Revach L'Neshama RSS feed for - Section: MOADIM Category:ELUL-TISHREI Copyright 2007, Revach L'Neshama en-US Revach L'Neshama Logo 144 31 Fri, 03 Dec 2021 03:00:00 +0000 240 Rav Leib Chasman - Personal Requests on Rosh HaShanah

Rosh HaShanah is the day the world was created and Hashem became King. Every year on this day we coronate the King anew. Why is Rosh HaShanah a day of judgement? The pasuk in Mishlei says, "Melech BaMishpat Yamid Eretz", the main function of a King is to maintain order in the land. Therefore the first order of business is to see where each citizen stands and what will be his fate.

It is brought down in the Zohar and other places that one should not make personal requests on Rosh HaShanah, for it is a disgrace to the King. Our entire focus should be on the glory of the King and His coronation. We should concern ourselves with what we can do for Hashem, and not what we'd like Hashem to do for us.

Yet Rav Yisroel Salanter and most gedolim today say that we may make personal requests, for in our generation most of us are not on the level that we can truly say that we spend the day in awe of Hashem's glory. At least by asking for personal requests we show that we acknowledge that Hashem is the King, and to Him we turn for help.

Rav Leib Chasman explains with a Mashal. On the day of the King's coronation a royal banquet was held. All the ministers were present, and the magnificently decorated hall inspired awe, glory, and fear. During the ceremony a pauper dressed in rags, who somehow managed to sneak by security, runs up to the king and starts screaming that he has no food to eat and he is desperate for some potatoes for his family. The guards pounced on him at once and removed him. Yet even as the ceremony resumed the mood and atmosphere had soured and the prior glory was not restored.

In a similar but very different version of the story the pauper throws himself at the King's feet and says my master my king, my family has been impoverished and suffering for years. We have tried every avenue to extract ourselves from this situation to no avail. Your are the all powerful, and we know you to be kind and merciful. We are all your loyal subjects, and you and only you can help us. Our lives are in your hands alone, and we give our entire being to your service. Please have mercy!

Beyond all the glamour of the event, this moment is the true coronating moment of the king!

Thu, 29 Sep 2016 03:00:00 +0000
What Is Isru Chag Exactly? Isru Chag, the day after each Yom Tov, is a term that comes from a Pasuk in Hallel (Tehilim 118), "Kel Hashem Vayer Lanu Isru Chag BaAvosim Ad Karnos Hamizbeiach". What is Isru Chag all about and what does this Pasuk mean?

Rav Chaim Zaitchek (Ohr Chadash - Zos HaBrachah) explains as follows. The Medrash (Vayikra Rabba 31:10) says that dove was allowed in to Gan Eden during the Mabul. Yet this foolish dove left Gan Eden and returned to Olam Hazeh. This is the meaning of Dovid HaMelech's wish "Mi Yitein Li Eiver KaYonah A'ufa V'Eshkona" (Tehilim 55:7). Hashem should give me wings like a dove to fly to Gan Eden, but unlike the dove I will fly there and never leave.

During the glorious period starting with the seriousness of Elul through the awe of Rosh Hashanah, Aseres Yimei Tshuvah, and Yom Kippur, culminating with the Simcha of Succos we are living on a different plane. We live in Gan Eden. During this time of contemplation we are blessed with true insight and inspiration into life and how to live it. We mentally make many decisions about what we want to change, improve, and start anew. But how long does this last, asks Rav Zaitchek? Does it wear off after a few months? weeks? days? or by time Succos is over are we back to business as usual with no real change taking place and all our dreams and fantasies left behind in the Succah?

"Kel Hashem VaYer Lanu", Hashem acts with us with kindness and enlightens us and inspires us for nearly two months. "Isru Chag BaAvosim Ad Karnos HaMizbei'ach". When it's all over we need to bind ourselves and our actions with thick ropes, to the conclusions we've made over the Chag. We need to tie ourselves to the altar on which we've mentally agreed to make so many sacrifices. If we miss this important opportunity we will be saying good bye forever to a lot more than the Succah. We leave the Succah that we dismantled on Isru Chag but are we foolish enough to leave our perch that we've worked so hard to climb?

Mon, 08 Oct 2012 03:00:00 +0000
Rav Shimshon Pincus: Go For The Other Goodies, Not The Ruach HaKodesh

In the Shaar HaKavonos of the Arizal it says that when the Chazzan lingers on the word "Ayei" Mikom Kivodo in Kedusha of Musaf you can have in mind one of three wishes that will be granted. Either you can ask for Ruach HaKodesh, great wealth, or children who are tzaddikim.

The Arizal cautions that you can only ask for one and not all three so you must choose carefully. Rav Shimshon Pincus gives advice to those who are stumped by the dilemma. First of all he says do not spend you precious request asking for Ruach HaKodesh. Even if you were granted Ruach HaKodesh, since we are not worthy enough it would not settle on us, much like if someone were to pour a gallon of Cola into a 5 ounce cup. It is pointless.

Children or Money? That is up to you. What did Rav Pincus choose? He used to tell his kids, "Please be good, I gave up a great fortune for you!"

Tue, 27 Sep 2011 03:00:00 +0000
Rav Tzvi Meir Zilberberg: No!!! That Was Your Whole Rosh HaShana!

Rav Tzvi Meir tells a story that goes something like this. A person meets his friend after Rosh Hashana and asks him "Nu, so how did your Rosh Hashana go?" He replies "It was beautiful. The baal tefila didn't leave a dry eye in the shul. The meals were full of divrei torah and zemiros. The afternoons we learned straight without dozing or schmoozing for a minute. The kids behaved like angels" "Wow! Gevaldig. Sounds like it was perfect" his friend replies. "Well almost perfect. The kid next to me in Shul couldn't stop making noise during Musaf and the father the "Groisse Tzaddik" was so busy shukling away that he didn't do anything besides keep shuckling. I had to shissss the kid half of Mussaf, besides that it was perfect.

To this Rav Tzvi Meir says, "Fool! That was your whole test of Rosh Hashana. Maybe your whole year depended on your reaction to the kid. The rest of Yom Tov was not your Nisayon!" This Rosh Hashana don't decide for yourself what Rosh Hashana is all about. Submit yourself to what the King of all Kings decides is your particular avodah. Hatzlacha Rabba and Gut Yom Tov!

Tue, 27 Sep 2011 03:00:00 +0000
Rav Moshe Shmuel Shapira - Is Rosh HaShanah A Day Of Tshuva? We all know that Rosh HaShana is not a day where we bombard Hashem with our wish list for the upcoming year.  But is it a day of Tshuva?  On one hand we don't say Slichos and avoid all mention of any reference to aveiros on this day, but on the other hand we blow the Shofar which is very much tied to tshuva.  We also know that there are Aseres Yimei Tshuva of which Rosh HaShana is part of.  So is it a day of tshuva or is it just a day to coronate our King and kick off our new year?

Rav Moshe Shmuel Shapiro says that indeed it is a day of Tshuva but a special kind of Tshuva.  On Yom Kippur we do tshuva for each and every one of our aveiros.  Not so on Rosh HaShana.  The Rambam says that the blast of the Shofar is to awaken us from our slumber and remind us to do tshuva.  What kind of tshuva?  The Rambam continues that we must remember our creator and stop sleeping through life indulging in all the silly pleasures of this world.  We need to peer deeply into our hearts and change our outlook.

Rav Moshe Shmuel says that on Yom Kippur we do tshuva for all the actual aveiros that we did.  On Rosh HaShana we repair our character and out outlook on life.  We need to repent for our anger, hatred, jealousy, lust after money and food, and so on, says the Rambam (Tshuva 7:3).  Rosh HaShana is a day to reflect on the year that was and to chart a course for the new year.  Once we've made that change over the next ten days we then look at the details.  We assess the actual damage and make repairs.

On Rosh Hashana we don't need viduy and all the outward manifestations of Tshuva.  We need deep and honest contemplation.   We need to recognize who is the boss, who created the world on this day, and what our job is.  This we do on the first day of the year and we start by crowning our King and pointing our eyes and thoughts towards him.

Mon, 26 Sep 2011 03:00:00 +0000
Shela HaKadosh: Simanim - The Secret Is Not In The Recipe

The Shela says that the eating foods that have names that connote good fortune is a waste of time and does not help us at all. So why do we eat the Simanim? In order to say the Yehi Ratzon. Eating the fruit provides us a reminder and a medium with which to daven to Hashem in the beginning of our first meal of the year for things that are important.

