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The Mazel for the month of Nissan is a ram.  The Egyptians, who were the most professional of astrologers, worshipped this particular Mazel, because it is the first, the b’chor, of all of the Mazelos.  Accordingly, they believed they could draw the strength and power from this Mazel which was necessary for them to rule the world.


Hashem therefore specifically took B’nei Yisroel out of Egypt during the height of this Mazel’s governance--on the 15th day--in the middle of Nissan.  Moreover, the lamb (ram) which was the earthly symbol of this Mazel, was restrained by being tied to bedposts--and then even shechted during the Mazel’s very governance.  Had B’nei Yisroel been taken out in any other month, the Mitzri’im could have claimed that its Mazel was simply not ruling that month, but had it been…


What is Mazel?  Rov Chaim Friedlander Z’TL (Sifsei Chaim 2:268) explains that it is the method of controlling the creation from heaven to earth, which is wholly independent of man’s conduct (Mazel is connected with the word “Nozel”--to flow from heaven to earth).  The Egyptians were right--Mazelos were effective--until Rosh Chodesh Nissan--the day upon which Hashem taught us that **WE, B’nei Yisroel**, would now supersede and govern over all creation by our actions.  As the Posuk states: “This month is TO YOU the first month.”  Hashem, in the first mitzvah given to K’lal Yisroel as a people, teaches them that their actions will simply override all Mazelos.  As Rav Friedlander explains, the term “Ain Mazel L’Yisroel” (Shabbos 156A) means that the Mazelos have no power over us--just the opposite, our actions now control the creation.


This obviously puts us in a very responsible position.  On that first day of Nissan in the year 2448, we lost the status of commoners, and, in effect, became ranking high officers, because all of our actions, even the smaller ones, impact the world in its entirety.


In fact, our actions are so profound, that we can bring the Shechina into this world by building a Mishkan, and we can, Chas V’Shalom, drive the Shechina away with seemingly something as trivial as the Sinas Chinam--the senseless hatred--shown in the Kamtza-Bar Kamtza incident.


So what are we to do--is this simply teaching us about “Jewish guilt”?  No, quite to the contrary.  Does a King’s son say, “Forget this, I would rather carry water”??  Or does a Colonel say, “I’d rather be on all-night guard duty??”  No, or at least, they should not.  Instead, they will recognize the importance of their position and learn how to help themselves--and the many others whose lives they now affect.  How?  By taking instruction from the King, and by learning from the Generals, what to do and how to do it.


Indeed, Rav Chaim Voloziner Z’TL in the Nefesh HaChaim (Sha’ar 1, Chapter 4) teaches that the acts of sacrilege of Titus HaRasha in the Holy of Holies were less than meaningless trifle and had no bearing on this world--but our smallest deeds shake the cosmos.


As we begin our Pesach preparations, where we spend our valuable time searching for even crumbs of Chometz, scrubbing walls and turning pockets inside out, when some men become homemakers--kneading dough, baking matzos, or perhaps grinding morror, where world class athletes would envy women’s adrenaline levels, when we spend so much money on potatoes and eggs and figuring out different ways to prepare them, we should keep in mind--or least when the going gets rough, remind ourselves--when performing any and all of our actions that we are the star colonels, we are sons of the King--whatever we do is truly very, very important and how we do it impacts not only on our family, friends or neighbors, but actually governs the world and all of its hosts.




Today is the first day of Nissan, one of the most renowned days in the Torah, as we read last week, Hashem taught Moshe Rabbeinu on this day-- “This month is the first month of the year…” (Shemos 12:2).


The Gemara (Shabbos 87B) teaches that Rosh Chodesh Nissan took “Eser Ataros”--ten separate and distinct crowns--for ten unique events that happened on this day, which include the first day of the Avodah--the complete service in the Mishkan, with Aharon and his descendents to serve everlastingly as Kohanim Gedolim and Kohanim.  It was also the first day ever of the Shechina descending into the Mishkan, and of fire coming from Heaven to consume the Karbanos.


Additionally, not one or two, but eight different parshios of the Torah were taught to K’lal Yisroel on this day (See Gittin 60A).


The Navi in Yechezkel (45:18) teaches that on THIS DAY the “Miluim”--the consecration of the THIRD BAIS HAMIKDASH will commence.  Accordingly, the Siddur Bais Yaakov writes that all who are “Mitzapim L’Yeshua”--await the Redemption--should recite the Pesukim related to the dedication of the Third Beis HaMikdash in Yechezkel, 43:18-27 and 45:18-20.


Indeed, the first 12 days of Nissan, the days of the dedication offerings of the Nesi’im (the princes of the tribes) in the Mishkan, are so powerful that Reb Menachem Mendel of Rimanov taught that in each of these days are inherent an entire month of the year.  With true clarity of vision, on each of these 12 days, one can understand what the entire corresponding month will be like.  The first day of Nissan provides the clarity for the entire month of Nissan, the time of Redemption.


Today’s Nasi, i.e., the first one to bring Karbonos in the Mishkan, was Nachshon ben Aminadov, who was the same Nasi who jumped into the stormy sea for Geulah.  Perhaps the lesson for today is not to be ashamed or hesitant--but to jump in--to give it all that we have, to prepare for--and to bring--the Geulah!


~ ~ ~ ~


Today is also the first day we can recite the Birchas Ha’Ilanos, upon seeing a blossoming fruit tree (See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 226 for further details on the proper performance of this Mitzvah).  One can show his/her zerizus and chavivus--alacrity and dearness--for this once-a-year Brocha by reciting it as early in the month as possible.


Finally, Rosh Chodesh Nissan is the Rosh Hashana for Shekalim (Rosh Hashana 7A)--the day **NEW** contributions were **REQUIRED** to be used to purchase the daily sacrifices for the Bais Hamikdash (no matter how full the Temple treasury already was).  This teaches us that today is the day to start again, with a fresh and new commitment, to utilize the coming days to personally spring and blossom.




There are those among us who require some form of daily medicine or medical treatment.  Whether the daily regimen be a baby aspirin a day, Celebrex, Coumadin, a diabetes shot, a pain pill, a nebulizer or perhaps a constant treatment or procedure to help alleviate an even more severe physical or mental malady or condition.  One may feel disappointed or dejected that he is “worse off” than the many others who are seemingly free to go around as they please, without having to take any particular medication or constant treatment, perhaps for the rest of their lives.


The Gemara in Chagiga (16A) says that human beings are compared to angels in three ways and are likened to animals in three other ways.  One of the ways in which we are compared to animals is that we have to “eat and drink like animals.”  We then take this otherwise lowly aspect of our lives--an aspect in which Chazal with their Ruach HaKodesh teach us that we are compared to creatures lower than ourselves (think about it--animals!)--and we not only live with this, but sanctify it by making brochos before and after, and even while eating we conduct ourselves in an elevated fashion (not eating in the marketplace, while walking around, in big gulps, putting oversized portions on our plates, subsisting primarily on “junk” foods, etc.).  Indeed, there is an entire chapter in Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim, Siman 170), entitled “Proper Conduct at a Meal”.  It is said of Rav Chaim Shmulevitz Z’TL that he would not eat in the kitchen, but only in the dining room, apparently constantly reminding himself to elevate this aspect of human life.  Our great task, then, is to take an otherwise “animal-like” part of our existence and elevate it from the act of an animal to the level of thinking, G-d fearing human being, something of which lower creatures are incapable.


If we can take eating and drinking, an otherwise base act, and turn it into a method of coming close to Hashem, we can certainly take a daily regimen or a constant medical requirement, and use it to come closer to Him.  After all, the Shulchan Aruch teaches that the Shechinah itself is above the head of the bed of a sick person to the very real extent that we cannot sit down on his bed (Yoreh Deah 335:3).  Clearly, in any sickness, one can come closer to Hashem, as sickness is a method by which He shows you that He wants you to draw even closer through prayer and teshuvah (See Praying With Fire, Days 12 and 13).  Indeed, the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 230:4) rules that one should daven before and after he undergoes a medical procedure or takes medicine.  Similarly, the Sefer Eved HaMelech provides a prayer to be recited before going to a doctor.  All of these prayers are available on one small laminated business card-sized from MRA Assistance, by calling (718) 854-5200.


