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A Summary of the Shiur Delivered on Mossa'ei Shabbat by Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
The Halachot of Selihot
An individual praying without a minyan may not recite the "13 middot" ("Hashem Hashem Kel Rahum. ") as part of his prayer. If he wishes, he may recite the pasuk with the notes ("ta'amim") as if reading pesukim regularly from a Humash. (When he does this, he need not complete the entire pasuk.) Hazal say in Masechet Rosh Hashanah (17b) that the recitation of the thirteen attributes is always effective; Hashem told Moshe that when Benei Yisrael sin, "they shall do this procedure before Me, and I will forgive them." The expression "do this procedure before Me" refers to the Midrash (Eliyahu Rabbah 24) requiring us to act in accordance with the Al-mighty's qualities. Just as He is kind and compassionate, so must we treat others in this manner. When we do this, He forgives our sins. It is therefore imperative particularly during this time of year to increase our involvement in charity and good deeds.
Similarly, the Gemara in Masechet Sotah 8b says that Hashem deals with people in the same manner in which they treat others. For those who deal with others above and beyond the strict letter of the law, with a willingness to forgive and forego on wrongdoing, then Hashem treats us in the same manner (see also Ta'anit 25b).
The Selihot, particularly Hashem's thirteen attributes, must be recited slowly and with concentration and a sense of humble submission. Those who quickly run through the final sections of Selihot act incorrectly in this regard and must change their practice. The Aramaic portions of Selihot may not be recited without the presence of a minyan.
The proper time for Selihot is from hassot (midnight as defined by halachah) on, the period particularly suited for the acceptance of our tefilot. Selihot may not be recited during the first half of the night. The Rambam writes (Hilchot Teshuvah 2:2): "What is teshuvah? The sinner leaves his sin, removes it from his thoughts and resolves in his heart never to do it again. He should likewise regret the past. and the Knower of all that is hidden testifies about him that he will never return to that sin again. One must verbally confess and say aloud these matters that he thought in his heart." The Maggid of Dubna presented a parable of one who fills a sack with flour; when he runs out of room in the sack, he hits the sack in different places in order to make more space. Similarly, people often hit their chests while reciting "viduy" (confession) only to make more room for further wrongdoing. The main focus of teshuvah must be the steadfast decision never to repeat our misdeeds.
The Gemara in Berachot 32b says that after the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash the "gates of prayer" have been closed but the "gates of tears" have remained open. Indeed, the story of told of Rav Simhah Bunim of Pashischah who, during his younger years, ran a store to earn a living. One year before the Yamim Noraim, his rebbe, the Hozeh of Lublin, warned him that a decree was issued that he will have a difficult year and all his ventures will collapse. Rav Simhah prayed tearfully on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur for the annulment of the harsh decree. His prayers were answered, and his work proved successful in the months following the Yamim Noraim. When he returned to the Hozeh before Pesah, the rebbe said to him, "The tears that you shed during the Yamim Noraim prayers worked for you to have the decree annulled."
Very Sweet, But.
How much sugar does your drink contain? Interestingly enough, even sharp foods such as mustard and even hot peppers contain sugar. In fact, virtually all food products contain sugar although we would never have known it. Is it inadvisable to add sugar, or even large quantities of sugar, to foods? After all, it is so sweet and makes the food so tasty. As we all know, sugar is fattening and causes tooth decay. Some have speculated that it also causes the development of diabetes. It is no wonder, then, that it profoundly affects the body and likewise the soul. You might ask, and justifiably so, are there any positive qualities of sugar? Well, this depends on the type of sugar in question. In its original form, sugar ranks among the most important sources of food. It is essentially pure energy that originates directly from plants. If one eats an apple, for example, he will receive a certain amount of energy, but the body will have to work quite hard in order to extract that energy. Candy or ice cream, by contrast, provides the body with a readily accessible and immediate source of energy, particularly for the brain. Additionally, one must realize that sugar also contains important vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin B and others that assist in digestion and perform other vital functions. The problem lies in the fact that when sugar reaches the consumer it has already gone through processing which cleansed it not only from adulterating agents, but also from all its beneficial, natural content. It thus turns out that sugar as we purchase it simply does not contain many of the things it used to. The precious vitamins have gone to the sewers and, in their wake, the minerals, as well. All that is left for the person is a sweet taste. There may be some who, upon hearing this update of the immense quantities of valueless sugar that they introduce into their bodies, will ask, "How can this happen?" However, let's face it, a similar, absurd situation exists in the spiritual realm. Our sacred Torah is complete and perfect, yet there are those who take only the parts they find convenient. What results is a "product" that not only does not help, but can certainly cause serious harm. These people likely think to themselves, "So long as it tastes sweet at that moment in the mouth." The main thing for them is that "for now this is good"; "in the meantime it works well for me." Nourishing one's soul with such an attitude, without Torah and misvot, results in damage to a Jew's spiritual well-being no less significant than the physical harm caused by processed sugar. Who would want something so absurd?
