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Dear Brothers,

The ssadik Reb Elimelech of Lishensk zs"l once sat before his most prominent students and said, "The Yerushalayim of the heavens is in corresponding position to the Yerushalayim here on earth; the Bet Hamikdash of the heavens is in corresponding position to the Bet Hamikdash here on earth. When one is destroyed, the other is destroyed. Every missvah that we fulfill is a brick placed on the Bet Hamikdash in the heavens. Every word of Torah study, every utterance of faith, every prayer and every blessing adds a stone, another level. Every generation adds its missvot, its Torah and its sanctity, such that the walls have already been erected, the building now stands, and just a little bit more construction is required. When it is completed, the redemption will come - the Mikdash will be rebuilt!"

The leading student, the sacred "Hozeh" of Lublin zs"l, responded, "We are confident that our rabbi, through his sacred service of Hashem, will soon complete whatever is missing!"

The ssadik suddenly became filled with emotion and exclaimed, "Believe me - I know no rest! I work with all my strength, adding brick after another, building one layer after another! But what can I do? On the other side, those who seek to undermine the covenant work with all their strength, as well, shattering and destroying, uprooting and demolishing!"

We bring this story here as it relates to an episode related in our parashah. Avraham Avinu dug several wells of water from which he provided water to all who needed. The Pelishtim went ahead and filled them with dirt, and subsequently Yisshak dug them once again. At that point, the Pelishtim made the criminal claim that the wells belonged to them. This tells of the ongoing battle waged between good and evil, between those who "dig wells" and those who stuff them with dirt.

The sacred Torah, every letter in which is carefully weighed and considered, tells these events in great detail for they come to teach us a lesson: "the actions of the forefathers serve as a sign for their children." Every sin dislodges a brick - every word of lashon hara, every forbidden food consumed, every act of Shabbat desecration, Heaven forbid. Every sin pushes the redemption further away and brings about disaster: "If one committed a sin - woe unto him, for he has tipped the scales against himself and the entire world, as it says, 'One sinner will lose an abundance of goodness'!" (Kiddushin 40b).

If we desire life, if we are interested in bringing the redemption closer, then we have no choice: we must work with all our might against those who destroy. We must form an opposing weight, closing the breached areas and building additional layers. We must dig the wells anew so that they give forth fresh waters to provide spiritual life, bring an end to our troubles and open the gates of salvation. Every good deed, every coin donated to charity, every act of kindness, every smile and warm greeting, offer of assistance and help - adds a brick, it strengthens the reconstruction effort of the great, sacred Mikdash. Every effort in furthering peace and harmony in our own homes adds light. Every berachah recited with concentration, and every prayer, has a profound effect. Every word of Torah study brings an enormous stone - the size of all the bricks together. A Torah class adds an entire layer; a day of learning adds an entire wall! We ourselves have no concept of how critical a role we play in the elimination of our troubles and speeding the redemption - even the empty ones among us are filled with missvot like a pomegranate!

When the Mashi'ah comes - and he will come soon - "The Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His Palace, and the angel of the covenant for whom you yearn - behold, he is coming!" (Malachi 3:1) - he will greet each and every one of us and say, "Thank you for your share in hurrying my arrival, thank you for every good deed, for every prayer and every missvah!" Let us increase our performance of missvot and good deeds and thereby earn a "thank you" greeting from the king Mashi'ah himself!

Shabbat Shalom,

Aryeh Deri


Smelling Danger

Whoever saw animals such as the doe or antelope while they chew grass also saw them suddenly stop eating once in a while, lifting their heads and sniffing in the air trying to detect danger. When an animal of prey comes near, the terrified impalas begin fleeing in skips of an amazing height of three meters, as they sway back and forth. At the same time they secrete warning substances from glands on their backs. As the signal passes through the herd, more and more impalas join the skipping parade. The skipping also causes the secretion of a smell from glands situated on the ankles. These smells spread the word of the danger and also signal the escape route for other impalas who could then track the smell without having to stop and sniff the ground.

