Hakhel Email Community Awareness Bulletin
NOVEMBER 2007 DAILY EMAIL ARCHIVE
We received the following from
a reader in Montreal:
“May I share with you a
thought that occurred to me today? A couple years ago I heard a shiur by
Rabbi Schlesinger, Shlita, from Monsey and what stayed with me from the
entire lecture was one of his questions--Why did Hashem create bugs if all
we want to do when we see one is to squash it with our feet? Cockroaches,
ants, insects of all types do not stand a chance near the human race for we
are constantly trying to get rid of them. Rabbi Schlesinger pointed out
that bugs come to teach us never to give up because no matter how bleak a
situation may be there is always hope. Humans are forever trampling on bugs
of all sizes and shapes, yet they keep coming back. There is no dearth of
bugs in this world.
“For whatever personal reason
I was really down and very unmotivated, basically not in the mood of doing
anything because of some set backs in a big project I have undertaken, that
is definitely not moving in the direction that I want it to go. This
morning (like on other mornings) I started out with sincere prayers.
Essentially, I do not even know where to take off from; how to continue to
put new life into my project. In the afternoon I got a phone call from one
interested and caring person, who actually reminded me to get going and make
another reminder phone call.
“I called that person and left
a message. Then I went to daven Mincha and I was pondering what my next
step should be. I noticed an ant crawling up the wall right in front of me.
I took that as a sign, never to give up, but to make every effort to get
where I want to go. Right after I finished davening, the phone rang and the
lady called and told me she wanted to review the project whenever it would
be convenient for me. I really took it as a sign from Above that my
project, B’EH, will eventually get off the ground. All I need is savlanut,
a hefty dose of patience. I hope this piece can give chizuk to others that
need it. Never give up on your aspirations and dreams! That is
another way of facing the music.”
Special Note One: We
received some interesting thoughts in response to yesterday’s email
regarding Nisyonos. One reader opined that HaRav Dessler’s poem (once
again, written in 1943) had a negative spin to it, and provided instead an
often-heard adage that he provides on the home page of his own website:
Yesterday is history.
Tomorrow is a mystery.
Today is a gift.
That is why it is called "the present".
Hakhel Note: Reality is not
negative. Reality is the challenges that one encounters in everyday life.
In the end, there may be no greater joy than successfully meeting those
In contrast, another reader
provided the following insight:
“Every morning in the Birchos
Hashachar, we Daven that Hashem not bring us ‘Lidei Nisayon--to tests.’
Since, I agree that improving oneself through Nisyonos is one of the
purposes of life, it must be that our prayer here is really that Hashem
assist us in meeting and beating these tests.”
Special Note Two: We received
a list of kabalos from a world-renown Rav (in his handwriting), which he
makes at the beginning of the year, and which he believes avoid various
pitfalls during the course of the year. Here are some of them:
a. I do
not commit to give any Tzedaka money (even if it is in my hand) until the
actual moment that I physically give the Tzedaka. Additionally, whenever I
give Tzedaka to a poor person or a Meshulach (Collector), I am not “mekadesh
it b’kedushas Tzedaka”--I do not sanctify it with the holiness of Tzedaka,
unless and until it actually reaches the ultimate receiver. The reason for
this is that I do not want the Collector) to be held responsible if he loses
the money, and, in the case of a person collecting for himself, maybe he is
not truly poor, and he would be “stealing” charity funds. [In that case, I
am simply doing a “Chesed” by providing him with the money, much in the same
way as I could provide a hot meal to an unscrupulous person.]
respect to meals and eating:
1) If I
would fully intend to stop eating, I would not be able to continue eating
unless I made a new brocha. Accordingly, I specifically provide that I
**never** intend to fully stop eating until I actually make a brocha achrona--even
though I may say that “I have to go” or “I don’t want to eat anymore” or
that “I am ready to bentch”.
making a brocha rishona, I intend for the brocha to cover my eating in all
areas of the house, so that in the course of eating if I have to go upstairs
or downstairs, I can, l’chatchila( in the first instance), go back to my
seat in the dining room without having to make a new brocha. [Hakhel Note:
B’dieved, in any event, one would not make a new brocha if he left the room
he was in and went to another room in the house--but why rely on that if you
can do it right from the get-go?]
I make a Hamotzi, my intent with this brocha is to include any food item
requiring a “borai minei mezonos” that I may eat in the meal--including cake
at the end of the meal.
Whenever I say that “I am going to learn”, or “I am going to learn at 9
p.m.”, I hereby declare that all of this is b’li neder, without promise, as
violating a promise of this kind is very severe. Similarly, “I hereby
declare that it is b’li neder whenever I say I am going to do this Mitzvah
or that Mitzvah…”
every Shabbos, I accept upon myself the Mitzvah of Tosefes Shabbos--adding
on to the Shabbos--of at least a minute before sunset, as if I had
physically declared it at that time.
e. All of
the bookcases or “Seforim Shranks” which I have in my home are not
designated only for Seforim, for if they were, I would not be able to use
them for any other purpose. The same is true for my Tallis and Tefillin
bag. I do this because I recognize that even if I hadn’t used it for any
other purposes other than Seforim (such as for files, textbooks, or even
sweaters) for many years, I still may want to do so in the future.
From this Rav’s guidelines, we
can learn a lot about how one should think and plan ahead to identify and
resolve the “easy” situations which a person commonly encounters. One’s
concern and caring certainly demonstrates a love of Hashem and a desire to
comply with His Mitzvos. You may want to think about other situations in
your daily life, and consult with your Rav as to how to finally deal with
Special Note One: In response to the many
inquiries we received regarding the 11 year-old boy who had sinned against
the “nebby” girl, and who subsequently had a son who suffered from a similar
problem to that of the girl:
HaRav Salomon, Shlita, did not provide
us with detail as to the advice he gave to this person, who now, 30 years
later, was showing remorse.
