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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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"Joy Over Words of Torah" Yud Daled Shevat, 5777

It is fitting for a person to demonstrate that he is joyous over the words of Torah, both due to his diligence within its portals and because he sometimes discovers that he has studied or understood something new.

All new content in this Kovetz Limmud Yud Shvat Vov Shevat, 5777

On Yud Shvat we mark the Yom Hillulah of the Frierdiker Rebbe. One of the Minhogim the Rebbe set for the day is to learn the Mishnayos of the Frierdiker Rebbe's name.

Yagdil Torah has produced a booklet containing the full Mishnayos (all new) for the Frierdiker Rebbe, along with a specially selected portion of the Frierdiker Rebbe's Torah (all new).

The booklet will be available in local shuls, on our website and in our office.

Click here for the pdf.
Click here for the Russian Version. .

Read an amazing story which shows the importance of learning in connection to a Yom Hilulah of our Rabbeim.

Alef Teves, 5777

Purim Saragossa

The Purim of Saragossa was established in the year 1440, fifty-two years before the Jews were exiled from Spain. In the city of Saragossa, Spain, the Jews were ordered to appear at a public reception honoring the king with all of the Torah scrolls of the community.

The rabbis of the community decided that it would be safer to remove the Torahs from their cases, and were sure that the king would never know the difference.

Unfortunately, there was a Jew in the community named Marcos who was a rebel and a troublemaker. He went to the authorities and betrayed the rabbis' plan, citing the Jews' disrespect for the king as the reason for not bringing the actual scrolls.

The king was furious at this slight and ordered the Jews to open the cases at once. A terror fell upon all the Jews, for the punishment for disobeying the king was the most severe, but they had no choice but to open the cases. They were completely amazed and dumbfounded when they saw that all of the cases contained Torah scrolls.

What they could not have known was that the previous night, the caretaker of the synagogue had a dream in which Eliyahu Hanavi appeared to him and ordered him to replace the scrolls in their cases. The dream was so vivid that the caretaker did as he was instructed, but he had no time to inform the rabbis of his action.

The king saw that the Jews were innocent; the accusation was baseless. To commemorate their redemption, the rabbis established a special Purim to be celebrated throughout the generations on the 17th and 18th of Shevat.

Adapted by L'chaim #359

Chof Tes Teves, 5777

Date: 2448-2488.
Place: In the midbar,
on the way to Eretz Yisrael

One of the many miracles that occurred with the mon was that one was able to enjoy the taste of whatever food he desired. This leads us to an interesting question. What would happen if one desired to taste milk and meat together? Since this seemingly involves an issur, would a miracle occur in such a case or not?

The Gemara records a machlokes between Rebbi Ami and Rebbi Asi. According to one opinion, it was only the taste of others foods that was felt in the mon, not their substance. The other opinion holds that the substance of these foods was present in the mon as well (Yuma 75a).

Perhaps the answer to our question depends on which opinion we follow. If the substance of the desired foods would be found in the mon, one would not be able to taste meat and milk together, as that would involve an issur. But if it was only the taste of the foods that was felt, one would be able to taste milk and meat together. Since only the taste of these two foods was present and not their substance, no issur would be involved.

(There is a halachic rule known as ta'am ke'ikar, that the taste of a substance has the same status as the food itself. Accordingly, even if we say that only the taste of the food was felt, an issur may still be involved. However, this is only true if the rule of ta'am ke'ikar is mede'orayasa [see Encyclopedia Talmudis, Vol. 20, pp. 556-559]. If it is med'rabanan [see ibid.], it would not apply to the Jews in the desert, who lived before this ruling was enacted.)

However, even if we assume that the substance of the food was felt as well, it can still be argued that one was able to taste milk and meat together if he so desired.

"How Sweet Are the Words of Torah!" Chof Tes Teves, 5777

This is the meaning of the verse, "For the light is sweet and good for the eyes" (Koheles 11:7) ....Rebbi Abba explained [the possuk as follows]: How sweet are the words of Torah that are compared to light, as the possuk says, "For a mitzvah is a candle and Torah is light" (Mishlei 6:23). Fortunate is the person who sees the Torah as white as snow [i.e., who understands Torah clearly], for there is no end to its reward.

