Kitzur Halachot

A short collection of Jewish laws according to the Parsha of the week.



Instead of the INTRODUCTION:


The Vilna Gaon writes that before reading a book it is necessary to know who its author is, for whom it was written and with what purpose was it written. The author of this book was once a very successful young mathematician, but for the last thirteen years was engaged primarily in learning the Torah, from the moment he discovered its wisdom. This book is intended for those Jews who really wish to learn Torah and keep its precepts. This book is not written for those people who are far from being convinced of the truthfulness of our religion, in this book we do not try to convince the reader of the importance of observance of commandments. For this purpose we have written other book – “The ways that we choose”.


This book includes in brief all the commandments of the Torah that apply to our daily life. It does not mean that having read this book, you will know all the laws. Even to describe laws of Shabbos in detail, the book much larger than this one is necessary. We just hope that after learning this book you will know where to ask, i.e. getting in different situations, you will know what types of laws might be applicable here. However, when it comes to details of each law, one needs to ask a competent Rabbi. Thus, our book is close in character to “Kitzur Shulchan Aruch” – “The brief code of laws” and “The laws of Ben Ish Chai” – the accepted code of laws for Sephardic Jews.


This book is basically intended for one year of learning and consequently the laws are divided according to the weekly readings of the Torah. Thus, this book is similarly structured as “The laws of Ben Ish Chai” with only one difference: we always made sure that the laws will correspond to the weekly Parsha. Even though the book of Breyshis – the first book of a Torah – has few laws, nevertheless, each weekly chapter has hints to certain laws as you will see, reading this book. Studying each week’s Parsha, ask yourself a question: what connection do these laws have to the given portion of a Torah.


Certainly, the laws of Judaism have sources. No Rabbi can invent anything, almost all of the laws can be tracked down to the two Talmuds or to other books written according to the words of the Talmudic sages. The sources of our book were the “Shulchan Aruch”, “Kitzur Shulchan Aruch”, “The laws of Ben Ish Chai”, “Sefer Hamitzvos Hakatzar” and the books of questions and answers from contemporary Rabbis. Sometimes we included citations from the books of Jewish ethics, philosophy and a Kabbalah as well. In the description of some laws we relied that the reader has a Sidur (prayer book) with translation. Thus, for example, we often did not bring the texts of various blessings and prayers.


In the end of the book you will find the table of contents and an index by means of which it will be easy to find which laws are discussed where. We also described some word definitions there (cohen, mitzvah, Bimah, etc). In transliterations we used “CH” combination for sounds “כand ”ח”.


We hope that the Creator will bless our effort. If you have any questions regarding this book, please call: (347) 645-2274. I would like to especially thank Rabbi Meyer Rokach for reviewing this book and giving helpful suggestions and Ms. Natalia Avrutina for helping with the English translation.


Parshas Breyshis.


The principles of faith every Jew must believe in.


1. Every Jew has to believe that there exists the Creator of the universe. It is worthwhile to note that this belief is logical; the majority of scientists are convinced that the world could not appear on its own. If the world did not have a Creator, our life would be pointless without any purpose or hope. The belief in purposeful Creator also helps us deal with the various tests we face throughout life.


2. Besides the indirect proofs of the existence of the Creator, our nation also experienced direct acknowledgement of His existence when He opened Himself to all our people on Mount Sinai. Since then, millions of Jews transferred the knowledge about the Creator from generation to generation. The Torah predicts that this knowledge will be never forgotten and that no other nation will ever claim that the Creator revealed Himself to all of them as well.


3. We have to believe that the Creator is One and does not consist of parts; He is entirely above time and space limitations. Our beliefs about the Creator are based on what He himself told us in His Torah and at Mount Sinai. We must believe that it is only proper to pray to the Creator, we should not make an intermediary between ourselves and Him.


4. Every Jew has to believe in the gift of prophesy – the Creator communicated with certain people and told them about Himself and His Will. We must believe that the prophesy of Moshe was more clear than that of other prophets and the Torah of Moshe that we transferred from generation to generation will never change.


5. We must believe that the Creator knows all the deeds and thoughts of people. The Torah itself testifies to this fact. The Creator rewards those who keep His commandments and punishes those who go against His will. However, the reward and punishment is usually after death as well as in the future world. This is why we often find a situation in this world where the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper. Still, sometimes certain mitzvos cause a person to receive at least partial reward in this world. In general, the judgment of the Creator is very complicated and includes many factors including the various lives of a particular individual.


6. Every Jew has to believe that in the end of days the Creator will choose a righteous individual from the descendants of King David and will make him the new king. In that generation the Jewish people will again live in the Holy Land, rebuild the Holy Temple and keep all of the Torah’s precepts. All the nations of the world will then know and accept that there is only One God.


7. After death, a person’s soul does not die, but continues to live. We must believe that in the end of days, the Creator will return even the bodies of those people who deserve, back to life. The soul will completely purify the body and the combination of body and soul will rise to very lofty spiritual heights.


Parshas Noach.


The laws of marriage and forbidden relations.


1. Every Jew has a mitzvah to marry. This mitzvah applies from age 18 and at any rate one should not delay its fulfillment till after age 20.


2. One should try to find a wife from a kosher family. The Jewish people possess three special qualities – modesty, mercy and loving-kindness and one should try not to marry a person who is lacking these qualities.


3. After a careful check of references and the decision to marry a semi-formal engagement is held. The wedding is scheduled in such a manner that the bride will probably not be Nidah (the laws of Nidah are discussed in Parshas Sazria). 


4. On the day of wedding the sins of the new couple are forgiven like on Yom Kippur. For this reason the custom is that the bride and the groom fast on this day but  among Sephardim only the groom fasts. If they are too week to fast, at least they should return to the Creator with all their hearts – now they are starting a new life. If they deserve, the Creator’s presence will be in their homes. Before the wedding, the bride goes to a Mikvah (the laws of immersion are described in Parshas Metzorah).


5. The wedding has to be organized in a kosher manner – this is the most fundamental event in their future life. It is strictly forbidden to organize mixed dancing – on a Jewish wedding the men dance separately and the women – separately.


6. The groom is accompanied to the chupa by two people, usually his father and the father of the bride. Afterwards two women lead the bride.


7. The Rabbi makes a blessing on wine and on Kiddushin – the marriage. Afterwards the grooms tells the bride “Harey at mekudeshes li betabaas zu kedas Moshe Veyisroel” – “You are consecrated to me by means of this ring according to the law of Moses and Israel”. He then puts the ring on the bride’s finger. Afterwards one of those present reads the Kesubah – the marriage contract. Then the Shevah Brochos are made – in these seven blessings we bless the Creator for creating the people, we express our hope in speedy ingathering of the exiles and at last ask that the newlyweds will live a happy and holy life. After this, the groom leads his bride to the room of Yichud – a place where nobody else will enter for a few minutes and this makes the couple fully married according to Jewish law. Some Sephardim have a custom not to go to Yichud room until later.


8. After the wedding, for seven days the newlyweds are resting, they are like king and queen. Usually, their parents or friends make festive meals for them every day. Following Birkas Hamazon – blessing after the meal, the seven blessings are pronounced again.


9. A man should always respect his wife; this brings a blessing to the home.


10. The Torah commands each Jew to be fruitful and multiply. Even though this mitzvah does not always fully depend on us, we should make effort to fulfill this commandment. Once a person has a healthy boy and girl he fulfilled the Torah’s commandment but even then he should not live alone without a wife and he should try to have as many children as possible. Every new child is a special light that enters this world and our sages teach us that Moshiach will not come until all the Jewish souls come down to this world. Thus each new child brings Moshiach closer.


11. If a family can not have children or the doctors consider pregnancy dangerous for a woman the couple should talk to a Rabbi.


12. One of the most powerful types of Etzer Hara – the evil inclination is the desire for opposite gender. Therefore our sages teach us to be extremely careful regarding the observance of the related prohibitions, whoever passes the test is called holy. It is strictly forbidden to touch (for pleasure) any forbidden woman except the mother, the daughter or granddaughter and the wife when she is not Nidah. Hugging, kissing or dancing together is even more strictly forbidden.


13. For the purpose of treatment a male doctor can touch a woman and a female doctor can touch a male patient. However, if there is a doctor of the same gender available, and he is not worse, one should go to him.


14. A man and a woman are forbidden to seclude themselves in a place where nobody comes in. If the place is such that people can come in at any time, the prohibition against seclusion does not apply. For this reason, a man and a woman can be in the same elevator or car in places where there are passersby. However they can not drive in places outside the city where other cars are not passing for long periods of time or late at night on empty streets. The prohibition against seclusion applies to doctor’s office. Thus, a woman visiting a male doctor should not fully close the door or make sure other doctors and nurses come in from time to time without warning.


15. Even two women are forbidden to seclude themselves with one man. For Ashkenazi Jews it is permitted for two kosher men to seclude themselves with one woman but this is forbidden for Sephardim – only a few men can be secluded with a few women. However, if a Jewish couple is present among the assembled the prohibition against seclusion does not apply.


16. If the husband of a woman is in the city it is not forbidden to come into her house. There are other ways to avoid the prohibition, for example to take along a girl between five and nine years old, to leave the door of the building open so that people can enter, to give Jewish neighbors keys from the apartment so that they can enter at any time etc, each case should be discussed with a Rabbi.


17. The husband is not forbidden to be in seclusion with his wife even when she is Nidah. Since she will later become permitted there is no danger that seclusion will lead to forbidden relations. However, newlyweds who never had relations and the bride became Nidah, are forbidden to enter into seclusion until the wife counts seven clean days and immerses in the Mikvah (see Parshas Metzorah).


18. The Torah not only forbids us to come close to forbidden women, but also to look at them for enjoyment or to think about them. For this reason, one should not buy irreligious newspapers and magazines – they usually have immodest pictures and stories that lead one to inappropriate thoughts. A man is forbidden to listen to a woman singing. According to most opinions this prohibition applies to the singing on the radio or tape as well. At any rate most of such songs also bring one to sinful thoughts.


Parshas Lech Lecha.


The laws of Bris Milah – circumcision.


1. Every father is obligated to circumcise his son or to find a Mohel who will do this. If the father did not fulfill the obligation or the father of the child is absent or unknown, then the community has to organize the circumcision. Even if the father is not Jewish, if the mother is a Jew, her son needs to be circumcised. If the child was not circumcised, then he has an obligation to arrange his circumcision once he grows up.


2. On the day of circumcision, the child is placed on the knees of a Sandak, who holds him during the circumcision. The father should try to find righteous Mohel and Sandak for his son. If the father promised to give somebody the honor of Sandak or Mohel, he can not go back.


3. The circumcision is performed on the eight day after birth even if it falls on Shabbos, however, if the baby was delivered though Cesarean, he is not circumcised on Shabbos. (Interestingly, the scientists recently discovered that the clotting of the blood is the greatest on the eight day after birth.) It is strictly forbidden to delay the circumcision for any reason, like waiting for relatives to arrive from another country, choosing a weekend for convenience etc.


4. If a child is sick or his skin is too yellow or too red after birth, it is forbidden to circumcise him. Circumcision can be performed once he gets better. However, the decision of whether to delay the circumcision is made by the doctors in conjunction with competent Rabbis, not by the parents.


5. According to Torah law the time between the sundown and the coming out of stars is considered to partially belong to the previous day and in part to the next day. For this reason, for example, we keep the Shabbos not for 24 hours but longer – the Shabbos starts with sundown on Friday and ends when three average stars can be seen on the sky the next night. For this reason, if a child is born after sundown but before the stars, we count the days starting the following day to make sure the day of circumcision is at least eight days after birth. If a child is born between sundown and stars on Friday night, he is circumcised on Sunday, since we can only circumcise on Shabbos the child that was born exactly eight days before, on the previous Shabbos.


6. It is a mitzvah to make a festive meal on the day of circumcision. Those who can afford should serve meat on it.


The laws of Tefillin – the black boxes that are put on by Jewish men every weekday morning.


1. The mitzvah of putting on Tefillin is very great for the entire Torah is compared to Tefillin. Thousands of laws are kept in order to make kosher Tefillin and the smallest error may invalidate them. This is why we should only buy Tefillin from a God-fearing Jew, this is one of the most important purchases in our lives. It is better to pay more, only that the Tefillin will for sure be kosher. Even after buying Tefillin we need to constantly make sure it is kept in good condition, it should not be left on the sun or under rain so that it will not get damaged. We have to watch that the corners will not become round nor that the black paint come off. If we notice that the Tefillin is starting to deteriorate, we should show it to a knowledgeable Rabbi.


2. The time for putting on Tefillin is no earlier than 50 minutes before sunrise. Those that have to leave for work before this time should speak to a Rabbi regarding when they should put on Tefillin.


3. The exact places to put on the arm and head Tefillin are hard to describe on paper – the best advice is to ask a knowledgeable person to show how Tefillin is put on. However we will still try to describe some general rules. The place for the arm Tefillin is on the muscle of the left arm but a lefty puts it on the right arm.  The place for the head Tefillin is above the forehead. The entire Tefillin including its bottom part has to be on the placed where hair grows. A bold person places his Tefillin on the place where the hair used to grow. A common mistake is to place the Tefillin too low. Many people have long hair on their forehead, they have to be especially careful to put Tefillin above it, not on it. Sometimes, to make sure the Tefillin is on the right place, it is necessary to tighten the knot of the straps.  One should also watch that the Tefillin is exactly in the middle of a head above the space between the eyes – not at the right or at the left.


4. Before putting on the Tefillin we pronounce the following blessing: “BORUCH АТO ADONOY ELOHEYNU MELECH HOOLOM ASHER KIDSHONU BEMITZVOSOV VETZIVONU LEHANIACH TEFILLIN” – “Blessed are You, God our Lord, the King of the universe, Who has sanctified us with His precepts and commanded us to put on Tefillin”. After this one should not talk until he puts on the head Tefillin. Many Ashkenazi Jews pronounce an additional blessing on the head Tefillin.


5. When putting both Tefillin on, one has to be careful that there is no separation between the Tefillin and the body.


6. During putting on Tefillin one has remember about the four Parshios that are in it. They describe the exodus from Egypt, when it became known that the Creator has full control over the world. Our goal with the two Tefillin – is to subdue our thoughts and actions to serve the Creator.


7. It is most important to have Tefillin on during the morning prayers especially when saying Shema and Shemone Esre. If Tefillin was not put on in the morning, it should still be put later on during the day until sundown. We do not put on Tefillin on Shabbos and Yom Tov.


Parshas Vayera.


The laws of the morning prayer.


1. There are many laws regarding different parts of the morning prayers, and we divided them into three sections. The laws of Pesuke Dezimra – psalms pronounced in the beginning, will be discussed in Parshas Beshalach. The laws of Shema are in Parshas Vaeschanan. In this Parsha we will discuss the laws pertaining to the main prayer – Shemone Esre – eighteen blessings.  This prayer is very deep, it was composed by 120 elders many of whom were Biblical prophets. However, for many people it is difficult to concentrate when pronouncing the entire prayer. We will translate here only the first blessing, understanding it – is the minimal requirement, the one who prayed without concentration even on this blessing did not fully fulfill his obligation.


“Blessed are You, our Eternal God and the God of our forefathers, God of Avraham, God of Yitzchak, and God of Yakov, Great, Mighty and Awesome God, Exalted God Giver of goodness and Master of all, Who remembers the love of the fathers, and brings a redeemer to their children’s children, for His Name’s sake, with love. King, Helper, Savior and Shield. Blessed are You God, the Shield of Avraham.


The last part of the blessing is the most crucial. As Rabbi Arye Kaplan explains, one has to concentrate on the four descriptions of the Creator feeling Him closer and closer. He is the King, sitting on His great throne; but His is the Helper – on His help we can rely; but He is the Savior – even when we do not call Him, He constantly rescues us; and at last, He is the Shield – He is absolutely close – directly before us, protecting us from danger.


2. The best time for the morning prayer is to begin Shemone Esre with sunrise. Nevertheless, one can pray it from dawn and up to a third of the day (approximately till ten in the morning, in many Jewish calendars the latest time of this prayer is published for each day of the year). If one did not pray till this time, he can still pray till the midday.


3. Shemone Esre is said standing in one place, not leaning on anything. It is preferable to face the wall while praying, so that one will not be distracted. One should try to face Jerusalem during the prayers. The words of Shemone Esre are whispered quietly – this is our most intimate prayer to the Creator.


4. Four times during the prayer we bow down to the Creator – in the beginning and at the end of the first and pre-last blessings. After the end of the prayer we walk three steps back while bended. The detailed laws of bowing down are described in the Sidurs.


5. It is forbidden to pray or to pronounce any blessings when one needs to go to the bathroom. It is forbidden to even think about Torah in places where it smells badly, and in the toilet or bathroom even if there is no smell there. If there is an immodestly dressed woman in front of a man, he cannot say any blessings. A woman is allowed to pray even if there are immodestly dressed women or men in front of her, as long as they are not completely undressed.


6. A drunken person cannot pray Shemone Esre until he becomes sober to such a degree that he could speak before a king.


7. There are various additions to Shemone Esre during different seasons. For example, in the summer we mention, that the Creator gives dew, and in the winter – that He sends rain. In days of Rosh Chodesh (new moon) we add a special prayer in honor of this day in the seventeenth blessing. During the ten days of repentance (between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) we mention, that the Creator is the Holy King, judging the world, and so on. All additional prays are printed in the Sidurs as well as what to do if one mistakenly forgot to mention what is necessary.


8. When the person prays in a synagogue, after the end Shemone Esre he waits and listens as the leader of the congregation repeats this prayer. Before the third blessing he says Kedusha – the sanctification of the Creator. The Sidurs describe what the leader of the congregation has to say and what the people answer. It is most important to answer three verses:


“KADOSH, KADOSH, KADOSH ADONOY TZEVAOS, MELO CHOL HOORETZ KEVODO” – “Holy, Holy, Holy is the God of Hosts, the whole Earth is full of His glory”.


“BORUCH KEVOD ADONOY MIMKOMO” – “Blessed is the Glory of God from His place”.


“YIMLOCH ADONOY LEOLOM, ELOHAICH TZIYON, LEDOR VADOR, HALELUYO” – “The God will rule forever, your God, O Zion, from generation to generation, Halleluyo.”


9. When the leader of the congregation reaches the pre-last blessing everybody bows down together with him and pronounce a special prayer of thanksgiving “Modim Derabonan”.


10. It is a special mitzvah to pray with a congregation. The one who prays at home is not able to pronounce neither Kedusha nor Modim Derabonan. Moreover, the prayer of a congregation is accepted by the Creator favorably. With all that, one is not allowed to break any prohibitions in order to pray in a congregation. For example, it is strictly forbidden to ride in a car or a bus to the synagogue on Shabbos or Yom Tov, if there is no synagogue nearby, one should pray at home.


Parshas Chaye Sarah.


The laws of mourning.


1. The laws of mourning are generally divided into two groups: the laws applicable before the burial and those applicable after the burial. A person who lost a close relative (father, mother, spouse, brother, sister, son or daughter) has to rip his clothes. He does not pray or say any blessings and in general does not divert his mind until he buries his relative. He is also forbidden to eat meat and drink wine or grape juice. One should try to arrange the burial as soon as possible, before the sundown of the day of death. If this is impossible, at least the body should be buried before dawn, and if even that time passed – at least before 24 hours after death pass. If Shabbos arrived and the body is still not buried, the relatives can eat meat, drink wine, pronounce all the blessings and do all the mitzvos.


2. It is a great mitzvah to eulogize the dead. One should describe the good qualities the departed had but one should not greatly exaggerate them – this not only does not help the soul of the deceased but actually hurts it.


3. During the first meal after the burial, the mourners should not eat their own food – they are being fed by neighbors.


4. After the burial, the seven day period of “Avelus” – mourning starts, when the relatives don’t go outside the house. They are forbidden to work, take even cold shower, shave or cut hair, cut nails, launder clothes or wear fresh or ironed clothing or leather shoes or to have intimate relations with a spouse. A mourning woman does not put on makeup. The mourners sit on the floor or on very low stools (lower than 12 inches). The mourners talk little, they are also forbidden to learn Torah.  They are permitted to study sad topics, the same ones that we learn during the Ninth of Av (see Parshas Devarim), they should also learn the laws applicable to them. All these laws apply until the morning of the seventh day. On the first day, the mourners don’t put on Tefilin.


5. If for some reason the laws of mourning were not observed, or the relatives found out about the death later, they should consult a Rabbi.


6. It is a big mitzvah to visit the mourners, this way we show kindness to both the living and the dead. The visitors should learn a little bit of Torah “Leiluy Nishmas” – for the elevation of the soul of the dead. For this reason, the house of mourning usually has brochures with Mishna and commentaries, so that the visitors can learn. We don’t greet “Shalom” to the mourners for parents for 12 months, and to all other mourners for 30 days.


7. It is customary to gather a minyon – 10 men to pray in the house of mourners. If it is impossible, the mourner should ask a Rabbi when he is allowed to go to the synagogue. In the synagogue the mourner does not sit in his usual place for 30 days, and if he is mourning for parents – for 12 months.


8. Most of the laws of mourning do not apply to Shabbos. The mourners put on clean clothes and leather shoes. They are permitted to go to the synagogue. However, the intimate relations between spouses are still forbidden. They are also not allowed to wash and learn Torah.


9. In the morning of the seventh day after the burial the saddest period of Aveylus is over and the period of thirty days when the laws are more lenient starts. During these days the mourners do not get haircuts or cut nails. However, they can rip off the nails with teeth or fingers. Ashkenazi Jews have a custom not to wear fresh or ironed clothes. It is forbidden to go to any festive occasions even if they have to do with a mitzvah, like a wedding meal or Seudas Bris Milah. If the mourner needs to go to a certain festivity he should consult a Rabbi. Ashkenazi Jews also don’t take hot showers for all thirty days. If this is too difficult, one should consult a Rabbi.


10. If one lost a parent, the prohibition of attending festivities applies to a period of twelve months. Cutting hair is forbidden until the mourner’s friends are ashamed of him saying: “Go away, you look terrible”.


11. In many cases the mourning periods of seven and thirty days are interrupted in the middle. This happens when one of the holidays falls on the mourning period. For example, if the relative was buried the day before Yom Kippur, Yom Kippur cancels the period of seven days and the next holiday – Sukkos cancels the period of thirty. In each concrete case one should consult a Rabbi.


12. It is a great mitzvah for the children to say Kadish to elevate the soul of the deceased. In this prayer we praise the Creator and show our hope that His glory will be soon revealed. In many communities the custom is only to say Kadish for 11 months. Others have a custom to interrupt for only a week and then continue saying Kadish until the end of twelve months. If one did not have sons, somebody else is usually hired to say the Kadish for his soul. 


13. Every year on the day of death, the sons say Kadish for the soul of their parent. They also learn Torah for the elevation of his soul and some make a special meal, while others have a custom to fast.


Parshas Toldos.


The laws of the afternoon prayer – Mincha.


1. One should be especially careful about the afternoon prayer. In general, according to Kabbalah, the first half of the day is associated with mercy while the second – with judgment. This is why the afternoon prayer requires such great concentration. Moreover, in the winter when the days are short it is easy to miss the correct time for this prayer, therefore one has to be extra careful.


2. The earliest time for Mincha is half an hour after midday. Note, that the “hours” in Jewish law are 1/12 of the day, therefore the hours are longer than 60 minutes during the summer and shorter in the winter. Good calendars mention the earliest Mincha time for each day of the year.


3. According to some opinions it is preferable not to pray the afternoon prayer until “Mincha Ketana” – 2.5 hours before sundown.


4. One should try to pray the afternoon prayer before sundown. If there is no choice, according to some opinions one is permitted to still pray Mincha until stars come out, i.e. one can see three average stars on the sky.


5. Once the time for Mincha is approaching one is forbidden to start a meal, get a haircut or go to a bathhouse until after he prayed. The Sephardic Jews are forbidden to start major meals, like wedding feasts after midday, but Ashkenazim are strict only staring three hours before sundown. However in the last two and a half hours before sundown one should not start even a small meal before praying. It is only permitted to eat a little bit of bread, less than the size of an egg, but one can eat fruits as much as he wants. If one started his meal before this time arrived, he can continue as long as there is enough time to pray.


6. If one really needs to eat before Mincha, this is permitted if he asks another Jew to remind him to pray.


7. Before praying, one should wash his hands three times with a cup. However, if one needs to walk more than 18 minutes to get the water, then it is sufficient to simply clean the hands with a cloth. During the prayer one has to be careful not to touch the parts of the body that are normally covered, otherwise he will have to wash hands again.


8. In general, the Mincha prayer was instituted the same way as the morning prayer – first everybody says the Shemone Esre quietly and then the leader repeats the prayer. However, in many places the custom is that the leader immediately starts praying loudly. In this case, the congregants have two options – they can either say everything with the leader word by word, or they can listen for the first three blessings, answer Kedusha, and then start their own silent Shemone Esre from the beginning.


Parshas Vayetze.


The laws of the evening prayer – Maariv.


1. One should try not to pray the evening prayer before the night starts i.e. three average stars can be seen on the sky. However, when it is really needed it is permitted to pray maariv after “Plag Hamincha” – 1 ¼ hours before sundown. As usually, a halachic hour is 1/12 of the day. On a day when one is praying Maariv early, he should try to pray mincha before the “plag hamincha”. As we learn in Parshas Vaeschanan, we need to pronounce certain Torah portions called Shema every evening. Usually these passages are pronounced during the evening prayer, but the one who prayed early needs to pronounce them again once the stars come out.


2. Once the time for evening prayer is approaching, one should not start a meal until he prayed. In general, once the stars come out, one should not delay the evening prayer. At any rate, one should try to pray before midnight. However, if he did not do so, he can still pray the evening prayer until dawn.


3. It’s a mitzvah to wash hands before the evening prayer, but the one who prays Maariv right after mincha does not have to wash hands a second time.


4. It is preferable to learn Torah at least for some time every night. In many synagogues, the congregation prays mincha, then the Rabbi gives a small class until nightfall and then everybody prays Maariv.


5. One should not eat too much before going to sleep. Besides that it is unhealthy, it makes it difficult waking up on time. Overeating can also cause bad nightmares and sometimes a man who overate has his sperm come out during sleep. One should go to sleep early enough to wake up for the morning prayers.


6. Before going to sleep, one should try to think about everything he did during the day. Was he watchful about keeping the commandments?  Was he careful to avoid the bad qualities like jealousy, hatred, anger, and pride? Was he careful about his language? Did he use the precious time for keeping the mitzvos? If we find something inappropriate that we did, we need to consider what measures to take so as not to repeat it. Usually, one needs to make extra fences in order to not do the wrong again. We should also ask the Creator to help us avoid doing wrong. One should forgive others who did wrong to him; our sages teach that the one who easily forgives is easily forgiven by the Creator.


7. Before going to sleep, we say Shema again and also pronounce the blessing “Hamapil” – we thank the Creator for sending the sleepiness and ask that we see only good dreams and that we don’t die during the sleep. This blessing as well as other verses that are said before going to sleep are printed in the Sidurs. If one can not fall asleep, he could keep repeating Shema a few times.


The laws of tzedoko – giving charity.


1. One of the fundamental mitzvos of Torah is giving money and property to poor. Many verses of the Torah command us to be generous and not be stingy when giving to the poor. Nobody becomes poor from giving tzedoko – on the contrary, the one who gives gets blessed. Anybody who turns away from the poor and does not give them, breaks a Torah commandment. The Torah constantly tells us that charity is greater than any sacrifice. By giving to the poor we show our trust in the Creator – the world does not belong to us. Everything we earn is His and He only requires us to give a portion promising to bless us. It is for this reason that the word “tzedoko” actually comes from the word “right” and “correct”. It is not simply an act of mercy – rather it is correct to give to those who have less. Generosity is the quality of our nation and those who are stingy to the poor show that they are not descendants of Avraham. One of the mitzvahs that will speed up our deliverance from exile is tzedoko. The Creator is merciful to those who are merciful to the poor. Using tzedoko we can prevent many decrees against our nation.


2. Everybody has to give tzedoko. Even the one who himself lives on other people’s assistance, if he has some extra money he should separate a portion to tzedoko. Moreover, a small donation of a poor person can sometimes be considered a greater mitzvah than a large donation of a rich man.


3. In the ideal case, when there are a lot of rich people and few poor, our communities give the impoverished everything they need. If a poor man is accustomed to eat meat every day, this is provided. The community takes care of his living accommodations, if he is alone, they try to find him a wife and pay for the wedding. Unfortunately, this ideal situation rarely happens, usually there are a lot more poor than rich and then the principles of priority apply. For example, a woman is provided for before a man, feeding everybody comes before providing the proper clothing etc. 


4. Regarding an individual, he is not obligated to fully provide for every poor person that comes to him. However, he should not let him go empty handed – he should give at least something. One has to take care not to embarrass or criticize the poor person. Rather one should try to console him. Throughout the year we should separate a tenth of our income for various charity needs, but a special mitzvah is to seprate a fifth of the income. According to many opinions this includes the money we donate to various organizations like Yeshivahs, the organizations that organize weddings for poor, publish religious books used for Torah study and to bring people close to Judaism. In some cases, people whose income is small can even consider the support of their own children older than six or poor elderly parents as charity.  However, those that can afford should not use the charity money for supporting parents.


5. Any promise to give tzedoko is considered an oath, therefore a person who is not sure if he will be able to give tzedoko should say “Bli Neder” – without an oath.