Many others in this world can go through the day not feeling a closeness to Hashem, or spending any time to value Olom Haba, and instead focus--or perhaps more accurately--get lost, in the day-to-day and the mundane--and actually avoid the more important spiritual part of their lives.  Those who have opportunities of various kinds, when facing a physical or mental challenge, when taking the daily “refuah” regimen or the like, should try to use it to feel closer to Him, and as a source of eternal Kapora (See “Pain Relief” in The Hakhel Community Awareness Bulletin, Volume III, Number 2 (Adar II 5763)).  As Chazal teach “HaYom La’Asosam”--this is the world of doing.  The spiritual levels we achieve in this world are what establishes our place in this world and the next.  With this, we can understand why, when we pray for a choleh, we ask first that he has a Refuas Ha’Nefesh, that his soul first be healed, and only afterward, having accomplished this, do we ask for a Refuas Ha’Guf (a healing of the body), as well.


The following is a true incident:  Someone was once struck as a pedestrian in an intersection by a car that lost control, and he suffered several broken bones, with resulting internal injuries.  Instead of avoiding the bad memories (and his weakened physical state as a result of his injuries), he actually makes it a point to pass by the intersection on a regular basis to recite “Baruch She’asoh Li Nes BaMakom Hazeh” (See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 219:9).  When questioned about it, he responded that he passes by often to remind himself of the miracle that Hashem did for him there.  “It is an opportunity to remind me that G-d saves me daily.”


As we look at our everyday lives, our struggles, our trials, our difficulties, if we can learn to focus on the ways Hashem seeks that we draw closer to Him, and, in addition to these, if we can appreciate the inherent miracles--whether it be a life saved, modern medicine assisting us (or at least alleviating our pain), or our wondrous existence in this world, we will connect to our Shoresh HaNeshoma--our soul’s true and ultimate Source, both in this world and the next.


We recently noted that the Shema teaches us that today and every day is “THE DAY” to study Torah.  The Shema, in both its first and second sections, respectively, also teaches that we should serve Hashem “B’CHAL LEVAVECHA” and “B’CHAL LEVAVCHEM”--with all of our hearts.  The Mishna in Brachos (54A), in explaining why the Torah uses the word “Levav” as opposed to “Lev” for heart, states that we are to serve Hashem with both of our “hearts”--the Yetzer Hatov and the Yetzer Hora.


The Tiferes Yisroel on this Mishna (in Boaz, Note 2) explains that the “Yetzer Hatov” is to be taken as a synonym for alacrity, speed, effort and action, which is how we should approach the Mitzvos Aseh and positive behavior.  On the other hand, the “Yetzer Hora” represents the negative forces of laziness, hesitation, delay and inaction which are the forces we are to utilize to avoid violating the Lo Sa’ase--negative prohibitions and negative behavior.


For example, we are to make an effort to remember our Torah learning (perhaps through the study of association techniques, using mnemonic devices, etc.), but we should not harness this power to make our davening “rote” so that we can walk around looking at people, places and things while davening or reciting brochos, nor to recall all the bad things s/he did--to others [and especially to me!].


Conversely, we should forget prohibited thoughts and negative events, and we should thwart our fatigue and lack of sleep when there is something to remember--What does “L’Hachbira” mean in Adon Olam--I must look it up--right now!  That was a great D’var Torah I just read--I should tell it to somebody--at the very least, I will remember it better.


Through the day, we are faced with various ways to utilize the Yetzer HaTov (e.g., love, mercy, happiness, humility, truth, generosity), and what may seem like more opportunities to utilize the Yetzer Hora (e.g., chutzpah, anger, being difficult, overstating/exaggerating, feelings of disgust).  We should have Kavana to make a conscious effort to fulfill the “B’chal Levavecha” in Shema by knowingly and specifically using the negative forces--to AVOID the negative, and the positive drives--to ACCOMPLISH important gains in this world.


Dovid HaMelech writes in Tehillim “Hashem is a Tzaddik, just in all His ways, and a Chossid, pious in all His deeds” (in the famous Kepitel known as “Ashrei” recited three times daily, Tehillim 145:17).


The Gemara (Rosh Hashana 17B) asks that if Hashem is a Chossid, which implies that He goes beyond the letter of the law, how can He also be a Tzaddik, which means that He acts only according to the strict letter of the law.  See the Gemara there and the Sephorno on the Posuk, who provide resolutions of the paradox, both of which seem to relate to Hashem (and not to human beings).


Now, we are usually taught to emulate the ways of Hashem--is it possible for us to do so in this case--can we be both a Tzaddik AND a Chossid?  As noted above, the resolution of this paradox do not seem to relate to humans.  Yet, we find that the Targum (in the Aramaic) in Megillas Esther refers to Mordechai both as a “Tzadika” (see, e.g., Esther 7:6) and as a “Chasida” (see, e.g., Esther 2:5).  How could Mordechai be both a Tzaddik, following what was exactly just and proper, and a Chossid, going above and beyond what was absolutely required?  How was this possible?


We may suggest that an answer may be found in the Posuk in Ashrei--Hashem is just in all His “ways”, referring in general to Hashem’s adherence to justice in the varied and limitless actions which He performs.  Then, with respect to particular and specific deeds within His “ways”, He goes beyond what the strict law and justice would otherwise require to be a “Chossid” in these particular “deeds”.


Mordechai, in emulating the ways of Hashem, was successful in achieving the level of Tzaddik--of conducting himself justly and properly in all areas.  Beyond that, at least in some “deeds”, he was able to go beyond the letter of the law, and become a Chossid--doing more than the law may otherwise require.


If we will recall our days of schooling, we will remember that the difference between “Excellent” and “Very Good” (VG), or between an A and an A-, or between the 100+ and the 95 or 98, was that the higher grade reflected going above and beyond what was ordinarily expected or required.  In English class, for example, it was the nicer report cover or the cute title, in Math, it was solving the “extra credit” problem, in law school, it was also discussing how the “dissenting opinion” would handle the case, in medical school, it was referring to an outside study you had read in The New England Journal of Medicine.  In short, it was the “something extra”--that something special which you added above and beyond what was required.  This may not have been true in every class, but for what you especially enjoyed, or for the teacher you really liked or wanted to please, you made that extra effort.


Let us now take this concept to Mitzvah observance.  As an example, we take the Mitzvah of Tzedakah.  While the nations of the world would consider charity to be an act of piety, a Chesed (as the Posuk states, “Chesed L’Umim Chatos” (Mishlei 14:34)--even when they do Tzedakah, it is done only as a “Chesed” and, for that matter, done improperly, as the commentaries on the Posuk there explain), the Torah actually requires us through at least two Mitzvas Aseh and one Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh to give Tzedakah, which, as its name implies (from the word “Tzedek”--Justice), is just and required by law, and not a voluntary act of kindness.  See Sefer HaChinuch, Mitzvah 479.  Within this requirement of Tzedakah, however, one may achieve excellence--beyond what is required--and act as a Chossid.  As the Rambam (Hilchos Matnos Aniyim, Chapter 10) and Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 249:6-13) teach, there are eight levels of charity, with the highest level being finding a person a job, so that he no longer must rely on donations, and other more sublime levels, including loaning money, or giving Tzedakah anonymously (all of which are obviously more respectful to the recipient).  Thus, one can become a Chossid in Tzedakah itself, by going beyond the required basic level of achievement, and by fulfilling higher levels of the Mitzvah.


