Emunah Based on the Teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

Archive for February, 2010

Mishivas Nefesh 29 continued

We continue with our elucidation of Meshivas Nefesh 29:

It’s forbidden for a person to give up. Even if he has fallen to wherever it may be, and is lying in the deepest places, no matter what, he still should not despair of coming close to Hashem. It is possible to draw near to Hashem from everywhere, for ‘the entire world is full of His glory’.

A true Tzaddik is only worthy of his name when he has this ability to revive and lift up those who have fallen very low, to encourage and strengthen them, to inspire them and to awaken them, and to reveal to them that Hashem is still with them, by them, next to them and close to them, ‘for the entire world is full of His glory’. The Tzaddik must also be able to do the opposite – to show those who are on a high level that they still do not know anything about Hashem and serving Him.

Meshivas Nefesh 29, Based on Likutei Moharan II, 7

Sins are a Heavy Weight on a Person

In the discourse in Likutei Moharan on which this paragraph is based, it is explained at length that the most pitiful thing is when Klal Yisroel falls into sin. The most difficult suffering in the world is nothing in comparison to the heavy load of sin. When a Jew falls into sin, it’s a very heavy burden which is impossible to bear.

It is therefore necessary to draw near to a compassionate leader, someone who is able to enlighten a person’s mind with the awareness of Hashem in a manner in which he will be inspired with a longing for Him. Knowledge of Hashem is not just information. It is a level of consciousness in which a person on one hand is so aware of Hashem’s greatness that he is constantly motivated to grow in His service, and at the same time he also knows that the whole world is full of Hashem’s glory, and that He is always with him and next to him on whatever level he is standing.

Chanukah and Yom Kippur

The Rebbe explains in our discourse, “At the time of the Beis Hamikdash, we were always clean of sin. The Korban Tamid of the morning would pardon the sins of the previous night, and the Tamid of the afternoon would pardon the sins of that day. This is because the holy nation of Klal Yisroel, in their great intrinsic spirituality, is unable to bear the burden of sin even for just one day.”

There shone an awareness of Hashem and yearning for Him in the Beis Hamikdash because there was a constant forgiveness of sin there. Even today, as much as person procures forgiveness and pardon from Hashem, he merits an aspect of “inauguration of the Beis Hamikdash.” This means that he merits a revitalization of his awareness of Hashem, and of how His glory fills the world, the same way it shone in the Beis Hamikdash.

Practically speaking, this is the principal radiance of Chanukah. Chanukah is a time when the affection which Hashem has for Klal Yisroel is revealed to such a degree that the service in the Beis Hamikdash is renewed, together with awareness of Hashem’s glory. Hashem in His great mercy shines this renewal upon us anew every year through the kindling of the Chanukah lights.

But in order to truly be renewed in yearning for Hashem with the knowledge that the world is full of His glory, it’s necessary to first realize forgiveness on Yom Kippur. Chanukah is the ‘seal’ of Yom Kippur, and in accordance to the forgiveness achieved on Yom Kippur is the renewal on Chanukah.

The Root of Accepting Hischazkus

In this idea lies one of the foundations of the ways of Hischazkus. Most of the time we find that it’s difficult for a person to accept and understand the teachings of Hischazkus. Sometimes people have reached the point that they are tired of hearing that ‘His Glory fills the world’, or that ‘Hashem is with you, by you, etc.’ The reason for this is that for these teachings, and longing and yearning to know Hashem’s Greatness, are a heavenly gift. It is therefore essential to first attain forgiveness, and to relieve oneself of the heavy load of sin which is weighing down on his soul and preventing it from realizing any feeling in spirituality, in order to accept this gift.

This is done by arousing oneself with the power of Yom Kippur, by believing that Hashem is the King who forgives and pardons the sins of His nation Klal Yisroel, and that it is possible to be totally cleansed of sin. With this faith, a person can inspire within himself an immense perseverance not to ever give up, and to continue confessing his sins and begging for forgiveness. He can be enthused to serve Hashem and to do whatever is in his ability to do, with the confidence that he will achieve forgiveness. This is how he merits the heavenly gift of rejuvenation and to understand all the teachings of Hischazkus.

A person shouldn’t say that Yom Kippur has passed already and he didn’t merit its forgiveness, because although the root of Teshuvah is Yom Kippur and the power of renewal which comes about through the forgiveness is revealed mainly on Chanukah, but the light still shines throughout the whole year. It is always possible to attain pardon and mercy and to truly inspire oneself to serve Hashem according to his abilities. A person can thus merit to truly understand within his heart that His Glory fills the entire world.

The Compassionate Leader

The Rebbe explains at length that in order to be truly inspired with a longing and yearning for Hashem in order to attain forgiveness and revitalization in the knowledge that Hashem’s glory fills the world, it is required to have a compassionate leader such as Moshe Rabeinu, who begged for mercy for Klal Yisroel after the Sin of the Spies. Furthermore, friends must also engage themselves in speaking much between each other about the teachings of the Tzaddikim, to reveal the true knowledge that Hashem is Good, and that the world is truly full of His Glory.



“… and it was turned about …”

The seventy years which the exile is supposed to last are coming to their end and everyone is holding their breath, waiting to see – will the promise be fulfilled or not…

After the destruction of the first Beis Hamikdash, when Klal Yisroel when into exile, they were accompanied by the promise: “After seventy years for Bavel have been completed I will attend to you and I will fulfill my favorable promise, to return you to this place” (Yermiya 29,10). The seventy years that followed almost completely overshadowed the last rays of hope; optimism for the future diminished little by little in frozen hearts when no hint of redemption was apparent amidst the utter darkness. However, all this was only what was visible to the eye. Underneath the surface the ge’ula was constantly taking form. The Tzaddikim of that generation were working very hard, toiling tirelessly in the building of the redemption. On the physical plane not even a single foundation stone was visible but spiritually the building was already in its final stages. The preparation for the ge’ula had reached is climax and the Divine plan had progressed with gigantic leaps.

On the sidelines stood someone watching the entire process; he was a sorcerer, perhaps the greatest sorcerer of all. He was known as ‘Haman’ and he knew what even many Jews did not. He understood that the darkness was only temporary and that afterward, stood to burst forth a tremendous light. This worried him tremendously…

The only chance, he understood, to return the world to the control of nature and to subdue it under the rule of The Kingdom of Evil was ‘the last moment’. At ‘the last moment’ there is always a point of confusion, when the darkness thickens in a final effort to endure. It is then, that it is possible to grab the opportunity and destroy the process.

There was one thing however, that he did not take into account: “There was an Ish Yehudi (Jewish man) in Shushan the capital, whose name was Mordechai…”(Ester 2,5).

Sorcery, magicians and forces of evil may sound a little strange and farfetched – but really it is not at all. All this takes place even today, not externally but internally.

Just a few examples …

An avreich sits in front of his gemorah, his fingers scanning the last few lines of Rashi at the bottom of the page. A moment before he proceeds contentedly, his eyes are caught by the sight of the information-filled page he just completed and something begins to stir inside him. Just then a thought shoots through his mind ‘Nu, so what? You got through a daf, soon you’ll say this too is called learning!’

That’s it, one little thought that could hardly be noticed, but the damage that it causes will be very hard to repair. Then, the voices begin to be heard ‘only one daf, barely with Rashi never mind Rishonim, get real, is this learning!’ it’s only a few seconds and our dear avreich is already beginning to wonder if his Birkas HaTorah wasn’t in vain.

