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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.


Chof Tes Av, 5776

Date: 1916. Location: Hungary

World War I, at that point the bloodiest war known to man, had been raging for over two full years. Casualties had reached the hundreds of thousands, hunger was rampant, and Europe was on the verge of economic collapse.

Certain rabbonim felt it would be appropriate to institute a public fast on the first day of Selichos, which that year fell out on 26 Elul. According to the plan, all healthy men and women would be required to fast, while the weak and sick, as well as women who were pregnant or nursing, would redeem the fast with tzedakah. Was this a proper plan of action?

One of the rabbonim behind this proposal sent a letter to R. Chaim Elazar Schapiro, the Rov of Munkatch and author of Minchas Elazar, asking him for his opinion.

R. Schapiro was opposed to the idea of instituting a public fast. He quoted a ruling (Orach Chaim §577 and Magen Avraham ad loc.) according to which public fasts are not to be instituted in certain cases.

Chas Veshalom to Cool Off Others From Studying Chassidus!
Chof Tes Av, 5776

[In your sefer,] you cool off [the reader] from studying pnimiyus hatorah! I would never have believed it had I not seen it explicitly. Would anyone ever believe it?! You are mekushar to the Ruzhiner dynasty, and you quote many times in your sefer divrei torah and wonders from the Baal Shem Tov and his students. As such, you are surely aware of the Baal Shem Tov's letter that Moshiach told him he will come when the wellsprings of the Baal Shem Tov will be spread to the outside. After all this, you write and publish for the public that whoever has not yet reached the level where "a spirit from on High has descended upon him to act in holiness, purity, and an added measure of prishus" should only study the revealed parts of Torah!

Are the hardships of the Jewish people until now not enough, chas veshalom?! Is the golus not enough?! The final redeemer, Moshiach Tzidkeinu, said that when the wellsprings of the Baal Shem Tov will be spread to the outside, then he will come. These words correspond to the words of the first redeemer, raya mehemna [Moshe Rabbeinu], that we will leave golus because we will taste from the sefer of Zohar. Will their words not come to fruition, chas veshalom?!

Igros Kodesh, Vol. 3, p. 159

Chof Av Learning Guide With Additions Tu B'Av, 5776

Chof Av DownloadIn honor of Chof Av, the Yohrtzeit of Reb Levi Yitzchak, the Rebbe's father, Yagdil Torah has compiled a publication with Mishnayos and selected pieces of his Torah, in keeping with the Rebbe's instructions for such occasions. The guide will be available in local shuls, at our office and on our website. The updated version contains stories of the Rebbe's father and the entire Mishnayos that corresponds to his name.

Click here to download the Kovetz Limmud for Chof Av.

For Russian version click here.


Tu B'Av, 5776

Lesson from a Cheese Danish

Everyone knows the famous saying: Make yourself holy (separate) from what is permitted. It means simply: Minimize in permitted pursuits.

However perhaps we can say a remez; make yourself holy through learning from what is permitted.

Take for example what a person would do to get a well done cheese danish;

It must be no more than 2 hours old and made by the bakery who charges more and takes longer to get to. Why? Because it's worth it. Costly but better quality.

Similarly, he will think to himself if for something so temporary, so fleety, yet he exerts himself so; for sure he should put much effort and work into what is holy and eternal such as his Torah learning.


Chof Tes Av, 5776

Date: 1916. Location: Hungary

The year was 1916, and World War I, at that point the bloodiest war known to man, had been raging for over two full years. Casualties had reached the hundreds of thousands, hunger was rampant, and Europe was on the verge of economic collapse.

Looking for ways to evoke Divine mercy to end the war, certain rabbonim felt it would be appropriate to institute a public fast day. The date chosen for the proposed fast was the first day of Selichos, which that year fell out on 26 Elul. According to the plan, all healthy men and women would be required to fast, while the weak and sick, as well as women who were pregnant or nursing, would redeem the fast with tzedakah.

Was this a proper plan of action, from the perspective of both halachah and hashkafah?

Geulah Through Mishnayos Tu B'Av, 5776

The possuk says [Yeshaya 1:27], "Tzion will be redeemed with mishpat." Tzion refers to the inner depths of the heart, the natural, inner love concealed within the heart of every Yid. It, too, is in golus, and it is redeemed through mishpat. Mishpat refers to halachos (as the Targum translates the word kamishpat [in Bereishis 40:13] as "kehilchesa"). This is consistent with the statement of Chazal [Vayikra Rabba 7:3] that "The exiles will only be gathered in the merit of the mishnayos," for Torah is light.

Lekutei Torah (Devarim 1b-c)

Rosh Chodesh Av, 5776

Hidden Humility

Rabbi Dov Ber, the Maggid of Mezeritch, sat with his young pupil.

"Mendel, how many pages of Talmud did you learn today?"

The boy couldn't suppress the smile which played across his features as he replied, "Three pages, Rebbe."

But, contrary to what one would have thought, the Maggid was far from pleased. The boy was an excellent student and showed great potential, but he was too arrogant about his abilities.

"Hmm," he said, "If your hat slants at such a cocky angle from only three pages of Talmud, I wonder how many it would take for your hat to fall off completely!"

The Rebbe's sharp words brought the boy down from his high spirits and he began to look into himself. He realized that he had better change his outlook. He went to his Rebbe and asked,

"Rebbe, please, give me your advice; I know my pride is wrong, but I don't know how I should feel."

The Maggid was pleased to see the sensitivity of his pupil.

"I will go with you to the Baal Shem Tov, and he will explain the proper path."


