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And Noach Walked With Hashem

“Noach was a perfect tzaddik.” There is no other individual whom the Torah praises in such a way – a perfect tzaddik. This means that he never sinned – not in public, not in private, not in deed, not in thought. Yet immediately afterwards the Torah seems to take something away from Noach. He was “perfect… in his generations”. As Rashi says, “Noach was only a tzaddik compared to the people of his generation. If he had lived in the generation of Avrohom he would have been considered as nothing.” How can this be? He was a perfect tzaddik, who did not sin. How can one say that he would have been considered as nothing” And what imperfection could the Torah be hinting at? Could the proximity to the Yom Tov of Succos have any relevance?

Before trying to suggest an answer, I would like to repeat a concept I once heard from the late Rav Mordechai Miller zt”l of Gateshead. Imagine two rich men and the difference in their assets. One might have £1,000,000, the second £2,000,000. The first can be defined half as rich as the second. This is because we are discussing material assets. Each spiritual asset, however, is of infinite value. A person who knows one mesechta does not know half as much as the person who knows two mesechtas. There is no comparison between the two. An extra mesechta, an extra perek or an extra Mishna puts a person into a completely different world. We could even say that the first person knows “nothing” compared to the second. This is true with mitzvos or midos tovos or any spiritual achievement. Since each one has an infinite value, the more we achieve, the more we raise ourselves into a new spiritual world, incomparable to any other.
We are told (Brochos 58a) that Yishai, the father of Dovid Hamelech was a very special and powerful person in his time. Wherever he went, 600,000 people accompanied him to honour him. Another source (Shabbos 55b) tells us that Yishai was one of only four people who died because of the curse of the nochosh, which means that they died without sin. This is an incredible achievement – “without sin” must include any sin, even the sin of pride. If a person is accompanied by 600,000 people at all times, as a way of honouring him, how could he not fall occasionally into the trap of pride. Did anybody else have such a large entourage? Was he perhaps a malach?

The answer must be that despite the tremendous honour he was given, Yishai thought, “What room is there for pride? Could I take one step if Hashem did not give me the strength? Could I see if Hashem did not enable my eyes to function? Could I even breathe if Hashem decreed otherwise? Everything is only bechasdei Hashem. Today I am alive, tomorrow I might be in the grave. There was no room for pride in Yishai’s mind and when he eventually was niftar, it was only because of the nochosh. He had not sinned, not even with a trace of pride.

Like all of us, during Sukkos Yishai moved from his usual home to live in his sukkoh. Living in a sukkoh would have encouraged him – like us, to feel the humility which is a central theme of the mitzvah. From his quasi-regal travelling arrangements, we can assume his home was very comfortable. But for one week he was under a temporary roof. And if Hashem decided to bring rain or winds, he was as vulnerable as everybody else. What room is there for pride?

Did Yishai have a rôle model for living his life with such anivus? Possibly Noach from our parsha. The posuk says, “Noach walked with Hashem.” (Bereishis 6:9). In what sense did Noach walk with Hashem? In the same way as we have described in connection to Yishai. Wherever he went, whatever he did, he always thought, “Without Hashem, I could not do what I am doing.” He even appreciated that his great achievement – resisting the influence of his generation – was also only through siyata dishmayo. As the Gemoro says, (Kiddushin 30b), “If it were not for Hashem’s help, we could never resist our yetzer hora.”

Now we can understand that the whole posuk is discussing Noach’s humility. He was a complete tzaddik who never sinned, even in the way he compared himself to his generation. “Without help from Hashem, I would be no better than they are.” “And Noach walked with Hashem,” never forgetting that only help from Hashem enabled him to achieve even a single step. Nevertheless the Torah hints that despite his madreiga in humility, he was not on the level of Avrohom Ovinu who called himself “dust and ashes” (Bereishis 18:27). And being on a lower spiritual level is like being in a different world, as we learnt earlier. However great one is, one on the lower level is considered like “nothing” compared to one on a higher level.

To be continued.

בני בני חביבי –  A Tribute to the Residents of Beit Ha’ela

Simchos Bais Hashoeva come in various shapes and sizes. Some take place in a Succa, some in Simcha halls, others in private rooms. At some, people dance to live music, at others people sit in their seats and sing. Some have several droshos, others none at all. Most are simchadik with a joyful Succos atmosphere. Hopefully most Jews go to one or two during Succos. It is part of the beauty of the Jewish calendar that during a complete year we experience  the happiness of Succos, the sadness of Tisha Be’Ov, the solemnity of Rosh Hashono and Yom Kippur and much else besides.

But the Simchas Bais Hashoeva I attended tonight was not similar to any of the above. The people who attended are all patients in a nursing home in the centre of Israel. All of them suffer from serious physical disabilities which prevent them from living at home, if they have one. Some have cognitive impairments, others psychological issues. Some are blind, others are either lacking limbs or have deformed ones. Some have a combination of problems. Some come from religious homes and are quite knowledgable. Others are totally secular but remember the odd aspect of Judaism from their grandparents. I have been visiting them on a weekly basis for some time and have never heard a word of complaint about their situation.

Their four story facility is in pleasant rural surroundings but quite far from the nearest town. Hence most of the time, they have just their fellow residents as company. Besides the staff, many of whom seem to be Russian speaking, there are volunteers who go in and help in some way. I am the only male volunteer and as a Rabbi, I was asked to give a shiur once a week to those who are interested. I punctuate my Divrei Torah and stories with either popular Israeli songs or more traditional Jewish melodies which I have taught them. You should see the delight in the eyes of the Sefardi patients as they get to grips with ‘Yismach Moshe’ with its Yiddish refrains! Thus the group has grown over time. All are made to feel welcome. There’s something for everybody to enjoy.

They had told me the previous week that somebody brings them a lulav and esrog for Succos. Therefore I was quite surprised when my arrival with my lulav and esrog created such a stir. Apparently the person who had brought in previous years hadn’t managed this year so mine was the first. To paraphrase the Gemoro in Succa(51a) – “Anybody who did not see the joy with which these people took the lulav and, some with help, some without help, said the brocho have never seen joy in their life.” This was “Usemachtem Lifnei Hashem Elokaichem” in its most sublime sense. Those in wheelchairs formed the circle, those on two feet were dancing, my lulav was the Sefer Torah. Vesomachto Bechagecho was the theme song on everyone’s lips. The first hakofo had begun.