The Rema in Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim,
343 rules: “A child who hit his father or violated other avairos when under
age, even though he does not need to do teshuva when he becomes of age,
nevertheless it is proper for him to accept upon himself something for
teshuva and forgiveness even though he sinned before he was liable for
onshim, for punishment.”
In fact, HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita,
writes that an avaira that a koton performs is still “pogem u’mitamtem es
lebo”--creates a timtum halev (spiritual blockage of the heart) which has an
adverse effect on the person into his adulthood. Accordingly, HaRav
Kanievsky notes, one recites Viduy for the sins he committed while he was a
child, as well.
Special Note Two:
HaRav Dessler, Zt’l, (Michtav M’Eliuyahu, Volume 3,
p. 306) wrote a short poem in 1943. In Hebrew, it actually rhymes. In
English, even without the rhyme, it rings powerfully and deeply within us.
Is now memories
Is hopeful illusions-
But the present
Focus on that
It is your life
And it is all Nisyonos” (tests and trials)
The Chofetz Chaim once saw a tumult going on in the
streets of Radin. When he asked what the ruckus was about, he was told that
a wedding was about to begin, but that the musicians had not arrived to help
“make” the Simcha more real for everyone. The Chofetz Chaim was moved by
this statement. After all, were there not an ebullient Chosson and a
shining Kallah for everyone to behold and rejoice with?! Were not the
parents, the grandparents, the relatives, the friends--indeed, all the
participants--even the poor people who had come just for the
meal--overjoyed, or at least sincerely happy, to participate in one of the
greatest of simchas?! Nevertheless, without the music, the Simcha simply
did not play out in the same way.
The Chofetz Chaim concluded that, because
everything in Olam HaZeh has a counterpart in Olam Habo, there must most
definitely be “music” in Olam Habo, as well. Paradoxically, however, he
concluded, that the music of Olam Habo is the Yesurin--the trials,
tribulations and suffering that a person goes through in Olam Hazeh. One
may learn Torah, do Chesed, daven well, and even be a shining example for
others…yet, nevertheless, he must still have his own pekele, his own various
and sordid situations, difficulties and events, both of a daily and
ordinary, and unusual and extraordinary, nature.
In Olam Habo, the Chosson and the Kallah--all the
good things such as Torah and Tefillah are there--but what really turns it
into the Wedding we hope for and expect, are those times when we
successfully meet and try to overcome, the troubles, struggles and even
suffering and bitterness of some of life’s events, situations and conditions
(something bitter is not necessarily bad, as we learn from the bracha that
we make on the Maror on the Seder Night).
So, as we go through our day and even our lives,
and find ourselves sometimes beset by issues or problems which seem, and may
at least temporarily be, insurmountable, we should practice hearing the
music in our ear--music that will play not only for the length of the CD, or
even the length of the “first dance”--but for the length of eternity, and
that is a very, very long time!
The following wonderful
thoughts were distributed on November 22nd by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita, at
Hakhel’s Yarchei Kallah, and are further developed in his new book entitled
Conversations With Yourself (Artscroll).
Read frequently and apply
I think appreciatively and gratefully.
"What am I grateful for now?"
I speak and act joyfully and kindly. After
all-the world was created for me!
I assume there is a benefit in everything.
"What's good about this?"
I strive for meaningful goals. "What is my
goal for now?"
I see myself being the way I wish to be.
"How do I want to be?"
I focus on solutions. "What outcome am I
I let challenge develop my character.
"This, too, will develop my character."
I consistently access positive states. My
awesome brain stores my best states. I have billions of neurons waiting
to be used positively!
I smile and wave to mirrors. They always
smile and wave back to me.
The following beautiful note
appeared in the now internationally-acclaimed Hamodia newspaper:
“Bnei Yisroel spoke against
Hashem and against Moshe, and Hashem sent the ‘nechashim haserafim’, the
deadly vipers, which killed many of them. But the moment Bnei Yisroel
apologized and appealed to Moshe, he did not stand on ceremony but davened
at once on their behalf. His Ahavas Yisroel was so strong that he rushed to
their aid, although, as the Torah attests, they had attacked him personally.
“’If you want bring people
closer to Torah,’ said Rav Refael of Barshad, ‘you must love them. The more
you love them, the stronger will be the bond you forge with them, for love
“‘If you see evil in another
Jew,’ he went on, ‘you must hate that evil--but never hate the Jew.’ You
must believe that, like you, he, too, hates the evil that is within him.
“A man once came to the Baal
Shem Tov crying bitterly over his son, who had left the path of Torah. ‘If
you genuinely wish to bring him back to the right path,’ the Baal Shem Tov
responded, ‘cultivate your own love for him. Then he will not be able to
help but love you more and more as well, and in the end he'll return to the
“And this is precisely what
Ahavas Yisroel can change
lives and bring the entire world closer to Hashem.
A Chassid approached Rav Tzvi
Yehuda of Stretin, who was known for his powerfully effective segulos, which
he willingly shared with others. “Rebbe,” the Chassid said, “please give me
a segulah for Ahavas Hashem.”
Reb Tzvi Yehuda's responded,
“The strongest Segula for Ahavas Hashem is by making a possible slight
adjustment in our approach to Ahavas Yisroel. When you love your fellow
man--when you avoid looking down and looking through them, you have grown
not only in your relationships with others, but in your relationship with
your Maker, and the Father of all!”
Special Note One: Dovid
HaMelech teaches us that “Olam Chesed YiBoneh--the world is built on Chesed.”