While it may be exceedingly difficult for us to be a “Chossid” in every Mitzvah, as even Mordechai is not only referred to as a Chossid, but as a Tzaddik, as well, what could be truly meaningful for us is to consider ourselves in a chosen area(s) as a “Chossid”--going beyond what the letter of law requires in order to not only be a Tzaddik--but to achieve--at least in these limited areas the status of a “Chossid”.  Examples may include:


  • Coming on time to davening (or perhaps a few moments early to avoid being in a harried mode when commencing) rather than making use of the halachic provisions relating to those who come late--which include skipping and changing the order of prayer.

  • Spending five minutes after your Torah study is over to quickly review or summarize (at least in your mind) what you have just learned.

  • Not just benching or reciting the Asher Yotzer (which is the level of a Tzaddik--having done what you are supposed to do), but reciting them from a Siddur or card to help improve your Kavanna.  We note that the Yesod V’Shoresh V’Avodah in his will writes that before he commenced Birchas Hamazon, he would utter a brief prayer that his benching would not be disturbed by a knock at the door, etc.

  • Comforting mourners or visiting the sick--but not necessarily when it is most convenient for you, but when you believe it would be better for the person whom you are visiting.


If you try to be a Chossid, at least in some areas in which you have noticed a personal weakness, or where you realize that a particular Mitzvah is generally under-observed, you can earn titles ascribed to the Tzaddikim-Chassidim of previous generations--and to Hashem Himself, by making that extra effort to achieve excellence!




Chazal (Shabbos 118B) teach “If Yisroel would observe two Shabbosos according to Halacha, they would be redeemed immediately.”  In fact, the Medrash (Shemos Rabah 25:16), reduces this guarantee to the proper observance of just one Shabbos.


Perhaps we can start the process in our own small way with the following suggestion:

In this week’s Parsha (Shemos 35:3), the Torah requires: “Do not kindle a fire wherever you dwell on the day of Shabbos.”  Why is fire singled out as one of the 39 forbidden activities on Shabbos?  There is a disagreement between Rebbe Nosson and Rebbe Yossi on this very point in the Gemara (Shabbos 70A).  The Sheloh HaKadosh and the Akeida write that the “fire” singled out on Shabbos also refers to the fire of anger and of raised voices in the home, of anger, disagreement and machlokes, any and all of which are the antithesis of the Shalom Bayis to be brought into the home through the neiros Shabbos, the Shabbos candles.


We therefore urge that THIS SHABBOS--in which the Parsha specifically instructs us not to “kindle fire in our dwelling places”--we, bli neder, accept upon ourselves not to get upset and angry, not to raise our voice, and, instead, to override our sensitivity, our legitimate feelings and everything else in the way, to ensure that the Shabbos is and remains peaceful--with the only fire being relegated to the area under the blech.


To some, or perhaps many, of us, this may take a yeoman’s effort, but we will be taking an important step towards that “just one Shabbos” we so urgently and desperately require.


NOTE:  If we can achieve the seemingly impossible, and extend this “fire prohibition” to the hour before Shabbos, we will have additionally accomplished a level of “Tosefes Shabbos”--adding on to the Shabbos--perhaps never before imaginable.


Hatzlacha Rabba!




The Anshei K’nesses HaGedolah, the great body of 120 Gedolim which included the last Nevi’im (imagine 120 Talmedei Chachomim along the lines of the Chofetz Chaim in one room) established the text of our current Shemone Esrei.  The Aruch HaShulchan (Orach Chayim 89:7) notes the following:  “And they set forth for us the order of our Tefillah with their Ruach HaKodesh, and each and every word stands at the heights of the world.”


Thus, although the text of Shemone Esrei is infused with a holiness and purity that is currently unfathomable to us, the Shemone Esrei is able to work for us--even in our day--in a very powerful way.  We may not know how an automobile’s engine works, or where its alternator, pistons, or even transmission is located, but if we know how to start the car, turn the steering wheel and take our foot on and off the pedals, we will get to our destination faster and safer--especially in the dark hours of the night.


Now, even we can readily understand why the Anshei K’nesses HaGedolah instituted that we first daven for health (Refaenu), and then for prosperity (Borech Aleinu) (See Megillah 17B).  The order is clear: health, and then prosperity.  The next step is, however, seemingly incomprehensible.  The brocha after prosperity is **followed by** the brocha for The Ingathering of the Exiles--Redemption, in which we plead “Teka B’Shofar Gadol L’cheiruseinu”--Blow the Great Shofar to Free Us.


Our difficulties with this order abound--Why relegate our raison d'être of redemption to a seeming secondary position after prosperity--and, moreover, if Hashem will grant us all of the requested prosperity--can we wholeheartedly then ask for redemption?  What did the Anshei K’nesses HaGedolah--with their Ruach HaKodesh--mean to teach us--and to accomplish--with this order of requests?


We may suggest that a person who has some sense of Kavana and belief in Hashem’s power to give him what he needs, reaches his epitome of Kavana as he recites the brocha of Borech Aleinu, having just requested health, healing for those who are sick, and that our lives be satiated with good.  At this climatic moment of heightened Kavana, what do we ask for--Geulah!!  It is not, Chas V’Shalom, that Geulah is taking any kind of second seat to our current health and parnossah needs--after all, the time will come when we all be healthy and our parnossah is whole.  Rather, we are to seize the moment--to take those key minutes of inspiration and immediately channel them (before they begin to dissipate and are lost) into passionate and yearning-filled pleas.  As we think of the bizyonos--the disdain and mockery--that Hashem and those who keep His trust are held in, as we think of the terrorism, the terribly ill, those in need of spiritual salvation, and of widows, children at risk, and every individual’s own trials and tribulations (everyone’s “pekele”)--and knowing that on top of it all, “Emo Anochi B’Tzora”--Hashem is, in a manner of speaking, “dragged” through all of this with us, we should now at this point in Shemone Esrei burst forth, just as the Shofar--with a deeply-sincere and penetrating “Teka B’Shofar Gadol…”


As we have noted several times earlier, Rashi on the Gemara (Taanis 29A) teaches that these days--the days between Purim and Pesach--are days of miracles for our people--let our intense prayers for the Geulah as we plead “Teka B’Shofar Gadol!” reach the Heavens--and touch them!


Reb Yankel Miller, the famous badchan, once remarked to his audience:  I get a Mazel Tov today!  What?  What’s the simcha?  My son is putting on Tefillin.  Mazel Tov!  Mazel Tov!  The truth is that my son is 26 and has two children, but for me, it is a simcha today and every day that he puts his Tefillin on!


In the first two Parshios of Shema we are taught: (1) “Asher Onochi Metzvecha HaYom”--Let those matters that I command you today be placed upon your heart (Devorim 6:6); and (2) “Asher Onochi Metzaveh Eschem Hayom”--If you surely follow the Mitzvos that I teach you today…(Devorim 11:13 )


As we read this message, TODAY is in active progress.  If we mean to actually fulfill the words of the Shema and not merely recite them emptily, we must make today, not yesterday, someday, or tomorrow the day that we place Torah and Mitzvos on our hearts.  In fact, the Hebrew word for today “Hayom” is literally, “the day”--because today--and not some other day--is THE day of accomplishment.  Indeed, the Tanna D’vei Eliyahu (as brought in Megillah 28B) records: “One who studies halacha every day, he is assured of being a Ben Olom Haba--a dweller in the next world.  It is important to note that the Ben Olom Haba is **not** “who learns halacha” or even “one who knows halacha”, but “one who learns halacha EVERY DAY.”


The concept of TODAY and EVERY DAY applies as well to Mussar, Mishnayos, and all other Torah study.  We should not err in thinking that we can study all the Mussar necessary to combat bad middos for the week on Sunday--how much will it help us on Thursday (or especially right before Shabbos, on late Friday afternoon!).  The daily infusion helps build one’s storehouses in measured steps, and guides one through that particular day.  Indeed, Dovid HaMelech guides us to ask Hashem (Tehillim 90:12) “Teach us according to the count of our days”--if we want Hashem to teach us in this way, shouldn’t we also demonstrate that we want to learn according to “the count of our days”?