Mon, 26 Sep 2011 03:00:00 +0000
Elul - Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach's Simple Secret To A Great Year The Mishna says in Rosh Hashana that there are four judgment days in each year; Pesach, Shavuos, Rosh Hashana, and Succos. The gemara explains that each day has a related Korban to help achieve a good judgment. On Pesach Hashem judges the grain in the field therefore in his kindness he gave us the mitzva of Korban Omer in order that with this mitzva of sacrificing the grain, Hashem will judge the grain favorably and bless us with an abundant crop. On Shavuos when Hashem judges the fruits of the tree we bring Bikurim, the first fruits, as a present to the Kohen in the Bais HaMikdash. On Succos it's time to judge the winter rain so we pour water on the Mizbei'ach.

What about Rosh Hashana when Hashem judges people, what Korban do we bring to assure a good year? Rav Shlomo Zalman answers that for the Korban of Rosh Hashana, Chazal point out that the Torah says "Va'Asisem Olah" you should make a Korban Olah, instead of the more typically used word "V'Hikravtem" you should sacrifice. The mefarshim say that this means that each person should make himself the Korban.

How does one make himself a Korban? Rav Shlomo Zalman says by voluntarily standing before Hashem and subjecting ourselves to the judgment for the upcoming year we are accepting Hashem as our King. If we stand there in fear and awe understanding that everything hinges on these few moment in Shul and believe this with our whole heart, we have sacrificed ourselves to the King of all Kings. If we bring this Korban we will be assured of having a great year! (Shalmei Moed)

Sun, 25 Sep 2011 03:00:00 +0000
Elul: Shem MiShmuel - Why Is Shabbos Before Rosh Hashana Not Shabbos Mivarchim?

The Shem Mi'Shmuel explains that the Kedusha of Shabbos lingers the whole week and its influence carries us through the week until the next Shabbos comes. Therefore on the Shabbos before a new month we daven that Shabbos should spill over into the new month.

On the Shabbos before Rosh Hashana which is a new month and new year we certainly should daven on the Shabbos prior to it, yet we don't. The reason we don't is because Rosh Hashana is a new beginning as it says "Zeh HaYom Techilas Maasecha". Just like when Hashem created the world there was no Shabbos before it so too Rosh Hashana is a new beginning as if nothing took place previously. This teaches us that we have a chance to start new without any consideration of being locked into to our previous patterns.

Wed, 21 Sep 2011 03:00:00 +0000
Rosh Chodesh Elul - L'Dovid Hashem Ori - When You Carry Valuable Merchandise
The Ohr HaMeir says that in life there are certain people who have it easy.  Everything goes smooth for them and no obstacles stand in their way.  They think that they have reached perfection, they are on top of the world.  On the other hand some people cannot catch a break.  Every time they make a move something goes wrong.  Are they traveling on the wrong road?

The Ohr HaMeir explains with Mashal.  If someone is traveling on the road carrying a sack of wheat husks, his trip is easy.  He can travel wherever he wants as long as he wants feeling secure and knowing no one will rob him of his goods.  However is he carrying a satchel of precious stones he sweats every step, knowing that he is a hunted man.

Dovid HaMelech says in L'Dovid Hashem Ori (Tehilim 27:3) "Im Takum Alai Milchama B'Zos Ani Botei'ach", if the enemy is constantly attacking me, in this I find confidence.  Why?  If my path in life was devoid of any value I would not encounter constant resistance from the Yetzer Hara.  The fact that there is an obstacle in my path at every turn is a sign that I my actions, goals, and ambitions are very valuable.  So valuable that the Yetzer Hara is throwing all his resources at me to stop from accomplishing my dreams.

As we start Elul and head quickly towards Rosh Hashana and a new year, contemplate the past year.  Did you have it easy?  Did you get anything worthwhile accomplished?  The Ohr HaMeir would venture to guess that the answer to the first question is not the answer to the second! 

Wed, 14 Sep 2011 03:00:00 +0000
Bnei Yisaschar - Chodesh Elul, The Return of the Good Woman

The Pasuk says in Mishei (18:22) "Matza Isha Matza Tov Vayafek Ratzon MeiHashem", whoever finds a woman, finds good, and obtains favor from Hashem. The Bnei Yisaschar explains this Pasuk to go on Chodesh Elul whose mazal is Bisulah, the virgin girl.

Ever since the Chait of Adam HaRishon, says the Bnei Yisaschar, we have good and bad mixed in us. Usually the bad fools us and convinces us that the bad is actually good. However when Hashem awakens our heart to Tshuvah, we see things clearly and the real good emerges. Then we regret our misdeeds and fully return to Hashem.

Matza Isha, when we reach Elul the month of the Bisulah. Matza Tov, we find the truth about what is good. Why? Vayafek Ratzon MeiHashem, because Elul is a month of Eis Ratzon when Hashem shows us a special closeness and willingness to forgive us.

Sun, 04 Sep 2011 03:00:00 +0000
Why Do Beinonim Need To Do Tshuvah, Why Not Just Add One More Mitzva?

The gemara Rosh Hashana tells us that on Rosh Hashana the Tzadikim are immediately written in the book of life whereas the Beinonim who have equal mitzvos and aveiros are given a ten day extension.  During these days we must do tshuvah to get on the right side of things.  The question is, why must we do tshuva, why not just do another mitzva to tip the scale.

Rav Itzele Blazer Peterburger answered that these are days of Tshuva and the King has given us a chance to wipe our slate clean.  Our job is to serve our King and our aveiros upset him greatly.  Ignoring this opportunity to do tshuva is the gravest aveira one can do.  No mitzva that you will busy yourself with will come close to the audacity of not making amends of the past.

Rav Elya Weintraub answers that the Me'iri learns a different interpretation of a Beinoni.  A tzadik he says is someone who always only serves Hashem.  A beinoni is someone who in general serves Hashem but at times loses the battle with the Yetzer Hara.  Aseres Yimei Tshuvah is not about adding another mitzva since that won't change things.  It is about firmly establishing yourself as a person who only does Hashem's will, always.

A ten year old boy answered that we do so many aveiros and don't even realize it, that we ourselves could never rely on our own scorecard to be confident that we have tipped the scales. 

Wed, 15 Sep 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Rav Yehonoson Eibushitz - The Big Secret About Rosh HaShanah The Torah does not tell us what happens on Rosh HaShana like it tells us by Yom Kippur and the other Yomim Tovim.  All it says is that it is a Yom Teruah, a day to blow Shofar, but gives no reason why.  Even in Tehilim where we find that Hashem sits in judgment on Rosh HaShana it is very vague, saying only (Tehilim 81:4), "BaKeseh L'Yom Chageinu", on the Yom Tov that the moon is hidden, which is Rosh HaShana.

Rav Yehonoson Eibushitz explains (Yaaros Dvash Drush 5) that there is a big Kitrug on Klal Yisroel from the Satan because the Mitzvos that the non-Jews keep, they are much stricter and more adherent than we are.  We see this from the gemara (Kidushin 31a) when the Chachomim needed to find the best example of the lengths we must go to for Kibus Av V'Eim, the example they found was Dama ben Nisina a non-Jew.  This is why Yonah HaNavi ran away.  He knew that the people of Ninveh would heed his words and do Tshuva, while Bnei Yisroel would not.  He was not willing to play into the hands of the Satan.

Rav Yehonoson Eibushitz says that if the nations of the world knew that Rosh Hashana is a day of judgment for them, they would do tshuva far more than us, and they would mend their ways completely, while we do not.  This would create a great Kitrug on Klal Yisroel.  Since the other nations believe in Torah She Bichsav, Hashem did not make any mention of this in any place where they can see it in plain view and would answer the call.  Instead He put it only in Torah SheBaal Peh, a place where they don't look and don't believe.  This saves Am Yisroel from a very unflattering and dangerous comparison to the other nations.

Wed, 08 Sep 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Rosh Hashana : Shela HaKadosh - Recognizing The Sounds Of the Shofar

The Shela says just like the body needs certain things to live such as food, water, sleep, warmth, and more, similarly the neshama has its needs as well. They include torah, mitzvos, and proper middos. If the neshama doesn't get the right amount of the things it subsists on it can sick and at some point even die.

This is the secret to the sounds of the Shofar. The first strong blast is a straight person before he does aveiros, Koheles (7:29) "Asah Elokim Es Ha'Adam Yashar" Hashem made us straight. This is the strong straight sound of the Tekiah. Once we do aveiros we become ill and sigh and moan like a sick person, which is the sound of the Shevarim. If we don't cure ourselves our neshama dies and then we hear the crying and wailing which is the sound of the Teru'ah.

 Although dead people cannot realistically become alive again, with the Chesed of Hashem all the crying and wailing of our teshuvah can rejuvenate us and make us come alive once more. That is why we end again with one more Tekiah.

We should all be zocheh to hear the great blast of the Tekiah Gedolah signifying the completion of our teshuvah and the recovery of our strong and healthy neshamos.

