Hakhel

 

Home

Daily Email Archives

Bulletin Archives

Summer Archives

Public Announcements

Shatnez Publications

Past Events

Hakhel Recordings

Resources









 

Hakhel Email Community Awareness Bulletin

MARCH 2008 DAILY EMAIL ARCHIVE

 

Chevrah Lomdei Mishnah provides a Mishnah study service.  For those who may be unable to study Mishnah for any reason, Torah scholars are commissioned to study Mishnah on behalf of a deceased, in honor of a Simcha, or for any other reason.  One can specify the entire completion of the entire Six Sedarim of Mishnah, one or more Sedarim, an individual Mesechta, or numerous Mesechtos, to be completed, for example, in time for a shloshim or yahrtzeit.  Other study services are available as well. There are fees involved in payment for the study.  The organization has haskamos from Rabonim, including Rabbi Yaakov Forchheimer, Shlita and Rabbi Hershel Shachter, Shlita.  For further information, you can contact them directly at 732-364-7029 or at info@chevrahlomdeimishnah.org, or visit them at www.chevrahlomdeimishnah.org.

 

Another project of this organization is Mishnas Chayim, an email that is sent to subscribers every Wednesday, in memory of Jewish souls who passed away, leaving nobody behind to study Mishnah in their merit.  May the study of Mishnas Chayim serve as a merit for these souls, while bringing the insights and blessings of Torah study to all of its readers.  You may subscribe to this email by contacting the organization via the email address written in the preceding paragraph.

-------------------------------------------------------

 

Following are several wonderful insights of HaRav Tzvi Feldman, Z’tl, the former Mashgiach of the Mirrer Yeshiva in Brooklyn, as culled from the Sefer Imrei Tzvi (by Rabbi Dovid Altusky, Shlita):

 

  1. The Bnei Yisroel are compared to Kochavim, to stars.  Why is that?  It is evident that a primary purpose of the stars’ creation was to make the moon feel good (See Bereishis 1:17 and Rashi there).  If we are compared to the stars, we, too, must endeavor to make others feel good.

 

  1. When a passenger airplane takes off, it needs hundreds of gallons of fuel to get off the ground.  However, once it is in the air, it does not need as much gas.  The same is true when it comes to Torah and Avodas Hashem.  At the beginning, you need a big thrust and a strong effort.  Once you are “in the air,” the going is easier.

 

  1. Chazal teach that doing something 100 times without pain and difficulty is the equivalent of doing it even one time when done with hardship.  Accordingly, when we do the same things our ancestors did a few generations ago; it may very well be worth 100 times more!

 

  1. The way a person davens is an indication of his level of Ruchniyus.

 

  1. I heard from HaRav Shach, Z’tl, that when a wind blows, its influence in the world never ceases.  One blast pushes another wind, which pushes another, and then another, etc.  If this is true in the physical world--we can continuously feel and discern the ongoing effects of an initial wind blast--who can imagine in Ruchniyus the eternal effects of a great deed?

 

  1. The Torah frequently tells us that Moshe or Aharon did “as Hashem had commanded.”  Why?  One may suggest that the Torah is teaching us that even when a Tzadik does a Mitzvah that is so easy to perform in the manner “that Hashem commanded”, it is worth publicizing--and even in the Torah in which every dot is counted.  Imagine, then, a difficult Mitzvah that is truly a big nisayon by an average person in a mundane society.  What a lesson for us!

 

  1. One who seeks recognition and honor in this world is the poorest person around--because he can only get it from other people--and they don’t want to give it to him!

 

  1. In the material world, there are special times when one can pick up bargains, such as special sales days, and unique discount opportunities.  In the spiritual world, as well, if one would study at a day or time when very few people are learning, the rewards are greater than they otherwise would be.

 

  1. The reason we learn something for the first time is so that the second time shouldn’t be the first time.

 

  1. When you go to a restaurant, you are given a menu.  You may be able get any dish that you want, but you have to order it.  The same is true of Tefillah.  In Shemone Esrei there is a list of 13 bakashos (requests).  Hashem wants to give us these things--but we have to order them.  The way to order is to have real Kavannah--and each brocha is a separate dish.

 

  1. Brachos are extremely important.  Besides the essential concept of thanking Hashem, they give us an awareness of His constant Presence, and an appreciation of Yiras Shamayim.  But, they can accomplish this only if we have Kavannah.  Unfortunately, the pace of life and habit can preclude this.  Here is my eitza, my advice.  Before every Brocha, picture a stop sign before you.  Like a good driver, come to a complete stop of whatever you are doing--and only then proceed carefully to make the Brocha!

 

---------------------------------

Special Note One: If one would start tomorrow, the 22nd day of Adar II, to learn three Mishnayos of Mesechta Pesachim per day, he would make a Siyum on the entire Mishnayos Pesachim before the end of Pesach.  As we all know, one must ready himself not only physically for Pesach, but also spiritually as well!

 

Special Note Two:  As we are in full swing of the lofty time period between Purim and Pesach, we realize that it is perhaps the most monetarily “expensive” time of year.  Beginning with Matanos L’Evyonim on Purim, continuing with Pesach shopping (matzos, food, clothing, household needs, trips, etc.), continuing further with Maos Chittin…and finally…taxes due for many on April 15(!).

