As we arrive at the outskirts of Rosh Hashanah, and
will stand before the King on the appointed day and hour, we realize a great
paradox.On the one hand, Hashem
is our Melech our King, and we have a clear and direct relationship with
him.We recognize His Kingship
over us, His omnipotence and omniscience, the love and gifts He showers upon
us, the chastisement for our own good, whether or not we perceive it, and
the future He has in store for us in Olam Habo and with T’chiyas HaMeisim.
We, in turn, show our dedication
and devotion to Him by serving Him, performing the mitzvos, and honoring Him
by withstanding the tests that are placed before us.
Yet, Hashem, as we constantly repeat during the Aseres
Yemei Teshuvah is the “HaMelech Hakadosh-The King, The Holy.”“Holy” denotes separate, apart, removed, distant, and not in the
same place or plane (see Rashi, Vayikra 19:2 and Rashi, Kiddushin 2A).How could it be that our King, with whom we are in constant dialogue
through Torah and tefillah, whom we constantly place before us with brochos
and mitzvah performance, could be Hakadosh, distant, apart and separate?
The Sifsei Chaim
(1:147) illuminates the skies for us with his explanation:
This is precisely the lesson of the words “HaMelech
Hakadosh” being placed together-even though Hashem is Kodosh-separated and
apart-He wants to be King over us, and wants us to make Him our King by our
drawing closer to Him and by ourselves becoming kedoshim-our elevating
ourselves to higher planes of ruchniyos.
In fact, the Chinuch
in Mitzvah 611-the mitzvah of V’Halachta Bidrachav (you shall follow
Hashem’s ways) explains that just as Hashem is merciful, so too must we be
merciful,l and just as Hashem is holy, so too must we be holy.To maintain our special relationship with the King, we must attempt
to elevate our own lives, each in our very own way to a higher level of
spirituality, of ruchniyos.Some
may accomplish this through davening, others through chesed, and others
through the study of Torah, in accordance with their particular strengths.
davening on Rosh Hashanah, beginning at Pesukai D’zimrah, and
throughout the davening, search for the word “Melech” and reflect
from time-to-time on Hashem’s malchus relationship with you.
the profundity of “HaMelech HaKadosh-the King, the Holy”- and how it
can have a practical effect on you during the coming year.
KEEP THE CHANGE
The Maharal (Gevuras
Hashem Chapter 51) writes that the word “Shana” (year) comes from
the word “Shinui” (different, change) because each year is (or, at
least, should be) different than the previous one.
Following this concept, Rosh Hashanah, is then the
beginning of the time of change.
Yet, the Shulchan
Aruch (Orach Chayim 603) brings a conduct change that it is customary to
undertake during the Aseres Yemei Teshuva (eating only Pas Yisroel breads,
cakes, pretzels, etc.).Why is
this conduct change limited to the Aseres Yemei Teshuva and not extended for
the whole year?
Response One:The changes, while limited, demonstrate to the person the he can
break previous “hergel”, day-in, day-out habits and practices.Yes, it is hard to get out of a rut (coming late to shul, hurting
others with words, tossing brochos out of the mouth), but one can and one
must do so.The real bottom line
is – If I am not for myself, who is for me?
Response Two:When a new employee starts to work, he is sure to go well above and
beyond the call of duty the first few days (arriving early, doing extra
jobs, etc.).Certainly, at this
time of year, when you now realize you are working for the King of the
entire World and Universe, you will do your absolute UTMOST.By undertaking the specific Aseres Yemei Teshuva changes, and by
doing additional mitzvos-by going above and beyond the call of duty-we
demonstrate that we are working for the King anew, which is a nice step in
the right direction.If we can
keep the awareness going…we will even “Keep the Change”!
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR TESHUVA
Rav Dessler Z’TL writes that
in difficult times when one does not know what the day will bring, one
should undertake a shortcut to Teshuva which he literally calls “ezra
rishona (first aid)” in difficult times (Michtav
D’Eliyahu Volume I, Page 30).Rav
Dessler provides the following four emergency recommendations for Teshuva:
1.Learn Torah – in order to chase away the Yetzer Horah.
