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Connecting With HaShem

One of the most important spiritual concepts of the Torah is Devakis, the state of connecting one’s thought to HaShem, i.e., being consciously aware of HaShem. Devakis is achieved through actively contemplating on HaShem and faithfully remembering Him as per the verse (Devarim 11:22): "Attach to HaShem."

Our Patriarchs were masters of Devakis, i.e., they were consciously aware of HaShem in all situations of life. Even when they were engaged in a physical activity they never lost the perception that they were in the Presence of HaShem. In fact, their greatest fear was the notion of being disconnected from HaShem, even for a second! The foundation of their Divine service was making every effort to be always Devuk to Hashem. In this light, Abraham prayed to HaShem, "Please do not leave Your servant."  

Yet, how is possible forma human being to be always Devuk to HaShem, regardless of situation or location?

King David said (Tehillim 104:24): "How great are you Your works HaShem, You have made all of them in Wisdom." Accordingly, every entity contains the Highest Wisdom. In addition, the prophet Isaiah states, "Everything that is called by My Name, and that I have formed for My glory." Therefore, the solitary purpose of each creation is to reflect the Honor of HaShem.    

As a result, the entire universe is a great "class room," i.e., a place to discover the wisdom and glory of HaShem. The Patriarchs focused on discovering - and taking pleasure - in   the wisdom, goodness, and kindness of HaShem that is manifest in all of the creations.

May we follow the holy path of our Patriarchs, setting our focus on perceiving the wonders of HaShem in all of life that surrounds us.  Then we will be Devuk to HaShem - continuously attached to his loving-kindness, holiness, and splendor.
(Based on Da’as Torah of Rav Yerucham HaLevi)

TODAY: Close your eyes and attach to HaShem’s kindness for thirty seconds.

Posted 8/4/2009 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Parsha Pearls | Comments (0)

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Parshas Ve’Eschanan
We cannot leave Parshas Ve’Eschanan without mention of at least several fundamental insights (English excerpts of the Sefer HaChinuch provided below are from the five volume masterpiece Sefer HaChinuch (Feldheim Publishers)):

1.  On the Mitzvas Lo Sa’Seh contained in the last of the Aseres HaDibros of “Lo Sisaveh--do not desire what belongs to someone else,” the Sefer HaChinuch writes as follows:  “For it is indeed in each man’s power to restrain himself, his thoughts and his longing desires, from whatever he wishes.  It lies in his free choice and in his decision to repel his desire--or to draw it near--in all matters, as he wishes; and his heart is given over to his control; however he pleases he may move it.  Hashem, before Whom all secrets are revealed ‘searches all the chambers of the innards’ (Mishlei 20:27), seeing the organs of understanding and the heart.  Not one, large or small, good or bad, out of all the thoughts of a man is hidden from Him, or concealed from the range of his sight.  For there is nothing so good for a man as a good, pure thought, since that is the beginning of all the good deeds and their end....”  Hakhel Note:  If you can, please read this again (and again).

2.  On the Mitzvas Aseh of Ahavas Hashem, the Sefer HaChinuch writes as follows:  “It applies in every place, at every time, for both men and women.  If a person transgresses this and fixes his thoughts on the material interests and vapid vanities of the world, not for the sake of Heaven but only to pleasure himself in them, or to attain esteem in this [lowly] world, to make his name great, not with any intention to do good for good people and to strengthen the hands of the honest--he disobeys this positive precept, and his punishment will be great.  This is one of the constant precepts for a man [i.e., one of the Shesh Mitzvos Temidios--the six constant Mitzvos], forever placed upon him to observe.”  This explanation of the Chinuch provides great insight for us into the backdrop of the Mitzvah of Ahavas Hashem.  Hakhel Note: If you can, please read this again (and again).

3.  HaRav Zalman Sorotzkin, Z’tl, asks why the first Pasuk of Shema must begin with the words “Shema Yisroel--Hear [and understand and accept] Yisroel.”  After all, the essence of the Pasuk is Kabbalas Ohl Malchus Shomayim--accepting upon oneself Heavenly Kingship--wouldn’t it have been sufficient to succinctly convey this very primary message with only the four words of “Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad?”  What do the words “Shema Yisroel” add?  HaRav Sorotzkin answers that if we are to properly accept upon ourselves Ohl Malchus Shomayim, we must be sure to advise and proclaim it to others, as well; it is insufficient for us to maintain this unwavering belief without joining in others.  After all, if a person knew the secret of life--would he keep it to himself?!  If a soldier knew how to save himself when surrounded by the enemy--would he not save his comrades as well?  If a person knew the difference between right and wrong--would he smile smugly as others faltered?!  No--we must remember that as a prerequisite to our own Ohl Malchus Shomayim--we must first begin with Shema Yisroel--a real quest for others to know, learn, study, and appreciate, as well!

4.  Yet another constant Mitzvah we find in last week’s Parsha is the Mitzvah of Mezuzah.  The Rema (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 285) writes that when a person enters and leaves his home, he should place his hand on the Mezuzah, to be reminded of what is written in the Mezuzah, and that Hashem is watching over him at all times.  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, notes that he observed that the Chazon Ish (at least in his older years) would look at the Mezuzah, rather than touch it, as he entered and exited, because by looking at it, his mind was also directed to the Mezuzah, its content and its meaning.

Hakhel Note:  As we enter a room or leave it, let us remember to touch (or at least look at) the Mezuzah that we are blessed with on our doors--so that the two Parshios of Shema contained within it are with us not only at Shacharis, Ma’ariv and before retiring at night, but through the entire day!

Posted 8/4/2009 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Parsha Pearls | Comments (0)

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Cry and Cry out
The Navi (Yeshaya 1:3, which we read as part of last week’s Haftora) teaches “Ami Lo Hisbonan--My nation did not consider.”

Rashi adds that the people knew they were acting improperly but “tread with their heels” on this knowledge, and simply “did not take it to heart.”

We all know too well the desperate straits we are in at this time, in which we deal with the Churban of Eretz Yisroel and Yerushalayim--the defiling of a land and of a people on the one hand; and the turmoil, death and destruction in Eretz Yisroel today--upon which the nations of the world have heaped additional disgrace and scorn, on the other.

Haven’t we yet reached a point where we will, as the Navi asks, at least “consider”? It is not, it cannot, and should not, be beyond us to go off into a room--our bedroom, dining room, study, or even the floor somewhere, to sit down and cry: “Oh, what has befallen us! A nation in ruins, the holiest people on Earth berated by the lowest nations on Earth.  We are attacked by governments and the media world over.

What makes us better today than the captives of Judea taken by the Romans more than 1,930 years ago? Is it that we have some stained hardwood floors, custom wall coverings, a relatively new car or kosher tacos? We cannot allow ourselves to be fooled by the amenities, luxuries, or even just the relative comfort in which we live. We have been in exile far too long, and the longer we are here, the worse off we are. Exile does not get better with age like a fine wine; it becomes rancid like a container of open milk on a hot summer day.

L’Maaseh, living with reality and practically speaking, we are walking about badly wounded in this bitter exile. We cannot be ashamed to cry. Ashamed?!--Why, and from whom?! Why can we not pour out our hearts to Hashem, as Yirmiyahu HaNavi cries out (Eicha 2:19) “Shifchi Kamayim Libeich--pour out your heart [to Hashem] like water.”

At least today, on the eve of Tisha B’Av, and no less certainly tomorrow itself, on the day of pain and mourning over the Chilul Hashem that exists in the world today, over Hashem’s pain which is infinitely greater than ours, over a world that has been lowered to the bottom of the bottom-most depths, over all the individual and communal pain and anguish, over these and much more, we must cry real, very real, tears.

Yirmiyahu HaNavi further teaches (31:14), “A voice is heard on high, lamentation, bitter weeping, Rochel weeping for her children, she refuses to be comforted for her children, for they are not.” On this Pasuk, the Mahari Kara (in the Mikraos Gedolos) writes that Rochel Imeinu represents K’lal Yisroel, and that our weeping in exile is heard by Hashem’s ears.

Can we not shed a tear specifically over:
•    The pain of the Shechina over the Chilul Hashem of the Galus (the Father’s pain is greater than the child’s)
•    The void left by the Beis Hamikdosh that is not with us and the concomitant void of sanctity within us (we could be closer to angels, and not closer to animals)
•    The honor of Klal Yisroel that has been cast to the ground and trampled upon
•    The hundreds of thousands of Russian Jews who have been numbed by Communism
•    The sorry hatred of secular Jews to Judaism
•    The Aiden Shapiros and Jules Horowitzes of the world who are not Jewish
•    Terrorism
•    The Crusades
•    The Pogroms
•    The 1648-1649 Massacres
•    Churban Europe
•    All of the unnecessary sickness and suffering for 2,000 years (multiplied by each second of pain)
•    The desolation and ruination of the Har Habayis, Har Hazeisim, Chevron, Teveria…
•    Sinas Chinum—smiling at the mishap of another, failing to properly rejoice at another’s simcha, and finding it hard to accept another’s honor and success
•    The Jews who do not even know that Tisha B’Av exists
•    The Jews who know that Tisha B’Av exists and do not grow in their resolve to do something to end this Churban as soon as possible

If, for some reason you cannot cry--at least cry out--as our forefathers did in Mitzrayim. Remember, the gates of tears--and the gates of ruchniyus--are never closed. If we have to sit on the floor in a few hours, it should do more than cause us some temporary physical pain. Plead to Hashem as Dovid HaMelech does: “El Dimosi Al Techerash--Do not be silent to my tears!” (Tehillim 39:13) Hashem, I will not find comfort with the few pleasures I have when the Heavens and the Earth writhe in pain!