 

The Torah does give us great guidance in meeting the huge tests presented by money and Parnassah.  We provide below several very valuable Torah insights in this regard, excerpted from the outstanding Artscroll collection entitled Torah Treasury, which would prove a significant addition to everyone’s home.

 

Crazy over Money.

Man’s obsession with money and its hold over him is amazing.  The Kohen Gadol was among the most spiritually elevated people in the nation.  He was also the wealthiest of the Kohanim (see Yoma 18a).  Despite this, the Torah warns Aharon HaKohen--even the KohenGadol--and tells him not to allow the fact that he will not eat of the olah’s meat (because it is offered totally on the Mizbeach) to affect his service.  Will a little bit of meat affect the saintly--and wealthy--Kohen Gadol?  Yes, says the Torah.  Money’s hold over man defies logic.  Though a man of spirit and of means, one can be influenced by financial considerations (R’ Yechezkel Levenstein).

 

First In, First Out.

An insightful Rosh Yeshiva was once discussing marriage prospects with one of his students.  The young man foolishly believed that the key to his remaining dedicated to Torah learning lied with his marrying the daughter of a wealthy man.  The Rosh Yeshiva offered the following advice: “While there are obviously exceptions to this, let me tell you what my experience has been.  You can marry a girl from a wealthy home or marry a young woman whose father is not wealthy but who is a Talmid Chacham.  As long as the financial climate is good, you may be better off with the rich man’s daughter.  However, if the financial climate deteriorates, you will likely be the first one laid off the rich man’s payroll, but the last one off the Talmid Chacham’s.”

 

Head Above Water.

The Gemara (Kiddushin 29a) states that a parent is obligated to teach his child a trade, so that the child will be able to support himself and his family, and he must teach him to swim.  What is the connection between the two?

 

The Kotzker Rebbe explains that involvement in a trade can easily take over a person’s life.  To maintain proper balance, it is imperative for a person to take a cue from swimming.  When one swims, his entire body is immersed in the water--but survival depends on his ability to keep his head above the water.  The same is true in business.  While one might throw himself totally into commerce, to spiritually survive he must keep his head out of it.

 

Dovid HaMelech teaches us (Tehillim, 128:2), “When you eat the labor of your hands you are praiseworthy, and all is well with you.”  “You are praiseworthy and all is well when your labor is limited to your hands,” commented the Kotzker. “When your head and heart get totally immersed in your business, all is not well.”

 

Special Note Three:  At the beginning of this week’s Parsha, Shemini, we find that Moshe Rabbeinu first “Called to Aharon...” and only afterwards “Spoke to Aharon.”  HaRav Yechezkel Sarna, Z’tl, notes that when one wants to speak with a person, he should call him specifically by his name, and only then continue with a conversation.  Mentioning someone’s name can create a special level of endearment and closeness, a human bond.  Moshe Rabbeinu may very well have learned this very beautiful Middah from Hashem Himself, Who at the outset of Sefer VaYikra (1:1) first “calls to Moshe”, and only afterwards begins “speaking to him.”

 

May we suggest that over Shabbos (i.e. the week-end) and Sunday (i.e., the week-beginning), you take the lead of Hashem--and of Moshe Rabbeinu--and call to a person by name before starting a conversation.  May this serve as a source of Brocha in enhancing all of our personal relationships.

 

----------------------------------

Let’s try to keep the spirit of Purim with us as long as we possibly can:

 

  1. We received the following stellar answer to the question posed as to why we mention “U’Shlalam L’Voz” (all our property would have been looted after we were killed) in Al HaNissim--after all, there would have been none of us left to care.  “Perhaps an answer to the question relates to the importance of the possessions of Klal Yisroel--it would have been quite negative if the possessions of the Jews that were used for kodesh purposes had been plundered and used by the Nations of the World for secular purposes--and perhaps for purposes worse than that.”  This is a lesson to us for us to appreciate how special even our possessions are--when we wear a clean shirt to Shul (or otherwise!), shine our shoes for Shabbos, or eat our food with dignity, we simply elevate all of our property in a way that no other nation can!

 

  1. Some Poskim write that the Mishloach Manos that we give on Purim--two gifts to one person, is based upon Achashveirosh giving to Esther two gifts--his Royal Ring, and the House of Haman.  Thus, we remember these very, very significant gifts with gifts of such items as hamantashen, wine, challah, snacks from all over the world, and various assorted trifles and dainties.  Perhaps we can take this “gifted” lesson through the year, and every time that we receive a gift, whether large or small and whether tangible or in the form of a compliment or other intangible item, and be sure to pass on that gift in some form to someone else.  The gifts one receives and that one gives may not necessarily be comparable at all, but in more cases than you may think, they may be just as memorable.

 

  1. The most prestigious Megillah that one may own is a “HaMelech” Megillah, which has the word “HaMelech”, or the King, as the first word of every column in the Scroll.  Obviously, this is to continuously remind us as we proceed through the Megillah that the King, Hashem Himself, is running through and controlling each and every one of the Megillah’s events and personages.  One may try going through the day and at various points realize and even exclaim “HaMelech!”, or perhaps one may try finding each and every one of the times that the word Melech appears in Shacharis while davening (if you think this may be too much at the outset, then begin with Mincha, continue to Maariv, and then go to Shacharis).