Tue, 07 Sep 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Elul: Noda BiYehuda - When The Resha'im & Tzaddikim Wait On Line The Gemara in Rosh HaShana 16b says that on Rosh Hashana three books are open Reshaim, Tzadikim, and Beinonim. Tzadikim are immediately written in the book of life... The Noda B'Yehuda in his Drashos asks why are the Reshaim admitted first for judgment if the gemara says that out of respect, the King is judged before the rest of the people because has a higher stature. Another question he asks is when it comes time to the writing the verdicts into the various books suddenly, we find the tzaddikim written first. Why is this? He gives two answers.

"Olam Hafuch Ra'isi" we live in an upside down world says the gemara. Reshaim are thought to be Tzaddikim and vice versa. Therefore when everyone is waiting for judgment Hashem first admits the rich and honorable members of the community who are considered to be righteous, in order not to cause a commotion. After they are unmasked during Hashem's judgment, their verdict is put on hold and they wait until the real Tzadikim have been written into the book of life.

Another answer he gives is that the rushing of the Reshaim into court is all part of Hashem's kindness. Since the Reshaim continuously do aveiros, even on Rosh Hashana while waiting their turn on line they will manage to speak a few words of lashon hara and commit various other aveiros. Therefore we rush them into judgment to minimize the damage. On the other hand the tzadikkim who are desperately grabbing every mitzva they can get hold of are happy to have a few extra minutes to "Chap Arein" a few extra mitzvos before their day in court.

Tue, 07 Sep 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Rav Simcha Bunim of Peshischa - Did Rav Elazar Rokeach's Shofar Blowing Miraculously Calm The Seas?
The Medrash asks, do the nations of the world not know how to blow a Shofar?  The Medrash answers that they don't know how to appease their Creator with the sounds of the Shofar.  How does one appease Hashem with a Shofar? 

Rav Elazar Rokeach from Amsterdam was traveling to Eretz Yisroel by boat.  Rosh HaShanah came out while he was still at sea.  That night the sea was raging and threatened to sink the boat that was quickly filling with water.  While everyone spent the night on deck helping to fight the ocean, Rav Elazar was deep in his holy thoughts in his cabin. 

When the situation looked hopeless his shamash told him that very soon the boat would capsize.  If so, said Rav Elazar, it is almost day break lets get ready to blow the Shofar.  At the crack of dawn Rav Elazar blew an emotional Shofar on the sinking boat.  As soon as he finished the seas calmed.

Rav Simcha Bunim Of Peshischa commented that Rav Elazar did not hurry to blow to calm the seas, he hurried to blow to be able to do a mitzva of Hashem one more time before his untimely death.  With a Shofar blowing like that we can appease Hashem!  (Yeina Shel Torah)

Wed, 01 Sep 2010 03:00:00 +0000
Rav Elyashiv's Ne'ila Cry: Even A Moment Of Time When Yonah HaNavi picks the short straw and it is decided that he is the culprit causing the raging storm, he tells the ship-hands "Sa'uni ViHitiluni El HaYam", lift me up and cast me into the sea.  Rav Elyashiv asks, why did Yonah say "lift me up" when he could have just said cast me into the sea?  The word Sa'uni is extra.

Rav Elyashiv answers that Yonah knew his life was about to end.  He also knew that a person can change the world in a single moment of time spent correctly on this world.  By saying the extra word he was trying to prolong his stay in this world for an ever so slight moment.

At Ne'ila, in the closing moments of Yom Kippur, our fate will be sealed.  We will be cast into the rough waters of life for another year, as the wide open gates to Shamayim will be locked.  All Hashem ever asks from us is to open up our hearts "KiChudo Shel Machat", a small opening like the point of a needle.  Hashem will do the rest and open up our hearts like the massive gates of a large hall.  Our task can be accomplished in short order with a single thought of regret and repentance.  On this small thought hangs our fate, the fate of our family, and the fate of all of Klal Yisroel. 

Grab the moment, seize it and don't let it go to waste.  "Sa'uni", during Ne'ila cherish that single moment and let it lift your fortune and change your life.

Tue, 22 Sep 2009 03:00:00 +0000
Shela HaKadosh - The Sounds Of Crying

The Arizal said whoever does not cry during the Yomim Noraim his Neshama is not good or complete. It is brought down in the name of the Shela that someone whose hard heart does not allow tears to flow naturally should make sounds as if he is crying. Of course he must do so with a broken heart and not just making funny noises with no feeling whatsoever. His proof for this is that the pasuk says "Ki Shama Hashem Kol Bichyi" Hashem heard the sound of my cries. It may not be real cries but it should at least have the same sound. (Piskei Teshuva OC 584:2)

Thu, 17 Sep 2009 03:00:00 +0000
Two Tricks To Help You Avoid Punishment For Your Aveiros

Trick #1 - The gemara in Rosh Hashana says that if you go beyond you character and forfeit your rights in getting angry at people who have cause you to be angry Hashem will forgive you for your aveiros. Every person is judged in Shamayim with the same attitude he shows his fellow man down on earth. Therefore a person who is not "Midakdek" and does not act measure for measure with people will receive the same treatment from Hashem. The Chafetz Chaim uses the idea to explain the enigmatic gemara in Bava Metzia 30 that says Yerushalayim was destroyed because they judged each other to the letter of the law. What about avodah zara in the first Bais HaMikdash and Sinas Chinam in the second? He answers that indeed that was their aveira but had they not dispensed exact judgment down on earth then the heavenly court would have done the same above and forgiven them.

Trick #2 - All our pain is caused by the Satan who constantly prosecutes us before Hashem. Why does Hashem listen to his evil slander about His beloved children, Lashon Hara is assur even if it is true? The answer is that Hashem only listens to lashon hara about those who speak it themselves. If a person does not speak any lashon hara Hashem will not let the Satan dare open his mouth to speak about him. This is incredibly effective. If we refrain from lashon hara we need not beg Hashem not to punish us for our aveiros they are never even brought before him for judgment!

Thu, 17 Sep 2009 03:00:00 +0000
Rav Shimshon Pincus - This Rosh HaShana, Journey To Places Far Beyond

All the Yomim Tovim are compared to limbs of the body. Rosh Hashanah, as its name implies, is compared to the head. Rav Shimshon Pincus points that while all the limbs of the body are bound by the laws of physics, the mind is limitless. He cites the Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim that says when a person thinks about Hashem he is actually with Hashem. A person's mind can take him anywhere he wants to go even beyond the physical world all the way up to the Kisei HaKavod. Each Yom Tov we can achieve certain attainable qualities inherent in the nature of the Yom Tov. These qualities can improve us beyond what we already are. On Rosh Hashanah we can get it all; we can build ourselves anew. We do not need to live with who we already are.

From where does this power of Rosh Hashanah come? Rosh Hashanah is the day that the creation of the world was completed. The six days of creation were "Yesh MeiAyin"; something from nothing, pure creativity in its truest sense. Everything that seems new and innovative since the time of creation is just a reconfiguration of powers that already exist in the world. Each year on Rosh Hashanah that power of creation is refreshed and the world is create anew. As people we are also created anew. It is a chance to instill in ourselves ideals and reach goals beyond what our character and personality is capable of. We just need to believe that it's possible and decide to act the role.

Tue, 15 Sep 2009 03:00:00 +0000
The Shofar That Can Be Heard On Shabbos

"Ashrei Ha'Am Yodei Teruah", the medrash explains that Bnei Yisroel is fortunate that they know how to appease Hashem with the Shofar and earn favorable judgment. Reb Yisroel Yaakov Fisher in the Even Yisroel (Rosh Hashana Drush 5) asks, if this is true than how is it that two people standing next to each other in Shul can hear the same Shofar yet one has a good year and one not?

He answers that the mitzva of Shofar is hearing it not blowing it. That is why the bracha is "LIshmo'a Kol Shofar". Hearing he explains does not mean simply having the sound penetrate you ear drums, but rather hearing the call of the Shofar to do teshuva like the Rambam says the Shofar tells us Wake Up! "Uru Yisheinim MiShenaschem" the sound of the Shofar must penetrate your heart.   Shevarim means to break, as in break your heart with remorse for the way you chose to lead your life. The sounds of our broken hearts shake the Kisei HaKavod and causes the Din to change to Rachamim, but only if we hear the sounds of the Shofar. Therefore two people standing in together in Shul can hear two completely different Shofars and have totally different kind of year.

With this idea he explains the words of Shemoneh Esrei "Ki Ata Shomei'a Kol Shofar... V'Ein Domeh Lach". Only you Hashem can hear each person's Shofar since there is no one like you who can listen to each person's heart.

