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Looking Forward:  The Imrei Pinchas writes that: “...until Parshas Lech Lecha when we learn of Avrohom Avinu and his deeds, the world is in a state of confusion and disturbance.  With Parshas Lech Lecha, the chesed of Avrohom Avinu is aroused, and yeshuos begin to occur....”  May we experience and see them all around us!


Special Note One:  We received the following moving thoughts from a reader:    When we speak about Rachel Imeinu, we say, ‘Kol b’ramah nishma...Rachel mivaka al baneha ki eineinu...--a voice is heard on high...Rachel is crying about her children....’  The word ‘mivaka’ seems to be grammatically incorrect.  The definition of ‘mivaka’ is to cause someone else to cry.  The question is why do we use this term for cry?  If Rachel is crying for us on High (as we know that Hashem says that her tears are going to bring the geula) why is the term ‘mivaka--causing to cry’--used?!  The pasuk should simply say, ‘Rachel bocha--Rachel is crying’ because she is constantly crying for us to come out of galus!  The answer could be that Rachel Imeinu is crying because we are not crying!  She is trying to get us to cry out of the pain of galus because we seem to forget where we are.  What we have to do now is cry out to Hashem and beg and plead for Him to take us out!  Rachel is trying to get us to cry, to feel uncomfortable in galus.  If we don’t feel like we are in galus and we don’t cry out to Hashem, then why should He take us out altogether?!  If we are fine where we are, then why should anything change?  The only way to get out is by asking for it!  So take out your siddur, take out your Sefer Tehillim or use your own words to BEG Hashem to bring us out of galus!  And THEN Hashem will be able to tell Rachel Imeinu, ‘Minee koleich m’bechee v’einayich midim’ah,’--Rachel, you can stop crying, because ‘v’shavu banim ligevulam,’ Bnei Yisroel will return to their boundaries.  May we all have the zechus to see these very words come true!”  Hakhel Note:  Thank you, and may the pasuk ‘‘those who plant seed with tears will reap with joy’’ be fulfilled speedily and in our days.


Special Note Two:  We continue with our Erev Shabbos--Halachos of Shabbos series:

1. We provide by the following link http://shabbos.scriptui.com/  a sample of a wonderful new Sefer, Hilchos Shabbos B’Shabbato by Rabbi Avrohom Shlomo Dickman, Shlita, which is devoted to practical Halacha, and is arranged Parsha by Parsha--with three Limudim, or lessons per Parsha--so that a lesson can be reviewed and/or discussed at each Shabbos meal. The lessons for Parshas Lech Lecha can be found on pages 21-29 at the following link http://shabbos.scriptui.com/   Enjoy!

2.  Three questions asked of HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita:


(a)  Q. If one has the option of walking along two routes on Shabbos--one in which fewer cars are driven (albeit driven by non-Jews)--or instead walking along a boulevard or highway--is it preferable to walk along the less-traveled route in order to witness less Chilul Shabbos?


A. Yes, for it is still a ma’aseh of “Chilul Shabbos”, even though the non-Jew is not commanded to, and should not, observe the Shabbos.  [A person studying to be a ger must be mechallel Shabbos until he is actually me’gayer.].  The story is told of the Chofetz Chaim who was once in Warsaw and, upon seeing Chilul Shabbos for the first time, was tremendously shaken.  The second time he saw Chilul Shabbos, the Chofetz Chaim reported, he was already less shaken....



(b)  Q. If bakery challahs taste better than home-baked challahs, is it still a greater mitzvah to bake the challahs at home because it is “Lekavod Shabbos”, and in order to have the opportunity of Hafrashas Challah?


A. One should continue to bake at home and find ways to improve.  If it is still not going well, buy some challah--but don’t give up the mitzvah!



(c)  Q.  In honor of the mitzvah of Bris Milah in this week’s Parsha--the following question:  We know that a Bris Milah can be performed even on Shabbos under the right circumstances.  If one attends a Shabbos Bris, is he permitted to pray for his needs--as it is an eis ratzon to daven when the baby is crying?


A. Yes, it is permitted to daven, for it is a zeman mesugal, just as a woman recites techinos at Hadlakas Neiros, because it is a zeman mesugal.



Special Note Three:  We continue with important notes on Birchas Avos:


(a)  We urge our readers to review the Days 28-30 in the Artscroll classic Praying With Fire (first volume) by Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, Shlita, for a superb discussion relating specifically to the first bracha of Shemone Esrei.


(b)  Rav Schwab, Z’tl in another Artscroll classic, Rav Schwab On Prayer, provides an outstanding p’shat on the words “Elokei Avrohom, Elokei Yitzchok, Vailokei Yaakov”.  Rav Schwab first notes that the concept of Malchus in this bracha is expressed through this phrase, rather than through the usual nusach of “Melech HaOlam”.  He then goes on to beautifully explain that the term “Elokei Avrohom” means that Hashem is Melech HaOlam (for Avrohom Avinu introduced Hashem’s Malchus to the world at large).  Next, the phrase “Elokei Yitzchok” means that Hashem is Melech Al HaYachid--King over every individual (for Yitzchok represents personal avodah and yirah of Hashem--as the pasuk says “VaYetzeh Yitzchok LaSuach BaSadeh--and Yitzchok went out by himself to the field” to pray). Finally, “Elokei Yaakov” represents “Melech Al K’lal Yisroel”, that Hashem is the King over all of Yisroel, which Ya’akov through his progeny, so aptly represents.


(c)  We conclude the body of the bracha with the thought that Hashem is “Melech Ozer, U’Mosheia, U’Mogen.”  Even though Hashem is King of the entire world, He is still an “Ozer”--He helps each and every individual with his needs, a “Mosheia”--He saves each and every person from tzara, and a “Mogen”--He even shields a person before a tzara comes.  This is an intense appreciation of the Shechina relating to us directly, which should charge us at least until we recite our next Shemone Esrei!


(d)  The bracha concludes with the words “Magen Avrohom.”  Chazal (Shir Hashirim Rabbah 4:4) teach that Avrohom Avinu asked Hashem, “For me you were a great shield [in his war against the superpowers described in this week’s Parsha]--but what will be of my descendants?”  Hashem responded to Avrohom Avinu, “For you I was one shield, but for your descendants, I will be a shield many times over” (as the pasuk states, “Elef Hamagen Tolui Alav”).  The Kuntres Avodas HaTefillah by Rabbi Mayer Birnbaum, Shlita, brings this Chazal, and suggests that this may be the source for the Avudraham, who in his peirush on the words “Magen Avrohom” actually adds this to the kavannah of the words--that in the zechus of Avrohom Avinu Hashem continues, and will continue, to shield us as well!



Special Note Four:  At the conclusion of the Parsha, we learn that both Avrohom Avinu and Yishmael received a Bris Milah.  Who received the Bris Milah first--Avrohom Avinu--or Yishmael?  Why?  Hint:  See Ramban to Chumash there.



Special Note Five:  In the Parsha we find a stark contrast, as pointed out by HaRav Zelig Pliskin, Shlita, in his great work, Growth Through Torah, as follows:


The Pasuk (Bereishis 12:5) writes: “Vayaitzu Loleches…VaYavou Artza Canaan--and they left to go to the land of Canaan , and they came to the land of Canaan .”  What is the Pasuk teaching us?  Where is the lesson here?


The message, Rabbi Pliskin teaches, is enormous for everyone!  The Torah teaches by this Pasuk that Avrohom Avinu set out to get somewhere--and he arrived there.  However, Terach, his father, who also set out from Ur Kasdim together with his son, did not get to Canaan, but instead stopped in Choron, “and settled there” (Bereishis 11:31).  The rest is history.  Terach died in Choron, and Avrohom Avinu and his descendants have the eternal right to the land that Avrohom reached--Eretz Canaan!  Avrohom accepted upon himself to accomplish his goal and refused to become side-tracked by the pleasures--or even the vicissitudes--of the situations around him.  To succeed in any venture, you must complete what you start.  You must be driven, and not lose sight of what you really must accomplish.


In fact, Rabbi Pliskin continues, it is a very important goal that you are attempting to accomplish; you should even become obsessed with it.  While obsessions may usually be deemed to be negative, they can also be very positive.  A person should never, ever remark “I never finish what I start.”  Rather, a person should recognize his own importance, and move aside the deterrents (however expertly dressed up by the Yetzer Hora) in order to fully and finally realize his objective.


The year is in front of us.  Let us take this great lesson presented to us by the Torah so early on in the year, so that we accomplish and reach our destination--this year--and in life!



