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Ki Tesse

A Summary of the Shiur Delivered on Mossa'ei Shabbat by Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
Halachot of "Birkot Hashahar" (the Morning Blessings)
Shiur Delivered by Rav David Yossef shlit"a

A. Common custom has evolved to recite all of birkot hashahar even if one has not experienced the phenomena requiring their recitation, e.g. one did not hear the rooster's crow, put on his clothing, wear his belt, etc. The reason is that, according to this view, the morning blessings are recited on the occurrence of these phenomena itself, irrespective of the individual's personal experience. Although the Shulhan Aruch does not adopt this view, nevertheless, once this practice has become widespread we do not employ the principle of "safek berachot lehakel," avoiding the recitation of a berachah whose obligation is in doubt. This principle cannot warrant avoiding berachot when the universal custom has developed to recite them, especially given that this is the position of the Kabbalists.

B. The berachah of "Elokai neshama" does not begin with the standard introduction, "Baruch Atah Hashem. ," because it falls under the category of "birkot hoda'a," blessings of thanksgiving, which do not require this introduction. We similarly find that the thanksgiving blessing over the arrival of rain does not feature this opening clause. Some Rishonim maintain that "Elokai neshama" does not begin with "Baruch" because it immediately follows the berachah of "asher yassar," and a blessing adjacent to another need not feature the standard introduction of "Baruch Atah. " According to this view, one must ensure to recite "Elokai neshama" immediately after "asher yassar." Although strictly speaking the final halachah does not require doing so, it is nevertheless proper to recite "Elokai neshama" immediately after the recitation of "asher yassar."

C. A blind person who wishes to recite the berachah of "pokei'ah ivrim" ("who opens the eyes of the blind," thanking the Al-mighty for the gift of vision) should not be prevented from doing so, as he has authorities on whom to rely. Nevertheless, one who comes to ask for guidance in this regard should be instructed not to recite this berachah, as we do not recite berachot whose requirement is subject to doubt. According to all views, however, a blind person does recite the berachah of, "hanoten lasechvi bina" (thanking Hashem for the rooster's crow). Regarding a deaf individual, however, some authorities maintain that as he cannot hear the rooster's crow, he does not recite this berachah. Others disagree, arguing that since we recite this berachah over the phenomena themselves, rather than on the personal experience, even a deaf person may recite this berachah. This view is the correct ruling to follow.

D. A convert does not recite the berachah of, "shelo asani goy" ("who has not made me a gentile"), even if his mother converted before his birth, as anyone who was not both conceived and born as a Jew does not recite this blessing.

E. One who remained awake throughout the night must recite birkot hashahar and birkot ha'Torah at daybreak (72 minutes - as defined by halachah - before sunrise). Although strictly speaking one may recite birkot hashahar already after hassot (midnight as defined by halachah), one may not recite birkot ha'Torah until daybreak; one should therefore wait until then. If one was studying Torah when daybreak arrived, he should stop his learning to recite birkot ha'Torah.

F. One who went to sleep for the night on his bed (as opposed to one who took a brief nap) and then arises to study Torah must recite birkot ha'Torah before learning, regardless of whether he arose before or after "hassot." It is of no consequence whether or not he changed out of his daytime clothing before going to sleep. Whoever slept on his bed is considered as having gone to sleep for the night for purposes of this halachah, even if he slept for only a short while, and he must therefore recite birkot ha'Torah upon awakening. If he went back to sleep after learning while it was still nighttime, he must recite birkot ha'Torah once again in the morning, since his night's sleep interrupted from his previous recitation of birkot ha'Torah. By contrast, one does not recite birkot hashahar until after completing his night's sleep, that is, when one arises in the morning. Therefore, if one awoke at "hassot" to recite "Tikkun Hassot," he should not recite birkot hashahar at that point; he should do so only upon waking up in the morning.

