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Hakhel Email Community Awareness Bulletin



Special Note One:  Regarding the flurry of communication around our note last week on skipping parts of davening when coming late, we provide the following important information:


There is a machlokes haposkim if one is allowed to or to the contrary must make up the P’sukei D’zimrah that he missed in skipping.  The Aruch Hashulchan (52:5) brings the opinion of a number of Rishonim and Baalei Kabala who hold it is an “Issur Gadol”, (a great prohibition) to recite the skipped P’sukei D’zimrah after davening.  The Mishne Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 52: seif katan 9), however, poskens that one is obligated to repeat the skipped P’sukei D’zimrah after davening.  It certainly would be best to avoid this great machlokes and not to upset the channels of prayer, by coming to shul on time in order to properly recite all of the P’sukei D’zmirah.


We also note that coming late to davening could also result in Chillul Hashem, as others may feel comfortable to follow your lead.  See Yoma 86A, Rashi D’H’ Chillul Hashem, and Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 90, Mishne Berurah seif katan 33.


Special Note Two:  Washing Before Davening. A halacha that may be forgotten from time to time is that one is required to wash his hands before davening--whether it is Shachris, Mincha or Maariv (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 92:4; 233:2).  One must even travel in certain instances in order to obtain water (See Orach Chayim 92:4; 233, Mishne Berurah seif katan 20; and Brachos 15A for details).  In fact, the Mishne Berurah (Orach Chayim 92, seif katan 13) brings the opinion of the Pri Megadim that according to the Rambam, if one did not wash his hands (or at least thoroughly wipe his hands in the absence of water), he must repeat the entire Shemone Esrei (!).  Although this is not the halacha (Mishne Berurah ibid.), we certainly see that netilas yodaim before Tefilla is not merely a “nice practice,” but an absolute requirement (for men and women).  For further details as to the requirements for one who initially washes, davens Mincha then learns and davens Maariv, see Mishne Berurah, Orach Chayim 233, seif katan 16-18.


Special Note Three:  We wish to remind everyone that the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 580:2) writes that today, the 27th of Sivan, is the day that Rebbe Chanina Ben Tradyon, one of the Asara Harugei Malchus (the Ten Great Martyrs) was burned together with a Sefer Torah--for he was caught learning and teaching Torah in violation of a Roman Decree.  The vicious, barbaric Romans placed wet wool around him to slow the process, and despite the urgings of those around him, he refused to speed the process--to voluntarily give up any moments in this world which could never be replaced--by opening his mouth to suffocate or otherwise ingest the flames.  Because of his horrifying and tragic passing, the Shulchan Aruch lists today as a Ta’anis Tzaddikim, a day of fasting by a select few.

The Gemara (Avoda Zara 17B-18A) relates that Rebbe Chanina was a Tzedaka collector.  Once, his Tzedaka funds were mixed with money he set aside for Seudas Purim.  To avoid any doubt whatsoever that he had misappropriated Tzedaka funds, he gave up all of his own money mixed into the pile, and donated it all to charity.  Rashi there explains that this action showed he was a “mevater with his money”--he did not act strictly when there were doubts as to who money really belonged.  The Gemara further relates that Rebbe Chanina’s rebbe, Rebbe Yossi Ben Kisma, foretold Rebbe Chanina’s execution, and actually advised him that he would be a “Ben Olam Haba” because of his conduct in the charity mix-up.


The Luach Dovor B’ito suggests that even if we cannot fast, we should do something to recognize the solemnity of the day.  Some recommend that being especially careful in speech is a form of substitute for fasting.  Others suggest that giving Tzedaka is a form of substitute as well (as when Tefillin, Chas V’Shalom, fall).  This would seem particularly appropriate for Rebbe Chanina--as his charitable deed was the act that, according to his rebbe, would make him a “Ben Olam Habo”(!)  Another fitting remembrance may be to discuss a Torah topic with another person today, for not only did Rebbe Chanina Ben Tradyon give his life for Torah teaching, but in last week’s Perek (Avos 3:3)--Rebbe Chanina himself recommends to us all that “…two who sit and speak Torah between them, the Shechinah dwells among them…”


We may not have known Rebbe Chanina personally--but we do encounter the unparalled greatness of the Ten Great Martyrs on the solemn days of Yom Kippur and Tisha B’Av.  It behooves us to in some manner show our recognition and respect for Rebbe Chanina and his teachings--as the Shulchan Aruch--the Code of Jewish Law--itself records this date as a date to remember forever.

May our speech, our Torah, and Tzedaka today also make us “Bnei Olam Haba”--and may we learn from Rebbe Chanina every day of the year both the importance of being “mevater” when you are unsure about whose money it may be, and…what the value of a moment of life really means!



Special Note One:  Regarding yesterday’s note on the 23rd of Sivan as the specific date referred to in Megilas Esther as the day that the “Second Letters” were sent out to nullify and reverse the First Letters of Haman which called for the Jews’ annihilation, readers questioned why it took **70 days**--from the 13th of Nissan when the First Letters were issued, to the 23rd of Sivan--when the Second Letters which nullified them, to be issued.  After all, was not Haman hanged on the sixteenth of Nissan--just several days after the First Letters were issued.  What took so long?!  Why were the Jews still subject to the scary decree for over two months after Haman and his sons was taken care of?!


This is a very good question.  In fact, Chazal (Yerushalmi Sotah 8A) answer  the question, somewhat enigmatically.  Chazal there explain that the 70-day period in which the First Letters were extant was Keneged--seemingly, in payment or exchange for--the 70 days that the Egyptians performed Chesed with Yaakov Avinu--from the time he was Niftar and all the way through the time they escorted him to his final burial in Meoras HaMachpaila.


This Chazal requires elucidation.  What do the Mitzriyim have to do with the decree by the Persians?  What does the Chesed of Yaakov Avinu have to do with our nation being in danger and fear for 70 days?  What is the significance of 70 days?  We welcome your insights and explanations!


Special Note Two:  We received the following correspondence from a reader.  As we are in Simcha season, all readers should take special note, and enlighten their friends as well:


“Yesterday, I went to a chasanah at a beautiful catering hall.  The place is not designed exclusively for frum simchas and in fact I believe most of their events are treif.  So, the frum caterer who does the event must arrange for the kitchen to be kashered, and for all other religious matters to be handled.


“I assume that the caterer (who is respected in the community) did an honest job in having the kitchen kashered [Hakhel Note: When attending any Simcha at a non-Kosher hall, one must first check with his own Rav or Posek as to the reliability of its Kashrus.  This is imperative].  However, after I left the chupah room and was walking on my way to the room where the seudas simcha was being served, I noticed that the caterer had set up at a table a number of metal pitchers of water for the participants to pour over their hands into large plastic bowls also on the same table as they washed for the bread.


“As much as my wife tells me how important it is to wash for bread at such simchas, I was turned off and just decided to go to the table and be careful with my Brachos (mezonos, ho’adoma, shehakol, etc.)


“A short while later, I met a friend who told me that he was shocked because he noticed that the workers at the table with the water (non-Jews of course) were recycling the netilas yodayim water.  They were taking the water that participants in the simcha had used to wash for bread and were repouring it into the metal pitchers for the next group of “washers.”


“I think the above scenario which actually did happen last night is something that people should be aware of.  If they are invited to a simcha in such a hall, they should call the baal simcha and request that the baal simcha clarify with the caterer how water is going to be available to wash for a mitzvah, so that such a travesty never happen again.”


Special Note Three: We continue with our Erev Shabbos--Halachos of Shabbos series.  The following is excerpted from the monumental 4-Volume work “The 39 Melachos” by Rabbi Dovid Ribiat, Shlita (Feldheim Publishers).


1. Hanging clothing to dry before Shabbos


One is permitted to hang out wet clothing before Shabbos and allow it to remain hanging through Shabbos.  The reason is because laundry is ordinarily hung out to dry immediately after it was washed, and once the clothing is hanging, it often remains that way for a long time.  Thus, no one would mistakenly assume that the laundering took place on Shabbos.



2. Hanging a wet raincoat


A wet raincoat may be hung out to dry in the laundry room (even if the coat is made of a moisture-resistant fabric), because it is obvious that the coat is not drying from a wash, but only from the rain.


3. Shaking water off garments.


A rubber or plastic coat may even be shaken out to remove the excess moisture on its surface.  However, shaking out a wet fabric rain-coat or a hat is an act of s’chitah, and is forbidden.


4: The Muktza status of wet laundry.


Laundry that was wet at Bain Hashmashos is Muktza because of the likelihood that one who is anxious to wear a wet garment might forget himself, and wring it out to cause it to dry sooner.


5:Clothes left in dryer.