Eventually the dancing subsided, everyone formed a circle and we spoke about the symbolism of the lulav and the esrog and the message of the Succa. I told them of the time my family and I were walking towards the ‘plane in Ovda airport, north of Eilat on our way to visit our family in England. Behind the plane we could see the rugged mountains of the Negev, with not a blade of grass in sight. . “Look,” I told my family,“when the Bnai Yisroel left Egypt, Moshe Rabeinu told them that we’re going in that direction. They were leaving civilization and going into the unknown. What a leap of faith that required. How could they survive in such surroundings? Our group then sang“ Ko omar Hashem, zocharti loch chesed ne’uraich, ahavas kelulosaich, lechtech acharei bamidbar be’eretz lo zorua” to the well known tune. We could only survive because Hashem was protecting us with His Annanei Hakovod, feeding us Mon from the sky and water from the rock. This is what the succa reminds us of. Everyone in the circle, all with a Jewish neshomo was listening intently.

When Aharon Hakohen was niftar, I told them, the Annanei Hakovod were no longer to be seen. So much so, I said quoting the Gemoro Rosh Hashono (3a), that The King of Arod, alias Sichon Ho’emori, thought that this was an opportune moment to attack. Their G-d is no longer protecting them, he concluded. However he was utterly defeated. He didn’t know the secret. The Annanei Hakovod are no longer visable to the naked eye.

But they are still there, protecting the Jews, from the enemies who have tried to destroy us in every generation. How else could we have survived – a lone lamb surrounded by seventy wolves? We then sang “Vehi she’omdo”  familiar to all those present from the Seder.

I then told them, I wanted to teach them a song from the Zohar. Kad yasvin Yisroel ve’askin besimchas hatorah, Kudshe Brich Hoo omer lefamalia delai “ Chazoo, chazoo,bonai, bonai chavivai demishtachechin bezaaro dilhon ve’askin be chedvasa dili. When the Jewish People are celebrating Simchas Hatorah, the Holy One, blessed be He says to His Heavenly Court – “ Look, look at my beloved children who disregard their own troubles and celebrate My Simcha.”

We sang it with enthusiasm a few times until the tune and the words were familiar. Then I spoke again. At this very moment, I told them,and I could feel my eyes watering already, Hashem is talking to His Ministering Angels and he is pointing down to this room. “See, see My beloved children who have so many problems of their own but they’re not complaining, they’re not bitter about their lot, they’re blind, lame, malformed but they’re singing Ani Maamin, they’re dancing to Vesomachto Bechagecho, they’re looking forward to Yibone Hamikdosh Bimhairo Beyomainu with a pure faith, they’re putting aside their problems and are celebrating My Simcha. Chazoo, chazoo, bonai bonai chavivai – My beloved, beautiful children. We sang the words again, but this time with even more feeling, more intensity. In my thoughts I was again paraphrasing the Gemoro Succa. Whoever has not experienced this Simchas Bais Hashoeva, has never experienced a Simchas Bais Hashoeva in their life.

And in my thoughts, I was looking forward to the real Simchas Bais Hashoeva in the rebuilt Bais Hamikdosh. As the Mishna says all of Klal Yisroel will be there but only the Chasidim and Anshei Maaseh will be dancing in the middle. I am not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet but I wouldn’t be surprised if with all the Gedolai Yisroel of all generations, a call doesn’t come out to invite others into the inner circle of dancers.

Aryeh and Yitschok with their sight now restored, Moshe, Yaakov, Meir and Danni now out of their wheelchairs, Gaddi, his nervous system now functioning normally, Menashe, he sings “Yibone Hamikdosh” with unequalled intencity, with the rest of our group together with all the other holy members of Klal Yisroel who with equal bravery have put aside their personal Tzoros and have celebrated “My Simcha” throughout the generations.

We will stand back as they go forward, the tachtonim will have become the elyonim – bimhairo beyomainu omain

As printed in Rabbi Fletcher’s sefer “From Strength to Strength”

טוב להודות לה’ – It’s Good to Thank Hashem

The Gemara Megila (9a) tells that Ptolemy, the king of Egypt, once gathered seventy-two Jewish elders and put them in separate rooms without telling them why. He then instructed them to write down the text of the Torah. He had separated them to prevent them from conferring together: Had the elders just written the traditional text there would have been a danger that he could have asked apparent contradictions in the text, found insults to his religion or even accused the Jews of encouraging a rebellion against his rule. They all made changes but miraculously they all made identical changes in the text, which are listed in the Gemara. One of them was the text of the pasuk “And He finished on the seventh day the work that He had done and He rested on the seventh day from the work that He had done.” (Bereishis 2:2) All seventy-two elders realised that Ptolemy could have asked a strong question on this pasuk since it implies that Hashem continued the creation of the world on the seventh day before He rested. This would have contradicted the Jewish understanding that Hashem completed the creation on the sixth day and rested on the seventh and consequently challenged the  traditional Jewish observance of Shabbos. Therefore they all changed the text to “And He finished on the sixth day.the work that He had done.

Rashi explains that Chazal understand the pasuk to mean that after the six days of creation there was something — rest — missing, which Hashem ‘created’ on the seventh day. However Ptolemy would not have accepted this explanation and would have claimed that there are mistakes in the Torah. However we have to ask why Ptolemy would not have accepted the explanation of Chazal. Why would he not have agreed that a day of rest is important?

What is the real explanation of the creation of rest? Why was it necessary? The obvious explanation — that people would become tired if they worked without a break — does not fully answer the question. People could rest whenever they were tired or at night. Why is the concept of an official day of rest important. Why is Shabbos so vital? One idea is that Shabbos is the day when we can take a step back to check whether we are living correctly, remembering our ultimate destination. Another  central theme in our working for six days and resting on Shabbos is to reaffirm our belief that Hashem also ‘worked’ for six days to create the universe and rested on the seventh.  On Friday night both in shul and at home we repeat the paragraph Vayechulu  to emphasize this belief publicly. But maybe we can add yet another dimension to our understanding of Shabbos.

In the account of the creation (Ibid 1:27-28), we read, “And Hashem created man in His image, in the image of Hashem He created him, male and female He created them. And He blessed them and He said to them, be fruitful and multiply, fill up the earth and conquer it. Rule over the fish of the sea, the bird of the sky and every living thing that moves on the earth.”

