Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a has called for everyone to pray and plead on
behalf of our brethren in Iran, specifically the prisoners and their
families, that the Almighty should redeem them speedily and release them
from this crisis.
We know that so long as the voices of Benei Yisrael are heard in the Batei
Midrash, the hands of Esav have no power over us (Yerushalmi, Rosh Hashanah
3:8). Furthermore, the armies of Sanheriv collapsed on account of the
widespread Torah study during the time of Hizkiyahu (Sanhedrin 94), and
David HaMelech defeated his enemies in battle when the gates of
were filled with the study of Torah (Yerushalmi, Pei'ah 1:1).
Therefore, let us make an extra effort this Shabbat to pay careful
attention to the Torah reading, so that the merit of our learning will
benefit our brethren in captivity, that they may soon be released from
darkness to light, from captivity to freedom. This is about all we can do
on their behalf, but it has the capacity to arouse divine mercy and
One who is distressed over the crises suffered by Benei Yisrael merits to
see their ultimate consolation.
THE MESSAGE OF THE SNAKE
After Aharon's death, the nation turns around to circumvent the country of
Edom. Along the way, the people became weary from the difficult travel
conditions. As Rashi explains, the people began complaining, "We were so
close to entering the land, and now we're turning around and going the
way. This is like our parents who turned around and then spent
years until today." Their bitterness led them to complain against the man,
and Hashem punished them by sending poisonous snakes against them: "Let the
snake, which was punished for slander, come and bring retribution against
those who slandered. Let the snake, for whom all tastes taste like dirt,
come and bring retribution against those ungrateful for the one thing [i.e.
the man] that changes into many different tastes" (Rashi).
It seems, though, that the punishment of the snakes corresponds as well to
their inappropriate whining about the difficulties of travel. Not every
reversal necessary involves a retreat. The snake progresses along
consistently, no matter how crooked or twisted its path of travel might be.
The Torah is eternal, and its lessons are pointed at us. The redemption is
near, it awaits right "behind the wall." Even if it seems that suddenly
tides have turned in the wrong direction, that the situation is
deteriorating, Heaven forbid, we must never despair as our ancestors did in
the wilderness. We must not groan about the situation or speak negatively.
We must remember that Hashem continues to guide and direct, and, soon
enough, the light will break through the darkness.
THE MOTHER WHO GAVE HER DAUGHTER EVERYTHING
Next week begins summer vacation here in Israel, followed by the new
year. Once again we will send our children, our most precious possessions,
There is nothing in the world worth more to parents than their children.
After all, for our own livelihood we would not have to work so hard, to the
point where our strength has been practically depleted. We could live
comfortably, easily, reserve more hours for rest and leisure. But we
this burden gladly, with hope and anticipation for a lot of "nahat" from
children, to earn their love and see them grow and establish themselves, to
witness the progress and flowering of our dear offspring. We hope to
prepare them adequately for the difficult challenges of life, and we know
full well that life is difficult and tiring, and it continues to get more
difficult, complex, demanding and even, at times, cruel. The relentless
pursuit of higher standards of living exhausts us, and often becomes
depressing and overbearing. Those who succeed are ruthless, bitter, harsh
and uptight - certainly those who don't succeed!
So, how can we properly prepare our children for all this? There is a
story of a mother who brought her only daughter to the huppah, full of
tearful emotion and love. Full of hope and prayers for the future, one
before the huppah she turned to her daughter and said, "My dear daughter,
what haven't I given you? I provided you with an education, I taught you
proper manners and conduct, I purchased your clothing, I fed you, I bought
you a furnished apartment, and I even listed you as my only inheritor.
There remains only one thing I need to give you - a bit of luck.
How true it is, we cannot give our children luck. But we can provide them
with the capability to deal with the challenges of life, the wherewithal to
withstand the many tests they will undoubtedly confront. The true
fortification is the acquisition of faith, firm belief that helps to
overcome everything and persevere during every challenge. This faith can
established only in Torah educational institutions. Only parents who send
their children to religious schools, where the students receive an
based on the values of our faith, can rest assured that their children will
have the necessary tools to withstand any challenge in life, and will stand
firm and strong through even the most difficult of times.