Clothes left in a dryer are not Muktza once they become dry (as long as they were intended for Shabbos use).  However, removing them from the dryer may be a problem because the dryer itself is Muktza.  Accordingly, one is permitted to open the dryer door (as long as no light turns on) to remove the clothing, but may not close the door unless it is in the way (he may also close it indirectly--such as with his knee or elbow, even if it is not in the way).


Note:    According to some Poskim, one is not permitted to leave a washer or dryer running on Shabbos because this detracts from the Honor of Shabbos.’


6.  Laundry in the sink


If a wet hand-laundered shirt or other item of clothing was mistakenly left in the sink, it may not be removed, because it is Muktza.  This presents a problem for anyone who wishes to use the sink.  One may not fill the basin or even run the tap water with the wet laundry inside, as this would be equivalent to sh’riyoh (of the laundry) which is not permitted.  If the sink is needed, one may remove the laundry in an indirect manner (which is permitted with Muktza).  This can done by lifting it carefully with the aid of a non-muktza item, such as a wire hanger or a long fork


If a wet towel or rag was left in a sink over Shabbos, it may he carefully removed ( i.e., handled gingerly so as to avoid squeezing).  One may not fill the basin or even run the tap water with the rag inside, as this would be equivalent to Sh’riyoh, which is forbidden.


Special Note Four:  This week’s Parsha teaches us the horrific effects of Machlokes--of arguments and battles which are not L’Shem Shamayim.  This Shabbos, it would seem especially appropriate to conduct oneself with calmness and Nachas Ruach, avoiding disagreements, disputes, or conflicts of any kind, and emphasizing compliments, peace, harmony and friendship with all whom you encounter--especially your own family and friends!



Special Note One: We received the following meaningful correspondences from readers which relate to the similarities and differences between “Ohev” and “Oyev.”  From these correspondences, we once again see how divinely-inspired Lashon HaKodesh really is, and how we should literally appreciate each and every word, and our ability to read, write and enunciate in, and derive life-long lessons from, the Holy Tongue:


1. “The difference between ohev (alef, vav, hey, veis) =friend, and oyev (alef, vav, yud, veis) = enemy, is but one letter.  This of course is no accident…  The letter yud in oyev has a gematriya of 10.  Divide this in two and you’ll have 5=the letter hey, which makes the word ohev.  If you want a friend, you have to humble yourself-- through ga’avah you’ll have enemies, Ch”v.  Don’t be so haughty, break yourself in half and you’ll have a friend.


“The concept goes even further.


“When someone is faced by an enemy, he should work on his midda of anavah, he should humble himself.  Then the enemy will turn into his friend.  Someone who is poor or at least feels that nothing really belongs to him will automatically feel humble.  A poor person is called “dal” represented by the letter “dalet”.  Put the letter “dalet” on top of the letter “yud” in oyev and you’ll have the letter “hey” =ohev!  (as seen in the Sefer called “Yad Av” by R’Daniel Bloch).”


2.  “The Sefer Hachaim by the Maharal’s brother HaRav Chaim Loewy, Z’tl, writes that the shoresh of both ohev and oyev is aleph bais (av-father).  The difference is only that ohev has a hay and oyev has a yud.  Why does oyev have a yud-- which represents Middas Harachamim, while ohev has a hay which represents middas hadin?  It ought to be just the opposite?!  He answers that a true ohev gives tochocho (middas hadin) as appropriate because he really cares about the other person, whereas an oyev will compliment (misplaced Middas Harachamim) even when he observes that a wrong is being perpetrated.  We could add (maybe HaRav Loewy says this himself, but it’s been years since I have reviewed it inside) that a good father chastises his son as necessary and a bad one overlooks his child’s misdeeds.  ‘Chosech shivto sonay bno ve’ohavo sheecharo mussor--the one who spares the rod hates his child and the one who loves him blackens him with mussar’.  I would also like to add that our most difficult month is Av but Hashem’s reproach comes from love and that’s why eventually Tisha B’Av will become a great Yom Tov!”


Special Note Two: We also received this potent message from the same reader who supplied us with the previous thought:


“I was in Flatbush this Shabbos and attended Rav Avrohom Schor’s Sholosh Seudos.  There were 3 chasanim present and he exhorted them to cry to Hashem at the chupah and during the week of Sheva Brochos to merit good generations.  The meraglim caused thousands of years of grief and destruction by causing the Yidden to cry.  We must take note.  ‘Merubo middo tovo mimiddas puroniyus--the good is rewarded more than the bad is punished.’  If we cry for the right things we can bring about unimaginable good.  Rav Schor continued, ‘I’ve said this many times but even if there’s one person here who hasn’t heard it yet, it’s worth it’--The Sefer Sod Hachashmal (I think that’s the name) written by a young man in our times writes the following incredible thought.  The mekubolim write that an onion represents the multiple worlds that Hashem created that are enveloped and encapsulated within each other just as are the layers of the onion. Hashem caused that whenever one cuts through the layers of an onion, he cries.  This is to show us that the way to cut through all the olomos (worlds) that separate us from Hashem is through tears.”


Special Note Three:  Today, the 23rd day of Sivan, is one of those special days especially mentioned in Tanach.  Many of you may remember where.  In Megillas Esther (8:9), the Pasuk records that on the 23rd day of the 3rd month--“Hu Chodesh Sivan” (which is the month of Sivan)--the King’s scribes wrote all that Mordechai had dictated to them.  While we may not have the exact text of what was written other than that the Jews could destroy their enemies, we do know that Achashverosh had permitted them to write in the letters--“Katov Bi’Eynechem--whatever is favorable in your eyes, in the name of the King…”


The Luach Dovor B’Ito writes the following about this very special day:


  1. One should try to recite the relevant Pesukim in Esther (Esther 8:3-17).

  2. In the name of the Makover Rebbe, Zt’l, the day is Mesugal for nisim v’niflaos, as implied by the Pasuk referred to above--“Now, write [on this day] about the Jews what is favorable in your eyes in the name of the King”--which also refers to the King of the World.  Thus, just as Mordechai subsequently left the King with many royal garments (ibid., 8:15)…so can we!

  3. In 1940, the Russian Government told thousands of Jewish refugees in Eastern Galicia that they could register as Russian citizens.  Rebbe Itzikel of Antwerp, Z’tl, advised them not to register.  On the night of the 23rd of Sivan, the Russians exiled to Siberia all those who had not registered as Russian citizens.  The exiled thought this to be a horrible decree, but the Rebbe told them that the 23rd of Sivan is “Muchan L’Tova--prepared for the good,” and that no bad would come out of their exile.  A year later, in Sivan 1941, the Nazi’s YM’S, invaded Eastern Galicia and killed the Jews who remained--the exiles to Siberia remained alive.


Let us harness the powers inherent in this day, through our own personal Torah, Teshuva, Tefillah and Tzedaka so that the King writes beautiful letters on our personal behalf, and on behalf of all of K’lal Yisroel!



As we begin the Summer Season which we looked so forward to during the Winter, we begin to reap some of Summer’s special spiritual benefits.  One of them is the greater opportunity to recite Brachos over the  wonderful world of fragrances around us.  The Sefer Rei’ach Hasadeh-The Fragrant Field (by Rabbi Hanoch Slatin, Shlita; Feldheim Publishers, 2003) provides us with many important Hashkafos and Halachos relating to our sense of smell which may not be very well known.  We provide our readers below with a “shmek”, a brief “fragrance,” from this wonderful Sefer:


  1. One of the first times the Torah refers to the sense of smell is when Yitzchok Avinu appreciates  the fragrance of his son Yaakov: “Look, the fragrance of my son, is like the fragrance of the field which Hashem blessed.” (Bereishis 27:27)  The Medrash explains that Yitzchok smelled Gan Eden--his sense of smell connected him with a world in another dimension!


  1. There are five possible Brachos over fragrances.  Their sequence, in order of priority, is as follows:

  1. Borei shemen arev — only on apharsemon oil

  2. Hanosein re’iach tov bapeiros — only for fruits

  3. Borei atzei v’samim — for all tree aromas

  4. Borei isvei v’samim — for all grass aromas

  5. Borei minei v’samim---for all other aromas over which a bracha is recited.


Hakhel Footnote: In a sense, Borei minei v’samim is  an omnibus bracha similar to shehakol neheya b’dvaro.


  1. When one picks up a pleasant-smelling fruit with the intention to both smell it and eat it, which bracha should come first?  There is reason to assume that one should begin with the fragrance.  As the person picks up the fruit, the smell will reach his nose before he has a chance to eat the fruit, and if he does not say the bracha on the aroma first, he will be guilty of deriving pleasure from this world without first saying a bracha.  Many authorities follow this line of reasoning and instruct us to say the bracha on the smell first.

