Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Vayeishev-Chanukah 5777


vayeishev-chanukah-5777

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Vayeishev-Chanukah 5777

Shabbos and Chanukah: Extending Miracles into Nature

Introduction

In this week’s parashah it is said (Bereishis 37:1) vayeishev Yaakov bieretz migurei aviv bieretz Canaan eileh toldos Yaakov Yosef, Yaakov settled in the land of his father’s sojourning, in the land of Canaan. These are the chronicles of Yaakov: Yosef…. Rashi cites the Medrash that states that Yaakov sought to dwell in peace and the agitation of Yosef sprung upon him. The righteous seek to dwell in tranquility, and HaShem says, “is it not enough for the righteous what is prepared for them in the World to Come and they still seek to dwell in tranquility in this world?”

The righteous are not connected to this world

The Sfas Emes (5632) writes that the entire separation of a righteous person is to draw holiness into this world and into nature. Prior to drawing the holiness into this world the righteous person must perfect himself to the level that he himself is not connected to this world. This, then, is the meaning of the words of the Medrash that the righteous seek to dwell in tranquility. When the righteous are attached to their roots and are totally disconnected to a place of separation, i.e., this world, only then can they seek to dwell in tranquility in this world also. Yaakov was above nature, and because of his dissociation from this world, he was not able to draw holiness into this world. The only way for Yaakov to draw holiness into this world was through Yosef HaTzaddik. This is the reason that after deriving from the first verse that Yaakov sought to dwell in tranquility in this world, the Torah states eileh toldos Yaakov Yosef, these are the chronicles of Yaakov: Yosef…. It was through Yosef that Yaakov was able to channel the holiness to the brothers and to all the worlds. It is for this reason that Rashi writes (Bereishis 30:25) that Yaakov was prepared to depart from Lavan once Yosef was born. Yaakov is compared to fire, Yosef is compared to the flame and Esav is likened to the straw that is consumed by the fire. Fire by itself does not travel far. The flame, however, allows the fire to consume even matter that is far away. Similarly, once Yosef was born, Yaakov felt confident enough to return to his father. The Sfas Emes explains that the nature of fire is to ignite anything in its proximity and it is for this reason that the fire requires the flame which extends the fire’s ability to consume.

Yaakov was above nature and Yosef was more connected to his brothers than Yaakov

It is said that Yaakov loved Yosef more than all the brothers. Yosef was able to elevate the good deeds of the brothers to Yaakov, because Yosef was more connected to the brothers than Yaakov. The reason for this is because Yaakov was above nature. Based on this idea, the meaning of vayeishev Yaakov is that Yaakov was connected to his roots, which is the idea of repentance and Shabbos, when everything ascends to its roots above.

Chanukah teaches to reveal the miracles into the realm of nature

We can extend this amazing idea of the Sfas Emes even further. The miracle of Chanukah was that the Chashmonaim found oil that was sufficient for the lighting of the Menorah for one night, and HaShem made a miracle and the oil burned for eight nights. The Sfas Emes (Chanukah 5631 Third Night) writes that the idea that we express in the passage of al Hanisim that Chanukah is a time lehodos ulihallel, to thank and give praise, corresponds to Yehudah and Yosef. The Sfas Emes explains this idea in various places and I would like to suggest a novel interpretation to this idea. The words Hallel and hodaah appear to be similar. Yet, we know that every word in Scripture and in rabbinic literature is used for a specific reason. Hallel is similar to mallel, speech, and hodaah means to give thanks. Yehudah reflected the idea that one must thank HaShem for miracles, as we find that Leah named her son Yehudah because she received more than her share of sons being born. Yosef, however, symbolizes the idea that one must constantly be seeking ways to praise HaShem, even when things are not going well and one feels that there are no miracles occurring. We know that even what is referred to as nature is essentially a miracle, and it was Yosef who brought out this idea. Regarding the first dream that Yosef had, it is said (Bereishis 37:7) vihinei anachnu mialmim alumim bisoch hasadeh vihinei kamah alumasi vigam nitzavah vihinei sisubenah alumoseichem vatishtachavenah laalumasi, “behold! – we were binding sheaves in the middle of the field, when, behold! – my sheaf arose and also remained standing; then behold! – your sheaves gathered around and bowed down to my sheaf.” This verse alludes to the idea that while the brothers were gathering their bundles in the field, Yosef would reveal that even nature, reflected in the growth of grain, is a miracle. It is for this reason that the Torah states that Yosef’s bundle arose and remained standing, as we find that the word used for miracle, nes, also is used for something held high, as it is said (Bamidbar 21:8) visim oso al nes, and place it on a pole. Thus, Yosef reflects the idea that nature itself can be extended into the realm of miracle, as nature is also a miracle.

The Shabbos connection

The entire week we live, in a sense, under the guise of nature, as we work to earn a livelihood and all our successes and failures appear to be the result of our efforts. When Shabbos arrives we discover that even the natural order of events is essentially miracles, as Shabbos provides all the blessing of the week. It is noteworthy that Yaakov reflects Shabbos and Yosef reflects the idea of Tosefes Shabbos, adding on to Shabbos. By bringing Shabbos into the week we declare that all our natural efforts are facilitated by the light of the Holy Shabbos. Thus, Shabbos is akin to a pole standing high as one can see clearly that Shabbos is the source of all our blessings. HaShem should allow us to observe the Shabbos properly and we should witness miracles with the arrival of Moshiach, speedily, in our days.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Kel Mistater

This mystical Zemer was composed by Avraham Maimin, whose name with the addition of chazak, is formed by the acrostic. Avraham was a student of Rabbi Moshe Kordevero, a member of the Kabbalistic school of the Arizal, and he lived from 5282-5330 (1522-1570 C.E.)

