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Daily Shmiras Halashon Halachos
Lesson 1
Sometimes a rabbinical court/Bet din issues a ruling to make someone perform a certain action. When the person refuses to comply with the ruling without offering a valid legitimate excuse, the Bet Din is allowed to publicize the person’s refusal. (ex. someone refusing to give his wife a Get/bill of divorce).

Lesson 2
It is forbidden to talk about another persons faulty negative character traits. This applies to 1. referring to a particular incident (i.e. someone got angry in a situation) and 2. general judgments about others (i.e. that person is always arrogant). This is considered lashon hora even if its a well known and accurate description of the person.

Lashon Hora = Saying a derogatory/negative statement about someone else that is TRUE

Motzi Shaim Ra (Defamation of Character) = Saying a derogatory statement that is FALSE

Posted 5/21/2008 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Shemiras Halashon | Comments (0)

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Parshas Behar - ON BITACHON
In this week’s Parsha, Behar, we find one of the paradigm mitzvos given to us by Hashem in order to affirm and strengthen our Bitachon--trust--the mitzvah of Shmitta.  We are incredibly commanded to let the source of our Parnassah lay fallow and open to all, and are, in turn, promised that we will be (according to the laws of nature, miraculously) sustained and actually will prosper until new crops begin to grow again in the eighth year (Vayikra 25:21).  It is important, very important, for us to realize, however, that the mitzvah of Bitachon is not related only to the Sabbatical Year that we are in--or even to the strict requirement that we not work one day a week on Shabbos Kodesh.  Rather, our Bitachon is built-up of even smaller building blocks, tangible to all on a very recurring basis.

Every day, we begin our morning prayers with the following words: “Elokai Neshama Shenasata Bi...--My Hashem, the soul You placed within me is pure.  You created it, You fashioned it, You breathed it into me, You safeguard it within me, and eventually You will take it from me, and restore it to me in Time to Come.  As long as the soul is within me, I gratefully thank You Hashem, my Hashem and the Hashem of my forefathers, Master of all works....” (Translated from The Complete Artscroll Siddur).

The thought conveyed by “Elokai Neshama” is an essential component of our Bitachon.  It is Hashem, and not us, who owns--and is in charge of--our most, most, precious possession--our very life.  Every breathing moment, every thought process, every act of communication, every Mitzvah that we perform, every step that we take, is a direct, absolute and tangible outright gift--a full and free grant from Hashem.

Is this too frightening, daunting, or even too intrusive for us to bear?  Absolutely not!  Quite to the contrary, writes the Chovos HaLevavos (at the beginning of the Sha’ar HaBitachon): “This brings Menuchas HaNefesh”--tranquility and peace of mind--to us, for we know and appreciate that there is no such thing as chance, no coincidence, no accidents of any kind, ever or at all.  There is, succinctly stated, nothing that happens--whether perceived by us as good or as bad--without Hashem’s express direction.  This, in turn, should eliminate all worry, for everything that Hashem does is out of infinite and unabated love--and for our utter, absolute, and complete benefit, as we recite in the Birchas HaMazon--She’bechal Yom V’yom Hu Haitiv, Hu Maitiv--every single day He did good, He does good, and He will do good to us....

Imagine that you had the best specialist in the world taking care of your situation--legal, medical, financial or otherwise.  When the other side won a legal argument, when the medication did not work as expected, or when the stock market went down a bit, there would be a pause for concern, perhaps some rethinking and some jitters.  Not so with Hashem, who is perfect, faultless and our eternal and omniscient Father.  This peace of mind should stay with us in all circumstances.

With this awareness, HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, (Sifsei Chaim, Middos V’Avodas Hashem volume I, page 587) writes that we can better understand the words of the Shelah HaKadosh (on the topic “Emes V’Emuna”).  The Shelah teaches that prior to undertaking any act or item of accomplishment such as buying, selling, meeting with someone, etc. one should say “Ani Botayach BaShem--I believe in Hashem,” recognizing that the act and its outcome is totally in Hashem’s hands, and then relate it to the specific action or event in front of you.  This recognition, appreciation, and actual statement, will have the added benefit of forging a greater bond between your infinite Father and you as his son, and will help to eliminate some of the worst human character traits possible--anger at people for what they have done or not done for you; jealousy of others who were successful in doing the same thing when you were not; and haughtiness and pride over your personal ingenuity and craftiness.

Rebbe Yisroel Salanter, Z’tl, in letters to his son on Bitachon (Ohr Yisroel, Letters 24-25), additionally advises him to draw upon the words of our Tefilos, and the words of Tehillim, to inspire and develop a full faith and trust that our very being--and our every being--is in Hashem’s great Hands.  For example, we recite in Pesukei D’Zimra, “Ashrei SheKel Yaakov B’Ezro”--Praiseworthy is one whose hope is in Hashem--He is the Maker of Heaven and Earth, the sea and all that is in them, He safeguards truth forever….  In fact, once you take note, you will find that Pesukim relating to Bitachon abound--“Kavei El Hashem…” (Tehillim 27:14); “Einai Tomid El Hashem…” (Tehillim 25:15)....

Bitachon is such a crucial aspect of our existence.  We must take the time out to recite Elokai Neshama with Kavannah every morning, to be fluent with a few Pesukim (from our davening or otherwise) relating to Bitachon which should calm us and put the actions and events of our life in Torah perspective, and follow the advice of the Shelah HaKadosh--start by saying the words “Ani Boteach Ba’Shem” in the everyday and the not-so everyday circumstances and occurrences that we face or that come our way--no--that Hashem brings our way!!

Reprinted with permission from Hakhel MIS

Posted 5/15/2008 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Parsha Pearls | Comments (0)

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Everything is in the hands of Heaven, except for Fear of Heaven
Chazal teach that “Everything is in the hands of Heaven, except for Fear of Heaven.”

If fear of Heaven is our responsibility, how can we train ourselves to achieve it?

HaRav Avigdor Miller, Z’tl, suggests that one withhold or delay a gratuitous or unnecessary comment or response because of his awareness of Hashem’s Presence.  By doing this, you bring your sense of Hashem’s Presence down from Heaven to right above you here on earth.

HaRav Matisyahu Salomon, Shlita, suggests that to assist in your Yiras Shomayim every so often during the day you make it a point to sit up straight, in recognition of your sitting in Hashem’s presence.

