Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim: Re’eh 5775

Re’eh 5775

New Stories Re’eh 5775

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Re’eh 5775

The need to be vigilant throughout the month of Elul


The month of Elul is approaching. What is required of us in this month of awe? The Medrash (Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer §46) states that on the first Rosh Chodesh Elul that the Jewish People were in the Wilderness, Moshe blew a Shofar, signifying to the Jewish People that they should be on guard when Moshe ascended upon high. This sounding of the Shofar would ensure that they would not succumb to the temptation of sinning through idolatry as they had a mere few months earlier. This Medrash reflects on the essence of Teshuva, repentance. The Jewish People had committed a grievous sin by worshipping the Golden Calf. Moshe entreated HaShem that He should not destroy the Jewish People and that He should grant them forgiveness. Yet, prior to ascending to Heaven to receive the second Luchos, Moshe still felt it necessary to warn the Jewish People not to sin again. Was Moshe really concerned that after experiencing severe repercussions upon worshipping the Golden Calf, the Jewish People would actually have the audacity to commit the same sin again?

Constant state of repentance

The answer to this question is that although there may not have been a serious concern that the Jewish People would sin again, Moshe sought to demonstrate to the Jewish people that one must always be cognizant of the possible temptations to sin. Teshuva is not merely a once a year obligation. Rather, one must constantly aware that the temptation to sin lurks just around the corner. In a similar vein, it is well known that Rabbeinu Saadia Gaon said that he felt the need to repent daily for his lack of recognition on the previous day of HaShem’s greatness. This form of repentance is also an indication of vigilance, in that one does not rest on his laurels. Rather, he constantly seeks to improve his relationship with HaShem.

The sounding of the Shofar reminds us to be vigilant

The sounding of the Shofar, in addition to arousing us to repentance, is also a signal of vigilance. It is said (Amos 3:6) im yitaka shofar bair viam lo yecheradu, is the shofar ever sounded in a city and the people not tremble? This refers to the initial arousal that one experiences with the sounding of the shofar. Yet, there is another dimension to the sounding of the shofar, and that is the cognizance of being vigilant from the attack of the Evil Inclination. It is said (Bamidbar 10:9) vichi savou milchama biartzichem al hatzar hatzoreir eschem vahareiosem bachatzotzros, when you go to wage war in your Land against an enemy who oppresses you, you shall sound short blasts of the trumpets. In the simple sense, the purpose of these trumpet blasts is to arouse the nation to battle against their enemies. On a deeper level, however, the Torah is teaching us that when one is vulnerable to the enemy, he must be vigilant so that the enemy cannot attack. Perhaps this is why the Torah states al hatzar hatzoreir eschem, against an enemy who oppresses you. It would have been sufficient to state against your enemy, as it is obvious that the enemy oppresses. The reason that the Torah states that the enemy “oppresses” alludes to the Evil Inclination, who is constantly seeking ways to destroy his opponent. When one is vigilant, he will not allow his Evil Inclination to gain a foothold in his territory. Evidence to this idea can be found in the words of the Lev Simcha (Ki Savo) who writes that when the Torah instructs a person regarding building a fence around his roof, it is said (Devarim 22:8) ki sivneh bayis chadash viasisa maakeh ligagecho, if you build an new house, you shall make a fence for your roof. The words a new house allude to Rosh HaShanah and the words you shall make a fence allude to the month of Elul. Thus, we see that the month of Elul is a time for one to be extra vigilant so that he does not become tempted by sin.

The Shabbos connection

HaShem, in His infinite kindness, granted His beloved children one day a week, and that is the Holy Shabbos, when we do not have to be concerned for the overtures of the Evil Inclination. On Shabbos we are engaged in spiritual pursuits, and sin should be the last thing that is on the mind of a Jew. Hashem should allow us to enter into the month of Elul with recognition of the seriousness and awe that these days entail, and we should merit repenting completely before HaShem, Who desires our repentance.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Yom Zeh LiYisroel

Some opinions attribute the authorship of this Zemer to the Arizal.

לִסְגֻלָּה תְּמִימָה, קַיֵּם הַבְטָחָה, שַׁבָּת מְנוּחָה, for the wholesome treasure, uphold the pledge –Shabbos of contentment. We entreat HaShem to uphold His pledge of redeeming us, His treasured nation, from exile. By referring to ourselves as the wholesome treasure, we are declaring that despite all the travails that we have undergone in exile, we remain committed to HaShem in our faith and trust in him.

Shabbos Stories

R’ Eliyahu Shlomo Raanan z”l Hy”d

Shlomo Katz writes: This Shabbos is the tenth yahrzeit of R’ Eliyahu Shlomo Raanan, who was murdered by an Arab terrorist in his home in Chevron. R’ Raanan was born in Yerushalayim on 12 Tishrei 5694 (1934). His mother, Batya Miriam, was a daughter of Chief Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook. His father, R’ Shalom Natan Raanan, was a teacher in, and director of, R’ Kook’s yeshiva (now known as Merkaz HaRav). The child was named “Eliyahu” for the Vilna Gaon and “Shlomo” for his great-grandfather, R’ Shlomo Zalman Kook.

R’ Kook passed away before his grandson’s first birthday, but the future R’ Raanan grew up in his illustrious grandfather’s house, which also housed the yeshiva. When he was old enough, R’ Raanan himself enrolled in the yeshiva.

While he was still single, R’ Raanan began teaching in several yeshivos ketanos/ schools for pre-teenage and teenage boys. He also worked with new olim. In 1978, R’ Raanan joined the staff of the Halacha Berurah institute, which publishes Torah works designed to bring to fruition one of R’ Kook’s educational goals – to tie together the advanced study of Gemara as practiced in mainstream yeshivos with the study of the practical halachic/legal conclusions that flow from each Gemara passage.

In 1963, R’ Raanan married Chaya Weisfish. After living in Yerushalayim for more than 20 years, in 1985, they joined the tiny settlement which is now the city of Beitar. For six years, the Raanans lived in a caravan (trailer) in Beitar under very difficult conditions. In 1992, they moved to Chevron, settling in the Admot Yishai / Tel Rumeida neighborhood believed to be the site of the Biblical city. Here again, their home was a caravan, an inconvenience which they gladly accepted for the sake of settling the Land of Israel.

Those who knew R’ Raanan used to say that he had a “soul of Shabbos,” which in chassidic and kabalistic literature refers to a certain purity of the soul and calmness of manner that characterize Shabbos. Indeed, Rebbetzin Chaya Raanan related that on their first date, she had absent- mindedly pulled a leaf from a branch as they walked and she was momentarily horrified at having violated a Shabbos prohibition. Suddenly she realized, however, that it was not Shabbos, but rather a weekday. Such was the aura that surrounded R’ Raanan and affected those who knew him!

The caravan where R’ Raanan was murdered today houses a kollel named Ohr Shlomo in his memory. (Source: Neshamah Shel Shabbos)

You are HaShem’s children

Shlomo Katz writes further: The legendary chassidic master, Reb Zusia, once heard an itinerant maggid/preacher deliver a fire-and-brimstone speech to a large group. When he finished, no one seemed to have been moved by his words. Then R’ Zusia rose and said, “Dear brothers! Doesn’t HaShem love you and care for you? How is it possible to transgress His will?” Immediately, heart-rending cries filled the synagogue.

Afterward, the maggid asked R’ Zusia, “Did I not portray in vivid detail the terrifying punishments of Gehinom? Why did that have no impact on them, while your words, which were not frightening at all, had an immediate effect on them?”

R’ Zusia answered: “Your words had the effect of closing their hearts, scaring them until they could no longer feel. My words had the opposite effect.”

Jewish until the very end

Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky writes: Velvel was infamous in his native Tarnogrod. A notorious gangster, he not only transgressed the mitzvos, but mocked those who observed them. He really did not have much to do with the members of the community, if not to lure someone into a promising business deal, only to rob him of his ill-invested monies.

Velvel rarely visited the inside of the shul, save every few years on the yahrzeit of his pious father when the cobwebs of time were dusted off by the winds of guilt. Yes, Velvel was different than most of the villagers.

Except for early 1940, when he was no different than anyone else. The Nazis had overrun the town. They herded the community into the shul, and unfurled the Torah scrolls on the floor. Then they lined the people up and told them to march on the Torah, forcing them to spit on it as they past. And Velvel was right there amongst them. Velvel was a Jew and no different from anyone else.

Everyone lined up to obey and Velvel pushed to be first on line. And then he showed how special, how different he was. As he approached the Torah he stopped short, not even letting the tips of his soles touch the sacred parchment. Then he turned to the SS officer. “I don’t tread on my Torah and I will never spit on it.” They shot him on the spot, and like the rest of the villagers who followed suit, Velvel became a holy martyr. (

Collecting charity on condition

Reb Yechezkel of Shinova the son of Reb Chaim of Sanz wanted to collect money for a worthy cause. Before doing so, though, he asked his father’s permission. “I agree,” said Reb Chaim, provided that it doesn’t result in animosity against Jews.”

“What do you mean, Father?” asked Reb Yechezkel.

“What I mean,” said Reb Chaim, “is that as you go from one person to another and seek a donation, you may feel inwardly that this one person should have given more, that another person should not have turned you down, and so on.”

Shabbos in Halacha

לישה – Kneading

  1. Applying the Shinuim to Loose and Thick Mixtures
  1. Thick Mixtures


A loose mixture may be made on Shabbos so long as a shinui (modification) is employed for each step of the combinations.

For thick mixtures there is no valid shinui for the first step (adding together the ingredients); thick mixtures may be made only if the ingredients are combined before Shabbos or if a coagulated substance is used as the binder. The stirring must then be done in a crisscross fashion or with the bare hand – but not with a knife or the handle of a utensil.

In cases of necessity one may rely on the shinui in the order [of combining the ingredients] to prepare a thick mixture with a liquid binder. However, thick mixtures which bond spontaneously without stirring may never be made, even in cases of necessity.

Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim: Re’eh 5775

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New Stories Re’eh 5775

Judaism in the Eyes of a Non-Jew

A non-Jew accidentally discovers the meaning and wisdom of Torah.

by Bernice Go        

It all started as mild curiosity two and a half years ago, a few months after my 22nd birthday. I had made an Orthodox Jewish friend online (in a Harry Potter fan community, of all places) who one Friday had offhandedly said to me, “I can’t chat with you tomorrow because it’s Shabbos.”

“What’s Shabbos?” I asked.

Little did I know that that one question would be the first of thousands. My questions at first were all basic things: questions about holidays, keeping kosher and other traditions. I thought it was phenomenally interesting, learning about a whole different culture and belief system that I had never encountered before, the Philippines being home only to a handful of Jews.

None of this will mean anything to me until I try them out for myself.

Everything was going nice and smoothly until one day I thought to myself: None of this will mean anything to me until I try them out for myself.

So I started with a “small” thing. What would it feel like to say brachos, blessings? I picked one to experiment with: Asher yatzar, the blessing one says after going to the bathroom. I promised myself that from this day on, every time I left the bathroom and washed my hands, I would say this blessing. It felt silly at first. But slowly, it began to sink in and eventually I started reciting the blessing with a smile on my face. Hey, my body is working! Thank you, God!

I started to learn more blessings, sticking to the simpler, more “general” ones and those that I felt comfortable saying as a non-Jew. I said Modeh Ani first thing in the morning as I opened my eyes, and delighted saying each of the morning blessings that were applicable to me. I recited the bedtime Shema with as much intention as I could muster. Eventually I just started thanking God for everything, including every time my car would start properly. The Jewish blessings were – ARE amazing. I was suddenly noticing all the little things I was doing throughout the day. They made me realize just how many blessings I received every single moment – let alone every single day! And it just drove home the fact that all of this came from the Almighty. All I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you, Hashem.

Then I thought that maybe I was just lucky that I happened to pick blessings to start to put into practice. It was time to select another mitzvah to try out. I experimented and had my own “pseudo Shabbos” which simply consisted of me shutting my cellphone off for one night a week. After several weeks, I couldn’t believe how much those few disconnected hours affected me psychologically and emotionally. I actually began to look forward to that one night of mine.

It also taught me focus. It became easier to be productive during the week, knowing I had a set time later on that I could spend focusing solely on recharging, reconnecting with myself and God, and enjoying my family.

That same thinking eventually spread to other parts of my life also. For example, I became less impatient with my little niece and instead of counting down the time until I could send her back to her mom, I began being more present and enjoying our time together.

I began to appreciate the amazing impact these simple actions were having on my life. It was crazy and intense and I wanted more. So I began squeezing in learning Torah every spare moment of the day and sometimes stayed up an extra hour or two into the night. I read reams of articles on and I listened to Torah classes from Torah Anytime in the car while driving and managed to listen to two to three classes a week. I actually started hoping to get stuck in traffic.

I learned about the concept of tikkun olam, gained a deeper understanding of free will, and studied lashon hara (gossip) and its effects on the world. I slowly adjusted my attitude towards happiness, deciding to be happy right now instead of “when so and so happens.” I decided I should start wearing skirts more often and to make sure I didn’t back out on my promise, I picked out nearly all of my jeans out of my closet and donated them away. I started hanging out at the local Chabad house where I’d have conversations with the rebbetzin about Noahide laws.

I was reading Psalms, giving tzedakah, and actively looking out for daily opportunities to do chessed (acts of kindness). I started to understand that I live in God’s world; He makes the rules, not me. And I continued experimenting: I tried my best not to listen to music during the Three Weeks leading up to Tisha B’Av, I did some soul searching during Elul and drew up a list of resolutions for Rosh Hashanah. I also began exercising more regularly, being more careful about what I ate. By this time I knew that as important as it was to grow spiritually, it was also important to stay physically healthy. In short, I began doing things purposefully.

I began to understand that I am my choices, that I am whatever cannot be taken away from me. As one speaker put it, “The only thing that is truly mine is that which I gave away.” That concept turned my priorities upside down and over time, I went from looking for what I could get to looking for what I could give. I learned that God controls absolutely everything, and every single encounter and experience I have every single day is a message from Him. Related to that is the fact that all I can control are my reactions to these events.

These lessons made me a much calmer person and I spent more time studying and analyzing what God could possibly be trying to tell me, my reactions, and what I could improve within myself – rather than dwelling on how annoying that other person was. I learned that if it’s not painful, you aren’t growing. So I began to push myself more frequently out of my comfort zone, looking for people who could give me constructive criticism and solid advice as opposed to people who would simply compliment me. I slowly began going for the harder choice because I knew they would pay off more in the long run.

Sometimes I can’t believe that I discovered the power of Torah by playing an online Harry Potter game. I am constantly thanking Hashem for giving me the opportunity to go through this journey.

The Torah isn’t only meant to be learned, it is meant to be lived. And the absolute best part about it is that it works.

My journey has been made up of hundreds of baby steps spread out over weeks, months, and years. It isn’t as black and white as this narrative makes it sound. There were countless times I took one step forward and two steps back. But I have learned that the most important thing in a spiritual journey is not strength or intelligence, but persistence.

I do not know where I am headed or where all this will end. I am currently opting to still remain a non-Jew. All I am truly certain of is that my life has become so much more meaningful since I began taking Torah seriously and that I don’t ever want to stop learning it. Torah has taught me to open my eyes and see what’s really important, to stop wasting my time, money, and energy on things that simply do not and will not ever matter because they are only fleeting. The Torah isn’t only meant to be learned, it is meant to be lived. And the absolute best part about it is that it works. Don’t take my word for it. Try it yourself.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the many Rabbis and Rebbetzins at,, the Accidental Talmudist page on Facebook, and Chabad Manila. May the Almighty continue to bless you all! (





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