Garden spraying can also trigger the secretion of warning substances. The aphid, a common, harmful pest in gardens, produces a warning substance when it comes under the attack of insecticides. The aphid itself dies, but the smell it leaves behind informs its relatives of the danger, and they flee with remarkable haste. A wild grown potato has an incredibly sophisticated defense technique. It removes all the aphids from itself through their warning substances, which it itself produces. Unfortunately, when men developed the potato fields they mistakenly destroyed this defense system. Most amazing of all, it was recently discovered that many trees send warning signals when insects attack them. When neighboring trees detect these signals, they bring up the poison in their leaves and become less tasty.

Whoever hears of the amazing capability of these animals to smell the onset of danger can exclaim, "Wow! How great it would be if the human being had such as developed sense of smell that would warn him of impending danger!" We Jews have a mechanism which, similar to the sense of smell of these animals, warns us of danger. This is called "gedarim," or the "fences" erected by Hazal through their enactment to prevent us from endangering ourselves spiritually. These laws protect the missvot and help ensure that one does not stumble through lack of proper observance. Every Jew who fears this danger must be extra careful to preserve these safeguards, understanding their immense value for the Jew's eternal life.


Reb Nehumke - The End

Flashback: Reb Nehumke traveled to Beisgelah to visit his mother, but she had likewise set out to Neishvis to see him. In the end, a carriage was sent to bring him back home, and he did not notice his mother on her way home, disappointed and anguished.

How great was the joy in the home of Rabbi Yossef Eliezer upon the return of his beloved son-in-law! How great was the joy of his wife and of all of Neishvis! The Torah scholars rejoiced that someone will be there to resolve their questions and clarify the complex discussions in the Gemara. The merchants and shopkeepers rejoiced that there is now someone to mediate between them. The poor people rejoiced over the opportunity they once again had to discuss their problems with him and benefit from his generous donations. Reb Nehumke, too, rejoiced upon his return home, with only one dark cloud hovering over his joy: why did his mother not come? To where did she disappear? Did her strength give out along the road? Did she take ill? Perhaps she passed away. He discussed his disappointment with his many friends and acquaintances, the merchants and salesmen who often visited the surrounding villages with their merchandise, and the poor beggars who would travel throughout the communities to ask for help. Everyday the responses came back: no old woman stayed in such-and-such village, nor was there a sickly woman. Neither was there such a woman in the next town. Not in this city nor in the other one. So, where did she go?

"Don't bother," said his mother-in-law. "There are old women who come and go without anyone knowing anything about them." She jokingly told him of the strange poor woman who would come and stand every morning near the gate and stare into the yard and house without disrupting her gaze for but a moment. She turned down the invitations extended to her to go inside, eat and rest. She paid no attention to the looks of wonder from passersby nor to the laughing and jeers of the local children.

"And her eyes would especially shine," noted Reb Nehumke's wife, "when she saw me. Perhaps I reminded her of how she looked in her youth."

Suddenly becoming tense, Reb Nehumke asked them to describe the woman to him. "That was mother!" he said, clasping his hands together. Everyone was shocked: how could they not have realized; why did they not figure this out on their own?!

"Forgive us," they said to their son-in-law, whose face had turned white as snow.

"If I had only returned one week earlier, I would have seen her!" he cried painfully.

"By now she had definitely returned home," the father-in-law said, glancing at his son-in-law. The glance spoke of a promise, one that he did not take long to fulfill.

Just a few days later a carriage arrived in Beisgelah. The driver had with him an address and met there a frail old woman. He carried a package into her home and handed her a letter. Her eyes glistened - this was a letter from her dear son! It read, "My dear and beloved mother: please wear these clothes in the package, put on the jewelry you will find there, and step onto the carriage, which will bring you to me!"