Special Note One:  As we all know, today is the Yahrzeit of Rochel Imeinu.  The Pasuk in Yirmiyahu (31:14) writes that Rochel cried over the exile of her children and that Hashem, in turn, responded to Rochel that she need not cry further.


HaRav Chaim Shmuelevitz, Z’tl, while once at Kever Rochel, was overheard to have said that although Hashem had instructed Rochel Imeinu not to cry, he, “Chaim,” was asking her to cry for her children.  The question is clear--if Hashem told Rochel Imeinu not to cry, how could HaRav Shmuelevitz--“Chaim”--seemingly go against this order and ask her to cry?


Some say, that HaRav Shmuelevitz himself answered the question by explaining that while a father (Hashem) could tell his daughter to calm down and not cry, a child (such as HaRav Shmuelevitz) could ask his mother to show a special care and concern for her children.


A second explanation is given in the name of HaRav Moshe Aharon Stern, Z’tl, who teaches that Hashem, by telling Rochel that she didn’t have to cry, was actually inviting further supplication and tears.  HaRav Stern draws the parallel to Hashem’s response to the sin of the Golden Calf, where He tells Moshe Rabbeinu, “Leave me alone and I will destroy them,” even though Moshe had not yet asked for mercy from Hashem for the Chait HaEgel (See Shemos 32:10 and Rashi there).


There is an extremely important lesson for us here.  HaRav Matisyahu Salomon, Shlita, notes that the Bais HaMikdash is referred to as the “Sukkas Dovid HaNofoles” (Amos 9:11 )--as the falling/fallen booth of Dovid.  He explains that the word “Nofoles” is meant to inspire us to picture a person or a precious object as it is falling and as it finally falls.  He or it is not in its natural or proper position.  Something that is falling or has fallen, must be picked up and placed where it is supposed to be.


The Navi teaches that Rochel Imeinu cried for her children.  HaRav Shmuelevitz asked her to keep crying.  Likewise, the Navi tells us that we must recognize that the Bais HaMikdash is Nofoles.  We, too, must do everything in our power to pick it back up.  How?  May we suggest that at some point in the day we follow in the footsteps of our Mama Rochel.  We should take a moment out to envision the falling in front of us--and do what we can to stop the fall by asking Hashem to raise up, and keep up, that most precious possession, to Him and to us, the most special place on earth, the Bais HaMikdash.


May the words of Hashem to Rochel--“there is a reward for your actions--and your children will return to their borders” then ring true for our actions, as well, speedily and in our day!



Special Note Two:  In the Sefer Sifsei Chaim, HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, provides a common denominator of three special middos that a person could and should have.  These Middos are: (a) being Dan L’Chaf Zechus--judging another favorably even if the odds seem to be against it; (b) being Ma’aver Al HaMidos--overcoming one’s initial reaction to a person, issue or event, being flexible, and overlooking personal affront; and (c) being a Ba’al Chesed--being known as someone who constantly helps others.  What is the real common denominator among these three middos?  It is more, Rabbi Friedlander writes, than just he is a “nice person” or that he has a good temperament, or even that he had fine parents or a good upbringing.  Rather, it is that a person with these three Midos together has successfully overcome the selfish element of “I” within him and has included those around him as part of himself.  Because such a person is so successful at life, Rav Friedlander concludes that there is simply no way that this person will be judged in Shomayim in the same manner as other people.  It is for this reason that we are urged to work on these particular Middos prior to the Yemai HaDin.


When we had suggested to our readers that they review the Sefer Mesilas Yesharim in Elul, a reader wrote to us then as follows:  “It seems that it would be more appropriate for people to learn Mesilas Yesharim and Sefarim of Mitzvos Bein Adam Le'Chaveiro between Succos and Rosh Chodesh Elul and begin acting properly during the year so that from Rosh Chodesh Elul through Yom Kippur we will already know what it means to be a Mentsh.  Lo Hamidrash Haikar Ela Hamaase!”


An excellent point!  Why wait until next year prior to the Yemai Hadin when you can work on this “Three-in-One” Midos combination far in advance.  Your thin and limited , narrow one-line of an “I” will certainly be much broader and larger--and may very well be as wide as a “We” (also compare the word “Ani” to the word “Anachnu”)!



Special Note Three:  As we begin to study the actions and words of Avrohom Avinu, we continue our notes on the first brocha of Shemone Esrei, “Avos”:


  1. The Brocha is so primary to a person’s day that HaRav Tuvia Goldstein, Z’tl, made it a point in his later years, whenever he spoke at a public gathering on any topic, to devote the first part of his Shiur to the importance of proper Kavannah in the first Brocha, with detail as to that proper Kavannah.


  1. One should understand the difference between “Elokei Avraham”, “Elokei Yitzchak”, and “Elokei Yaakov”, and the parallel distinction between “HaGadol”, “HaGibor”, and “HaNorah”.  We are not using extra words or being mellifluous.  The distinctions are important, and most certainly assist us as we draw and learn from the zechus of each of our Avos!


  1. The commentaries note that the words “U’maivi Goel L’Vnei V’neihem--and brings a Redeemer to their children’s children” is recited in the present tense.  Two suggestions are offered for this.  First, that every day we move a step closer to the Geulah Shelaima--that the Geulah is occurring as we speak!  Second, that Hashem gives us each our own personal Geulos--redemptions and yeshuos from issues and matters affecting us in our daily life.  We can certainly have both intentions in mind.


  1. There are, of course, two ways that the Geulah can come--through our own merit or even if we do not merit it, “Lema’an Shemo”--so that the Chilul Hashem of Golus comes to an end.  Even if Hashem must redeem us “Lema’an Shemo”, it will, the bracha teaches us, still be “Be’ahava”--with love.  His love for us will be unaffected.  From this, we should begin to appreciate how great His love for us really is (HaRav Chaim Friedlander).  Hashem was, is, and always will be, the “Ohaiv Amo Yisroel”!



Special Note One: As incredible as it may sound, it is now 30 days since Yom Kippur, and 40 days since Rosh Hashanah!  This means that more than 10% of this New Year is now behind us.  The halfway mark will be coming sooner than we think.  It behooves each and every one of us at this time to take a few moments out to recall what our goals and aspirations were for the year, to consider what we have accomplished (now that we are in fact, a couple of weeks past Yom Tov), and to determine how we can better put ourselves in the right direction for the future.  Without wishing to sound intimidating, we intend to provide a similar awareness notification in another 40 days--so we ask that you plan to meet the challenge.


Additional Point:  In order to keep the special spirit of Yom Kippur throughout the year, there are special people who count every ten days from Yom Kippur--and designate the day as “Asiri L’Kodesh”--a tenth day reserved or dedicated to more lofty conduct.  Today, as the 10th day of MarCheshvan, is the third Asiri L’Kodesh since Yom Kippur.  A practical and effective way to activate and apply your Asiri L’Kodesh is by keeping on guard a bit more throughout the day, asking yourself, would I do this, say that, or even consider that, would I conduct myself in this manner, if today was Yom Kippur?  The Asiri L’Kodesh--a special opportunity to elevate yourself--together with others around the world!



Special Note Two:  We continue our study of the vital first bracha of Shemone Esrei--the bracha of Avos.  This bracha is so essential that the Mishne Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 101, seif katan 4) brings from the Chayei Adam that if one realized that he did not have kavannah for the meaning of the words in Birchas Avos, and he realizes this before he said Baruch Ata Hashem at the end of the bracha--he should return to the words “Elokei Avrohom” near the beginning of the bracha and start from there--this time with kavannah!  Additionally, if one completed the first bracha but did not yet begin the second bracha and realized that he had not been focused, the Chazon Ish and others rule that one should review the words of Birchas Avos in his mind with kavannah, and then begin the next bracha.  This is how careful we have to be with these incredible 42 words!


Additional Note A:  The Yesod VeShoresh HaAvodah makes it a point to emphasize in this bracha that we should be careful to properly enunciate its words, and avoid the slightest slurs.  For instance--it is “LeMa-an Shemo” and not “LeMaan Shemo”, and we should be careful to say “BeAhava” and not “BeAava”....


Additional Note B:  In the usual brachos that we make, we refer to Hashem as Elokeinu--our G-d--without reference to “Elokei Avoseinu--the G-d of our forefathers.”  In Birchas Avos, we do, however, uniquely refer to Hashem as “Elokei Avoseinu,” as well.  This being so, shouldn't the words “Elokei Avoseinu” precede the word “Elokeinu”--shouldn't we say “Elokei Avoseinu V'Elokeinu”--after all, isn’t it because Hashem was the G-d of our forefathers that He is our G-d, as well?  To be sure, we didn't discover Hashem--Avrohom Avinu did!!  We welcome your insights.



