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Rosh Hashana


The "sign" of the month of Tishrei is a scale. Right at the beginning of the month, on Rosh Hashanah, all our deeds of the previous year are placed onto the scales. The missvot are all placed on one side, and weigh it down considerably. Belief in God is itself a missvah, and we are all believers, the children of believers. Kindness towards others is a missvah, and Am Yisrael are merciful and involved in all types of hesed activities, or, as Hazal put it, Benei Yisrael are "filled with missvot like a pomegranate."

Each moment of observance of Shabbat and Yom Tov constitutes a missvah.

Similarly, a missvah is fulfilled every moment in which one prays or wears tallit and tefillin. But above all - the missvah of Torah study. Every word, even the listening of each word during Torah reading in Bet Kenesset, constitutes a missvah equivalent to all 613 missvot put together! Indeed, Benei Yisrael are a sacred people, filled with missvot like a pomegranate.

But, much to our chagrin, the second scale is far from empty. Above all - sins involving improper speech, falsehood, verbal abuse of others, lashon hara, gossip, foolishness and embarrassing others - let us not prosecute too harshly against Am Yisrael. Every heart knows its own wrongdoing, but no "viduy" (confession) is conducted on Rosh Hashanah, we do not enumerate or even make mention of our sins. Nevertheless, we tremble in fear, recognizing the fact that the scales are weighing our actions up in heaven.

The results will determine what will happen this coming year. How can we relax, knowing that last year we experienced such an uplifting Rosh Hashanah, we ate all the foods symbolizing a good year, we blessed each other, we prayed and listened to the shofar, and unquestionably we thereby had many decrees annulled. But yet we experienced a year about which we may say, "May the year end together with its curses." Despite our sincere and heartfelt efforts last Rosh Hashanah, it has been a year of hardship, a year in which hundreds of thousands of fellow Jews were without a livelihood, tens of thousands became ill and suffered terribly, the Attribute of Justice descended upon people of all ages, be it on the roadways or by terror and crime. Indeed, judgment is no small matter: "The angels scurry about, they are gripped with fear and terror, and they say, 'Behold, the Day of Judgment has arrived!'"

We wish we could celebrate Rosh Hashanah with a clear mind and calm nerves, in fulfillment of the verse, "the joy of Hashem is your strength." If only we could be calm and at ease, knowing that we have ample merits to come to our defense in the heavenly tribunal, to cure all the ill-stricken, to provide sufficient livelihood and sustenance to all the needy, to shower upon us an abundance of goodness and spiritual light - how fortunate would we be! If only we had some way of erasing all our sins, of miraculously emptying the "demerit" side of the scales, leaving the missvah end full and capable of tipping the scales in our favor, for a good, happy and healthy year. How wonderful that would be!

As it so happens, this year we are granted, with the kindness of Heaven, this great opportunity. How fortunate we are that we have in our hands the key to a good and blessed year, a year of prosperity, health and sustenance, the key to a judgment in our favor.

What's the secret? What is this key? The answer is that this year, the day of judgment - Rosh Hashanah - occurs on Shabbat.

All we have to do is be ever so careful to ensure that we observe this Shabbat with all its particulars and intricacies. If so, then, first of all, we will accumulate an abundance of merits, since the missvah of Shabbat is equivalent to all other missvot in the Torah (Yerushalmi Nedarim 3:9).

Secondly, a Shabbat properly observed works on our behalf to atone our sins (Shabbat 118b). Thus, with the meticulous observance of this Shabbat, the pile of sins will be eliminated and the collection merits will be weighed down in our favor!

Additionally, the observance of Shabbat brings about the cure of illnesses, as Hazal comment, "One who comes in to visit the sick should say, 'it [Shabbat] has the capacity to cure'" (Shabbat 12a).

Furthermore, Shabbat brings about blessings and, beyond that, is the source of blessing: "To greet Shabbat go - and we will go, for it is the source of blessing!" And the Zohar writes (vol. 2, 88a) that all the blessings "from up above" - referring to spiritual blessings - and all the blessings "from below" - referring to physical and material blessings - are dependent upon the Shabbat.

What more, as we know, all the problems and crises we experience in our time results from the fact that our period is the "ikvita deMeshiah," the early stages of the Messianic era, which carries with it a painful process as detailed in the Gemara. And, the Gemara says, one who properly enjoys the Shabbat will be spared the suffering of the unfolding of the redemption (Shabbat 118a).

Thus, what a great and invaluable gift we have been given by the Almighty! If we take it upon ourselves to observe this Shabbat with strict adherence to halachah, with careful and meticulous concern for all its details, then we can rest assured that we will earn a favorable judgment on this "Yom HaDin," that we will be inscribed and sealed in the book of life, blessing, peace, prosperity, salvation, consolation and favorable decrees from heaven.