6. One of the best ways of tzedoko is helping the one whose business is in trouble. Just as it is easier to help an animal from falling then to lift it after it fell, so too it is easier to help the one struggling before he needs to accept charity. It is also a great mitzvah to take a poor man as a business partner.


7. Whenever possible one should give tzedoko secretly so as not to embarrass the poor. Our sages teach – the one who takes from someone is ashamed to look into his face.  In any case one should not be proud or tell others about the tzedoko he is giving.


Parshas Vayishlach.


The laws of children of Noach and Geirim.


1. All the nations of the world come from one man – the righteous Noach who survived the flood, that is why they are called Bney Noach – the children of Noach. (Interestingly, current historical knowledge fully support the event of the Great Flood. Its memory was preserved by many independent nations from Native Americans to Asian Indians. It is impossible to imagine that the traditions about the flood originated from one nation and were accepted in the histories of many nationalities throughout the world. All the stories about the flood agree that this was a punishment and that only one family survived from which all people later descended.)


2. All descendants of Noach have to keep seven mitzvos:


-  Not to curse the Creator.

-  Not to worship idols.

-  Not to kill.

- Not to commit adultery or incest. This prohibition also forbids homosexual relations or relations with an animal.

-  Not to steal.

- Not to eat flesh of a living animal. The non-Jews don’t have to observe kosher but the animal has to be dead before the meat can be eaten.

- A positive commandment for the society to establish courts that make sure the above six commandments are kept. According to some opinions the non-Jewish courts also have to judge in cases of various financial disputes or damage that needs to be compensated.


3. A non-Jew who keeps the laws of Noach is considered to be righteous and can have a share in the world to come. Note that there are a number of Bney Noach groups around the world today. These people accepted on themselves to keep the seven Noachite laws as the Torah commands and they have Rabbis teaching them the details of these commandments. The Torah does not demand that the non-Jews keep all the 613 commandments that apply to the Jewish people.  Still, if a non-Jew wants to keep some of them he is permitted and he will be rewarded. However he should not keep Shabbos and learn those parts of the Torah that do not apply to the seven Noachite laws. On the other hand, a non-Jew who learns the seven laws of Noach is going to be greatly rewarded.


4. If a non-Jew wants to convert to Judaism he is first dissuaded from doing so. He is told that he can earn a share in the World to Come by keeping his laws, whereas keeping all 613 commandments may turn out to be too difficult. If he insists, he is told about some of the commandments and the difficulties that can arise in keeping them. The Rabbis also check if he might possibly have a wrong intent in wanting the conversion, for example, he might want to marry a certain Jewish woman. If it turns out that the intention of this person is pure, his conversion is not delayed. If this is a man, he is circumcised. Whether this is a man or a woman, to convert they need to immerse in the Mikvah and to accept the fulfillment of all Torah commandments before three Rabbis. In case of a woman, the Rabbis stand outside the Mikvah room, so they can only see her head to know when she immerses. The prospective convert is warned that there is no way back – once the conversion is done, there is no way to become a Ben Noach.


5. After conversion, he becomes a full-fledged Jew. Moreover, the Torah commands us to treat him with special love and not to offend him. A man who converted can marry any Jewish woman, but a woman-convert can not marry a cohen (descendant of Aharon, see Parshas Emor).



The laws of prohibition against intermarriage.


1. A Jew is strictly forbidden to have relations with a non-Jewish woman and a Jewish woman cannot have relations with a non-Jewish man. Mixed marriages are prohibited by an even stricter prohibition.


2. Any person whose mother is not Jewish and who did not have an Orthodox conversion is not Jewish. For this reason, for example, a man whose mother is a non-Jew even if his father is Jewish can not marry a Jewish woman and vice-versa.


3. Since the Jewishness of a child is determined by the mother, a child of a Jewish woman and a non-Jew is considered Jewish and has to keep all of the Torah’s  commandments. He is circumcised on the eighth day like any other Jewish child. If it is a boy, he can marry any Jewish girl, but if it is a girl, she cannot marry a cohen.


4. In cases of mixed marriages when the non-Jewish spouse wants to convert, the issue has to be discussed with competent Rabbis. As we mentioned, usually the conversions are accepted only when the intention of the non-Jew is pure and not for marriage purposes. However in some cases of mixed marriages a conversion of non-Jewish spouse might be performed assuming, of course, that the convert is in truth planning to keep all of the Torah’s commands.


The laws of the prohibition of deriving enjoyment from articles of idol worship and the prohibition of selling non-kosher food items.


1. The Torah forbids deriving enjoyment from idols including any article used for worshipping an idol or sacrificing to it. Even when such an article gets mixed with other permitted articles and cannot be distinguished, they all become forbidden and need to be destroyed. Interestingly, quite recently many Jewish women had to destroy their wigs when it turned out that the hair came from Indian women who used it as a sacrifice for their idol.


2. The Christian crosses in the Churches are considered to be articles of idol worship but the ones that are warn as an ornament on the neck may be just jewelry. Thus, the one who wants to open a business selling articles of jewelry that have crosses needs to talk to a Rabbi. (Obviously, a Jew himself is forbidden to wear a cross even under the penalty of death.)


3. It is forbidden to help building temples of idolatry or making any articles used for idol worship.


4. It is prohibited to stare at the idols or mention their names. However, the names of those idols mentioned in the Torah can be said. Similarly, one can pronounce the name of an idol if it is also a person’s name, for example, Jesus.


5. One can not enjoy music playing in a place of idol worship or nice smells that are coming from there.


6. If a person was passing near an idol and he lost his coins or his leg is scratching, he should not bend near an idol.


7. It is forbidden to open a business which sells non-kosher food items even if the buyers are not Jewish. If the buyers are Jews there is an additional prohibiton – not putting a stumbling block before the blind – we can not help another Jew in sinning. If the food is forbidden not by the Torah but by a Rabbinical prohibition, it can be sold to non-Jews. Also, if one got some non-kosher food accidentally, he can sell it to a non-Jew, for example, a fish man who caught a non-kosher fish. Owning stocks of non-kosher food suppliers may be permitted by many opinions, but in each case one needs to consult a Rabbi.


Parshas Vayeshev.


The laws of family faithfulness, Yibum and Chalitza.


1. The word “Kidushin” comes from the word “Kadosh” – holy. Marriage in Jewish law assumes family loyalty and faithfulness. At the moment of Kidushin the groom sanctifies his future relationship with his bride. Even though the Torah forbids relations with a non-married woman also, the relations with a married woman breaks the most severe prohibition of adultery and destroys the family purity. At the time our nation had the Supreme Court – Sanhedrin, relations with a married woman were punished by death. Today, for the last two thousand years we don’t have Sanhedrin, yet in our day too such relations have grave consequences.


2. Besides of course various punishments after death, and possible punishments in this world, while alive, the results of adultery are as follows:


 - The woman becomes forbidden to both her husband and to the adulterer. The husband divorces her and the adulterer can not marry her. The woman loses her Kesubah, (we discuss the Kesubah further in Parshas Naso).


 - If a married woman had a child from a Jewish adulterer, the child is considered a Mamzer. This makes it impossible for him or her to marry a regular Jew. Mamzerim can either marry each other or someone who converted to Judaism. Their children will also be Mamzerim for all generations.


3. Any woman who married according to Jewish law but did not get a kosher “Get” – Jewish divorce, is considered to still be married. Obviously, the divorce issued by a non-Jewish court is not valid according to Torah law. If she remarries without getting a Get, her relationship with the second husband is considered adultery.


4. In case a couple never had a kosher marriage and now wants to get divorced, it is preferable that they get a kosher Get. However, if this is difficult to do, for example, the husband refuses to have a Get written, a knowledgeable Rabbi should be consulted. In some cases there may be no need for a Get since their marriage may have not been valid according to Jewish law.


5. All the above mentioned laws have many details and therefore in any case that a woman was unfaithful to her husband, a Rabbi has to be consulted. There are cases when even though the wife tells her husband she was with another man, he does not believe her and they are permitted to continue living together. Similarly, if a woman says she got pregnant from another man implying that her child is a Mamzer, she is not always believed and the child may remain kosher according to Torah law. Only a very knowledgeable and competent Rabbi can make decisions in each case.


6. After a kosher Get, the woman is not allowed to remarry for three months. This law prevents a situation where a remarried woman is pregnant and it is unclear whether the father is her first husband or the second. If the divorced couple wants to marry each other back again, this is permitted immediately. Note, that a woman who got divorced and married somebody else will never be able to marry her first husband again, even if her second husband divorces her or dies.


7. If a married man dies without children and he has a brother on his father’s side, his wife can not remarry until either Yibum or Chalitza is performed. Yibum is marriage between a brother of the deceased and the widow. In our day Yibum is performed quite rarely, mostly in Sephardic congregations. Chalitza is a procedure of taking off the brother’s shoe by the widow. This symbolizes the termination of a connection – before Chalitza, if Yibum was made, the widow could have a child with the soul of the deceased. Now, this possibility no longer exists and the soul of the dead brother will have to look for other rectifications. Obviously, Chalitza can be performed only in front of qualified Rabbis.


8. Chalitza is made no earlier than in three months after death of the husband, after it becomes established that the widow is not pregnant. After Chalitza, the widow can marry whoever she wants except any brothers of the deceased – if Yibum was not been made they are now forbidden to her. (Note, that in general close relatives of the husband, like his father or son, are forbidden to his widow, however, the brothers would be permitted, in case he died without children, but after Chalitza they become forbidden as well.)


Parshas Miketz.


The laws of Chanukah.


1. The holiday of Chanukah is celebrated by our people in remembrance of victory over the enemies who wanted to destroy our religion and bring the Greek culture into our midst. It is interesting to note, that there were many Jews who considered the Greek way of life much more attractive than old style – Jewish. In fact, our religion then was already more than a thousand years old. Since then, more than two millennia have passed and the Greek culture is basically gone; the Jewish has remained. Nevertheless, we still hear that our religion has become outdated and that it is necessary to import the culture of the modern "advanced" Western world into it. The lesson of German Jews is quite often recollected: they openly named the German culture – the highest point of civilization until the Germans showed the most terrible barbarity during World War II.


2. Though the enemy’s armies were better trained and surpassed the Jewish guerrilla troops many times, the Jews won. Therefore we say in our Chanukah prayers: “You have given the strong into the hands of weak, the numerous into the hands of those small in number”. It is necessary to understand that the victory was attained not due to the selflessness of fighters or the genius of the generals who supervised the military actions, but only because the Creator was on our side.


3. After the victory, the Jews first tried to restore the service in the Temple. They managed to find very little olive oil suitable for lighting the menorah. This oil should have sufficed only for one night but the Creator made one more miracle for His servants; the oil burned for eight days until new oil has was prepared. In honor of this, our sages established the commandment of lighting the Chanukah candles for eight days.


4. There exist different customs regarding the time of candle lighting. Some light at the time of sundown. Most people light when it gets darker – 25, 30, 40 or 50 minutes after sundown. There are also those who wait for complete darkness – 72 minutes after sundown. The candles must be long enough to burn till half an hour after nightfall. In any event, if the candles were not lit on time, they can still be lit later during the night. However, if a person is lighting the candles alone after midnight, he should not recite the blessing over them. This is the general principle: when there is a dispute regarding the possibility of performing a certain mitzvah, we do the mitzvah but do not recite the brocha. The reason for this is that it is strictly forbidden to make a vain blessing.


5. On Friday night we light Chanukah candles before sundown before lighting the Shabbos candles. The reason of course, is because we cannot ignite fire on Shabbos. After Shabbos, the Chanukah candles are lit only when it gets dark. Most people wait until 72 minutes after sundown.


6. It is preferable to place the candles so that they can be seen from the street. Therefore, those who live on the first or second floor usually put the candles next to the window. Others place the candles near the door, on the left side. This way, the one that enters is surrounded by mitzvos – the mezuzah is on his right and the Chanukah candles on his left. The candles should not be placed below 12 inches from the floor; it is preferable that the flames will be below 32 inches from the floor.


7. According to the law, it is sufficient to light one candle per household. However, the Talmud teaches us that those who are extra careful about performing the commandments light one candle on the first day, two on the second, etc, until they light eight on the last day of Chanukah. Among Ashkenazim, the custom is that all the men in the household light the candles, but among Sephardim only the head of the household lights. If there are no men in the household, then a woman lights the Chanukah candles.


8. Three blessings are pronounced before lighting the candles on the first day and two brochos are made on each consecutive day; these blessings are printed in the Sidurim. After the lighting, one is not allowed to move the Menorah. If the candles got extinguished by themselves, it is not necessary to light them again.


9. One can not make personal use of the light of Chanukah candles. The custom is to light an additional candle and place it higher than the rest, on the side, so that in case one forgets and uses the candles accidentally (to count money for example) it will be considered that he is using the light of the additional candle.


10. If one is found in a hospital or flying in an airplane during Chanukah, he should discuss with a Rabbi how to fulfill the commandment of lighting the candles. Similarly, in case one is moving to a new apartment or will be outside his home during Chanukah, he should talk to a Rabbi.


11. During Chanukah we add certain prayers to Shemone Esre and to “Birkas Hamazon” – the blessing after eating bread. We thank the Creator for bringing the miraculous salvation. If one forgot to mention the additional prayers he does not have to recite the prayers over. We also recite the six psalms of Hallel during the morning prayers throughout all eight days of Chanukah.


Parshas Vayigash.


The laws of repentance and fasts.


1. The laws, the Creator gave us in his Torah are given for our own benefit. Whoever does not keep the commandments is damaging his own soul and all the spiritual elements that are related to it. Even when a person sins, the Creator does not want to punish him. The punishments of the Torah are actually painful operations of the Great Doctor Who wants only to help the patient. For this reason, the Creator prepared the best remedy – Teshuvah – the repentance or literally – coming back to one’s spiritual root. The gates of repentance are always open. The Creator tells us: “My children, open your hearts just a little and I will open the gigantic gates of Heaven for you”. Until the day of one’s death, the Creator waits for his repentance. Even the most sinful individual can rectify a lot, if he repents while he is still alive.


2. The main elements of Teshuvah are the decision not to repeat the sin and Viduy – a sincere confession before the Creator. Often a person who got accustomed to certain “forbidden pleasures” finds it quite difficult to change himself. In such cases he would need to make additional fences to not find himself to close to breaking the prohibition, when the desire will be too great to withstand. Often the penitent accepts on himself voluntary suffering, for example fasting, or additional mitzvos, for example, giving more that usual to tzedoko, visiting the sick and bringing others to repentance, learning more Torah and supporting others who learn it, etc. Still one has to remember that tzedoko and fasting are only additional elements of repentance and work only when one decided firmly not to repeat the sin. The one who tries to rectify his sins by simply giving to charity and fasting, is far from the truth. Our sages compare him to the one immersing many times in the Mikvah while holding a dead reptile – he remains ritually unclean as before. Once he lets the animal go, even one immersion will purify him.


3. If one is at fault before others, his forgiveness is only achieved when they forgive him. Even when the monetary damage was compensated, there is still need for explicit forgiveness. On the other hand, they should not be vindictive: the Creator forgives those who easily forgive others. Sometimes it is inconvenient to ask forgiveness, one can be afraid that reminding what he did to his fellow will upset him even more. For example, if one who spoke badly about another and now repents, it is very difficult to correct his sin for he would have to tell the one he spoke about what was done. Therefore, the Chofetz Chaim writes that the sin of speaking badly of others is so great and it is difficult to do Teshuva. In such cases one should ask a Rabbi what to do. 


4. There are two types of fast days in Jewish law. Some fasts are for the whole 24 hours starting the previous evening. On these fasts not only eating and drinking but also washing, applying oils and creams, wearing leather shoes and having marital relations is forbidden. Other fasts are only for the day time, from daylight (72 minutes before sunrise) till nightfall when the stars come out. During these fasts only eating, drinking and washing the mouth is forbidden. Both types of fasts can be accepted voluntarily during the pervious day‘s Mincha prayer. Throughout the year we fast two obligatory long fasts and a few short ones. The two long fasts are on Yom Kippur and the Ninth of Av. We discuss them in Parshas Vayelech and Devarim. The short fasts include three fasts commemorating the destruction of our Temples, a fast before Purim, and the fast of firstborn before Passover. The most lenient fast is the fast of the firstborn, the prevailing custom is to make a Seudas Mitzvah – a festive meal where the firstborn participate and then they don’t have to fast. In most synagogues somebody finishes learning a tractate of the Talmud and makes a celebration. Regarding the fast before Purim, it is also more lenient than others – so a person who feels week should talk to a Rabbi.


5. The remaining three fasts are the fast of Gedaliya – the day after Rosh Hashanah when righteous Gedaliya was killed and remaining Jews ran away from the Holy Land which remained empty for 52 years. The fast on the Tenth of Teves, a week after Hanukkah – on this day the Babylonian armies surrounded Jerusalem. This became the beginning of a bloody war that ended with the destruction of the First Temple. The fast of the Seventeenth of Tamuz – on this day many sad events happened to out people including the breaking of the First Tablets, and the breach of the Jerusalem wall by Roman armies.


6. All healthy Jews are obliged to fast on these three fast, but pregnant or feeding women and also very weak people should ask a Rabbi. Nevertheless, in many communities the women do not fast except on Yom Kippur and the Ninth of Av. In any case they should not eat for pleasure but only what is required for health. The most important is repentance during the fasts, as the Torah says regarding the city of Ninveh: “And God saw their repentance”, but it does not say, that the Creator looked at their fasting and sack cloth.


7. In the future, the Creator will make these fasts into holidays.


Parshas Vayechi.


The laws of visiting the sick.


1. It is a great mitzvah to visit the sick. As soon as it becomes known that someone got sick, his close friends and relatives start visiting him. Other people begin visiting after he is sick for three days. However, if one becomes seriously sick spontaneously, then everybody can visit him immediately.


2. One should never consider it beneath his dignity to visit a sick person. If it is possible, one should pay as many visits as it takes, as long as it does not bother the sick.


3. If a person has an enemy, he should not visit him. Similarly if a sick person or a mourner dislikes somebody, that person should not visit him.  Note, that in general it is forbidden to hate another Jew, we are talking about a case when somebody has enemies despite the prohibition. In such a case, if the enemy visits him, it will look like he is happy. Obviously this rule might have exclusions. In some cases, through visiting one’s enemy it is possible to make him into a friend, therefore in each case a Rabbi should be asked for an advice.


4. A sick person or a mourner does not have to get up out of respect neither before elderly nor before Torah scholars.


5. The Talmud teaches us that the Divine Presence is near a sick person. For this reason, if the sick is lying on the floor, one should not sit down next to him on a chair. When we pray for his recovery in his presence, the supplication can be said in any language and it is not necessary to mention his name. However, if the prayer is said at a different location, we should say it in Holy Tongue and mention the name – such and such, the son of such and such woman. In general, whenever we pray for someone’s recovery, we should include all other sick Jewish people in our prayer, asking the Creator to send him healing among the rest of the children of Israel.


6. The main part of visiting the sick, besides the prayer for recovery, is making sure the sick has everything he needs – medicine, food etc. Often a sick person is very bored, the visitor can try to tell him some stories. If the sick is able to learn Torah, one can try to teach him something he is able to concentrate on. In our day, when there are tape recorders and CD players, a good advice is to offer some Torah tapes from easy ones with stories about righteous people to harder ones teaching Torah laws, etc. Note also, that there are free lectures one can hear on telephone, in English hundreds of lectures are available for example at (718) 252-1008, presented by the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation. Today, it is also possible to bring many Jews closer to Torah and therefore visiting the sick takes an additional meaning. Helping a sick person one also does a Kiddush Hashem – sanctification of the Divine Name. Every religious community has a Bikur Cholim organization which takes care of visiting the sick and helps them in every way.


7. The Torah permits us to use the treatment of doctors. Moreover, in cases of danger for life, all of the Torah’s prohibitions can be broken to save it, thus a dangerously sick person eats on Yom Kippur, Shabbos is broken to bring him to the hospital, etc. The exclusions are the prohibitions against idolatry, forbidden relations and killing. On the other hand, if there is no danger for life, the Torah’s prohibitions are not broken for treating a sick person. For this reason, a sick person should not eat non-kosher food even if it is needed for treatment. However, if the non-kosher food or medicine has bad taste or no taste, it’s prohibition is only Rabbinical and it can be eaten for treatment. However, if the food includes milk and meat of kosher animals cooked together it can not be eaten even if it has bad taste.


8. Despite the fact that the Torah permits going to doctors, we should place our hope on the Creator’s help and pray for speedy recovery. The sick should examine his deeds and correct whatever possible. Most people, when they get sick, ask others to pray for them, this applies especially to asking righteous people whose prayers are more readily accepted. It is customary that the sick person gives more to tzedoko. In Parshas Matos we discuss that it is preferable not to make any oaths, however, a dangerously sick person is permitted to take on himself additional obligations by making oaths.


9. If the sick person is likely to approach his last hour, he should be reminded to confess his sins and to do Teshuvah. He should be reminded that many people confessed and yet continued to live, and there are those who did not confess and died, so by confessing his sins he does not increase the danger. Even at the end of life, much can be corrected by sincere repentance. Note, that we break Shabbos in order to increase the life of a person for even a short time. One of the reasons is that in these extra minutes, he might be able to repent and rectify what can still be rectified. If the sick person has no strength for long confessions, he should say: “My God, please send me a speedy recovery for my treatment is in Your hands. However, if I die, please let my death be atonement for my sins and please give me a share in Gan Eden among the righteous”. The sick person should also ask forgiveness from the people he sinned against.


10. A deathly sick person should take care of his property and that his depts should be paid. He should decide how much he wants to give to tzedoko, but he should keep at least 2/3 of the money for the inheritors. (Note, that if he wants to distribute the inheritance among his relatives differently than the law of Torah, he should discuss with a Rabbi how to arrange it. If no arrangement was made, than the property has to be distributed according to the Torah law and not the law of the country, but each case has to be discussed with a Rabbi.) The one who has small children needs to make arrangements about their future. It is usually a good idea to write a special letter to the children with advice about how to behave. Often the children listen to their father’s will more than to a Rabbi or anybody else.  It is important to mention that the main purpose of our existence is to keep the Torah’s commands and we should be extra careful regarding the most common sins – for instance, gossip. Women should be told of the importance of dressing modestly, for these laws are often ignored by many people. Regarding the other commandments, everyone knows what his children need to be reminded of, different people have different tests in life and those mitzvos that are more difficult for someone to keep need to be retold.


11. A sick person should not be bothered by anything. In his presence we don’t mention others who passed away even if they are his own relatives. Rabbi Moshe Shtarnbuch writes that a person who has incurable cancer should not be told about it. Certainly in each case one should ask a Rabbi.


Parshas Shemos.


The laws of character qualities that one should strive after.


1. Every person has different qualities he is born with. To a large extent they determine his life as well as the tests he has to pass. Depending on character traits, the observance of Torah’s commands can become very easy or quite difficult. This is one of the reasons we are required to constantly work on improving our qualities trying to develop those traits that the Torah encourages and to avoid the ones it criticizes. We will now discuss some of the main negative traits: pride, anger, envy, hatred, greediness, deceptiveness, hypocrisy, flattery, jesting, sadness, talkativeness, lightheartedness, desire of pleasures and laziness.


- Pride – this is one of the worst qualities. The Talmud teaches us that the Creator Himself tells a proud person: “He and I can not coexist”, for the proud man pushes away Divine Presence. Many quarrels continue only because both parties do not want to concede due to their arrogance. Our sages teach us to be very, very modest. Modesty is main quality, because of which Moshe was chosen to become the leader of our people. Avraham considered himself like dust and ashes while Moshe thought he is simply a nothing. 


- Anger – also a terrible trait. The Talmud compares an angry person to an idol worshipper. The sages of Kabbalah explain that when a person gets angry, his pure soul departs him and an unclean spirit gets attached to him instead. Thus, an angry person brings on himself a spirit of idolatry.


- Hatred and envy – two terrible qualities that often come as a result of pride and anger. The Torah teaches us to love others and forbids us to hate them. Moreover, the mitzvah to love one’s fellow like oneself is the basis of the entire Torah. It is interesting to mention that a hateful and envious individual usually can not enjoy even his own life.


- Greediness – this quality prevents us from keeping a number of commandments including giving charity, giving loans, separating parts of the crop to be given to cohanim, leviim and poor, giving parts of the sheered wool and parts of the meat of slaughtered animals to cohanim. Moreover, many mitzvos require financial expenses, for example buying mezuzos, Tefillin, the four species to be picked up on Sukkos, etc. A thrifty person finds it difficult to buy beautiful Tefillin for $1000 and instead he looks for a cheap one spending $250 and thinking he got a bargain. In practice, however, the Tefillin he bought may not be kosher according to many opinions.


- Deceptiveness, hypocrisy, flattery, lightheartedness and jesting – the Talmud tells us that people possessing these traits are not accepted before the Divine Presence. Obviously we don’t have to describe the damage done through deception, hypocrisy and flattery. Regarding joking, unfortunately many people are completely unaware that this quality is severely criticized by the Torah. A lot of people think that there is nothing wrong with turning everything into a joke and making fun of every incident in life. In truth, the Torah has nothing against a healthy sense of humor, however, making fun of others is strictly forbidden. The Talmud teaches us that the one that makes his fellow turn pale is considered to be killing him. Moreover, derisive people easily transform any reproach into a joke. Thus, they can never be influenced through a sincere rebuke. Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto compares their sneers to a shield, greased with oil, causing any arrow to slide off. Sometimes a heartfelt lecture delivered by a Rabbi has a strong effect on the assembled and many of them seriously consider making basic changes in their lives. However, one joker with the help of a jeer transforms the whole lesson into a joke and the effect from the lecture completely vanishes.


- Just as it is bad to be overly lighthearted, so too it is not good to be sad and gloomy. A person should be in a joyful mood, pleased with his lot. To be happy is not only a mitzvah, but also good advice for any person. It is good for happy people both in this world and in the next. They, as a rule, live a long sated life, helping others and wishing the best to them, while for unhappy people it is difficult to wish good to others. Certainly, there are times when it’s a mitzvah to be sad, for example the Ninth of Av, during the mourning over a deceased relative and so on. Moreover, in our exile we should not forget about destruction of the Temple, and even during our most cheerful moments we need to recollect it. For example, during a wedding, a glass is broken. Nevertheless, in general, the Creator wants, that we serve Him in happiness. Both Arizal and the Vilna Gaon said that they reached their high level because they served the Creator with happiness.


- Talkativeness – the quality that can bring a lot of damage and at the same time can be used for many mitzvos as well. Arizal writes that the people whose spiritual root is related to Abel, the son of Adam, have a talkative nature and can become good orators. In Parshas Chukas we discuss a strict prohibition against Loshon Hara – speaking badly of others and gossiping. People that are not careful watching their mouth will transgress this prohibition quite often. Moreover, the talkative people often reveal the secrets of others which is forbidden. On the other hand, a talker can use his abilities in order to teach Torah, console the mourning and the sick, etc.


- Desire of pleasures – this quality causes most sins such as forbidden relations, deceit, steeling etc. Certainly, working on this trait is very difficult. Still it helps to know that for every forbidden pleasure there exists a permitted way. While a sinner gets his gratification through violating the laws of Torah, the righteous get a similar enjoyment through keeping its statues. Moreover, the freeing of all physical desires frequently leads to the opposite effect: no pleasures satisfy the individual. On the other hand, the one who receives a particular delight from time to time is happy as a result. As an example, consider the Torah’s prohibition to have relations with a wife who is Nidah, until she counts seven clean days and immerses in a Mikvah (see Parshiyos Sazria and Metzorah). As a result of this prohibition, a religious couple’s life consists of a series of honeymoons. Each time when the wife goes to a Mikvah, they feel pleasure as though they just got married. As one of the results, in religious families disloyalty is almost completely prevented. On the other hand, the couples who do not observe the laws of family purity quickly get bored of each other and start searching for other partners. The result is clear – high percent of the divorces, broken families, single mothers and people constantly dissatisfied with their family life. 


- Laziness – one of the most dangerous bad qualities. As opposed to the traits mentioned above, this one does not lead to any active violations of Torah laws, but prevents a person from fulfilling many positive commandments. A lazy person often waists an enormous amount of time that could be used for mitzvos and accomplishments.


2. Every person knows which bad qualities he has and needs to work on correcting. Just as different illnesses require different medicines, so too working on different qualities demands different approaches. The general advice is – when a certain bad quality prevails it is necessary to force it in the opposite direction. For example, the person who is greedy by nature has to constantly give tzedoko. It is better to give one dollar a thousand times, than one thousand dollars once, so that the act of giving will become a habit. Usually it is impossible to change all bad qualities at once, it is necessary to work gradually, even small victories are very important. It is possible to compare this to people which try to lose weight – they constantly weigh themselves. If they lose even one pound a month, in a couple of years they can not be recognized. So, for example, the person who wants to learn to not be angry, constantly checks itself. If he managed not to get angry for a whole day, this is a real victory!


3. There exist many books on Musar - Jewish Ethics. These books give advice about how to work on oneself and get rid of bad qualities. It is a great mitzvah to learn these books, many were translated into English. The most popular ones include “Paths of the Just” and “The Gates of Repentance”. The most important rule is that one should not just read these books as a theory, but apply their words in practice. We work on our qualities all our lives – the harder it is – the greater will be the reward. This is a general rule – the Creator compensates us according to the difficulty we encountered. For this reason, for example, a stingy person will get a greater reward for giving tzedoko than a generous one.


Parshas Vaera.


The laws of Pesach Seder and some explanations of the Haggadah. 