G. One who forgot to recite birkot hashahar and remembered only after shaharit should not recite "Elokai neshamah." He has already fulfilled the obligation concerning its conclusion (". who restores souls to dead corpses") through the recitation of the blessing "mehayei hametim" ("who resurrects the dead") in Amidah. He does, however, recite all the other blessings of birkot hashahar (including "matir assurim," despite its mention in the second berachah of Amidah). If one forgot to recite birkot ha'Torah before shaharit, he does not recite them after his tefilah, as he already fulfilled this obligation through the recitation of "ahavah rabbah," which deals entirely with the study of Torah.

H. If one comes late to the Bet Kenesset and finds the congregation already towards the end of Pesukei De'Zimra, such that if he prays as usual he will miss the communal recitation of Amidah, then he should do as follows: quickly put on his tallit and tefillin with their berachot, recite "Elokai neshamah" (until "hamahazir neshamot lifgarim meitim") and birkot ha'Torah, proceed to Baruch She'amar, then recite "Tehilah L'David" ("ashrei") and the third and fifth of the "Halelukah" paragraphs, and conclude with "yishtabah." He should then continue as usual with the berachah of "yosser or" in order to recite Amidah together with he congregation or with the hazan's repetition.


In the end of the parashah we are commanded to harbor eternal hatred towards Amalek. If we could, we would be obligated to destroy them. (We cannot observe this misvah nowadays, as Amalek has assimilated among the other nations.) Why? What did they do? They attacked Benei Yisrael when they left Egypt. The question arises, how did they launch such an assault? Didn't the clouds of glory encircle Benei Yisrael and protect them like iron walls? Indeed. But there were sinners among Benei Yisrael whom the clouds expelled outside. It was against these helpless travelers that Amalek waged their battle: "and he cut down all the stragglers behind you." Rashi explains, "They were helpless as a result of their sins, for the cloud would expel them."

We can only wonder, so what if they sinned? Let them perform teshuvah and the cloud will bring them back in? And if they refuse, then they should rightfully bear the responsibility of their refusal and suffer the beatings of Amalek. Why should we concern ourselves with them at all?

We may never entertain such a notion. They are our brothers, our close relatives. The Shechinah bemoans, as it were, the pain of the sinner who receives punishment (Sanhedrin 46a). The entire nation must show eternal hatred towards Amalek for oppressing those helpless people, those sinners, who were expelled outside the camp.

How grateful will the Shechinah be to those who go outside the cloud to bring in the weak, those who have strayed and been expelled, to return them inside the camp, to the warmth of sanctity!

We must realize that every misvah, every period of Torah study, every dimension of spiritual growth, brings others, to one extent or another, back to the camp of the Shechinah. To one extent or another, it weakens the force of Amalek in this world. We are thus commanded to go out to our brothers who have strayed, to offer them the taste of Torah and return them to warmth of the Shechinah!


There was once a couple who raised their son along the path of Torah and misvot, provided him with a Torah education, and received much "nahat" as a result. He exhibited fine qualities and purity of soul and afforded proper respect to his parents - everything for which parents can wish. The son studied in a yeshivah, grew in Torah, acquired remarkable knowledge of the invaluable, spiritual treasures, and reached marriageable age. A matchmaker knocked on the parents' door, as in those days telephones were yet to have become commonplace in homes. He told them of the wonderful things he heard about their son and that he had for them a perfect idea, a certain young woman of superior qualities, intelligence and talent, in short, everything they could want. He even alluded to the fact that her parents had sent him to them.

The father replied that they would look into the matter and get back to him.

And so, the father did some inquiring and discovered that the matchmaker was imprecise: he did not speak highly enough of the fine qualities of the prospective daughter-in-law. Everyone sang the praises of the young woman, her involvement in kindness and willingness to help others, her manners and respectful demeanor, and her devotion to G-d and people. Everything was perfect, but just one thing troubled the father.