FROM THE WELLSPRINGS OF THE PARASHAH
"Rise, o well, sing to it, the well dug by dignitaries"
The Tosefta (Sukkah 3:3) says: "The well that was with Yisrael in the
wilderness resembled a rock filled with holes, like a sieve, fluttering and
rising...It rises with them to the mountains and descends with them to the
valleys. Wherever Yisrael encamp, the well encamps opposite them on a high
place, opposite the door to the Ohel Moed. The Nesi'im of Yisrael come and
surround it with their staffs and sing for it: Rise, o well, sing to it,
rise o well. The water would then bubble and ascend as a pillar upwards,
and each one took his staff, each according to his tribe and family, as it
says, 'the well dug by dignitaries.' It, too, then surrounded the entire
camp of Israel and irrigated the entire wasteland, as it says, 'it
the entire wasteland.' It then becomes streams, as it says, 'and streams
gushed' (Tehillim 78:20) and they sat in boats and came next to each other,
as it says, 'it flowed as a stream in the parched land' (Tehillim 105:41)."
Eliyahu Hanavi said (Eliyahu Rabbah 13): "Blessed is the Al-mighty Who
repays reward to those who love and fear Him, the way of the land in this
world while the principal remains for the World to Come. As reward for the
jug of water with which the angels [who visited Avraham] washed their feet,
the Al-mighty provided Benei Yistrael with a well for the entire forty
in the desert.
"How did this happen? When Yisrael performed the will of the Al-mighty,
the well would get up and walk and flow from the place where Yisrael were
encamped. And when Yisrael did not perform the will of the Al-mighty, it
would be delayed one hours, two, three, four, five - until small children
[who never sinned] and Torah scholars would go out and say, 'Rise, o
in the merit of Avraham, Yis'hak and Yaakov; 'Rise, o well' - in the merit
of Moshe, Aharon and Miriam. Then it would go and flow from tribe of
Yehudah to the tribe of Yissachar, as it says, 'the well dug by
dignitaries.' At that moment there was great joy for Yisrael, from the
oldest to the youngest."
Just think about how much Hashem rewarded Avraham 's descendants, seven
eight generations later. For forty years, water flowed and provided the
needs for hundreds of thousands, as reward for just a single pitcher of
water. All this constituted just the "fruits reaped in this world."
Imagine how great is the principal reward, which remains to be paid in the
World to Come, for the one who actually performs the misvah himself! As
Hazal state (Sanhedrin 100a), a person gives a handful to a pauper in this
world, and the Al-mighty gives him a handful [of the Creator himself] in
World to Come!
"How good are your tents, Yaakov, your dwelling places, Yisrael"
The Alshich zs"l explains that Bilam here prophesies about the spiritual
influence produced by the mishkan and the Bet Hamikdash. "How good are
tents, Yaakov" refers to the mishkan in the wilderness and the one in
Shiloh; "your dwelling places, Yisrael" refers to the two Batei Mikdash.
we know, the divine spirit extends from the heavens to the site of the
Mikdash. Therefore, the pasuk continues, "like streams that stretch" - the
stream of kedushah extended to the mishkan, as it traveled, "like gardens
a river." However, once the Bet Hamikdash was built, the divine spirit
affected it directly: "like aloes planted by Hashem, like cedars beside the
water." But what about nowadays, when we don't have a Bet Hamikdash?
"Their boughs drip with water" - and water always refers to Torah. In
words, in the merit of the Torah that "drips" from one person to another,
"and its seed has abundant water" - the education of our children according
to the foundations of Torah, we merit the infusion of the Shechinah into
"How good are your tents, Yaakov, your dwelling places, Yisrael"
Rabbeinu Behayei zs"l explains this pasuk in accordance with Kabbalah.