  1. Aromatherapy:  Alternative medicine is a rapidly expanding area. Some people use various scents in order to improve their health.  People may smell a fragrance, or add them to massage oils or to their bath.  This practice is called aromatherapy.  If a person  smells fragrances with no intention to enjoy their pleasant aroma, only to relieve himself of some illness, he should not make a bracha.  In practice, however, most people who employ aromatherapy also enjoy its fragrance on its own, and therefore they should recite the appropriate bracha.


Hakhel Footnote: As a matter of caution , one should first ask his Rav or Posek whether it is permissible to engage in aromatherapy per se, as different  forms of alternative medicine have been linked to aspects of Avoda Zora.  It is a person’s absolute duty to determine that the source of his proposed form of therapy does not arise from the worshipping of other gods--something so foreign to individuals in the West that we may not initially consider it.


  1. Black Pepper and Ginger: There is a difference of opinion among the authorities whether black pepper and ginger are to be considered b’samim.  Therefore, the rule is that one should not make a bracha.  In order to avoid the transgression of enjoying this world without making a bracha, one should either refrain from smelling black pepper and ginger, or make a bracha on another fragrance and intend to include the pepper or ginger, as well.

  2. Bread:  A similar question exists regarding picking up (or bending over) and smelling a fresh, warm loaf of bread.  There are authorities who maintain that bread is neither a pleasant-smelling fruit nor a bosem, and no bracha should be said on its smell.  Others rule that a bracha should be said on the smell of bread.  Even according to this view, there is a difference of opinion as to which bracha should be said.  Some say that the bracha hanosein rei’ach tov bapeiros is applicable, others insist that only the bracha borei minei v’samim applies, whereas still others require the recital of a special bracha hanosein rei’ach tov b’pas--Who puts a pleasant smell in bread.  Again, since a bracha  may or may not be required, one should not say a bracha and should refrain from picking up(or bending over) warm bread to smell it.  This refers only to warm bread; the smell of cold bread is not strong and pleasurable enough to require a bracha.  Also, unless the bread is picked up or set aside for the purpose of smelling it, no bracha is required, even on fresh, warm bread. (Like any aromatic fruit, no bracha is said unless one takes the fruit with intention to enjoy its smell.)

  3. Weak Appreciation: One who by nature has a weak sense of smell, or whose sense of smell has been temporarily weakened due to a cold and the like, should not say a bracha on a scent which he does not sense keenly.  The same applies to one with a healthy sense of smell who does not enjoy a particular aroma.  He does not say a bracha on that particular smell, even if most people do derive pleasure from it.

  4. Weak Aroma:  Some flowers and fruits may have a very weak smell.  A person may find that one orange does not have a noticeable fragrance, but that a bowlful of oranges does.  Unless there is an appreciable fragrance coming from the item in question, do not make a bracha.

  5. Testing a Fragrance:  If one is in doubt as to how strong a smell a fragrance has, or whether or not the smell is pleasant, or whether or not his sense of smell is keen enough to be able to smell the fragrance properly, he may first smell it without a bracha as a trial.  If he finds the smell sufficiently strong and enjoyable, he should say the bracha and smell it a second time.

  6. Shabbos:  On Shabbos one of the forbidden activities is to harvest produce.  We are afraid that if one were to smell a fragrant fruit on a tree, he might want to eat that fruit and accidentally come to pick it.  Chazal therefore forbade one from smelling fruit on a tree on Shabbos.  There is no such concern about smelling a flower, as full enjoyment is derived from the flower without needing to pick it.  Therefore, one may smell growing flowers on Shabbos.  One must still be very careful to handle the plant gently.  If the plant is as soft as grass there is essentially no possibility of breaking it, so one may touch it.  If the branch of a tree is somewhat brittle, one should refrain from holding it. 

  7. In Havdala, one may use only those fragrances that normally require a bracha.  Hand soaps or bathroom deodorants never require a bracha, so they may not be used.  Many have the custom to use hadassim (myrtle leaves) which were already used to fulfill the mitzvah of Lulav.  This is in keeping with the principle that an object used for one mitzvah is preferred over other objects to perform yet another mitzvah.  Myrtle branches usually require the bracha of borei atzei v’samim.  For Ashkenazim the text of Havdalah always uses the bracha of borei minei v’samim.  Therefore, it is advisable to also include some fragrance which normally requires a borei minei v’samim, such as cloves.  This is not true for Sephardim, as their custom at Havdala is to say whichever bracha is correct for the particular fragrance being used.  Since myrtle leaves dry out and lose their scent with time, one should be careful to replenish the spice box regularly.

  8. The author of the sefer Y’sod V’Shoresh Ha’Avodah, in his Last Will, urged his children to acknowledge Hashem in their thoughts before partaking of any pleasure of the world, even with such pleasures as snuff, which requires no bracha.  Ideally, any benefit we derive from the world should be accompanied by some form of praise and gratitude to the One Who created so many varied pleasures for us.  Therefore, even when we are not permitted to make a formal bracha, our thoughts should be directed toward Hashem.


We hope you enjoyed this whiff from the Sefer Rei’ach Hasadeh.  It is, of course, available in your local Jewish Book Store, with more detail on how a Torah Jew uses his sense of smell in serving Hashem!



Special Note One:  We received the following correspondence from one of our readers:


“I would like to point out the slight difference in pronunciation between the word “Ohev”--who loves, and “Oyev”--enemy.  Perhaps, homiletically, one can claim that our goal should be to turn an Oyev into an Ohev, and that is why they are so close in etymology.  To me, there is a more practical difference.  Every night, at Maariv, in the second brocha, we conclude with “Ohev Amo Yisroel--that Hashem loves His people.”  When one is tired, or is not careful, he can easily slur the words to be, Chas V’Shalom, Oyev Amo--the enemy of His nation.  Just change one letter and the word can have the opposite meaning, and the opposite effect of what you want.  Perhaps by being careful to daven out loud we will not fall for these kinds of hurtful mispronunciations.”


Hakhel Note:  Thank you very much for your comment.  Sometimes we forget the sheer potency of our Tefillos.  Rabbi Yissocher Frand, Shlita, in the name of the Alter of Kelm, brings this point home beautifully from this week’s Parsha, Parshas Korach.


In the Parsha, Moshe Rabbeinu davens to Hashem about Koach’s gathering:  “Al Teyfen El Minchasan--please do not take heed of their offering to you” (Bamidbar 16: 15).  Why did Moshe Rabbeinu have to daven in this way--could anyone at all have ever thought in their right minds that Hashem would pay attention to the offering of the rebellious Korach and his cohorts?  Moreover, the “Pi Ha’Aretz”--the crack in the earth that swallowed up Korach and his group--had already created in the 6 Days of Creation (Avos 5:8)--so what did Moshe Rabbeinu have to worry about?!  The clear lesson to be gleaned is that the sincere entreaties, even of the wicked, even of the mutinous, are incredibly powerful.  All the more so, a well-enunciated, meaningful prayer.


One other point on this topic: Some may fall onto the habit of coming to davening a few minutes late, and “expertly” skipping in perfect order what one “may” skip, based on the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, Chapter 52.  However, the Mishna Berura (ibid, seif koton 1) writes that the Magid warned the Bais Yosef to come to Shul early--so that he could daven in Shul early without skipping--for one who davens with skipping is “MeHapech HaTzinoros”--harms the regular channels of Tefillah to Shomayim.


Before davening, we should take a moment to be conscious of the power of our Tefillos, and to the literal importance of every word--recited in order!


Special Note Two:  We provide our readers with three powerful excerpts from the Sefer Shaarei Teshuva, written by Rabbeinu Yonah.


1.      “It is the same [with Teshuva] as with a garment that needs washing.  A little washing will suffice to remove the surface dirt, but only after much washing will it become entirely clean, as it is written “Wash me thoroughly for my transgression” (Tehillim 51:4).”  Hakhel Note:  How would you like your clothing to come back from the cleaners---why should your soul be any worse?

2.      “It is for him who trusts in Hashem to hope, in the gloom of his anguish, that the darkness be the cause of light, as it is written (Micha, 7:8): ‘Rejoice not against me, Oh my enemy, though I have fallen, I shall arise: though I sit in darkness, Hashem is light onto me.’  Chazal explain this Pasuk as follows:  ‘If I had not fallen, I would not have risen, if I have not sat in darkness, it would not have been light onto me’ (Medrash Tehillim, 22).”  Hakhel Note: Is it any wonder then that we are reminded of this with night preceding day--every single day?

3.      “Shlomo HaMelech teaches in Koheles (9:4), ‘For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope; for a living dog is better than a dead lion.’  The meaning of this is that even the lowliest person alive can add ‘Maalos HaNefesh--can grow spiritually within’--which is something that the wisest, most righteous deceased person cannot do.  [Shaar 2:24]”


From the above excerpts we can get a glimpse from the Rabbeinu Yonah as to how crucial it is to proceed through the everyday affairs, including the daily difficulties and tribulations, of life with a pure and thinking spirit.  The ups and downs, trials and tests, pain and suffering, are intended to--and do--lead somewhere.  Every precious moment of life should be appreciated and not squandered--used for its purpose, and not wasted.


