Archive for 2017

Kitzur Shulchan Aruch: Chatzot...Purifying One's Hands

Wednesday, May 17, 2017 · Posted in , ,

Because a man rising in the morning from his bed is like a new creature in as far as the service of the Creator is concerned, Baruch Hu, it is incumbent upon him to purify himself and wash his hands out of a vessel, just as the Kohen was accustomed to purify his hands daily out of the wash-basin prior to his service (in the Temple). This washing may be supported by a Biblical verse; for it is said: "I will wash in innocence my hands, and I will compass Your altar O Hashem; That I may publish with a loud voice" etc. (Tehillim 26:6-7). There is another reason for this morning washing, when a man is asleep the holy soul departs from his body, and the unclean spirit comes down upon him. When he rises from his sleep the evil spirit departs from his entire body excepting from his fingers. From there the unclean spirit does not depart unless he spills water on them three times alternately. One is not permitted to walk four cubits without having his hands washed, except in extreme cases of necessity. (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, Laws Relating to the Conduct Upon Rising in the Morning) ============== Baruch Hu - Blessed is He Kohen - Priest Tehillim - Psalms

Kitzur Shulchan Aruch: Chatzot...Up At Midnight

Thursday, May 11, 2017 · Posted in , ,

If one is able to rise at midnight and preform the midnight service, there is nothing more pious than this.

As it is said, "Arise, complain aloud in the night, in the  beginning of the watches" (Eichah 2:19); just as the HKB"H, laments at that moment, as it is written: "Hashem will cry aloud from on high, and from His holy habitation will he send forth His voice; He will cry very loudly over His habitation" (Yirmeyahu 25:30; and He then says: "Woe to my children on account of whose iniquity I destroyed My house and burnt My Temple, and them I exiled among the nations."

But if one is unable to rise at midnight, he shall at least make an effort to rise before dawn; as David HaMelech said: "I will wake up the morning-dawn" (Tehillim 57:9), which means I awaken the dawn, but the dawn does not awaken me.

One my perform the midnight ceremony even after midnight, and after that engage himself in the study of the Torah, everyone according to his knowledge. The study of a portion of the Mishnah is preferable to any other study, but if he is not so learned, he shall read Tehillim, Ma'amodot, or books of instruction. A little with devotion is better than much without devotion.

Rabbi Hiya taught: "The Ruach Hakodesh is in the presence of the one who studies the Torah at night; as it said: "Arise, complain aloud in the night, in the beginning of the watches; pour out like water your heart before the Face of Hashem." (Eichah 2:19); which means that the Ruach Hakodesh is then in your presence.

Our Rabbis, obm, said again: "He who engages in the study of the Torah at night is called 'a servant of Hashem' as it is said: 'All you servants of Hashem that stand in the house of Hashem in the night'" (Tehillim 134:1).

In the short nights, when it is impossible to rise so early, he shall at least try to rise early enough to have sufficient time within which to prepare himself to go to the Synagogue to pray together with the congregation.  (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, Laws Relating to the Conduct Upon Rising in the Morning)


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Translation:

Eichah - Lamenations
Yirmeyahu - Jeremiah
David HaMelech = King David
Ma'amodot - a compilation of readings from the Bible and Talmud
Tehillim - Psalms
Ruach Hakodesh - Divine Inspiration
obm - of blessed memory

Kitzur Shulchan Aruch: Run Swiftly to Do Good

Tuesday, May 9, 2017 · Posted in ,

Yehudah, the son of Tema, said, "Be strong as a leopard, light as an eagle, fleet as a hart, and strong as a lion, to do the will of your Father Who is in heaven." (Pirkei Avot 5.23).
"Strong as a lion" means that no man should be ashamed of the people who mock him when engaged in the service of G-d, B"H.

"Light as an eagle" refers to the vision of the eye, i.e. be swift in shutting your eyes not to look at evil things, because vision is the inception of sin - the eye sees, the heart covets, and the instruments of action complete it.

"Fleet as a hart" refers to the legs, i.e. your feet shall always run swiftly to do good.

"Strong as a lion" refers to the heart, because the seat of strength to do the service of G-d, B"H, is in the heart. It is the duty of man to strengthen his heart to do His service, and to prevail over his yetzer ra, just as the hero makes every endeavor to prevail over his enemy, subdues him, and throws him down to the ground. (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, Laws Relating to the Conduct Upon Rising in the Morning)

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Transliteration / Translation:

Pirkei Avot - Ethics of the Fathers (literally "Chapters of the Fathers"), a section of the Mishnah.

B"H - Baruch Hashem - Blessed be/is His Name

yetzer ra / - evil inclination

Kitzur Shulchan Aruch: Modeh Ani

Monday, May 8, 2017 · Posted in ,

While a man lies in his bed he should also be mindful in Whose Presence he is. As soon as he awakes, he must be mindful of the mercy of HKB"H, in that, He has restored to him his soul of which he had given Him charge when it was weary, and which He restored to Him refreshed and invigorated, so that he may worship Him with all his might, and minister to Him the whole day, for this is the object of every man as it is said: "They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness" (Eichah 3:23), which means, every morning the man becomes a new creature; and for this he has to thank HKB"H, with all his heart.

While still in his bed, one must say:

"I thank You,
O Living and Eternal King,
because You have graciously restored my soul to me;
great is Your faithfulness"

מוֹדֶה אֲנִי לְפָנֶיךָ
מֶלֶךְ חַי וְקַיָּם
שֶׁהֶחֱזַרְתָּ בִּי נִשְׁמָתִי בְּחֶמְלָה
רַבָּה אֱמוּנָתֶךָ

Modeh (fem. Modah) Ani L’fanecha
Melech Chai V’kayam
Shehechezarta Bi Nishmati B'chemlah
Rabbah Emunatecha

*One may say this prayer although his hands are yet unwashed, since the Name of G-d is not mentioned.
When saying this prayer, it is necessary that one should make a pause between the words "graciously" and "great." (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, Laws Relating to the Conduct Upon Rising in the Morning)

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Transliteration / Translation:
HKB"H = HaKodesh Baruch Hu - Holy One, Blessed is He
Eichah = Lamentations

Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, Laws Relating to the Conduct Upon Rising in the Morning

"I have set Hashem always before me" (Tehillim 16:8)

This is an important principle in the Torah as well as one of the superior virtues of the righteous who walk before G-d.