Rosh Chodesh Av, 5776

The Gemara (Berachos 40a) says that one may not eat until he first feeds his animals. This obligation is quoted in Shulchan Aruch (see Alter Rebbe's Shulchan Aruch, 167:9) and is a derivative of tzaar baalei chaim, the directive to ensure that one's animals do not suffer. What is the law of one who owns an aquarium? May he sit down to a meal before feeding his fish?

This question was posed to R. Menashe Klein, the Ungvarer Rav and author of Mishneh Halachos. The questioner added a sevara to demonstrate that fish do not experience pain, and hence this law does not apply to them: Although animals may only be eaten if they were slaughtered with shechitah, which minimizes the pain of death, this requirement does not apply to fish. Apparently, he claimed, fish do not feel pain.

R. Klein dismisses this notion, explaining that shechitah involves pain as well, and the reason it is permitted is because tzaar baalei chaim is allowed if a human will benefit from it. Accordingly, the fact that a human may benefit from fish by eating them without shechitah does not prove that they do not feel pain.

In fact, perhaps it can be proven that fish do, indeed, experience pain. R. Klein cites two sources to demonstrate this:

Kvius Itim-An Urgent Matter! Rosh Chodesh Av, 5776

[A member of Anash once wrote to the Rebbe, requesting a brachah regarding a private issue. Since he felt that it was a pressing matter, he wrote on the envelope: "Urgent."

The Rebbe replied to his request and then added:]

It would be advisable to (sometimes) write-and with urgency-that you have set times to study Torah...I will mention [this] at the gravesite [of my father-in-law, the Rebbe].

Maaneh of Tammuz, 5744 (printed in Rishumah Shel Shanah, p. 269)

Yagdil Torah Match-A-Thon

Please click here to download the press release. Match-A-Thon

Tes Zayin Tammuz, 5776

Risky Investments

"Shmuel you got to hear about this steal of an investment; you only give one dollar a month and at age 115 they give you ten million!"

"Moishe, it sounds good at first but think. Firstly, they are counting on the fact that most people don't make it that far. Secondly, even if you do get the payout, what can you do with the money then; get a gold bingo set? With average teeth at that age you won't find too many restaurants to enjoy the money with, and the maximum amount of time you have for enjoying the money is five years.

"Let me tell you something much more solid; the Bal Hatanya writes that the revelation that will happen in this world when Moshiach comes depends on our work in the times of Golus.

"There is at least three major advantages to that investment: A) There is no qualitative or on quantitative comparison between the gilui then and any money, B) its Eternal, C) and definite.

It's not just a bull versus bear market. Rather, there is no comparison."


Tes Zayin Tammuz, 5776

The Gemara (Berachos 40a) says that one may not eat until he first feeds his animals. This is derived from the possuk (Devorim 11:15), "And I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and [following that,] you will eat and be satisfied." This obligation is quoted in Shulchan Aruch (see Alter Rebbe's Shulchan Aruch, 167:9) and is a derivative of tzaar baalei chaim, the directive to ensure that one's animals do not suffer.

Although not many of us are in possession of cattle, some houses feature attractive aquariums containing various types of fish. May a person who owns an aquarium sit down to a meal before feeding his fish?

The underlying question appears to be whether or not fish experience pain. Although animals may only be eaten if they were slaughtered with shechitah, which minimizes the pain of death, the requirement of shechitah does not apply to fish. Does this mean that fish do not feel pain, and as such the obligation to first feed one's animals would not apply to them?

Learn it for Real Tes Zayin Tammuz, 5776

It is vital and proper that chassidim should have the following three books in their possession: Keser Shem Tov, Or Torah and Tanya. For certain reasons, however, they should not be bound together in one volume. One should study them as much as one wishes (though let that study be worthy of the name!) - daily, or at least on Shabbos and Yom-Tov and at certain other times.

Sefer HaMaamarim 5710, p. 265 (reprinted from SIE with permission)


Beis Tammuz, 5776

Reish Lakish to the Rescue

The great Sage Reish Lakish had once lived among the wild people called Loddites.

Known for his bravery and prowess, the Loddites wanted him to be the leader of one of their fierce robber bands. Reish Lakish, however, was destined for greater things.

He fled from those wicked people and changed his life completely, becoming a great baal teshuva and dedicating his tremendous intellect and power to the study of Torah.

He married the sister of Rabbi Yochanan, the greatest Sage of the time, and excelled so much at his learning that he was appointed to a high position in the yeshiva at Tiberias.

Although Reish Lakish now spent all his days and nights in the study hall, he had lost none of his fire and strength. He feared no one but G-d, and would stand up to deceit or corruption whenever he encountered it, no matter what danger he had to face.

One morning, as Rabbi Yochanan walked to the Study Hall, he was attacked by a band of robbers who stole all his money. When he finally arrived at the Study Hall he was very shaken by the incident, and, although he tried to lead the class as usual, he was unable to concentrate on the questions his students posed. It became obvious that the great Sage was troubled by something.

Noticing that his teacher was deeply troubled, Reish Lakish pressed Rabbi Yochanan for an explanation. "What is wrong? Has something happened to you?" Rabbi Yochanan answered by way of a hint, saying, "The whole body depends on the heart, but the heart depends on the pocket." Reish Lakish didn't understand his teacher's allusion, and he repeated his question.

This time Rabbi Yochanan explained clearly, "I can't gather my thoughts because as I was coming to study today, I was set upon by a band of robbers. I was carrying a great deal of money, and they stole it all. Now I will have to spend my energy trying to support myself and my family, and I'm afraid I won't be able to learn Torah as I did before."

Reish Lakish was outraged. "Where did they attack you and which way did they go?" he demanded to know. They went out to the road and Rabbi Yochanan pointed to the location of the attack. Not bothering to bring any weapons, Reish Lakish set out to find the robbers.