מָרוֹם נֶאְדָּר בְּכֹחַ וּגְבוּרָה. מוֹצִיא אוֹרָה מֵאֵין תְּמוּרָה, the lofty One adorned with strength and power, He draws forth light from the unequalled Torah. This passage implies that HaShem draws forth light from the Torah, which is puzzling, as one would think that the Torah, so to speak, draws its light from HaShem. Yet, the answer to this question is that the Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 1:1) states that HaShem looked into the Torah and created the world, so in essence, Hashem draws the light of the world from the Torah.

Shabbos Stories

This is my baby!

Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky writes: A man once approached my grandfather, Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetzky, of blessed memory, quite distraught.

“I know this may not sound like a major problem,” he began, “but my 17- year-old daughter is very upset with me. It has come to a point that she hardly talks to me. It began a few nights ago. My wife and I were with a number of old friends at a wedding when my daughter walked by. I introduced her to them by saying, ‘his is my baby.’

“I could see that at the moment she became very upset. Moments later she pulled me to aside and was crying. ‘You still think I’m a baby!’ she sobbed. ‘I am almost eighteen already, and all you do is call me your baby! Won’t I ever be a grown-up in your eyes?’ Ever since then she doesn’t want to talk to me.”

The man shrugged as he pleaded with the sage. “I really don’t want to make this into a major issue, but I’m not sure how to resolve this. Perhaps the Rosh Yeshiva can guide me.”

Reb Yaakov put his hand on the man’s shoulder. “You live in Flatbush, don’t you?”

At the time Reb Yaakov was staying at his youngest son, Reb Avraham’s home, and he invited the man to visit him there together with his daughter. He assured him that he would not discuss the incident but was confident that by the time the visit was over the matter would be resolved.”

The next day the man and his daughter visited Reb Yaakov at Reb Avraham’s home. Reb Yaakov invited the man and his daughter into the dining room where they discussed a variety of issues from school work to life in pre- war Europe, everything but the incident at the wedding.

About 10 minutes into the conversation, my uncle, Reb Avraham, came down the stairs. Reb Yaakov looked over to him and invited him to join the conversation. But first he introduced Reb Avraham to his guests.

“This is my baby!” exclaimed the revered sage as he gave a warm hug to his 55-year-old son. (www.Torah.org)

Dr. Henry Heimlich: Saving Lives, Saving Worlds

The maneuver of Dr. Heimlich, who recently passed away at age 96, wasn’t his great contribution to saving lives.

by Menucha Chana Levin

Dr. Henry Heimlich, inventor of the famous Heimlich maneuver, was once described as “the man who saved the lives of more human beings than any other person.”

Henry Heimlich, born into a working-class Bronx Jewish family, struggled through the Depression.

Heimlich first saved a life at age 20 while returning to New York after working as a summer camp counselor in Massachusetts. The train derailed, pinning a fireman underneath one of the cars in a swamp. Heimlich held the man’s head above water for an hour until help arrived.

He joined Navy ROTC in medical school and, after being inducted in 1944, was sent on a top-secret mission to the Gobi Desert. The plan was to establish a medical camp that would later treat injured American soldiers during the expected invasion of Japan.

Meanwhile, in his spare time, Heimlich began treating the local Chinese farmers. At first they were suspicious, but when he cured a young girl of a huge stomach abscess, the camp suddenly found itself facing a line of Chinese peasants at its door each morning seeking treatment for various ailments. Heimlich soon recognized a local epidemic of trachoma, an eye infection that eventually causes blindness. He cured it by pulverizing a recently developed antibiotic and mixing it with shaving cream.

When he returned to the U.S. after the war, Heimlich had difficulty finding a position. Doctors who had not been in the military had already built large practices.

Finally landing an internship with a thoracic surgeon, Heimlich began to take interest in patients whose esophagus had been damaged by drinking household lye. This was unfortunately a common accident before child-proof bottles. He developed a procedure in which a strip of the lower stomach was used to construct a new esophagus so these people could eat normally again.

Ironically, Heimlich’s greatest contribution to life-saving was not the renowned Heimlich maneuver. He was curious about the complex hospital equipment needed to drain the fluid from injured chests to prevent a potentially fatal lung collapse. The old method involved an electrically powered suction machine that presented problems moving it from room to room. Heimlich, observing that chest injuries drain naturally, wondered if a type of valve could prevent the deadly backflow.

He bought a flutter valve – a flexible “Bronx cheer” rubber tube – in a five-and-dime store and attached it to a hypodermic inserted into the chest of a patient. Then he kept vigil at the patient’s bedside for two nights. The device worked successfully and in 1965 the Army ordered thousands. The Heimlich Valve became standard equipment in every soldier’s pack in Vietnam, saving thousands of lives. When Dr. Heimlich visited Vietnam 24 years later he was astounded to find that his name was familiar there. The Quakers had supplied Heimlich Valves to North Vietnam, saving thousands lives there too. Heimlich felt that was the one of the most emotional experiences of his life.

In the early 1970’s, he was disturbed to learn that nearly 4,000 Americans die each year from choking on food or small objects. He researched ways to use diaphragmatic pressure to save victims of choking. In 1974, he developed a method that allowed air trapped in the lungs to be used to expel the object from the victim’s airway. This method would be called the Heimlich Maneuver. Simple and easy to perform, the Maneuver has saved countless lives around the world including President Ronald Reagan, Elizabeth Taylor, Nicole Kidman, Halle Berry, basketball sportscaster Dick Vitale, New York Mayor Ed Koch, and news anchorman John Chancellor. It is estimated that his famous Heimlich maneuver saves one choking victim in the United States each week.

Heimlich, who demonstrated the “Heimlich Maneuver” numerous times over the years, had never personally used it in an emergency situation. Not until a week ago.

The 96-year-old Heimlich was sitting at a communal dining table at Cincinnati’s Deupree House, an upscale senior living center where he has lived for the past six years.