For, the manner of sitting, movements and affairs of a mankind, when alone in his house, are not the same as when in the presence of a great king. One's manner of talk and boasting when among his own family and friends is likewise not the same as when in the company of a king. In the latter case a man would certainly take precautions that his movements and manner of speech be properly prepared.

So much the more (would a man be cautious) when he would consider the Great King, HKB"H, whose glory fills the whole earth, always stands near him and observes his doings; as it is said: "Can a man hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? Says Hashem. Do not I fill the heaven and the earth?" (Yirmeyahu / Jer. 23:24).

Upon considering this, awe and humility will at once overtake him because of the fear of G-d, B"H, and he will be abashed before him. (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, Laws Relating to the Conduct Upon Rising in the Morning)

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- Kitzur Shulchan Aruch by Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried was written in the later part of 19th century. It starts a new format and was composed in a very terse format for the layman, and picks the relevant sections of Jewish Law that a layman would focus on. This format has made it a very popular starting point for a student first delving into Halachic works. It has several prints that put in references to other Halachic works like the Mishna Brurah, the Shulchan Aruch HaRav and one with notes by former Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu who references the later Sefardi decisions in these areas.

The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch was meant to bring out the bottom line, which it so elegantly does.

On a deeper level, the very brevity of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch brings out a greater unification of the Jewish people. For while halachah in general is a common denominator that unites us all - the obligations of Shabbat, kashrut, and the like apply to all indiscriminately- how the law is learned can vary from person to person. The greater ones understanding and level of education, the deeper he can delve. In the realm of Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, the halachah has been distilled to its essence, on this level every Jew can open the book and easily understand the halachah. Even more so since Kitzur Shulchan Aruch is probably the most translated book next to the Chumash and Siddur. Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried's sefer represent the advantage of klal over prat, of the general principal over what is derived from it. It is the yechida of the soul where we all stand the same with Hashem. (Based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe -12 Sivan, 5744)

G-d is a Refuge

Thursday, May 4, 2017 · Posted in ,


G-d is a refuge and strength for us, a help in distress, very accessible. Therefore, we shall not be afraid when the earth is transformed, and at mountains' collapse in the heart of the seas; when its waters rage and are muddied, mountains quake in His majesty, Selah.

A river: Its streams will gladden the City of G-d, the most sacred of the dwellings of the Most High. G-d is in its midst, it shall not falter; G-d will help it towards morning. Nations are in turmoil, kingdoms totter; He has raised His voice, the earth dissolves. Hashem, Master of Legions, is with us, a stronghold for us is the G-d of Yaakov, Selah.

Go and see the works of Hashem, Who has wrought devastation in the land. He causes wars to cease to the end of the earth; He will break the bow, and cut the spear; He will burn chariots in fire.
Desist and know that I am G-d; I shall be exalted among the nations; I shall be exalted upon the earth.
Hashem, Master of Legions, is with us, a stronghold for us in the G-d of Yaakov, Selah. 

(Tehillim / Ps. 46)

The Torah of Hashem

Thursday, April 27, 2017 · Posted in , ,


Praiseworthy is the man who walked not in the counsel of the wicked, and stood not in the path of the sinful, and sat not in the session of scorners. But his desire is in the Torah of Hashem, and in His Torah he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree deeply rooted alongside brooks of water, that yields its fruit in its season, and whose leaf never withers; and everything that he does will succeed. (Tehillim / Ps. 1:1-3)

Parashat Vayachel - Pekudei: Kiyor - Copper Mirrors

Tuesday, March 21, 2017 · Posted in , , ,

[Kiyor - Copper Washbasin]

The kiyor was made from copper mirrors. What function did these mirrors serve in Egypt?

38:8 He made the copper washstand and its copper base out of the mirrors of the dedicated women who congregated at the entrance of the Ohel Mo'ed (Tent of Meeting).

Among the donations the women brought were their mirrors. These were made out of very highly polished, bright copper. The women would look into these mirrors when they made themselves up. These mirrors aided in the proliferation of the Jewish People. The Jewish women in Egypt would look in the mirrors so as to awaken the affections of their husbands who were exhausted by their slave labor. 

When Moshe saw these mirrors, he did not want to accept them. He said, "This is something that helps the yetzer hara (evil urge). The women make themselves up and the men are led to sin. They may not be used for a holy purpose."

G-d said to Moshe, "Accept them. These mirrors are more precious to Me than anything else that was brought. Because of these mirrors, the righteous women in Egypt had many children and caused such a large number of people to leave during the Exodus.

"When their husbands were working with mortar and bricks, these women would bring them food. Each one would look at herself along with her husband. This would arouse their desire. They would come together and the women would become pregnant. When the time came for them to give birth, they would go under the apple trees and have their children.

"Therefore, the women did a holy deed through these mirrors. They made themselves up for their husbands, not for strange men. They wanted to fulfill the mitzvah of having children, causing many Benei Yisrael to come into the world."

Some say that these mirrors were made for the kohanim (priests) who would come to wash their hands and feet from the washbasin. They would look in the mirrors to see if they had any spot or stain on their vestments. They were then able to make themselves look their best before they performed any Divine service. It is thus written, "Prepare to greet your G-d O Yisrael" (Amos 4:12). This teaches that one must prepare oneself to look his best before prayer or other Divine service, just as he would prepare himself before greeting a king.