When Hashem will come to give the Jews their reward for toiling in Torah, and in its merit, he will bestow them [with goodness] in the future, at that time they will say to the nations of the world: "We have merited for we have studied Torah. What did you tell us? [You told us,] 'You are toiling for no reason.' See its reward!"

Midrash Tehillim, Ch. 49. Cf. Rashi, Koheles ad loc.

Entirely Updated Compilation for Chof Daled Teives Chof Teves 5777

Following the Rebbe's horaos that one should learn from the teachings of the Alter Rebbe on Chof Daled Teves, and also that one should learn chapters of Mishnayos beginning with the letters of a Rebbe's name on his Yom Hilulah, Yagdil Torah has prepared an updated learning guide for this day. The compilation features specially selected portions of the Alter Rebbe's teachings, stories, and the full mishnayos. It will be distributed throughout the Shuls in Crown Heights, in the Heichal Halimmud and in our office. It is also available for download here.

Read an amazing story which shows the importance of learning in connection to a Yom Hilulah of our Rabbeim.

Tes Vov Teves, 5777

That's it?

Ever wonder what the holiest possible experience one can have?

Well, let's figure this out:

There are four holy entities that exist: Shabbos, Torah, Eretz Yisroel and the Jewish Neshama.

So, to combine these entities into one you would make your way over to Eretz Yisroel, find a Jew on Shabbos and learn Torah with him (or yourself the Jew).

If that's not so realistic the Kli Yakar has an idea for you. On the last pasuk of Vihaya Im shomea he explains that every Shul and Beis Midrash is essentially like Eretz Yisroel...

Tes Vov Teves, 5777

Date: 2448-2488.
Place: In the midbar,
on the way to Eretz Yisrael

One of the many miracles that occurred with the mon was that one was able to enjoy the taste of whatever food he desired. The only exceptions were the five foods listed in Parshas Behaaloscha (11:5)-cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic-which are unhealthy for nursing women.

The Midrash adds that this was a reward for Avraham Avinu's hachnosas orchim, when he prepared bread, butter, milk, and meat for the malochim. As a reward, the Jews were able to taste all of these foods in the mon (Tana Devei Eliyahu, Ch. 12).

This leads us to an interesting question. What happened if one desired to taste milk and meat together? Since this seemingly involves an issur, would a miracle occur in such a case or not?


Why Did Hashem Give Us the Torah? Tes Vov Teves, 5777

Hashem's original intent was that we should study Torah so that our souls will unite with the essence, ruchniyus, and kedushah of the Torah's source [on High]. This is the reason Hashem gave us the Torah of Truth as a present, ensuring it will not be forgotten, so that our souls and bodies, will all of their 248 limbs and 365 sinews, will connect with the Torah's 248 mitzvos asei and 365 mitzvos lo saasei.

If we would indeed study Torah with this goal, we would become a receptacle for the Shechinah. The Shechinah would actually dwell within us, and the entire land would be illuminated from His glory. This would connect the Heavenly assembly with the assembly below and cause them to unite as one.

Bach, Orach Chaim 47

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).

Alef Teves, 5777
Reb Chaim Holtz

Reb Simcha Zissel had been born in his parents' old age; his elder brothers were very much older than he.

When he was still a small child, several of his older brothers were already married.

One was a teacher in an elementary school, one was a potter, and another was a butcher. All were quite learned and pious Jews, but fanatic opponents of Chassidus.

They used to tell such wicked stories about the Chasidim that their father, who himself was no lover of Chasidim, could not bear to listen to their slanderous tales.

As a child, Reb Simcha Zissel did not know exactly what Chasidim were. But he did know that whenever his brothers visited their father, they constantly spoke about "the Chasidim," and would heap the most terrible curses up on them.

When Simcha Zissel grew a bit older, he was transferred to a more senior teacher, with whom he spent quite a few years. When he approached the age of bar mitzva, he began frequenting the study hall. In this study hall there was an old Jew, a genuine Torah scholar, who was called Reb Chaim "Holtz" ("Wood"), because whenever he lay down to sleep, he put a piece of wood under his head for a pillow.