Whose heart will not tremble in fear upon hearing Hazal's comment, "A person must always see himself and the entire world as half meritorious and half guilty. If he performs one misvah, he is fortunate, for he has tipped the scales in favor of himself and the entire world. If he transgresses a single sin - woe unto him, for he has tipped the scales against himself and the entire world!" In the sacred work, Resheet Hochmah (Sha'ar Hayir'ah 6) it is written that one must be especially careful in this regard during times of divine anger, "so that he not be the reason that the world is consumed as a result of harsh judgment." We now find ourselves in a "time of divine anger," amidst a period of tragedies and attacks. How intense will the fury be against one on whose account - because of the sin he adds onto the general scale - Am Yisrael drowns in an ocean of suffering and tears, grief and bereavement! How much effort must we invest to add more misvot, as much as possible, onto the "right-hand" scale in order to finally change the situation, to bring the cycle of crisis and anguish to a halt, to put an end to the string of calamities. How great will be the reward, how joyous a year will be granted to the one whose misvah brings salvation to our people that suffers so bitterly!
According to the Gemara, every misvah can tip the scales. All the more so, then, can this be accomplished through Shabbat observance with greater meticulousness and care - especially the final Shabbat of the year! "Shabbat equals all the misvot" (Yerushalmi, Berachot 1:5). On the one hand, the merit of proper Shabbat observance can shine its radiant light upon the scale containing our misvot and weigh it down considerably. Additionally, on the other hand, it can also bring about the forgiveness of our sins, even the most severe (Shabbat 118b). The ministering angels testify about one who observes Shabbat, "Your iniquity will be driven away, and your sin atoned" (Shabbat 119b). What can be greater than an empty scale of sins and a full scale of misvot! Let us therefore strengthen ourselves tenfold to properly observe this Shabbat; if Yisrael properly observe one Shabbat - they are immediately redeemed!
Reb Nahumke (14)
After many wanderings, Nahumke finally found refuge in the yeshivah of Pinsk, where, on account of his talents, diligence, fine character and purity of soul, he quickly became the top student of the yeshivah. However, he did not like the honor showered upon him, and one day he disappeared.
Nahumke proceeded to the city of Vilna, which was a metropolis of Torah. Now, after having acquired an approach to learning and substantial knowledge, the city provided him with joy and delight. He established himself in one of the Batei Midrash and he studied day and night. He was especially delighted over the availability of books, including the works of Rishonim and later poskim, readily accessible in the Batei Midrash of Vilna. He used these resources thirstily to broaden his knowledge. All his interest was focused on Torah study, but his diligence came to a halt whenever a new, apprehensive student would enter the Bet Midrash. Nahumke would hurry over to welcome him with a warm, radiant smile and outstretched hand, and he would find him a "havruta" and look after his needs, offering him much needed support and encouragement.
After all, his own wounds had yet to fully heal. He remembered well his younger days when he suffered from loneliness and social rejection. He understood the needs of the younger students and helped pave the way before them.
Not too much time had passed before everyone in the Batei Midrash came to respectfully acknowledge his talents. They would turn to him with questions, ask him for advice and afford him honor in and out of his presence. Then, one day, his seat was empty. He left to a different Bet Midrash to study Torah without any fame and the disruptions that accompanied it. Soon, however, his secret was again revealed. Students whom he aided and veteran students who brought him their complex questions recognized his unique greatness. He then took off to yet another Bet Midrash. Eventually, his reputation had spread throughout the city of Vilna, at which point he joined the famed yeshivah of Mir, where the great Rabbi Avraham served as Rosh Yeshivah and Rabbi Yisrael Heller as mashgi'ah. Nahumke humbly remained in a corner and studied. Here, in the shadow of the great Roshei Yeshivah, he would not have to answer questions and reveal his greatness. He could acquire Torah through his humility.