1. The Passover is the first holiday our nation accepted with love, it is the holiday of our redemption and therefore we should try especially hard to fulfill the commandments of Pesach according to their laws. We will first discuss the Passover Seder and then talk about the laws of chametz and the rest of Pesach laws.


2. In general, we drink four cups of wine or grape juice during the Seder and this way the whole Seder can be divided into four parts. The first cup is used for Kiddush, just as on any Shabbos or Yom Tov. On the second cup we make a blessing, thanking the Creator for redeeming us. The third cup is used during Birkas Hamazon – the grace after the meal. We say Hallel – psalms of thanksgiving – over the fourth cup.  The Vilna Gaon explains that the four cups correspond to four periods of time: Kiddush – sanctification – corresponds to this world, where we have to sanctify ourselves. The second cup corresponds to the redemption which will happen in the end of days when Moshiach comes. The third cup corresponds to the resurrection of the dead, when a special feast of Leviyatan will be made. At last, the fourth cup corresponds to great Hallel in the world to come. Let us now discuss each of the four parts of the Seder.


3. First, the Kiddush is made as is printed in the texts of Haggadah. According to some customs the words of Kiddush are said by all the members of the family together. In such a case, nobody answers “Amen” on the brochos of others. After the blessings, one should drink the entire cup or at least the majority, while reclining on the left side. However, the Ashkenazi women have a custom not to recline. Afterwards, everybody washes the hands, takes a small piece of celery or a different vegetable, dips it in salty water, makes a brocha and eats it. Note that we have to check all the green vegetables before the holiday, to make sure they have no bugs. According to the prevalent custom, the leader of the Haggadah has three matzos in from of him. He breaks the middle matzo into two, and hides the larger piece. This piece is called Afikoman and it will be eaten in the end of the Seder.  The leader points at the matzos and says that this is the bread of affliction that our ancestors ate in Egypt. It was a custom of Egyptians to feed their slaves with matzo since it fills a person quickly. Afterwards the second cup is filled, the plate with matzo and other foods is removed and the discourse begins.


4. To understand the general reasons behind all these rituals we need to realize that one of the most important commandments of the Torah is to teach our children. Even regarding Avraham, the Torah specifically underlines that he will be able to teach his offspring to keep the commandments. Throughout most of our history we are in exile, dispersed among people who have a very different world view than ours. It is in these conditions, that we have to educate our young to continue on with the traditions. The Torah constantly stresses the importance of education and especially with regards to Passover Seder – it commands us four times to explain the meaning of Haggadah to our children. The Haggadah will later point out that the four different answers given by the Torah are intended for different types of children. The first son is wise and he wants explanations about the entire Seder. One of his questions is why some families bring only one Passover offering while others bring also Chagiga – an additional korban. He is answered that we are not supposed to eat anything after the afikoman – which was in their time a piece of Passover offering, not a piece of matzo. Therefore, larger families bring Chagiga as well – after eating the meat of Chagiga and the meat of Pesach offering they won’t feel hungry. The second son is deemed wicked. When the Torah describes him, it does not say: “You children will ask”, but rather: “You children will say”. The wicked never ask anything – they just make rhetorical comments – what do you need all this for? He does not even mention the name God in his question – for him all this is just useless waste of time. The third simple child asks: what is this? In the description of the fourth child, the Torah does not even mention that our children will ask. It simply tells us what to answer them. Our sages therefore learned that the fourth child does not know what to ask. It is known that children learn by example much more than by mere words. This is one of the reasons for the symbolism of the Seder. Our children have to be surprised – we have not even eaten yet and we already removed the plate! It is really quite unusual that after Kiddush, we only eat a small vegetable and then remove the serving dish.


5. Now, the children ask four questions. Note that there are many fours during this Seder: four types of children, four questions, four cups etc. In general, the spiritual root of these fours is the four letters in the Divine name that corresponds to the four general ways in which the Creator rules over the universe. If the child is not able to ask the questions himself or there are no children present, then the questions are asked by somebody else. Why is this night different from all other nights? The Pesach plate is returned and the narration begins. We are told about the beginnings of our nation when we were oppressed by an evil tyrannical dictator of the most powerful nation in the world. The scientists still can’t figure out how the Egyptian pyramids were built, at any rate that society was certainly technologically quite advanced. With all that, the Creator saved us from the Egyptian bondage, He took us out with great miracles while the Egypt was totally destroyed and disappeared from the world history for many centuries. Interestingly, the pattern keeps persisting – whenever the Jews leave some country, it loses its importance. The most recent example is the Soviet Union. We also retell that our ancestors were idol worshippers until Avraham discovered the One True God. The Creator than chose him and his descendants and promised to give us the Holy Land. This promise gave us strength even during the hardest years of Egyptian bondage. Note that since then the Jew became a symbol of hope. Even during the worst times of history: throughout the Crusades, the massacres and pogroms, during the Spanish Inquisition, during Communist persecutions and during the World War II, the Jew always knew that this will pass and he will remain. And so, after the long Egyptian bondage, which was three times longer than Communist control of the Soviet Russia, the Creator again showed His Face, and demonstrated to the entire Egyptian people that only He has full control over nature. Ten punishments were brought upon the Egyptians. As we mention each of the plaques we pour out a drop of wine from the cup. Rabbi Yehudah used to group the plaques into three. The reason is that the first three plaques, the next three and the last four share certain commonalities. As we mention each group we pour out three more drops. The cup is refilled and we continue.


6. We now recite the famous praise “Dayeynu” – “it would suffice”. If the Creator would have taken us out of Egypt but did not punish the Egyptians, it would suffice. If He would have split the sea, but did not let us pass through the waters on dry land, it would suffice. The Vilna Gaon explains that if the sea was simply split, we would have to go down into the sea bed and then climb back up. The Creator however did an additional miracle – He froze the water under us, so we passed on a straight path through the sea. If the Creator had brought us to the Mount Sinai but did not give us the Torah it would suffice. Once we came to Mount Sinai, our status changed and we rose to the spiritual height of Adam before his sin.


7. The most important part of the narration are the words of Rabban Gamliel, who explains the meaning of the three foods on the Seder plate. The first, in the time of the Temple was the Pesach offering – a sheep or a goat that was eaten after roasting. Today, when we don’t have our Temple, we just place a piece of roasted chicken on the plate but we don’t eat it. The Passover offering was brought as a remembrance that the Creator passed over the Jewish houses during the last plaque when the firstborn of the Egyptians died. Why do we eat matzo? Because the Creator took us out of Egypt so quickly that our dough did not have time to rise.  Our people had thought that the prohibition of eating chametz extended only to the night and were ready to prepare bread for the morning meal. However, they were taken out so quickly that the dough did not rise and they ate matzo in the morning as well. Why do we eat “maror” – the bitter herbs? Because the Egyptians made our lives bitter.


8. Throughout the Pesach Seder we read the six thanksgiving psalms of Hallel. The first two psalms are recited before the meal, over the second cup of wine. The last four – are recited in the end, over the fourth cup. After reciting the two psalms we say a blessing, thanking the Creator for redeeming us from slavery and we drink the second cup while reclining. Ashkenazi Jews make a blessing on the wine before drinking, while Sephardim rely on the blessing that was made on the first cup. After drinking, everybody washes hands and makes a brocha on the washing. Two blessings are made over the matzo and everybody eats quietly, while reclining. One should try to eat at least as much matzo as the size of an egg within two to four minutes.  After this, the blessing over the bitter herbs is made. Most people use romaine lettuce or grinded horseradish. We eat maror without reclining, since reclining symbolizes our freedom, while maror symbolizes the bitter exile. One should eat as much maror as the size of half an egg.


9. After the meal, we eat the Afikoman and recite the grace. One should not forget to add “yaale veyavo” – a special prayer inserted in the third blessing on holidays. We then make a brocha on the third cut of wine and drink it while reclining.


10. We now finish the Hallel and also recite some additional psalms and a special prayer “Nishmas Kol Chai” – “every living soul will thank You…” on the fourth cup. Afterwards, Ashkenazim make a blessing on the cup while Sephardim rely on the brocha made on the third cup. We drink the last cup while reclining and make a blessing afterwards. In the end of the Seder we express our hope that we will conduct the next year’s Seder in Jerusalem. We are hoping Moshiach will soon come, the Temple will be rebuilt and we will be able to conduct the Seder with all its laws in the Holy City. It is now a mitzvah to spend as much time talking about the exodus from Egypt and discussing the Haggadah until one begins to fall asleep.


11. Starting with the second night of Pesach, we count the Omer. Each evening we make a blessing and state how many days passed since the Omer: “today is one day of Omer …” Staring with the seventh day, we need to count days and weeks: “today is seven days which is one week of Omer …” It is very important not miss even one day. The reason for this commandment is the special relationship which exists between Pesach and Shavuot holidays. Shavuot, which literally means “weeks”, always falls seven weeks after Pesach. We are commanded to count these weeks, as the one who waiting for a special occasion to arrive. When our nation came out of Egypt, we needed to purify ourselves before receiving the Torah. The purification process took 49 days. Similarly every year, we count these days to get ready for Shavuot. During the time between Pesach and Sahvuos, thousands of students of Rabbi Akiva died and therefore it is customary not to get haircuts and not to marry throughout the days of Omer. However, most Ashkenazim allow marriages after the 33th day of Omer – “Lag Baomer”.  Most Sephardim permit to marry starting with the 34th day.


Parshas Bo.


The laws of prohibition of chametz throughout Pesach.


1. The Torah prohibits us not only from eating chametz on Pesach, but also from keeping it in our houses and from deriving any enjoyment from it. Thus, chametz on Pesach has a unique status similar only to the objects of the idol worship. All other foods prohibited by Torah can be kept in one’s domain. The majority of forbidden foods can be used to feed animals or for another purpose. The commentators explain that the severity of prohibition of chametz has to do with the importance of this commandment. Our whole faith depends on the exodus from Egypt. The Creator will not make open miracles in every generation to prove His control to a disbeliever. It is thus so crucial to be able to transfer the traditions about the miracles that happened 3,300 years ago. If not for the commandments that make us remember the exodus, it would have been forgotten long time ago. Look at how quickly the Holocaust is being denied. Even though there are still plenty of eye witnesses of the atrocities of World War II, these events are denied by various lecturers from the podiums of colleges and universities. Certainly the exodus from Egypt would be refuted a generation or two after the evens happened. This is one of the reasons why the Torah stresses the importance of practical commandments that remind us of these events. These traditions could not be invented in any generation. No group of people could persuade the Jewish people that all their ancestors came out of Egypt if it had not been in the nation’s memory all the time. The Torah makes sure that through millions of Jews keeping the Pesach holiday, the exodus will be remembered. The events that once and for all demonstrated the Creator’s full control over nature will not be forgotten.


2. According to Torah law, there are two ways to get rid of chametz. One can search the house and destroy or sell all the chametz found. Alternatively, one can declare all the chametz in his possession – ownerless. According to rabbinical law, we need to do both – search for chametz and declare it ownerless, like the dust of the earth. On the night of 14th of Nisan, we search all our possessions for chametz. After we finished we declare that any chametz we did not notice will be ownerless. In the morning we are allowed to eat the chametz till 1/3 of the day passes. This means that during most years we can at least eat chametz till 9 AM. We are allowed to derive enjoyment from chametz for another hour. We burn any remaining chametz and make another declaration that any chametz we might still have, whether we are aware of it or not, is now ownerless.


3. If Pesach falls on Sunday, we search for chametz on the night after Thursday and burn it Friday morning. We leave sufficient amount to be eaten throughout Friday night and Shabbos morning. On the Sabbath, we have to make sure to finish the morning meal early, while eating chametz is still permissible. Afterwards, all remaining chametz is flushed down the toilet and we declare all chametz that is possibly still in our possession – ownerless. During the third meal we can eat neither chametz nor matzo, for it is prohibited to eat matzo the last day before Pesach. Therefore, we eat meat or fish during this meal and also learn Torah to compensate the impossibility of eating bread.


4. The prevailing custom in our day is to sell chametz to a non-Jew. In order for this to be permitted, it has to be done without any deceit. One has to realize that he is in fact selling all his chametz, the non-Jew can come at any time and pick it up and he does not have to sell it back after Pesach. Since the technicalities of the sale are quite complicated, it should be conducted only with the help of a competent Rabbi. The chametz that was sold should be kept in a closed closet, marked clearly so that one will not accidentally start using it during Pesach. Many people don’t rely on the sale due to the fact that it is difficult to do it completely honestly. They rather destroy all the chametz before Pesach.


5. Every year, special catalogues with lists of medicines and products are published in the U.S. These catalogues help a person know what can be kept at home throughout Pesach and what can be eaten or used. If you don’t have such a catalogue, please call a Rabbi who can help check you medicines for you.


6. During the Pesach we have to use special Passover dishes. Even though it is possible to kasher the dishes one used throughout the year, it is rarely done, since buying Pesach dishes is cheaper and simpler. All of the counters are washed and covered with contact paper. The sink is washed and covered with heavy duty aluminum foil. Some also use special inserts inside the sinks. Special Pesach stove tops are usually used. If one can’t buy them, the ones used throughout the year can be kashered. Those who want to use the ovens or microwaves throughout Pesach should discuss with a Rabbi the methods of kashering them.


7. The Torah forbids chametz made from five species – wheat, barley, rye, oats and spelt. However, Ashkenazi Jews don’t eat a number of similar grain foods like rice, corn, buckwheat etc. However, one is allowed to keep these products in the house. If any food that is not kosher for Passover got mixed with kosher for Pesach food, one should consult a Rabbi. In general, when chametz gets mixed with other foods, everything including the pot becomes forbidden, but if rice falls into other foods, they remain permitted.



Parshas Beshalach.


The laws of Pesuke Dezimra – the thanksgiving verses of prayer.


1. One of the important parts of the morning prayer is Pesuke Dezimra. We recite a number of pslams and other verses from the Torah and finish with Shir Shel Yam – the song that Moshe and the Jewish people sang after crossing the See of Reeds. In general the prayers that we recite make rectifications in the spiritual worlds. Each person is capable of rectifying what is applicable to his soul. The four worlds that are closest to us are called “Asiya” – doing, “Etzira” – making, “Beria” – creating and “Atzilus” – closeness. To rectify the world of Asiya we pronounce the morning blessings and read the passages that have to do with the Temple service. Since this is the world of action, we pronounce verses about physical action for its rectification. To rectify the next world we pronounce Pesuke Dezimra – this is the world of speech, we have to concentrate on the main theme of this section of prayer – all living is praising the Creator. To rectify the world of Beria we pronounce Shema. This is the world of thought and we have to concentrate on subduing our thoughts to accept the yolk of Heaven. At last, the silent prayer Shemone Esre corresponds to the world of Atzilus – closeness to the Creator. This prayer is pronounced so quietly that only we can hear ourselves. During this prayer we can connect to the Creator on the most intimate level.


2. Our sages instituted a blessing before the Pesuke Dezimra and a blessing after. Before Pesuke Dezimra we pronounce the prayer “Boruch Sheomar” – this deep mystical prayer contains many secretes of Kabbalah but its simple meaning is thanking the One Who promises and fulfills. After this blessing is pronounced we are not allowed to talk until after Shemone Esre. It is customary to hold the front tzitzis during this blessing and afterwards to kiss them and let them go.


3. The main part of Pesuke Dezimra is 145th Psalm – Ashre. Afterwards we pronounce the following five psalms until the end of the book of psalms. The one, who came to the synagogue late and can only catch up and pray Shemone Esre with everybody if he skips, should skip the other parts of Pesuke Dezimra and only say Boruch Sheomar, the six psalms and the blessing after – Ishtabach. If there is not enough time even for that he should say Boruch Sheamar, Ashrey, psalms 148 and 150 and Ishtabach, if there is no time for that – then only Boruch Sheomar, Ashre and Ishtabach.


4. During the Pesuke Dezimra one is allowed to answer Amen on any blessing heard. If one finished the Pesuke Dezimra and is waiting for the congregation he can meanwhile learn Torah from a book without pronouncing the words.


5. The last blessing of Pesuke Dezimra starts with the words “Ishtabach Shimcha Laad Malkenu” – “may Your name be praised forever, our King”. In this prayer we pronounce 13 praises of the Creator corresponding to the 13 times the word Boruch appears in Boruch Sheomar.


6. Ten Jewish men over thirteen years old constitute a miniyan and can pronounce together Kadish, Kedusha and Borchu. Thus, in case of communal prayer after Yishtabach Kadish and Borchu are pronounced. Women are not counted for a miniyon. The general reason for this is that each woman is a world of her own – the women in general work less in groups and the “glory of the daughter of the king is inside”. Kadish is pronounced between various sections of prayer, in general the Kadish is used to connect the spiritual worlds rectified in different parts of the prayer. In this case the Kadish is separating Beria from Etzira. Sometimes Kadish is pronounced by the prayer leader, at other times Kadish is said by someone in the congregation for a deceased relative. It is a great mitzvah to answer Kadish – the main response is “Amen. Ehe Shme Raba Mevorach Leolam Uleolme Almaya” – May His great Name be blessed for ever. These words contain 28 letters corresponding the work Koach – the strength of the Creator.


7. During the morning and evening prayers Borchu is pronounced. This is an invitation to bless the Creator. It is very important to answer Borchu, even someone who is saying Shema (except for the first verse) should interrupt in order to answer Borchu and Kadish.


The laws of the commandment to remember what Amalek did to us and destroy this nation and its ideology.


1. After we went out of Egypt, a very unusual nation attacked us. The reason for their attack was neither financial nor political. They had no reason to be afraid we would take their land – our path laid far from them. Their reason to hate us stemmed from their hatred to Godliness and morality itself. This nation tried to fight against the very concept of the existence of the Creator and thus they fought against the nation that represents Him – the Jewish people. The Torah teaches us that Amalek’s philosophy will continue to exist until the end of days and will only be destroyed after the coming of Moshiach. Our goal is to protest and fight against such an outlook on life – the outlook of atheism and attributing everything to chance. The Torah tells us to always remember what Amalek did to us.


2. Our sages teach us that we face Amalek every time a great rectification is about to happen. Just as when two people are fighting and one is ready to defeat the other, the second gathers his last strength to push him away, so too when our nation is ready for great achievements, Amalek is sent to stop us. The first time Amalek met us when we were about to receive the Torah. The second time – before the establishment of David’s dynasty. The third time – Haman the Amalekite tried to destroy our nation before the building of the Second Temple. The Talmud teaches us that if our nation will not be worthy in the end of days another Haman will try to destroy us. This will remind the Jewish people who they are and cause us to come back to the Creator. As it is known, Hitler demonstrated all the qualities of Amalek and in reality the Baaley Teshuvah movement to return to Torah observance started after WWII.


3. The Torah commands us to read the passage “Zachor” – remember what Amalek did to you. We read these verses on the Shabbos before Purim. According to some opinions, women are also obligated to hear this passage and therefore most women even if they usually don’t go to the synagogues on Shabbos do come that week.


4. Many people mention six things we need to remember after the daily prayers; one of them is the remembrance of what Amalek did to us. According to Arizal, when we recite the blessing before the morning Shema and say the words “You brought us close to Your Great Name”, we should remember about Amalek who tried to “diminish” the Divine Name. This is why the Torah actually uses a two letter name instead of the main four letter name when describing the episode of Amalek.


Parshas Yisro.


The laws of remembering Shabbos.


1. At mount Sinai our nation heard two commandments regarding Shabbos in a prophetic vision: to remember Shabbos and to keep it. Remembering Shabbos implies all the positive aspects of the day – making it special and different. Keeping Shabbos implies making sure not to desecrate it by performing any forbidden work. Let us first discuss the laws of the positive aspects of  Shabbos.


2. The Shabbos is the most important holiday in our calendar, in many ways it is even a greater holiday than Yom Kippur. For this reason, seven people are called up to the Torah on Shabbos, six – on Yom Kippur and five on other holidays. Respecting Shabbos and being happy on this day is one of the most exalted ways to serve the Creator, Who wants us to enjoy this day. Moreover, for proper observance of Shabbos we are promised a great reward. Imagine that during a job interview, the employer proposed that all we need to do is eat, sleep, sing songs and enjoy ourselves and for all this we will be getting an excellent salary. I don’t think we would believe the seriousness of the offer. However, it is under these conditions that the Creator “hires” us: enjoy the Shabbos the best you can and I will reward you greatly.


3. Everything on Shabbos is different. Eating, walking, clothes, manner of speech, even the intimate relations between the spouses on Shabbos have nothing to do with weekday mundane ones. All these actions on Shabbos are elevated and become means in fulfilling the mitzvos. All of the Shabbos meals are separated from the weekday ones. We make Kiddush on wine in the beginning of Shabbos and it is forbidden to eat anything until Kiddush is made. After the end of Shabbos we make Havdallah. Before Havdallah, we are not allowed to eat or to do any work. On Shabbos itself we eat three festive meals. They are not called breakfast, dinner and supper, rather their very names are special: the first, second and third Shabbos meals. They correspond to the three forefathers – Avraham, Yitzchak and Yakov who also instituted the three prayers – Shacharis, Mincha and Maariv. After Shabbos we eat an additional meal – Melave Malka, seeing off the queen. It corresponds to an additional Shabbos prayer – Musaf. We will now discuss everything in greater detail.


4. Before Shabbos we take a shower or at least wash our hands and face. If the hair grew too long we try to get a haircut before Shabbos. Similarly, it’s a mitzvah to cut the nails on Friday. Some men have a custom to go to the Mikvah before every Shabbos. On Shabbos we wear beautiful holiday clothes. It is a mitzvah to prepare beautiful Shabbos candles; it is especially praiseworthy to light olive oil for Shabbos. In many families, the custom is for the man to prepare the candles and for the woman to light them. This way, the man also participates in the fulfillment of this wonderful commandment. Obviously, when the woman is absent or the man lives alone, he lights the candles himself. It is sufficient to light two Shabbos candles but many women light more – some light seven, ten or twelve. If one can’t get even two candles, she should try to at least light one. The time of lighting the candles is somewhere between 20 and 15 minutes before sundown. If this time passed, the candles can still be lit until sundown. However, since most watches are not perfectly accurate one should not light the candles in the last few minutes before sundown. Certainly, if the candles were not lit before sundown, they cannot be lit later. The Shabbos is then spent without the candles and from the next Shabbos on, the custom is to light another candle in addition to the number one was accustomed to.


5. Even though Shabbos starts with sundown, it is a mitzvah to add to this day in the beginning and at the end. In the summer in many communities people pray Maariv – the evening prayer before sundown. In such a case, the woman should try to light the candles and accept Shabbos on herself before her husband receives Shabbos in the synagogue.


6. Kiddush – literally “sanctification” is pronounced over wine or grape juice before the meals on Shabbos and Yom Tov. Usually, when the men come home after evening prayers, they find the table set and everything is ready for Kiddush. If there are no men in the household, the woman makes Kiddush. The Shabbos Kiddush consists of two blessings: the first is the usual brocha over the wine, the second is the actual Kiddush where we mention that Shabbos was separated from weekdays and we thank the Creator for giving us this day. Everybody present has to listen carefully and keep in mind to fulfill their obligation of Kiddush, while the one pronouncing the blessings has to keep in mind that with this Kiddush he lets others fulfill their obligations as well. The one making Kiddush has to drink the cup of wine or grape juice or at least its majority. It is preferable that everyone present also tastes at least a little bit. After this, everybody washes their hands for bread. One should not interrupt between Kiddush and washing. We start every Shabbos meal by making a blessing over two unbroken breads – challas.  The head of the household pronounces the brocha keeping in mind to include everybody and then cuts the challah, dips the pieces in salt, eats a piece and distributes the rest to others. Nobody talks until they swallowed a piece of challah. Some people hold one challah on top of the other and cut the bottom challah during the evening meal and the top challah during all other meals.


7. Now is the time for the holiday meal. It is interesting to note that in today’s technologically advanced world people feel further apart from each other than ever before. The family members living under one roof have separate interests with almost nothing in common. In many cases each one has his own computer with internet access, video games, news and movies of his choice. On the other hand, in an observant Jewish family the traditional values are still intact. The family gathered around the Shabbos table has many common issues to discuss. The children’s learning in school, the weekly Torah reading, the various stories about righteous people – all these can be topics of interesting and exciting conversations. The children feel their importance and the genuine interest of their parents makes their relationship very close. Many people have Shabbos guests who make the discussions at the table even more interesting – the long conversations often continue for hours. Last but not least – the food at Shabbos meals is very desirable. First, gefilte fish is served, then soup, then the main course and at last the dessert.


8. When the meal is finished, the blessings after eating are recited. There is a special addition (Retze) to the third brocho – we mention the Shabbos day there. Now the family members go to sleep. Getting a good Shabbos rest is also a mitzvah. When the wife is not Nidah, it’s a mitzvah for the couple to have relations. According to the teachings of Kabbalah, if a woman conceives on Shabbos night, very special children will be born.


9. In the morning usually the men go to the synagogue. If a woman does not have small children she often goes to the synagogue as well. Certainly, if she has small children, she is absolved from going to the synagogue since she is busy with a much more important mitzvah – taking care of them.


10. Before the morning prayers one is allowed to drink coffee or tea but a healthy person should not eat anything. A sick individual who needs to eat in the morning should at least recite the morning blessings before eating. Those women who normally don’t pronounce the formal prayers but only say the morning brochos, should not even drink without making a Kiddush on wine or grape juice. If this is difficult, she can make Kiddush on a different juice or milk and eat a piece of cake greater than the size of an average egg.


11. After the morning prayers are finished, one can not even drink water until Kiddush is made. It consists of only one blessing on the wine or grape juice. It is preferable to eat the morning meal immediately but many people eat some cake only while the second Shabbos meal is eaten later. In any event one should not delay that meal till after midday.


12. Those who are tired can take a nap in the afternoon but one should not say: “Let me get some sleep now so I will be able to do my work after Shabbos”. One should also not forget that Shabbos is given not only for physical pleasures but for spiritual as well. In many synagogues lessons of Torah take place before the afternoon prayer – Mincha. In larger Jewish communities many different classes are conducted so one can choose the Torah topic that appeals to him the most. Lessons for women are usually also available.


13. After Mincha, the third meal is held. One should try to eat a piece of bread bigger than an average egg, but if this is too difficult, he should eat cake or at least fruits. Kiddush is not made but one should drink some wine or grape juice during the meal. Note, that the blessing over the bread does not cover the wine, and therefore we have to make a brocha before we drink it.


14. The Shabbos ends when three small stars can be seen on the evening sky. This time can depend on the season and location – latitude and longitude of the city. The general custom of most Jews is to wait at least 72 minutes after sundown. In any case, it is a mitzvah to add to Shabbos and not to end it at the earliest possible time. After Shabbos is over we pray Maariv – the evening prayers. One should not forget to make a special addition – “Ato Chonantanu,” where we mention that Shabbos was separated from weekdays. If one forgot to say “Ato Chonantanu,” he should say after his prayers “Boruch Hamavdil Bein Kodesh Lechol” and then doing work becomes permitted. One is forbidden to eat or drink until Havdallah is made. At home, the father makes Havdallah for the whole family. Havdallah includes four blessings corresponding to four senses – sight, hearing, smell and taste to separate all our feelings on weekday from the Shabbos  ones. We make a blessing on the wine (taste), on nicely smelling substances (smell), on the fire (sight) and the main blessing to distinguish Shabbos from weekdays (hearing). Everybody has to hear this blessing otherwise the obligation of Havdallah is not fulfilled.


15. It is a special mitzvah to eat another meal – Melave Malka, seeing off the Shabbos queen. It is preferable to eat bread, but if this is too difficult one can eat some cake or at least fruits.


16. Even during the week we have to remember Shabbos. Every morning in our prayers we mention which day after Shabbos this is. Note that the Jewish days of the week don’t have independent names – Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, etc. They are counted only as days after Shabbos “Yom Rishon” – first day, etc. If we notice rare fruits being sold during the week, we buy them for Shabbos. Many men buy flowers for their wives on Friday so the Shabbos table is even more beautiful. It is customary to do laundry on Thursday so that fresh clothing is available for Shabbos. Let us merit to keep and respect Shabbos fittingly.


Parshas Mishpatim.


The laws of Jewish court – Bais Din.


1. The Creator gave us in His Torah not only the laws of prayer, marriage and divorce – these laws are understood to come under the domain of religion even by the nations of the world, but even the laws of commerce, financial decisions by the court and guarding other people’s property are also defined by the Torah. In certain ways the laws that guard our relationship with others may be even more important than the commandments that have to do only with our relationship with the Creator. The one who violates the prohibitions regarding others is also transgressing his obligations to the Creator. When he tries to repent he does not reach forgiveness until the person he offended is compensated and forgives him. Moreover, those that transgress the laws guarding our relationship with other people cause “Chilul Hashem” – profanation of the Divine Name. We will be discussing some of the Torah’s financial laws here and more in Parshios Vayikra, Kedoshim and Behar. These laws are quite complicated and in any case of doubt one has to consult a competent Rabbi.


2. If two Jews have a monitory dispute it is preferable to decide it peacefully between themselves. Sometimes the best solution may be a compromise. However if no concession was achieved and they need to go to court, they should only go to a Jewish Bais Din. It is strictly forbidden to go to non-Jews for judgment. Only if one of the sides repeatedly refuses the summons from the Bais Din the other side obtains permission from a Bais Din to go to a secular court. In general anyone who has to go to a non-Jewish court whether as a plaintiff, as a lawyer or as a witness should consult a Rabbi beforehand regarding what he is allowed to tell without breaking the laws of Torah.