Please join with your brothers this Tisha B’Av, as our sincere tears and cries reach the Heavens.

May these tears and cries turn into overflowing sounds of salvation for each and every one of us, as we join together to witness the comforting of our people and the ultimate final and glee-filled redemption--speedily and in our days.

May our prayers for consolation be accepted by Hakodesh Boruch Hu speedily and in our days--today!

Special Note Two: Chazal teach that the Moshiach will come when we are “Nisya’ashu Min HaGeulah--when we despair of redemption.”  The Baalei Mussar all ask: Are we not supposed to wait for Moshiach every day--Achakeh Lo Bechol Yom Sheyavo.  How can it be that we will despair?!  The answer given by many is that Chazal do not mean that we will despair of Moshiach’s arrival.  Rather, they mean that we will despair that our Yeshua will come from foreign governments, wise scientists, or even from our own wisdom or strength.  Rather, we will once and for all realize, and put into real practice, that we have no one to rely on, no source of yeshua whatsoever--except for Our Avinu SheBashamayim.  It may be a very worthwhile endeavor for you to repeat this several times a day--every day of the year!

Special Note Three:  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, was asked whether we will continue to fast if the Moshiach came on Tisha B’Av.  He answered that it will depend if the Moshiach came before Chatzos or after Chatzos (1:02 New York time).  If the Moshiach comes after Chatzos, we will complete the day in fasting, for Tisha B’Av is not only a day of mourning, but a day of Teshuva, as well.  Let us not forget to do Teshuva on Tisha B’Av--wouldn’t it be so remarkable and special if the Moshiach actually came while you were doing Teshuva?!

Hakhel MIS

Posted 7/31/2009 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Thoughts for the Week | Comments (0)

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The Severity of Galus
HaRav Matisyahu Salomon, Shlita, notes that the worst part of our Galus is when Hashem is “Haster Astir” (Devorim 31:18)--completely hides Himself from us.  Indeed, what greater tragedy can there be than to be removed from the Source of all life and goodness—Hashem?  And this occurs when we feel comfortable and complacent with Galus life.  Paradoxically, then the most extreme Galus is reflected by our comfort and satisfaction.  As an example, HaRav Salomon states that during the time of the Cantonists, when Jewish boys were forcibly abducted into the Czar’s army for 25 years, everyone acknowledged and agreed this was a terrible gezaira--decree--of Galus.  On the other hand, with the current “kids-at-risk” situation all over the world, there are those who simply attribute it to community, local or family problems, to issues of a lack of communication or, sometimes, even too much affluence, but many fail to recognize it for what it truly is--the same Gezeiras Galus as the Czar’s Cantonists.

Similarly, HaRav Salomon notes, we are beset by most severe and serious illnesses in a manner disproportionate to the rest of the population.  This is not happenstance, it does not **ultimately** have to do “with the water”, or “with the family”, or because of other hazardous factors--it is, rather, a stark gezaira of Galus which we all share in and suffer from together.  It is not someone else’s issue or problem--it is OUR tragic situation together...

HaRav Salomon has other examples, but the point is clear.  What we must do, and what we must do now, is rid ourselves of the notion, and certainly of the feeling, that we are currently content with the notion of a two-car garage, the latest technology, the most Glatt Kosher of international cuisine--and even the freedom to privately and publicly study, observe and practice the Torah.

We all know the lessons from our past history as to getting too comfortable in exile.  Hashem, as our loving Father, jolts us back into a recognition that we must strive for the Geulah.  Many note that the name for this month, Av, means Father.  For only a father would “potch” us in the way Hashem has in order to lead us on the proper path.

Chazal, with their Ruach HaKodesh, recognized that we needed to focus on removing ourselves from a complacency, and even satisfaction, with Galus.  Accordingly when they instituted the final text of Shemone Esrei, they included six brachos in a row (!), commencing with “Tika B’Shofar” and continuing through “Es Tzemach” by which we in various ways pray for, and thus stay connected to, the Geulah.

Over the next three weeks (in contrast to the previous “Three Weeks”), until the week of Rosh Chodesh Elul, let us make it our job to concentrate at least on the first of these Brachos, “Tika B’Shofar” in each of our daily Shemone Esreis.  As we recite the Brocha, we should picture the personal and communal tzaros and tragedies around us, feel for a loving Father who is forced to leave His home together with His child--and the unbounded everlasting joy and ecstasy it will bring to the Father and His child alike when our sincere prayers are answered--with the ingathering of our exiles, the coming of the Moshiach and the building of the Bais HaMikdash!
Special Note Two:  Several additional brief points on the time period that we are in:
1.      Chazal teach us that once Av enters, we are to reduce the amount of our joy.  Many have pointed out that the context Chazal use, even in Av, is one of joy.  We are not instructed to “increase our mourning,” but to “decrease our joy.”  This thought fits in beautifully with the commentary of the Tiferes Yisroel to last week’s Perek, Chapter 2 of Pirkei Avos.  There, Rabban Yochanan Ben Zakkai asked his five primary disciples, “What is the proper way to which man should cling?”  The first four primary disciples each responded in his own way.  Rebbe Elazar then responded that one should cling to “a Lev Tov--a good heart.”  Rabban Yochanan then said to his students, “I prefer the words of Elazar to your words, for your words are included in his words.”  What is so all-encompassing about the words “Lev Tov” that it per se includes the other responses of Rabban Yochanan’s other four top students?!  The Tiferes Yisroel explains that the phrase “Lev Tov” means “Leebo tomid sameach, u’mezuman l’heitiv lakol--that one’s frame of mind is a happy one, and that he is ready to help every one.”  It is this middah that Rabban Yochanan and Rabbi Elazar instruct us is so primary and all-encompassing.  Accordingly, even in these days of Av, and even as we approach Tisha B’Av, we should not forget these six Hebrew words as the attitude and approach to life that our Sages teach us to cling to.  We especially note that the Hebrew word “Yidbak” (cling) is utilized by Chazal--it is not simply a nice approach or a good thing, but something we should not deviate from--but practice sticking to--as if it were with glue or honey.
2.      Chazal (Brachos 8A) expressly teach us that “from the day the Bais HaMikdash was destroyed, HaKadosh Baruch Hu has only the Four Amos of Halacha.”  This teaching has tremendous implications and repercussions, as it appears to require us to place a primary focus on learning Halacha.  The Hashkafa behind these words of Chazal may be explained as follows:  If we do not live in times when Hashem causes His presence to dwell in this world through His Bais HaMikdash, then at the very least we should demonstrate our utmost desire to follow His Will and His Directives to the greatest extent possible anywhere in the world.  We do this by following the Halacha--that dictates as to how Hashem wants us to lead our lives.  In addition to the daily requirement to study Halacha (whether it be from a Mishna Berurah, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, English halacha sefer, or other means), we should also demonstrate our desire to follow Hashem’s word by asking a Shaila, or looking up a Halacha, as soon as the issue comes up, and not putting it off to another (perhaps more comfortable) time.   The Bais Din of the Machon HaHora’a (based in Monsey, New York) is also available on a 24-hour basis at 845-HALACHA.  The Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation Shmiras HaLashon Shaila Hotline is available from 9:00PM to 10:30PM on Monday through Thursday and on Motzai Shabbos at 718-951-3696.  If HaKadosh Baruch Hu only has Four Amos of Halacha at this time, so should we….
3.      At a Hakhel Shiur, HaRav Shmuel Dishon, Shlita, posed the following question:  “What is the greatest Chilul Hashem in the world today?!  What is the one thing that we should most ashamed of?!”  He answered that the greatest Chilul Hashem, the greatest shame to us today, is that we are still in Galus.  That being said, each and every one of us should do their utmost to rid themselves and all of Klal Yisroel of this Chilul Hashem.  At a time when our personal hygiene may not be on the same par as it is during the rest of the year, we should view the Chilul Hashem around us as spiritual filth, caked in very deeply, which we need to remove with whatever will get it off.  If we feel a little unclean during the Nine Days--imagine how the spiritual world feels throughout the entire year!  Hakhel Suggestion:  The Torah in Vayikra (22:32) juxtaposes the admonition not to commit a Chilul Hashem with the requirement to be Mekadesh Shem Shamayim.  We may suggest, then, that one means of eradicating the great Chilul Hashem is by acts of Kiddush Hashem. Let us start with little, everyday acts of honesty and integrity which indicates that your character, as a Torah Jew, is beyond reproach. You can do your part in ending the greatest Chilul Hashem in world history--through your daily activities. It is not necessarily simple--and needs practice. In last week’s Haftora, Yeshayahu HaNavi exhorted us "Limdu Haitev", which the Meforshim explain to mean--teach yourself to be good. Even if you come from the finest family, and are among the choicest of people, the Yetzer Hora is dedicated to tripping you up, and one must train yourself in, and dedicate yourself to, acts of Kiddush Hashem--at home, on the street, in the market place, in the workplace, and even in Shul. Remember, your family and friends are looking at you to, so the good lessons and worthy practices will multiply themselves in a manifold way. Be creative--think about what you can do in the circumstances that Hashem has placed you--and only you--in.

If the commitment is not made now ....then when?!