Chofetz Chaim would add in his Vidui “Botalnu min HaTorah (We have wasted
time from Torah)”.The Vilna
Gaon (Mishlei 1:22-23) writes that since the Mitzvah of Talmud Torah is
the GREATEST of all Mitzvos, the Yetzer Hora for bitul Torah (wasting
words, laitzonus) comes from a great Ruach HaTumah (impure force).Thus, overcoming it and learning properly is the greatest of
2.Learn Mussar – in order to acquire the true view of
Mishne Berurah (Orach Chayim 603, seif katan 2) brings the Rosh, the Arizal
and the Vilna Gaon, all of whom independently rule that one is obligated to
learn Sifrei Mussar every day of the year (no exception is made for
3.Accustom Yourself to Break Your Desire – (according
to Rabbeinu Yonah in the name of the Raavad) this is equivalent to many
fasts in one day!
to the Baalei Mussar, this replaces Yissurim (physical suffering).
4.Increase Your Acts of Kindness – both to individuals
and to K’lal Yisroel.This
includes practicing Chesed B’Lev – including davening for others, doing
a chesed for the z’chus of others, and having tza’ar for the suffering
Alter of Kelm writes that with every second of your thoughts in
helping others you fulfill a separate Mitzva D’Oraysa of V’Ahavta
There is no doubt that with the situation in Eretz
Yisroel, around the world and in
today, we are living in very difficult times.Let us take these emergency recommendations to heart and with us into
the coming year.This will
certainly serve as a source of great brocha for us and all of Klal Yisroel.
SILVER AND GOLD
At about this time of year the words of the famous Vidui
Book echoes within us “At least 194 times on Yom Kippur, we shall
confess our sinning through speech.”
Yet, Hashem gave us one mouth-not two-one mouth to
daven, learn, do business, talk to friends and strangers, and do everything
We are using the “most expensive heirloom
”-the mouth, used for divrei kedusha for the most everyday of activities,
Of course, one lesson for us is to elevate our speech,
even in the mundane, to speak kindly and positively (we cross reference
But there is something more we can do, at least every
so often.That is, sometimes, in
high regard and respect for this precious heirloom, to simply remain silent
and not answer back, or just listen without voicing an opinion.In fact, the Rosh, in the classic Orchos Chaim L’HaRosh
(29), writes “It should be easier for you to take money out of your pocket
than to take words out of your mouth.”
While we may not be on this level, we do present a
Once a day--at least until Yom Kippur--refrain from
saying one (perhaps not such good) thing a day that you were going to
say-not only because you would have to confess it many times on Yom
Kippur-but also because you realize that you only have one mouth which you
will be soon using to make a brocha, daven, give encouraging words to a
Second suggestion: Try the first suggestion.It may be much easier than you think!!
WHAT IS A GOOD HEART?
The Mishnah (Avos 2:9) records that Rebbe
Yochanan ben Zakai asked his great students “What is the Derech Yeshora-the
correct path-that everyone should cleave to?”Reb Elazar ben Arach responded that the ultimate “Derech Yeshora”
is a Lev Tov-a good heart, and Rebbe Yochanan told his students that he
preferred this response to all others, for having a “Lev Tov” is
What is a “Good Heart”ed person?The Tiferes Yisroel (ibid, note 88) enlightens us.
It is someone:
heart is always happy; and
ready to help everyone.
As we move towards the beginning of a New Year, perhaps
we can try to resolve to follow this most preferred path of a “Lev Tov”-always
being happy and ready to help!
GIVING BROCHOS TO OTHERS
Gemara (Megillah 15A) teaches that the brocha of a hediot (which includes
Non-Jews) should not be treated lightly by anyone.All brochos are valuable, and, in fact, should be sought after.Incredibly, the Pele Yoetz (page 55) writes that Eisav and his
descendents have been so successful in history because, when Yakov received
his father’s brochos, Eisav cried out “Can you not bless me with [at
least] one brocha, Father?”We
can most certainly take a lesson from this positive trait exhibited by Eisav.