3. During the judgment in Bais Din one is forbidden to lie even if he knows that he is right in this dispute and he thinks that by lying he will get his fair share. It is also forbidden to give bribes even if one knows that he is right and he is not trying to get more than he deserves. The witnesses are also forbidden to lie even if this will cause restoration of justice. For example a person is not allowed to ask his friend: “You know I never lie. Such and such actually borrowed from me $1000 and does not want to pay. I have only one witness, can you also come with me to Bais Din so he thinks I have two witnesses and will admit that he owns me the money.”


The laws of helping to load and unload an animal.


1. If one sees that somebody’s animal fell under its load we are required to help the owner unload it. This law is one of the examples of the Torah’s commandment to avoid causing suffering to animals, see Parshas Emor. After helping to unload the animal, there is another commandment to help load it with the weight it is capable of carrying. However, one is allowed to ask for a payment for the loading. After this, one should walk with the owner for about 2.5 miles to make sure the animal does not fall down again. He is allowed to ask for payment for this as well. Of course if the owner says he does not need further help one can leave him.


2. If the owner does not want to unload the animal asking that we alone do the mitzvah, we are not required to do it. The Torah only commands us to help him – not to have to do everything ourselves.


3. If a group of people are traveling together and one’s car broke, if the fixing will not take a long time he should not be left alone.


Parshas Trumah.


The laws of the holiness of the synagogue.


1. The synagogue and Bais Midrash – house of Torah study – possess great holiness. (Of course the Creator’s Presence fills the world. However, the Torah with its laws was given according to our prospective. For this reason the Torah defines certain places as very holy – these places associate in our mind with the House of God – places where we pray and learn the Torah. This way we have to behave in such places with proper reverence at least as we would behave in the palace of an earthly king. Our synagogues are small imitations of the Holy Temple, the prayers in them are accepted favorably whereas lack of respect to them is severely punished.)


2. Idle talk and any business conversation are forbidden in the synagogue. It is even worse sin to discuss others lie or quarrel in the synagogue. These types of speech are strictly forbidden everywhere but in the synagogue they are considered a double violation. For this reason the Vilna Gaon wrote to his wife that if people discuss rumors in the synagogue it is better to not go there and to pray at home. Even kissing little children in the synagogue is forbidden. One is allowed to talk about Torah or mitzvos and make the necessary monitory calculations related to tzedoko, but not during the time of prayers. 


3. It is forbidden to enter a synagogue in order to save oneself from rain or the sun. If one need to call somebody from a synagogue, he should first enter and say a verse of Torah or at least sit a little and only then call his friend.


4. One should not eat or drink in the synagogue unless it is needed for a mitzvah. Similarly those who learn in synagogues for many hours usually eat there in order not  to interrupt their learning.


5. Since following all the above laws is quite difficult most synagogues in our day are built “Al Tanay” – on condition that certain leniencies to these laws will apply. Moreover many places of prayer are not built as synagogues altogether – rather they are made as a private house where one can also pray. However even in such cases we should do our best trying to respect these places of worship – the more the synagogue is respected the greater is the effect of our prayers.


6. We should try to keep our synagogues clean and beautiful. It’s a mitzvah to light candles in synagogues. One entering from the street should wipe his shoes and then enter. At the entrance it’s good to say “I am now coming at Your great mercy to Your House and bowing down before You in reverence”. One should feel that he is coming to the palace of the Creator of the world and he should now be especially careful about his behavior and speech.


Parshas Tetzaveh.


The laws of Purim.


1. Two and a half thousand years ago one enemy of the Jews, a descendent of Amalek (see Parshas Beshalach), the wicked Haman wanted to destroy all of the Jewish people from young to old. The date of the terrible pogrom was set on the 13th of Adar. Our people, led by Mordechai and Ester returned to the Creator with all their hearts and Haman was killed. On the 13 of Adar no Jew was killed – instead their enemies perished and ten sons of Haman where hung. It is interesting to note that when our ancestors found out about the danger, they did not start preparing for battle or learning how to hide but were busy with trying to improve their ways and repent. The Talmud tells us that if we don’t return to the Torah’s ways in the end of days, the Creator will prepare a second Haman who will try to destroy our nation. As we mentioned in Parshas Beshalach, Hitler exhibited the same traits as Haman, but unfortunately the Mordechais of that generation were not able to get our people to repent. The Jewish people were moving away from observance at a tremendous speed until we became witnesses of the terrible destruction. The righteous and the wicked suffered together as is usually the case with the punishments in this world – our nation is judged collectively and once the punishment is decreed everybody suffers. At the end of the war the allies judged many of the Nazi criminals and ten of them were hung. Interestingly, when the book of Ester describes the names of the ten sons of Haman, three letters are written small and one is bigger than usual. In general small or large letters are quite rare – altogether there are a few dozen in the entire Torah. The three small letters have the numerical value of 707 – the Jewish year when the Nazi criminals were executed, while the big letter has numerical value 6 – the millennia when it happened. Interestingly, one of the Nazis when led to the gallows, cried out in German: “Purim holiday, 1946”. In the end, after all of the suffering, our people started coming back exactly as predicted by the Torah. More and more people brought up in secular families are accepting traditional Judaism, and as their numbers grow, we hope for the speedy redemption.


2. The holiday of Purim is one of the happiest days in our calendar. Many things that we normally don’t do are permitted on this day, for example getting drunk. However even during our happiness we should not overindulge since the gladness of all the happy occasions is still before the Creator.


3. The main mitzvah of Purim is to hear the book of Ester being read from a scroll in the evening and in the morning. We have to keep in mind to fulfill our obligation and we need to listen very carefully to every word. Even the one who does not know the Holy tongue fulfills the mitzvah if he listened attentively. Since the custom is to make noise each time the name Haman is mentioned, the reader should not continue until it gets quiet. All the mitzvos of Purim are obligatory to both men and women. For this reason women have to either listen to the reading of the scroll of Ester in the synagogues or in somebody’s house.


4. On Purim one has to give charity to at least two poor people. The minimal donation should be sufficient for buying a meal – maybe 5 dollars. One should give at least some money to everybody else who asks – the poor people always expect to receive donations on Purim. Another Purim mitzvah is to send a gift with at least two types of food to a friend.


5. One should make a festive meal on Purim. It is preferable to eat bread during this meal and one should also drink some wine. Many people drink a little wine and go to sleep in order to fulfill the command of the Talmud: to drink until one does not know the difference between “cursed is Haman” and “blessed is Mordechai”.


6. We don’t do weekday work on Purim. The one who needs to go to work should discuss it with a Rabbi.


Parshas Ki Sisa.


Laws of work forbidden on Shabbos from the Torah.


1. We will now try to describe briefly the laws of work forbidden on Shabbos. We will first describe those types of labor prohibited by the Torah and then discuss additional fences instituted by Rabbis. In general, the laws of Shabbos are quite complicated, sometimes one of two similar actions may be permitted while the other – forbidden. It is a great Mitzvah to learn the laws of Shabbos, there are many excellent books in English that can be helpful. We will only describe the most basic laws, certainly, in case of any doubts one should ask a competent Orthodox Rabbi.


2. There are 39 general types of work that our Torah forbids to perform on Shabbos. These works were done by our nation on weekdays in the wilderness when we were commanded to build the Mishkan – Tabernacle. According to the teachings of Kabbalah, the Tabernacle was a projection of the entire universe. Thus, just as 39 types of work were used to create the universe, the projections of those works were used to build the Mishkan. There is also the fortieth work that was used in the beginning of creation – making out of nothing. However, this work can not be preformed by people anyway and therefore it is not counted. Many of the 39 forbidden works are quite uncommon, and we will only describe the ones that occur frequently.


3. The Torah forbids us to light or extinguish fire. It is similarly forbidden to enlarge or diminish an existing fire. For this reason, one is also not allowed to drive a car on Shabbos, after all the driver constantly causes changes to the combustion in the engine. It is also forbidden to turn on, turn off, increase or decrease electric light. For this reason, one should take out electric bulb from the refrigerator before Shabbos, otherwise light would turn on as we open the door. Despite the fact that electricity was discovered quite recently, all Orthodox Rabbis from one end of the world to the other agree that electric light can not be turned on Shabbos. This is another wonder of our Talmud which records the Oral Law received on Mount Sinai. The sages of the Talmud knew that in the end of days there will be a tremendous scientific progress that will change the whole world and they predicted the industrial revolution. The book of Zohar even gives the precise date for it – year 5600 corresponding to the non-Jewish year 1840. Thus, the Talmudic sages made sure to teach us not only the laws but also the reasons behind them and their general principles. This way, at any point in time the contemporary Rabbis can turn to the Talmud to find what the laws would be with regards to newly invented devices.


4. The Torah does not forbid doing work on a weekday even if it causes an automatic activity on Shabbos. It is thus permitted to set special electric timers before the Shabbos starts and they turn the light on and off automatically. With all that, the Talmud forbids causing such Shabbos activity that would make loud noise as for example a watermill. After all, this would subtract from the spirit of the day of rest. For this reason, one should not set radio and similar devices on a timer. Setting an alarm clock so that it rings on Shabbos is permitted, since everyone knows that alarm clocks always ring at preset times. It goes without saying that a competent Orthodox Rabbi needs to be consulted for any concrete question.


5. It is forbidden to cook on Shabbos even on the fire that was lit before Shabbos started. Moreover, even pouring hot water from a  tea pot on leaves of tea is forbidden. The detailed laws of preparation of hot food for Shabbos are quite complicated; the best advice is to learn from a Shabbos observer. The general method is to leave semi cooked food on a metal sheet that covers the stove. The food continues to be cooked until it is removed on Shabbos. Under certain circumstances one is permitted to return the pot back after taking out what is needed for this meal. Some Rabbis permit preparing tea as follows: the water from the teapot that was on the stove from before Shabbos is poured into a cup and then from it into a different cup, where the tea bag is inserted. Others require the tea essence to be prepared before Shabbos, and on Shabbos hot water can be poured to a cup and from there to the essence. Generally we can not use on Shabbos the hot water that runs in our sinks. The reason for this is that when hot water is taken out from the boiler, new cold water enters and starts to get heated. Moreover, any hot water that was heated on Shabbos can not be used even if the heating was done automatically. Some people living in private houses are able to close the fire that heats the boiler as well as the new cold water access and then use the hot water for washing hands, face and dishes. However, taking a shower even using such water is prohibited Rabbinically as we will describe later.


6. The Torah forbids taking an object from a mixture or sorting any articles on Shabbos. Only those utensils or foods that are needed right now can be removed. Thus, for example one can take out some nuts from the mixture of nuts and nutshells if he is planning to eat them now, one can choose a pair of socks than he wants to wear. However, it is forbidden to use special tools to sort any objects. For example, one can not pass liquids through a sieve. When one is eating eggs or fruits that have shells, the shells can be removed only right before the eating. When one is eating meat or fish that has bones, the food should be removed from the bones, but not the bones from the food. According to some opinions, one is allowed to remove pits and bones as he is eating, but not before the meal. According to this, one can take away the watermelon pits from a slice of water melon. Most Sephardic Rabbis rely on this opinion; however Ashkenazi Jews permit this only when there is no other way, like during feeding the children. Otherwise, one should try to eat the fruit and spit out the pits.


7. It is forbidden to squeeze out fruits on Shabbos. According to many opinions one is allowed to squeeze the fruits right into solid food. Those foods that absorbed liquids can be squeezed if one's purpose is to get rid of the liquid but not in order to drink the liquid they absorbed. It is also forbidden to grind or cut into very small pieces those foods that grow from the earth.


8. The Torah forbids us to mix various powders and liquids if the end result is a solid substance. For this reason, one can not prepare various instant jellies, puddings etc. There are many other applications of this prohibition and when one is in doubt he should consult a Rabbi. It is also forbidden to salt vegetables on Shabbos. When making a salad, one should mix the salt with oil first, so that its strength is decreased, and then one can pour the mixture into the salad.


9. The Torah forbids carrying any objects on the outside. Note, that the forbidden activity as defined by the Torah does not depend on the amount of exertion. One is not allowed to carry the smallest object on the street, but it is permitted to move even heavy objects inside the house. It is sometimes forbidden however to carry from one apartment to another even within the same building, or even from one room to another in the same apartment, if they are owned by different people. However, using an "eiruv" the various domains can be mixed and then the carrying between them becomes permitted. Certainly, in making an eiruv one has to consult a competent Rabbi. In some cases a whole neighborhood or even a city can become one domain in which carrying is permissible, obviously the decisions of when this is possible are made by leading Rabbis.


10. The Torah forbids us to sew up, unstitch, glue together, break up and cut various objects. For this reason, toilet paper should be cut before Shabbos or one should use napkins. If one has no precut paper, he is permitted to tear off from a roll in an unusual manner, for example using his elbow. (The matter is that any work on Shabbos, if it is done in an unusual way, is forbidden only by Rabbis, not by the Torah, and in this case the Rabbis removed their prohibition because of human dignity.) It is forbidden to tie or untie complex knots on Shabbos, but it is permitted to fasten a temporary bow (for example, shoe laces.) One is not allowed to knit and weave anything; girls cannot braid their hair or unbraid it. It is forbidden to smear thick substances on Shabbos. For this reason, we do not use a solid soap and we do not apply creams. The above mentioned prohibition does not apply to foods.


11. It is forbidden to build or break anything. Breaking in order to fix is forbidden by Torah itself, while breaking for destructive purpose is forbidden by the Rabbis. One should try to open all food packages and cans before Shabbos. If this was not done, they should only be opened in destructive manner, making the vessel useless. (This is another example where a rabbinical prohibition is removed when there is no other way to enjoy the Shabbos meals.) It is forbidden to open even temporary tents or make any roofs. One can not carry an umbrella even in places where there is an eiruv, even if it was open before Shabbos.


12. The Torah forbids washing or rinsing clothes.  Similarly one can not squeeze out a wet cloth. If wine got spilled on a shirt, one is not allowed to pour some water on the spot.


14. One can not write or erase any writings on Shabbos. It is also forbidden to paint or color any objects, a woman may not put on makeup. Those women that want to have their makeup on put it before Shabbos and it stays for the whole day.


14. It is forbidden to catch animals or insects as well as to kill and wound them. Also, the Torah forbids pulling out what grows on the body of a person or an animal. It is therefore forbidden to cut nails or hair. It is also forbidden to pluck any plants from the ground or fruits from trees. It is prohibited to water plants, therefore one should not pour out water in a court yard where flowers or trees grow. Similarly, one cannot through seeds on the ground where they could grow.


Parshas Vayakhel.


Laws of rabbinical prohibitions on Shabbos.


1. The Creator gave the Rabbis the sanction to establish fences around the Torah laws. With the help of such safeguards, the laws of the Torah itself are protected. (One might question why, if the protections are so important, were they not specified by Torah itself? One of the reasons is, that protections can vary, depending on necessity, and laws of a Torah – are eternal. A good example of this is the rabbinical prohibition of taking a hot shower or bath on Shabbos. The Talmud tells us, that in the beginning it was permissible to bathe in the hot water which has been heated up before Shabbos, but some bathhouse attendants began to heat up water on Shabbos itself, claming that it was heated before. The Rabbis then forbade washing in hot water, but allowed to come into a bath for sweating and afterwards wash with cold water. However they had to forbid that also, since people were still washing in hot water claming they only come to the bathhouse for sweating. It happens sometimes, that if the generation becomes better, the severity of some rabbinical prohibitions is also decreased. A good example of this is the laws of Muktza – prohibition of moving certain objects. Many more objects were included in Muktza category in a generation that was conducting business on Shabbos, but afterwards, when people improved their observance some of these objects were permitted to be moved again. Note also, that some of the rabbinical laws are hinted by Torah itself. With regards to Shabbos in particular, the Torah requires the Rabbis to institute laws that will make this day special and also hints to some of the ways this day should be made different from weekdays. The Torah hints to the prohibition of walking far away from the city (Shemos 16, 29); the prohibition on doing commerce (Yermiyahu 17, 21, Nehemiah 13, 16); the requirement that our speech and manner of walking is different on Shabbos (Yeshiyahu 58, 13) etc. Obviously, after the sealing of the Talmud 1,500 years ago no more laws can be added by any Rabbi. All matters of Jewish law including the new questions that arise regarding for instance electric devices are decided based on the Talmud.


2. There are many specific laws regarding making a partnership with non-Jews who work on Shabbos. In case a Jew wants to operate a common restaurant, hotel, factory or a parking lot there are rules when this is permitted and how the profits should be divided. The detailed laws are beyond the scope of this book, obviously in each particular case one should ask a Rabbi. (Note also, that having a nonreligious Jewish partner in business is governed by more severe laws.)


3. One should similarly discuss with a Rabbi if he wants to hire non-Jews to do work on Shabbos. On the other hand, giving (before Shabbos starts) some work to a non-Jew to be done outside our homes, without asking him to do it on Shabbos – is generally permitted. For this reason we can deposit our dry cleaning and mail our letters on Friday. This law applies only to the work that is not done publicly, but hiring a construction company to build for us may be forbidden even if they do their work on Shabbos without being asked. Each concrete question should be asked to a competent Rabbi.


4. On Shabbos itself it is even more strictly forbidden to ask a non-Jew to do work for us. Unfortunately even some people who otherwise keep Shabbos are not fully aware of this prohibition. Many people heard of the concept of Shabbos Goi – a non-Jew who does the work for us. The truth is that in cold countries it is permitted to ask a non-Jew to heat the stove in order to avoid suffering in the winter. With time, many people started asking that non-Jew to do other things for them as well. This is how the prohibition of asking a non-Jew to do work was often ignored.


5. If some work is forbidden on rabbinically, one can ask a non-Jew to do it in case of a mitzvah, or for a person who is not feeling well. Sometimes, in case of great financial loss one can hint to a non-Jew to do work. For example, if there is fire that does not present any danger to people, one can tell a non-Jew: “whoever extinguishes it will not loose”. Obviously, if there is danger involved the work can be done by Jews as well and it is an obligation to do everything to save life.


6. The Rabbis forbid us to move certain objects called Muktza. Anything that is generally useless like stones, sticks, bones, shells and money can not be moved on Shabbos. If a stone was used from before Shabbos in order to hold a door from closing, we can continue using it on Shabbos. Any expansive article that is normally used for work that is forbidden on Shabbos can not be moved. However, if the article is cheap, it can be moved to perform permitted activity or to free space. Thus, a hammer can be moved to break nut shells or to move it out of the way. Those objects that were doing work in the beginning of Shabbos can not be moved the entire Shabbos. Thus, candles and lamps can not be moved even after they extinguish. Anything on which muktza objects were placed from before Shabbos also becomes muktza. Thus, the table on which Shabbos candles were lit can not be moved the entire Shabbos. However, if before Shabbos started other articles were place on that table, one can move it provided those articles are of greater importance than the candles. Many people therefore place challas on the table before Shabbos so that when the candles extinguish the table can be moved. Others light the Shabbos candles on a separate table, and this was the custom of Arizal and Vilna Gaon. (According to Kabbalah the candles are lit in the south while the eating table is placed in the north.)


7. During the meal we often have bones, pits and shells gathering in front of us. If so much of it assembled that one gets disgusted, he can move it away. A better advice is to put some bread on a plate first and during the meal to place all the pits on that plate. Afterwards, the plate can be removed. Note also that those bones that a dog can eat can be moved as long as there are some dogs in the vicinity. Regarding the animals themselves, they are also muktza and can not be moved on Shabbos.


8. It is forbidden to talk about business on Shabbos. One is not allowed to mention anything that can not be done on Shabbos itself, for example: “I will ride my car tomorrow”. However, one is allowed to talk about performing a mitzvah after Shabbos even if some work will be involved. In general, our speech on Shabbos should be exalted and different from weekdays.


9. It is prohibited to play musical instruments on Shabbos. Similarly, dancing or clapping hands is forbidden unless it is done for a mitzvah. For example, one can dance on Simchas Torah.


10. It is forbidden to climb trees and ride animals or even to lean on them or to ride in a boat. It is also prohibited to walk outside the limits of Tahum – a distance of approximately 2/3 of a mile from the city. Inside the city, it is permissible to walk any distance, but regarding what is considered the same city, one should ask a Rabbi. (Many cities in rural parts of America have houses that are spaced far from each other, and according to the Jewish law, each house, might be considered as separate city. In such a case one can not walk away from the house further than 2/3 of a mile.)


Parshas Pekude.


The laws of the prohibitions of making statues and copying structures that were in the Holy Temple.


1. The Torah prohibits us from imitating the buildings and the vessels that were in the Holy Temple. (One of the reasons for this prohibition has to do with the fact that all the structures and the vessels in the Temple were used to bring down very strong spiritual energy. The Creator permitted us to bring such energy only within the Temple itself. Thus, for example, we are forbidden to prepare incense with a similar mixture of plants and in the same proportion, as was burned in the Temple. We can not make similar anointing oil as the one that was used in the Temple etc. Interestingly, two golden angels were placed inside the holiest room in the Temple. They were facing each other and represented the love between the Creator and the Jewish nation. These angels were used for meditation and to bring down spiritual influx. Normally, making such forms would be forbidden but inside the Temple they were required. Indeed our sages teach that if similar angels were made outside the Temple this would be tantamount to breaking the prohibition against idolatry.)


2. It is forbidden to make a building exactly like the palace within the Temple or a yard like the one that was in the Temple. We are not allowed to make a seven branched menorah, for this reason we only make menorahs that have at least eight or at most six branches. Even if a seven branched menorah was made by a non-Jew it is preferable not to keep it.


3. The Torah forbids us to make sculptures of people. We should not keep them at home even if they were made by non-Jews. However according to most opinions making flat pictures is permitted. However it is forbidden to make even flat pictures of the sun, moon and the stars for this is the way they look to us on the sky.


Parshas Vayikra.


The laws of the prohibition against theft and deceit. The laws of giving property to be watched for, returning lost objects and paying a worker on time.


1. One has to be very careful not to deceive others. All types of financial deceit are strictly forbidden by the Torah. Even keeping incorrect weights in one’s possession is forbidden. It is prohibited to change the way an object looks in order to create a false impression about its worth. For example, an old vessel for sale can not be colored so that it looks like new. A salesman is not allowed to put the best fruits on top of a basket and the worst ones on the bottom to make it look like the entire basket has only good fruits. It is forbidden to significantly raise prices as compared to what is charged for the same object in other stores. Certainly, if the company that made the object sets a price, one is not allowed to sell it for a higher price. Moreover, if soon after purchasing the buyer found out that he was overcharged he can sometimes return the object back. It is forbidden to create an impression that you want to buy something if in truth this is not so.


2. Just as the salesman can not deceive the customer, so to the buyer can not deceive the salesman. Moreover, he can not even take an advantage of the lack of knowledge of the store owner. For example, if the salesman thinks that an object is made of bronze whereas in reality it is golden, the buyer can not use the opportunity and buy it for a cheap price.


3. If some people agreed about a financial deal and decided on the price, they should keep their word. Similarly, if one promises to give an inexpensive gift to a rich person he should not change his mind. However, if he promised to make a large gift and is now having regrets, he may go back on his promise since the person he promised did not rely on him fully. On the other hand any promise to give a gift to a poor man has to be kept since supporting poor is a mitzvah and therefore a promise is tantamount to an oath.


4. It is forbidden to steel from any person. Even if one is planning to give the object back or he is taking someone’s things for fun it is still forbidden – any taking without asking is considered a theft. Moreover, the Torah prohibits us from even desiring other people’s property. The one who stole somebody else’s things has to return them. However if this is impossible, for example the stolen object was used up or disappeared, then the thief has to return back the cost of what he stole. The one who stole from many people and does not know who he stole from and how to return it should ask a Rabbi. It is forbidden to buy anything from professional thieves since most of what they sell was stolen from others.


5. The one who borrowed something from a friend is not allowed to give it to others without permission from the owner. Similarly, the one who was given property to watch can not give it over to somebody else. He himself is also not allowed to use what was given even if these objects do not become worse after usage.


6. The one hired to watch another person’s property should do so in the manner that such property is normally watched for. This is true even if he is usually lax when guarding his own property.


7. When time comes to return the borrowed item one is not allowed to simply drop it in the lender’s home or send it with someone else. He has to bring it to the lender and give it to him or his wife.


8. The Torah commands us to give loans to other Jews. If after the time of payment arrived, the borrower has no money or property, we are not allowed to simply keep bothering him and upsetting him by demanding back the money. Even if a rich man needs to borrow money, it’s a mitzvah to lend to him. The lending should be done in front of two witnesses and it is preferable to write a document which proves the loan. Sometimes the lender receives a collateral, in such a case he has to watch it as we mentioned regarding things given to be watched.


9. The Torah commands us to return an object lost by another Jew. (In some cases it may be a mitzvah to return an object even to a non-Jewish owner since it causes “Kiddush Hashem” – sanctification of the Divine Name. Moreover, in many countries the law requires returning the lost objects back to their owners, so if one found an object belonging to a non-Jew or in a non-Jewish neighborhood, he should consult a Rabbi.) The one who sees a lost object lying on the street in a Jewish neighborhood is not allowed to pass by but has to take it and watch it until he finds the owner. Usually advertises are placed in local synagogues and Jewish newspapers to locate the owner. Some communities have a special telephone number for lost and found. In any case, one who found a lost object should discuss with a Rabbi what to do next.


10. The Torah commands us to pay a Jewish worker on time. This law also applies to paying the rent for apartment or any borrowed object or animal. The one who does not pay on time is breaking a number of prohibitions and is considered to be taken away the life of the worker as it says: “his life depends on the payment”. Stories are told about a number of righteous people (Arizal, Chofetz Chaim), who were seen running on the street in order to make a payment on time.


11. When is the time for payment? If the work is finished during the day one has to pay before sundown. If the work was finished at night, one has to pay before daylight.


12. The one who left his articles to be fixed or clothes to be laundered even if he knows that the job was done, he is not required to pay until he picks his things up. He has to make the payment on the day when he will take back his articles.


Parshas Tzav.


The laws of the prohibition to eat blood and certain types of fats.


1. The Torah tells us a number of times not to consume blood and certain kinds of fat. The prohibition against blood applies to animals and birds but not to fish. (Human blood is prohibited rabbinically but if one has a bleeding wound, he is allowed to lick it.) The fats are prohibited only in kosher domestic mammals – cow, sheep and goats. Not all fats are forbidden – only certain types of fat that are located in the back of the animal near the internal organs. Certain sinews that are forbidden for consumption are also located in the back. In general, the meat with reliable rabbinical supervision has the forbidden fats and sinews already removed and therefore we are not discussing the details of these laws. Regarding the blood, the majority of meat sold in the stores has blood removed as well, but there are still some people who buy fresh meat and remove the blood on their own, so we will discuss these laws briefly.


2. There exist two ways of removing blood – through salting and through roasting on the fire. We will discuss salting first. The meat is washed well from all sides, any wounds or large blood vessels should be removed before the washing. If there is time, the meat should be left to soak in the water for half an hour. After the water runs down salt is spread all over the meat from all sides. One should use the salt of average size. Now the meat is left on a slanted or perforated surface for an hour. If there is no time it sufficient to leave it for 24 minutes. One has to make sure that the blood can float freely without assembling under the meat. After this the salt is washed off.


3. There are special laws regarding salting certain internal organs and in each case one should consult a knowledgeable person for advice. The liver has so much blood that it can not be removed by salting and therefore the second method is used – roasting on the fire. If the meat was not salted within three days after the slaughter of the animal, the blood dries up and it can only be removed by roasting.


4. In order to remove the blood through roasting, the meat or liver is washed well, cut and salted a little and is hung on top of the fire. It is thus roasted until the blood stops dripping. Note that in general the Torah does not forbid the blood until it comes out from the meat. For this reason it is not forbidden to eat a piece of fresh meat even though it was not salted. However, once the meat is fried or cooked, the blood starts coming out and is absorbed back. That is why the meat that was cooked without salting or roasting becomes forbidden.


Parshas Shmini.


The laws of permitted and forbidden species of animals.


1. Of all the mammals the Torah permits us to eat those that have a split hoof and chew their cud. Obviously this law has many reasons. According to the simple meaning, the kosher species possess a very important quality – being satisfied with what they have. The ruminating animals are constantly chewing over the same food. The Torah mentions one animal that has split hoofs and does not chew its cud – the swine, and three animals that chew their cud but do not have a split hoof. Interestingly, even after the discovery of America and Australia, no contradictions to the Torah’s rule were found. Another interesting point is that our sages compare the four animals with one kosher sign to the four nations that ruled over the world and over the Jewish people. The first three nations - the Babylon, the Persia and the Greece – correspond to the three animals that have their kosher sign on the inside. They had dominion over us when our nation was also sinful on outside but good inside. Their dominion was limited to a foretold period of time. The fourth nation – Roman Empire – is compared to the pig. This animal has its kosher sign outside, just as our people were good only on the outside at the time of the destruction of the Second Temple. Their sins were hidden and so too the end of the exile is unknown and depends on our Teshuvah - return to the Creator.


2. Regarding the birds, the Torah enumerates only 24 species that are not kosher. However, each of the species can include many different varieties of birds. The Talmud tells us four signs to be able to distinguish the kosher birds from the non-kosher. The non-kosher birds are generally predators eating meat or fish, while the kosher birds have a digestive system that is best equipped for seeds and grain. In practice we may only eat those birds that are known by tradition to be kosher. They include chicken, goose and turkey.


3. Of all the fish and sea animals, the Torah allows eating those that have fins and scales. Interestingly, the Talmud mentions that all those fish that possess scales, have fins. Since the times of the Talmud, hundreds of thousands of types of fish were discovered and none are found to contradict this principle!


