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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.


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ט"ו טבת תשע"ז

תאריך: ב'תמ"ח-ב'תפ"ח.
מקום: מדבר, על הדרך לארץ ישראל

אחד מהנסים הרבים שהתרחשו עם המן היה שכל מה שמישהו רצה לטעום בו היה טועם. יצאו מכלל זה רק חמשה מיני מאכלים - קשואים, אבטיחים, חציר, בצלים, ושומים, מפני שקשים למניקות (בהעלותך יא, ה ורש"י שם). בתנא דבי אליהו (פי"ב) איתא שנס זה היה תשלום על הכנסת האורחים המצויינת של אברהם אבינו: "כשם שעשה אברהם אבינו למלאכי השרת לחם ובשר וחמאה וחלב, כך היה המן, כל מי שהיה רוצה לטעום בו טעם פת היה טועם פת, טעם בשר טועם, טעם דבש טועם, טעם חמאה וחלב טועם".

על פי זה יש להסתפק: מה היה קורה אם מישהו רצה לטעום טעם בשר בחלב במן? האם התרחש לו נס בכיוצא בזה או לא?

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

א' טבת תשע"ז

תקופת זמן: שנות התר"מ. מקום: פרסבורג (כיום ברטיסלאבה), סלובקיה

בשלהי מאה התשע-עשרה, הרבה בחורי ישיבה ממשפחות עניות יצרו חנוכיות זמניות מתפוחי אדמה: הם הוציאו חלק מהאוכל ושמו שמן ופתילות בהחלל, וכך הדליקו נרות חנוכה. בחור צעיר בשם יצחק ווייס צפה בנוהג זה והסתפק על כשרותו. האם באמת מותר להשתמש בחנוכיה שנוצרה מתפוחי אדמה?

לימים, אחר שנתמנה ר' יצחק כאב"ד בעיירה ווערבוי במדינת אונגארן, כתב תשובה המתמקדת על שאלה זו. ר' יצחק מקדים שתחילה יש לזכור שישנו חיוב לקיים כל מצוה באופן הכי נאה שביכולתו: "זה קלי ואנוהו - התנאה לפניו במצוות". אם כן, בודאי חייב אדם להדר ולעשות כלי נאה למצות הדלקת נר חנוכה. השאלה כאן היא, האם חנוכיה שנוצרה מתפוחי אדמה כשרה על פי הלכה או לא?

אולי יש לפסול חנוכיה כזאת מצד הסברא דלהלן: חז"ל תקנו מצות הדלקת נר חנוכה זכר לנס שהתרחש עם מנורת המקדש, ואם כן חנוכיה צריכה להיות דומה למנורת המקדש. וכיון שתפוחי אדמה פסולים למנורת המקדש, אולי הם פסולים גם כן להדלקת נר חנוכה.

אולם, אפשר להשיב על סברא זו. בשו"ע נפסק בפירוש (או"ח סי' תרעג ס"ג) שמותר להדליק בנר של חרס, אף על פי שחרס פסול למנורת המקדש (ראה סוכה נ, ב. מנחות כח, ב). אם כן, אולי גם תפוחי אדמה כשרים להדלקת נר חנוכה.

לאידך גיסא, אפשר לחלק בין חרס לתפוחי אדמה. על פי הלכה, בכדי שמשהו יהיה נחשב לכלי, צריך להעשות מחומר המתקיים. ובענין זה יש חילוק בין חרס ותפוחי אדמה: חרס הוא דבר המתקיים, אבל תפוחי אדמה אינם מתקיימים לזמן ארוך. ר' יצחק מסיק שמטעם זה חנוכיה שנוצרה מתפוחי אדמה פסולה.

שאלה זו נידונה גם על ידי ר' אליהו פוסק, רב העיר זלאטיפולי שבאוקראינה. ר' אליהו מצטט פסק דינו של המקובל המפורסם ר' אברהם אזולאי: "קליפת בצלים וביצים וכיוצא אינם ראויים להדלקה" (חסד לאברהם, מעין ב' נהר נ"ח). לדעת ר' אליהו, תפוחי אדמה דומים לקליפות בצלים וביצים וגם הם אינם ראויים להדלקה.