Its mid-afternoon and a Jew is sitting in his dining room surrounded by his exited children. This one is tugging, that one is screaming and amidst this all sits our dear friend and thinks ‘ahh, a Jewish home entrusted with precious little gifts, Baruch Hashem.’ Then, out of nowhere, a frightening voice makes an appearance ‘Yes, precious gifts, and YOU – so irresponsible, YOU’RE supposed to educate and guide them, look how they’re behaving, don’t you think they would have turned out a little more refined if they were raised by someone else.’

Who is responsible for these voices? Until now we might have assumed that these were our own thoughts. They are not. These are the forces of evil, nothing more and nothing less – witchcraft.

Every Jew is involved at every moment in the building of the Beis Hamikdash. The ge’ula will be comprised of all that there is in Klal Yisroel; the souls, the yearnings, the thoughts and the actions. Every bit of good adds another brick and builds another layer in the structure of the redemption. Even when on the surface no progress can be seen, underneath the concealment of indifference the world is truly changing.

WE might not see what is happening but there is someone who does, and this sight bothers him tremendously. He knows that if the building will be completed he will cease to exist. He also knows how to recognize the weak points; he revealed that in ‘the last moment’ there is an opportunity to tumble the entire structure. It is then that he aims his weapon, and at just the right moment he shoots his poisoned arrow. Sometimes it is a thought and sometimes even a voice, sometimes the arrow is coated with a poison of discouragement and criticism, and sometimes it is a poison of arrogance and illusion.

It is always at that ‘last moment’ that he appears, the moment before one finds tranquility with his gemorah and just as one almost came to satisfaction and joy. He senses that his prey is about to escape, that in a moment everything will be good, and this he is not prepared to allow. Because of this, a person always finds himself perplexed and frightened, he asks himself ‘how long will this continue, something always seems to go wrong, I never seem to make progress, it seems like this exile will endure eternally.’

Haman always portrays a gloomy and dismal existence. The exile seems to continue without end and if we have maintained any hope the reality always seems to slap us in the face. In the last moment it seems as if we are left alone, face to face with – Haman.

And what is the truth?

The truth is that Klal Yisroel is alive and well, and that after everything our days are filled with good; with Torah and tefillah, with chesed and mitzvos. The truth is that a Jewish home creates much more meaningful things each day than the most productive factory on the planet.  Where in the world do they produce souls upon who’s every limb and vein are dependant entire universes. Where in the world is there a machine that instantaneously creates thousands of angels like those that are created by the simplest Jew with one word of Torah and tefillah. Indeed, what is truly taking place is not what the eye sees, and the Tzaddikim that do see, tell us that world is constantly moving towards its perfection and tikkun (rectification). Every motion in this world moves in the direction of tikkun, the progressions as well as the regressions, the successes as well as the failures, the ups as well as the downs, all these unite to create the ultimate tikkun.

Yet how do we reveal this truth when the whole world seems to be telling a different story? This wonder takes place on Purim – one short day that overthrows our whole perception of the world.

And back to Shushan…

Haman continues with his evil plot, the situation on the surface indicates that the end is near. Then, from amidst the utter bewilderment appears Mordechai. His entire being defies reality and he pulverizes and shatters the entire world that Haman worked so hard to build, until in the end the tables are turned and the Jews of Shushan are brought ecstasy and joy.

What is the secret of Mordechai? How did this turnaround take place?

In the Seforim HaKedoshim it is taught that Mordechai, at the root of his soul, was a tremendous revelation that illuminated the world specifically at the time of intense darkness and concealment of ‘the last moment’ before the ge’ula. Then, at that critical moment, Hashem, in his infinite mercy, drew down the light of Mordechai, and it was he who changed the face of reality. Mordechai walked through the streets of Shushan and screamed ‘You are making a mistake. It seems to you all that Hashem has turned a blind eye and disappeared in the last moment. It seems as if Haman is doing everything he wants but the truth is exactly the opposite, specifically in the last moment the ge’ula will appear.’ This is the illumination that the Tzaddikim of the generations reveal.  They ask of us: ‘do not allow your imagination to depict reality to you, believe us, the reality is full of miracles, even if you don’t see them.’ These things were documented by Mordechai and Ester in a Sefer, the sages called it – the Megillah.

The Megillah tears off the veil and reveals what the true reality is. It tells about Achashveirosh and a kingdom without bounds, about Haman, his rapid escalation to power and his evil plot. The story of the Megillah begins like a horror story moving quickly to destruction and utter annihilation, and the situation deteriorates further with each day. First a terrible spiritual decline, taking part in the feast of the wicked, the holy Ester is taken to the palace of Achashveirosh and in the end comes the decree of complete extermination. What could be worse? Yet when we read further we reveal  that the darkness itself gave birth to the light. What seemed like an end became a new beginning and ge’ula.

This is the reality that Mordechai and Ester wish to teach us. Every person experiences this concealment in some way, whether physically or spiritually. Mordechai reveals the truth; he shines into the world a completely different outlook. If until today you thought that you cannot be happy, at least until things start to go your way, then listen carefully to the words of the Tzaddik and you will learn that there is no such thing as ‘things don’t work out for me,’ for everything that happens to you leads specifically to the best possible place for you, even if a part of the journey is down a steep hill. If you thought that by you things ‘just were not right,’ here is a new perspective, everything is just right by you, in your home, in your learning and in your tefillah.

Our story is like that of the Megillah, it can sometimes seem doomed and hopeless. In truth this is how things look… when Haman gives them his interpretation. But if we open our hearts to accept the words of Mordechai, if we allow his light to envelope our minds, we will learn something new and begin to understand everything differently. We will suddenly reveal that there is no downfall in the world and then even Haman’s very own plan can be a wondrous path to redemption.

“Because now the entire begininig of the ge’ula and the rectification of all the worlds is from Purim” (Likutey Halachos Birkas Harei’ach 4). The redemption is already taking place; we just need to change our outlook. On Purim the turnaround takes place, on this day when Mordechai walks through the streets it is worthwhile to join in and walk together with him. When life is accompanied by the illumination of Mordechai no darkness can overshadow the light of the ge’ula because all that happens to us is part of the process of redemption and salvation, and EVERYTHING will be turned to good.

“…for it shall not be forgotten from the mouth of its offspring…”

When we approach Purim and seek to find it’s meaning, we simply open the Megillah and we can find the full story. Yet when we desire to find our own story within all this, then we must turn to Sippurei Ma’asios (Reb Nachman’s Stories).

In the story of “The Seven Beggars”, the deaf beggar, who appears on the second day, claims that he lives a truly good life and how ‘The Wealthy Land’ endorsed this fact.

This is the story:

There was a land with a wondrous garden within. It contained all types of fruit and all the tastes in the world could be experienced in it. Amazing fragrances also filled the garden’s air and everywhere one looked, one could see the most exquisite flowers and extraordinary colors. For many years the people of the land lived rich and good lives around the garden. Nothing was ever lacking since the garden provided them with all their needs. There was a certain gardener who cared for the garden and one day he suddenly disappeared. From then on the garden began to deteriorate. Little by little it began to lose its tastes, the pleasant fragrances began to dissipate and the bright colors faded. Nevertheless they were still able to live off the wild plants that remained in the garden.

