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Parshas Vayeitzei - Shvi'i with Rashi

Lavan and Yaakov make a promise not to hurt each other, and Lavan says goodbye to his children and grandchildren.

Lavan said to Yaakov, “You didn’t have to sneak away! I would never do anything to hurt any of you. They are MY daughters, and MY grandchildren! Let’s make a bris — a promise between us. We will promise not to hurt each other, and Hashem will be the witness.”

Yaakov took a stone to be a matzeivah — a monument, and the family all helped bring stones to make a pile. Yaakov and Lavan both called it “the pile of witnessing” — but Lavan named it in Aramaic (Yegar Sahadusa), and Yaakov said it in Hebrew (Gal-Eid). They also called it “Mitzpah” (the watchtower) to remember that Hashem should watch them both to make sure they are keeping their promise!

What’s the promise?

Yaakov promised not to be mean to Lavan’s daughters, and not marry anyone else (since it might make them upset). They both promised that they wouldn’t pass the place of the pile to hurt each other.

Even though Lavan didn’t help make the pile, he said that it was the pile that HE made, and the matzeivah that HE made!

Lavan promised in the name of Hashem and in the names of his Avodah Zarah, and Yaakov promised in the name of Hashem.

Then Yaakov shechted animals, and they ate a seudah together. Everyone slept on the mountain that night!

In the morning, Lavan kissed his children and grandchildren, and gave them a bracha before he went home.

Yaakov went further to Eretz Yisroel, and the malachim of Eretz Yisroel came to meet him and bring him back! When Yaakov saw them, he said, “This is Hashem’s camp!” He called the place Machanayim (twin camps).



49 - 54

Today’s shiur Tehillim is kapitelach Mem-Tes through Nun-Daled.

In today’s Tehillim, Dovid Hamelech asks Hashem, “Hashem Sefosai Tiftach, Ufi Yagid Tehilasecha.” “Hashem, open my lips, and my mouth will say your Tefilos.”

Chassidus explains that this posuk is teaching us how we need to stand before Hashem when we daven. We need to feel so small and so awed in front of Hashem, that we need to even ask Him to help us daven!

It isn’t always easy to feel that way. That’s why we need to think about Hashem in Pesukei DeZimra and Shema, before Shmoneh Esrei, so that we will feel small when its time to stand before Him.

But what if we didn’t think about that — is there any shortcut?

The Rebbe teaches us that there is. There is something we can think about that can make many of us feel small:

We all know people that are older and smarter than us. They lived longer, so they know more things about life. Even if we feel like we are very smart and did lots of good things, we still feel small next to them because there are so many things we didn’t have a chance to learn.

That’s something that can remind us to feel small before people that are older than us, and OF COURSE it will make us feel small in front of Hashem when we daven! Then we can stand humbly, “K’avda Kamei Marei” — like a servant in front of his master, ready to daven to Hashem the way we should!



Kuntres Acharon Siman Daled

We’ve been learning in Tanya about how important and special it is to DO a Mitzvah. The kavana and love we feel for Hashem is also important, but there is much more that happens by DOING the mitzvah. This is both when we DO a mitzvah or even just LEARN HOW to do the mitzvah!

But what about learning halachos about things that don’t ever really happen? Is that also like doing a mitzvah?

Today the Alter Rebbe tells us that halachos are the chochma of Hashem. It doesn’t matter if the halacha is about something that will happen or not — it is still Hashem’s chochma!

But we can’t get these special kochos just from having kavana and feeling close to Hashem — we need to actually do them.



Tes Kislev

Today is the birthday (5534) and yartzeit (5588) of the Mitteler Rebbe!

The Mitteler Rebbe was born and passed away on the same day, Tes Kislev. He was born in the year Tof-Kuf-Lamed-Daled, and passed away in the year Tof-Kuf-Pey-Ches. His Ohel is in the city of Nyezhin.

The 53 chapters of Tanya are based on Maamorim that the Alter Rebbe said, starting from Erev Rosh Hashana 5550 (when the Tzemach Tzedek was born), and the last maamar (about the Beis Hamikdash) was started today, on Tes Kislev 5554 (when the Mitteler Rebbe turned 20). The maamar was finished the next day, Yud Kislev (which later became the Mitteler Rebbe’s chag hageulah)!

In these maamorim, the Alter Rebbe included many eitzos he gave to chassidim in their Avodas Hashem, about overcoming their Yetzer Hara and serving Hashem with simcha.



Shiur #124 - Mitzvas Asei #124, #122, Lo Saasei #213, 214

Today we learn the last mitzvos about what we leave in our fields for the poor people.