But the carriage did not bring her to his home. She was instead brought to the house next door, a beautifully furnished residence that she had to herself and where her beloved son would come to visit her. He would come with his wife, father-in-law and mother-in-law, with whom she lived very happily until her death in 5650.

The End


"And God shall give you from the dew of the heavens and from the fat of the land"

The Ramban zs"l asks, what kind of berachah is this - dew never stops falling! He explains that this is exactly the berachah - that Hashem's blessing shall be constant and incessant just as the dew falls everyday without fail!

"And God shall give you from the dew of the heavens and from the fat of the land"

Rabbenu Ovadia Seforno zs"l explains this berachah to mean that the dew itself should provide enough moisture for the plants such that they do not require rainwater. Vegetation will thus grow without any rain causing discomfort to the travelers . Indeed, Hazal tell us that during the years when Rabbenu Hakadosh experienced suffering, the fields were filled with healthy produce. When a radish was uprooted from the ground, the hole in the ground would immediately fill with water from the dew descending from the skies and the underground water sources. Throughout this period, the world never needed rain.

"And God shall give you from the dew of the heavens and from the fat of the land"

The Or Hahayyim Hakadosh zs"l explains why Yisshak invokes here the Name "Elokim," which refers to the divine attribute of strict justice. He notes that whereas throughout the story of creation the Torah uses this Name, towards the end of the account the Torah writes, ". on the day Hashem Elokim made earth and heaven," combining "Elokim" with "H-V-Y-H," the divine attribute of mercy. This is because Hashem first intended to create the world with the attribute of justice, but upon seeing that the world could not be sustained in this way, he combined it with the attribute of compassion. As our sages explain, fortunate is the one who can live up to the demands of the attribute of justice, but most people require the protection afforded by the attribute of mercy. How beautiful, therefore, is Yisshak's blessing to Yaakov: "Elokim shall give you," meaning, may it be His will that you will be a complete ssadik to the point where even the attribute of justice will agree to confer the blessings upon you, as you have rightfully earned them. Indeed, we see later on that the "sar" (heavenly angel) of Esav and even Esav himself conceded to Yaakov the berachot!

"And God shall give you from the dew of the heavens and from the fat of the land"

The Ben Ish Hai zs"l writes in his "derashot" an explanation as to why the berachot begin with the letter "vav" - "AND God shall give you. " The Midrash interprets this to mean, "He shall give, and then give again; He shall give you blessing and give you 'kevushehon.'" What does this repeated giving mean, and how are we to define the unusual term, "kevushehon"?

The letters of the berachah serve as the pipelines of the bounty it produces. If we take into account as well the words that make up the letters of each word then the blessing multiplies exponentially. This is the meaning of the pasuk with which we begin our shemoneh esreih prayer, "Hashem sefatai tiftah" ("Hashem, open my lips"). The letters of the word "berachah" are "bet," "reish," "kaf" and "heih." The final letters of all these words spell the word "sefatai." Thus by "opening" the berachah we receive greater abundance of blessing.

The Midrash alludes to this idea. How will Hashem give and then give again? By "giving you berachah" - blessing from the letters "berachah" itself. He will then give "kevushehon," which comes from the word, "kavush," or concealed, meaning, that He will give all the blessing latent within the letters of the word.


The Hikrei Lev zs"l

In the year 5578, Rav Yossef Refael Hazzan zs"l was appointed to the position of Rishon L'ssiyon in Yerushalayim. He was then seventy-seven years of age and known for his eight-volume work, "Hikrei Lev." His responses to intricate questions are replete with sharp reasoning and remarkable breadth of knowledge in all areas of Torah. He is also known for his work, "Ma'archei Lev" on the "aggadot" of Hazal.