This year we may not have the sound of the Ram's horn on the first day of Rosh HaShanah, but that won't stop us from storming the Heavens with the sounds of our own broken hearts, our very own internal Shevarim Teruah. 

Mon, 14 Sep 2009 03:00:00 +0000
Viduy Maasros - You're Not All That Bad! The parsha begins with what is known as "Vidui Maasros", one step in the process of bringing the bikurim to the Bais Hamikdash. After the benefactor has given his first fruits to the Kohen, he is commanded to announce out loud that all the various maasros were given correctly, promptly, and in accordance with all the given halachos. Once the individual is finished, he proclaims to Hashem (kaviyochel) that now that I have done my part, it is time for You to peer from Your Holy Abode and shower me and Klal Yisroel with the bracha we need.

What kind of "Vidui" is this? Certainly not the one we're familiar with, the one we will be saying many times over within the next few weeks! Usually vidui means confession, submission, guilt, etc., but here, we proclaim in this sort of vidui that Hashem must now shower us with blessing, and this is done with utmost confidence and certainty. How are we to understand what this really means?

The explanation, says Rav Yosha Ber Soloveichik, zt'l, is that certainly vidui is what we all know it to be. However, if in the course of our confession of our aveiros we don't also take stock in our own self-worth and value, then we are missing a vital component of the derech hateshuva.

Teshuva is not only regretting the past, but also seeing how to avoid those mistakes in the future - kabala al ha'asid. If we are only to focus on our negatives, with what will we use to build ourselves for the future after Yom Kippur has come and gone? Only with this realization that we take the positives in each and every one of us and focus on the good we can do.

It is brought in the writings of Rav Nosson Wachtfogel, zt'l, the mashgiach of Bais Medrash Govoha in Lakewood that he said that it is really a wonder that we are even allowed to "pound ourselves into the ground" to the extent that we do on Yom Kippur. The only reason the Torah sanctions such activity is one of the unbelievable aspects of Yom Kippur, one of the reasons that makes that day so great and special. But the idea is to say the vidui and then move on, in the sense of not getting caught in the despair of aveira.

While none of us will have the audacity to offer such a proclamation of the type the Torah describes in the possuk "Hashkifa", we do need to realize that we have tremendous value and regard in shomayim. In the tefila preceding mussaf the chazzan describes Hashem as a "Yoshev Tehilos Yisroel"; the very throne of Hashem (kavoyochel) is "built" through the power of our tefilos. If you care to create a strong throne for the King and wish to proclaim His Oneness, daven really hard; He is counting on you.

Fri, 04 Sep 2009 03:00:00 +0000
The Yeshiva Of Kelm: Smile It's Elul! In Elul the Yeshiva of Kelm was a very serious place.  The trepidation from the upcoming Yom HaDin was in the air.  The talmidim walked around with a sense of purpose, lost deep in thoughts of self improvement.  So much so that one of the special things they would do, was to come to a joint agreement that each person will go out of their way to make sure that they greet others with a smile and happiness.  Yes a smile, that long lost facial expression that would otherwise have no place in Kelm this time of year.  This was typical of Kelm.  They took the whole world and flipped it on its head only to turn it back over again.  A system of checks and balances of forever improving and then making sure that the improvement was airtight causing no collateral damage along the way.

Similarly Rav Yisroel Salanter once related that he met one of the great Yirei Shmayim in the Bais Medrash on Erev Yom Kippur.  Rav Yisroel asked him a question, but the man's thoughts were so lost in the upcoming day that he simply did not hear Rav Yisroel and ignored the question.  Rav Yisroel thought to himself, "why am I guilty because he was scared of the Yom HaDinGemilus Chasodim demands that he answer me with joy!" (Chaim SheYesh Bahem - Ki Seitzei)

Mon, 31 Aug 2009 03:00:00 +0000
Parshas Ki Seitzei: Elul, True Love vs. Tough Love

We can all picture the scene. A child has his eyes dead-set on something; say, a cookie, for example. The problem for him is that it is stationed too far for his reach. So he drags over a chair to aid him in reaching the item. Still too far, though. Maybe a telephone book or two might do the job. Yes, that is enough for him to touch the jar and dislodge it slowly off the shelf. But standing afar, we all know what’s coming. He repeatedly knocks at the glass jar and just as he is about to catch the falling jar and get to his cookie, the telephone book slips and he loses his balance, causing the jar to come crashing to the ground and break in a thousand pieces, sending cookies all over the floor and shards of glass in his knees and feet. What a shame – he really “loved” that cookie, but by trying to circumvent the conventional manner of getting a cookie – i.e. asking an adult – he acted inappropriately and caused much harm to himself. 

This is the story that is introduced to us at the beginning of the parsha. A man in war, clearly not his ideal battlefield, is caught up with his yetzer hara and a woman he claims he “loves”. The picture set for him is that there is nothing else in the world at that moment except for settling his desires. The Torah cannot tell the individual not to pursue it because he is caught up in that moment, alone. Instead, the Torah allows the individual to pursue the action he is seeking (with Halachic pre-conditions, beyond the scope of this article and writer) and then stands aside, so to speak, to watch the ramifications of those actions. “Oh, yes, you want a Yefas To’ar. Go ahead, have it. Be aware, though, that when one attempts to reach for something out of their realm of possible and permissible options, there is a fallout that goes with it. Family squabbles, marital discord, children leaving the derech and a life turned over and ripped asunder. It is your choice.”

The lessons of this inyan are plenty, but I would like to point out a message we can derive, albeit more subtle. The parsha of Yefas Toar illustrates what happens to love that is misguided and misdirected. What we need to develop is our true love, that of Ahavas Hashem, and this is specifically poignant for these days of Elul and Tishrei, referred to Yemei Harachamim V’harotzon. For while many of us put much effort into Yiras Hashem – being careful about mitzvah observance, keeping away from bad behavior, davening differently and better, etc., focusing on Yirah alone is a problem for two reasons.  

First, it is only half way up the ladder of avodah. The Ohr Hachaim explains that when the Torah says, “Mah Hashem Elokecha Shoel Meyimach Ki im Li’yirah”, it means to say that since Ahavas Hashem is the ultimate avoda but the more difficult one to master, Hashem “only” asks for Yirah, but to be used as a stepping stone to obtain Ahava. Once we mastered Ahava, we will realize that Yirah was small in comparison. That is one reason yirah alone is insufficient.
Secondly, we cannot have one battle plan in our arsenal. Fear alone cannot spare a person from aveira because there are times where there is no fear, as we see from this parsha of Yefas Toar. We can fight fear with fear but we must also fight ahava with ahava. We can combat the yetzer hara in his own snare, provided we have worked toward building that option. There is a reason that only Elul and Tishrei evokes a certain fear in us, save for a few select days spread out in the year. Elul itself cries out “Ani ledodi v’dodi li” which tells us to develop a loving relationship with Hashem, specifically in these days. That is why Succos, z’man simchaseinu, follows the awe of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, teaching us that we are to develop both those precious tools of avoda.

When we will declare Hashem to be the Ultimate King of the World, we can only do so if we are in fear and awe of Him and in love with His kindness. That way, our mouths and minds will be guided toward speaking His glory and asking forgiveness for the times we let Him down.  

If misguided ahava is that destructive, imagine what channeling it properly can affect in us!

Fri, 28 Aug 2009 03:00:00 +0000
Elul: Shela HaKadosh - The Lion Roars!

The Shela HaKadosh brings down from tzadikim of previous generations that the Pasuk "Aryeh Shoag Mi Lo Yirah"; when the lion roars who is not afraid, is a Siman for the Yomim Noraim and the Days of Judgement. The word Aryeh has the letters Aleph, Reish, Yud, Hey which represents Elul (Aleph), Rosh HaShana (Reish), Yom Kippur (Yud), and Hoshana Rabba (Hey) the day when our fate is handed out to the Malachim to carry out. The lion's roar of these days is a sign for us to be afraid and do Teshuva.

Teshuva he says is an acronym for the various ways we show our remorse. Tuf - Taanis, fasting; Shin - Sak, wearing a sack cloth; Vuv -VaEfer, ashes; Bais - Bechia, crying; Hey - Hesped, mourning over our aveiros.

The letters of Elul we all know stand for "Ani LeDodi V'Dodi Li"; I am to my beloved and my beloved is to me. The last letters of each of the 4 words is Yud with the numerical equivalent of 40. This represents the 40 days from Rosh Chodesh Elul until Yom Kippur that are a special time for Teshuva.

Wed, 26 Aug 2009 03:00:00 +0000
Post Ne'ila Let Down? No Way! Ne'ila is over the gates are locked.  Elul is history.  Aseres Yimei Tshuva when Hashem is most accessible and eager to help us has passed. The King has gone back home. Is this a let down?