"Ohalecha" - your tents - refers to light, as it states in Iyov (29:3),
"When His lamp shone over my head..." ("B'HILO nero..."). "Tovu" (good)
refers to the "hatavat haMenorah," the responsibility of the kohen to clean
the lamps of the Menorah each day. Thus, "Mah tovu ohalecha" means, "How
clean is your light, Yaakov." Since Yaakov was the complete person, with
blemish, pure and unalloyed, therefore, "your dwelling places, Yisrael" -
Benei Yisrael merited the presence of the Shechinah in their residences,
we continually benefit from the merit of our patriarchs.
"How good are your tents, Yaakov, your dwelling places, Yisrael"
The Hid"a zs"l cites in this context the comment of Hazal that women earn
their portion in the World to Come by encouraging their husbands to study
Torah in the evenings, and thus they receive their portion in the Torah as
full partners. Now the term "Beit Yaakov" (in Parashat Yitro) refers to
women. Thus, explains the Hid"a zs"l, "How good are your tents, Yaakov"
be understood as, how great is the portion of the women who sit in the
tents, when "your dwelling places, Yisrael" - when Benei Yisrael occupy the
seats in the Bet Midrash studying Torah.
"How good are your tents, Yaakov, your dwelling places, Yisrael"
Rabbenu Yossef Haim zs"l, the Ben Ish Hai, comments that the opening word
of the pasuk - "Mah," signifies humility, as Moshe and Aharon say, "What
we?" ["Va'anahnu mah?"] (Shemot 16:7). Thus, the pasuk implies that the
most effective way to turn one's home into a pleasant, peaceful abode is to
practice humility, that no one member of the family should raise himself
over any other. What is the best way to bring the Shechinah into family
life? Modesty, through which Hashem brings His Shechinah to reside among
the couple of their family.
THE GOLDEN COLUMN
Rabbi Don Yis'hak Abarbanel zs"l
Rabbi Don Yis'hak Abarbanel was the treasurer for the government of
Portugal. As he writes, "I lived securely in my home, a house and wealth
that was the inheritance of my fathers, a house full of the blessings of
Hashem in the lavish city of Lisbon." He was the financial advisor of King
Alfonso, and the general counsel for the king's officers. Then, when the
king's son was crowned, it was discovered that the officers planned on
giving him over to the king of Spain. The plot was foiled, and the viceroy
was killed and the others escaped, leaving behind their property, which the
king promptly confiscated. The king suspected Rav Don Yis'hak, as well,
that he participated in the plot, as the confidant of the officers, a
suspicion that had no basis whatsoever. The king called for Rav Don
Yis'hak, and on his way to the palace he was warned that the king wanted to
kill him. He thus escaped to Castilla, Spain. Infuriated, the king
confiscated all his property. Rav Don Yis'hak found consolation in the
in-depth study of Tanach. His students encouraged him to publish his
studies. And so, today we are privileged to have his brilliant writings in
Soon thereafter, the Jews of Spain faced the painful decision of
out of the faith or being exiled without any possessions. Some failed this
difficult test and became Morranos, observing the misvot in hiding. When
they were caught, they were burnt at the stake. The majority, however,
their walking sticks and were exiled to Morocco, Turkey or Israel.
Rav Don Yis'hak's students asked him, where is this awful decree alluded
in the Torah, the cruel persecution in the name of the crucifix?
He answered that the allusion is found in Parashat Balak, in the prophecy
of Bilam: "O, who can survive when he places God?" The reference here is
that individual who made himself into a god, and many Jews felt that they
could save their lives by joining his religion. In truth, however, "Who
survive when he placed god." They put themselves at the mercy of the
Inquisition, the awful nightmares and tortures of the wicked regime.
