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OCTOBER 3-4, 2014 10 TISHREI 5775


Confess upon it all the iniquities of the Children of Israel. (Aharei Mot 17:21)

On the very holy day of Yom Kippur, from all the words of confession that are said so many times, Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef ztl would cry uncontrollably when he said ? ? ? - we wasted time from studying your Torah. How strang!e Why would Maran cry so hard when saying these words? Did he waste any time from learning? All of his days and nights were dedicated to intense learning. If he cried about wasting time and not learning, what is there for us?

We can answer with a simple parable. Imagine a diamond dealer and an average person who were shown two diamonds, and only one was real. They were then asked to pick out the real one. The regular guy can be easily fooled into picking the wrong one because he is not a professional and cannot easily tell a real diamond from a fake. However a diamond dealer can immediately tell which is the real thing.

So too with Hacham Ovadiah. Only because he dedicated himself completely to non-stop learning was he truly the one who could understand and feel the value of every second of learning. Therefore he was so sensitive to every second, every fraction of a second, that was lost. As a result of that feeling, he cried so hard when it was mentioned in the confession.

May this be a year that we all taste the true sweetness of Torah learning.

Tizku lshanim rabot! Rabbi Reuven Semah

The Gemara tells a story. There was once a drought in Israel which was causing a tremendous famine. R' Eliezer, the great leader of that generation ordered fasting and special prayers with twenty-four blessings, but they weren't answered. R' Akiba then got up and said "Abinu Malkenu, Our Father our King, please have mercy on us," and rain came down. The students began to whisper, "How come the great R' Eliezer wasn't answered and R' Akiba, who was his student, was answered?" A voice came down from Heaven and said, "Do not think the student is greater than the Rabbi, rather the student overcomes his character traits which merited this miracle."

R' Salanter asks the obvious question: Doesn't this mean that R' Akiba is still greater, since he overcomes his character traits? He answers that R' Eliezer came from very noble stock and therefore his personality was very refined from birth. His character traits were all positive. R' Akiba, however, whose ancestry had converts in it, had to overcome personality traits which he inherited. He had to perfect himself by overcoming his nature. Therefore, he merited to have miracles that Hashem also "overcame his nature" (so to speak) and allowed rain to come, even if not deserved.

We see here the power of overcoming one personality trait. If we refrain from responding when insulted, or hold back our anger when provoked, we can bring about miracles since we controlled our nature. We have experienced a difficult year and we all want to see Divine mercy and compassion. If we exhibit these very same traits then Hashem changes His nature and will bring us a year of health, happiness and prosperity. Tizku Leshanim Rabot! Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


OCTOBER 8-17, 2014 15-23 TISHRI 5775

As we finish Yom Kippur and experience a beautiful closeness with Hashem, we now sit in the succah, which is like sitting in Hashem's clouds of glory. The message of the succah can be both sobering and encouraging. To the powerful and wealthy, the succah says, "Do not rely on your fortune; it is transitory. Even your castle is no more secure than a succah. If you are safe, it is because G-d shelters you as He did your ancestors when all they had was a booth over their heads. Let the starry sky you see through your s'chach teach you to build your castle on a foundation of faith under the benevolent gaze of Hashem."

To the poor and downtrodden, the succah says, "Are you more helpless than millions of your ancestors in the wilderness, without food, water or shelter? What sustained them? Who provided for them? Look around at your succah's frail walls and at the stars through its roof. Let it remind you that Israel became a nation living in such 'mansions' and that's where they became a great and G-dly nation."

Let us enjoy the holiday of Succot with the message that we are in Hashem's Hands at all times. By putting our complete faith in Him we will feel secure and tranquil and appreciate everything we have. Especially during these turbulent and trying times, we need to strengthen our faith that Hashem is the One Who can and will protect us, and the succah is the symbol of being in Hashems Hands. May we merit to dwell in the succah which will be built for the righteous very soon in our days, Amen.

Tizku Leshanim Rabot! Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


On the first and second nights of Succot, we recite the berachah of shehehiyanu in the kiddush. However, when it comes to taking the lulab and etrog, shehehiyanu is not recited on the second day unless the first day was Shabbat. Why is shehehiyanu recited both nights in kiddush and only the first day of taking the lulab and etrog?

Yom Tob is a joyous occasion which comes from time to time, and thus a shehehiyanu must be recited. Since there is a doubt which day is actually Yom Tob (the 15th of Tishrei), shehehiyanu is recited both nights together with kiddush.

Halachically, however, the shehehiyanu over the lulab may be made even before Yom Tob, when one prepares (binds together the lulab with the species), but it has become traditional to make the berachah when the lulab is taken to fulfill the misvah (see Succah 46a, Shulhan Aruch 644, Magen Abraham). Thus, there is no need to make this berachah twice, since either way (even if the first day is a weekday and not Yom Tob) one fulfilled the obligation of recited the shehehiyanu for the lulab. (Vedibarta Bam)

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A quick tip to boost the power of your prayer. Hazal tell us (Masechet Baba Kama Daf 92A) that Hashem loves the tefilot of one Jew for another so much that anyone who prays on behalf of a fellow Jew with similar needs will have his prayer answered first. A special service has now begun to provide people with names of others who find themselves in a similar predicament. You can call with complete anonymity and get the name of someone to pray for and give the name of someone that needs our prayers. The name of the service is Kol Hamitpalel. Categories include: Marriage; Income; Health; To have children etc.

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