An intelligent and learned man, he knew the Gemara's comments that one should even sell all he has in order to marry the daughter of a Torah scholar (Pesahim 49b). Let us explain this comment in order that it be properly understood. Suppose we have before us a fine young man, possessing all the fine qualities as well as immense wealth. He was the beloved grandson of his deceased grandfather, who left him the entire inheritance. The estate included a large villa, a state-of-the-art automobile, a bustling factory, stock holdings - everything. This young man now reaches adulthood and faces two options for marriage. He could marry a girl from a well-to-do family and bring her into all his wealth and glory, such that they will never know financial hardship. Alternatively, he was offered as a match the daughter of a certain Torah scholar, a Rosh Yeshivah who was drowning in debts as a result of loans he took on behalf of his yeshivah. This Rosh Yeshivah, however, stipulated that whoever marries his daughter must repay his debts. The young bachelor calculated that he would have to sell the factory, redeem his stock holdings, auction off his villa and get rid of his car - he would be left with nothing!

It must be emphasized that the Gemara never even alludes to the notion that the daughter of a Torah scholar is necessarily better, more talented or nicer. Nevertheless, it advises - not as an obligation, but as advice - that one should even sell all he has to marry the daughter of a talmid hacham.

How may we understand this piece of advice?

The home educates and shapes the image of the children. One who was raised in a Torah home grew up in a gentle home, in a home of spirituality, of sensitivity to others and an understanding of others. A home of poverty can thus become a home of the Shechinah, a residence of happiness and fortune! It is therefore worthwhile to start one's married life with nothing if he has the precious treasure and life of happiness. This is preferable over keeping the wealth and missing the main point.

Hazal taught us this very lesson in this week's parashah, in their explanation for why the parashah of the "ben sorer u'moreh" (wayward son) appears immediately following that of the "eshet yefat to'ar" (the captive woman taken by the Jewish soldier). They explain that this teaches us that "one who marries a non-Jewish 'eshet yefat to'ar' will have a 'ben sorer u'moreh,'" Heaven forbid. A direct line leads from the house, from the education and atmosphere of the home, to the children. Children who grow in a home where physical beauty set the tone and desires of the heart dictate one's conduct will grow to pursue their desires, indulge in eating and drinking and break the yoke of responsibility from their shoulders. Children who grow in a home of values, of restraint and gentle conduct, will reflect those values throughout their lives.

And so, the father of this prospective groom was unsure what to do. Although this girl possessed all the wonderful qualities, she was not the daughter of a Torah scholar. She was, for lack of a better term, from a regular family.

So, what did he do? He did exactly what a Jew does when he experiences ambivalence - he went to seek Torah authority. He went to consult with the Hazon Ish zs"l.

The Hazon Ish heard the father's concern and issued his ruling: "A girl who studies in a religious educational system has the status of a daughter of a Torah scholar."

Meaning, although the culture of the street penetrated somewhat into the home, despite foreign ideological winds that blow and bring all types of unwanted messages, when all is said and done, parents want their children to be different, more gentle and more refined. The solution: Torah education. It will provide children with the proper manners and mode of behavior, it will purify, improve and perfect the souls. It will bring happiness and good fortune to the children and their parents!


"When you go out to war against your enemies, and Hashem your G-d delivers him into your hands"

The Ar"i Hakadosh zy"a notes that the pasuk refers to the enemy first in the plural form ("your enemies") and later in the singular form ("delivers him"). He explains that the first instance speaks of a situation where Benei Yisrael go to war as individuals, with disunity. The second clause refers to a united Benei Yisrael, fighting "as one person with one heart," in which case Hashem defeats the enemies as if there was but a single individual!

"When you go out to war against your enemies, and Hashem your G-d delivers him into your hands"

Rabbenu Haim Vital zs"l asks why the Torah wrote, "When you go out to war against your enemies" instead of "when you fight against your enemies." He explains that the Torah refers to a situation where Benei Yisrael understand that it is Hashem who actually fights their wars for them. We merely "go out to war," and no more. When we have that realization, then He will assist us and deliver our enemies into our hands!