These pesukim define the task of human beings in the world. We are to take everything which we find and use it to develop the world. To utilise what Hashem has created in a way which will benefit mankind. To explore new frontiers, to develop agriculture, to discover healing potential in plant life, to make progress in technology; to ‘conquer’ the world as the pasuk said. However that is for six days. “For six days shall you work.” (Shemos 20:9). On the seventh day we do not work. We do not pursue anything new. We do not look forward but back. We rest and take stock of what we have achieved. We thank Hashem for what we have.

David Hamelech clearly indicated that our task on Shabbos is appreciating what we have and giving thanks to Hashem. Mizmor shir l’yom haShabbos. Tov l’hodos l’Hashem ulezamer l’shimcha elyon. Lehagid baboker chasdecho ve’emunasecha baleilos. “A Song of the Shabbos day. It is good to thank Hashem and to sing to Your name, Oh most High One. To speak of Your kindness in the morning and Your faith in the nights.” (Tehilim 92)   The Radak on this pasuk  says Shabbos is the day we have been given to concentrate on wisdom and the service of Hashem. It is the day ideally suited to giving thanks to Hashem. We should thank Him for all His kindnesses including the wonders of ‘nature’ We have time to think about the miracle of the air which we breathe, how the rain falls to enable crops to grow, how the sun gives us light and warmth and provides for trees, grasses and the vast variety of fruit and vegetables which Hashem has created for us to enjoy, etc.

Chazal instituted that we say Nishmas on Shabbos morning. “… If our mouth were as full as song as the sea, our tongue as full of joyous song as the the multitude of waves, our lips as full of praise as the breadths of the heavens, our eyes as brilliant as the sun and the moon, our hands as outspread as the eagles of the sky, our feet as swift as hinds, we still could not thank You sufficiently Hashem, our G-d and G-d of our fathers and bless Your name for even one of the thousand thousand, thousands and thousands, myriad myriads of favours that You have performed for our fathers and for us. You redeemed us from Egypt, Hashem our G-d, You liberated us from the house of bondage. In famine you nourished us, in plenty You sustained us. From the sword you have saved us, from plague You let us escape and You spared us from severe and enduring diseases…”

On Shabbos we also add to our pesukei d’zimra the twenty-six lines of Hallel Hagadol  which all end with the words ki l’olam chasdo – His kindness is forever. Our feelings of thanks to Hashem during these lines are so intense that it is written that the malachim in shomayim pause their praises of Hashem at that point and allow us to take over. The Ohr Zorua brings a medresh that Hashem refused the request of the Serafim for a seventh wing so they could sing to Hashem on Shabbos as well. Hashem told them that he has the Jewish People who sing to Him on Shabbos.The writer of the zemer, “Kol mekedesh shevi’i” implies in his words “so’adim bo levarech shalosh pe’amim” that we don’t say Birkas Hamazon three times over Shabbos because we have eaten three meals but we eat three meals on Shabbos in order to able to say Birkas Hamazon three times.

Hopefully we all sit at our Shabbos tables with our family and friends and enjoy beautiful foods. What better time is there to thank Hashem for all our blessings? We can think back to the previous week and ask each member of the family, “What good thing happened to you this week?” What did you enjoy most? Whatever answer is forthcoming can be a springboard to thank Hashem.

Shabbos is a gift to the Jewish People. (Beitza 16a) Thanking Hashem is not only an obligation but it gives us great pleasure because when we verbalise our blessings we appreciate them so much more.

Ptolemy and his like would never understand this. They want to conquer more, make more progress, 24/7. To stop is a waste of a day. Indeed, as we say in the Shabbos morning tefila,”…velo nesato legoyei ho’aratzos…” – You didn’t give the Shabbos to the nations of the world. They are not interested in humbling themselves before Hashem. Nebuchadnetzar thought of himself as Hashem’s equal.  (Yeshayahu 14:14). For us, however, admitting that our blessings come from Hashem is a tradition thousands of years old. It is a badge of honor. We enjoy being close to Hashem. He calls us beni bechori Yisroel – my firstborn son. As we say in Musaf Shmone Esrei, those who observe Shabbos achieve honor, life and greatness. Whatever our weekday profession, on Shabbos we dress and look like royalty. And the theme of the day is our declaration Tov lehodos l’Hashem – It is good to thank You, Hashem for all Your blessings.

As printed in my sefer, From Strength to Strength.

Now that’s an Interesting Question

With Succos coming very soon, it is perhaps a good idea to review some halochos of Yom Tov, in particular where they differ from Hilchos Shabbos. It is always beneficial to understand the background to practical halachos in order to have a better grasp of them.

We know that on Yom Tov we are allowed to do certain melachos in the course of food preparation. Lighting a fire to cook food is included in this leniency. We are not allowed to ’create’ a fire but we can take a fire from an existing fire to light the gas to cook the food. What about a fire for non – food purposes? The Mishna (Beitza 12a) says that Beis Hillel allow us on Yom Tov to carry a baby through a reshus horabbim to his bris or a Sefer Torah to be read in shul or a lulav where required on Succos but Beit Shammai do not allow this. The Gemara, in one of two explanations, says that the argument between Beis Hillel and Beis Shammai is whether we can apply a line of reasoning called “mitoch” (seeing that).  Beis Hillel say that “seeing that carrying in the street is permitted for the purpose of food it is also permitted not for the purpose of food.”  Beis Shammai disagree. Assuming the halacha is like Beis Hillel, is this only allowed for the important purposes mentioned in the Mishna or also for lesser needs? Tosfos (Kesuvos 7a) says that carrying a child in the street to enjoy a Yom Tov walk (Simchas Yom Tov) is permitted. But what if I have no need at all, like something I just happen to have in my pocket?  Does my act of carrying for no reason revert to being forbidden according to the Torah or has the whole prohibition of carrying in the street on Yom Tov been cancelled? Or is it forbidden rabbinically? On this there is a further dispute. Rashi (Beitza 12a) says that it is permitted according to the Torah to carry on Yom Tov even if I have no use for what I am carrying. The Rambam agrees with Rashi. It may still, however, be forbidden rabbinically. However Tosfos (ibid) holds that if there if I have no use for the item being carried it is forbidden according to the Torah.

Are we allowed to carry something which I do not need but I am afraid that it will be stolen if I leave it; for instance a key of my house which I will not be returning to over Yom Tov.  I do not need the key on Yom Tov but if I don’t lock the door and take the key with me, my house might be burgled. There is a dispute amongst the poskim about this and the Mishna Berura (518:6) says that it is correct to be stringent. However where the item is used for a mitzvah for instance a talis or lulav , the Mishna Berura (ibid) says that if a person is genuinely concerned that it will be stolen or mislaid and he only took them to shul on Yom Tov morning, he can certainly take them home even though he doesn’t need them for the rest of Yom Tov because if it were not allowed, he might not take them to shul to start with.

