...”  At that moment, a Heavenly voice calls out, “Look at what My children complain about!”


We are blessed to live in an affluent society with an abundance of food.  Yet for millions of people in parts of the world, this ordinary weekday supper is considered a holiday feast.  During the War years here in America, a wedding feast often consisted of loaves of bread, a few pickled herrings and bottles of seltzer...


Mazel Tov!  A young man becomes engage exceptional young woman from a distinguished family.  Both of parents rejoice in their good fortune.  Then, as they make plans for the chasunah, a crisis develops.  The father of the chosson says, “In our family the tradition is that the two fathers escort the chosson to the chuppah and the two mothers escort the kallah.  This is a minhag from our forbearers and our teachers.  We will do it no other way...”  To this, the kallah’s parents reply in anguish, “We cannot agree to that. For twenty years we have prayed to live to see the day when together we would escort our daughter to her chuppah.  Should we now give up this dream?”  The result is a bitter argument that throws a damper on the fragile relationship of the mechutanim (in-laws) and even threatens to dissolve the shidduch itself.  Once again a Heavenly voice calls out and says, “Look what My children complain about!”  Is it worth threatening the future happiness of one’s children because of a 30-second march to the chuppah?


The echo of the Heavenly voice exclaiming, “Look at what My children complain about!” regrettably is heard in many situations in life.  Instead of thanking Hashem for His bountiful Blessings, people find something to “kvetch” about.  It is true that every success in life is bound together with increased responsibilities.  But that is certainly not a reason to consider Hashem’s blessings as an unwanted burden.  Those who appreciate Hashem’s blessings have the proper State of Mind to spend their lives in the City of Happiness.



We would like to add just one brief thought to HaRav Pam, Z’tl’s especially meaningful words.  HaRav Matisyahu Salomon, Shlita, teaches that the first time our people became known as “Yehudim”, or Jews, was when we went into exile.  Thus, the term “Yehudi” appears in Megilas Esther and in Sefer Daniel-Ezra-Nehemia.  Why did we first become known as Yehudim in exile?


He suggests that it is because the Gentiles who newly encountered us recognized that we were a people who thanked Hashem (hoda’ah) for everything--even in a state of Galus.  Unlike any other nation, it is our mark of distinction that we rise above difficulties, travails, trials and even sufferings--and squeeze the juice out of the orange, and that honey out of the honeycomb.


Let us learn and consciously apply this life-affecting lesson from our Parsha in the coming week in as many practical and tangible ways as we can!


Sent June 19:


Special Note One:  When the first man landed on the moon, HaRav Yechezkel Ambramsky, Z’tl, commented, “Man may have reached the moon, but he has yet to reach himself!”


Rebbe Yisroel Salanter, Z’tl, similarly is said to have commented, “While we are busy making Hashem King over all worlds during the first Pasuk of Shema, we should not forget to make sure to make Hashem King over ourselves as well!”  The popular phrase, probably found in every language, is “Charity begins at home”.  We must take to heart that this refers not only to monetary and even physical matters, but to spiritual matters, as well.  Every person should take a couple of minutes out of his busy day to go beyond the moon--and spend those brief moments in directed introspection--to finally reach himself!


Special Note Two:  We provide the following important Halachic excerpt (footnotes omitted) from Halachically Speaking--Volume 3, Issue 21.  To receive Halachically Speaking weekly for a nominal charge, please email mdl@thehalacha.com.


Copyright Issues


During the summer months, it is very common to listen to more music than usual while walking, driving, or doing any other activities.  Therefore, it is proper to discuss what one is and what is not permitted to copy as far as music CDs and tapes are concerned.  One should not say that copying is permitted.  That which many people justify copying by saying “everyone does it” is not an excuse for stealing from music producers and artists.  Many people are accustomed to copying music from a friend’s iPod®.  This is 100% stealing and against Halacha.  Every CD that is copied steals at least five dollars from the producers.  If all the money lost on the CDs that are copied would be added up the producers, etc. are losing a lot of parnasa, despite their investing a lot of time and money to create something that the public is interested in.  One wonders why some people who are very stringent to keep every custom even when it may have little backing in Halacha are so lenient with this Halacha which is based on the pasuk in the Torah of “Lo Signov” (one shall not steal).


