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A Summary of the Shiur Delivered on Mossa'ei Shabbat by Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a

Halachot of Pesukei De'zimrah

Hazal instituted the recitation of Pesukei De'zimrah before tefilah, beginning with "Baruch She'amar" and concluding with "Yishtabah" (see Masechet Shabbat 118b). One must ensure to recite Pesukei De'zimrah slowly, as befitting the recitation of Hashem's praises, not to mention that one should not swallow letters or words and mispronounce them. The Rif and the Rosh (beginning of the fifth chapter of Masechet Berachot) rule that one may not speak during Pesukei De'zimrah, from the recitation of "Baruch She'amar" through the end of "Yishtabah." Nevertheless, one may answer "amen" to a berachah he hears while reciting Pesukei De'zimrah, not to mention kaddish or kedushah. When answering kedushah during Pesukei De'zimrah, one may recite only the two pesukim of "kadosh kadosh" and "baruch Shem… " One may not interrupt to answer "baruch Hu u'baruch Shemo" during Pesukei De'zimrah. Regarding kaddish, the Aharonim debate whether or not one reciting Pesukei De'zimrah interrupts to answer "amen" to "titkabal," "al Yisrael," "yeheh shelama rabbah," and "oseh shalom." It is therefore preferable to remain silent and think the response in one's mind, rather than answering verbally.

If one is reciting Pesukei De'zimrah when the congregation reaches "modim" in the hazzan's repetition of the Amidah, he should bow down with the congregation and recite just the three words, "modim anahnu lach." One who has completed "Yishtabah" but has yet to begin the berachah of "yosser or" may recite the entire paragraph of "modim" with the congregation. One does not interrupt Pesukei De'zimrah to recite the thirteen attributes of mercy ("Hashem Hashem… ") with the congregation. Nor does one interrupt Pesukei De'zimrah to recite "Berich Shemeh" as the ark is opened, or "vezot ha'Torah" when the Torah is lifted; these may be recited, however, by one who has completed "Yishtabah" but has not begun "yosser or." If one is asked an important question as he recites Pesukei De'zimrah, shema, or the berachot before and after shema, and the response is needed immediately, he may interrupt his recitation to answer in writing only. Needless to say, this includes a ruling of halachah that is of immediate necessity, that he may disrupt his recitation to write the answer.

Someone who forgot to recite the birkot ha'shahar and remembers during Pesukei De'zimrah should not interrupt Pesukei De'zimrah to recite them, since they can be recited after Amidah. The exception to this rule is the berachah of "Elokai Neshamah," which cannot be recited after shemoneh esreih; in this situation, then, one recites this berachah after "Yishtabah" and before "yosser or." If one remembers only during the berachot of shema that he has not recited birckot ha'shahar, he should recite "Elokai Neshamah" in between the berachot of shema or in between the paragraphs of shema itself. One should not, however, interrupt for anything in between the final paragraph of "shema" ("vayomer") and "emet ve'yassiv."

If someone forgot to recite birkot ha'Torah and remembers during Pesukei De'zimrah, he should recite only the single berachah of "asher bahar banu mikol ha'amim" and then continue with Pesukei De'zimrah. After "Yishtabah," before beginning "yosser or," he should recite the other two berachot and then continue with "yosser or." If one did not remember until after he began "yosser or," he should recite birkot ha'Torah in between the berachah of "yosser ha'me'orot" and "ahavat olam." Once he has recited "ahavat olam," however, he may not longer recite birkot ha'Torah.

Hazal write (Berachot 32a) that one must give praise to Hashem and then pray. On this basis, the Geonim ruled that if one did not recite Pesukei De'zimrah before tefilah, he may not recite it afterward. Hence, Pesukei De'zimrah constitutes a time-bound obligation, from which women are exempt. If they wish to recite it anyway, they should not recite the berachot of Baruch She'amar and Yishtabah with "Shem u'malchut" (Hashem's Name). Women are likewise exempt from the recitation of shema, though it is worthwhile for them to be stringent in this regard and recite it, to accept upon themselves the yoke of heaven. They should not, however, recite the berachot before and after shema with "Shem u'malchut" (Hashem's Name).