One should always try to be involved in “building” his world by identifying
Chesed Opportunities--and acting upon them. For example, we were notified
that two men together formed their own grassroots “Chesed In Flatbush”
organization. The organization’s goal is to help those who are ill and
their families commute to and from hospitals and doctors’ offices. Their
advertisements state that they “seek men and women volunteers to drive
locally or into Manhattan. You can even help while driving into work! For
further information or to volunteer, please call 718-666-8348 or email
email@example.com”. You too can identify a need in your
neighborhood, community, or even on your block, and take a beautiful part
in…building the world!
Special Note Two: The Leah
Neiman Ahavas Yisroel Line makes available short telephone Shiurim for women
throughout the day and throughout the week. The Shiurim are on a wide
variety of topics.
Please see this link for the wonderful schedule of Shiurim.
Special Note Three: How does
one avoid the special temptations provided to him by the Yetzer Hara? HaRav
Shimshon Pincus, Z’tl, provides an interesting insight, which has much
potential for all of us. He notes that when individuals are first
introduced to Torah Judaism in a Seminar/Shabbaton type of setting, their
response is that they would like to begin the path of Torah and Mitzvos.
However, when they return home, they find the same neighborhood and
neighbors, the same inappropriate surroundings and stimuli, which are not
conducive to a Torah way of life. Accordingly, they are advised by the
Seminar coordinators, or may undertake on their own, to take leave of their
immediate surroundings, and to begin their lives anew in a more appropriate
Torah-centered setting. HaRav Pincus actually compares this to our leaving
of our homes and going into the Sukkah soon after we complete our Teshuva
process on Yom Kippur, thereby demonstrating that we are making the
necessary change of venue in order to change ourselves.
This concept can apply to many
of our battles with the evil inclination. The Chofetz Chaim, for example,
writes that one should move away from those whom you suspect are, or will
soon commence to, speak inappropriately. This may include not only Loshon
Hora, but also foul or inappropriate words or language. In a similar vein,
if one (whether or not justifiably) would feel a tinge of anger, hatred or
jealousy passing a certain person or location, he can try to avoid the block
or the person. If one would get the wrong ideas by reading the street
billboards or commuter advertisements, he must build a “Sukkah” with his
eyes and heart to prevent the wrong information from entering into his inner
bein--forever. In this week’s Parsha, we find that Eisav invites Yaakov to
merely accompany him: “VaYomer…V’Elcha L’Negdecha…--and he [Eisav] said
travel on and let us go, I will proceed alongside you” (Bereishis 33:12).
Yaakov Avinu, however, insisted that they must separate, and the Torah
records: “So Eisav started back that day on his way toward Seir, and Yaakov
journeyed to Sukkoth, and built himself a house (ibid., 33:16,17). The rest
We note that
Rochel Imeinu (in last week’s Parsha, Bereishis 31:19) actually went to the
point of taking away her father’s avoda zara pieces in order to help him
avoid violating the sin of idolatry--one of the seven Mitzvos Bnei Noach.
Whether or not one can go to this extent to help prevent another from sin
according to Torah law is something you may want to discuss with your Rav.
However, the point is clear--avoiding the stimulus, staying away from the
potential source of sin, moving away from the situation, distancing yourself
from the evil (or the evildoer), leaves the Yetzer Hora with much less to
work with, and demonstrates a firm and sincere dedication on your part,
through which Sayata D’Shmaya--Heavenly Help and Blessing--can be showered
upon a very deserving recipient!
When banking, one should not
immediately assume that there are no halachic issues regarding receipt or
payment of interest. In the New York metropolitan area, for example, banks
have opened with Jewish and even religious Jewish ownership. Even if one
knows that there is or “must be” a Heter Iska, one should ask for a copy and
review it with his Rav. After all, would not an exacting person ensure that
there was more to a Kosher certification than a sign in the window bearing
an unrecognized name or organization? Chazal, in fact, teach that ribbis
issues actually prevent one from rising in Techiyas HaMeisim, which provides
him with eternal life (See Pirkei D’Rebbe Eliezer33; Chofetz Chaim in Chovas
HaShemira Chapter 13). If one is unfamiliar with the details of that new
bank with those special offers, he should take the time and make the effort
to help save his eternal life. For an important sefer with practical
halachos in many everyday ribbis situations, we refer you to The Halachos
of Ribbis by Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita (Artscroll).
Today is the 10th day of
Kislev--two (2) months from the 10th of Tishrei --Yom Kippur.
It is a day to stop and
contemplate where we have come since Yom Kippur. Interestingly, in the
Yeshiva of Kelm there was a group which observed “Asiri LaKodesh”--every
tenth day after Yom Kippur with at least a tinge of the awareness, awe and
sense of Hashem’s presence that was felt on the Yomim Noraim. They would
observe some of the personal stringencies and better conduct that one
consciously undertakes on a day like Yom Kippur. If we cannot approach this
mighty level, perhaps we can at least touch or be touched by them once a
month--on the tenth day of every month. On our own kind of Asiri LaKodesh
maybe we can be especially careful as to what we think, or say, or do.
Perhaps we can resolve to daven the Mincha Shemone Esrei today with kavana
never thought possible in the middle of the work- or burden-filled day (yes,
it is possible!). Perhaps, alternatively or in combination, you can
designate it as a day of extreme caution in judging others favorably--or in
being especially careful to refine what you are about to say. Or, it could
be that middah that you know you have to work on, or some re-igniting of
that kabbala you may have made some 60 or so days ago.