A third method, or reminder, is actually brought by the Mishna Berura (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim Chapter 1, seif katan 4), in which the Mishna Berura writes in the name of the Arizal that one should picture the four letter name of Hashem before him with the Nekudos of the word “Yirah” (that is, Chirik, Shva and Komatz).  The Mishna Berura (remember, this is a Halacha Sefer), actually refers to this advice as a “Toeles Gadol”--a great help-- in attaining Yirah.

It is important to note that every day in Birchas HaTorah, before thanking Hashem for “Asher Nosan Lonu Toras Emes,” we first thank Hashem for “Asher Bochur Bonu Mikol HoAmim”--which may allude to our awe-filled experience at Har Sinai before receiving the Torah--since Yiras Shamayim is a prerequisite to Torah.

During the Sefira period, we should build our Yiras Shamayim, at the very least with the three simple methods mentioned by the Gedolim above.  We have one month left until our Kabolas HaTorah on Shavuos--let us use it to its best and fullest advantage!

Reprinted with permission from Hakhel MIS

Posted 5/12/2008 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Thoughts for the Week | Comments (0)

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The Wisdom of Personal Growth



Rabbi Akiva said, "'Love your friend as you love yourself' - is the primary axiomatic principle of the Torah." This ideal implies that there should be an equivalency between the love we have for others and the love we have for ourselves. Meaning, just as we want the best for ourselves, we should want the best for others.


If we don't give with the complete love within our hearts, we are not quite fulfilling the principle. Therefore, we should give our friends everything in our capacity, without holding back any benefit that is within our power to give. For instance, we should share with them our wisdom, financial resources, time, and give them honor, etc.


Avraham Avinu was a master of loving others. Yet, if someone were to suggest to us that we should wait outside our house and find guests to invite for a meal, we would say, "I am not on that level." However, if we fully accept the value system of the Torah, we will realize that there should be no bars on our hearts. 


Conducting ourselves in the kind ways of Avraham is the true and ultimate pleasure. Meaning, when we open up all the chambers of love that reside within our hearts, we will discover our true selves. The pursuit of unbounded loving-kindness and good deeds will bring us true and lasting joy. By reaching out to others and giving them our "all," we will experience a taste of the Garden of Eden.

[Based on Da'as Torah of Rav Yerucham]


TODAY: Allow yourself the joy of being the Avraham Avinu within you.  

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eMussar" Copyright © 2008 by Rabbi Zvi Miller and the Salant Foundation

Posted 5/8/2008 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Thoughts for the Week | Comments (0)

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Wake Up Every Morning To Our Riches
HaRav Boruch Ber Lebowitz, Z’tl, Rosh HaYeshiva of the Kamenitz Yeshiva is quoted in Growth Through Torah (p.287) as follows: “What can I compare to my situation?  I wake up in the morning, and it is as though I have the Shaagas Aryeh, the Ketzos HaChoshen and Rebbe Akiva Eiger at my bedside.  I can’t wait to wash my hands and arise to my riches!”

Truth be told, the riches referred to by Rav Boruch Ber are not unique to Roshei Yeshivos or world renowned Talmidei Chachomim, but, as Shlomo HaMelech teaches in Mishlei ( 3:14 ) “For its [the Torah’s] commerce is better than the commerce of silver, and its gain [is better] than fine gold.”  We must remember that unlike money, which is fixed, objective and extrinsic (you put it in your pocket--not in your heart or brain), Torah is so infinite, subjective and internal that it relates to every single person living at any time in his own way and on his own particular level.  In fact HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, learns that when the Gemara (Nidah 30B) teaches that an Angel learns Torah with a fetus in his mother’s womb--it does not necessarily refer to all of Torah, but **TO THAT PERSON”S **chelek, or part, in Torah.  While we are expected to cover some ground in Torah before some ground covers us, in no event will two person’s quantity or quality of learning be the same.

It is truly a primary responsibility to discover our part in Torah, in at least the same way as we try to be successful in our business, at our jobs, or even when shopping.  Not always is what is easy or convenient most meaningful.  The G’RA writes in Even Shleima that one can go to many lectures, and hear many “shmuessen”--but ultimately a person’s strategy must come from within--from his particular self-knowledge, to be successful.  As succinctly stated by Hillel in Avos (1:14)--“If I am not for myself who will be for me?”

As we reach closer and closer to Shavuos, we all, men, women and children alike, should begin to prepare for the “closing”--for the acquisition of something more precious than anything we can even imagine.  Somehow the coveted contract is ours--unbelievably, we are the purchasers!  So what can we do to prepare for this day?  Each person must reflect upon, research and study what he is going to do with his new acquisition.  Is he learning enough now?  What is his potential?  What must he change?  Will he leave more learning to retirement age--even though the wisest of all men has already told him which business is more important?

This reflection can be accomplished by actually sitting down with a pad and paper and an open mind.  This is by no means limited to men--there are many Halachos and Hashkafos, shiurim, books and self-study that are imperative for women, as well.

We **ALL** should wake up every morning to our riches at our bedside--why leave them in the locked Bais HaMedrash?

Posted 5/8/2008 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Thoughts for the Week | Comments (1)

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Just yesterday was the first day we recited Tachanun in one month. Perhaps we can use our new-found recital of Tachanun as a springboard to utter this moving, meaningful and effective prayer with sensitivity and feeling. One place to begin would be to make sure that every word of Tachanun is recited from a Siddur. This could be a simple yet very special, project for the Sefira period.

Posted 5/8/2008 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Special Prayers | Comments (0)

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The Sefer Ta’amei HaMinhagim (page 251) writes that our new month of Iyar is tried and tested as a time for refuah, healing, from the ailments and pains that may affect a person. Why is this so? He brings the B’nai Yisaschar, who teaches that most weakness and illness come from foods which do not comport with the person’s nature or composition. The Rambam (Hilchos De’os 4:15) writes likewise. See also Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Chapter 32.

Since the Mon began to fall in this month (on the 16th day of Iyar 2448)--and it was a perfect food from which resulted no sickness, pain or even waste matter (as Dovid HaMelech refers to it in Sefer Tehillim--“lechem abirim”)
and even cured those who were ill--Hashem left the curative nature of the month in effect even through today. Accordingly, Iyar is a time of “segulah l’ refuah”.

