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Blog Image: Hakhel.jpg
One of Only Six
One of the six questions a person is asked after his 120 year stay in this world is “Tzipisa Li’Yeshua”--did you sincerely await the Redemption (Shabbos 31A)?  Indeed, the Rambam writes in the 12th Foundation of Faith that we must await Moshiach every single day.  Further, as we all know, in the 15th brocha of Shemone Esrei we all plead “...for your salvation we hope every day.”

We asked HaRav Yisroel Belsky, Shlita, for the Makor, for the source, in Torah that we must wait for this fundamental principle.  HaRav Belsky, Shlita suggested two possible sources. First, the Pasuk in Beraishis(49:18): “LiShuasecha Kivisi Hashem”--for your Redemption I wait Hashem.  It is well known that the Brisker Rav, Z’tl, could recite this Pasuk several times during any given day.  Various explanations may be given for his practice.  We suggest that perhaps he was careful to constantly remind himself throughout the day to await redemption--by reciting its Makor in the Torah.  Moreover, it is interesting to note that the nusach of the 15th bracha of Shemone Esrei seems to indicate that our longing for redemption should go on throughout the day (“KOL HAYOM”), and not necessarily be limited to our thrice daily recitation in Shemone Esrei.  Although the Avudraham and Radak in Tehillem seem to learn that “KOL HAYOM” simply means ever day and not throughout the day, it is conceivable that the Brisker Rav felt that the literal translation of the words “KOL HAYOM” mean that one has to await Moshiach throughout the day, and not necessarily at a formal or fixed time.

The second possible source for this fundamental principle of our faith suggested by HaRav Belsky, Shlita,is the Pasuk in Chabakuk (2:3) “Im Yismahmeah Chakeh Lo”--if he be delayed await him-- which is the phrase utilized by the Rambam in the Ani Maamin mentioned earlier.  For further explanation on the meaning of this Pasuk, see the Malbim there.

Now that we have identified Torah sources for our longing, WHY is it that we are to long in this way?  HaRav Belsky, Shlita, explains: “The main reason is that no one should come to terms with a world that is devoid of Kedusha, Chochma and Gilui  Shechina and a host of other attributes.”  HaRav Belsky, Shlita, referred us further to the words of the Rambam which immediately precede the 13 Foundations of Faith, which are presented by the Rambam in his Introduction to the 11th Perek of Sanhedrin. There, the Rambam writes that we strive for the times of Moshiach not for the resulting glory, grandeur or riches, but rather for man’s resulting advancements in wisdom, proper conduct and closeness to Hashem... so that at long last our hearts of stone are replaced with hearts of inspired and sincere, truly righteous behavior, from young to old.

Is this not worth thinking about more than in a flashing moment or two in the course of a day beset by the problems, or at least issues, of this world?

We are about to enter the heart of Tammuz.  We must recognize that the times and dates in the past which have been so extremely unpleasant for us and our people could provide just the opposite experience for us.  Have you thought about what would have happened on the 17th of Tammuz had B’nei Yisroel not made the Eigel--we would have forever possessed the unbroken, original first set of Luchos!

Similarly, if the spies would have come back with the right report on Tisha B’Av, it could have been a day of rejoicing--and not crying----all these years!  These days are days of happening.  Let us break away from the estrangement and void that we have brought upon ourselves--and strive to draw closer to man’s true fulfillment.

Perhaps we can start by especially thinking, hoping and praying for the Yeshua just a little bit more during these days--from time to time through the day. In this zechus, may we directly see and experience the Kedusha, the Chochma, the Gilui Shechina we so sorely, sorely lack--speedily and literally in our days!

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

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Remaking the Meraglim’s Forty Days
Welcome to a new month, with new potential for incredible growth. As we all know, if the Meraglim would have come back with the proper report, Tisha B’Av would have been marked as a day of eternal celebration, rather than a day which now lives in infamy. In the time of Bayis Sheni, Tisha B’Av was, in fact, celebrated. As it is referred to as a "Moed", it will be certainly celebrated again--may it be this year. The Targum Yonasan on last week’s Parsha explains that the Meraglim set out on their journey on 29 Sivan--just two days ago. Thus, these very days--i.e., the next 38 days ahead of us until Tisha B’Av, which are perfectly parallel to the Meraglim’s 40-day trip (as Rav Dessler, Z’tl, explains, they are more than points of recollection in time, but an actual reliving of these times), are full of the potential to bring us a happy Tisha B’Av, if we reframe and recharacterize these days into days of building rather than days of destruction; days of finding the positive instead of the negative; days of compliments and not of snide or hurtful remarks; days in which we show our love towards Eretz Yisroel and its inhabitants in some unique and special way. Yesterday, on the first day of Rosh Chodesh Tammuz, the Daf Yomi began the Sugya of Ona’as Devorim (the Prohibition Against Causing Pain with Words), which will continue for the next two days. To the non-believer, this is a "coincidence." We know better. We know what we have to do. Like the Meraglim, we have a mission. Let’s succeed with flying colors--it is well within our capabilities, and the benefits and rewards will far exceed the investment and effort--as we will see when the Moshiach comes, Bimheira VeYameinu.

Hakhel Note: To get us started in the proper framework of positive outlook and appropriate speech, we provide below the following excerpt from "The Power of Words", by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita:

Ona’as Dvorim: "So your teeth hurt you, big deal. Stop complaining. You called the dentist and he gave you an appointment, now be quiet about it. You’re an adult already, why do you keep asking for sympathy?"

Positive Approach: "I’m very sorry that your teeth hurt you. A toothache can be very painful. It’s a good thing that the dentist was able to give you an early appointment. Is there anything I can get you that might make you feel better right now?"


Ona’as Dvorim: "You’re making a big fuss over nothing. So what if the meal you cooked was ruined and the guests had to eat canned food? They still had something to eat. You’re making a mountain out of a molehill."

Positive Approach: "I realize how frustrating it must have been to have made an entire meal and then had it ruined because someone forgot to turn off the oven. Most people would feel upset. But I noticed that the guests enjoyed the wonderful words of Torah that were spoken. Nobody went hungry since we had canned food that we were able to serve. It wasn’t as good as your cooking, but it served its purpose. Everyone had a very pleasant evening. I even heard a few people comment on what a fine hostess you were. They were impressed by how well you dealt with the entire situation."

Let’s get going--we have 38 days to move ourselves--and, quite literally, change the face of the world!


Special Note Two: We provide on the front page of our website at a video link to a minute of thought, which, B’EH, will hopefully change the way we look at apples (and, hopefully, many other creations) for the rest of our lives.


Special Note Three: A reader supplied us with a fascinating compilation prepared by Project Tefilah of Cleveland, Ohio. According to the compilation, a person who davens Tefillah BeTzibbur over the course of a year accumulates 86,789 Mitzvos. We provide a link to this compilation This means that a young man who has been assiduous in Davening BeTzibbur even when traveling, on vacation and otherwise, and who comes to Shul on time, has accumulated over 1 million mitzvos by the time he reaches 25! A millionaire at 25 from just one investment! What may be even more incredible is that women and girls, who are not required to daven Tefillah BeTzibbur are equal Avdei Hashem in doing what they are supposed to do--personal tefillos, tznius and chesed, among others, count in ways we never thought imaginable!


Hakhel MIS


Posted 6/23/2009 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Thoughts for the Week | Comments (0)

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The Good of Truth
When the people of Israel were encamped at Mount Sinai, Moshe appointed the Priesthood to Aaron. Even though Korach was jealous of Aaron’s status, he did not express his resentment at this time. He knew that Moshe, who had just succeeded to free the nation from slavery and give them the Torah, was in the heights of power and popularity. Therefore, anyone who spoke against Moshe would be quickly censured.
However, later - after the incident of "the spies" - the people changed their attitude towards Moshe. That is, they blamed Moshe for HaShem’s decree that everyone over twenty-one would die in the desert. When Korach sensed the people’s change of heart toward Moshe, he exploited the situation - and publicly challenged Moshe’s authority.
Moshe taught his people the path of life. They deviated from the path and found sore trouble. When death came upon them, they foolishly blamed Moshe, the father of our prophets. Yet, Moshe was completely blameless.  Moreover, if not for the prayer of Moshe, they would have suffered complete annihilation for their utter breach of faith.  
We see from this episode that blaming others for one’s own mistakes is one of the most common pitfalls of human nature. The generation that left Egypt is called the "Generation of Wisdom," because HaShem revealed Himself to them. Nevertheless, when they erred in their ways, even these people of stature did not take responsibility for their culpability.
Admitting that one is wrong is one of the most difficult challenges in life. However, the virtue of admitting a mistake gives birth to humility - the most precious of all character traits. May we have the moral courage to admit our mistakes and misdeeds. In turn, we will be blessed with peace, forgiveness, and many good friends. 
[Based on Da’as Torah of Rav Yerucham HaLevi and the Ramban]
Today:  Ask forgiveness when you recognize that you acted inappropriately.   

