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Hakhel Email Community Awareness Bulletin


WHAT IS THE BROCHA?  A product which has recently gained popularity is the Heart of Palm.  Essentially, this product is made from the trunk of the palm tree.  If hearts of palm are cultivated, the appropriate brocha is Borei P’ri Haodomo.  However, if grown wild, the appropriate brocha would be Shehakol.  According to Rabbi Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, the hearts of palm which are a product of Brazil grow wild, and the hearts of palm which are the product of Ecuador are cultivated.  If you are unsure about the source of your product or whether or not it is cultivated, we suggest that you contact the hechsher on this product for the appropriate brocha.




In the Sefer Tefillin and Mezuzos (Targum Press, 2003), Rabbi Yerachmiel Askotzky, Shlita, writes that we need to begin to properly appreciate these Mitzvos by giving the following illustration:


“Picture the following scenarios:


“Our washing machine or oven stops working.  We call the technician.


“Our tooth hurts.  We call the dentist.


“We (hopefully) call the Sofer when it is time to have our Mezuzos checked or when we flatten a corner on our Tefillin.


“What is the first question we ask?


“I suspect that the first question we ask the technician or dentist is ‘How quickly can you get here?’ or ‘How soon can you see me?’  While the first question we may ask our Sofer is ‘How much will it cost?’  If we were as concerned about our Tefillin as we were our toaster or teeth, we would express the same urgency….


“Similarly, we take our car in for regular oil changes and tune-ups and we are conscientious about its condition.  Do we also take our Tefillin and Mezuzos to the Sofer to guarantee that the Kashrus and quality are maintained?  Do we responsibly care for them and keep an eye on them to ensure that they are in proper condition?”


To better understand Rabbi Askotzky’s comment, we provide the following thought of the Pachad Yitzchok, as brought in the wonderful Sefer entitled Torah Treasury (Artscroll, 2002, p. 347):


“Chazal (Kiddushin 40B) state that if one performs a Mitzvah and later regrets having done it, he loses all reward for the Mitzvah.  This teaches us that the value of a Mitzvah is directly proportional to the value assigned to it.  If it is worth nothing to us, then it truly becomes worthless.  Why is it that we are the ones who establish the value of our Mitzvos?  It may be understood with the following analogy.  The price of any item is based on the principle of supply and demand.  If one has a monopoly on a given commodity, he may usually demand any price he wants.  Every Jew has a monopoly on his own Mitzvos because he is the only one who can perform them.  Therefore, he alone determines their value.”


Thus, our treasure chest of good thoughts, words, and deeds, all of our bank accounts for Olam Haba, are really self-determined.  We must strive to truly appreciate each and every one of the myriad of Mitzvos that we are blessed with daily--some day after day, and some special to the day or week.  As Ben Azai teaches (Avos 4:2) “run to perform even a minor Mitzvah….”  Every single Mitzvah has its place--and its unique place in each of our lives.  Just a little more forethought, a little more appreciation, a bit more recognition of the value of what you are about to daven, to learn, to think about, to do with your hands, just a few times a day will bridge the infinite gap between performance by rote, and your assessment of eternal value to what you are about to do.


It’s all up to you--to put the true value on your Mitzvos--and on your life!!


Sent May 16:



We are all familiar with the Chazal that teaches: “If the Yetzer Hara attempts to take hold of you, pull him into the Beis HaMedrash” (Kiddushin 30B).  This tactic should not necessarily be viewed as some form of circumvention or defensive maneuver.  Rather, the Maharal (Tiferes Yisroel, Chapter 25) explains, your action is a positive and productive one--for you are drawing your body and Yetzer Hara towards their purpose and mission in life--to be sanctified.


This is why, explains the Sifsei Chaim (Moadim 3, p. 76), that the korbon brought on Shavuos, the holiday of Matan Torah, was uniquely made of chometz (representing gashmius), and also the reason that all agree that on Shavuos we are required to celebrate with “Lochem”--we are enjoined to rejoice with food and drink, and are forbidden to fast (Pesachim 68B).  Shavuos, then, is a holiday which requires no other or additional symbols or Mitzvos, for it is the Yom Tov of the person himself--the soul and body united in holiness!


With this realization, we can likewise understand why Shavuos (unlike Pesach and Sukkos) is only one day--for it unites the neshama and the guf, and as such, nothing further is necessary.  We can likewise better understand why Megilas Rus is so essential to Shavuos.  When Elimelech and his family leave Eretz Yisroel (i.e., their ruchniyus) in order to protect their wealth, and in search of their physical needs in a foreign land, they failed in a horrible way.  However, when Naomi and Rus (a scion of Moav royalty) bring their bodies “back to the Beis HaMedrash”--to Eretz Yisroel, to once again subjugate the physical to the spiritual, they are incredibly successful.  Their road back leads to the Malchus of Beis Dovid--and to the ultimate achievement of Moshiach!


