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Revised for Elul 5774/Tishrei 5775


Halachos for Erev Shabbos Kodesh, September 12, 2014

Double Portion L’Kavod Shabbos Kodesh



The days from Rosh Chodesh Elul until after Hoshana Rabba are days of Hashem’s Rachamim (mercy), Selicha (forgiveness) and Ratzon (goodwill). 


They are an extremely opportune time for Jews to find it within themselves to repent and atone for the sins that were transgressed in the past year and to accept it upon themselves to live better lives, according to Halacha- the will of Hashem, in the year ahead. 


Hashem is always waiting for his children to repent, but in Elul He is even closer to us and Teshuva is a lot easier.  It is never too late to jump on the bandwagon and start our journey of return to our father in heaven, and hopefully, together, bring about the final redemption with Mashiach Tzidkeinu.




Halachos for Erev Shabbos Kodesh


1) From Rosh Chodesh Elul until Shemini Atzeres we add Tehilim (psalms) Chapter 27, “L’Dovid Hashem Ori” to our davening each morning (after Shacharis) and each evening (Nusach Ashkenaz adds it after Maariv while Nusach Sefard adds it after Mincha). 

(Mishna Berura Siman 581:2)


Throughout the month of Elul, the Shofar is blown each morning after Shacharis to awaken people to do Teshuva. The Shofar is not blown on Erev Rosh Hashana. (Rama Siman 581:1 and Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Siman 128:2. Some Sephardic congregations do blow even on Erev Rosh Hashana)



2) It is a worthwhile minhag when signing off a letter to a friend, or even a phone call or any conversation from Rosh Chodesh Elul until after Yom Kippur to add a blessing for the inscription in the book of life.


The accepted words to use until Rosh Hashana are “Kesiva V’Chasima Tova- [may you be] inscribed and signed for life”. From Rosh Hashana until Yom Kippur the accepted custom is to use the words “Gmar Chasima Tova- [may you merit] a final signature for life” (See Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Siman 128:2)




Halachos for Shabbos Kodesh


1) In anticipation of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, special prayers, known as Selichos, are recited in the early hours of the morning (Preferably at the end of the night, before Alos HaShachar, daybreak, although many Shuls say it a half hour or so before the regular time for Shacharis) to beg Hashem for forgiveness for our sins of the past year, and to beseech Him to inscribe us all for life in the book of the Tzaddikim Gemurim, righteous individuals.


2) Some communities (including the Sephardim) have the custom to begin to reciting Selichos from Rosh Chodesh Elul until Yom Kippur. (Shulchan Aruch Siman 581:1)


Some communities had the custom to begin saying Selichos from the 15th of Elul until Yom Kippur. This custom is not in practice nowadays. (See Mateh Ephraim Siman 581:11 quoting the Abudreham)




Halachos for Sunday, September 14, 2014



1) The prevalent Minhag amongst Ashkenazic Jewry is to begin reciting Selichos from the Sunday morning before Rosh Hashana, unless Rosh Hashana falls out on a Monday or a Tuesday, in which case Selichos begins a week earlier, as we require at least four days of Selichos before Rosh Hashana.(Rama Siman 581:1)


2) The reason for this requirement:

A Korban (sacrifice) in the Bais Hamikdash required four days of examinations to ensure it was blemish-free and acceptable for the Mizbeach (altar). So too each Jew should consider themselves as a Korban Olah on Rosh Hashana and be ready to sacrifice themselves in atonement before Hashem. Thus we should utilize these four days (or more) to examine our deeds and do Teshuva for our sins (blemishes) and thereby be pure when approaching Hashem on Rosh Hashana. (See Mishna Berura ibid. S"K 6 for this and another reason as well)




Halachos for Monday, September 15, 2014



1) When one rises early for Selichos, even though it is still before daybreak, he can still wash his hands and recite the blessing of "Al Netilas Yadayim" as well as the rest of Birchas HaShachar.


After Selichos, he should re-wash the hands three times per hand without a Bracha (See Mishna Berura Siman 6:11 and Mateh Ephraim Siman 581:12. Rav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach Zatzal and others rule that if one knows for certain that he will need the bathroom after Selichos, before Shacharis, he may wash before Selichos without a bracha and then wash again after the bathroom following Selichos and recite the "Al Netilas Yadayim" then. See Mishna Berura Siman 6:11)



Birchos HaTorah should also preferably be said before Selichos, as many of the Selichos contain references to Pesukim. (See Mateh Ephraim ibid.)



Some Poskim maintain that even though we are saying Pesukim, it isn't considered Torah learning, rather prayers, and thus no Birchos HaTorah is required. It is best to be stringent.(See Mishna Berura ibid.)



2) One who cannot make it to Shul (or one who came late, and missed the minyan) may recite Selichos on his own. However, the "Sh'losh Esrei Middos- the Tefilah enumerating the 13 attributes of Hashem's mercy" as well as any Selichos that mention them (e.g. U'Zchor Lanu HaYom Bris Sh'losh Esrei...") should not be recited without a Minyan. (See Mishna Berura Siman 565:13)


However, if they are read with the tune (Trup) used to read the Torah, they may be recited, even without a Minyan. (Shulchan Aruch Siman 565:5)






Halachos for Tuesday, September 16, 2014



1) Women who say Selichos at home, should never say the Sh'losh Esrei Middos, as they aren't usually familiar with the tune used to read the Torah (Psak of Maran Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv Zatzal)


Likewise, any parts of the Selichos that are written in Aramaic (e.g. Machei U'Masei..., Maran Di B'Shmaya...) should not be recited without a Minyan. Saying these with the tune used for Torah reading wouldn't help, as they aren't Pesukim in the Torah. (Mishna Berura Siman 581:4)


One who is an Avel (a mourner during the first week after the passing of a close relative) may not leave his home to go to Shul for Selichos, and should recite it alone, or with a Minyan that comes to his home, except for Erev Rosh Hashana, when he may go to Shul, if he cannot get a Minyan to come to his home. (Mateh Ephraim Siman 581:22)



2) Certain women have the custom, following the opinion of the Rama, not to enter a Shul when they are in a state of Niddah. (See Rama Siman 88:1 and Sdei Chemed; Chasan V'Kallah V'Chupah Siman 1)


The Gaon of Vilna and other Poskim, however, maintain that a Niddah is never prohibited from davening and/or entering a Shul.


Even those whose custom it is to follow the Rama in this matter, may enter a Shul during the Yamim Noraim (which begin from the first day of Selichos ) as it would be a great embarrassment and very discouraging for them to have to stand outside while everyone else (even those who usually don't come to Shul the rest of the year) is entering the Shul during this holy period of time. (Rama ibid. and Mishna Berura S"K 7)




Halachos for Wednesday, September 17, 2014



1) Many Poskim (including the MaHaRal of Prague in Nesivos Olam; Nesiv HaAvodah Perek 12, Shu"t Chasam Sofer Siman 186, Rav Chaim Voloziner Zatzal in Keser Rosh quoting the Gaon of Vilna) are of the opinion that Tefilos such as "Machnisei Rachamim" at the end of Selichos, which is basically a Tefilah directed at the Malachim (angels) beseeching them to take our prayers, tears and shouts and bring them to Hashem, should not be recited, as it isn't proper to direct our prayers to angels, rather our prayers should be focused directly to Hashem.


As a proof to this opinion, these Poskim cite the 5th "Ani Ma'amin" of the Rambam (13 principles of faith written by Maimonides in Pirush Hamishna to Sanhedrin Perek 10) which explicitly says "I believe...that only to Hashem is it proper to daven and not to anyone else".


Accordingly, these Poskim frown upon those who frequent graves of Tzadikim and daven there, as it may seem as if they are davening "to" the Tzadik, as opposed to asking the Tzadik to be a "Meilitz Yosher- a good advocate" on their behalf in Shamayim.


2) However, many Poskim (including Shibolei Haleket Siman 282 and Chazon Ish quoted in Orchos Rabbeinu Vol. 2 page 168 and Rav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach Zatzal in Halichos Shlomo; Rosh Hashana Perek 1; Orchos Halacha 17) are of the opinion that it is OK to beseech the "Machnisei Rachamim- the angels whose specific task it is to bring the requests for mercy before Hashem" to do their task and take our prayers to Hashem. We aren't praying "to" the angels, rather we are asking them to be our messengers to properly place our prayers in the right sequence and at the right time bring them before the Kisei HaKavod of Hashem.


They do point out that only when beseeching the angels whose specific task it is to bring these prayers to Hashem (like by Machnisei Rachamim) is it OK.


It is not, however,  OK to simply lift your eyes to the heavens and pray to any angel, or even ask "the angels" to bring your Tefilos to Hashem, as it may not be their task to do so.