- Me'am Lo'ez

Parashat Vayachel - Pekudei: 39 Categories of Work Forbidden on Shabbat


Why is the prohibition against doing work on Shabbat written prior to the instruction for building the Mishkan?

35:2 Work shall be done for six weekdays, but the seventh day must be a holy day for you, a Sabbath of Sabbaths to HASHEM. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death.

Moshe warned the Benei Yisrael that they must keep the Shabbat. They should not think that they were to complete the Mishkan as quickly as possible and that in doing so it was permissible to violate the Shabbat. They had to realize that even in making the Mishkan they were only to work six days. Keeping the Shabbat is a very important thing. Anyone violating it by doing work was to be put to death by stoning.
Moshe began by saying, "These are the things that G-d has commanded you to do." "These are the things" is in the plural, which is difficult to understand; Since the Torah is speaking of the Shabbat, Moshe should have said, "This is the thing," in the singular.
It is impossible to say that the plural "these are the things" includes both the commandment of the Shabbat and the work of the Mishkan. The Torah introduces the work of the Mishkan by saying, "This is the thing that G-d commanded." (35:4) Therefore, when Moshe said, "These are the things," he was speaking about the Shabbat alone. He should have said, "This is the thing," using the singular.
However, Moshe said to the Benei Yisrael, "Do not think that in order to keep the commandment of the Mishkan, to finish it as soon as possible, you are permitted to violate the Shabbat; rather, you must realize, 'These are the things that G-d has commanded you to do.' G-d has commanded you to do two things. You must keep the Shabbat as well as build the Mishkan. It is forbidden to violate the Shabbat for the sake of the Mishkan."
There are 39 categories of work that are forbidden on the Shabbat.
Sowing
Plowing
Reaping
Binding sheaves
Threshing
Winnowing
Selecting
Grinding
Sifting
Kneading
Baking
Shearing wool
Washing wool
Beating wool
Dyeing wool
Spinning
Weaving
Making two loops
Weaving two threads
Separating two threads
Tying
Untying
Sewing two stitches
Tearing
Trapping
Slaughtering
Flaying
Salting meat
Curing hide
Scraping hide
Cutting hide up
Writing two letters
Erasing two letters
Building
Tearing a building down
Extinguishing a fire
Kindling a fire
Hitting with a hammer
Taking an object from the private domain to the public, or transporting an object in the public domain. (Mishnah - Shabbat 7:2)
We derive these categories of work from the types of work needed to make the Mishkan. We see that the commandment regarding the Shabbat comes immediately before the Mishkan. We thus learn that the types of work that were needed to build the Mishkan are precisely the ones that are forbidden on the Shabbat.
Moshe therefore said, "These are the things that G-d has commanded you to do; six days do work... 'These things' refers to the 39 categories of work that I commanded you to do in the Mishkan. These may be done during the six weekdays. On the seventh day however, it is forbidden for you to do them."
- Me'am Lo'ez

Perek Shirah - Grasses Say

Sunday, February 26, 2017 · Posted in ,

דְּשָׁאִים אוֺמְרִים - Grasses Say



Tehillim 104:31

יְהִי כְבוֹד יְהוָה לְעוֹלָם יִשְׂמַח יְהוָה בְּמַעֲשָׂיו
 yehi chevod HASHEM le'olam yismach HASHEM bema'asav
May the glory of HASHEM endure forever; let HASHEM rejoice in His works.

King David prays that no part of the world should perish in the kind of upheaval that destoryed Sedom and Amorah, when G-d in His fury acted to destroy them. On the contrary, "let HASHEM rejoice in His works," for they bear witness to His wisdom. As it says, "The work of My hands, that I may be glorified" (Yeshayahu 60:21)

Having now completed the description of all the works of Creation, King David declares that everything depends on the will of the Holy One. If that is His will, HASHEM will "rejoice in His works," unlike what happened before, when G-d was grieved in His heart (Bereishit 6:6) about the Flood Generation, the Bavel Generation, and about Sedom and Amorah, who corrupted their deeds. Then HASHEM did not rejoice in His works.

G-d will rejoice in His works when the Mashiach comes. This is hinted at in the letters of ישמח (yismach), which are also the letters of  משיח - the Mashiach. (Me'am Lo'ez)

Perek Shirah - Vegetables of the Field Say

Thursday, February 23, 2017 · Posted in ,

יְרָקוֺת שֶׁבַּשָּׂדֶה אוֺמְךִים - Vegetable of the Field Say:


Tehillim 65:11

תְּלָמֶיהָ רַוֵּה נַחֵת גְּדוּדֶהָ  בִּרְבִיבִים תְּמֹגְגֶנָּה צִמְחָהּ תְּבָרֵךְ
telameiha raveh nachet gedudeiha birvivim temoggenah tzimchah tevarech
Watering her ridges abundantly, settling her furrows; You make her soft with showers; You bless her growth.

The plowed line of earth is a furrow, and the banks that flank each furrow are its ridges; "her" refers to the earth. King David says, "You satisfy 'the ridges abundantly, settling her furrows' with ample rain. 'You make her soft with showers' and thereby 'You bless her growth.'"

The Scripture speaks of the three stages of planting and growth that require rain. Water is needed at planting time in order for the seeds to sink into the softened earth; otherwise they would remain on the surface as food for the birds of heaven. Water is needed to break up the seeds and make them grow, and then, when the stalks form, water is needed for them to fill out. Accordingly, he says here: "Watering her ridges abundantly, settling her furrows" so the formations of dispersed seeds should sink down; "You maker soft with showers" for the seeds to sprout; and then "you bless her growth" to fill out the stalks.