Yaakov Avinu moves to Haran and meets some shepherds assembling their sheep near the well in the middle of the day. He does not conceal his surprise and criticizes them: "Isn't it still early in the day!" Rashi explains, "If you are day workers, you have not finished your daytime work." The pasuk continues, "It is not time to gather the sheep; give the sheep to drink, and continue shepherding." Why does he get involved? What is it to him whether or not they fulfill their responsibilities? The Seforno explains: "The sadik despises wrongdoing, even among others, as it says (Mishlei 29:27), 'A corrupt man is an abomination to sadikim'."

Still, he is, after all, but a guest, a foreigner, a stranger. How was he not concerned about triggering animosity? Why did he not expect a sharp response to his unsolicited criticism? Surely he knew that shepherds are suspected of thievery (Sanhedrin 57a), so why did he not fear the consequences of getting involved in their affairs, that they would say, "This man comes to stay here and already he judges us!" (see Beresheet 19:9)?

Actually, we find that the shepherds replied very politely and respectfully, explaining their actions. Why? Because Yaakov introduced his critical remarks with a magic word: "ahai" - my brothers. He opened with an expression of friendship and brotherhood, in a soft, gentle tone. If people would realize this secret, if they would extract this lesson from the conduct of our patriarchs, so much fighting could be avoided, so many arguments and feuds. Let us precede criticism with love, and it will sound much different. Even the shepherds of Haran will accept it with understanding!


Yaakov Avinu, the "choicest" of the patriarchs, obeys his father's order to go to Haran to establish the House of Israel. He had many fears as he embarked on this journey. After all, his grandfather, Avraham Avinu, did not permit his son, Yis’hak, to go to Haran to marry. Rivkah was instead brought to him, to Eress Yisrael. He, however, now leaves to Haran, to the lion's den, to Lavan, who "sought to uproot everything." Will Hashem make his trip successful? Will He protect him from harm, both spiritual and physical? He now sleeps in Bet-El and Hashem appears to him, promising that he will inherit the land and found Am Yisrael. He informs Yaakov, "Behold, I am with you; I will protect you wherever you go and I will return you to this land, for I will not forsake you until I have done what I have told you."

Such promises; such news! Do we have any concept of how precious prophecy is, let alone a prophecy such as this one? Certainly, we would expect, Yaakov would wake up jubilant, he will awaken from his prophetic sleep with joy, celebration and thanksgiving!

But how, in fact, did he wake up? "Yaakov awoke from his sleep and said, 'Truly G-d is in this place - and I did not know!'" Rashi explains: "For if I had known, I would not have slept in such a sacred spot."

But if he had not slept there, he would not have earned this prophetic vision! He would not have heard Hashem's voice speaking to him and promising him these eternal promises!

True. But one does not sleep in a holy place, period. Even if this entails forfeiting a prophecy.

Needless to say, Yaakov Avinu's sleep is not normal sleep. In the book Shivhei Ha'Ari (chapter 2), the saintly Rav Avraham Halevi z"l testifies that once as the rabbi slept, he noticed that his lips were moving. Rabbi Avraham Halevi listened carefully to hear what the rabbi spoke in his dream. The rabbi awoke and found him standing right near his mouth.

"What are you doing here?" he asked.

"Forgive me," he replied, "but I saw your lips moving so I came to listen what you were saying."

The rabbi said to him, "Whenever I sleep, my soul ascends to the heavens through the paths and avenues familiar to me. The ministering angels bring my soul before the angel Matatron, and he asks me which yeshivah I want to attend. There they transmit to me secrets of the Torah that have never been heard before. I can call heaven and earth to testify to the fact that if I would live eighty consecutive years I could not say over everything I learned this time!"

The Gaon of Vilna zs"l (in his commentary to Mishlei 19:23) likewise writes, "The concept that the Al-mighty implanted within the nature of man that he sleeps is in order for his soul to ascend to the yeshivah of the upperworld, where secrets of the Torah are revealed to him. (See Zohar Hakadosh, vol. 1, 121.) That which a person cannot learn in his seventy years he studies there in just one hour!" Once the Gaon of Vilna happened to reveal to his students that as he slept 2,260 explanations of the pasuk, "alu zeh ba'negev" ("go up through the Negev") were revealed to him. Through one of the explanations, he knew all the strengths of every animal in the world. If this was the sleep of our great Aharonim zs"l, then can we even imagine what kind of sleep was slept by the Rishonim, Amora'im, Tanna'im, the prophets, or certainly the sleep of the "choicest" of the patriarchs - Yaakov Avinu, a sleep that brought upon a prophetic vision!?

And yet, "If I had known, I would not have slept in such a sacred spot."