We each have the power within us to fulfill our purpose in this world.  Sometimes, it may appear that all fingers point in the direction of Moav.  We must realize that it is to the Torah--its study and performance--that we must constantly turn to in order to be steered in the right direction—not only for the soul’s good, but for the body’s good, as well!


Dovid HaMelech teaches us in Tehillim (119:59): “Heshafti Deruchai…”--I had many things to do, when I was unsure what to do I would go to the Beis Medrash and study.  (Translation based upon the Alter of Novordak).  When we are unsure what to do, Dovid HaMelech teaches us, we turn to Torah--we allow the physical to be guided by the spiritual and not vice versa.


We are probably all familiar with the stories told by Rabbi Berel Wein, Shlita, about his predecessor at the OU, Rabbi Alexander Rosenberg.  The stories go something like this (Vintage Wein, pages 62-63):  “I remember how Rabbi Rosenberg would just sit there and silently listen to the latest proposals which the salesmen claimed would enhance Rabbi Rosenberg and the stature of the OU, in addition to being a great boon to civilization.  Rabbi Rosenberg would patiently wait for the salesman to make his spiel and then he would just peer at him with those hooded blue eyes.  Then he would pounce, falcon-like and ask just one question that was comprised of but four words--'Und Vos Zugt Gott? (and what does G-d say?)  Would you tell the IRS such a story?'”


Throughout the day we must make decisions, some more difficult, and some less problematic.  In all instances if we reflect for a moment, and pull ourselves into our Bais HaMedrash before we make the decision--before we decide what to do or which way to turn, we will be looking at what G-d has to say, and will be following the path of Royalty--of Rus…of David HaMelech…and ultimately of Moshiach!!


Sent May 15:


Special Note One:  In one week from today, we will celebrate Matan Torah with Shavuos.  Much in the same way as we get closer and closer to Yom Kippur do we feel a need to do Teshuva, or as we get closer and closer to Pesach do we feel a need to rid ourselves of our Chometz, so too, should we demonstrate our recognition of the advent and approach of Matan Torah.  One should not take lightly the need to ready himself for receiving the Torah.  Indeed, Chazal (Pesikta D’Rav Cahana, Piska 12) teach:


“HaKadosh Baruch Hu said to Klal Yisroel--when you read this Parsha [of Ma’amad Har Sinai] to me every year, I will consider it as if you were standing before me on Har Sinai and receiving the Torah.”


So, we must do something: waiting on line in the bakery for cheesecake (and reflecting on how many reasons you know for why we eat cheesecake on Shavuos) or even setting up a Chavrusah for Shavuos night, should not satisfy us.  Just as B’nei Yisroel were conscious that they were traveling directly from Egypt to Har Sinai, and that they required several days of further preparation upon their arrival at Har Sinai, so, too, must we begin to sense the need to draw near and experience and inspire ourselves with Torah anew.


One easy method to accomplish this is simply take the time out in the week before Shavuos to learn an extra ten to fifteen minutes a day.  If one were told that he was going to be receiving the Crown Jewels as a gift in one week, he would most certainly begin to demonstrate a newfound special love and care, a unique concern and appreciation--and a desire to learn more about them!


A second, more difficult, but likewise more rewarding and lasting, manner of demonstrating awareness of the time period that we are now in, is a point we have touched on in the past--properly fulfilling what Chazal describe as one of our important purposes in life--setting aside time for Torah study (Shabbos 31A).  Indeed, every night in Maariv we recite “Ki Heym Chayeinu--for they are our life”…  Likewise, Shlomo HaMelech (the wisest of all men) writes in Mishlei (3:18) “Eitz Chaim Hi…”--it is the Tree of Life for those who grab hold of it.  So, just as one may need, on a daily basis, to imbibe oxygen, to take a particular treatment, to ingest a particular medication, in order to remain alive, we, too, must be sure--very sure--that we, too, are dutifully taking our daily dosage of Torah study, as well.  There are several important points made by the Mishne Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 155) relating to Kevius Itim--designating those special times during the day.  These are the Mishna Berura’s recommendations:


  1. One should set aside time for Torah Study immediately after davening in the morning and the in the evening so that he is not sidetracked (or hoodwinked) by the Yetzer Hara and his emissaries;