One day a cruel king attacked the land and sought to destroy the good life that the land had from the garden. He placed three groups of servants and commanded them to do as he instructed, in order to destroy the people’s senses so that they would have no benefit from the garden at all. They did what they did and as a result all the people’s senses were ruined. Whatever anyone tasted had a horrid taste, every fragrance that they smelled had a terrible stench and their eyes became dimmed as if they were covered with clouds. Nothing helped to save the garden and whoever came to try and fix it was struck by the very same plague. The same thing happened to the people from ‘The Land of Wealth’ who claimed to live the good life and thought they could rectify the Garden. They then admitted to the deaf beggar that if he could rectify the Garden, it would certainly prove that he did indeed live a truly good life. The deaf beggar entered the city and began to investigate its happenings. He wandered from city to city mingling amongst the people and discovered something quite terrible. In every place one could find people gathering together and telling jokes and laughing. When he listened more carefully, he realized that the jokes were filled with profanity and obscenity. He also discovered that the land was full of falsehood, bribery and immorality.

All this, he realized, was being caused by those three groups of servants who had been sent by the evil king to spread these things throughout the land, thereby destroying the people’s senses. The deaf beggar suggested to the countrymen that they appoint guards to discover who these servants were, to capture them and to banish them once and for all. The servants were caught and expelled from the land. Then, a call of excitement began to be heard throughout the land: “Perhaps this crazy man who is going around claiming to be the gardener, the one whom everyone has been chasing away and throwing stones at, perhaps he really is the gardener!” He was brought before those who were appointed to rectify the land and the deaf beggar, who was also there, proclaimed: “Certainly this is the real gardener.” ◊

It may seem somewhat unrealistic but the truth is there certainly is such a thing as ‘the good life.’

Yes, in this very world there is a life that is filled with wealth and goodness and every one of us has a share in it. Avodas Hashem is a wondrous garden, the beauty of which is indescribable; it cannot be expressed in a poem or captured in any picture. All the tastes, fragrances and sights in the world can be found in this wondrous garden. A garden can be the most beautiful thing in the world, but understandably everything depends on the gardener. He must find the suitable place, supply the correct amount of water and ensure the necessary climate for each tree and plant. A garden requires time, effort, constant care and expertise. If not given the proper treatment, a splendid garden is bound to deteriorate quickly into a barren wasteland.

Where is ‘the good life’? Great and good people have despaired of finding it. Is there truly such a thing? Maybe it’s just a story? Not once does a person find himself standing upon the wasteland of his garden of life, tying to recall the breathtaking vision of what was once there, struggling to even imagine that this swamp was once a flourishing garden. He asks himself again and again “where is the sweet taste, the pleasant fragrance, the beautiful vision?”

It is true, there is someone who is terribly bothered that you have such a beautiful garden, and he spares no time and effort to destroy it. He is called “Amaleik”. Since the very first time that we encountered him in the desert between Mitzrayim and Eretz Yisrael he has not given up.  He appears in all different figures and forms and does everything in his power to transform the garden of life into something utterly intolerable. Every Jew has a great and wondrous lot; he has sweet Torah that produces delicious and juicy fruit, he has tefillah which has entirely sweet tastes and intoxicating fragrances, he also has Mitzvos and Chaggim and other wondrous things. The cruel king cannot bear this; he knows that in order to destroy such a beautiful life he must get right to the root and do something that can detach a Jew from his wonderful garden.  What does he do? He simply sends in three groups of servants, each one entering the garden with a different act. One destroys the sense of taste (through profanity), one destroys the sense of smell (through immorality) and one clouds the vision (through bribery). This is how one loses the ability to draw good life from the garden and it turns from something wondrous, into a nightmare. Instead of a Jew having a good and wondrous lot in the garden of life, he finds himself rolling amongst the clumps of dirt in a barren wasteland. He tries to find something tasteful in his words of Torah and Tefillah, but finds them rotten and lifeless. He tries to enliven himself with a pleasant fragrance, but finds the rotten smell of a carcass. Even to see something small to revive his soul, a little spark of hashgacha (Divine providence), a new perception in emunah, this too is impossible and a thick dark cloud covers everything.

We have experienced situations like this before. Right after the receiving of the Torah, the Jewish people stumbled with the sin of the golden calf, the ‘garden’ was destroyed and the ‘servants’ occupied it. We were almost completely lost when suddenly ‘the gardener’ appeared – Moshe Rabbeinu, who achieved for us forgiveness and pardon, gathered the scattered and tainted souls and returned them to the garden of life. He returned their sense of taste, their sense of smell and their clarity of vision – how wondrous!

But what happens when the gardener himself is lost, is there any chance to rectify the garden? Moshe Rabbeinu himself described what would happen in such a situation. In the end of Sefer Devarim, when it speaks about what will happen after Moshe’s passing, Hashem says: “and I will Hastir Astir (completely hide) My Face…” – a double concealment. Utter obscurity, a frightening situation of darkness, confusion and bewilderment, and worst of all – the gardener is gone!

This is what happened towards the end of the seventy year exile (after the destruction of the first Beis Hamikdash), when the darkness intensified to a level of “I will completely hide…” Haman sought to make use of this opportunity; he spotted the weakness and wished to use it to completely destroy the Jewish people’s fragile connection to the garden of life. He had a plan, to completely detach the Jewish people from all the seventy faces of the Torah and to make their destiny a world of pain, suffering, apostasy and questions.

But even for a situation like this, Hashem left a means for salvation and healing. Right then, in the depth of the darkness of the gallus (exile), when the vision, taste and smell had been buried long before under the layers of iniquity and crookedness, a new hope was born. In the midst of the darkness appeared the light of Mordechai and Ester, and it was enough to completely remove the concealment, to banish the servants and to return the garden to its proper state. For even after Moshe passed on, about which it is explicitly stated “I will completely hide…”, this goes hand in hand with the guarantee that follows : “for it will not be forgotten from his descendants” (Devarim 31,21).

The gardener is never lost; the world cannot exist without him. He walks around his garden, shedding one form and taking on another – he is always there, somewhere near to his garden. Everyone asks “where is the gardener?”, but he is right there. Yes, he doesn’t look exactly the same as before and sometimes he even seems to be crazy and strange. He even explicitly announces that he is the gardener, but who would even think of listening to him. Everyone is so busy trying to find solutions that no one has the time to listen to the ramblings of such a strange person.

In Shushan Habira this was exactly the situation. Mordechai Ha’Yehudi, the one whom we today crown with the glory of the redemption and the salvation, was seen in the eyes of the masses as a strange person doing crazy things, one who started up with the wicked, an uncompromising zealot and many other things. It never occurred to anyone that specifically this strange person was really the gardener himself.

We find ourselves in a similar situation today. The gardener is right here with us, his books even fill the shelves in our homes. We look inside them searching for an insight, or something to say over, but it never occurs to us that right here lingers the gardener…

The gardener is not lost, he is simply considered to be a crazy man, someone with no relevance to our time; once there was such a person, but now, how could it be?

The great change takes place in the month of Adar. Mordechai goes out “dressed in royal garments of turquoise and white with a large gold crown” (Ester 8,15). Suddenly the world understands that there is such a thing as the Tzaddik. They begin to understand that it could be that the books of the Tzaddikim truly contain the healing for the garden of life and that we should begin to search there, to believe that he who claims to be the gardener will find the way to rectify what has been damaged in us.