Chazal teach: Why is the first rain called יורה (yoreh)? For it instructs מורה (moreh) human beings to plaster the roofs of their houses and make all necessary repairs. another thing is that this rain satisfies the earth and fills it down to the depths. As it says, "Watering her ridges abundantly, settling her furrows; You make her soft with showers; You bless her growth." Alternatively, yoreh means that it falls gently and it does not fall vehemently.

 R. Yochanan said: So great is the day of the rains, that even armies cease their activity to celebrate. He adduced this from the present verse, "Watering her ridges abundantly, making her columns rest (נחת גדודיה). (Me'am Lo'ez)

Perek Shirah - Other Grain Sheaves Say

Monday, February 20, 2017 · Posted in ,

שְׁאָר הַשִּׁבָּלִים אוֺמְרִים - Other Grain Sheaves Say



Tehillim 65:14

 לָבְשׁוּ כָרִים הַצֹּאן-וַעֲמָקִים יַעַטְפוּ-בָר יִתְרוֹעֲעוּ אַף-יָשִׁירוּ
lavshu charim hatzon va'amakim ya'atfu-var yitroa'u af-yashiru
The meadows are clothed with flocks; the valleys also are covered over with grain; they shout for joy, yes, they sing.

"The meadows" - the grassy resting places - "are clothed with flocks" so densely that they give the appearance of wearing the sheep as a garment. "The valleys" - all the deep meadows and desert oases - are so abundantly "covered over with grain," that "they shout" shouts of joy. They "sing" out of great abundance.

Chazal explain: The meadows are clothed with flocks at the same time the valleys are covered over with grain. This is in the month of Adar when the sheep are impregnated.

"The shout...yes, they sing." Though everyone will enjoy plenitude, they will sing. No man will be envious of another. They will dwell in friendship and brotherhood. (Me'am Lo'ez)


This song is the climax of a psalm of encouragement and hope. Calamities may come and drought may parch man, beast, and field, but G-d is always near. (Rabbi Nosson Scherman)

Perek Shirah - Sheaf of Barley Says

Sunday, February 19, 2017 · Posted in ,

שִׁבּׂלֶת שְׂעוֹרִים אוֹמֶרֶת - Sheaf of Barley Says



Tehillim 102:1

תְּפִלָּה לְעָנִי כִי-יַעֲטֹף וְלִפְנֵי יְהוָה יִשְׁפֹּךְ שִׂיחוֹ
tefilah le'ani chi-ya'atof velifnei Hashem yishpoch sicho
A prayer of the afflicted man, when he envelops (swoons), and pours forth his utterance before Hashem.

Literally, יַעֲטֹף means to envelop. King David would chant this psalm whenever he became wrapped up in himself and under camouflage vanished from before his enemies who vilified him constantly. He would then pour forth the utterance of his heart in prayer "before Hashem," pleading for deliverance from his troubles. His prayer was a vast outpouring, like aman pouring water in great abundance. Thus he says, "A prayer of the afflicted man, when he envelops, and pours forth his utterance before Hashem."

Some explain that King David composed this psalm on behalf of the exiles in the future who will be the agonized victims of their many enemies.

To "envelop" also means to fold and enfold. This conveys the image of a supplicant bowed down in a poser of devout prayer. He gives the appearance of being enfolded by part of his own body.

King David addresses the Jewish people in exile, inspiring them to pour forth their devotions and prayers before the Holy One. Entreat Him to save you from the birth pangs of the messianic age and to bring about the return of all Jews everywhere.

Chazal have also taught: Until when must a man stand in prayer? - until he swoons. That is to say, until he also pleads for his life. His soul should attain a lofty plane of serving G-d. (Me'am Lo'ez)


The Rambam writes, "It is a Mitzvah from the Torah to cry out to Hashem for help...whenever trouble strikes the community."

When we daven during troubled times, we aren't just performing the Mitzvah De'orita of praying to Hashem, but we are confirming our belief that only Hashem can help us.

The Sefer Ha'Ikrim comments that somone who doesn't pray in his hour of need must either be lacking faith that Hashem is watching, or lacking faith that Hashem is all-powerful, and that both of these are utter heresy.

The Sefer HaChinuch adds: "And someone who is in difficult circumstances and does not call out to Hashem to save him has violated this mitzvah of prayer...for it is as if he has removed himself from the overseeing of Hashem."

Sometimes people don't daven, not because of lack of belief in Hashem, but rather because of lack of belief in themselves; doubting if they are worthy of their prayers being accepted. Truthfully though, Hashem is available to every person, whether he is worthy or not.

As the Sefer Ha'Ikrim explains, Everything we get from Hashem everyday isn't a result of man's righteousness but rather it is an expression of Hashem's benevolence and compassion.

As it says in Dani'el 9:18- "Turn Your ear, Hashem, and listen...For not because of our righteousness do we pour out our supplications before You, but because of Your great compassion."

To be worthy of Hashem accepting our prayers we don't need to be perfect, or even close to it. We simply need to reach for the lifeline He is extending to us, and to grasp it gratefully, confident that at the other end is the One Power Who can save us. (Praying With Fire by R' Heshy Kleinman)

Perek Shirah - Sheaf of Wheat Says

Wednesday, February 15, 2017 · Posted in ,

שִׁבּׂלֶת חִטִּים אוֹמֶרֶת - Sheaf of Wheat Says


Tehillim 130:1

 שִׁיר הַמַּעֲלוֹת מִמַּעֲמַקִּים קְרָאתִיךָ יְהוָה
shir hama'alot mima'amakim keraticha
A Song of Ascents. Out of the depths have I called You, Hashem.