Posted 6/22/2009 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Parsha Pearls | Comments (0)

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Erev Shabbos-Hilchos Shabbos Series.
We continue with our discussion of Tochen. The following Halachos are excerpted from The 39 Melachos, the monumental work by Rabbi Dovid Ribiat, Shlita:

1.  Because, as we learned last week, there is no Tochen after Tochen relating to items which are consumed, one may crush a medicine tablet (to dissolve it in sugar and water) for a child who is permitted to take this medicine.  Similarly, one could crush a saccharin tablet.

2.  Because the preparations of medications involved the Melacha of Tochen, Chazal forbade taking medications or undergoing therapies on Shabbos, unless such medications were permitted based upon specific Halachic factors.  Accordingly, in general, on Shabbos one is not permitted to ingest pills, take liquid medications, apply topical therapies including medicated powders, apply herbal preparations, undergo acupuncture, or exercise to improve his physical constitution.

3.  Ordinary foods or activities are not prohibited.  For example, one is permitted to drink a hot tea with honey on Shabbos to sooth a sore throat, or take a Shabbos walk (not speed walk) to improve digestion.

4.  One may remove an insect sting or splinter on Shabbos, because it is not considered curative, but only the removal of an outside affliction is permitted.  If the removal will cause bleeding, however, a Rav should first be consulted.

5.  Similarly, talcum powder (unmedicated) may be used to relieve discomfort from feet, because it only serves to absorb troublesome moisture, but has no therapeutic effect upon the feet or skin.

6. One may insert cotton in his ear, or cover a wound, because the covering protects from detrimental effects, but does not aid in the healing process.

7. One may put an ice cube, or press a spoon on a bruise to prevent swelling.  Similarly, one may put on and wear a removable dental brace on Shabbos to straighten out his teeth.  These therapies are not forbidden, because they are never achieved by use of medications forbidden by Chazal, lack the characteristics of medications and never otherwise entail the use of medications.

Of course, when one is unsure about the application of these principles to his  situation, he must consult with his Rav or Posek.

Posted 6/22/2009 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Gut Shabbos & Gut Yom Tov | Comments (0)

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Reb Shlomo Zalman Shlach

Hi Kids,                                                                                                                               

The back and forth banter about the summer is funny but I think we are down to crunch decision time and IY"H the plans will be finalized shortly L’tovah. I hope you are all well. Mazel tov to Hunter upon graduating and being the narrator in the play.Mazel tov to Hailey ( and Izzy ) for being the best little sisters of a graduate, in the whole school.                                       
I think this week’s story is a mashal. It is quite a bizarre one but with a very strong message. One of the things Moshe tells the spies to find out, is whether there are trees in the land. Rashi comments that Moshe did not mean trees in the literal sense but rather he wanted them to find out if there were any live Tzadikim living in the land because a Tzadik brings merit to the place he/she is in and may be able to save the inhabitants, thus making it hard, even impossible to conquer Eretz Yisrael. There were many Tzadikim buried there (eg. In mearas hamachpela ), but deceased Tzadikim do not have the same power and influence as living ones ( as it turns out, there were no live Tzadikim there ).                                                              
The great Rabbi Suso hacohen ZT"L of Tunisia relates the following story:  
A chasid, a tzadik, was travelling through a certain town. He approached some Jews in shul and asked them where he might find lodging - someone very frum and careful with kashrus etc. They directed him to a certain address where they assured him his expectations both comfort-wise and religion-wise would be met if not exceeded. The Chasid went to the house and in fact was greeted warmly and treated like royalty. He noted the care with which the meal was prepared and he ate the delicious food with relish and appreciation. He felt very comfortable and relaxed as he laid down in the luxurious bed the maid had made up for him.                                                                                                                                  
 His restful sleep was disturbed around midnight, by a strange noise. Opening his eyes a crack, he noticed through the slightly opened door, the host sitting by a lit candle, sharpening a huge knife. Every so often the man would test the sharpness of the knife by sliding it over his fingernail, and then return to sharpening it. The chasid sat up and opened the door and asked the host why he was so busy with this knife at that hour. The man replied calmly, " Oh this knife is for you". Something was not right here and a sudden fear crept into the heart of the chasid - he may be dealing here with a psychopath. He decided to try to be calm and talk his way out of whatever mess he was in. " I don’t understand ", he asked trying to mask the trembling in his voice, " the people who recommended your home to me couldn’t stop singing your praises - a G-D - fearing man who constantly does chesed for others - how could you contemplate spilling innocent blood - doing such a terrible sin ?"                                                 
The host continued sharpening, ignoring the question.  The chasid tried a different tactic. "What could you possibly gain by killing me - I am a poor man, I have almost nothing !"                                                                                                                           
The host remained silent as he continued to focus on the knife. Once again the chasid tried reason. " You know you’ll never get away with this murder. Those people in shul know where I went and when I disappear, they will suspect you and find my body !"                                                          
The host finally seemed satisfied with the sharpness of the knife. He looked kindly at his guest and said, " Righteous and Holy Rebbe, please don’t think of me as a murderer. You insult me when you think that I would kill you for your money. Why would such a great and holy man such as yourself spend his last minutes in this world trangressing the terrible sin of being ’ Choshaid Bikshairim ’ ( being suspicious of the innocent ) when you could be judging me favorably ?"  The chasid was speechless. He didn’t understand what was going on… The host continued.  " Rebbe, you should know that it is true that I am a very good G-D - fearing man who only does good things to everyone. In fact my plan right now is to shecht you for the sake of Hashem and for the welfare of this entire town !"  " You have to be joking ", the now panicked tzadik laughed uneasily.                                                   
The host got up and started to move closer to the chasid’s bed. " Let me explain ", he matter-of-factly said. " I have  been inviting guests into my home for 40 years. Never have I been priviledged to host a tzadik of your stature. Now could you imagine that in our local cemetary, we do not have even one tzadik buried there. We don’t have anyone to represent us with our prayers and supplications to Hashem. But now after all this time, after having noted your holy and righteous behavior, I knew that I had finally found a real tzadik to be buried in our cemetary. I am doing this for the good of the entire community and I’m sure to be remembered for this good deed forever ". He smiled compassionately as he lifted the knife and stepped closer to the terrorized and petrified tzadik …                                                                                                                  
The very strange story ends here. R’ Vallach uses the story to show, by extreme example perhaps, the ironic way with which we treat our tzadikim and elders. While they are alive we , at best, don’t think about them and at worst we critisize or even ridicule them. But when they pass on to the next world, we honor them to no end. How poignant is the everyday occurance of people who when their parent was alive, couldn’t be bothered with them, or worse, but then after the parent dies they will make sure to say kaddish religiously for the honor of the parent. Let’s all make sure that we appreciate our Rabbis, parents and others while they are alive. Need I say more ?                                                                                                         
May we all merit to enjoy and learn from each other until 120. Have a wonderful Shabbos y’all.                                                          I love you all.

Posted 6/19/2009 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Parsha Pearls | Comments (0)

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Our Internal Filters
We are familiar with the famous expression that “Devorim HaYotzim Min HaLev” are “Nichnasim El HaLev”--words which leave the heart enter another’s heart.  Rabbi Moshe Tuvia Lieff, Shlita, beautifully explains that for the words of a speaker to be truly effectual, his sincerity must be evidenced by others sensing that the words are actually leaving his heart…for how can they enter someone else’s heart if they have not left your own?  We had previously published certain recommendations to combat the swine flu.  Unfortunately, the swine flu has left its mark on our community, and the world at large.  Aside from the sickness and havoc it has wreaked on whole families, and all of the Torah that has been lost, Chaim Dovid ben Leah (please daven for him) is in extremely serious condition in its wake.  Individuals with medical conditions, the elderly, and the very young are particularly susceptible to the dangers of this illness.  We hope that the following words are leaving our heart--so that they enter yours.  If the previous suggestions we had made are not taken, at the very least we ask that you daven in Elokai Netzor at least once a day with genuineness and feeling that Hashem remove this r’l epidemic/pandemic from us, and, if possible undertake one small act daily as a zechus for the sick and for the susceptible--for those with conditions, for the very young and the very old.  Let us demonstrate our love and our achdus for each other, which will surely provide a zechus of infinite proportions--and indeed may be the only--only--thing that Hashem is waiting for!