Our goal should be to make our “garment” cleaner and cleaner, and we will surely see a glowing light at the end of the tunnel!  As we will now be approaching the last quarter of the year (Tammuz-Av-Elul), we should begin to focus on our daily perspectives and attitudes.  When getting up in the morning, while traveling and even while working or taking care of our household tasks--do we make the most spiritual use of our time?


We should not only claim that life is precious--we should prove it!



We received the following note from a reader: 


[The following story is taken from Tehillim Treasury by HaRav Avrohom Chaim Feuer, Shlita.]:


Rav Mordechai Rogov, a Rosh Yeshiva in Beis Midrash L’Torah and the mechaber of Ateres Mordechai, never wasted a minute from his learning.  When already an elderly man, he was up and about before the crack of dawn, learning enthusiastically while everyone else lay sleeping.  When an old friend suggested that he should, perhaps, be more gentle with himself, R’ Rogov explained why he could not.


“When I was a bochur in Mirrer Yeshiva, I enjoyed the privilege of a close yachas with the great Mirrer Mashgiach, Rav Yerucham Levovitz.  I was part of a chaburah that studied mussar privately with Rav Yerucham once a week in his home.


“Our group used to go the Mashgiach’s home early and wait for him to come from the yeshiva.  One beautiful spring day, we were sitting around the table waiting when the Mashgiach rushed into the room.  We could see that he was very agitated.  Suddenly, he cried out, ‘Ich bin yetzt gekummen fun di gass und ich zei as alles vakst—farvoss vakst ihr nit?’  (I just came from the street, and I saw that all around me everything is growing. Why aren’t you growing?).


“The Mashgiach’s roar was intended to shake us all up.  Believe me, he succeeded beyond his expectations, because that roar shook me up then, fifty years ago, and I have been shaking ever since!  I can’t sleep very much; whenever I get warm and comfortable, the Mashgiach’s voice haunts me. I hear him roaring at us, ‘Farvoss vakst ihr nit?’ Why aren’t you growing?”



Special Note One:  We continue with our Erev-Shabbos Hilchos Shabbos Series:


The following is excerpted from the excellent work Halachos of Refuah on Shabbos, by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita and Rabbi Daniel B. Roth, M.D. (Feldheim, 2008):


1.  Vitamins which are taken to cure an existing illness are considered to be medicine, and may not be taken on Shabbos (unless one is Incapacitated, or will become Incapacitated [as defined in the Sefer] if he does not take the vitamins).

2.  Hagaon Rav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, ruled that vitamins and minerals which are taken to supply the body with essential nutrients for growth, or which are taken to gradually enhance the body’s resistance to becoming ill, are not considered to be medicines.  Other Poskim are of the opinion that all vitamins are considered medicines.  According to this view, one may not take any type of vitamin on Shabbos.  However, one can often achieve the desired objective by taking them right before and right after Shabbos.

3.  One who has iron-deficiency anemia may not take iron supplements, because he is taking it like a medicine to cure his anemia.  (He should take the iron supplements immediately before and after Shabbos).

4.  Similarly, some people take Zinc or Vitamin C tablets at the onset of cold symptoms, which may enhance the immune system’s ability to arrest the growth of the cold virus (this approach, of course, is not conclusively proven).  Because those tablets are being used as medicine to fight the virus, they may not be taken on Shabbos (unless the person is Incapacitated [as defined in the Sefer], in which case all medications, including vitamins, are permitted).

5.  Substances which can pass as food, but which are only eaten for their medicinal qualities, may not be eaten to relieve an Ailment [as defined in the Sefer] on Shabbos.  For example, someone suffering from heartburn may not drink a bi-carbonate beverage such as Alka Seltzer (which may pass as a seltzer beverage), or eat an antacid tablet such as a Kosher Tums-like product (which may pass as candy).  Although these preparations are edible, because they are primarily used as medicine, they are included in the prohibition and may not be taken on Shabbos.


Special Note Two:  One other point regarding Shabbos:  At this time of year, many of us have Simchos and Kiddushim to happily participate in.  May we suggest that you have ready a Dvar Torah or two which can steer a conversation with an acquaintance from chatter and small talk into something meaningful at the time--and for eternity as well!


Special Note Three:  Picture the following: The members of a Chabura are working feverishly kneading and rolling the dough necessary to bake their hand Shemura Matza with the greatest hidurim.  At the oven, stands the Mashgiach whose job it is to ensure that all of the hard work goes in, stays in and comes out properly.  However, instead of being entirely occupied and preoccupied with his essential task, he stands there sipping a coffee and talking to a friend on a cell phone.  Is this ne’emanus?!  Is this trustworthy or appropriate behavior??!!  Or is this a wanton and even reckless act with possibly horrible ramifications both for him and for all those placing their trust in him?!


That is the mashal.  The nimshal, HaRav Shimshon Pincus, Z’tl, writes, is each and every one of us as we stand in prayer before Hashem.  In essence, it is like standing before that powerful oven, with the duty to do our utmost to make sure that the results are Mehudar, are beautiful.  Hashem placed the responsibility upon us to determine what not only the events and happenings in our lives will look like, but also how world-wide events will transpire.  We can bring an abundance of goodness to the world if we conduct ourselves in a proper and meaningful manner.


Moreover, HaRav Pincus fascinatingly notes that no person in the world will know whether it was he who brought this abundance of goodness--for Tefillos are from within and not from without.  When one feels dveykus to Hashem, when one attaches himself to Hashem’s Presence in front of him, it is a dveykus of the soul, which no person can see.


Hakhel Note:  Based upon this essential teaching, nobody can or should ever claim or even think that they are only a “little fish in a big pond.”  Each and every one of us must recognize how special we really are and take our appropriate position--with a full measure of diligent responsibility--at the door of the oven!


Special Note Four:  In this week’s Parsha, we find the Meraglim’s complaints against Eretz Yisroel.  Many have said that the Meraglim’s real problem was that they only visited Eretz Yisroel--and did not actually live there.  If they would only have actually resided on its Holy Soil, they would have surely joined with Yehoshua and Calev.  As for us, Dovid HaMelech teaches (Tehillim 128:5), “U’Ray B’Tuv Yerushalayim--May you gaze upon the goodness of Yerushalayim.”  We should remember these words whenever we discuss the Holy Land, whether or not we live there.


Let us now focus on something about the Land that we recite daily-in the brocha of Al HaMichya.  In this brocha, we ask that Hashem bring us up to Yerushalayim and gladden us in its rebuilding.  We continue with the words “V’Nochal M’Pirya V’Nisba Metuva--let us eat from its fruit and be satisfied with its goodness.”  The Tur in Orach Chaim Chapter 208 brings the opinion that these words--“V’Nochal M’Pirya V’Nisba Metuva” should not be recited.  The reason for their deletion--is this the reason that one wants to come back to Yerushalayim---to be satiated by its fruit!?!  The words appear inappropriate.  The loftiness and supernal holiness of Yerushalayim cannot simply be converted into a stated desire to partake of delicious grapes or outstanding apples and oranges!


Yet most, if not all, of us do recite the words “V’Nochal M’Pirya V’Nisba Metuva”in which we categorically proclaim that we wish to be returned to Yerushalayim to enjoy its bountiful produce.  So what do we mean by these words?  The Bach in his commentary to the Tur wonderfully explains their true meaning.  He teaches that the Holiness of the Land, which flows from the Holiness above, directly affects--and is actually imbibed by--the fruits of the Land, as well.  Incredible as it may sound, when one is nurtured by the fruits of Eretz Yisroel, he is actually being nurtured, as the Bach writes, by the “Kedushas HaShechina” which dwells within the Land itself.  When the Land is defiled, the Shechina resting within the Land itself departs, as well, and we eat fruit missing the Kedushas HaShechina within it.  We pray, then, to return to Yerushalayim--a Yerushalayim in which we can literally ingest the Kedushas HaShechina which has returned.  In this way, we will eat of its fruits and be satiated from their goodness.  This is what we truly look forward to, and this what we mean.


As we specifically request in the Al HaMichya-- may we become so satiated “B’Mhaira VeYameinu”--speedily in our days!



In the July issue of Kashrus Monthly, to be released next week, Rabbi Yosef Wikler, Shlita, Editor of Kashrus Magazine, provides this shocking update on strawberries.  In order to obtain Kashrus Monthly or to subscribe to Kashrus Magazine, one should call 718-336-8544.