In fact, the Ta’amei HaMinhagim notes, the name “Iyar” is an acronym for Ani Hashem Rofecha--I am Hashem, Your Healer.

What can we do to help promote the curative effects of this special time as initiated by the heavenly Mon? We can turn to the laining of this past Shabbos (which was non-coincidentally, of course, Rosh Chodesh Iyar), where the
Torah writes that the Metzora who was afflicted with terrible Tzoraas walks about declaring “I am Tameh, I am Tameh.” Chazal (Shabbos 66A) explain that he declares this **so that others will ask for mercy for him**. The Baalei Mussar note that the Metzora does not ask others directly to pray for him--rather, he only declares that he is “Tameh”, and those who hear him are expected to pray sincerely for him even without his direct request--and
notwithstanding that he has sinned to such a great extent that Hashem has actually made him a Metzora.

What a great lesson we can learn at this time of year--which is so special for healing, and, moreover, the Omer period, in which our “Bein Odom L’Chavero” is to be seriously improved upon. We should not wait to be asked, or
merely be responsive to the request of others, when we hear that someone is not well. Instead, we should “hear the cry” and go out of our way during this auspicious time to daven for those we may not even know, but whom we have heard are in need of a Refuah. An ounce of Tefillah may mean a kilogram of cure.

PRACTICAL SUGGESTION: During the remaining weeks of Sefirah, recite a daily special, sincere Kepitel (chapter) of Tehillim for your list of cholim--recognizing that this is a special time for the potency--and importance--of your heartfelt Tefillah!

Posted 5/8/2008 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Special Prayers | Comments (0)

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Rosh Chodesh Iyar
Monday and Tuesday, May 4th & 5th, is Rosh Chodesh Iyar.

Iyar is a two day Rosh Chodesh, which begins Sunday Night

Please remember to add in all your Tefillos beginning Sunday night until Tuesday night in your Maariv davening, Yaale v’Yavo in your Amidah and when you bentch after eating.

Many have the custom to mark Rosh Chodesh with a festive meal and reduced work activity. The latter custom is prevalent among women.

Special portions are added to the daily prayers: Hallel (Psalms 113-118) is recited -- in its "partial" form -- following the Shacharit Amidah prayer, also the Yaaleh V’yavo prayer is added to the Amidah and to Grace After Meals; the additional Musaf prayer is said. Tachnun and similar prayers are omitted.

Gut Chodesh

Posted 5/5/2008 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Thoughts for the Week | Comments (0)

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Shlissel Challah
This is the week that we bake our challos into the shape of a key, and/or we wrap our housekey in some foil and bake it into a loaf of challah, and/or we fashion a small piece of dough into a key shape and
bake it as a decoration on top of our loaves, and/or we shape our challos like matza and bake our key into that. What is the source of baking shlissel challos? It is said that on Pesach it is judged how
much grain will be produced for the coming year, and on Rosh Hashana it is judged how much each person will receive.

"During sefira we count 49 days till Shavuos, the 50th day, which is the shaarei bina. We go from gate to gate, and each gate has a key. That is why we make an image of a key on the challah."

"There are many reasons given for the shlissel challah, and I say that the shlisel challos are the keys to parnasa. (Segulas HaBeShT V’Talmidov quoting Nachlas Yaakov)"
May all of those who need parnassah find a job, and may all of our tefillos be answered.

For more about Shlissel challos and the various minhagim, use this

Posted 5/2/2008 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Special Prayers | Comments (0)

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Parshas Kedoshim
In this week’s Parsha of Kedoshim, we find the great Mitzvah of “Mipnei Sayva Takum…” (Vayikra 19:32)--In the presence of an elderly person shall you rise, and you shall honor the presence of a Sage....

The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 244) rules that one must rise if a person over the age of 70 (even if unlearned, but provided he/she is not wicked) enters within your 4 amos (i.e., within 6-8 feet of you).  One should remain standing until he/she has passed from in front of you.  Respect does not only consist of rising, but also includes respectful words and a helping hand (ibid. 244:7).  Let us take a moment to reflect upon our diligence in the performance of this Mitzvah as it may apply in our own homes, in the homes of friends and relatives, in Shul, in doctor’s offices, and in the various situations that may present themselves to us throughout the day.  Let us also thank Hashem for giving us the opportunity to be in their presence (and having the opportunity to learn from them, if applicable)--and making it a Mitzvah on top of that!

Additional Note:  Some opinions hold that the minimum age to which respect must be accorded is actually 60 and not 70.

Special Note Two: In this week’s Parsha, we also find the immense Mitzvah of “V’Ahavta L’Rayacha Komocha” (Vayikra 19:18)--you shall love your fellow as yourself.  The scope and breadth of this “K’lal Gadol B’Torah--great principle of the Torah” (Shabbos 31A) includes the following situations which are listed in, or based upon, the teachings of Love Your Neighbor (by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita, the wonderful work referred to yesterday).  The Mitzvah is fulfilled when:
1.      A craftsman or worker is mindful that he is making a product, or performing a service, not merely for a source of income, but also for the benefit or pleasure of the person who will use it;
2.      Teaching another person Torah;
3.      Forgiving one who has hurt or offended you;
4.      Helping someone by making change for a larger bill or coin, or giving them a quarter for the parking meter;
5.      Going out of your way not to keep people waiting--trying to be the first one present on a conference call or for a meeting;
6.      Intentionally steering clear of annoying others--such as not slamming doors, making screeching noises with your nails, or doing something to which another person present would respond with “Uch”! or “How could you do that?!”  Note here that the “L’Rayacha Komocha” is dependent on the person who is present, and is not the standard of the average person.  You must specifically relate to the person who is with you;
7.      Bringing good news or happiness to others;
8.      Getting some air or taking a walk with someone who appears troubled or is clearly in need of talking;
9.      Complimenting someone for their job, effort, or appearance; and
10.     Giving Tzedakah to someone, or helping someone with something he needs help with, **BEFORE** being asked.
Two additional notes on “V’Ahavta L’Rayacha Komocha”:

