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Hakhel Email Community Awareness Bulletin



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 challenges.


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.]


b.      With 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”.

2)      Before 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?]

3)      Whenever 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.


c.       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…”


d.      Before 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 them!



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:

a.       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.

b.      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. It reads:

“The past-

Is now memories

The future-

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).


Happiness principles

Read frequently and apply


  1. I think appreciatively and gratefully.  "What am I grateful for now?"

  2. I speak and act joyfully and kindly.  After all-the world was created for me!

  3. I assume there is a benefit in everything.  "What's good about this?"

  4. I strive for meaningful goals.  "What is my goal for now?"

  5. I see myself being the way I wish to be.  "How do I want to be?"

  6. I focus on solutions.  "What outcome am I looking for?"

  7. I let challenge develop my character.  "This, too, will develop my character."

  8. I consistently access positive states.  My awesome brain stores my best states.  I have billions of neurons waiting to be used positively!

  9. 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 engenders 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 true path.’


“And this is precisely what happened.”


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 chesedinflatbush@gmail.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 is history....


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.


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 as:

·        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 Jew.”

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 and beyond.


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.”



In this 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):


a.       Giving Tzedakah before Tefillah is desirable, as the Pasuk states “Ani B’Tzedek Echezeh…--I will see your face with righteousness” (Tehillim 17:15).


b.      Before 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:


“If heaven 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 Hu.”


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.


Hakhel 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!


e.       One 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.


Hakhel 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.


One 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.


May our 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!




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.




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 components:


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 L’Aretz:


“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 clock?




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 (ibid. 61:4)…


“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!




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 well!



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 hedelstein@verizon.net . 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.


The 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.


At 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.


The 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 Canada only).

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, as well.

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 there).

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:

Money represents 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.

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