Additional Note:  The newest wave of bus signs read “Be Better”--perhaps the lesson striking us in the face is that the state of our physical beings would improve if we would “Be Better” spiritually.  Instead of our bodies carrying our souls--let our souls carry our bodies!  After all, did not the Aron, in fact, carry those who looked like they were carrying it?  Why should our bodies and souls--really our souls and our bodies--be any different?!

Special Note Three:  Our personal computers are blessed with email programs (or webmail clients) containing a feature called a “spam filter” which filters out the items which we need not see, deal with, think about, or which do not even take up one second of our time.  It is rejected prior to having any effect--prior to making its mark.  We should take this important lesson into our lives.  Just one moment of indiscretion, a rare minute of Lashon Hora, a minute or two of truly interruptive Bitul Torah in the middle of precious learning time, a decision to let the Shemone Esrei get away because some of it was already lost, another few bites of food taking you into the “Achila Gassa” mode, another few, short blasts of angry words...all of these have to be filtered as Spam before they start.  How much more valuable time you will have gained and used productively--the moments turn into minutes and hours, the aveiros translate into Mitzvos and Ma’asim Tovim.  What more need be said?  If a computer can do it--and it does not even have a neshama--you certainly can!

Special Note Four:  In this week’s Parsha, the Torah teaches us that the Meraglim took from the fruit of the Eretz Yisroel and brought it with them to show the B’nai Yisroel.  This appears problematic--did not Avrohom Avinu separate from his student and close family member, Lot, because Lot’s shepherds were grazing on land that would belong to Avrohom--but did not belong to him yet?  How could the meraglim have the license to do so?  One can not simply answer that what they did was wrong--for Moshe Rabbeinu himself had advised them--“U’Lekachtem MiPri Ha’Aretz (Bamidbar 13:20)--and you shall take from the fruit of the land.”  How was this possible--it was not ours yet?  Your insights are most welcome!

Hakhel MIS

Posted 6/18/2009 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Thoughts for the Week | Comments (0)

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A Time To Forgive

Rabbi Eliezer said, "Perform repentance one day before you leave this world."
HaShem, our merciful Father, overflows with goodness, compassion, and kindness for mankind; and His "arms" are always open to receive us. In light of this, the Mishneh teaches, "Perform repentance one day before you leave this world." Meaning, even if a person lives his entire life in opposition to Torah values, he should not despair of finding favor in the eyes of HaShem. Rather, he should know that HaShem will not rebuff his sincere desire to return to Him.
If an individual is moved to repent, HaShem will show him mercy, forgiveness, and acceptance - regardless of his past misdeeds.  What’s more, even if he does not open his heart to repent till the very last moment of his life, nevertheless, HaShem will compassionately accept him!
If HaShem shows mercy to a person who lived his entire life in conflict of HaShem’s will, how much more will HaShem show mercy to a person who did not intentionally breach HaShem’s will and returns to HaShem, well before the last moment of his life.
Yet, despite this great revelation of HaShem’s abundant mercy, an inner voice attempts to dissuade us of our freedom to change and our wondrous opportunity to redeem ourselves.
Our challenge is too detach from the false claims of the negative impulse, and embrace the truth of the Holy Torah, which reveals the infinite mercy of HaShem, Who patiently waits for us to return. Even more, He waits for us our entire lifetime and on the day we open our hearts to return to Him - He immediately accepts us, forgives us, cleanses us, and loves us as if we had never strayed.
[Based on the commentary of the Chidah and the Rambam]
TODAY: Ask HaShem for forgiveness and feel the joy of knowing that He will surround you with compassion and kindness

Posted 6/17/2009 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Thoughts for the Week | Comments (0)

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Advance Planning
You are moving towards a traffic light, and you see it turn yellow.  You know that it will turn red either right before or as you are traveling through the intersection.  You have to make a split-second decision--go through the light (perhaps honking loudly to be on the safe side), or stopping for yet another one of those one- or two-minute lights keeping you from home, shopping, your appointment, your destination.  The question we pose is--Is it really your decision, is it really your choice?  After all, if you feel the Hashgacha Pratis in your daily life, isn’t the yellow light a message to you that the light is no longer green, and that you should be cautious?  Perhaps you are really better off waiting at the light, than  being a mile down along the road…  Is it really up to you to take matters into your own hands?!  We do not bring any Halachic rulings on this matter--we simply raise the point for your consideration, and if warranted, discussion with your Rav.

Special Note Three:  In just one week from today, we will celebrate Rosh Chodesh Tammuz, inaugurating the last three months, or final calendar quarter, of the year.  In a financial framework, the last quarter of the year is a time when people begin a review of the year, think about tax planning techniques, and consider what they can do to improve the year’s final quarter, so that it ends more successfully, and they can start the next year off on the right footing and in a positive mode and direction.  All the more so, of course, should we prepare ourselves for the last quarter of the pivotal year we are living in.  We have a week to ponder and reflect--what have we accomplished thusfar; where our goals are; what can/should we attain in the coming months.  It is no coincidence (as it never is) that as the world slackens off in the summer, we energize ourselves and achieve--for our calendar--and our agenda, is simply very different!

Special Note Four:  We present several excerpts from _A Treasure for Life_ by Rabbi Avraham Yachnes, Shlita (Feldheim Publishers) which provides an excellent translation, commentary, and insights into the classic sefer Orchos Tzaddikim.  Each of the following excerpts provides a real, practical, and poignant lesson which each one of us can use to grow from:

a.    “It is told about HaRav Yehoshua Leib Diskin, Z’tl, that he was forever whispering to himself the words ‘Shivisi Hashem L’Negdi Samid--I have set Hashem before me always’ (Tehillim 16:8), to remind himself constantly that all of his actions and thoughts are always in the presence of Hashem.”

b.    “If one were blindfolded and tried to walk through even the most familiar of rooms, he would certainly stumble and fall many times.  Now imagine traveling through the unchartered waters of life, blindfolded by the desires and passions that have been allowed to rule over one’s wisdom.  The more a person’s desires control him, the thicker the darkness--even to the point of being spiritually paralyzed.”

c.    “People often say ‘I’m doing the best that I can.’  What is considered doing the best that you can?  I remember hearing from my Rebbe, HaRav Henoch Leibowitz, Z’tl, that on any given day, when you feel that you have reached the level of doing the best that you can--that is, you have invested all of your resources and every ounce of energy--then you should do a bit more.  This way, when you begin the next day, your starting point is from that extra bit.  Then there will be growth.  Otherwise, every day is a repeat performance of the day before with no real growth.  This same concept was expressed differently by Rabbi Joseph Grunblatt, Shlita, Rav of the Queens Jewish Center in New York.  He said that when people work in a profession for ten years, they often claim to have ten years of experience.  They need to understand that if they have been doing the exact same thing on the exact same level during those years, it does not mean that they have ten years of experience, it means they have one year of experience ten times.  Only if there had been a broader commitment and a deeper level of responsibility every day during those ten years, can one say that he has ten years of experience.”

d.    “A few years ago I had the opportunity to be a Kashrus supervisor at a soda bottling plant.  Standing there in amazement, watching 3,200 soda cans filled and sealed per minute, something interesting caught my eye.  An inspector wearing a long, white coat, who was overseeing the operation, randomly plucked a can off of the speeding conveyer belt.  I followed behind as he walked into a laboratory and began performing all kinds of experiments with the beverage.  He placed some of the liquid in test tubes, poured some into a decoding machine, and also drank some to check the taste.  Finally, I asked what all of these procedures were about.  ‘I’m checking for the right amount of sweetener, the proper measure of syrup, and the correct balance of carbonation to flavor,’ he said.  ‘Quality control, Rabbi, quality control.’  It struck me like a ton of bricks.  So much research, so much checking; so much investigation, effort, and exactness for quality control of a can of soda.  How much more so must one measure the exactness of his thoughts and actions for the quality control of his Middos!”