Is this concept of “mitoch” applicable with all of the melachos which are allowed on Yom Tov or only some of them? This is again a very controversial subject but Mishna Berura (518:) says that we say “mitoch” in connection with havara, shechita, bishul and afiah.

May we spray a wasp or fly which is annoying us? On the one hand, to kill it is a form of shechita and therefore, even though we are certainly not going to eat it, it should be allowed because of mitoch but on the other hand perhaps this is not a direct benefit similar to carrying a key to avoid a loss of money which we said before we should be stringent about. But why should it be less of a need than carrying a child on a Yom Tov tiyul for oneg Yom Tov which Tosfos (Kesuvos 7a) allowed as mentioned above?

What about lighting candles for a seudas bris? Everyone agrees that we say ‘mitoch’ with havara. The question is here is whether it is considered a need. Lighting when there is no need is called a ner shel batala which is not allowed. The poskim discuss lighting a candle on Yom Tov to show guests around your house. To light a candle because one is afraid to sleep in the dark, the Biur Halacha (514:5) allows. To light in a shul as kovod beis hakenesses is also allowed. A yaarzeit candle, the Biur Halacha (ibid) suggests lighting in shul to avoid doubt. Lighting extra Yom Tov candles by night is allowed because each candle adds extra light but during the day the Mishna Berura (ibid) does not allow it. Finally in connection with lighting candles in honour of a seudas bris, the Shaar Hatziun (514:41) is lenient because it is in honour of the mitzvah similar to lighting in a shul.

As we can see, there are many interesting questions in connection with Hilchos Yom Tov and they can be possibly be discussed in the Succa using some of the more recent sefarim on Hilchos Yom Tov. (“Do You Know Hilchos Yom Tov?” coming out next year IYH). For halocho lemaaseh, though, the final decision in any question should be made by one’s own rav.

How Beautiful Are Your Footsteps

In the Musaf Shemone Esre of Yom Tov we say, “Rebuild Your Temple….establish Your site….May we go up there three times a year…as it says in Your Torah, “Three times a year shall all men appear before Hashem Elokecho….on Pesach, on Shevuos and on Succos . Do not appear empty-handed. Each should come with his own gift, according to the blessing Hashem Elokecho has bestowed upon you.”

We must not appear empty-handed. Chagiga (7a) says that this refers to the korbonos which we have to bring when we come on those three festivals. The Mishna (2a) tells us the minimum. But there is no maximum. We should bring “according to the blessing Hashem has bestowed upon us.” If our flocks have been very productive, we should bring many korbonos to show our appreciation to Hashem.

“How beautiful are your footsteps” (Shir Hashirim 7:2) is interpreted by Chagiga (3a) as a praise of those who went three times a year on the sholosh regolim to the Beis Hamikdosh in Yerusholayim.  Going on foot to Yerusholayim and returning could have taken a few weeks. Multiplied by three, a large part of the year has already been taken up. All farm work had to be put on hold – a significant sacrifice in order to fulfil the mitzva of the Torah and to honour Hashem. If we bear in mind that, for the most part, they brought their wives and families with them to fulfil the mitzva of “giving joy to one’s wife and household on Yom Tov,” (Tosfos, Rosh Hashono 6b) the visit to Yerusholayim became a full-scale expedition. More than that, nobody was left to guard the farms and homes; people had to have bitachon that the promise of the Torah, (Shemos 34:24) “No-one will covet your land whilst you go up to the Beis Hamikdash three times a year,” would be fulfilled. This thrice yearly aliya l’regel was a tremendous demonstration of loyalty to Hashem. The posuk’s praise, “How beautiful are your footsteps” was extremely appropriate.

However the wording of the posuk, “ …yeroeh kol zechuracho” – all males should be seen – implies  more than just going to the Beis Hamikdosh with one’s korbonos. If our boss calls us in for a periodic meeting, he does not intend to discuss the weather. He wants to check up on our work. What have we done since the last meeting? If Hashem wants us to appear before Him, a shiver should go down our spine. An investigation of our worthiness seems to be likely. A meeting with Hashem is also not going to be a social call. What have we achieved since the last meeting, the last regel?

Let’s go back to the office meeting with the boss. He wants to know “tachlis”. How many sales have we achieved? How many new clients have we brought in? Have we been working hard? What about punctuality and a willingness to put in extra hours to achieve more? No, meeting the boss is no picnic.  We have to have answers, good answers.

And what happens if the boss gave us generous expenses to enable us to concentrate on building up the business, we’d better have very good answers. Let’s imagine the boss asking what we’ve done over the last few months for the firm and we answer him, “Well, actually I was busy with private work. I relaxed, took a couple of holidays….” The boss would rightly be very angry, “What, I gave you a salary and extra expenses and you pocketed them and took it easy?”

When we meet Hashem three times a year, he greets us with love. “Hi. Great to see you. It’s amazing you’ve come, with the ganze mishpocho.” But He also wants to know “tachlis”. What have we achieved since the last regel? Another mesechta, a new kevius? Were we misahev al habrios, making Hashem more loved by other people because of what we have done? Perhaps we made sholom with a relative we had been on bad terms with.  Did we do new chasodim, ring up or invite that lonely neighbour we had been meaning to befriend but never got round to? We have to have something to report to the Boss, “according to the blessings He has bestowed upon us.” We cannot go empty-handed. And if we say, “Things are ticking along, nothing new really…” Hashem’s “eyebrows” might go up. “A few months and nothing new? That’s a bit disappointing.”  And if we say, “The last few months I’ve been very busy with other things. I put my avodas Hashem on the back burner.” Hashem will be very disappointed. “Put avodas Hashem on the back burner? But I gave you expenses – parnosoh, good health and you pocketed them? Squandered the time? Did your own thing? That’s not acceptable.” How humiliated we would feel, how disappointed in ourselves. In fact the prospect of that humiliation would ensure that we would have new achievements to report. Chas vesholom that we should appear before Hashem empty-handed. Therefore going to Yerusholayim three times a year did not only transform our Yom Tov experience. Our preparation for those visits would have transformed the whole year.