אולי יש לחלק בין תפוחי אדמה לקליפות הנ"ל: כשעושים חנוכיה מתפוחי אדמה, משאירים קצת אוכל בתוך הקליפה, ויש להחנוכיה יותר ממשות. אבל זה עצמו (שמדליקים בתוך האוכל) מהוה עוד סיבה למנוע ההשתמשות בחנוכיה כזאת: "באוכל גופא להדליק לא הוי הידור מצוה, ויש בזה גם כן משום ביזוי אוכלים, כיון שאין המצוה כתקונה".

שו"ת שיח יצחק סי' שמב. שו"ת מור ואהלות, אהל מנורה הטהורה סי' ד'

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?

ט"ז כסלו תשע"ז

זה לא רק פוליטי, זה תרבותי

ישנן קהילות רבות שאינן מתחתנות זו בזו מסיבה פשוטה. לא בגלל שהמחותנים לא יסכימו האם השמש הוא זה שצריך לקבל את ברכה אחריתא או הגבאי, אלא משום שההבדלים התרבותיים העדינים גורמים לבני הזוג הפוטנציאלים לא להוות התאמה מושלמת שכזו.

נניח למשל שבחלק מהקהילות הנחת היד על הבטן עשויה להצביע על כך שהאוכל טעים וטוב ומהווה מחמאה, בקהילה אחרת זה עשוי להצביע על כך שהאוכל גורם לכאב בטן - בדיוק ההיפך.

מה זה קשור ללימוד? הנה אני מסביר.

המובא לעיל יעזור לי להסביר את החשיבות של לימוד שפת המקור שבדרך כלל מבטאת את מהות העניין כמו שצריך.

בעוד שהדור שלנו התברך בתרגומים רבים לאין ספור על כל כך הרבה חלקים בתורה - דבר שמקל על כולם ללמוד חלקים שבעבר היו קשים - יהיה זה גם מן הראוי לעשות מאמץ בכדי להכיר יותר ויותר את שפת המקור, בכדי לתפוס ולהבין את מהות הענין שעל הפרק.

ט"ז כסלו תשע"ז

תקופת זמן: שנות התר"מ. מקום: פרסבורג (כיום ברטיסלאבה), סלובקיה

מי שיכנס לחנות יודאיקה היום ימצא לפניו מגוון רחב של חנוכיות, מחנוכיות קטנות של 'מבצעים' עשויות מבדיל עד למנורות כסף מעוצבות על פי שיטת הרמב"ם. אבל במזרח אירופה לפני יותר ממאה שנה, לא היה לבחור ישיבה ממשפחה ענייה מבחר גדול, ואולי לא כלל. היו כאלה שמפני מצבם הדחוק יצרו חנוכיות זמניות מתפוחי אדמה: הם הוציאו חלק מהאוכל ושמו שמן ופתילות בהחלל, וכך הדליקו נרות חנוכה.

בחור צעיר בשם יצחק ווייס (לימים האב"ד בעיירה ווערבוי במדינת אונגארן) צפה בנוהג זה והסתפק על כשרותו. האם באמת מותר להשתמש בחנוכיה שנוצרה מתפוחי אדמה?

Beis Kislev, 5777

Why Reb Nochum Fell from His Horse

The Mitteler Rebbe, was known for his penchant for joyfulness. He even had a group of chassidim who formed a kapelye (choir), and another group who were trained to perform tricks on horseback. On special, joyous occasions, he would ask these groups to perform, and he would stand on his balcony watching. The rebbe's son Reb Nochum happened to be one of these horsemen.

Once, for no apparent reason, the rebbe suddenly instructed both of these groups to perform. This was extremely unusual. Yet the chassidim performed while the rebbe stood in his usual spot and watched the horsemen carefully.

Suddenly the rebbe's son Reb Nochum fell off of his horse. Informed that his son was in grave danger, the rebbe merely motioned with his hand to continue the festivities.

After a while the rebbe asked them to stop, and stepped into his private office.