Hakhel MIS

Posted 6/17/2009 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Thoughts for the Week | Comments (0)

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The Torah tells us that the spies delivered a negative report about Eretz Yisrael. They prefaced their statement with positive words, "We arrived at the Land and indeed it flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit." Then they said, "But the people that dwell in the Land are powerful, the cities are greatly fortified, and we also saw the offspring of the giant."
Although they started with a favorable description of the Land, they subsequently conveyed the enormous challenge of conquering the powerful nations that inhabited the Land.
Yet, we might respond that they were not at fault because they accurately reported the truth. After all, they realistically described both the good points and the bad points.
Yehoshua and Calev saw the same things that the other spies saw. However, they saw it through the lens of steadfast trust in HaShem. Therefore, they said, "The Land that we passed through is very, very good. If HaShem desires us, He will bring us to this Land and give it to us, a Land that flows with milk and honey."
In general, every one sees the same things and collects the same data. The difference lies in how we process the information. Whether we emphasize the good or bad reflects our life’s perspective.
Yehoshua and Calev had supreme confidence in HaShem’s assurance that Eretz Yisrael was a precious - and attainable - gift. Therefore, their view of the Land was colored with optimism, faith, and enthusiasm.
May we view all of life through the lens of unwavering trust in HaShem’s love, compassion, and kindness. In turn, HaShem will bless us with joy, success, and fulfillment.
TODAY: Focus on the good that you receive and fill your heart with gratitude and love of HaShem. 

Posted 6/16/2009 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Parsha Pearls | Comments (0)

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Parshas Behaloscha
When the spies returned from Eretz Canaan, they described the land in less than glowing terms. "We arrived in the land. . . and indeed it flows with milk and honey. . . however, the natives are mighty, the cities are fortified. . . the land devours its inhabitants and all those who reside there are giants" (Bamidbar 13, 27-32). Being that they wanted to paint a dismal picture, for what reason did they preface their tirade with, "indeed it flows with milk and
honey?" Rashi explains that a falsehood which does not contain at least a minimal amount of truth cannot endure. Therefore, the spies purposely mentioned something true about the Promised Land, so that the rest of their lies would be believed.

Rav Wolbe (Shiurei Chumash) adds, Chazal say that sheker does not have the ability to stand. Because sheker is not a reality, it cannot become a reality.  It might take ten, twenty, or even thirty years before the lie is proven false, but eventually the truth will become clear. Sheker’s only chance of survival is if it props itself up with a truth.
Hence, the various ideologies that have surfaced throughout the world are all based upon some aspect of truth. For example, communism was founded to ensure social justice; a truthful concept. However, we are all witness to the terrible oppressiveness and deceit that were the hallmark of communism in Russia and other countries. The sheker feeds off of the truth on which it was founded. Chazal tell us that Moshiach will arrive in a generation that is either completely righteous or completely wicked. We can understand why a completely righteous generation should merit Moshiach, but why would Moshiach reveal himself to a generation which is full of deceit? Rav Yeruchom Levovitz explains that in a generation which there is not even an iota of truth, the skeker will automatically be proven false and eradicated, thereby heralding Moshiach’s arrival. To a certain extent this concept has become a reality in our days. In the past few generations there has been a large increase in the amount of Jewish People that have found their way back to their roots; a veritable "Teshuva Movement." The falseness that abounds today is almost palpable, and at a certain point it simply exposes itself, and underneath, people have found the truth shining in all its brilliance. The Torah is what gives the Jewish People their
immortality, because it is the very word of Hashem - the eternal truth.

Posted 6/15/2009 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Parsha Pearls | Comments (0)

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The Beauty of our Reward
Our Sages tell us that as long as we are in this physical existence it’s impossible for a person to imagine the splendor of Gan Eden. Although, this is true, wouldn’t it be wonderful if there were a conceptual image to give us a glimpse of the inestimable quantum of reward? 
After Moshe instructed Aaron to light the menorah, the Torah writes: "And Aaron did as Hashem commanded Moshe" (Bamidbar 8:20). This verse extols the praise of Aaron - that he did not deviate from the instructions that Moshe gave him.
Given that the lighting of the menorah was not particularly challenging, nor did it entail any monetary expenditure on the part of Aaron - this comment needs clarification. What is the significance of the Torah praising Aaron for performing the relatively easy act that Hashem commanded him to do? Would we think that Aaron, the Cohen Gadol, would do anything else other than meticulously fulfill the Divine Will?
Every day of his life, Aaron HaCohen immersed himself in Torah, Mitzvoth, and character perfection until his entire being was sanctified to Hashem. We might have assumed that for a man of Aaron’s stature, following simple orders would not earn him much credit. This verse reveals just the opposite: Hashem praised, valued, and rewarded Aaron greatly, even for this seemingly relatively minor effort of not deviating from the specifications of the commandment.
We can understand from here, how great, then, is the reward for the performance of a Mitzvah that does require an expenditure of money or toil. The magnitude of reward increases exponentially with the level of difficulty required to perform the Mitzvah. If even the most infinitesimal quantum of difficulty amplifies the rewards - then - how much more so, does an intense effort yield an incalculable abundance of reward.  
Now that Hashem has revealed His formula of reward, we can apply this quantum of reward distribution to each and every Mitzvah that we do - from the easiest to the most difficult. The Mitzvos that we perform guarantee us a glorious, unending, and eternal reward.                                          
[Based on the Ohr RaShaz, of Rabbi Simcha Zissel] 
 TODAY: Realize that the reward for reading this short essay is worth more than all the riches of this world.

Posted 6/15/2009 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Parsha Pearls | Comments (0)

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Reb Shlomo Zalman B'Haaloscha

Hi Kids,                                                                                                                               

I hope you are all well and it's fun to see all the chit chat about our summer plans I"YH. I am actually writing this on Tuesday because of Chaya Binah's wedding this Thursday BSH'Tova. Another good lesson from R' Vallach:                         
About 200 years ago,  a reknowned community leader passed away in Vienna - R' Shimshon Wortheimer Z"L. He was a wealthy banker, a great supporter of Torah learning and activist and donor to all kinds of charity. He was greatly missed in the Jewish world after his passing.                                                                                                       
Not long after, R' Chaim of Sanz sat with his chassidim and said, " Let me tell you what happenned in the heavenly court when R' Shimshon was judged."                                                                                         
 " The first thing the court asked him was to describe his normal daily schedule. R' Shimshon narrated to them his routine. ' I got up in the morning and went to shul to daven after which I returned home to eat breakfast. After eating, I had a hot cup of coffee with a cigar and read the paper - being so heavily involved in the financial world, it was important for me to know what was going on in the world. When I finished, I benched and went to the bank where I worked until lunchtime. I came home for lunch, ate, benched and took a nap or rest. I awoke refreshed and would be greeted by those in charge of charity and others who would come for help of all kinds. I would be listening to their needs and writing cheques for a few hours. It would then be time for Mincha when I would go to shul to daven Mincha, participate in a shiur and daven Maariv. I attended another shiur after Maariv before returning home to eat dinner and play a game of chess to clear my mind before saying Shma and going to bed.' The court heard this and decided to award R' Shimshon a ticket to Gan Eden. Two angels were then assigned to escort him there."                                       
The Rebbe continued. " There was another man waiting to be judged that day. He too was a rich banker who had died that day. Initially upon entering the awesome court of ultimate truth, he trembled in fear because in his lifetime he had not kept the mitzvos at all and now he saw was payback time. However as he witnessed the trial of R' Shimshon, he calmed down a bit - he thought he might have a defense. The court asked him to describe his daily routine. ' My routine was very similar to the man whom you just sent to Gan Eden - in fact about three quarters of his day was identical to mine. I too awoke in the morning; granted I didn't daven but I did eat breakfast and then enjoyed my coffee, cigar and newspaper. Granted too that I did not bench afterward, but I too went to the bank to work until going home for lunch, albeit without benching, and then I took a nap. I did not entertain charity requests but did after my nap go to my favorite social club to be with my friends. I did not go to shul to daven or learn like my predecessor but like him I came home for dinner, a game of chess and finally to go to bed.' The court did not take long to decide - gehenom. The man was incredulous. ' Do you mean to tell me that the man before me got into Gan Eden ONLY because of the davening, Torah and mitzvos that he did - doesn't spending a wholesome hardworking day count for anything ?' The court spokesman answered ' no, in fact he is getting rewarded for the full 24 hours of his day.' The man asked, ' so why then don't I get credit for at least the part of my day that was identical to his - probably about three quarters ?' The spokesman answered him with a mashal : If someone buys grain from a farmer, he is willing to but even the residue, the chaff, that comes along with it because that is how grain is sold - it is all part of the package as long as he is getting the grain. But if someone would try to sell him the chaff only, without the grain he most certainly would not buy it. If a person goes about his daily mundane affairs SO THAT he can maintain a good Torah lifestyle, raise his children properly in the ways of Torah and reserve time for learning Torah and doing as much chesed as he is capable of, then all of the hours that he puts into his work and eating and sleeping etc. are considered part of the good package - but working and eating and resting without the nucleus and purpose being Torah, does not deserve any reward.' " The Rebbe knew that he had struck a cord with his chassidim.                                                                                                          R' Vallach relates this story to the description in the parsha of the Menorah which was made out of solid gold from top to bottom - ALL of its elements even the base was one sight of pure gold - even that which is generally considered the lower, less 'holy' part, is also part of the one holy unit of man when connected to the top - the Torah. I think this message can also be related to the short description of how the people got their daily manna and prepared it in various ways. They too had the opportunity, as we do, to do the mundane things humans do, but to do them in the context of their holy activities thus elevating them to be counted as holy too.                                                                                                           
May we all approach our lives in this way and thus merit entrance into Gan Eden after 120 years.                                Have a wonderful Shabbos. We can't wait to see you all soon I"YH. I love you all, 'd'                                                                                                              