In the merit of the observance of Shabbat, may we see the fulfillment of the blessing, "Then you will delight in Hashem, and he will have you ride on the highest points on earth, and he will feed you the inheritance of your father, Yaakov, for the Mouth of Hashem has spoken!"


"A day of [shofar] blowing"

The Rambam zs"l writes: "Although the blowing of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah is a decree of the Torah, it [also] contains therein an allusion, as if to say, 'Wake up, those who sleep, from your slumber, and wake up, those in hibernation, from your sleep. Search through your deeds and repent.

Remember your Creator, those who forget the truth in the nonsense of the time and foolishly waste their years with inanities and absurdities that will not help or save. Look into your souls, improve your ways and conduct, and let each of you leave his evil path and bad thoughts!'"

"A day of [shofar] blowing"

The Sefer Hahinuch writes: The root of the missvah [of blowing of shofar] is that the physical human being will not be awakened to things except by some awakening agent. For example, people during war will blow and scream so that they are properly aroused to battle. Therefore, on Rosh Hashanah, which has forever been the day designated for the judgment of all people, as Hazal say, "on Rosh Hashanah all creatures come before Him like sheep," that He looks over every single creature, such that if his merits are the majority he will be innocent, and if his sins are more numerous then he is decreed for death or for some other harsh decree, in accordance with his behavior - therefore everyone must be aroused from deep within to ask for merciful forgiveness for his sins from the Master of Compassion, for He is a merciful and gracious God, Who bears sins, transgressions and iniquity, and erases them on behalf of those who return to Him with all their heart.

The sound of the shofar greatly stirs the hearts of all who hear it, and even more so the sound of the "teru'ah," the broken sound.

And beyond the awakening effect, the shofar also reminds the person, upon hearing the broken sounds, to break his evil inclination that lusts for the pleasures of the world and its desires.

"A day of [shofar] blowing"

The Abarbanel zs"l comments that when servants were set free on the "yovel" (jubilee) year, the shofar was blown as a sign of freedom and redemption.

All human beings are servants to the forces of nature, but we have been commanded to blow the shofar as a sign of redemption, teaching us that we are the children of the Creator, and Hashem our King will save us from all troubles and release us for salvation and prosperity!


Rabbi Yossef Ssevi zs"l

The book, "Mamlechet Kohanim" brings a story of a certain sage named Rabbi Yossef Ssevi zs"l who came to Garba and stayed there over the Yamim Nora'im. On Rosh Hashanah night he prayed in the renowned Bet Kenesset of Garba, and as he left he lifted his eyes to the heavens and broke out crying.

"Master of the World, please have compassion! How can your children survive a drought without a single drop of rain!" Those around him were startled, and the great rabbi repeated, "Without a single drop of rain!"

A sense of fear overtook the community, as they recalled the last time they experienced a year of drought, when all the wells ran dry and the price of grain skyrocketed. Throngs of people suffered from starvation and many died after months of bitter suffering. Everything simply deteriorated and progressed from bad to worse.

"Without a single drop!" cried the sage. Everyone quickly proceeded to repent and plead for mercy, to pray, cry and try to annul the deadly decree.

Thus Rosh Hashanah passed with a sense of heartfelt prayer and supplication, and throughout the Asseret Yemei Teshuvah the community increased their "teshuvah, tefilah and ssedakah" (repentance, prayer and charity) that annul harsh decrees. On Yom Kippur night, as everyone left the Bet Kenesset, the rabbi stopped and raised his eyes to the heavens.

Everyone stopped and waited anxiously. The sage lifted his hands to the skies and cried in amazement, "What is this, Master of the World? Have You decided definitively to bring a flood to the world?"

Everyone breathed a sigh of relief and thanked their Creator. And, indeed, that season produced so much rain that sea flooded the shore and people needed rafts and boats to get from Tripoli to the market in Garba!

This is what the Gemara means when it says, "Any year that is poor in the beginning (meaning, that one humbles himself in prayer before the Almighty like a poor person) - is rich in the end!" We must remember that everything depends upon these two days - our lives, our fortune, the fortune of our families and the nation at large, health and prosperity, peace and tranquillity. We must pray and plead, and then be blessed with goodness.


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 10: The Laws of Ssissit

A tallit with fewer than four corners does not require ssissit. Even if a garment was manufactured with four corners and one corner was cut such that only three corners remain, ssissit are not required. This halachah is based on the pasuk (Devarim 22:12), "You shall make fringes on the four corners of your garment with which you cover yourself." Hazal derive from this pasuk that only a garment with four corners requires ssissit.

A tallit with five corners, however, does require ssissit, since Hazal extrapolate from the expression, "with which you cover yourself" that a requirement exists for such a tallit. The ssissit are affixed to the four corners furthest away from one another.