This Reb Chaim learned Torah with extreme diligence. He fasted often, and when he ate, his meal consisted of bread and water: On weekdays, the water was cold, but in honor of Shabbos he drank warm water which had been heated before Shabbos. He would also recite Kiddush over challah instead of wine.

By nature Chaim was the silent type. He paid no attention to anything that happened in the study hall, but if asked about a Torah subject he would answer at length. When people spoke ill of the Chasidim, he would reply, "Why do you slander your fellow Jews? If I were not so old and sick, I myself would go to visit the Rebbe of the Chasidim."

When Reb Simcha Zissel asked Reb Chaim why he slept on a piece of wood, he replied with the Talmudic saying that "sleep is one- sixtieth part of death." "Now you tell me," said Reb Chaim to Reb Simcha Zissel, "Does it make sense to do something that will make you sleep even more? You could sleep your whole life away!"

Reb Chaim advised Reb Simcha Zissel to attend an out-of-town yeshiva. He offered to give him a letter of reference to a famous Rosh Yeshiva (Dean of the Academy) in Vohlnyia, but Simcha Zissel preferred to remain in his home town.

Reb Chaim Holtz had lived in Kalisk for many years and no one knew who he was or where he had come from. All he did was sit in the study hall and study Torah. At that time there were numerous young men who were being supported by their in-laws so that they could sit and learn Torah. They were very fond of hearing Reb Chaim's novel insights. He urged them to take upon themselves the Talmudic injunction, "Exile yourself to a place of Torah," and convinced them that it would be to their benefit if they traveled to other cities to learn, and he would even advise them where to go.

At the time Simcha Zissel began studying in the study hall, those young men who had gone abroad to learn a few years earlier had begun to return.

While praying they would hum melodies, snap their fingers and clap their hands -- strange behavior, most unusual for the town.

Even in the middle of their learning, they would stop and begin a tune. And what singing! Fiery, bubbling -- it made you want to dance!

Now Reb Chaim came to life. He started talking, and was no longer the silent type. The young men were delighted with Reb Chaim, and he was delighted with them.

Reb Simcha Zissel saw it with his own eyes: Once, late at night, they brought potatoes and baked them on the stove, and produced a small bottle of strong spirits.

Reb Chaim drank and gave the young men to drink.

With his very own eyes, he saw them dancing and singing for hours.

At intervals, Reb Chaim would sit down, with the young men surrounding him, and they would speak in whispers. All of a sudden, with no warning, Reb Chaim broke into a loud song, and he resumed dancing with the young men.

A few weeks later it all came out.

This very Reb Chaim was a leading member of "the cult," who had come to convert Kalisk to Chassidus! The city was afire. What sort of business was this?

Reb Chaim and the young men took no notice of the uproar and continued learning in the Beis Medrash.

They prayed in Chassidish style, slowly, and without hurry.

Occasionally, they would start humming strange, moving melodies which were a pleasure to hear.

Right in the middle they would begin clapping their hands and dancing about, all with the greatest joy. The whole town would come to gaze at their praying.

Reb Chaim began speaking about Chassidus openly to the young men and the learned menfolk of the town.

The first few times, the men became enraged, but they wanted to hear what he had to say, for it was truly worth hearing. Within three months time virtually everyone in the entire city had been transformed into Chassidim.

From a letter of the Frierdiker Rebbe Adapted by L'chaim #358

Alef Teves, 5777

Time period: 1880s. Place: Pressburg (now Bratislava), Slovakia

In the late 1800s, many young yeshivah students from poor families would resort to using potatoes for their menorahs. They would carve out the potatoes' contents, insert oil and wicks, and light their makeshift menorahs on Chanukah. Observing this practice, a young bochur named Yitzchok Weiss wondered if it was acceptable. May one use a menorah created from potatoes?

Years later, after R. Yitzchok became the Av Beis Din of the Hungarian town of Verbau, he penned a teshuvah focusing on this question. R. Yitzchok prefaces that there is an obligation to perform mitzvos in a beautiful fashion, and one must therefore endeavor to obtain an attractive menorah for Chanukah. The question here, though, is whether a menorah formed from potatoes is halachically acceptable.

