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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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Yud Zayin Cheshvan, 5777

Date: 1953.
Location: Elizabeth, New Jersey

A blind member of the Jewish community in Elizabeth, New Jersey, would walk around with the assistance of a guide dog. As a frumme Yid, he strongly desired to participate in the tefillos in shul and be able to answer Kaddish and Kedushah, hear the reading of the Torah and Megillah, and so on. However, since he was dependent on his dog to help him make his way, this would only be possible if the dog would accompany him to shul.

The Yid was faced with a dilemma. On the one hand, it didn't seem respectable to enter a mikdash me'at with a dog (or with any other animal, for that matter). On the other hand, that was the only way he would be able to participate in all of the devarim shebi'kedushah taking place in shul.

Was the blind mispalel allowed to enter the shul with his guide dog?

Beruriah's Advice Yud Zayin Cheshvan, 5777

Beruriah [the wife of Reb Meir] once found a certain student studying quietly... She said to him: "Doesn't the possuk say, '[It is] arranged in all and protected'? This teaches us that if the Torah is arranged in all of one's 248 limbs, it will be protected; but if it is not, it will not be protected."

It was taught in a Beraisa: Rebbi Eliezer had a student who would study quietly. After three years, he forgot his learning. [...]

Shmuel said to Rav Yehudah: "Sharp one! Open your mouth and read [Chumash]; open your mouth and study [Mishnah]. This way, what you study will remain with you and you will have a long life, as the possuk says: 'For they are life for those who find them [למוצאיהם], and a cure for his entire flesh.' Do not read it as למוצאיהם, but rather as למוציאיהם, those who recite the words of Torah verbally." [...]

Rebbi Yitzchok said: We can deduce [the importance of studying Torah aloud] from this possuk: "For [the Torah] is extremely close to you, in your mouth and your heart to do it." When is it extremely close to you? When it is in your mouth and your heart to do it.

Eiruvin 54a

Gimmel Cheshvan, 5777

Torah Education for Women

Devora Leah was the aunt of Rabbi Schneur Zalman, known as the Alter Rebbe. Her mother, Rachel, was a very unusual woman for her time.

Educated secretly by her unconventional father, Rachel eventually mastered not only Chumash, but the Talmud and the writings of Maimonides, and was especially expert in the Shulchan Aruch, the Code of Jewish Law.

Her erudition in Jewish legal matters is illustrated by an incident in which her husband and father were walking on Shabbos.

Suddenly, someone came running to tell them that the city's eiruv had broken.

The two rabbis stood still, unable to remember the law under such circumstances. Rachel's father asked her what they should do.

At first she didn't want to reply, since it was frowned upon in those days for a woman to be learned and she didn't want to alienate her new husband.

But when her father pressed her, she answered and everyone abided by her instructions.

Gimmel Cheshvan, 5777

The first successful manned landing on the moon in 1969 opened up a new area of halachah- how are Torah and mitzvos to be kept on the moon. One of the many questions that can arise is whether a Jewish astronaut on the moon can recite Kiddush Levanah.

This question was raised by R. Avraham Maimon, a Rov in Marseilles of Tunisian descent, in a sefer published seven years after this event. R. Maimon is of the opinion that an astronaut can, indeed, recite this brachah. After all, the halachah is that one who sees the new moon should recite this brachah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 426:1), and the astronaut can certainly see the moon; in fact, he is actually standing on it! R. Maimon takes this a step further: since the waxing and waning of the moon is not noticeable on the moon itself, perhaps this brachah can be recited throughout the month.

The Key is At the End Gimmel Cheshvan, 5777

May it be a year of light, a year of blessing, a year of geulah, a year of happiness, a year of glory, a year of good assembly, a year of merit, a year of good life, a year of goodness, a year of promise, a year of sustenance, a year of successful study, a year of kingship, a year of victory and miracles, a year of good signs, a year of strength ("Hashem will give strength to his nation; Hashem will bless his nation with peace"), a year of redemption, a year of jubilation, a year of holiness, a year of supremacy, a year of great joy until it reaches the level of ad delo yada, and a year of praise.

All this is included in and derives from the fact that it is a year of Torah and a year of tefillah, and before that-a year of teshuvah.

Birchas Habonim of Erev Yom Kippur after Minchah, 5744 (TM 5744, Vol. 1, p. 137)

Yud Beis Tishrei, 5777

Learning, Giving or Both?

There is a fascinating maamar (Torah Ohr, Toldos) where the Alter Rebbe discusses natural inclinations. He quotes the Rambam which states that generally there are two types of gall bladders which result in two types of tendencies; one which likes learning but dislikes giving while the other likes giving but dislikes learning.

