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Parashat Lech-Lecha


Our readers learn each week a series of clear, concise and detailed halachot in the halachah section of this pamphlet. Those who study and benefit from the enriching halachot cannot imagine the work and effort that was invested into the research and ruling of the halachot presented. Only now can we learn the sources of these halachot, in the newly published, first volume of the book "Halachah Berurah" by the renowned scholar Rav David Yossef shlit"a, Rosh Yeshivat Yehaveh Da'at and the rabbi of the Har-Nof neighborhood in Yerushalayim. The book cites tens of thousands of sources, from the works of the rishonim, aharonim, rulings and responsa through the most recent publications, and until the final decisions of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a. In the section entitled, "Birur Halachah," the reader will find elaborate, in-depth discussions of the halachah, and a series of responsa called "Ossrot Yossef" appears in the back of the volume.

We stand in awe before the remarkable effort, a work unique in its scope and clarity, allowing the reader to easily find whatever he needs with the help of the detailed table of contents and sophisticated index printed in the back. The inquirer can receive right on the spot a clear answer to any question involving these halachot, including the most modern issues relating to technology, and be informed of the various sources of the halachah and the relevant deliberations, all presented in a clear, concise, thorough manner. It is noteworthy that the work is arranged according to the order of the Shulhan Aruch, the work of halachah that has been accepted throughout Am Yisrael, and whose author - the Bet Yossef zs"l - is considered the authority of Eress Yisrael. Additionally, Rav David Yossef shlit"a wrote the halachot for all communities, stressing the rulings for the Edot Hamizrah and those for the Ashkenazi communities, including the reasoning and background information. This set of sefarim - the first volume of which has just recently been published - is a must for every Jewish home, so that one can find the final halachah on every question that arises and learn about its sources and underlying principles. Our blessings go to the author shlit"a, who has been granted from Heaven this great privilege, of producing such a groundbreaking work, and may we soon merit the opportunity to see the final product, the completion of the entire series.



There are two different types of memories among people. Some have "normal memory," and they must learn the techniques of remembering and then implement them. Others require no effort whatsoever to remember; their natural talent was given to them at birth. These people are said to have a photographic memory, which means that they can look at a piece of paper for just one moment and even if it's written in a language they do not understand, they can copy it flawlessly from memory. These are the types of people who quote large chunks of material from books by heart. They can memorize names, dates and events with no difficulty at all. Experts claim that the reason for this phenomenon is that something occurred to these people during infancy, as a result of which their brain is incapable of parting with useless information, and thus its cells continuously create unnecessary signals. Through the early years of a person's life, the brain undergoes a process of purifying millions of dead brain cells, and with them come countless signals. This process is critical for the individual to be able to organize, assess and gain control over the stream of information that continuously flows to the brain. The "purification" continues until age three or four, and therefore until that point permanent memory does not develop. This is why a person generally cannot remember anything from his first three years of life or reconstruct important events from infancy or kindergarten. The intriguing question is, what processes go on in the brain throughout the operation of memory? Whenever any concept is registered in the brain, a brief electric reaction is charged. Energy is then sent in various directions in order to pass on the information to the appropriate storage cells. When the brain is activated for only a brief moment, the activity quickly declines and the memory is lost. Many sights and ideas that fill the human mind over the course of a day last only 15-30 seconds.

If, however, the sight is of particular interest or significance, then a learning process occurs in the brain and the electric activity is prolonged.

This stimulates the brain cells, so that the picture is now engraved within the brain, and long-term memory has come into existence.

Undoubtedly, everyone prefers that their memory-cells contain positive information, things that are good and pleasant. Obviously, the memory of good events is dependent in large measure upon what an individual does to ensure that his life story would be so pleasant to remember years later.

Indeed, every person bears the responsibility of determining the character of his memories in the future. Thus, an individual must concern himself in this regard specifically during his younger years. This is why Hazal teach us, "A person should not say, 'When I have time I will learn,' lest he never has the time."


The "Seraf" of Kotzk was like a fiery flame, sharp and penetrating. His short "one-liners" were like piercing arrows, shooting straight into the heart. Sometimes he would not even need to add anything - he would simply cite a pasuk with a certain intonation or specific emphasis, giving the Torah's words new meaning. One such example is a pasuk in our parashah:

Throngs of hasidim stood outside the closed door, waiting for the moment.

Suddenly, the door swung open as if in a storm, and the Seraf stood on the threshold. Everyone moved back a little, and his voice came thundering from the doorway: "And the people of Sedom were evil and sinful - to Hashem very much!" The door immediately shut closed. It was just a pasuk; he added not a word, but slightly altered the arrangement of the words: "to Hashem - very much!" When it came to the realm of "bein adam lamakom" - issues between man and God - there were none more meticulous, scrupulous and stringent than the people of Sedom. But regarding issues "bein adam lahaveiro" - between man and his fellow man - they were "evil" with their bodies and "sinful" with their money. They refused to offer charity, they closed their hearts from empathizing with the needs of others, they shut their ears from the cries of the poor, and were destroyed.