Hakhel MIS

Posted 7/28/2009 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Thoughts for the Week | Comments (0)

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Erev Shabbos--Hilchos Shabbos Series
This Shabbos, Shabbos Chazon (as we eat meat and drink wine during the Nine Days), we should be especially aware of the Kedushas Shabbos, with the knowledge that as great as the Binyan Bais HaMikdash is--and what it would accomplish for the whole world--it is still not doche, does not push aside, the Shabbos…and must wait until after Shabbos has concluded!  Indeed, even if Tisha B’Av would occur on Shabbos, we still celebrate Shabbos--with the gefilte fish, the cholent…the Oneg Shabbos in its honor!  The Sefer Toras Shabbos asks, Oneg Shabbos--properly celebrating Shabbos--is such a great Mitzvah--why don’t we make a bracha on it?  He suggests as one answer that each person participates in Oneg Shabbos in his own particular way--so it is not like the KeZayis Matazh that we eat on the Leil HaSeder, and so is not subject to a particular bracha.  The Sefer Piskei Teshuvos (III:1) brings other possible answers as well: (a) The bracha of MeKadesh HaShabbos in Kiddush includes the mitzvah of  Oneg  (have it in mind!), and (b) the words of “Baruch Hashem Asher Nossan Menucha LeAmo Yisroel” in Kol Mekadesh Shevii allude to a bracha over the Oneg and Menucha of Shabbos (pay attention to your Zemiros!).  Our dear readers, Mekadesh HaShabbos...Kol Mekadesh Shevii...let us especially feel and appreciate it tomorrow!

Posted 7/26/2009 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Gut Shabbos & Gut Yom Tov | Comments (0)

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Solid Tust In HaShem
Regarding the prospect of entering the Land of Israel, the verse (Devarim 1:22) states: "And all of you approached me and they said, ’Let’s send men in front of us and they will search out the land.’"
The lack of faith about their ability to conquer the land of Israel cast them into a state of confusion. The normal protocol was for Moshe to send spies to determine the best strategy of how to wage battle. The fact that they did not wait for Moshe to send spies, reveals that their behavior was influenced by their anxiety.   
Moshe realized that their insecurity about the outcome of the battle would subject them to the principle: "A person is led on the path that he so desires to go." In other words, the negative emotion of fear was an opening for the negative impulseto enter within their hearts. Accordingly, Moshe recognized that they would ultimately present a negative report concerning the Land of Israel.
Even worse, Moshe realized that the influence of the negative influencemight corrupt Yehoshua. In reference to this the verse says: "And all of you approached me...," implying that the entire group was suffering from worry. Moshe also knew that once they were in the gravitational field of the negative impulse, disaster was unavoidable. All he could do was pray that his beloved disciple, Yehoshua, not fall into the pessimistic attitude of his brethren.
Faith is the foundation of Torah. HaShem openly revealed His omnipotence and love for Klal Yisrael when He redeemed us from Egypt. Therefore, despair is totally inappropriate for the Jewish people. Hence, if we maintain our faith in HaShem, the negative impulsewill be unable to gain access to our hearts and deeds. May we strengthen our faith in Hashem - totally and absolutely. On the merit of our faith we will see the immediate redemption of Am Yisrael!
 [Based on Ohr RaShaz, the Alter of Kelm]

TODAY: Repeat the following verse to yourself three times: "Hope in HaShem, strengthen yourself and HaShem will encourage you, and hope in HaShem."

Posted 7/26/2009 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Parsha Pearls | Comments (0)

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Self Improvement
As the Nine Days have now commenced, we provide the following thoughts for reflection--and action.  They involve matters relating to matters both Bain Odom LaMakom and Bain Odom LeChaveiro which are timely to this period:

1.    In the recent Torah Video Shiur given on behalf of the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation, HaRav Avraham Chaim Feuer, Shlita, noted that one should be “Meitzar VeDoeg” over the Churban Bais HaMikdash and our exile.  He explained that the word “Meitzar” refers to a feeling of suffering for the past, and that the word “Doeg” refers to worry for the future, as we continue to spend our precious lives in Exile and do not know what the next day will bring politically, socially, economically, or otherwise.  Although we may currently, B’li Ayin Hora, be living through our most comfortable Galus in almost 2,000 years, the fact of the matter is that it is still Galus.  Accordingly, any brick homes, cinder block buildings, wrought iron construction, which may appear quite permanent and everlasting, is only, in fact, being looked upon with Olam Hazeh-type of eyes.  Rabbi Berel Wein, Shlita, relates that when he was building his Yeshiva in Monsey, New York, the contractor asked him whether he should use Canadian wood or Swedish wood in its construction, and explained to Rabbi Wein that although the Swedish wood was substantially more expensive, it could last hundreds of years.  Without hesitation, Rabbi Wein opted for the cheaper Canadian wood, and asked the contractor in amazement “Hundreds of years?! Who do you think I am building this building for?  The next ethnic group to take over Monsey?!”  If world leaders (including leaders of the “free countries”), have not reminded us of it enough recently, we must remind ourselves that we are and remain Wandering Jews, chased, persecuted, and cursed in Galus.  Rabbi Feuer compared Yerushalayim to the Sun.  Just as the Sun is the center of the solar system, exerting a gravitational effect on planets even hundreds of millions of miles away, so, too, Yerushalayim was a place to which our bodies and souls were (and will be) directed spiritually.  With the building of the Third Bais HaMikdash, our goals and directions will be clear.  We will no longer be blowing in the wind.  Rabbi Feuer referred to the Chazal (Brachos 3A) which teaches that when K’lal Yisroel answers “Yehei Shemai Raba Mevorach…” with Kavannah, when they daven for Kavod Shamayim to return, and for the removal of the Chilul Hashem which exists with the King’s children in Galus, then Hashem Himself laments over the Galus, and desires to bring us back to our natural existence in Eretz Yisroel.  Of course, when we sincerely pray for the Geula in the many places it is referred to in davening (in many of the middle brachos of Shemone Esrei, as well as the Yehi Ratzon at the end of Shemone Esrei), we are similarly davening for the return of Kavod Shamayim and Kavod Yisroel.  This then is a very important avodah for the Nine Days.  Indeed, a more emotional person should be able to bring himself to cry a few times during this period, because in this Galus, there is plenty to cry for, plenty to cry about.

2.    From a Bain Odom LeChaveiro perspective, we all know that Sinas Chinam was a primary cause of the Churban Bayis Sheni and this Galus of almost 2,000 years.  Many of us undoubtedly plan to attend the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation’s Worldwide Tisha B’Av Event “What Tisha B’Av Should Mean to You” together with our local communities, which is undoubtedly a Kiddush Hashem of great magnitude.  There is an entrance fee associated with the event, which helps support the Foundation’s outstanding and unparalleled activities throughout the year.  We suggest, however, that it is a payment in exchange for making your Tisha B’Av, and ultimately your life, a more meaningful one.  We would like to therefore propose that sometime in the Nine Days before the event, you also make a separate, stand-alone donation to the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation for its activities on K’lal Yisroel’s behalf in fostering Ahavas Yisroel and Bain Odom LeChaveiro throughout the year.  You will then have a real chelek--you will be a partner--in the Foundation’s holy activities, and, BE’H, in the speedy rebuilding of the Third Bais HaMikdosh.  You will demonstrate that Ahavas Yisroel is of primary importance in your life, that you know the lesson of the Churban, and that you want to improve in this area, together with the rest of K’lal Yisroel.  Take the  effort, and make the donation.  Please see the following link to exercise the opportunity:

May the upcoming days be very meaningful ones for us--and may we do our part--from a Bain Odom LaMakom and a Bain Odom LeChaveiro perspective--in making them so!

Hakhel MIS

Posted 7/24/2009 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Thoughts for the Week | Comments (0)

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Reverse Fortunes
There was once a ladder - with ten rungs - leaning against the side of the house. Even though each rung was exactly the same dimension and made of the same wood, nevertheless, the top rung felt that he was superior to all the rungs below him. Although he had a sense of arrogance over all the lower rungs, he felt particularly conceited over the lowest rung which hung far below him and just a short distance from the earth. Looking down condescendingly at the rungs below him, he called out with great pride, "I have been chosen to stand above you, and therefore I am the greatest and most important rung of all."
Just as the upper rung was making his vain remarks a neighbor passed by and heard his haughty declaration. He quickly reached out and swiftly began to turn the ladder around. Soon the bottom rung felt himself flying to the top, whereas the top rung suddenly found himself falling from the highest point to the lowest! When the arrogant rung saw what befell him, he immediately regretted his conceit. Whereas the lower rung, which now found himself perched on top was very careful not to entertain any feelings of pride because he did not want to suffer the fate of the prideful rung.
The ladder in this parable alludes to the spiritual dynamics of wealth in this world. From our earthly perspective it seems like money comes to our hands through the efforts we make, i.e., our jobs, creativity, or profession. In truth, every dollar that comes into our hands is decreed from Heaven. HaShem alone decides who shall be rich and who shall be poor.
If a person is wealthy let him remember, that it is HaShem alone Who blessed him with his prosperity. By reflecting on this truth arrogance will not bring about the reversal of his fortune. Rather, he will maintain a sense of humility and retain his wealth.  
TODAY: Reflect that it is the decree of HaShem that determines your financial status.

