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Parashat Beshalah


"This is my God and I will glorify Him; the God of my forefather and I will exalt Him"

The Mechilta understands the word "v'anvehu" (I will glorify Him) as a reference to the Bet Hamikdash, based on two pesukim that employ a similar expression - "naveh" - in the context of the Bet Hamikdash (Tehillim 79:8; Yeshayahu 33:20). Thus, "v'anvehu" actually means "and I will build a Mikdash for Him."

The Alshich Hakadosh zs"l adds that Benei Yisrael here declare that they themselves will become the "naveh" - residence - of the Shechinah, as the pasuk states, "They shall make for Me a Mikdash, and I will dwell in their midst." The plural form "betocham" - in THEIR midst - in this pasuk implies that Hashem will dwell within the heart of each individual. Meaning, each person will himself develop into a Mishkan, a residence for the Shechinah.

"This is my God and I will glorify Him; the God of my forefather and I will exalt Him"

Rashi cites the Targum's interpretation of "v'anvehu" (generally understood as "I will glorify Him") as meaning "I will build a Mikdash for Him." The Abarbanel zs"l asks, how does this promise relate to the joy and praise over the splitting of the Yam Suf? He explains that Benei Yisrael in this song of praise thank the Almighty for their redemption and tell of His wonders and miracles on their behalf. However, they also clarify that one must designate a special place, reserved for the service of Hashem, for the purposes of thanking and praising the Almighty. They therefore declare specifically in this context their intention to build a Bet Hamikash that will be designated for the purpose of thanking and praying to Hashem.

They will enter its gates with gratitude and its courtyards with praises.

Similarly, the Ramban z"l writes (in his commentary to the end of Parashat Bo) that a person is created in order to thank his Creator and must designate Batei Kenesset where the communities assemble to declare before Him, "We are Your creatures!" In this sense, Batei Kenesset truly are minor "Batei Mikdash," and one must therefore ensure the highest level of reverence therein and avoid idle conversation in Batei Kenesset, just as one would in the Bet Hamikdash itself!

"This is my God and I will glorify Him; the God of my forefather and I will exalt Him"

The word "v'anvehu" evolves from the word "noi," beauty. "V'anvehu" thus means "I will tell of His beauty and praise to all people in the world."

The other nations of the world will ask Benei Yisrael, "How is your God different from all others, that you allow yourselves to die and be killed for His sake? You are beautiful and strong - why not join us?" Yisrael respond, "Do you know Him? Let us tell you a little of his praise.

" Then, when the other nations hear some of the praises of the Creator, they ask to join us: "Whither has your beloved turned? Let us seek him with you!" Yisrael reply that the other nations have no place with Hashem, but rather "My beloved is mine and I am my beloved's; I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine!" (Mechilta)


The Rishon L'Ssiyon Rav "Mayim" (Mosheh Yossef Mordechai) Meyuhas zs"l

Rabbi Refael Meyuhas zs"l, author of "Mayim Hayyim," wrote in his will that his son, the great Rav Mosheh Yossef Mordechai zs"l, should succeed him as Rishon L'Ssiyon. However, Rav Mosheh Yossef Mordechai refused the appointment and instead crowned his father-in-law, Maharit Algazi zs"l.

Only after his father-in-law's passing did he agree to accept the position of Rishon L'Ssiyon, and he would humbly speak of himself as "the fox that evolved from the corpse of the lion."

He lived in the same generation as the Hid"a zs"l, and a mutually-respectful sense of scholarly jealousy hovered over their relationship. When the Hid"a published his work "Sha'ar Yossef," Rav Mosheh Yossef Mordechai published his "Sha'ar Hamayim." When the Hid"a published "Birkei Yossef," he published his book "Reihot Hamayim." When the Hid"a published his work "Hayyim Sha'al," he published his book "Mayim Sha'al."

He also published "Penei Hamayim," "Ein Hamayim," "Mayim Rishonim" and "Lanu Hamayim."

Every Friday night after midnight, the Rishon L'Ssiyon Mayim Meyuhas would walk with his escort to the Western Wall, the remnant of our Bet Hamikdash, where he would recite all of Tehillim until daybreak, at which point he prayed Shaharit "kevatikin." Once, as he prayed, he saw before him five images of the letter "alef." He was stunned by the vision. Several hours later, as the Moslems left their prayer service on the Temple Mount, the governor of Yerushalayim issued an edict of mandatory evacuation of all Jews living near the Western Wall whose houses overlook the site of the Temple.