A CD or tape which is no longer sold in stores and is not possible to buy may be copied from a friend.  However, one must make sure that the item is really not available for purchase.  Many old tapes are still being sold online (by the original producer or someone who bought the rights to them).  One who owns a CD or tape and is scared it may get lost is permitted to copy it.  One who had a CD or tape which broke may make a copy of it from a friend.  One who owns a CD or tape may make a copy of it for personal use.  For example, he may make a copy for his car, since it can be assumed that the one would not buy another copy of the CD or tape for his car, so no loss is being caused by the copying.  A CD or tape may be copied for all the people in one’s house, as long as they actually live at home.  However, once a child gets married a copy may not be made for that child.  It is permitted to copy a song off the radio since the quality is not as good as it would be if one were to buy the CD or tape.  Music that is offered on the Internet may not be copied since it is only put there for one to listen to.   Some producers maintain that the forty-five second clips that are offered on the Internet may be copied.  Copying a CD or tape is forbidden even if one would never buy the CD or tape.


Sent June 15:


Special Note One:  The reason that women have the custom not to do laundry, sew, etc., on Rosh Chodesh, is because they did not give up their jewelry to construct the Eigel--the Golden Calf--which occurred on the seventeenth day of the month of Tammuz.  As this Rosh Chodesh (tomorrow and Sunday) is Rosh Chodesh Tammuz, it is an especially auspicious time for women to properly observe/celebrate Rosh Chodesh.  Since there is a Mitzvah to be “marbeh b’seudah”(celebrate by eating more, such as  by having a special seudah), it would seem appropriate for women to enjoy a Rosh Chodesh seudah (See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 417 and 419 for discussions of the custom of women not working, and of the Mitzvah of seudah on Rosh Chodesh).


An interesting issue is the proper time to have a festive Rosh Chodesh meal when Rosh Chodesh comes out on Shabbos and Sunday, and one is already eating his meals L’Kavod Shabbos.  Some have the custom of having a special Seudas Rosh Chodesh on Sunday, while others add on dishes to their regular Melaveh Malka.  The Mishna Berurah (ibid, seif katan 2) writes that one can even add on a food that he would not otherwise have partaken of to one of the Shabbos meals.


The Luach Dovor B’Ito brings the Yerushalmi (Megillah 1:4) that:


“Mitzvah L’Smoach B’Rosh Chodesh--one should rejoice on Rosh Chodesh.”  The Luach continues that the Hebrew word “Shir”--song--is an acronym for Shabbos, Yom Tov, Rosh Chodesh--which demonstrates the high regard in which Rosh Chodesh should be held.  We should not lose sight of the fact that just as every Yom Rishon, or Sunday, is the beginning of new opportunities in the coming week, so, too, is every Rosh Chodesh the beginning of an entire month, allowing us the privilege of reinvigoration and renewal for the month.  This coming Sunday we have the opportunity to start both a new week--and a new month--and we should try to use this “fresh-start” to our advantage by, b’li neder, undertaking a defined and practical plan or program for the month.  Everyone knows (or should at least take the time to think about) some character trait, Mitzvah or other conduct that could use some improvement.  How about actually doing something about it this month?!  For some possible meaningful suggestions, we refer you to yesterday’s bulletin and other bulletins from the past two weeks!


Special Note Two:  The Chofetz Chaim (in Sefer Shem Olam, Chapter 4) brings the famous Chazal that one who was Shomer Shabbos in this world, but may otherwise be required to go through the punishment of Gehinnom for other sins, will have respite on Shabbos, because it becomes Shabbos for him forever--even in Gehinnom.  The Chofetz Chaim then remarkably adds that he heard from a “Gadol HaDor” that the time Shabbos starts for a person in Gehinnom (i.e., the time his punishment stops) actually begins from the time on EREV SHABBOS that he would begin preparing for Shabbos while in this world.  Therefore, the Chofetz Chaim urges us to begin preparing for Shabbos as early on Erev Shabbos as is possible.  In this way, the “Kedushas HaShabbos” will be brought upon a person from early Erev Shabbos--and it will be good for him in all worlds and forever.


This Shabbos, let us try to activate our Kedushas Shabbos as early as possible on Erev Shabbos--especially as we will be bringing in the kedushah of Rosh Chodesh with it, as well!