Posted 7/24/2009 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Thoughts for the Week | Comments (0)

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Repairing Our Interpersonal Relationships
As we move closer to the Nine Days, as evidenced by our beginning to wear freshly-laundered garments now, so that they will not be freshly-laundered then, we begin to reflect upon the causes of our most recent Churban, our behavior with our fellow man, Sinas Chinam, as highlighted in the Gemara with the story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza (Gittin 56A).
Improper behavior can manifest itself in different ways in different generations.  We all have trials that we have to pass.  Just one example in our generation would be reading emails, texting or playing with your cell phone while simultaneously talking to others.  As you go through your day, you may find the particular “up-to-date” situations which need a takana—correction--in our technologically advanced times.
It is for this reason that we present several brief but important excerpts from the absolutely essential guidebook Journey to Virtue: The Laws of Interpersonal Relationships-In Business, Home and Society by Rabbi Avraham Ehrman, Shlita (Artscroll).  In this monumental work, Rabbi Ehrman provides a thorough review of the Halachos and Hashkafos that the Torah wants us to practice in order to be successful in this world.
1. V’Ahavta L’Reyacha Komocha includes the expression of love and caring for one’s fellow in practical ways. For example, we are commanded to:
~          Speak only in a positive manner about others.
~          Be as protective of their money and property as of our own.
~          Show the same degree of concern for their honor as we do for our own.
~          Help those in need to the best of our abilities.
~          Camouflage others’ deficiencies just as we would wish our own faults to be overlooked.
~          Try to deflect and defuse a person’s anger at another individual through any means available.
All types of kindness (emotional support; physical and financial assistance, large or small; and even a friendly smile) are included in this mitzvah.
2. The mitzvah of loving a fellow Jew applies to anyone included in the category of “your fellow,” namely any upright Jew who believes in the Rambam’s Thirteen Principles of Faith and observes the fundamentals of Torah Law.  In the present era, we consider all Jews to be included in this mitzvah (as well as all other interpersonal mitzvos), even those who are not observant, since they have not yet been exposed to true Torah values.
3. One should constantly look for ways to give to others the zechus--the merit of helping other people, for Chazal said that causing others to do good is greater than doing good oneself.
(a)        Identify a needed action.
(b)        Consider who would be appropriate to perform it.
(c)        Suggest the mitzvah to that person.
(d)        Assist him to overcome any obstacles that may arise.
4.  Included in the mitzvah of doing kindness to others is praying for their well-being and feeling for their concerns as if they were one’s own.  Chazal said that anyone who is in a position to pray for someone in need of prayer, and does not do so, is considered a sinner.  In particular, if the person in need is a Torah scholar one should go to great lengths when praying for him.
5.  Rabbeinu Yonah writes: “A person is obligated to exert himself to be beneficial to his people and to attempt with persevering toil to search for helpful solutions to the problems of his friends, whether rich or poor.  This is one of the most serious and fundamental obligations demanded of each person.”
6. Chazal taught that Yerushalayim was destroyed because people insisted on their rights and did not compromise.  Apparently, this is not merely an abrogation of a positive commandment--but indicates a lack of something very basic to the Torah personality.
7. In the course of interpersonal relationships it is quite natural for one person to feel dislike toward another.  Such instinctive feelings are not included in the Torah prohibitions since they are involuntary.  However, the Torah does command: (a) not to act negatively to this person on the basis of these feelings, and (b) not to allow the feelings to fester.  Rather, one must remember that Hashem created and lovingly provides for every person.  Every human being (including oneself) has positive and negative aspects, and our reaction to negative traits of others should be sorrow and a desire to help them overcome those traits.  When you feel, say, or hear the following types of statements; you should immediately remind yourself about the prohibition against hate.
~          “I hate...”
~          “I can’t stand…”
~          “He/she is such an obnoxious person!”
~          “I won’t talk to him.”
~          “Nobody likes him!”
The Torah teaches us that when we feel dislike for someone we should perform acts of kindness for him; in this way our feelings toward that person will slowly change.
8. Certain modes of speech, while not exactly crude, are nonetheless unseemly.  Chazal taught us never to allow even this form of speech to emerge from our mouths.  It is better to utilize lengthy circumlocutions or strained euphemisms, than to speak in such an unseemly manner.  Furthermore, it is a mitzvah to choose words that are as refined as possible.
Do not say: This stinks.
Instead, say: There is a highly unpleasant odor.
Do not say: This room is as filthy as a pigsty.
Instead, say: This place needs a major cleaning.
In situations where one must, according to Halacha, convey negative information:
Do not say: He is a lazy, good-for-nothing.
Instead, say: He really has no interest in achieving any potential in life.
Do not say: He is a big slob.
Instead, say: He is not a neat person.
Do not say: He is a stupid idiot.
Instead, say: He is not very smart. (When it is necessary to emphasize the point one may add: That is an understatement.)
There are two reasons to avoid unseemly speech: (a) to make sure that we never come even close to speaking crudely; (b) when we are careful not to belittle anyone or anything, even inanimate objects, we are less likely to ever deprecate a human being; we are thus protected from speaking lashon hara.
In the coming days, may we pay very special attention to our interpersonal relationships.  Perhaps we can begin by going out to buy a Sefer such as this--or at least taking one that we already own off the bookshelf--and starting our own self-styled plan to learn more about--and better practice--the love that Hashem wants us so much to display and demonstrate to the rest of His children!

Hakhel MIS

Posted 7/21/2009 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Thoughts for the Week | Comments (1)

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Erev Shabbos Hilchos Shabbos series
1.    A lid is manufactured for hot cups with perforations which make it easy for you to lift a small portion of the lid and sip the hot tea or coffee, without spilling it on yourself, while keeping the drink hot.  Based upon the Seform Orchos Shabbos, Shabbos K’Hilchasa and Minchas Ish, it would appear that HaRav Elyashiv, Shlita, rules that by opening the lid along the perforation, one is involved in the melachos of Mechatech and Korea as well as Makeh B’Patish.  It is amazing how one small act could possibly result in three (3) melachos D’Oraisa!  There are at least two vital lessons from this--how important even our slightest actions are--and how careful we have to be with our actions on Shabbos Kodesh!

2.    During the week while making Hamotzi, we cut somewhat into the bread before making the Bracha, so that it is ready to be quickly eaten after making the Hamotzi.  On Shabbos, we do not do this; because we want to be sure we are making Hamotzi on Lechem Mishna which is whole.  However, we note that the Mishna Berura (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 274; Seif Koton 5) brings from the Magen Avraham that one should make a mark on the Challah with his knife on Shabbos, to demonstrate that you are readying it to be cut.  Also see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 167, Mishna Berura Seif Koton 10 for further detail.

3.    The following reprinted questions were asked of HaRav Yisroel Belsky, Shlita, and his handwritten Teshuvos follow:

QUESTION:  On Shabbos is a person permitted to spray insect repellant on one’s hands?

ANSWER:  Yes. There is no choleh, and the spray is not remedying an ailment.

QUESTION:  Are you allowed to ask an Akum to turn on the air conditioner on Shabbos?

ANSWER:  I remember when air conditioning was non-existent.  However, today, it has become such a necessity.  I imagine that if the situation was very uncomfortable, one could ask an Akum to turn on the air conditioner, especially as air conditioners work on electricity.  Unlike creating heat, creating electricity that runs the air conditioner is not a Melacha D’Oraysa.  It is probably even less problematic to ask an Akum to turn off the air conditioner if the room is too cold.  Just as you can ask an Akum to put on the heat in winter in order to prevent people from becoming sick, you can similarly ask an Akum to turn off the air conditioner if you are trying to prevent people from getting sick from the extreme cold generated by the air conditioner.

QUESTION:  If the circuit breaker went off on Shabbos, is one allowed to ask an Akum to restore it?

ANSWER:  Simply put, there are times at night when if you don’t have electricity, it constitutes sakanos nefoshos.  It is simply dangerous, especially if you have children who are going around at night without light.  In such a dangerous situation, you can certainly ask an Akum to restore the electricity.

QUESTION:  Are you allowed to ask an Akum to restore the electricity merely in order to save the food from spoiling?  

ANSWER:  The answer is yes.  However, if the food is not endangered, but it is a question of just keeping the soda colder, you should not ask an Akum to fix the circuit breaker.  If you had cholent in an electric crock pot when the circuit breaker went out, the cholent is still hot and the electricity, if restored, will stop other food from spoiling, as before, you may ask an Akum to restore the electricity.

QUESTION:  I have small children who cannot stay up until the end of Shabbos. Do they have to make Havdalah on Sunday morning?

ANSWER:  Rabbosai, you have to make Havdalah for little children.  I’ll tell you a very interesting halachah.  If a little child did not hear Havdalah, but the parent was yotzei Havdalah in shul, the father could make Havdalah with a brocha and be motzi the little child.  I have always made an effort to have my children listen to Havdalah (on Motzoei Shabbos).  And if that was not possible, I would have the child recite Havdalah from a siddur the next morning.  If the child is too young to make Havdalah the next morning, then he is not considered to have reached the age of chinuch (education in mitzvos) for Havdalah and can do without hearing it.

