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Guard Your Eyes
Heichal Halimmud

Drop some coins each morning into the Yagdil Torah פושקא located in 770.
Pushka location: Walk down the main aisle toward the doors, it is on your  on the right side at shoulder height.

Chalukas Hashas 5773   Giving has never been easier

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Vov Teves, 5776

Three-Year-Old Lawyer

"Joe, what are you doing poring over those law tomes?"

"I am studying for the bar."

"Seriously?! The bar!? You didn't even learn how to write yet and you can barely speak."

"Is it my fault I am 3?"

"I am sure you know some people end up changing their mind about what they want to do. This is just one issue among others that make it important to carefully consider if this is the career path you want to take"

"I agree but I enjoy studying anyways."

"But wouldn't it make sense to first learn how to write and speak?"

"Come to think of it you are right - I just didn't have my wheeties yet today..."

Chazal say all Torah that doesn't include Derech Eretz will eventually be nullified; how much more so one can reason Derech Eretz without the source of all - Torah...

Vov Teves, 5776

Place: Yerushalayim. Date: 2002

There was once an individual who undertook the project of calculating the times of netz hachamah for every day of the year in his location. Among other procedures, he would take photographs of the sun from various angles for the sake of further study and examination.

Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Dei'ah, 141:4) rules that it is forbidden to shape the form of the sun, moon, or stars, whether the form is protruding or engraved. Many poskim hold that drawings that are neither protruding nor engraved are forbidden as well (see Nekudos Hakessef and Pischei Teshuvah, Yoreh Dei'ah ad loc.), and photographs would presumably fall under the same category. Are there any halachic issues involved in carrying out such an endeavor?

This shaalah was presented to R. Pinchas Zevichi, a contemporary rov in Yerushalayim. R. Zevichi offers a number of reasonswhy this is permitted:

1. The Mishna (Rosh Hashanah 24a) relates that R. Gamliel had forms of the moon hanging on the wall of his attic, which he would use when interrogating the witnesses who testified that they had seen the new moon. The Gemara questions his practice from the halacha that one may not shape the form of a celestial being, and the Gemara answers (ibid. 24b) that it is permitted for educational purposes. (This hetter is quoted in Shulchan Aruch [ibid.] as well.)

In our case, the photographer's motive was to prepare a luach with the times of netz hachamah, something which isundoubtedly an educational purpose. In fact, he should be commended for investing time and effort into this public service.

In addition to this primary hetter, R. Zevichi adds two additional reasons why it is permitted:

2. It can be argued that taking a picture is gerama, an action which will indirectly lead to an issur. No image can be seen on the camera at the time the picture is taken, and the development of the film and printing of the photograph are accomplished later, via machinery and not through the photographer's own actions. (It should be noted that this hetter may not be applicable today, with the advent of digital photography.)

3. The prohibition of depicting the sun is limited to depicting the sun in its entirety, as it is seen in the sky. It is permitted, however, to portray only a portion of the sun. (This is in contrast to the moon, which may not be portrayed even partially. The reason for this stringency is because the moon is viewed in the sky incompletely as well.) In our case, the photographer snapped pictures of the sun at sunrise, when part of the sun was still below the horizon, and it is therefore permitted.

Parenthetically, Shulchan Aruch (ibid.) rules that it is also forbidden to depict the form of a human. Although taking pictures of people has become an accepted practice, some posit that this is why there were tzaddikim who were against having their pictures taken.

(Shu"t Ateres Paz, Vol. 2, Yoreh Dei'ah, §5. Shu"t Mishneh Halachos, Vol. 7, §114)

Shver to be a Shver Vov Teves, 5776

In general, a son-in-law is supposed to look up to his father-in-law. Accordingly, if the son-in-law has set shiurim in Tanya, the father-in-law must certainly have set shiurim as well, not only in Tanya but also in Lekutei Torah, maamorim, and so on.

Igros Kodesh, Vol. 9, p. 107

Tes Vov Kislev, 5776

A Purim Secret

R. Nissan was a wealthy man who lived in Yargin, a small town near Pressburg, the capital city of Czechoslovakia. He and his wife were already married for many years, but still had not been blessed with children. When, finally, a son was born to him in 5583 (1823), it was no surprise, that he honored his former Rosh Yeshiva, the world-renowned scholar known as the Chassam Sofer, to perform the circumcision. Unfortunately, the bris mila had to be postponed because of the weak health of the baby - to Purim!

