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The Sefer Kav HaYashar (Chapter 92) poses the question: If the Yomim Tovim of Pesach and Sukkos span seven days, why is it that Shavuos, over which there is so much to celebrate, is observed for only one day?  The Sefer brings an answer, “Al Pi Kabala”, that Shavuos is rooted in Hashem’s oneness, and that our oneness as a “Goy Echad Ba’Aretz” then stems from Hashem’s oneness, all of which is symbolized by the oneness of Shavuos.  Of course, the profundity of this concept is enormous, and we are already ahead by just acknowledging its depth.  We may add an additional simple suggestion as to the one day nature of our beloved Zeman Matan Toraseinu:  It teaches us the power of One Day.  In just one day, one can go up to Shomayim and receive a Torah--in only one day one can accomplish so much in Torah study, and yes, just one day can mean the difference between you and billions of others on this planet--so how can we let **even one day** go by without some kind of meaningful Torah study?


Indeed, the Chofetz Chaim (Chomas HaDas, Chapter 8) writes that through Torah study, each person in accordance with his potential, one builds his palace in Olam Haba, day by day, brick by brick.  Have you ever noticed houses undergoing construction which stop and start, stop and start, stop and start, their construction?  Some days there are no workers there, some days just a few. The building process seems almost endless, and, in some cases does not get completed, or at least completed properly, because of all the inconsistency, the delays, the jumps and reversals, otherwise absent in the day-to-day consistency to completion.  You do not need 20 workers there, if everyone has his job, and knows what to do--DAILY, until completion.


A wise person once noted that the last posuk of the second parsha of Shema states: “LeMaa’an Yirbu Yemeichem....Kimei HaShomayim Al Ha’Aretz...--[In the merit of Mitzvah observance your days will be] increased like the days of the Heavens on the Earth--what does this mean?  What do increased days have to do with Heavens on the Earth?  The answer may be that if we look up to the Heavens for our days, if we make each day heavenly, by learning and living what Moshe Rabbeinu was able to wrest away from the angels on high, then our days are literally Heaven here on Earth.


As we take the Heaven’s treasure over this short weekend, we should remember that the Torah uses the word “simcha” twice in discussing the holiday of Shavuos.  Our joy is twofold, for we not only received the Torah on that great day more than 3300 years ago, but we commit to take this remarkable gift, compared to water and fire, to bread and wine, to milk and honey, and use it as our daily guide to navigate the pathways of Heaven on Earth.  A real Shavuos inspiration should bring us to remember this primacy throughout the year--especially at those very times when the Heavens feel oh so distant.  A Torah bite at lunch, a shiur on CD in the car between errands, a vort before going to sleep, sharing a Torah thought with a friend while exercising, all serve to remove those roadblocks, eliminate the weighty sandbags, and raise us up very high--as we see the Earth meeting our Heaven!




It is interesting to note that the Hebrew word for honor,” kavod”, is also used as a synonym for the Neshama--soul, as Dovid HaMelech pleads in Tehillim: “Lem’aan yezamercha kavod...”--so that my soul praises you.  Yet, the gematria of kavod is 32, which corresponds to the Lev, heart, symbolizing feeling.  Thus, the term kavod uniquely combines both Neshama, symbolizing our superior intellect, and Lev, demonstrating our unique humane feeling.


When we properly show kavod, we unite our powerful intellect and unparalleled feeling, to display true respect, whether due or earned.  Let us turn for a moment to the kavod of Torah.  There is, in fact, an entire Siman in Shulchan Aruch devoted to kavod of Rabbonim (Yoreh Deah 242) and two other entire Simanim dedicated to the honor of Talmidei Chachomim in general (ibid., Simanim 243 and 244).  We will briefly discuss here, however, the Siman in Shulchan Aruch dedicated to the kavod due the Sefer Torah, sefarim and Holy Objects (ibid. Siman 282).  Given the depth of the term kavod, it behooves us to pay special attention to the kavod of these special items which assist and guide us in our great task of Torah Study.  As we previously noted from HaRav Shmuel Berenbaum, Z'tl, one must study Torah in a manner which shows true respect.  This may begin with the kavod of the Sefarim that we learn Torah from.


HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, relates that when he was younger the Chazon Ish noticed that he was studying Torah with his elbows on the Gemara, but that he was careful not to put any other Sefer on top of his Gemara.  The Chazon Ish advised him that he acted incorrectly--no elbows were allowed on his Gemara, but another Sefer being used in connection with this study, even that of a later commentary, was.


Many of us were trained as children that when a Sefer falls, you pick it up and kiss it.  What if two sefarim fall?  The Bais Lechem Yehuda, one of the classic meforshim found in the Shulchan Aruch itself (ibid.) writes that both Sefarim should be picked up as quickly as possible--and then kissed together.


Some common examples where we can show Kavod Hatorah are:

- when noticing Seforim strewn about or in disheveled pile--straightening them out

- reshelving sefarim, even if they were taken out by others

- not permitting children’s books with Torah content to be placed, or remain, on the floor

- not tossing Sefarim (Hebrew or English) even from short distances or onto the table

- not placing Sefarim on your lap or sitting on the same level that Seforim are placed

- not holding a Sefer below you waist, or letting it bang against your leg

- not keeping Sefarim unlocked in your car, as they are truly your honored treasure, or on the car seat where someone will sit down near or upon them

- kissing a Sefer before and after use (and perhaps even during use--if you learn something from it that really excites you)

-taking a Sefer with you when travelling--as Rav Quinn Z’TL was known to always remark “You’re always safer with a Sefer!”


Every day we are privileged with opportunities to show proper kavod to those Holy Objects which give us our respect.  As Chazal teach --All who honor the Torah are honored by all of creation (Avos 4:8).  May we be blessed with the Neshama and the Lev to be successful with these very special opportunities!



It could happen to any one of us.


Someone taps you on the shoulder and, in an inquisitive tone, asks, “Are you excited?”  Perhaps you are tired, but you cannot put your finger on what he is talking about.  In your mind, you quickly scan through what is happening at your job, at home, perhaps it is the Mazel Tov of a friend that you forgot about.  However, your unstated slight bewilderment leads him to state, “I mean Kabbalos HaTorah--it’s almost here!  The count-up is almost over!”  Slightly impressed at his idealism, and not terribly troubled by your oversight, you smile politely, and eke out a “Well, we’re trying!”