Posted 7/20/2009 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Gut Shabbos & Gut Yom Tov | Comments (0)

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Reb Shlomo Zalman- Matos Maasei
Hi Kids,                                                                                                                               
I hope you are all well and happy and anticipating our fast approaching time together. I have a message this week that I hope I can do justice to in this short e-mail. I'll try to be brief when possible.                                                            
The tribes of Reuven, Gad and 1/2 of Menashe, in all innocence and with all good intentions to do the right thing, ask Moshe if they could have their land allotment east of the Jordan river. Moshe gets angry at them and accuses them of jeopardizing the rest of the nation's entry into Israel. Everything worked out in the end but why was Moshe so worried and them not.       
The Alter of Kelm told a story.  Around the Yeshiva of Kelm was a wall with a gate that was locked at night. Someone was assigned to arrive very early to open the gate but one morning he didn't show up. Twenty to thirty guys were already gathered at the gate impatient to begin their day of davening and learning but they were locked out. Suddenly one guy had the idea of climbing the wall and unlocking the door from the inside. He did so and just as he opened the gate to everyone's relief, The Alter arrived. He was very angry at what he saw. Understanding that the one who jumped the wall thought he did a tremendous chesed to everyone, The Alter explained that he was upset because now the whole idea of the gate being locked up was compromised and nullified. Why did that occur to him and not to the student ? - because the student looked at the situation through the more narrow lense of his position as student, but the Alter looked at it from the perspective of the owner - the Baal Habayis - the owner must take into account many more things than anyone else. ( how often does this type of situation happen with our kids ! ).                
How far do we have to take the resposibility of being prepared for possible eventualities ? An example from the Gemara ( Taanis 21 ) - a story about the famous Rebbi of R' Akiva - Nochum Ish Gamzu.                                                  
It is hard to imagine anyone who lived a life of such horrific suffering as R' Nochum. Both his arms and both his legs were amputated. He was blind and he had painful and terribly itchy boils all over his body ( which, without hands, he could not scratch ). He laid in a bed whoselegs were each in a pail of water so that insects could not crawl up and onto the helpless sage. One day, his students were with him when they noticed the beams of the roof were starting to collapse. They rushed to his bed to remove him from the house before the roof would come down. He stopped them and instructed them to first remove all the holy books and other valuables from the house and guaranteed them that if they complied and then took him out last, nothing would collapse as long as he was still inside. They did as told and they were amazed at this new discovery of greatness in their Rebbe. They couldn't help but ask him once and for all how it was that such a great and holy tzaddik could be 'punished' with such a torturous and painful life. They were surprised that he actually knew the reason and that he was willing to tell them.                              
R' Nochum told his story : "Years ago, when I was perfectly strong and healthy, I was travelling down the road with 3 donkeys - one of which was packed up with food and drink. From the roadside, a starving beggar approached me desperate for some food ( it was not uncommon in those days for beggars to be holding at the point of real starvation ). I happily replied to the man that I would be glad to give him food - just to wait a second for me to get off my donkey and open a package of food for him. As I got off my donkey, the man fell to the ground. I ran over to him to try to revive him but it was too late - he had already passed on. I threw myself on top of him unable to console myself, castigating myself for not being fast enough - perhaps I could have saved him. Reacting with extreme contrition, through my tears I declared to the deceased - may my arms which did not value your arms be cut off ; may my legs which ignored your legs be cut off ; may my eyes which were blind to your pain, go blind and may my whole body which didn't react to the pain in your body, be covered in boils. I requested this life from Hashem and that's what I got - it is all for the best."                                                                                                                 
The Alter of Kelm asked on this story - why was R' Nochum so angry at himself - wasn't he doing the right thing already - what more did he think he could have done ? The Alter's answer : He should have thought about the possibility of meeting up with a starving man ( as it was not uncommon ) and was angry at himself for not bringing some food in his pocket ( eg. chocolate bar ) that could be given out immediately.                                                                                      
Not everyone is charged with such far-reaching responsibilities as a leader such as R' Nochum or Moshe in his argument to the 2 1/2 tribes. We are however sometimes deeply responsible for various people and things and in those areas, we must try our best to insure that we have covered all the bases.                                                                           
May Hashem give us the 'heart' to accept our obligations to Torah observance, to our spouses and children and to our communities and the wisdom to find ways to be meticulously careful to cover all our bases with understanding of all the ramifications of our actions.                                                                                                             
Have a wonderful Shabbos y'all. We'll see you all soon IY'H.        I LOVE YOU ALL , 'd'   

Posted 7/18/2009 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Parsha Pearls | Comments (0)

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Brick by Brick
As we commence the Second Week of the Three Week period, we may address a fundamental question.  Every year, for almost 2,000 years, we have been observing the very same Three Week period, beginning with the calamities that befell us on Shiva Asar B’Tammuz, and ending with the catastrophes that occurred on Tisha B’Av.  There may be differences of Minhagim among the different communities, but the sullenness and solemnity of the days are common to them all.  True, one may ask his Rav whether it is permitted to eat peanut butter ice cream with chocolate fudge topping and colored sprinkles during the Nine Days, and even receive a definitive response that it is not prohibited.  However, a question of this sort emphasizes the “tofel” (even ice cream can be tofel, secondary), and disregards the “ikar” of the period that we are in.
So here is the fundamental question:  Do we simply continue observing the period that we are now in the same way as we did last year--10 years ago and 20 years ago--or do we do something different?  After all, on the one hand, we have been and are doing everything that we thought was, and is, right according to Halacha during this time--to the point that when we are doubtful, we ask a Rav (as above).  On the other hand, it does not appear that we have succeeded, for the Bais HaMikdash is still in ruins and we find ourselves in a world pervaded by terrorism on the one hand, and materialism on the other, and with a value system completely incongruous to Torah.  So perhaps we should try something different, something else, and something we have not done before.  Perhaps we should approach the Churban and exile from a different angle.  After all, in the business and professional world, if something does not work one way, you try another way, before giving up.
In order to deal with this dilemma, in order to determine whether we should continue doing the same (proper) things we have always been doing, and that our fathers and forefathers have been doing for hundreds upon hundreds of years--or whether we should do something else--we look to the analogy of our Galus existence, as taught to school children.  You may recall being taught that while in exile, we rebuild the Bais HaMikdash brick by brick, with every Mitzvah that we perform being at least one brick in the new, magnificent, everlasting, Third Bais HaMikdash.
Thus, as we continue to do what we are supposed to do, and as our ancestors have done over all these years, we are continuously building and building and building an edifice that we can simply not currently fathom.  However, to continue the analogy, sometimes one can build faster if he has the right plans, the right equipment, and the right skill.  Yet at other times, the construction process may be quickened simply by pure effort, toil and exertion.  In Egypt, for example, Chazal teach that the bitterness of our toil significantly curtailed the decreed term of our exile (the “quality” of the labor making up for the additional time that had to be spent there).  It is for this reason, many teach, that Maror, the bitter herbs, are eaten **after** the Matzah on the night of the Seder--for through the Maror the redemption was hastened.
It is no secret that Tisha B’Av always falls on the same day of the week as the Night of the Seder (which is the reason, some explain, that we have the egg symbolizing mourning on the Seder Plate, and that some actually eat the egg at the beginning of the otherwise festive Seder Meal).  Obviously, we are to learn from the Exodus from Egypt how we are to accomplish the Exodus from our current exile as well.
We may therefore suggest that while we can and should continue to build the Third and Final Bais HaMikdash in the same manner as we have done in the past; there is room for us to perhaps further hasten the redemption by taking some new and different action so that those bricks are put up faster and faster.  Picture the difference between viewing a bricklayer building a wall in regular motion, and watching him build that very same wall in “fast-forward.”  It will most certainly take a much shorter time for the wall to be completed.
Let us try to avoid the Maror, the bitterness, as the catalyst for a speedy redemption if at all possible.  Instead, perhaps we should look at what caused the initial walls to fall in such a short period. This is certainly one reason: Chazal (Nedarim 81A) teach that the reason we lost Eretz Yisroel was that  “They did not make the Bracha before studying Torah”.  Many find it difficult to learn that this means that the appropriate Bracha was not actually recited by the masses prior to Torah study.  Rather, it is suggested that the Bracha was not recited with the sufficient feeling and thought, as is befitting Torah and all that it is and that it represents.  After all, what makes me different from all of the nations, all other peoples, all of the beings around me?  It is the Torah--with its Divine source, and the Mitzvos and Ma’asim Tovim that emanate directly and unabatedly from it.  If we do not appreciate this, if we recite the Brochos hastily and/or sleepily, while walking in the home or to Shul, and not from a Siddur, then perhaps we ought to go out to (or stay in) Exile--among the nations--to study and finally appreciate what makes us different.
One tikun, one improvement that we can undertake over the next two weeks is to recite Birchos HaTorah a little more properly--from a Siddur, slowly, understanding the meaning of the words, and with an appreciation for what the Torah means to each one of us individually, and to us as a people.  If we do, we may be laying some of those last rows of bricks--at a “fast-forward” pace!

Hakhel MIS

Posted 7/17/2009 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Thoughts for the Week | Comments (0)

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Working on Our Middos; Cruelty to Animals

Chazal (Sanhedrin 90A) teach that four distinguished "Hedyotos"--important personages (as opposed to kings) have no chelek, no portion, in Olam Haba. One of them is the wicked Bila’am, whose character is recorded for posterity in this week’s Parsha. HaRav Chaim Kanievski, Shlita, notes that the common denominator among all of the four Hedyotos (the other three are Doeg, Achisofel and Gechazi) is that their Middos were nefarious. What an essential lesson in the importance of simple Middos Tovos. One can be the top prophet of the gentiles, one can be on the Sanhedrin, one can be the teacher of Dovid HaMelech, one can be the confidant of a King or Navi...but if one doesn’t work on his Middos--not only does he miss out on enjoying Olam HaZeh--he has no Olam Haba either! Improvement in Middos requires effort, concentration and dedication. Each one of us knows the areas in which his Middos are good, and those which need improvement. There are many Mussar Seforim dedicated to the improvement of one Middah at a time, perhaps the most preeminent being Orchos Tzaddikim and Ma’alos HaMiddos. The summer is a great, defined time to grow in a defined area--use the opportunity for your own unique growth wisely and well!