4. The Torah forbids eating any warms and insects. For this reason, we need to check fruits, vegetables, grain, flour and fish to make sure they don’t contain any worms. There are special catalogs that describe the methods of checking for each particular food. One can also buy pre-checked fruits and vegetables with rabbinical Hashgacha. Similarly, the water in certain cities including New York needs to be filtered since it contains bugs.


5. Any product that is made from unclean species is forbidden. Thus, caviar can be eaten only from the kosher fish. The eggs have to be from a kosher bird, the milk – from a kosher cow, goat or sheep etc.


Parshas Sazria.


The laws of family purity.


1. The Torah sanctifies all the aspects of the life of a Jew – work, eating, dealing with other people. Indeed, the relationship between husband and wife is especially important according to the Torah. Only a married individual is called a person in a full sense of the word. Together, a married couple can do the most holy rectification – bringing a new soul into this world. It is for this reason, that the Torah especially protects the relations of husband and wife by the most exalted laws of family purity. These laws not only bring happiness to the couple observing them but they also protect our families from a number of diseases. Even children born to couples observing the laws of family purity are less susceptible to a number of child diseases. Most importantly, the keeping of these laws brings Divine presence in our midst.


2. According to the Torah law, the closeness of husband and wife is forbidden during the time the wife is Nidah. The woman is considered Nidah from the beginning of her period until she immerses in the Mikvah. Any physical contact is forbidden throughout this time.


3. Different women have different periods and the beginning of menstruation is expected on different days. Relations are forbidden on the day when the period is likely to start but other physical contact is not forbidden until menstruation actually begins.


4. There are many various laws regarding counting the days of the period, we will only describe some of the most basic rules. Usually, the women keep track of the days when their menstruation begins by marking these days in a calendar, to make the calculation simpler. If one is not sure about how to count her period, she can always ask a knowledgeable woman or consult a Rabbi. For most women, there are three days every month, when the next period is likely to begin:


-  30 days after the beginning of the previous period

-  the same day of the Jewish month, as the day the previous period started

- when the same length of time passes after the last period as between the last two periods.


For example, if the period starts on the fifth of Tamuz, and the next one begins on the eighth of Av, the expected dates of the next period are the seventh, the eight and the tenth of Elul. The reason for this is that 30 days after the previous period is the seventh of Elul, the same day of the month is the eighth of Elul and at last the tenth of Elul is as many days after the eighth of Av, as the eighth of Av after the seventh of Tamuz.


5. If a certain period gets repeated three times, as for example if three times in a row her period starts 25 days after the previous one, it becomes a stable period. Now, even if this period does not get repeated once or twice, we still expect it to come back until it gets skipped three times in a row.


6. According to most opinions, the prohibition to have relations applies only to the night or the day when the period is expected to start. Thus, in our example, if the menstruation began on the night of the eight of Av, the relations are forbidden only on the nights of the seventh, the eighth and the tenth of Elul. Similarly, if the menstruation started during the day of the eight of Av, the relations are forbidden only during the days of the seventh, the eighth and the tenth of Elul.


7. In certain cases the calculations of the period are also dependant on certain physical symptoms, for those women who feel a certain way before the onset of the period, for example, they start yawning or feel pain in the stomach etc. Whenever she is not sure about the precise laws, a woman should consult a Rabbi.


8. If a woman felt that her menstruation is starting, she should check herself with a clean white cloth. If she found nothing, she should speak to a Rabbi. Similarly, if a woman finds stains on her underwear or if she went to a gynecologist who inserted instruments into her body, she should consult a Rabbi. 


9. Once a woman becomes Nidah, the couple can not have any physical contact. Even passing objects from hand to hand is forbidden. They sleep on separate beds at a distance from each other. When they eat, they should put on the table some object that will remind them that they are forbidden to each other. They can’t eat from the same plate and the husband can not finish his wife’s leftovers unless she left the room. While the wife is Nidah, the husband should not look at those parts of her body that are normally covered. All these laws protect us from a desire to have relations while the wife is Nidah and also enhance tremendously the relations when the wife is not Nidah. Thus, every going to the Mikvah brings such an enjoyment to the couple’s relationship as if they were newlyweds during honeymoon.


Parshas Metzorah.


The laws of counting seven clean days and immersion in the Mikvah.


1. According to the Torah law, a woman does not stop being Nidah until she counts seven clean days, when the menstruation is over, and immerses in the Mikvah. A woman is allowed to start the counting of seven clean days not earlier than five days after the onset of menstruation. However some Sephardi women start the counting four days after the beginning of menstruation. She has to check herself before sundown, to make sure the blood flow has stopped. Before this, she should take a shower or at least wash the places of her body where the blood stains may have remained. For checkups, a soft white cloth is used; such clothes are usually sold in any Mikvah. She has to check in all folds and cracks. If needed, she can wet the cloth with water.


2. After a successful check, she starts counting the seven clean days. She should try to check herself every morning after she gets up and every evening, before sundown. However, if she only checked herself on the first and the seventh day, it is sufficient. If she did not check herself on the first or on the seventh day, she should ask a Rabbi.


3. If she did not find any stains throughout her checkups, she goes to the Mikvah during the night after the seven days. If various stains were found during the checkups, she should consult a Rabbi.


4. Before going to the Mikvah, a woman washes herself, combs her hair and brushes her teeth. It is very important that nothing is left on the body that will prevent the contact with water. It is customary to cut the nails before going to the Mikvah. She should also go to the bathroom before immersing, if she feels need for it.


5. During the immersion, the entire body should be under water. Even if one hair is left on the surface, the immersion is invalid. For this reason, every kosher Mikvah has a lady that watches to make sure all immersions are performed correctly. The woman immersing should not close her hands or eyes too tightly, rather she should be in a relaxed slightly bended position. Most women have a custom to immerse more than once in case one of the immersions was not done correctly.


Parshas Achare Mos.


The laws of prohibiton of Neveila and Treifa.


1. As we already discussed in the weekly reading Shmini, not all species of animals are permitted for consumption. In this weekly reading we will talk about two other prohibitions that apply to even the kosher species of animals and birds: the prohibition to eat those of them that were not slaughtered properly and those that have damaged inside organs.                                                                         


2. The Torah commands us to slaughter animals only in a certain prescribed manner. If an animal or a bird was not slaughtered properly, it is called "neveila" and is forbidden for consumption. It is interesting to mention that the anatomy of ruminating animals is such, that the ritual slaughter for them is practically painless. On the other hand, the non-kosher animals are structured differently and if one were to slaughter them in the same manner as the kosher ones, they would be suffering a lot. This clearly indicates that the Creator prepared the kosher animals for ritual slaughter.                                                                      


3. After slaughtering the birds or the wild animals, the Torah prescribes to cover their blood. No similar commandment is stated regarding the domestic animals. One of the reasons for this is the fact that the owner normally puts in a lot of effort to raise the domestic animals. Therefore it is fair that he may slaughter them later. On the other hand birds and wild animals normally get caught and slaughtered. This is also permitted since the whole world was made for people. However, we are told to cover the blood. Next, the inside organs of the animal are checked. If certain types of damage are found, the animal or bird is "treifa" and cannot be eaten. One is allowed to derive benefit from both neveila and treifa. For this reason, those animals and birds that cannot be eaten are usually sold to a non-Jew.            


4. In our day indeed, we rarely face actual production of meat - most people buy ready meat in the stores. However, it is up to us to only shop in those stores that have reliable "hashgacha" – Rabbinic supervision. Certainly, if our Rabbi tells us that a certain store is not reliable, we should not buy any products there.    


Parshas Kedoshim.
The laws of loving and respecting others and not placing a stumbling block before the blind.

1. A variety of general and concrete commandments protect our relations with the other people. The Torah teaches us not to hate others in the heart and to love others as ourselves. We should wish others the best, and it is forbidden to want for them what we don’t want for ourselves. We should try to always find merit in other people. If someone did wrong to us, we should try to find an excuse for him. We should not cause others to cry or to get upset. It is forbidden to tell a person who returned to Torah observance: “Remember your sins of the past”, or to a convert: “The mouth that ate pork is now talking about Torah”.  It is forbidden to want revenge or to keep grudge against others. If another Jew wants to commit a sin, the Torah tells us to rebuke him. The Torah forbids us to curse even deaf and to put a stumbling block before blind.


2. Our sages explain that the stumbling block is not only a physical stone, but also any bad advice or any action that causes damage to others. Any action or word which helps others in transgressing commandments is included in this prohibition. For this reason, it is forbidden to sell or lend articles that can help others in committing transgressions (lend a car to a person who will drive it on Shabbos, sell immodest clothes to a woman and so on). Helping a non-Jew in breaking one of seven laws Noachite laws is also forbidden. Certainly, regarding this law there are many details and exceptions. Therefore in each concrete case one should consult a Rabbi.


3. The Torah commands us to respect old and wise. This means that it is necessary to rise before and elderly person who is older than seventy, but according to some opinions based on Kabbalah, one should rise even before those who are sixty. Even if the elderly person is not a sage of Torah, as long as he is not a sinner, it is a mitzvah to get up before him when he is less than seven feet away. It is even more impolite to talk to him while sitting when he is standing. It is also a mitzvah to rise before a sage of a Torah even if he is not old. If the sage is our own Rabbi from whom we learned the majority of our knowledge or if he is one of the wisest sages of the generation, it is necessary to get up even when he is at a distance.



The laws of prohibition of tearing hair as a sign of mourning, shaving hair of sideburns and beard, and the prohibition against tattoo marks.


1. The Torah forbids us to imitate idolaters; it is prohibited to dress according to non-Jewish fashions or to get a haircut that is in style among non-Jews. This prohibition extends also to leaving a forelock. However, if we put on any clothes not because we want to imitate non-Jews but because it is convenient, this is allowed as long as these cloves are modest. Torah forbids us from tearing hear or cutting the skin, as sign mourning for a dead relative. Making tattoos is also forbidden by the Torah.


2. It is forbidden for Jewish men to shave off the sideburns and the beard. According to most opinions it is forbidden to completely shave off the hair of temples up to the end of an ear (that is up to a level of the end of the top jaw). Nevertheless, many rely on the opinion of some Rabbis that it is enough to leave the sideburns up to approximately eyelevel. It is prohibited to shave the beard by a razor, but according to many opinions it is permitted to cut it with scissors or to remove it completely with the help of a cream (that is the cream or a powder that dries up on the face, and then it can be scratched off together with the hair that came out.) With the advent of electric shavers, the Rabbis had to decide based on the Talmud, whether this shaver is similar to a razor or not. The majority of Rabbis ruled that using electric shavers is not allowed (for even if they do not remove the hair completely, the remaining hair is not visible for a human eye, and the skin looks completely smooth like after shaving with a razor). Nevertheless, some Rabbis permitted the use of certain electric shavers, but even according to their opinion one should choose those shavers that leave as much of hair as possible. Note also, that according to Arizal, the hair of the beard should not be cut even by scissors, and his opinion is followed by many.


Parshas Emor.


The laws of holiness of cohanim.


1. The Torah constantly tells us that the Creator chose Aharon and his descendants for serving in the Temple. As a consequence of their special holiness, many additional prohibitions apply to cohanim. It is interesting to note that recent scientific research shows that a particular array of six chromosomal markers were found in 97 of the 106 cohanim taken randomly from various Jewish communities. The probability of a random coincidence is less than 1/100 of one percent. The scientists were also able to determine that the common ancestor of all cohanim must have lived about 106 generations ago, which agrees perfectly with the time Aharon lived (3,300 years ago). This scientific research also proves another important point – the Jewish women are very loyal to their husbands. If even a certain percentage of women had had children from other men, after so many generations, the percentage of cohanim still having these chromosomes would have been very small.


2. Some women are forbidden for cohanim. The forbidden number includes divorced women, converts to Judaism or a daughter of a non-Jew even if the mother is Jewish, and any woman that has had relationship with a man prohibited to her (for example, with a non-Jew). If a cohen has children from any woman forbidden to him, his daughters can’t marry other cohanim. His sons are no longer cohanim and their daughters are also forbidden to cohanim.


3. It is forbidden to a cohen to be under the same roof with a dead body or even with parts of it. It is also forbidden for cohanim to visit a cemetery. Only if a close relative dies (father, mother, son, daughter, wife, brother or unmarried sister) the cohen can participate in the burial. Even then he has to avoid coming in contact with other dead bodies, for this reason the relatives of cohanim are usually buried at the edge of the cemetery. Note, that sometimes trees grow at the edge of the cemetery or near it, and their branches hang over the graves. In such a case, it may be forbidden for cohanim to pass on the road under the branches.


4. The cohanim have a special privilege to bless the Jewish people with a wondrous sixty letter blessing. Many profound commentaries are written on this three-sentence brocha, including cabbalistic explanations. It could be interesting enough, the archeologists recently found a three thousand year old locket with the blessing engraved on it. The scientists were shocked to discover that the text coincides exactly with the wording pronounced in every synagogue. After all, other civilizations they usually deal with (Ammon, Moav, Assiria etc) are gone long ago and their very names sound exotic. It falls exactly in a saying by Mark Twain, “the Jew saw them all and outlived them all …”


5. Beside the possibility of blessing people, the cohanim have a number of other privileges:


 - In any assembly the cohen is usually given the right to speak first. After meal, the cohen is offered to do “zimun” - invite others to say the blessings.

- The cohen is called first to the Sefer Torah

- A firstborn son is redeemed from a cohen with five silver coins.

- Certain portion of crop are separated in the Land of Israel and given to cohanim. Similarly, a portion of the sheering of the wool and meat portions of slaughtered animals are given to cohanim there.

- The Torah prescribes to take off challah from dough and give it to cohanim. Note however, that the cohen’s portion of the crop and challah can only be eaten in ritual purity. In our day, we don’t have the ashes of the red cow, needed for purification and therefore today the challah is burned.



The laws of prohibition of causing animals to suffer or castration and of slaughtering an animal along with its child within the same day.


1. The whole world was created for people. The Torah does not prohibit us from deriving benefit from non-kosher animals as well. Thus, one is permitted to use animal leather and fur. With all that, the Torah forbids us to cause unnecessary pain to other creatures. Those cruel to animals often end up being cruel to people as well. It is also interesting to mention that a person who bought a fur coat is not usually greeted with traditional blessing: “May you wear it until it wears off and buy a new one”. After all, if a new cloth will have to be bought, another animal will need to be killed.


2. It is forbidden to castrate a person or animal. The prohibition extends to even surgical partial removal of sexual parts of both male and female. It is also prohibited for a man to take medicines that cause him to become impotent. In cases of various treatments that require operations on these organs, one should consult a Rabbi.


3. The Torah forbids us to slaughter an animal and its child on the same day. Usually, only the mother of the animal is known for certain, but in cases we can trace the father, the prohibition extends to him as well.


Parshas Behar


Laws of prohibition of interest loans and of forgiving debts in the seventh year


1. The Torah strictly forbids lending either money or products at interest to another Jew. This prohibition applies both to the loan giver and the one indebted and also to the mediators in the undertaking. If one’s debtor has already returned the debt with interest, it’ll be a mitzvah to reimburse him the interest.


2. If debtor was not going to pay the interest at first, but by the time of reimbursement he suddenly decided to pay it off as a gift, it is forbidden to do so. It is also forbidden to give presents to someone, so that he will be willing to give us a loan in the future.


3. Debtor is forbidden to do anything as means of gratitude to someone from whom he has borrowed. Even if debtor has never greeted his benefactor, but after the loan started to do so, it is forbidden.


4. It is forbidden to lend to someone, on the condition of intention to borrow from him a bigger amount or for a longer period of time.


5. In some cases it is forbidden to lend products, whose price is subject to constant changes. The reason is that the price might rise by the time of reimbursement, and the debtor will be returning more that he had borrowed. In order to avoid the prohibition, one should evaluate the product by the price of today and lend it on condition that is the price rises, the payment of the product will be made according to the original price.


6. It is forbidden to sell products whose price is certain and stable, at a bigger price just because the debtor will pay it off later. All the more so, it is forbidden to say: “If you pay me right away, I will sell it to you for $10, and if you pay in a month, it will be $11”.  


7. The Torah allows us to lend and borrow at  interest from a non-Jew. There are rather complex laws about loans, in which two Jews and one non-Jew are involved. For instance, a non-Jew borrows from a Jew and then lends it to another Jew; or a non-Jew borrows from a Jew, and another Jew guarantees the pay off, etc. In each and every case one should consult a Rabbi.


8. The Torah commands us to forgive our debtors at the end of Shmitah (the seventh year). The debts, unpaid by Rosh Hashanah should be automatically cancelled. The next Shmitah year will be in 5768.


9. If one does not want to forgive someone’s debt, he may prepare the Pruzbul, a special paper by means of which he transfers the loan to the Jewish court. These loans do not get cancelled at the end of Shmitah. In order to prepare the kosher Pruzbul, one should consult a knowing Rabbi.


Parshas Bechukosai


Laws of Tithing.


1. According to the Torah, one should separate the Trumah, Maaser and Maaser Sheni off certain kinds of fruits and vegetables. In the olden days, about 1/50 of the harvest was being given away to Kohanim. The Maaser made one tenth of what had been left and was being given away to Leviim. The second Maaser, i.e. one tenth of what had been left, was subject to various laws. In the third and the sixth years of a seven year cycle, the Maaser Sheni was being given to the poor. In the rest of the years it was commanded to be consumed in Jerusalem. If the master had difficulties transporting a big amount of the Maaser Sheni, he could redeem it with money and buy new food in Jerusalem with it. Nowadays, we are still commanded to separate these parts of the harvest, but the Trumah is burnt and the Second Maaser is redeemed with using a coin.


2. The Torah obligates us to separate the Trumah and both Maasers only off the food, growing in the Holy Land, but the Rabbis required that we separate them also from the food, growing in close proximity to the land of Israel (in Babylon, Egypt, etc). In the lands, situated far from the land of Israel, there is no obligation to separate Trumah or Maaser. Nevertheless, even outside the Land of Israel, one is not allowed to consume vegetables and fruits, growing in the Holy Land, unless the Trumah and Maaser have been separated.


3. We are allowed to buy fresh fruit and vegetables from non-Jews. At the same time, we are to be sure these are not the fruit of Israel. In case of buying Israeli fruit, one needs proper “Hashgahah” (rabbinical supervision) to make sure the Trumah and Maaser have been separated. Moreover, the vast majority of non-religious kibbutzim keep cultivating the soil also in the seventh year. In this case one is forbidden to buy anything grown by them. Some Israeli Rabbis sell the whole land of Israel to a non-Jew for the seventh year, but according to the majority opinion, this doesn’t help the case, because prohibition to work the soil in the seventh year is still in power even after the sale. Moreover, selling any part of the Holy Land to a non-Jew is generally forbidden.


Parshas Bemidbar.


Laws of Yom Tov (holidays).


1. In this weekly portion you will read about the positive mitzvos of the holidays. The forbidden works will be discussed in Parshas Pinchas.


2. One of the Torah’s mitzvos is to enjoy Yom Tov.  We make our holidays special, just as we separate the Shabbos from all the other days. We are commanded to wear our best clothes; we conduct our conversations and walk differently from any other day. There is also a mitzvah to give tzedoko to the poor before the holidays, so that they can also enjoy these days properly. On a holiday we make Kiddush before the meals. One may accept the Yom Tov and make Kiddush before sunset, just as on Shabbos. However, on the first days of Pesach, Sukkos and on Shmini Atzeres, one should make Kiddush only after it gets dark. On the second day of every Yom Tov we always wait for darkness and only then make Kiddush.


3. On a holiday we eat at least two meals, even though on Shabbos we have to eat three. As on Shabbos, one should say a blessing over two challas before each meal. After the holyday is over, Havdallah should be made, but, one should omit the blessing over the fire and the spices. The reason for this is as follows. During Shabbos one is forbidden to make fire, which is why we light a candle after Shabbos is over, thus showing that the prohibition is over as well. On Yom Tov one may light fire from an already burning one, and therefore there is no need to make a blessing over fire after the holiday is over. As for the spices, they compensate a spiritual fall down – the loss of additional spirituality, after Shabbos is gone. On a holiday the spiritual worlds do not raise as high as on Shabbos. Therefore, once the Yom Tov is over we don’t need to compensate the spiritual loss by smelling the spices. Certainly, when the last day of Yom Tov falls on a Shabbos, the Havdallah is made the same way as after a regular Shabbos.


4. In the Land of Israel any holiday, except Rosh Hashanah, is celebrated once, while outside the Land of Israel one should keep it for two days. The simple reason for this is that in the old times our calendar was not fixed, but depended on the witnesses seeing the new moon. Their testimony was accepted in the central rabbinical court, and the new month started. Messengers were sent to all states to inform everybody on which day the first day of the new month befell, and consequently, when one should keep the holidays. Jews, living far from the Holy Land, had to celebrate each holiday for two days, because they were not sure, which day of the month was sanctified to be the first. Rosh Hashanah had to be celebrated during two days even in the Land of Israel, because it falls on the first day of the month, and one could never know, when the witnesses would come. According to Kabbalah, two days are required for those, living outside the Holy Land, to perform the rectifications in the spiritual worlds that can be done in the Holy Land in one day. In our day, even those living in the Holy Land celebrate Rosh Hashanah for two days to achieve complete rectification.


5. According to the Torah law, only one of the two days is holy, and this is why on the first day, we are forbidden to prepare anything for the second day (e.g. cook a meal for the evening of the next day). For this reason, we light the candles for the second day, only after the stars come out, that is, only after the first day is over.


6. If the days of a holiday fall on a Friday and Shabbos, or on a Thursday and Friday, we have to do Eiruv Tavshilin, a special procedure, which permits us to cook for the Shabbos on Friday. In this case on Friday one may cook the meal, which will be consumed on Shabbos. Eiruv Tavshilin will also give us permission to light Shabbos candles from the already burning fire, on Friday before sunset.


7. For Eiruv Tavshilin one should take before Yom Tov a lump of cooked food that can be eaten with bread, not less than the size of a Kezais (somewhere between one and two ounces), and a piece of bread twice as big, make blessing over it and say, that with the help of this Eiruv we should be permitted to cook, bake and light candles on Friday before Shabbos. The food, used for Eiruv, can be eaten on Shabbos.


Parshas Naso.


The laws of modest clothing.


1. One of fundamental laws of the Torah is the requirement for modesty in clothing. Regarding this law, there is an important difference between the obligations of a man and a woman. While the man should also dress modestly, the woman is obliged to do so. The man, whose wife does not wish to dress modestly, has a mitzvah to divorce her and in this case, the wife will lose her Kesubah. Usually, the one divorcing his wife has to pay her a sum of money, stated in their marriage contract (Kesubah), but in some cases, where the wife is guilty, she will lose her Kesubah. Note, that even a sinful woman, for example the one who eats non-kosher, will still have her Kesubah, as long as she feeds her husband only kosher food. In case of wearing immodest clothes, it is different. The reason for this is that the immodest woman destroys the foundation of her family. Her beauty is intended to promote the love between her and her husband and therefore the woman who uses her body for attracting other men loses her Kesubah. (Note that the Torah does not view a woman as someone who “provides pleasure” for her husband. In truth, an unmarried woman is also prohibited from wearing immodest clothes by a number of Torah statues. One of the prohibitions she transgresses is “putting a stumbling block before the blind”, i.e. causing men to have bad thoughts. However, in case of a married woman, indecent dress is also a violation of family loyalty and destroys the covenant that was made at the time of her marriage.)


2. Let us now list the minimal requirements for modest clothing.


- The skirt or dress should cover the knees, even when the woman sits down, gets out of a car, walks up the stairs, etc.

- The legs must be covered with nontransparent stockings or tights. Certainly, if she wears a long skirt down to her shoes, there is no obligation to wear stockings underneath.

- The dress or blouse should have a collar so that at least the area below the neck is always covered both in the front and in the back. No button on her clothing should be open. According to some opinions the neck itself should not be exposed either, but what is below has to be covered according to all opinions.

- The elbows should be covered. According to some opinions the sleeves should reach up to the wrists.

- It is forbidden to wear tight clothes that emphasize the woman’s body. It is also prohibited to wear clothes of red and similar colors.

- Married women, and also those who have been married (either divorced or widows), should cover their hair. According to many Rabbis, a wig is an acceptable way to cover the hair. However, those women that wear wigs should choose the ones that don’t look exactly like her own hair. It is preferable to wear a wig made from artificial hair.


3. All of the above is the minimal requirement of modesty. Our righteous women go beyond that and dress even more modestly than is required, while our sages promise a blessing on the household where the woman is modest. Even when our doctor tells us to avoid certain foods or to stop certain habits because they are harmful to our health, we listen. How much more so should we heed our sages who say that immodest clothing causes various problems including poverty and also has a bad influence on the children. There are also a number of direct positive effects of modest clothing that can be easily recognized. Some cases of skin cancer are closely connected to the sun rays falling directly on unprotected body parts. Some rape cases are caused by attracting the criminal, by immodest behaviour and clothing. And last but not least, religious women overcome their mid-life crisis much easier than their non-religious counterparts of the same age. It is known that the majority of western women come to face a stress of aging when they are approximately 45 or 50, because, at this age, they feel difficulties losing the most important part of themselves - their attractive youthful bodies. Some of these women even do plastic surgery in order to stop the aging process at all costs. Many go through hard psychological traumas, fights with their husbands who sometimes stop being faithful and at times even end up being divorced. For a religious woman, her beauty and youthfulness is a much lesser part of her life. She gets her share of respect from her husband because she is his wife and the mother of his children. Her children in their turn respect her for being their mother. Many religious women at the age of 50 or 55 still have teenaged children and are busy raising, them just as their younger friends are doing. Thus, they feel young till very late. Moreover, for a woman who modestly covers her hair and body, aging is not so noticeable. The only aged part visible is her face, but using good make-up she can still look quite young. On the other hand, a non-religious woman by the age of 50 loses her beauty noticeably. One can tell her age from her hair and her wrinkled arms. In fact, sometimes an older woman actually changes her clothing style to a more modest one, in order to look more attractive.


4. Any blessing said in front of an immodestly dressed woman, is a “Brocha Levatala” (a vain blessing). Therefore, a husband whose wife is not modestly dressed or has her hair uncovered, constantly takes the name of the Creator in vain, and none of his blessings are counted. (If one finds himself in front of a woman, not modestly dressed, he should turn away or at least close his eyes, when reciting any blessing.)


Parshas Behaaloscha.


The laws of studying the Torah, teaching the Torah and respecting the Torah scrolls.


1. Every Jewish man is obligated to study the Torah, according to his abilities. This mitzvah does not apply to women. One of the reasons is that women are usually busy with their household, and if they had devoted all their free time to the Torah, they would not be able to take care of their families properly. However, a woman, assisting her husband and sons study the Torah, will be awarded greatly. Moreover, the woman should know the laws of Torah and has a mitzvah to study the books of Halacha pertaining to her.


2. For the one who works, there is a mitzvah to separate a time for studying every day, and not to miss under any circumstances. Some study the Torah before or after the morning prayers while their brain is still responsive, others attend Torah lessons every evening. Nevertheless, one who cannot or has no chance to study should support Yeshivos financially so that their learning will be also credited for him.


3. There is a great mitzvah to teach Torah to others. This command relates first of all, to one’s own children and grand-children, but also there is a mitzvah to teach every Jew. One, who cannot teach his own children, should fulfill this mitzvah, by sending them to Yeshivos and paying the Rabbis for teaching them. Note, that sending the children to Yeshiva does not absolve one from educating them in keeping the mitzvos. Moreover, we are not permitted to cause any children (even not our own) to break any prohibitions.


4. There is a mitzvah for each man to write his own Torah scroll. One may fulfill this command by hiring a “Sofer” (scribe), and afterwards checking his writing and correcting his mistakes. According to some opinions, one who has buys a ready made Torah scroll also fulfills this command. According to some opinions, if many people write a common scroll or buy one, they all fulfill the obligation, and based on this most people try to do this Mitzvah by buying a letter in a Torah scroll. Nevertheless, a well-to-do man, who can afford a Torah scroll, should buy it. There is also a mitzvah to buy other religious books. On the other hand, keeping heretical books and books leading to sinful thoughts, for instance, romances, is forbidden.


5. The Torah scroll is sacred. Every time one sees it being carried, he should stand up and remain standing until the scroll is put down, or the one carrying it walks out of sight. It is strictly forbidden to through the Torah scrolls or to touch the parchment itself. One is forbidden to sit on the same bench, where the Torah scroll has been laid. One may not use the scroll for his own immediate purposes, like screening himself from the sun or wind, for supporting other books or for leaning on it with elbows. It is forbidden to have relations in the same room with the Torah scroll. If other religious books or Tefillin are in the room, they should be placed in two bags, with at least one of the bags not designated for keeping religious books. We must not discard the Torah or other sacred books, even if they have defects or became too old to be used. Rather they have to be buried (Genisah). In general it is forbidden to destroy any names of the Creator, and that’s why we may not through away any writings with any of Divine names.


6. The Torah is read in the synagogues on Shabbos in the morning and during Minchah and every Monday and Thursday morning. Besides, the Torah is read on all holidays and Rosh Chodesh, and on fast days. It is a mitzvah to listen carefully, while the Torah is being read aloud. One is now allowed to talk during Torah reading. One, who has been called to the Torah, should not refuse, because being called to the Torah (Alliyah) is an honor, this privilege is usually bought for rather large sums of money.


Parshas Shelach.


The laws of Tzitzis.