At the bris, the Chassam Sofer was glowing with "light, happiness, joy and honor." After completing the circumcision, when he dipped his finger in the wine and then in the baby's mouth (following custom), he raised his voice and called out very loudly the Talmudic expression, "When wine goes in, secrets come out."

The child Boruch Mordechai grew. At an early age he was already outstanding in character and religious observance. However, much to the distress of his parents, his ability to understand Torah was not at a par. As a boy, he didn't seem any different than his age-mates, but after his bar-mitzvah, when he entered the famous Pressburg Yeshiva, it was noticeable that he was having major difficulties in his studies.

When he turned eighteen, The Ksav Sofer (who had replaced his recently departed father as the head of the yeshiva) advised his parents to send him to the Land of Israel. Perhaps there, where "the air of the Holy Land makes wise," his studies would prosper.

His parents decided to do it. They hoped it would also enable him to make a good match.

Boruch Mordechai arrived in Jerusalem with a letter of recommendation from Rabbi Shraga Feldheim, mashgiach (study-supervisor) at Pressburg, which said that he "is truly pious, prays with great devotion, and that his desire to learn Torah is sincere and enormous."

One of the scholarly leaders of the Jerusalem community then, Rabbi Yeshaya Bardaki, 'adopted' Boruch Mordechai, concerning himself for all of his needs. His was impressed with the young man's sterling character and piousness, but he could not fathom how someone who had done nothing but study Torah diligently all his life could have retained so little.

When Boruch Mordechai reached age twenty, Rabbi Bardaki found a bride for him: a simple girl from a good family in Jerusalem who wouldn't mind that her husband was an ignoramus.

Several years after the wedding, Boruch Mordechai began to work as a water carrier. He was honest to an extreme, and as a result quickly became very popular. Every Rosh Chodesh, he would deliver water to his regular customers for free; he worried that over the course of the previous month water may have spilled, whereas he had charged for full buckets.

For more than forty years Boruch Mordechai toiled at his chosen profession, the whole time in joyous spirit and with gratitude to G-d for his lot. He took special satisfaction from servicing the many Torah scholars within the walls of Jerusalem; he considered this a great merit and refused to accept payment from them. It anguished him that the great scholar, Rabbi Yehuda Leib Diskin, refused to take water from him. "I cannot allow myself to be served by the likes of Reb Boruch Mordechai," he would say-but refused to explain his words.

On Purim Day 5653 (1893), at the time of the festive meal, most of the chassidim and notables of Old City Jerusalem crowded, as every year, into the home of Rabbi Schneur Zalman Fradkin of Lublin, the celebrated author of the scholarly book, Toras Chesed.The atmosphere was exceptionally joyous, even for a Purim celebration. The men were constantly erupting into lively song and dance, and there was a complimentary flow of wine and wise words.

All of a sudden, Boruch Mordechai called out to the host in a loud voice from the midst of the swaying Chassidim, "Rebbe! Today is seventy years exactly since my bris mila."

Everyone smiled tolerantly, figuring such an outburst from the simple water carrier could only be a result of all the Purim wine he had imbibed.

"If so," responded R. Shneur Zalman, "you deserve an extra-large measure of 'l'chaim'."

Immediately a large tumbler of a special strong wine was poured and passed to Boruch Mordechai, who speedily dispatched it as commanded. It had an immediate effect. The elderly water-carrier began to sing and dance energetically.

The sage's reaction was surprising. He looked up at Boruch Mordechai and shouted over the crowd, "it would be nice if you would stop fooling around already and honor the holy assemblage with some strong words of Jewish law and lore (halacha and agaddah)."

Suddenly there was silence. Everyone's gaze shifted in amused anticipation to the tipsy Boruch Mordechai as he climbed up to stand on the table and began to speak.

But then, all the grins slowly gave way to wide-eyed stares of astonishment as it penetrated their ears that the water-carrier was discoursing enthusiastically on scholarly Purim topics and peppering his words with learned citations from Tractate Megillah and a variety of Midrashim and works of Jewish Law. And he waxed on and on! Indeed, if the strong wine hadn't finally taken its toll, it seemed that he could have continued indefinitely.