 

  1.  Our Kaballas HaTorah on Purim differed from our Kabalas HaTorah on Shavuos, in that our acceptance of the Torah on Purim came out of love rather than fear.  How does one express this new-found love?  The Mishna Berura (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 61; seif katan 2) quotes a Yerushalmi which identifies each one of the Aseres HaDibros in different phrases in Kriyas Shema.  The words “V’Ahavta Es Hashem--and you shall love Hashem”--at the outset of Krias Shema alludes to the second of the Aseres HaDibros--not to take Hashem’s name in vain.  Thus, one very practical way to demonstrate his love for Hashem is to be very, very careful  with reciting Brachos, as these are the crucial moments of the day that we are privileged to actually recite the name of Hashem.  If one is unsure whether or not he made a Brocha Achrona or has made an Asher Yotzar, he must realize that he is not being careful enough, and should undertake some form of correction, at least on a temporary basis, to demonstrate that he really does love Hashem.  You may have other ways to demonstrate your love--and they may all well be within the Purim Spirit!  We welcome your thoughts.

 

-----------------------------------

Several days ago, we had posed a question as to why we mention “U'Shelolom Lavoz”--that the evil Haman wanted to loot the possessions of the Jews--in Al HaNissim.  After all, if no Jew would be left alive any longer, what difference would it make to the deceased if their property was taken as booty or not?

 

In response to this question, HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita provides two alternative answers.  Firstly, these words teach us how wicked Haman designs were--to obliterate any trace of the Jewish people--even their property would not be remembered--and thus how great our yeshua--salvation--really was.  Secondly, these words teach us that, because the Gentiles had a vested interest in killing the Jews, they could have well only “believed” the first letters ordering the destruction of our People, and ignore the second ones, in our favor.  Nevertheless, the miracle was so pervasive and so resoundingly complete that the nations favored the second letters over the first, even though with it they lost their incredible opportunity to plunder what was the equivalent of billions and billions of property, assets and possessions.

 

One other insight on Al HaNissim:  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky was asked why we thank Hashem in Al HaNissim for “Al HaMilchamos”--the wars.  Wouldn't it have been better for there not to be these wars at all?  He responded that this statement provides us with a great lesson that we must always remember: “Milchamos Ani Asisi She'neemar Hashem Ish Milchama”--Hashem says “I am the One who makes wars.” It is not, nor has it ever been, nor will it ever be, the nations of the world that control their fate and enter into conflict or even war.  It is Hashem who is in control of the world and of all of the people in it.  Our role is to pray and work for Shalom--which is another name of Hashem--and is the ultimate in blessing, as with this we conclude in Birchas Kohanim,Birchas HaMazon, Shemone Esrei, the Siyum of every Mesectha.  May the message ring clear to us, and with it may we stave off all future wars, and thank Hashem for **not ** having to make war, and blessing us with peace!

--------------------------------

 

Click here for a link to an important message that has been provided to us by the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation. 

 

Click here for a link that provides a special message (in Hebrew) for women on Taanis Esther. 

 

---------------------------

Special Note One:  A harrowing first-hand story of the dangers of drinking too much on Purim, written by an 18 year-old boy who narrowly survived, is available at this link.  We urge our readers to read it and publicize the dangers involved.

 

Special Note Two:  A story about an impromptu memorial service for those slain at Mercaz HaRav, which took place on a Jerusalem bus, has been widely-publicized.  For those interested, it can be read at this link

 

Special Note Three:  We are currently in the thirteenth month of the year.  Thirteen may not have a positive connotation for sorcerers and the like.  Indeed, many office buildings do not have a “thirteenth floor”.  However, to us, the number 13 is very special, as it indicates our uniqueness (and this maybe another reason why the rest of the world may not like it).  It represents Hashem’s 13 Attributes of Mercy towards us, the 13 Attributes of Faith of the Rambam, the age of a Jewish man’s adulthood, and, of course, is the gematria of the word “Echad”--representing Hashem’s Oneness in this world and the entire universe.  We should truly rejoice in this thirteenth month for all of the exclusivity and distinctiveness that it represents.  How many times have you lived through a thirteenth month of the year in the secular calendar?

 

Special Note Four:  Some Questions for the Week:

 

a)  Mesechta Megillah contains the famous sugya in which scholars were asked:  “Bameh He’Erachta Yomim?--How did you achieve your length of days?”  What did you do right to achieve long life?  We know that Agadata in Shas is placed in a particular Mesechta because of its relationship to that Mesechta.  For instance, the primary Agadata relating to the Churban is in the Mesechta relating to divorce, Gittin, because it describes the temporary estrangement of Hashem from His people.  Why, is it, then, that Mesechta Megillah is the appropriate Tractate to discuss how one merits length of days?

 

b)  In the last Pasuk of the Haftarah for Parshas Zachor, Shmuel tells Agag, the King of Amalek the following before killing him:  “Just as your sword made women childless, so, too, shall your mother be rendered childless among women.”  If the only surviving member of Amalek was Agag, doesn’t this mean that his mother was already dead--so what was Shmuel referring to (Shmuel I 15:33)?

 

c)  We recite Al HaNisim in both Birchas HaMazon and Shemone Esrei on Purim.  In Birchas HaMazon we recite the Al HaNisim in the second Brocha, which relates to thanks, and only afterwards, in the third brocha, pray for Yerushalayim to be returned to us.  Yet, in the Shemone Esrei, we first pray for the return of Yerushalayim in V’LeYerushalayim Ircha and Retzay, and only afterwards do we express our thanks to Hashem and recite the Al HaNisim.  Why is there a different order in Birchas HaMazon then in Shemone Esrei?