Nevertheless, since this halachah - the requirement of ssissit for a five-cornered garment - is subject to dispute, one should optimally wear a tallit with four corners, not five. If, however, a four-cornered tallit is unavailable, one may wear a five-cornered tallit and recite the berachah.

If a tallit katan has a hole in the middle, and the hole was opened from the inside like a collar from both sides, such that two corners are now produced from the inside of the garment near the neck, in addition to the four regular corners of the tallit down below, it is best to ensure that opening from the inside isn't along the length of the majority of the garment. Otherwise, the tallit katan will be considered as having six corners, and the requirement of ssissit will then become the subject of dispute. If the majority of the garment is open, then the edges near the neck should be rounded off, thereby satisfying all views.

If one mistakenly affixed five sets of ssissit on each corner of a five-cornered garment, then whoever wears this tallit is in violation of the prohibition of "bal tossif" (Devarim 4:2, 13:1), of adding onto missvot, and the extra set of ssissit must be removed. Some maintain that all the ssissit must be removed from this garment, and then four sets should be once again affixed to the tallit.

If a garment had four corners and one corner was cut along a diagonal, thus producing two corners, the garment requires ssissit. The same applies if two corners were cut in such a manner, and thus the garment has six corners.

Such a garment requires ssissit, and four sets of ssissit are placed on the four corners most distant from one another.

Similarly, if one of the corners was cut in the form of the Hebrew letter "dalet" and therefore seems like two corners, such a garment requires ssissit. Likewise, a garment that had three corners and one corner was cut along a diagonal or in the form of a "dalet" thus producing two corners, requires ssissit, since it now contains four corners.

All these halachot apply only if the corners were cut in such a way that the cut is easily discernible and the resultant distance between the new corners is at least three fingers' width (= six centimeters).

If the edges of a four-cornered garment were folded over and then tied or sewn in such a way that the edges are now round, and the garment appears not to have four corners, the garment nevertheless still requires ssissit. So long as the corners were not actually cut, the knot or stitch is seen as soon to be undone, and thus considered as already untied. Ssissit must therefore be placed, and they are affixed on the place where they would have been placed if the edge had not been tied or sewn. If the edges were folded and then tied or sewn in a square, and thus the garment still has four corners even after the tying or sewing, then according to some views even in such a situation the ssissit should be placed on the spot where they would have been affixed were the edge not folded. Others, however, maintain that the ssissit may be placed even on the fold as is, despite the fact that if the knot or stitch is undone the ssissit will be more than three fingers' width from the edge.



When we want to point out that something or someone is particularly hard, we generally employ the expression, "hard as a rock." Indeed, the rock is quite impressive in terms of its upright position and it often seems that it can never collapse. This sense is correct when we're talking in terms of periods of time such as months, years or even decades. However, when the "life span" of rocks is measured by scientists according to geological standards - meaning, in terms of hundreds and thousands of years, or perhaps from the time of creation, it becomes clear that rocks, like everything else, cannot exist forever. It is bound to wear out, to crumble and collapse. What causes are capable of changing the surface of something which has become the symbol of strength and power? Among the forces contributing to the collapse of the rock are those that operate ever so slowly, wearing out only the top layer of the rock. Others, however, can affect the rock immediately, such as an avalanche caused by a sudden collapse. The surface of rocks is greatly affected by the weather, the sun's rays, the temperature - heat, cold, rain and wind. Vegetation also assists in the rock's demise as the roots penetrate the rock's surface.

In colder climates, rain begins falling and may then freeze on the rock's surface. The volume of the frozen water grows and the ice spreads throughout the entire rock - top, bottom and sides. The resultant pressure expands the rock and, in effect, crumbles it. The constant repetition of this process of freezing and defrosting can turn the rock into gravel.

Strange as it may seem, some rocks can melt. This occurs when the water contains carbon dioxide, a common gas, especially in the ground near the roots of trees and vegetation. The gas produces a light acid capable of melting lime. Some small creatures, such as ants, snails and bacteria also play a role in the organic wearing of rocks.

This process of deterioration turns the rock into tiny particles, gravel and even dust. If even the rock, which serves as the symbol of natural force, can be worn out, then no wonder that an observant Jew must carefully watch over his young, impressionable child from external influences, by sending him specifically to Torah educational institutions. This framework helps guarantee that the child will remain firmly attached to Am Yisrael, "the solid rock," which has never deteriorated, despite the suffering it experienced throughout history, in the merit of the eternal covenant between the Creator and Am Yisrael.