Then he noticed fellow resident, Patty Ris, 87, was choking while eating a hamburger.

Immediately Heimlich jumped up, put his arms around her and pressed on her abdomen below the rib cage, as per his own instructions displayed on posters in most American restaurants.

Commented Dr. Heimlich afterwards: “I sort of felt wonderful about it.

After three compressions, this piece of meat came out, and she just started breathing, her whole face changed. I just felt a satisfaction.”

Ris said she randomly selected the seat in the dining room on Monday because she is a new resident at Deupree.

“When I wrote my ‘thank you’ note to him for saving my life, I said, ‘God put me in that seat next to you, Dr. Heimlich, because I was gone, I couldn’t breathe at all,’” stated Ris gratefully.

As Dr. Heimlich explains in his biography:

“My interest in saving lives goes beyond simply being fascinated with science. As my parents taught me from a young age, we each have an obligation to give back, to help others in whatever way we can. True happiness comes from giving of oneself.”

Judaism believes that, “He who saves a life saves an entire world.” In that case, Dr. Heimlich has been saving countless worlds throughout his lifetime. (www.aish.com)

Shabbos in Halacha

Wringing and Laundering

 Activities Affected by this Prohibition

 Cleaning a Stained Tablecloth

Tablecloths that are made of absorbent fibers, i.e. linen, may not be moistened at all, for wetting them is, by itself, a form of laundering.

Plastic and vinyl tablecloths may be wet and rubbed lightly to loosen dirt, but not scrubbed forcefully even with one’s hand. One must also avoid wetting any trimming made of absorbent fibers.

Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim: Vayeishev-Chanukah 5777

Is sponsored לזכר נשמת האשה החשובה מרת חיה אסתר בת ר’ משה צבי הלוי אוקוליקא ע”ה     ת.נ.צ.ב.ה.and as a zechus לרפואה שלימה חיה דינה חביבה בת שושנה בתוך שאר חולי ישראל.

Sponsorsips $180.00

Have a Wonderful Shabbos and a Freilechen Chanukah!

Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler

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Erev Shabbos Kodesh Vayishlach 5777 Inspiration


I once heard someone ask someone, “what are  all these אלופים about at the end of Parashas Vayishlach? Upon hearing the question, I immediately responded, “אלופו של עולם,” a reference to HaShem, the Chief Officer of the world. I have a feeling this interpretation is on target, as the Torah is discussing the officers of Esav’s progeny who ruled before the Jewish People had a king. The commentators discuss an esoteric term called שבע מלכין קדמאין, the seven early kings, who were from what is referred to as עולם התוהו, literally defined as the World of Desolation. Without getting into the depths of this topic, it seems from the commentators that there was a struggle between the forces of Evil and the Forces of Good, and the first seven kings died, whereas the last king endured.

This year, however, I’d like to take a more simplistic approach to these אלופים, and to suggest that the word אלוף is associated with the word מילף, meaning to learn. The Medrash (Eicha Rabbah 2:13) states חכמה בגוים תאמין, believe that there is wisdom amongst the gentiles. Yet, we know that this wisdom is limited, as only the wisdom of the Torah is infinite. Esav received a limited blessing from Yitzchak, and indeed, Esav’s descendant, Ovadiah, who converted to Judaism (Sanhedrin 39b), writes (Ovadiah 1:8) הֲלוֹא בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא נְאֻם יְ-ה-וָ-ה וְהַאֲבַדְתִּי חֲכָמִים מֵאֱדוֹם וּתְבוּנָה מֵהַר עֵשָׂו, behold – on that day- the word of HaShem – I will eradicate wise men from Edom and understanding from the Mountain of Esav. Due to the limitation of Esav’s wisdom, his wisdom will be eradicated. Rashi in the beginning of Parashas Vayeishev cites an analogy to Esav’s אלופים that will be destroyed by the fire of Yaakov and the flame of Yosef.

As we approach the festival of Chanukah, when the Greeks and the Hellenists attempted to extinguish the light of Torah from the Jewish People, we are encouraged by the fact that the wisdom of Greece and Rome is limited and will not endure. The only wisdom that will endure forever is the wisdom of our Holy Torah, and HaShem should grant us the opportunities to study His Holy Torah and merit what we recite in the Shacharis Prayer, אוֹר חָדָשׁ עַל צִיּוֹן תָּאִיר, וְנִזְכֶּה כֻלָּנוּ בִּמְהֵרָה לְאוֹרוֹ, You will shine a new light upon Tziyon, and we shall all merit soon its light.

Have a WISE and ENLIGHTENING Shabbos!

Rabbi Adler

Erev Shabbos Kodesh Vayishlach 5777 Inspiration

Is sponsored לזכר נשמת האשה החשובה מרת חיה אסתר בת ר’ משה צבי הלוי אוקוליקא ע”ה ת.נ.צ.ב.ה.and as a zechus לרפואה שלימה חיה דינה חביבה בת שושנה בתוך שאר חולי ישראל.
Sponsorships $180.00
Have a wonderful Shabbos!
Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler
For sponsorships please call 773.236.1761
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Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Vayishlach 5777


vayishlach-5777

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Vayishlach 5777

Shabbos: Challenge at Twilight and Receiving the Wealth of Shabbos

Introduction

In this week’s parashah the Torah relates how Yaakov encountered the angel of Esav and struggled with him. The Torah records that the angel of Esav requested from Yaakov that he let him go and Yaakov refused. It is said (Bereishis 32:27) vayomer shalcheini ki alah hashachar vayomer lo ashaleichacho ki im beirachtani, and he said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” This declaration of Yaakov requires understanding. How is it that Yaakov was able to hold the angel hostage until he blessed him?