The great revolution of Avraham Avinu was his message that, for example, inviting guests is greater than greeting the Shechinah - missvot between man and Hashem are not enough!

Let us internalize this message, and uphold the teachings of both "luhot" - both "bein adam lamakom" and "bein adam lahaveiro."


"And I will bless those who bless you, and he who curses you I will curse"

A strong bond of friendship existed between the saintly Rabbi Hayyim Abuelefia zs"l, the revered rabbi of Teveryah, and the sacred Or Hahayyim zs"l, who met the former upon his arrival in Eress Yisrael. Rabbi Hayyim Abuelefia begged the Or Hahayyim to establish his yeshivah in Teveryah and then become his successor. But the Or Hahayyim responded that the supporters of his yeshivah did so on condition that the yeshivah remain in Yerushalayim. In any event, both these giants interpreted a certain pasuk in our parashah according to the same Gemara, and their comments compliment one another.

First, we will paraphrase the passage in the Gemara (Moed Katan 9b):

Rabbi Yonatan ben Asmai and Rabbi Yehudah ben Gerim came to learn under Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai. When they left, Rabbi Shimon said to his son, Rabbi Elazar, "These are people of stature; go to them, and they will bless you."

And so, Rabbi Elazar followed them, and when he reached them they asked why he had come. "My father instructed me to come to you so that you bless me," he explained. They responded with a blessing: "May it be His will that you will plant and not harvest, invest and not withdraw, take out [merchandise] and not bring it back, your house will be destroyed and you will live in a temporary dwelling, your table will be overturned and you won't see a new year." He returned to his father and complained, "Not only did they not bless me, but they cursed me!" and told his father what they had said.

Rabbi Shimon explained, "These are all berachot. That you plant and not harvest - meaning, that you will have children and they will not die.

That you invest and not withdraw - meaning, you will bring brides for your sons and they will not return to their homes. That you take out merchandise and not bring it back - you will marry off your daughters and they will never return. That your house be destroyed and you live in a temporary dwelling - this world is a temporary dwelling and the grave is the permanent residence.

That your table will be overturned - from so many sons and daughters.

That you won't see a new year - that your wife won't die, such that you would marry another and have the obligation of rejoicing with her for the first year of marriage." (Our Sages explained that they blessed him in this peculiar way so that he would have to ask his father for the interpretation, and then he would be blessed explicitly from his father.) In any case, we see here that a curse really contained a hidden blessing.

Rabbi Hayyim Abuelefia explained that this is what is meant by the pasuk, "And I will bless those that bless you" - in the plural form - "and he who curses you I will curse" - in the singular form. There are those who curse but really intend for blessing, and such people will not be cursed.

But the Or Hahayyim offered a different interpretation, based on the same Gemara. The pasuk may be read, "And I will bless those who bless you as well as he who curses you" - implying that there are those who curse but will still be blessed, namely, those within whose curses lies a blessing.


Rabbi Eliezer Azkari zs"l

The sacred Rabbi Eliezer Azkari zs"l, author of "Sefer Haharedim," was particularly humble and unassuming. He served as the "shamash" of a Bet Midrash in Ssefat, and nobody knew of his genius, piety or sanctity.

One year on Lag Ba'omer he was at Meron with the Ar"I zs"l and his following. Many residents of Ssefat joined them for the observance of the "hilula" of Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai. The joy was intense, and people danced fervently in circles all around. The Ar"I Hakadosh and his students were in one circle, the residents of Ssefat danced in another circle, and one elderly, dignified man dressed in white danced with great love and intensity with a group whom nobody knew. Suddenly, that man left his circle and took the hand of Rabbi Eliezer Azkari. He started dancing with him with overpowering joy. He then turned to the Ar"I Hakadosh, and the two danced together for a long hour. Afterwards, the man returned to his group. The Ar"I then took the hand of Rabbi Eliezer Azkari and danced with him, as the Ar"I's students surrounded them with sacred songs in honor of Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai and his Torah.

As they made their way back to Ssefat, the students circled around their revered master, the Ar"I, and dared to ask, "May our master please not become angry with us if we ask something involving his greatness, the honor of the Torah. We do not recognize that elderly man, but presumably he is a great man of stature. But the "shamash" - of course he is God-fearing, but is this proper respect for the rabbi of all Israel to dance with him during the "hilula" of Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai at the sacred spot of Meron?"