We do not have the zechus to go to the Beis Hamikdosh three times a year but we hope and daven for that privilege. Therefore we have to do everything we can do to show a real desire to go. And that means making sure that when Yom Tov comes, we are not “empty-handed.” We have Torahdik achievments to our name. We accept all of Hashem’s blessings. We cannot just be doing “our own thing.”  Now is the time to start the list of achievements which we will be able to show to Hashem on Yom Tov, especially if b’ezras Hashem, we can be oleh l’regel to the renewed Beis Hamikdosh – and the words of Shir Hashirim will be apply to us – “How beautiful are your footsteps.”

A Holy People

In Pirkei Avos (3:1) we learn: Akavya ben Mehalalel says: “Consider three things and you will not come to sin: know where you came from, where you are going to and in front of Whom you will have to give a reckoning. You came from a putrid drop; you are going to a place of dust, worms and maggots and you are going to give a reckoning before the King of Kings, the Holy One Blessed be He.”

Akavya ben Mehalalel’s sharp directive to consider one’s very inauspicious origins will bring a person to humility, which is a prerequisite to acquiring yiras shomayim and sanctity according to the famous Braisa of Reb Pinchas ben Yair quoted by the Mesilas Yesharim. Likewise the prospect that one’s physical destination will be in a place of dust, worms and maggots should dispel any vestige of pride. And the knowledge that we will have to give a reckoning in front of the King of Kings should make us afraid to sin.

A later mishna (3:18) quotes Rebbe Akiva. ‘He used to say: “Beloved is man because he was created in Hashem’s image. It shows a greater love that he was told that he was created in Hashem’s image. Beloved are the Jewish people who are called the children of the Omnipresent. It shows a greater love that they were told that they are called the children of the Omnipresent. Beloved are the People Israel who were given a precious utensil (the Torah). It shows a greater love that they were told that they were given a precious utensil.”

This Mishna make a person feel his own importance. “I am created in the image of Hashem. I am from a People who are children of Hashem and we were given the Torah, the precious utensil of Hashem. This is strange. Was Rebbe Akiva unaware of the evils of pride, alluded to by Akavya ben Mehalalel in the first mishna? Or that humility is the prerequisite to sanctity? It is even stranger because it was precisely Rebbe Akiva’s humility which enabled him to become so great as a previous essay explained.

In his commentary on Pirkei Avos, the Abarbanel explains that there is a dispute between the two mishnas. Akavya ben Mehalalel felt that the best way to avoid sin is by encouraging extreme humility. We should know our gross origins, our disgraceful physical destination and that each puny man, is going to have to stand up in front of the King of Kings to give a reckoning. Without a shred of pride we should inevitably become obedient and G-d-fearing. This view is borne out by the behaviour of the young nazir from the south, described in Nedarim 9b who defeated his yetzer hora by telling him “Why are you so proud in a world which is not yours; in one who is going to become insects and worms?”

However Rebbe Akiva felt that this approach may work for some people including himself but many other people will respond negatively. They will be unmoved by such a warning and are more likely to say “Let’s eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (Yeshaya 22:13). He held that it is more effective to show people how great they are and what good stock they come from. ‘Tell them that they are aristocracy, Hashem’s children and then they won’t want to sin.’ And Rebbe Akiva could bring a precedent for this attitude from the words of Yirmiyahu Hanavi, when he had to rebuke the people and tell them to do teshuva. He prefaced his words with the most beautiful praise of the people. “Zocharti lach chesed ne’urayich… I remember the kindness of your youth, and the love you showed to Me by coming after Me into the wilderness, a desolate and unsown land.” (Yirmiyahu 2:1). Yirmiyahu clearly felt that if the people were to improve they must think positively. They come from such good stock ‑‑ it is such a shame that they are sinning. Their sins are only skin deep. Such a great people who showed such faith in Hashem earlier will surely want to reclaim their noble heritage and their loving closeness to Hashem so they will do teshuva without delay. My late rebbe, Reb Moshe Schwab זצ”ל of Gateshead Yeshiva said that today we have to use the approach of Rebbe Akiva.

Yom Kippur is the day for teshuva from all our aveiros bein adam l’Makom and bein adam l’chaveiro. Amongst those who are shomer Torah umitzvos most aveiros are from the bein adam l’chaveiro category – between man and his neighbor. It has been said that most of those aveiros are between spouses. Within a marriage the possibilities of not honoring each other, not being always sensitive to each other abound. Sometimes a facial expression can upset a spouse. We may be tired or pre-occupied and we don’t always listen to each other as well as we should. These are all aveiros bein adam l’chaveiro for which we have to ask forgiveness and do teshuva.

This itself is remarkable and a source of pride. At a time when murder and cruelty are so common that they are not even reported in the newspaper, when even mass murder only gets a few lines on the back pages, we are doing teshuva for a lack of sensitivity to another human being! Who is like Your people, Israel? A unique nation on Earth. But this is our heritage.

The Gemara in Taanis 10b says that a person who goes from a place where they are not fasting to a place where they are fasting, in response to a local danger, has to fast with them. It may not concern him personally but he should empathise and fast with those at risk. Besides, it would show a lack of sensitivity to eat in front of others who are hungry. The Gemara goes on to say that if a resident of a town which was fasting forgot and ate, he should not join the other residents of that town for the rest of the fast. Why not? It is not derech eretz. People who are feeling weak and hungry will feel worse, when they see this one who looks and feels well because he has eaten. The Gemara says that Yaakov Avinu had enough food for his family even during the famine. But if the Canaanites were suffering from hunger and they had to go to Egypt to buy food, it would distress them if Yaakov’s family did not go as well. So he sent his sons to Egypt, even though was no real need, and despite the danger, to prevent any extra anguish to the local population. The Gemara also says that in a famine one should eat the minimum even if one has ample food. We have to feel the pain of others. Even though those other people are unaware of what we are doing, the Torah teaches us to train ourselves to suffer if others are suffering. To do otherwise reflects a lack of concern for another person’s plight and is unacceptable.

Chavivin Yisroel shenikra’u banim l’Makom, shenitan lohem kli chemda – how beloved are the Jewish people that we are called the children of the Omnipresent and that we were given this precious gift of the holy Torah. We have such wonderful sources to learn from and be inspired by. We have such high standards to aspire to. We want to try harder. We want to increase our bein adam l’chaveiro and the place to start is in our own homes with those nearest and dearest to us. This will inevitably lead to greater sensitivity to others, even strangers.