Special Note One:  HaRav Yitzchok Zilberstein, Shlita writes in his Sefer VeHa'arev Na that people describe the test one had to pass in order to be able to enter the Vilna Gaon's shiur.  The G'ra would ask the applicant which Daf he knew best in all of Shas--which Daf had he learned tens or even hundreds of times.  When the applicant answered with a Mesechta and Daf number, the G'ra then asked him to sit in the Bais Medrash and study that very Daf again.  The G'ra would then observe the potential student as he studied this Daf that he knew better than any other Daf in Shas--to see whether his study was with Mesikus--with sweetness and desire as if he was studying it for the first time—in which event he would be admitted to the Shiur.  If, however, it was studied as if one had already studied it without that real first-time enthusiasm, then the Gra's Shiur would not be his place.


Additional Note:  The Mattersdorfer Rav, Shlita, relates in the name of the Chasam Sofer that the Torah is a goldmine.  Only those who know how to mine will be able to get out the gold.  It takes time, effort and a special love, dedication and desire to learn the skill--but there is no greater gold at the other end!



Special Note Two:  In honor of our new encounters with Avrohom Avinu beginning in this week's Parsha, we focus this week on the first bracha of Shemone Esrei--known as Birchas Avos.  The Aruch HaShulchan (Orach Chayim 112:2) writes that this bracha actually originated when Avrohom Avinu was saved from the fiery furnace of Ur Kasdim--and was actually then recited by the Malachei HaShareis!  The Aruch HaShulchan also brings from the Tur (Orach Chayim 113) that the exact number of words of this bracha is 42 (obviously corresponding to the 42-letter name of Hashem referred to in Kiddushin 71A--which is also strongly alluded to in the 42 words of the “Anna BeChoach” tefillah recited near the culmination of Karbanos and immediately before greeting Shabbos at Lecha Dodi--in fact, this allusion to the name of Hashem may be the reason that Ana BeChoach concludes with Baruch Shem Kevod).  Let us focus--42 words corresponding to the 42 letters--we must appreciate the weightiness of each word, for if one letter is missing, the name is not fully complete!


Several other important points about the *first*[the “Av”] bracha of Shemone Esrei:


1.  Why do we bow down as we begin Shemone Esrei?  The Anaf Yosef cites the following cogent explanation:  (a) the bowing reminds us before Whom we stand; (b) our looking down serves as a reminder as to where a person goes after 120 years; and (c) lowering the body alludes to your goal to bring the brachos from the heavens above down to the world below.


2.  This bracha begins with the customary words of Baruch Ata Hashem Elokeinu but then seems to be “missing” the important reference to Malchus--that Hashem is *Melech HaOlam*--Ruler of the World.  Why is it not here?  Your thoughts are welcome.


3.  Hashem is referred to in this bracha as “Elokei Yaakov.”  However, once Hashem Himself changed Yaakov’s name to Yisroel (Beraishis 35:10 and Rashi there)--and we ourselves are referred to as the B'nai Yisroel and K'lal Yisroel--why does not the bracha also refer to Hashem as Elokei Yisroel?  Your thoughts are welcome.


4.  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, was asked why the words “Gomel Chasodim Tovim” are not, so to speak, redundant--after all, is there a Chesed which is not Tov--which is not good?  He responded that there, in fact, is, for a chesed could result in something good for one person, but have a detrimental effect on someone else.  Only Hashem can micromanage the billions of factors necessary for a chesed to be 100% good --when necessary--for each and every one of His creations!


5.  What does the term “Zocher Chasdei Avos” mean--what Chesed is Hashem remembering--is it the Chesed that Hashem promised that He would do for the Avos and their children--or, to the contrary, is He remembering the “Chesed” not that He performed, but that our *Avos performed* in making Hashem's Name [see reference to 42 letter name of Hashem within the bracha mentioned earlier] known in the world, or perhaps are we simply referring to the great acts of Chesed performed by our Avos to other people in the world--all of which accrues to the merit of their descendants for 2,000 generations (Shemos 34:7--Notzer Chesed La'alaphim is one of the 13 Middos of Hashem).  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, holds that it is referring to Zechus Avos (see Tosfos to Shabbos 55A).  The Meshech Chochma writes that it refers to the Chesed that Hashem did to the Avos--and our awareness that for this reason He will do Chesed to their children, as well.  From this simple phrase, we can see how multi-faceted, how broad and penetrating, these holy words are--how careful we should be in their recitation!



Special Note One:   We have received a “Tefillas Shemone Esrei Checklist” which you may want to use as a template for improving your Kavannah.  Please click here for the checklist, which may be copied and distributedThis checklist is also available as a brightly-colored poster by clicking here.



Special Note Two:  We continue our Erev Shabbos--Halachos of Shabbos Series:


  1. Please click here for information on Brooklyn ’s Annual Shabbos Parade, this year to be held one week from tomorrow, on Shabbos Parshas Lech Lecha.  The Parade will feature songs led by Pirchei Agudas Yisroel’s Children’s Choir, and will honoring six retail businesses on or near the route which have become Shomer Shabbos.  For those outside of Brooklyn, perhaps you can host a Shabbos Parade in your community!

  2. We provide by the following link http://shabbos.scriptui.com/ a sample of a wonderful new Sefer, Hilchos Shabbos B’Shabbato by Rabbi Avrohom Shlomo Dickman, Shlita, which is devoted  to practical Halacha, and is arranged Parsha by Parsha--with three Limudim, or lessons per Parsha--so that a lesson can be reviewed and/or discussed at each Shabbos meal.  The lessons for Parshas Noach can be found on pages 10-16 on the attached link.

  3.  Last Erev Shabbos, we provided several notes relating to Hadlakos Neiros.  Rav Chaim Yitzchak Poupko, a student of the Chofetz Chaim who later served as the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Toras Chaim in New York , relates the following story: “I was once in the home of the Chofetz Chaim as preparations for Shabbos were under way.  Surprisingly enough, I watched the Chofetz Chaim exert a tremendous amount of effort into setting up the Shabbos candles.  I wanted to help, but when I asked the Rebbetzin, she said, ‘My husband is very possessive of this mitzvah.  He does not even allow me to assist him. Surely he will not give up this privilege to you….’” (Sefer Meoros HaShabbos I, p. 49).  Hakhel Note:  This incident should help us appreciate just how significant our actions are in preparing for Shabbos!  Additionally, if the Chofetz Chaim was so careful and protective of only preparing the candles--imagine how careful and protective the person actually lighting the candles and making the Brocha should be!  What a great moment of the week--cherish it--and handle with care!

  4. It is interesting to note that on Erev Shabbos we traditionally light (a minimum of) two candles--each with only one wick, yet on Motzei Shabbos for Havdalah we light only one candle--but with two wicks. Why the difference?

  5. The Sefer Pininei Tefillah which we have referred to over the last two days, provides an important ruling of HaRav Elyashiv, Shlita, relating to Kiddush.  Chazal require that we must remember Yetzias Mitzrayim in Kiddush, and therefore the words “Zecher L’Yetzias Mitzrayim” are part of the nusach of Kiddush.  HaRav Elyahiv rules that the word “zecher” requires us to literally think about--and not just mention--Yetzias Mitzrayim, and if one does not actually think about it, he has not fulfilled his obligation.  HaRav Elyashiv adds that one should advise his household and/or those who he is being motzi with Kiddush to also think about Yetzias Mitzrayim when they hear these words recited.


Special Note Three:  In the Sefer Karyana D’Igarta (I, p.22), the Steipler Gaon, Z’tl, writes that when one is “betokef taavaso”--at the height of his desire--and overcomes it because he knows the Torah proscribes the desire, then an “ohr kedusha norah v’ayom she’ein lesha’air--an awesome and immeasurable light” will rest upon him.  What more need be said--if one can control himself in this way at these moments of nisayon, imagine the kedusha he brings upon himself daily, weekly and over a lifetime!



Special Note Four:  The Mabul described in tomorrow’s Parsha is sometimes referred to as the “Mai Noach“--the flood waters of Noach.  We could understand that the Teivah would be known as Noach’s Ark , but why would the flood waters be known by Noach’s name?  Shouldn’t it instead be attributed to the sinful people at that time?  After all--the flood was their fault-not Noach’s!  The Maharsha explains that Noach is, in a sense, held responsible for the flood because he did not do everything in his power to save his generation.  Obviously, he did a lot--building a Teivah for all those years, and undoubtedly subjecting himself to ridicule, intimidation and threats.  However, sometimes we don’t realize that we can really--and should--do more.  This is a great lesson here for us.  When it comes to the health, safety, and welfare of others, we should try to do something more than we think that we are capable of.  In fact, this was the path of Avrohom Avinu who was ill and elderly, yet searched outside in a heat wave in order to help others--and to teach those of us in future generations how to behave!