Knowing this, what else need we say regarding an explicit halacha - "Synagogues and study halls - one may not act in a lightheaded fashion in them, such as laughter, jest, and idle talk" (Shulhan Aruch, Orah Hayyim 151:1)? Rabbenu Yossef Hayyim zs"l rules (Ben Ish Hai, Vayera, shanah 1, 11; cited in the Kaf Hahayyim 151:4) that it is proper to refrain from wishing someone well after he sneezes in the Bet Kenesset - even when no learning or prayer is in progress, because of the sanctity of the location!

We should clarify that we do not speak here of those who converse during tefilah, even during the repetition of the Amidah, about whom the Shulhan Aruch writes, "One may not speak mundane talk while the sheli'ah ssibur repeats the tefilah; if one does speak, he is a sinner, and his punishment is too great to bear, and he should be reprimanded" (124:11). We speak here of a different issue, of the reverence required towards a "mikdash me'at," the Bet Kenesset, the "minor Temple" - "This is but the House of G-d." The Sefer Haredim (9) writes that "two great Kabbalists in our generation stopped speaking in the Bet Kenesset altogether, except for words of Torah and fear of Hashem. They are: the great sage Rav Moshe Kordovero zlh"h, and the great sage Rav Yis’hak Ashkenazi (the Ar"i Hakadosh) zs"l. The punishment for one who converses even not during the time of tefilah is immense, because of the fear of the One residing there, may He be blessed." One who is careful in this regard fulfills the misvah of showing proper respect and reverence towards a "mikdash me'at"!


"Yaakov took shoots of poplar… and peeled stripes in them" Yaakov Avinu is known specifically for the attribute of emet (truth). He showed boundless devotion to his job when he worked as a shepherd for Lavan: "I was by day consumed by heat, and by frost and night, and sleep wandered from my eyes." He represents the very highest standards of loyalty. When Lavan searched for his terafim, thinking that Yaakov had stolen them, he found not even a needle of his among Yaakov's things. Absolute honesty. Why, then, did Yaakov peel stripes in the shoots so that his sheep will give birth to striped, spotted and speckled yearlings? Our sages have given very definite answers to this question, teaching us the straightforward meaning of the text.

Rabbenu Ovadia Seforno, the Alshich Hakadosh, and the Hid"a, zs"l, note that Yaakov Avinu offered to Lavan that he remove from his herd all the young, striped sheep, in order that Lavan cannot accuse him of intending to keep them. The older ones, however, will remain. They were necessary in order that some of the sheep will give birth to striped yearlings. Yaakov therefore offered only to remove the young sheep ("seh" - 30:32). But Lavan removed even the older animals (see 30:35), which violated the agreement. In the interest of fairness, then, Yaakov was allowed to show the striped shoots in order that the sheep give birth to striped yearlings.

"Yaakov took shoots of poplar… and peeled stripes in them"

In a similar vein, the Or Hahayyim Hakadosh zs"l also looks carefully at the pesukim. He notes that Yaakov offered to remove only the spotted and speckled sheep, but not the striped sheep, in order that the sheep will see stripes (see 30:32). But Lavan went ahead and removed even the striped sheep - "Anyone that had white in it" (30:35) - violating the agreement. This was an attempt to cheat Yaakov, who was therefore justified in employing the technique of peeling stripes in the shoots.

"Yaakov took shoots of poplar… and peeled stripes in them"

Rabbenu Yehudah Sadkah zs"l also addressed this issue. He explained that when Yaakov agreed to remove from his flock every spotted and speckled sheep, in order that they will not be confused with those who will be born later, he intended only to separate the flocks, with the spotted and speckled flocks remaining nearby, such that the sheep would see them and give birth to some speckled and spotted sheep, which Yaakov would keep as his pay. Lavan was very happy with this arrangement. He removed all of them and gave them to his sons - but brought them a three-day distance away from Yaakov's flocks. This would ensure that Yaakov's sheep would not see any spotted or speckled sheep and would therefore not give birth to these types of sheep. Yaakov was therefore compelled to use the technique of the striped shoots.

"Yaakov took shoots of poplar… and peeled stripes in them"

The Minhat Ani zs"l explains much differently. Let the shepherds try this trick - of erecting striped shoots, and let them see if the percentage of striped and speckled sheep increases! Obviously, it does not. But Yaakov Avinu knew through ru'ah hakodesh, as he later sees in his dream, that Hashem would not allow Lavan to cheat him and that miraculously striped and spotted sheep would be born, much to Lavan's consternation. But this would be an overt miracle, which would arouse wonder and astonishment, resulting in an ayin hara. Yaakov therefore hid the miracle in a disguise of nature, by erecting the shoots, in order to diminish the miracle somewhat.