Special Note: HaRav Chaim Kanievski also reports that he asked his Rebbe, the Chazon Ish, what the source in the Torah would be for the proscription against Tzaar Baalei Chaim--prohibiting the infliction of pain upon other live creations of Hashem. Although others may bring other Torah sources, the Chazon Ish taught that it was from this week’s Parsha, in which the donkey castigated Bila’am, "What have I done to you that you struck me three times?" We derive from here that Bila’am had no right to hit the donkey without justification. His weak response to the donkey, "For you mocked me" underscores his lack of a defense to the claim. It is significant that the Torah teaches us this lesson through a donkey, which is generally not held in high regard by the more "sophisticated" elements of mankind. We must seriously consider how we treat other creatures. Even insects or rodents which may bother or hurt a person should not be abused. Many Poskim, for example, rule that one should not use sticky or glue paper to catch and exterminate them, because it causes undue tzaar. Likewise, we should appreciate and understand that we need not kill every ant, caterpillar or praying mantis that finds its way into our home. What is so wrong in showing your regard and value for Hashem’s creatures by capturing--not killing--one that you find in your home (in a plastic cup, for instance) and bringing them out to their natural habitat? One need not slap his hands wildly together at the sighting of every mosquito, or bring out the Raid because of a noisy fly. It would be especially nice if you could make it a point of showing this to children, who do not yet fully appreciate the value of life breathed in to any creature. Indeed, on Shabbos if one kills or takes blood out of the smallest of animals, he is Chayav, he is responsible for the Melacha of Netilas Neshama in just exactly the same way as if he killed a human being--and even the greatest among them. Especially in the summer months, when we encounter more creatures of all kinds inside and out, we should take note of a role that we have inherited from Odom HaRishon who named all creatures, and Noach who preserved them in the Taiva, and do our own personal part in demonstrating our commitment to the words of Dovid HaMelech which we recite three times daily in Ashrei (Tehillim 145:9) "VeRacahmav Al Kol Ma’asov--His mercies [and his love] are on all His works!"

Posted 7/4/2009 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Thoughts for the Week | Comments (0)

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Erev Shabbos--Halachos of Shabbos
Erev Shabbos--Halachos of Shabbos series by reprinting several more summer questions and answers from HaRav Belsky, Shlita: 

May children play with toys that make noise on Shabbos?

Many poskim are of the opinion that any child above the age of four or five should be taught not to play with toys that make noise on Shabbos. Those children under this age are permitted to play with such noise-making toys (e.g., talking dolls, talking games, etc.). However, as stated above, one should not hand it directly to the child. If the child is crying, one is permitted to give the toy to him directly. However, care should be taken that when one gives it to the child, one should not cause the toy to make noise.

Is a child permitted to play in a sandbox on Shabbos?

Normally, it is prohibited to play with sand on Shabbos, as it is muktzah. However, sand that is in a sandbox is not deemed muktzah because it has been designated for this type of play. Therefore, a child may play in a sandbox on Shabbos. However, water should not be used in the sand due to issur of Losh

Is a child permitted to play with Erector sets, Legos and other construction-type toys and games?

Any toy that needs to be screwed together is prohibited because of the issur of Boneh. Therefore, one may not play with a construction set on Shabbos. On the other hand, because one merely sticks together the pieces, one is permitted to play with Legos, Tinkertoys and the like on Shabbos.

Is a child permitted to swing on a swing attached to a tree on Shabbos? or to go to sleep in a hammock on Shabbos?

One is permitted to use a swing on Shabbos which is suspended from a swing frame. A swing that is suspended from a tree, however, poses a problem. One may use such a swing only if A) the swing is attached indirectly to the tree, e.g. it is suspended from hooks that are attached to the tree, B) the tree is sturdy enough that it will not shake when the swing is being used, and C) the swing must be attached to the hooks before Shabbos. In contrast, a swing that is attached to a door post may be attached and detached on Shabbos and it is not considered Boneh.

In some bungalow colonies, a tire is attached to a tree. A person may not swing from it on Shabbos unless it is attached as described above.

Is a child under Bar or Bas Mitzvah permitted to ride a bike, Big Wheel or roller skates/blades in an area containing an Eruv?

Young children may ride on bicycles, tricycles, Big Wheels and the like, however, older children should be discouraged from doing so on Shabbos.

Are children under Bar or Bas Mitzvah permitted to play ball on Shabbos in an area containing an Eruv? What about Ping Pong?

Young children are permitted to play ball on Shabbos, but, they must be careful not to play near the road or near the end of the Eruv where it is possible that the ball may roll outside the Eruv. Ping Pong is permitted on Shabbos.

Posted 7/4/2009 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Gut Shabbos & Gut Yom Tov | Comments (0)

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The Ninth of Tammuz

Today is the ninth day of Tammuz. According to the Pesukim in Navi (Melachim II 25:3, Yirmiyah 39:2) today is the day that Nevuchadnetzar’s army, which had been besieging Yerushalayim, actually breached its walls. King Tzidkiyahu and his Anshei Chayil fled from Yerushalayim that night, and were captured escaping through a cave in the Plains of Yericho. Accordingly, today was a day of fasting during the 70 years of Churban Bayis Rishon. Because the walls of the Second Bais HaMikdash were breached on the 17th of Tammuz, we have fasted on that day since the Churban Bayis Sheni. The Talmud Yerushalmi (Ta’anis 4:5) records that it was actually on the 17th of Tammuz that the walls were breached in the first Bais HaMikdash, as well, but the people were so confused and perplexed--there was such upheaval--that the populace mistook the day for the 9th of Tammuz, and accordingly the Pesukim reflected it that way for posterity, as well. Undoubtedly, if the people believed it was the 9th, and if the Pesukim in fact specifically refer to the 9th, the force and influence of the 17th must rest in and with the 9th, as well.

We posit that a day which has destruction inherent within it also has the concomitant power of building and healing contained within it. The greatest example is the "Moed" of Tisha B’Av itself--which in the time of the Meraglim could have been--and ultimately and soon will be--a time of great celebration. Even though we will not be fasting today, we can certainly find it within ourselves to pray for the building of the Bais HaMikdash, and act in a manner which demonstrates that we truly desire its rebuilding. In this regard, we provide the following thought:

Chazal teach that "Pischu Li Pesach..."--open for me an opening the size of the point of a needle, and I will open for you an opening which is the size of the Ulam’s opening in the Bais HaMikdash (the Ulam’s opening was 40 Amos, or at least 60 feet, tall and 20 Amos, or at least 30 feet, wide). The Kotzker Rebbe comments as follows: Hashem asks of a man to open his heart to the extent of a needle’s point. However, small as this may be, it must still be a needle’s point--needle-sharp--piercing through the material in its entirety. Whatever Teshuva we do must pierce through the very insides of our being--it must penetrate through and through. Hashem, in turn, will help us, so that our Teshuva will become more profound--to the point of an Ulam! We add simply that the opening of the Ulam is not only the largest opening that we can think of--but it is also the largest opening of the Bais HaMikdosh. Through sincere Teshuva--we will see the opening of the Ulam in the Bais HaMikdosh itself! (The source for the Kotzker Rebbe’s teaching is the Sefer VSheeNonTom, by Rabbi Elias Schwartz, Shlita).


Special Note Two: Another major manner for us to bolster our worthiness is through specific improvement in areas of Chesed--our Bain Odom LeChaverio. The Sefer Pele Yoetz provides some meaningful and wonderful pointers on Chesed for us to learn:

a. A person can perform acts of Chesed with a minimum of effort--providing change of a dollar or other bill to someone, passing something to someone who cannot reach it, opening the door for someone knocking… None of these opportunities should be negated or missed. In fact, the Pele Yoetz writes that he wonders at people who spend much money for Pesicha in Shul, or to be Sandek at a Bris, which are not Mitzvos in and of themselves per se, while Mitzvos D’Oraisa, which cost no money, such as Gemilas Chesed, Kibud Av V’Aim, or standing up or showing the proper respect for an elderly person or scholar, are not as properly regarded.

b. One should purchase objects to lend to others, and one should lend the objects that he owns to help another, provided the borrower is responsible, and you keep a written record--so you get it back (and can lend it again!).

c. One should consider how he would feel, and what he would need, if he was in the other’s position, and act accordingly. This is V’Ahavta LeReyacha Komocha at its finest!

d. The "Ikar," **the main** Gemilus Chesed that one can do for another is with his neshama--his main component, as well. One should help him with guidance, instruction and teaching, by sharing, for example, halachos and hashkafos which it is clear that the other person does not know or understand. One can likewise daven for the person, even after they pass on, that he reach his proper resting place in Gan Eden. By helping the surviving children spiritually, you may be simultaneously saving the deceased from Din, as well. Could one perceive a greater Chesed?

e. There is even a greater obligation to do Chesed with one’s parents, spouse and family--the closer the relative, the greater the obligation.

f. Chesed is multiplied by the number of its recipients--when one does Chesed to the Rabbim--to those in Shul, to those on his block or in his building, etc., the one act of Chesed multiplies many times over.