Sent June 14:


Special Note One:  There are certain character traits which open the doors for the performance of many, many Mitzvos, and the avoidance of numerous Aveiros.  An example of this would be the Middah of Anavah, commonly translated as humility.  If one fosters, develops, further develops, and further refines, the Middah of Anavah within himself, he will minimize or eliminate his feelings of anger, Loshon Hora, arrogance, and disrespect, and will instead work at giving the benefit of the doubt to others, give-in, appreciate his role and position in this world, as well as producing many other character-building benefits.


The importance of the middah of Anavah is highlighted by the special chapters that are devoted to it both in the Mesilas Yeshorim and the Orchos Tzadikim.  Moreover, the Igeres HaRamban calls Anavah the “Middah Tova M’kol HaMiddos Tovos--the preeminent character trait.”  Indeed, what more need be said than that Moshe Rabbeinu himself is characterized by this middah and is described by the Torah (Bamidbar 12:3) to be “Anav Meod M’Kol Ha’Odom--more humble than any other person.”  Focusing on improving in one middah can be more beneficial than trying to improve everything at once.  A good starting point would be to review the above sources in the Mesilas Yesharim, Orchos Tzadikim and Igeres HaRamban.  We especially note the wonderful translation and explanation of the Igeres HaRamban entitled Letter for the Ages (by Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Feuer, Shlita, published by Artscroll).  If one can do nothing else, let him at least always look at the abilities, strengths, goodness, and accomplishments of those around him, and contemplate the important difference between temporary, fleeting honor and true, everlasting honor!


Special Note Two:  The Vilna Gaon writes to his close family in the Igeres HaGra:


“Kol Rega V’Rega She’Odom Chosem Piv--every moment that a person keeps silent” (i.e., in a situation where he would/could speak up), entitles him to bask in a Hidden Light that no angel or other creation could fathom.


While we all may be familiar with this quote, we should make an extra special effort to energize the quote and actually apply it in every day life.  Imagine enjoying and benefiting from a light that even an angel cannot appreciate and attain.  If we do not use this phrase to combat our Yetzer Hora at least once a day in an at-home or at-work situation, we may be acting in a very remiss manner--against ourselves!  As we noted last week, the 40-day preparatory period which led to the Meraglim’s world-wrenching and generation-affecting Loshon Hora on Tisha B’Av, will commence this year tomorrow, on the 29th day of Sivan (the day the Meraglim left for Eretz Yisroel).  Now is the time to prepare for a positive turn of the tongue.  Today especially, which is  the Yom Kippur Koton preceding the month of Tammuz, is a particular propitious time to undertake this new, fresh attempt in the area of Shmiras HaLashon.  If the Malachim have no part in this reserved Hidden Light, then let us at least consider and act upon the special opportunities we have at certain moments during the day!


Special Note Three:  As today is the Yom Kippur Koton before Tammuz, we recognize not only that nine months of the year have passed, but that there are still three months left to go!  As some write, “Tammuz” is an acronym (juxtaposed) for “Zeman Teshuva Mimashmesh U’Ba”--and likewise for “Zerizim Makdimim V’Osin Teshuva”--both spell “Tammuz” in the Hebrew, and both mean that our feelings towards drawing closer to Hashem should begin to intensify at this time.  We each can accomplish so much in the coming 3 months.  For instance, the entire book Praying With Fire (by Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, Shlita, published by Artscroll, 2005), can be studied over its five-minute a day, 89-day cycle which begins this Sunday, on the first of Tammuz and concludes on Erev Rosh Hashanah.  Uplifting and upgrading your davening, and improving upon your bond with Hashem, is a great way to concomitantly conclude this year, prepare for the Yomim Noraim and grow in the coming year!




As locksmiths and laymen all know, every door, every car, and every lock will have a key especially made to open it.  On the other hand, there are also master keys, which can open many doors, such as the master key for a hotel, which may be able to open the doors to hundreds of different rooms.  In the spiritual realm as well, there are certain “keys” which can serve to open much more than a passageway, and indeed can open many varied gates of spiritual and life-long growth.