Interestingly, we recently received two independent correspondences.  One reader urged the memorization of Pirkei Avos over a period of time by the study and committing to memory of three Mishnayos a week (one Mishna every two days, and Shabbos for review).  In this way, one always has something constructive to ponder, rather than wasting time during occasions that come up from time to time.  The second reader suggested that one learn two Mishnayos of Pirkei Avos every day after Shacharis (men while wearing their Tefillin), and in this practical way, one could fulfill the Posuk of “they shall go from strength to strength” (Tehillim 84:8), by immediately proceeding from Tefillah to Torah, as required by Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 155:1.


Although there may be many “Yomi” schedules or programs that are offered, such as Daf, Mishnayos, Halacha, Shmiras HaLoshon and Rambam, if you would begin to look around, you would notice that the majority of those who are close to you do not regularly participate in any one of these programs.  It could very well be that the Yetzer Hora works overtime on those who desire to learn Torah on a daily basis, because of its absolute necessity and inherent power, or perhaps because of the Chazal (Avodah Zara 19A) who teach that a person only properly learns that which his heart desires.


One can, however, be successful in this area by taking a sefer he/she really wanted to review or “get to” and dividing it into his/her own personalized daily segments.


For example:

  • Taking Chumash/Rashi on the Parsha and dividing it into seven segments, one for each day of the week (as is already the common practice of some--See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 285)

  • Dividing the Sefer Mesilas Yeshorim into thirty days by the total number of pages in your edition (probably around five pages a day), and going through it in one month, and perhaps repeating this for two or three consecutive months

  • Taking a Hagaddah that has stories, insights or other Divrei Torah and dividing it over the next 21 days (e.g., ten pages a day), in order to prepare for the Seder

  • Taking the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch and learning just two pages a day (in Hebrew or English, this is more than 700 pages a year)

  • Learning the five-minute a day program of Praying With Fire (Artscroll 2005), in which you learn Torah and incredibly improve your Tefillos simultaneously

  • Learning a Perek of Tanach a day with Rashi or Metzsudas Dovid

  • And the Seforim can continue, depending on who you are, what you have a desire to know, and what you need to know.


In last week’s Parsha, we were taught--”and into the hearts of the wise of heart, I have placed wisdom (Shemos 31:6).  Everyone asks--is it only the wise of heart who get wisdom?  Why/How is it a prerequisite to be wise to attain wisdom?!  The answer is--It is not the wise who get wisdom--but the wise OF HEART.  You must truly demonstrate that--in your heart--you want to be wise--and this can be done by setting a personalized meaningful Torah learning program for yourself on a daily basis, and, ultimately, regaling in your own measured and wonderful accomplishments.




Rabbeinu Yonah in the Shaarei Teshuvah (2:5) writes that a Boteach BaShem--one who trusts in Hashem--who is in the midst of a t’zara, a difficulty, or even only a challenge, must view the situation differently than the millions of people surrounding him.


The Posuk in Micha (7:8) as explained in Medrash Tehillim (22) teaches, “If I had not fallen, I could not now stand, if I had not sat in darkness, I would not now have light.”  The common perception that one “passes through”, “recovers”, “rebounds” or “survives” his suffering is foreign to the one who truly trusts in Hashem.  Rather, the one who trusts views his suffering as an opportunity ordained by G-d--only FROM THE FALL comes the rise, only FROM THE DARKNESS comes the light.


It is not the Ribono Shel Olam pushing him down, letting go, making it difficult for him--it is a fall created by Hashem Himself to enable him to rise, a pervasive darkness required in order to attain true light.


Rav Matisyahu Salomon, Shlita, explains that the Boteach BaShem does not say “Hashem will get me out of this” or “There is a light at the end of this tunnel.”  Instead, he acknowledges and understands that the purpose of the tunnel is for him to arrive at the light.  One must, as a given, acknowledge and understand that the All-Knowing, All-Present, Creator and Supervisor has intentionally designed the process by which one can attain the goals he is to reach in his lifetime.  The trials, tribulations, and difficulties are not established out of cruelty, disdain or indifference, but arise because He, in His Omniscience, knows (infinitely more than us) who are we are really and what we really need.


In this uplifting period between Purim and Pesach, we can understand this lesson both on an individual and a communal level.


Esther, a descendent of royalty, wife of a leader of the generation, and a Neviah in her own right, is forced to live in the most repulsive place imaginable, away from her family and her people--in a literal prison without walls--for nine (9) long years, without any seeming rhyme or reason.  What had she done?!  Can we fathom what her suffering could have been?  What emerged was the saving of all of K’lal Yisroel, and the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdosh as a direct result of the few discussions she had with Achashveirosh, as recorded in the Megillah.


Similarly, in Mitzrayim, hundreds of thousands of B’nei Yisroel suffered from “Avodas Perech”--in all its definitions, systematic torture--for scores of years.  What went wrong?  How did all this happen?  And the Torah supplies a two-word answer--[We were placed in Mitzrayim as a] “KUR HABARZEL”--a smith’s oven, used to refine metal.  Why were they there under these horrific conditions?  So that K’lal Yisroel would survive and thrive from then on and through the Moshiach’s times and forever thereafter.


Rav Salomon points to the wine we drink on both Purim and Pesach.  Why is wine so crucial on these special days and why is wine the only food over which we recite the brocha “Hatov V’HaMativ”--Hashem is good and does good?


If we study the wine-making process, we note that luscious, edible grapes are stomped on or crushed before they would otherwise have been eaten.  Then, instead of drinking the resulting liquid, we watch in amazement as it ferments and becomes moldy and terrible tasting.  Are these people sadistic--spoiling such good grapes?  But then--after the wine ages and matures, it is filtered and what is produced is not a thirst-quencher, but an honorable beverage, which lifts up a person’s spirits.


To the Boteach BaShem, Rav Salomon continues, this is a microcosm of the Ribono Shel Olam’s Hanhaga--behavior--in this world.  Without the fermentation process--without the years of repulsive mold which seems irreversible--we could not have the brand, kind and taste of wine which a connoisseur could appreciate and savor.  We can now understand why we make “Hatov V’HaMativ” specifically on wine--because we realize that the process was necessary and intended by the world’s Creator and we acknowledge that it is for good--notwithstanding our original misconceptions.  The cup of wine that we drink has gone through an entire process and represents how we are to understand the Hashgachas Hashem in our world.


As we go through these days of Purim to Pesach, a time that is surrounded by intense suffering that led to sparkling redemption--as symbolized by the wine of which we partake--we, too, should become connoisseurs and remember that Hashem will take us out of all of our current t’zaros, individual and collective, just as the horribly soured wine is ultimately whiffed and savored by the most discerning of experts.


Shabbos is the only day of the week in which each Tefillah of Shemone Esrei is different.


·                    In the evening, we recite “Ata Kidashta”--You have sanctified us.

·                    In the morning, we recite “Yismach Moshe”--Moshe was gladdened…

·                    In the afternoon, we recite “Ata Echad”--You are one…


The Sefer Avudraham (1:163) asks--why is it only on Shabbos--and not on the weekdays--or even on Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur or the Shalosh Regalim--that the text of the Shemone Esrei changes at each one of the Tefillos?

He provides an amazing answer. Because Shabbos is called the “Kallah” (Bava Kama 32B), and Hakadosh Baruch Hu is called  the Choson, we first celebrate our initial participation in the Kiddushin – i.e. the commencement of the installment of Kedusha into Shabbos – by reciting “Ata Kidashta” on Leil Shabbos. Indeed, it would seem that we joyously sing Lecha Dodi just as we escort the Choson to greet the Kallah.  

At Shacharis, we recite “Yismach Moshe”--Moshe rejoiced--as the Choson’s and Kallah’s and participants’ joy increases after the Chuppah, and as the Chassuna progresses. We are now invited to take an even more active role in the joy, as the Choson asks us to take good care of his precious Kallah and we proudly recite “V’shomru Vnei Yisroel es HaShabbos.”  It is with the greatest honor and pleasure that we take the Choson’s request to heart, mind and action.  As Chazal teach in this week’s Parsha, Ki Sisah, we are now involved in something more important than even the building of the Bais Hamikdash (see Rashi, Shmos 31:13).  We hope and pray for the Bais Hamikdash daily, yet we cannot violate Shabbos to attain it, because we have been asked to guard the Kallah.