Perhaps the following argument can be made to invalidate a potato menorah: Since Chazal enacted the mitzvah of lighting the menorah to commemorate the miracle that occurred in the Beis Hamikdash, a Chanukah menorah must be similar to the menorah in the Beis Hamikdash. Since potatoes were unfit to be used for the menorah in the Beis Hamikdash, they may not be used for Chanukah menorahs either.

However, this argument can be refuted. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 673:3) clearly allows the use of an earthenware menorah, despite the fact that earthenware cannot be used for the menorah in the Beis Hamikdash (see Sukkah 50b and Menachos 28b). If so, perhaps potatoes can be used as well.

On the other hand, one can differentiate between earthenware and potatoes. For a vessel to halachically be considered a keili, it must be made from a substance that has permanence. While earthenware vessels are enduring, something made from potatoes is not. R. Yitzchok therefore concludes that a potato menorah is invalid.

This question was also discussed by R. Eliyahu Posek, Rov of Zlatopol, Ukraine. R. Eliyahu quotes a ruling from the famous mekubal R. Avraham Azulai that onion peels and eggshells are unfit for a menorah (Chesed L'Avraham, mayan 2 nahar 58), and he maintains that the same law would apply to potatoes.

One can argue that a potato is different from an onion peel or eggshell. The potato menorahs under question consisted not only of potato peels but also of some of the flesh of the potatoes, giving the vessel more substance. If so, perhaps such a menorah can be used.

However, this itself (that the lights are kindled in the actual flesh of the potatoes) is another reason to abstain from doing so: it is not mehudar to light a menorah in food, besides for the fact that this involves bizuy ochlin (disgracing food).

Shu"t Siach Yitzchok §342. Shu"t Mor Va'aholos, Ohel Menorah Hatehorah, §4

How to Succeed in Learning Alef Teves, 5777

Rava said in the name of Rav Sechorah, who said in the name of Rav Huna: What is the meaning of the possuk, "Wealth from vanity will diminish, but one who gathers by hand will increase"? If a person fashions his Torah into bundles [i.e., he studies a lot at a time without reviewing properly], it will diminish. But if not [i.e., he studies a little at a time but makes sure to review], "one who gathers by hand will increase."

Rava said: The Sages are aware of this fact, and they nevertheless transgress it. Rav Nachman bar Yitzchok said: I did so [i.e., I studied a little at a time and reviewed the material until I grasped it, and only then did I study something new,] and my learning remained with me.

Eiruvin 54b

Tes Zayin Kislev, 5777

It's not only Political, It's Cultural

There are many communities that don't marry into each other for a simple reason, no, not because the mechutanim will disagree whether the shamash or Gabai should get the seventh bracha. Rather the fine cultural differences make the potential future couple a not such perfect match.

Let's say for example in some communities putting the hand to the stomach may indicate the food is good - a compliment, but in some it may indicate it's causing a stomachache - the opposite.

What does this have to do with learning? Let me tell you.

With this I wish to help explain the importance of studying the source language which usually brings across the essence of the matter properly.

While our generation was graced by unparalleled translation of so many parts of the Torah - making it easy for all to learn parts of the Torah previously difficult - it is also right to make an effort to get more and more familiar with the source language in order to grasp the essence of the issue at hand.

Tes Zayin Kislev, 5777

Time period: 1880s. Place: Pressburg (now Bratislava), Slovakia

When entering a Judaica store today, one is likely to encounter a large selection of menorahs to choose from, from simple tin menorahs typically given out on mivtzaim to elaborate, silver Rambam menorahs. Over one hundred years ago, an Eastern European yeshivah bochur from a poor family had far less of a choice, if any at all. In fact, many young students resorted to using potatoes for their menorahs. They would carve out the potatoes' contents, insert oil and wicks, and presto! They had a makeshift menorah for Chanukah.

Observing this practice, a young bochur named Yitzchok Weiss (later to become the Av Beis Din of the Hungarian town of Verbau) wondered if it was acceptable. May one use a menorah created from potatoes?