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Torah Musings

Halachik Q&A: Aliyah Priorities


Certain lifecycle milestones are marked by being called to the Torah for an aliyah. The levels of obligation are as follows:

Level 1.

A Bar Mitzvah boy on his bar mitzvah day or the first Shabbos thereafter.

A chosson on the Shabbos before his wedding, this aliyah is called "Aufruf". (If the chosson needs to leave home before the Shabbos of his "Aufruf" due to the length of the journey to the wedding, he should receive an aliyah in his home town on the Shabbos before he departs, as well as on the Shabbos before his wedding, wherever he may be.)

Level 2.

A chosson on the Shabbos after his wedding, when the wedding took place on (Tuesday night,) Wednesday, Thursday or Friday.

Level 3.

A son on the day of a parent's yahrzeit.

Level 4.

The father of a newborn son on the Shabbos before the bris.

Level 5.

The father of a newbo daughter on the day she is named.

A mohel and sandek on the day of the bris.

A son on the Shabbos before a parent's yahrzeit.

One should receive an aliyah on his actual birthday or on the Shabbos before it.

A chosson on the Shabbos after his wedding, when the wedding took place on Sunday, Monday or Tuesday (before nightfall).

Level 6.

One who traveled overseas.

A guest from out of town.

One who needs to recite hagomel.

A father on the birthday of a daughter or a pre-bar mitzvah son.

The father of the Chosson on the Shabbos before the wedding.

Additional laws:

There is no obligation to receive an aliyah on the parsha that was read at one's Bar Mitzvah. 

The main blessing associated with the aliyah is the tzedaka that you give in honor of the aliyah.

Halachik Q&A: Borei Pri Ha'etz

When eating fruit, the bracha borei pri ha'etz is said. When eating different kinds of fruit, which should one recite the bracha over?

The most important principal is preference: Make the bracha over the fruit that you prefer over the others. 

When one has no preference, and, some of the available from the seven species of Israel: then the fruit from the "seven species" take precedence.

Within the seven species of Israel, what is the order of precedence?  wheat products, barley products, wine, olives, dates, grapes, figs, pomegranates. 

Does a fruit that one hasn't eaten in a season and requires a shehcheyanu take precedence over personal preference? No, one should still start with the fruit they prefer. 

If one has no preference and is eating a shehecheyanu fruit as well as fruit of the seven species: The seven special species take precedence. 

Halachik Q&A: Benching Part 1

What should be done if one recited birchas hamazon after a food that requires the borei nefashos? He has not fulfilled his obligation and must recite borei nefashos.

What should be done if one recited birchas hamazon after foods that require the al hamichya? He has fulfilled his obligation and need not recite al hamichya.

What should be done if one recited birchas hamazon over the species that require the al hapeiros? He has not fulfilled his obligation and must recite al hapeiros.

What should be done if one recited al hamichya over foods that require the borei nefashos? He has not fulfilled his obligation and must recite borei nefashos.

What should be done if one who is benching realizes that he hadn't eaten bread? If he has not yet concluded the bracha hazan es hakol, he must transition into al hamichya. If he has concluded that bracha, he must stop and not continue. 

Sermon Summary: Va'era

Hashem caused only some of the frogs to die, but the frogs that jumped into ovens etc, who showed real sacrifice, were pretending to go on living. The lesson is, that when one shows a special devotion to Hashem by acting in an usually devoted way, he will be granted special protection from Hashem.

This is connected to the upcoming special date: Yud Shvat, anniversary of the Rebbes assension to the seat of Rebbe. In a letter addressed to the yeshiva of Montreal the Rebbe emphasized that the focus of a lubavitcher yeshiva is to raise up Jews who are"all in"!

Baal Hatanya is a Beinoni

In today's daily Tanya portion the Alter Rebbe describes three degrees of Beinoni (see full portion at chabad.org/dailystudy). In this regard, Rabbi Chaikin added the following story: 

Once, the Alter Rebbe said, "I am a Beinoni". Hearing this, the chossid Reb Mordechai Leipler asked, "But I am no Rasha...?" So, the Alter Rebbe responds, "There are four hundred levels of Beinoni..."

It seems strange that the Alter Rebbe, who studied and revealed the mistake in Rabba's describing himself as a Beinoni, should make the same mistake. 

A possible approach to this question is: The Alter Rebbe wants to offer beinonim an up-lift. Even the language of Tanya suggests that the Beinoni needs comforting "v'ze yihye nechamaso...".  

Like the Baal Shem Tov's sukkah, which was kosher by only the barest standard - to the degree that a note fell from heaven to confirm that it kosher, since it was so dubiously so. The Baal Shem Tov built his sukkah that way purposely, in order to give an up-lift to all the sukkahs of Jews who couldn't afford to make propper sukkos. 

As well as like our Rebbe, who told a chassid was hesitant to work on shlichus under his father-in-law. The Rebbe said, "I also work for my father-in-law." 