To this very day, this particular psalm has been said by Jews in times of trouble. If they have time to say many, they will always include Tehillim 130; if they only have time to say one psalm, then, usually, it will be this one, for, it is one of the few that reach out from the “depths” of despair. One can feel King David's sense of utter helplessness, and his need for a miracle. This is why he has appealed to Hashem — using Four Letter Ineffable Name of G-d — and not a “lesser” Name of G-d. (Rabbi Pinchas Winston)

King David composed the present psalm about himself, but intended it for the future exiles. They should conduct themselves as he did and then G-d will have mercy upon them.  King David's prayer for G-d to heed the prayers of the exiles and forgive their iniquities. That is, they should expect the deliverance to come by supernal loving-kindness, i.e. even though they will not deserve it.

Some say, "Out of the depths" - the lowest spiritual state - "have I called You." For a man may be at he height of material success, yet be in the most debased condition in matters of the soul. (Me'am Lo'ez)

Every Jew has a spark of holiness in his heart but it may be surrounded by layers of materialism. When he recognizes this spark, even though it is buried, then he will be able to call G-d 'from the depths' of his heart. This is what is meant by the verse "Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water but a man of understanding will draw it out" (Mishlei 20:5). In every heart lies a spiritual capacity, but only a 'man of understanding' can reach in and 'draw it out', that is recognize and develope it. (Rabbi Simcha Zissel Ziv)

Perek Shirah - Apple Tree Says

Tuesday, February 14, 2017 · Posted in ,

תַּפּוּחַ אוֹמֵר - Apple Tree Says



Shir Hashirim 2:3


כְּתַפּוּחַ בַּעֲצֵי הַיַּעַר כֵּן דּוֹדִי בֵּין הַבָּנִים בְּצִלּוֹ חִמַּדְתִּי וְיָשַׁבְתִּי וּפִרְיוֹ מָתוֹק לְחִכִּי
ketapuach ba'atzei haya'ar ken dodi bein habanim betzilo chimadti veyashavti ufiryo matok lechiki
Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among the sons. In its shade I delighted and sat, and its fruit is sweet to my palate.

How beloved is the Congregation of Yisrael before the 
the Holy One, blessed be He, that she lauds Him in this verse. We should look into this. Why does she laud Him through the apple and not with something else or with something that has color, or fragrance or taste.


Since it is written "apple tree," it turns out she is lauding him in every manner, with color, fragrance and with taste. Just as the apple appears in colors, it has white, red green, so does the the Holy One, blessed be He, appear in supernal colors - namely chesed, gevurah and tiferet that are the secret of white, red and green. As the apple tree has a fine fragrance more than other trees, so about the the Holy One, blessed be He, it is written, "And His fragrance like the Levanon" (Hoshea 14:7). Just as the apple's taste is sweet, so also is the the Holy One, blessed be He, as it is written, "His mouth is most sweet" (Shir Hashirim 5:16) (Zohar)


Rebbi Chama son of Rebbi Chanina said: What is meant by the verse, "[He is] like an apple tree ("Tapuach") amongst the trees of the forest..." (Shir HaShirim 2:3)? Why were the Jews compared to an apple tree?

Just as an apple tree reverses the natural order and produces its fruit before its leaves, so too the Jews reversed the natural order [when they accepted the Torah on Mt. Sinai] by saying "We will do [what you request of us]" before saying "We will hear [what you request of us]". Normally, one must first hear what to do, and only then can he do it. (Gemara Shabbat 88a)


Rabbi Yitzchak opened with, "Like the apple tree" (Shir Hashirim 2:3). Happy is the portion of Yisrael more than all the idolatrous nations, because all the other nations were handed to appointed ministers to control them. As for holy Yisrael, happy is their portion in this world and in the World to Come that the Holy One, blessed be He, gave them neither to an angel nor to another ruler, but took them for His own portion. This is the meaning of, "For Hashem's portion is His people" (Devarim 32:9), and, "For Hashem has chosen Yaakov to Himself" (Tehilim 135:4). "Like the apple tree among the trees of the wood": just as the apple tree is different in color from all the other trees in the field, so is the Holy One, blessed be He, separated and marked above all higher and lower legions. Hence His Name is Hashem Tzva'ot, WHICH MEANS He is a sign (Heb. ot) throughout the celestial army (Heb. tzava). (Zohar)


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Perek Shirah - Date Palm Says

תָּמָר אוֹמֵר - Date Palm Says

[Picture of matah (date orchard), Kibbutz Ketura, Israel]


Tehillim 92:13

צַדִּיק כַּתָּמָר יִפְרָח כְּאֶרֶז בַּלְּבָנוֹן יִשְׂגֶּה
tzaddik katamar yifrach ke'erez balvanon yisgeh
A righteous man will flourish like a date palm, he will grow like a cedar in the Levanon.

In the beginning he bears suffering, but in the end "the righteous man will flourish like the date palm" and produce abundant fruit. Similarly, the date palm does not produce fruit except after a long time has passed; seventy years. The "he will grow" higher and higher, "like a cedar in Levanon."

Contrary to the wicked, who wither (v1:4), the tzaddik who flourishes like the date palm will stand many years, "like a cedar in Levanon" growing high. 

The date palm remains forever straight, even when its fruit are plentiful. Similarly, the tzaddik stands upright and does not become bent through indulgence in passions. He struggles constantly against his physical impulse. 

Just as the date palm brings forth fruit after seventy years, so also the tzaddik is rewarded after his death, after having lived seventy years.

The Talmud writes, "Why is it written, 'The righteous man will flourish like the date palm; he will grow like a cedar in Levanon.'? If it says a cedar, why say a date palm; and if it says a date palm, why say a cedar? However, if it would say a date palm and not say a cedar, I might infer that just as the date palm does not change its trunk, so the tzaddik does not change his trunk - basic nature. And, if it would say a cedar and not say a date palm, I might infer, just as the cedar does not produce fruit, so the tzaddik does not produce fruit. Accordingly, it mentions both the date palm and the cedar.