1. The commandment of Tzitzis is of such great importance that it is compared to all the mitzvos of the Torah. (In general there are a few commandments that are so crucial that are not viewed only as independent mitzvos but rather enhance the observance of all other commandments. For example, Tzitzis reminds us that we have to keep 613 commandments. Similarly, the learning of Torah makes it possible to keep all other mitzvos properly.)


2.  The Torah obligates the Jewish men to make Tzitzis on the garments that have four corners. This way a cloth that has five or six corners requires Tzitzis but if it has three corners or its corners are round the Tzitzis is not attached. Most types of clothes that we wear today do not have four corners and therefore we don’t make Tzitzis on them. However in order not to miss this crucial mitzvah we wear a special four cornered garment under our clothes – Talis Katan. In the synagogues we also wrap ourselves with a Talis Gadol – a large four cornered garment.


3. There is a minimal size for the cloth to require Tzitzis. It has to be large enough to cover the head and most of the body of a nine year old boy and the owner has to not be ashamed to walk outside wearing it. In our day many Rabbis require that the Talis should be almost two feet by two feet in the front and also as big in the back. It is preferable to wear a woolen Talis but if this is too difficult one can wear a cotton one. The Talis should only be bought from a God fearing individual for there are many complicated laws that have to be observed in order to make the Tzitzis kosher.


4. Before putting on the Talis we have to check the Tzitzis to make sure they did not get ripped. In some cases the ripped Tzitzis make the entire Talis non-kosher and therefore if any of Tzitzis got damaged, one should ask a Rabbi what to do.


5. The Mitzvah of Tzitzis applies only to the day time. However according to some opinions the clothes that are normally warn during the day require Tzitzis even at night. This way some people even sleep in Talis Katan.


6. Some types of modern clothing might actually have four corners and still the need for Tzitzis on them is not clear. For example, the shirts and suits may have two corners on the bottom and two on the top where the collar is. However since all four corners end up in the front after the cloth is put on there is an uncertainty if the Tzitzis is required. The best advice is to make one of the corners round. It is also preferable to make a round corner on one’s blanket for sometimes he might sleep under it during day time.


The laws of separating the challah.


1. The Torah obligates us to separate challah from the dough containing any one of the five grains: wheat, barley, spelt, oat or rye. As we mentioned in Parshas Emor, in our day the challah is not given to a cohen but is burned. We therefore separate only a small challah, as large as the size of an olive. Nevertheless, Ben Ish Chai writes that according to the teachings of Arizal even in our day it is necessary to separate 1/48 from the dough and it is therefore desirable to do this at least once a year. The Vilna Gaon also held that even if the challah is burned it is necessary to separate the same portion of the dough as when it was given to cohanim.


2. The Torah obligates us to take off challah only from the dough that is at least as large as 43 1/5 eggs. It is interesting that the Gematria of the word "challah" is 43, and the last letter of this word has numerical value 5, specifying one fifth. Since in our day there is an uncertainty regarding the sizes of eggs of Biblical times it is necessary to separate the challah without a blessing from the dough that weights 1200 grams and if the dough weighs more than 2487 grams, the challah is separated with a blessing. Note that this is the general law – whenever there is uncertainty whether it is necessary to fulfill any mitzvah we do it without blessing. It is interesting to note that when our ancestors were eating Manna in the desert, they ate the volume of 43 1/5 eggs every day. The Talmud teaches us that now also this is the ideal quantity food for an average healthy person per day.


3. The challah is separated from any dough we bake whether it is the dough for bread or for pie. There are different opinions whether it is necessary to separate a challah from the dough which we do not bake but rather fry or cook. Therefore in such cases it is necessary to separate the challah without a blessing. Nevertheless, if even part of the dough will be baked it is necessary to separate a challah with a blessing. There is no need to separate the challah from the liquid dough. However when liquid dough is baked in an oven in deep vessels there may be a need to separate challah. If there is no water or milk in the dough, for example, the dough is made only with apple juice or eggs, it is necessary to separate challah without a brocha. However, it is preferable to add some water to the dough and then the challah can be taken off with a blessing.


4. If the challah was not taken from the dough it should be separated from the baked bread. All the baked breads are put into one big basket or placed on the table and covered with a tablecloth, and then challah is taken from one of them to exempt them all.


Parshas Korach.


The laws of redeeming the firstborn.


1. The Torah describes three types of firstborn with various laws applicable to them – the firstborn of a man, the firstborn of a bull or another domestic kosher animal and the firstborn of a donkey. To redeem the firstborn of a man, five silver shekels are given to a cohen. The firstborn of a bull was brought as a korban in the Temple. The firstborn of the donkey is redeemed with a sheep that was presented to a cohen. If the owner did not want to redeem the firstborn donkey, it was killed and it was forbidden to derive any enjoyment from its meat. According to the teachings of Kabbalah, the three types of firstborn represent three types of people as well as three stages in one person’s life. There are some people that are always looking for physical pleasure, like a donkey. Interestingly, the word donkey in the holy tongue is “Chamor” coming from the word “Chomer” – physical. Other people are always working hard, trying to assemble wealth and property; they are compared to a bull pulling a hard load. At last, some people are not running after physical pleasures and work just enough to support themselves, spending their spare time in spiritual pursuits – they are the true people. An average individual goes through these three stages throughout his lifetime. When he is young he looks for physical pleasures, once he grows older he starts working hard trying to increase his bank accounts and only when he becomes old does he start thinking about the true meaning of life.


2. Regarding the firstborn of the kosher animals, since we don’t have the Temple, they can not be brought as korbanos. For this reason, the Jewish farmers sell a part of the pregnant animal to a non-Jew so that if the firstborn will be male it will not have the holiness of firstborn.


3. The laws of firstborn donkey are kept the same way today but since most people don’t own donkeys we will not discuss the details.


4. The firstborn child is redeemed from a cohen with the equivalent of 5 shekels. In America people usually give five silver dollars since their weight is not less than 5 shekalim. They cost about $30. The firstborn boy has to be redeemed only if the following conditions are fulfilled:


- The father of the child is not a cohen or levi.

- The mother of the child is not a daughter of a cohen or levi. (Note, that sometimes a daughter of a cohen may lose her holiness and then her son will need to be redeemed. Therefore a Rabbi needs to always be consulted.)

- The child was born naturally, not through cesarean.

- Before the birth of the child the mother did not have any miscarriages. (In some cases of prior miscarriages the child might still need to be redeemed and in each case a Rabbi should be asked.)


5. The firstborn is redeemed on the 31st day after birth. If this day falls on Shabbos or Holiday, the firstborn is redeemed on the next day. If the father did not redeem his child, he needs to redeem himself once he grows up.


6. It is a mitzvah to hold a festive meal on the day of the redemption.


Parshas Chukas.


The laws of the prohibition of “Lashon Hara” – gossip.


1. The Torah strictly forbids gossiping. This prohibition concerns even if what is said is absolutely true. Our sages consider Lashon Hara as one of the worst of transgressions, saying, that he, who multiplies rumors, loses his part in the future world. It is also prohibited to listen to someone else, speaking Lashon Hara, and if one overhears it, it is forbidden to believe what he hears.


2. When we are asked, “Who did such an awful thing?” or “Who wished me this harm?” it is forbidden to answer. There are exceptions, for instance, where our answer can resume justice or help in somebody’s education, one may give an answer. Besides, in a situation, where fairness is required, one may tell about other’s transgression, even if nobody asked him to. Nevertheless, in each case one should consult a Rabbi, because there are various conditions for revealing the information.


3. Saying Lashon Hara is still a prohibited even if one telling something pretends he didn’t mean to hurt anyone, or if he only hints his point. For example, “Who could have thought that he would become so smart” – implying that he used to be stupid, “At least he has this good quality” – meaning he is no good in all other ways. It can happen that one violates the prohibition for Lashon Hara even using specific intonations in his voice: “those people are cooking all the time”. It is forbidden to say something good about someone in front of his enemies, because his enemies are then likely to say something bad.


4. We are forbidden to say Lashon Hara even when someone in question is present. The prohibition against gossiping apply regardless of who we are speaking to – one may not say Lashon Hara to his spouse or to his parents.


5. The Torah allows saying unpleasant things to warn others. For instance if we know that one wants to marry a certain girl who possesses certain bad qualities or illnesses that can harm their marriage, we should warn the fiancé. The same concerns one, who is taking a new business partner. But still, we cannot judge what can be considered a serious drawback, and in each and every case one should consult a Rabbi. (Chofetz Chaim gives us an example of a fiancé for whom the Torah is not his strongest point. It is forbidden to tell this fact to his prospective bride if she hasn’t made an attempt to find out about this herself. In fact, many women don’t stress upon the level of their husbands’ knowledge. But if she asked about it, one can tell the truth.) Even when hearing an important piece of information, one should not fully believe it, one is only allowed to account for a possibility that the information could be true. And still, if one finds out something, he should not act right away. For example, if after the “vort” (engagement) the fiancé found out something not really attractive about the prospective bride, only a knowledgeable Rabbi can decide, whether this information is sufficient to break the engagement. Moreover, if someone who tells knows for sure that his listener will not consult a Rabbi and will break his engagement then this someone should keep this information to himself and not tell it. At any rate, as we mentioned there are specific condition that need to be met in order that one can reveal the information, so each case should be discussed with a Rabbi.


Parshas Balak.


Laws of the prohibition of wine, milk, bread and other products made by a non-Jew.


1. Our sages wished to prevent an exceeding closeness between Jews and Gentiles because usually, such closeness leads directly to assimilation. We know that the most of communication and friendliness arise at the table therefore they forbade a range of products made by a non-Jew, even though they can be considered fully kosher. They were especially strict regarding the wine because the first case of assimilation happened due to wine that Midianite women gave to Jews to drink and afterwards offered themselves as a prize if the Jew would bow to their idol.


2. Any grape wine (or grape juice) touched by a non-Jew is forbidden to us. For this reason, where there’s a production of kosher wine or grape juice, only religious Jews are present, and while the bottles have not been corked, no one else is allowed to touch them. In the olden times they hadn’t boiled their wine, and this is why our sages didn’t prohibit it. Many types of grape juice have been boiled as a result of pasteurization. Usually bottles of kosher wine or grape juice contain inscription “mevushal” (boiled) or “eino mevushal” (not boiled).


3. It is forbidden to drink many of the alcohol beverages in the presence of non-Jews. Nevertheless, if a drink doesn’t contain grapes, one may buy it from a non-Jew and drink it at home, (assuming we know it’s kosher), and as for example some Jews buy vodka from non-Jews.


4. As it has been mentioned, one of the reasons for prohibition of food made by a non-Jew is the danger of assimilation. But there is another reason, which is fear that a non-Jew will try to feed us something non-kosher, and this is why we are forbidden to buy milk and dairies made by a non-Jew. The majority of Gentile farmers own pigs and horses (and in Arabic countries they also have camels and donkeys) at a farm, and it is no wonder, that they might mix cow milk with the milk of another animal that is be non-kosher. There is a visible advantage in such a non-kosher mixture because mixed milk will stay good longer than pure cow milk (if one leaves a mixture of kosher and non-kosher milk in direct sun light or a warm place, it will turn sour much later than pure kosher milk). Even nowadays when in many countries it is officially prohibited to mix cow milk with other sorts of milk however the checks the government performs is not sufficient, according to majority of Rabbis. This is especially true since the penalty for mixing cow and pig milk together is usually very small. Most righteous Jews drink only the milk, containing inscription “Cholov Isroel” (milk manufactured by Jews). Nevertheless there is an opinion of a Rabbi who allowed to drink ordinary milk when there is no other milk available, and some people follow this opinion even today, while we can note, that the Rabbi himself drank only Jewish milk. As for cheeses problems of kashrus could arise in the process of cheese production, and that’s why they need real “Hashgacha” (Rabbis’ supervision) in all cases.


5. Our sages forbade us bread baked by a non-Jew. This prohibition however was made more lenient because one can’t do without bread altogether, therefore they allowed bread, if during the process of baking a Jew had at least tossed a couple of logs in the oven. In places where there is no other bread available one is allowed to eat ordinary bread. Certainly, one is allowed to eat such bread only in case he can be sure that it is kosher per se, that is none of animal fats had been added to it, and this is the reason why “Hashgaha” (Rabbis’ supervision) is required here as well.


6. The Rabbis forbade the food cooked by a non-Jew even though it has no non-kosher ingredients. This prohibition concerns only the types of food that cannot be consumed raw and are sufficiently important to be offered to guests. As for the prohibition of food, cooked by a non-Jew there is a serious difference between Sephardic and Ashkenasic laws.  For the Ashkenasim it is sufficient that a Jew lights the fire in the oven, and even if a non-Jew lights up the fire from a Jewish fire this food is also allowed. For this reason in many restaurants the Jew lights up only a pilot light. For Sephardic Jews this is not sufficient, they require a Jew taking part in actual cooking of the food. For instance, a Jew could put a pan on the stove, and a non-Jew will be allowed to stir the food in it, or vice versa. According to this it’s possible that a Sephardic Jew will not be allowed to eat in some Ashkenasic kosher restaurants.


Parshas Pinchas.


Laws of work, forbidden on Yom Tov.


1. The majority of works, forbidden for Shabbos, are forbidden on holidays as well. There are however some exceptions, including cooking, lighting the fire and carrying objects outside our homes. Let us look at each of them closer.


2. Although on Shabbos one is forbidden to light or increase the fire, on a Yom Tov it is permitted to light the fire from an already burning one, and also, to increase it. However, one is still forbidden to reduce or to extinguish fire. In case the fire is too big for a certain dish, one should cover it with a metal dish or tray, to reduce its power, but not the fire itself. If it seems impossible for some reason, most Rabbis advise to light a second burner, from an already burning fire, rather than reduce this one. Lighting fire for no reason is still forbidden. This is the general rule: even the permitted types of work have to be done only for immediate purpose of a Jew during this days of the holiday. That is why making fire for use after the holiday, carrying objects for use after the day is over, or cooking for non-Jew is forbidden.


3. One may carry objects, only if he needs them. If one brought a Siddur to the synagogue, and has no place to store it after the service, he may carry it back home, although he won’t need it any more on this day. The reason for this permission as follows: if one would not be able to take his Siddur back home, he might decide not to bring it to the synagogue in the first place.


4. Cooking is allowed on holidays. One is allowed to knead and bake the dough, and one is allowed to separate challah from it. However, if the dough was prepared before the holiday, challah can not be taken from it on Yom Tov. On Shabbos, if one has a mixture of objects, he can only take out those objects that are needed now. On holidays one is also permitted to take out those objects that are not needed and to leave what is needed, if this is easier. Also, on holidays there are certain leniencies regarding crushing and sieving foods, but regarding the exact details, one should consult a Rabbi.


Parshas Matos.


The laws of vows and swearing.


1. One should always avoid swearing and making vows. Moreover, any promise to do a mitzva of any kind can be considered a vow, therefore the one promising something should say “Bli Neder” – “without vow”. Similarly if one is going to start doing a non-obligatory mitzva, he should say in the beginning that he is not accepting on himself to do it all his life, but will be doing it “Bli Neder” while he can. For instance, if one decided to pray at the sunrise, or follow some strict opinion on some law, while others follow a lenient one, he should say that he is not taking on the vow but will do it “Bli Neder”.


2. It happens sometimes that in a dangerous situation people swear to Almighty, that they will take on an additional mitzva or will give a considerable sum to tzedoko if they get out safely. We should be very careful to keep our oaths for the punishment for not keeping them is very strict. There was a story about a Polish Jew, who happened to be in Siberia during the World War II. His living conditions were rather tough and he had to exchange his gold and jewelry for potatoes, to keep surviving. Once he had been on the way with another portion of goods to exchange, and suddenly he was stopped by nine Jews, who needed to gather a minyon, asking him to join them. But as he’d decided that he needed potatoes to survive, which meant much more than praying, he declined their invitation. A little while later he was taken to prison right on the spot because such an exchange had been considered illegal at that time.  While being in prison the Jew swore that if he could just get out alive he would never ever decline an invitation to join a minyon. This man had survived the war and moved to America, where he lived a long peaceful life. Once in his old age, he had been on the way to his grandson’s wedding. He was out of his door when he heard his telephone ringing, it happened to be an invitation to a minyon. He was in doubt, for a second... “I am sorry, I am right on my way to my grandson’s wedding”. “It’s all right”, he was told. “We’ll find someone else...”  And this happened to be the last day of his life – during the wedding he felt ill, was taken to the hospital and died there.


3. In most Torah laws, a boy of thirteen is considered a grown-up man, and a twelve year old girl – an adult woman (according to Talmud, the woman was given a greater understanding). As for the laws of oaths, if the child understands whom he is swearing, his vow will be counted, even if he is a year younger from the grown-up age.


4. Some vows could be cancelled with the help of three men (Jewish court), if one regrets having made the vow.  The laws of such cancellation and about which vows can be canceled, are rather complex, and one should always consult a Rabbi. Some of his young daughter’s vows can be cancelled by her father, and some of the wife’s – by her husband, but only on the day when they have been heard. If you are not sure, if a particular vow can be cancelled, cancel it just in case by saying: “This vow is annulled”, and later on you can consult your Rabbi to find out, if this particular vow could be cancelled. If one heard about the oath on Shabbos, he should annul the oath in his mind and indicate to his wife (or daughter) that the oath was annulled. For example, if the oath was regarding some food he can say: “Take it and eat”.


The laws of immersing non-Jewish dishes in the Mikvah.


1. Every time we buy dishes produced by a non-Jewish maker, or when the dishes have been produced by Jews but are sold by a non-Jew, we need to immerse them in the Mikvah (or in a lake, sea or ocean). These laws concern only those dishes made from metal or glass and used for eating or cooking. If a wooden dish contains some metallic parts or partially covered with a glass layer, one should consult a Rabbi. Also, in cases of electrical appliances, having direct contact with food (i.e. toasters), one should consult a Rabbi about the way to immerse them without spoiling.


2. If we buy foods or drinks in disposable packs (i.e. milk bottles, coffee glass cans), and are going to be using the can after the product has been finished, we need to then immerse the package. If one is eating in a house of a non-religious Jew, even though the food served is kosher, he can’t use the dishes that have not been immersed. On the other hand, one can eat uncooked fruit from a clean dish belonging to a non-Jew because the non-Jew is not required to immerse his dishes.


3. Before immersing the dish one should remove all tags and labels that prevent the water from coming in contact with the whole surface of the dish (the law is the same as with a woman in the Mikvah). One recites the blessing and immerses the whole dish in the water. The hand holding the vessel needs to be wet from the Mikvah water, so that the water will come in contact with the dish even between our fingers.


Parshas Massei.


The laws of the prohibition against inflicting accidents and the mitzvah of taking care of one’s own health.


1. One of fundamental Torah mitzvos is to take a special care not to damage or bring on a danger to someone else or to himself. He, who doesn’t follow the safety rules and relies upon the Creator to save him, if emergency should happen, breaks the Torah command. The Almighty created the world full of laws and rules, and He wishes us to follow those laws and not to rely on miracles. One of the most common examples is the mitzvah to build a fence around one’s roof or porch to prevent someone from falling off (to find out whether this command concerns your house you need to ask a knowledgeable Rabbi). Our sages forbade a number of things that can be dangerous either for physical or spiritual reasons. Let us describe some of them briefly.


- One shouldn’t eat meat and fish together. That is why, after eating fish, we rinse our mouth or eat a different food, and only afterwards we can eat meat.

- When moving out of a house, if the new tenant will also be Jewish, one shouldn’t take his Mezuzahs.

- One is forbidden to cut a fruit tree.

- One shouldn’t marry a woman, who has the same name as his mother.

- When someone dies in a house, all the water that was in that house and the houses next to it, up to the third house from each side, is spilled out. This does not apply to soup or juices – only to water.

- One is not allowed to place food under a bed. If this accidentally happens, according to some opinions the food should be thrown away.

- Sweat should not enter one’s mouth, although it doesn’t concern the sweat of one’s forehead.

- One shouldn’t sleep wearing shoes.

- One shouldn’t get up at once after a meal, a drink, sleep or relations. He should wait a little before getting up.

- One is forbidden to eat food that smells badly or food eaten by mice.

- One is forbidden to place money in his mouth.

- In the morning we need to wash our hands three times, one should try not touch anything until this is done.

- One shouldn’t walk near an unstable wall that looks dangerous, or cross an unsteady bridge.

- One shouldn’t cut food with one hand holding it in the other hand.

- One shouldn’t cross a brook, if the water reaches his thighs. (If the tourists from Israel had followed the rule, so many unnecessary deaths would have been avoided).

- One shouldn’t mention unlucky things, giving examples, like: “If your father died...” One shouldn’t frighten children with unclean animals (“a cat or a dog will come and take you if you do this...”)

- One shouldn’t read when there is not enough light.


2. Any decision to eat on Yom Kippur or to break Shabbos for someone in danger is made according to the doctor. How much more so, any decision about one’s health and taking care of it should be made according to the up-to-date doctors. For instance, if our doctor says that smoking is dangerous, one should try to quit smoking. Certainly, for those who are addicted, it is not a simple step, but thinking: “I don’t care what my doctor says” is inappropriate. One should try hard and at least, cut down a number of cigarettes a day. Our sages require from a righteous man some discipline in eating. One should eat not what is tasty, but what is healthy and avoid harmful types of food. Our sages advise us to refrain from overeating, on the contrary, they advise us on eating about one third of our fill. Because the satiation impulses reach our brain a little later, when we eat only a third, in the end it will turn out that this was enough. Stationary way of life is harmful to one’s health, one should be physically active. Before the meal one should move a little, but during the meal one should sit down. Right after eating, one shouldn’t do any strenuous physical labor, go bathing, go to sleep or have relations with his wife. If one feels he needs to go to the bathroom, he shouldn’t hold it. All the more so one should not eat when he needs to go to the bathroom. Mountain air is healthy, and that is why those who can afford it spend summer vacations in the mountains.


3. All safety rules, like fastening seat belts in a car, having safety exits from one’s house, etc, imposed by the state, are compulsory for us from the point of view of the Torah. He, who breaks those rules, breaks the law of Torah as well.


Parshas Devarim.


The laws of the Ninth of Av.


1. The Ninth of Av is certainly the saddest day of our calendar. It would take too long to describe all the sad events that happened to us on this day. Some of them include the decree that the generation that came out of Egypt should not enter the Holy Land and remain in the desert for 40 years, the destructions of both Temples in Jerusalem, the end of Bar Kochba’s revolt and the exile of Spanish Jewry. We will only concentrate on one more recent event that happened on the Ninth of Av: the beginning of World War 1. This terrible bloody war caused tremendous upheavals in the established Jewish communities. Many Jews were uprooted from their homes and became refuges, many were taken as soldiers to the army to never return ...


One of the sad results of World War 1 was the tremendous decline of traditional observance in the Jewish communities. Shabbos violations became very common around most of Europe and the Rabbinical authority began to rapidly decline. Until then, most Jews in Central and Eastern Europe were very religious, scrupulously observing the commandments of the Torah. Only the Jews of Western European countries had left their religion some time before (as the Enlightenment and the Reform movements succeeded to swing most of the population to their side). However, after World War 1, even the Jews of such countries as Poland and Lithuania started to decline in their observance following their "Western brothers".


One of the most drastic immediate results of World War 1 was the weakened army of the Russian Czar that made it possible for the Bolshevik (Communist) revolution to take place. The communists not only succeeded in overthrowing the royal authority, but also annexed Ukraine after a few years of terrible war that brought with it untold suffering to our people.


The Ukrainians who had hated the Jews for centuries, got another chance to destroy there arch enemy - the Zhid. They were especially encouraged to kill their Jews since they considered every Jew - a hated Communist. Pogroms all over Ukraine were raging non-stop. It is estimated that a few hundred thousand Ukrainian Jews were killed in just a few years.


After the Russian armies won the war, the pogroms were stopped, but the spiritual level of our already weakened people went into further decline. Within years, most Russian and Ukrainian Jews would sign up as atheists.


Meanwhile, as a result of the weakened economy of European nations, a mass immigration to "Golden countries" like America, Canada and South Africa started. At that time, these countries had no Yeshivas, almost no Rabbis and very few Jews who would be willing to stay committed to Torah, despite the difficulties.


Many of the factories worked 6 days a week including Saturday, and working in those factories while observing the Shabbos was out of the question. Those few families that wanted to stay observant, despite the odds, faced another challenge: education of their children. A child coming out of public school rarely saw any reason to keep the mitzvos of the Torah. To him, these commandments were just an extra burden that prevented him from integrating into the society.


Meanwhile, two movements were spreading among the Jews in Eastern and Central Europe. The first was Socialism together with Communism, which promised equality for the "working class" and for all nationalities. The second – was nationalism (secular Zionism), which called for resettling all Jews in one country, so that their fate will no longer depend on the good will of other nations. The common denominator of these two movements was their fierce hatred towards a traditional Jew.


As these two groups were winning the hearts of the youngsters of our nation, the few loyal (traditional) Jews found themselves in a very uncomfortable position – that of an oppressed minority. It is hard for us to imagine the feelings of a young Yeshiva student in Europe in that generation. Even presently religious (Orthodox) Jews are not always the most well liked group, but we don't feel much hatred directed towards us either. In that generation, however, religious Jews were simply despised. It was not uncommon for Communist or Zionist Jewish youngsters to simply beat up a Yeshiva student.


Our people now saw for themselves the fulfillment of the terrible curses predicted for the generation of "Chevley Moshiach" – birth pangs before Messiah. The Talmud (Tractates Sotah page 49 and Sanhedrin page 97) vividly describes some of the characteristics of the Jews in that generation – audacity, disrespect for the old, despise for observance and for those who fear Heaven, the face of the generation being like that of a dog, nobody to rebuke the evildoers ... Together with the terrible decline of our people, the decrees against us began. Prohibitions against ritual slaughter, obligation to keep stores open on Saturday – these are just some of the laws issued in various European countries. As usual, the punishment was "Mida Keneged Mida" – measure for measure. The violations of Kashrus and Shabbos caused that the observance of these commandments to become harder and harder.


Meanwhile, Germany was very unhappy with the results of its defeat during World War 1. It lost its power and prestige, and it was experiencing major economic problems. Fifteen years after the end of the war, a uniquely wicked individual rose to power; we all know his name – Hitler (may his name be erased). According to Hitler, Jews were responsible for the German defeat in WW1 (as well as for all other world tragedies). Soon after Hitler came to power he started building up an army ready to compensate for Germany's last shameful defeat.


In the meantime, many laws against the Jewish people were passed. Here also the principle of measure for measure was operating. Jews could no longer intermarry with gentiles; they could not go to gentile places of entertainment (theaters and like). Later Jews were forced to wear their own distinct clothing – a yellow star. They had to add Jewish names – every Jewish man was Israel – every Jewish woman – Sarah.


While the German Jews were experiencing this unusual treatment – some hoping that it will soon pass and life will return to normal while others were trying to find ways to leave Germany, the sages of Torah in the Eastern European countries were trying desperately to return the Jewish people back to observance. Like Mordechai in his generation, when the threat of annihilation hung over the heads of our people, they were calling on the masses to do Teshuva. Reading their great works now (such as writing of the Chofetz Chaim, Rav Elchanan Wasserman, the Maggid of Kelm, Rav Simcha of Dvinsk and many others) we can see how these great sages clearly foresaw the terrible tragedies that would befall our nation if we didn’t repent. Unfortunately, their voices were not heeded. Germany made a pact with Russia to split Poland between them. Within a short time, over 3 million Polish Jews found themselves under two enemy regimes – the Nazis and the Communists. This punishment was also measure for measure, after all, most of Polish Jews were either Communists or nationalists (Zionists) and they were now split between the Nazis (who were nationalists) and the Russian Communists.


Everybody knows what happened next. Germany was systematically destroying the Jewish population of one country after another. After the war was over, European Jewry was almost totally annihilated. Moreover, most of the countries where some religious Jews were still living were turning Communist with threatening speed.


This was probably the lowest point in our history – the number of religious Jews throughout the world was probably smaller than ever before, and many of them lost large parts of their families. They remained scattered, poor, with hardly any hope or even reason to continue living. And it is then that the Teshuva movement of return started, as the Torah predicted would happen after all the suffering. The numbers of people returning to the observance of the commandments increased manifold within the last two generations and it continues increasing.


"And it shall come to pass when all these things happen to you – the blessing and the curse that I had placed before you, and you shall contemplate among the nations where you were scattered by G-d your Lord. And you shall return to G-d your Lord and you shall hearken to His voice, like all that I command this day – you and your children with all your heart and with all your soul." (Deuteronomy 30: 1-2)


2. Because of the sadness of these days, our nation accepted on itself certain restrictions in the three weeks prior to the Ninth of Av. As the sad day approaches, the prohibitions become more and more severe.


3. We don’t listen to music starting on the fast day of the 17th of Tamuz. (In general, listening to modern songs on the radio is forbidden throughout the year as well, as we mentioned in Parshas Noach. Listening to Jewish music and to classical music may be permitted by some Rabbis, but during these weeks the custom is to forbid it.) Ashkenazim have a custom not to marry throughout the 3 weeks but some Sephardim allow marrying until the end of Tamuz. In general, any happy celebrations should be avoided from the first of Av till after the fast.


4. The Ashkenazi custom is not to do laundry after first of Av, but Sephardim are only forbidden starting Sunday of the week of the Ninth of Av. Starting this time, wearing freshly laundered clothes is also forbidden – one should wear each cloth for some time before Av.