One can remind himself of this important theme every Shabbos in the Zimra of “Yom Shabboson Ain Lishkoach”--which concludes with the words “Ka’asher Nishbata Al Mai Noach”!  To start with, let’s remind ourselves of how to help others--as we sing these words tomorrow!



Special Note One:  We received the following special insight from a reader:  “I have an idea for those learning Daf Yomi.  Learning the daf goes fast and often a Mesechta is learned that is dear and cherished and once the Siyum is made, it is not for another 7 1/2 years that the Mesechta will be learned again.  This doesn’t have to be the case.  One can choose a ‘favorite’ Mesechta and never have to leave it during the course of his learning Daf.  How so?  All the times he learns through she’ar Dapei Shas, he is mekabel, bli neder, of course, to look up inside all references while learning other Mesechtas to his ‘favorite’ Mesechta.  For instance, we are currently studying Bava Basra.  If your chosen Mesechta is, for instance, Mesechta Shabbos, every time there is a reference in that day’s Daf to Mesechta Shabbos, look up the Gemara to your ‘chosen’ Mesechta.  This way you never leave ‘your’ Mesechata!”

Hakhel Note:  This coming Sunday, the seventh day of Cheshvan, is the yahrtzeit of HaRav Meir Shapiro, Z’tl, R’ Yehuda Meir ben R’Yaakov Shimshon, who dedicated his life to passing the light of Torah on to future generations.  To all those who have benefited from the study of Daf Yomi, or from the students of the Yeshiva Chachmei Lublin, we urge you to do any or all of the following on his yahrtzeit l’ilui nishmaso:

  • Learn Torah--especially Mishnayos

  • Give Tikun

  • Dedicate your Daf Yomi Shiur or Daf Yomi study

  • Review the Daf one extra time, in his memory


Special Note Two:  Relating to our note on the phrase we recite in Neilah and daily, U’Mosar HaAdam min HaBeheima ‘Ayin’, a reader wrote that the word ‘Ayin’ is an acronym which actually describes the superiority of man over animal:


a= “amira”  We talk, animals do not


yi= “yediya”  We have sechel, animals do not


n= “neshama”  We have a neshama, as well--animals only have nefesh


Let us appreciate this--how easy it would have been for us to have been created as the squirrel, dog, bird or ant in front of us.  With great appreciation and awareness, we can, from time to time, look at these creatures and say, “Thank you, Hashem, for giving me what the world may improperly disregard as Ayin, but I know is really A-Yi-N!



Special Note Three:  We are pleased to advise our readers that the most recent issue of Halachically Speaking is now available by email (it is free).  The topic is Pas--especially Pas Yisroel and Pas Palter, including many practical applications.  To subscribe, please contact mdl@thehalacha.com.



Special Note Four:  To those who want to know the guidelines of HaRav Elyashiv, Shlita, as to what women are to daven, his Teshuva is as follows: Birchas HaTorah, Birchos HaShachar, Parshas HaTomid (if it is their custom, but it not an obligation), Boruch She’Amar, Ashrei, Yishtabach, Shema, Emes VeYatziv through Go’al Yisroel, and Shemone Esrei.  Women should also daven Mincha, but are not Mechuyavos in Ma’ariv.



Special Note Five:  In terms of kavannah assistance in davening, a reader reported that he had read that some Gedolim keep their finger on the word when reciting it, allowing for greater kavannah.


Hakhel Note:  Three other points on our davening, before we take leave for the day of this life-granting, life-promoting and life-saving topic:


1.  HaRav Shimshon Dovid Pincus, Z’tl, highlights just how powerful our prayers are.  In Pesukei DeZimra daily, we recite Tehillim Chapter 148, in which we exclaim “Hallelu Es Hashem Min HaShomayim...Praise Hashem from the Heavens, Praise Hashem all His  angels, Praise Hashem sun and moon, and all bright stars, Praise Hashem, the most Exalted of heavens and the waters that are above the heavens....”  Think for a moment of what we are doing--we are actually ordering the heavens, the angels, the sun and stars all to praise Hashem!  We, mere “sons of man,” are actually empowered to tell these awesome and incomprehensible creations what to do!  Look at and appreciate the control and influence we wield with our prayers--and especially feel the joy and potential and clout of your tefillos when reciting this Kepitel as an extremely important preface to Birchos Kriyas Shema and Shemone Esrei!


2.  What do the following sampling of frequently recited pesukim in Tehillim have in common--what is Dovid Hamelech teaching us time and again about our role in life?  The pesukim we refer to are Tehillim 6:6; 30:10; 34:2; 115:17; and 118:17.  When you recite your daily Tehillim, you will surely find other related pesukim to this great goal and lesson!


3.  In our Shemone Esrei focus today, we concentrate on the word “Selah”--a word found in Tanach in more than scores of places.  What specifically does the word mean (you should know--you will hopefully be reciting it hundreds of thousands of times in your lifetime!)--and in which bracha of Shemone Esrei is it mentioned?  In which bracha more than once?  Why?  It may be a small word, but it certainly has great meaning!



As a zechus for a Refuah Sheleima for HaRav Elyashiv, Shlita, from his recent illness and as a zechus for his continued good health, we present below a sampling of Shailos asked of him relating to Tefillah together with his Teshuvos, as presented in the Sefer Peninei Tefillah by Rav Benzion HaKohen Kook, Shlita.  In order to review the hundreds of Shailos and Inyanim presented in this wonderful Sefer (in Hebrew), we refer you to your local seforim store for purchase:


1.  Q.  If one had kavannah when reciting the first pasuk of Shema to accept upon himself Ohl Malchus Shomayim and for the meaning of the words, but had some other thoughts in between the words, has he fulfilled the Mitzvah of Shema?


A.  No, this is not considered to be proper kavannah, and one must repeat the entire pasuk over again.


2.  Q.  The Vilna Gaon writes that one should daven for the tzibbur only when he is davening Shemone Esrei, and that he should daven for his own needs in Elokai Netzor.  Can't one daven for himself in the brachos of Shemone Esrei?


A.  The entire Shemone Esrei is recited in the plural, because it is a tefillah for the tzibbur--as it was instituted based upon the Korban Tomid, which is a korban tzibbur.  When one intends to daven only for himself, it would be in Elokai Netzor, but if he intends to daven for himself “besoch”--among--the tzibbur, it is permitted even within the brachos of Shemone Esrei.


3.  Q.  Is it permitted to repeat words within a bracha of Shemone Esrei, if you feel that you have not recited them with kavannah?


A.  Yes, within the bracha.


4.  Q.  Can one teach and exchange words of Torah with a non-observant person, as he has not recited Birchas Hatorah?


A.  It is better if you have him recite it (or make the bracha for him, and have him be yotzei with your bracha), but if he has not, you can still study with him.  This is because Birchas HaTorah is not like Birchas HaNehenin--it is not forbidden to learn if you have not recited Birchas HaTorah.  Rather, it is simply a Mitzvah to make the bracha before learning.  In no event should one allow the non-observant person to make the bracha himself without a head covering, as this constitutes a zilzul bracha.


5.  Q.  After one sleeps at night in an airplane seat, does he make Birchas HaTorah the next morning?


A.  Yes, although he did not sleep in a bed, it is considered his “shainas keva”--his regular sleep for the evening.


6.  Q.  Is it permissible to drink coffee with milk and sugar, tea and sugar, or juice, before Shacharis?


A.  Yes, if there is some need to do so (such as to wake oneself up, etc.).  The Mishne Berurah had disapproved of the practice, only because drinking practices were then different, and it was then considered a “derech ga'avah” to do so before davening.


7.  Q.  If one reached his hand into the bathroom in order to close the bathroom door, does he have to wash his hands as a “yotzei mibeis hakisei” because of ruach ra'ah (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 4, Mishne Berurah seif katan 40)?


A.  No, the mere presence of his hand in the beis hakisei there does not render him a “yotzei mibeis hakisei”.


8.  Q.  In order to be grammatically correct, should women and girls say "Moda Ani" rather than "Modeh Ani" in the morning when awakening, and in the bracha of Elokai Neshama?


A.  No, they should do as their “savtas” did.  We don't change nuscha'os.


9.  In the morning, should one complete Birchos Kriyas Shema (i.e., have completed the bracha of Go'al Yisroel) before the end of zeman Kriyas Shema?


A.  Yes, and if the tzibbur will not, you should nevertheless do so, and begin Shemone Esrei before them (but recite the first bracha slowly, so that you are still reciting the first bracha when they commence, as well, constituting tefilla betzibbur).