Strawberries—Summer Update


“Based on information provided by leading kashrus experts in the field, currently there are extremely high levels of thrip infestation in strawberries originating from many areas of the world, including the United States and Canada.  Very recent research has shown that the common washing systems currently in place are inadequate in ridding the strawberries of thrips and thrips larvae.  As a result, a number of kashrus organizations in the USA and Canada have disallowed use of strawberries.  Some allow their use, but require superhuman, very time-consuming and cumbersome efforts, making it virtually impossible for an average person (i.e., not an expert checker) to guarantee that they have sufficiently cleaned their strawberries.  Likewise, restaurants and caterers using strawberries may be shifting to using shaved berries. Consumers will wish to know how strawberries are being prepared at a given establishment.  We intend to provide updates as soon as available.”


Hakhel Note:  Hakhel independently contacted Kehillah Kashrus, who verified to us that they have disallowed use of strawberries at this time in their restaurant and catering establishments.  Non-coincidentally (as there is never such thing as coincidence) the Supervising Rabbi at one of the largest Shuls in America advised us that the following happened just this past Shabbos at his Shul:


“On Friday morning, our caterer was preparing for a Kiddush.  In our usual strict manner, our strawberries were soaked twice in a soapy solution and then were rinsed in a strong rinse one-by-one.  Beautiful fruit platters were then made with these strawberries--luscious-looking, best-quality Driscoll strawberries from California.  Before the Kiddush, I decided to pick up a strawberry from a platter and take a look at it.  To my surprise and consternation, I saw a little thrip taking a walk across the belly of the strawberry.  I took the entire tray out, and, surrounded by viewers which included the non-Jewish Mexican helpers, we were stunned together to view these super-cleaned strawberries with thrip after thrip roaming about.  What is particularly disturbing is that I believe (although I am not sure), that strawberries are among the most insecticide-sprayed fruits, yet this still occurred on these very, very well-washed berries.  I am very concerned, and the Kosher consumers must be notified and instructed by experts on how to act immediately.”


Special Note One:  On another topic, we received the following from a reader:  “In response to your notes on Thunder and Lightning, I would like to point out that Hashem created thunder to be loud enough to instill us with awe and fear, but low enough in volume so as not to scare us to death or cause major damage or any kind of injury.  It's not too loud, nor too low--the sound volume of thunder was perfectly planned, just like everything else in Creation!”


Special Note Two:  At the end of last week’s Parsha, we find that Moshe Rabbeinu prayed the following five words to Hashem on behalf of his sister: “Kel Nah, Refah, Nah, Lah--Please, Hashem, heal her now.”  Likewise, at the beginning of this week’s Parsha, Rashi, citing Chazal (Bamidbar 13:16), records the following short tefillah that Moshe recited on behalf of his student, Yehoshua, “Kah Yoshiacha Maiatzas Meraglim--May Hashem save you from the plot of the spies.”  There are important lessons to be derived from the similarity between these two Tefillos, juxtaposed so closely together before our very eyes:


  1. One of the first reactions a person should have to a difficult situation confronting him is prayer to Hashem;

  2. Short prayers are valuable and efficacious;

  3. People who are close to the person affected should be urged to pray; as their prayers will have especial feeling and meaning;

  4. One should be sure to mention Hashem in the Tefillah (in both Tefillos, a name of Hashem connoting mercy is mentioned).  We make additional, specific reference to the words of the Rashbam to Bamidbar 7:23, in which he emphasizes the need for Hashem’s Name to be mentioned into any Brocha to another (please review his important words inside if you can); and

  5.  One need not give detailed or specific instruction or direction to Hashem as to how you think or want the Refuah or Yeshua to be brought about, as this is wholly within Hashem’s purview and jurisdiction.


We must take a lesson from the Parshios before us, and daven to Hashem for those we know who need our help, in a concise, sincere and meaningful way--and in this manner we can do so many times throughout the day.  In this way, we will be emulating none other than Moshe Rabbeinu--who reached such great heights while here on this earth.  Let’s at least follow in his upward footsteps!



As we have now left the seven-day period of Tashlumin after Shavuos, we should in all events take with us a revitalized Birchas HaTorah every morning.  We should especially appreciate the words “V’Haarev Nah”--Hashem, please sweeten the words of Torah in our mouth, realizing that oh so few people in the world have the pleasure and opportunity to experience the incomparable, Heaven-sweetened honey of Torah.  Additionally, we can focus on the words “HaMelamed Torah L’Amo Yisroel--that Hashem is a Melamed, a teacher of Torah to His people.”  We should think about how we can act like Hashem, by sharing words of Torah with others around us, including those less fortunate with little or no Torah education of their own.


HaRav Matisyahu Salomon, Shlita, relates the story of how an American student in the Ponevezh Yeshiva, as a gesture of thanks to his Mashgiach, HaRav Yechezkel Levenstein, Z’tl, brought him and the Rebbetzin a new invention, a food processor, from America.


The Rebbetzin was initially perturbed, for she had a large, clumsy box, with something of obvious value inside, but she did not know what to do with it at all.  HaRav Levenstein thereupon asked the American student to come over and translate the instructions to the machine for them.  After hearing how to use the machine, and all that she could now do, the Rebbetzin was elated.  She now possessed something which would really help her--and others as well.


The next day, HaRav Levenstein brought the food processor into the Yeshiva, and gave a Shmuz on the great lesson one could derive from it.  Life could be viewed as a large, clumsy box, with something obviously valuable inside.  However, without the proper instructions and directions it could cause a person more pain than pleasure (that is why so many people walk around depressed).  If, on the other hand, one possesses and uses the instruction booklet for guidance and direction--i.e., the Torah--then he can truly produce a whole party--for himself and others--out of the one special and potent machine.



As we are now into the “Natural Events” season, we provide the following pertinent Halachos relating to the Brachos on these events--which serve to remind us that they are far from being “natural”:


The basis for the Halachos below is Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, Chapter 227, and the Mishne Berurah, Shoneh Halachos and Piskei Teshuvos on this Chapter.  We specifically note that one should, of course, consult with his Rav for the final Halacha.  We present them for an understanding of the issues.


1.      When experiencing an earthquake, one recites the brocha of “Oseh Maaseh Bereishis--Who makes the work of Creation”.  It is also permissible to make the brocha of “Shekocho U’Gevuraso Malei Olam--His strength and His power fill the universe”.  Piskei Teshuvos writes that the degree of the tremor is not necessarily relevant, as long as it is clearly felt.  HaRav Yaakov Emden, Z’tl, teaches that one should recite the Pasuk from Sefer Yeshaya (6:3) “V’Kara Zeh El Zeh V’Amar Kadosh…” three times, and the earthquake will cease.  Indeed, he brings that this Pasuk is specifically intended to cover the situation of an earthquake!

2.      On very strong winds, i.e., which winds which uproot either heavy objects or items attached to the ground or to buildings which would not ordinarily have been uprooted, one makes an “Oseh Maaseh Beraishis”.  On a hurricane (killer type of wind), the Piskei Teshuvos writes that one can make the Brocha of “Shekocho U’Gevuraso”, but HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, writes that in all events one should make the Brocha of “Oseh Maaseh Beraishis,” because we are not proficient as to the degree of wind that is necessary to make “Shekocho U’Gevuraso.”

3.      On lightning, and on thunder, one can make either “Oseh Maaseh Beraishis” or “Shekocho U’Gevuraso.”  However, the custom is to make the Brocha of “Oseh Maaseh Beraishis” on lightning, and the Brocha of “Shekocho U’Gevuraso” on thunder.  We note that in many Sephardic communities, the custom may be to recite these Brochos without “Shem U’Malchus” (i.e., skipping from Baruch to “Oseh” or Baruch to “Shekocho”).

4.      If one sees lightning and hears thunder simultaneously, he makes one Brocha of “Oseh Maaseh Beraishis” on both (he would also be yotze with the Brocha of “Shekocho U’Gevuraso” on both as well).

5.      One does not make a Brocha on lightning which comes only from heat.  If one is unsure of the source of the lightning, he should wait until he hears thunder.  Then, he makes one Brocha--Oseh Maaseh Beraishis--if he experiences them together (as noted in the previous paragraph).  However, if he does not experience them together--for example, if he then hears thunder without simultaneous lightning, he makes a Brocha of “Shekocho U’Gevuraso,” and then when he sees lightning (again) he makes the Brocha of “Oseh Maaseh Beraishis.”

6.      If one already had commenced making a Brocha on lightning and then, while making that Brocha, he heard thunder, he must make a second Brocha on the thunder later (once again, within two to three seconds after hearing the thunder).  The same would, of course, be true if he had already begun to make a Brocha on thunder, and then saw lightning--he would make a second Brocha on lightning within two or three seconds after seeing it again later.

7.       There is a Machlokes among the Poskim as to whether one has to see the actual lightning bolt in order to make the Brocha of “Oseh Maaseh Beraishis” (HaRav Dovid Feinstein, Shlita, for instance, holds that one must see the bolt).  Many Poskim (including HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, and the Zitz Eliezer, Z’tl) rule that one need not see the bolt itself and that, accordingly, one can make the Brocha of “Oseh Maaseh Beraishis” when merely seeing the light flash--and not the actual bolt in the sky.