We then continue with Mussaf, with the bringing of Korbanos as the “Seudas Mitzvah.”


Finally, at Mincha we celebrate “Ata Echad”--the conclusion of the Chassuna--and the resulting unity and oneness of the Choson and Kallah.


We may add that just as when you come home from a really joyous, nice Chassuna, or from the Chassuna of a close relative or friend, you bring the joy home with you (compare this to the Melave Malka), and the joy lasts for a few days---or even for the week, through the Sheva Brochos, so should our honored participation in the Simchas Shabbos last for several days, or perhaps even a week, until the next Shabbos – when we can once again experience transcendent and sublime joy.


There is no doubt that a direct correlation exists between the way we celebrate at a Chassuna and its lasting effect upon us.  If our celebration is with the fish crepe, squash soup or well-done prime ribs in duck sauce, there will definitely be some kind of lasting effect (at least somewhere in--or on--the body!). But if we feel an internal joy out of close friendship and oneness with the Choson and Kallah, the feeling will have even a greater impact and most certainly endure for a longer period.  The feeling of closeness will cause you to “stay in contact” with the Choson and Kallah.


Similarly, Rav Shlome Wolbe, Z'TL once commented, that while a tasty Cholent is truly an important aspect of Shabbos, it should not in and of itself be the highlight of this sacrosanct day.  Instead, we should actually try to establish the highlight of the day ourselves--our greatest moment of joy with the Choson and Kallah at their celebration.


Your highlight should be something special and meaningful, and may be:

·                    A heartfelt Lecha Dodi or Zemiros with feeling or even intensity.

·                    Learning Rashi, Ramban or Midrash or other commentaries on the Parsha.  We can always draw wellsprings of information on how to conduct ourselves during the week by applying the Parsha’s timeless and timely lessons.

·                    In Shacharis, reciting Nishmas slowly, word by word, or feeling moved at “Kel Adon” (not just waiting for the tune the Chazan will use).

·                    Helping to make the Shabbos table warm and inspirational with a poignant Devar Torah or lesson-filled story you have prepared.

·                    Giving meaningful advice or assistance to a Shabbos guest.


So, as we shower, shine our shoes, set the table or otherwise prepare for the great Chassuna--this Shabbos, or even when we are at the Chassuna itself, let us go beyond the delectable kugels and cakes and pleasant and refreshing Shabbos nap, and think about how and what we will do this Shabbos that will permeate and elevate us and leave a supernal effect upon us through the week!

53 vs. 54

Rav Yaakov Emden Z’TL counts the number of times the names of Mordechai and Esther are mentioned in the Megillah--each 53 times--and the times Haman’s name is mentioned--54 times.


What lesson is the Anshei K’Nesses HaGedolah, with their Nevua and Ruach HaKodesh teaching us, by mentioning Haman’s name one more time than the name of either Mordechai or Esther?


We may suggest that it was not Mordechai alone or Esther alone who could have brought Haman’s downfall, as each one of them—although Mordechai was a Navi, and Esther was a Neviah--would have “fallen one short.”  Each of them was truly needed--but, moreover, both of them were needed together.


Mordechai had to advise Esther not to reveal her nation, and Esther had to tell Mordechai to gather the people together.  Mordechai had to tell Esther that she must seek an audience with the king at the threat of her life, and Esther had to tell Mordechai to fast for three days and three nights, overriding the matzah and wine of the Seder night.


Indeed, we are taught in Avos (6:6) “one who says something in the name of the one who originally said it brings Geulah (redemption(!)) to the World, as the Posuk says, ‘And Esther [relayed the plot of Bigsan V’Seresh] to the King in the name of Mordechai’”.  Why do we learn the importance of correctly attributing statements from Esther and Mordechai--and why is it this act that brings redemption to the world?  The same teaching appears to emerge--that we should not view ourselves as individuals with our own task, our own goals, to accomplish.  Because Esther brought Mordechai into the picture, Purim resulted.  We need each other, and we need to join together, to fight the battles we have in this world.


  • If I trouble myself to go to a Mincha minyan during lunch hour and do not urge my friend to do likewise, we are not in it together.

  • If I know something about a particular restaurant or a certain Hashgacha (utilizing the appropriate standards of Shemiras HaLashon--ask your Rav or call the Shemiras HaLashon Hotline at 718-951-3656 if you need guidance or have any particular questions), should I not tell my friend about it, as well?

  • If I know of a particularly worthwhile charity or Chesed situation--why should I be hesitant, embarrassed or fearful to mention it to my friend?

  • If a friend is consistently talking in shul, should I be worried about discussing the sanctity of the Beis HaK’nesses with him?

  • If I learned a practical halacha that affects everyone’s everyday life, should I not share it with my family and friends?


If we have to overcome the “54”, then we cannot remain alone at 53, we must join--and bring others--together, and we must not be embarrassed, ashamed or feel that we are acting “holier than thou” to tell others that they too are needed.


In fact, in this coming week’s Parsha, Ki Sisah, we find that the Mitzvah of Machatzis HaShekel applies equally to the rich and the poor--one cannot give more, the other less.  The Sefer HaChinuch, in explaining the Mitzvah, writes that the lesson of the Torah is everyone joining equally together to participate, rather than the Mitzvah being left to the more knowledgeable, more sensitive, or even more worthy, few.


There is usually no reason why one should “know better” or “do better” than the other person.  In the Brocha of Hashivenu in Shemone Esrei, we ask “and bring us back to Teshuvah Shleima before You.”  The commentaries on the Siddur explain that this is a Tefillah not only for oneself, but for all of K’lal Yisroel--and that we should think about all of our brethren when saying these words (see Sefer Avodas HaTefillah).  Our lives are in so many ways joint projects--we should do our part in encouraging others to join with us to reach our deeply-meaningful goals.




The “V’nahapoch Hu”, the dynamic turnabout, continues today on Shushan Purim.  Whereas on other Yomim Tovim, the “second day of Yom Tov” is for the people in Chutz L’Aretz, on Purim the “second day”--Shushan Purim--is today for Yerushalayim (and certain other formerly-walled cities, almost all of which are in Eretz Yisroel, in which a Second Day is only celebrated for reasons relating to a doubt as to the proper day to observe).  Why the turnabout?  Why is the “Second Day of Yom Tov” observed in Yerushalayim on Purim unlike all the other Chagim?  We may suggest the following:  the ikar, the essence, of the celebration of the Shalosh Regalim--Pesach, Shavuous and Succos--is in Eretz Yisroel, which is why they are referred to in the Torah as the Shalosh Regalim--the three times a year we go up to Yerushalayim and the Beis HaMikdosh and bring sacrifices to rejuvenate ourselves through the open miracles seen there (see these miracles listed in Avos 5:5) and inculcate ourselves with the pristine holiness of the people and the place (See Sefer HaChinuch, Mitzvah 489, Bava Basra 21A and Tosfos there, dibur hamaschil Ki Mitzion).


The Nes of Purim, on the other hand, is the last of our miracles found in Tanach, and it is a miracle in a very different way, for it is a miracle taking place in Chutz L’Aretz, and occurring, not instantaneously, but over a nine-year period, all B’hester--concealed event after concealed event after concealed event--until we looked back and determined that an outstanding miracle had occurred.