10.  According to the Ramban, it is a Mitzvas Aseh to daven in an “eis tzarah--in a time of tzarah.”  What constitutes an “eis tzarah”?


A.  Any time that a person feels pain--health issues, financial matters, child rearing difficulties, even when feeling someone else's pain.  There is no difference--pain is pain, and there is a Mitzvah to daven.


11.  Q.  If one is traveling on a bus and needs to daven, must he get off in order to stand for Shemone Esrei, or can he daven from his seat?


  A.  On an intra-city bus, one should descend, daven and wait for another bus.  On an inter-city bus, where buses are not so prevalent, he may remain seated, if standing is inappropriate or will affect kavannah.  However, one should use aforethought when he needs to travel.  It is preferable to daven before sunrise at home while standing--then it is to daven after sunrise in a sitting position.  Even for someone who has difficulty standing for medical reasons--it is better to daven a shorter Shemone Esrei standing, than a longer Shemone Esrei sitting.  From the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 94:4,9), it is clear that standing is one of the “Ikarei HaTefillah”--one of the material aspects of davening!



Special Note One:  What is especially unique to the Torah world about Gibraltar ?  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, notes that the Mishne Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 228, seif katan 2) brings a disagreement among authorities as to whether the bracha of “She’Asah Es HaYom HaGadol” is recited over: (a) the Mediterranean (because of its relationship to Eretz Yisroel, it may be referred to as the Yom HaGadol--the great sea), or (b) the Atlantic Ocean, because in fact it is the great sea.  Because of this uncertainty, HaRav Kanievsky rules that if one has not seen either the Mediterranean or the Atlantic in more than 30 days, he recites the more general bracha on each one of “Oseh Ma’aseh Beraishis--Who makes the works of creation.”  However, Gibraltar is where the Atlantic and Mediterranean meet--both bodies of water come together--enabling you to make the bracha of She’Asa Es HaYom HaGadol there according to all opinions!  Every place has its uniqueness, every person his time....


Hakhel Note:  When one sees the marvelous sights of nature from an airplane, such as the Alps and the Atlantic or the desert, one recites the full bracha (with Shem u’Malchus) of Oseh Ma’aseh Beraishis (Sefer Piskei Teshuvos II, p.533).  Don’t feel so bad about the window seat....!



Special Note Two:  We continue our focus on the divinely inspired words of Shemone Esrei.  What is the one request in Shemone Esrei that we ask should be not only now, and not only later, not just in Olam Hazeh, and not only in Olam Haba--but “Tomid LeOlam Vo’ed--always and continually, forever and ever”?  With such a powerful request, how can we not put real sincerity--true kavanna behind this essential request!



Special Note Three:  There is an important story that is related about HaRav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, Z’tl.  A young boy approached him with a question he had about the “Ein Kailokeinu” tefillah which Nusach Sefard recites daily, and Nusach Ashkenaz (in Chutz La’Aretz) recites on Shabbos and Yom Tov.  The boy’s question was straightforward and clear.  Why is it that we begin this tefillah by categorically and unmistakably affirming “Ein Kailokeinu, Ein Ka’adoneinu--there is none like Hashem, none like our Master...”--and then go back to ask “Mi Kailokeinu, Mi Ka’adoneinu--who is like Hashem, who is like our Master?”...  Didn’t we already answer that with the first statement that there is simply no one like Hashem?!  HaRav Sonnenfeld had apparently already contemplated this very question, and immediately responded to the boy as follows:  This tefillah teaches us that our Emunah Peshutah--our unwavering Emunah is an absolute prerequisite to any questions we may have as to personal and news events, why this is so or that is so, why that happened or didn’t happen, and to all of the basic truth-seeking questions in life.  We must therefore exclaim Ein Kailokeinu, before asking the Mi Kailokeinu question!  As a postscript to the story, this boy somehow later ended up in Europe during World War II, and testified that he used these moving words of HaRav Sonnenfeld to him as his means of survival, and eventually made his way back, alive and spiritually charged, to Eretz Yisroel.


Hakhel Note:  The last of the specific Al Chaits is for “Timhon Levav”--which some explain as relating to the improper expression of wonderment as to Hashem and His ways.  Whether it is events that relate to us personally, to Eretz Yisroel, or to the world--we must train ourselves to start with the most basic truth--a premise that we have our young children joyously sing-- Ein Kailokeinu!



Special Note Four:  The Vilna Gaon’s brother, HaRav Avrohom, in his classic Sefer  Maalos HaTorah, brings the Alshich Hakadosh, who explains the words we recite at the end of every Shemone Esrei daily and in the Shabbos and Yom Tov davening “VeSain Chelkainu Besorosecha--may you give us our portion in Torah”.  The Alshich teaches that each person stood at Har Sinai and received his particular portion in Torah.  This portion is what he learns in his mother’s womb--and this is what Chazal refer to as “all of Torah” in the womb, because this is what relates to his Neshama.  When he is born into this world, his role is to rediscover the Torah he has just forgotten, and to apply and fulfill that which he has learned.  If his role in this world was merely to be challenged to restudy that which he had forgotten, he could simply be made to forget it in the womb--and be challenged to re-learn it there in that very same position as well!  But this is not the case.  The world one is born into is an Olam HaAsiyah-a world of action.  The last word of the Torah in the process of creation--found in the last word of VaYichulu--is “La’asos”, to do--for it is up to us to take our personal Torah study and make sure that we have performed our chelek--taken care of what he have to do in this world--with our Torah study.  This is the personal responsibility of every human being--as a world unto himself (see Sanhedrin 37A).  With this, we can better understand why the Ramban (in the Igeres HaRamban) urges his son that at a point in the day in which he has finished some study, he should search to actually apply that which he has studied in his life in some real way.  There are not many personal requests that we are allowed to make in the Shabbos davening, but VeSain Chelkainu BeSoresecha is one of them.  If we are serious about the request, we should be off and running with the word “La’asos” from Shabbos Bereishis with a lifetime quest to realize the reason that we were at Har Sinai, that we were taken out of our mother’s womb for a reason, and that we are blessed with a privilege and responsibility unparalled in the entire universe.  Every time we take out a sefer, every time we act on that which we have learned, we should be energized and enthralled with the realization that this is *our* very own Chelek and *our* very own La’asos!!



Special Note One:  Here is a basic mathematics question.  If a man studies three Mishnayos, or a man or woman studies three Halachos, after Mincha or Ma’ariv, or perhaps before retiring for the evening, every day in the year 5770, how many Mishnayos or Halachos will he have learned by the end of the Year?  A more advanced question--if, instead, one begins this study on the first day of MarCheshvan--one month after 5770 has begun, and undertakes the same study until the first day of MarCheshvan of 5771--how many Mishnayos or Halachos has one studied?



Special Note Two:  We will soon be able to recite Kiddush Levana.  We would like to provide the following advice given by HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, in time for it to be shared with others around the world.  HaRav Kanievsky (Derech Sicha, I, p.44) teaches that for a toothache, it is  a “segula mikadmonim--a segula from early generations”--which is also brought in the Siddur Bais Yaakov of HaRav Yakkov Emden, to add several words in Kiddush Levana at the right moment.  After the words that one usually recites “Kach Lo Yuchlu Kol Oivai Lingoa Bee LeRoa--so should my enemies not hurt me”, one should immediately add “VeLo Yehiye Lee Ke’Aiv Shinayim--and I should no longer have a toothache.”  HaRav Kanievsky advises that his father, the Steipeler, recited this Nusach on his own behalf, and on behalf of others.  Once, HaRav Kanievsky’s mother had a toothache, and the Steipeler felt badly, telling her, “I wish I had known before I recited Kiddush Levana!”  Here is a real and simple opportunity to try to help others!



Special Note Three:  We continue with our Shemone Esrei improvement focus with the following question:  Which is the longest bracha in Shemone Esrei?  Why do you think this is so?  How many Shaimos are in it--and how many Shaimos does the Tzibbur recite when responding to this bracha during Chazaras HaShatz?



Special Note Four:  The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (2:3) provides a sure method in which we can remember Parshas Bereishis every day--“One should wash his face [in the morning upon rising] in honor of his Maker, as the Pasuk states, ‘Ki BeTzelem Elokim Asah Es HaAdam--for man was made in the image of Hashem.’”  The Kitzur then adds that one should also wash out his mouth, so that he can mention Hashem’s name in davening “BiKedusha U’VeTahara.”  What  a great lesson in how and why we rise in the morning--in comparison to the billions of others in the world who may undertake the same physical acts as us--but whose intentions are so, so different.  They simply want to feel and smell good--for themselves, and so as not to embarrass themselves among others--and it ends there.  We, too, care about about personal hygiene--but with the refined focus that our bodily functions and needs have spiritual goals and loftier intentions to attempt and achieve--a lifetime of accomplishment.  The splash of cold water on your cheeks, or the bright and fresh feeling in your mouth in the morning--is, more importantly--preparing you for a day of spiritual awareness, awakening, aspiration and accomplishment, as well!