8.      Once again, one must make the Brocha within two to three seconds after seeing the lightning or hearing the thunder.  Accordingly, if one came out of the bathroom and washed his hands, and then saw lightning or heard thunder, he should immediately make the Brocha before reciting Asher Yotzar (usually one must be careful to recite the Brocha of Asher Yotzar immediately after coming out of the bathroom).

9.      Although not absolutely required by Halacha, it is preferable that one stands when making these two Brochos.

10.  One can assume (unless there is a basis to believe otherwise) that one’s hands are clean, and he does not have to wash them in order to recite the Brocha.

11.  If one mistakenly made a Brocha over a flash of light or a thundering noise thinking that it was thunder or lightning (such as an airplane passing overhead at night), he would have to make the appropriate Brochos when he actually hears thunder or sees lightning later.

12.  One makes the Brocha over lightning and thunder only one time a day during the same storm.  If the sky completely clears up, and new storm clouds come in, then one makes new Brochos over lightning and thunder even a second time during the day.

13.   If a storm had commenced the previous day or even the previous evening, and has still not cleared up by the time one arises the next morning, one would make new Brochos the next morning after daybreak.  In other words, the evening and the next morning are considered two separate days for the Brochos over lightning and thunder (just like Birchos HaTorah)--so that one would make new Brochos upon hearing lightning and thunder when awakening the next morning.

14.  We should in all events remember that Chazal (Brochos 59A) teach that thunder was invented only to “straighten out the crookedness in the heart,” and thank Hashem for the ordinary and extraordinary events that take place every day--and for our ability to understand and appreciate them!



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


The following notes are excerpted from the Halachos of Shabbos by Rabbi Shimon D. Eider, Z’tl:

  1. Eating hot food on Shabbos is a mitzvah because it is considered a partial fulfillment of the mitzvah of Kavod and Oneg Shabbos--honoring the Shabbos and delighting in it.  If eating hot foods is harmful to a person, he is exempt from this mitzvah.  He who prepares and cooks on Erev Shabbos in order to eat hot foods on Shabbos (Remember to have the intent!) is considered among those who will be fortunate to attain our Final Redemption.

  2. Placing a pot of food or liquids, even if previously cooked, onto an electric stove which is connected to a Shabbos clock which will turn on the stove on Shabbos to heat the food, is prohibited.

  3. Cooking tea leaves is a melacha deoraisa.  Pouring hot water from a K’li Rishon or even placing tea leaves or a tea bag into a K’li Sheni may be a melacha deoraisa.  The following methods may be used to make tea on Shabbos:

  1. The preferred method is to prepare “sense” (i.e., the essence of liquid extract) before Shabbos by pouring hot water from a K’li Rishon on to teabags.  On Shabbos, one may then add this cold “sense” to a K’li Sheni.

  2. If the “sense” is warm [e.g., it was left on the Blech from before Shabbos] even if less than Yad Soledes Bo, then one may even add the sense to the empty glass and pour hot water from a K’li Rishon onto it.  This method is recommended.

  3. If a person did not prepare “sense” before Shabbos, he may place a teabag into a glass of cold or lukewarm water on Shabbos, and allow it to remain until a “sense” is made.  This “sense” may then be added to a K’li Sheni on Shabbos.

  4. For instant tea or instant broth, one should preferably use a K’li Shelishi.  For instant cocoa, a K’li Shelishi is required.


Special Note Two:  HaRav Shimshon Pincus, Z’tl, relates the following incident regarding HaRav Yoshe Ber Soloveitchik, Z’tl, the Rav of Brisk:


Once while traveling HaRav Soloveitchik found himself in desperate need of overnight lodging.  He knocked on the door of a Jewish-owned inn late at night.  The innkeeper, without offering him food or drink, claimed that there was no room and begrudgingly directed him to an area near the stove, telling him that he should simply lie down over there.  A weary Brisker Rav did so without protest and quickly fell asleep.  A short while later, the Kordonover Rebbe with a small entourage came to the inn and was accorded a royal welcome, with good food and drink.  The noise woke up the Brisker Rav, and, as he stood up, the Kordonover Rebbe recognized him and exclaimed, “Brisker Rav!  Why are you lying on the floor by the stove?!”  The innkeeper, realizing what he had done, immediately begged the Rav’s forgiveness.  The Rav responded to him substantially as follows:


“I realize that you did not know that I was the Rav of Brisk.  However, let us understand what really happened here.  If it would be fair for you to treat any Jew like you treated me, then you would be excused for treating me the way you did--as in your mind I was not the Rav of Brisk, but an ordinary Jew.  On the other hand, if your treatment was not befitting even a regular Jew, then you are a poshea--you acted recklessly, and you are held accountable not only for not treating me as you should treat an ordinary Jew, but as you should have treated the Rav of Brisk.”


HaRav Pincus teaches how the Brisker Rav’s lesson applies in our everyday situations:

A person insults, speaks disparagingly, or without sufficient thinking or care, hurts another person with his words.  When doing this, he neglects the fact that we are all “Bonim”--children of Hashem, whom Hashem loves, and, moreover, that we are all created B’Tzelem Elokim--in Hashem’s image.  Hurting a person with words is wrong in and of itself--even when done to an “ordinary” person.  Accordingly, when one does so, he will not only be held accountable for causing pain to that “ordinary person,” but he will also be held responsible for hurting one of Hashem’s children, a Prince, a Tzelem Elokim--and that will require a lot more forgiveness.


Additional Hakhel Point: HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, brings in the name of HaRav Yitzchak Blazer, Z’tl, that every person has a certain number of words ascribed to him in his life, and, accordingly, one should be careful to properly use his words, as each word is literally of the essence of his life.  Hashem, however, gives us a great gift--words of Torah are not counted towards that ultimate number--one should talk, and talk, and talk--Torah!  Similarly, HaRav Kanievsky suggests, there are a given number of steps that a person takes in his lifetime--and it could very well be that steps to do a mitzvah are not counted as well!


Special Note Three: Having mentioned these very special thoughts from HaRav Kanievsky, Shlita, we provide just a few more of his important teachings:

  1. When one receives a Brocha, one must have real emunah that in the merit of the mevorech’s blessing on his behalf, Hashem will help him.  Accordingly, he continues, it would seem that it is better for one who requests a Brocha to come personally to receive it, rather than to send a Shalicah to receive the Brocha (See Chumash Ha’Emek Davar to Bereishis 49:1).

  2. In the name of the Chazon Ish:  If one wants to check another’s Yiras Shamayim (for instance, for Shidduch purposes), he should observe the way he davens.

  3. In the name of the Chazon Ish:  A girl who attended a Bais Yaakov school is the equivalent of a Bas Talmid Chochom, a daughter of a Talmid Chacham.

  4. In the name of the Chazon Ish:  Men are to subjugate their Yetzer Hora by their Torah Study, while women are to rule over their Yetzer Hora through their Tznius.

  5. In the name of his father, the Steipler Gaon:  If one finds himself in a tzora--difficult situation--he should accept upon himself that when he is saved, he will recite Nishmas Kol Chai, the beautiful Nishmas prayer recited with special feeling on the night of the Seder, and every Shabbos and Yom Tov.


Hakhel Note: HaRav Moshe Wolfson, Shlita, at a Hakhel shiur, explained in detail the importance of Nishmas, and the feeling that one should have when reciting it every single Shabbos.  This Shabbos may we have a special zechus of pre-empting tzaros--by reciting Nishmas with care, sensitivity, and affection!



We continue today enveloped in the Shivas Yemai HaMeluim--the Seven Days immediately succeeding Shavuos during which Korbonos which were not offered on Shavuos could still be brought before Hashem.  We must not lose sight of the fact that this period is especially charged now, as well.  Just because the Bais HaMikdash is not here, does not mean that the extra-special level of holiness imbued within these Days is not tangible and real.  If someone is in the hospital, it does not mean that the world does not continue to exist around him--his sense of reality is only temporarily distorted.  So too with us, while our immediate situation in Galus may not be normal, the sanctity of the Days we are in--in the true world around us--must be especially appreciated.  To mark these days, many communities do not recite Tachanun.  Whether or not one is a member of these communities (and perhaps especially if one is), one should elevate these days by choosing one item in Torah or Avoda and making it your week’s special project.  We provide one suggestion below.