One such key, says HaRav Shimshon Dovid Pincus, Z’tl, (Nefesh Shimshon—Siddur HaTefillah, p.43) is the proper use of the early morning, or at least the first hour of the day, after we awaken and as we begin to pray.  HaRav Pincus, Z’tl, in fact, writes, that this part of the morning is the “Yesod Gadol--the great foundation”--of the day.  It is imperative for us, Rav Pincus continues, to glean the precious “hidden treasures” of the morning to make our day successful.


What are these morning “hidden treasures” which are so vital for the upcoming entire day?  And how can we successfully glean and benefit from them?


They are, Rav Pincus concludes, the Birchos HaShachar--the numerous Brachos that we make each morning -- that are important enough for us to recite each and every day, day-in and day-out--from Yom Kippur through Purim, and from Sunday through Shabbos-every single day.  We must realize, Rabbi Pincus teaches, that these Brachos are more than simply blessings of thanks or appreciation (indeed, on many “natural” events, Brachos of appreciation are made only once in 30 days).  Rather, these Brachos serve to connect us to Hashem--for through these Brachos we recognize that Hashem is giving, and we are taking, directly and without any go-betweens, on a day-in, day-out basis, those many personalized, miraculous gifts we need to exist and thrive.  We need not go to the street, to the supermarket, to the doctor or other expert, or for that matter even to the President, to acquire the ability to open our eyes and see, to straighten ourselves as we get out of bed, to be able to leave our homes and not find ourselves incarcerated, to walk on firm ground and not in the mud, to have nice clothing and comfortable shoes, to have a weary body strengthened…


The purpose of the Birchos HaShachar, then, is to reconnect ourselves to HaKadosh Baruch Hu as we prepare ourselves for the day’s activities and challenges.  We remind ourselves, through these Brachos, that our physical lives in this physical world are incredibly--yet actually--rooted in Hashem’s sanctity.  Our Olam Hazeh, then, becomes as Rabbi Pincus puts it, “A Bais HaMikdash Gadol--a huge Holy Temple”--as our bodies, and not only our souls, benefit directly from HaKadosh Baruch Hu’s beneficence.


Paradoxically, then, one can potentially become closer to Hashem in this world than in the next, for there are seven heavens above, and many layers of celestial bodies and beings which could spiritually separate a soul from the Kisei HaKavod, the Throne of Glory.  Yet, in Olam Hazeh, through our senses and physical needs--we bond directly with Hashem!  With this in mind, HaRav Pincus notes, we can better understand why it is that when we make Kiddush on Friday night, it is not made over a Chumash or Sefer Tehillim, but over a cup of (preferably) good wine--as we find and relate to HaKadosh Baruch Hu through our senses.


Similarly, the Arizal teaches that one of the yesodos of Avodas Hashem are the “Birchos HaNehenin”--the Brachos over foods, for if a person attempts to attach himself to Hashem only through “Olam Haba”--the concept is just too far away, and one cannot get as close as he could in a situation in which he is very hungry and finds something nourishing, tasty, and filling to eat.  It is for this reason too, that our very first Brocha in the morning is “Al Netilas Yadayim”--in which we indicate that we take our hands, which are the epitome and paradigm of work and effort in Olam Hazeh (“the hands are the hands of Esav”…), and raise them up and declare that all of their capabilities and accomplishments are engendered and enabled from Above.


Our whole day now takes a different turn.  When we run to catch a bus, we are not running at all in the same way as the fellow next to us who is apparently doing the same thing.  Instead, we feel the empowerment, the entitlement, the direct cable, from Hashem, in all of our activities.  If one would scream as loud as he could from New York across the oceans to Eretz Yisroel, he could not be heard by any one of his relatives or friends on the other side.  On the other hand, if he punches one button on his phone with his pinky, and whispers, he could say good night to someone in the Old City.  It is because that which is needed to connects--whether wire or wireless--is all in place.


This is why our mornings--our morning Brachos--are so essential for the rest of the day.  They create that bond, that relationship, with Hashem that is so necessary to take and lead us through the day.  Far be it from us to be bleary-eyed, groggy, or even thinking about the things we have to do today, as we recite these absolutely essential Brachos.  In fact, we should give ourselves an extra few minutes in the morning to make sure we have proper concentration at least for the simple meaning of their essential words and teachings.  Would mission control at NASA be exhausted or thinking about breakfast as a space shuttle is about to take off?