Rabbi Avraham Hakohen of Djerba

Rabbi Avraham Hakohen, the rabbi of Djerba, was a sacred leader who was revered by his entire community. He applied himself diligently to Torah study and avodat Hashem all his days and nights. He studied and taught, he issued rulings of halachah and led his community with great competence. However, his salary was a salary of starvation. It was not enough to satiate his or his family's hunger. He turned to the community board and asked if his salary could be increased. They answered that the treasury was empty. The residents were very poor, and the heavy taxes levied against them consumed all that they earned. There was no way of adding charges to the members of the community in order to help the rabbi.

That year saw a harsh drought in the region. The price of grain skyrocketed and everyone suffered. The Moslem governor, Ibn Galud, turned to his Jewish secretary and said, "Whenever a drought strikes, you Jews pray and rain falls. Why don't you do so now, as well?"

The rabbi's plight was very close to the secretary's heart, and he wisely replied, "This time our prayers will not be answered. The rabbi's salary is too low, yet the community treasury is empty. This is why this crisis has descended upon us, and the skies refuse to produce rain." The governor was astonished by what he heard, and he decided to confirm that this is indeed the case. He went to the rabbi's home and asked him, "Did you decree a year of drought?"

"Heaven forbid!" the rabbi exclaimed. "I suffer from it, as well. If my salary does not cover my expenses during years of plenty, how will it be enough for me during a drought, given the price of grain? But in the heavens there is anger because of my plight, and this is the result."

The governor promised that from that day on his salary will be paid from the government treasury. As he made his way back home, abundant rains began falling from the sky!


Dear Brothers,

How heartwarming! Lavan hears that the son of his beloved sister, Rivkah, whom he had blessed when she departed with the words, "Our sister - may you grow into thousands of myriads" - her son now arrives for a family visit. Immediately, "He ran to greet him, he embraced him, he kissed him, he brought him into his home." We can cry with emotion. It can be calculated that Lavan at this point is over one hundred years of age. How fortunate he was that he could see the righteous, pious son of his righteous sister. How great it would be for him to become the king's father-in-law!

But Rashi comes along and turns everything around: "He ran to greet him - he figured that he carried money; after all, the family servant [Eliezer, Avraham's servant] had come here with ten loaded camels. He embraced him - when he saw that Yaakov had nothing, he said: Perhaps he brought gold coins and they are in his pocket… He kissed him - when he did not find any gold coins by feeling him, he said: Perhaps he brought precious stones, and they are in his mouth… " He thought that he brought them in his mouth because of the thieves on the highways, or he thought that he hid them in a safe place, and would tell Lavan about them if he sees signs of love and friendship - as the Maharshal zs"l explains. Therefore, "He brought him into his house" - to find out once and for all what he brought with him.

So much for the ideal situation we thought we had. We really thought that we deal here with an emotional, family get-together. In truth, all we have here is pure selfishness, a specifically orchestrated search for wealth.

Why did they do this? Why did Hazal explain the pasuk this way, viewing every action negatively? They were guided by a pasuk: "An enemy dissembles with his speech, inwardly he harbors deceit. Though he be fair-spoken do not trust him, for seven abominations are in his heart" (Mishlei 26:24-25). The Rambam rules (in his commentary to the mishnah, Avot 1:6) based on this pasuk that if a person known for his treachery and deceit does something that appears good and praiseworthy, one should not fall into the trap, but instead look for the devious plan at work. One must stand guard against such a person.

The Torah is a living Torah, providing us with eternal lessons. Were it that our leaders would extract these clear lessons, these critical messages upon which our lives depend - not to believe the enemy when they be fair-spoken, when they plead, when they make promises and issue proclamations; to realize that seven abominations are in their hearts, that inwardly they harbor deceit.

Hazal tell that initially, Hevel overpowered Kayin. But just when he was about to emerge victorious, Kayin began crying and begging for compassion. Hevel felt pity for his brother, and the rest of the story is well known.

No, this has nothing to do with right or left, with politics or diplomatic policy. This has to do only with reality, reality as it is, as the Torah taught us to look carefully at reality in order to avoid surprises.