Special Note One:  Many reasons are given as to why we read Megilas Rus on Shavuos.  HaRav Yaakov Emden, Z’tl, in his Siddur Bais Yaakov writes that the preeminent lesson of Megilas Rus is the tremendous Chesed of Rus.  With this, HaRav Emden writes, we can appreciate the tremendous Chesed of Hashem in giving us the opportunity to study Torah and perform Mitzvos--an opportunity not afforded to more than 99% of the universe.  In fact, to further appreciate Hashem’s great gift to us, the Sefer HaKuzari writes that we should consider each and every mitzvah as a personal invitation by Hashem to enter into His very palace.  If one could take a moment to visualize every mitzvah prior to its performance as a palatial invitation, we would have a more refined appreciation of the Chesed of Hashem, and certainly in our attitude and approach towards mitzvah performance.


Let us take making Brachos as an example.  Do we make a bracha over food simply in order to allow us to eat without being considered a thief, or perhaps over a mitzvah as a necessary portal required by Chazal in order to perform a mitzvah?  Here is how Chazal teach what Avraham Avinu taught his guests (Sotah 10B):


“[After they were satiated, Avraham Avinu would say] Why do you need to thank me?--Have you then eaten of mine?!  You have eaten from that which belongs to the Elokai HaOlam--the G-d of the World.  Accordingly, [do not just mouth thanks or even just a brocha but] Hodu V’Shibchu U’Borchu--Thank and Praise and Bless--the Creator of the World…!”


What a wonderful approach to Brachos.  A Bracha is not just a verbalization of a necessary statement, but rather an opportunity for “Hodu V’Shibchu U’Borchu”--true appreciation and exultation of Hashem for the Chesed He provides you with--whether it is food, a Mitzvah, or any of the miracles of nature over which a Brocha is made.  For those who may not have yet chosen what to do especially during these Seven Days following Shavous, may we suggest the “Hodu V’Shibchu U’Borchu” feeling as often as one can during the day, whether it is before learning, performing a particular mitzvah, or, indeed, making a brocha!


Special Note Two:  In order to further appreciate the power of Chesed taught to us by Rus, we provide below five important and remarkable points made by the Chofetz Chaim in Sefer Ahavas Chesed (Part 2, Chapter 6):


1.  When one performs an act of Chesed, he is rewarded not only for the check he wrote, coin he gave, or favor in time or effort that he performed, but he is actually rewarded for all of the direct consequences of his action as well.  For instance, if as a result of charity given, a person was healed, or someone’s Shalom Bayis improved, one will be rewarded in kind for--the results of his action--almost always unknown--and not only for the action itself.


2.  If a person acts in a kind way to others, Hashem will reward him so that when he needs kindness from others, he will find those who extend themselves to him, as well.


3.  When one is Gomel Chesed to another, he will even be rewarded for the indirect effects of his Chesed.  For instance, if through a loan which helps put someone into business he is able to hire previously unemployed workers, the loan is deemed extended not only to the borrower, but to all the workers who now have jobs as a result.


4.  One davens daily for Hashem’s continuing Chesed.  For instance, we ask: “Sim Shalom Tova…Chayn V’Chesed”--since Hashem rewards measure for measure, if one acts with Chesed, Hashem will respond favorably to our requests for Chesed for our people, as well.  Indeed, both Rebbe Akiva and Ben Azai (Medrash Shochar Tov, Chapter 65), based on Pesukim in Tanach, both openly teach that if one is Gomel Chasodim, his Tefillos will be answered.


5.  Finally, when one is Gomel Chesed with a Talmid Chacham in the manner which permits him to study Torah, he will merit sitting in the Heavenly Yeshiva and is considered as if he is attaching himself to the Shechina Itself, which is the great goal of mankind--dveikus in Hashem.


One must realize that all of the above is not simple allegory.  It is based on Pesukim in Tanach and the words of Chazal.  You can close your eyes and picture yourself cleaving to the Shechina as a result of your Chesed.  Think about the Chesed of Rus which was performed primarily to one unfortunate person…it lead to a dynasty of Kings for hundreds of years…and will lead straight to the Moshiach speedily and in our day.


Now--it’s your turn!



Special Note One:  Today, the second day of Sivan, is the Yom HaMeyuchas--the day upon which Hashem told Bnei Yisroel “V’Heyisem Li Segulah Mikol Ho’Amim (Shemos 19:5, and Rashi there)--You shall be to Me the most beloved treasure of all peoples.  What a great day--to be declared the greatest treasure of all peoples by the Creator of all!  Today, we should try to perform at least one Mitzvah with at least a little more preparation, kavannah, and zeal…glowing--while knowing and showing that you are--literally--Hashem’s prized possession!


Special Note Two:  HaRav Shimshon Pincus, Z’tl, provides the following fantastic Mashal:


A young man, eager to have a successful future, is advised to go to the local gardening store, and to purchase all kinds of fruit tree seeds.  Even though he may not see the benefits of his investment immediately, over the years those handfuls of seeds will produce many trees and a wonderful abundance of fruit for consumption and sale.  The young man eagerly purchases many different kinds of seeds.  Upon realizing how easy and cheap they were to buy, and how the profits to be reaped are geometrically proportional to the investment of time and physical effort, the young man was not as careful as he should have been.  He lost some seeds here, threw some seeds at some birds there, planted some seeds too close to each other, and then did not properly take care of the trees that did eventually begin to grow.


The easy, almost “sure” investment, was nearly squandered largely due to a lack of use of his intelligence, a simple failure of adequate care and an almost surprising degree of flippancy.  True, a small part of his final relative failure may have been due to bad weather, occasional illness and other factors, but they were minor compared to his carelessness, inattention and perhaps even negligence.


That is the Mashal.  The Nimshal is clear.  Each one of us is given the incredible opportunity to harness our unique and individual portion in Torah during our lifetime.  The little seedlings with which we begin--“Torah Tziva Lanu Moshe”, “Shema Yisroel”, “Beraishis Bora”--must be wisely planted and nurtured.  Even when they grow into full-sized trees, they must be properly watered, pruned and harvested.


Yet, many unfortunately do not follow the road to personal success.  A person drops seeds here, needlessly throws away seeds there, and does not take care of the tree when planted--by failing to keep his daily study commitment; not buying or reading a new Torah book or Sefer even if it is of interest to him; not joining a new shiur in Shul or watching a Shiur on www.torahanytime.com when he has some time at his computer and not progressing (or feeling advancement) on a yearly basis in the Parashas HaShavua or in other topics of Torah study.  There are other examples--a five-minute chevrusa, a telephone shiur (718-906-6400 is one example), Shmiras Halashon HaYomi, etc.  The possibilities are almost endless.  So much of our opportunities are free, and much of our learning can be done in a group setting, which also makes it easier.  We just have to be diligent, and care.


We are at the time of year, close to Shavuos, where we must evaluate and re-evaluate Torah’s place in our life.  Chazal (Chagiga 3A) actually provide one definition of a “shoteh” (an insane person) as one who loses what is given to him.  We should not, Chas V’Shalom, place ourselves anywhere near that category--squandering those seedlings which can be nurtured into such big and beautiful fruit-bearing trees.


Rabbi Pincus actually teaches that we should view every five or ten minutes as one seed.  That is literally how powerful and meaningful every short period of Torah study can be.  If one throws away a “seed” of his time, then he has discarded not only the seed, but all of the neutrons, protons and electrons within it, the entire DNA, all of the life-filled potential bound within.


Just five minutes a day is 1,825 minutes a year.  Over twenty years, this amounts to 36,500 minutes, which is more than 600 hours.  According to the Vilna Gaon’s calculation, as explained by the Chofetz Chaim (see Shenos Eliyahu to P’eah 1:1), if one would have been learning during these five minutes every day, he would have accumulated over 7 million mitzvos!  We now can appreciate how taking care of that seedling could produce such a beautiful and glorious tree.


Let us make the commitment--B’li Neder--to especially and intentionally study just an additional five minutes of Torah a day--just so that we show how much we care about that seedling--no--that tree!



Reminder to say Tehillim for the three Shevuyim: Eldad Ben Tova, Ehud Ben Malka and Gilad Ben Aviva.  Hopefully, this month we will see their Yeshua



Today is Rosh Chodesh Sivan, the day upon which Bnei Yisroel entered Midbar Sinai, and changed the history of the World.  This month’s mazal is Teumim (Gemini, or twins).  The Sefer HaTodaah by Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov, Z’tl, suggests that the reason for this is that both Moshe Rabbeinu and Aharon HaKohen were together essential in bringing the Torah to our people.



Special Note One:  When one sits down to study Torah he may feel anxious, nervous, or frazzled because of the events of the day until that point.  A person may have so many obligations and stresses that the times used for Torah study may be beset by personal, financial and other concerns.


Imagine you had $1 billion in Tzedaka funds to give away (this is not as far-fetched a scenario as you think).  Imagine how much calmer and at ease you would be, how much more focused and directed.  Now, let’s think about it--you do have $1 billion in your Tzedaka fund to give.  Seriously.  How so?  Because just as the person in your neighborhood who has $1 billion in Tzedaka to give away has what Hashem determined are the needs and necessities of his life, so too, do you have all of the needs and necessities that Hashem has determined to be what is necessary in your life.  And who knows better than Hashem?