I feel safe to say that this is the exact balance which the Samech Mem relies upon; that the people who learn won't do much about it and the people who are willing to do won't learn much to know what and how to do.

As we are all in the business of eliminating the samech mem and his interests it behooves those with an inclination to learning to make a concerted effort to add in doing and those who (because my personal "business" is to inspire learning I will add the adjectives:) are lucky and fortunate enough to incline to doing should make a (again the extra adjectives) tremendous and focused exertion to squeeze learning past their natural inclination to decline.

Yud Beis Tishrei, 5777

On July 20, 1969, science and space exploration reached an unprecedented milestone when man set foot on the moon for the first time. Millions of people the world over sat glued to their radios, as Neil Armstrong said his famous words: "A small step for man; a huge leap for mankind."

In the world of Torah, this small step created another type of leap. It opened up a new area of halachah that had never been explored before: how are Torah and mitzvos to be kept on the moon?

One of the many questions that can arise relates to a brachah pertaining to the moon itself: the brachah of Kiddush Levanah, said once a month, from (three or) seven days since the molad until the moon becomes full. Can a Jewish astronaut who is on the moon recite this brachah?

User-Friendly Seforim Yud Beis Tishrei, 5777

Regrettably, today is different from earlier generations, which were relatively peaceful and without upheaval and the like. In those days, the Torah and its seforim possessed the most important spot in the home of each person (even those who did not understand what was written inside), and they gladly gave them precedence over everything else.

Therefore, in my opinion, today it is the mitzvah and obligation of every person who publishes seforim [related to] Torah and mitzvos, yiras shamayim, and the like to publish them in a format that is easy to use and carry from one residence to the next, to a small seforim room, etc. The smallest deficiency in the ease of using the sefer may prevent many people from buying the sefer and studying or reading it. We cannot neglect such people either, as the possuk says (Koheles 11:6), "You do not know which one will succeed," and perhaps he will have worthy offspring.

Igros Kodesh, Vol. 11, p. 294

Chof Zayin Elul, 5776

The Third Partner

Once there was a husband and wife who lived together in a little village, one of the hundreds of little villages which peppered the countryside of Russia and Poland in the times of our grandparents, and great-grandparents and the dozens of generations which preceded them.

Like many such couples, they were very poor, subsisting from day to day by the work of their hands. And although life was hard, their eyes ever turned upward to their Father in Heaven, beseeching Him to remember them, and never to forsake them. Thus they lived for many years, in harmony, with peace and love reigning between them.

And although they thanked G-d every day for the goodness He bestowed upon them, they suffered from one great sorrow which cast its shadow over their placid lives--they had no children.

For this one thing they prayed every day.

On Shabbat and the holidays, when the wife would don her pure white kerchief, cover her eyes and bless the candles, she murmured a prayer begging G-d to grant her a child. And when the husband stood in silent prayer, he, too, would remind the Creator of his craving for a child.

After many years had passed, their greatest wish was granted, and the wife gave birth to a baby boy. Their joy and thankfulness were unbounded as they watched their little son grow.

The days and months passed by joyfully, until the day came when the child was ready to be weaned. The parents consulted each other as to how to embark on this new step.

They wanted to purchase the proper food for their precious child, but were unsure how kosher it would have to be to qualify as kosher enough for a child.

The couple was quite poor, and so, they decided that if it were kosher, but not exactly up to the very highest standards, it would certainly be good enough.

But then, the mother piped up and said, "You know, it isn't enough to decide between ourselves, for there is a third partner in the creation of a child -- G-d Himself takes part; without Him, no child enters this world.

Her husband agreed, and so they looked in the Shulchan Aruch, the Code of Jewish Law, where it is written: It is preferable to feed the child food of the highest standard of kashrut.

The loving parents, wanting to do the very best for their son, bought the most kosher food available.

They also decided that it would be proper to consult the Third Partner each time they made a major decision in the child's upbringing.

Days and months passed and it was soon time to choose a teacher for the little boy. The parents wondered, where should they look for a proper teacher, one who would instill in their precious boy a love of learning and values which the Torah held dear.

They looked here and there, spoke to this melamed (teacher) and that, but when it came time to choose, they again decided to do what the Third Partner would wish, and they selected a fine G-d fearing young man, who they felt sure would lead their child on the path of righteousness.

The little boy grew and matured into a fine young man, but his parents still watched over him as carefully as before.

When the time arrived to choose a bride, they came upon a problem: the poor couple had no money to establish a home for their son. What could they do? Finally, the mother spoke up: "From the time of our son's birth, until now, we always did what G-d wanted, without any regard to cost. No matter what sacrifice it entailed, we went ahead, and we footed the whole bill. Now, it is time for the Third Partner to pay His share in the upbringing of our child."