Thus, unlike the Shalosh Regalim, which celebrated the open miracles of Yetzias Mitzrayim, Matan Torah and the Ananei Kavod (the clouds of glory), and which were replete with the miracles of Yerushalayim in their observance, the miracle of Purim was a miracle for the Golus.  It teaches us how we are to lead our lives with B’nei Yisroel and Eretz Yisroel still in a state of defilement and impurity.  Indeed, the Gemora (Megillah 14A) teaches that on Purim we do not read the regular Hallel in order to rejoice in the remembrance of the miracle, but “the reading of the Megillah--this is the Hallel.”  The Megillah (the word is related to the Hebrew word “Megaleh”--to reveal) reveals to us Hashem’s hidden, rather than open and clear role, in our experiences, our successes and our sheer continuity in Golus.


On Purim, it is Yerushalayim that takes a “second day” because the miracle of Purim is to be our guiding light through the Nisim Nistarim of Golus which have occurred, primarily outside of Eretz Yisroel.  Our role is to uncover the Nissim, to recognize the hidden miracles of Hashem in our every day lives.  We can do this, overcoming the mirages, the illusions and our own delusions of a lifestyle which does not have Hashem accompanying and guiding us in our daily life, and replace it with a sincere and meaningful awareness that we should appreciate and thank Hashem for (as we recite in Modim three times daily):


  • Al Nisecha She’Bakol Yom Imanu-the hidden miracles with us every day,

  • Val Niflosecha-the daily and natural wonders,

  • V’Tovasecha-the daily kindnesses,

  • She’bechol Es Erev VaVoker V’Tzaharayim-which are not only with us daily, but throughout the entire day--evening, morning and afternoon….


If we can focus on these words three times a day, then we can demonstrate that we have learned this key lesson of Golus and we can once again merit the day when miracles are openly revealed to us and to all nations of the world.


The unique period between Purim and Pesach is the period of time which leads us from the hidden miracles of Purim to the revealed miracles of Pesach--Let us use this time wisely by coming to a proper appreciation of the lessons of Purim--which will lead us to Pesach--in Yerushalayim on the First Day of Yom Tov!


1.  There is a special inyan to recite Tehillim Chapter 22 on Ta’anis Esther and Purim, for this is the Kepitel recited by Esther herself upon entering Achashveirosh’s throne room uninvited (See Kav HaYashar 97).


2.  When contributing Machatzis HaShekel today, one should say “Zecher L’Machatzis HaShekel”--this is the remembrance of the Machatzis HaShekel, so as not to leave the impression that this is an actual contribution to the Bais HaMikdosh, which was given at this time of year. (Luach Eretz Yisroel of Rav Tukchinsky Z’TL)


3.  On Purim, one should endeavor to give Mishloach Manos not only to your relative, your best friend or your neighbor, but also to someone whom you are a little bit “on the outs” with, or with whom you do not speak enough, or with whom you have a somewhat cool relationship for various reasons, or for a particular reason, or for no reason at all.  There is no better time to break the ice--or even to warm the cool water--by knocking on someone’s door unsolicited with a smile and a colorful Mishloach Manos.  What better way could there be to dispel the claims of Haman HaRasha that we are “a dispersed and separated people”?  Anyone who dislikes coolness, discord or dispute between two groups or even within one group of our people should also move to eliminate it from within himself and his family, as well.  So…knock on that door…and “PURIM SAMEACH”-“A FREILICHIN PURIM”-“HAPPY PURIM”!


4.  The Rema (in Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 695:2) writes that the Seudas Purim, the festive Purim meal, should commence with Divrei Torah.  The Mishne Berurah (in Orach Chayim 429, seif katan 2) rules that one must begin learning about Pesach on Purim--which is exactly 30 days before Pesach.  Accordingly, putting the Rema and Mishne Berurah together, it is therefore a custom to commence the Purim seudah with a halacha about Pesach.  In this way, one also connects the Geulah of Purim to the Geulah of Pesach (see Taanis 29A, which states that the reason we should increase our simcha to such a great extent in Adar is because it is the commencement of both the miracles of Purim and Pesach).







The Rema (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 690:17) writes “the children’s custom is to make an image of Haman HaRasha on sticks or stones, or to write the name of Haman HaRasha on them, and to hit them against each other, so that his name is erased…and from here comes the custom to make noise at the mention of the name of Haman HaRasha when the Megillah is read in shul--and one should not be Mevatel (nullify) a Minhag (custom) or make light of it.”


The Mishne Berurah there (seif katan 59) writes that this is not only the Minhag of children, but of adults, as well, and adds that the Chacham Tzvi would bang with his leg at the mention of Haman HaRasha.  Although many communities and Rabbonim objected to this custom as disturbing the Megillah reading and perhaps for other reasons, it is indeed reported that the Chofetz Chaim himself stomped with his foot when Haman HaRasha’s name was mentioned (Chofetz Chaim Chayav U’Poalo).  The Piskei Teshuvos (6:554) notes that this was the Minhag of other Gedolei Yisroel, as well.


The Piskei Teshuvos (ibid.) brings the explanation of the Chasam Sofer as to why we have noise and disturbance--so as to demonstrate that we do not want to hear his name.  We may add that we should feel the same way about other Reshoim--past and present.  After all, the Posuk in Mishlei 10:7 states, “V’Shem Reshoim Yirkav”--the name of the wicked shall rot.  It is one thing to take something into your mouth not knowing it was rotten, but would you let your mouth touch something knowing it was spoiled?!  This is something we would most certainly be careful about.  Our noise and stomping at the mention of his name are the equivalent of saying the words “Yimach Shmo” (we just do not want to talk during K’riyas HaMegillah)--which is like ejecting the rotten item out of your mouth.  See Sefer Avudraham 2:230-231.  We must recognize that Haman HaRasha’s despised name had to be written (in various ways) in the Megillah only for the very many lessons and reasons that the Anshei Knesses HaGedola determined with their Ruach HaKodesh.





Now, please make sure that you are sitting down for what you are about to read, for, although it is Torah about Purim, it is not Purim Torah:


The Piskei Teshuvos (ibid.) adds from the Ba’al Shevet Mussar Z’TL and Rav Chaim Pilagi Z’TL that when we hit at the mention of Haman HaRasha’s (and according to some Minhagim, his family members’) name, Hashem makes him actually feel these smites--so that he is in tremendous pain.  Why?  Because the miracle of Purim happened to every Jew in every generation--after all, if Haman HaRasha’s plan had been successful, R’L, we would never have been born.  Therefore, he must feel all of the smites of all Jews of all generations since Purim.


Let us appreciate Purim deeply--and literally rejoice in our salvation.




In preparation for the annual Mitzvah of reading Parshas Zachor, we provide the following important points:


1.  The opportunity to read Parshas Zachor is of such great significance that, according to the Mishne Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 685, seif katan 16), if one can only come to hear either Parshas Zachor or the reading of the Megillah, one should go to hear Parshas Zachor.


2.  There is a Mitzvas Aseh, a positive Torah commandment, to “always remember the wicked deeds of the people of Amalek and their attack upon us, to arouse our hatred of them”--as they were the first to attack us without fear after the nations quaked and trembled over us (as described in Oz Yoshir, the Song of the Sea).  See Rambam Hilchos Melachim 5:5, SMAG Mitzvas Aseh 115, Chayei Odom 151:2.


The Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah 603) writes that one of the purposes of this Mitzvah is for us to recognize that one who causes pain to K’lal Yisroel is despised by Hashem, and according to the level of enmity against K’lal Yisroel is their level of destruction.  Since Amalek’s enmity of us was greater than that of all other nations, they are to be obliterated.  Indeed, the Ramban (end of Parshas Ki Setzeh) writes that we should “teach our children and future generations--so did the Rosha to us, and that is why we have been commanded to erase his name.”


3.  There is a Mitzvas Lo Saseh, a Torah prohibition, of “Lo Tishkach”--not to forget the deeds of Amalek.  This means that we should not forget to despise them despite the passage of time, and to remember that Hashem saved us from them, and that we will eventually avenge their deeds and eradicate them.  See SMAK 53 and Sefer Yereim 189.