Even before the holiday was over, the news of the extraordinary scholarship of the unassuming water-carrier had spread throughout Jerusalem. The community was in an uproar. How had they allowed such an accomplished scholar to be disdained in their midst, and to labor as a mere water-carrier for so many years. And how had his erudition remained hidden for so long?

A few of the elders of the community recalled hearing of the mysterious words of the Chassam Sofar seventy years before. Now, some clever minds were saying they could finally be understood.

"Nichnas yayin, yotzai sod"-"Wine enters, secrets emerge." Yayin (wine), spelled yud-yud-nun, has a numerical value of seventy, and so does samech-vov-dalet, the word for secret!

[Translated and adapted by Yrachmiel Tilles (and first published in Kfar Chabad Magazine - English) from Sichat HaShavuah #478.]

Tes Vov Kislev, 5776

Place: Yerushalayim. Date: 2002

Many kehillos have the custom of davening at netz hachamah, the exact time when the sun rises above the horizon. To enable this practice, known as vasikin, it is necessary to know the exact time of netz hachamah each day of the year in one's given location.

A certain individual undertook this project for his community by waking up early each morning to calculate the precise time of sunrise. In addition to visual observations, he would take photographs of the sun from various angles for the sake of further study and examination.

Although this objective is quite noble, there may be a halachic problem with photographing the sun (or any other celestial being). It is forbidden to shape the form of the sun, moon, or stars, whether the form is protruding or engraved (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Dei'ah, 141:4). Many poskim hold that drawings that are neither protruding nor engraved are forbidden as well (see Nekudos Hakessef and Pischei Teshuvah, Yoreh Dei'ah ad loc.), and photographs would presumably fall under the same category.

Are there any halachic issues involved in carrying out such an endeavor?

Hard to Decide Tes Vov Kislev, 5776

Halacha rules that the system of studying one chapter in the morning and one in the evening is limited to those who are forced, al pi Torah, to earn their livelihood in a way that requires them to devote a number of hours to it each day. However, those who are not forced to do so have the choice [to spend more time studying Torah.] More often than not, they don't have the choice; they must occupy themselves with Torah study, sufficing with devoting a few short hours to worldly pursuits.

The evaluation to which category one belongs must usually be determined by others and not by oneself, because his decision is then biased, and the clever one [i.e., the yetzer hara] finds various methods and arguments to lure a person from the correct path.

Igros Kodesh, Vol. 6, pp. 122

Tes Kislev Learning Guide Ches Kislev, 5775

The Rebbe encourages us to learn the works of a Rebbe in Nigleh and Chassidus on his yom hilula, and to learn (at least one perek of) Mishnayos beginning with the letters of his name. Yagdil Torah has compiled a publication with Mishnayos and selected pieces of the Mitteler Rebbe's Torah. The publication will be available in local shuls, at our office and on our website.

This year the publication marking Tes Kislev (the Yom Hilula of the Mitteler Rebbe) has been updated with the full Mishnayos. Keep an eye out for more easily accessible learning material and sections in English. The publication also includes stories of the Mitteler Rebbe.

Click here to download the Kovetz Limmud for Tes Kislev.

Rosh Chodesh Kislev, 5776

A Drunkard's Last Request

In 5714 (1954), an important wedding took place in Jerusalem. The son of Rabbi Chaim Chaikl Miletzky, head of the famous Chayei Olam Yeshiva, was marrying a girl from a respected family, and most of the leading Torah scholars of the Holy City were in attendance. Unfortunately, the father of the chassan had to be carried in on a bed. For many years he suffered from severe problems with his feet. The doctors were now saying that one foot definitely had to be amputated, and perhaps the other one as well.

With his entrance, the noisy din of celebration died down. All eyes turned towards the poor man who couldn't dance at his son's wedding. R. Chaim Chaikl indicated that he wanted to speak.

"When I was young and healthy, I learned in the Stutchin Yeshiva. We used to study day and night in one of the local Shuls.

"In this town lived a man who was known to all as 'Itche der shiker.' Every day he would drink until he passed out. When he awoke he would immediately drink more, until he lost consciousness again. His favorite sleeping place was the same shul that we studied in, and there he spent most of each day. Where he lived, no one had any idea. Nor did anyone care.