Mordechai commands “Go and gather all the Jews” (Ester 4, 16). In order to find the gardener we must gather together and abandon the mockery. We must unite amidst an emunah that the gardener is truly in our midst and yearn with a truthful desire to find him. When the followers of the Tzaddik gather together and search for ways with which to identify the servants and to rid themselves of bad habits and to acquire good middos (character traits), then an excited call is suddenly heard throughout the world and the truth is revealed: ‘certainly this is the gardener,’ he was always here amongst us but we never realized…

What is it that is required of us in order to return ourselves to the wondrous garden of life – “let them take for me a Terumah (portion)” (Shmos 25,2). Do something, no matter how small. The Mishkan was built from small donations. When we do something small for Hashem, when we donate a little of ourselves, this already builds the Mishkan and we return to the marvelous life of the garden.

Once again we have a place in Kedusha, once again we have truly good life.

Laws Pertaining to Matanos L’Evyonim

By HaRav Shimon Anshin shlit”a

A. Who is obligated in the Mitzvah?

Even a needy person himself is obligated in this mitzvah according to most Halachic Authorities.

Unmarried men (bachurim) are obligated but there are those that say that bachurim that don’t have their own money are not obligated.  In practice however, it would seem appropriate for their father to give them some money in order to fulfill this mitzvah.

Married men are obligated even when guests in their parents house for Purim.

Boys under Bar Mitzvah (katan) are not obligated according to some Halachic  opinions and there are those that hold it is enough that they are shluchim (“messengers”) of their father to give his money to the needy.  There are those Poskim however, that obligate the father under the law of chinuch (education) to give the katan money so that he can fulfill the mitzvah accordingly himself.  And in fact, it is good practice for Yirei Shamayim to do so.

Women are obligated according to most Poskim to give themselves.  However, with regards to a married woman who does not have money of her own, according to some Halachic opinions, it is enough that her husband gives to two needy people with her in mind in order for her to fulfill the mitzvah . The best way though, is for her husband to give his wife her own money to fulfill the mitzvah.  And in the same way, one can give money to his young daughters as well as to his older unmarried daughters.

B. To whom should one give the money?

There are those Halachic opinions that hold that the recipient of the money must be specifically “needy” (“evyon”) – i.e. that such a person “desires everything” and is not embarrassed to ask for his needs.  There are those that hold that it is enough that the recipient is simply considered poor (“ani”) – the definition being that this person does not have the basic necessities of the average person, or, someone who is deeply in debt.

In practice though one does not have to search specifically for a person defined as “needy” (“evyon”), but it is enough to give to a “poor” person.

Note: With regards to Torah Institutions (Kollelim, Yeshivahs etc), even though it is a big mitzvah to give to them, it would appear that they would not qualify as recipients for the mitzvah of Matanos L’Evyomin.

C. Everyone who asks should be given:

“Kol Haposhet yad, notnim lo” – One should not be scrupulous as to whom one gives regular Tzeddaka money to on Purim (not Matanos L’Evyomin).  Rather, one should give to whoever asks.

There are those Poskim that hold that it is in fact a halachic obligation to give to each and every person that asks, while others hold that there is no halachic obligation to give to everyone that ask.  However, with regards to those that one DOES give to, one should not be scrupulous about the recipient’s status on Purim (like the Halacha dictates ordinarily during the year).

Some Poskim however hold that one does in fact fulfill one’s obligation of Matanos L’Evyomin even when giving regular Tzeddaka on Purim.

Note: With regards to young children who go around collecting money on Purim, as is the case in Israel, there is no Halachic obligation to give them.

D. How much should one give?

There are many Halachic opinions as to how much money to give.  We will list them in ascending order:

1. less than a “p’rutah”.

2. A “p’rutah”.

3. Enough to buy a kazayis of bread.

4. Enough to buy a fig-size of bread.

5. Enough to buy 3 eggs (168 grams).

6. Enough for a Seudah.

7. A significant amount according to the importance of the recipient.

In practice, even though one would fulfill his obligation with a “p’rutah”, however, due to the importance of the mitzvah of Matanos L’evyonim, it is appropriate to give according to an amount for a Seudah (at least 25 shekels in Israel).  One can however give less with regards to the money he gives to his children to distribute.

Note: The funds which one apportions for Matanos L’Evyonim should be more than one apportions on Mishloach Manos.

E. The Way in Which the money should be given:

  • It is possible to give the money via check but it must be redeemable on Purim itself.
  • One can give via a Credit Card.
  • One can give money via a messenger for someone else, even if the money will not get to the recipient on Purim itself. However, one should call the recipient on Purim and notify him that money is on the way for him.
  • One should not give Matanos L’Evyonim from Maaser money or from money that one has committed to give in the future.  However, after one has fulfilled his Halachic obligation to give to 2 needy people according the amount described above, any extra money ones gives may in fact come from Maaser money.
  • With regards to money from “Zeicher Machatzis Hashekel” that is owed to the poor, it is possible to fulfill one’s Halachic obligation of Matanos L’Evyonim with it.

F. The Time to give Matanos L’Evyonim :

The mitzvah of Matanos L’Evyonim  is ONLY during the day.  Yet with regards to the day, there are many Halachic opinions as to when to give.  Some Halachic opinions hold the earlier the better.  Some hold before Tefillas Shacharis while others hold after Tefillas Shacharis.  Some hold before reading the Megillah, whiles others hold after the Megillah.  However, no opinions hold after the Seudah.

In practice one should give after the Megillah reading and be careful to fulfill the mitzvah before eating any thing as is prescribed by the Poskim with regards to not eating before the Mitzvah.


As this is a translation of the original Hebrew, if you are unclear on any of the Laws outlined herein in any way whatsoever, please consult with a Halachic Authority.

Laws Pertaining to Zeicher Machatzis Hashekel

By HaRav Shimon Anshin shlit”a

A. Who is obligated to give Zeicher Machatzis Hashekel?

Each male from 20 years of age and above is obligated, but there are those that hold males from the age of 13 and above are obligated. There is however a minhag to give even for young boys under Bar Mitzvah, as well as for fetuses whose male gender is yet undetermined.

  • If one has started the minhag to give for each of his male children described above, it is forbidden to stop in future years.
  • If one wants to fulfill his obligation according to all opinions, he should give for his wife and daughters as well. However, one who does not give for the females in his household, has on whom to rely.

B. The required quantity for Zeicher Machatzis Hashekel

One who wishes to fulfill his obligation according to all opinions, should meet the following 6 criteria:

1. The coin itself should have a designated “name” of a “half” (for example “half” shekel coin in Israel or 50 cent coin in the US.)

2. The coin should be an established/circulated coin in the place in which it is given.

3. There should be three coins with a designation of “half” each.

4. The coins should have current “buying power” (worth).

5. The coins should be worth the amount of Machatzis Hashekel that was used during the time of Beis Hamikdash (between 8.5 & 9.5 grams of pure silver).

6. The coins should be made from pure silver.

However, in Israel there is no coin meeting all of the above 6 criterion, primarily because there are no coins in circulation made from pure silver and the half Shekel coin available has no real buying power. Moreover taking a coin from another country is not usable.  (Even were one to argue that the US Dollar is in fact an established currency in Israel, the 50 cent coin (½ dollar) specifically is not used for purchasing anything in Israel.