2. The most
common brocha we share everyday is Sholom Aleichem.The story is told that the venerable Reb Yechezkel Sarna ZT’L, Rosh
Yeshiva of the Chevron Yeshiva, once especially walked and stood outside the
Beis Medresh in the yeshivah plaza to give a “Sholom Aleichem” or “Gut
Voch” to the exiting students on Motzei Shabbos.
blessing someone with Sholom Aleichem or Gut Shabbos, care should be taken
to give the brocha with feeling—“May you live in peace” or “May the
zechus of Shabbos bring you goodness.”
brochos with which to bless others include
A. When one is to set out
of the house or on a trip, some say “L’Chaim U’Lesholom.”
B.When one is working,
one should say, “Titzlach Be’Maasecha (Be successful in your work) (Kitzur
Shulchan Aruch 183:6).”
someone you know suffers damage or loses money or an object of value, one
should feel his pain (Avos 2:17) and should give him the following brocha
“Hamakom Yemalei Chesroncha (May Hashem replace what is missing).”
Of course, any special brocha you give, with feeling,
reflects a high level on your part of V’Ahavta L’reacha Komocha.
BETTER TO FIGHT THAN SWITCH
Last week’s parsha highlights “When you go to war
against your enemies...”
What makes this world so special is that it gives us
the opportunity to succeed against the Yetzer Hora.Each success against the Yetzer Hora is a great victory, and these
are the greatest of all earthly battles (Mesilas Yeshorim,
But just like an army needs the best equipment and
strategies in order to emerge victorious, so too must we be prepared with
the best tools and weapons for our success.
There are two basic “War Room” strategies for
success against the Yetzer Hora.Remember,
the Yetzer Hora is exceedingly sly (“orum”), and also acts as the Satan
and the Maloch HaMoves.We must
meet the challenge and respond in kind.
Strategy One: Eliminate the Choice.The Yetzer Hora often outwits his victim by presenting a choice to
him and coaxing him to make the wrong choice.To avoid making the wrong choice, one should see himself as a “muchrach”,
as one being forced to do the right thing, and not have any choice in the
Here is a simple example (you can come up with the
Should I give this quarter to tzedakah before Shachris?I could, but it is my last quarter, and I may need it for a parking
meter later today, and then what will I do?
The muchrach will respond “I must give the quarter to
tzedkah because it is Shachris time, and it is appropriate to give tzedakah
now (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 92:10).
Simply stated, you must eliminate the choice.Just as in Olom Habo, there will eventually be no choice because
everything will become so clear to us, so too, one can make it all clear
now, as well.
Strategy Two: Strategy One is, of course,
successful when you realize that in front of you lies a choice.What if the Yetzer Hora simply “blindsides” you by placing you in
a situation where you are face-to-face with an aveirah?
Simple example one (you can come up with the harder
You turn around on a crowded subway and the only person
facing you is Harriet, the Loshon Hora monger.
Simple example two: You sit down in a restaurant with a
non-Jewish co-worker, are about to order, and you realize that the hashgacha
Strategy Two involves the use of mental imagery to
defeat the Yetzer Hora.One form
of mental imagery is thinking about a situation that could come up, and how
to handle it before it happens—what happens if I meet up with a person who
starts speaking Loshon Hora—how will I deal with it?Or, how can I explain kashrus and its stringencies to the non-Frum or
non-Jew?If one has already
imagined the situation, he may be very well-equipped to deal with it when it
A second, perhaps more powerful, image is a picture of
a human being confronting some kind of vivid punishment or “Gehinnom”,
thinking, is it really worth it for me to do what I am about to do?Chazal tell the story of a great person, who, when confronted with
sin, ran over to a hot stove, and said “He who does this, falls into
this.”What an image!