Maybe we can explain with a Mashal.  In the great kingdom, the exceptional son of the most important minister and confidant to the King had suddenly gone astray.  At first he was acting up in his home but then it came to a point we he left home and went out to live in the forest.  There he spent his days wandering around with the animals.  He didn't clean himself an he barely ate.  After a few months of near starvation and unsanitary conditions he was on the verge of death.  His father was despondent.  A few months ago his son was a special child with a bright future in the Kingdom, and now he was acting subhuman and near death.

Seeing the grief of his trusted minister the King decided he will personally go bring the boy back.  The King goes out to the forest and speaks words that penetrate the boy's heart.  He promises him an important position if he returns.  The boy agrees that he must come back, however it seems like it may be too late as he stands on the verge of death.  The King personally stays there and nurses him back to health.  During these few weeks with the King tending to him 24 hours a day, the King and the boy become very close. The boy is finally restored to good health both physically and emotionally.  They have an emotional good bye and the boy starts hisprestigious job.

Is the boy sad that he is no longer with the King?  No. He is now back on his feet and he can serve the king in an honorable way.  Moreover he will have plenty of opportunity to see the King at important functions, the first one being the party thrown in honor of his return.  The time he spent with the King was indeed very special, but not under the nicest circumstances.  He was sick, he was depressed, and he was embarrassingly filthy.

We spent quality time with Hashem recently.  We were sick and dirty with the aveiros we accumulated over the year.  We were near death as the world and our Neshamos were exploding with aveiros.  Hashem tended to us because we are the children of hisprecious ministers, Avrohom, Yitzchok, and Yaakov.  He encouraged us and he promised us a bright future if we return.  With his own hands,kviyachol , he cleaned us up.  We are now restored back to good health and ready to continue the great career we were headed on before being derailed by theYetzer Hara.  Will the King be tending to us like he did until now?  No, he doesn't have to.  Instead we will be busy doing his service and building a relationship based onachievement and love.

We will have many opportunities to spend quality time with Hashem.  In fact tonight, just one day after our emotional departure, Hashem will grace our homes with His presence for Shabbos!  Next week we will be invited to a week long celebration in honor of our return, in his palace, theSuccah!

The meaning and quality of our relationship  with Hashem has been raised due to our return to much higher level.   Keep yourself clean and this year continue going higher and higher, you are going to be a star!

Fri, 10 Oct 2008 03:00:00 +0000
Rav Leib Mintzburg - The Great Judge Knows How To Find The "Pintele Yid" "L'Kel Orech Din" is one of the seemingly frightening Tefilos which we say on Rosh HaShana that evokes tears and wailing.  It describes the depths that Hashem penetrates in our hearts and actions, when judging us. 

In "Ben Melech" a collection of Shmuessen by Rav Leib Mintzburg, Rav Mintzburg says that this is a wrong perception and is not so at all.  Nesaneh Tokef is a frightening Tefila meant to wake us up.  L'Kel Orech, he says, encourages us by describing Hashem's mercy in Din.  It talks of Hashem the great judge dispensing kindness, withholding anger, adorned in charity, pitying his creations, and so on.

How does Rav Mintzburg see the benefit to us in how Hashem reveals the depths, peers into the hidden realm, knows our thoughts, analyzes our intentions and other character piecing traits that this Piyut tells of?  This does not seem to bode well for our favorable judgement?  He explains that deep down all of us have a pure neshama that in all earnestness wants to do only good.  Unfortunately we stumble along the way, tricked and trapped by our Yetzer Hara in the form of our physical desires and the temptations of the outside world.  On the surface we have many aveiros which warrant a less than great judgement for next year.  However in His Kindness, Hashem looks below the surface.  He looks at our true desires, deep down within our hearts.  He dismisses the outer layers which have gone against His wishes.  He looks at the beautiful Pintele Yid deep within us and considers our deepest yearning to be good.  Then the great Judge writes us in the book for a good year!

Mon, 29 Sep 2008 03:00:00 +0000
What Starts In The Heart Ends In The Book The Arizal writes that there are three pasukim in Tanach that have words in them with the Roshei Teivos Elul.  One pasuk for Tshuva, Tefila, and Tzedoka.  The pasuk for Tshuva is in Nitzavim in the parsha that tells how in the end of the days, Bnei Yisroel will do tshuva.  The Pasuk says (Devarim 30:6) "U'Maltem Hashem Elokecha Es Levavcha V'Es Lvav Zarecha" Hashem will open up your clogged heart and the hearts of your children.  The first letters of the words "Es Levavcha V'Es Lvav" spell Elul.  Elul is a time to open your heart to tshuva.

Rav Moshe Singer Shlit"a points out that pasuk also hints as to what happens if indeed you do tshuva; you will be written in the book for a good year.  He sees this in the last letters of these same words which spell "Tikasev" you will be written.  If we open our hearts in Elul to tshuva, we can be assured of a good Kesiva at the end of Elul on Rosh Chodesh Tishrei, Rosh Hashana.

"L'Shana Tova Tikasev V'Sichaseim L'Alter Chaim Tovim U'L'Shalom!

Mon, 29 Sep 2008 03:00:00 +0000
Rosh HaShana In The Shadows Of a Holocaust

For most of Klal Yisroel the past 60 years have been among the most tranquil and prosperous periods for the Jews in the History of this 2000 year galus.  Rav Shimshon Pincus Zt"l gives a Mashal.  If a child who is misbehaving both in school and at home asks for the latest expensive electronic gizmo his parents will not give it to him. If heaven forbid the next day the child is in a life threatening car accident and winds up in the hospital for a few months, when he finally comes home it would not be surprising to be showered with love and probably even find the coveted electronic game sitting on his bed all wrapped up as a welcome home gift. The child would be wise to understand that this is purely by the grace of sympathy. If he doesn't shape up in a few months he should not expect this kind of treatment.

Similarly with Am Yisroel we go through cycles roughly every 60-80 years. During the good times we tend to stray from Hashem. After enough time, the period of reckoning comes and our collective punishment comes in the form of oppression or worse from our hosts in Galus. After this dark period ends our sympathetic and heartbroken Father showers upon us a generous dose of undeserved prosperity and tranquility. After the Holocaust, Hashem provided us with a new safe and prosperous home in America and gave us back the keys to Eretz Yisroel which we are enjoying today.

The Jewish year has the same cycle. Chodesh Av is bleak month filled with pain and tears. These tears sprout forth the love and sympathy of Chodesh Elul. On Rosh HaShanal we can ask for new toys in the form of health, children, shiduchim and prosperity for the upcoming year. All we need to do is make an effort to reciprocate Hashem's love and show that we want to stay close, forever, this time around.

Sun, 28 Sep 2008 03:00:00 +0000
The Arizal Offers A Magical Flight To Yerushalayim and Musaf Of Rosh HaShana

One Friday afternoon while the Arizal was surrounded by his talmidim, he asked the group if they were ready fly to Yerushalayim to prepare for the Geula. Everyone of course was eager to go, however being that it was Friday afternoon most asked if they can first go home to tell their family that they are leaving. Because of this request the Arizal responded that the opportunity was lost. Why? Was it so wrong to have the courtesy to let your family know that you are disappearing on Erev Shabbos?

The Arizal explained that the Geula means that Hashem will be present in this world. Hashem's presence is abundantly good with no bad attached to it. Do you think, asked the Arizal, that we would fly off to Yerushalayim and things would be bad for your family? Do you not believe that everything will be prepared for both you and your family when you get there? Do you think Hashem forgot to take care of every last detail?

The entire long Musaf of Rosh HaShana, the critical davening of the year, seems strangely devoid of tefilos where we can request the things we need. How could that be? The answer is that the tefila of Rosh HaShana is a request to crown Hashem as King and for him to openly reign over the world. What do we want to ask for a few dollars? health? the kids are giving you a hassle? the neighbors? your boss? When Hashem is King over the world, and not an ordinary king but a king that is close to every single one of us and available for us every moment of every day, do you think these problems will still be a major issue? This Rosh HaShana beg, plead, cry, for our King to come and don't worry about all the mundane matters.

Wed, 24 Sep 2008 03:00:00 +0000
If You Are Looking For Some Wagon Oil This Rosh HaShana, You Better Have A Good Story To Tell This is a poignant story that one should keep in mind when davening for a "Shanah Tovah".   Rav Moshe Rosenstein, zt’l, the mashgiach of Yeshivas Lomza was traveling on a train and met a Modzitcher chassid, who related a story about his Rebbe.  