4.  One should review the words of Parshas Zachor (with Rashi and/or other meforshim) before the laining.  We suggest reviewing it at the Leil Shabbos Seudah in order that you and/or others are prepared for the laining, since the Mitzvah is to arouse within us both a strong reaction to their despicable deeds, and our obligation to eradicate them.  Indeed, the Maharam Shick writes that we do not make a special Brocha on this Mitzvah because we do not make a Brocha on Hashchosa--acts of destruction.


5.  The Rambam (Hilchos Melachim 6:4) writes that an Amaleki who makes peace with K’lal Yisroel and accepts the seven Mitzvos B’nei Noach is not to be hurt.  In fact, some learn that the reason that the descendents of Haman “learned Torah in B’nei Brak” (Gittin 57B) is because they were the descendents of those sons of Haman who did not fight against K’lal Yisroel (Adar U’Purim p. 68).


6.  The Mitzvah of Mechias Amalek, eradicating the Sonei Hashem and Sonei Yisroel--those pure haters of Hashem and His people--began with Moshe Rabbeinu and Yehoshua, continued in the times of Shaul HaMelech, Dovid HaMelech and in the times of Purim, and we will be Zoche to complete it in the times of Moshiach (SMAG-Mitzvas Lo Sa’aseh 226).  As these are days of Nissim and Geulah--miracles and redemption, may we be Zoche to do all the Mitzvos of Hashem with Moshiach leading and teaching us, speedily in our days.


For further detail see Sefer Adar U’Purim by HaRav Yoel Schwartz, Shlita, upon which this bulletin is based.  For the enlightening words of the Ramban on the relationship between the war against Amalek and the end of our current Golus Edom , see the Ramban in Shemos 17:9.


The Rema concludes Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim (Chapter 697) with the words of Shlomo HaMelech: “V’Tov Lev Mishte Tamid” (Mishlei 15:15 )--And the Good of Heart always feasts.


On a basic level, we can take the words of the Rema to mean that a person can take the joy of Purim with him the whole year if he has the proper frame of mind--to be happy with that which Hashem has allotted him (See Rashi on Mishlei there).


We may extend the thought, however, based upon the Tiferes Yisroel (Avos 2:9) who adds that the “Lev Tov”--the Good-Hearted person--is not only one who is always happy with his chalek (his portion) in life, but also who is “Mezuman L’hativ LaKol”, one who is ready to do good to others.


Rav Matisyahu Salomon, Shlita teaches that the key lesson of Purim is really to be concerned for others, especially for those in real need of your concern.  He cites the Rambam’s focus on this point, as the Rambam writes (Hilchos Megillah 2:17 ):


“It is better for a person to give more Matanos L’Evyonim then to expand his Purim Seuda or give Mishloach Manos to his friends.  For there is no greater and glorified Simcha than to gladden the heart of the poor, and the heart of the orphans, widows and converts, for a person who gladdens the heart of these unfortunate ones is like the Shechina, as the Posuk describes Hashem:  ‘[He] revives the spirit of the lowly and revives the heart of the contrite’” (Yeshaya 57:15).

It is said in the name of Rav Yitzchok Hutner Z’TL that the miracle of Purim took place historically during a highly depressing time for K’lal Yisroel--with the Beis Hamikdosh and Eretz Yisroel destroyed, and Achashveirosh mocking that they would never be rebuilt.  With the miracle of Purim, Hashem uplifted a terribly depressed K’lal Yisroel with a great V’Nahapoch Hu (turnabout).  That is why the Mitzvos of Purim revolve around turning others happy, emulating Hashem who turned us around when we really needed it.

Rav Matisyahu therefore recommends that, as a preparation for Purim, one make the special effort to seek out, assist and give support to the dejected, the depressed, the downtrodden.  The Simcha of a Jew is not a selfish, personal, limited experience.  The Mishna (Ma’aser Sheni 5:12 ) teaches, “I did all that I was commanded--I rejoiced and I caused others to rejoice.”  See also Devorim 26:11--“You shall be happy with all the good…you and the Levi and the Ger…”  When in the month of Adar we are instructed to increase our simcha, it means that each and every member of K’lal Yisroel is to be included, and it is not left for some individuals here and there to be happy.

Indeed, when we are instructed to give gifts to the poor on Purim, we are required to find not just “aniyim”, but “evyonim”, those who are extremely indigent, and gladden their hearts, as well.

Purim is almost upon us.  We should not enter Purim without preparation.  Rav Matisyahu has given us guidance.  We should go out of our way during these happy days to give some of our valuable time to practice the lesson of Purim as expressed by the Rambam--to revive the spirit of the lowly, and the heart of the contrite.


THE POWER OF A TZIBBUR:  Any tzibbur, acting together, can bring about Refuos and Yeshuos (healings and deliverances) that all of K’lal Yisroel, acting individually, may not necessarily accomplish.  The Gemara in Rosh Hashana (18A) teaches that Hashem is ready to accept the teshuva of a tzibbur the whole year the same way that he accepts the teshuva of an individual in the Aseres Y’mei Teshuvah.


In the Megilla, we learn from the words of Lech K’nos ( 4:16 ) that Mordechai and Esther elected to gather all of the Jews in Shushan to daven, instead of asking everyone to do something on his own.


THE POWER OF TEFILLA:  The power of Tefilla is immeasurable.  It can break the harshest of decrees.  Our cries brought about Yetzias Mitzraim.  Moshe Rabbeinu’s pleas broke the decree of destruction at the time of the golden calf and brought us victory against Amalek.  In fact, our tefillos broke Haman’s decree to destroy the entire Jewish people during this time of year.


OUR GOAL:  HAVE KAVANA IN THE FIRST BROCHA OF SHEMONE ESREI:  According to the Shulchan Aruch (101:1), one is required to have Kavana in the first Brocha of Shemone Esrei.  According to the Mishne Berurah, this means that one should not daven at all until he feels that he will have Kavana in the first Brocha of Shemone Esrei.  This is how important the first brocha is.


Our goal is to activate the power of tzibbur and the power of tefilla together by asking each member of the tzibbur to have Kavana in the first brocha of Shemone Esrei when davening each day for the next week from tomorrow, through Purim.  Please especially have kavana when reciting the words “Ozer” (Helper), “U’Moshia” (Savior), “U’Magen” (Shield):


  • Ozer--a Helper, who thwarts an existing immediate danger from overpowering a person (example:  you have already been attacked and the attacker is defeated);

  • Moshia--a Savior, who cancels danger threatening to overpower a person (example:  prior to his attacking, the attacker runs away);

  • Mogen--a Shield, who prevents trouble from reaching you in the first place (example:  the attacker never leaves home).

            See Michtav M’Eliyahu 4:65 as brought in Praying with Fire (page 117).


IMAGINE THE Z’CHUSIM:  The z’chusim which can be created by the thousands of us getting together to have Kavana-in the first Brocha of Shemone Esrei, are literally astounding.  Davening properly, that is, having Kavana for the simple translation of the words of the first Brocha, which we are all capable of doing with little effort, can convert a Shemone Esrei that perhaps should not have been said, into a true prayer to Hashem.  The results will B’EH be Refuos and Yeshuos for K’lal Yisroel.


IMPLEMENTATION:  It is recommended that you B’EH make a daily notation in the calendar provided below.




                         Wed.       Thurs.        Friday         Shabbos     Sun.           Mon.           Tues.