Rebbe Akiva said, “Ashreichem Yisroel …In front of whom are you becoming pure and who is purifying you? Our Father in heaven, as it says, “And I will sprinkle on you pure water and you will become pure.” (Yechezkel 36:25) and it says, “Hashem is the mikve of the Jewish people. Just as a mikve purifies the impure, so does Hashem purify the Jewish People.

This essay is printed in Rabbi Fletcher’s sefer From Strength to Strength.

Look Down…And Bless Your People

In the parsha of Ki Sovo, we read about the vidui maaser, the declaration that one had observed the halachic requirements of mitzvos connected with tithing one’s produce.

“I have removed all the consecrated food from the house, I have given to the Levi, the stranger, the orphan and the widow….I have not transgressed Your commandments nor forgotten to praise You….I have done all You commanded me.” The next pasuk continues with a request. “Look down from Your Holy abode and bless Your People Israel and the Land which You gave us as You swore to our Fathers, a land flowing with milk and honey” (Devarim 26:13-15). Rashi comments on this last pasuk, “We have fulfilled our obligations, now You fulfill Your obligations as it says, “If you keep my statutes, I will provide rain in the right time.”

These pesukim and this Rashi are very difficult to understand. Who can stand before Hashem and declare “I have done all You commanded me?” And if this is not enough chutzpa, as Rashi said, we then come with demands on Hashem. “We’ve done our bit, now You do Yours.”

The Mesilas Yesharim in his chapter on humility, (Chapter 22), seems to warn us strongly against just such an attitude. No matter how much we achieve we should not forget that we have certainly not fulfilled all our obligations. Even what we have achieved has been only through the kindness of Hashem who gave us the means to do what have done. Pirkei Avos (2:8) says “If you have learnt much Torah, do not praise yourself for it because this is what you were created for.” There is never an excuse for arrogance. The Mesilas Yesharim brings the case of Nechemyiah ben Chachalya who was very successful in fighting intermarriage, Shabbos desecration and social injustice. Yet the Gemara Sanhedrin (93b) finds fault with Nechemyiah for the words which he said (Nechemyiah 5:19), “Remember in my favour, O my G-d, all that I have done for this People.”

We can perhaps lighten our question slightly with a comment by the late Rav Yosef Dunner zt”l the revered former Rav of the Addass Kehilla of London in his sefer Mikdash Levi. He points out that in the text of the Pasuk (26:14) “I have done what You commanded me” the wording is “osisi kechol asher tzivisani.” (not chol but kechol). Indeed, writes Rav Dunner, a person cannot say that he has done everything (chol) that he has been commanded but approximately everything (kechol). We are still astounded, however, by the brazenous and arrogance of making demands on Hashem based on our apparently faultless observance as brought in Rashi: “We have done what we are supposed to do, now You do what you are supposed to do.”A friend of mine from Ramat Beit Shemesh, Reb Yaakov Schoeman (n.y.) suggested the following possible answer.

There is a difference between the way we must look at ourselves and the way we should look at others. The Mesilas Yesharim is talking about the way we should look at ourselves, with humility. We should never think that our deeds are perfect. Surely we made mistakes, perhaps we could have done more. If we learnt Torah this is because Hashem has given us the possibility to do so in the form of our mental abilities, memory, a supportive enviroment etc. If we have given Tzedaka this is because Hashem gave us the means to do so and we have merely fulfilled our responsibilities. Good characteristics are probably inherited, we perform mitzvos because of the good education we received or good influences which we have been in proximity to, etc. We do not have to negate our achievements but we should put them in context.

However we should not look at other people’s achievements in this way. If they have learnt Torah we should try to be inspired by them, learn from their diligence. If they have good characteristics we should try to emulate them. Whatever others have achieved should be played up not down. Even if there are imperfections with others we should assume they are done by mistake. If we are not sure, we should give the benefit of the doubt, etc.

The Jew who asks Hashem for a blessing in the pasuk, is not talking about himself. Rashi uses the words “We have done what we should have done” Concerning himself he would have spoken with more humility. But he is looking at the achievements of the People as a whole. Concerning others, he sees only perfection. He sees Jews faithfully tithing their produce and bringing the first fruits to Yerusholayim. He sees Jews making sure that orphans and widows are looked after. He sees Jews rising early go to a shiur and learning again in the evening after a hard day’s work. He sees acts of kindness, bikur cholim, hatzala, chaveirim, misaskim. He sees Jews in the midst of serious challenges living with emuna and bitachon. He sees a Jewish People loyally keeping details of halacha despite a galus of two thousand years. He sees holiness. And that is enough reason to beseech Hashem, “We have done so much, we have continued to believe in You and to keep Your mitzvos despite persecutions, pogroms and a Holocaust. Now, please, keep the promises You wrote in the Torah and in the Prophets and bless the Land You gave us that it should flow with milk and honey. May all the wickedness disappear like smoke, may the Tzadikim see and rejoice, may You give honour to Your People

and may the time finally come to witness utzemichas keren l’Dovid Avdecho, bimhairo beyomeinu, omein.

Taken from Rabbi Fletcher’s sefer From Strength to Strength.

Building the King’s Palace

Nissan is commonly known as the month of redemption, but the Gemoro in Rosh Hashono (11a) brings another opinion that Tishrei is the month of redemption. This seems to be confirmed by the tefila on Rosh Hashono in which we plead with Hashem, “Ten pachdecho Hashem Elokeinu al kol maasecho” – Put fear of You on all the nations. We long for the final redemption, when Hashem will give due honour to His People, praise to those who fear him … speedily and in our days.

Rav Mattisyohu Salamon shlita asks in Matnas Chaim. Why should we focus on the subject of the Geula on Rosh Hashana? We can do this every day and we do. On Rosh Hashono there are other priorities. Our future is being decided on Rosh Hashono. Mi yichye, mi yomus – Who will live; who will die, who at his appointed time; who not at his appointed time. Beitza 15a says that our income for the year is fixed on Rosh Hashono. Surely, asks the Matnas Chaim, the main focus of our tefilos should be pleading for Hashem’s mercy for ourselves. Yet instead, we concentrate on accepting that Hashem is the King and on our hopes that soon everybody else will also accept Hashem as King. Our personal tefilos, zochreinu l’chaim etc are squeezed in at the beginning and end of the tefilos. Would not the reverse emphasis be more appropriate?

The Matnas Chaim answers with a parable. A king once employed a builder to build a magnificent palace for himself and his household. He wanted it to be ready as soon as possible and sent the contractor to the builders’ merchant for the bricks, timber, screws and all the supplies for the new palace. Knowing that there would be a queue, he wrote a note to the manager to give priority to this particular builder because he was working for the king. The other builders protested when he jumped the queue but the manager explained that they needed materials for their own needs but this builder is working for the king. He must be served first.