a.      A Holocaust Survivor (Mr. Landau from Hungary) relates how he and hundreds of others were on a train bound for Auschwitz towards the end of the war.  The train stopped abruptly when Allied bombs started to fall around it, and everyone was ordered to disembark and take cover.  A Nazi supply train stopped at the same location as well, and the enemy soldiers scattered for cover.  The bombing stopped and the prisoners were ordered back on the train.  In the upheaval, Mr. Landau found a crate of sardines on the supply train and brought it back with him to the Auschwitz transport.  As all the prisoners alighted back onto the train, he handed them each a can of sardines which the hungry captives began to eat with zeal.  The Nazi soldiers came back on the train and noticed many Jews eating the sardines.  They asked the prisoners who had given them the cans, and no one replied.  The soldiers surprisingly left the train, and Mr. Landau’s life was spared--because instead of hiding the cans for himself, he had shared them with as many people as he could.  Chazal (Vayikra Rabbah 34) teach that “more than the wealthy person does for the poor person, the poor does for the wealthy”.  This last story is a similar indication of how the proper fulfillment of loving another as yourself did more for Mr. Landau than it did for the others on the train--for it actually saved his life.
b.      The following is brought in Growth Through Torah (p. 282):

Rabbi Chaim Koldetzky related to his family how he was once a guest at the home of the Chofetz Chaim.  The Chofetz Chaim personally made the bed for him and prepared his pillow and blankets.  Rabbi Koldetzky was startled to see that after preparing the bed, the Chofetz Chaim laid down on the bed for a few seconds to make sure it was sufficiently comfortable for his guest!

As we go through the day with the various acts of Chesed we perform for acquaintances, friends, and family, let us remember to take the extra step(s) necessary to elevate the level of our Mitzvah to a degree that Mr. Landau, or even the Chofetz Chaim, would be proud of!

Reprinted with permission from Hakhel MIS

Posted 5/1/2008 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Parsha Pearls | Comments (0)

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In his commentary on Pesach, HaRav Dessler, Z’tl, writes that life is like a train ride in which one disembarks at stops along the way to replenish his provisions until he gets to his final destination. The stops include Shabbos, Pesach, and other similar special times and events. Similarly, the Ramban in his commentary to Shir HaShirim (8:3) writes that the way one demonstrates his love of Hashem is by attaching it to a particular mitzvah or act of accomplishment, so that it will go beyond mere thought and be actualized in real terms in this world.

We must recognize that the physical pounds that we may have gained over Pesach is symbolic of the spiritual weight which we really should have gained--and not shed--in the days and weeks after the Holiday. Accordingly, we provide the following clear lessons we all undoubtedly learned over Pesach, and some practical way to implement each one in our daily lives:

1.  Hakaras HaTov—Such as Moshe Rabbeinu recognizing the good that the earth, the water, and Basya Bas Paroh did on his behalf. There are also many examples--what we owe to the dogs, the donkeys--and even the Egyptians for being our hosts for so long.
PRACTICAL SUGGESTION: Pick one person in your home or office and show him/her an added level of thanks or respect daily in recognition of what he/she has done for you, even if it was only a one-time act or event.

2.  Segulas Yisroel—Pesach was a “second creation” for mankind, as it not only established Hashem as the Creator of the world, but as Ongoing Supervisor of the world with B’nei Yisroel chosen as the nation to epitomize the purpose of man’s creation. The commentaries on the Siddur explain “Ata V’Chartanu M’Kol Haamim” as specifically referring to Hashem choosing to redeem us from Mitzrayim and giving us the Torah 49 days later. This explains why so many Mitzvos are “Zecher L’Yetzias Mitzrayim”--because they all emanate from this great choice--our eternal selection to be mankind’s crown jewel.
PRACTICAL SUGGESTION: Do something daily--even if it is a Mitzvah--only because you recognize the gift and opportunity that Hashem has presented you with in being unique, special and different from all that surrounds you--for being that crown jewel!

3.  Hashgacha Pratis—Hashem’s care and concern for each individual member of B’nei Yisroel evidenced by such examples as thousands of children being saved from the king’s decree of death, by Moshe Rabbeinu being raised in Paroh’s palace, and B’nei Yisroel walking through Egyptian houses in daylight as just a few feet away Egyptians were enwrapped in such tangible darkness that they could not even move.
PRACTICAL SUGGESTION: At some time during the day, and really as often as possible, feel the Hashgacha Pratis, Hashem’s watching over you, in your daily life. There must be a reason that you saw a loose dog, that you met this particular person, or that you heard that D’var Torah.  Also, of course, remember to say “Baruch Hashem”, “Thank You, Hashem” or “Please Help Me, Hashem” quietly (or out loud) as many times as possible during the day.

4.  Reward and Punishment—The Egyptians who hid their animals in fear of Hashem were spared those animals.  Similarly, in reward for saying that “Hashem is righteous”, the Egyptians merited burial after their Yam Suf debacle. On the other hand, the Egyptians were punished in kind and in proportion to their level of cruelty and animosity expressed towards Bnei Yisroel, as is evidenced, for example, by the way each individual Mitzri died at the Yam Suf--some sinking quickly like lead, others being tossed as stones, and yet others being thrown about like straw.  Even those who were gleeful over our servitude, such as the bechorim (first born) of other nations, got their due.  May the same exact justice be meted out against each individual Nazi and each one of our past and present enemies, speedily in our days.
PRACTICAL SUGGESTION: Before doing a Mitzvah, and prior to or while contemplating a possible Aveira, recognize that Hashem’s Justice is exact, accurate, and correct. When one is rewarded for davening with Kavannah, he will also be rewarded for coming to Shul in the first place, for arriving there on time, and indeed for every step of the way (instead of turning over in bed). On the other hand, when one is punished, every hurtful word will be counted, each mistruth will be weighed and every degree of Chillul Hashem and Kiddush Hashem will be accounted for.  As the Pasuk teaches (Devorim 32:4) “Hatzur Tomim P’Alo...”--perfect is His work, for all His Paths are just.  This is related to the incredible degree of middah k’neged middah (measure for measure) with which Hashem runs this world (as we learn when studying the precise nature of each of the ten Makkos).  Dovid HaMelech teaches (Tehillim 121:5) “Hashem is your shadow”--Hashem responds to us and it is up to us whether that shadow will be dark and gloomy--or illustrious and beautiful!!

