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Parshas Shoftim 5774
Candle Lighting Time: 7:19 pm
August 29, 2014
Volume 10 Issue 38
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Dvar Torah


 The Ultimate Defense
By Rabbi Yosef Prupas 


                 The following story was printed in the London Jewish Chronicle on February 13, 1885: It is recorded in the history of the Crimean War. During the battle of Redan on Sevastopol (a Russian port city on the Black Sea), an English officer who was leading one of the attacking parties, had a musket leveled at him by a Russian officer hiding behind one of the fortifications. The Russian officer was about to pull the trigger when the English officer made an exclamation. Another Russian officer who happened to hear it, struck the musket aside and grasping the hand of the English officer said, "He is my brother" and pulled him behind the Russian lines, saving his life.


                   We find multiple examples of such stories occurring during World War I. During various battles the Israeli army had with its enemies as well, there were soldiers who were miraculously saved after yelling "ShemaYisrael" moments before they thought they were about to die. The source for this would seem to be in this week's Parsha. When detailing the preparations for battle, the verse (20, 2-3) states, "The Kohen shall approach and he shall speak to the people... "ShemaYisrael", Today you are coming near to the battle against your enemies..." Rashi commenting on the words "ShemaYisrael," quotes a Gemarah in Sota (42a) which says, "Even if there is no merit in you but the recitation of Shema alone, you are worthy that He should save you." Although the Gemara in Sota seems to imply that it is the merit of constant recital of Krias Shema morning and night that saves them, Rav Shlomo Zalman Aurbach posits that the simple saying of ShemaYisrael alone would be enough. He bases it on what we recite on almost a daily basis in the Tachanun "ShomerYisrael [Guardian of Israel] protect the remnant of Israel... those who declare "ShemaYisrael."


                   This concept also exists in regard to spiritual battles. One of the solutions given by the Gemara in Berachos (5a) to one who is faced with extreme temptations by his evil inclination is to recite Shema. What is it about reciting Krias Shema that brings about such miraculous results?


                     The answer can be found in the Maharal, in his commentary Gur Aryeh, in this week's Parsha. The Maharal explains that saying ShemaYisrael brings about victory because when doing so one is expressing his firm belief in the Oneness of Hashem. He is recognizing that the only reality in the world is G-d, "AinOdMilvado." A person who lives with that belief puts himself in the "camp" of G-d, a world where the clear reality is that nothing can exist in opposition to Him. Therefore both physically and spiritually one achieves salvation from any impending danger. All physical or spiritual impediments fade away, for they only exist for the express purpose of bringing one closer to Hashem. It is important at this time of year to contemplate this, for as Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler writes, we are either heading towards Hashem or away; there is no middle ground. May we receive Divine Assistance to direct our thoughts in the right direction and may this Elul be a meaningful one.    


Dvar Halacha
Halachos Pertaining Chodesh Elul   


By Rabbi Yochanan Eskenazi


The 40 day period beginning Rosh Chodesh Elul thru Yom Kippur is a period that is an es ratzon (an auspicious time), a time that our teshuva (repentance) is more easily accepted. There are allusions to this in Tanach: Ani L'dodi V'dodi Le (I am for my Beloved and my Beloved is mine) [Shir Hashirim 6:3]. Furthermore, the Torah [Devarim 30:6] states "U'mul Hashem Elokecha Es L'vavcha V'es Lev Zar'echa" (Hashem, your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring).   The first letters of the highlighted words are Alef, Lamed, Vuv, Lamed, which spells Elul. Additionally, the gematria (numerical value) of the end letters [of Ani L'dodi V'dodi Le- 4 letter yuds] equals to 40 [10 x 4] which hints to that there are 40 days that Hashem is close (Mishneh Berurah 581: introduction).


There is a custom to recite 10 chapters of Tehillim (Psalms) each day during Elul, in order to complete the entire SeferTehillim two times before Rosh Hashanah (Mishneh Berurah 581:1).


If possible, it is better not to recite Tehillim at night [during Elul and the rest of the year] (Koveitz Halachos 1:10). Many people have their tefillin and mezuzos checked during the month of Elul (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 128:3).


One who writes a letter to a friend during the month of Elul should include wishes for a k'siva v'chasima tova (you should be inscribed for a good year) (Mateh Ephraim 581:9 & Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 128:2). Therefore, if one is speaking to or writing an email to a friend who he does not intend to speak to again before Rosh Hashanah should include wishes for a good year (Rabbi Biberfeld, shlit"a).


The shofar is blown during the entire month of Elul, since hearing the shofar arouses a person to repent (Rama 581:1). The prevalent custom is to blow the shofar in the morning after daveningshachris (Aruch Hashulchan 581:1). If there is no adult available, a katan (boy younger than 13 years old) may blow the shofar (Koveitz Halachos 1:18). One does not need to stand while the shofar is being blown (Koveitz Halachos 1:17). If the congregation forgot to blow shofar in the morning, it is proper to blow by mincha (Igros Moshe OC 4:21:5). If an individual missed hearing shofar, it is proper for him to blow himself or hear from someone else, although it is not obligatory (Koveitz Halachos 1:21). If one is davening shemoneh esrei while the shofar is being blown, it is proper to pause and concentrate on the shofar (Koveitz Halachos 1:22).


The minhag is to recite the chapter "L'Dovid Hashem oree v'yeeshee" [Tehillim 27]from Elul until ShmeineiAtzeres (Mishneh Berurah 581:2). Anyone who says this paragraph from Rosh Chodesh Elul until Simchas Torah is able to nullify bad decrees against him and merit being innocent in judgment (Sefer Shloshim Yom Kodem Hachag pg. 3 fn. 6 quoting Sefer Sheim Katan). One should recite it at the end of davening, after the shir shel yom [and after barchi nafshe on Rosh Chodesh] (Mishneh Berurah 581:2).


There are different customs regarding which tefillah to say L'Dovid. Some congregations say it after Shachris and Mincha (Mishneh Berurah 581:2) while others say it after Shachris and Maariv (Alef Ha'magen 581:10). One who is davening in a minyan that says it during a different tefillah than he is accustomed to saying it, is not required to say it together with them (Shloshim Yom Kodem Hachag pg. 3 fn.8 quoting Shu"T Divrei Moshe 1:35).





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