Evil submitting to good

We have discussed in previous weeks the idea that the evil angel is forced to submit to the blessings of the good angel. The Sefarim write that a righteous person is even greater than an angel. Thus, Yaakov was able to overwhelm the angel of Esav and force him to agree to the blessings that Yaakov had received from Yitzchak. We must wonder, however, how the angel of Esav was capable of causing injury to Yaakov. Was not Yaakov righteous enough that he should not have been harmed at all?

Yaakov sets boundaries

There is a fascinating Medrash which would seem to shed light on the struggle that occurred between Yaakov and the angel of Esav. Subsequent to Yaakov meeting Esav and battling the angel, it is said (Bereishis 33:18) vayavo Yaakov shaleim ir Shechem asher bieretz Canaan bivoo miPadan Aram vayichan es pinei hair, Yaakov arrived intact at the city of Shechem which is in the land of Canaan, upon his arriving from Paddan-aram, and he encamped before the city. On the last words of the verse that state that Yaakov encamped before the city, the Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 79:6) comments: Yaakov arrived Erev Shabbos with the setting of the sun and he set up techumin, boundaries. This teaches us that Yaakov observed the Shabbos prior to the Torah being given. This Medrash is a bit puzzling. Why does the Medrash teach us specifically here that Yaakov observed Shabbos? Was there something unique about Yaakov’s arrival that warranted mention of him observing Shabbos? Furthermore, why is Yaakov’s Shabbos observance characterized by creating boundaries?

The Shabbos connection: the twilight zone is fraught with danger

One aspect of Shabbos that is sometimes overlooked is the idea that we are transitioning from the weekdays into Shabbos. While many people tend to rush into Shabbos, it is worthwhile to contemplate what is occurring during the transition period. Throughout the week one is constantly facing challenges in spiritual matters. Shabbos is referred to as a day of menuchah, rest, because on Shabbos all harsh judgments depart prior to Shabbos. Thus, upon the arrival of Shabbos, one should be able to sense all the challenges of the week disappearing in an instant. In order to sense this phenomenon, however, one must prepare properly for Shabbos. Yaakov Avinu taught us with his actions that to prepare for Shabbos one needs to acknowledge that Shabbos is a true day of rest from the struggles of the week. The Maharzav on the Medrash (Ibid) writes that the word vayichan, when the letters are rearranged, spells out the word vayanach, and he rested. Thus, by properly preparing for Shabbos, Yaakov was able to truly rest on Shabbos. Although we cannot know what lack the angel of Esav found in Yaakov, it would seem that the deficiency was manifest in an area that was hidden, as the area where the angel inflicted harm on Yaakov is a discreet part of the body. Perhaps this alludes to the period in time referred to as bein hashemashos, between the (settings) of the suns, i.e. twilight. It is specifically with the onset of Shabbos when the Jewish People are faced with the challenge of receiving Shabbos properly. Instead of rushing into Shabbos at this time, we should already be prepared earlier in the day so that we do not have to be ‘inflicted’ by the forces of evil, Heaven forbid.

Receiving the wealth of Shabbos

There is another aspect of Shabbos that is alluded to in this verse. It is said, vayichan es pinei hair, and he encamped before the city. What is the Torah teaching us with the word pinei? In Kabbalas Shabbos we recite the words lecho dodi likras kallah pinei Shabbos nikabelah, come my Beloved to greet the bride – The Shabbos presence, let us welcome! What is meant by the words pinei Shabbos? The answer to this question can be found in a Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah). It is said (Bereishis 41:56) viharaav hayah al kol pinei haaretz, when the famine spread over all the face of the earth. The Medrash states that the words pinei haaretz refers to the wealthy people. Thus, we can suggest that when the Torah states vayichan es pinei hair, this means that Yaakov encamped before the wealth of the city. What is the wealth of a city? It is said (Mishlei 10:22) bircas HaShem hi taashir, it is the blessing of HaShem that enriches. The Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 11:1) states that this refers to Shabbos, which is the day that HaShem blessed. Thus, the Medrash is teaching us that Yaakov encamped before the wealth of the city, and the wealth of the city is Shabbos. In a similar vein, with the onset of Shabbos we go out to greet its wealth, as the poverty and struggles of the weekday disappear and we receive the blessings of Shabbos. HaShem should allow us to merit properly observing the Holy Shabbos and then we will all merit to greet pinei Moshiach Tzidkienu, the ‘face’ of Moshiach our righteous one, speedily, in our days.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Kel Mistater

This mystical Zemer was composed by Avraham Maimin, whose name with the addition of chazak, is formed by the acrostic. Avraham was a student of Rabbi Moshe Kordevero, a member of the Kabbalistic school of the Arizal, and he lived from 5282-5330 (1522-1570 C.E.)

אֱ-לֹהֵי אַבְרָהָם זְכוֹר לְעַבְדֶךָ. חַסְדֵי יְ-הֹ-ו-ָה אַזְכִּיר תְּהִלּוֹת י-ְה-ֹו-ָה, O G-d of Avraham, recall upon Your servant – HaShem’s kindness shall I proclaim as praises of HaShem. Avraham is referred to as the עמוד החסד, the Attribute of Kindness. In a simple sense this refers to the kindness that Avraham performed with wayfarers, inviting them in for a meal and instructing them to acknowledge HaShem as their creator. There is a deeper meaning, however, to Avraham’s aspect of kindness. Avraham was the first person who was commanded by HaShem to be circumcised. The Rambam (Moreh Nevuchim) writes that one reason for the mitzvah of circumcision is that it is a sign of brotherhood amongst Jews. Thus, when a Jew circumcises himself, he is demonstrating his kindness to his fellow Jews. Avraham was the first person who demonstrated this aspect of kindness, and we therefore invoke Avraham’s merits when we ask for HaShem’s kindness.

Shabbos Stories

Always enough

Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky writes: The Rebbe, Reb Ber of Mezritch, was once approached by a chasid who had a very common problem. “Rebbe,” he pleaded. “I never seem to have enough. The more I get, the more I want. I know it is improper to think this way and I need help.” The rebbe told the man to visit Rebbe Zusia of Anipoli. “He can guide you with your difficulty.”