A chassid approached the Modzitcher Rebbe seeking advice on his parnassah.  The Rebbe pushed him away, saying, “I don’t occupy myself with the frivolities of this world.”  Immediately after this chassid was rebuffed, another chassid entered the Rebbe’s room and spoke to the Rebbe for a full two hours – about his parnassah.  

The first chassid returned to the Rebbe, and inquired why the Rebbe had refused to discuss his parnassah with him at all, and subsequently had a lengthy discussion with his friend about the same subject.

The Rebbe answered, “I’ll tell you a mashal.  A wagon driver entered a store which sold a variety of expensive merchandise, and requested to buy a little oil to grease the wheels of his wagon.  The store owner began screaming, “Get out of here, I don’t sell wagon oil!”  The wagon driver retorted, “Why did you just give wagon oil to the customer before me?”  The store owner explained, “The customer before you bought expensive merchandise and I earned a hefty profit.  In appreciation, I also gave him oil for his wagon.  You, however, are requesting only oil, and therefore I’m informing you that I’m not an oil merchant.’”

The Modzitcher Rebbe continued, “Your friend has asked my advice many times on chinuch issues, setting aside enough time to learn Torah, and other issues of avodas Hashem.  Therefore, when he came now to ask about parnassah issues, I dedicated my time to discuss it with him because it’s impossible to be mechanech your children and to serve Hashem without parnassah.  You, however, came only about parnassah, like wagon oil, and therefore, I told you that I’m not an oil merchant.”

The mashgiach, Rav Moshe, concluded, “It’s the same thing with ruchniyus.  A person sets aside time to learn Torah, he fulfills the mitzvohs, and gives pleasure to His Creator, and on Rosh Hashana, he requests his gashmiyus needs.  Hashem gives him what he desires in order that He can serve Hashem.  But someone who requests only parnassah, and forgets the ikar, should surely know that Hakodash Boruch Hu is not a parnassah merchant.”     (Darchei Mussar)

Wed, 17 Sep 2008 03:00:00 +0000
Rav Gedalia Schorr: Ki Seitzei - Elul, Taking The Battle Across Enemy Lines In Parshas Ki Seitzei the pasuk says (21:10) "Ki Seitzei LaMilchama Al Oivecha U'Nisanoi Hashem Elokecha B'Yadecha", when you go to battle and Hashem delivers the enemy into your hands. Just like that and we have the enemy in our hands.  But in Parshas Bahalosecha the pasuk says (10:9) "V'Chi Savo'u Milchama B'Artzichem...V'Hareiosem B'Chatzrotzros...V'Noshantem".  Here the battle is scary, you cry and daven to Hashem, and you ultimately win. What is the difference between these two wars.   Rav Gedalia Schorr in the Ohr Gedalyahu says that the Kotzker Rebbe asked this question and answers that in the first case Bnei Yisroel proactively goes out to war.  In that case they will route their enemy without any trouble.  In the latter case they waited back and have not dealt with their enemy who is already "B'Artzichem".  They have already pentrated our soil and are in our land.  In this case we need great Rachamei Shamayim to defeat our deadly opponent.

Rav Schorr says that we all know that Klal Yisroel has only one real enemy, the Yetzer Hara.  The Seforim HaKedoshim says that this is the war the Torah is referring to.  Our success in this great war depends on how we approach it.  if we battle the Yetzer Hara before it comes in our midst, we will easily route him.  However if we allow the Yetzer Hara to penetrate our avodah and our hanhaga then we are in mortal danger.  Casting him out is no longer a simple matter.

A few pasukim later it says U'Bachsa Es Aviha V'Es Ima Yerach Yamin.  This one month long crying period, says the Zohar, refers to Chodesh Elul.  Elul is a time for war with the Yetzer Hara.  It is best to protect ourselves from evil before it becomes part of us.  However as the pasuk says in Bahalosecha, with our tears and our wailing to Hashem we can be victorious even in that war, but not if we sit back and wait for Hashem to deliver the enemy to us.

Tue, 09 Sep 2008 03:00:00 +0000
Rav Yisroel Salanter: Get Rich Quick - How The Poor Stop Getting Poorer

In the olden days, says Rav Yisroel Salanter (Ohr Yisroel 14), people would tremble at the mere word Elul.  A reminder that Yom HaDin loomed in the near future was enough of a jolt to scare people.  What is strange, says Rav Yisroel Salanter, is that one would think that those people who are far away from Avodas Hashem all year round, would be the most scared come Elul time.  Yet quite the opposite is true.  The Yirei Shamayim get nervous Elul time, while the rest continue with business as usual.  Why?  

Rav Yisroel Salanter says that there are two reasons, one gashmiyos and one ruchniyos.  From a gashmiyos point of view, a person suffers from "Hergel".  He is so used to everything, he has become numb and nothing will phase him.  In terms of ruchniyos, each aveira puts a layer of tumah on the sinner.  With tumah covering you, the world looks much different.  You cannot see kedusha.  You cannot appreciate an Elul. Even the mitzvos you do are tainted due to the condition you have created for yourself.  

So how does one break out of the mess and get on the road to recovery.  Mussar!  Only mussar can cut through the grime and touch the depths of the Neshama.  Mussar breaks the heart and turns it towards good.  Elul is time of mussar.  Everyone should choose their own mussar sefer for Elul.  The classics include, Shaarei Tshuva, Shaar HaGmul, Mesilas Yesharim, Tomer Devora, Reishis Chochma, Chovos HaLevavos, Orchos Tzadikim, Orchos Chaim, and others.  Many are even translated into English.  There are also many contemporary gedolim that have written classics in their own right.  Pick one up, any one.  By time you put it down you will not be the same, and neither will your Rosh Hashana.

Sun, 31 Aug 2008 03:00:00 +0000
Two Wild Courtroom Scenes and Birchas Kohanim

Last week a frum man was brought into court for sentencing for a white collar crime. I can't promise the accuracy of the details but this is an account of an eyewitness. The court was packed with friends who had come to give the defendant support. The federal prosecutors were out for blood and had already declared that if he does not get the long sentence they were asking for they would appeal. The first order of business by the Judge was to deny all the motions that the defendants counsel had made for leniency. It was not looking pretty.

Then before handing down the sentence the judge asked the defendant if he would like to address the court. The defendant meekly got up and started muttering something that was inaudible to all present in the courtroom. The judge in a gesture of mercy told the defendant he need not stand up and may address the court while sitting. Sitting in his seat the defendant again started speaking but the results were no different. No one heard anything. The judge asked for a microphone to be brought to make it easier for the defendant to speak. That didn't help the situation either. Then to the shock of all those present in the courtroom the still patient judge left the bench and pulled up a chair alongside the defendant and they began to converse like two friends for a lengthy amount of time while the people present in the courtroom sat there in shock. At the end the defendant received a relatively light sentence compared to what the prosecution was asking for. Furthermore the judge carefully laid out his reasoning to head off any possibility of appeal.

A few days later and even wilder courtroom scene took place, which most of us witness firsthand, although some of us may have overlooked the significance of it. It was judgment day in Heaven. Each one of us stood there individually as defendants. The charges against us had been proven beyond the shadow of a doubt. The prosecution was out for blood and it was time for sentencing. The Shofar was blown and the judge came in. The defendants were asked what they had to say before sentences were handed out. We meekly read a prepared statement from our machzorim some of us more inspired than others. Some of us so out of it that it looked like we simply had no idea of the significance of what was going on.

As the prosecutors were standing by smiling confident that their most vicious requests punishments will be granted, Hashem stops the proceeding and said that before He hands down the sentence He need a three minute break. Hashem left the bench and came to the defendant. He placed His hand on his head and began to say "Yivarechicha... To the shock of all present Hashem went on to bless the defendant, who sinned against Hashem himself, with (according to the Chesed L'Avrohom) wisdom, children, life, grace, wealth, leadership, and peace. After that He returned to the bench and handed down the sentence to the stilled stunned courtroom. After we received our sentence we smiled and sang "K'Hayom Hazeh Tiveinu Sasim U'Smeichim B'Vinyan Shaleim"; Just like you have brought us to this happy and joyous day please bring us soon to the Bais HaMikdash.

This scene will repeat itself in a few days on Yom Kippur. Don't miss it, relish it, enjoy it, and appreciate it.

Important Note:  If you know of any inaccuracies in the above account please let us know so that we can correct the article.

Wed, 12 Sep 2007 03:00:00 +0000
Partying On Judgment Day?

The Tur (OC 581) quotes the Medrash that says that the way of the world is that when people face judgment they wrap themselves in black clothing and not groom themselves because they do not know what will be the outcome of their judgment. Bnei Yisroel is different. We wear white clothing, groom ourselves, and have a feast since we know that Hashem will miraculously judge in our favor. How do we know this? Why should He? If we have so much faith in Hashem than we should have the same attitude even when we are judged by a human judge. Yet we don't.