We all have our own needs, explains the Matnas Chaim. We all want to live and to enjoy good health and a comfortable income. If we want these things for our own benefit and enjoyment we will not receive preferential treatment. However, if we want health and strength in order to learn Torah, to do mitzvos, to sanctify Hashem’s name in the way we live our lives, we can hope for a better reception. If we argue that it is a chillul Hashem when resho’im who don’t even believe in Hashem seem to rule the world, our tefilos are even more likely to be accepted. And if we express our desire for a world where every person is G-d-fearing, so that Hashem’s name is magnified and sanctified, that we want the world to be a huge palace appropriate for the King of Kings, then like the royal contractor builder in the parable, we will move to the head of the queue. We all need life, health and material goods. But if we need them to build Hashem’s palace we will be granted priority in obtaining all the materials we need to do our job.

And if we realise that the day when Hashem’s glory is revealed and the whole world accepts Him as the Creator and King of the Universe is very close indeed, we will daven even harder. The Chofetz Chaim in Tzipiso LiYeshua says that we have already arrived at the stage of world history when the final redemption is imminent. He says that all the signs of the time of redemption mentioned in the last Mishna in Sotah have been fulfilled. “Chutzpa will be in abundance, truth will be lacking, those who fear sin will be despised, Jews will leave the way of the Torah.” The Chofetz Chaim asks, however, that the Mishna seems to contradict the pesukim in Parshas Nitzavim (30:1-3). There we read, “When all these things happen to you, the blessing and the curse … and you return to Hashem Elokecho with all your heart and with all your soul … Hashem will gather you from among all the peoples where He has scattered you.”(30:1-3) These pesukim indicate that the redemption will occur only after we do teshuva! The Chofetz Chaim answers that there will be two groups of Jews. One group will be as described in the Mishna in Sotah – lacking any fear of sin, ridiculing loyal Jews. The second group will be those Jews who despite everything still cling to the Torah. Even if they could enjoy an easier life elsewhere, they live in those places where they can best educate their children to Torah. It is precisely their determination despite all the challenges and mockery from anti-religious Jews and non-Jews, that Hashem will notice and consider this to be the best possible fulfillment of “Returning to Hashem, you and your children with all your heart and with all your soul.” The Chofetz Chaim says that the conditions for redemption, both in the pesukim and the Chumash are not contradictory but complementary. They have now all been fulfilled and the time of the redemption is imminent.

This is what we must remember as we daven on Rosh Hashono. Our deepest desire is to devote our lives to building “Hashem’s palace.” This is why we need all the materials necessary such as life, good health etc. And this new epoch in world history may already be within a hairsbreadth of happening. Our sincere and heartfelt davening might just make the difference so that it will be during this New Year of 5778 that the “Tzaddikim will see and rejoice, the Yeshorim will exult and the Chassidim will sing in joy” and Hashem’s will rejoice with all of us as He rejoiced with our fathers as written in our parsha. (ibid :9).

Towards a Successful Rosh Hashono

The best-known section of Ki Sovo is the Tochacha – warning us what will happen if we do not keep the mitzvos of the Torah. The low voice of the Baal Koreh hints to our trepidation of the fulfilment of the prophecies, many of which we have already witnessed. It would appear to be a timely preparation for Rosh Hashono, when we will again accept on ourselves ol malchus shomayim. The severe consequences of failing to keep Hashem’s commandments is surely the best incentive we could have to accept all our obligations. However, is this really the case?

Megila (31b) asks why Ezra arranged that we read Parshas Ki Savo before Rosh Hashana. Abaya answers, “Tichleh shana vekloloseho – that the year with its curses should end.” We want to look forward to a new year of blessings. Why didn’t Abaya answer that Ezra wanted us all to feel fearful of transgressing Hashem’s Torah and therefore be ready to accept Hashem’s kingship on Rosh Hashono?

The answer can be found on small cardboard boxes which we sometimes see. “SMOKING KILLS” is written in bold letters on every packet of cigarettes yet we see people, who presumably don’t want to die, calmly smoking cigarettes. Why do people still smoke? Why do so many of our teenagers begin smoking? The answer is because people say, “It won’t happen to me.” Hundreds of thousands of people die from lung cancer but “it won’t happen to me.” We can read the pesukim, hear the baal koreh reading the Tochacho, in hushed tones, we can know that such things have happened to others in our lifetime, but none of this impinges on our preparation for Rosh Hashono. Why? Because we say, “it won’t happen to me.”

What will make a difference? Perhaps a more positive approach – Tichle shana vekloloseho – May next year be full of blessings and not curses… Blessings encourage us. We like blessings

Perhaps concentrating on the section before the tochacha would be more effective. “If you will keep My mitzvos, you will be the foremost nation. You will be blessed in the city. You will be blessed in the field. I will bless your children, your cattle and your produce.” “Now this would be useful,” we think. “Our children certainly need a brocho. An increase in salary together with growth in our investments would help pay a few bills. And if everybody treated us with great respect when they see that we are members of the Jewish People, that would be the icing on the cake.” And if it costs me the effort to resist listening to some juicy loshon hora, it’s well worth it.

The concept of reward is a constant theme in Sefer Devorim. Parshas Ekev (7:12-16) speaks at length about the reward for even minor mitzvos and, again, later in the section which we read as part of our krias shema (11:13-15). In Parshas Re’eh (12:25) the pasuk says that we and our children will be greatly rewarded for not drinking blood. Rashi says that if we merit a great reward when we desist from drinking blood which we consider disgusting, how much more so if we desist from sins which we have a desire for. In Parshas Ki Teitzei (22:7) the pasuk says that if we send away the mother bird before taking the eggs, we will be blessed with long life. Rashi again expounds: If we receive a great reward for a mitzvah that costs us nothing, how much more so for more significant mitzvos. And in this week’s parsha of Ki Sovo, the section about reward precedes the section about punishment.

The reward of observing Hashem’s mitzvos is given to us both in this world and the next. The Rambam (Hilchos Teshuva 9:1) explains that the real reward is in the World to Come but, if we keep the mitzvos, Hashem will grant us an interim reward of peace, good health and financial security to enable us to keep more and more mitzvos. Thus we will earn more and more reward in the World to Come. And one hour of reward there is more pleasurable than all the pleasures of this world. (Pirkei Avos 4:17). Michtav M’Eliyahu (1:4) explains that this means that one moment of pleasure in the World to Come is greater than all the pleasures of this world compressed into a single moment.