Chazal also teach that just as among date palms and cedars none are knotted and none are crooked, so are there no twisted or non-upright tzaddikim. Just as the date palm and the cedar cast a long shadow, so the reward of the righteous reaches far. Just as the date palm and the cedar have their hearts pointing upward, so it is also for the righteous . (Me'am Lo'ez)


There are two types of righteous individuals, the Baal Shem Tov notes.  One is constantly engrossed in service to G-d but has no involvement with others.  He keeps his righteousness to himself.  Such an individual can be compared to a cedar – large and strong but does not bear fruit.  Like a cedar, this individual may be great in knowledge of the Torah and in service to G-d but does not do anything to produce other righteous individuals.  On the other hand, there is another type of righteous individual who can be compared to a date palm.  A date palm is also large and strong but in addition it flourishes – it bears fruit.  Similarly, such a righteous individual steps out of his immediate four amot and spreads the beauty within him to others around him, whereby his righteousness bears fruit, bringing others closer to G-d.  Whereas the cedar will just “grow tall”, developing itself, the date palm “shall flourish”, bearing fruit and spreading good to the world.

May we, like the date palm, grow significantly and also flourish and bear fruit, reaching out to others and giving of ourselves to others.  And may G-d, in merit of our actions, bring us even closer to Him, enjoying everlasting bliss in service of G-d now and in closeness to Him in the world to come.

Perek Shirah - Pomegranate Says

Monday, February 13, 2017 · Posted in ,

רִמּוֹן אוֹמֵר - Pomegranate Says:

[Pomegranate tree in Ramat Negev highlands, Israel]

Shir HaShirim 4:3

כְּפֶלַח הָרִמּוֹן רַקָּתֵךְ, מִבַּעַד לְצַמָּתֵךְ
kefelach harimon rakatech miba'ad letzamatech
As many as the pomegranate's seeds are the merits of your unworthiest, within your modest veil.

The pomegranate sings that one dare not underestimate even the apparently lowliest people. The fruit's hundreds of hidden, tasty seeds symbolize the 613 commandments. Like the veil hiding the person behind it, one never knows the abundant merits of people who are seemingly ordinary or worse. As the Sages put it, even the comparatively few merits of the lowest among you are numerous as a pomegranate's seeds. History is replete with unexpected courage and self-sacrifice from the least likely people. (Rabbi Nosson Scherman)

The pomegranate teaches that every part of the Jewish People is necessary in order to be considered whole. Those members of Benei Yisrael (the Jewish People) who are less intent on following the Torah are compared to the peel of the pomegranate, while the seeds are compared to those who strive to lead the Jewish People in the Torah. They are what makes the Benei Yisrael into a People intent on accomplishing its mission on Earth. However, without the shell, the pomegranate would fall apart, no longer considered to be a fruit. The protection afforded by the physical strength of those who are less inclined in the Torah, help hold the Jewish People together. (Knaf R'nanim) 

It is through their hishtadlut (physical effort) to defend their fellow Jew that we are all held together. Just as the pomegranate is one, so too, the Jewish People should strive to becomes one, not disassociating from a fellow Jew because of their lack of knowledge or lack of commitment to Judaism. Through increasing achdut (oneness) among the Jewish People, may we merit to make the "peel of the pomegranate" serve as well as the "fruit inside". By doing so all of our enemies will have all the more to fear. (Choshvei Shemo)

Perek Shirah - Fig Tree Says

Sunday, February 12, 2017 · Posted in ,

תְּאֵנָה אוֹמֶרֶת - Fig Tree Says:


Mishlei 27:18

נֹצֵר תְּאֵנָה יֹאכַל פִּרְיָהּ
notzer te'enah yochal piryah
He who preserves the fig tree will eat its fruit

Keep a careful watch over the fig tree and in the end you will eat of its fruit. 

This also alludes to faithful attentiveness - diligence - in the tents of Torah study. Chazal expound: Why is Torah learning likened to a fig tree? For even as a fig tree, when cultivated, yields fruit, so too the Torah student. When meditating in the words of the Torah, he always savors new insights. 

The fig tree does not produce ripe fruit all at once. Similarly, no man fathoms the essence and substance of the Torah the very first time he studies. Only through constant meditation (Yehoshua 1:8) do the words of the Torah yield sweet insights and inferences that are "sweeter than honey and the honeycomb" (Tehillim 19:11).

Just as the fig tree is picked every day, and so much be worked daily, the same obtains for the Torah. Thus the verse says in conclusion, "and one who attends upon his master will be honored," which alludes to Yehoshua. The Torah says that "Yehoshua son of Nun..did not depart out of the tent" of Torah study (Shemot 33:11)

Scripture also prescribes the proper sequencing of Torah study. A father should begin by teaching his son the Scriptures, then Mishnah and finally Gemara. Similarly, figs are plucked from the tree in sequence, one after another. (Me'am Lo'ez)

Perek Shirah - Vine Says

· Posted in ,

גֶּפֶן אוֹמֶרֶת - Vine Says:

[Grapevine in Yisrael]


Yeshayahu 65:8

כֹּה אָמַר יְהוָה כַּאֲשֶׁר יִמָּצֵא הַתִּירוֹשׁ בָּאֶשְׁכּוֹל וְאָמַר אַל-תַּשְׁחִיתֵהוּ כִּי בְרָכָה בּוֹ--כֵּן אֶעֱשֶׂה לְמַעַן עֲבָדַי לְבִלְתִּי הַשְׁחִית הַכֹּל
ko amar HASHEM ka'asher yimatze hatirosh baeshkol ve'amar al-tashchitehu ki verachah bo ken e'eseh lema'an avadai levilti hashechit hakol
Thus says Hashem, "Just as when wine can be found in the cluster one says, 'Do not destroy it, for there is good in it,' so shall I act for the sake of My servant and not destroy everything."