Our Birchos HaShachar are, quite literally, the “blast-off” of our day.  The better the blast off, the farther and farther we take our life in this world into the heavens!


Sent June 11:


Special Note One:  What should we do if we see two friends speaking softly to each other--and we would like to know what they are talking about?  After all, is curiosity really so bad?  The great Rishon, Reb Yehudah HaChasid, deals squarely with this issue in Sefer Chasidim (Chapter 1062), where he writes:


“If two individuals are whispering to each other in front of you, and you wish to know what they are talking about, do not ask them, lest you make them into liars.  After all, if they had really wanted you to know, they would not have whispered in front of you in the first place.  You leave them with no choice but to lie.”  Accordingly, the Sefer Eved HaMelech concludes, when you see others speaking privately to each other, you should **distance yourself** from them, in order to avoid the all-around negativity that may arise.


In a similar vein, you should not ask someone why he did not attend your Simcha, especially if you suspect that you would not be satisfied with the answer, either because you will cause him to say something untrue, or you will make him feel especially uncomfortable.  Everyone should keep this in mind when they are about to “put someone on the spot”--is that really the right thing to do??


The Sefer Niv Sifasayim writes that putting someone into a situation in which he may have to lie is “Ossur M’Dina”--proscribed by law based upon the Pasuk “M’Dvar Sheker Tirchak”--one must distance himself from falsehood.  In fact, then, the distancing required includes preventing others from speaking falsehood as well!


Special Note Two:  The Torah (Vayikra 13:45) teaches “V’Tamai, Tamai Yikra”--When one becomes a Metzorah, he must call out “I am Tamai, I am Tamai”.  At a recent Hakhel Shiur, Rabbi Dovid Weinberger, Shlita, brought the question of the Divrei Shmuel:


“Why must the Metzorah repeat the phrase twice ‘I am Tamai, I am Tamai’?  Is it to especially embarrass him, to really put him down, to make him the subject of great public disgrace?  No, answers the Divrei Shmuel.  Rather, it is for the Metzorah to recognize the root of his error--and to teach us all the ultimate lesson that he has now learned.  What is that lesson?  It is that once one allows some tuma into his life, that tuma draws in more tuma, and that ‘more tuma’ in turn brings in more and more tuma.  Thus, the first step is to be steadfast in a level of Kedusha which will not allow the initial tuma to enter.  It is up to each and every person to institute his own safeguards--his own ideas, his own personalized plans or methods--to prevent the tuma around him from infecting his spiritual life--which is, truth be told, the essence of his entire purpose and being.


As we approach the summer months, and the world around us takes the opportunity to stray more and more from their “Tzelem Elokim”, from human standards of dignity and self- respect, we should take the opportunity to think about how we will bolster ourselves in kedushas hamachshava (proper thoughts), kedushas haeynayim(proper use of the eyes), and kedushas haguf  (proper conduct inside and outside of  the home) so that we enter the upcoming ‘hot’, ‘free’, ‘vacation’ period with our right foot--and right mind--forward!


Special Note Three:  Along these lines, the Sefer Tomer Devorah (Chapter 2) advises us to use the various parts of our head as follows (the following translation from The Palm Tree of Devorah, Targum Press 1993--translated and annotated by Rabbi Moshe Miller, Shlita):


“…A person’s ears should always turn to look good, while falsehood or contemptible things should be denied entry [Hakhel Note:  Did you ever hear rap music blasting out of a car, or hear people that you are passing by on the street cursing in the ordinary course of conversation?--One should take any action possible to avoid this]…a person should not listen to anything but good and positive things…A person’s eyes should not gaze at anything disgraceful [Hakhel Note:  One should avoid perusing the advertisements at bus stops , on buses and the like, as a starting point in proper “exercise” of the eyes].  Rather, his eyes should always be open to watch over unfortunates and have as much compassion for them as he can…he should distance himself from noticing evil just as the “Eye” above is ever open, always looking at the good….”