The father agreed, and he went into the fields and prayed from the bottom of his heart. "G-d, You know that we always put Your will before our own in the rearing of the son You gave us. Now, we are unable to find our son a bride without Your help, and so we call upon You to join in the mitzva of bringing our son under the marriage canopy."

No sooner had he completed his prayer, when a pure gold coin miraculously descended from the Heavens, and the father knew that his prayer was accepted. The mother, the father and the Third Partner rejoiced at the wedding of the beloved son and his new bride.

Taken from L'Chaim #339 with permission

Chof Zayin Elul, 5776

Union City, New Jersey,
Erev Rosh Hashanah, 5742 (1982)

A few days before Rosh Hashanah, a young man named R. Sholom Eliyahu Tzvi Zilber was blessed with the birth of a baby boy. Since that year Rosh Hashanah fell out on Shabbos, the sholom zachor was scheduled to take place on the night of Rosh Hashanah. When putting together a list of items to purchase for this event, the young man remembered that one is not supposed to eat nuts on Rosh Hashanah, and certain poskim extend this to legumes in general. Was he allowed to serve arbes (chickpeas, a type of legume) at the sholom zachor?

Without much time to spare, the young man brought his query to R. Yekusiel Yehudah Halberstam, the Sanz-Klausenberg Rebbe. R. Halberstam prefaced his answer with a list of the various reasons given to refrain from eating nuts on Rosh Hashanah:

  • Nuts produce phlegm and spit, which can disrupt the davening (Rema, Orach Chaim 583:2). This is especially problematic during teki'os, when the sound of coughing up spit may interfere with hearing the shofar (Matei Ephraim, 583:3).
  • The Hebrew word for nut, אגוז, has the same gematriya as sin, חטא (Rema, ibid.). (For the sake of this calculation, the alef, which is not heard when saying the word chet, is not counted.)
  • The possuk (Shir Hashirim 6:11) compares the Jewish nation to a garden of nuts. The Midrash explains the comparison as follows: When a nut rolls into filth, the inner fruit remains untouched. Similarly, although the Jewish nation is found among the nations of the world, their essence remains intact.
  • Since nuts represent the Jewish nation as they are found in golus, it is not a good omen to eat them on Rosh Hashanah (Chasam Sofer, Shulchan Aruch ad loc.).
  • The letters of the word אגז (without the vov) stand for the words אף גם זאת [בהיותם בארץ אויביהם] (Vayikra 26:44), which do not convey a positive meaning (Chasam Sofer, ibid.).

Now, most of these reasons apply specifically to nuts, and not to legumes. The only reason that also applies to legumes is the first one, because certain legumes produce phlegm as well. Indeed, as mentioned, certain poskim write that one should not eat legumes on Rosh Hashanah (see Matei Ephraim, ibid.).

However, even if we will accept this reason,1 it doesn't mean that one may not eat any type of legume. Even those poskim who extend the directive to legumes are only referring to those legumes that produce phlegm. Chickpeas, by contrast, which do not produce phlegm, are not a problem and may be eaten on Rosh Hashanah.

Rabbi Halberstam brings an interesting proof that (at least) certain types of legumes may be eaten on Rosh Hashanah:

The Gemara in Kerisus (6a) lists the various foods one should eat on Rosh Hashanah as a good siman. One of these foods is ruvya, or tiltan in Hebrew (and fenugreek in English).

Now, the Gemara in Chulin (52a) lists the types of substances that are not a concern regarding risuk eivarim. (In other words, one may slaughter an animal that fell on top of one of these substances immediately, and there is no need to first wait for twenty-four hours to ensure the animal is not a treifah). Among these substances are "any type of legume, except for ruvya [which requires a twenty-four-hour wait]."

Clearly ruvya is a type of legume, yet it is supposed to be eaten on Rosh Hashanah! It can thus be concluded that even those poskim who do restrict the consumption of legumes on Rosh Hashanah are referring only to specific types (those that produce excessive phlegm).

Shu"t Divrei Yatziv, Lekutim Ve'Hashmatos, §53

Note: The above was written for academic purposes only. Please consult a Rov for practical guidance.

  1. Compiler's note: Indeed, this is the only reason mentioned by the Alter Rebbe (583:6).

Niglah Should Be Learned On Shabbos
Chof Zayin Elul, 5776

In regards to what was mentioned previously, that the day of Shabbos is a time designated for the learning of Pnimyus HaTorah, some "shpitz Chabad" might interpret this to mean that there is no need, or that it is "forbidden," to learn Niglah diTorah on Shabbos. Therefore, it is imperative to clarify that the truth is not so; one can and must certainly learn Niglah diTorah (aside for saying Aizehu Mekoman before Davning), as it was clearly conveyed by the Rebbe Maharash that on Shabbos one should learn two thirds Nistar and one third Niglah.