ASKING AND EXPOUNDING
A Series of Halachot According to the Order of the Shulhan Aruch,
the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
By Rav David Yossef shlit"a, Rosh Bet Midrash Yehaveh Da'at
Chapter 8: The Laws of Sisit
The Procedure of Wrapping the Tallit
One may not embroider a pasuk from the parashah of sisit or the berachah
for the tallit neither on the atarah of the tallit nor anywhere else on the
tallit. Since the tallit has the status of a misvah object, as opposed to
"tashmish kedushah," an object of kedushah, it may, strictly speaking, be
brought into the bathroom. We therefore must be concerned lest these
pesukim or berachot be put to shame by being brought into the bathroom.
If, however, one already did embroider a pasuk or berachah in his tallit,
many authorities rule leniently, that he may keep the embroidery on the
tallit. However, he must ensure not to sit on the part of the tallit that
has these pesukim or berachot, and to treat the tallit as a "tashmish
kedushah." If the tallit wears out, it must not be thrown away but rather
buried. In any event, one who is stringent in this regard and removes the
embroidery is deserving of blessing.
The berachah recited over the tallit gadol is: "Baruch Atah Hashem EM"H
akb"v l'hitatef b'sisit." One must be careful to recite "BE'sisit," with
the vowel "sheva" under the letter "bet," and not "Basisit," with a "hataf"
vowel under the "bet." If, however, one did say, "Basisit," he has
fulfilled his obligation and does not need to recite a new berachah.
One who does not know how to recite a berachah can fulfill his obligation
of reciting the berachah by listening to the berachah of another and
answering "amen." Even if he did not answer amen, he has still fulfilled
the requirement of the berachah so long as both he, the listener, and the
one reciting the berachah had intention that the berachah should count
towards the listener's obligation. Optimally, however, one must answer
amen. (It should be noted that one must answer amen anytime he hears a
berachah, even if he is not fulfilling any obligation by listening to the
One can fulfill his obligation of the berachah by listening to someone
else's recitation even if the one reciting the berachah is not currently
putting on his tallit and had already recited the berachah earlier when he
put on his tallit. The reason is that we have a principle that one can
fulfill the obligation of another to recite a birkat hamisvah even if he
himself had already fulfilled his obligation. (The listener should be
careful to answer amen, for some authorities maintain that in such a
situation one does not fulfill his requirement if he does not answer amen.)
Even one who does know how to recite a berachah by himself has fulfilled
obligation "bedi'eved," if he heard the berachah from another who had
already recited the berachah previously.
If two or more people are using the same tallit, some authorities hold
they can either each recite their own berachah, or have only one recite the
berachah as the others fulfill their obligation by listening. One opinion,
however, maintains that they do not recite a berachah at all. Although the
halachah follows the first opinion, nevertheless it is preferable that at
the time of the recitation of the berachah only the one reciting the
berachah should wrap himself in the tallit, and only thereafter the others
Some say that the same berachah - "l'hitatef besisit" - is recited on the
tallit katan, as well. Others, however, maintain that one should recite
misvat sisit." The custom has evolved, however, not to recite any berachah
on the tallit katan when putting it on in the morning, and to instead have
in mind that the berachah over the tallit gadol will fulfill the
for the tallit katan, as well. [One should preferably explicate verbally
that the berachah over the tallit gadol will fulfill his requirement for
tallit katan.] The reason for this custom is that many tallitot ketanot
smaller than the required measurement for a berachah, and we never recite a
berachah when its requirement is in doubt.
THE WONDERS OF CREATION
The Crying Waters
It's no exaggeration to say that water is among the most important
on Earth. Just as it would be impossible to live without air, so would
not exist without water. The only difference between them is the amount of
time. Whereas one cannot live more than a few seconds without air, one can
go without water for a few days. Although people can live for an extended
period of time without food, they can not go too long without water. The
reason is that water contains certain minerals that are critical for the
body's functioning. The more minerals contained in a given quantity of
water, the "harder" the water. Thus, water that appears "soft" usually is
not as fortified with minerals.