In Practice:

One who wishes to perform the mitzvah in the best possible way should take heed of the following points:

a) Give three coins each of “half” a shekel designation since it is the only established half shekel available in Israel (one should do according to his country – e.g. three 50 cent coins in the US).  In addition then, in Israel, one should give another three 50 cent (1/2 dollar) US coins since they do in fact have some worth in Israel (due to their currency exchange value).

b) If one wishes to be further scrupulous in the mitzvah, one should add more money in order to arrive at the value of the pure silver half-shekel which was used in the Beis Hamikdash. As of this publication, the total value of the pure silver according to that used in Machatzis Hashekel, is approx. 17.5 – 19.5 new shekels ($4.65 – $5.18 US)

c) If one does not have three “half” coins of worth in Israel (such as the 1/2 dollar US coin) and wants to add three such coins, one should purchase these additional coins from the Gabbai according to their currency exchange value and perform the mitzvah accordingly.

d) The time for performing the mitzvah is before Mincha of Taanis Ester according to most Halachic Authorities. Even when Taanis Ester is early (Not Erev Purim like this year), nevertheless this is the best time in which to perform the mitzvah. If one however did not have the time to give before Mincha, then he should give after Mincha but before Maariv. If one was not able to give between Mincha and Maariv, then he can still give on Purim day itself.

e) One who gives only three ½-shekel coins, even if only to cover himself, has on whom to rely. And even if one uses three ½ shekel coins in circulation today, he also fulfills his obligation according to essence of the law.

f) One should be careful when he gives NOT to say: “L’Machatzis Hashekel”, but rather should say “Zeicher L’Machatzis Hashekel”. If one made a mistake and did in fact say “L’Machatzis Hashekel”, it would seem then in practice that the coins do NOT become sanctified (Hekdesh) and one could in fact give them to the poor.

g) With regards to Medallions made and designated for Zeicher Mechatzis Hashekel, one cannot NOT fulfill his obligation what-so-ever as they have no “name” of Machatzis Hashekel, nor are they an established coin in circulation in the place in which one is performing the Mitzvah.

h) One should NOT give Machatzis Hashekel from his Maaser Money. However, if one adds to extra to his obligation according to the law(“ikkar Hadin” three ½ shekel coins), it is possible to give the additional money from Maaser.

C. To whom should one give the Zeicher Machatzis Hashekel money?

According to most Halachic Authorities, one should give the money only to the poor (especially B’nei Torah). Specifically, this money should not go towards the Shul. Even more so, it should not be used to perform other Mitzvos. If there are no poor people around at the time of performing the Mitzvah (before Mincha), one should place the money in his pocket and/or make sure it is distributed on Purim itself.

Preparing for Purim

The great and holy day of Purim is approaching, and now is the time to prepare for this enormous day, especially since the awesome light of Purim shines upon us for just a short time of two days. We therefore have prepared a short summary of some of the Rebbe’s teachings concerning Purim, as they flow forth from the discourses in Likutei Moharan and Likutei Halachos.

It helps a lot to have a synopsis of what the battle with Amalek is in light of the teachings of the Rebbe and Reb Noson.  And those who desire to study those discourses which deal with Purim and don’t know which ones to learn, can use these summaries to find the discourse which they want to use to prepare for Purim.  But the main thing is to make prayers out of these lessons and teachings, to know what to request when asking to be saved from Haman-Amalek.

Likutei Moharan:

Torah 10

This lesson was taught in the town of Tirovitza on Shabbos Parshas Mishpatim-Shekalim, 5563

It discusses how the Klippah of Haman uses his arrogance and haughtiness to bring the world to heresy. The Tzaddik, Mordechai, stands up to him, by blowing a spirit of holiness into our hearts, which breaks the haughty spirit of heresy. This spirit of Mordechai brings about a revelation of Emunah into the aspect of “hands”, and into the aspect of “feet”, which refers to the “lower places”, in order that even those who are far from Hashem will be able to appreciate and recognize Him. All this leads to dancing and hand clapping, and a sweetening of harsh judgments, and we merit accepting the Torah anew.

After Reb Noson transcribed this discourse, the Rebbe told him, “This is what I said: Now we are hearing that the governments want to pass harsh decrees against Klal Yisroel. Purim is approaching, and Klal Yisroel will be dancing and clapping hands, and this will cause a mitigation of these harsh decrees.”  And he repeated himself and said, “This is what I said”, because he wanted us to follow his words and guidance with simplicity. (Sichos HaRan 131)

Torah 33

This Torah discusses the need to pursue peace, which means that a person should find peace in whatever happens to him, and always find Hashem, both in good days and in bad days, A person should never say that there are places and situations in which it is impossible to find Hashem, for ‘the whole world is full of His glory.’ He can’t find Hashem in the place where he’s in only because there are many layers of concealment there. Someone who subdues his Yetzer Hara will be able to find Hashem everywhere, because he has overpowered the ‘evil’ which had been hiding Him. This person can now see how everything in the world actually reveals Hashem, through the holy letters which they contain.

This is the Avodah of drinking wine on Purim until one doesn’t know the difference between cursing Haman and blessing Mordechai, to bring forth a divine flow to the Godly spark inside the concealment, and to find Hashem in every place.

Torah 56

This lesson was taught on Shavuos, 5565, and it mentions Mordechai and Haman.

Haman attempts to overpower us with the desire for money, and thereby to throw a person into concealment within concealment. This is a situation in which a person doesn’t even know that there is holiness hidden from him, which leads to feelings of despair. Mordechai is the light which helps us to realize Hashem and His life-force even in the materialism of the concealment. The Torah and Divine Providence are everywhere, and every person has an aspect of ‘malchus’ – the ability to always reveal Hashem.

Torah 29 II

Amalek wants to uproot the point of simplicity on which all of Yiddishkeit hangs, and he is therefore the essence of evil. He tries to do this through sophistication and skepticism. He doesn’t believe in the power of prayer and practicing Mitzvos. It is therefore understood, that the opportunity which we have on Purim is to uproot Amalek, and to strengthen ourselves in Emunah, Tefillah, and performing Mitzvos.

Torah 74 II

Discusses how all beginnings are from Purim, which is a preparation for Pesach by meriting true freedom of mind. “Now” that Haman is standing on top of us and attacking, we need the wondrous light of Purim, to start redeeming the six supernal attributes from the “280 dinim (judgments)”.

The Rebbe also alluded then that “now”, all beginnings are from him, because immediately afterwards he revealed the 10 psalms of the Tikkun HaKlali, and the story of The Seven Beggars, and immediately after that Pesach, he moved to Uman. It is through these concepts which he revealed that he brought about redemption for the souls of Klal Yisroel for all generations.

Likutei Halachos:

Hilchos Hashkomas HaBoker 1 (based on Likutei Moharan 282)

Amalek especially tries to overpower and throw people down with the feeling that they have no hope. It’s necessary to stand up against him by finding the good points which one still has (para. 15). Understandably, the days of Purim have a special time in which to strengthen ourselves in living with the inner good which we have within us.

Hilchos Tzitzis 3 (based on Likutei Moharan II 8 )

Amalek is the core and essence of evil, which confuses us in our faith in Creation. This brings a person into small-mindedness and weakens the Neshama with faulty rebuke until one can’t feel inspired to serve Hashem with joy and vigor, and one is unable to pray properly.