The man was shocked as he approached Reb Zusia’s residence. He saw a ramshackle wooden hut with boarded windows. Upon entering, the poverty was overwhelming. The man figured, “surely this is a man who is in constant need. He hardly has what he needed, and must grapple with new desires on a constant basis. He surely will be able to counsel me on my longing for the articles that I lack.”

The man discussed his problem with Reb Zusia, but Reb Zusia looked at him in amazement.

“What are you coming to me for? How can I advise you? I have absolutely everything I need!”

Never forget others

In the summer of 1954, my grandmother, Itta Ettil Kamenetzky, of blessed memory, left Beth Israel Hospital, for the last time, after a prolonged stay. Her condition had deteriorated, and the doctors felt that there was nothing left for them to do. My grandfather, Reb Yaakov zt”l, went together with family members to pick her up from the hospital. My grandmother was wheeled to the waiting automobile and made as comfortable as possible. Suddenly, Reb Yaakov seemed to realize that he had forgotten something very important. He whispered something to his wife, and when she nodded her approval, he asked if it was possible for the driver to wait a few minutes. He had to go back into the hospital.

The family members were a bit surprised. Although there was another patient in the room, and items may have been confused, they remembered removing every one of my grandmother’s personal belongings from the room. Accompanied by his curious son, Reb Yaakov proceeded to the elevator and pushed the button to the floor on which his wife had stayed.

“Pa,” his son protested, “we have everything.” The elevator stopped at the correct floor. Reb Yaakov proceeded into his wife’s former room and turned to her ailing roommate. “In our rush to leave the hospital, I forgot to tell you good-bye and wish you well. May G-d send you a speedy recovery.” With that, Reb Yaakov walked out of the room, nodded at the stunned nurses, whom he already had thanked on his first exit, and left toward the waiting car. (www.Torah.org)

True Mitzvah Files

The power of kindness.

by Emuna Braverman

It’s popular to write true crime stories based on the original FBI or police files. I think that our true mitzvah stories are stored in a celestial filing cabinet, but I’m going to share one mitzvah story with you as it was told to me.

When my friend Chana moved about ten years ago, she wanted to bring blessing to her new home. How about a new mitzvah to correspond to her new residence? A friend suggested she try something that was hard for her to do. (The friend wasn’t me; I would have suggested that she lead with her strengths.)

Chana decided to visit patients in the hospital. But not just any patients — patients who were very ill, patients in the ICU, in comas, at death’s door. She would regularly go to their rooms, sit and talk, sometimes to be rewarded by a smile, sometimes uncertain if they heard her or not.

The chaplain at the hospital, a kindly middle-aged rabbi, was her mentor. He taught her through word and deed how to help these people, and how to dig deep within for the reserves to put a smile on her face and walk briskly into yet another room. “He showed me how to perform kindness in a way I had never seen,” Chana told me.

The work took its toll. The patients were not always receptive, the endings not always happy. But the chaplain remained by her side, her own personal cheerleading squad, giving her the strength and encouragement to continue.

Unfortunately the rabbi himself became ill. Not only could he no longer be a source of encouragement, but watching him suffer through his debilitating disease further drained Chana’s will. She began to feel a sense of hopelessness about her activities. All her doubts came crowding back in — “No one seems to hear me anyway, what’s the point?” She wasn’t sure that she could continue her volunteer work at the hospital.

But the Almighty had come to rely on Chana’s acts of kindness; He stepped in to intervene. ‘Fortuitously’ Chana was scheduled for a physical examination with her internist and during the time Chana confided to her doctor her doubts and anxiety.

He told her an amazing story about his sister. As a young woman she had an unusual illness that resulted in her spending six months in a coma. Even though she was a complete prisoner in her body, she could actually hear everything everyone said. She just couldn’t respond.

“None of your efforts are wasted.”

Visitors, especially those with a lot to say, were her lifeline. When she finally emerged from this terrifying state, she was able to recite whole conversations verbatim. “Those words kept me alive, kept me tethered to reality, gave me something to hang on to,” she always said.

“None of your efforts are wasted,” the doctor advised Chana. And he told of yet another personal experience.

“My grandmother was very ill with Alzheimer’s. She was in a home and didn’t recognize any of us when we went to visit. My grandfather lived with us but was too frail to go, and besides, she didn’t recognize him either. This situation continued for 10 long years until my grandfather passed away. We debated whether we should even bother trying to communicate this sad fact to my grandmother. Since she didn’t understand anything anyway, what would we be accomplishing? In the end, we decided that she deserved to know (whatever “know” meant). My father went to the home and gently explained that her husband had died. An hour later, my grandmother’s soul departed from her body. She had clearly heard my father.”

These stories changed Chana’s perspective. She was able to appreciate the power of her words and to look beneath the surface for the meaning of her actions. She no longer felt that her words were wasted, discouraged by her efforts. She realized the true meaning and potential of her actions. She was grateful for her experiences and what she had learned, glad that she had attempted something difficult.

This recognition buoyed her spirits. She realized that she had truly made a difference. She was energized anew by this knowledge and ready to return to the hospital. She also felt she wanted a new challenge, to make an impact in another way. She wanted to push herself yet again and move into uncharted territory.

The Almighty stepped in once more. Not long after, Chana’s oldest daughter gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, her first grandchild. After watching the labor and delivery, Chana had a revelation. Although not all births would be of her grandchildren, this is where she wanted to work – bringing life into the world!

Today Chana is still at the hospital – in a full-time capacity as a certified labor and delivery coach. She does it with joy but also with an understanding and compassion that wouldn’t have otherwise been possible.