We may add that it is
certainly not just another one of those coincidences that the Haftorah for
last Shabbos actually incorporated the Shabbos Shuva Haftorah of “Shuva
Yisroel Ad Hashem Elokecha--Return, Israel, to Hashem your G-d.” The Yetzer
Hora, disguising himself as Mother Nature, Old Man Winter or whatever else
you may want to call him (Chazal say he has seven names) makes sure to
remind us that we’ve got to slow down now--after all, birds fly south,
animals hibernate, it’s dark when we wake up in the morning and already dark
again in the late afternoon by the time we get home. He shows us how cold,
nasty or treacherous it is to go outside to the shiur or do the Mitzvah, and
how easy--and “important”--it is to turn over in bed just one (or two) more
times. Our response must be that we are not weakened by the external
stimuli, by what the world looks like or does around us, but instead
remember Shuva Yisroel--always keep your priorities straight, and keep the
proper focus. Today, on our Asiri LaKodesh, let us invigorate ourselves
with a fresh breath of cold air--as we invite in the challenges of winter
with a renewal of our own, personalized Avodas Hashem in a way that only we
ourselves would know---and be proud of.
TO FORGIVE AND FORGET
Rav Matisyahu Salomon, Shlita, recently related
that, after hearing so many different kinds of stories in his capacity as a
“Mashgiach”, he thought he was “shock-proof” no matter how any new story
went. However, he recently received a call for help with the following
story--and was shocked.
A man in his late 40’s called about problems he
had been having with his 13 year old son. The boy had developed a paranoia,
constantly crying, feeling that he was being persecuted, and that the whole
world was out to get him. The boy’s life was extremely unhappy and
unsettled and nothing seemed to help. He was a bundle of paranoia. The
boy’s father was beside himself, and did his own “Cheshbon HaNefesh”--why
was this happening to him, his son and his family?
Suddenly, the father remembered something from
his youth--30 years earlier. He was an 11 year old child in an
“out-of-town” day school. He, together with a couple of other boys in the
class, decided to pick on one of the “nebby” girls in the class, and they
were able to convince the whole class of students to at a certain point
during English class, turn around and stare at the “nebby” girl. The time
came, they all turned around and stared, burst out laughing, and the girl
broke down in tears.
Having recalled this incident, the father
decided that perhaps, although it was 30 years later, he should apologize to
the girl for what he had done so many years ago. He tried locating her, but
could not find her. He did locate a relative of hers, who explained why she
could not be found. In fact, she had committed suicide 20 years before,
because for many years she was paranoid that people were constantly looking
at her, and could “bear it no longer”.
The father of the boy called HaRav Salomon to
find out what he could do--what Teshuva he could do, as he was guilt-ridden,
and, moreover, he felt his son was suffering as a result.
HaRav Matisyahu points out that there are very
many lessons to be learned from this heartbreaking story, and advises us to
think about these lessons on our own. He pointed out a few in passing, such
One should think back over his actions of even many years ago,
even while he was a minor, and do Teshuva for them
The Torah prohibition against hurting another person--“Lo Sonu”--applies
even to children
What we do not only affects our generation, but affects other
generations, as well.
However, the main lesson, HaRav Salomon
believes, is that we do not realize how far-reaching are the consequences of
inappropriate behavior “Bein Odom L’Chaveiro”--between man and his fellow
man. Somehow, we associate the Churban Bais HaMikdash, and the failure of
the Mashiach to come, with our inadequacies in our direct relationship with
Hashem. However, at the end of the day, HaRav Salomon points out, it was
Sinas Chinam--needless ill-will--that caused and continues to maintain, our
current state of galus and churban-exile and destruction.
This teaching, the Mashgiach demonstrates, is
made in this week’s Parsha, when Leah calls her first-born son “Reuven”.
Rashi there explains that Leah, by this name, meant to indicate how one Jew
is supposed to act to his brother. “See,” Leah said, “the difference
between Eisav who wanted to kill his brother even though Esav had actually
sold him the birthright, and my firstborn son Reuven, who actually saved
Yosef from the deadly pit, even though Yosef would take away his
primogenitor (through the tribes of Ephraim and Menasha) in his place.
What must distinguish each and every one of us
is an ability to excel in care and concern for others--even in the face of
hurt and harm that those very people may have caused you. To forgive, forgo
and forget is, in actuality, HaRav Salomon teaches, “the essence of being a
One final note: We suggest
that if the effect of a downgrading remark or act can be as devastating as
described in this true story, imagine what the effect of a compliment or
uplifting remark or act could be! You may not only be changing the person’s
day--or even the person’s life. Indeed, that simple one-time kindness to
another could very well touch the next generation(s) 20 and 30 years later
The choice is ours--do we turn
around and stare--or turn around and smile? Let us do our utmost not to
follow the path of Eisav. Instead, let us follow the path of Reuven--of
whom Leah was so proud!
We continue to discuss
important aspects of our daily Tefillah. The following was supplied to us
by The V’Ani Tefillah Foundation:
“When we daven, we have the
opportunity to reach great spiritual heights. The Anshei Knesses HaGedolah,
which included the final Neviim (prophets), arranged the Shacharis Tefillah
to allow us to reach a heightened level of kedushah and an awareness of
Hashem step by step; similar to the four levels of increased kedushah found
in the Bais HaMikdash--beginning with the lowest level of Kedushah (the Har
HaBayis--the Temple Mount ) and culminating in the highest level of kedushah
(the Kodesh HaKodoshim--the Holy of Holies), as follows:
“Shacharis begins with the
Birchas HaShachar--corresponding to the Har HaBayis; followed by Pesukei
D’Zimrah--corresponding to the Azarah ( the Temple Courtyard); then Krias
Shema (and its brachos)--corresponding to the Heichal (the Holy), and
culminating with Shemone Esrei--corresponding to the Kodesh HaKodashim (the
Holy of Holies). For further detail , see Nefesh Shimshon, Siddur
HaTefillah by HaRav Shimshon Pincus, Z’tl, pages 36-42.