"One winter night, we were sitting and learning while Itche was sleeping on a bench near the stove, as usual. Unexpectedly, the door burst open and a wagon-driver came in, very upset. He told us that his wagon with its heavy load had flipped over, and that his horse was trapped underneath and was being choked by the reins. If it wasn't released soon it would die

"We students began to discuss among ourselves whether it was permissible to interrupt our Torah studies for such a task. Finally we decided we shouldn't, because the wagon-lifting could be done by anyone, but only we were learning Torah.

"At that moment, much to our amazement, Itche opened his eyes and called out, 'Young men! You must go!' We ignored him and sent the dismayed Wagoner on his way to search for more appropriate helpers.

"We laughed at his authoritative tone. Then, he really surprised us by his audacity. He said, 'If you don't go to help that poor Jew right now, there will come a time, G-d forbid, when you will not be able to go!'

"For a moment there was shocked silence. Then I said to him jokingly, 'Itche, since when did you become a posek, a rabbinical judge?'

"He didn't answer.

"About half an hour later, the wagon driver came running back, frantic. He hadn't been able to find anyone to help him. He pleaded with us to come. We discussed it again, and this time decided it was permitted for us to go. But when we got there, the horse was already dead.

"The next morning, I was a little late for the morning session. When I entered, my friends told me that Itche der shiker had been looking for me. I went over to him and asked him what he wanted. He said that he needed me to do him a favor.

" 'What?' I asked.

Rosh Chodesh Kislev, 5776

Place: India. Date: 1890

A Jewish man once committed an offense against the king and was sentenced to death. During the days leading up to his execution, he was left to languish in prison, where thoughts of his fate gave him no rest. The image of the embarrassment he would suffer and the chilul Hashem that would be caused was too much for him to bear.

The next time his son paid him a visit, he asked him to bring him some poison so he could end his life in peace rather than be killed so brutally in public. Was the son allowed to bring his father poison, thus enabling him to end his life earlier? What does the mitzvah of kibbud av entail in such an unfortunate situation?

This halachic question reached the attention of R. Matisyahu Avraham Sormani, rov of the Sephardic community in Bucharest. He wrote a lengthy teshuvah in which he concludes that the son may fulfill his father's wishes. However, his hesitation to issue such a psak prompted him to ask the opinion of his brother-in-law, R. Rachamim Chaim Yehuda Yisrael, rov of the Jewish community of Rhodes, Greece.

R. Rachamim penned a lengthy teshuvah as well in which he argues with R. Matisyahu's decision. Not only may the son not actually take his father's life in any way, he may not assist him by bringing him poison either.

R. Rachamim disagrees with the premise adopted by R. Matisyahu that a person may take his life to prevent an "inevitable" painful death. There is no such thing as an inevitable death, he argues. A person must always place his trust in Hashem. Perhaps the king will die, be deposed, or retract the death sentence. R. Rachamim also cites an incident that took place in Damascus years earlier, in which prisoners were able to escape thanks to the chaos that arose due to a local rebellion. Since the father was not allowed to take his life, his son would transgress lifnei iver if he would assist him in doing so.

As R. Matisyahu pointed out, Shaul Hamelech instructed his weapon-bearer to take his life before he would suffer a painful death in the hands of the Pelishtim. However, there are number of reasons why Shaul was allowed to do so. One of them is because he knew that when the Jews would see the Pelishtim torturing their king, they would rush to his rescue, and this would bring about the death of numerous Jews. Knowing that Hashem had decreed that he would be killed, he was permitted to take his own life in order to save the lives of his fellow Jews.

The debate did not end there. R. Matisyahu addressed yet another teshuvah to R. Rachamim. Unfortunately, R. Rachamim had fallen ill and was unable to respond, and he passed away shortly after. Instead, a response was prepared by his son, R. Reuven Eliyahu Yisrael, where he defends his father's position. This response elicited yet a third teshuvah of R. Matisyahu where he upholds his own psak.

Interestingly, when R. Reuven printed these teshuvos in the sefer Ben Yamin, he added a note at the end of the last teshuvah, asking the readers to help formulate a conclusive psak.

Shu"t Ben Yamin, §§31-34