Tonight will inaugurate the “Shloshes Yemei Hagbala”--the three-day preparatory period before Shavuos in which we surrounded Har Sinai to begin to appreciate and inculcate within us the enormity of the Event we were about to experience.  We celebrate this very same period today.  Just as the days before Pesach and before Sukkos are full of their particular Pre-Yom Tov preparations, and the days before Rosh Hashana and then Yom Kippur have their special meaning, so too do we have the three designated days prior to Shavuos to “surround the mountain”, in order to ensure that when Shavuos arrives, we will absorb the Event in all of its holiness and meaning.


Indeed, Chazal (Shabbos 129B) teach that it is prohibited to be “makiz dam”--to let blood for healing purposes, on Erev Shavuos, lest the person put himself in sakana--in danger, by letting blood while not having properly prepared for his receiving of the Torah on Shavuos.  This is by no means homiletics.  The Rema in Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim (468:10) brings this Chazal l’halacha--and the Mishneh Berurah there even explains that it is forbidden to let blood on every Erev Yom Tov, so that he does not forget and let blood on Erev Shavuos.  (See Teshuvos V’Hanhagos 4:109 for a further discussion.)  While we may not let blood as a matter of course, the importance that even the halacha attaches to proper preparation of each and every one of us to receive the Torah on Shavuos is self-evident.


HaRav Moshe Feinstein Z’TL likewise explains that it is no coincidence (as it never is) that the Parsha almost always read before Shavuos is Parshas Bamidbar, which counts the individual members of Bnei Yisroel.  The Torah is teaching us that **EACH AND EVERY ONE US COUNTS**, and that no one can hide behind his Rabbi’s frock, his profession’s desk, or his living room sofa.  Furthermore, Rav Shimshon Dovid Pincus Z’TL explains the Posuk which states that the Torah was given in front of “Kol Yisroel” teaches us that even if one member of K’lal Yisroel had been missing, the Torah would not have been given(!).


So what are we really to do?  We could try to review the 48 ways to acquire the Torah found in the last chapter of Pirkei Avos (6:6), and select at least one way to work on.  HaRav Shmuel Berenbaum, Z'tl, suggests the following, as well:  Work on the honor due to Torah study.  He explains that the reason the Torah was given “B’Kolos U’Verokim”--with loud noise and thunder--is to forever instill within us the attitude and approach that one should not learn Torah with his face leaning on his elbow, or slouched over, head back, sefer on lap....you get the picture(s).  This could be a very significant Kabbala--resolution, for a person to monumentally increase the quality of his Torah study.


Over the next three days, let us remember that we too will be receiving the Torah this Shavuos.  We know that Hashem counts us and is counting on us.  Now, let us take the time to count ourselves in!




Today is the Yahrzeit of the Ramchal, HaRav Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, Z’TL, who lit the world with the great works Mesilas Yesharim, Derech Hashem and other powerful chiburim.  The GRA himself is reputed to have said that there is not one superfluous word in the first eight (8) chapters of the Mesilas Yesharim.

The Ramchal starts the Mesilas Yesharim with the words “Yesod HaChasidus V’Shoresh HaAvodah”--the foundation of saintliness and the root of perfection in the service of Hashem…”  The Ramchal passed away during Sefira--on the day whose attribute is “Yesod SheBeYesod” (Foundation of Foundations).  It is clear that with his Ruach HaKodesh, he foresaw that he would provide us with the foundation of foundations for hundreds of years to come.


In view of what the Ramchal has done for us all, we wish to highlight the timeless words which conclude the Mesilas Yesharim (Translated from The Path of the Just, Feldheim Publishers):


We can easily understand that every person needs direction and guidance in accordance with his skills and his occupation, since the path of piety appropriate for one whose “Torah is his vocation” is unsuitable for one who must place himself at the employ of another; and neither of these ways is suitable for one who is engaged in his own business.  And this is the case regarding all the other particulars of human affairs in the world.  There is a path to piety that is suitable to each and every individual, whatever his [vocation].  That is not to say that the nature of piety varies, for it is the same for everyone, since its goal is to bring pleasure to the Creator.  But in view of the fact that circumstances are always changing, the means leading toward the implementation of the goal must also vary, according to the circumstances that prevail.  It is possible that someone who out of necessity is a simple artisan may become a completely pious person, like an individual who never stops learning.  And it states (ibid 16:4): “The Eternal created everything for His own sake.”  And it says (ibid 3:4): “In all of your ways know Him, and He will direct your paths.


May the Blessed One, in His mercy, open our eyes through His Torah and guide us in His ways and lead us in His paths, and may we be worthy of glorifying His name and pleasing Him.  “May the glory of the Eternal endure forever, let the Eternal rejoice in His works” (Tehillim 104:31).  “Let Israel rejoice in its Maker, let the Sons of Zion exult in their King” (ibid. 149:2) Amen, Amen, Amen!


We should absorb these very precious words of the Ramchal--for they are directed to us.  It is each and every one of us whose role in life is to follow the Path of the Just.  May we always have the alertness, sense, ability and fortitude to bring honor, glory and pleasure to our Creator!




The Parsha of Behar teaches us the primary role Shemita plays in demonstrating and developing our Emunah in Hakodosh Boruch Hu--Hashem is the Creator, the Maker, the Keeper and the End-All.  To stress Shemita’s importance, Rashi writes at the beginning of the Parsha, that from the fact that the Torah states that the mitzvah of Shemita was given at Sinai, we learn that all Mitzvos were given there, even if not explicitly stated.


Let us examine this.  What did Sinai initially provide to us?  It provided our connection, our relationship to Hashem for all time--for mankind never again experienced the event, nor needed to. Why not?  Because the Mitzvos embody and carry Har Sinai with us daily.  Had we remained at Har Sinai forever, we would have needed no Torah and Mitzvos, for our relationship with Hashem would have always remained on that skyscraping altitude.  But this was not the world's purpose.  So, the Torah teaches, it is through Shemita, with all the other Mitzvos derived therefrom, that we are to extend our Har Sinai experience--our unbelievable connection and relationship with Hashem into everyday life.