The prevalent Minhag is to say these Tefilos and to visit the graves of Tzadikim(See Talmud Sotah 34b regarding Kaleiv, and also Chazal tell us that Rochel Imeinu was buried on the road to Bais Lechem so her children, Am Yisroel can pray at her graveside. There are many more proofs for this being OK, as well as proofs for the other side, but this isn't the place for this lengthy discussion)


However, it is important to keep in mind when davening at a Tzadik's grave to be extremely careful to only pray to Hashem in the zechus of the Tzadik, or as we mentioned above to ask the Tzadik to be a Meilitz Yosher for us and our families etc., and not Chas V'Shalom daven "to" the Tzaddik. (See Mateh Ephraim Siman 581:50 and Chayei Adam Klal 138:5)




Halachos for Thursday, September 18, 2014



1) Another example of Tefilah that may be affected by the "Machnisei Rachamimn" discussion we mentioned yesterday is the "Shalom Aleichem Malachei HaShareis" which is commonly recited on Friday nights before Kiddush.


Rav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach Zatzal explains that for the last 3 stanzas (i.e. BoAchem L'Shalom, Barchuni L'Shalom and Tzeischem L'Shalom) we say "Malachei HaShalom" as opposed to "Malachei HaShareis" (like we say in the first stanza) to show that we are only asking them to do their task of bringing Shalom-peace into our homes, in their capacity as Malachei HaShalom, and not praying "to" them in their capacity as "Malachei HaShareis".


Some have the minhag not to say "Shalom Aleichem" at all on Friday night. (This was the minhag of the Chasam Sofer Zatzal as well)


In The Siddur Avodas Yisroel (written by a disciple of the Gaon of Vilna) it states that one needs to be extremely careful when saying "Shalom Aleichem...Malachei Elyon MiMelech Malchei HaMelochim..." not to pause between the words "Elyon" and "MiMelech" as to ensure that it is clear that the Malachei Elyon are only emissaries from Hashem, and not a higher power in their own right.



2) In most congregations, the Ba'al Tefilah (one leading the services) for Selichos wears a Tallis, even if the Selichos is being recited before daybreak (or at night after Chatzos, Halachic midnight) which is before the proper time for Tzitzis and Tallis.


It is best for the Ba'al Tefilah to use the Shul's Tallis or a friend's, but not his own, as to not get into the problem of perhaps needing to recite a Bracha (as some Poskim maintain that a Bracha is required even at night on your own Tallis.)


The reason it is so important for a Tallis to be worn by Selichos, is as follows:


The Talmud (Rosh Hashana 17b) relates that Hashem Himself in all His glory wrapped Himself in a Tallis like a Ba'al Tefilah and appeared to Moshe Rabeinu and showed him the appropriate way for Klal Yisroel to pray (and thus merit the forgiveness of Hashem).


It was at that time that Hashem revealed to Moshe the "Yud Gimel Middos Shel Rachamim" (Tefilah containing the 13 attributes of mercy of Hashem), which we will say countless times between now and Yom Kippur, and is perhaps the most exalted and powerful prayer known to mankind. (Tomorrow, we shall discuss the 13 Middos more at length)




Halachos for Erev Shabbos Kodesh, September 19, 2014

Double Portion L’Kavod Shabbos Kodesh

Halachos for Erev Shabbos Kodesh


1) As we mentioned yesterday, Hashem told Moshe that whenever Klal Yisroel sins, they should pray for forgiveness using the expressions included in the 13 Middos Shel Rachamim, and He will forgive them! (See Rashi Rosh Hashana 17b at length for further details)


The following is a (loose) translation of the 13 Middos Shel Rachamim from the Sefer HaToda'ah by HaRav Eliyahu Ki Tov Zt"L based on the Talmud above. (There are many other interpretations by Rishonim, Achronim, and Mekubalim, on many different levels, but the following is the simplest and most concise way of understanding them.)


1) Hashem: I am Hashem the merciful one before man sins, even though I know he will eventually sin.

2) Hashem: I am the merciful one even after man sins (and repents)

3) Kail: Kail is another expression of Hashem's Midas HaRachamim (attribute of mercy)

4) Rachum: I have mercy on poor people...

5) V'Chanun: ...and I have compassion for affluent people as well

6) Erech Apayim: Hashem delays his anger and punishment and patiently awaits our Teshuva (repentance)

7) V'Rav Chesed: Hashem acts with compassion even to those without much of their own merits

  V'Emes: Hashem rewards those who do His will

9) Notzer Chesed L'Alafim: Hashem remembers the Chesed that man does, for thousands of generations

10) Nosei Avon: Hashem carries mankind's sins (that were done intentionally) and holds on to them. (Doesn't punish right away and patiently waits for them to repent)

11) V'Pesha: Hashem also carries mankind's defiant sins (that were done in rebellion) and patiently waits for Teshuvah to be done before punishing.

12) V'ChaTa'ah: Hashem also carries mankind's unintentional sins (that were done inadvertently)

13) V'Nakeh Lo Yenakeh: Hashem wipes the slate (of sins) clean for those who repent, but not for those who remain unrepentant.




2) There are three main Yesodos (foundations) necessary to accomplish true Teshuva.


They are Charata (regret), Vidui (verbally enumerating one's sins) and Azivas HaChet, letting go of the sin and resolving to never repeat it ), and the three are further expanded (by the Rishonim including Rabeinu Yonah in Sefer Sha'arei Teshuva beginning Sha'ar 1:10) into 20 Ikarim (more detailed), different aspects to achieve a proper and everlasting Teshuva. (The three main ones when done effect Teshuva Shelaima, while the others achieve further cleansing to reverse the negative effects of the sins. See Sefer Chareidim Perek 63)


The first 5 0f the 20  Ikarim (following the order and interpretation of the Sefer Chareidim's (Perek 62) understanding of Rabeinu Yonah) are as follows:


  1. Regret your bad deeds and say to yourself: "what have I done? How could I have not feared Hashem's anger and fury?"

  2. Let go of the sin. Let the evildoer resolve truthfully with his/her whole heart to never repeat the sin until his/her dying day. The resolve should be so strong that the One who knows our deepest and darkest thoughts [Hashem] will be able to testify that we will never transgress that particular sin again.

  3. Your entire being (body and soul) should tremble and feel pained and bitter for having angered your Creator who is the Creator of the sun, moon, sky, earth and everything else!

  4. Do something tangible to express your pain, such as fasting, crying and lamenting for your sins.

  5. Worry and fear about the punishment that you will get for your sins; how bad things will come over you because of them. Figure out how to do proper Teshuva to rescue yourself from the punishment.



Halachos for Shabbos Kodesh


1) The next  5 0f the 20  Ikarim are as follows:


  1. Be tremendously embarrassed and immensely shamed before the king of kings, Hashem, and be afraid to lift your eyes to appear before Him

  2. Humble your heart and be self-effacing in the knowledge that one who rebels against the great king [Hashem], surely will lose some of his status and will be ridiculed in his own eyes and in the eyes of others and unless you repent you will be relegated to being treated like a leper, despised and detested by society.

  3. Act humbly by always keeping your eyes focused downwards, speaking in low tones, and not speaking harsh words.

  4. Break your material Ta'avos (lusts and material desires). Lessen your enjoyments of pleasures and don't stuff yourself with food more than is necessary for satiation and to sustain your life, and avoid [excessive] marital relations with your spouse (besides what is necessary to fulfill the Mitzvah of Pru U'Revu, or other spousal obligations)

  5. Rectify the particular areas in which you have sinned with their good alternatives. Some examples: If you gazed at immodest images, train your eyes to always avoid inappropriate sights, and let your eyes gaze at the light of the Torah (by reading Torah texts or gazing into the Sefer Torah by Hagbah etc.). If you used your feet to run to sin, train them now to always run to do Mitzvos. If your tongue was accustomed to uttering falsehoods and/or foul language, train your mouth to only speak good and wise things. If you used your hands to spill blood, or for stealing which is tantamount to spilling blood, train your hands to provide for poor people, orphans and widows, as well as saving people from being taken advantage of financially by unscrupulous people. If your heart was always filled with heretical thoughts, train and purify your heart to understand the greatness of our Creator [Hashem]. If you were involved in spreading Machlokes (disputes) between friends, train yourself to seek peaceful resolutions and pursue peace always.

2) The final 10 of the 20 Ikarim of Teshuva are:


  1. Search your soul and make an accounting of your actions, so you will recall all your forgotten iniquities, so you will be able to say Vidui for them, humble yourself because of them and resolve never to repeat them.

  2. Investigate the magnitude of each of your sins. Determine which punishment you deserve for each of them [Malkos- 40 lashings, Kareis- heavenly death penalty or Misas Bais Din- capital punishment meted out by a rabbinic court of law. (Though Malkos and Misas bais Din aren't in effect today, as we are in Galus, variations of them are meted out through the heavenly court for those who deserve them) ] and do the appropriate Teshuva for each of them.