5.  TEVA (nature)—The Makkos, the concomitant freedom of B’nei Yisroel from the Makkos, the miraculous growth of B’nei Yisroel (from seventy to millions of people) while in desperate servitude, the entire world’s viewing and experiencing of the miracles at the Yam Suf, all dispel the concept of nature and natural existence.  Pesach occurs in the spring not only because it made it easier for B’nei Yisroel to leave, but also for us to appreciate that what the world calls nature, is really the Hand of Hashem.  It is fascinating to note that the Hebrew word for nature, or Teva, consists of the same letters as “Tava”, which means to drown, referring us back to the Sea, to teach us how ‘natural’ events really occur.  It is not surprising, then, that we do not eat Chametz on Pesach, which represents nature taking its course on flour and water, but instead use Matzah, which demonstrates control over what would otherwise occur.  The Ba’alei Mussar explain that we must take this lesson and exercise control over our own nature, for the more we do so, the more we will overcome the physical forces of this world, and raise ourselves from the impurities surrounding us, up and towards the 49 levels of purity that we must begin to strive for.
PRACTICAL SUGGESTION: When we see something that looks like a beautiful or even frightening element of nature, recognize that it is really the Yad Hashem, and have it serve as a reminder to you of Hashem’s control over every aspect of the world’s existence--and that you, too, must control your nature and elevate your precious everyday life to the sublime and spiritual!

Reprinted with permission from Hakhel MIS

Posted 4/29/2008 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Thoughts for the Week | Comments (0)

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Concerning our relationship to our parents, the Torah instructs us: Every man shall revere his mother and his father.


The Talmud asks: "What is implied in the term 'reverence' for one's parents?  One should not sit in his father's seat, nor speak in his stead, nor contradict his words."


The subject of this verse is the Mitzvah to revere one's parents. Yet when the Talmud explains this concept, it does not talk about reverence at all! Rather it defines specific actions and deeds. Why did the Talmud not elaborate on the reverencethat we are required to have for our parents? 


The Talmud is teaching us one of the fundamental principles of the Torah. The basic format of all Mitzvos requires action. Even the Mitzvos of the heart-like belief in and love of Hashem-must be actualized in order to be fulfilled.


Hence, the Rabbis ask: "What is implied in the term 'reverence of parents'?  Meaning-what are the specific actions that actualize 'reverence of parents' into a concrete reality? Only when the reverence is translated into deed is the Mitzvah fulfilled!


Likewise, when someone asked Hillel to teach him the whole Torah on one foot, Hillel responded, "That which is hateful to you, do not do unto others." Instead of teaching him the Mitzvah to "Love your friend as you love yourself", Hillel taught him the actions that stem from that Mitzvah. Only when the love gives birth to specific actions is the Mitzvah of loving another person fulfilled.


May Hashem help us develop the proper feelings within our hearts, and may we express them though concrete and appropriate deeds.


[Based on Da'as Torah of Rabenu Yerucham HaLevi]


TODAY: Perform a kind deed for your parents or someone close to you.


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Posted 4/29/2008 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Parsha Pearls | Comments (0)

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Chol HaMoed are days designated--set aside--for holiness.  We can therefore understand why someone who disgraces these days “has no share” in the World to Come (Avos 3:15).  According to the Bartenura (ibid.), disgracing the Moados means doing unnecessary work on them, and eating and drinking in the same manner as one would on a regular weekday.
The following highlights are from a Hakhel Shiur, given by HaRav Dovid Zucker, Shlita, author of the Sefer Chol HaMoed (Artscroll 2005), and Rosh Kollel of the Chicago Community Kollel.  This Shiur was broadcast via satellite to 13 locations in the United States and Canada by the Torah Conferencing Network.  We try to publish these notes prior to every Chol Hamoed, in order to remind everyone of its remarkable Kedusha.

1.  The Avnei Nezer teaches (based upon the Zohar) that the Kedusha of Chol HaMoed may be likened to the light of the Moon--reflecting the Kedusha of Yom Tov itself.  Chol HaMoed is indeed enveloped by the Kedusha of the First Days and the Last Days of Yom Tov.

2.  One should wear nicer clothes on Chol HaMoed than on a regular weekday.  The mitzvah of Simchas Yom Tov applies to Chol HaMoed as well.

3.  Rabbi Zucker stated that he felt that just as Kedushas Shabbos was the nisayon (the test) of 75 to 100 years ago, Kedushas Chol HaMoed is the nisayon of Galus Jewry today.

4.  The laws of working on Chol HaMoed for a salaried employee depend upon whether the employee: (a) has vacation coming to him; (b) has no vacation coming to him, but can take time off without pay; (c) asking for time off will cause him to lose his job; or (d) asking for time off will not cause him to lose his job, but will have undesired effects.  Our notes here are intended to highlight these distinctions, but not provide the halachic parameters, which are detailed and often require consultation with a Rav.  For further information, you may study the Sefer itself, or obtain a copy of the Shiur on cassette tape or CD by calling (718) 252-5274.

5.  Self-employed individuals and employers must consult with their Rav as to how/when to remain open on Chol HaMoed.  One should not rely on “everybody does it” or “ignorance is bliss”--remember, we are talking about the World to Come, and that is true bliss--and infinity.  The story is told of a factory owner who refused, despite the Chofetz Chaim’s pleadings, to close his factory on Shabbos--he told the Chofetz Chaim, “Rebbe, you don’t make money from a posuk in the Torah.”  When the Bolsheviks confiscated all of his property a few years later, he wrote a letter of contrition and apology to the Chofetz Chaim.

6.  Unskilled work is permitted for the sake of the Moed or the Last Days of Yom Tov.  Therefore, if necessary, one may sew a button on in an unskilled manner.

7.  A non-Jew cannot do work for you that you yourself cannot perform.  For example, your lawn cannot be mowed or landscaped--and your gardener must be sent away if he comes to perform work for you.

8.  Skilled work is generally prohibited--even for the sake of the Moed or the Last Days of Yom Tov.  Once again, anything prohibited for a Jew to do is prohibited for a non-Jew to do for you.  There are certain exceptions in which skilled labor is permitted, which relate to “Tzorchei HaGuf,” such as a serious roof leak or a necessary oven or air conditioner repair. With respect to car repairs, it would depend on the type of repair necessary, the need for the repair, and other factors, and a Rav must be consulted.