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

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The Mashgiach’s Yahrzeit; Covering Our Eyes

Today is the Yahrzeit of HaRav Yerucham Levovitz, Z’tl, the renowned Mashgiach of the Mirrer Yeshiva from 1910 until his passing in 1936. His talmidim included HaRav Chaim Shmulevitz, Z’tl, HaRav Dovid Povarsky, Z’tl, HaRav Shlomo Volbe, Z’tl, HaRav Nosson Wachtfogel, Z’tl, and HaRav Shimon Schwalb, Z’tl. HaRav Levovitz was known for his great seder--organization. He taught that "if a knot that ties a string of pearls falls apart, the entire necklace falls apart with it--and the pearls are lost!" If a person is organized (or makes himself organized), his Torah study, his Tefillah, and his Mitzvos are performed in a timely manner and with care, and are safely guarded and secured.

HaRav Nosson Wachtfogel, Z’tl, related that when he first met HaRav Levovitz, he studied how the Mashgiach ate a meal--not because he wanted to be rude or intrusive--but simply in order to understand how a Mashgiach treats the entire eating process. For a short while, he was puzzled. There was something that was different about the way the Mashgiach ate, but the young R’ Nosson could not put his finger on it. The physical motions appeared a bit different, but the food did enter the mouth and was swallowed. What was it that the Mashgiach was doing different? Then, it dawned on him--he realized what was singular and special about the manner of eating! When HaRav Levovitz ate, it appeared as if he was not feeding himself--but that a third person was feeding him. It was as if his soul was the party in action--doing the Chesed of feeding his body, to which it was so connected, and in appreciation of the dedicated lodging provided to the soul in this world.

While we obviously cannot approach the great thought processes and levels of accomplishment inherent in HaRav Levovitz’s daily meals, we should at least, from time to time, recognize that our act of eating, which to most of the world is unfortunately only a "same-action-as-animal" time, can be lifted to a more exalted plane, simply by putting some thought into what one is doing before and while he is doing it. The recital of Kepitel 23 before the meal, slow and caring brachos on foods, a dignified rather than ravenous approach, a brief thought as to what you are eating and why, can raise the bar for you and those around you. You may not be a Mashgiach, but you certainly can distinguish yourself as a noble human being.


Special Note Two: Why do we cover our eyes when we recite the first Pasuk of Shema? At a recent Hakhel Shiur, Rabbi Moshe Tuvia Lieff, Shlita, taught that with their closure, our eyes are taken out of the virtual reality of the world around us, and are brought to the inner reality of who we are, and what we are to accomplish. As the Sefer Tomer Devorah teaches (Chapter 2 ), the eyes are not meant for us to learn and absorb the negative from the world around us: "One’s eyes should not gaze at all at anything despicable. Rather, they should always be open to watch over unfortunates and have as much mercy upon them as possible... One should distance himself from noticing evil [by employing proper safeguards to avoid the "wrong" places, or keeping one’s line of vision in a different direction], just like the Supernal "Eye," which is open, and forever sees only good.

The Yetzer Hora, Rabbi Lieff continued, works through sudden impulse, temporary confusion and quick compulsion. If we can likewise "close our eyes" for but a moment to recognize and realize who we are and what our job is, the Yetzer Hora will be summarily surmounted and overcome. The Komarna Rebbe, in a sefer of instruction to his children, importantly taught them that when a person feels an urge, a desire, a seemingly irrepressible need, he should tell himself (read: the Yetzer Hora within him): OK, but before I do it, I just need an instant of "Yishuv Ha’Daas," a moment of cogent thinking. With this response, the Yetzer Hora will flee--to a more naïve and susceptible client.

As we move closer and closer to the summer months, months in which the rest of the world "lets their guard down," it is a time when we put our guard up--we close our eyes at least three times daily at Shema (we can do so more often, if we would like) to appreciate the true reality, and we proceed with a Yishuv Ha’Daas known only to those with a special mission and purpose in this world--and a true goal to accomplish it!


Special Note Three: We received the following warm and enlightening insight from a reader:

"In the womb of a pregnant woman two embryos are talking. One of them is a believer, the other a non-believer.

Believer: What an incredible world we are going to!

Non-believer: What! Do you really believe in life after birth?

Believer: Yes, sure. Of course there is life after birth. We are only here in order to prepare and ready ourselves--for what is awaiting us after this.

Non-believer: This is stupidity! There can’t be any life after birth! Can you even imagine what that kind of life could look like?

Believer: I don’t know all the details, but I believe that there will be more light and we will walk by ourselves and eat with our own mouths.

Non-believer: Such nonsense! It’s obviously impossible to walk by ourselves and to eat with our mouths! It’s simply ridiculous! We have an umbilical cord which feeds us. You know, I want to tell you: It’s impossible that there will be life after birth, because our life, that is, our umbilical cord, is simply too short.

Believer: I’m sure that it’s possible. Everything will be a little different. It is possible to at least imagine.

Non-believer: But nobody from there came back! Life simply ends with birth. And, generally, life is one big suffering in darkness.

Believer: No, no! I don’t know exactly, how our life will look like after birth, but, in any case, we’ll see our mommy and she will take care of us.

Non-believer: Mommy? You believe in Mommy? And where, do you think, she is?

Believer: She is everywhere around us. We are in her and thanks to her we are moving and living. Without her, we simply cannot exist.

Non-believer: It’s totally nonsense! I don’t see any Mommy, and that’s why it’s obvious that she simply doesn’t exist.

Believer: I can’t agree with you, because sometimes, when everything around is silent, it’s possible to hear her singing and to feel how she is filling our world. I firmly believe that our real life will start only after birth."

Hakhel Comment: Thank you. May we all prepare well--and may we all soon see the great light that even we--as Believers--cannot even fathom or imagine!