As you daven
before Hashem, visualize yourself progressing through the different sections
of the Bais HaMikdash, elevating yourself with increasing levels of Kedushah.”
week’s Parsha, we come upon the Tefillah of Yaakov Avinu as he reaches “HaMakom”--the
place of the Bais HaMikdash. Chazal teach that this Tefillah was actually
Maariv, the evening prayer. With this Tefillah of Yaakov Avinu, we conclude
the daily Tefillos that our Avos instituted--since, as we have seen in
Parshas Vayera, Avraham Avinu established the morning Tefillah, and Yitzchak
Avinu the afternoon Tefillah. Because Tefillah was such an integral part of
the Avos’ lives, we, as their direct descendants and/or students must make
it an integral, essential part of our lives, as well. We provide below
several important points relating to the quality of our daily prayers which
are culled directly from the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 12):
Tzedakah before Tefillah is desirable, as the Pasuk states “Ani B’Tzedek
Echezeh…--I will see your face with righteousness” (Tehillim 17:15).
each Tefillah one should resolve to fulfill the mitzvah of “V’Ahavta
L’Reyacha Komocha--Loving your neighbor as yourself” (VaYikrah 19:18). As
we all know, this was the custom of the AriZal. The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch
adds a beautiful and penetrating explanatory note:
forbid, there is a division of hearts among Jews on the physical plane, then
there is also no unity in the spiritual realms. In contrast, unity on the
physical level causes a oneness in the clinging of the souls in the
spiritual realm. As a result, their prayers are also unified, and the
communal quality of these prayers makes them more beloved to HaKadosh Baruch
c. It is a
mitzvah to run to Shul, to the House of Study to learn, or to fulfill other
Mitzvos, as the Pesukim state, “Let us run to know Hashem” (Hoshea 6:3) and
“I will run on the path of Your Mitzvos” (Tehillim 119:32). Accordingly,
even on Shabbos, it is permitted to run for the sake of a Mitzvah. However,
within a Shul or House of Study, it is forbidden to run.
d. When one
approaches the entrance to the Sanctuary **he should hesitate momentarily so
he does not enter suddenly**…he should then recite the Pasuk: “V’Ani Berov
Chasdecha Avo Vaysecho--and I, through Your great kindness, enter Your
house…” Afterwards, one should enter [as if having just received
permission] and proceed with awe and fear, as if he is walking in the
presence of a King.
Note: Whether or not one actually goes to Shul to daven, he should reflect
upon these same words “V’Ani Berov Chasdicha”, i.e., the kindness of Hashem
in allowing us to stand before Him in prayer, and the resulting great
opportunity of prayer itself!
should take great care to hear Kaddish and reply to it with proper
concentration…whenever someone answers “Amen, Yihei Shemai Rabba” with all
of his strength and concentration, 70 year’s worth of severe Heavenly
decrees are nullified. It should be recited in a loud voice, for this voice
will be “Shover Kol HaMikatrigim U’Mivatel Kol Gezairos Kashos--break down
all accusing forces and negate all harsh decrees.” Nevertheless, it should
not be recited in a very loud voice, causing people to laugh and thus
causing them to sin.
Note: The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch is an extremely concise Halacha Sefer
covering all four areas of Shulchan Aruch in one volume. When it cites the
Chazal of “Yehei Shemai Rabba nullifying 70 year’s worth of severe Heavenly
decrees” and “breaking down all accusing forces and “negating all harsh
decrees” it is providing us with an absolute Halachic conclusion. One
should contemplate the incredible power of these words.
further Hakhel Note: HaRav Dessler, Z’tl, (Michtav M’Eliyahu 4:271) teaches
that through our Tefillos we can actually raise the spiritual level of
others. As an example, he points to Rebbe Meir who prayed that his
neighbors who were “biryonim” (ruffians) be granted the Heavenly help to do
Teshuva, for this is how far the power of prayer can reach. There is even a
special Tefillah quoted in the Sefer Tehillah L’Dovid which one can insert
at the end of “Hashiveynu Avinu L’Sorosecha” at the end of every Shemone
Esrei for those who you would like to see do Teshuva.
Tefillos in these turbulent times touch the Tefillos of our Avos referred to
over the last several weeks, and may we too, very soon, pray in that very
place that Yaakov Avinu did--some 3500 years ago!
PROPER WAY TO REBUKE
As we take leave of Parshas
Toldos, we provide the splendidly meaningful words of Rabbi Zelig Pliskin,
Shlita, as he comments on the final Pesukim of the Parsha in his classic
sefer Love Your Neighbor:
“VaYikrah Yitzchak El Yaakov
VaYivarech Oso, VaYitzavehu VaYomer Lo, Lo Tikach Isha M’Binos Canaan (Bereishis
28:1)--And Yitzchak called to Yaakov and blessed him, and [then] commanded
him saying, ‘You shall not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan.’”
“The Chofetz Chaim used to say
that we can learn from Yitzchak the most effective way of admonishing
others. Before Yitzchak warned his son Yaakov what not to do, he blessed
him. Often, you will not be able to correct someone by shouting at him.
(Even if you are successful, you will have hurt the other person’s
feelings, and will have caused ill will.) But if you show a person first
that you truly cared about his welfare, he will much more readily listen to
your advice or admonition (HaChofetz Chaim, Volume 3, p. 1114).”
Oh, what a
great lesson this is if we can apply it to the way we speak to our immediate
family members, friends, and colleagues at work.
“I” TO “I”
In this week’s Parsha, the
unique events that surround the brocha Yitzchak Avinu is to give to his son
culminate with that great moment of Yaakov Avinu receiving this most
sought-after brocha--which in actuality is only two Pesukim (Bereishis 27:
28-29) in length! Moreover, the entire brocha can be divided into two basic
1. A brocha for gashmius, as
the Pasuk states: “V’Yiten L’Cha…”--and may Hashem give you of the Dew of
the Heavens and of the Fatness of the Earth…; and a second concept
2. “Cursed be those who curse
You and Blessed be those who Bless you,” which appears more to be addressed
to how other people react to us, rather than a direct blessing to us.