Shabbat Shalom

Aryeh Deri


The Dowry - The End

Flashback: A scholar whose daughter reached marriageable age could not afford a dowry for her. His rabbi, the Hozeh of Lublin, sent him to Cracow and told him that there he will find his salvation. He checked into a Jewish inn and began learning. The innkeeper approached him and spoke with him. The man learned that the innkeeper had been a very wealthy businessman until his money was stolen. He therefore focuses now on running his motel. Later, the chef asked the scholar to speak with him. He took him out for a walk, and informed him that he was the thief.

"The innkeeper went upstairs," the chef continued, "and my heart dropped. I heard his cry of despair when he discovered that his money was stolen. I heard him accuse the butler, the poor man, accused for nothing. I heard him fire the butler, and I heard the butler plead with him. My heart was torn inside me, but I had not the courage to come forward and confess.

"I did not touch the money," the chef continued. "I hid it in a safe hiding place. From that point on, I have fasted every Monday and Thursday, and I have prayed with all my heart every day that somehow I will find a way to return the money to the innkeeper without causing me shame and humiliation. This was only a slip.

"I am sure," the chef said, "that my prayer has been answered from the heavens, and that your holy rabbi saw my broken heart with his ru'ah hakodesh. He therefore sent you here, to be a messenger for a misvah, to return the money to the innkeeper."

The scholar was still overcome by shock when the chef placed his hand into the man's pocket, giving him four bags. He thrust his hand into his coat pocket and pulled out another four; into the second pocket, and he pulled out another four. From his right pants pocket he drew four bags, and then from the left pocket. As the man stood there trying to fit all the bags into his pockets, the chef disappeared.

The next day, the man sat and studied as usual, and the innkeeper approached his table. "With all due respect," he said, "I consulted with my wife and we decided that we cannot allow you to stay indefinitely without payment."

"Well then," the man said, "I will leave today."

"And what about the payment?" the innkeeper asked.

"I am sure you will forego on the payment as soon as you realize the purpose of my being here. I have come only to return to you the money that was stolen from you several years ago!" The innkeeper stood there in shock, as the guest drew four bags from his bosom, another four from one coat pocket, four more from the other pocket, and four and another four from his pants pockets.

"But you said you came here to acquire a dowry for your daughter!" the innkeeper exclaimed. "Oh, I understand. Your rabbi wanted this to be the money for your mission!" He immediately took a bag with one thousand rubles and gave it to the man. With this money, the man married off all his children honorably.

When he came before his rabbi, the Hozeh Hakadosh told him, "The chef's remorse and impassioned tefilot gave me no rest… "

The End


The Beagle

The beagle seems to always walk with its head down in the ground sniffing. It inherited this habit from its ancestors, who were hunting dogs and used their exceptional sense of smell to track potential prey. Lest one be misled by the beagle's sad or even boring facial expression, the beagle is actually considered a jolly and mischievous dog like any other. In ancient times, the swift beagle was used to hunt rabbits in open fields. They pursued the rabbits and chased right towards the traps that the hunters had set up for them. Or they would chase the rabbits until their strength would simply run out. In recent years, the dogs have undergone a professional transformation, from hunting dogs to "employees" of the American Department of Agriculture, whose job it is to defend the country against harmful agents. Because of their very sensitive nose, the beagle has been drafted to sniff suitcases or packages sent through the mail and identify agricultural products or live animals smuggled across the border that could potentially bring harmful agents into the country. These special dogs can identify fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy products, and even insects, rodents and birds. When they smell something suspicious, they do not bark. Instead, they simply sit down near the source of the smell, waiting for their prize. This passive response is the only method that can be used in crowded airports. Thus you will find beagles dressed in green uniforms working in several international airports across the United States wearing the emblem of the American Department of Agriculture.

Interestingly, the name "beagle" originates from the Celtic "big" which actually means "small" - the opposite of the English meaning of the same word. In any event, the name refers to this dog, regardless of how one chooses to name it. What does this tell us? "Lehavdil," in the human realm, too, and in Am Yisrael in particular, we find a similar phenomenon. The nations of the world have come up with many different titles and descriptions for Am Yisrael, some more flattering and others far less. But Am Yisrael will always remain the "am segulah," the treasured nation of the Al-mighty, the nation in whom Hashem takes pride and declares, "My firstborn son - Yisrael!"

Senyar Bat Mazal and Yis'hak Shaul Ben Leah

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