  2. One must be sure that in addition to any daily study of Tanach/Mishna/Gemara, to study books of Halacha.  In fact, if one does not learn several hours a day, it is proper for one’s “Ikar Limud”--primary study--to be in Halacha L’Maaseh, in a way that he will understand and practically apply his studies;

  3. If something happened which prevented him from his regular designated time of study, he should make it up as soon as possible, but the latest before going to sleep.  Even if one cannot study at all, because of some event beyond his control, he should not depart from his place after davening until he has at least learned one Pasuk or one Halacha;

  4. It is recommended that the set time for Torah study, if at all possible, be in a particular, designated place, and that the place should preferably in Shul;

  5. If one learns as part of a group of people, it brings greater Kavod Shamayim (Biyur Halacha there); and

  6. The Mechaber (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 238) writes that one should be even more careful with this set time for Torah study at night than by day (see Mishna Berurah there for a detailed explanation).


Let us take the time out to rededicate and reinvigorate ourselves with our Tree of Life, as we properly utilize this wonderful preparatory period for our very own, our very personal, Kabalas HaTorah!


Special Note Two:  Chazal teach us (Pesachim 118A) that one who speaks and one who accepts Lashon Hora without attempting to guard himself from this grave sin is fit to be thrown to the dogs, as indicated by the intended proximity of the Lo Sa’se of Lashon Hora in the Torah to the words “to the dogs shall it be thrown (Shmos 22:30).”  The Rambam brings this Gemora L’Halacha in Hilchos Deos (7:3).  The Sefer Chofetz Chaim also brings this L’Halacha both in Hilchos Loshon Hora (6:1) and Hilchos Rechilus (5:1).  To indicate the severity of the crime for which the Torah teaches that being thrown to the dogs is the punishment , we need only point to the house of Achav and to the wicked queen Izevel, the perpetrator of the mass murder of Neviim, whose bodies were eaten by the dogs (Melachim I 21:23,24).  This is not very good company!


Note:  We can now better understand why OUR VERY FIRST PERSONAL TEFILA at the conclusion of Shemone Esrei is “Elokai N’zor Leshoni Mera.”


THIS FRIDAY, THE FIRST DAY OF SIVAN, BEGINS A NEW CYCLE IN SHEMIRAS HALASHON YOMI.  If you need a Shemiras Halashon Yomi calendar, where you learn two short halachos a day (Hebrew and English), please send a stamped (57 cents postage), self-addressed envelope to Hakhel, 1327 E. 26th Street, Brooklyn, New York 11210-5204.  Other books, such as Artscroll’s The Chofetz Chaim Companion, have a study schedule contained within the text.  For Shemiras HaLashon shailos, the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation’s Shemiras HaLashon hotline can be reached at 718-951-3696.


Sent May 11:


Special Note One:  In yesterday’s Bulletin we noted the prime importance of Bitachon in our daily life.  In fact, HaRav Yechezkel Levenstein, Z’TL, notes that the “Ikar Avodas HaAdam…”--the most important actions of man in this world involve strengthening of his emunah and deeply rooting it into his being.  Once again, in order to accomplish this important purpose, we must pay attention to our actions in everyday life--the large and small, the significant and the seemingly insignificant, and feel Hashem’s guidance in every thought, word, and step.  Whether one is in the doctor’s office, deciding whether or not to change jobs, walking to Shul, deciding which product to buy in the store, when to go to sleep or what to wear, Hashem is there lovingly with you looking out for your ultimate good….  It is important to recall this at least several times a day--building and further building your Bitachon in a meaningful way.


May we suggest the review of the first of the Rambam’s Thirteen Principles of Faith--the very first Ani Ma’amin.  And always remember--“Ani Boteach B’Hashem!”,--“Ani Boteach B’Hashem!”--in every circumstance, in all circumstances!!


Special Note Two:  We noted yesterday that if one can maintain a proper level of Bitachon, his level of anger will be under greater control.  Chazal view anger in an especially negative light.  Below is a list of some of the ramifications of anger, as presented by Chazal:  As a result of getting angry:


  1. One’s wisdom leaves him, and he forgets his Torah studies (Pesachim 113B; Nedarim 22B).  In fact, HaRav Chaim Vital writes in the name of the Arizal that the “Ikar HaShichicha”--the main reason for forgetfulness--is anger;

  2. Even if one was destined Min HaShamayim for greatness, his status is lowered (Pesachim 66B); and

  3. His ability to do Teshuva is stalled (Rambam, Chapter 4, Hilchos Teshuva).  The Sefer Reishes Chochma (Sha’ar HaAnavah, Chapter 2, based upon the Zohar) actually writes that it is forbidden to look at the face of a person while he is angry, for it is as if you are looking at a person who is worshipping Avodah Zarah!  Although one is permitted to feign anger at members of his household in order to discipline them--only **feigning** is permitted--and even then, the Sefer Erech Apayim recommends, one should in all events limit the degree and occurrence of the feigned display of anger!