Special Note Five:  Every morning prior to reciting Pesukei DeZimra, in the Karbanos  section of davening, we recite the words with which we come close to concluding our Ne’ilah davening on Yom Kippur--“U’Mosar HaAdam Min HaBeheima Oyin, Ki HaKol Hevel--the pre-eminence of man over beast is ‘Oyin’--naught--for all is vanity....”  What is the Oyin to which we are referring?  For a simple peshat, one can refer to Koheles 3:19.  The Ba’alei Mussar, however, explain that the benefit of man over animal is our ability to respond Oyin--no--to the Yetzer Hora, which the animal world is not in the same position to do.  That is why Hashem told Kayin in last week’s Parsha--“V’Ata Timshol Bo”--it is your role, as a human being, and not an animal, to rule over the ta’avos and temptations that face us.  We must be able to look back at our day and recall at least a few situations during the day in which we truly behaved as human beings--in which we consciously made the choice and decision--and exclaimed (even silently):  “No!  Oyin! I am--Baruch Hashem--a human being!!”



Special Note One:  We received important comments from readers relating to the Mitzvah of Mipnei Saiva Takum discussed yesterday, and share the following with you:


a.  “Very often people at a Chupah stand up for the Chosson and Kallah when they walk to the chuppah, but not for their grandparents who are often over 70.  Rabbi Cinamon, Shlita, points out in his Sefer Beyom Chasunaso that according to many it is not necessary to stand for the Chosson and Kallah, but it is certainly necessary to stand for those over 70.”


b.  “Regarding standing before a Seivah, I learned from Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, in the name of the Ari’zal that one should stand before one who is 60 years old.”


c.  “I daven Mincha in a shtibel where, bli hayin harah, lots of men over 70 daven--do I keep standing and sitting, concentrating on this mitzvah--or do I stand all the time?”  Hakhel Note:  Other readers raised additional relevant issues--do I stand in the middle of learning, in the middle of davening, while talking to someone to whom I owe respect...  All excellent questions for the Rav of the Shul--perhaps ask him for a shiur on the topic for the benefit of everyone!


One can study more about this Mitzvah in Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah, Siman 244 and in the related rulings of the Chochmas Odom and the Aruch HaShulchan.



Special Note Two:  As we conclude the week after Sukkos, we can be enthused by the words of Chazal (Yalkut Shimoni to Yeshaya 60, Siman 503) who teach that in the future we will be taken by clouds to the Bais HaMikdash every Shabbos and every Rosh Chodesh to daven, so that, for instance, we would be taken tomorrow on Shabbos, and then again this coming Sunday, on Rosh Chodesh.  Chazal ask--but what will be if Rosh Chodesh falls out on Shabbos--and Chazal respond that we will be taken in the morning to the Bais HaMikdash in honor of Shabbos, brought home, and taken to the Bais HaMikdash again in the afternoon in honor of Rosh Chodesh!  We have much to look forward to...  In fact, Chazal conclude, that when Shlomo Hamelech, the wisest of all men, teaches (Koheles 1:9) “Ma She’haya Hu She’Yiheye--that which was will be in the future”--he is referring to those Clouds [which transported our forefathers] that we will be transported in, as well!



Special Note Three:  Tomorrow, it will be a week since we read Koheles in Chutz La’Aretz--and two weeks since it was lained in Eretz Yisroel (where it was lained on the first day of Sukkos).  We should take some life lessons with us from this great Megillah for the rest of the year--after all it has the dual zechus of being both words of Nevuah (see Targum to Koheles 1:1), and words of the wisest of all men.  We mention only one example--a small portion of 1 of the 222 pesukim in this Megillah.  Shlomo Hamelech (ibid., 7:14 ) teaches “Beyom Tova Heyeh BeTov--remember to be happy when thing are going well....”  This is a great teaching in and of itself, but the Targum takes it an important step further.  The Targum here translates these words to mean--“when Hashem has done good to you--be sure that you, too, then do good to other people”--sharing and spreading that goodness and good feeling.  Keep this great teaching in mind for those moments of simcha in your life, and even when you simply realize that you have been blessed with something or someone...and make sure others can feel good in some way, as well!



Special Note Four:  Shabbos Bereishis is always a time of great excitement, as we discover the birth of the world and the creation of man anew every year.  Many thoughts may cross through our mind as to how, why and when events happened, but they must be firmly rooted in the Emunah Peshuta that Hashem Was, Is, and Will Be, and that we will only understand some more when the Moshiach comes.  We present several questions related to the Parsha, simply in order for us to think about what the Mussar Haskel--what the lesson is from it:


a.  Adam and Chava were banished from Gan Eden--but what happened to Kayin, Hevel, and their sisters born along with them--were they left in Gan Eden?


b.  Adam had named all of the animals in creation and even his wife, yet Chava named her son Kayin--why?  Additionally, why was Hevel given such a name (apparently meaning “in vain”, “vanity”, “nothingness”--see Koheles 3:19 ) at all?


c.  Rashi teaches us that all of the elements of Heaven and Earth were created on the first day of creation, and that the Malochim were created on Monday.  Why were the Malochim created *after* the world’s elements were initially created?


d.  Why did the Rokia--the firmament above us--have to be suspended in “midair”--hanging precariously between the heavens and the earth?



Special Note Five:  We find in Parshas Bereishis that man is distinguised from the animal kingdom in his “deah” and “dibbur”--his ability to think and express that thought to others.  To bring this powerful point home, we provide the following selection from the outstanding new Sefer, Positive Word Power (Artscroll--Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation), which is truly a must-read for every “thinking and speaking” individual.


Speech originates in the brain.  Before the word comes the thought; by definition, speech requires thinking.  The only question is whether one relies entirely on this involuntary process, or one works toward developing a conscious thought process that remains in gear at all times.  To avoid onaas devarim, a person must dedicate his brain to filtering its output to a finer degree.  Motivation is the key.  Someone who comes to the realization that ona’as devarim is really a negative factor in his life must then look for a different way, a means to ensure that impulsive, damaging words do not spill out of his mouth.  Even something as simple as posting a “Think before you speaksign at the desk or on the kitchen counter can help.  Turning on the word filter and using it every time one speaks is ultimately nothing more than a habit which, like all habits, can be developed through repetition.  Where human effort leaves off, Divine Assistance will surely come into play to help all who devote themselves to protecting the dignity of their fellow man.”

What a life-long lesson to take with us from the Parsha!!



Special Note Six:  We continue with our Erev Shabbos--Halachos of Shabbos Series.  In honor of the Hakhel Women’s Shiur on Hadlakas Neiros referred to above, we provide the following points relating to Hadlakas Neiros:


1.  A woman has priority over a man in lighting Shabbos candles, as they are more involved in a home’s needs, and an essential reason for Hadlakas Neiros is Shalom Bayis--a feeling of serenity in the home which the women is eminently capable of.  Additionally, as we learn in this week’s Parsha, woman caused man to eat from the Eitz HaDa’as, resulting in man’s light being extinguished (death was introduced into the world), and so the lighting of candles is a form of takana and kapara for women.


2.  The Mishne in Shabbos (2:6) teaches that a woman may, R’L, pass away in childbirth because of a failure to be careful with Hadlakas Neiros.  The Rashash to this Mishne explains that simply failing to light Shabbos candles would not engender something as serious as the death penalty.  Rather, the Mishne is referring to someone who is not careful to light on time--which can/will (chas veshalom) result in Chillul Shabbos--for which the penalty is Misah, death.

Hakhel Note:  Shabbos Candlelighting times listed on calendars, magnets and the like should not be viewed  merely as goals to strive for, or with the attitude of “I really have another fifteen minutes”--but should be taken seriously and stringently--staying far, far away from any danger zone--a time period in which one is literally playing with fire.  The zemanim are there for a reason--to avoid Chillul Shabbos, and to fulfill the Mitzvas Aseh of Tosefes Shabbos--adding on to the Kedusha of the Shabbos.  Indeed, the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (75:6) writes that one should light in weekday clothes if necessary in order to avoid getting involved in a “Sofek Chillul Shabbos,’’ and that if a husband sees that his wife will be lighting in a Sofek Chillul Shabbos time--he should light himself instead and not be concerned with her anger!  The Mishne Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 262, seif katan 11) adds that it is a “Mitzvah Gedolah” to sit in the dark rather than, chas veshalom, come to Chillul Shabbos.  Let us take special note of these words as we approach the shorter Erev Shabbos days of the winter months (in the Northern Hemisphere).