At just thirty years old, he assumed the rabbinical post in his town of Izmir. His grandson, Rav Hayyim Plagi zs"l writes (in his work, "Hayyim B'yad," 19) that he heard from his grandfather that soon after his appointment the leading members of the community came to speak to him. They were all elderly and distinguished, the youngest of them twice his age. They asked the rabbi to run his position tolerantly and overlook occasional deviations from the norm that might occur.

He pleasantly replied, "I really do not understand - why did you appoint me your rabbi? You are all so much older than I - you deserve the leadership post. Why did you choose me?"

They replied, "We chose the rav because his Torah knowledge far exceeds ours; he will therefore teach us the halachot and issue rulings on matters of Torah law."

"If so," he responded, "if you chose me because of my Torah knowledge, then I take it upon myself not to issue a ruling that does not appear in the Torah or writings of the poskim; I will not tell you anything made up in my own mind!"

Indeed, he judged his constituents justly until he was asked to assume the position of Rishon L'ssiyon. He shone his light in Yerushalayim until his passing in the year 5581. May his merit protect us, and may his Torah illuminate our eyes.

His grandson, the Haviss zs"l (in his work, "Masa Hayyim"), tells that once a wealthy member of the community was taxed more than his share towards public funds such as charity and supporting Torah. He came before the rabbi and announced, "I am not paying any more taxes!" The rabbi softly answered, "You are correct, you will not pay any more." The man soon went bankrupt and was forced to take charity and receive a tax exemption.

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

One may not taste anything before reciting kiddush over a cup of wine. This applies to both the kiddush recited at night as well as the daytime kiddush, and both on Shabbat and on Yom Tov. One may not even drink water before kiddush. One may, however, rinse his mouth before kiddush, since he does not intend to rinse for the enjoyment of tasting the liquid. Similarly, one who must take medication some time before eating may swallow his pills before kiddush, even if he must take a sip of water to help him swallow them.

The Onset of the Prohibition

At what point does the prohibition against eating before kiddush take effect? On the night of Shabbat and Yom Tov, the prohibition takes effect at sundown. In extenuating circumstances, one may drink water on Erev Shabbat even after sundown until nightfall. If one accepted upon himself the onset of Shabbat or Yom Tov earlier, before sundown, then from that moment he may not eat or drink. Not to mention that one who recited arvit before sunset on the eve of Shabbat or Yom Tov may not eat before kiddush.

According to the custom of the Sefaradim and eastern communities, the acceptance of Shabbat does not depend upon candle lighting. Therefore, women may eat after candle lighting until either sunset or the point at which they accept the onset of Shabbat. According to the custom of the Ashkenazim, too, there is room to be lenient when the need arises, so long as the woman explicitly stipulates that she does not accept the onset of Shabbat through her candle lighting. At which point does this prohibition begin on Shabbat or Yom Tov morning? It begins once the individual recites the shaharit prayer. Some authorities, however, maintain that it takes effect only after the recitation of the mussaf prayer. Before tefilah, however, the obligation of kiddush has yet to take effect because kiddush must be recited in the context of a meal, which may not be conducted before tefilah. In any event, according to all views, even though the obligation of kiddush does not take effect before tefilah, one may not eat or drink because he has yet to pray. As we know, one may not eat or drink in the morning before reciting the shaharit service.

Drinking Before Tefilah on Shabbat or Yom Tov Morning

One may drink a cup of tea or coffee before shaharit on Shabbat and Yom Tov morning, just as one may on any other day of the week, since the obligation of kiddush has yet to take effect. One may add sugar to these drinks, as well. Someone who feels week may also add some milk. It is proper to first recite the birkot hashahar and birkot ha'Torah, as well as the Akeidah and some of the korbanot section, and only then drink the tea or coffee with milk.