5. Most Sephardim don't eat meat and don't drink wine starting the 2nd of Av. Ashkenazim keep this prohibition starting the 1st of Av – a day earlier. Weak people, who need to eat meat for health reasons should ask a Rabbi, if meat can not be avoided, it is better to eat chicken than beef. On Shabbos, eating meat and drinking wine is permitted.


6. Sephardim don't take haircuts on the week of the Ninth of Av until after the fast day. Ashkenazim are not allowed to cut hair for the entire 3 weeks. Cutting nails on the week of the Ninth of Av until after the fast should also be avoided.


7. The evening before the Ninth of Av, we eat the last meal before the fast – Seudas Mafsekes. We are not allowed to eat more than one type of cooked food during this meal. It is proper to conduct this meal while sitting on the floor. If the Ninth of Av falls on Sunday (or if it falls on Shabbos and is therefore moved to Sunday), we eat the third Shabbos meal normally, but no eating is allowed after sundown.


8. During the Ninth of Av, besides eating and drinking, the following is forbidden:


- Learning Torah except sad topics that have to do with mourning or the Ninth of Av itself.

- Washing, but one is allowed to wash the fingers after sleep or the bathroom.

- Smearing oils, creams or soaps into the skin.

- Wearing leather shoes.

- Marital relations


9. We don't greet people on the Ninth of Av. During the evening, the prayers are recited while sitting on the floor with lights dimmed. We continue to sit on the floor in the morning till the afternoon. In most places, Tefillin and Talis Gadol is not put on until Mincha time.


10. Regular work should be avoided during the Ninth of Av. If one needs to do some urgent work, a Rabbi should be asked.


11. Some laws of mourning apply to the next day – the Tenth of Av as well. In general, we start feeling the real happiness only by the fifteenth of Av, which used to be a small holiday in Talmudic times. In the future, the Ninth of Av and all other sad days will be turned into holidays.


Parshas Vaeschanan.


The laws of reciting Shema.


1. The Torah commands all Jewish men to read two paragraphs of Shema morning and evening. The third paragraph, speaking about tzitzis, has been added primarily because of last sentence that mentions the exodus from Egypt which we also should remember day and night. The blessing instituted after Shema also mentions the exodus from Egypt. The women are not obliged to read Shema, but it is desirable, that they say at least the first verse. If they read the entire Shema they will receive a reward for it. According to some opinions, women are obliged to say the blessing after Shema so that they also recollect the exodus from Egypt.


2. The morning Shema is read after it gets light enough so that one can recognize a semi-familiar person at a distance of 7 feet. This is usually about 50 minutes before sunrise. The latest time to say the morning Shema is when one quarter of the day passes, approximately 8:30 AM. Obviously, if the one’s congregation prays too late, he should say Shema on time before the prayers. The earliest time for evening Shema is when one can see three average starts on the sky. One should try to say Shema before midnight but if this he did not, it can still be said until dawn. The exact earliest and latest times for morning and evening Shema vary and good Jewish calendars mention them for each day.


3. One has to understand at least the first verse of Shema: “SHEMA YISRAEL ADONOY ELOHEYNU ADONOY ECHAD” – Listen, O Israel (this is a call to the entire Jewish people as Moshe once addressed our ancestors) Hashem (the main name of the Creator whose simple meaning is that He is outside of time – He was, He is and He will exist for ever; during the reading we pronounce another name ADONOY, meaning the Master – Adon) our God (the Creator associates Himself with our nation saying that He is our God, but in the future He will be accepted by the whole world) Hashem (was, is and will be, the Master of everything) is One (the Creator is absolutely One, He does not consist of separate parts and He along is the sole ruler over the universe, there are no other independent forces).


4. Shema should be read carefully with great concentration, one also needs to pronounce the words clearly. If one word ends with a certain letter and the next one begins with is, we need to pause between the two words, so that each letter is heard clearly. It is preferable to read Shema in the original since the translations to other languages are usually inadequate.


5. Before pronouncing Shema we need to keep in mind to fulfill the mitzvah from the Torah. In the end of the third paragraph of Shema we need to keep in mind to fulfill the commandment to remember the exodus from Egypt. After the three paragraphs we immediately say the first word of the next blessing – “Emes”. The reason for this is that the word “Emes” – “true” is appropriate not only as the beginning of the blessing but also as a conclusion of Shema. The one who is saying Shema in a congregation does not continue at this point but rather waits till the leader of the congregation finishes Shema and says “ADONOY ELOHEYCHEM EMES”.


The laws of Mezuzah.


1. The Torah commands us to affix a Mezuzah on every doorpost in our dwellings except for the bathroom doors. The Mezuzah is hung on the right doorpost. In some cases of inside doors in a house that has many entrances, which side is the right one will depend on the direction from which we enter. In such a case, there are complicated laws regarding determining the side where to affix the Mezuzah. The answer may depend on the direction in which the door opens, the relative importance of the two rooms it connects and the regularity of entering from each direction. The exact rules are far beyond the scope of this book, and before affixing the Mezuzahs one should ask a Rabbi. Similarly, one should consult a Rabbi regarding entrances from a balcony, a closed yard and a big walk-in closet.


2. There are different opinions regarding whether the entrance without doors requires a Mezuzah. Therefore, one should affix it without a blessing. Certainly the one who affixes all his Mezuzahs at once will make one blessing that will also cover the Mezuzah on this entrance.


3. The Mezuzah is affixed above 2/3 of the height of the entrance and below the distance of a handbreadth from the top. However, it is preferable to fasten the Mezuzah right above the 2/3 of the height of the entrance. The Mezuzah is affixed with nails or strong glue.


4. According to the law, the one renting an apartment outside the land of Israel does not need to affix the Mezuzahs until he lives there for 30 days. However, according to some opinions, if the lease is written for at least a month, one is immediately obligated to fasten the Mezuzahs. At any rate, the custom of most people is not to even live one day without Mezuzahs. Some people affix the Mezuzahs immediately without a blessing, and at the end of 30 days take one for a checkup and attach it back with a brocha.


5. The Mezuzah is checked twice in seven years.


Parshas Ekev.


Laws of Brochos.



1. The Torah requires us to bless the Creator for eating bread until satisfaction. Our sages also instituted blessings before and after eating all other foods. They also instituted blessing over nicely smelling substances as well as many other blessings. The detailed laws of blessings are quite complicated and they are usually being learned and reviewed all life. Just as one is not allowed to eat without a brocha, so too, it’s forbidden to make extra blessings. Therefore, one can’t make blessings whenever he is not sure they are needed, just in case. Only thorough study of the laws of brochos can help avoiding unnecessary and incorrect blessings.


2. There are altogether six different brochos before eating:


בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְהֹוָה, אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, הַמּוֹצִיא לֶחֶם מִן הָאָרֶץ




This blessing is recited over the bread made from wheat, barley, spelt, rye or oats. If the bread is made out of any other grain (corn, rice, etc) we make “Shehakol” on it. The bread has to be baked in the stove. If it is cooked or fried in a pan, we recite “Borey Miney Mezonos” over it. However, if the bread was first baked, and then also cooked or fried, it does not lose its status unless small pieces are cooked (even if they get stuck together like matzo balls). The dough has to be made primarily with water, and not be filled with other ingredients. If the main liquid in the dough is juice or if the dough is full of sugar, so it tastes like cake, the brocha is “Borey Miney Mezonos”. However, if small amounts of raisins or sugar are added to the dough, we still make “Hamotzi” on this bread. Even cake may require “Hamotzi” in case one eats it in large quantities (equivalent to three or four eggs). Anytime we eat bread that requires Hamotzi, we need to wash hands outside the bathroom prior to eating. According to most customs, each hand is washed twice with a cup, but most Sephardim wash each hand three times. It’s very important to make sure that the water is poured over the entire hand up to the wrist. One should pour a lot of water; if needed, the cup can be refilled after each pouring. After washing the hands but before drying them, the blessing is made:


בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְהֹוָה, אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ עַל נְטִילַת יָדַיִם




If one eats a piece of bread less than the size of an egg, he should not recite the brocha “Al Netilas Yodoyim” on the washing. After washing, one should not talk until the blessing on the bread is made and a piece was eaten and swallowed.


 בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם בּוֹרֵא מִינֵי מְזוֹנוֹת




This blessing is made on the foods other than bread, which contain wheat, barley, spelt, rye or oat flour. According to many opinions, we also make this blessing on the rice, even though in all other laws rice does not have the same status as the other Mezonos.


 בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְהֹוָה, אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגֶּפֶן




This brocha is recited over grape wine and grape juice. Wine that is made from anything but grapes requires only Shehakol. It is preferable not to mix grape wine with water or other liquids since otherwise there is a dispute what blessing to make on the mixture.


בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הָעֵץ




This blessing is made on any fruits that grow on trees or high bushes, this may include certain berries and nuts. The definition of fruits of the tree according to halacha – is those fruits that grow back on the branches year after year. For this reason, bananas, which grow on the tree only once, are not considered to be “the fruits of the tree,” and their brocha is “Borey Peri Hoadomoh”. According to most authorities, papaya also requires “Borey Peri Haadamah”.


בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הָאֲדָמָה




We make this blessing on all vegetables and grain products that don’t contain flour. However, on mushrooms we make “Shehakol” since fungi don’t receive their sustenance from earth. If one eats edible fruit pits he makes “Shehakol” but if he eats the fruit itself together with the pits, the brocha on the fruit coves the pits. If one eats edible fruit shells, he makes “Bore Peri Hoadomoh” on them.


בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם שֶׁהַכֹּל נִהְיָה בִּדְבָרו




This brocha is made over all foods that don’t grow from earth. Even if the ingredients of the food grow from earth, if they are processed in the manner that they are no longer recognizable, this blessing is recited. If one accidentally made this blessing on any food, even bread or wine, he fulfilled his obligation after the fact.


3. When an improper blessing was recited, sometimes it is valid after the fact, but in most cases when an incorrect blessing is made, one does not fulfill his obligation. He needs to say:


בָּרוּךְ שֵׁם כְּבוֹד מַלְכוּתוֹ לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד




and recite the correct blessing.


4. There are specific laws regarding the order of blessings. In general, the more important brocha is usually recited first. Thus, the order of brochos is as follows: “Hamotzi”, “Borey Miney Mezonos”, “Borey Peri Hagofen”, “Borey Peri Hoetz”, “Borey Peri Hoadomoh”, “Shehakol”.


5. When one is eating various foods that require the same blessing, the brocha is made on the most important of the foods, and other foods are covered by it. If one has various types of bread, the brocha on wheat bread is made. If there is no wheat bread, one should make the blessing on barley bread, since the other three types of grain (rye, oats and spelt) are not mentioned explicitly in the verse praising the Land of Israel. If one has an unbroken piece of bread, the brocha should be made on it, if he has a piece of wheat bread and unbroken barley bread, he should put the slice of wheat bread under the barley bread and make the brocha on both. When one has various fruits, and one of seven species is among them, he should make the brocha on it. Otherwise, he should recite the blessing on the fruits he usually likes the most. If he usually does not have any preference, he should make a brocha on the fruit he prefers now. All the above laws apply only if one wants to eat all the foods mentioned. However, if one has some food in front of him, and he is not planning to eat it, he does not make a brocha on it first, even if it is considered a more important food according to the above rules.


6. When one is eating a mixture of foods, he usually makes one brocha that is appropriate to the majority ingredient and it covers others as well. Thus, if the food contains rice and meat, if there is more rice, its brocha covers the meat as well. Similarly, if one had both fruits and vegetables in a salad, if the vegetables constitute the majority, only “Bore Peri Haadama” is made. In case each of the ingredients is easily recognizable in a mixture, there is a dispute whether the blessing on the majority covers the rest or whether two brochos should be made. To fulfill the obligation according to all opinions, one should take some other food that has the same brocha as the minority ingredient, and its blessing will then cover that ingredient in the salad as well. If the food one is eating contains flour, “Borey Miney Mezonos” is made even though the flour does not constitute the majority. However, if a little bit of flour is added only to keep the food together, like in the case of gefilte fish, we don’t recite “Borey Miney Mezonos”.


7. In case one made a blessing on the bread, he does not make any other blessing before or after the foods eaten during the meal. This rule does not apply to the fruits and sweets eaten as desert. The blessings are made before them but not after, for Birkas Hamazon covers them. There are different opinions whether a blessing is needed if one eats some of the fruits during the meal together with bread and some without bread. Therefore, it’s better to always eat fruits only in the end as desert. Similarly, there is a dispute regarding whether one should make a blessing on cookies and cakes brought as desert. The Ben Ish Chai suggests making “Shehakol” on some other sweet desert and to keep in mind to cover the cakes as well. The one who drinks the wine during the meal makes a blessing before but not after. Moreover, the blessing on the wine also covers other drinks.


8. The blessing before eating is made on any amount of food. However, after the meal, we only make a blessing if we ate at least Kezais – somewhat more than an ounce of food. The food has to be eaten within a certain time period, according to various opinions it could be two minutes or possibly four or more minutes. Regarding drinking, we only recite the blessing afterwards if we drank a Reviis of liquid. This amount is somewhere between 3 and 5 ounces. According to some opinions the blessing is only made if one drank quickly while others hold that even if drinking was finished within two or possibly four minutes, the blessing is made. Because of all these uncertainties, when one is eating or drinking relatively small amounts, he should pay attention to either not exceed the smallest of the sizes, or make sure to eat or drink the minimal amount according to all opinions so that he can then recite the blessing.  According to Kaf Hachaim, it is preferable to always eat or drink enough in order to be able to recite a brocha.


9. After eating bread, Birkas Hamazon is recited. First, the fingers are washed and one is not allowed to talk until he finished making the brochos. If at least three men ate together, zimun is made. One of them – the leader – invites others to praise the Creator for the food they ate. It is preferable to recite zimun on a cup of wine, after Birkas Hamazon, the leader makes “Borey Peri Hagofen” on it and drinks it.


10. If one did not eat bread, but ate food made of seven species for which the Land of Israel is praised, he makes a special blessing on them. This blessing is a short summary of the entire Birkas Hamazon. There are three possible wordings in this brocha – one after eating food made of flour (Mezonos), another, in case one drank wine or grape juice, and the third – for eating grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives or dates. In case one ate the food falling in more than one category, he recites all of what applies to him. For example, the one who ate Mezonos, drank wine and ate figs will say “Blessed are you ADONOY our God, King of the universe, for the nourishment and sustenance and for the vine and the fruit of the vine and for the tree and the fruit of the tree …”


9. In case one ate the foods that don’t require the above blessing, the Borey Nefashos is made on them. This blessing can be recited even at a location different from where one ate; still, it is preferable not to leave the table until the blessings after the food are recited.


10. There are also many specific laws about interruptions during eating, leaving the place where one ate and wanting to eat more of the food that he did not have in mind at the time he made the brocha. One also has to know how long after the meal, he can still make the blessings as well as the laws of compensations of possible mistakes made during the brochos before or after eating. For example, what should one do if he forgot to mention Shabbos during Birkas Hamazon. All of these laws are quite complicated and it’s a big mitzvah to thoroughly study them using appropriate books.


11. Besides the blessings on food, our sages established many other brochos. All of them can be found in Sidurim, we will try to describe only some of them in brief. Before performing most commandments we need to make a blessing. We already mentioned the blessing before taking off challah, immersing new vessels in the Mikvah, putting on Tefillin, etc. The general principle of the blessings over mitzvos is that they contain the words “ASHER KIDSHONU BEMITZVOSOV VETZIVONU” – “Who sanctified us with His mitzvos and commanded us regarding …” Other blessings express our gratitude to the Creator for everything, that He gives us. Thus, rising in the morning we say set of blessings printed in the beginning of the Sidur. We thank the Creator for giving us understanding and sight, strength and protection, clothes and shoes. Every morning we wash our hands three times and recite a blessing as the new day begins with renewal of our body. The matter is that during the sleep, the connection between the soul and the body weakens: our sages teach that a dream is one sixtieth of death. When we wake up, we are as though born anew. In the morning we also say the blessing “Asher Yatzar”, after going to the bathroom. If our body does not function normally and we cannot relieve ourselves, this brings awful suffering and can even lead to death. We have to recite this blessing each time after we went to the bathroom. Another frequent blessing is “Shehechiyonu” – we thank the Creator for allowing us to live till this time, and it is said under various circumstances. We recite it after purchasing new expensive clothes, when fulfilling rare mitzvos like redeeming the first-born, and also on each holiday. A lot of blessings were established by sages on various sensations – what our eyes see, our ears hear and our nose smells. Just as there are different blessings for different kinds of food, so too there are different blessings on various smells. All details of these blessings are described in Sidurim. The blessings on what we see include the brochos on high mountains, great seas and oceans. The blessings on what we hear include for example the brocha on hearing thunder, or hearing good news. It is necessary to recite all the blessings with concentration – this is one of the greatest ways to feel the presence of the Creator in our everyday life. Arizal told his students that his main success in understanding the Torah was reached through concentration during the recital of brochos.


Parshas Ree.


The laws of the prohibition of idolatry.


1. The laws of the prohibitions of the objects of idolatry were already discussed in Parshas Vayishlach, here we will talk about the prohibitions against the idolatry itself and against following instigators and false prophets.


2. The Torah strictly forbids us to believe in any other god, except for One, True God – the Creator of the universe. Even a if person believes in the Creator but also supposes that there are other powers beyond His control, such a person is breaking the severe prohibition against idolatry. Even if he worships the idol simply as a superstition or just in case it could “also” help or so that it doesn’t hurt him, this is also breaking the prohibition of idolatry.



3. In the old times and also today in many religions of the East, the idol worshippers believe that there exists the “Main God, the Creator of the world”, but they also worship various lower powers in order to bring down the spiritual energy. All these types of religions are forbidden for a Jew under penalty of death. Similarly, Christianity is a version of idolatry and a Jew is required to give up his life rather than convert, (our ancestors fulfilled this command in millions throughout history). Such groups as Jews for Jesus claim that it is possible to remain a Jew and still accept the Christian doctrine. This is an obvious lie – the Jews for Jesus believe in the same idolatry as the rest of Protestant Christians and even if they were to keep all other commandments of the Torah, a Jew would still have to give up his life rather than convert to their religion.


4. Some people have a specific talent to be able to predict, in some cases, some future events. In theory, this talent exists just like other spiritual talents, for example – correct dream interpretation. Throughout history, people with this talent often used it inventing new religions and leading many followers after themselves. The Torah tells us that even a person who performed many tricks that seem like miracles to us, and predicted the future correctly many times, if he now entices us to worship idols, we are forbidden to listen to him. In the times of our Supreme Court – the Sanhedrin, this kind of person was punished by death. In our day, we do not have a possibility of executing the evildoers, but even today we have to keep away from such people. We should not argue with them and we should ignore all their predictions. The miracles that our nation experienced are different from all the “miracles” that are done by various sorcerers and false prophets. Never in history did a whole nation claim to have heard “the voice from Heaven” as our nation did. This is why no religion in the world ever started spontaneously as our religion did, and the Torah tells us that there will never be a nation that will claim such a Divine revelation. All other religions start from talented deceivers and even if they are able to lead many people after themselves, our people will ignore them and remain loyal to the Torah.


The laws of the prohibition against mixing milk and meat products.


1. The Torah forbids us to cook the meat and the milk of kosher domestic animals together. If the meat and milk were cooked together, we can not derive any benefit from this food, for example – feed it to animals. The Torah’s prohibition does not apply if the meat or the milk comes from a bird or wild animal, for this reason one can cook the deer’s meat with cow’s milk or with deer’s milk. Similarly, the meat of chicken can be cooked with any milk. However, the Rabbis prohibited eating any kosher meat with milk, but one is allowed only to cook and derive enjoyment from such mixtures.


2. The custom of most Jews is not to eat dairy products within the six hours after eating food that has meat ingredients. However, in some communities the custom is to wait only three hours or one hour. Young children and some old people, who need to eat dairy products often, are usually permitted to wait only one hour between meat and milk products.


3. One is allowed to eat meat products immediately after eating dairy as long as he washed hands and mouth and ate something parve in between. However, most people do wait at least half an hour between dairy and meat. The one who ate old hard cheese should preferably wait six hours before eating meat products, since the cheese often gets stuck between the teeth.


4. Obviously it is forbidden to cook meat and milk products in the same dishes. Moreover, even a food that is neither dairy nor meat (parve) that was cooked in a pot where meat was cooked within the last 24 hours, can not be eaten together with milk and vice versa. Some people therefore keep a third kind of vessels and knifes – especially for parve products.


5. One should not use the same table cloth when eating meat and milk. The best advice is to have special placemats, for example for milk products. The righteous people have even separate saltshakers for dairy and meat products.  


6. There are various complicated laws regarding dairy food that accidentally got mixed with meat, as well as the laws of meat that was cooked in a milk pot or vice versa. These detailed laws are beyond the scope of the current book, in each case this happens one needs to consult a Rabbi.


Parshas Shoftim.


The laws of the prohibition against practicing witchcraft and sorcery.


1. There are many different types of occult arts and superstitions that the Torah forbids us. These prohibitions are usually mentioned side by side with the prohibitions against idolatry and indeed throughout history many trusting people would worship the idols as a pure superstition. In our day there also exist many people who claim to be “fortune tellers”, “sorcerers”, “oracles”, “mediums” and “diviners”. Some of them are open liars who use the information they were able to secretly get, making it look like it came “from Above”. For example, such a “sorcerer” can send a delivery man to his client so he can find out what the insides of his house look like. Later, during the session, he will amaze the client by telling him what is in his home. There are also some people who do possess a certain talent as we described in the previous chapter with regards to false prophets. However, their possible access to knowledge that is hidden from most people still does not give us permission to ask them for advice. Rather in cases of doubt we consult knowledgeable and righteous Rabbis.


2. The Torah forbids us to follow the superstitions of non-Jews. We should not choose auspicious times – today I won’t go outside because the mazal is bad, but tomorrow I will, etc. Still in some cases when there is a Jewish source for certain behavior (usually based on the teachings of Kabbalah), we are permitted to follow it. For this reason, many people have a custom to organize weddings in the first half of lunar month (some organize the weddings until the last week of the lunar month) – the Jewish nation is compared to the moon and we want the covenant of marriage to happen when its visible lit part is increasing. There is also a custom to start new endeavors on Rosh Chodesh – the new moon.


3. Even tricks with hands, like the ones done by the conjurers are forbidden for a Jew.


4. It is forbidden to use the words of Torah for treatment, except when there is danger for life. For this reason, one should not choose out the verses from psalms according to the letters of the name of the sick. One should only say full psalms as prayers.


Parshas Ki Setze.


The laws of the prohibitions of forbidden mixtures and shatnez – clothes from wool and linen.


1. The Torah forbids us to mix various plants, animals and clothes. These types of prohibitions generally have to do with the various spiritual roots that can not be mixed together. We already learned about the prohibition against mixing milk and meat – the milk gives life and the meat is prepared by taking it away. Today it is also known that our stomach uses different enzymes for digesting the meat and the dairy products, therefore the meat and milk eaten together is not well digested. We will now discuss the other prohibitions against mixing.


2. In the Land of Israel we are forbidden to plant mixtures of various seeds. Outside the Land of Israel we are only forbidden to plant the grape seeds together with two other types of seeds. There is also a prohibition against grafting different species of trees in all lands.


3. It is forbidden to do work with two types of animals one can not have two species of animals pull a wagon together. It is also forbidden to crossbreed various species of animals.


4. The Torah forbids wearing clothes that have wool and linen. For this reason, we need to check our clothing in special Shatnez laboratories. Sometimes, the label on the suit says 100% wool or 100% linen or even that there is no wool or linen at all, and yet after checking both wool and linen are found in various parts of the cloth. A Rabbi can help you find the Shatnez laboratory near you. 


The laws against wearing clothes of the opposite gender.


1. The Torah forbids for men to wear women’s clothes and for women to wear men’s. This prohibition applies even to one piece of cloth and even if one can still tell the gender of the one wearing it.


2. A woman can not wear pants or jeans even if they are made specifically for women. Besides the fact that pants are considered male clothing, it is also a very immodest cloth for a woman since it emphasizes her figure. According to many opinions, a woman can wear pants under her skirt if it is cold or for other reasons.


3. Even the behavior that is normal for the opposite gender is forbidden. Thus, for example, a man should not beautify himself in front of a mirror, color his hair or shave under his armpits. According to some opinions, in a place where most Jewish men do this, it is permitted. 


The laws of feeding the worker and animal and sending away the mother bird.


1. The Torah commands us to let the worker eat from the food he is working on. This law only applies under certain circumstances, but it is generally a good advice to allow workers to eat in all cases. (Note, that even many non-Jewish companies follow this advice, for it is very hard to work with food without being able to taste it. This is one of the examples of how the nations of the world learn from our Torah, another example is pensions, as the Sefer Hachinuch wrote 700 years ago.)


2. When a person is working using an animal, he should not muzzle it – let the animal eat the food it is working with. This law also applies in select circumstances only and for most people has only theoretical value. Note, that in general it is forbidden for one to eat until he feeds his animals.


3. If we noticed a kosher bird that does not belong to anyone, and it is on its eggs or little ones, we should not take it together with its young. We should send it away and only then take the eggs or the children. Since this mitzvah is very rare, we did not describe it in detail.


Parshas Ki Savo.


The laws of respecting parents.


1. The Torah tells us to fear and respect our parents. By respecting them we ultimately show respect to the Creator Himself.


2. It is forbidden to sit where one of the parents usually sits, interrupt their conversations or argue with them, or make statements like: “My father is right” – this is also lack of respect as if our opinion is the decisive here.


3. It is a mitzvah to feed and cloth our parents. If they are rich, then the son does not have to spend his own money on it, but if they are poor and the son has means, he should spend the money needed, (in Parshas Vayetze we discuss whether this money can be subtracted from tzedoko).


4. It is a mitzvah to stand up before the parents.


5. If the parents want their child to break any Biblical or Rabbinical prohibition, it is forbidden to listen to them. For this reason, if someone’s father has an enemy and tells his son not to speak to him or not to forgive him, the son should not listen. Similarly, if the son wants to learn Torah in a different country, but his parents want him to stay with them, he does not have to listen. If the parents are not happy about his choice of a bride, he can still marry her. However, it is often a good advice to consult the parents before choosing a proper match since they might be able to give a good advice in the matter.


6. There is some mitzvah in respecting other older relatives like grandparents, older siblings and the wife’s parents. One should also show some respect to the wife of his father, even if she is not his mother, while the father is alive.


Parshas Nitzavim.


The laws of Rosh Hashanah.


1. The Rosh Hashanah – the Jewish New Year is of course the time of judgment. However, the Jewish “Judgment Day” brings us completely different associations than that to non-Jews. Remembering Rosh Hashanah, we think about the lofty ideas of these days. Even the melodies of prayers in the synagogues cause a person tremendous desire to repent, come back to the ways of the Creator. This is the feeling of a king’s son who left the palace and after wandering for many years wants to come back. How far off did we stray? This should not have happened… The Creator loves us so much… We say in our prayers: “Until the day of death You are still waiting for every person …” – He is waiting for our repentance so much. The Creator in His infinite mercy chose these ten days a year so that we can sum up all of our deeds and correct everything that was not done right. During these days it is possible to feel how the Creator is bringing us back. If we use these days correctly, it is possible to rise very high. One Slovak non-Jew, after conversion to Judaism said how he was especially affected by seeing the Jews during the days of repentance: “These were absolutely different people not the ones I used to do business with throughout the year – these were angels”.


2. Rosh Hashanah is first of all a holiday. Therefore, the usual laws of a holiday apply to these days. Besides that it is prohibited to do the work forbidden on Yom Tov, it is necessary to make this day a celebration – to eat two meals, to put on beautiful clothes (some people put on Kitel – a special white cloth but others put it on only on Yom Kippur). It is customary to eat during the evening meals certain kinds of food as a good sign, showing that we believe that we will be justified during the forthcoming judgment. Thus, for example, we dip the challah in honey (according to Sephardic custom we also dip it in the salt as during other meals). The Sidurim bring various other symbolic foods eaten on this night.


3. The Torah commands us to hear the shofar blasts on Rosh Hashanah. The detailed laws of kosher blowing are quite complicated and are beyond the scope of this book. In general, we should keep in mind before the blasts start that we want to fulfill a mitzvah of Torah  and afterwards we should listen carefully and not talk. The shofar is blows after Torah reading and again during the Musaf prayer. It is customary to hear 100 blasts altogether throughout the prayers.


4. According to the law, the women are not obligated to hear the shofar, but the custom of all Jewish women is to hear at least the minimal number of thirty blasts. In most places special blowing of the shofar is held during the afternoon at the time when it is convenient even for those women who take care of little children. If Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbos, the shofar is not blown and is considered muktza.


5. The day after Rosh Hashanah is the fast of Gedaliya as we discussed in Parshas Vayigash. This way everybody fasts immediately after Rosh Hashanah. Some people continue to fast throughout the rest of the days of repentance except for Shabbos and the day before Yom Kippur. There are also those, who have a custom to who only fast until midday for these days. Obviously, our repentance and change of behavior is most important, we should especially examine our bad qualities, see Parshas Shemos.


Parshas Vayelech.


The laws of Yom Kippur.


1. On the day before Yom Kippur, there is a mitzvah to eat well. (Besides the fact that it will help us fasting, there are deep Kabbalistic reasons for this as is described in the writings of Arizal).


2. Any work that is prohibited on Shabbos is forbidden on Yom Kippur as well. Besides this, it is forbidden to eat or drink, wash or smear oils and creams, wear leather shoes and have marital relations. We will now discuss each of these prohibitions separately.