3.  When lighting candles, one should not move his/her hand away from the wick until most of the wick has been lit, so that the flame will be burning well--this is the way the Menorah was lit in the Bais HaMikdash, and the way we are to light Neiros Chanukah, as well (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 264:8, and Mishne Berurah there).


4.  What should one do if it appears that a candle is going to fall on the table?  See ibid., 265, Mishne Berurah, seif katan 16--and perhaps ask your Rav for a shiur on the topic!  Hakhel Note:  To obtain a copy of a Hakhel Shiur given by Rabbi Shlomo Pearl, Shlita, on “Emergency Situations on Shabbos”, please call 718-252-5274.


5.  The Neiros must be long enough to burn into the night (so that one has actual benefit from the candlelight--otherwise there is a bracha levatala issue) and continue burning through the end of the meal (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 75:2).


6.  The Radiance of Shabbos by Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen, Shlita, (Artscroll) devotes several important chapters to Hadlakas Neiros.  Rabbi Cohen brings from the Zohar to this week’s Parsha that one should be sure to light the Neiros Shabbos with great joy.


7.  Rabbi Cohen brings from Chazal that those who are zealous with the Mitzvah of Hadlakas Neiros will merit to greet the Divine Presence.  What an accomplishment--for a little bit of zealousness!



Special Note One:  Another Mitzvah which may be easy to perform, but may not be performed properly, is the Mitzvah of standing up for a “zaken” or “zekeina”--a man or woman who is over 70 (according to some opinions, over 60)--even if he or she may be otherwise unlearned (unless they are wicked).  One of the Al Chaits we mentioned on Yom Kippur was “For the sins which we are required to bring a Korban Olah for.”  We are required to bring a Korban Olah for failing to perform a Mitzvas Aseh when the opportunity arises--and standing before an elderly person is just such a Mitzvas Aseh!  (Source: Kuntres Avodas HaTefillah on the Yom Kippur Shemone Esrei).  Standing before a zaken means rising to full height when they are within four amos of you.  Additionally, if one is unsure as to the person’s age, one should stand--because of the Halachic principle of “Sofek D’Oraysa LeChumra”--when one is unsure about something relating to a Mitzvah in the Torah he must be stringent about it--and, accordingly, one should stand--for even if you later learn that the person was 69, you have taken the proper action by rising!  Moreover, the Sefer Pele Yoetz writes that if one fulfills this “simple” Mitzvah and stands before the elderly, the Torah advises us that he will be zoche to Yiras Shomayim--for the Pasuk instructing us in this Mitzva specifically reads:  “Mipnei Saiva Takum...Veyaraisa Mai’Elokecha (Vayikra 19:32)--rise before the elderly person...and [the result will be that you will fear Hashem!”  This “shortcut” to Yiras Shomayim would appear not only to be an incredible bracha (remember the penultimate Pasuk of Koheles, in which Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, teaches us that Sof Dovor--in the final analysis--what really matters are two things--Yiras Hashem and observance of the Mitvos), but would also seem to be a Middah KeNeged Middah--if you show the proper respect of whom I tell you to respect, I will help you to take it to the next step, so that you have proper fear of Heaven, as well.  Let us make the Mitzvas Aseh of rising for the elderly a priority this year, so that if next year we must recite the Al Chait for a Korban Olah--we will do our best for it not to include the grand Mitzvah of Mipnei Saiva Takum!



Special Note Two:  Continuing in our quest to improve our daily Shemone Esrei, we suggest focusing on the matters we ask or refer to in Shemone Esrei as “LeOlam—forever.”  Let us think for a moment--if it important enough to be forever--it is certainly important enough for us to focus on the word as we recite it!



Special Note Three:  The well known Pisgam mentioned by Rashi in Chumash is Acharon, Acharon, Chaviv--what comes last is most precious.  We had previously mentioned Shlomo HaMelech’s final conclusion in Koheles.  Another example of the primary importance of conclusions are the last bracha of Shemone Esrei and of Birchas Kohanim in both of which we ask for peace--for this is a comprehensive and all-encompassing bracha.  In a previous note we had cited the importance of the conclusion of Davening--U’Va Letzion, Aleinu, etc. during which people are unfortunately swayed by the Yetzer Hora from properly reciting these extremely significant and powerful words.  We add that it is also fascinating to note what the last Pasuk is in the Shira portion of Ha’azinu--which contains the dramatic conclusion to the end of days.  One may similarly note the final phrase of Moshe Rabbeinu to the B’nai Yisroel at the end of Vesos HaBracha before the Torah records that he ascended to Har Nevo.  There will be a successful conclusion to this world--we can be a part of it.  Let us focus on our conclusions--How do we conclude conversations--do we have to have the last word?  How do we conclude our meal--refraining from eating that extra food simply because it is in front of us, and with an appreciative and thought-filled Bracha Achrona?  How do we end our work day--with a compliment to someone, with a mitzvah, with a bracha over something?  How do we conclude a learning seder--with a review of something learned, with something to ask or to look into, with an “extra minute” of learning, with a kiss to the Sefer?  How do we conclude our waking day--with some words of Torah, with a Tefillah to Hashem that your sleep will energize you in your Avodas Hashem for a great day tomorrow?...  If the end is important to the world--it’s important for you, too!



Special Note One:  We provide by clicking here a wonderful compilation provided to us by one of our readers based upon the words of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch as to what one should say upon leaving his home, and upon entering and leaving Shul.  Please feel free to copy and distribute!



Special Note Two:  We continue with our focus on the divinely inspired words and phrases in Shemone Esrei.  We begin each and every Shemone Esrei with a Posuk from Tehillim:  “Hashem Sifasai Tiftach U’fi Yagid Tehilasecha—Hashem, open my lips so that my mouth can relate Your praise” (Tehillim 51:17).  The Kuntres Avodas HaTefillah provides a wonderful insight into why this Posuk was selected to introduce each Shemone Esrei, based upon the Sefer Mesilas Yesharim (Chapter 19).  Prior to our commencing Shemone Esrei we should bring (at least) three important thoughts to mind:  1.  That you are going to stand before Hashem in prayer; 2.  That you appreciate the Greatness and Omnipotence of Hashem who can readily fulfill all of the requests that you are about to make; and 3.  Understanding your frailty and vulnerability, mortality and physical nature in relation to Hashem.  The Posuk in front of us expresses--and should focus us on these three thoughts.  The first word of the Pasuk, “Hashem”, makes us awesomely aware of before Whom we stand.  The next words “Sifasai Tiftach” demonstrates our awareness that we can only open our lips if Hashem wills it, showing His complete mastery and power not over the world--but also over us(!)--as we stand in awe of Him asking that He open our very own lips.  The last phrase, “U’fi Yagid Tehelasecha” expresses the awareness of our physical being and the hope and aspiration that we can raise our physical being from the material world to a more important and eternal purpose.  How improved our Shemone Esrei could be if we started it in the right frame of mind, with real kavannah, as we recite this essential Pasuk gifted to us by Dovid HaMelech and placed at the exactly right moment into our Siddurim!



Special Note Three:  We are still in the month known as “Yerach HaEisanim--the Month of the Strong,” because of all of the Mitzvos and Ma’asim Tovim that are performed in this month, and because of the Zechus of our Avos (known as the “Eisanim”) which we draw from (and learn from!) during this month.  As we are close to the conclusion of the month (believe it or not, Rosh Hashanah is more than three weeks behind us) we must remember that the winners are those who are still there at the end, not having fallen prey to the cunning and guile of the old and wicked Yetzer Hara who strives so hard for us to drop our Kabbalos, to fall into despair, and to get back to the same old habits and practices.  As we finish the month, we must be sure that our brachos are better than they were last year, that we feel elevated by an increased or different learning schedule, and that our mouths are purer because we are dedicated to committing less Ona’as Devarim against our family members and friends.  You can fill in your own marked personal improvement or improvements that need to be maintained in other areas as well.  If we can get to the end of the month in a more elevated plane, we will be able to start the next month a step up--making us a step closer to the heights we can really and truly reach within our own lives.