In a more positive light, one can imagine a very
bright, immense and infinite paradise for following the Torah’s ways.Overcoming the situation will bring beautiful victory for a person,
his family, and Klal Yisroel.
The above are two proven strategies.As the clocks ticks up towards Rosh Hashanah, we urge you to try the
May this year be a year of victory for all of Klal
PS If you have additional strategies, please feel free
to forward them to us.
NOT SO APPARENT EXTREME
“Two people who sit together and between them there
are not words of Torah, this a place of scoffers” (Avos 3:2).
On the other hand, “Two people who sit together and
between them there are words of Torah, the Shechina
is present among them” (Avos 3:2).Rav Dessler Z’TL (Michtav
M’Eliyahu, volume 5, page 14) points out that the Shechina
is immediately present among those who exchange words of Torah, but,
in great contrast, those who do not speak words of Torah, are considered
scoffers-a class of people who do not even have a portion in the World to
What a great difference-the Shechina
with you now, versus the Scheniah not even being with you in
And what is the basis of this difference?Simply stated, speaking words of Torah.
From this great contrast, we can appreciate the
incredible and infinite importance of exchanging words of Torah.This is what Chazal mean when they teach “The difference between
tzaddikim and reshaim is only dibur peh (speech)” (Koheles
Practical Suggestion:Rather than simply chit-chatting with the person sitting next to you
at the chuppah, Bar Mitzvah, or on the train (or other situation), bring the
Shechina into your life by exchanging a
Torah thought that you recently read, learned, or heard from your Rav or a
Chazal (Rosh Hashanah 17A) teach that “One who does not deal
strictly with others will be forgiven for all of his sins.”
Of course, this is exactly what we need at this time of year--to be
forgiven for all our sins!But
how can one accomplish this seemingly dauntless task?
Rav Dessler (Michtav M’Eliyahu, Volume 4, page 243) gives us a
great insight in this area:
“One should accustom himself to viewing the next person as if he
is looking at himself--all the anger, all the hatred, all the
arguments and disagreements with another come because one views himself in a
For example, a poor person asks a wealthy person for a large sum of
money.The wealthy person takes
the request as “a chutzpah” and gets angry.The poor person, embarrassed and saddened, thinks that Hashem gave
the wealthy person wealth-why won’t he share it with me?”
The two then separate from each other, angry and hurt.If each would have tried to understand the view of the other--putting
himself into the shoes of the other person--even if he could still
not justify the other person’s position--most disagreements would be
prevented or resolved.
a day, in a situation where you find yourself at odds with another person,
put yourself into his position, and even if you disagree-try to understand
“your” opinion or position on the matter.
TIME TO LOVE (Koheles 3:8)
Even the halacha seforim (the Mishne Berurah and the Kitzur
Shulchan Aruch) teach that Elul is an acronym for “Ani L’Dodi
V’Dodi Li-I am to my Beloved and my Beloved is to me”.This teaches that Elul is a time of expressing love to our Creator
and our Creator expressing His love for us.
How is this love actually expressed?
to Us.Hashem has made these
days days of “mercy, and forgiveness” for us.Just as a loving father looks away from the inadequacies of his
sincere, dedicated son, Hashem says He will prepare for the King’s day of
judgment by remembering our good qualities and our desire to emulate Him,
albeit with some inadequacies.
2.Our Love to
Hashem.Twice daily in Shema,
we state the following mitzvah: “V’ahavta es Hashem Elokecha-and you
shall love Hashem Your G-d.”The
Gemara (Yoma 86A) explains this posuk as follows: You express your love of
Hashem by making the Name of Hashem beloved among people through proper
conduct, conduct “b’nachas” with others.It is no small wonder then, that the yeshivos emphasize study of
middos bein adom l’chaveiro (between man and fellow man) during the month
of Elul.In fact, in Kelm, the
yeshivah studied sefer Tomer Devora
during this time, because this sefer emphasizes the love one must have for
his fellow man.Succinctly
stated, by showing our love for Hashem’s creations, we follow in
Hashem’s ways, and demonstrate our love for Hashem Himself.
day until Rosh Hashanah, practice love for your fellow man by doing kindness
and favors, to the extent that you can.