 

d)  In the Megillah (Esther, 9:25), when Esther comes to plead before her people, the Megillah records Achashveirosh’s response:  “Im HaSefer Yoshuv Mashachvto Hara…”--what is the meaning of the phrase “Im HaSefer?”  Note: One should go through the Megillah **now** to identify--and know the meaning of--the phrases he or she may not currently understand!

 

e)  In the Al HaNisim, we thank Hashem for saving us from the decree of “L’Hashmid L’Haarog U’Leabed--from the complete and utter destruction of the Jewish people,” who also, as this prayer of thanks records, would have also been subject to “U’Shlalam L’Voz--the plundering of their possessions.”  If the Jewish people would have been so totally destroyed, so utterly obliterated, what difference would it have made whether their possessions were plundered?  Who would have been there to care?  Why need we make specific and express mention of this in the Al HaNisim?

 

---------------------------

Special Note One:  There have been a tremendous number of moving stories and incidents relating to the Kedoshim at Yeshiva Mercaz HaRav.  We received the attached from a reader.  If we read it and apply it, it will certainly be a zechus for Doron HY’D.  May he be a mailitz yosher for us all.

 

Doron Mahareta of blessed and saintly memory HY"D was one of the eight Yeshiva students that were massacred last week in Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav in Jerusalem.

 

Last night, I paid a shiva (condolence) call to Doron's family.  Every single type of Jew was sitting together, from Ethiopians to Polish Chassidim, from knit kippot to Yerushalmi white kippot, from jeans and sandals to long black frocks.  Too bad that it takes a martyr of Doron's magnitude to unite everyone.

 

One of the rabbis from Mercaz HaRav told me the most amazing story you'll ever hear about Doron's dedication to learning Torah, a story that competes with the Gemara's account of Hillel's near freezing on the roof of Shmaya and Avtalion's Yeshiva (see tractate Yoma, 35b).

 

Doron wanted to learn Torah in Mercaz HaRav, one of the best of Israel's yeshivas.  But since his early schooling was in Ethiopia, he lacked a strong background in Gemara.  The Yeshiva rejected him.  He wasn't discouraged.  He asked, "If you won't let me learn Torah, will you let me wash the dishes in the mess hall?"  For a year and a half, Doron washed dishes.  But, he spent every spare minute in the study hall.  He inquired what the yeshiva boys were learning, and spent most of the nights and all of his Shabbatot with his head in the Gemara learning what they learned.  One day, the "dish washer" asked the Rosh Yeshiva to test him.  The Rosh Yeshiva politely smiled and tried to gently dismiss Doron, but Doron wouldn't budge. He forced the Rosh Yeshiva into a Torah discussion; the next day, he was no longer a dishwasher but a full-fledged "yeshiva bachur".

 

On weekends, when Doron would come home to visit his family in Ashdod, he'd spend the entire Shabbat either in the Melitzer Shul or the neighboring Gerrer shtiebel learning Shulchan Aruch and its commentaries.  Three weeks ago, he finished the entire Shulchan Aruch and principle commentaries.  Doron achieved in his tender 26 years what others don't attain in 88 years.  He truly was an unblemished sacrifice, who gave his life for all of us.

 

The next time you want to close the Gemara to read a newspaper, think of Doron.  The next time your son doesn't want to do his Torah homework, tell him about the price that tzaddikim like Hillel the Elder and Doron Mahareta paid to learn Torah.  I wouldn't be a bit surprised if Doron wasn't a reincarnation of Hillel.  May his holy soul beg mercy for the grieving nation he left behind, amen.

 

Special Note Two:  Recently, Hakhel sponsored an outstanding Shiur on Purim--with important lessons for the entire year--by HaRav Yitzchak Sorotzkin, Shlita, Rosh Yeshiva Telz and Mesivta of Lakewood.  One can listen online to the entire shiur available at this link.

 

Special Note Three:  We received the following important notice from the world-renowned Project Kavey:

 

“Please join Rabbi Dov Brezak live for the next four Monday evenings, in the comfort of your own home.  Put your phone on speaker (and mute) and continue to clean and prepare for Purim, Pesach and the upcoming Chol Hamoed days, while at the same time gaining tremendous encouragement and guidance to make these Yom Tov days pleasurable and memorable.  Rabbi Brezak will coach us and help us remove the Chometz from our minds, as he helps us bring out the best in our children.  To register, please call 732-886-8821.  Space is limited.

 

Please see the attached link available here for more details

 

Special Note Four: Two Notes on Matanos L’Evyonim:

 

  1. The Sefer Halichos Shlomo, which contains the rulings of HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Zt’l, writes that, according to HaRav Auerbach the definition of an “Evyon” for purposes of Purim is someone who does not have money “l’tzrochim hahechreichim l’farnes baiso--the funds which are necessary to provide for the necessities of one’s family.”

 

  1. In the Sefer Maaseh Rav, HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, was asked whether it was preferable not to give an Evyon directly on Purim just as, in Hilchos Tzedaka, it is preferable not to give an Evyon directly.  HaRav Kanievsky responded that here “lo mishane”--it does not make a difference and that either way is proper.