We are faced with a wonderful and challenging three-month period ahead of us.  We should act responsibly, we should plan ahead, and we should place our Kedushas Yisroel at the forefront.  At the conclusion of last week’s Parsha, the Torah writes “L’maan Tizkiru…--In order that you remember and do all the Mitzvos,” **so that you are Kedoshim L’Elokeichem**-- holy to Hashem (Bamidbar 15:40).  The Torah thus clearly states  that the tachlis, the purpose of all of our Mitzvos is for us to be Kedoshim!


May we all be zoche, each in our own personal circumstances to look back at the end of the summer (which happens oh so quickly!) and be literally overjoyed with a summer of outstanding, lifetime-affecting success!!




What portion of the day is your most valuable time?  Is it the time that you daven?  The time that you do study Torah?  When you do Chesed?  Perhaps it is the when you spend quality-time with a parent, sibling, child or friend.  Maybe, it is the time that you are walking--to Shul, home, or just to think or for exercise.  Could it even be while you are walking/racing around the supermarket shopping for milk, plastic cups and aluminum foil?


In truth, one can make a very strong argument that no one time or period during the day is more valuable than another, for every moment of a person’s life, is supernally precious and infinite.  Every moment that we are granted is everlasting.  To show its appreciation of the value of time, the secular world warrants “Time is Money.”  The Chofetz Chaim and others were said to have stated, “Time is Mitzvos.”  Philosophically, both the religious and secular world agree.  Time is measured by what is of most importance to them.


How we use our time changes during the course of our lives.  When we are younger, school may take up a good portion of our day, as we grow older, this turns to work/household matters, and as we grow even older, we may spend more time with Torah and Chesed.  This is part of the normal course of life and we must make the necessary adjustments.  What does not change is that during each portion of our life we must  use the most precious commodity that we have as wisely as we can .  Of course, there are times when we must take breaks, clear our minds, be friendly, and be sociable, but we should never lose sight of the fact that every moment is truly a special gift which we should use as prudently as possible.


In the last Pasuk of Tehillim (150:6), Dovid HaMelech concludes “Kol HaNeshama Tehallel Kah.”  Chazal (Bereshis Rabbah 14:11) derive from these words “Kol HaNeshima Tehallel Kah--for every breath of life, I praise Hashem.”


There are certain actions we each take on a relatively consistent basis which we may be able to focus on more and gain more from.  For instance, many people may walk to and from Shul or shopping, and look around at the houses and people on the street to pass the time.  Others may go to a wedding, knowing that they will be sitting around for a couple of hours with no clue as to what they will be doing, other than hoping to find somebody nice/decent with whom to speak.  Yet others make it their common practice while reciting Shemone Esrei to daydream or think about what they will be doing next.  We should perhaps take **the time** to think about how we can better utilize the time that we have available in our own personal, particular situations in life, and use it more meaningfully and effectively.


If you use davening time for davening, walking time to perhaps think about some particular family members or individuals and how you can help them, or about Torah study, and make sure that you never, ever, put yourself into a position where you are “killing time”, or “passing the time”, then you certainly have gone a long way in demonstrating your true appreciation of a 120-year gift which has incredibly infinite and potentially enormously beautiful consequences.


A sign posted on a retail store in lower Manhattan reads “What would you do with five extra minutes?”  A good question.  Do you know?  If you do--you should always be prepared when those five extra minutes become available.  (For an elucidation of this point, see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 47, Mishna Berura, Seif Katan 27).


While we may not be on a level to remember always how precious the time we each have in this world really is, every time we do recall this fact during the day, we should do something to recognize our appreciation of it.  We should likewise take the time out to think about how we can better spend our time which may otherwise seem wasted as we walk, travel, spend time at a Simcha or go about our daily routine.


It is all very precious--and it is all ours--to use properly and judiciously--and eventually to bask in eternally!!




In last week’s Parsha, B’Haalosicha, the Torah concludes with the story of Miriam relating to Aharon her issue with Moshe Rabbeinu’s relationship with his wife, Tzipora.  Miriam then suffers from Tzoraas, and millions of people wait for her for seven days until she is healed.