In fact, the brocha that we
would have expected Yitzchak to give Yaakov is found at the end of the
Parsha, and is given to Yaakov only as Yitzchak sends him away to Chutz
“And may Kel Shakai bless
you…may He grant you the blessing of Avraham to you and your offspring…that
you may possess the land…” (Bereishis 28:3-4).
This later brocha appears to
be much more in line with the brocha Yaakov would have wanted in the first
place--Avraham, offspring, Eretz Yisroel…more of a “Jewish” kind of brocha.
Yet, it comes second.
This same order of the
blessing for the physical preceding the blessing for the spiritual is
mirrored in the Birchas Kohanim (Bamidbar 5:25-27) in which, as Rashi there
explains, the first brocha refers to a blessing of wealth, which is followed
only afterwards by the brocha of Hashem looking upon us favorably and
granting us peace.
Why is it then that gashmiyus
precede ruchniyus, that the physical takes precedence here? After all, do
we not recite Birchos HaTorah in the morning before we recite Birchas
HaMazon? Don’t we have our priorities straight?
The answer may lie in the fact
that Hashem has structured our world and our existence in a way that Olam
HaZeh precedes Olam Haba. The purpose of Olam HaZeh is for us to instill in
it the reality within our lives that the most physical and material parts of
it, that even the smorgasbords, delicacies, Treos and Blackberries, software
developments and next-generation automobiles, and even “escape vacations”,
are all under the watchful eye of, and, moreover, can only come about with
the direct blessing of, Hashem!
Yaakov Avinu risked his life
to infuse himself with this awareness, and the Kohanim--by blessing us in
this order--remind of this as well.
With this thought in mind, we
can understand why we make the brocha of Shehecheyanu at any time during the
year that we purchase a new and valuable article of clothing or object, or
when a fruit come into season, and yet only make a Shehecheyanu over a
mitzvah if it occurs periodically, or when performed only for the first
time. [The next periodic mitzvah, for example, will, B’ezras Hashem, be
lighting the Menorah on Chanukah--still a month away.]
The lesson to be learned here
is not an easy one to fulfill.
It is a challenge for us to
make 100 Brachos a day with a Kavannah it truly deserves.
It is a challenge for us not
to say “But I did it all on my own,” or “I figured it out all by
myself” or “I made this money by …” and to remember not to overindulge
or get too involved with luxuries or unnecessary extras or the things that
you know Hashem would not be proud of.
However, as Rebbe Yisroel
Salanter is reputed to have said, the first mitzvah in the Torah is: “Al
Tehi Sachal--don’t be foolish!” It would be truly a shame if we went
through this world with many accomplishments and many possessions, but
failed to learn the lesson that Olam HaZeh precedes Olam Haba for a
reason--the lesson that Yitzchak Avinu taught Yaakov Avinu in this week’s
Parsha. There are two practical ways in which one may reinforce our
awareness of Hashem’s presence and of His instilling and inculcating this
world with all of the Brachos that it has, that we have, and that we enjoy
and benefit from.
One practical way is to try to
catch the times we say the word “I”, and try to make sure we are using that
word correctly. As you say the word sense the presence of the Omnigiver
even giving you the ability to say “I”!
Another way is to utilize the
second part of the Brocha that Yitzchak gave to Yaakov--those who…bless you,
will be blessed.” If we constantly live with a sense of blessing, of brocha,
that nothing is due to us, that nothing is here for no reason, and that
nothing stagnates--and so we recite blessings to Hashem and give blessings
to others in a way that it constitutes an important part of our lives, we
will believing in Olam Hazeh as we truly should--as a way that leads to the
next step--Olam Haba!
Special Note 2: Question for
the Way Home: Why do you think that the method of telling time has advanced
from a sundial, to a town clock, to a pocket watch, to a Rolex, to an atomic
MORE ON BROCHOS
In the wonderful Sefer 100
Brachos: Counting Your Blessings 100 Times a Day, Rabbi Moshe
Goldberger, Shlita writes:
“When reciting any Brocha we
must recognize that we are actually speaking directly to the Creator and
King of the Universe. Accordingly, we may not recite a Brocha while we are
busy working (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 183:12), or even performing ‘light
tasks’ (ibid. 191, Mishna Berura, Seif Katan 5--one should view the
important language of the Mishna Berura there). Moreover, it is advisable
to recite Brachos aloud since this inspires us to focus and concentrate, and
to have others affirm their belief in the Creator by answering Amen as well
“Reciting at least one hundred
blessings a day proclaims a general framework of our appreciation for His
bounty to us. If we would itemize all the benefits which we receive from
Hashem we could list thousands of them. But it would be impossible for
anyone to say a thousand blessings a day. Our Sages have selected one
hundred primary blessings for us to focus on.
“The Mishna Berura (Shulchan
Aruch 46:3) lists the blessings we typically make during the course of a
day, and surmises that, on an average day, one recites approximately one
hundred and eight blessings. One hundred, however, is the minimum number of
blessings one should recite daily (Rambam, Hilchos Tefillah, Chapter 7;
Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 70), Mishna Berura, Seif Katan 1). [There is
some discussion as to whether women are obligated to meet this minimum
number.] Imagine pausing every day, one hundred times, to appreciate
the good fortune that Hashem is constantly sending your way!
“'Hashem, You are showering me
with such abundant prosperity! Thank You!' It takes just some focusing and
awareness to realize that every person receives countless gifts every day
from Hashem. These gifts are right before us; all we have to do is to open
our eyes, heart and brain to recognize them, appreciate them and be grateful
to Hashem for them.”
One who makes blessings is the
one who is truly blessed (HaMevorech Misborech). May our sincere and
heartfelt brachos bring upon us--and the world--all that only Hashem can
bless us with!