One possible answer is that our celebration is not because of our judgment; we are celebrating despite our judgment. Why? Because it is the King's birthday party. It is the celebration of the day he created the world. "HaYom Haras Olam"; Today is the world's birthday. The king is throwing a party and despite the fact that during this party we will be judged for all our good and bad deeds, we still put on a brave face and celebrate the King's happiness while ignoring our own trepidation. The King happens to be our Father and when he sees our total devotion and selflessness in putting our aside our woes and rejoicing in His happiness can there be any other outcome besides a favorable judgment for his beloved children? Of course not!

Klal Yisroel is the extension of Hashem in this world and to Hashem's emissary no harm can come but only if we view ourselves as such and align our lives, goals, and ambitions in the way of the Torah. If we employ our own ego to achieve our own personal ambitions that are not the Torah way we become independent of Hashem and will be left to face unbiased judgment of our every action.

Tue, 11 Sep 2007 03:00:00 +0000
Rav Shimshon Pincus: Who Will Live and Who Will Die?

Despite the gemara that says Tzadikkim are written automatically into the book of life the fact is that we see that Tzaddikim do die during the year and vice versa with Reshaim. Rav Shimshon Pincus illuminates the judgment of the Yom Hadin with a Rambam in Hilchos Teshuva (9:1). The Rambam says that gemara says there is no reward in this world. Therefore he explains that the brachos in Parshas Ki Savo that you receive for serving Hashem with happiness is not a reward, rather it is the necessary tools you need to enhance your ability to do more mitzvos. With fewer troubles you will have more time on your hands to learn. With more money you can give more tzedoka.

"Chaim"; life that Hashem gives out on Rosh Hashanah is for those who want to do mitzvos. Their reins are loosened so they can focus on what they really want; to do Hashem's will. "Maves"; death is the lack of breathing room for those who will only use their time for undesirable activities. Same thing with money. Hashem has a stash of cash and he is looking for volunteers who are willing to spend it for him the way He wants it spent. On the first day he calls out looking for people willing to accept this mission. The Tzaddik is not the one who did mitzvos last year. In this context the Tzaddik is the one who makes up his mind that this year he wants to make Hashem's goals his number one priority. He gets the job and all the tools that he will need; money, time, health; no headaches etc. The Rasha is the person whose only concern is his personal welfare. He may live but he will not be on Hashem's payroll as a loyal worker and therefore will not need any of the special bracha. Lacking the tools to serve Hashem, his year will be waste of time and with limited ability to do mitzvos he is as good as dead.

Thu, 06 Sep 2007 03:00:00 +0000
Dip The Apple In The Honey... Why?

The minhag to eat special fruits in Rosh HaShanah is from the Gemara in Horiyos 12a. While the gemara gives a list of recommended fruits dipping apples in honey is not mentioned. The earliest source for the apple in honey is from the Abudraham as quoted by the Rema (OC 583:1). What is the significance of this famous minhag? The Moadim L'Simcha brings a number of reasons.

1. The Maharil says that Yitzchok smelled an apple orchard when he commented on the beautiful smell as Yaakov came in to him to receive the Brachos. The Vilna Gaon in the Biur HaGra says that this happened on Rosh HaShanah
2. The Ben Ish Chai says that apples give three pleasures Smell, Appearance and Taste which correspond to three Brachos we'd like to receive for the next year Bini (Chidren and Nachas from Children), Chayai (Life/Health) and Mezoni (Wealth)
3. The Zohar says that wine symbolizes Din or judgment. Apples are eaten after strong wine in order not to be harmed by the strength of the wine. Therefore since Rosh HaShanah is a time of Din we eat apples in order to sweeten the judgment.
4. Rosh HaShanah we want Hashem to remember the ashes of Akeidas Yitzchok. The ashes that accumulated on the mizbei'ach from all the korbonos are called Tapuach or apple.
5. "Tapuach" has the same gematria as "Piru V'Rivu" and "Dvash" has the same gematria as "Isha". Rosh HaShanah is a special time for barren women to be remembered by Hashem and blessed with children. We therefore eat Tapuach B'Dvash.

Tue, 04 Sep 2007 03:00:00 +0000
Elul: Rav Yisroel Salanter - Low Hanging Fruit are The Big Opportunity The reward and punishment for mitzvos and aveiros are relative to many factors. One important factor is the effort we involve. If we had a great Nisayon that we failed to withstand we will certainly be punished because we should have overcome it however it will be a slap on the wrist compared to the punishment for committing that same aveira sans the temptation. Since the infractions that came with the least temptation will cause us the lion's share of our grief both in this world and in the world to come, Rav Yisroel Salanter in Ohr Yisroel suggests that we should work on purging ourselves of these aveiros.

Take for example, talking Lashon Hara, which we all know how bad it is and always try to "give up" for once and for all. Realistically we will not rid ourselves of it so fast and if we try we'd probably relapse just as fast. We speak a great deal of Lashon Hara but not all of it is equally "Geshmak". True there are times when we are really mad at someone and can't control ourselves. But there are times that we are not really interested in the conversation and get caught up anyway. There are people we don't really care to speak badly about but do so anyway. Sadly this is the Lashon Hara that we will pay for dearly come judgment day.

We can all think long and hard to figure out which aspect of Lashon Hara is our easiest to conquer, which is our low hanging fruit. If we make up our mind to not speak in these not so tempting situations and stick to it with great resolve, not only have we done a great thing but we also shed ourselves of our heaviest baggage. Think about it. It makes sense!

Mon, 03 Sep 2007 03:00:00 +0000
Elul - Bombarding The Heavens With Our Requests

A reason why we say L'Dovid Hashem by davening from Elul until Hoshana Rabba is brought down in the name of the Panim Yafos. The gemara in Taanis 8b says that if we ask Hashem for more than one request at a time we will not be granted even one of them. That is a problem before Rosh Hashana when even three wishes would be way too limited for our abundant needs. We need health, wealth, nachas from our children and a host of other specific requests. How can we suffice with only one?

The Panim Yafos answers that in L'Dovid we say Achas Sho'alti Mei'eis Hashem...Shifti Biveis Hashem"; I have one request from Hashem... to sit in his house and enjoy his sweet presence. In order to focus on Hashem and do the mitzvos properly ideally we need to be free of the daily struggle of earning a living. Dealing with sickness in one's home is a terrible all consuming affair. Grief from our children can eat us alive 24 hours a day and not let us think straight. We ask Hashem a zillion and one requests that are all really one request; please remove all the obstacles keeping us apart from our dear Father in Heaven.

So if this is what you have in mind, great, go ahead and keep adding to your laundry list of requests. But if the above doesn't describe your true inner feelings you better look over your list very carefully and decide which single request is the most important or else you won't get anything!

Thu, 30 Aug 2007 03:00:00 +0000
Elul: Bnei Yisaschar - The Beating From Within Did you ever notice that children pick up and run without any reason for doing so. Extra energy within a child can make him takeoff without any conscious reason. In Elul Hashem plants within each Jew the drive and desire to do Teshuva even if we don't realize it. Our energy level is upped a notch as our heart's pound to a different beat.

The Bnei Yisaschar says there is a Remez for this in the pasuk Shmos (21:13) "V'HaElokim Ina Liyado V'Smati Lecha Makon. " When someone murders by accident the Torah tells us "Hashem made it happen and I will make for you a place of refuge" (Arei Miklat - protection from the vengeance of the victims family). The first letters of the pasuk spell the word Elul. All year long you need to initiate the requisite regret and yearning for Hashem that proper teshuva requires but in Elul hints the pasuk, "Hashem makes it happen" he ignites a flame within your heart so that you naturally come to teshuva. The last letters equal 41 or the numerical value of Mother (Eim). That explains the second part of the pasuk. Our mother in heaven who yearns for our return says "I have provide you a place of refuge" from your aveiros.

Hashem paved the way home. All we need to do is pay attention to the call from within and get up and go. Because in Elul home is where we really want to be.

Mon, 27 Aug 2007 03:00:00 +0000
Elul: Do You Wish You Can Spend Your Days In The Fortress?

Rav Isaac Sher the Rosh Yeshiva of Slabodka explained to his talmidim the reason we say "L'Dovid Hashem Ori" by davening in Elul. In L'Dovid we say we are afraid of nothing and no one because Hashem is our protector. We have no fear from either physical or spiritual dangers because we have perfect faith in Hashem that he will protect us even from the "war" of the Yetzer Hara who tries to cause us to sin.

"From where does our confidence stem", asks the Rosh Yeshiva? "Bzos Ani Botei'ach", from the power of the Torah that we study, which is referred to as "Zos" as in "Zos HaTorah". Furthermore he pointed out to his talmidim that this is only if "Shivti B'Vais Hashem", we are sitting within the safe confines of the Yeshiva studying Torah with all our might.