 

Special Note Five:  What happened to all of Haman’s possessions?  The Medrash (Shocher Tov 22) teaches that Haman’s money was distributed as follows: 1/3 to Mordechai and Esther, 1/3 to those involved in Torah study, and 1/3 toward reconstruction of the Bais Hamikdash.  What a V’Nahapoch Hu!

 

Special Note Six:  Chazal (Megillah 11A) teach that the fourth and fifth words of the Megillah, “Hu Achashveirosh--he is Achashveirosh)” teach us a profound lesson.  He “is” Achashveirosh--the very same Achashveirosh--before, during and after the Purim story.  Esther, his queen, who was a nevia (prophetess) and one of the greatest women in history, had no impact upon him.  Mordechai, as the Mishne L’Melech, the number two man in his government, who was a Tzaddik, a navi (prophet), and one of the great members of the Anshei Kenesses HaGadolah, had no effect on his life.  Indeed, even the miracles of Purim--the amazing turn of events which were years in the making--were personally overlooked and ignored, although they otherwise made the king’s chronicles and the history books for all time.  As a matter of fact, Achashveirosh had ordered that the work to reconstruct the Beis HaMikdosh be halted at the beginning of his reign--and continued his stop-work order throughout his 14-year reign.  The Beis HaMikdosh only continued to be rebuilt upon the succession to his throne by his son, Daryavesh.  What an important lesson this is for us!  We cannot let the time in which we currently find ourselves--the time of Purim and Geulah--march by us without it having an important impact upon us.  May we suggest learning to have a special kavanah in the first brocha of Shemone Esrei as we recite the words “Ozer”, “U’Moshia”, “U’Magen”:

 

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).  By recognizing and realizing that Hashem helps, saves and shields--we, very much unlike Achashveirosh, will recognize Hashem’s protection over us in all situations and circumstances!

-------------------------

Special Note One:  In last week’s Parsha, the Baal HaTurim writes that with respect to almost every item that was completed in the Mishkan, the Torah records, “Ka’asher Tziva Hashem Es Moshe”--it was crafted and completed in the exact manner that Hashem had originally commanded.  In fact, the Baal HaTurim notes that the same, almost identical phrase is used 19(!) times relating to the Mishkan’s completion.  Why is this so?  Why is this necessary for the Torah to record these words each time--couldn’t the Torah have stated in one Pasuk at the end of the Parsha that everything--every single thing—was done exactly as was commanded? 

 

HaRav Yeruchem Levovitz, Z’tl, in the Sefer Daas Torah provides a remarkable insight here.  HaRav Yeruchem explains that the “ma’asim”--the actions and deeds--that were performed in connection with the Mishkan were not simply perfunctory, physical or even artisan-like crafts.  Rather, each ma’aseh--each act--was accompanied by “Ka’asher Tziva Hashem”--all of the depth and profundity, all of the inner spirituality, secrets and allusions which accompany proper mitzvah performance.

 

This is to teach us that no matter what the mitzvah is, each time we do a mitzvah, we are doing much more than a physical act.  Whether it is putting on Tefillin, building a Sukkah, walking to Shul, baking Challah in honor of Shabbos, giving Mishloach Manos or eating Matzoh, it makes no difference.  Each mitzvah on its own may be a simple physical act--one primarily involving a hand, another the jaws and teeth, the third a leg--but each one of them is backed and energized by the wondrous and literally incomprehensible spiritual force that accompanies a mitzvah that is properly performed.  We are not like the other nations of the world, who, for example, may go into a fast-food restaurant, and “chow down” a sandwich, not much differently (and perhaps more inhumanely) than an animal.  To us, even the aspect of the act of eating--from mouth to digestive tract--is joined and guided by mitzvos.  We consider why we eat, why we make a Bracha before, what is done in between, why we make a Bracha after, are all guided by how to properly conduct oneself while eating (See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, Chapter 170-172). 

 

When we perform a mitzvah, we can visualize a backpack behind us, or even a launcher under us, which raises us far, far away from the sphere of mere physical actions and uplifts us into another realm entirely.  We should deeply appreciate and understand the elevating moment of mitzvah performance, in which we accomplish oh so much more than is beyond our human vision, physical capacity or intellect!

 

Special Note Two: At the special Kinus held last Thursday night in the Agudath Israel Bais Binyomin in Flatbush, HaRav Pinchos Breuer, Shlita, urged the overflowing crowd to take some time to reflect upon the tragedy that occurred in Yeshiva Mercaz HaRav--in a “Mikdash Hashem”.  The young men were “clearly karbanos”--and it was our duty and responsibility to take a lesson from what occurred so that their blood was not spilled in vain.  HaRav Breuer specifically suggested that the terrorist entering into the Mikdash was a lesson to each and every one of us that we must demonstrate greater reverence and respect while in the Mikdash Hashem.

 

How does one show an increased level of awe and appreciation for our Holy Places?  HaRav Breuer suggested by not talking idly or chattering there even while not davening, by not playing with phones and other portable electronic devices in the Bais HaMedrash whether or not you were in open view or earshot of others, by not looking around while davening, and by having Kavanah based upon the Kedushas HaMakom (the Holiness of the place), and what you can accomplish there.  Men and women, young and old, were asked to take part in thinking about--and bringing to actuality on an ongoing basis--how they could improve their appreciation of holiness.  HaRav Breuer noted that throughout the day we are in places which are not sanctuaries--on the bus, in the store, at the office, etc.  We rely on the spiritual infusions that we receive while in Shul (or at home, if one is davening there) in order to inculcate the remainder of the day with the ruchinyus it so desperately needs in the world and environment which surrounds us.   