Why does a person feel thirsty at times, and why does the body need so
water? The answer is simple. The human body is filled two-thirds with
water. If 20% of the body's water is lost, an actual danger to life
Blood, too, is composed mainly of water. Therefore, the Almighty created
the body in such a way that when it lacks water, the individual feels
thirsty, signaling his need for more water. In this way, the person drinks
enough to supply the body with its necessary quantity of water to function
properly. In the food one eats there is a significant amount of water. An
average person ingests a ton of water over the course of a year, including
that which he drinks and the water received from food. Water helps the
manage the various materials inside it, so that it can properly dispose of
waste. Water serves another critical function, as well, and that is the
maintenance of proper body temperature. For example, when the body begins
to warm up, the person begins to release water in the form of sweat, thus
cooling the body. In this sense, the body's system resembles a car
radiator, which one fills with water so as to cool off the engine inside.
If one forgets to add water to the radiator, the engine can become too hot
and burn completely. Similarly, though not to make any comparison between
the human body and a car, the body cools itself down through sweat, tiny
drops of water.
"Hazal said [in Beresheet Rabbah] that the reason water is called 'crying
water' because Hashem split the water: half went up to the heavens, and the
other half remained down below, under the land. The water that remained
down below cry in anguish over not having merited to come closer to the
living God in the upper half" (Or Hahaim). If the inanimate water yearns
desperately to approach the Creator, to the point where the pasuk refers to
water as "crying," how much more so must the human being, the crown jewel
creation, and even more so the sacred nation, Am Yisrael!
The Deserted Woman of Jerusalem (1)
(A story from the book, "The 'Seraf' of Brisk")
A story about the life of the saintly Maharil Diskin zs"l
This story is the story of Mereishah, the daughter of Rabbi Tuvia of
Slossk, a teach in "Ess Hayyim." She was married to a young man named
Baruch Mordechai. After just a few years, he already bore the
responsibility of supporting three children, but he could not find a
sufficient livelihood. He tried different jobs, but nothing seemed to work
for him. He eventually learned the art of making the "batim" [boxes] for
tefillin, and with great difficulty he managed to earn a living.
As is well-known, Maharil Diskin, the "Seraf" (literally, serpent, the
title given to Maharil Diskin because of his genius and remarkably sharp
mind) of Brisk, would pray by himself, in the inner chamber in his home.
prayed with intense concentration and focus, to the point that his wife
feared for his life. She asked the young boy Moshe Beloi, who was twelve
years old, to wait in the room during the rabbi's prayers and see that he
does not lose his life from his intense "devekut" with Hashem.
The Seraf would pray alone in his room as his students prayed in a minyan
in the outer room. During the Torah reading, he would stand at the door of
his room and listen with awe and reverence. During birkat kohanim, he
come out into the main room to stand before the kohanim and receive the
sacred blessing. Afterwards, he would return to the inner chamber.
Once, the son of the one of the regular participants in the minyan reached
his Bar Misvah. His father promised him as a Bar Misvah present that he
would pray in the minyan of the Seraf and receive a blessing from him after
As the Seraf left his room that morning for birkat kohanim, he threw a
glance over at the boy, and then, after the conclusion of the berachah, he
returned to his room. The tefilah finished, everyone removed their
folded their tallitot, and blessed father and son, "mazal tov." They all
left the room and the two were left by themselves, anxiously waiting for
A long hour passed in intense anticipation, and eventually the figure of
the sadik appeared in the doorway to his room. He signaled with his finger
that the two should come to him. As they reverently made their way
the Seraf signaled that they should enter his chamber. In the middle stood
a chair, at the side was a narrow table, and on the table lay a folded
tallit and tefillin.
"Come, my son," he said. "Put on the tefillin," referring to his own
tefillin, the tefillin of the sadik!
Nobody had ever had such a privilege! And the boy had only just begun to
put on tefillin!
"His tefillin are 'passul,'" explained the sadik...
to be continued.