8 Adar




9 Adar

 Shacharis



10 Adar

 Shacharis



11 Adar

 Shacharis




12 Adar

 Shacharis



13 Adar

 Shacharis



14 Adar

 Shacharis





The B’nei Yisroel called the special gift that came from Heaven “Mon” (Shemos 16:15 , 31).  It is interesting to note that the word for money in Hebrew is “Mamon”, which can be taken to mean “M’Mon”--this is from the Mon.  Even the English word “Mon-ey” teaches that all that we have is a gift from Hashem.  Hashem has apparently provided us with this terminology in order to constantly remind us, in our daily parlance, that our efforts are worthwhile only if we recognize and reinforce within ourselves that it is Hashem, and only Hashem, and only Hashem, that provides the daily wherewithal for ourselves and our families to thrive and succeed.  As it is Adar, we provide the following accurate Gematria: Amalek (70 + 40 + 30 + 100)=240=Dollar (4 + 6 +30 +200).  If one views his dollars (or its aberration, the Euro Dollar) as the direct result of his personal prowess, acumen, shrewdness, etc., he may eventually run the risk of bringing upon himself Amalek--as Rashi writes (Devorim 25:17)--the reason the Torah places the parsha of honest weights and measures next to the parsha of Amalek is to teach us that if one acts improperly in financial matters, he brings upon himself the enemy.  Of course, one could begin to act improperly only if he lacked sufficient bitachon, i.e., he felt that it was ultimately up to him to bring in the money--and that Hashem does not (Chas V’Shalom) have much to do with the “bottom line”.  In truth, even the American government disagrees with this conclusion, as its dollar bills clearly read “In G-d we trust”.


One additional point--the Mishne Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 166, seif katan 3) writes that one should recite Tehillim Chapter 23 (Mizmor L’Dovid Hashem Ro’ee Lo Echsor--Hashem is my Shepherd, I will lack nothing) before eating--so that even if you have not used or said “money” yet that day--you are aware of where your food is really coming from, and pray sincerely that it will continue.


Query:  Do you think that the entire Western workweek starts with “Mon-Day” by coincidence... knowing that there is no such thing as coincidence!




Is it man walking dog or dog walking man?  As we note the times, places and manner in which “dogs are walked”, it is clear that for most of the world, it is the dog walking the man.


Similarly, we may think that we are truly in charge of ourselves, and that our animalistic desires, the baser part of us, is well within our control.  At times, however, we should take a step back to review our level of resilience.  Rav Pam Z’TL (The Pleasant Way, p. 102) brings the words of Yeshaya HaNavi (6:5), who exclaimed “Oy Li Ki Nidmasi”--Woe unto me because I have been illusory.”  What did he mean?  Having seen the vision of the regal angels serving in Heaven, he took stock of himself, and determined that he had fooled himself as to his true spiritual level.  How can we take this same stock--how can we tell whether we are walking the dog, or whether the dog is walking us?  One reader wrote that he leaves his “Viduy Companion” booklet out on a shelf in his dining room throughout the whole year, and picks it up to read from it for a few moments each day, so that the words of Viduy do not become only a seasonal experience for him.


In fact, the Mishne Berurah (Orach Chayim, 239; seif katan 9), quoting from other seforim, states that a person should take a closer look at his activities every night, before going to sleep--so that the body’s refreshing sleep can revitalize the soul, as well.


Did I really have to:

  • Eat while walking around?

  • Fill up the entire plate at once?

  • Gulp down (the words do not even sound right) the entire drink?

  • Let the inappropriate thought develop after it entered my mind?

  • Leave the lavatory untidy, or dirty cups or tissues around?

  • (Insert your own issues here)


By following the direction of the Mishne Berurah, or at least beginning somewhere along the lines at some other time on a regular basis, we are much more likely to be walking the dog, not having the dog walk us.




HaRav Yisroel Salanter Z’TL, while traveling, once checked into an inn for the night.  Another one of the Gedolei Hador was checked into the room next to his.  This Gadol heard a penetrating melody coming from the next room.  Knowing that Rav Yisroel was next door, the Gadol put his ear to the wall to hear more of the enchanting tune--what was Rav Yisroel doing, singing or learning?


He heard the following Mishnah from Avos ( 4:21 ) “Rebbe Eliezer HaKapar Omer: HaKinah V’HaTaavah V’HaKavod Mo’tziin Es HaAdom Min HaOlom”-- Rebbe Eliezer the Coppersmith said, “Jealousy, Desire and Honor-Seeking take a person out of the world.”


Rav Yisroel repeated this same fundamental teaching in the same soul-searching chant the entire night.  Of course, this teaches us the greatness of Rav Yisroel--and the greatness of the second Gadol who was such a “Mekabel”--an accepting listener--that he was able to listen to this one teaching the entire night.  But what are we to learn from this awesome act of Rav Yisroel?


We suggest a simple lesson:  Chazal are teaching us the paradigm importance of especially avoiding these three horrendous traits that “take a person out of the world”--JEALOUSY, DESIRE and HONOR-SEEKING.


The Tiferes Yisroel (on this Mishnah) writes that the world that a person is “taken out of” refers to both this world and the next world.  We note that these three traits follow a person through his life--Jealousy is the great negative value of youth, Desire is the huge downfall of middle age, and as a person ages, he seeks some form of everlasting Honor to be bestowed upon him before leaving this world.  If a person lets these negative values get the best of him, he has essentially failed in his mission throughout the various stages of life.


The Meiri (Sefer HaMidos L’HaMeiri p. 230) writes as follows:


The Ba’al Teshuva (one who aspired to repent) must be very careful to rectify and purify his thoughts, and this is what the Navi meant (Yeshaya 55:7) when he warns, “Let the Rasha leave his way and the sinner his thoughts.”  And the root of these thoughts (that need purification) are Jealousy, Desire and Pride, from which… flows most of the shameful midos…and truthfully they are the source of all sins.  As the Chochom (wise man) has said, “Thought is the source of sin.”


The Chofetz Chaim teaches that if you think enough about Teshuva, you will eventually do Teshuva.  If we can likewise reinforce in ourselves the negativity of each of “Jealousy, Desire and Honor-Seeking” by repeating time and again the words of Rebbe Eliezer HaKapar, we can go far in ridding ourselves of these terrible traits--and leave our minds open for constructive things to think about!




The Meiri (Bava Kama 79B) writes that “Even though an Aveirah is disgraceful in all events, one who does an Aveirah B’Seiser (in private), it is as if he pushes away the Shechina from the place--as if in his intellect he removes the Hashgacha from that place as if He is not seen.”


With these words, we can understand why the Rema (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 1:1) writes that “I place Hashem before me always (Tehillim 16:8)--this is a K’lal Gadol B’Torah”--a major principle of the Torah.  The Vilna Gaon, in his peirush on Shulchan Aruch there, in fact states that this is the entire Ma’ale (attribute) of Tzaddikim--this is what distinguishes Tzaddikim from others.  There are no two standards, two sets of facts, two sets of laws, two ways to behave--for one is always before Hashem.  Neither intellect, nor desire, nor special time, nor different place, will permit any deviation from this truism.


Have you ever felt embarrassed shouting and yelling--only to turn around and find your neighbor in back of you, or honking your horn--at a fellow congregant, or spilling coffee on your shirt--and forgetting to put your jacket on at work?


All the more so, in front of the King of Kings--Whom we are in front of 24/7--and Who is absolutely everywhere.  As we recite three times a day “Meloh Chol Ha’Aretz K’vodo”--His glory literally fills the Earth.


As an additional application of this fact, we pose the following question:

Does the Mitzvah of Tznius (which, according to the Yereim is a Mitzvah D’Oraysa--See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 3:1, Biur Halacha dibur hamaschil Yehei Tzanua) apply more to women then to men?


Of course, it goes without saying that when it comes to Tznius in public places, it is incumbent upon women to be especially careful, so as not to place any unnecessary stumbling blocks in front of others (See Bava Basra 57B).


In private places, however, men and women may be closer to common ground.  The Gemora (Berachos 62A) conclusively states:  “One is not considered a Tzanua, appropriately modest, unless he is Tzanua in the beis hakiseh, the lavatory.  This is because the Tzanua has a real awareness of before Whom he stands and who he really is.  Happily, there are no private places, secret hideaways, enclaves, vacation spots or work requirements in which His Presence is not felt, in which the Shem, which is the Yud Keh Vav Keh of Rachamim, does not find K’lal Yisroel to shine upon--all we have to do is open our eyes to behold--and be beholden to it!


Practical Suggestion:  When you feel that you are about to do something wrong by impulse, elevate yourself by feeling the Shivisi--Hashem’s presence wanting you so much to do the right thing.




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