What kind of protection does this leave us folks who do not merit spending our days in the hallowed halls of the Yeshiva? Maybe just maybe, we can hang our faith on the beginning of the pasuk. "Achas Sho'alti Mei'eis Hashem", I have one request for Hashem. True we are no longer in Yeshiva but do we yearn to be there or are we happy to be free? Do we spend whatever free time we have learning or have we decided that since we aren't in Yeshiva we are excused and a minimal learning schedule or that an occasional Shiur will suffice?

If we ask Hashem to let us go back to Yeshiva and act as if we really want to, maybe he will listen. At the very least he may afford us the same protection as our brethren who are lucky enough to be behind the fortress walls.

Sun, 26 Aug 2007 03:00:00 +0000
Elul: Beat The Heat

Most of us at some point during the year have heard news that made us open up a Tehilim and pour our hearts out for some divine help. Had we had a chance to do it two days before the bad news actually transpired we would have felt very fortunate to have been able to daven in order to help avoid it.

During the winter many years ago a young man caught a cold. His condition rapidly deteriorated and within a week he was dead. All the people were amazed that just one week ago he caught a cold and now he was already dead. Reb Chaim Shmeulevitz corrected them saying that he actually caught the cold months before in Mussaf on Rosh HaShana when his fate was decreed.

The Mishna Berura says (581:3) that during Elul it is a Minhag to say 10 perakim of Tehilim each day finishing Tehilim twice before Rosh HaShana. One perek of heartfelt Tehilim before the tzara strikes is worth far more than many perakim after, since it takes special emunah to say it before while every desperate soul has the common sense to say it after. Like Yirmiyahu told the Bnei Yisroel on the river banks of Bavel who cried to return to Eretz Yisroel, "Had you cried these tears while you were still in Eretz Yisroel you would have never been exiled."

Now in Elul we have our chance. Let's grab it.

Thu, 23 Aug 2007 03:00:00 +0000
Elul Is Not Important Simply Because It's Before Rosh Hashana...

Rav Dov Yaffa, the Mashgiach Ruchni of Yeshivas Kfar Chasidim points out that Elul is special in its own right because the days of Elul are "Yimei Ratzon"; days of goodwill and favor. The Chayei Adam says that on Rosh Chodesh Elul Hashem began to forgive Bnei Yisroel for the Chet HaEgel and told Moshe Rabbeinu to come up to Shamayim to write the second luchos. He stayed in Shamayim for 40 days until Yom Kippur when the atonement for the Egel was complete and Moshe came down with the second Luchos. These 40 days Hashem is close to us and is inclined to give us what we ask for.

It is a waste not to take advantage of every moment both in torah and tefilla or at least to increase the quantity and intensity of both. In fact Hashem did us a tremendous favor by making the Yom HaDin during this time in order that we should judged favorably. (LeAvdecha BaEmes)

Mon, 20 Aug 2007 03:00:00 +0000
Elul: Michtav Me'Eliyahu -The Worst Gehinom

When I was a child our Rebbe told us that there is no Gan Eden or Gehinom. You just sit you in front of a gemara undisturbed for eternity. If you enjoy it, it's heaven and if not it's hell. This is actually a deep idea from brought in the Michtav Me'Eliyahu from the Yaaros D'vash. He says the way we shape ourselves in this world is what we bring with us to the next world. We continue to seek the things we strove for in this world even after death because that is our entire being which doesn't suddenly transform itself after death.

Those who yearned for ruchniyos their whole lives are in luck. Leaving this world and going to the next is like hitting the jackpot. You have landed in heaven where the pleasures to indulge the spiritual quest are bountiful, far greater than can be fathomed while living on earth while all the pain, evil, and struggle of the physical world are no more.

Those who strove, aspired, and struggled to achieve physical pleasure such as cars, homes, good food, honor from their peers, and the like, will continue to seek those things to no avail because they don't exist. Their neshamos will find no place to rest in Shamayim because there is nothing there that they want. What they want is re-entry back into this world to get back into their homes and behind the wheel of their car. They want to be able to walk into a gathering and command respect. This is how the Michtav Me'Eliyahu explains the infamous punishment of Kaf HaKelah where the neshama flies around the world with no rest.

Important Note: Our goal is to give you a taste of some of the ideas from the Baalei Mussar on Elul. We don't claim to compete with the Michtav Me'Eliyau especially in our limited space. It is worthwhile to read his piece in Vol. 2 page 62.

Sun, 19 Aug 2007 03:00:00 +0000
Elul-Parshas Shoftim: Bnei Yisaschar - Shoftim And Personal Bodyguards

We read Parshas Shoftim in the beginning of Elul because the first step to Tshuva is to put guards at our hotspots. "Shoftim V'Shotrim Tetein Lecha B'Chol She'arecha"; place judges and policemen at all your gates. These gates allude to the gates of your body; your eyes, ears, mouth, etc., says the Bnei Yisaschar. The gemara says the eyes see and the heart desires. This is the mechanics of Aveira. We need to watch both what goes into our mouth and what comes out of it. Once we have honest judges guarding these flashpoints from evil we are on the road to tshuvah.

If we do stumble we must have a mechanism for punishing ourselves whether it is in the form of promising to give money to tzedoka or withholding something that we enjoy for every time we slip. This effective idea was popular among the Talmidim of Rav Moshe Kordevero says the Bnei Yisaschar.

Fri, 17 Aug 2007 03:00:00 +0000
Elul: Time To Take Out The Chametz! While some obsessive women begin worrying about Chametz around Chanukah time, pleading with their children not take chametz out of the kitchen because Pesach is coming, the Shulchan Aruch paskens that 30 days before Pesach starts the Chiyuv of getting rid of the chametz. During this time we frantically employ every device available to clean chametz out of any place it may linger; walls, electric sockets, etc.

So too says the Seder HaYom with regard to the chametz in our hearts and our "chametz stained" deeds. Starting Rosh Chodesh Elul, 30 days before Rosh HaShanah, we must begin to clean ourselves to rid ourselves of every drop of chametz, otherwise known as aveiros, to purify ourselves for the Yom HaDin on Rosh Hashanah. Every creative method should be employed to slowly but surely during the course of the month find and destroy every crumb of Aveira hiding in the deep and not so deep recesses of our character. Some obsessive people start earlier. The letters of Chodesh "Av" they say are roshei teivos for Elul (Aleph) Ba (Bais). This goal that is no less important than cleaning for chametz on Pesach. Unfortunately on Rosh HaShanah there are no hotels in Florida that do the work for you.

Thu, 16 Aug 2007 03:00:00 +0000
Elul Is More Terrifying Than A Bear!

Reb Yisroel Salanter would live in a state of sheer terror during Elul. Someone once asked him what is so scary about Elul? Is it a bear? Reb Yisroel Salanter answered that it is scarier than a bear. The mighty Dovid HaMelech said (Shmuel Aleph 17:36) that he killed both the bear and the lion. Neither of these terrifying animals scared him. Yet in Tehilim he wrote "Somar MiPachdecha Bisari U'Mimishpatecha Yareisi"; my skin gets goose bumps from fear of You and I am scared of your judgement. (Sichos Moreinu Hagaon Rav Shimshon Pincus)

Rav Chaim Volozhin once got up to speak about Rosh Hashana.  He began saying the pasuk Somar MiPachedecha Bisari and he fainted on the floor.  He was overcome with such fear and trepidation that he couldn't go on.  He didn't have to.  Anyone who heard his "drasha" lived a different Elul for the rest of his life. 

The great Tzaddik Dovid HaMelech was more concerned with Elul than getting in the way of a hungry lion. Reb Chaim Volozhin passed out from mentioning it.  What about us? 

Wed, 15 Aug 2007 03:00:00 +0000
Bnei Yisaschar - The Month of Elul And The Shem Hashem The spelling of the Shem Hashem for Elul is Hey, Hey, Vuv, Yud which is the last letters of the words (Devorim 6:25) "U'Tzedoka (Hey) Ti'hiye (Hey) Lanu (Vuv) Ki (Yud)". The Bnei Yisaschar says the letters of these words excluding the letters used for the Shem Hashem add up the the word "B'Tshuva" (715) to show that Elul is a special time for Tshuvah. The first letters of each word (Vuv, Tuf, Lamed, Kuf) equal the gematria of "Tammuz Av" (456), to show that the harsh decrees of those months are sweetened in Elul. The middle letters of the words are "Hin Tzedek" to show that the first step for every one embarking on the road to Tshuvah is to be completely honest.

Tue, 14 Aug 2007 03:00:00 +0000