Even when the chassid Reb Yaakov of Yanovhitch approached the Alter Rebbe with the complaint, "I'm a simple man and no-one will offer my three daughters a good shidduch." The Alter Rebbe offered to give him the Mitteler Rebbe as a shidduch and then everyone will want to marry into his daughters.

So we see that the inyan of the Rebbeim was to uplift Jewish people. So, again, maybe the Alter Rebbe describes himslef as a beinoni in order to comfort all those who might look poorly at themselves for "only being a beinoni." To them the Alter Rebbe says, "I am also a Beinoni." 

Halachik Q&A: Interruptions During Davening

QuestionsAnswers.jpgIn davening, restrictions on interruptions range:

1. If one is in middle of pesukei dezimra and hears a bracha, may they answer Amen? A: Yes.

2. If one is in middle of Yishtabach and hears a bracha, may they answer Amen? A: No. 

3. If one is in middle of pesukei dezimra and he hears thunder or lightning, may he recite the corresponding brachos ("oseh maaseh biraishis" or "shekocho ugvuraso malei olam"? A: Yes.

4. If one has put on his hand tefillin but has not yet put on his head tefillin and he hears a bracha, may he answer amen? A: No. 

5. If one has put on his hand tefillin but has not yet put on his head tefillin and he hears the chazzan say barchu, may he respond, "Baruch Hashem hamevorach l'olam va'ed"? A: Yes, but he will have to say the bracha "al mitzvas tefillin" after putting on the head tefillin.

When the Rebbe Spoke in the Alter Rebbe's Voice

Today in Jewish History (2).pngIn honor of the Alter Rebbe's Yahrtzeit we reviewed a Maamar from the Parshas Vayakhel, 5564. Then we listened as the Rebbe's repeated that maamar in 5723. Then we heard the fascinating background story and reviewed the Rebbe's commentary on the maamar. 

It was a very special experience. Review the class on our Youtube channel.

What have the Rabbis done?


If Torah classifies a food item as permitted but the sages declare it forbidden, does anything happen to the food? A clipping from the Women's Tanya Class, delivered at ChabadCLE.com/Zoom with Rabbi Shmuli Friedman

Rambam's Surprise Exhortation

tanya (1).pngWith Hashem's help, we finished the Rambam's Sefer Avodah this evening between Mincha and Maariv. At the very end Rambam surprises us with a lengthy and urgent exhortation about fidelity in mitzvah observance. 

Check it out:

It is appropriate for a person to meditate on the judgments of the holy Torah and know their ultimate purpose according to his capacity. If he cannot find a reason or a motivating rationale for a practice, he should not regard it lightly. Nor should he break through to ascend to God, lest God burst forth against him. One's thoughts concerning them should not be like his thoughts concerning other ordinary matters.

See how severe the Torah rules concerning misappropriating sacred property. Now if wood, stones, earth, and ash become holy because the name of the Lord of the world was called upon them through speech alone and anyone who treats them as ordinary articles violates the prohibition against me'ilah and even if he acted unknowingly, he is required to secure atonement, how much more so with regard to the mitzvot which God ordained for us should a person not treat them derisively, because he does not understand their rationale. He should not conjure up matters that are not true concerning God, nor should he think about them with his mind as he would ordinary matters. For Leviticus 19:37 states: "And you shall guard all My decrees and all My judgments and perform them." Our Sages commented: This adjures us to guard and perform both the decrees and the judgments. The meaning of "performing" is well known, i.e,. that one should observe the decrees. "Guarding" means to treat them with caution and not think that they are any less than the judgments.

The judgments are those mitzvot whose motivating rationale is openly revealed and the benefit of their observance in this world is known, e.g., the prohibitions against robbery and bloodshed and honoring one's father and mother. The decrees are the mitzvot whose motivating rationales are not known. Our Sages said: "I ordained decrees and you have no license to question them." A person's natural inclination confronts him concerning them and the nations of the world challenge them, e.g., the prohibition of the meat of a pig, milk and meat, the calf whose neck is broken, the red heifer, and the goat sent to Azazel. To what degree did King David suffer because of the heretics and the idolaters who would issue challenges concerning the decrees! As long as they would pursue him with false retorts that they would arrange according to man's limited knowledge, he would increase his clinging to the Torah, as Psalms 119:69 states: "Willful transgressors have stacked falsehoods against me, but I guard Your precepts with a full heart." And states concerning this matter: "All of Your mitzvot are faithful". All of the sacrifices are in the category of decrees. Our Sages said: "The world exists for the sake of the service of the sacrifices." For through the performance of the decrees and the judgments the righteous merit the life of the world to come. And between the two of them, the Torah gave precedence to the command for the decrees, as Leviticus 18:5 states: "And you shall heed My decrees and judgments which a person will perform and live through them."

Strong and important words!