The rabbi, her mentor and friend, unfortunately succumbed to his illness, but his kindness and generosity reverberate through Chana when she coaches mothers as they usher a new generation into the world. (www.aish.com)

Shabbos in Halacha

Wringing and Laundering

 כיבוס – Laundering

 The Prohibition

 Summary

 There are three steps to laundering: each by itself is forbidden.

  1. Soaking [or wetting] a fabric; this applies only to absorbent materials.
  2. Scrubbing, or rubbing two parts of a fabric against each other; this is prohibited with all soft materials, whether absorbent or not.
  3. Wringing

Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim: Vayishlach 5777

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Erev Shabbos Kodesh Vayeitzei 5777 Inspiration


After receiving a heavenly vision in a dream, Yaakov is prepared to continue on his journey to the Land of Lavan, his uncle and soon to be his nemesis. It is said (Bereishis 29:1), וַיִּשָּׂא יַעֲקֹב רַגְלָיו וַיֵּלֶךְ אַרְצָה בְנֵי קֶדֶם, so Yaakov lifted his feet and went to the land of the easterners.  Rashi cites the Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 70:7) that states that Yaakov, upon being informed by HaShem that he would be safeguarded, felt light in his heart and this was the catalyst to travel. One must wonder what is unique about the words וַיִּשָּׂא יַעֲקֹב רַגְלָיו, and Yaakov lifted his feet. The commentators write that normally one’s feet lift the body, and here it is said that Yaakov lifted his feet, implying that his feet lifted his body. This explanation, however, is difficult, as we find other instances where the Torah states (Vayikra 9:22) וַיִּשָּׂא אַהֲרֹן אֶת יָדָיו אֶל הָעָם וַיְבָרֲכֵם, Aharon raised his hands toward the people and blessed them, and we do not say that Aharon’s hands lifted his body. What is unique about Yaakov’s journey that prompted the Medrash to interpret the verse in this manner?

To answer these questions we can suggest that the word נשא has other connotations, such as sharpening (See Rashi Bereishis 27:3). Yaakov had just concealed himself in the Study Hall for fourteen years of uninterrupted Torah study, and now he was prepared to receive a Divine Revelation. In the dream HaShem informed Yaakov that He would watch him throughout his journeys, both Yaakov and his descendants. Upon receiving such wonderful news and having had a “sharpened” sense of realization that HaShem will protect him, Yaakov’s heart rejoiced and elevated him to newer heights of ecstasy.  Thus, his heart truly rejoiced and elevated the rest of him to carry on his journey in an effortless manner.

HaShem should grant us the sharpened sense of realization that He is constantly caring for our every need and we should merit the ultimate joy of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, speedily, in our days!

Have a SHARPENED and HEIGHTENED Shabbos!

Rabbi Adler

Erev Shabbos Kodesh Vayeitzei 5777 Inspiration
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Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Vayeitzei 5777


vayeitzei-5777

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Vayeitzei 5777

Yaakov Subdues Lavan Through Shabbos

Introduction

In this week’s parashah it is said (Bereishis 29:1-3) vayisa Yaakov raglav vayeilech artzah vnei kedem vayar vehinei beer basadeh vehinei sham shelosha edrei tzon rovtzim aleha ki min habeer hahi yashku haadarim vihaeven gedolah al pi habeer vineesfu shama chol haadarim vigalilu es haeven meial pi habeer vishishku es hatzon viheishivu es haeven al pi habeer limkomah, so Yaakov lifted up his feet, and went toward the land of the easterners. He looked, and behold-a well in the field! And behold! Three flocks of sheep lay there beside it, for from that well they would water the flocks, and the stone over the mouth of the well was large. When all the flocks would be assembled there they would roll the stone from the mouth of the well and water the sheep; then they would put back the stone over the mouth of the well, in its place. The Ramban cites the Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 70:8) that states that this entire episode regarding the wells and the shepherds removing the large stone alludes to the pilgrimage of the Jewish People on the three festivals and the drawing of the water alludes to the receiving of Divine Inspiration. The replacement of the stone alludes to the festival in the future at the time of the Ultimate Redemption.

Yaakov’s meeting with the Shepherds Alludes to Shabbos

If we were to continue in the vein of the Medrash, we can suggest that the subsequent verses refer to Shabbos, which we find juxtaposed to the mention of the festivals in Parashas Emor. Thus, we read that Yaakov queries the people regarding their origins, and they respond that they are from Charan. This can allude to the idea that the weekday is akin to anger, as we find in the beginning of the parashah where it is said (Bereishis 28:10) vayeitzei Yaakov mibeer sheva vayeilech Charana, Yaakov departed Beer Sheva and went toward Charan. This verse can be interpreted homiletically to read that Yaakov left Beer Sheva, i.e. he entered into Shabbos, the seventh day, and Charan, i.e. anger, left. Yaakov then asks if they know Lavan. What was the purpose of Yaakov asking this question? Perhaps the idea is that the Shem MiShmuel writes that Calev and Pinchas, the two spies sent by Yehoshua, understood from Rachav that the inhabitants of the land were subdued, because Rachav was Lilis, the great demon. Once Rachav acknowledged that the inhabitants were fearful of the Jewish People, the spies knew that the land would be conquered by the Jewish People. Thus, Yaakov was wondering how Lavan was faring and if he would be able to be victorious over Lavan and his evil schemes. The shepherds responded that they know who Lavan is, i.e. that he is Balaam, the master sorcerer (see Gemara Sanhedrin 105a and Rashi Ibid; Targum Yonasan Bamidbar 22:5). Yaakov then queried them if there was peace by Lavan and they responded with the word shalom, peace. The Baal HaTurim notes that Yaakov asked haShalom lo, is there peace with him, and the shepherds responded shalom, peace. The Baal HaTurim writes that they did not answer that Lavan had peace, as it is said (Yeshaya 57:21) ein shalom amar Elokai larishaim, ‘there is no peace,’ said my G-d, ‘for the wicked.’