Hakhel MIS

Posted 6/10/2009 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Thoughts for the Week | Comments (0)

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A Positive Perspective
Rabbi said: Do not look at the vessel; rather look at what is inside. There is a new vessel that is filled with aged, vintage wine; and there is an old container that is completely empty - it contains not even a scent of new wine.
It is human nature to associate the quality of a product with the packaging. For instance, we may see an old jug and assume that it is filled with finely, aged wine. On the other hand, we believe that a new jug must be filled with recently pressed, sharp wine. However, the old jug may just as easily contain new, unrefined wine; while the new jug may be filled with mature, vintage wine.
The same idea applies to human relations.  Assessing the value of people based on their bodily stature or appearance can be quite misleading. Regardless, of the powerful urges of human nature that draws our attention to the external façade, we should be aware that the body does not tell the story of one’s inner worth. 
Rather, we should look to the character of the individual to discover their true essence. What special spiritual attributes do they possess? Examine their moral fiber, their generosity, kindness, and sensitivity to others. These internal positive traits and others like them combine to make the person special and worthy.
In addition, we should consider if the person has wisdom of Torah or appreciation for Torah values and ideals. The beauty of Torah will radiate holiness into his deeds and thoughts.  This perspective, of looking at the treasures within, will help us discover the endless resource of goodness and light that resides in every person.
Since every person is created in the Likeness of HaShem, every person is an entity of goodness. If we focus on the good parts in others, we will see them in a positive light, and foster much love and partnership within our community.   
[Based on the commentary of Rashi to Pirkei Avos]
TODAY: When you speak with a friend, consciously focus on their good points.
[Based on Da’as Torah of Rabenu

Posted 6/10/2009 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Thoughts for the Week | Comments (0)

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As world events continue to spin around us, as we turn from Far East nuclear testing, to the Afghan war, to the still amorphous swine flu, to a new and probing threshold in American-Muslim (Esav-Yishmael?) relations, to joblessness, foreclosures and bankruptcies of previously unknown proportions--in sum, nothing short of turmoil and crisis in areas of economy, politics, health and war worldwide--we must sense a greater need to long for the Moshiach’s coming. HaRav Yecheskel Levenstein, Z’tl, would relate the now famous Mashal of a very ill person in the home for whom the doctor had been summoned. Every time there was a knock at the door, every time the phone or doorbell rang, the family members jumped--was it the doctor?! Even though it turned out to be a well wishing neighbor, a repairman, or someone else, the family was courteous and did not despair--the doctor would still come with the next knock--and would come on time, for he had to. They knew it because they believed it. This, HaRav Levenstein taught, should be our anticipation for Moshiach. Even though the knocks on the door until today have not been what we have been waiting for, the real knock will most certainly come--and hopefully it will be the next one--literally, the next one. The Six-Day War and no Moshiach, the Yom Kippur War and no Moshiach, the Lebanese War and no Moshiach, the Gaza War and no Moshiach. What will the next knock be?! There is certainly no cause for despair--only for hope and anticipation.

HaRav Dessler, Z’tl, teaches that our redemption is actually **dependant upon** our level of "Tzipiya"--our sincere longing for redemption. As we recite every Shabbos in Kedusha, "Mimkomecha Malkeinu Sofea, VeSimloch Aleinu Ki Mecahkim Anachnu Loch--Hashem from Your Place, appear--for we await You". This is the madreiga, Rav Dessler writes, that we must all reach--of at least anticipating the Yeshua. Even if we feel that we are personally unworthy of bringing Moshiach with our deeds (a matter of debate in and of itself)--at the very least everyone--*e*v*e*r*y*o*n*e*--should await, anticipate and long for his coming--in our thoughts, in our Tefillos, and in our reaction and understanding (not in the press’ explanation) of world events.

It is within the nature of people to hope and wait for good things. If a person does not do so, it must be that he feels that his situation is better now than it would be if that "good thing" were to occur. If one is not longing and yearning for Moshiach, concludes Rav Dessler, it must be that the Olam Hazeh kind of world we live in is more to his liking than the Ruchniyus of Redemption.

Perhaps we can now understand why the Brisker Rav was heard to say the three-word Pasuk "LiShuasecha Kivisi Hashem (Beraishis 49:18)--For Your salvation do I long" several times throughout the day. It is no coincidence (as it never is) that this Pasuk is placed in the Siddur at the end of the 13 Ani Ma’amins that we recite daily.

We all know that the Redemption will come; this is part of world history, established by Hashem at the time of the world’s creation. Our Thoughts and our Tefillos should be permeated by a sincere and unrelenting want and desire that we ourselves be zocheh to see it "Bechayechon U’Vyomeichon--in your lifetimes, and in your days." We owe it to ourselves and to our destiny to be able to answer the question "Tzipisa LiYeshua?" with a clear and truthful--better yet--a resounding and resourceful: "Yes, LiShuasecha Kivisi Hashem!!"


Special Note Three: When we see a baby or child so small and helpless, we may reflect upon how much kindness Hashem bestows upon this infant in keeping it alive, in finding loving family members to care for it, in taking care of all of its needs--although it can offer nothing in return. It appears, in fact, that the Chesed of Hashem is inversely proportional to the age of the child: the smaller he is, the greater the Chesed, and the older he is, through adulthood, the lesser the Chesed.

In reality, however, and upon refection, it may very well be that the baby, the small child, the toddler, actually serves as a great lesson for us. Hashem provides the young child, unsullied, untainted, and closer to the Ruchniyus of the previous world, with Chesed that is clear for all to see. Imagine, then, we--who may have heard a word of Lashon Hora in passing, who may have missed davening with the Kavana of which we were capable, who may have not behaved properly to a family member, who may have missed or abused a clear chesed opportunity…--how much more so do we experience the Chesed of Hashem with every life-filled moment. Is it you who "can take of yourself’ because you make your own meal, buy your own clothes, go to your shiur on your own, put yourself to bed--or is it Hashem who bestows much greater Chesed upon you than He bestows upon a young child--as He keeps you alive and running despite some really noisy skeletons in your closet--in order for you to have the opportunity to accomplish your role, and fulfill your true potential and purpose in this world of opportunity?

Chesed to the baby--certainly. Chesed to you--incredible!


Hakhel MIS

Posted 6/10/2009 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Thoughts for the Week | Comments (0)

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Individuals in a Group; Wondrous Event

We are all familiar with perhaps the most pronounced question in last week’s Parsha--why does the Torah spend so many Pesukim on the Karbanos of the Nesiim, when instead the Torah could have simply stated: “These are the Karbanos that each and every one of the Nesiim brought...”, and save scores of Pesukim?  After all, every tip of a Yud in the Torah requires investigation--all the more so an additional 65 Pesukim?!  An original and beautiful lesson is taught by the Alter of Kelm, Z’tl.  The Alter teaches that if a person does something together with the community, he may justifiably feel that he is simply part of a communal mitzvah, a most noble group effort, but that neither he, nor his mitzvah is separately identifiable within the Tzibbur’s wonderful actions.  However, the Alter teaches, this is not so at all.  While one may have performed a mitzvah in a more beautiful way by being part of a group, he, in fact, still retains his individuality in the mitzvah’s performance.  His mitzvah is not clustered together with that of others in a huge, undefined forest, but rather the tzibbur is viewed by Hashem as a gathering of distinctive trees making up a wonderful forest together.  Hashem does not only love the group as a whole for what they have done, but, the Alter says, **He loves each one individually** for his effort and participation.  To Hashem, it is not a large crowd, but a gathering of His “Ben Yachids,” who not only share Hashem’s love together, but get a full measure of it separately and individually.  Whether one davens in a Shul with 500, 100 or 10; whether one learns in a shiur with 20, or with 2, and whether one is part of a large Chesed organization, or has a Gemach in the privacy of his own home or with a friend or family member--Hashem identifies you and loves you for what **you** are doing.  Just as no one can hide from Hashem when doing an Aveira, for His glory fills the world, so, too, must one realize that his doing what other people are doing  together with him is clearly and uniquely recognized and cherished by his Father in Heaven.  Your Shemone Esrei counts, your staying up and thinking at a late night or early morning Daf Yomi shiur counts, the $100.00 that you put into your Shul’s Gemach all counts.  It is all individually treasured by Hashem.  And, if you think this is a small matter, the Alter of Kelm tells you that 65 Pesukim in the Torah teach you that it is something very important to remember.  We each receive unique and individualized attention, appreciation and love from the Master of the if we were His only son!

Special Note Two:  In the remarkable Haftorah of last week, we learn of the preparations that Manoach and his wife had to make to have a son like Shimshon, who was destined to be a Shofet BeYisroel.  The very obvious lesson is that we must all recognize that every person that we encounter has a specific task in this world, and, by virtue of Hashem having put us in contact with them, we should attempt to help them in fulfilling their life’s mission.  If it is not so clear to us as to what that may be, we can in all events help them perform Mitzvos in which they may need help, guidance or assistance--as Mitzvos are our collective duty--each person in his own way (as above).