We would like to hear from our readers on other ways they feel a
person can demonstrate his or her love of Hashem, to properly fulfill the
mitzvah of V’ahavta es Hashem Elokecha during this month of Ani L’Dodi
A FATHER’S ADVICE
On Rosh Chodesh Elul 5695 (1935), Rav Dessler
Z’TL wrote the following advice in a letter to his son:
“…My dear son, please remember what is before you,
the Day of Judgment, which requires great preparation.You must daven from the depths of the heart to arouse Rachmei
Shomayim (Mercy from Heaven) that we merit Heavenly Assistance, and that
Hashem gives us success in attaining Teshuvah from the depths of the heart,
for this is the ikar (essence) through which we can emerge innocent in
justice B’ezras Hashem. (Michtav M’Eliyahu Volume 4, page 313).”
Practical Suggestion:Beginning today and until Rosh Hashanah, in the fifth brocha of
Shemone Esrei, Hashiveinu, Avinu, l'Sorasecha, have sincere kavana for the
simple meaning of the words, asking Hashem to bring us closer to Torah, to
His Service and to Teshuvah Shlayma.
Remember, there are no limits to what we can accomplish
with Siyata D’Shmaya, and just one sincere tefillah can get us there!
BIKUR CHOLIM - REVISITED
to the Chochmas Odom (151:3) the ikar (main point) of Bikur Cholim is
davening for the sick person while visiting him.In fact, the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (193:3) poskens that one has not
fulfilled the mitzvah of Bikur Cholim if he visits, but does not daven to
Hashem while there.This is
because the Shechina is present above the head of
the sick person, and your tefillos are, k’viyachol, in front of the
Shechina itself (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 335, Shach seif katan 3).In your tefillah, you should ask for Hashem’s mercy for that
particular choleh “b’soch cholei Yisroel” (amongst the other sick of
), because, in the merit of the many, your tefillos will be better received
(ibid., Shach seif katan 4).
Cholim should not be performed when it is convenient for the
visitor, but when it is best for the choleh.As the halacha states, one should not visit in the first three hours
of the day… the last three hours of the day…, etc. (Shulchan Aruch,
Yoreh Deah 335:4).
addition to tefillah, there is a mitzvah to give the choleh “nachas ruach”
(Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 193:3).This
does not mean that one should speak on and on, or even with witticisms.Statements should as “You’ll now have to take that medicine for
the rest of your life,” or “Next time, you’ll be more careful,” or
even “How will this affect your life going forward?” may be equated with
smacking a poor person across the face and knocking out a few teeth as you
hand him a hundred dollars with a smile.
Chazon Ish (Collected Letters, Volume I:138) writes that everyone has the
mitzvah to perform “Bikur Cholilm” upon himself, as well.This means that he must take care of his body and use the most
effective means possible for his personal health.
should try to tidy up and make the atmosphere more cheery for the choleh, if
possible.The Gemara (Nedarim
40A) relates that Rabbi Akiva himself swept and cleaned the floor for his
sick student.As a result, the
student told him, “You have caused me to live.”Rabbi Akiva then taught, “He who does not perform the mitzvah of
Bikur Cholim, it is as if he spilled blood.”The reverse is also, of course, true.In fact, the Gemara clearly teaches that one who acts wisely with the
ill will himself be saved from “a bad day” by Hashem (see Tehillim 41
and Gemara, Nedarim 40A).
one should consider a choleh’s status after he leaves the hospital, and
even after he returns to shul or to work.The fact that he has somewhat healed does not necessarily mean that
he is not suffering pain or is otherwise in distress.One should continue to daven for, and inquire as to, a person’s
welfare, until he is confident that the choleh has received his refuah