The Shabbos Connection

Based on what we have mentioned previously, we can suggest that Yaakov, who reflects Shabbos, wished to know how he could subdue Lavan, who in a later reincarnation would be Balaam. The shepherds responded, shalom, peace. The Gemara (Shabbos 119b) states that when a Jew arrives home from shul on Friday night, he is escorted by two angels, one good and one evil. If when he arrives home and finds the lamp burning, the table set and his bed made, the good angel says, “may it be the will of HaShem that it should be this way the next Shabbos as well,” and the bad angel is forced to answer amen against his will. If the table is not set, however, then the bad angel says, “May it be the will of HaShem that it should be this way the next Shabbos as well,” and the good angel is forced to answer amen against his will. Thus, the shepherds were intimating to Yaakov that the manner in which to subdue Lavan would be by Yaakov conducting himself properly and then Lavan, i.e. Balaam, would be forced to answer amen. It is noteworthy that the Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh (Bamidbar 23:24) explains that this is the rationale for why the Torah records the blessings that Balaam proffered on the Jewish People, as HaShem desired that the evil angel, i.e. Balaam, be forced to acknowledge that the Jewish People are blessed. HaShem should allow us to merit the holiness of Shabbos of which it is said (Prayer of Kegavna recited by Nusach Sefard) “when the Shabbos arrives, she unified herself in Oneness and divests herself of the Other Side [any trace of evil], all harsh judgments are removed from her.”

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Kel Mistater

This mystical Zemer was composed by Avraham Maimin, whose name with the addition of chazak, is formed by the acrostic. Avraham was a student of Rabbi Moshe Kordevero, a member of the Kabbalistic school of the Arizal, and he lived from 5282-5330 (1522-1570 C.E.)

הָאֵ-ל הַגָּדוֹל עֵינֵי כֹל נֶגְדֶּךָ. רַב חֶסֶד גָּדוֹל עַל הַשָּׁמַיִם חַסְדֶּךָ, O great G-d, all eyes look toward You, O great One of abundant kindness, higher than heaven is Your kindness. While we look to HaShem with our physical eyes, awaiting His salvation, we acknowledge that His kindness is above the heavens, i.e. beyond our comprehension. It is said (Tehillim 55:23) הַשְׁלֵךְ עַל יְ-ה-ו-ָה יְהָבְךָ וְהוּא יְכַלְכְּלֶךָ, cast upon HaShem your burden and He will sustain you. The Mefareish in Maseches Tamid writes than whenever Scripture uses the term השלכה, casting away, it means casting more than twenty amos. We know that a Menorah or Sukkah that is above twenty amos is invalid because לא שלטא בה עינא, the eye cannot see above twenty amos. Thus, Dovid HaMelech is teaching us that we should act our burden upon HaShem to the point that we cannot see it, i.e. we do not even comprehend where the salvation comes from.

Shabbos Stories

Reb Shimon the Holy Miser

In the city of Cracow resided an elderly, wealthy Jew, Reb Shimon. His wealth was well known to the people of Cracow; just as well known, however, was his stinginess. All the days of his life, he did not so much as give one coin to tzedakah. Thus his nickname: “Shimon the Miser.” One day, Reb Shimon passed away. The town’s burial society decided to bury him in a disgraceful manner and lay him to rest on the outskirts of the cemetery, a place reserved for the lowly members of the town. That Friday afternoon, the rabbi of Cracow, Rabbi Yom Tov Lipman Heller (author of “Tosafos Yom Tov”), sat in his home engaged in Torah study. Suddenly, he heard a faint knock at the door. “Come in,” the rabbi called out. The door opened and in walked Reb Zalman, one of the poor men of Cracow. “Rebbe,” said Reb Zalman, “could you please help me? This week, I do not have even one coin in order to buy food for Shabbos.” “What do you mean by, ‘this week’?” asked Rabbi Heller. “What did you do until this week?” “Until this week,” answered Reb Zalman, “every Friday morning, I would find an envelope placed under my door containing the amount of money I need to buy food for Shabbos. Yet this morning, I checked under my door and there was no envelope! I am therefore left without any money to buy Shabbos food.” While they were conversing, there was another knock at the door. Another pauper walked in; he, too, came to ask for money for Shabbos. He was followed by another pauper and yet another…. They all had the same request: “Rabbi, please provide us with our Shabbos needs.” The wise rabbi deduced that the man who had passed away that week, an individual who everyone had thought to be a miser, was in reality a hidden tzaddik who had performed the mitzvah of tzedakah with utmost secrecy. Every week, Reb Shimon had apparently provided scores of Cracow’s poor with the funds to acquire their Shabbos needs. The rabbi made a public announcement: “I order the entire community to gather in the shul at once!” The rabbi, wrapped in his tallis, ascended the podium, opened the ark, and declared, “We, the people of Cracow, are gathered here today in order to beg forgiveness from one of the tzaddikim that lived in our midst. His greatness went unnoticed by us; we denigrated him and called him, ‘The Miser.’ “In the name of the entire community,” cried the rabbi, “I hereby beg for total forgiveness from Reb Shimon, who was a righteous and holy Jew!” Years later, when it came time for Rabbi Heller to depart to his Heavenly abode, he requested to be buried next to the tzaddik, Reb Shimon.

Bahndeet Muttel

Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky writes: When I was two years old, I visited My grandfather, Reb Yaakov Kamenetzky, of blessed memory, together with my parents. After four years as a widower, my grandfather had recently remarried and my step-grandmother was just getting used to the new family. I entered the apartment and immediately began playing with items that were not meant to be touched. To distract me, my new grandmother called to me. “What is your name?” she asked.