On Purim we work on overcoming Amalek and to reveal the song of Emunah which will be sung when Moshiach comes; to add vigor to the Neshama, and to rejoice with the joy of Purim; to drink wine, and to cause Amalek to vomit all the holiness which he’s swallowed. This is the secret behind Esther being taken to Achashverosh’s palace – the necessity to descend into “smallness” (“katnus”) in order to overcome the Klippah there. (para. 8-9)

Hilchos Tefillin 5 (based on Sippurei Maasiyos 13)

The Klippah of Haman – Amalek tries to deny Creation, and to throw Klal Yisroel into ‘oldness’ and lack of strength which is the source of all types of Yetzer Hara (para.30- 32).

The main battle is to break the sleep, and constantly renew oneself. Because Hashem is constantly renewing the world in His Goodness, and at every instance changes the entire order of the worlds. When a person realizes this, he then has patience in the face of all the obstacles and confusions which he encounters, and is always fresh and full of vigor. The main point being, not to be ‘old’.

Meshivas Nefesh 29

It is forbidden for a person to give up. Even if he has fallen to wherever it may be, and is lying in the deepest places, no matter what, he still should not despair of coming close Hashem. It is possible to draw near to Hashem from everywhere, for ‘the entire world is full of His glory’.

A true Tzaddik is only worthy of his name when he has this ability to revive and lift up those who have fallen very low, to encourage and strengthen them, to inspire them and to awaken them, and to reveal to them that Hashem is still with them, by them, next to them and close to them, ‘for the entire world is full of His glory’. The Tzaddik must also be able to do the opposite, to show those who are on a high level that they still don’t know anything about Hashem and serving Him.

Meshivas Nefesh 29, Based on Likutei Moharan II, 7 teaches:

The Rebbe revealed this teaching on the last Chanukah of his life. In it, he hints at his passing, and how he wanted the matter which he started to continue through his disciples who would in turn make new disciples. We also learn about a key in applying Hischazkus – a way through which Hischazkus can always be fresh and uplifting. What causes people to tire of hearing over and over, “Hashem is with you, by you and next to you” or “You have a Nekudah Tovah”, etc. is a lack of awareness of the lesson of this teaching.

The Compassionate Leader

When it comes to learning and understanding Torah, it’s understood that one must study from those who have toiled especially in that area of Torah which he wants to learn, whether it be Halachah, Gemara, Kabbalah and so on. The same thing applies in regard to the knowledge of Hashem. One must learn by Tzaddikim who have worked and put tremendous effort into achieving awareness of Hashem.

What’s needed is a compassionate leader who knows and understands the Jewish soul and where it stems from, and how pure they are at their essence; somebody who knows the fundamental nature of the Jew’s holiness, that a Jew is totally removed from sin. Sin has nothing to do with a Jew. The foremost sympathy on a Jew would be to remove him from sin, and to enlighten his mind, and to help him feel Hashem.

But even a compassionate person needs to know how to act with his compassion. He must know upon whom to have sympathy and how, in order to give everybody the message which he needs for his soul. Somebody of a smaller standing might need to be shown how “the whole world is full of His glory”, that Hashem is with him and by him. Someone on a higher level needs to be shown the greatness of Hashem, and how he hasn’t even begun to draw near to Him, and to be inspired to search, “where is the place of His glory?”

This is the foremost endeavor of the Tzaddikim. They are constantly ascending to highest sources of Divine Compassion to draw them upon every individual in Klal Yisroel, in order that everyone should be worthy to be called a “person” and not just an animal who doesn’t know of Hashem that just looks human. For although these ideas of how Hashem’s glory fills the world or that Hashem is very great and we must awaken ourselves to seek Him out are well known and found in all the books, and everyone is capable of repeating them, practically speaking, as long as a person’s sins cover up his heart, they don’t allow him to internalize these teachings in a way that inspire and ignite his heart with a longing and desire for Hashem. It comes to a point that he just tires of hearing about them.

Studying Chassidus is not enough when it comes to achieving awareness of Hashem. These ideas in and as of themselves don’t inspire people. On the contrary, they become ‘old’ very quickly. The solution is to for a person to enlighten himself with what is called a “surrounding awareness”. This means teachings and ideas which “surround” the mind which although he is unable to understand internally, he still realizes that there is something here, something awesome which is above his perception. This realization is what excites the heart and inspires longing for Hashem.

That is why it’s necessary to constantly arouse Heavenly Compassion upon people, in order to draw upon them this illumination which will blow entirely new life into them. This is constantly being done with the power of the great Tzaddikim, who are full of awesome compassion on Klal Yisroel, and want to open for them the light of knowledge of Hashem.

Speaking with Friends

The way through which we can draw upon ourselves the sympathy and compassion of the Tzaddikim, is through friends sincerely discussing between each other the teachings which are revealed by the Tzaddikim, with an honest desire to come to Yiras Shomayim.

Even though the lessons are well known, still, every day the Torah can be understood in a new light. And through becoming close to Tzaddikim and genuinely seeking to illuminate the heart with enlightenment of the mind, we merit experiencing new life in every teaching. The power of the words which a person speaks with friends about Yiras Shomayim helps a person internalize those teachings.

The main thing is to have faith in the power of the Tzaddikim who are constantly arousing Divine Kindness to help us internalize new light through their Torah. Through them, a person can always find novel counsel, which literally descends into his situation to awaken him to come to know Hashem. Each time in its own way, be it through realizing how far we are from Hashem or realizing how close He is. This is the basis of accepting the ways of Hischazkus.

The Light of Chanukah Through the Forgiveness of Yom Kippur

The days of Chanukah have a special power within them to help a person merit enlightening his mind. But in order to merit the flow of Divine Compassion through the Tzaddikim, it is necessary that a person first achieve forgiveness. This means that he should not give up, saying that he has already heard and knows about all the teaching of the Tzaddikim how Hashem is with him and by him. On the contrary, he should liven up and start seeking and searching in the depths of the Torah of the Tzaddikim, and to do Teshuvah, then request mercy and forgiveness from Hashem, and to merit being a ‘man’ – not an animal in the form of a person. As much as he arouses himself to pray for forgiveness and compassion, so too, he merits the light of Chanukah, to renew himself with the power of the Tzaddikim.

Various Laws Pertaining to Rosh Chodesh

By HaRav Shimon Anshin shlit”a

A. Does one mention “Yaaleh V’Yavoh” at the 3rd Meal?

In the case where Motzei Shabbos falls out on Rosh Chodesh, one who makes Birkas Hamazon at night (Tzeis Hakochavim), raises the question as to whether or not to say “Retzei” as one does on Shabbos itself, or “Yaaleh V’Yavoh” as we will clarify below according to the Poskim (Shulchan Aruch – 188).

  • If one finishes the Seuda before sunset even if he only benches Birkas Hamazon at night (Tzeis Hakochavim), he only mentions “Retzei”.
  • If one finishes the Seuda bein Hasmashos (between sunset and Tzeis Hakochavim), there are those who say that the law goes according to one who finishes the Seuda before sunset according to point A. above and therefore one would only mention “Retzei”.
  • If one continued to eat bread after Tzeis Hakochavim, there is a difference of opinion among the Poskim as what to say:

1. There are those that say only to mention Yaaleh V’Yavoh in as much as that if one said “Retzei” it would be as if one “contradicted” the other.  Since, on the one hand one is still considering the time to be Shabbos yet on the other hand by saying “Yaaleh V’Yavoh”, one is considering it to be Rosh Chodesh (in which case it would no longer be Shabbos!) – (Magen Avraham and many of the Achronim).