He was mistaken, however, in thinking that he could avoid attention. A man from the city of Neisvaz came to the Rosh Yeshivah and told him that he had a single daughter with all the fine qualities. He was prepared to pay four hundred gold coins - an enormous fortune - as a dowry for the top student in the yeshivah. The Rosh Yeshivah took the man to the roof where there was a window looking into the Bet Midrash. He showed him Nahumke humbly huddled over his studies and said, "If you want the top student - there he is!" When news of the Rosh Yeshivah's words spread, a storm erupted in the Bet Midrash. Students poured to Nahumke's seat and brought him all types of complex questions. They were dazzled by his vast knowledge and depth of comprehension. It is truly a wonder how the Rosh Yeshivah knew of all this. Having been exposed, Nahumke was approached with many marriage offers by wealthy and prominent benei Torah. Nahumke, however, being upright as he was, traveled with Rav Yosef Eliezer Hakohen to the city of Neisvaz to meet his daughter.
To be continued
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
Those Capable of Fulfilling the Obligation of Kiddush on Behalf of Others
If a child has reached his thirteenth year but it cannot be ascertained that he has physically matured to be considered an adult as defined by halachah, then although we generally assume physical maturity to have taken place, we do not rely on this assumption for Torah obligations such as kiddush. Preferably, therefore, he should not recite kiddush on behalf of adults, even if they have already recited arbit. In dire situations, such as when nobody else present knows how to recite kiddush, then if the others have already recited arbit and the boy has not, he may recite kiddush on their behalf. All this applies only to kiddush on leil Shabbat. On Shabbat morning, a boy who has reached his bar misvah may recite kiddush on behalf of others, even optimally.
A deaf person - who speaks but cannot hear - can fulfill the obligation on behalf of others. One who does not hear well and can hear only through a hearing aid may fulfill his obligation of kiddush by listening to the recitation of another only if he can hear - even with some difficulty - without his hearing aid. He need not remove his hearing aid for kiddush. If he cannot hear kiddush at all without his hearing aid, then he must recite kiddush by himself; and he may recite it word-by-word together with the one reciting on behalf of the others.
The Kiddush Cup
The cup used for kiddush as three halachot associated with it: it must be rinsed inside and outside, diluted with water, and full. Rinsing: One must rinse the cup on both its interior and exterior in order that it be clean and worthy to have the berachah recited over it. If the cup is already clean, then strictly speaking it need not be rinsed before kiddush. However, according to the Kabbalists one should rinse the cup even if it is already clean.
Dilution: One should pour the unprocessed wine into the cup and only thereafter pour water into it to dilute it. According to the Kabbalists, one should dilute the wine with water three times in succession. When using wine that is not particularly strong or that has already been diluted with water, then, strictly speaking, one need not dilute them further before kiddush. According to the Kabbalists, however, in such a situation one dilutes the wine with three drops of water. He must ensure not to add too much water so that the wine flavor is not lost.
One must recite kiddush over a full cup of wine. Hazal say (Berachot 51a), "Whoever recites the berachah over a full cup of wine is given a boundless portion, as it says (Devarim 33:23), '. and filled with the blessing of Hashem, he inherits west and south.'" Hazal also say (ibid.) that one who recites kiddush over a full cup of wine earns two worlds - this world and the world to come. Nevertheless, this constitutes but an extra misvah; one fulfills the misvah of kiddush even with a cup that is not full, so long as it contains a "revi'it" of wine. Some specifically do not fill the cup to the rim, in order that the wine does not spill and thus be disgraced.
"Blow a shofar on the new moon, on the full moon for our festival"
The Rambam zs"l writes: "Even though shofar blowing on Rosh Hashanah is required by the pasuk's decree, it [also] contains an allusion, as if to say, wake up, those who sleep, from your slumber! And those who drowse, awaken from your sleep! Search your ways and repent and remember your Creator, those who forget due to the inanities of the time and waste their entire year with nonsense and vanity that will neither help nor save. Look into your souls, and improve your ways and wrongdoing. Let each of you leave his evil ways and improper thoughts."