  3. Consider even the seemingly insignificant sins as grave sins in your own eyes; don't dwell on the smallness of the sin, rather dwell on the greatness of the king [Hashem] who commanded you to do His will.

  4. Explicitly enumerate each and every one of your sins (Vidui) as well as the sins of your forefathers.

  5. Pray to Hashem and beg Him to have mercy on you and forgive you and erase your sins and purify you from their harmful effects.

  6. Repair your wrongs. Return the stolen items if you stole, or beseech your friend for forgiveness if you spoke Lashon Hara (evil gossip) about them or embarrassed them or other similar sins against your fellow man, as there can be no atonement from Hashem until you secure forgiveness from your friend.

  7. Seek and do acts of kindness (e.g. Tzedaka and Gemilas Chasodim) and give support to people who advance truth such as Talmidei Chachamim and Torah scholars, and stay away and shun falsehood.

  8. The [details of your] sin should remain in your mind always until the day you die (as to remember not to repeat them, but not Chas V'shalom to get depressed from them)

  9. Let go of the Sin. If the opportunity arises again to do the identical sin, conquer your Yetzer Hara and run away from the [place of] sin, as you would run away from a sword that was pursuing you, because of your fear of Hashem. And even if the same opportunity of sin does not present itself again, have in mind during Krias Shma, when saying the words "B'Chol NafShecha" that you are willing and ready to give up your life in order not to transgress the 3 cardinal sins (murder, idolatry and immorality), and it will be considered as if the opportunity arose, and you withstood the test and didn't transgress.

  10. Facilitate the repentance of others. Causing others to sin is one of the worst things to do, and on the other hand, causing others to do good deeds and/or repent is one of the most worthy things a Jew can do, and is also very vital to his/her own Teshuva.

Halachos for Sunday, September 21, 2014


1) The holy Sefarim (Rav Yonasan Eibeshitz Zatzal in Ya'aros Devash, the Shlah Hakadosh and others) teach us that the last week of the year is very unique in that it has very strong powers of Kaparah- atonement.


Each "last" day of the year can atone for each corresponding day of the whole year. For example: The last Sunday before Rosh Hashana, if utilized properly can atone for all the "Sundays" of the entire year past. The last Monday, can atone for all the "Mondays" of the entire year, and so on.


2) It is very worthwhile to try and use the last week of the year and infuse it with Torah, Tefilah, Teshuva, Tzedaka and as many good deeds as possible. 


This sentiment is echoed by our holy sages, who taught us "Hakol Holech Achar HaG'mar - everything is [judged] based on the ending " (See Talmud Berachos 12a for a similar sentiment. There is also a concept of Mitzvah Nikras Al Sheim Gomrah, a Mitzvah is credited to the one who finishes it, highlighting the importance of "endings". See Midrash Tanchuma Parashas Eikev)



Halachos for Monday, September 22, 2014



1) One who sinned, must do Teshuva for his infractions.

As soon as one does genuine Teshuva, no matter how severe his sins were, his sins are erased and Hashem's love for him increases to an even higher level than before he sinned in the first place. (See Rambam Hilchos Teshuva perek 7 at length. See also Shu"t Chacham Tzvi Siman 13.)

Furthermore, upon doing Teshuva, he is rewarded with a special Siyata D'Shmaya (heavenly assistance) to excel in his subsequent Torah learning and Mitzvah performance. (ibid.)


2) Besides for Teshuva being a biblical obligation in its own right (aspects of which we shall, B'Ezras Hashem, discuss soon), it also serves as a preventative from doing further sins, as part of the Teshuva process is the "Kabalah Al Ha'Asid, resolve going forward" not to repeat the sins. (See Rambam in Sefer Hamitzvos 73, Sefer HaChinuch Mitzvah 364 and Sha'arei Teshuva Sha'ar 1:1)


When one needs to do Teshuva, it must be done as soon as possible and not pushed off to a later time as the Mitzvah of Teshuva is a constant obligation (as long as one has sins) (See Rambam Hilchos Teshuva Perek 7:2)




Halachos for Tuesday, September 23, 2014



1) In the davening of Rosh Hashanah [and Yom Kippur] we say many lofty piyutim (liturgies) which were composed by extremely holy individuals (Tanaim, Gaonim and even Rishonim the likes of Rashi and the Baalei Tosafos)

Just to give you an idea of the holiness we are talking about here, the Magen Avraham (Orach Chaim Siman 68) quotes the Ariza"l who says that when Rav Eliezer HaKalir (who was either a Tana or a Rishon depending on different opinions, and one of the preeminent writers of our Kinus, Selichos and Piyutim) was composing a certain piyut for the Musaf of Rosh Hashanah (that begins "V'Chayos Asher Heina M'Rubaos Kisei etc.") a ring of [heavenly] fire encircled his entire body. (See also Sha'arei Teshuva Siman 68:1)

Many of these piyutim are written in very complex language (done so purposely, according to the Shu"t Sha'ar Ephraim Siman 13, so the non-Jews wouldn't "Steal" them and use them in their prayers in their Bais Avoda Zara), and comprised with references to many sources throughout the revealed and hidden Torah. (In fact in Shu"t Teshuva M'Ahava Siman 1 he enumerates over 50 places across the Talmud where the Baalei Tosafos bring proofs to their opinions from stanzas in these piyutim!  See also Rashi to Daniel 8:14. See also Rama Siman 619:1 based on Sefer Chasidim Siman 302 that even the Nusach of the tunes used for the Piyutim in each congregation should not be tampered with.)

Therefore, the average person will have a very hard time understanding the piyutim and Tefilos of the Yamim Noraim unless they spend some time beforehand studying and analyzing them, which is exactly what the Poskim say each Jew should do a few days before Rosh Hashanah.

Nowadays many Machzorim make it a lot easier to do this, as they have translations and/or explanations on the page. However, it is best to read them before Rosh Hashana if possible, and not during the actual davening. (See Mishna Berura Siman 100 in the name of the Ta"z)

 It is also important to learn the Halachos of and [at least the basic] meaning behind Tekias Shofar prior to Rosh Hashanah, as well as to learn Sifrei Mussar which will cause a person's heart to "wake up" and fear Hashem, as well as bring a person to grasp the reality of Hashem's greatness as He is about to judge all of mankind (See Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Siman 128:11)

Some people have the Minhag to fast on Erev Rosh Hashana. The primary reason for this fast is to bring a person to Teshuva.

Erev Rosh Hashana is the last day of the year, and Chazal tell us that one who does Teshuva on any one day throughout the year is considered as if he/she has done Teshuva for the entire year, therefore the Minhag is to rise early and fast on Erev Rosh Hashana and increase the amount of Selichos and Vidui etc., as this is the last chance to have a day of Teshuva in this year! (Chayei Adam Klal 138:5)

It isn't necessary to accept this fast upon yourself on the previous day (as is usually the case when one wants to fast on a day that isn't a mandatory fast day) but one who is stringent and does in fact accept it upon him/herself is praiseworthy (See Shulchan Aruch Siman 562:2 and Kaf HaCahim Siman 562:63 quoting the Bach and Elya Rabbah)

Those who fast, should not do so for the entire day, as it isn't good to enter Yom Tov hungry, rather this fasting is only necessary until after davening Mincha (and saying the prayer of Aneinu) or until Chatzos. (Shulchan Aruch ibid.)   

Nowadays, when the general public is a lot weaker [for sure spiritually] than they used to be, fasting on Erev Rosh Hashana is not prevalent. Many have a Minhag to instead partake in a Seudas Mitzvah such as a bris, Pidyon Haben, Siyum Mesecta and the like instead of fasting. (Chayei Adam Klal 138:1)   

If one decides to indeed fast, it is best to stipulate [verbally or in their mind] that they are doing this "Bli Neder" (without a vow). 

If one didn't make this stipulation, and had in mind to do this from now on every year, or if one in fact did this for three consecutive years, Hataras Nedarim (unbinding of pledges) would be necessary to be able to stop fasting on this day. (Aruch HaShulchan Siman 581:10) 

2) It is the accepted Minhag in Klal Yisroel to say Hatoras Nedarim (annulling of vows) once a year in front of another three individuals (who act as a Bais Din), usually on Erev Rosh Hashana. (See Chayei Adam Klal 138:8 and Mateh Ephraim; Elef Hamagen Siman 581:102)

This serves to annul our vows (that are able to be annulled) so we can enter Rosh Hashana without the sin of unfulfilled vows, or the sins of not maintaining the performance of good deeds and customs that we have done three times or more, which would then in effect give them the status of something that was accepted as a vow. (This is why it is so important to always say "Bli Neder" when promising to do something or when undertaking something new (such as a chumrah or a minhag) which you aren't sure if you are able to always maintain).

If one doesn't understand the meaning of the words of Hatoras Nedarim (as it is printed in the Siddur or Machzor in Hebrew) and recites it anyhow, it isn't valid. (See Chayei Adam ibid.)