After their evacuation, the Arabs looted their homes and stole their possessions and furniture. The Rishon L'Ssiyon then realized that the vision revealed to him was the acronym of the pasuk from "Az Yashir," "Amar oyev erdof asig ahalaek shalal" - "The enemy said, I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil"!


A Series of Halachot According to the Order of the Shulhan Aruch,
Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a

by Rav David Yossef shlit"a, Rosh Bet Midrash Yehaveh Da'at

When to Recite the Berachah Over Tefillin

If one hears someone else reciting the berachah of "lehani'ah tefillin" and has in mind to fulfill his obligation with the other's berachah, and in between his placing of the tefillin shel yad and tefillin shel rosh he hears kaddish or kedushah, he is considered in this regard as if he himself had recited the berachah. Therefore, he should optimally not interrupt the placing of the tefillin by responding to the kaddish or kedushah, but should rather remain silent and concentrate on what is being said. If, however, he did interrupt and respond, he does not need to recite the berachah "al missvat tefillin" on the tefillin shel rosh.

If while putting on one's tefillin he hears someone else reciting the berachah of "lehani'ah tefillin" he should preferably not answer "amen" to the berachah. If, however, he did answer "amen," his response does not constitute a "hefsek" and he does not need to recite "al missvat tefillin" on his tefillin shel rosh.

One must place the tefillin shel rosh as soon after the tefillin shel yad as he can, since the berachah "lehani'ah tefillin," recited over the tefillin shel yad, applies as well to the tefillin shel rosh. Even for those Ashkenazim accustomed to always reciting "al missvat tefillin" over the tefillin shel rosh, the berachah on the tefillin shel yad nevertheless applies to the tefillin shel rosh, as well.

Therefore, some authorities maintain that one should place the tefillin shel rosh immediately after tying the tefillin shel yad on his arm, even before wrapping the strap around his arm.

However, the view of the Kabbalists and many poskim is that one must first wrap the strap around his arm before placing the tefillin shel rosh. This wrapping does not constitute a "hefsek" in between the placing of the tefillin shel yad and tefillin shel rosh since without the wrappings around the arm the knot tied around the upper-arm will not hold. Thus, the wrappings form an integral part of the tying of the tefillin shel yad. Indeed, this practice has emerged as the prominent and widespread custom. However, the three wrappings around the finger should be done only after the placing of the tefillin shel rosh.

Although one must, as stated, quickly put on the tefillin shel rosh immediately after placing the tefillin shel yad, one nevertheless may not remove the tefillin shel rosh from his bag before placing the tefillin shel yad in order to have them ready as soon as possible after the placing of the tefillin shel yad. One should ensure not even to remove both tefillin from the bag at the same time.

Even if both the tefillin shel yad and tefillin shel rosh were already outside the bag lying before him, he should not prepare the tefillin shel rosh in advance so that they are ready for him immediately after he places the tefillin shel yad. Rather, he should first put on the tefillin shel yad and only then prepare the tefillin shel rosh. This does not involve a problem of "hefsek," since removing the tefillin shel rosh from the bag and its preparation are considered necessary activities directly relevant to the performance of the missvah.

However, one may take the tefillin shel rosh out of the bag after tying the tefillin shel yad on his arm but before wrapping the strap around his forearm. Similarly, one may be lenient if someone else prepares his tefillin shel rosh after he ties the tefillin shel yad on his upper-arm.


Tu B'Shvat, the new year for trees, occurs this Shabbat, and with it comes many thoughts regarding trees, fruit and the parallel between the human being and trees. Many of us are familiar with the famous words of the Hatam Sofer zs"l in his will expressing his hope and desire "that the fountain not dry up and the tree not be cut." A closer look at these sacred words reveal some of its depth and profundity. If one cuts down a tree, it is physically severed and destroyed. And if the tree's water source is dried up, then although the tree can continue growing to great heights, it is nevertheless dry - its leaves are withered and it cannot bear fruit. Similarly, these two dangers threaten the human being as well as the nation as a whole. We face the danger of physical destruction, crises and calamities, Heaven forbid. Additionally, however, we face the threat of being "dried up" spiritually, of losing our "water" - "Water refers only to Torah." Upon assessing our current situation, we have much to fear. We are surrounded on all sides by enemies who plan our destruction and annihilation. But we face no less of a threat from our internal enemies who attempt to dry up the fountain, to detach us from our heritage and ancestral traditions, to rip us apart from our pure faith. Who knows if the lack of rain in Israel signifies Hashem's response to the dearth of the waters of Torah and fountains of faith.