It is said in the name of the Arizal, that while other Aveiros may negatively impact on some parts of the body, anger affects one’s “entire Neshama!”  Chazal likewise teach (as brought in the Igerres HaRamban) in respect of anyone who angers that “Kol Minay Gehenom Sholtim Bo”--he is subjected to all kinds of Gehenom, for he has sinned to the core of his soul, and because anger brings so many other Aveiros in its wake that he will be punished with different kinds of Gehenom for all these different kinds of Aveiros.


On the other hand, Chazal (Pesachim 113B) teach that Hashem “loves those” who do not anger.  Reviewing the above teachings once a day can possibly help you to control yourself in a difficult situation during that day--and even if that happens only one time ever, reading this note has been worth it!


Sent May 10:



In the first of this week’s two Parshios, Behar, we find one of the paradigm mitzvos given to us by Hashem in order to affirm and strengthen our Bitachon—trust--the mitzvah of Shmitta.  We are incredibly commanded to let the source of our Parnassah lay fallow and open to all, and are, in turn, promised that we will be (according to the laws of nature, miraculously) sustained and actually will prosper until new crops begin to grow again in the eighth year (Vayikra 25:21).  It is important, very important, for us to realize, however, that the mitzvah of Bitachon is not related only to the Sabbatical Year--or even to the strict requirement that we not work one day a week on Shabbos Kodesh.  Rather, our Bitachon is built-up of even smaller building blocks, tangible to all on a very recurring basis.


Every day, we begin our morning prayers with the following words: “Elokai Neshama Shenasata Bi…--My Hashem, the soul You placed within me is pure.  You created it, You fashioned it, You breathed it into me, You safeguard it within me, and eventually You will take it from me, and restore it to me in Time to Come.  As long as the soul is within me, I gratefully thank You Hashem, my Hashem and the Hashem of my forefathers, Master of all works....” (Translated from The Complete Artscroll Siddur).


The thought conveyed by “Elokai Neshama” is an essential component of our Bitachon.  It is Hashem, and not us, who owns--and is in charge of--our most, most, precious possession--our very life.  Every breathing moment, every thought process, every act of communication, every Mitzvah that we perform, every step that we take, is a direct, absolute and tangible outright gift--a full and free grant from Hashem.


Is this too frightening, daunting, or even too intrusive for us to bear?  Absolutely not!  Quite to the contrary, writes the Chovos HaLevavos (at the beginning of the Sha’ar HaBitachon): “This brings Menuchas HaNefesh”--tranquility and peace of mind--to us, for we know and appreciate that there is no such thing as chance, no coincidence, no accidents of any kind, ever or at all.  There is, succinctly stated, nothing that happens--whether perceived by us as good or as bad--without Hashem’s express direction.  This, in turn, should eliminate all worry, for everything that Hashem does is out of infinite and unabated love--and for our utter, absolute, and complete benefit, as we recite in the Birchas HaMazon--She’bechal Yom V’yom Hu Haitiv, Hu Maitiv--every single day He did good, He does good, and He will do good to us….


Imagine that you had the best specialist in the world taking care of your situation--legal, medical, financial or otherwise.  When the other side won a legal argument, when the medication did not work as expected, or when the stock market went down a bit, there would be a pause for concern, perhaps some rethinking and some jitters.  Not so with Hashem, who is perfect, faultless and our eternal and omniscient Father.  This peace of mind should stay with us in all circumstances.


With this awareness, HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’TL, (Sifsei Chaim, Middos V’Avodas Hashem volume I, page 587) writes that we can better understand the words of the Shelah HaKadosh (on the topic “Emes V’Emuna”).  The Shelah teaches that prior to undertaking any act or item of accomplishment such as buying, selling, meeting with someone, etc. one should say “Ani Botayach BaShem--I believe in Hashem,” recognizing that the act and its outcome is totally in Hashem’s hands, and then relate it to the specific action or event in front of you.  This recognition, appreciation, and actual statement, will have the added benefit of forging a greater bond between your infinite Father and you as his son, and will help to eliminate some of the worst human character traits possible--anger at people for what they have done or not done for you; jealousy of others who were successful in doing the same thing when you were not; and haughtiness and pride over your personal ingenuity and craftiness.