There is a fascinating almost unexpected conclusion to the classic Sefer Mesilas Yesharim.  After the Sefer reviews in sharp detail the various essential Middos we must strive to incorporate into our daily living and life, HaRav Luzatto, Z’tl, concludes that if we view our thoughts, our words, and our deeds through one simple but brilliant light, we will have gone a long way to accomplishing our personal mission in life.  That special light, that indispensible perspective is--“Is that which I am thinking or about to say, or that which I am about to do, and the manner in which I am going to do it, going to give Nachas Ruach to my Father in Heaven?”  If we can keep this pleasant and attainable thought in focus throughout the day, we will have elevated ourselves well above the mire of habit and inclination that the Yetzer Hara so constantly and consistently strives to have us caught in.  Remember--you are in the Month of the Strong--be strong and take the strength with you for a very rich, gratifying and successful year!




Special Note One:  Keeping up the extra vigilance we have in these special times as we recite Shemone Esrei, we suggest that you look for the bracha (brachos) in Shemone Esrei in which there is a word or words with a Mapik-Heh--making sure to understand its meaning and pronounce it properly!


Hakhel Note:  We have just began reciting “Mashiv HaRuach U'Morid HaGeshem”--one way to be sure that you have recited this powerful phrase is to have Kavana when you recite it that Hashem in His incomprehensible omnipotence directs each and every drop of rainfall--each and every drop--to its intended location!



Special Note Two:  Today is the 200th Yahrzeit of the Kedushas Levi (Rebbe Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev), Z'tl, and the 170th Yarhrzeit of the “Heilege” Chasam Sofer, Z'tl.  Few individuals in recent history have achieved the level of worldwide renown, respect and love that K'lal Yisroel has for these great Gedolim.  In their respective honor, we provide one telling story from each relating to the Sukkos Holiday just passed that each of us can learn from in our everyday lives:


a.  Rebbe Levi Yitzchak, Z'tl, made it a point to have simple, uneducated guests in his  Sukkah, and not only great Rabbonim with whom he could have advanced discussions.  When asked why he would especially have these kinds of guests in his Sukkah, he responded as follows:  “In the future, when the Tzaddikim will be sitting in the Livyasan's Sukkah, I will want to enter, as well.  They will not let me enter, and say “Who are you to enter-- a simpleton wishing to enter the Livyasan's Sukkah--a chamber for Tzaddikim?!”  I will be able to answer that in my Sukkah I also let simple people like me enter...please let me in....


Hakhel Note:  Why too can we not learn to appreciate, love and embrace those who may not yet be up to our level--a special incentive may be that Middah KeNeged Middah in the next world!


b.  Two Yeshiva bachurim arrived in Pressburg immediately after Sukkos to be tested by the Chasam Sofer so that they could enter the famed Pressburg Yeshiva.  The first bachur entered, and the Chasam Sofer gave him various and sundry excuses as to why he could not accept him--the space is tight, etc...  The second bachur (who was later to become the Gaon Rebbe Shmelke MiSeilish, Z'tl), almost did not enter because, as they had come together, it was almost a foregone conclusion that he would not be accepted, either.  However, the Chasam Sofer accepted him with Sever Ponim Yofos and with joy.  The Chasam Sofer explained his conduct to one of his close talmidim.  When the bachurim were coming to meet him, the Chasam Sofer was looking out of the window, and noticed how the first bachur was stepping on the lulavim on the floor which had been previously hanging in the Sukkah being taken down, whereas the bachur who was to become Rebbe Shmelke carefully picked them up and was careful not to step on any of them.


Hakhel Note:  In the past we related a similar ma'aseh with the Chasam Sofer who did not want to give Semicha to someone who did not make it his practice to kiss the Mezuzah upon entering a room.  We note that just a few days ago we were singing and rejoicing over the Torah and the 613 Mitzvos it contains.  We must be sure to take that joy with us in the Torah and Mitzvos that we perform during the year.  The thought of stepping on a Mitzvah, or of not raising a hand, a finger or a leg with energy and exuberance when we have a Mitzvah in front of us to perform may mean that we, too, are not worthy of entering the Yeshiva that we are capable of--and should be--entering.  Knowing that we have a treasure is simply not enough--we must not let habit get the better part of us, instead making sure to be grateful for and regale in the daily privileges which are within our easy reach!



To experience an incredible Kiddush Hashem one need only call our community’s International Chesed Helpline at 718-705-5000.  Through telephone prompting, it contains a wealth of Chesed information for around the world, and is a true testimony of “Mi K’Amcha Yisroel!”


Special Note One:  Sukkos is a Chag which should invigorate us with Emunah.  May we suggest that one purchase, or put aside, a Sefer on Emunah to study over every day of the Yom Tov.  Many Mussar seforim have sections on both Emunah and Bitachon.  The Artscroll Publication, With Hearts Full of Faith (based upon the teaching of HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita) may be a wonderful way to begin!



Special Note Two:  In his Teshuva Drasha given last Motzei Shabbos on the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation Teleconference, Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman, Shlita, provided an incredible di’yuk and insight from Sefer Yona (1:12).  Yona Hanavi, after advising the shipmen that he was the only one responsible for the storm, tells them, “Sa’Uni Va’Hatiluni El HaYam--pick me up and heave me into the sea…”  Why did he tell the shipmen to “pick me up”--wouldn’t it have been sufficient to simply say “heave me into the sea”?!  The answer is that Yona is teaching us the value of one additional second of life--he would live for another moment if he were first picked up and then heaved into the sea, rather than being heaved directly into the stormy waters.  Life is so precious, so irreplaceable, and if used properly, so everlasting, that we must value every single moment.  It simply makes no sense whatsoever to consciously waste it on an aveira, or for there to be time when there is simply “nothing to do.”  Perhaps it is for this reason that we have so much--so many good things--to do in this short period between Yom Kippur and Sukkos, so that we take Yonah’s lesson to heart--and train ourselves to appreciate the moments and use them wisely!



Special Note Three:  There is another fascinating point about the continuum that we are passing through from Yom Kippur until Sukkos.  On Yom Kippur, we try as best as we can to serve Hashem as Malachim, as angels--no eating, or drinking, the Kittel and dress in white, reciting Boruch Sheim Kevod aloud...  The Sefer Kav HaYashar points out that the Gematria of Sukkah (91) is actually equal to that of Malach.  We were like a Malach just a few days ago, and we will be like a Malach again in a few days from now.  Let us not lose this very special semblance over the next couple of days, as we keep up our enhanced Middos, our better Tefillos, and our more enthused Mitzvah performance--as we had hoped and strove for on Yom Kippur.



Special Note Four:  Now, we are ready to turn to HaRav Dessler, Z’tl.  HaRav Dessler (Michtav Me’Eliyahu 1:268) explicitly writes that the reason for the close proximity between Yom Kippur and Sukkos is the “Shemira,” or protection, that the Mitzvah of Sukkah provides.  On Yom Kippur the Yetzer Hora is quashed, but is revived so quickly after Yom Kippur that we are required to promptly recite “Selach Lanu Avinu Ki Chatanu” in the Ma’ariv Shemone Esrei just 7 to 8 minutes after we have concluded Ne’ilah.  How can we be protected for the rest of the Year?  It is by surrounding ourselves with the Sukkah and inculcating ourselves with its holiness.  In fact, the Zohar writes that the Sukkah can be compared to the Teivah of Noach, Noach’s Ark , which protected and eternally preserved the remnants of all life on earth.  The Sukkah takes all of our physical and human drives and activities such as eating, drinking, sitting, walking, and sleeping, and houses them in the spiritual.  The ephemeral becomes the everlasting.  Complementing the Sukkah on this Holiday is the taking and shaking of the Four Minim, which symbolizes the spiritual control over harmful gashmiyus, such as dangerous winds and dews.


The Sefas Emes writes that we are to observe Sukkos “Seven Days of the Year,” which is meant to remarkably indicate to us that these Seven Days are sufficient to infuse us with all that we need for the coming year.  It is for this reason that Hoshana Rabbah, the seventh day of Sukkos, is the date when the final “notes” relating to our judgment are delivered.  By then, we have indicated to Hashem whether we have, or have not, availed ourselves of the opportunity to protect the Ruchniyus that we acquired on Yom Kippur and bring it into our homes and our workplaces.


As we sit in the Sukkah in the upcoming sunny days, we should think about our own personal ways in which we can instill the Sukkah’s Shemira into our homes after the Seven Days have passed.  Will it be by remembering to picture Hashem in front of us when we say the word “Ata” in each one of our Brachos?  Will it be in the manner that we eat--sitting down and eating respectfully?  Will it be with the voice level used in our home?  Will it be by not purchasing the extra luxury or overindulgence because it looks so nice, is so “balabatish,” or tastes so good?  Will it be by the emphasis of mind over matter?  The list goes on…


May this Sukkos bring with it the protection--and the consequent guidance--to make this year especially great and successful.


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