Therefore it is better to say it in English or any other language that you understand, or to read it and its translation beforehand so you will know what you are saying when you say it in Hebrew. (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Siman 128:16)

Women do not have the custom to say Hatoras Nedarim (One of the reasons for this is that doing so in front of 3 men is not in accordance with Hilchos Tznius).

Rather, a married woman should have her husband say to the "Bais Din" that his wife appointed him as a Shliach (messenger) to annul her vows, and they in turn say " Mutarim Lah- her[ vows] are annulled".

Some Poskim say that women can rely on the communal Hatoras Nedarim recited at Kol Nidrei at the onset of Yom Kippur, and this is indeed what many women (especially single girls and women) rely on. (See Shu"t Teshuvos V'Hanhagos Vol. 1 Siman 338 and Orchos Rabbeinu from the Steipler Zatzal Vol. 2 page 171)

It is customary [for men] to immerse in a kosher Mikvah on Erev Rosh Hashana, regardless if they are impure or not, in order to spiritually purify themselves in preparation for the holy day. (Rama Siman 581:4)

The accepted custom is to immerse in the Mikvah three times to signify the 3 times it says the word "Tahara- purity" in the Pasuk(Yechezkael 36:25): "V'Zarakti Aleichem Mayim Tehorim U'Tehartem MiKol Tumoseichem U'Mikol Giluleichem A'Taher Eschem- [Hashem says] I will sprinkle purified water upon you, and purify you from all your impurities; and from all your filthiness I will purify you" (See Mateh Ephraim Siman 581:53 )

There are other Minhagim regarding how many times to immerse; some do it once, some do it seven times, others do it twelve times.

If you don't have an established personal custom regarding this, rely on the above and do it three times.

The earliest time for going to the Mikvah is an hour before Chatzos,which is approximately 1:00 pm. (Mishna Berura Siman 581:26. See  for exact Halachic times in your specific locatin).

One should constantly have "Teshuva" on his/her mind throughout the day on Erev Rosh Hashana.

Many have the Minhag to go to a grave of a Tzadik and walk around the grave and daven there that in the merit of the Tzadik Hashem should have mercy on us and forgive our sins and grant us a good year in the merit of the Tzadik.(See Rama Siman 581:4 and Mishna Berura S"K 27. See also Chayei Adam Klal 138:5 and Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Siman 128:13 for more things to do- and not to do - and say at the graveside.)

If a no Tzadik's grave is accessible, the Poskim recommend going to any Jewish cemetery to daven. (Some even say that if no Jewish cemetery is available, one should go to the outside of a non Jewish cemetery, as just going to any cemetery reminds us that we will not live forever, and that we better start doing Teshuva before it's too late. However, it is best not to daven at the grave of a Rasha, an evil person.)

One who is impure (due to nocturnal emissions) should preferably not visit a cemetery, especially on Erev Rosh Hashana, as it can be harmful to him. The Gaon of Vilna and others were extremely stringent about this. It is also better to visit the cemetery before eating, thus many have the Minhag to go immediately after Shacharis. (See Mateh Ephraim Siman 581:50 and Elef Hamagen Os 109 and Chayei Adam Klal 138:6)

It is a good custom to give Tzedakah to poor people prior to praying at the grave of the Tzadik (In fact it is best to give Tzedakah prior to praying anytime, as the Pasuk (Tehilim 17:15) states "Ani B'Tzedek Echezeh Panecha- with [the Zechus of]Tzedaka will I approach Hashem [to pray]. See Rama and Mishna Berura ibid. See also Talmud Bava Basra 10b)

When entering the Shul on the eve of Rosh Hashanah (or when getting ready to daven, for women or anyone else davening at home) one should enter with a feeling of fear, trepidation and trembling [before Hashem] as the time has arrived for each of us to take the defendant's seat to be judged by the supreme judge (Hashem).

It is extremely important to daven with Kavanah (concentration; understanding and meaning the words) on Rosh Hashanah. (Chayei Adam Klal 139)

Although the entire year the Shemona Esrei is recited quietly as not to disturb the concentration of people standing near you, on Rosh Hashanah [and Yom Kippur] many have the Minhag to recite it louder than usual, as this brings them to be able to concentrate better.

Being that everyone has a Machzor on these days, we aren't concerned that reciting Shemona Esrei a little louder than usual will cause the people near you to lose concentration.

However, even if reciting it louder than usual, it should still not be recited too loud, and if one can concentrate fully even when davening low, as is done the whole year, that is still ideal. (Shulchan Aruch Siman 582:9 and Mishna Berura S"K 24)

Should one cry and/or shed tears while davening on Rosh Hashanah [and Yom Kippur]?

The Arizal says that one who does not cry on these days can be sure that his/her Neshama isn't worthy and/or complete, and he/she should exert extra effort to atone for their sins, which are preventing the Neshama from reaching its full potential. (Brought in Mateh Ephraim Siman 582:28. The Chida; Shiyurei Bracha Yoreh Deah 392:3 maintains that even if one isn't really crying, he/she should still force himself to daven in a crying voice and that suffices.)

The Gaon of Vilna was of the opinion that one shouldn't cry on Rosh Hashanah, as we must be confident that we will come out of the judgment exonerated based on the Pesukim in Nechemia (Perek 8: 9-11) [which were said to the Jews on Rosh Hashanah of that year] "V'Al Tivku...Ki Kadosh HaYom...V'Al TisAtzvu- Do not cry...for today is a holy day... and do not be disheartened"

Does the Gaon of Vilna contradict the Arizal? The answer is no, and the explanation is as follows:

There are two kinds of crying. If one forces himself to cry from fear of a bad judgment even the Arizal would agree with the Gr"a that it is not in the spirit of Rosh Hashanah, and shouldn't be done. However, if one's soul causes them to cry involuntarily from within him/herself [during the prayers], even according to the Gaon of Vilna, he will agree with the Arizal that there is no problem at all, with such an "inspired" prayer and it is actually commendable. (See Shu"t Teshuvos V'Hanhagos from Rav Moshe Sternbuch Shlita Vol. 2 Siman 268 for a more lengthy elucidation of the above explanation)

After Maariv on the first night of Rosh Hashana it is customary to bless everyone you meet with a special greeting of "L'Shana Tova Techasev [V'Techasem] [L'Alter] U'Lchaim Tovim]-To a good year may you be written and signed immediately for a year of good life". (Rama Siman 582:9 and Mogen Avraham quoted in Mishna Berura S"K 25)

According to some Poskim, the word "V'Techasem-and signed" is omitted, as the final signing of the decree happens on Yom Kippur and not on Rosh Hashanah.(Opinion of the Gaon of Vilna, the Ram"a M'Panu and the Levush quoted in Mishna Berura Siman 582:25.Even though Tzadikim Gemurim and Reshaim Gemurim are signed on Rosh Hashana, that is only for their heavenly reward, but for "life" on this world, even Tzadikim are only signed on Yom Kippur, according to the Gaon of Vilna's explanation)

There is a third opinion that maintains that it is OK to say V'Techasem, as it is referring to the Chasima- the final ruling- which will take place on Yom Kippur, however, according the word "L'Alter- immediately" should be omitted. (Opinion of the Kaf HaChaim and Mateh Ephraim Siman 583:1)

When someone extends the above blessing to you, it is customary to respond with "Gam Atem- you too", V'Chain L'Mar- So too [should the blessing go] for you", or some other variation of such a response. (Chavos Yair in Mekor Chaim end of Siman 582)

On the second night of Rosh Hashana according to the Taz and other Poskim the same greeting as the first night is said. However according to the Elya Rabbah, Pri Megadim, Gr"a and other Poskim, it is not recited. (See Mishna Berura Siman 582:25

The prevalent Minhag is like the latter opinion.

The blessing of "Gmar Chasima Tova- A good final judgment" is customarily said instead of "Kesiva V'Chasima Tova" when greeting people anytime from the second day of Rosh Hashana until Hoshana Rabbah.

Halachos for Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Quadruple Portion L'Kavod Yom Tov and Shabbos Kodesh


Halachos for Wednesday, Erev Rosh Hashana


1) Besides the inherent importance of doing Teshuva immediately, delaying Teshuva is a sin in its own right, as it's indicative of a lack of concern about the severity of this sin and in most cases leads to a flippant attitude toward this sin - as habit is wont to cause- and makes it extremely difficult to ever stop doing that particular sin. (See Sha'arei Teshuva Sha'ar 1:2)



The longer one delays doing Teshuva, the harder it becomes to actually do Teshuva as the longer one lingers the less heavenly help he will get, and in fact the Yetzer Hara will sometimes be given special permission to place difficult spiritual nisyonos, obstacles, in the person's path. (See Rambam Hilchos Teshuva Perek 6:3 where he writes that sometimes, a person who consistently sins and ignores the call to Teshuva may be punished to the point that Teshuva is all but impossible; a tragic state to allow oneself to fall to. See Shla HaKadosh Maseches Yoma; Hilchos Teshuva.)