Nevertheless, do not despair, for G-d will yet bring Redemption - even if you do not deserve it. It will be like the cluster which has a few grapes and will not be destroyed, but be tread upon for its juice, while the pips and rinds are cast away. Thus will G-d extract the "good" in His people and purify them of their "evil rinds." (Me'am Lo'ez)

Don't Be Wasteful

It is forbidden to wastefully destroy any useful object, as we learn from the commandment, "You must not destroy [the city's] trees" (Devarim 20:19). One who wantonly destroys furniture or utensils, tears clothing, or wastes good food, is guilty of violating this commandment. Furthermore, if he does so in anger, it is considered as if he had committed idolatry. One should not destroy anything over which a blessing can be said, as it is written, "Do not destroy [the grapevine] for the blessing [over its wine] is in it." (Yeshayahu 65:8). (Aish . com)


Bo - Locust Plague

Saturday, January 28, 2017 · Posted in , , ,


וַיַּעַל הָאַרְבֶּה עַל כָּל-אֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם וַיָּנַח בְּכֹל גְּבוּל מִצְרָיִם כָּבֵד מְאֹד-לְפָנָיו לֹא-הָיָה כֵן אַרְבֶּה כָּמֹהוּ וְאַחֲרָיו לֹא יִהְיֶה-כֵּן

Vaya'al ha'arbeh al kol-eretz Mitzrayim vayanach bechol gvul Mitzrayim kaved me'od lefanav lo-hayah chen arbeh kamohu ve'acharav lo yihyeh-ken.
10:14 The locusts went up on the land of Egypt, and rested on all the Egyptian territory. It was very severe. Never before had there been such a locust plague, and never again.

There are seven types of locusts mentioned in Scripture:

  1. Arbeh (Arbeh is the only term found in this section. It is also counted as an edible, kosher insect in Vayikra 11;22.)
  2. Salam
  3. Chargol (Vayikra 11:22)
  4. Chagav (Vaykra 11:22)
  5. Gazam (Yo'el 1:4, 2:25; Amos 4:9)
  6. Yelek (Yo'el 1:4, 2:25; Yirmeyahu 51:14, 51:27; Nachum 3:15, 16; Tehillim 105;34)
  7. Chasil (Yo'el 1:4, 2:25; Melachim Alef 8:37, Devrei Hayamim Bet 6:28; Yeshayahu 33:4; Tehillim 78:46)
All these destructive species of locusts attacked Egypt at once. For this reason, the word "locusts" (arbeh) is mentioned seven times in this section. The Torah refers to the plague in general as arbeh, since this species was by far the numerous. (Bachya)

The Torah says that "never again" would there be such a plague referring to specifically to arbeh. Never again would there be so many arbeh all at once. there might be plagues of other types of locusts, and altogether they might outnumber the arbeh of Egypt. No single species, however, would ever outnumber these arbeh.

- Me'am Lo'ez, Bachya

VAYECHI PARDES - Efrayim and Menasheh

Monday, January 9, 2017 · Posted in , , , , , ,

Ya'akov Blessing Efrayim and Menasheh

וַיִּקַּח יוֹסֵף, אֶת-שְׁנֵיהֶם--אֶת-אֶפְרַיִם בִּימִינוֹ מִשְּׂמֹאל יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְאֶת-מְנַשֶּׁה בִשְׂמֹאלוֹ מִימִין יִשְׂרָאֵל; וַיַּגֵּשׁ, אֵלָיו
Vayikach Yosef et-shneihem et-Efrayim bimino mismol Yisra'el ve'et-Menasheh vismolo mimin Yisra'el vayagesh elav.
48:13 Yosef took the two, Efrayim in his right hand to Yisra'el's left, and Menasheh in his left, to Yisra'el's right, and he came close to him.

 וַיִּשְׁלַח יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת-יְמִינוֹ וַיָּשֶׁת עַל-רֹאשׁ אֶפְרַיִם וְהוּא הַצָּעִיר וְאֶת-שְׂמֹאלוֹ עַל-רֹאשׁ מְנַשֶּׁה  שִׂכֵּל אֶת-יָדָיו כִּי מְנַשֶּׁה הַבְּכוֹר
Vayishlach Yisra'el et-yemino vayashet al-rosh Efrayim vehu hatza'ir ve'et-smolo al-rosh Menasheh sikel et-yadav ki Menasheh habechor.
48:14 Yisra'el stretched out his right hand and placed it on Efrayim's head [although] he was the younger one. His left hand [he placed] on Menasheh's head. He deliberately crossed his hands, although Menasheh was the firstborn.

Yosef presented them to his father in the proper order, Menasheh the older one on his father's right, and Efrayim the younger one on his father's left. Ya'akov realized that this was the order in which Yosef would place his sons before him. This is why he crossed his arms in order to place his right hand on the head of Efrayim and the left hand on the head of Menasheh. He possessed sufficient divine inspiration to foresee that historically Efrayim would be of greater significance than his senior brother Menasheh. This is why he said of Menasheh (v19) "he too will become a nation, however his younger brother will be greater than he."

According to Rabbeinu Chananel Ya'akov did not actually cross his arms but he placed his hands one on top of the other. What the Rabbi meant was that Ya'akov did not rearrange the position of the boys but the position of his hands. This does not seem right. We do not need Rabbeinu Chananel to tell us this as the Torah had already made it plain that the lads remained in their respective positions but that Ya'akov crossed his hands!