 

HaRav Breuer’s words should emanate far beyond the boundaries of Brooklyn and even the United States, and should have a profound impact upon each and every one of us as we search to respond to Hashem’s message--which, we must understand was directed to each and every one of us--just one week ago today.  May our individual responses find favor in the eyes of Hashem, and may joy and happiness pervade our lives, as they emanate from our most Holy Places.

 

--------------------------

We received the following beautiful thought from a reader in our goal to obtain “101 Ways To Make Other People Happy”:

 

I have something that always makes a person smile:  Tell them something specific (nice) about someone they are close to, i.e. their spouse.

Examples:  “Did you know your wife insisted on doing the car pool for me this morning when she heard my hoarse voice?” or “Your son ran to unload the groceries and carried them into the house for me.”

----------------------------------------

 

Another reader suggested that we refer all of our readers to the recent two-part series published by Halachically Speaking on the Halachos of Mezuzah, which contains many practical and need-to-know Halachos.  To obtain these back issues, Halachically Speaking can be contacted at mdl@thehalacha.com.

-----------------------------------------

 

PURIM REMINDERS

 

As we proceed through Adar, and move towards Purim (only ten days away!), we provide the following four reminders:

 

  1. One can still start Mishnayos Mesechta Megillah today, and make a Siyum at the Purim Seuda, as there are only 33 Mishnayos in this wonderful Mesechta.

 

  1. There are 10 perakim (chapters) in the Megillah.  If we start today and learn/review one chapter a day, we can likewise complete our Megillah study at the Purim Seudah.  In addition to picking at least one commentary to review the Megillah with, we also **strongly urge** you to make sure that you are familiar with the translation and meaning of each word in the Megillah.  For instance, what does “Beesan”, or “Karpas” or “HaPartimim” mean?  According to one opinion in the Gemara, reading the Megillah is like reading Hallel (i.e., it replaces the recitation of Hallel on Purim).  Accordingly, we should anticipate it with the same measure of appreciation and joy.

 

  1. Chazal teach that Haman told Mordechai “Your Machatzis HaShekel contributions preceded and bested my offer of 10,000 talents of silver.  Indeed, even today we are sure to read the Parsha of Shekalim, and give a “Zecher L’Machatzis HaShekel” (a remembrance of the Machatzis HaShekel) every year before Purim.  This may very well be a reminder to us that we should be on the alert to give “Shekalim”, Tzedakah, in order for us to stave off and avert the designs and decrees of the Hamans of our generation.  We note the first four letters of Haman and Hamas--write both of their names on the bottom of your shoe this Purim, Yemach Shemam to the both of them--are the same in English and there is never, ever, such thing as coincidence.  Let us remember, as we recite in the Hagadah, that “in every generation they stand up to destroy us and HaKadosh Baruch Hu saves us from their hand.”  With our Tzedaka, we will hopefully give HaKadosh Baruch Hu all the ammunition that He needs.

 

We have been advised by our affiliate, Yad Eliezer, the largest food relief organization in Israel, that with recent food and gas price spikes and the decreased value of the dollar, it is in desperate need of funds to help support its incredible budget.  Why not make a donation to this or any other of the so many legitimate causes for the sake of our less fortunate brethren?  Let’s help ourselves while helping others at the same time--today.  Yad Eliezer can be reached at http://www.yadeliezer.org/site/home.php

 

  1. As we noted at the beginning of Adar Rishon, Adar Sheni, as the thirteenth month, corresponds to our repetition of “Kol HaNeshama Tehallel Kah Hallelukah--Let all souls praise Hashem!”  When we repeat something, we mean it with greater force, emphasis and sincerity.  As we move closer towards Purim, our repetition of this Pasuk in the daily Pesukai D’Zimrah should be with a special and intense caring, fervor, devotion and zeal!

BRINGING HAPPINESS TO OTHERS

Chazal teach that “Mishenichnas Adar Marbin B’Simcha”--everyone agrees that this teaching most definitely applies to Adar Sheni.  HaRav Dessler, Z’tl, (Michtav M’Eliyahu, Volume 2, Page 125) writes that the Simcha we experience during this month should be built upon day after day, so that it continuously grows through the month.  For true simcha to be built upon, the joy must be more than a superficial experience.  As Rabbi Mordechai Becher, Shlita, pointed out in a Hakhel Shiur, depressed people can be tickled and will laugh, but will quickly return to their depression after the tickling has ceased.  We suggest, therefore, that the simcha we look to build upon over the course of this special month relate more to our ruchniyus, to the spiritual realm of our lives.

 

In this regard, HaRav Matisyahu Salomon, Shlita, quotes the famous Rambam in Hilchos Megillah.  The Rambam writes that “it is better for a person to give more Matanos L’Evyonim than it is to spend money on a larger Seudas Purim or Mishloach Manos--for there is no Simcha Gedola U’Mefora--there is no greater or more glorious joy--than one who makes the unfortunate happy.”  Indeed, HaRav Salomon notes, both the Nefesh HaChaim and the Zohar HaKadosh write that if one brings simcha to the world; he is bringing Rachamim--mercy--into the world, and changing Din, the attribute of strict justice, to Rachamim, Heavenly Mercy--and there can be nothing better than that!

 

Our service, then, at this time of year, is to open the gates of Rachamim that we so desperately need opened so wide by bringing simcha into the world through our own Simchas HaChaim, and all the more so by bringing others Simchas HaChaim--making others happy as well.

 

In that vein, we present below six sample responses to our previous request and call for “101 Ways to Make Others Happy”.

 

Don't we all love a piece of chocolate?  How about carrying around a bag of individually wrapped mini chocolates that you can give out to people around you?

 

The classic, most effective, life altering, health building--SMILE!!!

 

Try the "old fashioned" thank you note.  Written notes, delivered via "snailmail," always come as a welcome surprise, and are often saved, or posted on bulletin boards and refrigerators.

 

Take the time, make the effort and spend the money to get a gift, no matter how small--it shows that you care.  To someone the ray of happiness brought into their lives could be a life-saver.

 

Always have a short, meaningful "vort" on the Parsha ready to tell someone.  That is a sure winner.  Everyone loves a good D’var Torah.

 

Do something for someone that he was planning on doing; tell them to enjoy the rest.

 

Now is the time to practice these--and think of your own!  We most certainly welcome new submissions--especially this month.  May our pure simcha during Adar turn suffering and agony into happiness and elation, as Hashem’s Rachamim brings us the Geulah Shlaima--in this auspicious time of Geulah, Adar and Nissan--Purim and Pesach!

 

-------------------------

In light of yesterday’s tragedy and the current crisis in Eretz Yisroel, we urge everyone to participate in our Tefilla project for the next two weeks.  Please access this link.  May it be a zechus for us all.

 

Be’Ezras Hashem, tomorrow we will be concluding Sefer Shemos, which the Ramban refers to as the Sefer HaGeulah, the Book of Redemption.  In his introduction to Sefer Shemos, the Ramban explains that the Sefer concludes with the completion of the Mishkan and with the Shechina, the Glory of Hashem, filling it---because this, in fact, is the climax of Geulah--having the Shechina in our midst.  When this occurred, the Ramban writes “Shavu El Maalas Avosam--they returned to the level of their fathers.”

 

Indeed, this was an incredible achievement--for the children to return to the astounding plane of the Avos.  How, once again, was this accomplished?  By successfully bringing the Shechina down to this world.  Everyone knew that the Mishkan was only a temporary structure, yet it accomplished such an incredible result.  Certainly, when we consider the third, final and permanent Bais HaMikdash, how much more so should we long for this final and ultimate Geulah.  As we leave the Geulas Mitzrayim with this week’s Parsha, we must do so with a view towards our own Geulah--when we ourselves can unite with the “Maalas HaAvos”--by bringing the Shechina once again and forever into our midst.

 

It is no coincidence (as it never is) that tomorrow, as we end the Sefer HaGeula, we will be reading Parshas Shekalim and beginning Adar Sheni.  Parshas Shekalim, which reminds us of the contributions made by the Bnei Yisroel to the Mishkan, teaches us the role of Tzedaka, charity, in the Geulah of the Mishkan.  As the Navi writes “Tzion B’Mishpat Tipadeh V’Shoveha B’Tzdaka”--we will be redeemed through Tzedaka.  It may behoove each and every one of us to give some Tzedaka right now for the sake of our Geulah (see the Sefas Emes on Parshas Shekalim for a related thought).  Adar Sheni, too, has much to do with Redemption, as we celebrate Purim within that month, and it serves as the portal to Pesach.  Rashi (Taanis 29A) in explaining why “When one enters Adar, we increase our joy” writes: “These are days of miracles for Klal Yisroel--Purim and Pesach.”  Clearly, Rashi is demonstrating to us the uniqueness and incredible potential which are really and truly inherent in these times.

 

Many of us will be concluding our recitation of the words “Ule’Chaparas Pesha--and for forgiveness of sin” in the Musaf for Rosh Chodesh tomorrow, and will no longer be reciting it in the Musaf of the remaining Roshei Chodoshim of the year.  Let us take this as a lesson for us in the “last month” to intensify our Teshuva--and our Tefillos to Hashem that He forgive us for iniquities.

 

May our heartfelt, sincere and real Teshuva, Tefillah and Tzedaka this month allow us to go from concluding one Sefer HaGeulah to concluding another Sefer HaGeulah!

 

Note:  We should be especially careful to study the Sefer Mesilas Yesharim at the end of Chapter 19, and/or recite the Tefillah Al HaGeulah we have previously distributed (available in Hebrew here and in English here).

It is very, very far from being far-fetched for Hashem’s response to be positive--after all did not the previous Redemptions occur after our cries and entreaties? (See Shemos 2:23 and Esther 4:16).  Let each and every one of us make sure to do our own personal and individual part in helping us all and bringing back the Kavod Hashem and Kavod of Klal Yisroel to the place that they belong.

-------------------------

Rav Moshe Chaim Luzatto, Z’tl, in the Derech Hashem (Part 4, Chapter 2), provides the following great insight:

 

“Chazal have revealed a very great mystery, namely, that if the wicked would only not abandon the study of the Torah, they would ultimately return to Hashem.  Even though they do not have the power to transmit anything from Hashem, the words of the Torah themselves are intrinsically holy.  One who consistently involves himself with the Torah therefore constantly receives a measure of hisorirus (spiritual motivation) from it.  Even though this is the barest possible shadow of the True Illumination, the fact that it is constantly reinforced gives it the power to ultimately overcome a person and make him good again.  Chazal thus teach us that Hashem said, ‘If they would only have kept My Torah, the Light in it would bring them back to the good.’  ….When a person purifies and sanctifies himself, his study then transmits to him a degree of Influence depending on his level of preparation.  The more he prepares himself, the greater will be the value and power of his study.”

 

From these words of the Ramchal, we can glean the importance of appreciating the depth and profundity of even the simplest and barest of Torah study.  We should never, ever make “light” of the study of Torah--whether it is from an English Sefer on the Parsha; it is only a single Mishna after Mincha before going back to work, it is Daf Yomi study by tape…or even if it is doing second grade Chumash homework with a child.  We must appreciate the Torah’s Illumination in all circumstances.  Of course, the more preparation the more Illuminating the study (as the Ramchal concludes above).  However, we must always realize that even a little bit of light in a very dark room, or world, c an greatly benefit and empower the one who brought that light--and all the many others who will benefit from its radiance.

 

----------------------------------

Special Note One:  We received an urgent notification from a reader regarding the Israeli “Carmel” products being exported to America, and probably other countries as well (perhaps under different trade names).  Apparently, in addition to fresh vegetables such as tomatoes, Carmel is also selling Israeli fresh herbs in local fruit and vegetable stores, and, because it is a large distributor, the herbs may also be sold in larger chain stores, as well.  Let the buyer beware!

 

Special Note Two:  Another reader sent us a beautiful Tefillah which may be recited daily, asking Hashem for Divine assistance in that sometimes extremely difficult task of judging others favorably.  Chazal teach that one who judges others favorably will be judged by the Heavenly Court with favor, as well, measure for measure.  The image file (JPG) is available here.  May this attached short Tefillah prove to be of wonderful help in this regard.

 

Special Note Three:  Yet another reader asked whether we were still collecting Ways to Make Other People Happy.  We most certainly are.  One method we recently received was the following:

 

Approach someone who has a frown or sudden dejected look on his face, and then place a finger from your right hand an inch away from the end of the right side of your lip, and a finger from your left hand an inch away from the end of the left side of your lip--and ask --“what’s here and what’s here?!”  If it doesn’t work on anyone else, maybe you can try it on yourself!

 

Special Note Four:  With regard to the importance of Facial Expressions, we provide below an excerpt from The Power of Words by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita:

 

“Displaying harsh facial expressions without saying even one word can cause much distress.  In special instances, parents, teachers, and other people in authority might be able to use this for constructive purposes.  A quick frown is enough to convey a message of disapproval and can motivate someone to improve.  On a regular basis, however, this is not proper.  When the look on your face conveys the message that you are cold and unsympathetic, it causes pain.  A smile and a genuinely friendly look on one’s face can be a great act of kindness.  Be careful that your general facial expression is one that allows people to feel comfortable in your presence.

 

“If you are not satisfied with someone else’s facial expression, say to the person in a polite manner, ‘I would really appreciate it if you would be able to have a more pleasant expression on your face.’  On the other hand, it would be improper to say to someone, ‘You look like the world’s biggest grouch.’  Statements of this sort are not likely to influence the person to have a more pleasant expression.  Instead of attacking the person for what he is doing wrong, focus on what you would like the person to express and ask for it.

 

“One technique that can help is to ask the person questions about situations that were a source of great joy in his life.  When the person smiles while recalling the incidents, you can say, ‘You look so wonderful when you smile.’  This, of course, should not be used when someone is suffering a real loss and needs time to overcome his grief over that loss.  But when appropriate, your reinforcing someone’s smiling will make the person a generally happier person.  When that person smiles at others, they in response will smile back at him and this will reinforce his tendency to smile at others again.  When speaking to another person, it is very important to notice his facial expressions to see if what you are saying is causing him pain or distress.  The greater mastery you have over this sensory acuity, the more awareness you will have if what you say is onoas dvorim [hurtful words].”

 

One should use facial expressions for the purpose that Hashem gave them to you--for your benefit, and the benefit of Mankind!

 

Special Note Five:  At a recent Hakhel Shiur, Rabbi Yitzchok Sorotzkin, Shlita, related that HaRav Nosson Wachtfogel, Z’tl, was once asked the following question:  All the abundance that we have today--is this a brocha--or a klala--a curse?  His response was that, in fact, it is neither.  Rather, it is purely a nisayon, a test for each one of us in life.  Every generation has its own tests.  Seventy or eighty years ago in the very same country the test may have been deprivation and even near-starvation.  Today, as we visit the supermarket, the clothing store, or any one of the “Depots” that abound, we must realize that our goal is to strike the proper balance--to thank Hashem with sincere and deep thanks for the bounty and choices that we have (as per the meaning of the Brocha of Borei Nefashos), and concomitantly not to blatantly or even discreetly engorge or overindulge in that which would not please Hashem.

 

One must be a proactive thinker while at a smorgasbord, on a weekend vacation, at the electronics store, or even in front checkout counter in the supermarket--to decide whether he really needs that new electronic gadget, pleasure, extravagance, or even just  the small extraneous item.  We can pass the nisayon--replacing excess and overindulgence with appreciation and gratitude!

Other email archives