"Blow a shofar on the new moon, on the full moon for our festival"
The Sefer Hahinuch explains (misvah 405): "The day of Rosh Hashanah is the day set aside long ago for the judgment of all creatures, as they [Hazal] said that all creatures of the world pass on this day before Hashem like sheep. Meaning, each one is individually judged. If his merits are many, then he leaves with a favorable sentence; if his sins are many, then he is sentenced to one of the decrees, in accordance with his guilt. Everyone must therefore awaken himself to seek compassion for his sins from the L-rd of compassion, for He is a compassionate, gracious G-d, who bears iniquity, misdeeds and sin and cleanses those who return to Him with all their heart. The sound of the shofar effectively arouses the hearts of all its listeners, certainly the sound of the teru'ah, meaning, the broken sound. This alludes to a person that he must break his desires and his evil inclination when he hears the broken sounds, and to bend his heart when he sees the bent shofar."
"Blow a shofar on the new moon, on the full moon for our festival"
Rabbenu Yis'hak Aramah zs"l (in Akeidat Yis'hak, 21) cites Hazal's comment (Rosh Hashanah 16) that Hashem tells Benei Yisrael, "Blow before Me a ram's horn on Rosh Hashanah so that I remember the binding of Yis'hak, and I will consider you as having bound yourselves before Me." He explains that the feeling of submission generated by the shofar blowing on the part of people's hearts, and their resolve to return to the complete service of Hashem - that itself is the "akeidah" of Yis'hak who was bound on the altar!
"Blow a shofar on the new moon, on the full moon for our festival"
Rabbenu Azaryah Pigo zs"l (in Binah Le'itim, second "derush" for the second day of Rosh Hashanah) elaborated further on this issue. All misvot are only to serve the King of the world and bring Him satisfaction, so-to-speak. Here we are commanded to blow the shofar to bring to mind akeidat Yis'hak and be remembered favorably on the Day of Judgment. If all our intentions when blowing the shofar involve our own benefit and welfare, how can this be considered a "mis'vah," the service of the Al-mighty?
We must understand that by bringing to mind and being remembered through akeidat Yis'hak, we reach the conclusion that it is worth sacrificing all pleasures of life, including life itself, in order to perform Hashem's will and obey His commands. This we learn from Yis'hak, who went to his sacrifice with a joyous heart, knowing that performing the will of his Creator is the central purpose and destiny; everything else pales in comparison. By entrenching within ourselves this understanding, we realize how precious those hours we devote to avodat Hashem really are, those hours of prayer and study, the misvot and acts of kindness. We then feel deep remorse for the many hours that we wasted. With this in mind we take it upon ourselves to intensify our devotion to the service of Hashem rather than emphasizing vain pursuits. This recognition of the importance of misvot and remorse for the wasted time will itself arouse divine love and compassion, that He may inscribe us for a good year, a year of extra performance of misvot and proper use of our time.
Rabbi Yeshuah Basis zs"l
The great sage Rabbi Yeshuah Basis zs"l was among the great scholars of Tunisia. He once led the prayers for the congregation and entreated, "Answer us, our Father, answer us; answer us, our Creator, answer us; answer us, our Provider, answer us. " He saw, however, that the gates of compassion were closed and his prayers could not penetrate to the heavens.
"Answer us, the G-d of Avraham, answer us!" he cried bitterly. The congregation responded, "Answer us, the Fear of Yis'hak, answer us!" With his ru'ah hakodesh he saw that an iron blockade barred the path of their prayers. The prosecution had persevered, the divine anger had been aroused in the heavens. Suddenly, his ears detected an unusual sound, the sound of a simple Jew repeating incessantly a single word, with longing and yearning: "Anenu! Anenu! Anenu!" ("Answer us!").
The congregation continued the hymn: "Answer us, the Strength of Yaakov, answer us! Answer us, the Shield of David. " Meanwhile, that Jew simply repeated over and over, "Anenu! Anenu! Anenu!" The rabbi saw that this Jew's cries gradually softened the barrier, broke through the wall and opened the gates. It softened the harsh decrees and brought about salvation and mercy! After the prayers the rabbi turned to him and asked, "Please tell me, what were your intentions when you repeated that single word over and over?"