We would like to briefly highlight another point, however.  Within the Haftorah, you may have noticed two words that are familiar to you, but in a totally different context.  The Pasuk states that, upon hearing the news from the angel that Shimshon would be born, Manoach brought a Korban.  The Pasuk continues “U’Mafli La’asos--and a wondrous thing happened,” as fire came out of a rock to consume the offering that Manoach had brought (Shoftim 13:19).  The Metsudos and other Meforshim there explain that the word Mafli is rooted in the word Peleh--an amazing and phenomenal event had just occurred--something shocking, astonishing and miraculous--fire out of a rock!!  Chazal then remarkably “borrow” this two word phrase “UMafli La’asos,” as the conclusion and climax of the Asher Yotzar Bracha, which we recite several times a day in recognition of Hashem giving us the capability to take care of our needs.  By using this phrase, Chazal may want us to understand that it is the same “Mafli La’asos” that Manoach and his wife witnessed as they saw fire coming out of a rock to consume a Karbon--as we witness every time we successfully take care of our bodily needs.  It is a Peleh--wondrous and extraordinary--like fire out of a rock!

We should not, chas veshalom, have to wait for an occasion when it is difficult or temporarily impossible for us to witness the daily Peleh we experience in ourselves in order for us to appreciate the miracles inherent in the Asher Yotzar.  Each and every time we conclude Asher Yotzar, it should not be with a feeling that we are just about ready to move on to something else...  Rather--it should be with a huge acknowledgment--with a climactic recognition and blissful declaration--“UMAFLI LA’ASOS!”

Special Note Three:  One other point in last week’s Parsha.  In carefully following the Kriyas HaTorah, one may have recognized that the Nasi of Shevet Gad was Elyasaf ben Deu’el (Bamidbar 7:42).  Elsewhere, the Torah refers to his father’s name not as Deu’el, but as Reu’el (Bamidbar 2:14)--with the Raish and Daleth being interchanged.  If one follows the Raish-Daleth interchange elsewhere--then what word would one discover within the word Torah?  Todah—Thanks--for ultimately the Torah teaches us the Great Thanks we owe to Hashem for each and every moment of opportunity in our lives--and for the Torah itself which guides us through each and every step of the way!

Hakhel MIS


Posted 6/8/2009 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Thoughts for the Week | Comments (0)

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Erev Shabbos--Hilchos Shabbos Series:

a. Many individually wrapped candies, lollypops, ices, and other "Shabbos Party" type treats have lettering and/or designs just at the spots that you would open them to take out the candy or treat. This constitutes an Issur DeRabbanan of Mochek (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 340; Mishne Berurah, seif katan 17). We note that this problem is true of "heimishe" products as well, as the manufacturers do not assume that you or your children will necessarily be opening these items on Shabbos. Perhaps we should add to the list of Erev Shabbos things to do--checking packaging of this kind!

b. According to the Sefer HaShabbos BeTifarta by HaRav Avrohom Adas, Shlita, reattaching a broomstick back to a broom either by screwing it back in, or by pushing it with force back into place, constitutes an Issur D’Oraysa of Boneh. He likewise rules that one may not return a belt buckle to a belt on Shabbos.

c. Several important Borer points from the Sefer "Pnei Shabbos--Halachos HaSchichos" by HaRav Yosef Glick, Shlita of Yerushalayim, which provides the answers to many common Shabbos Shailos: (i) One may not pour off the liquid from cholent unless he leaves some amount of liquid in the cholent, or eats a little bit of the liquid that he poured off--so that he is selecting the Ochel (that which he now wants) from the Pesoles (that which he does not now want) for immediate use; (ii) When clearing the table, one should make sure that the dirty plates are somewhat separated from the plates with remaining food on them that he wants to put away, in order to avoid the potential borer of separating plates mixed together--removing dirty plates from the table to discard their contents while removing plates with food to store their contents. Likewise, there should be distance kept on kitchen counters between the dirty plates and plates with items to be discarded, and the remaining clean plates, or items to be stored, in order to avoid borer issues of selecting Pesoles from Ochel--or even Ochel from Pesoles for non-immediate use; (iii) One should not remove noodles from chicken noodle soup simply because he does not want to eat them (and vive versa, one may not pour out the chicken soup in order to eat the noodles only), as this constitutes borer--selecting the Pesoles from the Ochel; (iv) One should not remove the frosting or cream layer from a cake, unless he also removes some of the cake along with it, or leaves some of the cream on the cake; (v) If one took a fruit out of a bowl to eat, and then did not like the way it looked, HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, writes that it may be best to put it back into the same bowl and not somewhere else, so it does not appear as borer; (vi) One is permitted to take the peel off fruits and vegetables immediately prior to consumption--even if the outer layer is inedible (such as a banana peel), because this is deemed to be its "derech achila." If a peel is otherwise commonly eaten, such as an apple peel, there is a Machlokes HaPoskim as to whether one can peel the apple for non-immediate consumption. HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, forbids it; (vii) If a candy wrapper is stuck to the candy, one should only remove the candy close to its consumption, as the wrapper would then be treated as the peel of a fruit; (viii) If one has different flavors of soda in the pantry mixed up together, and wants to select a few flavors to put into the refrigerator for the Shabbos Seudah in a few hours, there is an issue of borer, as he is selecting for non-immediate use. Accordingly, one should keep the same flavors grouped together so that he is not selecting one flavor from another, or, in the alternative, not be selective about the soda he is taking but simply pick up two or three bottles of whatever may come to his hand. Another alternative may be to immediately drink a little of the soda one selects before putting it in the refrigerator, so that he is selecting the soda for immediate use; (ix) One should avoid peeling corn directly off the cob unless it is close to the meal (even then there may be a separate issue of Dush--although one may eat corn directly from the cob); (x) There are various opinions as to how close to the Seudah one is permitted to peel vegetables, set the table, and perform other Ochel Mitoch Pesoles activities. Although many Poskim rule one has a half-hour before the Seudah, HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, rules that it is less time than that if one in fact needs less than a half-hour. The situation may also be different if one has many guests, and may depend upon what else has to be done before the meal. One should definitely not rely upon his own "common sense" in this area, which could involve several Issurei D’Oraysa within the preparation of one Seudah. Instead, one should most definitely consult with his Rav or Posek in any case of doubt. If one never has any issues or doubts in this delicate area--than he is either being extra-specially superbly careful--or he should immediately commence the study or review of the Halachos of borer, to help himself and others properly observe Shabbos Kodesh!

Posted 6/5/2009 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Gut Shabbos & Gut Yom Tov | Comments (0)

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“Chayil”, valor or strength, in Torah learning

As we approach the first Shabbos away from Shavuos, we note that the Parshas HaShavua is Parshas Naso. Among other mitzvos, the Parsha contains some enormous lessons on why and how to control the Yetzer Hora, and the kinds of brachos we should look to give and to receive. We would like here to only point to the fact that this Parsha is almost always read on the Shabbos after Shavuos, and that it is the longest Parsha in the Torah. Part of the reason it is the longest Parsha is that each of the 12 Nesseim’s private donations to the Mishkan is separately detailed, notwithstanding that the donation are otherwise fully identical in object, kind and amount. Chazal (at length in Bamidbar Rabba on these Pesukim) teach that this individualized detail was not done so that we can simply stay more attached to Yom Tov by reading more and more Pesukim of Torah right after Shavuos (although this, in and of itself, would be a sufficient reason). Rather, the Medrash teaches that behind the otherwise identical and seemingly (Chas V’Shalom) repetitive Pesukim is a lesson for eternity--that they all looked the same, but that they were all very different, because each Nassi had his own Kavanos, his personal thoughts, when he brought his korban.

We can derive a very important lesson from this relating to the study of Torah itself. While many people may appear to learn similar Torah topics, as they may be among the tens of thousands who study the Parsha with Rashi weekly, or who the thousands who learn two Halachos of Shmiras HaLashon every day, or part of the 15 people attending a local Daf Yomi shiur, there really is a difference between each and every one of them, because the manner of study of no two are the same.

Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, teaches us in the last, ultimate, chapter of Mishlei, known to us as Aishes Chayil, that the key, perhaps concomitantly most elusive and elevating, element of Torah study, the aspect that brings one to the height of service, is "Chayil", valor or strength, in Torah learning. We must put our efforts, our strengths, our wherewithal into Torah study in no less measure than into our business goals, monetary objectives and anything else in life that is very important to us. It is no coincidence (as we know, there is never a "coincidence", and there never can be one) that the Gematria of Chayil is equal to 48, symbolizing the need to strive for all 48 Ways we briefly alluded to yesterday. Moreover, the number 48 (Mem Ches) spells Moach, indicating the necessity of seriously putting all of one’s mind to attaining Torah knowledge and practice. Chazal teach that "Torah weakens the strength of a person". In truth, most activity weakens a person, whose soul is housed in flesh and blood. If something is to weaken a person, it is certainly much more preferred that it be Torah then...

The Chofetz Chaim (Chomas HaDas, Chapter 4) teaches us that there is a common mistake made by many, and he explains with a mashal. A man took a serious fall into a deep pit, suffered severe bruises and injuries, and could barely breathe. Sincere passersby hurriedly lowered themselves into the pit, and began trying all kinds of methods to bandage the wounds with the little that they had. A doctor, hearing the commotion climbed into the pit. Assessing the situation, he exclaimed "This man does not need bandages now--he can barely breathe! Give me room!" After reviving him, the doctor was able to bring him out of danger, and the man successfully recovered. The Chofetz Chaim taught--we, too, are in the deep pit of Galus--and we desperately need help. But bandages simply will not do, for we must first get to the breathing--and our breath is Torah. (See Avos 6:6, 7) We must, as the doctor, recognize and emphasize its absolute need to be the first and vital step of our cure. And the more, and the harder, the breathing is worked at, the quicker and better, the cure.

One can help his breathing in many ways--putting in the effort and taking the precautionary steps necessary to better concentrate when studying, finding the time to accomplish, one step at a time, that which one otherwise planned or would plan for retirement, getting involved in community Torah study projects, and spending good money to support Torah study. Let us do our part. For us, discretion is not the better part of valor. Torah is!


Hakhel MIS

Posted 6/5/2009 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Parsha Pearls | Comments (0)

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When Peace Prevails
The Midrash relates that one Friday night a certain woman attended a public lecture given by Rabbi Meir. By the time she returned home her candles were extinguished. "Where have you been?" her husband demanded. She replied that she had been to the class of Rabbi Meir. "You are not permitted to enter my house until you spit in the face of Rabbi Meir," insisted her foolish husband.
Elijah the Prophet informed Rabbi Meir that the woman was banned from her house. Rabbi Meir went to synagogue. When the woman came to pray, Rabbi Meir made himself yawn. He told the women that he was suffering from an ailment that could be cured if she would spit in his eye seven times. After she reluctantly complied, he told her, "Go tell your husband, ’You told me to spit once, whereas, I spit seven times."
Rabbi Meir’s students were appalled, "Rabbi, the honor of the Torah has been disgraced. If you would have given the word, we would have forced him to take his wife back."
Rabbi Meir responded, "The honor of Rabbi Meir should not exceed the honor of Hashem. If Hashem allows his Holy name to be dissolved in the waters of the Sota (Bamidbar 5:23) - in order to make peace between husband and wife - all the more so should I lower my honor in order to make peace between husband and wife."
Although there was an alternative solution (as the students suggested) Rav Meir preferred to solve the problem by degrading himself. Rav Meir reasoned that the Sota procedure did not necessarily require the erasure of the Divine name. Rather, Hashem chose that method because - in His boundless compassion - He is willing to disgrace Himself in order to bring peace between husband and wife. Yet, if peace could have been achieved without disgrace - why did Hashem command us to erase His name?
When someone loves something, he does not delegate it to others to perform on his behalf. Rather, he himself pursues it. Hashem’s love of kindness bestirs His willingness to dissolve His name in order to make peace. May, we learn, as Rabbi Meir did, to cherish peace so dearly - that we are even ready to make great sacrifices for the sake of peace.
[Based on Lev Eliyahu, Rav Elya Lopian]
TODAY: Give up something for the sake of peace.                                                           

Posted 6/5/2009 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Parsha Pearls | Comments (0)

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REb Shlomo Zalman Naso 5769

Hi Kids,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

First and foremost, thanks to H for reminding me that today is National EGG Day, second only in importance to Groundhogs Day. Tempting as it may be to speak about our oval friends, I will not, but seriously I will say that eggs play a huge role in many aspects of halacha ( much moreso than groundhogs ) so we as good Jews, can thank Hashem very much for the egg. I hope this finds you all well if not too partied out from the festivities of the day - anyways its time to get serious.                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
Amongst the many interesting items in this parsha, is the parsha of the Sotah - the errant woman. It is a very complicated set of halachos and concepts, but it segways into a short but powerful story that I have long wanted to tell. Rashi comments that the word Sotah stems from Stiah or veering off the path of Tznius. I know that this is a very touchy subject - I am not intending to preach here, just to provide food for thought. Rav Vallach tells :                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
Next to the grave of the Tzaddik Rav Yehuda Ben Atar lies the gravesight of the holy Tzadekes Suleka. Suleka was a beautiful young Jewish girl in Morocco around 1820. A young muslim man who lived in the neighborhood was stricken by her beauty and wanted her. His problem was that muslim men of course could not marry Jewish women. He devised a simple yet evil plan - all he had to do was spread a rumor that she had secretly converted to islam - once that was accepted as fact by the local authorities, it would be illegal for her to be Jewish anymore. Her life would be impossible as a Jew and he would be able to take her as a wife. He put his plan to action. Of course she denied it emphatically but all of her protests fell on deaf ears - the islamic justice system gave her two choices - return to the true peace-loving religion of islam or hang in the public square. Suleka replied without hesitation and with absolute committment, I have never converted to islam - I was born a Jew and I will die a Jew. The court was not sympathetic - she was thrown into a cold jail cell to rot while the judgement was sent to the King of Morocco for his stamp of approval. When the papers were presented to the King, the prince was in the room. He was intrigued by the case of the young beauty with the strong convictions and he decided to visit her in prison. Even in the filthy condition of the cell and in her tattered clothing, Suleka was a sight for sore eyes. The prince immediately fell in love with her. Desperate oly soul to her to save her life so that he could have her, he promised her that if she would only convert to islam, she would become the princess and eventually the queen. Her life would be the envy of women the world over - wealth, luxury and power, and a loving husband - she may have turned down the conversion option before but everyone has their price - surely she would not turn him down. To his great surprise and chagrin, she declared to him that none of what he promised was even close to being equal to her faith in the true Hashem and H-S holy Torah. Nothing could make her become a traitor to Hashem and to her people. The prince left the prison flustered and angry and did not protest when his father signed the papers sentencing Suleka to death.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              
Suleka was defiant yet calm and at peace with her fate as she was lead out to the city square and the gallows the next day. She was ready to die AL KIDDUSH HASHEM. The prince was waiting for her on the platform. One last time he pleaded with her to save her life emphasizing to her how happy she could be if she would only convert. She smiled and declared that she was already happy with her life. The prince gave up and signalled to the executioner to get on with the job. The hangman said to Suleka that she was entitled by law to one last request. She looked out at the crowd - her family and the rest of the Jewish community cowering in the far corner of the square, sobbing and praying for perhaps a last minute miracle, and the blood-lusting muslims laughing and hooting and cheering on the hangman. Everyone was quiet when Suleka made her final request - pins. She repeated her request when the hangman did not understand - sewing pins. No one could imagine what she would do with them as they were brought out to her. She took the pins, stepped over to the noose and stuck the pins through her dress into her legs so that her clothes would not fly loosely and expose her legs as she dangled in death. In this way, amidst the shock and absolute silence of the crowd, did the young and beautiful Suleka return her pure and holy soul to her maker.                                                                                   
I have been thinking alot about this story for a long time - not only because of the Kiddush Hashem aspect of it but moreso about the Tznius aspect. However, beside it being very late, I think it would be more meaningful for all if I just allowed you to think freely about this yourselves. For all of us, especially the women, regardless of the level of Tznius we are holding in, I have no doubt that Tznius is important in our lives, for our families and ourselves, and it is not limited to clothing but in fact is incredibly deep and far-reaching. My bracha to us all tonight is that we should all in our own ways hold up Suleka as a role model.                           
I wish you all a wonderful, joyous and holy Shabbos.                                       
I love you all, d     

Posted 6/5/2009 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Parsha Pearls | Comments (0)

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