Daily Email Archives

Bulletin Archives

Summer Archives

Public Announcements

Shatnez Publications

Past Events

Hakhel Recordings



Hakhel Email Community Awareness Bulletin




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.


Practical Suggestions:

  • When 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.
  • Contemplate the profundity of “HaMelech HaKadosh-the King, the Holy”- and how it can have a practical effect on you during the coming year.




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?


 We present two responses:


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”!




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.

            HAKHEL NOTE:  The 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 accomplishments.


2.                  Learn Mussar – in order to acquire the true view of life.

            HAKHEL NOTE:  The 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 technological advancement).


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!

            HAKHEL NOTE:  According 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 of others.

            HAKHEL NOTE:  The Alter of Kelm writes that with every second of your thoughts in helping others you fulfill a separate Mitzva D’Oraysa of V’Ahavta L’reacha Komocha.


There is no doubt that with the situation in Eretz Yisroel, around the world and in America 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.




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 else.


We are using the “most expensive heirloom China ”-the mouth, used for divrei kedusha for the most everyday of activities, as well.


Of course, one lesson for us is to elevate our speech, even in the mundane, to speak kindly and positively (we cross reference yesterday’s bulletin).


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 practical suggestion:

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 friend…


Second suggestion: Try the first suggestion.  It may be much easier than you think!!




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 all-inclusive.


What is a “Good Heart”ed person?  The Tiferes Yisroel (ibid, note 88) enlightens us.


It is someone:

1)  Whose heart is always happy; and

2)  Who is 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!




1.  The 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.


3.  When 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.”


4.  Other 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).”

            C.  When 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.




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, Introduction).


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 manner.


Here is a simple example (you can come up with the harder ones):

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 ones):

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 is inferior.


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 really happens.


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 winning side. 


May this year be a year of victory for all of Klal Yisroel!


PS If you have additional strategies, please feel free to forward them to us.




“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 Come!

What a great difference-the Shechina with you now, versus the Scheniah not even being with you in Olom Habah!

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 Rabbah 9:10 ).


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 friend.




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 different light.

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.

Practical Suggestion:  Once 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.


A 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?

1.  Hashem’s Love 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.


Practical Suggestion:  Every 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 V’Dodi Li.




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!





1.  According 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 Israel ), because, in the merit of the many, your tefillos will be better received (ibid., Shach seif katan 4).


2.  Bikur 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).


3.  In 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.


4.  The 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.


5.  One 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).


6.  Finally, 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 shlaimah.

Other email archives