Rebbe Yisroel Salanter, Z’TL, in letters to his son on Bitachon (Ohr Yisroel, Letters 24-25), additionally advises him to draw upon the words of our Tefilos, and the words of Tehillim, to inspire and develop a full faith and trust that our very being--and our every being--is in Hashem’s great Hands.  For example, we recite in Pesukei D’Zimra, “Ashrei SheKel Yaakov B’Ezro”--Praiseworthy is one whose hope is in Hashem--He is the Maker of Heaven and Earth, the sea and all that is in them, He safeguards truth forever….  In fact, once you take note, you will find that Pesukim relating to Bitachon abound--“Kavei El Hashem…” (Tehillim 27:14); “Einai Tomid El Hashem…” (Tehillim 25:15)….


Bitachon is such a crucial aspect of our existence.  We must take the time out to recite Elokai Neshama with Kavannah every morning, to be fluent with a few Pesukim (from our davening or otherwise) relating to Bitachon which should calm us and put the actions and events of our life in Torah perspective, and follow the advice of the Shelah HaKadosh--start by saying the words “Ani Boteach Ba’Shem” in the everyday and the not-so everyday circumstances and occurrences that we face or that come our way--no--that Hashem brings our way!!


Sent May 9:


Special Note One:  Rabbeinu Yonah, in Shaarei Teshuva (3:71), provides the following guidance, which is obviously the source for the esteemed Hatzoloh Organization:


“It is highly desirable that there be in every city a group of volunteers from among the enlightened, who are prepared and ready ‘L’Chol Davar Hatzoloh…’-- for any situation in which a man or woman of Israel must be rescued from distress.  We have been commanded to exert ourselves on behalf of the ox or the sheep of our brother that has gone astray, to keep it with us until our brother requires it.  How much respect and honor, then, should we accord their masters.”


Always timely advice!


Special Note Two:  Having provided the above recommendation, Rabbeinu Yonah later provides us with the following important teaching (Shaarei Teshuva 3:156):


“Included among the apikorsim are those who say, “Of what use to us are the scholars with their studies?  Is there anything about which they say, ‘See this is new? They have never permitted us to eat raven, nor forbidden us to eat a dove.”  People such as these have not heard, nor known, nor opened their ears to the values that lie in occupation with Torah.  Because of this, occupation with Torah is lowly in their eyes; they have become rebels against the light of its nobility, and have no share in the World to Come.  We have, therefore, been obliged to teach the sons of Yehudah the values that lie in occupation with Torah….those who do not have the ability to learn--let them recognize the beauty of the honor of occupation with Torah, and let them acquire merit through this realization.”


This appears to be Rabbeinu Yonah’s 700 year old comment on those who disapprove of Kollel study.  We now present you with a more recent perspective.


An outstanding story is brought about Rebbe Yisroel Salanter, Z’TL, who spent significant time with a simple, elderly poor man advising him of all the merits of learning in Kollel.  Reb Yisroel was questioned by his students as to the necessity of talking to him about this--after all, the man was poor and could not support anyone in Kollel, and was simple and elderly and himself not prepared for Kollel study.  Reb Yisroel responded beautifully as follows:  “I wanted this man to have a feeling and a desire, a longing, to learn in or support a Kollel.  Obviously, he does not have the actual means to do either, but to HaKodosh Boruch Hu, he has fulfilled whatever he could by his feelings, desires and longings.  It is for this reason that I spent the time I did with him.”


At this time of year, as we move closer to our receiving the Torah anew, let us give special consideration, thoughts, and appreciation for those who study Torah day and night, and who keep the world going with their Torah study.  Perhaps one way we can demonstrate our feelings is by providing some new or additional support or charity to an institution of Torah learning.  Why not write that check **today**?


Special Note Three:  As Shavuous draws near, we should likewise draw closer to our feelings for the special right, privilege and ability that we have to perform Hashem’s Mitzvos.


