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Adar 5767 – Selected Halachos Relating to Parshas Zachor and Purim – by Rabbi Doniel Neustadt

Adar 5767
SELECTED HALACHOS RELATING TO PARSHAS ZACHOR AND PURIM

By Rabbi Doniel Neustadt

WOMEN’S OBLIGATION TO HEAR PARSHAS ZACHOR QUESTION: Are women obligated to go to shul to hear the Torah reading of Parashas Zachor?

DISCUSSION: There is a Biblical mitzvah to read Parashas Zachor from a Sefer Torah once a year. Although the Rabbis have instituted that Zachor be read in public on the Shabbos before Purim, the mitzvah can be fulfilled by performing it at any time during the year. Most poskim, therefore, consider the reading of Parashas Zachor to be a mitzvah which is not time-bound, thus making it obligatory upon women(1).

There is, however, a view in the Rishonim that holds that women are not obligated to hear Parashas Zachor(2). Making mention of the evil perpetrated on us by Amalek is a mitzvah that is limited to those who can and will fight against Amalek. Since women do not go out to war, they are exempt from the mitzvah of mentioning the treachery of Amalek.

There are conflicting views among the poskim as to what is the practical halachah. Some rule that women are obligated in Parashas Zachor(3) while other poskim note that it is commonly accepted that women do not go to shul to hear Parashas Zachor(4). Since there is no clear-cut ruling(5), it is commendable for women to make the effort to go to shul to hear the public reading of the Parashah6. Indeed, in many congregations it is the accepted practice for women to do so.

Men or women who are unable to go to shul should read Parashas Zachor aloud for themselves from a Chumash since, according to some poskim, one can fulfill the mitzvah in this fashion(7).

It is questionable if a Sefer Torah may be taken out of the Aron ha-Kodesh specifically to read Parashas Zachor for women. Harav M. Feinstein is quoted(8) as strictly prohibiting this practice(9).

MISHLOACH MANOS: THE BASIC MITZVAH

Mordechai and Esther, with the approval of the Rabbis of the time, introduced a mitzvas assei(10) which obligates every person to send two different kinds of foods to one friend on Purim. Two basic reasons are given for this mitzvah:

There are impoverished people who are too embarrassed to collect tzedakah for themselves and will therefore not have food for the seudas Purim. By establishing a system whereby everyone receives packages of food on Purim, the rabbis ensured that even the most reticent of individuals will have food for the Purim seudah(11).

Sending food to a friend or an acquaintance is an expression of goodwill and fraternity. On Purim we wish to instill and perpetuate these feelings(12).

The goals of both of these reasons must be met in order to fulfill the mitzvah properly. For instance: One who sends clothing for mishloach manos does not fulfill the mitzvah(13) since he did nothing for his friend’s Purim meal. Similarly, one who sends mishloach manos anonymously does not fulfill the mitzvah(14) since no friendship or goodwill is generated between him and the recipient.

Nowadays, we are witness to a marked proliferation of mishloach manos. Although mishloach manos is a relatively easy mitzvah to fulfill, if one is unaware of the halachos, he could send dozens of mishloach manos and still not properly fulfill the mitzvah. In addition, a clear distinction must be drawn between the minimum requirements for fulfilling the mitzvah, and the hiddur mitzvah, the more exacting form of fulfilling the mitzvah. There are also some little known halachos which are important for those who wish to fulfill the mitzvah according to the views of all the poskim. We have thus split the halachos into two parts – the first part discusses the basic rules, and the second part discusses chumros and hiddurim for those who wish to embellish upon this once-a-year mitzvah.

Mishloach Manos: THE BASIC RULES

WHO SHOULD SEND: Men and women are personally obligated in this mitzvah(15). Married women are obligated in their own right and are not exempted by their husband’s mishloach manos(16). It is sufficient, however, for husband and wife to send mishloach manos together, as if it is coming from both of them – and the recipient recognizing that it is coming from both(17).

Some poskim hold that children over 13 – even those who are being supported by their parents – are obligated(18), while others exempt them since they do not own anything in their own right(19).

Parents should educate their children in the mitzvah of mishloach manos as they do with every mitzvah(20).