A beautiful question was asked by Rabbi Yehoshua of Belz zs"l - and his answer is many times more beautiful! He asks, what led Rivkah to go to the Bet Midrash of Shem and Ever in order to seek Hashem's word in the form of prophecy? True, whenever she would pass by a Bet Midrash one fetus would struggle to go out, and whenever she passed by a house of idolatry the other would fight to leave. She clearly understood that she carried in her womb two twins, one good and the other bad. To be sure, it was sad and tragic for her. But this has happened in the past - Kayin and Hevel, Shem and Ham, Yisshak and Yishmael - and even Rivkah herself and Lavan. What did she expect to hear from the prophecy? Why did she seek Hashem's word?

He answers that everything we said until now would be true if only this were a natural pregnancy. Then it would stand to reason that one son resembles his sacred parents and the other takes after his uncle from his mother's side, like many sons do. But Rivkah was barren; she conceived only as a result of prayers and supplications, as the pasuk states, "Yisshak pleaded to Hashem on behalf of his wife, and Hashem granted his request, and his wife, Rivkah, conceived." The tefilah changed her nature, just as an "atar" (a hoe, related to the word used in this pasuk for prayer, "vayetar") turns over the grain (Rabbenu Behayei, based on Sukkah 14). Rivkah thus wondered, if her pregnancy resulted only from prayer, and she certainly did not petition the Almighty for a son who would try to run to houses of idolatry, Heaven forbid, how did her prayers for a holy son who would increase Hashem's honor in the world and carry the heritage of Avraham and Yisshak give rise to a wicked son? The answer she received was: "Hashem said to her, there are two nations in your stomach. " Indeed, two different cultures have conceived in her womb, "and two separate peoples will emerge from your belly." Throngs of people will bask in the comfort of each culture, each opposing the other. As for her question that she had prayed only for a righteous, sacred son who would be a perfect person, the crown jewel of creation and the "choicest" of the patriarchs - indeed, such a son will be born. And specifically because he will be such a person his diametric opposite, Esav Harasha, is born with him. Only if Esav stands in opposition to him, waiting in ambush for any sign of weakness and opportunity to harm, will Yaakov be forced to remain perfect and resist his sinful influence. Only then can Yaakov reach his peak and maximize his potential. The knowledge that Esav waits in the fields will force him to retreat into the tent, to hide in the yeshivah of Ever, until he emerges complete and perfect in every way, earning his new name, "Yisrael."

As we know, that which happens to our patriarchs serves as sign for their descendants. When the entire nation clung to the Torah, and no one undermined the covenant and breached through the walls of the Torah, then there were many simple, good Jews, who were honest, sincere and deserving of the world to come. Many of them did not even know how to pray properly; the sheli'ah ssibur fulfilled their obligation on their behalf. But when the breaches in tradition became widespread, everyone was compelled to strengthen themselves in opposition with Torah knowledge, the fortress and antidote to the yesser hara, to listen to beautiful lectures and inspiring presentations that elevate a person and broaden his horizons. The Gemara (Berachot 11a) offers an analogy of one who asks the other, "Why is your beard overgrown?" He answers, "It is to oppose those who destroy," meaning, to publicly oppose those who allow "destroying" one's facial hair, or shaving with a razor (Rashba). Opposition has the power to bring one to excellence. Rav Nahman of Breslov would say that the human being is likened to a tree (Devarim 20:19) and strife and contention are compared to water (Mishlei 17:14). A stump of a tree lying on the ground has no way of lifting itself up until a flood of water comes and allows the stump to float; the more water comes, the higher the stump rises. This is what David Hamelech meant when he said, "They surround me like water all day, together they flood me" (Tehillim 88:18).

This casts an important obligation upon everyone in our times. When the floodwaters abound, one must run to the ark. When the streets are filled with permissiveness and vulgarity, heresy and abominations, we must strengthen ourselves tenfold through participation in Torah classes and the pleasantness of Shabbat. When violence continues to increase among the youth and the eradication of restraint has become the banner of today's youngsters, we must save our children through Torah education, which teaches the students about proper midot, respect for parents, faith and our golden heritage!

Senyar Bat Mazal and Yaakov Ben Senyar

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