2. There are those that say to mention both “Retzei” and “Yaaleh V’Yavoh” and hold that mentioning the two insertions do not contradict one another – (Taz and Baal HaTanya)

3. There are those that say only to mention “Retzei” (Bach, Aruch Hashulchan and the Ben Ish Chai)

In practice:

Based on the differing opinions above then, it would be best not to continue eating bread after sunset in order not to enter into any doubt and therefore avoid having to deal with the 3 differences of opinion above.

  • If one did in fact continue to eat bread between sunset and Tzeis Hakochavim, it would seem preferable to say “Retzei” only.
  • If however, one continued to eat bread after Tzeis Hakochavim, whether one said just “Yaaleh V’Yavoh” or “Retzei” and “Yaaleh V’Yavo” there are those on whom to rely.  But if one said only “Retzei” (albeit not preferable), the Poskim do not “object.”
  • If however, one prayed Maariv before Birkas Hamazon, one only mentions “Yaaleh V’Yavoh”.
  • If one did not eat bread after sunset or Tzeis Hakochavim, but only ate other items (or a kazayis of bread in more that the allotted amount of time for eating the kazayis (“achilat pras”), one only mentions “Retzei”.

B.  The prohibition of Women to perform Melachos on Rosh Chodesh.

Women are prohibited to perform Melachos on Rosh Chodesh, however within these prohibitions, there are a different Minhagim:

a) Those that do not perform any Melacha at all.

b) Those that do not sew, knit and wash clothes other that for specific needs on the day.

c) Those that do not sew and knit but wash clothes per usual (especially since today we have washing machines and therefore many are lenient in this way).  The same also applies to ironing and the way it is done today.

However with regards to baking and cooking, there is no minhag to be stringent and refrain.

In practice:

If there is a known minhag in the community, one should do according to the Minhag of the place (minhag hamakom).  If however, there is no established minhag in the community, one should go according to the minhag of her mother.  But if one has neither minhag, a woman should ask her Rav.

Women working for a living:

If a woman is an employee and it would be difficult to stop working on Rosh Chodesh, she should work as per usual.  Even if she is an independent contractor, according to the Aruch Hashulchan, she is permitted to work as per usual.

The Night of Rosh Chodesh:

The prohibition of melacha on the night of Rosh Chodesh itself also depends on the minhag of the community.

Two-day Rosh Chodesh:

If Rosh Chodesh is two days, there are those that are stringent not to perform melacha on both days but others are stringent only on the 2nd day and not on the 1st.

All of the above points apply ONLY to married woman, but with regards to unmarried women, there are those that say there is no prohibition against Melacha at all, but those that are stringent however, find blessing.

C.  Seudas Rosh Chodesh:

  • There is a specific mitzvah to eat plenty at the Seudas Rosh Chodesh day and one who spends money and eats and drinks in its honor is praiseworthy as the Talmud states: “all the nourishment of a person is determined on Rosh Hashanah except for Shabbos, Yom Tov and Rosh Chodesh and if one adds for this purpose, they enable him from Above” – Shulchan Aruch Siman 419.

(Many people are not careful with this law, not even aware that this is specific law outlined in the Shulchan Aruch and they therefore worry about spending money on this Seuda not realizing that they are not loosing anything as it is not part of their livelihood allotted on Rosh Hashanah.)

  • It is preferable to eat bread on Rosh Chodesh day for the Seudas Rosh Chodesh.
  • If Rosh Chodesh falls on Shabbos, one should add additional food specifically in honor of Rosh Chodesh.


As this is a translation of the original Hebrew, if you are unclear on any of the Laws outlined herein in any way whatsoever, please consult with a Posek.

“The Living Torah”

Sruly was a true free spirit; he could not bear the thought of being confined to any system or bound to any responsibility. The majority of his time he spent inside his imagination, it was there that he amassed his wealth, made a great living and lacked nothing. The big problem was that he also had a family, which was something that actually existed in reality. Caring people tried to help out somewhat, the daring amongst them even tried to arrange some work for Sruly, but whatever they managed to find him, at best would only last a few days.

Sruly was neither foolish nor ignorant of his issue; he did have a great desire to stabilize his untamable spirit. He was not free of the worries of parnassah and the worry of falling into debt did not evade him either, but what could he do, there was nothing that he despised more and nothing more frightening to him than accepting upon himself the burden of any yolk.  The business managers that he had met with throughout the years found him to be bright, sharp and of good character, yet somehow when it came down to the practical things like being on time and keeping a schedule, Sruly was nowhere to be found.

The suggestion that came his way one morning after Shacharis, was utterly surprising. The esteemed businessman and manager of The National Bank offered Sruly to try out the position of being his personal assistant. “You won’t have too much work” he said, “and there are no real fixed working hours. You’ll only have to worry about a few small things and other than that you’re free” he added. “Wow, such a position I never even dreamed of”, thought Sruly as he rubbed his hands together in excitement – “a prestigious position, a great salary… and to be free!”

The following days were like a dream come true. Sruly danced his way to the bank and fulfilled his job with joy and satisfaction, and when the bank manager suggested at the end of the month that he take the position indefinitely, Sruly was overjoyed.

It was only later that night, when his pride subsided and his clarity returned that suddenly the manager’s words floated to the forefront of his mind: “Don’t forget,” he said with an authoritative glare “from today you are an official staff member, your dress code should match appropriately.” After a short silence he added “and a schedule of course.” That night Sruly hardly slept.

The next morning Sruly sat at his desk staring at the employment contract in his hands. The paper fluttered between his trembling fingers as his beady eyes glared with fear at the many paragraphs. The contract was official and precise, fitting for ‘The National Bank.’ His heart throbbed powerfully, he dropped the piece of paper and buried his head in his hands as a heavy sigh rippled through his body, “Oy, what have I got myself into, my freedom is gone, my life is over!” Just then there was a light knock on the door, Sruly looked up and standing in the doorway was the bank’s secretary with a large pile of documents in his hands…

The following days were heavily laden with activities and only at the end of the week, when he finally had some time to think clearly, he looked back upon the days that had passed and suddenly he felt a feeling of tremendous accomplishment. “Yes, this is exactly what I needed” he said to himself, “until now I thought I was free, but now I have a accomplished something – I can do it, this is true freedom, this is life!” ■

This week we have great expectations. We ended last week’s parsha amidst the awesome standing of the giving of the Torah. Thunderous voices and lightning, a gathering filled with splendor, holiness and purity. And so we surely expect to continue with something no less grand and exalted. This is where we stand to be greatly surprised…

Suddenly the Torah begins to discuss all sorts of details; commandments, mandates and laws regarding monetary matters and damages. Worst of all – ‘The Hebrew slave’ – what connection does all this have to such a lofty and holy event as the giving of the Torah?

Let us picture this a little more vividly. The Jewish people leave Egypt, but not before all the laws of nature are shattered before the eyes of every individual. The sea splits and they pass through it on dry land. Their lives are more spiritual than physical, they tread upon the clouds of glory, perceiving Hashem’s greatness more and more with every moment, their clothes grow together with them and they eat only bread from heaven. Then, at the foot of Har Sinai they are commanded to completely shed the limitations of physicality and to prepare themselves in holiness for three days. A spirit of purity fills the entire surroundings and everything seems to be uplifted.