The Sefer Chofetz Chaim (Asei 1), notes at least ten defenses and strong mitigating factors in Miriam’s situation, but concludes that none alone, nor even all together, could save her--and Bnei Yisroel--from their difficult punishment.  The defenses and mitigating factors included:


  1. Moshe was her younger brother;


  1. She loved him dearly;


  1. She actually raised him;


  1. She endangered her life waiting to see what would happen to him as a baby at the Nile River, and spoke to Paroh’s daughter as to how he could best be saved and raised;


  1. When speaking of him, it was not in a degrading fashion, as she simply compared him to all other Neviim (including herself and Aharon);


  1. She did not speak in front of him to embarrass him, nor did she speak about him in public;


  1. Instead, she spoke to her Holy brother, the Kohen Gadol, privately;


  1. Moshe Rabbeinu was not makpid--i.e., he did not care;


  1. Her intention was for Kinas HaEmes--for the sake of what was proper; and


  1. Likewise, her intention was for Binyan HaOlam--for Moshe Rabbeinu to have more children.


The Chofetz Chaim concludes that it is for this reason that we have a Mitzvas Asei of the Torah to remember what happened to Miriam--in order to remind ourselves to do our utmost to avoid and greatly distance ourselves from the far baser acts of Loshon Hora which involve no such justifications or defenses.


It is especially important for us to recognize and apply this great lesson now, as the Torah immediately continues in this week’s Parsha with our nation sadly failing to learn from Miriam’s experience, which resulted in the catastrophe of the Meraglim and its effect on Bnei Yisroel for all time.


Indeed, the 40-day period leading up to Tisha B’Av, during which the Meraglim traveled throughout Eretz Yisroel, concluding with Bnei Yisroel accepting the Loshon Hora of the Meraglim on Tisha B’Av, will soon be upon us.  Most certainly, a method of turning these days into days of joy would be our special attentiveness and conscientiousness to Shmiras HaLashon--this week and through Tisha B’Av--may it be a day of joy for us all!!


There is an especially moving S’forno (Bamidbar 1:2) who writes that not only did the Jewish people suffer from the sin of the Meraglim, but that the Canaanim, who were the then inhabitants of Eretz Yisroel, suffered immensely as well--for if Bnei Yisroel would not have sinned at that time, they would have entered the land immediately, and the Canaanim would simply have been chased out, as their sins had not yet reached the level for which they deserved death.  As a result of the 40-year delay, their sins continued to accrue and compound, and, as a result by the time of Bnei Yisroel’s arrival, they (except for the Girgashi) all deserved to be killed.  Because they were killed, all of their future generations were never born into the world.  Thus, the S’forno concludes, Loshon Hora destroys not only the lives of those immediately involved, but by its very nature, destroys the world.  

Similarly, the S’forno writes, because the Bais HaMikdash was destroyed as a result of Loshon Hora, the entire world fell spiritually, and continues to exist in a spiritually-bereft state. 


There is one additional, important and very beneficial point we can make.  The Chofetz Chaim writes that if one has spoken Loshon Hora, and the Loshon Hora has been accepted, then the speaker must ask forgiveness from whom he has spoken about (i.e., the victim) in order to do Teshuva.  HOWEVER, if the person listening does not accept, and in fact, rejects, the words of Loshon Hora, then the words have had no damaging effect, and the sin remains one of Bain Odom L’Makom, so that the Teshuva process need not include the embarrassment of asking a victim of Loshon Hora for forgiveness (see Sefer Chofetz Chaim, Hilchos Loshon Hora 4:12).  It behooves us, then, to always be on the alert not to be Mekabel—not to accept, and in fact, reject--Loshon Hora so that you not only avoid hurting the victim, but actually eventually help the former culprit in his Teshuva process as well!




We provide the following extremely meaningful quotes from Chinuch in Turbulent Times by Rabbi Dov Brezak, Shlita (Artscroll, 2002).  This outstanding Sefer should be read by anyone who cares about interpersonal relationships, whether or not they have children, or whether or not their children are already grown.


1. “What does the Torah ask of us in all our interpersonal relationships?


Every commandment between man and his fellowman is based on a single premise, says R’ Wolbe in his classic Alei Shur (Part 1, Page 20).  That foundation is to “bring light to the lives of others.”

Did you ever notice how a baby reacts when you smile at him?  He “lights up,” basking in the radiance of your smile.  For him that smile is pure pleasure.


Uninhibited by fears, shyness or other social emotional factors, often a baby will readily show you his pleasure.  An older child may not be so quick to show pleasure, but a smile is no less meaningful to him.  On the contrary, such demonstrations of warmth and affection to children are vital in many ways….”