The Deserted Woman of Jerusalem (12)

A story taken from the book, "Hasaraf MiBrisk,"
the story of the life of Maharil Diskin zs"l

Flashback: Merieshah, the deserted woman of Jerusalem, left at the order of the "Saraf" of Brisk, Maharil Diskin zs"l to Paris in an attempt to track down her unscrupulous husband, who left her penniless. The Saraf instructed that she should contact the rabbi in Paris upon her arrival. When she came to the Jewish hostel in Paris, she was informed that the rabbi would be coming to the hostel that night to officiate at a wedding.

Already in the afternoon guests started coming, and Mereishah, too, came to the hall, dressed in her Shabbat clothing, so as not to stand out among the guests in her ordinary clothes. This attempt was, however, to no avail. Her Jerusalemite Shabbat garb - long and dark, was drastically different from the mode of dress of the Parisian women, which featured a dizzying array of colors, ornate hats and giant feathers. Finally, the carriages of the parents came. The bride's father was a wealthy banker. The rabbi came, too. He wore a tall top-hat and a bow-tie that showed under his neatly-groomed beard. Everything was so different, so strange! Mereishah was lost and confused, as well as amazed and in shock. As she surveyed the incredible display of clothing, she made her way over to the bride. Next to the bride stood the groom, also wearing a tall top-hat and freshly shaven.

He smiled at the guest who came to shake his hand, and the smile was ever so familiar to the old woman from Jerusalem. Her face turned white, and she collapsed and fainted. Hysteria broke out. "Water, bring water!" "Who is she?" "Where's the water?" "Who is this woman?"

"She is a guest from Jerusalem," said the hotel manager. "She came to meet with the rabbi!" "With me?" asked the rabbi, looking at the woman who was now recovering, her face pale as whitewash.

"Yes," said the manager. "She claimed that the rabbi of Brisk sent her."

"The rabbi of Brisk - who lives in Jerusalem!" exclaimed the rabbi.

"Indeed," he continued, "he is a sacred man - I know him." With great emotion he told the story of a man from Zimbabwe who came down with a severe infection in his lungs, and the doctor reached the point of desperation. The only possibility of saving his life was a dangerous operation that entailed removing the infected lobes. And even then, if the operation would be successful, his life would be one of suffering and the illness might return. He came to Paris for the operation and came to meet with the rabbi.

At that time, the Saraf of Brisk had arrived in Paris on his way to Eress Yisrael. The rabbi took the patient to the Saraf of Brisk who ordered that the operation should not performed, and promised the patient that he will recover. Miraculously, he was completely healed, the lungs were cured and he emerged healthy. "Therefore," concluded the rabbi, "if the rabbi of Brisk sent her here, then I must hear what she has to say."

"If so," responded the bride's father, "then why not first conduct the wedding ceremony, and in the meantime the woman will recuperate and be able to speak with the rabbi."

To be continued...


We all hope for a good, sweet year, a year of peace and tranquillity, without fear and crises, without heartache and aggravation, without suffering and anguish, pain or distress. But let's be honest with ourselves. Are we such great ssadikim, is our collection of merits so loaded, so perfect? May we not be compared to a child who comes into a store with a few dollars of spending money to buy electrical appliances, and purchases the most expensive item in the store? Wouldn't the storekeeper remind him that with this money he can buy just some candy or something?

So who among us can make such a bold request, for an absolutely perfect year, without an ounce of anguish or discomfort? Perhaps such a request is suitable for, first and foremost, exemplary ssadikim, gedolei hador, our great leader Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a, in whose shadow we continue to dwell. But ordinary people, such as ourselves?

Or maybe a remarkable "ba'al hesed," someone involved in saving lives on a regular basis - "Someone who saves a single life is as if he saved an entire world." Kindness is one of the missvot whose "fruits" are enjoyed in this world while the principal remains for the World to Come. If someone comes before the Almighty with such an ambitious petition and he brings with him the merit of saving lives - this is understandable. But someone like us? And someone who saved an entire neighborhood, with hundreds of residents? Certainly he will be granted his request!

And what about someone who saved an entire country, a continent? He is guaranteed a good year - but who has such merits?

One final question: if someone stands in judgment and proves unequivocally that he saved the entire world, that in his merit the world continues to exist, can we even imagine what merits are needed to provide wealth to millionaires, sustain all of humanity, Am Yisrael specifically, in its entirety? Is there any doubt whatsoever that his request for a good year will be granted?

But who is the person who can make such a claim? The answer is you, the reader. Listen to the words of the Gemara (Hullin 89a):"Rabbi Ila said: The world exists only due to the one who restrains himself during a fight."

Someone did something to you, said something to you, and you were right, but you nevertheless hold back. This is difficult, there is no question that restraint is not easy. But in that moment one can earn his portion, and in the heavens it is considered as having sustained the entire world. All his requests will be granted - isn't it worth it?

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