Over the last 100 years, the great Mitzvos associated with Shemita have been renewed in Eretz Yisroel.  Indeed, the open miracles promised in the Torah in connection with Shemita observance have been visible to the naked eye in the strictly Shemita observing community of Komimius.  We must, however, recognize that according to most authorities, the Mitzvos associated with Shemita today are D’Rabbanan, and not from the Torah.  Moreover, those who live far from Eretz Yisroel, from New York to Moscow , and from Montreal to Melbourne , have their direct Shemita experience limited to, perhaps, a “Prozbol” (a unique method which allows debts which Shemita would have otherwise cancelled to remain extant).  What then could be our “lead” commandment, our paradigm mitzvah, to guide us in our relationship with Hashem, to carry us from Sinai in a very meaningful way?


We suggest that Parshas Behar--and its first Mitzvah of Shemita--is always read close to Shavuos, for it teaches us what can bring us close to Har Sinai.  Let us see what the next Mitzvah is after Shemita in the Parsha--it is “Lo Sonu...”--the great prohibition against cheating or deceiving someone else.  This Mitzvah most certainly applies in our times in full force.  In fact, there is a very detailed Siman in Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat, 227) that provides the Halacha in many, many “tricky” situations.  In order for us to fathom the paramount relevance of honesty in monetary matters with our relationship with Hashem, we need only look to the Gemara in Shabbos(31A), which teaches and reminds us that the **FIRST** question that a person will be asked after 120 years is--“Did you deal honestly in business?”


Perhaps , then, it is also no coincidence that the word “cheat” is so closely related to the word “chait”--sin--for a key aspect of chait--a real source of estrangement from HaKadosh Baruch Hu is deceit, for it destroys the connection established at Sinai and fostered in us for thousands of years.


Whether as consumers, businessman, housewives, professionals or even Rabbis and teachers, we are constantly faced with judgment calls--whose money is this?  Is it mine or is it his?  Shouldn’t it be mine?  Although there are those who have defined capitalism as the economics of putting your money into my pocket, we suggest that the Torah defines economics as the great method of maintaining and expanding a close relationship with your Maker.  Every little struggle, and certainly every greater struggle, in this area brings us infinitely closer to that very time that our very souls stood at Sinai.




The Mishne Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 46, seif katan 9) points out that of the 15 Birchos HaShachar that we recite every morning, only two (2) mention the word “Yisroel” in them--the brachos of “Ozer Yisroel BeGevurah”--Who assists Yisroel with strength, and “Oter Yisroel BeSifara”--Who crowns Yisroel with glory.  Why are these two Brachos different--what does the special designation of “Yisroel” in these two instances mean to convey?


The Mishne Berurah answers that these two brachos together teach us an important message--that what really distinguishes “Yisroel” from the rest of mankind is the characteristic of Tznius, which is a special degree of modesty and privacy and lack of fanfare in demeanor and conduct.  This Tznius is evidenced in the first bracha by our “gevurah”, which is defined in Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 46:1) as the belt which separates the upper body from the lower body.  The second bracha’s “tifara” refers to the head covering we wear, through which we evidence our subservience to our Maker.  In both brachos, we demonstrate a level of humility and recognition of our role and place.  Moreover, we thank Hashem for assisting us, and crowning us, with these traits.  How different we would be if we wore a belt for its style, or only to display the emblem on the buckle.  Oh, how far away we are from other nations where only their senior leaders wear a crown or head covering.


Tznius is not only a dress code, and most certainly is not only a “women’s mitzvah”.  Indeed, Rashi in Chumash (Shemos 34:3) quoting the Medrash Tanchuma, notes the difference between the first time the Aseres HaDibros were given--which was followed by the incident of the golden calf and breakage of the luchos--and the second tablets which have remained whole to this very day, and will remain complete forever.  The difference between the two sets of luchos, Rashi writes, was that the first set was given with “kolos u’vrakim”--great noise and thunder--the whole world knew about it, while the second set was given quietly, with Moshe Rabbeinu humbly descending on Yom Kippur.  Rashi concludes that Chazal learn from here: “Ein Lecha Yafe Min HaTznius”--there is nothing more fitting than avoiding the limelight, the noise, the second looks, the action--for, after all, the Torah’s being and staying with us until today and beyond resulted from this quiet.  Indeed, the Gemara (Moed Katan 16A-16B) teaches that even when learning Torah today, one should avoid sitting in a public place, or “teaching his students in the marketplace”, as a public demonstration of his study.  Indeed, Rav Shlomo Pearl, Shlita, a renowned Maggid Shiur in Halacha, who often learns in places where he can receive Halachic inquiries from individuals, once noted that he feels some of his most precious and sublime learning is accomplished on Leil Shabbos, waking up in the wee hours of the morning in his home--no noise, no traffic, no people--just him, his Creator, and his sefer.  He urged others to try it (well, at least once), as well.


The importance of Tznius relates to the performance of public mitzvos as well.  The Gemara (Sukkah 49A) teaches that the Posuk which states, “and what does Hashem require of you...and to walk with Tzinus with Hashem” (Micha 6:8) refers, to the extent possible, to doing mitzvos otherwise thought to be as public as comforting mourners and hachnosas kallah--greeting the bride--in a discrete and modest manner.


The essence of Tznius is incredibly expressed by the Gemara (Megilla 13B) which teaches that in the zechus of Rochel Imenu’s Tzinus, she was zoche to have King Shaul (our very first king--which shows us that our kings are not to be the brash, but the Tzanua) as her direct descendent.  Moreover, the Gemara continues, that in the zechus of Shaul HaMelech’s Tzinus (see Shmuel I, 10:23), he was zoche to have Esther HaMalka as his direct descendent--who, as a result of being able to hide her identity (Tzinus!) was able to save the entire Jewish people.