Halachik Q&A: Mezuman Part 2

When benching with 3-9 men a "mezuman" is done. When benching with ten or more the Hashem's name "Elokeinu" is added to the zimmun (traditional statement that declares the beginning of benching). The mezuman is performed over a cup of wine.

1. How many men have to wash and eat bread in order to say "Elokeinu" in a mezuman? A: Seven have to have eaten bread and the rest of the minyan should have eaten or drunk something that requires an after bracha.

2. If three men ate together and one of them unwittingly benched on his own, can they still make a mezuman? A: Yes, after he has completed his benching he will be able to respond with them.

3. What should be done when three men ate together, and two want to bench while the third wishes to continue eating? A: The third man should pause his meal and respond to the zimmun, waiting until the leader concludes the bracha, "hazan es hakol" before continuing his meal.

4. When this third man is joined by two new men, and they eat together, when they all finish can he join them in a mezuman? A: No, he has already fulfilled his obligation and cannot be counted towards another one.

Mezuman Part 1

The Rav's Stories: The Rimenover's Akeida

Reb Mendele Rimenover lost twelve or thirteen children.
It came to the last child...
After mincha he sits down to lead seudas shlishis as if nothing is happening.
The rebbetzin came down and said, “If you want to accept yesurim be’ahava that’s fine, but to celebrate shalashuedis?”
“When Hashem commanded Avraham to shecht his son, if Avraham had argued Hashem would have given in. But imagine what attitude Klal Yisroel would have if we didn’t have the merit of the Akeida!”
The Rebbetzin acquiesced.


Sermon Summary: Vayechi



At the conclusion of the book of Bereishis Ramban writes a summation: Thus ends the book that describes the novelty of creation and the stories of the patriarchs. Why are we told the story of the patriarchs? Because their stories are a signal of what is to come for their descendants. (Paraphrased)
The pattern among the patriarchs was; they faced a challenge and emerged successful.  If their pattern is an indication of what is meant to happen for us, we can be confidant that no matter how daunting our challenges appear to be, we will emerge successful.
On a homelitical  level: the phrase "the deeds of the parents are a signal to the children" can be read to mean that it is the actions of each parent that make known to each child how valuable a human being that child is. We can tell our children that we love them, but that is not the true signal. "The deeds of the parents are the signal to the children." 

The Rav's Stories: Tzemach Tzedek & Kaf Hakelah

In today's Tanya portion there is a discussion about kaf hakelah. That is a soul experience where once the soul has departed the body and resides in Gan Eden, it is made to believe that it is still on earth. The result is that it behaves as it did on Earth. The burning shame that results from that is part of the soul's cleansing process. 


Tzemach_Tzedek.jpgDuring the Tanya class this morning Rabbi Chaikin related the following episode:

A Chossid asked the Tzemach Tzedek, "Perhaps we are all in Kaf Hakelah right now?!" 

The Rebbe answered, "If this was Kaf Hakelah you wouldn't see my face.'' 

Sermon Summary: Vayigash


There exists a tension in the parsha, in the message of Chanukah and in life: 

On the one hand, it is important to invest in yourself, to protect yourself from foreign influences, to keep your mind and heart pure. On the other hand, we are on a mission to get out there and change the world!

Yosef got out there to change the world while his brothers isolated themselves as shepherds in the wilderness. Chanukah lights are meant to impact the street outside your home, but the war was over foreign influences. 

Illustrations: Chassidim gathered in a recording studio to record Chabad niggunim for publication, in order to impact the world. During the session, a ballerina in a leotard entered the studio and the Chassidim disappeared from the studio. (See original story in an interview with Velvel Pasternak.)

Solution: Both. Or in chassidic terminology; live in the world, but a handbreadth higher. Be in the world but carefully monitor which influences you allow past your protective gates, including the gates of your home, as well as the gates of your consciousness, the eyes, ears and mouth. 

They say it takes a village to raise a child, and the work of rising doesn't end at bar mitzvah, it continues throughout your life. As an adult, you have the power to curate your village and determine who you will welcome (those whose influence you want in your life) and who is not welcome.

Final point:  We just celebrated Hey Teves, the victory of the books. One of the central traditions that mark this date is the purchase of additional Torah books for your home. Even if it is unlikely that you will read them all, having Torah books around you contributes to an inspired and pure environment.

A pure environment leads to a healthier life.



Halachik Q&A: Mezuman Part 1


When benching with 3-9 men a "mezuman" is done. When benching with ten or more Hashem's name "Elokeinu" is added to the "Zimmun". The mezuman is done over a cup of wine.

1. What should be done if one forgot to add Hashem's name when there was a minyan of men? A. If the men have not yet answered, one should repeat the phrase properly.

2. What should be done if there is no wine available? A. Beer can be used when there is no wine. 

3. What should be done if the leader of benching is left-handed? A. He should hold the cup of wine in his dominant hand ie. left hand.

4. What must be removed from the table before benching? A. Any empty dishes.

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