The Dubno Maggid brings the mashal of two employees working for the same factory owner.  One punches in exactly at 9:00AM and punches out exactly at 5:00PM.  The other is there before 8:00AM and leaves more than twelve hours later.  The difference?  The latter is the boss’ son who loves his father and wants to make his father happy, by putting in all the spirit, time and effort necessary to accomplish his goal.  This is all the more so when the business is not going well, and his father is upset.  The Gemara (Brachos 3A) teaches us that since the Churban Bayis Sheni, Hakodesh Boruch Hu anthropomorphically “roars like a lion” and bemoans his Beis Hamikdosh.  Should we not, too, feel the pain of our Father and try to make Him happy?  How can we accomplish this?  By putting in the extra feeling, time and effort necessary to turn around the business.  Of particular note is that spirit, or hargosha, is something that cannot really be taught, but developed.  When we read or learn about mitzvos that we cannot currently perform (such as Bikurim, M’chiyas Amalek, and the scores of mitzvos relating to Kodshim and Taharos), we should take a few moments to long for them, to show our Father that He is not alone in His desire to turn things around.  (How about saying “Vesechezenu Eineinu” with heartfelt kavanah, and “Yehi Ratzon…Sheyibone Beis Hamikdosh” with emotion or tears?)  Secondly, we should try to choose at least one mitzvah which we feel is not being given its proper due because of a prevalent 9-5 attitude and demonstrate our love, caring and feeling for it.


Sent May 8:


As we move closer towards our Kabalas HaTorah on Shavuos, we provide some additional lessons relating to Torah study.


Special Note One:  How can one retain his Torah learning? The following is based upon the Piskei Teshuvos (Volume 2, p. 305) who provides sources in detailed footnotes:


  1. Simply putting in the time to toil and review, as Shlomo HaMelech (the wisest of all men) teaches in Mishlei (16:26) “Nefesh Amel Amlo Lo--the soul of a laborer labors for his needs….”  Nothing, absolutely nothing, can replace one’s own efforts;

  2.  Having Kavannah in “Ahava Raba/Ahavas Olam” every morning--especially as we recite the words “V’Seyn B’libeinu…”--instill in our hearts [the ability] to understand and elucidate, to listen, learn, teach, safeguard, perform, and fulfill all the words of Your Torah’s teaching with love.  And enlighten our eyes in your Torah…(translation from the Complete Artscroll Siddur);

  3. Voicing the words of the Torah you are studying, rather than only reading them;

  4. Learning in a set or designated place especially in the Bais Medrash, and even in one’s home;

  5. As a Segulah, kissing the Sefer when opening and closing it; and

  6. Avoiding actions and items which Chazal/Halacha teach cause forgetfulness, which are enumerated in the Piskei Teshuvos (ibid. p. 486-487), and which include leaving a Sefer open on the table and walking out of the room.


Special Note Two: As we noted above, having Kavannah in the Tefillah of “Ahava Raba/Ahavas Olam” every morning is important advice for retaining our Torah knowledge.  In fact, Rav Matisyahu Salomon, Shlita, points out that the ma’alah of Tefillah is not listed by Chazal as one of the 48 ways to acquire Torah (Avos 6:6).  He explains that this is because Tefillah is *so vital* to acquire Torah, that it is needed for, and is a part and parcel of, each and every one of the 48 ways.  In fact, the Mishna in Brachos (28b) provides that we are to recite a Tefillah every morning prior to study and a Tefillah in the evening after the conclusion of our studies.  This is brought L’Halacha in Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim (110:8).  One can likewise daven before any study session that his learning be as sweet and successful as possible.  In contrast, one can (and should) daven if he is having difficulty in studying, listening or understanding.  Indeed, it is said in the name of the Rav Chaim Sanzer that the reason the Ketzos HaChoshen became such a highly accepted Sefer in the Torah world, was because prior to learning, its author would go into a special room and cleanse himself with tears and Tefillah.  Torah is not a field of academics; as Chazal (Megillah 6B) teach:  Even after all the effort is put in, we require “Siyata D’Shmaya”--actual Heavenly assistance to retain our learning.  This is why a proper attitude--and heartfelt Tefillah--is so important in attaining what Shlomo HaMelech (the wisest of all men) called our most precious treasure (see Mishlei 3:15).


Special Note Three: We are all awed by the remarkable biological and chemical phenomena that take place around us continuously.  Plants release oxygen which we need to breath; in turn, we release carbon dioxide which plants need to make oxygen.  Water extinguishes fire.  Gas and oil produce energy.  One of the most remarkable systems is sometimes overlooked:  From a droplet of water rising from the Earth, combining with other droplets, a cloud is formed.  Rain then falls to the Earth, and days thereafter, grass sprouts.  Grass is then eaten by sheep, which produce wool and meat.  Wool clothes us, and meat provides nutrition for our bodies, enabling our brain to function and to study--and even be mechadesh (originate)--Divrei Torah.  What starts out as a droplet and becomes part of a cloud, ends up as a magnificent part of Talmud Torah!  Perhaps this is a new insight into “Ein Mayim Elah Torah”--the term ‘water’ refers to Torah. (Bava Kamma 17A).  The true purpose and result of a droplet of water--becomes Torah!  So when we drink that next glass of water--let us reflect upon the great use to which we can put it! (Based upon the teachings of Rabbi Avigdor Miller, Z’TL).