The man didn't understand the question: "Is our revered rabbi not familiar with the meaning of the words? This is not a single word, it is two words - 'ani nu.' 'Nu' means in the non-Jewish tongue 'no,' and I was asking that there should not be a single 'ani' - poor person during this year."
The rabbi replied, "Indeed, this was your prayer, and you brought about a year of abundance and prosperity."
"You stand today, all of you, before Hashem your G-d." The Zohar (2, 32:2) writes that this "day" refers to Rosh Hashanah, the day on which the Al-mighty judges the world. Why does the Torah refer to Rosh Hashanah as "the day"? A distinction exists between two similar Hebrew words used to mean "beginning": "rosh" and "hathalah." "Rosh" literally means "head." "Rosh hamemshalah" means "Prime Minister," the head of the government under whom work officers who execute his policies.
Thus, "Rosh Hashanah" marks not just the beginning of the year, but it is the "head," in every sense of the word. For nothing occurs during the year that was not decreed at its outset, on the great Day of Judgment, when all the King's subjects are judged for life or death, fortune or tragedy, prosperity or difficulty, sustenance or poverty. Therefore, "the day" refers to Rosh Hashanah. This is the day that determines everything, the day on which all others are dependent. Whoever is privileged to earn Hashem's favor, kindness and generosity, will enjoy happiness during the coming year and many other years (as the Seder Hahasidim writes , that many times a decree is issued on Rosh Hashanah relevant for many years to come.)
How do we earn a favorable judgment? Through kindness and compassion, prayer and a broken heart, by appealing and petitioning Hashem. But when all is said and done, there is a judgment conducted. The symbolic constellation of this month is the scale, and one must ensure to have enough misvot placed on the right scale to outweigh the other scale. Then, "If he performs one misvah - he is fortunate, for he has tipped the scales in his favor" (Kiddushin 40b).
Here, however, a feeling of despair may sneak into one's heart. Our hands are empty, our bag of misvot is hollow. "Like beggars and paupers we have knocked on Your doors. We do not cast our entreaties before You based on our righteousness. " In just four more days we will stand trial. How will we react upon seeing the empty right scale? How will we dare ask for a good, sweet year, like an apple dipped in honey? That itself is the answer - we have four days; let us use them wisely. Let us fill the scales with misvot! How? There is one misvah whose reward is as great as that of all the misvot and even more! The Yerushalmi (beginning of Pe'ah) says that "all the misvot of the Torah do not amount to even one item of the Torah." The Gaon of Vilna explained this to mean that every word of Torah study brings more reward than for all the misvot!
Meaning, one who recites shema, which contains 248 words, has reward for over 150,000 misvot! In an hour of learning or hearing an hour-long lecture, which contains, let's say, around 12,000 words, one earns over seven million misvot. This gives us so much hope - and so much responsibility to take advantage of this opportunity! Be it an hour of Torah learning, first and foremost intent concentration on the Torah reading and reviewing the weekly parashah "shenayim mikra ve'ehad targum" (reading it twice and then once with the translation), or participating in a Torah class. All this can help fill the scale and weigh it down in our favor, earning us a year of goodness, life, good health, "nahat" and good fortune - who wouldn't do his utmost to take advantage of this opportunity!
What more, Rabbenu Yosef Haim zs"l writes (Ben Ish Hai, 2, Shemot) in the name of the Kabbalists that the effect of Torah study on Shabbat is one thousand times that of Torah study throughout the week. Thus, by listening to a shiur or spending an hour studying Torah on Shabbat, one can add over 350 million misvot! One who picks up a Humash or Pirkei Avot and spends even just minute studying this Shabbat - assuming around two hundred words are read in an hour - earns over 122 million misvot, while five minutes earns 613 million! Indeed, there is hope for the Day of Judgment! Let us take advantage of the great, sacred day of Shabbat to fill the scale of misvot with many million merits in our favor. The words of shema are worth 150 million misvot; repeating it over and over earns us even more. These merits will translate into health, happiness, prosperity and honor, additional joy and light!
Luna Bat Miriam and Senyar Bat Mazal
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