"When you go out to war against your enemies, and Hashem your God delivers him into your hands"

The Ohr Hahaim zs"l questions the need for this entire pasuk altogether. Why did the Torah not simply begin this section, of the captive woman, by saying, "When you see among the captives a beautiful woman. "? He answers that the Torah here warns that although it permitted the captive woman, one should not go out to battle for her. One should go out to war in order to fight the enemy and for no other purpose. Only then do we earn divine assistance, and Hashem will deliver our enemies into our hands.

It appears that this idea is already mentioned in the Gemara (Pesahim 8) which says that one who searches for hamess in the cracks of the walls of his house with the intention of looking for lost objects is not guaranteed protection against snakes in the walls.

"When you go out to war against your enemies, and Hashem your G-d delivers him into your hands"

As we already noted, the Torah refers to the enemy first in the plural form and thereafter in the singular form. Rabbenu Avraham Azulai zs"l explains that one must realize that the external enemies draw their strength from internal, spiritual enemies. One who commits a sin acquires for himself a "prosecuting angel" against him, Heaven forbid. If we realize this, perform teshuvah, and accept upon ourselves the yoke of the kingship of Heaven, then all that remains is the external enemy, "and Hashem your G-d will deliver him into your hands."

"When you go out to war against your enemies, and Hashem your G-d delivers him into your hands"

Rabbenu Abir Yaakov Abuhassera zs"l writes that the beginning of this pasuk alludes to the weapons with whose help we earn divine assistance against our enemies. The word "tesse" ("you go out") stands for "tefillin," "sisit," "ot" ("sign"), with "ot" alluding to the observance of Shabbat, as the pasuk calls Shabbat "an eternal sign between Me and Benei Yisrael." This word also stands for "tefilah," "sedakah" and "or" ("light"), with "or" referring to the light of the Torah, as Hazal teach us, "Our feet would stand strong in battle in the merit of the gates of Yerushalayim which were involved in Torah."

"When you go out to war against your enemies, and Hashem your G-d delivers him into your hands"

How applicable are Rashi's comments on this pasuk to contemporary times: "When you go out to war against your enemies - they shall be in your eyes as enemies." Do not have compassion on them, for they will not have compassion on you.

It seems that any further elaboration would be superfluous.

"When you go out to war against your enemies, and Hashem your G-d delivers him into your hands"

Rabbi Yeshuah Ovadia zs"l, the rabbi of Ssafro, Morocco, explained this pasuk as referring to the spiritual war against the constant enemy, the yesser hara. As we know, the Gemara says (Sukkah 52), "Every single day, a person's evil inclination strengthens over him and seeks to kill him; were the Al-mighty not to help him, he could not withstand him." We see that a person must first "go out to war," and only then will he earn divine assistance. This is what the pasuk means, "When you go out to war," only then, "Hashem your G-d will deliver him into your hands." As Hazal say, one who comes to purified - is helped.


Rabbi Avraham Sadok zs"l

Three years have passed since the death of the glory of Yemenite Jewry, the sadik Rabbi Avraham Sadok zs"l, whose entire life formed a single, unbroken chain of Torah and tefilah, misvot and good deeds. He was born around ninety years ago, in the year 5671, in the glorious community of Sina. He became orphaned at a young age, and suddenly he bore the burden of supporting himself. He nevertheless devoted most of his time, by day and, mainly, at night, after a long day or exhausting labor, to Torah study with remarkable diligence. He studied with clear understanding and in-depth analysis, learning incessantly and attending to Torah scholars. He grew in spirituality until he became the rabbi of the Alkehalani Bet Kenesset and authority of halachah for his congregation.

In the year 5704 he moved to Eress Yisrael and settled in Kiryat Binyamin near Haifa. Upon his arrival he worked towards the construction of a mikveh as well as a large Bet Kenesset, which became the community center of Torah and prayer, and a Torah school for local children.