Sent May 3:

Special Note One:  With respect to our recent bulletin on “Torah With Fire”, we note that it is brought that in the name of the Chasam Sofer, on any day in which he did not learn Mussar, felt a “Hiskarirus”, or coolness, in his level of Ruchniyus.  It is well known that even the regular shiurim in the Pressburg Yeshiva included some form of Mussar study (such as from the Chovos HaLevovos).


Special Note Two:  For those who inquired as to the source of the Tefillah “Eloka D’Meir Aneni”, it dates back to Chazal.  We refer you to the Gemarah in Avoda Zara 18A and 18B.


Special Note Three:  During the course of his recent visit to the United States, HaRav Chaim Pinchos Scheinberg, Shlita, was asked if he could provide “hadracha”, or guidance, in how one could better study Torah.  He provided a two-word response: “Learn more.”  HaRav Scheinberg is also said to respond to some who request a Brocha for themselves or their children in Torah study, “I will give the Brocha--but they have to do their part--will they take upon themselves to study a few extra minutes a day?”  In fact, the Sefer Orchos Tzadikim (Shaar HaZerizus) writes that “…for “sha’ah achas”--one hour of Torah study, even if it is only to learn one teaching or lesson, is better than anything else in the world….”


We provide below several important points regarding Torah Study on a daily basis:


  1. Chazal (Shabbos 31A) teach that one of the first questions a person will be asked after 120 years is whether “Kavata Itim L’Torah--Did you have designated times for Torah study daily?”  The Levush (Yoreh Deah 246:1) writes that by usage of the plural “Itim”--times, Chazal are teaching that we must set aside some Torah study time by day **and** by night (i.e., at least  a few minutes immediately after Ma’ariv, or before going to bed).  In this regard, the Sefer Piskei Teshuvos (Volume 2, Page 304) brings from other noted sources that during these designated times for Torah study, one should view himself as not being in Olam Hazeh, but rather in Gan Eden before the Shechina!  B’Ezras Hashem we hope to discuss the incredible importance of designating Torah study times in future bulletins.  See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, Chapters 155 and 238 on this vital topic.


  1. The Pele Yoetz (under the heading “Kesiva”) teaches that a person should physically write down nuances that he discovers in his Torah study--whether big or small--for through writing he brings  the Torah in a demonstrable way into this world, and it is as if he actually taught Torah “to the multitudes.”  Perhaps one can keep his own notebook, and over time marvel at how much he actually accomplished!


  1. When studying, one should feel the sublime joy of the opportunity to study Torah, as well as the joy of the study itself.  One of our readers reported that he recalls as a young boy in the Bronx how his Rav, a Talmud Chacham from Europe, always seemed to be dancing as he recited the Birchos HaTorah when he received an Aliyah.  Along with the joy, one should also feel and appreciate the sweetness of Torah.  As we pray **every day** as part of our Brocha over the Torah, “V’Haarev Na…”--please, Hashem, sweeten the words of Your Torah in our mouth and in the mouth of Your people--for this, too, is an essential aspect of growth in Torah.


  1. The Zohar (Parshas Vayashev) writes that if someone puts in the effort to study Torah in this world, even if he does not understand or remember what he learned, he will have the knowledge and understanding that he strived for in this world--but also in a more important world--Olam Haba.  As we recite when we complete our day of study, or when we complete a particular tractate or portion of Torah: “For they toil and we toil--they toil and do not receive reward (i.e., they may not see the fruits of their labor), but we toil and [definitely] receive reward.”  In other words, there is no such thing as a “failed business venture” or an “unsuccessful business project” in Torah--there is only success!

Sent May 2:

Special Note One:  The Ramban (Devorim 4:9) writes that the Torah provides such great detail as to Ma’amad Har Sinai (please review the vivid Pesukim referred to in yesterday’s bulletin) in order to impress upon us the absolute need to constantly visualize and envisage this unparalleled event in our minds--and permanently plant it in our hearts.


Indeed, just as we believe in the “Splitting of the Sea” in all of its detail, so, too, must we realize that, among all the other miracles that took place at the time the Torah was given, the mountains actually shook (“Heharim Rukidu K’Ailyim”, Tehillim 114:4), Har Sinai itself was literally burning with fire up to the heart of the heaven, and Hashem Himself spoke to us (which is otherwise unimaginable) from the midst of the fire.  It is so important for us to remember the Ma’amad that the Torah very unusually writes, “Rak Hishamer L’Cha U’Shimor Nafshecha Meod (Devorim 4:9)--only beware for yourself and greatly beware for your soul” lest you forget the things that your eyes have beheld and lest you remove them from your heart all the days of your life….