The Coconut Tree

The coconut tree is generally considered an "all-purpose" tree, as it contributes towards the manufacture of sweets, furniture, clothing, sugar and who knows what else. It generally grows in the islands of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. It grows to a height of about thirty meters and, although it basically has no leaves, around twenty feather-like leaves, four-to-six meters in length, grow from its top in the shape of a crown.

Under the leaves hang the clusters of large nuts, called coconuts. The coconut tree generally grows around fifty coconuts a year, though a particularly fertile tree will produce double that amount. The coconut is remarkable and exceptional. It extends around thirty centimeters long and its circumference reaches twenty-five centimeters. One might assume that when such a large nut falls to the ground it will invariably crack open. Yet, such is not the case. Hashem's Providence protects even the coconut, and thanks to the fiber furnishing of the coconut's outer shell the nut emerges unharmed when it falls from the top of the tree. When it falls into the sea, it floats along the surface of the water and, thanks this time to the hard inner shell, no water penetrates through the nut to the seed inside. Due to its light weight, the coconut can wander along the water's surface even over vast distances, until it reaches the spot determined by the Almighty. There, at its destination, it develops into a new tree.

Upon reaching an island and developing into a tree, it supplies literally all the needs of the island's residents, from kitchenware and furniture to food and beverages. In fact, there is hardly a single part of the coconut tree that does not provide some useful purpose. The hard shell is used for the manufacture of bowls, cups and other utensils. The trunk is used in the building of houses, furniture and pots. The leaves are cooked and eaten as a vegetable. The juice squeezed from the leaves is processed into wine and after the wine ferments there remains a supply of vinegar. The large leaves are also used for weaving baskets and mats, and sugar is extracted from the stalks of the flowers. These are but some of the many services provided by this most unique tree.

As the sacred books bring down, the tree symbolizes wisdom, as the Hebrew word for tree - "ess" - is derived from the word "essah" - counsel - which can be offered only through wisdom. For this reason, man is likened to trees, as the pasuk states, "for man is like the tree of the field."

Indeed, the defining characteristic of man involves his unique, intellectual capabilities. Just as trees such as the coconut are assessed based on the uses derived therefrom, so does wisdom attain significance only when it yields "fruits" - the fine qualities, good deeds, and the proper engagement of thought and intention.


The Faithful Student (15)

A story taken from the work "HaSaraf MiBrisk,"
the story of the life of Maharil Diskin zs"l

Flashback: The prosecutor in the case against Rabbi Hayyim Simhah, the faithful student of Maharil Diskin, the Saraf of Brisk, called to the witness stand the guard who caught the defendant staging a robbery, which he did in order that he be imprisoned together with his rebbe.

"Cross examination!" called the judge.

The defense lawyer stood up and asked, "Do you remember what the defendant claimed when you found his wallet with him?"

"Yes," answered the guard scornfully. "He claimed that the wallet was his.

But the victim said that it contained one hundred and forty rubles, and the defendant repeated that there were one hundred and forty rubles. The victim then insisted that the wallet was his, and again the defendant repeated, 'The wallet is mine!'"

The audience broke out laughing, and this time even the judge cracked a smile. Only the defense attorney retained his serious complexion. He waited for the laughter to subside and then asked, "What did you answer him when he insisted that the wallet was his?"

"I told him that he would have to prove as such in the courtroom!" exulted the guard.

"Thank you," said the attorney, as he took his seat. The judge shot a glance of wonder towards the lawyer. After all, the great Igor Broak does not ask pointless questions. He wondered where he was headed with his defense.

The final witness on our side, Feitl Stern," announced the prosecutor.

A thick-bearded Jew stood up onto the witness stand, clearly and utterly confused and bewildered.