9.  Laundering clothing can only be done for young children who have soiled their clothing and have nothing else to wear.  You cannot add other clothing into the washing machine once their clothes are being washed.  Once again, a non-Jewish housekeeper cannot do for you what you yourself cannot do.  Spot cleaning, if necessary, is permitted.  Drying clothing is permitted.

10.  Going shopping is only permissible (even if you otherwise enjoy shopping) if needed for Chol HaMoed or the Last Days of Yom Tov, or if it would constitute a “davar ha’avad” (See paragraph 13 below).  One cannot “trick” the Halacha (and yourself) by “wearing it on Chol HaMoed too.  Similarly, one should not push off buying a pair of shoes to Chol HaMoed if he can do so before Yom Tov (unless he simply ran out of time).  Rav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, once told a Yeshiva bochur to come back to Yeshiva a day later in order to go shopping for clothing after Yom Tov, rather than shop on Chol HaMoed.

11.  One cannot schedule a “routine” medical or dental checkup or exam for Chol HaMoed.

12.  One cannot put off to Chol HaMoed filling up the car with gas, going to the bank, etc., when he has time or an opportunity to do so before Chol HaMoed.

13.  In specific “davar ha’avad” situations where an actual loss will occur, if work (even if skilled) is not performed on Chol HaMoed, it may very well be permissible, and your Rav should be consulted.

14.  Cutting nails/manicure is permitted for Sefardim (if needed), and prohibited to Ashkenazim (unless needed, and one had previously cut nails on Erev Yom Tov as well).

15.  Rav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, ruled that setting/cutting a sheitel is considered skilled work and therefore is prohibited even for the sake of the Moed or the Last Days of Yom Tov.

16.  Standard writing (not calligraphy) is considered unskilled work and is permitted for the sake of the Moed.  One can type, send e-mails, e-faxes and text messages, but not print them out (unless permitted as a “davar ha’avad”).  Similarly, one can utilize a digital camera as long as the pictures are not printed out, and a standard camera, as long as the pictures are not developed.

The above, obviously, only briefly highlights some common Halachos.  In fact, Hilchos Chol HaMoed encompasses 20 chapters in Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 530-549).  We additionally refer you to Rabbi Zucker’s wonderful sefer.  You may want to ask your Rav to give a Shiur this Yom Tov on the Halachos and Hashkafos of Chol HaMoed for everyone’s benefit.  Remember, with any question, or difficult or special situation, please consult your Rav--and have Simchas HaMoed!

Reprinted with permission from Hakhel MIS

Posted 4/23/2008 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Thoughts for the Week | Comments (0)

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The Act of Watching
17th of Nissan, April 22, 2008

"I was young and now am old, yet I have not seen [raiti] the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread (Psalm 37:25)."   This verse has been questioned many times, and is even omitted by some from the Grace After Meals.   Rabbi Jonathan Sacks offers an explanation from Rabbi Moshe Feuerstein of Boston.  Rabbi Feuerstein translates the word "raiti" in accordance with its usage in Megillat Esther: "Eichachah uchal v'raiti b'raah asher yimtzah et ami, v'eichachah uchal v'raiti b'avdan moladiti; How can I bear to watch the disaster which will befall my people?  And how can I bear to watch the destruction of my family (Esther 8:6)?"   The verb then does not mean "to see", but instead to "stand by passively and witness."   It implies the act of watching and not doing.   This, according to Esther and to David, is impossible from a moral point of view.    As Jews, we are our brother's keeper.  This verse then translates into an ethical statement: "I was young and now am old, yet I have not stood still and watched when the righteous was forsaken and his children forced to beg for bread."   During Pesach, we enact this statement by inviting all who are hungry to join us for a meal, and all who are in need to come and celebrate Pesach with us.

Moadim L'Simcha.

 Rachel Lerner 2008

Posted 4/23/2008 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Tehillim | Comments (0)

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Halachos Of Erev Pesach Shechel Bishabbos
The followingHalachos should not be used as a Psak Halacha - but just as a guide. Please consult with your Rov as towhat one should do:THURSDAY 17th April [12th Nissan]

Fast for Bechorim [or take part in a Siyum Mesechta].

Mayim Shelonu Before sunset for the baking of matzos next day.

THURSDAY Evening 17th April [13th Nissan]


1)The search for Chometz takes place tonight and as in other years the Brocho is made prior to the search. After the search Kol Chamiro is said.

2)All rooms must be searched  including those where Chometz meals will be eaten on Shabbos.

3)After Bedikas Chometz store Chometz in a safe secure place.

4)One should prepare only the exact amount of Chometz required. For Shabbos meals - Lechem Mishneh and an amount of kebeitzah per person per meal.

SELLING CHOMETZ: As every year, preferably before Bedikas Chometz or time for burning the Chometz.

FRIDAY 18th April [13th Nissan]

SHACHRIS: Say Mizmor Lesoydoh and Lamnatzeyach Yaancho.

BURNING OF CHOMETZ: One should burn the Chometz at the same time as in other years. Kol Chamiro is not said at this time  only the Yehi Rotzon.

KASHERING: Permitted all day Friday.

HAIRCUT: Lechovod Yom Tov one should cut their hair and nails [permitted all day].

WORK: Permitted all day.

BAKING MATZOS: After Chatzos as in other years. There is no need to say "Pirurin Yehei Hefker".


1)Prepare everything required for the Seder, eg, chairs, tables, the Kaaros, goblets and Matzos  as on Shabbos one may not prepare for Yom Tov.

2)Check the Morror [lettuce]. If not done, do it on Motzoei Shabbos (1st night Yom Yov). If a bug is found remove it by cutting off that part of the leaf (as bug is considered Muktzeh). The lettuce should not be soaked in water for 24 hours or in salt water for even a shorter period.

3)Grate the Chrayn [horseradish] before Shabbos and cover it so it doesnt lose its sharpness. If one forgot, he may do this on Motzoei Shabbos with a ?shinui eg, grate directly on to a napkin or the table (but not on to a ?keili).

4)Roast the Zeroa bone. If one forgot, he can do it on Motzoei Shabbos but must eat it on Sunday. [Similarly the 2nd day Yom Tov.]