1) (Mitzvas Asei #124) If one or two grapes fall on the ground while we are picking them, we need to leave them there for poor people to take later. (This mitzvah is only in Eretz Yisroel.)

We learn this mitzvah from a posuk in Parshas Kedoshim: וּפֶרֶט כַּרְמְךָ לֹא תְלַקֵּט לֶעָנִי וְלַגֵּר תַּעֲזֹב אֹתָם

2) (Mitzvas Lo Saasei #213) It is asur to pick up the grapes that fall on the ground, we need to leave them for the poor.

We learn this mitzvah from a posuk in Parshas Kedoshim: וּפֶרֶט כַּרְמְךָ לֹא תְלַקֵּט

3) (Mitzvas Asei #122) If we forget a bundle of grain in the field when we are cutting the wheat, we need to leave it for the poor. (This mitzvah is also only in Eretz Yisroel.)

We learn this mitzvah from a posuk in Parshas Ki Seitzei: וְשָׁכַחְתָּ עֹמֶר בַּשָּׂדֶה לֹא תָשׁוּב לְקַחְתּוֹ לַגֵּר לַיָּתוֹם וְלָאַלְמָנָה יִהְיֶה

4) (Mitzvas Lo Saasei #214) We are not allowed to go back and get the bundle of wheat we forgot.

We learn this mitzvah from a posuk in Parshas Ki Seitzei: וְשָׁכַחְתָּ עֹמֶר בַּשָּׂדֶה לֹא תָשׁוּב לְקַחְתּוֹ

We learn the details of all of these mitzvos in Mesechta Pe’ah.



Hilchos Matnos Aniyim

In today’s Rambam, we learn the 5th and 6th presents for poor people from the fields, Shichecha and Maaser. Finally, we start learning about Tzedakah! This is what the last perakim in Hilchos Matnos Aniyim are about.

Perek Hey: We learn the halachos about Shichecha: If someone forgets a bundle of grain in the field, he has to leave it for the poor. We also learn that if someone forgets to pick the fruit off one of the trees in his orchard, that is also shichecha.

Perek Vov: Now we will learn the halachos about Maaser. First we review the halachos about the order of giving Terumah and maaser:

1) First we pick whatever grew and prepare it to be used. (For example, we separate the wheat kernels, or we squeeze the juice from the grapes.)

2) Then we take 1/50th for Terumah Gedolah, which goes to the Kohen.

3) Next we take 1/10th of what’s left for Maaser Rishon, which goes to the Levi. (He needs to take Terumas Hamaaser, 1/10th of what he got, for the Kohen.)

4) Finally, we take another 1/10th of what is left for Maaser Sheini. On the first, second, fourth, and fifth years after Shemitah, this is for the owner to eat in Yerushalayim. On the 3rd and 6th years, it is Maaser Oni — for the poor.

When a person has Maaser Oni, he needs to give any poor person that comes to his field at least enough to make him full. If he has a poor relative or friend, he can set aside up to half of the Maaser for him. If he has Maaser Ani at home, he can go give it to a certain person if he wants, or else he needs to give at least a kezayis to anyone who comes and asks.

Perek Zayin: Now we start learning the halachos of the mitzvah of giving Tzedakah! We need to give a poor person what he needs.

One halacha is that if someone says he is hungry, we give him right away. If someone says he needs clothes, we can first check if he is telling the truth. When a person goes from door to door to collect money, we give him a little bit, since he will be getting from a lot of people.



Hilchos Mechirah - Perek Tes-Zayin

This perek teaches us about when we can return something and get our money back! One halacha is that if we buy a cow and the person who sold it didn’t tell us that it had no teeth, so it dies from not eating anything, we can give back the dead cow and get all of our money back.



Chassidishe Yom Tov

Today is a Chassidishe Yom Tov, as we learned in Hayom Yom! It is the birthday and yartzeit of the Mitteler Rebbe.

There is a famous maamar that the Mitteler Rebbe wrote that starts with the words Padah Beshalom Nafshi. The Rebbe asked that chassidim learn this maamar on these special days of the Mitteler Rebbe. Here is something from that maamar:

When two people are fighting, each one wants the other person to do what he wants. That’s what happens when the Yetzer Tov and Yetzer Hara fight too. When the Yetzer Tov wins, it is like setting a person free from jail! But what is “Pada Beshalom,” to be redeemed with shalom?

Shalom means that there is peace, that they are finished fighting and won’t fight again later. This is a special kind of way that the Yetzer Tov can win! The Yetzer Hara will act the way the Yetzer Tov wants and stop fighting!

When does that happen? When a Yid uses the koach of the Yechidah of his neshama. The Yechidah is a part of the neshama that Hashem puts especially into the Moshe Rabbeinu of every generation! (Every Yid has this koach when we have hiskashrus to the Rebbe — the Moshe Rabbeinu of our generation!)

When we do our Avodas Hashem with this koach, we will win the war over the Yetzer Hara. That will bring Moshiach, when there will be no need for a war with the Yetzer Hara anymore!


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Smichus Geulah L'Tefillah

In the bracha after Kriyas Shema, we speak about the Geulah of the Yidden from Mitzrayim. The bracha ends with the words “Go’al Yisroel.”

The Chachomim teach us that we shouldn’t do anything between saying this bracha and starting Shemoneh Esrei! We should be “Somech Geulah L’Tefillah,” connect talking about Geulah with the main part of Tefillah, Shemoneh Esrei.

Why is it important to daven Shemoneh Esrei RIGHT after talking about Geulah, without any interruptions?

The Gemara brings a mashal to help us understand:

A great king was sitting in his palace, when he heard a knock at the door of his private room. The guard announced that it was his good friend coming to visit! The king was happy to hear this. He was looking forward to spending time with his friend. The king went to the door, to greet his guest and invite him inside.

But when he opened the door, he saw his friend busy with something else! The king was disappointed. He went back inside and started taking care of other things for his kingdom.

When we praise Hashem for taking us out of Mitzrayim, that is like knocking on Hashem’s door! It makes Hashem want to invite us inside and hear what we need.

When Hashem is feeling close to us, that is the time to daven Shemoneh Esrei! We shouldn’t get busy with anything else. Right when we knock on the door with Go’al Yisroel, we should come right in and ask Hashem for our needs in Shemoneh Esrei.

See the Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch, siman 111 se’if 2



Amen After Go'al Yisroel

We are not allowed to make any interruptions between the bracha of Go’al Yisroel and Shemoneh Esrei.

But what should you do when you are in shul, and the Chazan says the bracha of Go’al Yisroel? Don’t you have to answer Amen?

According to many poskim, it is not a problem to answer Amen. It is counted as part of the bracha!

Still, it is best to follow the halacha in a way that EVERYONE agrees it is not a problem. So the best thing to do is to finish off the bracha of Go’al Yisroel together with the Chazan! Since we don’t answer Amen to our own brachos, we don’t have to worry about saying Amen. This way, EVERYONE agrees that we are not making a hefsek.

See the Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch, siman 66 se’if 9

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



Asking for the Geulah

This week, we started saying Vesein Tal Umatar Livracha in davening, asking Hashem for rain. It is so important to ask Hashem for rain (which is also asking for parnasa), that if we forget to ask in davening, we need to daven Shemoneh Esrei again!

Of course, that’s not the only important thing we need to daven for. We need to daven every day for the Geulah!

The Torah teaches us in many places how important it is to ASK for the Geulah. Here is one of them:

In the halachos of bentching, the Beis Yosef explains why we need to ask for the Geulah in bentching, from a sefer called Shibolei Haleket: “The Chachomim taught that at the time when the Yidden separated from Malchus Beis Dovid, they denied Hashem, the Beis Hamikdash, and Malchus Beis Dovid.”

When did this happen? Many years ago, after the time of Shlomo Hamelech, the Yidden were unhappy with their king. Many of the Shevatim decided to split up into a separate kingdom, with their own king. Even though this meant that they would not have a king anymore from the family of Dovid Hamelech, and even though it turned out that because of that they wouldn’t be able to go into the Beis Hamikdash anymore, since it was in the other kingdom, they didn’t care. They didn’t even want Hashem to be their King, and that they would need to follow what Hashem said.

The Shibolei Haleket continues, “The Chachomim teach us that we won’t get these things back until we show Hashem that we do not agree with how the Yidden felt then, and we ASK Hashem for these things! We should show Hashem that we WANT Hashem to be our King. We WANT to have the Beis Hamikdash. And we WANT to have Moshiach rule over us, from Malchus Beis Dovid!

“That is why we ask for these things in bentching.

“That is also why we ask for these three things in Shemoneh Esrei: We say the bracha of Al Hatzadikim, telling Hashem that we want to be like the tzadikim that are loyal to Hashem — we want Hashem as our King! We say the bracha of Velirushalayim, asking Hashem to build the Beis Hamikdash! And we say the bracha of Es Tzemach Dovid, asking Hashem to make Moshiach, from the family of Dovid Hamelech, the king over the Yidden!”

This is one of the places in halacha where we see that the Torah teaches us to ASK for the Geulah, and only then will the Geulah come!

See Likutei Sichos chelek Lamed, p. 182, footnote 55 and sources there

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