His life's mission was to save children from the foreign ideological winds blowing through the streets, and the "cities of refuge" for our generation are the yeshivot. He would relentlessly impress upon others the importance of Torah education as a means to direct the youth along the paths of their ancestral heritage. As a man of truth, he had no fear of the pressures applied against him from the secularists. He served as a torch of fire for his community, illuminating their ways by setting a personal example through his diligence in Torah study, comprehensive command of all its intricacies, devotion to spreading Torah, pleasant tefilot recited from the deepest recesses of his heart and soul, fine qualities and inspiring discourses. Indeed, Hazal tell us that whoever studies Torah for its own sake is given kingship and authority and others benefit from his counsel. He earned the "progeny of sadikim" in every sense: misvot and good deeds, sons, sons-in-law, grandchildren and great-grandchildren following his path and observing his legacy, and large numbers of students who were like his own children and preserve his memory lovingly. His great merit shall protect us and all of Yisrael, for a "ketivah vahatimah tovah."

A Treasury of Halachot and Customs of the Festivals of Yisrael, Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
by Rav David Yossef shlit"a

Reciting Kiddush on Behalf of Others (continued)

When one person recites kiddush on behalf of others, the listeners must ensure not to say, "Baruch Hu u'baruch Shemo" after his recitation of Hashem's Name. Since they listen to the berachah in order to fulfill their obligation, they are considered as if they themselves are reciting kiddush. Therefore, just as one actually reciting kiddush may not interrupt his berachah by saying, "Baruch Hu. ," as this would constitute a prohibited interruption in the recitation, so may the listeners not utter this clause. If, however, one did say, "Baruch Hu. " in the middle of the berachah, he has nevertheless fulfilled his obligation and need not recite kiddush by himself.

Listening to Kiddush From a Distance

One may recite kiddush and fulfill the obligation on behalf of others even if they are not situated with him in his place. For example, one may recite kiddush at his table in his home and fulfill the obligation on behalf of his neighbor who sits at his own table, so long as the latter hears all of kiddush and they both have in mind that the recitation should fulfill the listener's obligation. (This works even though the listener does not drink from the wine, since drinking the wine is not necessary for the fulfillment of the misvah. It rather constitutes a demonstration of love for the misvah.)

Hearing Only Part of Kiddush

If one did not hear the berachah of "borei peri hagefen" from the one reciting kiddush, or if he did not have in mind to fulfill his obligation during the recitation of that berachah, he nevertheless fulfills his obligation if he heard the second berachah and had in mind to fulfill his obligation during that recitation. In such a situation, the listener may not drink from the wine without reciting his own "borei peri hagefen." If, however, one did not hear even the beginning of the second berachah, he has not fulfilled his obligation at all.

If the Listener Does Not Understand the Kiddush

If the listener does not understand Hebrew at all and thus does not understand kiddush, he does not fulfill his obligation by hearing the recitation of another. He must rather recite his own kiddush. (This applies even to one who understands the basic idea of kiddush, that we sanctify the Shabbat day with our recitation over wine, since he does not understand the text of kiddush itself.) He may fulfill his obligation by whispering word by word together with the one reciting kiddush. This is the ruling of the Shulhan Aruch whose rulings we have accepted. The Ashkenazim, however, have accepted the lenient position, that one may fulfill his obligation of kiddush by listening even if he does not understand it at all, so long as the kiddush was recited in its Hebrew text. Nevertheless, even according to this custom it is preferable for such an individual to whisper the kiddush together with the one reciting.


"Who Bore Me These!"

Dear Brothers,

Several years ago a yeshivah student was murdered by a malicious female assailant - may Hashem avenge his blood. She was sentenced to several years in prison and already some time back she was let free. After his murder, a small notebook was found in his pocket, a daily diary. His parents published the writings under the title, "Kovess Ben Aliyah" ("The Journal of a Distinguished Person"). It is simply amazing to unearth the world of this seventeen-year-old yeshivah student, to see firsthand what occupied his mind. He took it upon himself to learn 1,500 pages of Gemara outside the curriculum of the yeshivah within a year. He had there a precise calculation and follow-up of his progress. He also wrote about whether or not he concentrated properly when he prayed shaharit, minhah and arbit that day and whether he recited birkat hamazon as he should. He records that one day he unfortunately acted with anger, and he worried how he could correct this wrong.