WHAT TO SEND: Any combination of two kinds of food(21), or one food and one drink(22), or two kinds of drink(23), is sufficient. Two pieces of the same food are considered as one food(24). Some poskim(25) specify that the foods be ready to eat and require no further cooking, while others(26) allow even uncooked foods to be sent.

TO WHOM TO SEND: To any Jewish(27) adult(28), wealthy or poor, with whom you are acquainted or to whom you are related. Although men should send to men only and women to women only(29), families may send to each other(30).

Mishloach manos should not be sent to a mourner(31) during the year of mourning for his parents, or during the thirty days of mourning for other relatives(32). A mourner who receives mishloach manos need not return them, and the sender fulfills his mitzvah by sending those mishloach manos(33). It is permitted for a woman to send to the wife of a mourner(34).

A mourner must send mishloach manos – even if he is in the middle of shivah. A mourner should refrain from sending “items of simchah” (items that elicit laughter and merriment)(35).

WHEN TO SEND: Mishloach Manos should be sent and received on Purim day(36). If it is received at night or on the days before or after Purim, the sender does not fulfill the mitzvah(37). If it is sent before Purim but is received on Purim, some poskim hold that the mitzvah is fulfilled(38) while others hold that it is not(39).

HOW TO SEND: The sender himself may deliver the mishloach manos directly to the recipient(40). Some poskim(41) hold that it is preferable to send it via a messenger. The messenger may be a minor or a non-Jew(42). When sending with a messenger, it is proper to verify that the mishloach manos was indeed delivered(43), especially if the messenger is a minor or a non-Jew(44).

FOOTNOTES:

1 Minchas Chinuch 603.

2 Sefer ha-Chinuch 603.

3 Binyan Tziyon (8) quoting R’ Nosson Adler; Yeshuos Malko (3);Mahri”l Diskin (5:101); Minchas Elazar (2:1-5).

4 Toras Chesed (37). See Avnei Nezer O.C. 509 and Marcheshes 1:22 who maintain that this is a time-bound mitzvah. Harav C. Kanievsky (Ta’ama d’Kra) quotes the Chazon Ish as having exempted women.

5 Many major poskim – Chayei Adam, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, Mishnah Berurah and Aruch ha-Shulchan – do not address this issue.

6 See Yechaveh Da’as 1:84; oral ruling of Harav M. Feinstein (Halichos Bas Yisrael, pg. 297).

7 See Nitei Gavriel 4:9-10.

8 Mo’adei Yeshurun (Purim, pg. 47).

9 See also Mikra’ei Kodesh (Purim, 5) who prohibits reading from the Sefer Torah expressly for women. Harav S.Y. Elyashiv is quoted (Halichos Bas Yisrael, pg. 296) as ruling that a minimum of ten men must be present for such a reading to take place. See Minchas Yitzchak 9:68.

10 The poskim (see Achiezer 3:73) refer to this mitzvah as a mitzvah mi-divrei kabbalah, a rabbinical mitzvah which is incorporated into the written text (Esther 9:22). Accordingly, we do not say safek d’Rabbanan l’kulah in regard to the mitzvos of Purim (Tzafnas Panei’ach to Rambam Megillah 1:1).

11 Terumas ha-Deshen 111.

12 R’ Shlomo Alkavatz in Manos ha-Levi quoted in Teshuvos Chasam Sofer O.C. 196.

13 Mishnah Berurah 695:20.

14 Kesav Sofer O.C. 141.

15 Rama O.C. 695:4.

16 Magen Avraham 695:12; Chayei Adam 155:33; Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 142:4; Mishnah Berurah 695:25; Aruch ha-Shulchan 695:18.

17 Harav S.Z. Auerbach (written responum quoted in Halichos Bas Yisrael, pg. 303 and oral ruling quoted in Halichos Beisah, pg. 354). Accordingly, the amount sent should be double the minimum amount of mishloach manos.

18 Aruch ha-Shulchan 694:2 (concerning matanos la-evyonim); Orchos Chayim 695:2 quoting Me’orei Ohr.

19 Responsa Kinyan Torah 1:132. It follows that if the children have their own possessions, then they are obligated like any adult.

20 Pri Megadim 695:14; Eishel Avraham 695; Kaf ha-Chayim 695:57. This means that parents should give their children food or money so that they can fulfill the mitzvah – Chanoch l’Na’ar, pg. 66. See, however, Kinyan Torah 1:132 who holds that it is sufficient chinuch to allow the children to deliver the mishloach manos.

21 O.C. 695:4.

22 Mishnah Berurah 695:20.

23 Aruch ha-Shulchan 695:14.

24 Ibid. See Tzitz Eliezer 14:65; 15:31.

25 Magen Avraham 695:11; Ma’asei Rav 249; Chayei Adam 135:31; Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 142:2; Aruch ha-Shulchan 695:15.

26 Pri Chadash O.C. 695; Ha’amek Sh’eilah 67:9; Shevet Sofer O.C. 23; Yechaveh Da’as 6:45. Mishnah Berurah 695:20 quotes both views without rendering a decision.

27 Responsa Beis Yitzchak (Y.D. 2:142).

28 Aruch ha-Shulchan 695:18 rules that one fulfills the mitzvah by sending to a minor, but many poskim (Ya’avetz 1:121, Yad Sofer 24; Kaf ha-Chayim 694:12; Birur Halachah, pg. 405) rule that one does not fulfill the mitzvah in that manner.

29 Rama 695:4.

30 Harav S.Z. Auerbach (oral ruling quoted in Halichos Beisah, pg. 354).

31 Unless he is the rav of the city – Divrei Malkiel 5:237.

32 Rama O.C. 696:6.

33 Kesav Sofer O.C. 139.

34 Harav S.Y. Elyashiv (oral ruling quoted in Penei Baruch, pg. 322).

35 Mishnah Berurah 696:18.

36 Rama 695:4.

37 Aruch ha-Shulchan 695:16.

38 Be’er Heitev 695:7 quoting Yad Aharon; Responsa Beis She’arim O.C. 381; Chelkas Ya’akov 1:102.

39 Aruch ha-Shulchan 695:17; Levushei Mordechai O.C. 108.

40 Yehudah Ya’aleh O.C. 207; Eishel Avraham 695; Kaf ha-Chayim 695:41; Tzitz Eliezer 9:33.

41 Mekor Chayim 694; Binyan Tziyon 44 quoted by Mishnah Berurah 695:18; Chasam Sofer (Gitin 22b).

42 Chasam Sofer (Gitin 22b); R’ Shlomo Kluger (Sefer ha-Chayim 695); Da’as Torah 695:4; Chelkas Ya’akov 1:103.

43 Achiezer 3:73.

44 Chelkas Ya’akov 1:104.

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Adar 5767 – Bring Hashem to the Rescue – by Rabbi H Margolin

13 Adar 5767
Bringing Hashem to the Rescue

by Rabbi H Margolin

Megillas Esther does not mention the name of G-d even one time, as is well known. However in one place the name of G-d is spelled out in roshei tevot, the initial letters of four consecutive words, which are in the section where Esther invited Haman to join Achashverosh’s feast. She says: Yavo Hamelech V’Haman Hayom, May the King and Haman come today … .

The obvious question is why is this an appropriate place to provide the hint of Hashem’s involvement in the Purim story. The answer can be offered based on the question asked in the Gemara: “Why did Esther see fit to invite Haman to the feast at all? Wouldn’t it make more sense to beg for mercy without Haman being present?” Rebbe Nechemia answers that Esther was concerned that the Jews would count on her to take care of the problem by using her relationship with Achashverosh, so therefore she wanted to publicize that she had a friendship with Haman. This would force them to not take her willingness to help them for granted, and would thereby cause them to pray for their salvation with unmatched intensity.

Based on this we can understand that this is the appropriate place to indicate Hashem’s presence. This is the place in the story where she invited Haman to the feast thereby forcing the Jews to recognize that there is no salvation except with Divine intervention. This recognition is what causes Hashem to enter the picture.

There are many similarities between this and the times in which we live. When we see our pressures mounting in Israel and we can see no natural way out of these problems, it will cause us to pray from the very depths of our hearts. It is our praying with the depth felt by the Jews in the days of the Purim story that will likewise bring us in our generation to our salvation. For it is then that Hashem will enter our picture.

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Teves 5767 – K’Efraim U’Menashe – by Rav Cohen

Teves 5767
K’Efraim U’Menashe
by Rav Cohen

Hello to you all,

In parshas Vayechi, we are told about the berochos that Yaakov blessed his grandchildren Menasheh and Ephraim. From that moment on throughout Jewish history all parents bless their children with that blessing, “Yesimchoh Elokim KeEphraim uMenasheh”.

The question is asked, why of all berochos, was this one chosen to forever be the parental bracha?

There are 3 answers given:

Some say that seeing that Ephraim and Menasheh were raised in Chuts l’Aretz and did not live in the best environment to say the least, they still became great people. We therefore bless our children that they also should reach greatness wherever golus takes them.

A second answer I once heard (I am not mentioning the sources because I do not recall them) is that usually we see a yeridas hadoros from one generation to the next. Generally, the further we go from Har Sinai the lower the level. Ephraim and Menasheh were exceptions to that rule! Although they were children of Yosef, they went UP one generation and also became Shvatim like their father and uncles! We bless our children that although they are a later generation the drop should be only minimal if at all.

Thirdly, the Terumos Hadeshen gives another beautiful answer. Yaakov gave Ephraim, the younger brother, a greater berochoh than the older brother, Menasheh. Yet, we never see Menasheh being jealous or cruel to his younger brother – what great midos! We bless our children may you have the greatness of Ephraim and the middos of Menasheh.

Beezras Hashem we should all be zocheh to build homes and have all these 3 kavonos when blessing our children.
Behatzlacha.

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Tishrei 5767 – Yonah and the Whale – by Rebbetzin Tzipporah Heller

Tishrei 5767
Yonah and the Whale
by Rebbetzin Tzipporah Heller

Reprinted with Permission from Aish.com

*The story of Yonah is read on Yom Kippur. In a certain sense it is very much the story of Yom Kippur’s essence — return to God. It teaches us about our voyage and ourselves.*

Yonah was a Navi who lived in the first Temple period. His first mission was given to him by the most famous of first Temple Navis, Elijah — he was to anoint Jehu as king in the year 705 BCE. His were stormy times; the Jewish people were trapped in a pattern of spiritual decline that ended with first the conquest and expulsion of the Ten Tribes by the Assyrians in 607 BCE, and finally with the destruction of Jerusalem, which was followed by 70 years of exile.

As a Navi, Yonah knew far better than we can imagine what the inevitable end would be if no transformation would take place.

After the failure of his second mission, to rebuke Jehu’s successor, Jeroboam the second, he was given his final mission.

The mission that God gave him was one that he could not open his heart to accept. He was sent to the capital of Assyria, Nineveh, to urge its population to repent. How bizarre the assignment sounded to him! His own people were falling uncontrollably into a chasm that seemed to have no bottom, yet he was sent to save others — the archenemies of Israel!

Yonah actually dreaded success of this mission far more than he dreaded failure. How could he bear to witness the contrast of the Assyrians returning to God in the face of his prophecy, with the Jews stubbornly resisting any chance for spiritual self-preservation. Therefore, he attempted to escape from his destiny.

Yonah fled from Israel by ship to silence the voice of prophecy that can only be heard in the Holy Land. But a storm at sea forced him into the recognition that no one can escape from God. In the midst of calm waters, his boat was tossed in a tempest until it was on the verge of breaking. The sailors prayed to their gods.

Yonah went to sleep.

He knew the truth. It was he who had already cut himself off from God; there was nothing to say and nothing to pray for.

His apathetic behavior aroused the curiosity of the sailors. He told them his story. He believed in God, yet he was running away from Him.

Knowing he was the cause of the storm, he implored the sailors to toss him overboard so they could save themselves. As decent people they resisted this suggestion until the critical moment when it became clear that within seconds they would all die. At that point, they listened and threw him into the turbulent depths. The storm abated immediately. Yonah thought his story had ended.

CONFRONTING SELF

But it had just begun. He was swallowed by a whale, and miraculously survived. In the dark fetid innards of the whale, he recognized what he had never truly been willing to see, in his most exalted moments of prophecy, God’s intimate knowledge and care over each life and each moment. He was a Navi and awareness of God was not a novelty to him. But recognition of the depths of God’s mercy was.

It was then that Yonah did teshuva — he repented, returning to God and the best in himself.

Now he recognized that no matter how painful the contrast between the Assyrians and the Jews would be to him, that God’s motivation could only be one of mercy. Once he recognized this truth, he was willing to open the gates that he had closed so resolutely — the gates of prayer. He was now ready for the most significant undertaking of his life.

The whale spit him out at the shores of Nineveh.

He told the residents of Nineveh what awaited them: In forty days they could either make radical changes in their lives, or the city would be destroyed by God’s wrath.

The changes in Nineveh happened with speed and drama. The king himself led the people into a total reformation. Nineveh’s destruction was postponed for 40 years.

Everything that Yonah had feared had come to pass. The contrast that he dreaded was more vivid in reality than it was as a prophecy. He had only one further request that he be spared of seeing the destruction of his own people, which he knew would come eventually and at the hands of the Assyrians at that. The fact that the Jews would not take example from Nineveh would be the final act of callousness that would seal their fate. God did not answer Yonah’s request with words. He answered by deed.

After Yonah left Nineveh, he went to the outskirts and made himself a shelter in the shade of a kikayon tree. It was a source of consolation to him in his anguish, and made him aware of God’s compassion. But God sent a worm to eat through the branches and kill the tree.

In response, all the pent up feelings of agony poured forth from Yonah’s lips. God replied “You took pity on a kikayon for which you did not labor … Shall I not take pity on Nineveh, that great city in which there are more than 120 thousand people who do not know their right hand from their left, and many beasts as well?”

In short, what God was telling Yonah is the flaws of the residents of Nineveh did not make them unworthy of life. Each person is part of the world’s spiritual ecology, and brings benefit to the world at least as much as the kikayon plant brought benefit to Yonah.

GOD’S MERCY

Yalkut Shimoni, the most encyclopedic of all Midrashim (written by Rav Shimon Hadarshan in the thirteenth century) gives us deep insight into the most profound recognition of Yonah’s life:

/At that moment he fell on his face and said, “Rule your world according to the attribute of mercy” as it is written “to You, God, is mercy and forgiveness.”/

The message of Yonah’s prophecy is one for each one of us. The Vilna Gaon tells us that Yonah’s journey is one that we all make. We are born with a subconscious realization of the fact that we have a mission. We seek escape, because our mission is often one that we are afraid to attempt.

In the text of the Yonah story we are told that the places that he sought were /Yaffo/ and /Tarshish/. While these places actually exist and are known as Jaffa and Tarsis, the literal meaning of the names of these cities are “beauty” and “wealth.”

We comfort ourselves externally, by escaping from our inner knowledge of our mission through the pursuit of wealth, and by surrounding ourselves with beauty. Our bodies are compared to Yonah’s ship. We face moments in life in which the fragility of our bodies is inescapable, as in when we face illness, or confront moments of danger that seem to last an eternity until they are resolved.

The sailors on the ship are the talents and capacities that work for us. They too cannot save us from our futile desire to escape ourselves. The whale is the symbol of ultimate confrontation of the recognition that our ultimate fate is the grave. For some, that recognition almost feels like a welcome refuge. For others, facing death forces them at last into pursuing life!

As with Yonah, our recognition of our own vulnerability can bring us to finally transcend our ego, surrendering our desire to control events, and beginning at last to accept our mission in life, no matter what it is.

We can suffer the vicissitudes of life, and recognize that we ourselves have caused the storms to toss us back and forth. We can move forward to fulfill our purpose, but we are still not free of conflict and anxiety until we finally recognize that every step along the way, we are embraced by Divine compassion.

It is then that we are ready to return to God. While for each of us the path is our own, and never yet explored by any other person, Yonah knew the beginning and the end of the journey that we all make.

Yom Kippur is the day in which each one of us can relive Yonah’s journey. Let us finally move towards whatever the next step is for us in fulfilling the mission for which we were created. Let us use the time to return to God with joy and love.