Tomorrow morning, and every morning, as we say the word “Yisroel” in our Birchos HaShachar, let us remember the paradigm importance of being a Tzanua in our Torah study, in our mitzvos, in our demeanor and in our conduct.  We, too, can take part in the name “Yisroel”!




The Sefer Divrei Emes (p.53) compares two individuals who have precious pearls in their possession to each other--one of them knows that they are pearls, and the other thinks they are costume jewelry.  The knowledgeable individual will preciously treasure his gems, while the unfortunate, mistaken one will buy a few loaves of bread with them.  So, too, do those who do not sense or value their Neshama treat themselves as lowly, and follow their animalistic desires.  The educated individual, however, will safely guard that very same Neshama, try very sincerely not to harm or blemish it--and would never, ever trade it in for a mere few loaves of bread.


It is fascinating to note that the Torah in last week's Parsha (Vayikra 22:32 ) teaches: “And do not profane My Holy Name, and I will be sanctified in the midst of B'nei Yisroel...”  At first glance, this appears difficult--does the mere absence of profanity create a Kiddush Hashem?  The answer may lie in the pearl-owner analogy cited above--it is a study in diametrically opposed contrasts--either you know that you own genuine pearls--or you do not.  If you unfortunately are not aware, you will follow the migration of the masses to profanity--but if you do really know what is in your possession--you will demonstrate how you treasure it--how you truly appreciate a gift unique to you and you alone, which only Hashem could have given you.  Your life will be one which is Neshama-driven, which results in Kiddush Hashem.


Rav Pam Z'TL related that the “Maggid”--the Angel that learned Torah with HaRav Yosef Karo Z'TL in Tzefas--told Rav Karo that he would die “Al Kiddush Hashem.”  In fact, Rav Karo passed away on his bed.  Was the Malach wrong??  Absolutely not, Rav Pam explained, for Rav Karo lived his entire life by Kiddush Hashem, and so his death, which was merely the conclusion of his life in this world, was perforce just the culmination of that Kiddush Hashem in this world.  In fact, in the third bracha of Shemone Esrei, Ata Kadosh, we recite “and every day Kedoshim praise You...”  The commentaries on the Siddur explain that the term Kedoshim here refers both to Angels **AND TO US**!  Yes, in the bracha of kedusha we are referencing none other than those of us who are knowledgeable enough not to sell our pearls for a few loaves of bread, but instead recognize, appreciate and treasure them together with the Angels.


As each of our bodies is carrying nothing less than the Crown Jewels multiplied by Infinity, we must base our life’s decisions, long and short term, non-trivial and trivial (how could anything in life be trivial?), on how it will affect our Neshama.


How can we affirmatively demonstrate that we want to make the right decision--that we are indeed knowledgeable, and that we care very, very much about our treasure?  After all, the Yetzer Hora is cunningly sophisticated, and even some of the most secure homes are robbed.  We suggest that one way is through Tefilla--we should constantly pray that Hashem help us and guide us to take care of our Neshamos--for this will indicate our sincerity to our life’s task.  Prayer is such a vital part of our existence that Rav Matisyahu Salomon, Shlita, asks--Why/How is Tefilla not listed (in Avos 6:6) as at least one of the 48 ways by which Torah is acquired?  Rav Salomon remarkably responds that Tefilla is not listed because it is an intrinsic part of each and every one of the 48 ways--without sincere Tefilla, one could not succeed in any one of them!


As we approach Kabbolas HaTorah, where each of our souls actively participated--and continues to participate--let us give our Neshamos their due, and raise them to the place in this world they--and we--deserve to be.




HaRav Boruch Ber Lebowitz, Z’TL, Rosh HaYeshiva of the Kamenitz Yeshiva is quoted in Growth Through Torah (p.287) as follows: “What can I compare to my situation?  I wake up in the morning, and it is as though I have the Shaagas Aryeh, the Ketzos HaChoshen and Rebbe Akiva Eiger at my bedside.  I can’t wait to wash my hands and arise to my riches!”


Truth be told, the riches referred to by Rav Boruch Ber are not unique to Roshei Yeshivos or world renowned Talmidei Chachomim, but, as Shlomo HaMelech teaches in Mishlei ( 3:14 ) “For its [the Torah’s] commerce is better than the commerce of silver, and its gain [is better] than fine gold.”  We must remember that unlike money, which is fixed, objective and extrinsic (you put it in your pocket--not in your heart or brain), Torah is so infinite, subjective and internal that it relates to every single person living at any time in his own way and on his own particular level.  In fact HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, learns that when the Gemara (Nidah 30B) teaches that an Angel learns Torah with a fetus in his mother’s womb--it does not necessarily refer to all of Torah, but **TO THAT PERSON”S **chelek, or part, in Torah.  While we are expected to cover some ground in Torah before some ground covers us, in no event will two person’s quantity or quality of learning be the same.


It is truly a primary responsibility to discover our part in Torah, in at least the same way as we try to be successful in our business, at our jobs, or even when shopping.  Not always is what is easy or convenient most meaningful.  The G’RA writes in Even Shleima that one can go to many lectures, and hear many “shmuessen”--but ultimately a person’s strategy must come from within--from his particular self-knowledge, to be successful.  As succinctly stated by Hillel in Avos ( 1:14 )--“If I am not for myself who will be for me?”


As we reach closer and closer to Shavuos, we all, men, women and children alike, should begin to prepare for the “closing”--for the acquisition of something more precious than anything we can even imagine.  Somehow the coveted contract is ours--unbelievably, we are the purchasers!  So what can we do to prepare for this day?  Each person must reflect upon, research and study what he is going to do with his new acquisition.  Is he learning enough now?  What is his potential?  What must he change?  Will he leave more learning to retirement age--even though the wisest of all men has already told him which business is more important?


This reflection can be accomplished by actually sitting down with a pad and paper and an open mind.  This is by no means limited to men--there are many Halachos and Hashkafos, shiurim, books and self-study that are imperative for women, as well.


We **ALL** should wake up every morning to our riches at our bedside--why leave them in the locked Bais HaMedrash?




As we reach the Lag BaOmer milestone, we are faced with a perplexing question:  What is really the sudden cause for celebration at this time?  After all, from what we know of our past during the Omer period, 24,000 senior scholars--the students of Rebbe Akiva passed away for not properly respecting each other; even Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai, one of the surviving students, eventually passed away on this day; later, the Crusades took their great toll on Ashkenazic Jewry during Sefira; then, the great Posek for Ashkenazim, the Rema passed away on Lag BaOmer, like Rebbe Shimon; and, most recently, much of Hungarian Jewry was hurriedly annihilated during the period from Pesach to Shavuos in 1944--to such an extent that the survivors of Hungarian Jewry who do not know when their relatives or friends were murdered observe the Second Day of Shavuos as their Yahrzeit.  So, what is the joy--the songs, the bonfires, the bows and arrows about?  Why are weddings allowed, and Tachanun not recited?


Rav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita (following the lines of the Gra’s Commentary on Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim, 493) teaches we celebrate that in all events, there were those who remained.  Indeed, the resemblance in all of the aforementioned tragedies is striking: Rebbe Shimon passed his legacy to his students (it is no coincidence that so many other future generations of Tannaim are buried right around Rebbe Shimon in Meron).  Similarly, even after the Crusader massacres killing Rabbeinu Tam and many others in many communities, the Baalei Tosfos flourished for many generations, culminating in the Rosh, and his son, the Tur, as the basis for our Shulchan Aruch; the Rema, rather than being the final word in Halacha for Ashkenazim, became the basis and guide for the scores of future poskim; the remnants of Hungarian Jewry fill the Yeshivas from Bnei Brak to Borough Park.


But it is more than that we are just survivors.  It is the fulfillment of the Posuk (Devorim 32:23): “Chitzai Achaleh Bom”--I will finish my arrows in them--which Chazal (Sotah 9A) explain to mean--my arrows will be finished in them, but they will not be finished.  Hashem has guided us through events, times, places and tragedies of immense proportions, while the other 70 nations of the world disappeared from far less calamitous events.  Perhaps this is the symbol of the bow and arrow on Lag BaOmer--the arrows are done, but we are not.  Why is this so--why has our history--our experience in this world been so different than all other nations?


We suggest that the answer to this, too, brings us to this time of year--it is, once again, not coincidental that all of this is happening as we prepare to receive the Torah--for it **IS THE TORAH** that has made our lives so different and so endurable.  It is the Torah, created well before the world as we know it was created, that has given us the “supernatural” force for us to thrive and survive.  At this special time of year, we should especially demonstrate our recognition of the importance of Torah in our lives and in the lives of K’lal Yisroel.


PRACTICAL SUGGESTION:  For the coming two weeks until Shavuos, in whatever you are learning, whether it is a thought on the Parsha, Daf Yomi, or even a Torah email, think about how important Torah study in our lives.  It is not academics, nor a body of knowledge, but the one part of our life that permeates and invigorates us--and the bonfire that warms and enlightens us every day of our lives.


CORRECTIONIn the Artscroll publication The Rishonim (page 129), it is written that, in fact, Rabbeinu Tam was stabbed five times in the head on Shavuos, and miraculously survived.



The Gemara in Ta’anis (20A) brings the famous story of Rebbe Elazar (the son of Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai) who, after learning much Torah, was riding on his donkey near the river bank, in an ecstatic and satisfied state. Suddenly, a very not-nice-looking man appeared before him and greeted him. Rebbe Elazar, rather than return the greeting, responded by asking the man whether all the people in his city were as bad looking as he. The man responded that that he did not know, but that Rebbe Elazar, being such a noble person, should go back to the man’s Maker, and tell Him how despicable His creations are. The Gemara then relates that Rebbe Elazar got off his donkey and begged the man for forgiveness. Rebbe Elazar learned the hard way that by disgracing a creation of Hashem, one is actually Chas V’Shalom, deprecating Hashem’s decision as to what and how to create.

Rav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, (Matnas Chayim, page 181) explains this great lesson further: everything--meaning **every single thing**--is created by Hashem with His infinite, omniscient, incomprehensible wisdom--and for His honor. Accordingly, there is no room for terms such as “ugly”, “disgusting” or the like to describe creations--and one who does so displays an arrogance, or at least an air of superiority, which actually touches upon Kefira (Chas V’Shalom)--denial of Hakadosh Baruch Hu’s mastery over the world. Indeed, Rabbeinu Yonah (Shaarei Teshuva 3:175) explains the Posuk “Loeg LaRosh Cheref Osehu” (Mishlei 17:5)--he who mocks a poor man blasphemes his Maker--in this way. It follows that one who views all his successes as due to his skill, wisdom and acumen and another’s lack of success as due to his personal incompetence, is truly a denier--for everything--every little thing-- is from Hashem. A Posuk found later in Mishlei (22:2) succinctly concludes, “A rich man and a poor man met--Hashem is the Maker of them all.”

With this foundation of Emunah, Rav Salomon (based on the Ruach Chaim of Rav Chaim Volozhiner) explains the meaning of the words of Kaddish--“Be’Olma Di V’ra Cheirusay”--in the world that He created according to His will. Even though we do not understand the meaning and purpose of at least some of the creations, and there are things which appear to be missing or do not seemingly reflect Kavod Shomayim in the world, nonetheless, we recognize that since it was and is done all according to His will, it is, in fact, best and L’Kavod Shomayim. Any attempt we would make to belittle, disgrace, look down upon, void or destroy any object, other person, place or thing is an affront to, or perhaps better said--a violation of, our proper Emunah in HaKadosh Baruch Hu.

PRACTICAL SUGGESTION: Carefully monitor (or better yet, eliminate) use of the words “ugly”, “gross”, “disgusting” and the like from your vocabulary, and, from time to time as you look at the sky, the trees, the rocks, the ants, the gnats and even your next door neighbor , remember, or if you can, exclaim “Ma Rabu Ma’asecha Hashem” (Tehillim 104:24)--Hashem-how great are Your deeds!


The Bostoner Rav Shlita (Har Nof) once related a true-to-life incident. You are driving along the highway in the slower, right lane, trying to get into the middle lane. Car after car in the middle lane whizzes past, until one car, noticing your signal slows down enough, and through your rear view mirror, you see a hand in back of a windshield waiving you in! Yes, there are still some good people in this world, you think, as you smile slightly at your success.

Then, the unexpected happens. Only a few brief moments pass as you too whiz to arrive at your destination, when--there it is--the signal of a car in the right lane trying to get into your middle lane. What may have otherwise been your natural reaction to "leave him to his fate" does not even enter your mind, as you instinctively slow down, smile, and waive him in! Indeed, it is more than likely that the gentleman you let in will do the same thing to another unsuspecting Chesed recipient just a few moments later.

Why is this so? Because, the Bostoner Rav teaches, Chesed is contagious. Not only do pleasant smiles and cheerful moods travel, but the sound waves of voice travel even louder and farther. A kind word to Reuven translates into a special praise to Shimon, who relates a compliment to Levi, who then may even go so far as to thank his wife for a great dinner, who will then thank her son for behaving so nicely--all thanks to that fine young Reuven! Indeed, in a masterful Hakhel Shiur on the Sefira period, Rav Zev Smith, Shlita, noted that "Chesed B'Dibbur"--Chesed in speech--is the primary Bein Odom L'Chaveiro to work on during this time, both because of its remarkable effects on the single individual to whom it is addressed (experience has shown that a kind word can literally lift up a person's spirits for hours), and because of its truly dynamic repercussions, as the kind or encouraging word or compliment migrates and travels in various forms, shapes and sizes from person to person and even across the globe in a matter of minutes or hours. So much so, that we may suggest that yet another reason that telephones were invented in our days, as opposed to the times of the Shlomo HaMelech (the wisest of all men), or the Neviim, is because Hashem is giving us the opportunity to speed our Geula along by qualitatively and geometrically increasing our acts of "Ahavas Chinam" to each other.

PRACTICAL SUGGESTION: Once a day, for the remainder of Sefira, initiate an unsolicited, unexpected kind or encouraging word or compliment--even to someone you don't even know. You never know what its effects may be--it may even travel 12,000 miles full circle by the next day--as you once again wave your hand in front of your windshield!




In our Shemone Esrei three times a day, we refer to "Al Ha'Tzaddikim V'al Ha Chassidim"--we ask Hashem to arouse His mercy on behalf of the Righteous and Pious.... This tefillah requires some explanation--to which tzaddikim and chassidim are we referring? Are we asking that Hashem consider the righteous throughout all of the previous generations and have resulting compassion upon us? Or are we only talking about the more recent Giants that we are all familiar with -- like Rebbe Akiva Eiger or the Chofetz Chaim? Or, perhaps, we are asking that Hashem bestow His mercy on the current Roshei Yeshivos and Rebbes? 


HaRav Aharon Leib Shteineman, Shlita, explains that we, the "layman" of our generation, can be the tzaddikim and chassidim referred to in this bracha. Although we have no Vilna Gaon, no Ramban, no Rav Hai Gaon, no Rava and Abaye-- the Anshei Kenesses Ha'Gedola, who composed this bracha, are teaching us that even in **OUR GENERATION**, which is so plagued by inhumanity and immorality, there are tzaddikim and chassidim--for each generation is on its own level. If a person in our day does something which in previous generations would have seemed no more than basic or elementary, Hashem may still consider him to have reached the level of a tzaddik, or even a chassid. Rav Shteineman notes that even the smallest act L'Kavod Shomayim--for the sake of Heaven--in our day may bring a person up to the erstwhile unattainable category of tzaddik, or even chassid. Rav Dessler, Z'TL, in the Michtav Me"Eliyahu (4:267), provides a very similar analysis of our lives today. 


In another place, Rav Dessler asks a pointed question---If Moshiach did not come in the generations of the aforementioned Gedolim--then how or why would or could he come now? To crystallize his question, we provide the following analogy: Look at the Kosel HaMaaravi today--the incredibly large stones which are the true Kosel, which start well below what is now ground level and extend well above our heads, are followed by smaller, insignificant--even seemingly meaningless--stones placed upon them in more recent times, which appear to serve no real purpose. The analogy, while on its face clear, is faulty. While the small stones do not impact on the kedusha of the Site, our little deeds, our comparatively small acts, do NOT pale in significance to the deeds of previous generations--because we can only respond to our generation's tests. Accordingly, Rav Dessler teaches, our acts WILL BRING MOSHIACH because in fact **THEY COULD BE MUCH GREATER ** than the acts of our great ancestors, because of the difficulties we have in their performance. The lesson to us--rather than be despondent when we compare ourselves to the people of the past, we should recognize our great position and opportunity. 


PRACTICAL SUGGESTION: Choose one act a day which relates to something difficult in our generation, and accomplish it L'Shem Shomayim, so that you are included in the right grouping of people. Examples of this may include specifically using gentle and soft, rather than coarse and crude, words; eradicating an improper thought before it even begins to germinate; taking the long route to avoid an inappropriate place, or making a real effort at Shmiras HaEynayim in general; avoiding asking for favors, or any other act which others may feel is selfish. Of course, the list goes on and on. May we be zoche to move ourselves up to the top of the bracha--and to bring Moshiach with OUR own deeds, speedily in OUR days.




Chazal in Pirkei Avos (6:6) teach that one of the 48 qualities by which Torah is acquired is “Oheiv Es HaTochachos”--loving reproof.


The Gemara in Tomid (28A) actually takes this concept a step further: “Rebbe taught--What is the straight path that a person should choose--he should love reproof, for as long as there is [acceptance of reproof] in the world, 'Nachas Ruach', 'Tova' and 'Bracha' come to the world.”  In short, putting an ear to rebuke, helps not only the listener but the world.  The Alter of Kelm teaches that this is to be taken quite literally and discusses this further in his Sefer (Volume 2, page 135).


In our current times, we have no Neviim, no Prophets, to give us direct rebuke.  Indeed, many good people are wont, or at least hesitant, to reprove another, for fear of being deemed harsh or critical.  The Mishna in Avos (1:6) teaches: “Knei Lecha Chaver”--make the effort to acquire a friend.  Rabbeinu Yonah on the Mishna teaches that one of the reasons for this literally Sage advice is that you will have someone to assist you in personal growth by criticizing you, rather than encountering only “yes” people, who may be nice, but keep you static.  As the G'RA notes in Even Shlaima (4:9), one who is not on the constant alert to improve sinks down farther and farther.  If one notices that his good friend is not providing enough constructive criticism or suggestions, he should simply ask for it.


Fascinatingly, Rav Avigdor Miller Z’TL would urge a spouse not to vehemently disagree with or dissuade (unless really necessary) the criticisms of his spouse--after all, this could be such a rich source of growth--even if you believe that all or even most of the criticisms communicated to you are unfounded, you must appreciate that at least some of them will help you to develop to your true potential.  Thus, a spouse, who is so familiar with you and your habits, and who will find it easier to criticize you than others, is a splendid source of this essential ingredient of our lives, which, as Chazal teach, brings Nachas Ruach, Tova and Bracha, not only upon ourselves, but upon the world, as well.




1.  Shlomo HaMelech teaches in Mishlei: “Rabos Machashavos B’lev Ish, Va'atzas Hashem He Sakum” (Mishlei 19:21 )--there are many thoughts in Man's heart, but the plans of Hashem are what endure.  Fascinatingly, this is one of the few Pesukim from Mishlei that we recite in our daily davening.  We may suggest that this Posuk is, in fact, recited in davening to remind us to focus on our Tefillah--as any foreign or outside thoughts during davening (“What will I do at work today?”, “What do I need to buy at the store?”, “Where will I go for this?”, “What will I tell him?”, “How will I do that?” etc.) are for naught, as only Hashem's plans endure. So keep the right thoughts--your kavana--for these thoughts are the only ones that work--and matter.


2.  Chazal (Chulin 89A) teach: “In whose Zechus does the World stand--in one who keeps his mouth closed during a time of dispute.”


The next time you have the opportunity to dispute--think to yourself: I’d rather be responsible for the world’s existence than winning this argument, getting in a good repartee, or even defending myself.  We recognize that sometimes it is the principle of the matter, and other times it is that the truth prevails, but if one can also leave a window of opportunity for the world when the dispute is not that important, he will have accomplished an unrecognized, but equally as important, service for mankind.  This should be remembered--and acted upon--as often as possible!


3.  In the last Bracha of Birchos HaShachar we ask that we not be brought today “Lidei Vizayon”--to disgrace.  What do we mean by this request?  After all, as the classic Tomer Devorah (written by HaRav Moshe Codevero Z’TL) teaches in Chapter 2, disgrace brings about forgiveness for sin in a far easier way to achieve than physical suffering, sickness, death, or loss of Olam Haba.  Why are we seemingly asking Hashem to save us from the preferred method of foregiveness?  Perhaps we can answer with the following story, brought by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita in Love Your Neighbor (p. 297):


"When Rabbi Zalman of Volozhin was traveling with his brother Rav Chayim, they were mistreated by an innkeeper…[who] shouted insults at the two brothers and refused to allow them to stay at the inn.  As they were leaving...Rav Chayim noticed that his brother was crying.  ‘Why are you crying?’ asked Rav Chayim, ‘I didn’t take what he said to heart, and you shouldn’t either.’  ‘I’m not crying because of his insults,’ replied Rav Zalman... ‘I am crying [because I was not oblivious to his] insults.’”


Accordingly, what we may be asking for when we request of Hashem daily that we not be brought “Lidei Vizayon” is that if we are in fact disgraced today, that we be assisted not to take it personally, narrowly, and vengefully, but as a sublime, unequalled source of Kapara affecting and effecting our eternity.  This, then, is a very important prayer.  While this concept may seem difficult at first, we must remember that the champion weightlifter or speed skater started working on mastering their success somewhere, and this--and you--are infinitely more important.




The Mesilas Yeshorim, at the end of Chapter 19, writes:

“Hakadosh Boruch Hu only loves those who love [the other members of K'lal] Yisroel, and the more one increases his love of Israel , the more Hakadosh Boruch Hu increases His love for him.


Rav Dessler Z‘TL in Michtav Me’Eliyahu writes that the word Ahava, love, comes from the root “Hav”, to give, for the more one gives to another person the more one loves him.  Hashem, whose love for us is described as both “Ahavas Olam” and “Ahava Rabba”, is uniquely capable of eternal and great love, but, as the Mesilas Yeshorim teaches, He leaves it up to us as to the degree and quality of such love--for it is wholly dependent on our giving, our closeness and feelings to others.


To assist us in this area, the N’shei Ahavas Chesed once published an “Ahavas Yisroel Checklist”, which we slightly modified, and publish annually.  One may feel incapable of successfully completing, or even attempting, all of the items on the checklist, but it is certainly a very important list to review and begin to respond to in some way, especially as we read the Parsha of Kedoshim tomorrow, which contains so many key Mitzvos of Bain Odom L’chaveiro.


We urge you to review, enjoy and grow with the checklist:  

1.                  Did you say hello to at least one person before they said hello to you?

2.                  Did you make someone smile or laugh today?  Did you boost someone’s spirits?

3.                  Were you truly happy to hear good news about a friend?  Even if you wish that the same good news would happen to you?

4.                  Did you judge someone favorably today?  Did you see people positively—or did you sum up their lifestyle, pros and cons, with one glance of the eye?

5.                  How often did you find yourself talking about someone else?

6.                  Did you actually do any of the following:

a.       Visit a sick person

b.      Help the needy in some way

c.       Invite a guest without family in town for a Shabbos meal

d.      Patronize Jewish products and stores

e.       Help a single person find a Shidduch

f.        Sincerely ask Hashem to bring the Geulah for all of us

For the greatest success, keep a daily record of your accomplishments!



It is more than interesting to note that many, if not all, of the foundations of our faith are not found in the most conspicuous or obvious of places, such as at the beginning, or at the climax or conclusion, of Seforim or texts, but are seemingly hidden away, needing to be discovered by those seeking truth and fulfillment.


To cite a few examples:


The Aseres HaDibros--the ten world renowned commandments are found in the middle of Sefer Shmos (20:1) and Sefer Devorim (5:6).


Similarly, the three paragraphs of Shema are interspersed in the course of Sefer Devorim (6:4) and ( 11:13 ) and Sefer Bamidbar ( 15:37 ).


Again, similarly, what the Rema, at the head of Shulchan Aruch Chayim (1:1) refers to as a “K’lal Gadol BaTorah” is “Shivisi Hashem L’Negdi Somid”--I place Hashem before me at all times.  Yet, this great principle is located only in the midst of Tehillim recitation (16:8).


Based on the foregoing, it is no small wonder, then, that:


·                      Almost no Mitzvos are contained at the outset of the Torah.  In fact, the entire Sefer Bereishis has only three Mitzvos;

·                      The Parshios of Tefillin, after completion, are placed in covered and sewn Batim

·                      The written Torah is incomprehensible without the elucidation and detail of its oral explanation--the Torah SheBa’al Peh (as an example, how can we observe Shabbos without it?);

·                      Mesechta (Pirkei) Avos, which teaches us the Midos that are the prerequisites to a Torah life, is found almost at the end of Seder Nezikin, which is the fourth (!) of six orders of the Mishnah;

·                      Even after Torah SheBa’al Peh is written down, every Daf of Gemara starts on Daf Bais--on page 2 and not on page 1.


Following all of this, it makes further perfect sense that Hashem is also hidden in the wonders of nature, in every day events, in acts of government and even in the holiest of places.  Likewise, the Neshama is hidden within the body, and Olam Haba which is the true world is both attained through, and camouflaged by, Olam Hazeh, which is the only world available to the myopic eye.


So what can we do to find that which is seemingly hidden, to bring real light to the incandescent darkness?  The Chofetz Chaim explains that technological advances are made for our spiritual benefit--trains, cars and planes to improve and enhance the quantity and quality of Torah study, the telegram to appreciate the cost (and value) of even one word, the phonograph (now, the i-Pod) for us to appreciate that all our deeds are recorded, etc.  We can similarly explain that the X-ray machine teaches us that we must penetrate the exterior and see through to the essence and core.  One can begin to accomplish this by taking a fresh, new look at what he is accustomed to, or what he does out of habit.  The more one focuses, the more he penetrates through those layers of built-up numbness and appreciates true detail and depth.


Some practical examples:


·                      Before starting to study Torah (by yourself or at a Shiur), take a moment to focus on what Torah is, where is came from and what it leads to.  Indeed, the Nefesh HaChaim (Gate 4) adds that even during the course of learning one can invigorate himself by taking the time out to infuse himself with Yiras Shomayim.

·                      Before starting to daven, recognize that Tefillah is not known as “service of the lips” but as “service of the heart” (Devorim 11:13 ), and as such requires the proper concentration.  If you were ever at an important place, meeting or event, you know that you feel it is important throughout your entire stay.  So, too, you should go beyond your immediate outward surroundings and appreciate that while praying, you are in the Royal Palace for as long as your Siddur is open and your lips manifest movement.

·                      When looking at the sky, think or picture the Seven Heavens above it, the light years of travel required to travel through the galaxy, the miracles of air and space travel, the gift of satellite communication and information...

·                      When at the supermarket, think not only about which brands are on sale, and what will be for dinner for the next three nights, or how to get out of there quickly enough to go to the bank, but also about the not so obvious--the miracles and manpower that are necessary to bring you that loaf of bread, or the various sizes, shapes and kinds of even something as basic as canned vegetables (talk to those who came out of Russia about what they saw in their supermarkets, or about late twentieth century bread lines).


Utilizing this see-through vision every day is what puts our Neshama, and not only our bodies, into our lives, injects Olam Haba into Olam Hazeh, and brings the otherwise hidden presence of the Shechina in--to enlighten, envelop and bless our daily living.




The Sefer Ta’amei HaMinhagim (page 251) writes that our new month of Iyar is tried and tested as a time for refuah, healing, from the ailments and pains that may affect a person.  Why is this so?  He brings the B’nai Yisaschar, who teaches that most weakness and illness come from foods which do not comport with the person’s nature or composition.  The Rambam (Hilchos De’os 4:15) writes likewise.  See also Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Chapter 32.


Since the Mon began to fall in this month (on the 16th day of Iyar 2448)--and it was a perfect food from which resulted no sickness, pain or even waste matter (as Dovid HaMelech refers to it in Sefer Tehillim--“lechem abirim”) and even cured those who were ill--Hashem left the curative nature of the month in effect even through today.  Accordingly, Iyar is a time of “segulah l’refuah”.


In fact, the Ta’amei HaMinhagim notes, the name “Iyar” is an acronym for Ani Hashem Rofecha--I am Hashem, Your Healer.


What can we do to help promote the curative effects of this special time as initiated by the heavenly Mon?  We can turn to the laining of this past Shabbos (which was non-coincidentally, of course, Rosh Chodesh Iyar), where the Torah writes that the Metzora who was afflicted with terrible Tzoraas walks about declaring “I am Tameh, I am Tameh.”  Chazal (Shabbos 66A) explain that he declares this **so that others will ask for mercy for him**.  The Baalei Mussar note that the Metzora does not ask others directly to pray for him--rather, he only declares that he is “Tameh”, and those who hear him are expected to pray sincerely for him even without his direct request--and notwithstanding that he has sinned to such a great extent that Hashem has actually made him a Metzora.


What a great lesson we can learn at this time of year--which is so special for healing, and, moreover, the Omer period, in which our “Bein Odom L’Chavero” is to be seriously improved upon.  We should not wait to be asked, or merely be responsive to the request of others, when we hear that someone is not well.  Instead, we should “hear the cry” and go out of our way during this auspicious time to daven for those we may not even know, but whom we have heard are in need of a Refuah.  An ounce of Tefillah may mean a kilogram of cure.


PRACTICAL SUGGESTION:  During the remaining weeks of Sefirah, recite a daily special, sincere Kepitel (chapter) of Tehillim for your list of cholim--recognizing that this is a special time for the potency--and importance--of your heartfelt Tefillah!


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