We should especially begin on this propitious day to begin with the point of a needle of Teshuva, and to pensively consider how we can actually and readily augment and enhance our Gemilas Chesed. May our Teshuva’s point--and our Chesed--allow us to see the Ulam speedily, in our day, this year!


Hakhel MIS

Posted 7/2/2009 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Thoughts for the Week | Comments (0)

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Parshas Korach
We present several questions relating to Parshas Korach, and welcome your thoughts and responses:

a.      Korach is not the first person called by this name in the Torah.  See Beraishis 36:5 and Rashi there.  Based upon this nefarious predecessor to the name, why/how could Yitzhar have given this name to his own son?

b.      The Torah teaches us that “U’Vnei Korach Lo Maisu” (Bamidbar 26:11)--the sons of Korach did not die in the unique earthquake of Korach.  It is interesting to note that this Pasuk--distinguishing them from their father and his followers is not found in Parshas Korach at all but later in Parshas Pinchas, and that the actual names of  Korach’s sons, Asir, Elkanah and Aviasaf, are found back in Parshas Va’eira (Shemos 6:24).  What is the Torah teaching us by this?

c.      Moshe Rabbeinu composed several of the Kepitelech--Chapters of Tehillim, and the sons of Korach composed several Chapters, as well.  Who composed more chapters found in Tehillim, Moshe Rabbeinu or the sons of Korach?  Which Chapters did the sons of Korach compose?  What does this teach us about the power of Teshuva and Tefilla?

d.      Chazal teach us that Korach was extremely wealthy.  His followers had also obviously brought much wealth with them from Mitzrayim.  Why was Kol HaRecush--all of this great wealth--(Bamidbar 16:33) swallowed up in the earthquake?  After all, the wealth didn’t sin--couldn’t it have been given to Tzaddikim, to the Mishkan, or used as a fund for a very good purpose?!

e.      Towards the end of the Parsha, the Torah introduces us to the 24 Matnos Kehuna--the 24 different gifts given to the Kohen (Bamidbar 18:8-20), 10 of which were in the Bais HaMikdash, 4 in Yerushalayim, and the remaining 10 in Eretz Yisroel and some even beyond in Chutz La’Aretz.  Immediately following the Matnos Kehuna, the Torah teaches us that the Leviim also receive a gift in consideration for their service in the Bais Hamikdash--Ma’aser Rishon, or 10% of the crop left over after Teruma has been given to the Kohen (Bamidbar 18:21-24).  However, this appears to be it--in comparison to the 24 gifts to Kohanim, the Torah immediately provides us with only one gift to be given to the Leviim.  The disparity appears very stark--both the Kohanim and the Leviim receive gifts from the people in recognition and in payment for their services in the Mikdash on behalf of the people, yet the Kohanim’s benefits appear much more diverse, if not much greater.  How can we explain this blatant contrast between the Kohanim and Leviim?

Posted 6/30/2009 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Parsha Pearls | Comments (0)

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Reb Shlomo Zalan- Korach 5769
Hi Kids,                                                                                                                              
 I hope you are all well and enjoying the summer. Our summer has officially started as the nurse has arrived in camp safely with Tal B"H and I will be going up IY"H for Shabbos. I got mixed reviews for last week's story selection and I hope this week's compensates for that.
I will try and tell it the way R' Vallach does. Ellis Island, New York - 1925 - A distinguished yet modest looking young man steps off the boat onto American soil. His possessions for the most part consist of books - sfarim - as many as he could take on the journey. He, a short while later began to reside in the Bronx. That is where he, the holy Rabbi Moshe Yechiel Epstein of Ozerov, (1889 - 1971) set up his chasidic court.                                                                                                                                   
 A small glimpse into his background - when he turned 3 years old, after having his haircut celebration, was given a big black kippah to wear on top of his new payos. The toddler felt like a 'big boy'. Then his father brought him into his 'inner sanctum', his study, lined from top to bottom on every wall with sforim, and from the sweet, awesome silence of the room, he heard his father's loving voice, " come my big boy, let's learn." From that day his destiny was set. His life was totally focused on the study and teaching of Torah and Judaism. His connection to Torah was so strong and imperative that once when he was very ill, about 70 years later, and the prescribed medicines were not helping him as he got weaker and weaker, he 'cured himself' by leaving his bed against doctor's orders and going into his study. The soothing effect of his favorite environment and his concentrated learning, actually removed the illness. But back to the story…                                                                              
The first few years in the Bronx were extremely difficult. They were too poor to afford heat in the winter and often had zero food in the house. Over time however, his reputation began to spread - the vastness of his knowledge, the warmth and empathy with which he spoke to all those who came to seek his counsel and brachos - Rabbis were coming to discuss weighty Torah issues and regular Jews began to seek his advice and bracha in health and financial, as well as spiritual areas. With the donations he received, his family survived.                                                                                               

One day, a distinguished looking man came to speak with the Rebbe. He was one of the founders of a certain Jewish community, who was an integral player in the successful building of a beautiful shul. After great effort, the shul now had many members, a prestigious Rabbi and a vibrant program of learning activities daily. He was the president. The problem was that new members were joining the shul, who wanted to make some changes to a lot of things. Politics turned ugly and there was much bad-mouthing and loshon hora. People were even spreading false rumors about him and were trying to taint his reputation.He did not know what to do.                                                                                                                

The man could see in the Rebbe's expression, how strongly he felt his pain as he told the story. Still the man did not expect anything more than a pep talk to be strong etc. However the Rebbe's response was to seem to withdraw into himself and to groan to himself " What am I doing in America ". The man did not understand and asked what the Rebbe meant.                     
The Rebbe, cognizant of the man's confusion, began his story.  " I came to America from Poland, way before World War 2 - at a time when Judaism in Poland was alive and vibrant and Judaism in America was extemely weak. There were barely any Jewish schools for my children, hardly any chasidism and very difficult circumstances in many other areas. So what made me come here ?"  " My grandfather was the third grand Rebbe of Ozerov and my father was the Rav of the town. When my grandfather passed away, my father became the Rebbe and I, at the age of 22, became the Rav. With Hashem's help, we opened a yeshiva and established much learning in Ozerov. It was a wonderful time then, before world war 1. My work in Ozerov gave me quite a reputation in Poland and I received offers of rabbinical positions in some great and famous Jewish communities - but I turned them all down preferring to stay in my hometown - the place of my ancestors."                                                             
 " World War 1 broke out in 1914. Life in Poland became excrutiatingly torturous. Ozerov was taken over by one side and then the other. Each government that took over was worse than the last. Decrees, outlandish taxation, out and out anti-semitism. Finally the Russians took control. They forced all the Jews to evacuate the city taking only what we could carry on our backs. As we walked down the road to who-knew-where, we watched the local farmers rush past us back into the city salivating at the thought of ransacking the now 'abandoned' Jewish homes. Not long afterwards, tears and worry all over our faces, we turned back to see the plumes of smoke rise up from what was once our home - Ozerov burnt to the ground - completely. After a while the Russians were seen abandoning the razed city and I decided to lead the way back and rebuild. We returned to the desolation of no more shul, no more mikveh, no more houses. I began rebuilding. I raised money from other towns, encouraged people to build their homes. Just as we were getting some momentum, a plague broke out in town - among the many dead were my wife and three of my children. Both my parents died that year as well. I don't know where I got the strength to keep going, but Ozerov was eventually rebuilt. The shul, mikveh, yeshiva and aside from my duties as the Rav, I also became the Chasidic Rebbe of Ozerov. It seemed like the glory days of Ozerov had returned. So why did I come to America?"                                                       

 " An uncle of mine, quite a lot older than me, lived in Ozerov. Certain people felt that for various reasons, he should be the Rav and Rebbe of Ozerov instead of me. Although he only had a very small following, they were very vocal and the arguments were becoming nasty. Before they became too terrible, I ran away - as far as I could - to America…   As the Rebbe told his story, tears streamed down his cheeks - tears over the destruction of his people. " And today Ozerov is once again destroyed. The Nazis YmShm, occupied the town. Before deporting all the remaining Jews to the camps, they took the old Rabbi, my uncle, out into the middle of the street with all the Jews lined up on the sides of the street to watch, as they ripped the Aron Kodesh out of the shul, with the Torahs inside, and loaded it onto the back of the Rabbi. The Jews watched in horror as the evil nazis laughed while the old Rabbi was crushed under the weight of the Aron - he was buried under the holy Aron - Hashem should avenge his death. Go home, " the Rebbe said to the spellbound shul-president. " Think about my story and come back tomorrow if you want to talk more."                                                                                     

The next day, the president handed in his resignation to the shul.  No one could read this glimpse into the life of R' Moshe Yechiel, and think that he was some kind of "wooss" to put it in the common vernacular. He fought for the community and for what was right all his life against the most incredible of odds. But when the machlokes - the divisions - became personal, he ran as fast and as far as he could. The Ozerover Rebbe was most definitely well schooled in the most basic lesson of this week's parsha - the destruction and potential devastation which can result from divisions which get personal. Something we should all do our utmost to avoid.                                                             
I hope you all have a wonderful Shabbos (an especially exciting one for "H" and hopefully not too challenging for Brian).                                                                                                                                     
 I love you all . 'd'                                                                                                                   

Posted 6/27/2009 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Parsha Pearls | Comments (0)

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Erev Shabbos--Hilchos Shabbos Series
Erev Shabbos--Hilchos Shabbos Series, this week focusing on some Summer Shabbos Shailos U’Teshuvos from HaRav Belsky, Shlita:

If a family takes on Shabbos early, when does a woman have to light her candles?