2) One of the harshest sins imaginable is to be a "Choti U'Machti", a sinner who causes other Jews to sin as well. Chazal teach us that one who is a Choti U'machti forfeits his portion in Olam Haba!



One who caused another Jew to sin along with them, must not only do Teshuva for his own sin but must also try to get the other person to do teshuva as well for their sin. (See Shu"t Noda B'Yehuda Orach Chaim Siman 35 and Shla Hakadosh, Sha'ar HaOsiyos; "Kedusha")





Halachos for Thursday, 1st Day of Rosh Hashana


1) The three main aspects of Teshuva (as brought in the Rambam Hilchos Teshuva Perek 2:2) are:

a) Charata, remorse for doing something against the will of Hashem.

b) Kabala al Ha'Asid, genuine resolve to not repeat the sin.

c) Vidui, verbalizing the above remorse and resolve.



Complete Kapara, heavenly forgiveness, is not achieved until all three of the aforementioned conditions are met. (See Minchas Chinuch Mitzvah 364)



Besides for the Mitzvah aspect of Vidui, the Torah's requirement to verbalize the sin, doing so also serves a practical purpose, as when one "hears" himself enumerating his sins it causes his heart to sense the severity of the sin and better aides in resolving to not repeat it. (See Minchas Chinuch ibid.)



The verbalizing of the sins, the Vidui, is only a Mitzvah if one is genuine in his remorse and doesn't have intention to repeat the sin he is reciting Vidui about.



If one does say a insincere Vidui, not only is it not a proper Teshuva, it is in itself a sin as it is considered "lying" to Hashem; in fact one of the "Al Cheit" that we say on Yom Kippur is "Al Cheit SheChatanu Lefanecha B'Vidui Peh, forgive us Hashem for sinning before You via [insincere] vidui with our mouth" (See Sefer Chareidim Perek 63 and Chayei Adam Klal 143. See also Midrash Rabbah Parshas Balak Perek 20:13 that although such a Vidui is not valid for Teshuva, it does work to prevent certain heavenly retribution.)




2) One who only regrets doing a sin but does not resolve to [try and] never do it again, is not considered to have regretted doing the sin properly, as if one truly realized that what he did was immoral how can he not resolve to [try and] not repeat it.




Furthermore, not resolving to [try and] not repeat the sin again is a sign that he doesn't realize the severity of his actions and merely looks at his sin as a "nice thing to try to not do " or a "chumrah, stringency" but not as the severe sin against Hashem that it was. (See Nidchei Yisroel Perek 34)



It is for this reason that it is of utmost importance for every Jew to learn Halacha and to know what is expected of him or her , to determine what is "black and white" Halacha (law), what is chumrah (stringency) and what is minhag (custom).



Knowing the severity of each sin, and its prescribed consequences, will not only serve to ensure it isn't done, but will also serve to enable one to do proper Teshuva in the event that it was transgressed. (See Chayei Adam Klal 143, Peleh Yoetz; "Teshuva" and Sha'arei Teshuva Sha'ar 1 Siman 37 and Sha'ar 3 Siman 3)


 One who did genuine Teshuva and resolved to [sincerely try to the best of his ability to] never repeat the sin again has that sin erased from their record in heaven, and it's considered as if the sin never happened. (See Mesilas Yesharim Perek 4, Zechor L'Miriam Perek 24 and Mabit in Bais Elokim, Sha'ar HaTeshuva Perek 12)




In fact, in its stead he has now a Mitzvah of doing proper Teshuva (and in certain instances, all his aveiros which he discarded are transformed into merits!) (See Chofetz Chaim in Taharas Yisroel Perek 10)



Even if, Chas V'shalom, at some point in the future he stumbles and repeats the sin, it is considered a new sin with no connection to the previous sin that was erased by the genuine Teshuva, and thus the previous Teshuva is not negated and is still in full effect.(See Rambam and Lechem Mishneh Hilchos Teshuva Perek 2:2. See also Sefer Chasidim Siman 354)



Of course, a new Teshuva on the new sin will be necessary.





Halachos for Erev Shabbos Kodesh, 2nd Day of Rosh Hashana



1) When one is faced with a Nisayon, a spiritual test, to do a sin, it is extremely important not to think to oneself " Echteh V'Ashuv, I will transgress the sin and do Teshuva afterward" as on such a sin it is extremely difficult to attain a true Teshuva. (As each time he will continue to sin and promise himself that genuine Teshuva will follow, when all that usually follows such an attitude is additional sinning.) (Mishna Yoma 85b)



Furthermore, not only will the individual who does this have a hard time on his own doing Teshuva, he will further be hindered from heaven from doing Teshuva due to the sinful attitude of "I will sin and then repent afterward". (See Rambam Hilchos Teshuva Perek 4:1)



The same applies to one who thinks to himself "Echteh V'Yom HaKipurim Yechaper, I will sin and Yom Kippur will cleanse my sin", as Yom Kippur will indeed not atone for such a sin. (Mishna and Rambam ibid.)



2) Although one who sins with the aforementioned thoughts causes his chances of doing a genuine Teshuva to diminish, it is still possible to do a genuine Teshuva, albeit more difficult, as the door to Teshuva is never totally closed. (See Rambam Hilchos Teshuva Perek 4:6)



Halachos for Shabbos Kodesh, Shabbos Shuva



1) The Shabbos between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is referred to as "Shabbos Shuva", as the Haftarah that is always read on this Shabbos begins with the words "Shuva Yisroel Ad Hashem Elokecha- Return, Klal Yisroel, to your G-d Hashem".



This alludes to the fact that this time period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur , a.k.a. The Aseres Yemei Teshuva, the 10 days of repentance, are a most opportune time for Teshuva.



It is extremely important on this Shabbos to be extremely diligent in adhering to all the Halachos of Shabbos, especially in the Halachos of "V"Dabro Davar"-not speaking things forbidden to talk about on Shabbos (business related talk, idle talk, etc.). Being stringent in these matters on this Shabbos will serve to strengthen us all in these areas on all the Shabbasos of the coming year. (Kaf HaChaim 602:8 and Birchei Yosef Siman 602:2)



It is a Minhag in Klal Yisroel that the Rav gives a special Drasha (speech) this week, commonly known as "The Shabbos Shuva Drasha".



The purpose of this speech is twofold:



a) to awaken the congregation to Teshuva and b) to educate the congregation as to the pertinent Halachos of Aseres Yemei Teshuva, Yom Kippur and Sukkos.



The Drasha should preferably have a mix of Mussar and Halacha. (See Mateh Ephraim Siman 602:41)



In many congregations, the minhag was for the Rav to wear a Tallis while giving his Shabbos Shuva Drasha,out of respect for the congregation. Others gave the reason that the Tallis was worn to protect him from the evil eye.



Most congregations nowadays do not follow this Minhag, as they rely on the Tzitzis that the Rav is wearing to protect him (Elef Hamagen 604:22 and Shu"t Lev Chaim Vol. 3 Siman 99)



2) many Poskim were of the opinion that one should try and recite  Kiddush Levana this Motzei Shabbos, as we need as many Zechusim (merits) as possible before Yom Kippur (Opinion of the Leket Yosher page 70, Levush Siman 426, Biur HaGra Siman 602 and others. See also Mishna Berura Siman 602:10.Other reasons for this Minhag apply as well).



The prevalent Minhag, however,  is not to recite Kiddush Levana on this Motzei Shabbos, and rather wait until Motzei Yom Kippur, as it must be said B'Simcha (with joy) and we are not as joyous in Aseres Yemei Teshuva (due to the trepidation of Hashem's upcoming judgment) as we will be on Motzei Yom Kippur.(Ruling of the Rama, Siman 602:1)



All agree that if he suspects that for whatever reason he won't be able to do it on Motzei Yom Kippur, he should do it this Motzei Shabbos.



Women never perform Kiddush Levana. (See Mogen Avraham Siman 426:1, Chochmas Shlomo 426:1. See also MaHarsha in Chidushei Agados to Sanhedrin 42a)



Even one who isn't stringent to wash and eat a K'zayis of bread for Melava Malka every Motzei Shabbos, should try and do so this Motzei Shabbos. This applies to both men and women. 



Halachos for Sunday, September 28, 2014



1) The day after Rosh Hashanah, 3 Tishrei is known as "Tzom Gedalia- The Fast of Gedalia".


In the event that this date falls out on Shabbos, as it did this year, it is postponed until the following day, Sunday, 4 Tishrei


It is a fast day that was instituted by the Nevi'im (prophets) to commemorate the death of Gedalia the son of Achikam, who was the leader of the Jewish people in the period after the destruction of the first Bais HaMikdash.


After his assassination at the hands of rival Jewish factions, thousands of Jews who still remained in Eretz Yisroel after the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash, were then driven out by Nebuchadnezzar HaRasha into Galus(exile), and thousands more were killed.


Eretz Yisroel remained desolate and barren, and thus this fast day was established for all of Klal Yisroel throughout the ages.


Some commentators (Radak Yirmiyah Perek 45, Rabbeinu Yerucham brought in the Bais Yosef Siman 549, and others) say that Gedaliah was actually killed on Rosh Hashanah, but as not to institute a fast on Rosh Hashanah, it was pushed off to the next day.


Many Poskim , therefore, are more lenient on this fast day regarding nursing and pregnant women, mildly ill people, fathers making a Bris etc., as they maintain that this fast day always has the status of a "fast that was pushed off". (See Mateh Ephraim Siman 602:3)


Others (including the Taz quoted in Biur Halacha Siman 549) argue, and maintain that since it was originally instituted on this day (as well as the fact that many Meforshim ,based on the Talmud Rosh Hashanah 19a, and the Rambam Perek 2 of Hilchos Taanis, maintain that he was indeed killed on 3 Tishrei, and not on Rosh Hashanah), it has all the Halachos of the other fast days.


On a year when Tzom Gedaliah is observed on 4 Tishrei, as it is this year, it is even more lenient, according to everyone.


A competent orthodox rabbi should be consulted to determine if any individual with any special situation may in fact be lenient on this fast.


2) The main point of this fast [and all fast days] is to bring our hearts to Teshuva. (See Rambam Hilchos Taanis Perek 5:1 and Mishna Berura Siman 549:1. See also Peleh Yoetz; Ta'anis).


On a fast day, it is good to increase  the amount of Tzedakah one gives. (Talmud Brachos 6b)


Many have the custom to calculate the amount that their meal(s) (that they aren't eating today) would have cost, and give[at least] that amount to poor people instead. (See Mishna Berura Siman 566 S"K 12)



Halachos for Monday, September 29, 2014



1) One who has fallen and transgressed a particular sin multiple times, or even someone who has become a habitual sinner in regard to a particular sin, should not give up hope, as Teshuva is still possible to attain. (Rambam Hilchos Teshuva Perek 4:6)


One of the key tools the Yetzer Hara uses to prevent a person from doing Teshuva is causing the person to give up on themselves (Yiush); ignore the Yetzer Hara as Hashem never gives up on any Jew and indeed believes in every Jew, and so too no Jew should ever give up on themselves or stop believing in themselves. (See the powerful words of Rav Tzadok Hakohen from Lublin in Tzidkas HaTzadik Os 154. See also Peleh Yoetz; "Teshuva" and Chofetz Chaim in Taharas Yisroel Perek 10)


It is prohibited to think or say " I have no strength to stop doing this particular sin; it's already part of my nature", as if Hashem gives a person a particular Nisayon, no matter how impossible it seems to be, Hashem has also given him the tools necessary to choose properly and overcome it. (See introduction to Sefer Shmiras Halashon and Tomer Devorah Perek 4 and Sefer Chasidim Siman 162. See also Rambam Hilchos Teshuva Perek 5:1)


Even though sometimes it feels incredibly difficult or even impossible to overcome, a person must remember that the first few times he overcomes will be the most difficult, and after a while it will become more manageable as overcoming the sin will become part of his nature just as transgressing used to feel. (See Rashi Shmos 19:5 that "Kol Haschalos Kashos, it's always harder in the beginning")


Furthermore, it's important to remember that "L'Fum Tza'arah Agrah, the more difficult the Nisayon is, the more heavenly reward you get for overcoming it" (Mishna Pirkei Avos Perek 5:23. See also Avos D'Rav Nosson Perek 3:6 that one time with pain and difficulty is worth more to Hashem than one hundred times without pain and difficulty)



2) The discussion up until now was regarding Teshuva for "regular" sins.


However, for one who [intentionally] transgressed a severe sin in the area of "Hilchos Tznius" (such as Motzi Zera L'Vatala or similar sins) a regular Teshuva is not adequate, and a stronger Teshuva must be done. (See Zohar Parshas Vayechi and Parshas Vayakhel)


The Seforim Hakedoshim say that for these sins one must first do the regular Teshuva (Charata, Kabala Al HaAsid and Vidui) and then must also strengthen in Torah study, even though it may be difficult. (See Reishis Chochma Sha'ar HaTeshuvah Perek 2 and Sha'ar HaKedusha Perek 17. See also Nefesh Hachaim Sha'ar 1:21 and Sha'ar 4:31 and Sha'ar HaTziyun Siman 615:5 and Talmud Brachos 5a-b that one who learns Torah merits having his sins expunged)


He must try and strain himself to wake up earlier to learn or otherwise learn at a time when he really does not have a desire to do so. (Reishis Chochma Sha'aR Hateshuva Perek 7)


Furthermore, he should be careful not to interrupt his learning with lighthearted talk and should try and review whatever he learns a few times even though he feels like he already knows what he learnt, as doing so is considered learning Torah L'shmah. (See Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah Siman 246:17 and Kraina D'Igrasa letters 11, 12 and 168)


He should try to learn at times when many people are not learning (such as Erev Shabbos and Shabbos) as learning at such a time is more powerful than learning at a time when many people are learning. (See Ben Ish Chai, second year, Parashas Shmos in introduction that learning Torah on Shabbos is 1,000 times as powerful as learning during the week. See also Yesod V'Shoresh HaAvodah Sha'ar 8:1 quoting the Arizal that learning on Thursday nights is an extremely good Tikun for P'gam HaBris, sins involving the lack of Kedusha with one's bris.)


The above are just a few examples; each person should figure out on their own what area of their Torah study needs improvement and doing so will serve as part of his Teshuva process.

Halachos for Tuesday, September 30, 2014



1) It is extremely worthwhile for one who transgressed areas of Hilchos Tzniyus to learn Mishnayos of Seder Taharos, as these Mishnayos are very beneficial for purifying one's Neshama (Arizal quoted in Reishis Chochma Sha'ar HaKedusha Perek 17)


Additionally, saying Tehilim is very appropriate thing to do when doing Teshuva on sins in the realm of Tznius (especially Psalm 51)as reciting Tehilim causes one's heart to feel close to Hashem and brings to emotions of genuine Teshuva. (See Pele Yoetz; "Zohar" and "Tehilim". Of course it's best if one says it slowly and understands the meaning of the words, but even if he doesn't it is still very effective. See also Shu"t Noda B'Yehuda Orach Chaim Siman 35)


However, Tehilim should not be recited at the expense of learning Torah, rather it should be said at a time when one would not otherwise be learning. (See Nefesh HaChaim Sha'ar 4 Perek 3)


Keep in mind that even one who had a heavenly decree of death passed against him can have it reversed if he strengthens himself in the area of learning Torah and learns more Torah than is usual for him. (See Talmud Rosh Hashana 18a and Midrash Rabbah Parashas Kedoshim Parsha 25)


It is very worthwhile for a man who stumbled and was Motzi Zera L'Vatala, be it intentionally or otherwise, to immerse himself in a Mikvah as soon as possible. (See Talmud Brachos 22a and Kraina D'Igrasa 166)


This should ideally be done before the next scheduled Tefilah, as one of the things that prevent Tefilos from properly reaching heaven is an impure body. (See Mishna Berura Siman 88:2)


Furthermore, as long as one did not immerse in the Mikvah following Motzi Zera L'Vatala his heart is spiritually blocked and this may cause further lapses in Avodas Hashem. (See Peleh Yoetz; "Tumah")


Once the immersion in the Mikvah is done the body is once again purified and a renewed holiness permeates him. (Kraina D'Igrasa 168. See also Shla HaKadosh in Sha'ar HaOsiyos; "Kedusha" that when one sins in this area his Neshama leaves him and immersing in the Mikvah returns it to him. See also Resihis Chochma Sha'ar Ahava Perek 11)


If for whatever reason one is not able to immerse in a Mikvah right away, it is halachically permissible to don Tefilin, daven and learn Torah. (See Mishna Berura Siman 40:16 and Shulchan Aruch Siman 88:1 and Talmud Brachos ibid.)


He should, however, try and immerse at the first possible opportunity.


Additionally, if by immersing in the Mikvah one will miss Zman Tefilah, the proper time to daven or Zman Krias Shma, the proper time by when to recite Krias Shma he should first daven and recite Krias Shma and immerse in the Mikvah afterward. (Mishna Berura Siman 88:2)



2) Chazal teach us that one who sins, besides for the obligation to do Teshuva, should also try to limit his bodily pleasures and comforts to counteract the pleasure he derived from the sins. This is referred to in Halacha as "Teshuvas HaMishkal, the balanced Teshuva".