5)Prepare Charoyses. If forgotten, do it on Motzoei Shabbos with a ?shinui eg, pour the wine in first.

6)Prepare salt-water. If forgotten it may be done on Motzoei Shabbos with a ?shinui eg, put salt in first. Salt should be less than 2/3 of the total quantity.

7)Persons with dentures, fillings, plates and braces should kasher these before Shabbos.

8)One should Metaher himself - by bathing and tovelling in a Mikva in honour of Yom Tov.

FRIDAY evening 18th April [14th Nissan]


1)Eat in a room where it is easy to clean up and sweep the floor after meals [ie, uncarpeted etc.]. The chairs used should have a smooth surface with no cracks and holes from where crumbs are difficult to remove.

2)One should light at least 2 candles in the area where Kiddush is said [it neednt be on the table]. If one plans to move the table on Shabbos then when lighting candles there must be a 'dovor hetter' on it [eg Challos].

3)If eating and drinking in the garden cover the area with plastic to ensure that drinks are not spilled on the grass.


1)The Minhag is to prepare Pesachdig food cooked in Pesachdig keilim.

2)One should use plastic and paper cutlery, plates and tablecloths  except for the Kiddush cup.

3)Eat a "Shiur" of Challah at the place where Kiddush was made [ "Kiddush Bemokom Seudeh"].

4)One may eat the rest of the meal and Bentch [without eating any further challah] in a different area  as long as he can see the place where Kiddush was said. Otherwise (at least the Baalebos) should return to that area for Bentching.

5)Extreme care should be taken that crumbs are not scattered during the meal. This is especially important with children. It is advisable that only those children who have reached chinuch age should be given challah and then only the minimum shiur.

6)The persons serving the meal  prepared in Pesach keilim, should brush off all crumbs from themself before contact with Pesach dishes.

7)The challah should be eaten on a napkin, which, after the meal should be flushed down the toilet. NOTE: Do not flush large amounts of Chometz down the toilet at once, because this can lead to a stuffed toilet - FILLED WITH CHOMETZ!

8)A piece of challah [in a plastic bag if eating Pesachdig] should be on the table until after Bentchen.

9)Persons with dentures, fillings, plates and braces should not eat hot or sharp food with Chometz in their mouth.

10)Do not eat Chometz that is hotter than yad soledes bo.

11)Wearers of braces should only eat the soft centre part of challah dipped into liquid and immediately brush with a SOFT toothbrush using minimal water - so as not to cause sechiteh or blood from the gums.

SHABBOS 19th April [14th Nissan]

SHACHRIS: Davened early to enable completing the meals before Sof Zman Achilas Chometz.

MEAL: Divided in two to fulfil Shalosh-Seudos. It is advisable to separate them with Divrei Torah or a short walk.


1)Remove tablecloths, plates and cutlery that have chometz attached. Dispose in a place of Hefker.(Remember not to place Chometz in the street where it can be carrying on Shabbos!) Do not place in your own garbage bin  even if it is on the street. Leftover challah should be crumbed and thrown in the toilet. Sweep room where chometz was consumed.

2)Brush teeth with a SOFT toothbrush using minimal water so as not to cause sechiteh or blood from the gums. It is advisable to brush teeth thoroughly before Shabbos. This should ensure that the gums will not bleed when brushing on Shabbos.

3)Persons with dentures, fillings, plates and braces should refrain from eating hot Chometz - and consult with your Rov what should be done.

4)Check clothes, pockets, cuffs, Shtreimel, beard etc for crumbs.

5)Say "Kol Chamiro" before the Zman Biur Chometz.


1)Mincha  followed by saying the Hagodo [Avodim Hoyinu].

2)Eat fruit or a tavshil [eg ptato kugel] to be yotzeh Shalosh-Seudos according to the poskim who hold that it must take place after Chatzos.


1)It is forbidden to prepare on Shabbos for Yom Tov. Eg, those eating at their parents may not bring over anything for the Seder.

2)When taking a rest Shabbos afternoon one should not say that he/she is doing it to be fresh and awake at night.

MOTZOEI SHABBOS 19th April [1st night Yom Tov, 15th Nissan]

HAVDOLO: Women who wish to do any work before the Seder should first say "Boruch Hamavdil Bein Kodesh leKodesh". If she has davened Maariv and said "Vatoydienu" she need not do so.
Reprinted from The Yeshiva World

Posted 4/18/2008 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Gut Shabbos & Gut Yom Tov | Comments (0)

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[    ]    Thanks to Hashem
[    ]    Shalom Bayis (throughout everything on list)

    Simanim for the Seder:
[    ]    Charoses
[    ]    Zeroah
[    ]    Maror
[    ]    Roasted Baitzah
[    ]    Radishes or other Karpas
[    ]    Salt Water

[    ]    Burning of the Chometz (no Kol Chamira—as it is said on Shabbos)
[    ]    Haircut
[    ]    Cut nails
[    ]    Mikvah
[    ]    Open Wine
[    ]    Cut Paper Towels
[    ]    Open Tissues
[    ]    Open boxes of plastic bags
[    ]    String or Rubberbands around Chometz Doors—Mark as “Sold”
[    ]    Clean Kittel
[    ]    Heseyba Pillow(s)
[    ]    Seder Candles for both days
[    ]    Everybody has Hagaddah that is right for them
[    ]    Knowing where everybody sits
[    ]    Brush teeth thoroughly
[    ]    Make sure Chometz broom is available for Shabbos morning
[    ]    Pesach toothbrushes, toothpaste and mouthwash
[    ]    Nothing left in the car
[    ]    Open soda bottles (for those who do not do so on Shabbos)
[    ]    Open diapers (for those who do not do so on Shabbos)
[    ]    Ensure that everything is Non-Shatnez
[    ]     Call three people who would really appreciate it to wish them a Good Yom Tov:__________________,___________________, ___________________.
[    ]      Remove all tags from new clothing and from cleaners
[    ]      Open Matza boxes and check for Kefulos
[    ]      If appropriate, Matza and/or Maror measured out and put into Ziploc bags in order to save time at the Seder.
[    ]      Empty (or throw out) vacuum cleaner bag.
[    ]      Eruv Chatzeiros.
[    ]      Close all lights in the refrigerator and freezer
[    ]      Set Shabbat clocks to go off very late on Seder night
[    ]      Vidui maasarot for those fortunate enough to live in Eretz Yisroel
[    ]      Sleep Shabbos afternoon but don't verbalize why and don’t verbalize to children why
[    ]      Special 2-wick candle for Havdalah (Yaknahaz Candle)
[    ]      Make sure you have a Pesachdik Blech
[    ]      If you have and use the 'Sabbath' mode on your oven for Yom Tov (acceptable to your Posek), set it
[    ]     Ask Rav any Shailos