Simply amazing. But I ask: how many such distinguished persons are there about whom we simply don't know, who live among us for many years? This ledger was found by coincidence, as a result of the terrible crime. If we had merited that he continued living among us, we would never have known anything about him!

Not too long ago, five members of the same family had their lives severed by a cursed, wicked man - may Hashem avenge their blood. The survivor, an eight-year-old girl, was seriously wounded; screws were surgically removed from her liver. May Hashem send her a speedy recovery along with all sick patients among Benei Yisrael - they so desperately require salvation! This girl - what purity of soul, what strength and belief! Our eyes well up with tears when we recall her remarks, of how she accepts her pain and suffering with love, of how she eagerly anticipates the resurrection of the dead, her heartfelt request of the Prime Minister that he observe at least a single Shabbat.

We stand in sheer awe and amazement over the strength of character of an eight-year-old girl, her firm and resolute faith. How many other girls are there like her? If not for this awful tragedy, we would never have found out about her!

What institution produced such innocence and purity, this faith and beautiful character? Torah education - this is what produced such a person. It is here where children grow to such heights!

Fortunate are the students, fortunate are their parents - and fortunate is the nation whose sons and daughter these are!

Shabbat Shalom

Aryeh Deri


The Egg-laying Tadpole

The situation of the tadpole of amphibians such as the salamander, the triton, the frog and the toad essentially marks the period of the amphibian's youth. Only when it matures, meaning, when it breathes through its lungs, does it have the ability to reproduce. There is one amphibian, however, who develops in a much stranger way, arousing the interest of many scientists.

Near Mexico City one may find a fish called the axolotl. This remarkable fish has soft skin and four legs resembling those of a lizard. Its length is around 70 cm and its thickness around just 2 cm. Its head is large and stretched, its fingers resemble those of frogs, and it is colored black with dark brown spots. By the dimensions of its body it resembles a salamander, but its exterior appearance looks like that of the triton tadpole. Its body is short, its tail flattened on either side, and on top it has comb-like tissue that extends along the length of its back. Its front legs feature four toes, while its hind legs have five. In one of the oceans scientists saw a peculiar change in one of the young axolotls. The gills and comb-like tissue on the back and tail disappeared, the shape of the head changed somewhat and on the dark skin appeared many yellowish-white spots. Many other young axolotls underwent similar changes. After this metamorphosis, they turned into creatures very much resembling salamanders. These mature creatures are called ambystomas. It thus turned out that the axolotl is in fact a tadpole, meaning, a young creature that later develops and matures. However, it also lays eggs, unlike standard tadpoles that cannot reproduce until they reach maturity.

A creature that changes in accordance with its surrounding conditions from one creature to another? Certainly something remarkable. However, among human beings, "lehavdil," things are much different. To change in accordance with the surrounding conditions well suits the axolotl, as needed for its very survival. As change involves its struggle for survival, the Creator implanted within it the amazing capacity to change. When dealing with Jews, by contrast, changing to adapt to their environment spells catastrophe. To the contrary, whereever a Jew is found he remains a Jew. The Jew never changes to fit in with his surroundings, as this, too, involves for him a question of survival. The spiritual life of the Jew is permanent and not subject to change, regardless of the social, security, or economic conditions. No change of location can move the Jew even an inch from his being a complete Jew obligated to obey all the laws. To change? To be in Rome as a Roman or, if you will, to live on dry land as an ambystoma and in the water as an axolotl? This may suit the axolotl, but never the Jew.

Yosef Ben Hanom and Gamliel Ben Nizhah

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