This includes fasting, crying and accepting upon oneself to limit even some otherwise permissible bodily pleasures, and other things which we shall discuss in the near future B'Ezras Hashem


Doing this complements and completes the Teshuva. (See Sha'arei Teshuva Sha'ar 4:12. But of course, the main Teshuva is the Charata, Azivas Hacheit and the Vidui. See Shu"t Chasam Sofer Orach Chaim Siman 173)


One who does such a complete Teshuva to the point that he genuinely feels great pain for doing things that were against the will of Hashem - referred to as Teshuva M'Ahava, Teshuva out of love of Hashem- does not need to add additional discomforts to his life as the pain he feels for sinning against Hashem is sufficient to counteract the pleasures he derived from the sins.(See Sefer Chareidim Perek 65 and Sha'arei Teshuvah ibid.)


However, one who has not reached that level of feeling pain for having sinned, although his Teshuva is accepted, it is considered Teshuva M'Yirah, Teshuva out of fear of Hashem and fear of heavenly retribution, and requires Yesurim, bodily discomforts to be complete and to reverse the negative pleasures of the sins.




Halachos for Wednesday, October 1, 2014



1) In the days of old, if one did a sin (even a small one) he would fast for a few days in order to purge himself of the sin. 

(See Sha'arei Teshuva Sha'ar 3:82 that although it is usually prohibited to cause pain or damage to one's body, for Teshuva purposes it is allowed and admirable)



For more severe sins, it was common to fast for much longer periods of time. (See Sefer Chareidim Perek 63 where he quotes the Arizal that one who transgressed a severe Hilchos Tzniyus sin should fast for 48 days in order to receive a Kapara, forgiveness.)


However, nowadays as people are in a much weaker physical condition than in the old days, and fasting even for one day is difficult, the Poskim suggest giving Tzedakah in lieu if fasting.


The logic is that by giving away money equivalent to the cost of a meal or two, it's as if you yourself did not eat those meals and thus considered as if you fasted. (See Rama Siman 568:2 and Mishna Berura S"K 24.See Talmud Chulin 84a regarding our bodies becoming weaker in each subsequent generation.)


Although nowadays we refrain from fasting too much in association with Teshuva, it is still praiseworthy to fast every now and then, such as once a month on Erev Rosh Chodesh, even if it's only until after Chatzos, halachic midday, or until after reciting the special Yom Kippur Katan Tefilos which are traditionally said in many congregations on Erev Rosh Chodesh after Mincha. (See Chofetz Chaim in Sefer Nidchei Yisroel Perek 35)


Some people have the custom to skip one meal each week, ideally lunch on Erev Shabbos Kodesh. (See Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Siman 32:10)


The point of these fast days is not just to refrain from food; the main point of these fasts or the Tzedakah given in their stead, is to utilize them for Teshuva, as the pain of the fast alone without any Teshuva is all but worthless, and can in fact be worse than not fasting at all. (See Sefer Chareidim Perek 63 and Chayei Adam quoted in Biur Halacha to Siman 571 and Mishna Berura Siman 220:6)


When one does fast in conjunction with Teshuva it is important to utilize the fasting properly and not cause the fasting to lead him to further sinning which would defeat the purpose of the fasting altogether.


Thus, one who is fasting and thus is not able to learn properly should not instead waste his time with idle chatting or Chas V'shalom cause others to not learn Torah or speak Lashon Hara etc.; it's better to go to sleep than to spend time idling.

(See Mishna Berura Siman 583:9)


Furthermore, if one is agitated due to the fasting and thus becomes irritable over petty things and gets angry at people around him for every little thing, he has defeated the purpose of the fast and is better off not having fasted. (See Sefer Chasidim Siman 617)


When one does fast in conjunction with Teshuva it is important for him to be careful to not start having arrogant thoughts such as " I am such a Tzadik for fasting" or similar thoughts, as such arrogance will defeat the purpose of the fast.


In fact, if one [arrogantly] tells other people that he is fasting for purposes of Teshuva, he will receive heavenly punishment. (See Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim Siman 565:6)


If, however, someone asks him if he is fasting, he may say the truth that he is indeed fasting, as long as his intention is not to be arrogant. (Mishna Berura Siman 565:14)


Furthermore, upon completion of this fast one should not immediately eat enjoyable foods and should rather break his fast with simple foods, as eating enjoyable foods right away has a hint of arrogance to it. (Shla HaKadosh Maseches Ta'anis Perek Derech Chaim)



2) For those who cannot fast even every now and then and even for half a day in conjunction with their Teshuva, there exists some other forms of self-affliction which do not harm the body yet can have the spiritual effect of fasting.


One such example is to control oneself from enjoying a sweet food when he has a desire to indulge in it; this "self-control" serves as a boost to his Teshuva. (See Peleh Yoetz; "Ta'anis)


Alternatively, if one is already in the midst of indulging in a food that is extremely enjoyable to him and stops in the middle as a way of self-affliction, it is also considered like a fast, as it's an extremely difficult thing to do. (Ra'avad Sha'ar HaKedusha quoted in Be'er Heitev Siman 571:1 and Mishna Berura 571:2)


Another thing to do is, upon finishing learning or working, instead of running to eat, he should push himself to stay a few extra minutes, as controlling oneself from running to eat when hungry is also a form of self-affliction and is considered like fasting. (Peleh Yoetz ibid.)


Another form of self-affliction is a Ta'anis Dibur, a period of time where one controls himself from talking at all; it is praiseworthy to train oneself to do this from time to time and indeed it may even be more worthwhile than a regular fast. (Mishna Berura ibid. quoting the Gaon of Vilna and other Poskim)


Additionally, one who has no desire to learn Torah, and pushes himself to do it anyway is also considered as if he fasted. (See Sha'arei Teshuva Sha'ar 4:11. See also Shu"t Nodah B'Yehuda Orach Chaim Siman 35 and Kraina D'Igrasa letter 11.)


The Midrash Rabbah (Parshas Mikeitz Parasha 92) teaches that "No human being is free of suffering [in this world], praiseworthy is the one who receives his portion of suffering via Learning Torah [with difficulty]".



Halachos for Thursday, October 2, 2014



1) The Aseres Yemei Teshuva, and particularly Erev Yom Kippur, is the ideal time to apologize, beg forgiveness and ask for Mechila from anyone that we may have slighted in any way throughout the previous year (or longer).


Sins that require Mechila from another human being will not be wiped away with Teshuva alone, until forgiveness is sought. If one asks you for Mechila, you should find it in your heart to forgive them. (Mateh Ephraim Siman 606:1)


The Poskim say that if the one who wronged you does not come to you to ask for Mechila, then you (the victim) should go to him/her and present yourself to him/her in such a way to encourage them to ask you for forgiveness (Mateh Ephraim Siman 606:3 based on Talmud in Yoma 87a).


The Seforim compare this to us and Hashem. In the Yemei HaTeshuva Hashem comes down from Shamayim and makes it easy for us to ask - and receive- His divine forgiveness, as it says in the Posuk "Dirshu Hashem B'HiMatzo- Seek out Hashem when He is near".


Asking Mechila in a general way (e.g. "Are you Mochel way for anything and everything I may have done etc.) is sufficient for minor infractions only. However if you wronged someone in a significantly harmful way (spoke scandalous Lashon Hara about them, caused them significant monetary damage etc.) you must beg their forgiveness specifically for that infraction, and must verbalize the details upon asking. (Mateh Ephraim Siman 606:2)


If you spoke Lashon Hara about somebody and they don't know about it, and by revealing it to them (in order to ask forgiveness) you will cause them additional pain and anguish , it is a dispute amongst the Poskim as to the best course of action.


Rav Yisroel Salanter Zatzal maintained that if by going over to the person who you spoke against to ask for mechilah will cause them further harm, it is best not to let them know, and try to do as much Teshuva as possible, and try to spread good about that person in other ways. (Rav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach Zatzal ruled according to this opinion)


The Chofetz Chaim Zatzal (Hilchos Lashon Hara Klal 4:12) ruled that Teshuva was only complete with mechila, and even if it caused further harm, you must approach them.

For Halacha L'Ma'aseh, of course, a Rav must be consulted.


It goes without saying that when asking for forgiveness it must be sincere and you must genuinely regret what you did and resolve not to do it again. Simply mouthing the words "Are you Mochel me?" isn't sufficient. Likewise, the one who says "I am Mochel you" but doesn't really mean it, and continues to bear a grudge in his heart, is doing a disservice for all parties involved.



Although for some people it may usually be better (in order to better concentrate) to daven Shemona Esrei with closed eyes, in Aseres Yemei Teshuva it is advisable to daven from a siddur, as this way it is less likely to forget the additions that must be added to the Shemona Esrei (Zachreinu L'Chaim, Mi Komocha, Hamelech HaKadosh, Hamelech Hamishpat, U'Ksov and B'Sefer Chaim).


If Zachreinu L'Chaim, Mi Komocha, Hamelech Hamishpat, U'Ksov and/or B'Sefer Chaim were mistakenly skipped, and the next Bracha was already started, there is no need to repeat the Shemona Esrei.