Beaming like a politician with a prepared response, I shouted, “bahn-deet Muttel!” Muttel, of course, was a nickname for Mordechai, an affectionate sobriquet that I was called in memory of my great-grandfather. But bahn-deet, a term that in all vernaculars, from Yiddish to English, means bandit, shocked all of the adults. Obviously someone had labeled me a troublemaker right from the onset of my career.

My mother was beet-red, as her new mother-in-law began chiding her upon the use of derogatory nicknames for children, even in jest.

Before my mother got a chance to defend herself, my grandfather, whose brilliance through the years had earned him the reputation as the great peacemaker and conciliator par excellence, stepped out of his study and declared “it’s all my fault.”

Everyone looked shocked. In what way was the great sage Reb Yaakov Kamenetzky, responsible for a two-year old child running around and declaring himself a bandit?

“Let me explain,” my grandfather began. “Young Mordechai is named for his grandfather Boruch Mordechai Burstein. However, I asked my son to follow my tradition and give only one name, as in Biblical times. That’s my opinion, and it is something my daughter-in-law is not accustomed to. The name Boruch was totally left out.” The great sage continued.

“I’m sure you are aware of the name Benedict, or even Bendet. Those were Jewish names that were translations of Boruch, just as Wolf was for Zev and Ber was for Dov. Our daughter-in-law was refused the opportunity to name her son Boruch Mordechai, but can we stop her from the affectionate memories she evokes if she calls him Bendet Muttel?” (www.Torah.org)

Shabbos in Halacha

Wringing and Laundering

 כיבוס – Laundering

 The Prohibition

 Wringing

 It is forbidden mideoraisa to wring out any absorbent fabric for the purpose of cleansing it, because wringing is the final step in the laundering process. We have already seen that even where one does not intend to cleanse the fabric, wringing is nevertheless forbidden miderabbanan (by Rabbinic Decree).

Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim: Vayeitzei 5777

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Erev Shabbos Kodesh Toldos 5777 Inspiration


This week we learn that even prior to birth, Yaakov and Esav are already battling out, struggling to conquer each other’s personalities, lands and portion in the World to Come. One must wonder why there was a need to have an embryonic struggle? After all, the Medrash states that the Evil Inclination does not get involved until a person is born, so for what purpose does the Torah tell us that Yaakov and Esav were already at odds in the womb?

The answer to this question is that Rashi cites a Medrash that teaches us a very interesting analogy regarding Yaakov and Esav birth. The Medrash states that what enters first comes out last, and Yaakov was conceived first, so he exited last. Yaakov, Rashi tells us, wasn’t satisfied with being first in conception. As Esav was exiting the womb and making entry into this world, Yaakov grasped Esav’s heel, with the desire to be born first. What significance is there in the fact that Yaakov was conceived first? One would think that all that really matters for birthright and other privileges is who was born first. Yet, the Medrash is teaching us the most fundamental precept regarding the Jewish People, and this theme is echoed throughout the parashah, especially with the dual of receiving Yitzchak blessings. Yaakov is first, both in conception and in birth. Although Esav officially entered the world prior to Yaakov, by grasping Esav’s heel, Yaakov was demonstrating that the Jewish People are ultimately the ראשית, HaShem’s first pick, so to speak. Indeed, the Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 1:6) states that the world was created בראשית, in the beginning, on behalf of the Jewish People, who are referred to as ראשית. It is further noteworthy that the word בראשית is an acrostic for the words יעקב תם אחר שעיר ראשון בלידה, Yaakov the perfect one, after Sair (Esav), first in birth.

We must realize that although “all men were created equal,” HaShem chose the Jewish People as His Beloved Nation, and we have been first from the beginning of time and we will be first at the End of Days.

Have a FIRST CHOICE Shabbos!

Rabbi Adler

Erev Shabbos Kodesh Toldos 5777 Inspiration

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Erev Shabbos Kodesh Chaye Sara 5777 Inspiration


The focus of this week’s parasha is the matchmaking between Yitzchak and Rivka, facilitated by Eliezer, Avraham’s faithful servant. Nonetheless, the onset of the parasha is connected to this matchmaking, albeit with a different spin. The Torah states that Sara lived 127 years and Rashi writes that all her years were equally good. We then learn of Avraham’s struggle to obtain a burial plot for Sara, concluding with Ephron conniving to have Avraham dish out four hundred shekel in the best currency. Rashi (Shemos 6:9), citing the Gemara (Sanhedrin 111a) tells us that this episode of finding Sara a burial plot was a test that Avraham passed with flying colors. HaShem had promised the Land to Avraham, yet when it came time to bury Sara, Avraham could not find a plot until he paid four hundred shekel, but he still did not question HaShem’s ways.

While on the surface it appears that Avraham was merely purchasing a burial plot, on a deeper level Avraham was forging a connection with the Land and with the Shechinah, the Divine Presence. Indeed, Rabbeinu Bachye writes that the burial place of חברון is associated with the word חיבור, connection. Similarly, the marriage of Yitzchak and Rivka was a connection that allowed for the Divine Presence to repose in their home. It is noteworthy that the words (Bereishis 24:67) וַיְבִאֶהָ יִצְחָק הָאֹהֱלָה, and Yitzchak brought her (Rivka) into the tent equal in gematria the words זה חברון, this is Chevron.

HaShem should allow us to continue in the ways of our Patriarchs and Matriarchs, constantly seeking a Connection to HaShem and His Holy Torah, and we should merit the ultimate connection with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkienu and the rebuilding of the Bais HaMikdash in the Holy City of Yerushalayim, of which it is said (Tehillim 122:3) יְרוּשָׁלִַם הַבְּנוּיָה כְּעִיר שֶׁחֻבְּרָה לָּהּ יַחְדָּו, the built-up Jerusalem is like a city that is united together, speedily, in our days.

Have a HOLY CONNECTED Shabbos

Rabbi Adler

Erev Shabbos Kodesh Chaye Sara 5777 Inspiration

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