The Ar"I answered, "If the godly tanna, Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai, chose to dance with him - is it not respectful for me to dance with him?!" From that point on, the genius, piety and sanctity of Rabbi Eliezer Azkari was publicized to one an all.


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

Chapter 25: The Halachot of Tefillin

The Missvah of Tefillin, its Reward and Punishment

There is a "missvat aseih" (positive commandment) from the Torah to tie tefillin on the hand and place it on the head every weekday. The commandment of tefillin is recorded in the Torah four times: in the parashah of "kadesh li" (Shemot 12:9); the parashah of "vehayah ki yeviacha" (Shemot 12:16); the parashah of "shema yisrael" (Devarim 6:8); and in the parashah of "vahayah im shamoa" (Devarim 11:18).

Hazal said (Masechet Menahot 44a) that anyone who does not put on tefillin violates eight "missvot aseih." This is because the Torah repeated the missvah of tefillin shel yad and that of tefillin shel rosh four times each, for a total of eight missvot. Some, however, explain that the Gemara referred to the four parshiyot inside the tefillin. When one does not wear tefillin, he violates two missvot for each parshah, one in the tefillin shel yad and one in the tefillin shel rosh.

Nevertheless, in the listing of the missvot, the missvah of tefillin is not counted as eight different missvot among the 613. This is because the missvah was repeated not to add more missvot, but merely for emphasis, to stress the fact that one who neglects this missvah neglects a missvah of which we were warned several times over.

According to some rishonim, the missvah of tefillin shel rosh and that of tefillin shel yad are to be counted as two separate missvot. Others, however, count just one missvah, to put on both tefillin. They maintain that although they are, in a certain sense, two separate missvot, as evidenced by the fact that one may and should be worn even if the other cannot (for whatever reason) be worn, nevertheless they both reflect the same concept, and whatever is written in one tefillin is written in the other, as well. The point of both of them is that the fear of Hashem should be instilled within us, and this is why the tefillin are placed near the heart and mind, the centers of thought in the human being.

The word "tefillin" derives from the term "pelilah," which means argumentation. (For example, the pasuk in Tehillim (106:30) says, "Pinhas stood up and 'vayepalel'," which Hazal (Masechet Sanhedrin 44a) interpret as "bringing arguments" before his Creator.) Tefillin are thus named because they serve as proof and testimony to all who sees them that the Shechinah resides among us, and as a result, anyone who sees us will be intimidated.

This is how Hazal (Menahot 35b) interpret the pasuk, "And all the nations will see that the Name of Hashem is called upon you, and they will fear from you" (Devarim 28:10) - referring to the tefillin shel rosh.

Hazal were quite explicit and extreme in their presentation of the reward for the fulfillment of the missvah of tefillin. Reish Lakish said (Masechet Menahot 44a) that one who puts on tefillin merits long life, based on the pasuk (Yishayahu 38:16), "And Hashem is upon them - they will live."

Rashi explains that the pasuk implies that those who carry upon them the Name of Hashem in their tefillin will live.

And Rabbi Yohanan is cited in Masechet Berachot (14b, 15a) as saying, "One who wants to accept upon himself the total yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven should [upon waking in the morning] perform his bodily functions, wash his hands, put on tefillin, recite shema and pray. And anyone who performs his bodily functions, washes his hands, puts on tefillin, recites shema and prays, the Torah considers him as having built an altar and sacrificed an offering upon it, as it says (Tehillim 26:6), 'I will wash my hands clean and surround Your altar, Hashem.'"


The Faithful Student (2)

Flashback: A Jew, walking along innocently, passed by the gate of the prison in Grodno. A young Jew suddenly bumped into him, apologized and continued walking. The former noticed that his wallet was missing and screamed, and a nearby policeman chased after the thief and caught him as he crashed into another pedestrian and fell to the ground. The officer checked the suspect's pockets and found a wallet matching the victim's description and containing the amount of money he identified - one hundred and forty rubles, an enormous fortune.

The chains clanked noisily as they locked around the young man's hands, and the officer motioned to the crowd to disperse. "Come with me," he said to the plaintiff, as he grabbed the arm of the suspect, who all along cried out his claims of innocence to the laughter of the crowd that followed. They had hoped that the young criminal would at least confess his crime.

The guard pushed the thief through the side door that opened before them, to the side of the central iron gate. The victim had no choice but to hurry after them - after all, he wanted his wallet back! The curious bystanders that had accompanied the officer and thief were denied entry and blocked by the second guard who stood at the gate.

"I have here a young pickpocket," announced the policeman in the prison offices. He placed on the table the wallet and documents that he had retrieved. The chief examined the documents and looked at the prisoner.

"You're from Mogilov," he commented. Mogilov was quite a distance east of Grodno. "What are you doing here?"