However, if "Hamelech HaKadosh" was forgotten and you signed off the Bracha of Ata Kadosh with "HaKeil HaKadosh" as it is said the rest of the year, one must indeed repeat the Shemona Esrei, unless it was immediately corrected within the time it takes to utter three words (Toch Kedei Dibbur) and the next Bracha was not yet started. (Shulchan Aruch Siman 582:1 and 2)


The main point of these Yomim Noraim is to realize that Hashem is our King and to accept His Kingdom (and all the Mitzvos that come along with it) upon ourselves, thus forgetting "Hamelech HaKadosh" is forgetting the essence and "missing the point" of these significant days, and therefore must be repeated. (See Mishna Berura Siman 582:2)



It is almost  Yom Kippur, and the order of the day, of course, is Teshuva' it's on every observant Jew's mind on some level at least.


We all want Hashem to forgive us for any sins we may have transgressed against Him or against our fellow Jews.


As we mentioned earlier, sins against our fellow Jews cannot be forgiven by Hashem until forgiveness is first sought from the one who we offended.


When forgiving someone, it is extremely important to verbalize this fact by saying "I am Mochel you with my whole heart". (See Rabbeinu Bechaya Bereishis 50:17 where explains that Yosef HaTzadik was Mochel his brothers, the Shevatim , in his heart, but never verbalized this thought, thus the Asara Harugei Malchus and many other Tzaros needed to befall Klal Yisroel over the ages. There is a lengthy discussion about this, but this forum is not the place)

2) After receiving forgiveness from the people that we hurt, there are still 24 things(Brought by Rabbeinu Yonah in Sharei Teshuva, end of Sha'ar 1. They can also be found more at length in the Rambam Perek 4 of Hilchos Teshuva. The original source for this seems to be a Tosefta) that are Me'Akev -prevent- proper Teshuva from being attained.


Obviously it is best to try and make sure that we don't have any of these impediments in our day to day lives, so we can assure that our Teshuva is easily attained and properly accepted by Hashem.


Most of these things are probably not relevant to most of the people reading this, but it is still Halacha, and can be used as a catalyst for Teshuva in other areas in which we may indeed need rectification. 

  The 24 obstacles to Teshuva are: (Loose translation. It would be too lengthy to delve into the details of each one. If you have any questions as to the definitions, or details of each one, please feel free to ask and I will try to clarify.) 


1.      One who frequently spreads Rechilus (slanderer)

2.      One who regularly speaks Lashon Hara (Gossiper)

3.      One who gets angry quickly

4.      One whose bad (impure) thoughts control him

5.      Being connected to a rasha (evildoer)

6.      Taking from food that isn't sufficient for its owner

7.      Gazing at Arayos with sinful intent

8.      Partnering with a thief

9.      One who says "I will sin and repent afterwards" or " I will sin and Yom Kippur will atone for the sin"

10.  One who derives honor [and pleasure] from his fellow man's humiliation.

11.  One who separates him/herself from the Tzibbur (congregation).

12.  One who ridicules his forefathers and/or teachers

13.  One who curses the public

14.  One who prevents a group of people from doing a Mitzvah

15.  One who causes another Jew to leave the good path and take a bad path [of living not according to the Torah]

16.  One who uses the pillow of a poor person [i.e. causes a poor person to lose the use of any of his meager possessions]

17.  One who accepts bribes in order to skew and distort justice from prevailing.

18.  One who finds a lost object and doesn't [try and] return it to its proper owner.

19.  One who sees their child going off the [Torah] path, and doesn't admonish them.

20.  One who eats [i.e. usurps] the food [i.e. livelihood] of poor people, orphans or widows.

21.  One who argues [and does an action] against the will of the sages.

22.  One who accuses good people of doing wrong [without proper proof or reason]

23.  One who hates [and cannot accept constructive] criticism.

24.  One who ridicules all or some of the Mitzvos of the Torah [or those instituted by the sages]

2) It is important to recite Vidui (the itemization of our sins) on Erev Yom Kippur within the Tefila of Mincha.


Mincha (with Vidui) should preferably be recited before the eating of the Erev Yom Kippur afternoon meal, the Seudah Hamafsekes.


The reason for this is that Chazal were worried that one would Chas V'Shalom choke during that meal and pass away without the opportunity to recite the Vidui. (See Mishna Berura Siman 607:1)


If one davened Mincha and forgot to add the Vidui, and already went home and ate the meal, he should repeat the Vidui close to sunset, and not right when he remembers.(Halichos Shlomo Yom Kippur, Perek 4:1)


When repeating the Vidui, it is not necessary to repeat the entire Shemona Esrei, as Vidui is an independent Tefilah that may be recited on its own, even though ideally it was inserted into the Shemona Esrei. (ibid.)



Halachos for Erev Shabbos Kodesh, October 3, 2014

Double Portion L'Kavod Shabbos Kodesh


Halachos for Erev Yom Kippur


1) If one forgot "Hamelech HaKadosh" in Shemona Esrei, and only realized this after completing the entire Shemona Esrei and Vidui, although the Shemona Esrei must be repeated, there is no need to repeat the Vidui again when repeating the Shemona Esrei. (See Shulchan Aruch Siman 582:1)


However, if one wants to repeat the Vidui, he/she may do so. (ruling of Rav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach Zatzal.)


The ideal way to perform Vidui is to itemize each and every sin that one can remember doing.


One should try and stretch out their Vidui for as long as possible, and try and do it in a heartfelt way. (See Shulchan Aruch siman 607:2.The Vidui of the Chayei Adam Klal 143 as well as the Vidui written by Rabbein Nissim enumerate vast lists of possible sins, which may be helpful in "jarring our memory" and remind us of the sins we may have done in the previous year. These lists are found in certain Machzorim and Sidurim as well, and can also be bought independently in Jewish book stores)


If one transgressed a certain sin (or a variation of it) many times, it isn't necessary to itemize each one, rather he/she can say "Sin X which I have transgressed countless times" or a similar verbalization.


2) It is a Biblical Mitzvah to increase the amount we eat and drink on Erev Yom Kippur.


The Talmud (Rosh Hashana 9a-b) teaches that one who eats on Erev Yom Kippur is considered as if he fasted on both Erev Yom Kippur and on Yom Kippur.


It is the minhag to have a Yom Tov Seuda on Erev Yom Kippur, as it is considered a Yom Tov because we are confident that Hashem will forgive all our sins. (See Tur Siman 604)


Women and children who have reached the age of Chinuch are also obligated in this Mitzvah of eating more on Erev Yom Kippur, according to many Poskim. (See Shu"t Ksav Sofer Siman 112 and MaHaril Hilchos Erev Yom Kippurim)




Halachos for Yom Kippur


1) The following things are prohibited from sunset of Yom Kippur eve until nightfall after Yom Kippur :


  1.  Melacha (any "work" that is prohibited on Shabbos)

  2. Eating

  3. Drinking

  4. Bathing /washing

  5. Smearing lotion, soap etc.

  6. Wearing leather shoes

  7. Marital relations

There is a dispute amongst the Rishonim if all the aforementioned are prohibited Min HaTorah (biblically) or just eating and drinking and Melacha, while the rest are only prohibited MiDirabanan (prohibited by the sages).


Most Poskim rule that it is best to be stringent and consider them all as Min HaTorah. (See Mishna Berura Siman 611:3)


However, "Kares- the heavenly death penalty" is only meted out for eating, drinking and Melacha, according to all opinions. (Shulchan Aruch Siman 611:1)


2) Upon rising on Yom Kippur morning, Negel Vasser must be washed. However, one must be careful to only wash until the end of the joints of the hand (knuckles) and not the entire hand. (Shulchan Aruch Siman 613:2)


As you wash, have in mind that you are doing so to remove the "impure spirit" from your body, and not doing it for the pleasure of "washing" which is prohibited on Yom Kippur.(Rama ibid.)


The face may not be washed on Yom Kippur morning.(See Mishna Berura ibid. S"K 3)


It is best to be stringent and not even place a little water on the eyes, unless there is some crust near the eyes, then it may be removed with a drop of water that was placed on your finger. 


When doing so, care must be taken to only place the water on the immediate spot of the crust, and not on any other part of the face. (Rama Siman 613:4 and Mishna Berura S"K 9)


After using the restroom, the hands should be washed, but only until the knuckles. (Shulchan Aruch Siman 613:3)


The Kohanim may wash their entire hands before going up to "duchen- bless the congregation" as that washing isn't one of pleasure. (ibid.)


Although most contemporary Poskim allow the use of aerosol spray deodorant on Tisha B'Av if necessary to prevent sweating, this is not the case on Yom Kippur, and it is prohibited to use any kind of deodorant on Yom Kippur, even if only to prevent and/or eliminate odors. (Kitzur Hilchos Yom Tov page 110 quoted in Piskei Teshuvos Siman 614:1 footnote 3)








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