Shabbos Parshas Shemos 5713

Chof Elul, 5776

Torah-Your Private Lawyer

The Gemara says (Makos 10a) that Torah protects a person, similar to an ir miklat. Similarly, Sefer Chareidim writes (Mitzvas Hateshuvah Ch. 3) that studying Torah protects a person from suffering.

How exactly does Torah protect a person? Perhaps it's by acting as a private lawyer when he is judged Above.

Chovos Halevavos explains (Shaar Hateshuvah Ch. 10, as explained by Pas Lechem) that (once a person does his best Teshuva, Hashem finds pretexts for a person's negative conduct, to minimize the severity of his misdeeds. This may be the type of protection afforded to a person who studies Torah: even if he has sinned and deserves to be punished, when he is judged in the supernal Beis Din, Hashem will excuse his actions so he can be vindicated.

This idea may apply to the present month of Elul. As is known, Elul is an acronym for various pessukim, three of which correspond to the three pillars of Torah, avodah, and gemilus chassadim. The possuk corresponding to Torah is אנה לידו ושמתי לך, written with regard to arei miklat, because Torah protects a person like an ir miklat (Lekutei Torah of the Arizal, Parshas Shoftim).

This fits very well with the above. The month of Elul serves as a preparation for the judgment of Rosh Hashanah. In the merit of studying Torah during this time, Hashem will advocate for us when judging us and give us all a good and sweet new year.

Chof Elul, 5776

Union City, New Jersey,
Erev Rosh Hashanah, 5742 (1982)

A few days before Rosh Hashanah, a young man named R. Sholom Eliyahu Tzvi Zilber was blessed with a simchah: his wife gave birth to a baby boy. Since that year Rosh Hashanah fell out on Shabbos, the sholom zachor was scheduled to take place on the night of Rosh Hashanah. The young man put together a list of items to purchase for the event, which included some mezonos, fruits, drinks, and, obviously, arbes (chickpeas).

(One of the reasons for making a sholom zachor is to comfort the child for forgetting the Torah he had learned while in his mother's womb [Derishah, Yoreh Dei'ah, end of §264]. Since lentils are customarily served to mourners, it has become customary to serve chickpeas, which are similar to lentils, at a sholom zachor.)

However, the young man remembered that one is not supposed to eat nuts on Rosh Hashanah, and certain poskim extend this to legumes in general. May one serve arbes at a sholom zachor taking place on Rosh Hashanah night?

Have Mercy on Yourself and Spread Chassidus!
Chof Elul, 5776

Think about it: The Arizal stated that specifically in these last generations it is permissible and a mitzvah to reveal the wisdom [of pnimiyus hatorah]. Moshe Rabbeinu, raya mehemna [the "faithful shepherd" quoted in Zohar], stated that "Yisroel will leave the golus with compassion because one day they will taste from the tree of life, namely, the sefer of Zohar." Hashem reveals his secrets through the Baal Shem Tov, his students, and his students' students, up until our generation, just so that the geulah will come, [when we will experience] redemption from the yetzer hara and shibud malchiyos, and [so that] all this should take place "with compassion."

[Accordingly,] it should have been that anyone with the necessary measure of influence would cry out with an inner voice: Jewish brethren! Have mercy on yourselves and on Klal Yisroel and spread [pnimiyus hatorah], the Torah and words of Elokim chaim! [They would further] inform [others] of the statement of R. Chaim Vital that [lacking to study pnimiyus hatorah] delays the ketz of the geulah. In other words, they are holding back themselves, Klal Yisroel, and the shechinah, kevayochol, in golus!

Igros Kodesh, Vol. 3, p. 159

Chof Tes Av, 5776

Hidden and Revealed

By A. H. Glitzenstein

It is a tradition that in every generation there are hidden tzaddikim ("righteous ones") who conceal their greatness from the eyes of men and live amongst us disguised as simple, ignorant folk.

Rabbi Gershon Kitover once asked his famous brother-in-law, Rabbi Israel Baal Shem, to show him one of the hidden righteous. At first, the Baal Shem Tov refused. But Rabbi Gershon persisted in his request until the Chassidic master finally relented.

"This Friday night in shul, look among the crowd of beggars waiting near the door to be invited for the Shabbat meal. One of them will be a hidden tzaddik," said the Baal Shem Tov to Rabbi Gershon, and described the righteous pauper. "But you must promise not to let on in any way that you are aware of his true identity."

Rabbi Gershon readily identified the tzaddik-in-disguise and invited him to share his Shabbat meals. But though he carefully scrutinized his guest's every word and deed, he was unable to discern anything beyond the ordinary behavior of a wandering pauper. Finally, he could not resist the temptation to ask his guest to grace the table with some words of Torah.