Finally the great day arrives; only through a miracle do their souls not burst out of the confines of their bodies. The mountain is covered with smoke; thunder and lightning – a level of awe and trepidation completely out of this world.  They see the sounds and smell the scent of Gan Eiden. Their ears hear the voice of The Creator and at the end, when they can no longer withstand the intensity, the last strand that binds their souls to their bodies is broken and the angels begin to sprinkle the Tal (dew) that revives the dead. Then, just as the physical world has been completely left behind, they begin to hear the most extremely foreign concepts: ‘One who strikes his father or mother … One who kidnaps a man and sells him…’ (Shmos 21). What happened! Where did all the holiness go? Who is dreaming about such things? Who would even think of doing such lowly things? The Torah is holy – how do such lowly and physical concepts get in here? Were we not commanded just a few days ago to completely leave physicality behind, to become holy? All of a sudden we are not only being returned to physicality but to the lowliest coarseness…

Yes, we heard correctly, this is the receiving of the Torah. Although the Torah comes from heaven, if Hashem had wanted to leave it up there He would not have needed to shake up the whole world for it. If the Torah was intended for the angels we would have had no need to stand at the foot of Har Sinai. The Torah was written in order to enter into the boundaries of physicality, and until it has penetrated to the lowest place in the world, it has still not been properly accepted.

When the Rebbe explains the opening verse of this week’s parsha (L.M 7), he teaches that the Torah was given in order to bring emunah into every aspect of life. The gallus (exile) of Mitzrayim was itself a lack of emunah, and when one lacks emunah, his life is bound into exile. It is the holy Torah that is able to redeem the soul from its exile and until the Torah has penetrated into every aspect of life, we have not completely received it. This means that the receiving of the Torah IS the acceptance of the light of emunah in every place and in every situation.

This is why specifically at the height of the giving of the Torah it was most appropriate to tell us about ‘the Hebrew slave.’ It is just then, that it was of utmost importance to the Torah that we know that there is such a situation as a Hebrew slave, and that the Torah speaks about that too. Now, one will never be able to say: ‘the Torah is too lofty and spiritual for me.’ Since if the Torah specifies how a Hebrew slave, who has fallen so low that he is permitted to marry a non-Jewish maidservant, must act, then there is surely something here that is relevant to us too.

When we stood ready to receive the Torah we thought that on top of all we have in our lives we will receive another detail, something higher and loftier. We quickly discovered the truth … the Torah envelopes our entire being, resting upon every fine detail of life, even the things we never thought of. The Torah pays attention to every little thing; it is even concerned with how we dress.

That’s it! There is nowhere to run.

But then the great understanding comes, that in truth, I don’t want to run away. How wonderful it is to be connected in every fine detail to the purpose. How fantastic it is to be attached and bound to Hashem, and how great it is to discover that He is interested in me. He is interested in what I think, in what I eat, how I speak and even how I do business. The Torah was given to us in order to make life holy. Our greatest challenge occurs specifically with the smaller things, these are the things to which we generally give no importance. But the Torah asks of us to be holy, and to connect EVERYTHING to the great joy and ultimate purpose.

This week we will also read Parshas Shekalim. It speaks about money. This is because the majority of problems are focused around money; parnassah, debts and business dealings. This area generally seems so complicated; it seems to be better not to get involved at all. Parshas Shekalim comes and teaches: money is a truly wondrous thing when we use it for Tzeddakah – meaning, when we uplift it into holiness. Specifically when we take the lowliest things and uplift them to the glory of Hashem, that is when we create a Parshas Shekalim.

Yes, its difficult, but we are only asked to do what we can. Our half, the “Machtzis hashekel” (half a shekel). This ultimately is what will build “Mishkan L’Hashem”

You can download the entire parasha sheet here

Laws Pertaining to Coveting

Weekly Halacha Series

By HaRav Shimon Anshin shlit”a

The 10th commandment is: “Do not covet” and even though everyone knows this warning, many are not aware of the practical applications of this prohibition.

In practice there are two prohibitions as it relates to this commandment.  One is “Do not desire” (“lo tisaveh” – Parashas Va’etchanan) and the second is “Do not covet” (“Lo Tachmod”) as is seen in this week’s Parasha which warns about the actual deed of coveting vs. that of desiring.

A. “Do Not Desire:”

According to the Rambam, Shulchan Aruch and most of the Poskim, this is the warning against “thoughts of the heart” alone. i.e. everything that is definitively decided in the heart of an individual to pursue another person’s belongings even were it to be in a “permissible” way such as purchasing the item from the individual – this in fact contravenes the prohibition of “Do not desire” and applies even if he had NOT purchased it yet!

However, there are those that say that this applies only if he pursues the belonging with all his effort.  Which would not be the case if his intent is to abandon the pursuit should his friend disagree to sell it to him.

Others hold that only if he actually does something to try and acquire the other’s belonging, would he be contravening this prohibition.

There are a minority of Poskim that hold that even if the person so much as desires the item in his heart and has not premeditatedly planned a way to acquire the belonging, he would be contravening this prohibition.

In all opinions however, it is a worthy trait (midas chassidus) not to desire in any way, even in one’s heart, what belongs to another.

B.  “Do Not Covet”:

This is applicable only when the following two conditions are met:

1) “Begging” and “pushing” another until he sells the item to him.

2) Taking possession of the “begged” item described in 1) above.

Definitions of “Begging”

1) Asking for an item not in a way of “begging”, would not contravene this prohibition.  Therefore, it is permissible to ask an individual if he would be willing to sell him the item he wants, even twice, and this would not considered “begging”.  However three times, would appear to be considered “begging”.  An important person however, knowing that the owner of a particular item would be embarrassed to decline the offer, would not be permitted to ask even once.

2) Therefore, even were one to pay the full price after he “begged” beyond the permissible amount of times described above, according to the Rambam, Shulchan Aruch and most Poskim, he would be contravening the prohibition of “Do not covet”.

3) If the owner agreed to sell the item because the buyer gave him much more than the going rate, his would still be contravening the this prohibition.

4) If after “begging” the owner truly agrees to sell the item (as in “I really want to sell the item”), there are those that say that the buyer has not contravened the prohibition of coveting, however,  there are other Poskim that hold to the contrary.

What items are prohibited to Covet?

1) Coveting a specific item that belongs to another person. However, if he desires to have something similar to another, then he would not be contravening the prohibition. Also, there would be no prohibition should he desire such an item in a non-jealous way but rather in a way that he finds such an item desirable/useful.

2) With regards to coveting an item that is readily available.  There are those that say there is no prohibition of coveting.

3) With regards to coveting possessions belonging to partners such as a shared garden, courtyard or roof, one should ask a Posek (Shaalat Chachom).

4) Coveting a Mitzvah item, such as a Sefer Torah, Mezuzah, Shofar, Lulav etc, contravenes the prohibition of coveting.

5) Coveting Torah knowledge or professional skill sets, such as desiring to learn Torah or a particular trade from another, does not contravene the prohibition and one would even be allowed to “beg” the other person to teach him that knowledge/skill.

6) Chesed – “begging” another to do a Chesed is permissible as the one doing the Chesed is performing a mitzvah.

7) Presents -“begging” another to give a present to him contravenes the prohibition of coveting.

8) Renting – “begging” another to rent him his house, for example, is disagreed upon among the Poskim as to whether this would be contravening the prohibition of coveting or not.  In practice one would need to ask a Posek.


As this is a translation of the original Hebrew, if you are unclear on any of the Laws outlined herein in any way whatsoever, please consult with a Posek.

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