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Torah Musings

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.

Sermon Summary: Miketz

Parshas Miketz, Rosh Chodesh and Chanukah. What combined message do they have for us? 

The Parsha says, "Do you why Yosef told Pharaoh to prepare for the famine? Because Hashem woke Pharaoh up between the dreams, as if to say, 'Get up and do something about it'."

 Rosh Chodesh adds, "Hashem send us all kinds of wake-up calls. Rosh Chodesh is a good example. It's an opportunity to start anew."

Chanukah chimes in, "And we must never be satisfied with yesterday's candles, we must always increase the goodness that shines from us."



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