The correct interpretation of Rabbeinu Chananel appears to be that the words שִׂכֵּל אֶת-יָדָיו, "he crossed his hands" mean that relative to Yosef he rearranged his hands. When the Torah said "he stretched out his right hand and placed it on Efrayim's head," the meaning is that he rearranged the boys and placed them so that Efrayim was opposite his right hand, etc. He also rearranged the position of Menasheh so that he stood opposite Ya'akov's left hand. He did not rearrange his own hands at all. All he did was to rearrange the position of the boys. This is the correct meaning of the words שִׂכֵּל אֶת-יָדָיו, i.e. he rearranged them differently from the say Yosef had arranged them. The blessing took effect as a result of Ya'akov placing his hands firmly on the heads of the lads. We find something similar in Bamidbar 27:23 where Moshe placed his hands on Yehoshua and proceeded to bless him, making him his successor. The act of placing one's hands on the person one blesses is designed to facilitate the transfer of the ruach ha-kodesh possessed by the one conferring the blessing to the recipient of said blessing.

When the Sages of old ordained someone they also literally placed their hands on the head of the person so ordained. In the case of the kohanim blessing the people this was physically impossible. Instead the kohen spread his hands heavenwards in a gesture commanding G-d's blessing on those present. This is the deeper meaning of the words שִׂכֵּל אֶת-יָדָיו, the word שִׂכֵּל being derived from שכל, חכמה, "intelligence, wisdom." The ten fingers are to be the instrument which draws down blessings from its celestial source.

כִּי מְנַשֶּׁה הַבְּכוֹר
ki Menasheh habechor
although Menasheh was the first born.

Ya'akov ignored this biological phenomenon as the younger of Yosef's sons displayed signs of spiritual superiority. The use of the word כִּי in the sense of "although" is not unique. We find it being used in the same sense in Tehillim 41:5 רְפָאָה נַפְשִׁי, כִּי-חָטָאתִי לָךְ, "heal me although I have sinned against You." Another example of the use of the word כִּי in the sense of "although" is found in our daily prayer: "forgive us our Father although we have sinned." It would certainly not be logical to translate the words סלח לנו אבינו כי חטאנו, "forgive us our Father for we have sinned."

May HASHEM continue to enlighten us with the Light of His Torah.


- Bachya, Me'am Lo'ez


VAYECHI PARDES - The End of Days

Sunday, January 8, 2017 · Posted in , , ,

Then Yaakov called for his sons and said, 
"Assemble yourselves and I will tell you what will befall you in the End of Days..." 
[art by Yoram Raanan]


וַיְהִי יְמֵי-יַעֲקֹב שְׁנֵי חַיָּיו--שֶׁבַע שָׁנִים וְאַרְבָּעִים וּמְאַת שָׁנָה
vayehi yemei-Ya'akov shnei chayav sheva shanim ve'arba'im ume'at shanah
Ya'akov's days, the years of his life, were 147 years.

This Parsha is "closed," i.e. we do not have the customary separation of words, lines or letters between the last portion and this one. There are two reasons for this:

  1. The exile was about to start and the hearts of the Benei Yisrael became "closed" due to the progressively increasing difficulties in their daily lives.
  2. Ya'akov wanted to compensate for their feeling that a deterioration in their lives was about to take place by revealing to them the glorious future in store for them after the redemption.
However, he was unable to do so. In other words, Ya'akov's channels of communication with the celestial regions had become "closed." H had announced that he would reveal to them "what will befall you in the end of days" (49:1). When when reading what follows it becomes clear that this is not what Ya'akov announced. The "end of days" Ya'akov had in mind was the exile in which we find ourselves now, not the exile in Egypt or Bavel. Seeing that Ya'akov was the third of the patriarchs it is reasonable that his life should have foreshadowed experiences of the Jewish people during their third exile, i.e. our exile. At any rate, G-d would not let him reveal these matters and even Dani'el (Dani'el 12:9 states that these matters remained sealed secrets until the end of that exile. Chazal felt that Dani'el had known about these developments and that is why the angel had to tell him to obscure the matter (Dani'el 12;4).

Yeshayahu said something similar in Yeshayahu 9:6 where we read: לםרבה הַמִּשְׂרָה וּלְשָׁלוֹם אֵין-קֵץ. The final letter ם (mem sofit) in the middle of the word לםרבה where we should have had a regular "open" letter מ (mem). is a warning that whatever the areas in which Yisrael excels, these will not be in evidence during their exiles. The prophet seems to be saying that even attempts to hasten the redemption through Torah-study, through establishing G-d's authority on earth, etc., will not affect G-d's timetable. It is interesting that we find exactly the reverse phenomenon in Sefer Ezra (Nechemyah 2:13) where an open letter מ (mem) appears at the end of a word, i.e. בְּחוֹמֹת יְרוּשָׁלִַם אֲשֶׁר הֵמ פְּרוּצִים, "the walls of Yerushalayim which are broken down." A Midrash comments on this verse that this is an allusion that whereas when the walls of Yerushalayim which are now "open," i.e. broken down, were still "closed," i.e. intact, such as during the period of the Temple, G-d's authority which had been "closed", i.e. not in evidence during that period, will re-emerge and reassert itself as a result of the Jewish people learning their lesson during a harsh exile. Just as the two letters  מ (mem) in the verses quoted from Yeshayahu and Nechemyah respectively contain allusions to maters hidden from us, so the unusual absence of a division between the two portions Vayigash and Vayechi also contain allusions to matters hidden from us, i.e. hidden from Ya'akov.

There is a Midrash according to which Ya'akov saw that the names of this twelve sons (the future Tribes of Yisrael) contained between them all the letters of the alphabet except the letters ח (chet) and ט (tet). He concluded that this was a hint that none of these sons were guilty of a sin (chet). This prompted him to reveal to them what he knew about the period preceding the final redemption. When he re-examined the letters in the names of the sons and realized that the letters ק (qof) and צ (tzadi) also did not appear in the names of any of them, he reconsidered and decided that his sons were not fit to have this information revealed to them. He therefore desisted, and this is why this portion is "closed."

May HASHEM continue to enlighten us with the Light of His Torah.

- Bachya



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