Rav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, writes (Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim, 3:38) that if, as in most cases, the husband makes an early Shabbos because of convenience, not because he wants to add to the kedusha of Shabbos, then the woman is not bound by the kahal’s or the husband’s Kabbolas Shabbos and may light the candles later or even at the time the husband comes home.  When an entire community inaugurates the Shabbos early, such as in a bungalow colony, regardless of their rationale, no one in the community is exempt from the kahal’s kabbola.  If there are a few minyanim and people alternate from one to the other as the need arises, then there is no tzibbur and no kabbolas hatzibbur.  If there is indeed one monolithic community, but a few stragglers continue to ride around in their cars while everyone else is greeting the Shabbos, these people are being mechalel Shabbos and should be admonished.  If, as the question suggests, the particular family has decided to honor the Shabbos by adding to its kedusha, then all agree that every family member is bound by one kabbolas Shabbos.

During the summer, Plag Hamincha on some Shabbasim is after 7:00PM and the Mincha minyan is at 7:00PM.  What is the proper time for women to light?

When Plag Hamincha is at 7:00PM, Mincha should be davened before then and Maariv afterwards.  There is an (important) opinion which allows for both Mincha and Maariv to be davened after Plag Hamincha on Friday, but the Mishne Berurah frowns upon it and thus, it should be avoided.  If no one in shul knows how to calculate the time of Plag Hamincha and no chart is available for guidance, expert help should be sought.
Licht bentchen must be done after Plag Hamincha.  In case candles were lit before then, the brocha is considered levatola and candles must be lit again with a brocha.  Consult with a Rav for guidance in such situations, if possible.

If my husband goes to the early minyan can I still do melacha? If so, until when?

See the first answer above.  Even where a woman may do melacha after her husband was mekabel Shabbos, she may not do melacha for her husband.  Please note that a wife is never bound by her husband’s personal Kabbolas Shabbos, only by the kahal’s kabbola where both husband and wife belong to the same kehal or by the family’s kabbola as explained above.

If my husband returned home from shul after attending an early Kabbolas Shabbos minyan, can I still light the candles since it is still not sh’kiah?

It can be argued that licht bentchen is a melacha done for the husband to insure Shalom Bayis and thus should be prohibited as above.  You can rely on the lenient opinion but you should strenuously avoid lighting candles after the people come home from shul.  This is an affront to kedushas Shabbos and surely not conducive to Shalom Bayis as it belittles your husband.  Will the malochim given their brocha when they accompany your husband home from shul and find chol there instead of Shabbos?  Take your guess.  Never, ever allow for that sort of occurrence.

If we make early Shabbos, am I permitted to finish the meal before nightfall or do I have to finish it after nightfall? Do I have to eat a kezayis after nightfall?

You should preferably eat at least a kezayis of challah after tzas hacochavim and do not rely on leniencies, as explained in the Mishne Berurah.  There is something else to consider when addressing this question.  If one began his early Shabbos davening at 7PM as mentioned earlier, he should be making Kiddush around 8PM.  What will be taking place at his Shabbosdike tisch? Torah?  Zemiros?  A joyous, sumptuous family meal in an atmosphere of relaxed happiness and Shabbos holiness?  The very question suggests a desire to rush, that the Shabbos seudah is being treated as an interference which must be over and done with as quickly as possible, R’L.  In that case, a kezayis after tzas hacochavim will not do the trick (unless we are speaking of merely ensuring that challah is eaten at the end of a properly-conducted meal).  Think about it.

How many candles should my wife light if she normally lights seven candles in the City?  Is there a difference if my kitchen is small or if I rent a bungalow?

If there is room for setting up the full measure of lights, it should be attempted.  On the other hand, many lights in cramped quarters with a bunch of small children K’EH running around is both impractical and downright dangerous R’L.  Safety is also kavod Shabbos.  Be careful.

Hakhel MIS

Posted 6/26/2009 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Gut Shabbos & Gut Yom Tov | Comments (0)

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Guarding the Palace
In this week’s Parsha, we find a series of remarkable Mitzvos relating to Shemiras HaMikdash--guarding the Bais HaMikdash.  To the unitiated, the concept of a frail human being watching or guarding the House of Hashem, the earthly Abode of the Creator of this World, a Building which is actually mechuvan, parallel, to the Bais HaMikdash Shel Ma’aleh, would seem superfluous and unnecessary.  Yet, we find no less than two Mitzvos (a positive commandment and a negative commandment)--in our Parsha relating to its absolute necessity.  The Sefer HaChinuch explains that watching or guarding something is a clear indication that the item has value to you.  The vigilance and attention you give to a place or thing attaches special importance and significance to it.  In the case of the Bais HaMikdash, it is actually Kohanim and Leviim who are given the noble task of providing the appropriate dignity and stateliness to the Holy Place.  They are obviously unarmed, boasting not even a bow or arrow, but Chazal teach that if they were caught asleep on their job at night they would be corporally punished (Mesechta Middos 1,2).

There are practical and important lessons for us here.

Firstly, we know that our own Shuls are referred to by the Navi as a Mikdash Me’at--a form, a sample, a replica, of the Bais HaMikdash itself.  It is our job to ensure that this Mikdash Me’at is accorded the Shemira--the honor, dignity and distinction it deserves.  Does it have to be the janitor who picks up tissues or papers from the floor?  Is it only the fanatical fellow who puts together papers strewn over the tables?  Isn’t it very wrong to yell across the Shul to a friend even when it isn’t so full--or to telling a joke after davening?  Guarding the Palace--being vigilant to safeguard its sanctity and to display its uniqueness and holiness--would seem to dictate otherwise.  The person caught sleeping on the job was not given an automatic “second chance,” because a lapse in sanctity is a void in sanctity.  We have a special relationship with Hashem, and a special place to especially forge that relationship.  We should not allow ourselves to forfeit it to indiscretion, carelessness, and failure to appreciate and make the most of our opportunities.  Could you imagine one of the Queen of England’s Honor Guard yawning in front of a huge crowd?  Even if it only happened once, where do you think he would be the next day?  We are honoring Royalty of an infinitely greater nature, and we are more significant and capable than any man with a rifle in his hand.

Secondly, let us consider how we treat our wallets, our jewelry, and our “special papers” like birth certificates, passports and the like.  They are safely placed away in a specially-considered, or otherwise secure, place.  No one is spilling coffee on them, and no one is leaving them in his car unattended, or at least carefully locked away.  We should consider, in this vein, how our Shemira is for our spiritually valuable items.  Do we leave our Tallis and Tefillin in our cars, or overnight in Shul, exposed to any character or situation?  How do we treat our Seforim--are they spotted and stained, are the covers or bindings ripped or frayed from use--or from abuse?  How do we pick up a Siddur or Chumash, and how and when do we put them away?  Do we allow Seforim to be strewn about or interspersed with secular books or objects?  A Shomer is responsible for the precious items he is entrusted with--he wouldn’t have been hired if he wasn’t capable of performing the job!

Posted 6/26/2009 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Parsha Pearls | Comments (0)

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Hidden Goodness
There was once a king who brought in foreign advisors to oversee a special building project in the palace. As soon as they entered the royal town one of the advisors took sick. In fact, he did not recover from his illness until the project was completed. When the time came for them to return home the gracious king instructed his treasurer to pay both of the advisors their full wages.
Before they took their leave from the royal city, both advisors issued special letters that expressed their profound thanks to the king. The king then instructed that one thousand gold coins be paid to the advisor who performed the task, whereas he did not grant any additional benefit, whatsoever, to the advisor who took sick.
The king’s ministers assumed that the king granted special favor to the advisor who worked because his praise was expressed more elegantly than the praise of his compatriot. However the king said that it was just the opposite, "The letter of the advisor who took sick was the more graceful of the two letters. Rather, the reason that I did not allot a bonus to him was because I already granted him much more than his due, for I paid him a full salary even though he did no work. Therefore, he is obligated to thank me. Whereas there was no obligation on the advisor to thank me for his well earned wages. Therefore it is fitting to reward him for his praise and thanks."
Likewise, when HaShem performs open miracles for Klal Yisrael they are obligated to thank him. Just as the payment to the advisor, who was unable to work, was an obvious gesture of the king’s compassion, so too, when the miracles defies nature, the goodness of HaShem is clearly revealed.
However, when the goodness and deliverance of HaShem is manifest through "natural causes", we are less obligated to thank HaShem, just as the advisor who received his just wages, was not obligated to thank the king. For instance, the rising of the sun each day has been ordained by HaShem as a statute from the time He created Heaven and earth. Nevertheless, the special quality of Klal Yisrael is that they recognize and thank and praise HaShem for the constant goodness and mercy that He continuously bestows upon us through natural means. In response to Klal Yisrael’s recognition and thanks to HaShem for his "hidden loving kindness", HaShem grants abundant reward in this world, as well as The World to Come.      
TODAY: Feel the warmth of sparkling sun - and express thanks to HaShem.

Posted 6/24/2009 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Thoughts for the Week | Comments (0)

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