3. The Torah forbids eating or drinking on Yom Kippur in any amount. However, the person does not get Kares – spiritual incision, unless he eats as much food as the size of an average date within about nine minutes or drinks a full cheek of liquid. For this reason, a person for whom fasting is dangerous is usually fed in small quantities every nine minutes or so. Obviously, if even this is not enough, he can be fed normally, when there is life danger according to the doctor’s decision.


4. We don’t wash even hands and face on Yom Kippur. However, after sleeping or going to the bathroom we are allowed to wash our fingers three times. We don’t use any lotions or soaps on Yom Kippur. Note that solid soaps and creams cannot be used on a regular Shabbos or Yom Tov as well, however very waterly liquid soaps are permitted but not on Yom Kippur.


5. According to the majority opinion the prohibition against wearing shoes applies only to leather shoes. For this reason most Jews wear rubber shoes on Yom Kippur. However, there is also a strict opinion according to which all shoes are forbidden and only wearing socks is permitted. Note, that some people take off  their rubber shoes at least during the prayers.


6. On Yom Kippur the husband and the wife behave like when she is Nidah. They sleep on separate beds at a distance from each other and don’t touch one another. 


7. On Yom Kippur we pray five times. The last prayer is called Neilah – the closing of the Heavenly gates. This is our last chance for return. Obviously it is possible to return to the Creator at any time, but on Yom Kippur we are given special strength to do this and one can rectify his misdeeds to a much greater extent.


8. After Yom Kippur, Havdallah is made, but not the same way as after a regular Shabbos – we don’t make a brocha on the nicely smelling spices. The fire needed for Havdallah has to be lit from before Yom Kippur. We light a long candle before the holiday, and after Yom Kippur it can be used for Havdallah.


Parshas Haazinu.


The laws of Sukkos.


1. The last of our holidays at the end of the year is Sukkos – one of the most joyful holidays. Now that the judgment days are over, a Jew feels the happiness of the one justified in court. The purpose of the holiday of Sukkos is to show how vain this world is. On this holiday we live in the huts constructed of cheap materials, covered by simple branches. Being in such unprotected dwellings, we show that only the Creator guards us.


2. Many people start building the Sukkah (hut) right after Yom Kippur (some people begin even before Yom Kippur to have additional merits which will add to one’s mitzvos). It is necessary to build a hut in open-air (not under a tree or a hanging roof of the house). The laws of construction of a kosher hut are quite complex, therefore it is necessary to always ask a Rabbi.


3. During the seven days of the holiday we have to live in a Sukkah. This means eating, sleeping, learning Torah in the Sukkah as though it was our house. Only if it is raining, and the life in a hut becomes very difficult, we go home. Outside the Sukkah one is permitted to eat or drink something, as the person sometimes does outside of the house, but all meals that include bread need to be eaten only inside the Sukkah. According to some opinions even when one eats large amounts of cake or drinks a lot of wine he should also go to the Sukkah. In any case it is desirable to eat and drink everything only inside the Sukkah. In cold countries, not everyone can sleep in a hut, but happy is the one who puts on warm clothes and spends the night there.


4. Throughout the seven days of the holiday except for Shabbos, we pick up four species: Esrog, Lulav, myrtle branches and willow branches. It is necessary to buy the plants of the best quality; a Rabbi can help checking your plants to make sure they are kosher. If a person did not have an opportunity to buy the plants, on the first two days of the holiday he cannot simply borrow them. Rather he needs to ask a friend to give him the plants as a gift with a condition, that he will return them back.


5. Women are not obliged to sit in a Sukkah or to lift the four plants. Nevertheless, most women pick up the plants and some also recite the blessing.


Parshas Vezos Habrocha.


The laws of Chol Hamoed, Hoshanah Rabah, Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah.


1. The intermediate days between the beginning and the end of the holidays of Sukkos and Pesach are called Chol Hamoed. On these days we are forbidden to do most types of labor-consuming work. Those employed by others should try to take a vacation during Chol Hamoed. Nevertheless, if missing work will result in great monetary losses, it is permitted to work. All of this provided that the person does not leave the work intentionally to be done on Chol Hamoed.


2. The laws of Chol Hamoed are quite complex, we will describe only some of them. One is forbidden to do laundry or take a haircut on Chol Hamoed. Writing is possible only under some circumstances, for example, what will otherwise be forgotten and will lead to financial losses. It is forbidden to give a car to be fixed, if it will only be needed after the holidays. If it is needed on Chol Hamoed itself, one needs to ask a Rabbi. Buying is permitted only for the sake of a holiday or at great discounts, if after the holidays such low prices will not exist. Marrying on Chol Hamoed is forbidden.


3. The last day of Chol Hamoed of Sukkos holiday is called Hoshanah Rabah. This day is even more festive than the other days of Chol Hamoed. According to Kabbalah, the Divine Judgment after Yom Kippur is still not completely sealed up to Hoshanah Rabah. Therefore, on this night many people do not sleep and read the last book of Torah – Devarim – in the synagogues. During the morning prayers of the holiday of Sukkos we were walking with our four species around the Bimah. On Hoshanah Rabah, we walk around the Bimah seven times. There is another special mitzvah of the day – we take willow branches and bit them against the floor five times. The reason of this custom has Kabbalistic explanations. According to the simple meaning, it is done in memory of the willow branches which were used during the days of the holiday for the service in the Temple.


4. The last two days of the holiday are called Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah (the happiness of Torah). According to Torah law, it is not necessary to sit in a Sukkah during these days, but outside of the Land of Israel all holidays are celebrated for an extra day (see Parshas Bemidbar), and therefore the first day of Shemini Atzeres is also the second day of Hoshanah Rabah and we continue to sit in a Sukkah. However, the blessing on sitting in the Sukkah is not recited.


5. On the last day of the holiday we finish reading the Torah. In the evening and in the morning we do Hakafos – dance around the Bimah carrying all the Torah scrolls. On this day it is customary to give an Alliyah to everybody, so that every person can make a blessing over the Torah at least once a year. The last two Alliyahs are bought for a lot of money, they are called Choson Torah – the groom of Torah and Choson Breyshis. With this day, the holiday cycle and the Torah reading cycle are over, but this is not the end but just a new BEGINNING.


Table of contents and explanations of some reasons regarding our distribution of laws.


The chapter

 Laws of the chapter

 The connection of the laws to the weekly Parsha


 The principles of faith every Jew must believe in.

 In the Parsha where the creation of the world is described, we have outlined the principles of faith in relation to the Creator.


 The laws of marriage and forbidden relations

 Here the Torah commands us to be fruitful and to multiply. The Parsha also describes the Great Flood that was sent as a punishment for adultery and other forbidden relations.

Lech Lecha

 The laws of Bris Milah circumcision

 Described in the Parsha


 The laws of Tefillin

 The Talmud tells us that our people received the precept of Tefillin in the merit of Avraham. (Also, according to a Kabbalah, there is a connection between Tefillin and Circumcision.)


 The laws of the morning prayer

 This prayer was established by Avraham and is hinted in our Parsha.

Chaye Sarah

 The laws of mourning prayer

 In this Parsha, the mourning of Avraham after Sarah’s passing is described.


 The laws of the afternoon prayer Mincha

 This prayer was established by Yitzchak and is hinted in this week’s Parsha.


 The laws of the evening prayer Maariv

 This prayer was established by Yakov and is hinted in this week’s Parsha.


 The laws of tzedoko

 This Parsha describes how Yakov established to give from the tenth to one fifth of his income for tzedoko.


 The laws of children of Noach and Geirim.

 In this chapter, the punishment of the idolatrous city of Shchem is described.


 The laws of the prohibition against mixed marriages

 We learn in this Parsha that a daughter of Yakov cannot marry a non-Jew.


 The laws of the prohibition of idolatry

 After the capture of the city of Shchem, Yakovs's sons took some objects of idolatry among trophies, but Yakov told them to bury them.


 The laws of family faithfulness, Yibum and Chalitza

 Tamar’s story teaches us these laws.


 The laws of Chanukah

 On most of years, Hanukkah falls on this week’s Parsha. Moreover, this Parsha describes the wonderful redemption of Yosef, who became a viceroy after being a servant. Similarly our nation during Hanukkah miraculously threw away the yolk of a powerful empire.


 The laws of repentance and fasts

 The fast of the tenth of Teves usually falls on this week’s Parsha. Moreover, the brothers of Yosef repented of the sale of Yosef and were afraid they will become slaves forever.


 The laws of visiting the sick

 Yakov’s illness is described in this Parsha, as well as how Yosef visited him.


 The laws of character qualities that one should strive after

 Our ancestors were suffering in exile because of bad qualities they possessed: hatred to each other and gossip. In this Parsha, the episode of fight between two Jews is described.


 The laws of Pesach Seder and some explanations of the Haggadah

 The Pesach Seder is based on the description of ten plaques most of which are mentioned in this week’s Parsha.


 The laws of prohibition of chametz throughout Pesach. 

In this chapter, the Torah forbids to eat leaven on Pesach or to have in one’s possession.


 The laws of Pesuke Dezimra (the thanksgiving verses of prayer)

 This Parsha describes Shir Shel Yam which is one of the most important parts of Pesuke Dezimra.


The laws of the commandment to remember what Amalek did to us and destroy this nation and its ideology

 Amalek’s attack is describen in this Parsha


 The laws of remembering Shabbos

 In this Parsha the Torah tells us to remember the day of Shabbos.


 The laws of Jewish court Bais Din

 These laws are described in our Parsha   


 The laws of helping to load and unload an animal

 These laws are described in our Parsha


 The laws of the holiness of the synagogue

  the Torah describes the construction of the Temple in the desert, and we describe the laws of a small temple – synagogue.


 The laws of Purim

 Purim usually falls on this week’s Parsha. In the beginning of book Ester, the feast of Achashveyrosh is related, when he put on the clothes of the High Priest, described in our weekly Parsha. (It is interesting to note, that the book of Ester is the only book of Torah, where the Divine Name is not mentioned. Similarly, this is the only Parsha after Moshe’s birth, where Moshe is not mentioned.

Ki Sisa

 Laws of work forbidden on Shabbos from the Torah

 This week’s Parsha mentions the precept to observe Shabbos.


 Laws of rabbinical prohibitions on Shabbos

 This Parsha describes that when Moshe came down from mountain Sinai he immediately began to describe laws of Shabbos.


 The laws of the prohibitions of making statues and copying structures that were in the Holy Temple

 This week’s Parsha sums up the construction of the Temple.


 The laws of the prohibition against theft and deceit. The laws of giving property to be watched for, returning lost objects and paying a worker on time

 This week’s Parsha describes the laws of a person who has misappropriated another's property.


 The laws of the prohibition to eat blood and certain types of fats

 These laws are mentioned in our weekly Parsha.


 The laws of permitted and forbidden species of animals

  These laws are described in our weekly Parsha.


 The laws of family purity.

These laws are mentioned in our weekly Parsha.


 The laws of counting seven clean days and immersion in the Mikvah

 This week’s Parsha mentions purification and immersing in the Mikvah.

Achare Mot

 The laws of prohibiton of Neveila and Treifa 

 These laws are described in our weekly Parsha.


 The laws of loving and respecting others and not placing a stumbling block before the blind

 These laws are described in our weekly Parsha.


 The laws of prohibition of tearing hair as a sign of mourning, shaving hair of sideburns and beard, and the prohibition against tattoo marks.

 These laws are described in our weekly Parsha.


 The laws of holiness of cohanim

 This week’s Parsha begins with the laws of sanctity of cohanim.


The laws of prohibition of causing animals to suffer or castration and of slaughtering an animal along with its child within the same day

 These laws are described in our weekly Parsha.


 Laws of prohibition of interest loans and of forgiving debts in the seventh year

 These laws are described in our weekly Parsha.


 Laws of Tithing

 Tithes are mentioned in our weekly Parsha.


 Laws of Yom Tov (holidays)

 The holiday of Shavuos usually falls on this week’s Parsha, therefore we placed the laws of the positive commandments regarding Yom Tov here. (Note also, that on during the holidays our people gathered in the Holy Temple, and also in this week’s Parsha a counting of our people and the assembling of a the Temple is described.)


 The laws of modest clothing

 This week’s Parsha describes the punishment of Sotah – a woman, suspected of adultery. Before she is checked by special water, her head covering is removed. From here the Talmud learns that the daughters of Israel have their hair covered. If she admitted that she was disloyal, her husband had to divorce her and she lost her Kesubah.


 The laws of studying the Torah, teaching the Torah and respecting the Torah scrolls

 This Parsha mentions the verse “VAYECHI BINSOA HAARON VAYOMER” which we say when the Sefer Torah is carried out. This verse, according to the Talmud, is a separate book of Torah, and the candles of a menorah mentioned in the beginning of this chapter, symbolize wisdom of Torah.


 The laws of Tzitzis

 These laws are described in our weekly Parsha.


The laws of separating the challah

 These laws are described in our weekly Parsha.


 The laws of redeeming the firstborn

 The redemption of firstborn is described in our weekly Parsha.


 The laws of the prohibition of Lashon Hara gossip

 Our people received a punishment by snakes for malignant gossip.


 Laws of the prohibition of wine, milk, bread and other products made by a non-Jew

 The non-Jewish wine became the cause of the sin of our people with the Midianite women.


 Laws of work, forbidden on Yom Tov

 This Parsha describes all the holidays.


 The laws of vows and swearing

 These laws are described in our weekly Parsha.


 The laws of immersing non-Jewish dishes in the Mikvah

 These laws are mentioned in our weekly Parsha.


 The laws of the prohibition against inflicting accidents and the mitzvah of taking care of one s own health

 This Parsha mentions the laws of an accidental murderer.


 The laws of the Ninth of Av

 The Ninth of Av always falls on this week’s Parsha. A sad beginning of this Parsha – the last words of Moshe before his death, also uses the word “Eicha” – the first word of the book read on the Ninth of Av.


 The laws of reciting Shema

 These laws are described in our weekly Parsha.


The laws of Mezuzah

These laws are described in our weekly Parsha.


 Laws of Brochos

 This Parsha mentions the obligation to thank the Creator for the food we eat.


 The laws of the prohibition of idolatry

 Described by the Torah in this Parsha.


The laws of the prohibition against mixing milk and meat products

 Mentioned in this Parsha


 The laws of the prohibition against practicing witchcraft and sorcery

 These laws are described in our weekly Parsha.

Ki Setze

 The laws of the prohibitions of forbidden mixtures and shatnez clothes from wool and linen

 These laws are described in our weekly Parsha.


The laws of the prohibitions of forbidden mixtures and shatnez – clothes from wool and linen

 These laws are described in our weekly Parsha.


The laws against wearing clothes of the opposite gender

 These laws are described in our weekly Parsha.

Ki Savo

 The laws of respecting parents

 The Torah mentions in this Parsha a curse of the one who does not respect his parents.


 The laws of Rosh Hashanah

 This holiday usually falls on this Parsha. The Torah describes the judgment of the Creator here.


 The laws of Yom Kippur

 Yom Kippur usually falls on this Parsha. In general, the atonement of our sins is hinted in this chapter. Often this Parsha is read together with the previous one, and so too Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are related to each other.


 The laws of Sukkos

 The Sukkos holiday usually falls on this Parsha. Note, that Sukkos is the concluding holiday and so too this Parsha includes the entire Torah.

 Vezos Habrocha

 The laws of Chol Hamoed, Hoshanah Rabah, Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah

 These holidays fall on this Parsha. The joy of these days and the calling of everybody to Torah relates to Moshe’s blessing of the twelve tribes.






Torah portion


 A piece of matzo, eaten at the end of the Passover Seder.



 Literally “going up”. On the days when Torah is read in synagogues, different men are give “Alliyah” – called up for each portion.



 A nation that attacked our people when we were in the desert and which fought against us throughout history. The ideology of this nation is exactly opposite of ours.

Beshalach, Tetzaveh


 This word means faith and agreement. This is how we respond to every blessing.



 Evening prayer



 One of the greatest of sages of Kabbalah who lived about 500 years ago. Obviously, Arizal did not argue with the letter of the law but rather explained various laws in light of Kabbalah teachings.

Shemos, Ekev

Arye Kaplan

 One of well know Rabbis of America who wrote many books for those Jews, who are just starting to learn Torah



 Jews of European descent.



 This is how 145th Psalm is often called. We recite it three times daily.



 the lowest of the spiritual worlds



 the fourth of the spiritual worlds



 the saddest month in our calendar



 A mourner.

Chaye Sarah


 Mourning period.

 Chaye Sarah


 The first of the forefathers of the Jewish nation

 Lech Lecha

Baaley Teshuvah

 Jews, who returned to observing the commandments.


Bais kneses



Bais medrash

 The house of study.



 The fourth of the books of the Torah


Ben Ish Chai

 The title of the book by one of the greatest Sephardic sages (Rabbi Yosef Chaim), lived in Baghdad 100 years ago



 The first of the books of the Torah


Bikur Cholim

 visiting the sick.



 a table in the middle of the synagogue usually used for reading Torah.


Birkas Hamazon

 Blessing after eating bread.



 See Brochos.


Bli Neder

 Without an oath.


Bney Noach

 Children of Noach. See Noah.



 Invitation to bless the Creator. The congregation answers “BARUCH ADONOY HAMEVORACH LEOLOM VOED”


Boruch, Baruch

 The beginning of any blessing. This word is usually translated as “Blessed”, but a more accurate translation is “You are the source of all blessing.”



 the third of the spiritual worlds


Bris Milah


 Lech Lecha





 A procedure when a widow of a man who dies without children takes off a shoe of his brother



 A portion separated from dough or bread and given to cohanim.




 Vaera, Bo

Chilul Hashem

 Desecration of the Divine Name.


Chofetz Chaim

 Literally “The one who desires life”. This is the name of one of the most famous books of a Lithuanian sage – Rabbi Israel Meyer Hacohen. His works were accepted with love by the Jewish people. The laws of Loshon Hara that we describe in Parshas Chukas are based on “Chofetz Chaim”.


Chol Hamoed

 Intermediate days between the beginning and end of Pesach and Sukkos


Cholov Isroel

 The milk of a Jew



 A canopy under which the groom and the bride enter during the wedding. Generally, this term is used for the marriage procedure.



 A descendant through the male line of Aharon the brother of Moshe.



 The fifth of the books of the Torah



 see Get



 There are three types of Eiruv. Eiruv Chatzeros permits carrying on Shabbos within the domain owned by different people. Eiruv Tavshilin is made before Yom Tov that falls right before Shabbos. Eiruv Tahumim is made to permit walk a certain distance from the city on Shabbos or Yom Tov.

 Ki Sisa, Bemidbar, Vayakhel


 the sixth Jewish month, when we start preparing for Rosh Hashanah.






 One of four species picked up on Sukkos



 A prophetess who caused the reversal of a decree of annihilation against the Jewish people.


Etzer Hara

 The evil inclination. There is an internal Etzer Hara which is our inner voice that tells us to do bad (so that we get a greater reward by breaking it), and an external Etzer Hara – the angel (Satan) that was created to act as an accuser and executioner



 the second of the spiritual worlds


Four species

 The Torah commands us to pick up four plants during Sukkos.



A righteous governor of the Jewish people after the Babylonian conquest, killed by a traitor. After this, the Jewish people remaining in the Holy Land after the destruction of the First Temple ran away to Egypt



 Numerical value of letters or words.



 Literally – hiding. This is the burial of no longer usable holy objects and writings.



 A convert to Judaism.



 A Jewish document of divorce.



 The word literally means a nation and colloquially means a non-Jew. Contrary to common prejudice, this word does not have a negative connotation. The Jewish people are also sometimes called a “Goy”, for examples “Goy Kadosh” – “a Holy nation”.



 see Vilna Gaon.



 Pesach narration and order, see Seder.



 Jewish Law



 Six psalms recited on various holidays.

 Vaera, Miketz


 The first minister of the Persian king Achashveyrosh, an enemy of the Jews who wanted to destroy them.



 The Brocha made before going to sleep



 The holiday of our redemption from Greek dominion.



 Literally: “The Name” – this refers to the main name of the Creator which indicates His Eternity and being outside of time.



 Usually this word means Rabbinical inspection of certain items for kashrus.



 Separation of Shabbos or Yom Tov from the weekday

 Yisro, Bemidbar


 nobody’s – we declare our chometz Hefker before Pesach


Chevley Moshiach

 Birth pangs before Messiah will come. Our sages promise that before the coming of Moshiach, the Jewish people will be suffering a lot of pain, like a woman before giving birth.


Hoshanah Rabah

 The last day of Sukkos holiday

 Vezos Habrocha


 One of the Biblical prophets, in English his name is usually translated as Jeremiah



 a prayer written in Aramaic and pronounced in various places in our prayers. Some of the Kadishes are pronounced by mourners.

 Chaye Sarah, Beshalach





 Spiritual incision – a punishment prescribed by the Torah for the worst violations, when the soul gets cut off from its spiritual source.



 Kosher, permission to be used.

 Tzav, Shemini, Achare Mos, Ree


 Holiness, sanctification. During the prayers we pronounce Kedusha during repetition of Shmone Esre.



 A marriage agreement document outlining the obligations of the husband to his wife.

 Noach, Naso


 A size of an olive. This is usually the minimal size after eating which one can make a Brocha and needed to fulfill the obligation of eating Matzo on Pesach. In our day, the olives are a lot smaller than in the Biblical times, according to some opinions, the olives in the ancient times grew as big as an average egg today.

 Ekev, Vaera


 Literally: “Sanctification”. This word is used to denote the first part of marriage procedure when the groom gives a ring to his bride and sanctifies their bond.




 Literally: “Closeness, bringing close”. This word usually denotes the activity of bringing the secular Jews close to authentic Judaism. Today, when many of the Jewish people grow up in the atmosphere of anti-Torah prejudice, and not knowing almost anything about the beauty of their heritage, it becomes extremely important to offer them the opportunity and acquaint them with the wonderful Torah they never had a chance to learn. See Baaley Teshuvah.



 A white cloth worn on Yom Kippur

 Nitzavim, Vaelech

Kitzur Shulchan Aruch

 One of the most famous Halachic books written a century and a half ago.



 Usable. When referring to food this word means permitted for consumption.

 Tzav, Shemini, Achare Mos, Ree

Lag Baomer

 A minor holiday on the 18th of Iyar. According to tradition, on this day the epidemic that carried away the lives of thousands of students of Rabbi Akiva stopped. This is also considered the day of death of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.



 see chometz

 Vaera, Bo


 the third son of Yakov whose descendants were later chosen to serve in the Temple


Loshon Hara

 Bad language.



 One of four species picked up on Sukkos



 Evening prayer



 A tenth. Usually this refers to the tenth of the crop that was given to Leviim.


Maaser Sheini

 The second Maaser. This part of the crop was given to poor or taken to Jerusalem to be eaten



 A child of a Jewish man and a Jewish woman forbidden to him under penalty of Kares, for example, somebody else’s wife.



 Bitter herb eaten on Pesach nights. Most people use Romaine Lettuce for marror, some use horseradish.



 Leaven bread eaten during Pesach.



 A seven branched Menorah stood in the Temple.



 A parchment with two Torah portions hanged on the doorposts.



 Explanations of Torah. Many Midrashim are based on the teachings of Kabbalah. Bais Midrash is a general name for the house of study.



 A pool connected to natural water or rain water. Mikvah is used for immersion of new vessels. A convert to Judaism immerses in the Mikvah. A woman, after her menstrual cycle also goes to the Mikvah.



 See Bris Milah

 Lech Lecha


 The afternoon prayer.



 Ten men praying together.

 Chaye Sarah


 A commandment


Modim Derabonan

 A short prayer instituted for the congregation to be said at the time the leader reaches the pre-last brocha of Shmone Esre.



 The one circumcising a child.

 Lech Lecha


 Righteous leader of the Jewish people at the time of the danger of annihilation in Persia.



 The greatest leader of our people chosen to redeem us from Egyptian bondage.


Moshe Chaim Lutzatto

 A famous Rabbi and Kabbalist.


Moshe Shtarnbuch

 A famous contemporary Rabbi



 A descendant of King David who will redeem our people in the end of days.



 An object that cannot be moved on Shabbos and Yom Tov.



 An additional prayer said after Shacharis on Shabbos and other special days.



 A prophet, leader of our people in the beginning of the Second Temple period.



 An oath



 The last prayer on Yom Kippur



 An animal that was not slaughtered properly.

 Achare Mos


 A woman after the beginning of her menstrual cycle until she immerses in the Mikvah

 Sazria, Metzorah

Ninth of Av

 A fast day, the saddest day of our calendar.



 Capital of ancient Assyria.



 The first month of our calendar


Nishmas Kol Chai

 A beautiful prayer thanking the Creator for everything he has done for us. We pronounce it in the morning on Shabbos and Yom Tov as well as on Pesach night.



 A righteous man who survived the Great Flood together with his family. All the human race are his descendants and are therefore called Bney Noach.



 The Torah does not obligate all non-Jews to keep the same commandments as the Jewish people.



 see Amen. Beshalach



 A barley offering brought in the Temple the day after Pesach. We have to count 49 days afterwards and celebrate Shavuos on the fiftieth day.



 A relative of the deceased until the body gets buried. Afterward the burial, an onen becomes Avel.

 Chaye Sarah


 Food that has neither meat nor dairy ingredients.



 see Pesach.

 Vaera, Bo


 The holiday of our freedom.

 Vaera, Bo

Pesuke Dezimra

 A section of prayer consisting primarily of psalms.


Plag Hamincha

 1 ¼ hours before sundown.



 A document by means of which one can collect depts after the Shmitah year.



 One of the happiest holidays, in remembrance of our peoples survival despite the plan of Haman to annihilate us.



 An additional prayer said in Birkas Hamazon on Shabbos.


Rosh Chodesh

 New moon. Even though this day is not a holiday according to Torah law, there is some element of extra celebration on it and our prayers are longer. Some have a custom to it a festive meal on Rosh Chodesh.


Rosh Hashanah

 The Day of Judgment and the Jewish New Year.



 A person who hold the baby during circumcision.

 Lech Lecha


 Jewish Supreme Court consisting of 71 judges. We don’t have Sanhedrin for almost 2000 years and are waiting for it to be renewed when Moshiach comes.



 Literally: “Order”. We usually mean the Pesach Seder – the order of Haggadah and mitzvos during the nights of the holiday.


Sefer Hachinuch

 A book that describes all 613 commandments of Torah in the order of the Parshios.

 Ki Setze

Sefer Torah

 The Torah Scroll


Sepharadim, Sephardic Jews

 Literally: “Jews from Spain”. Today, most often Asian Jews are also called Sephardic even though their ancestors in most cases don’t come from Spain, since their customs are similar and also because they follow Spanish Rabbis (Rambam, Rabbi Yosef Karo.) 



 A meal.



 Saturday. Generally all Jewish days start with the sundown, and so Shabbos starts on Friday eve.

 Yisro, Ki Sisa, Vayakhel


 Morning prayer.



 Clothing consisting of wool and linen.

 Ki Setze


 A Holiday, the day, when we heard the ten commandments at Mount Sinai.


Shemini Atzeres

 A holiday following Sukkos. Most people treat it as continuation of the Sukkos Holiday but in truth it is a separate Yom Tov.

 Vezos Habrocha


 The second of the books of the Torah


Shir Shel Yam

 “The song of the sea.” This song of thanksgiving was pronounced after we out ancestors crossed the sea and were saved from the hands of Egyptians.



 Every seventh year, when the Holy Land rests and at the end of which all the depts get annulled.


Shmone Esre

 The main prayer which we recite three times daily.


Shulhan Aruch

 The most accepted code of Jewish Law coauthored by a Sephardic sage – Rabbi Yosef Karo and an Ashkenazi authority Rabbi Moshe Isseres.



 a prayer book


Simchas Torah

 “The Joy of Torah” – a colloquial name for the second day of Shemini Atzeres.

 Vezos Habrocha


 The third month



 a scribe



 The last holiday of the season when we live in a Sukkah for seven days.



 House of prayer.



 A distance of about 2/3 of a mile from the end of the city.



 A prayer shawl.



 The fourth month.



 Two black boxes that every Jewish man has to put on weekdays. We usually put on Tefillin during the morning prayers in the synagogues.

 Lech Lecha


 Repentance, literally: “Coming back”. See Baaley Teshuvah



 The tenth month.



 the seventh month, when most of our holidays including Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkos are.

 Nitzavim, Vayelech, Haazinu


 An animal that was found nonkosher despite the fact that it was slaughtered properly. The most common case of Treifos is a problem with lunges.

 Achare Mos


 A portion of the crop given to cohanim.



 The word denotes charity but a more literal translation is “Correctness” or “Righteousness”.



 Fringes we tie to the corners of our garments.



 The third of the books of the Torah





Vilna Gaon

 One of the greatest sages of the last generations.



 An informal engagement held to inform the relatives and friends about the upcoming wedding. After the engagement, it is forbidden to change one’s mind regarding the decision to marry, unless there are strong reasons and permission from a knowledgeable Rabbi.



 The third of our forefathers.



 A place of Torah education. Some people learn in Yeshivas all their lives.



 A marriage of a widow with the deceased’s brother.






 A prayer that concludes Pesuke Dezimra. We also pronounce it during the Pesach Seder.



 The second of our forefathers.


Yom Kippur

 The Holiest day of the year when all Jews fast and pray for atonement of their sins.


Yom Tov

 A holiday when most work is forbidden.

 Bemidbar, Pinchas


 A portion of Torah which described what Amalek did to us.



 An invitation to bless the Creator after eating bread.



 The most fundamental book of Kabbalah, composed according to the teachings of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai.