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Rishon with Rashi

Now the Torah will tell us about the life of Yitzchak. We learn about the birth of Yitzchak’s two children, Yaakov and Eisav.

Yitzchak has children: Yitzchak was the main son of Avraham, since he was the one who continued Avraham’s job of teaching about Hashem!

Yitzchak married Rivkah when he was 40, and Rivkah was three. She grew up in the house of a rasha, but she was a tzadeikes!

At first Rivkah was too young to have a baby, but even after she was old enough, she didn’t have children right away. After 10 years of waiting, they realized it was time to try harder. They decided to both daven very hard! Hashem answered Yitzchak’s tefillah (since he had a double zechus, from himself and from his father) and Rivkah became pregnant — with twins!

It wasn’t easy for Rivkah, because she didn’t know she was having twins. It seemed that her baby wanted two opposite things! She would feel the baby kicking when she passed by the Yeshivah of Shem and Ever, AND when she passed a place of Avodah Zarah! It bothered Rivkah so much, that she went to Shem and Ever to ask them what was happening.

Hashem made Shem understand that she had twins! He explained that they would always be fighting, since one was good and one was not, but the older one would always have to serve the younger one. Now that Rivkah understood what was happening, she felt much better.

Finally, the babies were born! First one baby was born, red all over and covered with hair! Because he already had so much hair, they called him Eisav, like “asui” — complete. Then the second baby was born, holding on to Eisav’s heel. Hashem named him Yaakov (from the word eikev, heel). He was born with a bris milah already!

Eisav sells the bechorah: Their zaidy Avraham spent a lot of time teaching Yaakov and Eisav — and it worked until they were 13. Both boys worked hard to serve Hashem, and Eisav didn’t listen to his Yetzer Hara. But then things changed: Yaakov learned Torah, but Eisav started listening to his Yetzer Hara in secret, and tricked his father into thinking that he was still acting good.

When Eisav turned 15, he was sick of pretending that he was good. He wanted to be able to act the way he wanted, without feeling like he needed to hide it anymore. Hashem made Avraham pass away early so he wouldn’t have to see him doing this. Yaakov was cooking lentils for his father, since it is a minhag for someone who is mourning to eat lentils. At that time, Eisav came in, tired from a long day of doing whatever his Yetzer Hara told him to. He told Yaakov to give him the red lentil soup.

Yaakov saw how Eisav was acting, and realized that Eisav didn’t deserve the special job of being the oldest son of Yitzchak. So he told Eisav he would have to trade the zechus of being the firstborn for soup. Eisav decided it was worth it, and he switched.

Yitzchak moves to Gerar: Now the Torah tells us more about Yitzchak’s life:

There was another hunger in Eretz Yisroel, so Yitzchak wanted to go to a place with more food. Hashem told him not to go down to Mitzrayim, since he became holy when he was brought as a korban during the Akeidah. Instead he should go live with Avimelech, in Gerar, which would later become a part of Eretz Yisroel.

Hashem promised Yitzchak many brachos in Avraham’s zechus!



119 (second half)

Today’s shiur Tehillim is the second half of kapitel Kuf-Yud-Tes.

Every neshama is sent down to the world with a special shlichus that it needs to do. We aren’t born just to do things that are easy for us — we need to find the things in ourselves that are NOT the way they should be, and our neshama should fix them.

How do we know which things need to be fixed? There’s a posuk in today’s Tehillim, “MeiOivai Techakmeini Mitzvosecha, Ki Le’Olam Hi Li.” One of the ways to explain this posuk is “From my enemies I become wise about Your mitzvos, because they are always with me.”

How do we become wise to figure out which mitzvos are our job to work on? By thinking about the not-good midos that we have, our “enemies.” When we see what is hard for us, we will know that those things are what our neshamos need to fix!

This used to be the way that Chassidim would get ready for Yechidus: They would think very hard about their midos to see what they need to work on, and then they would ask the Rebbe how to act so they will be able to serve Hashem properly and fix those things.



Igeres Hakodesh Siman Lamed-Beis

Today we are finishing the fourth section of Tanya, Igeres Hakodesh!

In many letters in Igeres Hakodesh, Chassidim were told to try to give more tzedakah than they thought they could! In this letter, the Alter Rebbe thanks Chassidim for giving tzedakah even when the Alter Rebbe didn’t push them to. The Alter Rebbe talks about how special tzedakah is in general, and especially when you give without someone else asking you to.

When we give tzedakah in Golus, it’s like planting a seed in the ground. You can’t see the seed when it is underground, and you can’t see that it’s growing at all for a long time. But later, a seed grows and we can see a beautiful plant or flower!

That’s like tzedakah — at first we can’t see that we did anything at all, and we can’t see how much nachas it’s giving to Hashem. And later, in the time of Techiyas Hameisim, every Yid will be able to see what “grew” from the tzedakah we’ve done. We’ll see how it made Hashem comfortable in the world, and we’ll get to “harvest” our reward.

But in giving tzedakah there are two ways:

The first way is when someone else convinces you or inspires you to give.

The second way is when you get YOURSELF excited to give tzedakah, through your own Avodah.

For example, we can have kavana when we say Shema and think about how we are ready to have Mesiras Nefesh for Hashem! We then decide to give even the money we worked so hard for to tzedakah.

This is a very special way of giving tzedakah, and brings down Hashem’s kedusha and bracha in a much greater way!



Chof-Vov Mar-Cheshvan

A person might think that it’s a good midah to find all the things he does wrong and be upset about them. But that’s not true!

The true way in Avodas Hashem is that a person needs to know himself very well. He should know what things he is doing well, and what he is missing.

And it’s not enough to just sigh (krechtz) about the fact that we have things that need to be fixed, we actually have to do whatever is needed to fix those things with avodah!



Mitzvas Asei #155

Today in Sefer Hamitzvos, we learn the same mitzvah (Mitzvas Asei #153) again: How the Beis Din needs to make a calendar and calculate the months and the years. This is the mitzvah of Kiddush Hachodesh.



Hilchos Kiddush Hachodesh

In today’s Rambam, Perakim Tes-Vov, Tes-Zayin, and Yud-Zayin, we learn how the Beis Din knows if it makes sense that someone would be able see the new moon, to know if the witnesses are telling the truth. (We aren’t talking about people seeing the moon ANYWHERE — only in Eretz Yisroel!)

It might be hard to remember all of the numbers the Rambam gives us, or to understand why we use those numbers, but it’s not too hard to actually make the calculations. Just follow the Rambam’s clear instructions step by step, and you can also figure out if a person could see the moon on any night in Yerushalayim!



Hilchos Maaser - Perek Yud-Daled

Today we finish learning this set of halachos!

In this perek, we learn about separating maaser from food that we buy.



Changing Our Midos

In the year Tof-Reish-Tzadik-Ches, the Frierdiker Rebbe set up a group for girls from Chassidishe families, called Achos Hatmimim. There was no Chassidishe school for them, and this group would give them a chance to be involved in Chassidishe things.

The Frierdiker Rebbe chose three Chassidim to guide Achos Hatmimim, and learn with them each week. They should teach them Avodah’dike maamarim and certain perakim of Tanya. These Chassidim should also show them which sichos they could learn on their own, and the girls would share what they learned at a farbrengen once a month.

Achos Hatmimim began in Riga, Latvia, and there was a group in America as well.

One of the girls in Achos Hatmimim that first year wrote a letter to the Frierdiker Rebbe, saying that she was feeling empty. The Frierdiker Rebbe wrote to her, like in today’s Hayom Yom, that a person needs to know the good things about themselves, their maalos, along with the not-good things, the chesronos. Every person is able to use their kochos to fix their chesronos and make them better!


The Frierdiker Rebbe explained that the way to fix things in our avodah or our midos is by learning in a certain way. We need to learn the Chassidus that discusses the inyan we want to fix up, but not just once. It needs to be learned again and again, so it becomes more and more clear. First we should understand it well enough to speak about it, but we need to think deeply about it again and make it a part of us. When something is this clear to us, it is called Machshava Shebemachshava. By learning this way, the inyonim we learn will become part of how we think, and will change our midos for the better!

See Igros Kodesh of the Frierdiker Rebbe, chelek daled, p. 468


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Everyone Needs to Daven!

A person who is very busy with taking care of his community is called an Osek Betzorchei Tzibur. In halacha, the job of an Osek Betzorchei Tzibur is even more important than certain mitzvos! If someone is very busy with what his community needs, sometimes the halacha is that he doesn’t even need to daven.

(This is like the reason why women don’t have to keep certain mitzvos — because their job of Akeres Habayis is even more important.)

But the Rebbe explains in a farbrengen why it is very important for an Osek Betzorchei Tzibur to daven properly— because it helps him do his job properly!

The job of an Osek Betzorchei Tzibur is to take care of many things. He has to speak to people, arrange things, and make sure everything gets done right. But his Yetzer Hara is also working hard! For example, an Osek Betzorchei Tzibur can sometimes get distracted and start worrying more about what people will say about him, than about what is best for his community.

That is why he needs to daven! When he davens, he can ask Hashem to help him make sure that his personal feelings or pride don’t get in the way of taking care of the needs of the community in the best way.

See farbrengen Yud Alef Nisan Tof-Shin-Ayin-Beis, Yom Huledes Hashivim (Lahak or Sichos Kodesh)




We see from Shulchan Aruch that it is very important to answer Amen Yehei Shmei Rabah in Kaddish.

We need to be careful to have kavana when we say these words! By answering with our full kavana, it can stop a din in Shomayim against a person’s life.

When we say the words Amen Yehei Shmei Rabah, we should say them loud and clear! The words go up to Shomayim and break decrees against Yidden.

But we should be careful not to say them TOO loud, because that might make another person laugh at us in a not nice way — which would be an aveira for them. We should be careful not to do something that will cause another person to do an aveira.

See the Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch siman nun-vov, se’if Beis

לעילוי נשמת הרה״ח ר׳ דניאל יצחק ע״ה בן ר׳ אפרים שי׳ מאסקאוויץ
שליח כ"ק אדמו"ר נשיא דורנו למדינת אילינוי



The Reward for Tzedakah

Today we are finishing the section of Tanya called Igeres Hakodesh!

In the year Tof-Shin-Chof-Vov, the siyum happened on Shabbos Parshas Chayei Sarah. The Rebbe spoke about it during the farbrengen on Shabbos:

The Rebbe explained something very special about Tzedakah. Hashem gives us a great sechar for the mitzvah of tzedakah, but we only get the full reward at the time of Techiyas Hameisim.

Still, we have the reward even now! This is hinted to in the words of the Alter Rebbe, “Ko’eis Eis Lekatzer,” “Now it is time to be in short.” The simple meaning is that the Alter Rebbe didn’t have time to write a lot in the letter, so he wrote in a short way.

The Rebbe tells us that these words are also speaking about the reward for tzedakah! Now, in Golus, we have the sechar — but it is “in short.” It is like a person who is given a wonderful treasure in a big chest. He is given the key, but is told not to open the chest yet.

This is like the reward for tzedakah. We have it nowadays, but we will only really see the tremendous reward we get for our tzedakah when Moshiach comes!

See farbrengen Shabbos Parshas Chayei Sarah, Tof-Shin-Chof-Vov

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