The Ramban writes that our recollection of the Revelation at Sinai as described in this Pasuk actually constitutes the fulfillment of a Mitzvas Asei (in remembering the Event) and a Mitzvas Lo Sa’asei (in not forgetting It).


How can we properly fulfill the Torah’s teaching here?  HaRav Matisyahu Salomon, Shlita, brings the words of the Tur and the Bach (Orach Chaim 47) to guide us.  The Tur writes that there are, unusually, two Brachos on the Mitzvah of Talmud Torah that we recite every morning.  This is because the first Bracha refers to the Mitzvah of learning Torah, while the second Bracha reflects upon the Ma’amad Har Sinai itself.  The Bach in explaining the Tur writes that the second Bracha is, in fact, not a Bracha on the Mitzvah of learning Torah, but a Brocha of praise and thanks to Hashem for giving us His special treasure in such a phenomenal fashion--no other nation ever claimed or could claim such a revelation from Hashem Himself, with the explicit details of the Event passed on from generation to generation.


Every day, then, when reciting “Asher Bochar Banu” in the morning, we should awaken ourselves from our slumber and put our heart and feeling into visualizing and appreciating the stature, the legacy, and the enormity of the relationship of Hashem, the Torah and Bnei Yisroel, as we re-experience Sinai!


Special Note Two:  Today is Pesach Sheni. HaRav Yaakov Tzvi Emden, Z’TL (“the Yaavetz”) writes in his Siddur that:


“It was revealed to me from Heaven why Pesach Sheni was established on the 14th day of Iyar.  After all, it would not require more than two weeks for anyone who was impure or too far away on Pesach itself to come to Yerushalayim and bring the Pesach Sheni.  So, why wait a month from the 14th of Nissan to the 14th of Iyar--the Pesach Sheni could have already been brought by Rosh Chodesh Iyar?!”  The reason given to HaRav Emden from Heaven was that Bnei Yisroel had sufficient Matzos to last from the time of our Exodus from Mitzraim for 30 days--until the night of the 15th of Iyar!  In other words, the Exodus, and all of the Kedusha that came along with it, actually lasted for a full month after the night of Makkas Bechoros and our gathering to leave the next morning.  The holiness that extended from Yetzias Mitzraim, then, extended until today’s special day!


The Torah teaches (Bamidbar 9:10) that the actual Korban Pesach Sheni is brought when a person cannot bring the Korban Pesach in its proper time--either because, for example, he was rendered impure, or because he was too far away from the Courtyard of the Bais HaMikdash at the time the original Pesach offering was to be brought.  The Luach Dovor B’Ito writes that a great lesson of  Pesach Sheni is that it teaches us that it is never too late, and it is always possible, to “Remove your Tuma”--shed your impurity, and to come closer to Hashem after “Having been too far away”.  Accordingly, Pesach Sheni is a time of reflection and Teshuva.  We should take some time out to properly utilize the opportunity of the day.


One final point on Pesach Sheni: there is a difference in custom as to if and when one eats Matzah today.  According to one opinion, one should not eat Matzah, for it may appear as if he is attempting to fulfill the Mitzvah of Matzah in an improper time, which is a violation of the Torah’s prohibition against adding onto the 613 Mitzvos.  Others have the custom to eat Matzah sometime during the day on the 14th, to remember that the Korbon Pesach Sheni was brought today.  A third opinion is to eat the Matzah tonight, i.e., the night of the 15th of Iyar, for this would be the night that the Korban Pesach Sheni was eaten together with Matzah and Marror.  Every person should follow his custom, or his Rav’s guidance, in this area.


Special Note Three: Finally, today is the Yahrtzeit of the Great Tanna, Rebbe Meir (also known as Rebbe Meir Ba’al Haness).  There are those who have the custom of putting money in the Pushka L’Ilui Nishmaso, and reciting “Aloka D’Meir Anaini” three times.


There are specific Tefillos which are attributed to the Chasam Sofer relating to good health, blessing and success; success in one’s business dealings and locating lost items which one may recite any time during the year when placing money into a Pushka L’Ilui Nishmas Rebbe Meir.  To obtain copies of these tefillos, one can contact the Rebbe Meir Ba’al Haness Kolel Shomrei Hachomos office near you.  They may also be found on the back of Pushkas distributed by Kolel Shomrei Hachomos.


May the Zechuyos of Rebbe Meir always stand in our stead!


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