THE PROPER TONE FOR A BROCHA
HaRav Yaakov Neiman, Z’tl
(Rosh Yeshiva in Petach Tikvah), was once raising funds in America. He did
not know any English, and after having knocked several times on a well-to-do
individual’s door without response, he was approached by the person’s
neighbor who knew a little bit of Yiddish. HaRav Neiman explained to him as
best he could that he had been attempting to contact the person on whose
door he had knocked to raise much-needed funds for his Yeshiva. The
neighbor welcomed him into his home as a guest, and invited him to stay
until he could actually make contact. That evening, he finally contacted by
phone the well-to-do individual he had been seeking, and made an appointment
with him. HaRav Neiman, when taking leave of his short-term host, asked him
“What can I do for you?” The host responded that he would really like to
have a child. HaRav Neiman gave him a brocha that within the year, he would
have one--and, in fact, he was blessed with a son within the year.
HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita,
upon hearing the story commented that HaRav Neiman’s brocha was fulfilled
not only because it was the brocha of a Talmid Chochom, but also because it
was a brocha that flowed from a sincere feeling of HaKaras HaTov--sincere
gratitude--for what this caring person had done for him. It is for this
reason, HaRav Kanievsky continues, that Yitzchak Avinu had requested his son
to bring him good food prior to giving him a blessing, so that the blessing
would be all the more powerful.
We are all faced with
situations every day--in the home, at work, in the store, and even in Shul--where
we are either the giver, or the recipient of good bestowed upon us by
another. While it may be bolder for someone who has done a favor or helped
someone out to ask his recipient for a heartfelt brocha, it most certainly
would be in order for a recipient to bless the giver with something that he
knows is needed.
We have learned many times
that negative words have reverberating affects in celestial spheres (See
Introduction to Sefer Chofetz Chaim). Since Hashem’s “Middah Tova”
(attribute of reward) is much greater than His Midas Puraniyos (attribute of
punishment), we can very readily assume that a brocha of one person to
another in this world has even more powerful effects in the Heavens than the
words of lashon hora or negative speech.
It therefore very much
behooves us to use the hidden power of our mouth for the great benefit of
others. It is fascinating to note that the Sefer HaChinuch in
describing the Mitzvah of Tzedaka (Mitzvah 479) writes “…and the principal
of Tzedaka is that anyone who benefits his friend whether it be with money,
food, or with his other needs, or even with nice words or comforting
words--all of this is included in the mitzvah of Tzedaka and one’s reward
for fulfilling them is very great…” Thus, the Mitzvah of Tzedaka transcends
the monetary coin, and extends into the mind and soul, which find their
expression through the mouth and tongue. With this we can understand why
Chazal (Bava Basra 9A) teach that one who gives monetary Tzedaka is blessed
with six blessings for having done so, but one who comforts the poor person
with words receives not six--but 11 blessings for his kindness!
Undoubtedly, the blessings,
the words of support, the compliments one person gives to another pleases
HaKadosh Baruch Hu greatly. Making the effort to unite, to make another
feel good or better about himself, simply to wish another to be successful
and well, is a simple, but essential, step in the bringing of the Geulah,
our final redemption. It is important to note, however, that Shlomo
HaMelech, the wisest of all men, takes us a step further, as he teaches,
“Simcha L’Ish B’Maaneh Feev…--A man has joy with the response of his mouth”
(Mishlei 15:23). When one speaks in a loving and appreciative tone,
blessing others in a way that he himself would like to be blessed--it is the
giver, the speaker himself, who will feel the joy and contentment in his
very own words. It is the giver who feels a sense of accomplishment and of
G-dliness, as he emulates Hashem’s ways.
Let us try today to remind
ourselves that this week is the week of the brochos that Yitzchak Avinu gave
to Yaakov Avinu. Accordingly, let us be especially careful to give brochos
to those who help us, do favors for us, and are there for us. Let us
additionally make a special effort to compliment and encourage others--to
allow our mouths to make the beautiful impact that they truly can in the
celestial spheres--and ultimately, then, as Shlomo HaMelech teaches, as we
follow in the footsteps of Yitzchok Avinu--we will bring joy to ourselves as
Special Note One: Yesterday,
we noted a telephone source for obtaining the Halachic times in your area in
the United States and Canada. You can also obtain all of this information
for any location, by contacting Rabbi Edelstein at
firstname.lastname@example.org . His phone number is 845-356-7118. There is a
$12 charge, which includes either email delivery of a PDF file or shipping
of a hard copy of your times for the entire year. A reader also informed us
of a website at http://www.myzmanim.com This site gives Halachic times for
anywhere in the world. In addition to giving the times for a given day, one
can print a chart for the entire month. The site has the approval of HaRav
Yisroel Belsky, Shlita. See http://tinyurl.com/39bb9u
Special Note Two: On our
question as to the first time money is mentioned in the Torah, most readers
wrote that it was the transaction between Avrohom Avinu and Ephron.
However, other suggestions included references to Bereishis 12:5, 13:2,
17:13 and 20:16. If you agree with the other readers, you will see the
lessons there as well!
Special Note Three: In this
week’s Parsha we find what is, according to some opinions, the last Nisayon,
the last test, of Avraham Avinu--the burial of Sarah Imeinu, his wife, and
the difficulty he had in acquiring the Mearas HaMachpaila area. HaRav Dovid
Eliach, Shlita, wrote the following advice to one of his students who was
going through difficult times:
“During the course of a year,
there are all kinds of different times and periods. They are, of course, not
by chance or coincidence. As strange or as out-of-place as they may seem,
they are purposeful and meaningful to you at that time. Each and every one
of them is a Nisayon, and each and every one of them is ‘L’Tovas HaOdom’--believe
it or not, as unbelievable as it may seem, for your benefit. One should
always be aware of this and strengthen himself in this area. I suggest
that, every day, you say a few chapters of Tehillim (going in order, daily)
asking Hashem to give you the strength to stand up to the tests that you
encounter, and that you do His Will. Always remember that this world is a
hallway, and that the Master of the entire Universe is the Owner of that
hallway. He knows best how to lead you through it, and you should do His
will B’simcha, with joy.”