"Do you remember the date of September 10?" asked the prosecutor. The witness' confusion only intensified. "This was in Elul, no?" "What's Elul?" asked the prosecutor. It was explained to him and he continued his line of questioning: "Oh, okay, so you remember the day of the theft?"

"Of course!" cried the witness, and he broke off into a whole stream of words. He told of how he hurried along in the street and someone suddenly ran into him. When he got up he felt in his pocket and found his wallet missing. A chase then ensued and they caught the thief. They showed him the wallet and took out before him one hundred and forty rubles. "But they never gave it back to me; they said that it was legal evidence. I had to take out from a 'gema"h'!"

"To take out from what!?" asked the prosecutor.

"'Gema"h' - gemilut hesed - a loan," explained the witness, wondering how the educated prosecutor wasn't familiar with such an elementary concept. "Oh, okay. Continue please."

"That's it! The payment date is approaching, and I request that the money be returned to me."

"Of course, of course. But please tell me one thing - do you recognize the person who bumped into you?"

The witness turned and pointed to Rabbi Hayyim Simhah."

to be continued.


How fortunate are you, Yisrael! There are Jews who focus entirely on how to bring merit to the Jewish community, warning the public against committing aveirot and preventing them from Torah violations. They write letters to this effect to the various religious newspapers, weeklies and journals. One such writer wrote the following: "Whereas Tu B'Shevat is approaching, it is worthwhile to take note of what is happening with regard to the figs soon to arrive on our plates. Very often, our figs [i.e. in Israel] are imported from Turkey, from either Arabs of public groves, where there is insufficient processing to eliminate the worms. Therefore, even figs appearing as fresh are probably infested with insects and worms, including the fruit-fly that resembles in shape and color the white threads of the fruit and thus difficult to discern, mites a third of a millimeter in size that appear as part of the dust on the fruit, and others. Not to mention dried figs, that are exposed to contact with insects throughout the process of drying and storage. It is therefore worthwhile to abstain entirely from eating figs, and one should preferably use the specified types of fruits that can be assumed free of insects and worms: pecans, avocados, pineapples, anonas, pears, sugared citrons, mangos, coconuts, kiwis, pomegranates, peach and apricot preserves, frozen, moist dates and apples, including dried apples."

Generally speaking, the writer pointed out, even fruits and other products with a reliable kashrut certification are not guaranteed to be free of bugs.

Figs, cornstalks, carobs, artichokes, sunflower seeds and strawberries all frequently contain bugs. One who wishes to be careful and learn of the various methods of checking and identifying the bugs should consult the booklet entitled "Bedikat Hamazon Mitola'im" (which can be ordered by calling in Israel 02-530-6612). The writer signed his name Rav Eliezer Saks, who is very involved with great devotion in helping others avoid the prohibitions latent in many fruits. (He is available for consultation on these issues on his cellular phone in Israel: 053-804-795.)

As such, we are his messengers in this regard to warn others of this potential sin. It's a frightening thought that someone could bite into a tasty, juicy fruit - and even recite a berachah, perhaps even a "shehehiyanu" - thinking that he is following a beautiful, ancient custom of eating fruits on the new year for trees, while he in fact violates several severe prohibitions - five negative commandments for each worm eaten!

Each violation of a negative commandment is punishable by thirty-nine lashes - imagine for how many lashes one is liable for one innocent bite!

Following this train of thought, the issue of worms in fruits serves as a perfect example of the risks involved in other activities, such as reading secular newspapers. It's colorful, breathtaking, interesting - like a ripe, juicy fruit. As you turn the pages, you come across a filthy picture, and already you have been harmed. Now ask yourself, was it worth it? You read and you come across a sentence of heresy, Heaven forbid, an expression of contempt for all that is sacred. Then you find a description of some lewd incident, frivolity, slander and libel - and you have already bitten into the fruit together with the worm, you have already been poisoned and the soul has been stained. All that can be done now is listen to one's conscience and feel a sense of regret, just like after eating the fruit with worms.

But this is not the only example. There are books within which lie poison, there are computer games involving vulgarity, not to mention videos and compact disks which feature all kinds of bitter surprises, all types of material that damages the Jewish soul - poisonous worms! A wise man will keep his eyes on his head, and will avoid them as much as he can.