One should maximize the time spent learning--without perturbation or disturbance from the outside factors and pressures that the Yetzer Hora sends to adversely impact on your Torah Study.  Remember--you’re rich, very rich--when you are studying Torah!


Special Note Two:  As we have previously noted, Derech Sicha Volume 2 was recently published.  Among the many fascinating rulings and opinions of HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, we present the following:


  1. The former articles and possessions of a Tzadik have a special Kedusha associated with them.  Accordingly, Tefillin worn by a Rebbe or other Holy person do have an extra special worth.

  2. Regarding giving Tzedaka “al menas”--for the sake of--a particular Yeshua (shidduch, child, refuah, parnossah, etc.), HaRav Kanievsky suggests that while this may be acceptable, one of the following two methods is preferable:


(a)     Giving the Tzedaka as a “zechus” for the yeshua, and not on condition/for the sake of the yeshua that is needed; or

(b)    Alternatively, one should state that he will give the Tzedaka at the time that he receives the yeshua that he needs.  In this way, he is not making his donation dependent on the yeshua--he is only setting a time as to when he will give the Tzedaka.


  1. Is handwiting anaysis reliable for Shidduch purposes?  It may be indicative of character traits, but may not be meaningful, because unlike the other nations of the world, through the study of Torah we can change our nature and our conduct.

  2. When learning Mishnayos for the sake of a departed person, one cannot learn for any other purpose--even for the sake of a second niftar.

  3. Chazal teach that in order for one to remember his studies, he requires Siyata Dishmaya (Megilla 6B).  How does one obtain this Siyata D’Shmaya?  By davening for it!

  4. If one learns for the sake of a Refuah Shelaima for a friend, does he detract from his own Zechus of Torah study?  No, and the Refuah will, B’EH, come because his sick friend caused him to study Torah.

  5. For a Daf Yomi Shiur, is it better to have a “double shiur” of two Daf on a day when more people will come, or to learn the Daf of that day when there will be less people attending?  It is better to have the shiur kavua, the daily regular Shiur, even with less people.

  6. If one falls asleep during a shiur, is it better to leave him asleep, or to wake him up and potentially cause him embarrassment?  The first time, you should certainly wake him, as this would be his desire.  You should then ask him what he would prefer if it happens again in the future.

  7. What is the source of saying “Mazal Tov” at a Siyum?  Whenever someone does any Mitzvah we do not say Mazal Tov?!  When one performs a Mitzvah such as a Siyum which is not an absolute requirement as other mitzvos, it is a “zeman mesugal,” an auspicious time, for the brocha of Mazal Tov to have a special power and actual effect on the recipient.  Conversely as well, HaRav Kanievsky adds, the time of a Siyum Mesechta is a “zeman ratzon”, and one can ask for special brachos from the person making the Siyum--especially if he is a talmid chochom!

  8. Additional monies that one spends for the sake of Rosh Chodesh are included in the additional amounts one spends for Yom Tov (see Yesterday's Special Note One)--accordingly, his income fixed on Rosh Hashanah will be increased to accommodate his added Rosh Chodesh spending...so enjoy today's delicious and meaningful Seudas Rosh Chodesh!


Rabbi Paysach Krohn, Shlita recently delivered a practical and inspiring Shiur “Eating, Living and Enjoying Life”, that was especially and extremely well-received.  You may view the video by clicking here.


Special Note One:  It is now less than one week to Shavous…and counting (Baruch Hashem)!  We should remember that in addition to our commemoration of receiving the Torah, there are other mitzvos associated with Shavuos.


Firstly, although Shavous is only one or two days, the Mitzvah of Simcha is no different on Shavous than on Pesach or Sukkos.  To properly prepare for this Mitzvah, we must make sure that everyone has what they need to be in the proper state of simcha on Yom Tov (including sleep!).  This especially means that meat, wine, new clothing and special treats must be purchased as needed.  Indeed, the Mishna Berura (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, Siman 529, seif koton 2) quoting Chazal (Baitza, 16A), writes that a person’s exact income is determined on Rosh HaShanah, except that if one expends additional monies on certain designated Mitzvos, his income will be increased “dollar for dollar” for the additional monies spent on these Mitzvos.  One of these Mitzvos is additional money spent for the sake of Yom Tov. [One should consult with his Rav or Posek if he is already in credit card or other debt, or cannot pay his bills in the ordinary course, for Halachic instruction on Yom Tov purchases.]


Secondly, the Shulchan Aruch (ibid.) writes that one must make sure that the “Ger, Yasom, Almonah, together with other poor people are taken care of on Yom Tov, as well.”  Accordingly, we must give Tzedaka now (i.e., today!) to make sure that others less fortunate than ourselves have the opportunity to celebrate Simchas Yom Tov in Eretz Yisroel and abroad.  Because the dollar has been so devalued, Tzedaka organizations in Eretz Yisroel are especially hurting—hurting--for funds to feed the poor.  You can go to www.YadEliezer.org right now to help a family in the Holy Land smile and be happy on Shavuos together with you, to fulfill Chazal’s teaching--“I was happy, and I made others happy too.”


Thirdly, we should remember that there are certain mitzvos relating to the Yom Tov--actually, essential to the Yom Tov--which we will be unable to perform this Shavuos unless the Moshiach arrives first.  The Mitzvos of Aliyah L’Regal to the Bais HaMikdash--yes, even for only one day; the various Karbonos, including the special “Kivsei Atzeres”,“Shtai HaLechem”, Olas Re’iya, Shalmei Chagiga and Simcha and Korban Musaf will all be physically and spiritually, shatteringly and irreplaceably, lost from us if the Moshiach does not come.


At the very least, we should attempt to study these Mitzvos on Yom Tov itself, so that we are not totally forsaken of them.  For starters, one can study the Sefer HaChinuch, the Siddur Bais Yaakov of HaRav Yaakov Emden, or even easier, the Parshios of the Torah relating to these many Mitzvos.


Finally, since Shavuos this year comes so soon after Shabbos, may we remind everyone to invite your guests (especially those from out-of-town) today--and not tomorrow--for the Seudos of Yom Tov.


Special Note Two:  Perhaps one of the most popular questions raised regarding the Giving of the Torah, is why it was given in the desert.  You probably could count five answers on one hand with what you have heard over time.


HaRav Shimshon Pincus, Z’tl, looks at the question from a different perspective.  HaRav Pincus asks not why the Torah was actually given in the Midbar, but rather why the Torah was **not** given in Eretz Yisroel.  After all, does not the very air of Eretz Yisroel itself make one wise?  Wouldn’t the intense Kedusha of Eretz Yisroel per se have a unique and special effect on those receiving the Torah?  Is not the complete performance of the Mitzvos dependent on their performance in Eretz Yisroel in any event?!


HaRav Pincus answers that we must put the Giving of the Torah in its proper perspective.  On Pesach, HaKadosh Baruch Hu chose us as his Kallah, as his bride.  The Shidduch was made, and we celebrate our new relationship over Pesach.  The days of Sefirah are the equivalent of the engagement period--between the Vort and the Chasuna itself.  Shavuos is then, the Great Wedding, where Hashem came out to greet us as a Chasan steps forward to greet his Kallah.  The period after Shavuos is the time in which the newfound relationship was to be firmly and eternally established.


We can now understand why the Torah had to be given in the desert.  The proverbial Choson and Kallah needed time with each other, without any distractions whatsoever--not even holy or important ones--in order to form an eternal bond.  Giving the Torah in Eretz Yisroel would be the equivalent of getting married in a kitchen, even if it was Glatt Kosher LeMehadrin--As soon as the Chupa was over, the Choson would soon be learning how to use the Shabbos Clock, and the Kallah would start figuring out how to make cholent!  Just as the Yichud room follows immediately after the Chupa so that the newlyweds can focus on each other and only on each other, so, too, did we need our special time to be separated from everything else and unite with HaKadosh Baruch Hu.


Baruch Hashem our relationship started off properly.  We had the proper Yichud, our connection with Hashem was developed without interruption or disturbance.  As a result, our potential for dveykus--for a close and tight bond--with Hashem is, and always will be, at a maximum level.


So, we are now like the Choson and Kallah less than a week before the Chupa.  The anticipation, the last minute preparations, the prayers that everything goes right…but we must also remember that the goal to be achieved when Shavous arrives is not only the marvelous and incomparable moment of the Wedding itself, but also the raising of our own personal ever-special and eternally-lasting relationship that must follow, as expressed by the love that we have for Hashem, the improved way in which we study His Torah and the devoted manner and especially warm care in which we perform His Mitzvos!

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