"I was arrested there and driven from town," confessed the thief.

The chief turned around and punched in the information on the telegraph.

The response came back quickly, confirming the information. Hayyim Simhah Soloveitchik had been arrested, investigated and banished from the town forever. "This time you speak the truth," groaned the chief. "And what did you think, to practice your profession here, in our city? We have enough thieves of our own! You asked for your punishment, and you will be expelled from here, as well. Take him to the detention cell!"

"No, not to the isolated cell!" pleaded the criminal, whose memories of the "interrogation" in Mogilov were still painfully fresh in his mind.

"We don't reserve an individual cell for each thief!" jeered the guard.

"This is not a hotel!" The color returned to the prisoner's face.

"But what about my wallet?!" asked the victim, stretching out his arm.

"Everything in its proper time, Jew," answered the chief. He calmly placed the wallet into a brown envelope and scribbled some words on it with his pencil. "The wallet is legal evidence and will be returned to you after the trial. Now give me your details."

As the victim began giving his report to the chief, the latter swung around the thief's arm and pushed him into the adjacent chamber.

To be continued...


Something occurred in Israel three weeks ago, and although it appeared in the newspapers, it unfortunately did not earn proper publicity. We will mention it here in short. The State of Israel relies on the Kinneret Lake as its major water source. Its water is fresh, and it serves as an aquarium for millions of fish, facilitates sewage for many settlements and kibbussim, and assists in the fertilization of their fields. But the constant withdrawal of water and years of drought have depleted its water, and layers of salt have been revealed near the surface. What a nightmare - opening the faucet and receiving a steady flow of filth, the residue of a dried swamp. To prevent such a calamity, the authorities designated a redline, beneath which no water can be drawn. We can relax; at worst, our faucets will dry, not the Kinneret...

As a result of our sins, the previous year was very dry in Israel. But the withdrawal of water did not subside, and the water supply was severely depleted. It stood a mere three centimeters above the critical redline.

What would happen tomorrow, in two days, next week? The rainy season has yet to begin, and the sewage that flows into the lake is far from enough to significantly raise the water level. What will happen? Within a few days they would be forced by law to stop the flow of water from the lake. And this is not some random law - the redline was determined according to the conclusions of experts, as a safety measure to prevent irreversible damage to the lake, its fishermen and those who drink its water.

What will be, thought the national water supplier, will there be a national water stoppage? No, no such possibility can even be imagined. In fact, there is no reason for concern. The official in charge of the water withdrawal came out with a public statement to calm the public's concerns: the water level is really THIRTY centimeters above the redline.

Thirty? Just yesterday they were talking about three? Was there some kind of mistake?

No, not exactly. Yesterday it was three centimeters, and today it had already dropped to two. But a solution was found and the Kinneret was saved, as were we. Very simply, it was decided that the redline would be lowered thirty centimeters. What a brilliant, simple solution! Why was this not thought of before? In fact, why go through all the trouble in the first place to always determine a new redline? We could always just establish by law that the redline will always be thirty centimeters below the present water level. And if the water level reaches the salt-layers covered with sardines, the redline could be dropped below the ground...

This wondrous concoction did not earn the appropriate attention of the population. Indeed, this scheme reveals much about what goes on, how norms are determined and things are established. This is but one example of laws that are elastic, flexible, manipulated according to need, expanded and contracted, laws "as you wish." Even regarding issues relating to the soul, even when at stake are the redlines of all types, this is the system employed: schools aren't educating, the secular values have gone nowhere?

No problem - just declare that schools aren't intended to educate, only to impart knowledge, and the problem is resolved so easily, child's play - literally! Drivers violate the law and exceed the speed limit, endangering lives? No problem - just raise the speed limit, and suddenly there will be no more criminals. It is forbidden to steal? Okay, so we'll call it "supplemental income." How different this system is from the eternal, divine laws of the Torah, which establish immutable guidelines and principles, iron-clad rules, to which we must conform and by which we must abide. We cannot bend them to suit our needs or interests. The choice is ours, to be either a ssadik or sinner, but in now way can the sinner change the rules so that he can become a ssadik.

This is what is so ludicrous about the Reform movement, that tries with all its might, and with the drafting of such huge sums of money, to overlook its own neglect of the Torah and acquire for itself something upon which to base itself. It relates to Torah and missvot like it's some artificial redline that someone established of his own volition, thus allowing for someone else to come along and alter it, to make any changes and revisions he deems appropriate. But all the fund-raising efforts, help from the media, the publicity campaign and support of the Israeli Supreme Court - none of this has helped. The nation recognizes the forgery. Even those who are not missvah-observant know one at least one thing: missvot are not subject to alteration or modifications to the point of total elimination and outright disregard. The Torah will never be substituted with anything, ever!

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