Standing up to the ordinary
and extraordinary occurrences with which we are faced is a highly
challenging and responsible task. We may add that perhaps we should be
mispallel to Hashem in the Zechus of our Avos, Avraham, Yitzchak and
Yaakov--who were so great in withstanding their nisyonos--that we, too,
follow in their footsteps and accomplish and succeed at our purpose in life.
Special Note Four: One
related, final teaching as we take leave, for the time being, of the great
and holy life of Avraham Avinu.
Rambam teaches in the last Chapter of Hilchos Teshuva that Avraham Avinu
intensely felt Hashem’s presence wherever he was and wherever he traveled.
We suggest that it is certainly within our ability to “touch” our
Forefather in this respect daily.
least several times a day, one should go out of his way to express his sense
of the “Hand of G-d” in what has just occurred, what he has just heard, or
the amazing interplay or turn of events he has experienced. This expression
may take the form of a “Baruch Hashem!”, “Thank You, Hashem!”, “I love You,
Hashem!”, or “What Hashgacha Pratis!” or the like.
Another suggestion would be to bring Hashem into whatever you are doing at
that moment--even into the simple and mundane. For instance, while sitting
at your desk or table (whether or not you are actually slouching), from time
to time throughout the day you should make the effort to sit up straight
based upon the recognition that you are in Hashem’s presence. In a similar
vein, it is recorded that when HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, davened the
Shemone Esrei every day he did not “shuckle” or sway. He explained that
once, while being questioned by the communists, he was forced to stand at
attention for hours. He understood that this was truly a life-long lesson
and that he should also “stand at attention” while speaking to Hashem.
Netziv explains that the amount of Hashgacha Pratis that one receives is
actually commensurate with one’s feeling of Hashgacha Pratis in his life.
Our relationship to Avraham Avinu should go beyond our mentioning his name
several times a day. We should feel that we are not only “Hebrews” by name,
but also by purpose!
Special Note One: As we will be moving to Eastern
Standard Time this Motzai Shabbos, our Halachic Times, or our “Zemanim” may
get confused. We once again provide the number to call to obtain all the
Halachic Zemanim every day in your area: 718-331-TIME (United States and
There is another
hotline that has recently been established for those who are traveling
without the Tefillas HaDerech prayer. You may call 212-DRIVING (374-8464)
to hear Tefillas HaDerech and recite along word for word. The number is
considered a local phone call throughout the New York metropolitan area.
Additional area codes for other Jewish locations will soon be established,
We live in times in
which a good idea that comes to someone can quickly benefit those across the
globe. If each and every one of us thought of a simple, good idea, based
upon his experience, and implemented it to help others; we would have a
much, much improved world. What nice thing can you contribute?
Special Note Two: As
the Winter season approaches, we will be finding warmer clothing to dress
in. Along with this comes tweeds and heavier materials with
hard-to-identify fabrics. We should be keeping our Shatnez Labs busy with
clothing of all sizes and shapes--as we bundle up!
Special Note Three:
One of our readers from Eretz Yisroel asked us to note a very important
distinction we should make when answering that great one word “Amen!” When
answering Amen to a brocha of thanks (or a brocha over a Mitzvah) your
intent should be: Hashem’s name should be blessed; the brocha is true; and I
believe in it. However, when answering Amen to a brocha of bakasha, of
request, such as in Shemone Esrei, one’s thought, should additionally be
focused on the request aspect--i.e., one should importantly think “Yehi
Ratzon…”--may it be Hashem’s will that the particular request in this
brocha be fulfilled (See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 124:6 and Mishna Berura
Special Note Four: We
received an outpouring of responses to yesterday’s question regarding the
first time that money appears in the Torah--and why. This is a wonderful
thought from someone in Brooklyn, New York:
“The first time money
as currency is used is in this week’s Parsha, Parshas Chayei Sara. The
reason that it is mentioned first here, with Avraham purchasing the Maaras
Hamachpela, a burial place, is, I believe as follows:
physicality, while the kivrei Avos represents spirituality. Avraham, as the
first Jew, is shown in this parshah to willingly give away as much money
(physicality) as it takes in order to acquire the kever (spirituality).
Money is the most gashmiusdik, physical, thing; it is an end in itself,
while the kever (true spirituality) is worthless to the pagans. Here,
Avraham exchanged the epitome of gashmiyus to acquire this spiritual haven,
which an Akum cannot understand. This should set an example for all of us.”
Hakhel note on this
thought: Chazal (Shabbos 31A) teach that when a person is brought to
heavenly judgment, the first question posed to him is “Nasasa V’Nasata
B’Emunah--were your business undertakings done with Emunah?” HaRav Moshe
Eisemann, Shlita (Baltimore), notes that every individual’s name is alluded
to in the Torah. We would have expected that the Vilna Gaon’s Name--Eliyahu
Ben Shlomo--would have been mentioned in a Pasuk that referred to toiling in
the study of Torah. However (as explained at the end of the introduction to
the Sefer Even Shlaima), the Gra’s name is alluded to with the words “Even
Shlaima (e.g. Eliyahu Ben Shlomo--the Gra) V’Tzedek Yihiye Loch--a perfect
and honest weight shall you have” (Devorim 25:15). This, HaRav Eisemann
teaches, demonstrates that the greatness of a person is recognized through
his business dealings…is he using his money properly, for the right
reasons--is he an “Ehrlicher Yid?” As we take leave of Avraham Avinu in
this week’s Parsha, this is certainly one of his final messages to us.
We continue to welcome your additional thoughts.