Just think. For saying brochos with more care, for a friendly hello to a lonely stranger, for counting to ten and calming down rather than getting angry, the rewards are literally out of this world. It’s a no-brainer. Let’s go for it!

The currency of the interim reward may not be pounds, shillings and pence. It may come in the form of physical and mental health, a reasonable income and protection from people who would be happy to harm us, given half a chance. But these are just what we need to enable us to do more mitzvos. According to some mefarshim, the rewards mentioned in the Torah are physical forms of spiritual pleasures which we will enjoy in the World to Come. All in all, keeping mitzvos is the best investment we could possibly make.

Someone might argue that this acceptance of mitzvos is lo lishma – not for pure motives. Our response would be that firstly, we shouldn’t think we are wiser than Moshe Rabeinu who did encourage the Bnei Yisroel with promises of reward, as we have seen. And secondly, Chazal say, “Mitoch lo lishma ba lishma.” From doing mitzvos for insincere reasons one will come to do them for sincere reasons. So let’s put at least put one foot forward – towards a successful Rosh Hashono.

Mazeltov, Mazeltov, Mazeltov – The Triple Bris

A joyous atmosphere pervaded the Beis Hamedrash recently at an unusual, almost unique simcha – a triple bris of three quadruplets, the fourth being a little girl. Of particular interest to the erudite tzibbur who attended, was how many brochos would be said. Would the mohel and the father say one brocho on all three brisim or would they say separate brochos for each bris? In the event, to the surprise of some, a separate brocho was said for each bris. To understand their surprise, we will look at the background to the question in our sources. Another apparently small difference from what normally happens at a bris was that after the first and second bris the tzibbur sang Hamalach hogoel osi…which, although it is a beautiful pasuk and most appropriate, I have never witnessed before. Was this someone’s idea to add atmosphere to the simcha or was something deeper involved?

The Mishna (Chullin 86b) says that if one shechts one hundred deer in one place, one performs the mitzvah of kisui hadam (covering the blood) once; with one hundred chickens in one place, one performs kisui dam once. However if one shechts one deer and one chicken there is a dispute: Rabanan hold that there is only one mitzva of kisui dam, whereas Rebbe Yehuda holds that one does two separate mitzvos of kisui dam. The Gemoro says that even Rebbe Yehuda agrees that one says only one brocho. Most rishonim understand that this refers to both the brocho on the shechita and kisui dam. Even though he covers the blood between the two shechitos, it is not considered an interruption since one can theoretically shecht with one hand and cover the blood with the other. Rashi understands that the gemoro is only refering to the brocho on the shechita but a shechita would be considered an interruption for the brocho on kisui dam. However everyone agrees that where there is no mitzvah of covering the blood, e.g. after shechting a cow, one brocho suffices no matter how many cows one shechts.

This is confirmed in the Shulchan Aruch (Y.D. 19:2): “If one is shechting any number of animals and birds, one says one brocho for all the shechitos.” The same is written about searching for chometz; (ibid. O.C. 432:2) “With one brocho one may search a number of houses,” and hilchos mezuza (ibid Y.D. 289:1, Ramo) “Someone who fixes two or three mezuzos says one brocho for all of them.” Why should hilchos milah be any different? Indeed the Mordechai (Chullin 657) says that in the case of twin boys having their bris on the same day, the mohel should say one brocho on the two brisos and the father should say one brocho for his two sons. Even if there are two mohelim, one of them should say the brocho on the other’s behalf and the second mohel should say the brocho “ … asher kidesh yedid mibeten..” which will fulfill the obligation for the two babies. So writes the Rosh (Teshuvos Klal 57) and other rishonim. The Rosh adds that if two chasonim and kallos celebrate sheva brochos together, also, only one set of sheva brochos should be said for the two couples. In all these sources, the rishonim say that if one spoke in between the shechitos etc on a subject unconnected with the mitzvah, one would have to say a new brocho. One should be careful to avoid speaking and causing an unnecessary brocho.

However the Tur (Y.D. 265) brings the view of the Baal Ha’itur, who disagrees. “When there are two babies in shul for their bris, seeing that one cannot do the two brisos simultaneously one should make a separate brocho on each bris.” The Prisha says that the Baal Ha’itur seems to contradict himself because in hilchos shechita the Baal Ha’itur wrote that one says one brocho on a number of shechitos. The Prisha suggests that possibly it is usual to shecht a number of animals one after the other which is not the case with bris mila. The Shach (Y.D. 265: 15) later rejected this suggestion of the Prisha.

Although the Bach seems to favour this view of the Baal Ha’itur, the Beis Yosef says that the halocho is like the majority of other rishonim who require only one brocho for the two babies. He adds that in the case of twins, the father should change the wording of the brocho to “lehachnisom bebriso…” (to enter them into the covenant…). He adds further that if the mohel didn’t know about the second baby when he said the brocho on the first or he talked about an unrelated matter after the first bris, he should say a second brocho. All this is written clearly in the Shulchan Aruch. (Y.D. 265:5) The Ramo adds that brocho to bless and name the children is also said on both together and one should say, “… kayem es hayelodim” (preserve the boys). However if the custom is to light a candle in honour of a bris one should light two candles for the two children (or three for three children!) With all this in mind we can go back to our simcha with the quads including three boys. Why were separate brochos said for the different brisos against the psak of the Shulchan Aruch and most of the rishonim?

The answer can be found in the commentary of the Shach (ibid). He writes that people usually speak about unrelated subjects between the brisos especially when there are delays, so it has become the custom to say separate brochos on two brisos. The Shach brings the Maharshal, who is of the same opinion. Quoting the Bach, the Shach says that one shouldn’t bring the second baby until the first bris is over, in order to make a bigger interruption. Interestingly the Pischei Teshuva (ibid:10) brings an old custom that after the first bris one says the posuk Hamalach hogoel osi..” which is a halachic interruption so that a second brocho is definitely required.

We can now understand why at this recent triple bris, the tzibbur sang “Hamalach”. It was not only a beautiful enhancement of the simcha, but was also a way of ensuring that the brisos were done according to all opinions.

Rabbi Fletcher is the mechaber of Do You Know Hilchos Shabbos? Do You Know Hilchos Brachos? From Strength to Strength, Dancing in our Hearts and the recently published The Hidden Light.