[    ]     Other: _________________________________


Posted 4/18/2008 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Gut Shabbos & Gut Yom Tov | Comments (0)

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Pesach - Achrei Mos

The mitzvah of baking matzos involves numerous actions taken to prevent them from becoming chametz. The water used in the kneading process must be drawn from the ground and allowed to sit overnight lest the slightly higher temperature of underground water speed up the fermentation process. Additionally, every eighteen minutes, all materials involved in the baking of the matzos must be thoroughly cleaned to prevent the possibility of any fermentation. This process of baking simple bread without fermentation should automatically conjure up thoughts of a spiritual counterpart, the yetzer hora, which is referred to as the "sa'or she'ba'isa – the yeast in the dough." The Gemara states, "It is our will to do Your will. What prevents us - the "sa'or she'ba'isa"- the yetzer hora in our hearts who is bent on hindering us." This is the reason behind the speed required in baking the matzos; to acclimate ourselves to performing mitzvos with alacrity thereby preventing the interference of the yetzer hora. As Chazal tell us, "'And you should watch the matzos' Do not read it as matzos rather as mitzvos – a mitzvah that presents itself should be performed immediately lest it 'ferment'" (i.e. we lose the opportunity)."

Additionally, we are commanded to search for chametz on the night preceding Pesach. This all encompassing search including one's attic, basement, cabinets, pockets and every nook and cranny, can extend for hours. This too will aid in reminding us of yet another similar search that must take place: the spiritual search we must make in the nooks and crannies of our heart. The Gemara tells us that we must search with a candle since the Torah mentions that a search is conducted with a candle. "The candle of Hashem is a person's soul, which searches the chambers of his inner self." A direct parallel is made between the physical searching for tangible chametz and the spiritual searching for the chametz caused by the yetzer hora. This idea is also evident in the prayer recited on the completion of bedikas chametz and the burning of the chametz, "And just as we rid our house of all chametz, so too may we merit that all our days we succeed in ridding our hearts of the yetzer hora."

This year, in addition to the search conducted to rid our houses of chametz, we should also take a step towards preventing the influence of the yetzer hora and conduct an internal search with the intention of purging our hearts of any negative traits.


This dvar Torah was compiled l'iluy nishmas the Mashgiach Harav Shlomo ben R' Moshe z"l

To hear this past Sunday's recorded Shiur – please click:     Bais Hamussar

Posted 4/18/2008 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Gut Shabbos & Gut Yom Tov | Comments (0)

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Tenth Day of Nissan

Today is the tenth day of Nissan, which is marked by at least three great milestones:

a.      It is the day that the Bnei Yisroel took the Egyptian gods--their sheep--away and tied them to bedposts in order to inspect them for blemishes before Shechita four days later.  This was an act of tremendous faith by Bnei Yisroel, not only in taking them for slaughter, but also in holding them this way for four days--and the Egyptians, in fact, ended up being powerless to stop them or harm them.

b.      Towards the end of our stay in the Desert, Miriam HaNevia passed away.  Miriam was so great that, even as a young girl, her suggestion to her father Amram, the Gadol HaDor, was accepted and the decree he had made to have the husbands and wives of Bnei Yisroel separate was annulled.

c.      Just one year after Miriam’s passing on this date, Yehoshua Bin Nun and Bnei Yisroel crossed over the Yarden River which had been dried up through a miracle.  Some recommend reading from Sefer Yehoshua, Chapters 3 and 4, and reciting Tehillim Chapter 114, in honor of the occasion.

Reprinted with permission from Hakhel MIS

Posted 4/15/2008 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Thoughts for the Week | Comments (1)

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Birkas Ha'Ilanos
Rosh Chodesh Nissan marks the beginning of the season for Birkas Ha'Ilanos--the blessing recited annually upon seeing fruit trees in bloom.  At the following link is a PDF file containing list of known fruit trees in selected cities across the United States and Canada upon which this brocha may be said--   As the file is over 3Meg, please allow sufficient time for downloading.

Posted 4/15/2008 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Special Prayers | Comments (0)

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Tevilas Keilim
As the tevilas keilim season comes into full swing, we would like to provide you with some important notes, which were reviewed By  HaRav Yisroel Belsky, Shlita. Please note that tevilas keilim is an obligation (chiyuv), and if not done properly, a k'li may not be used until Toveled correctly.

a. All chatzitzos (i.e., dirt, glue and stickers or other items or markings not part of the k'li which neither the owner nor most people would use with this item on the k'li) must be removed prior to submersion.

b. The entire k'li (even if oversized) must be fully submerged all at once (not one-half first, then the other half immediately thereafter).

c. Do not hold the k'li tightly, so that the mikva water can reach everywhere.  You can tovel the k'li by moving your hand to another part of the k'li while holding it below the water level; or you can dip your hand in the mikva first, and then take hold of the k'li and submerge it in the mikva.

d. Using baskets--

All keilim should be submerged right side up or on a slant, but not upside down, so that no air is trapped in the utensil.

Items should be placed in the basket side by side and not on top of each other.

The basket may be submerged in water, and then you may drop utensils into the basket, so that each utensil is surrounded by water as it falls in.

e. The brocha--

Brochos are made for metal and glass utensils only.

"Al tevilas keli" for one item, "al tevilas keilim" for more than one item.

Hold the k'li in your hand (or basket) and be ready to tovel immediately after making the brocha.

When toveling storage utensils or utensils which come into contact with the food while it is not yet edible, no brocha is made.

Submersion must be supervised only by an individual over Bar/bas mitzvah.  A child may be tovel keilim if an adult sees him or her do it.

Posted 4/10/2008 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Thoughts for the Week | Comments (0)

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