2. If someone wishes to excel in developing negative character traits--what should he do?  What path should he follow in order to become superb in conceit, or fabulous in becoming angry?


The answer is **absolutely nothing!**  He should do nothing at all.  The Chazon Ish (Emunah U’Bitachon, Ch. 4) explains that where positive effort is not  expended, “nature” takes its course.  Without any effort whatsoever, a person will be pulled down by a spiritual “force of gravity.”  It is guaranteed that he will excel in developing negative character traits unless  he **does something!**


3. Our Sages were always careful to treat children with respect, seeing them not as objects, **but as people**.


HaRav Yecheskel Ambrasky, Shlita was an exteremly busy man (as the leaders of the generation generally are).  For health reasons, he would take daily walks through the Bayit Vegan neighborhood in Jerusalem, where he lived.  During these walks, many distinguished Rabbis would accompany him to discuss various matters of great urgency.  On one of these walks, in the midst of an important discussion, HaRav Yecheskel and another Rav passed a little girl who was crying.  HaRav Yecheskel interrupted his conversation with the Rav, bent down to the girl and asked, “What’s your name, little girl, why are you crying?”  The hysterical girl answered him, “My name is Shoshana, and Miriam said that my dress is ugly.”  “Well Shoshana”, said the Sage, “you go tell Miriam that your name is beautiful and so is your dress.”  The girl, beaming with happiness, ran to her friend.  The other Rabbi then asked Reb Yecheskel what it was that he saw in the little girl’s emotional issue that was more important than the urgent communal matters that we had been discussing.  Reb Yecheskel answered, “In the book of Yeshaya, it says, ‘Umacha Hashem Elokim Dim’ah Mayal Kol Panim--Hashem wipes away the tears from every face.’  It is therefore incumbent upon us to follow in His ways and do the same….”

The tremendous power of expressing and showing love cannot be underestimated.

One public school teacher in New York decided to give a tribute to all her students.  She called them to the front of the class, one at a time, and told each of them how he or she had made a difference to her and to the class.  Then she presented each of them with a blue ribbon imprinted with gold letters that read, “Who I am makes a difference.”

Then, as a class project, she gave each student three more of the blue ribbons, and instructed the class to use the ribbons to show similar recognition to others.  Students were to report back to the class on their experiences a week later.

One of the boys in the class went to a junior executive he knew and thanked him for his help in planning his career.  The boy attached a blue ribbon to the executive’s shirt, and then gave him the two ribbons that were left.  “We’re doing a class project on recognition,” he explained, “and we’d like you to find someone to honor.  Present that person with a blue ribbon, and ask him or her to use the other blue ribbon to honor someone else as you honored him.”

Later that day, the junior executive went in to his boss, who was known as a grouchy fellow.  He asked his boss to sit down, and he told him that he admired him deeply.  He asked if he could place the blue ribbon on his jacket.  Surprised, his boss said, ‘Well, sure!” Then the junior exec­utive gave his boss the extra ribbon.  “Would you take this ribbon and honor someone else with it?” And he explained about his young friend’s class project.

That night, the boss came home and sat with his 14-year-old son.  “The most incredible thing happened to me today,” he told his son.  “One of my junior executives came in, told me he admired me, and pinned this blue ribbon that says, ‘Who I am makes a difference,’ on my jacket  He gave me an extra ribbon, and told me to find someone else to honor.  “I want to honor you.  My days are really hectic, and when I come home, I don’t pay a lot of attention to you, sometimes I scream at you for not getting good enough grades in school, or for the mess in your bedroom.  But somehow tonight I just wanted to sit here and tell you that you make a difference to me.  Besides your mother, you are the most important person in my life.  You’re a great kid, and I love you.”

The startled boy cried and cried, his whole body shaking.  Finally he looked up at his father, and through his tears he said, “I was planning on committing suicide tomorrow, Dad, because I didn’t think you loved me.  Now I don’t need to.”

Let us spend some time to think about each one of these points, which are so meaningful.  Perhaps we can spend an extra few moments today showing some additional care, concern and love to (and for) those around us.

Let us all today light-up the lives of those around us!!


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