Have you ever heard the story of Ga'ash? The Maggid of Jerusalem, Rav Shalom Schwadron zs"l, told of the incredible devotion and work ethic of Mr. Ga'ash. In any weather and in any season, he would be at work right at the crack of dawn. He would carry with him a folding chair and umbrella, which in the summertime served to shade him from sun. He would place the chair underneath the traffic light, at the traffic circle at the entrance to Yerushalayim. He would oversee the traffic coming into the city, assuring that it would flow properly. When the light turned green, he would signal with his umbrella to the drivers to move forward so as not to slow down the traffic. When the light turned yellow, he would raise the umbrella upwards as a warning signal, and as the light turned red he stretched out his arm and stopped the traffic with his staff. The drivers were very obedient and followed his orders without complaint. So long as the umbrella blocked the path, no one dared move. One by one the cars stopped, and they formed a long caravan of vehicles obeying the command. Just as the light turned green, the blockade came down and Mr. Ga'ash ordered, "Go!" Everyone immediately began driving forward, quickly following the command and trying to pass the intersection before Mr. Ga'ash would wave the umbrella indicating a yellow signal. Mr. Ga'ash knows no rest; from the first rays of sun he worked tirelessly to navigate the traffic with a sense of responsibility that can only arouse respect and reverence. He allowed himself no breaks, he had not a moment of relaxation. He bore a heavy burden of responsibility on his shoulders, to ensure the smooth progression of traffic into the nation's capital. Only at nightfall, when he is overcome with fatigue and hunger, did he fold up the chair and return home.

He would report to his wife that everything went peacefully, there were no jams, the city was saved from catastrophe. Mrs. Ga'ash would warmly serve him dinner with revering eyes, wishing only that the authorities knew how to respect and admire his contribution to the city.

The two did what they had to do, and over the course of time the signs of old age began surfacing. The ongoing tension, stress and pressure engraved their impression and Mr. Ga'ash developed heart disease. One day, he collapsed to the floor. His wife called a doctor who immediately called an ambulance to take him to the hospital. "No, I can't!" grunted Mr. Ga'ash. "The traffic - what will happen with the traffic?" Needless to say, his protests fell upon deaf ears, and he was brought into the ambulance and rushed to the hospital. As the staff hooked him up to a monitor, he continued to murmur, "Oh, the road will be clogged, the traffic will stop, the city will be gridlocked!"

"Quiet!" demanded the patient next to him. "What's all the yelling about?"

"My husband regulates the traffic coming into Yerushalayim," explained his wife.

"Nonsense!" answered the other patient. "Your husband is the weirdo who sits by the traffic light? Does he really think that he guides the traffic?

The traffic light tells people when to stop and go, and it will do fine without him!"

At that point, Mr. Ga'ash's monitor began running about wildly. "What is he saying?" moaned Mr. Ga'ash, "What did he just say?"

His devoted wife ran to his defense. "How can you say such a thing about his dedicated work? Why has he been working so hard this last forty years?!"

But the other patient just twirled his finger around his head and said apathetically, "Why? Because he's crazy, dear woman, that's why!"

You laugh, my friends, the Maggid would sing, but we are Mr. Ga'ash. We work so hard all day long, throughout our lives. For what? To make a living, to make more money, to earn enough to pay our bills. This is why we don't have time, we don't have enough time to pray slowly and properly with concentration, to attend Torah classes, to learn with our children and pay attention to their growth and development, to speak with them earnestly and guide them, because we bear the responsibility to make a living.

Certainly this is true, and this is very different from Mr. Ga'ash as we must make an effort to earn a living. But, as we know, "A person's livelihood is determined from Rosh Hashanah to Rosh Hashanah," and the Ramban writes that "the decree is true, and the sharpness [to try to outsmart the decree] is false" (Ramban's commentary to 37:15). Perhaps we should learn from the story of the mann: "They collected, both the one who collected a lot and the one who collected a little. When they measured in 'omer' measurements, the one who collected a lot did not have more, and the one who collected a little did not have less, each according to how much he eats collected." Do we think that the Almighty would punish us with a diminishing of our food if we attend more Torah classes, if we pray more slowly, with more concentration, or if we pay more attention to our children's education?

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