Archive for Kid’s Section

Around the Shabbat Table – Parshat Bereishit

By Rabbi Gedalia Fogel



Hi! This is Rebbe speaking:

We have just experienced the most holy and important days of the year. We had a chance to repent, ask for forgiveness and pray for a year of health and prosperity. But we must remember to hold on to all this throughout the year. Each and every day we must try to keep the commitments that we have undertaken and we must not despair when we fail for we can and should try again. All the blessings will stay with us if we believe that Hashem has forgiven us and we are starting with a clean slate.

Many people go to a Rabbi for a blessing. It seems that some of those blessings do not bear fruit. But a great Rabbi once said, “All those blessings are legitimate and have the power to come true, but some lose them on their way out, at the door, others the next day and some a week later. We must really believe that Hashem will and can perform those blessings, in order for them to be fulfilled. If those who received the blessings would truly believe, then their blessing would be fulfilled.

This week’s parsha, Parshat Bereishit, speaks about the wondrous creation. Hashem created the world in six days and on the seventh day, Shabbat, he rested. So too, we work all week, but on Shabbat we rest.

In the time of the Rambam, Reb Moshe ben Maimon, (Maimonides) there were a group of people that did not believe that there was a creator. They assumed that the world just happened by chance. The holy Rambam wanted to teach these people a lesson. He hired a professional artist. He had him paint a room. Then he invited these people to come see this artwork, but he did not tell them about the artist.

They entered the room and glanced at the wall they were facing and were amazed. It looked like a forest with all sorts of wild animals. It looked so real they reached for their bow and arrow to shoot at the animals. They then noticed the wall to their right, a glorious scene of water with all wondrous fish and underwater plants. It was breathtaking. They took a look at the ceiling and could not believe that they were indoors. It depicted a clear blue sky with fluffy white clouds scattered throughout. Beautiful birds of all sizes and a large eagle were there too. Wow!

Who created all these beautiful paintings? It was then that they noticed a small table in the center of the room. On it was a paper, an inkwell, a feather, brush, and paints. The paper had a beautiful scene of glorious mountains, some with water running down its sides. Truly astounding! They looked around for the Rambam to ask him who the master of these magnificent paintings was. But the Rambam had stepped out of the room and allowed them to ponder this thought for a while.

The third wall was a scene of a stunning garden, plush green grass with flowers of every color adorning it. They even bent down to smell the scent of the flowers since they looked so real. The final wall was a field of wheat and an orchard with flourishing tall fruit trees.

Who created all this? At that moment the Rambam returned. “Who painted this room, created a truly magnificent, real setting? The Rambam responded, “Don’t you see the feather, ink, brush and paints? Why, they created these scenes by themselves. It just happened by chance.” “Of course that can’t happen.” They retorted. “There must be someone that used these tools to paint this room.”

“You’re right. There was an artist that made these paintings, which only look real but in essence it is not. But come on men, if this room could not manifest itself do you really believe that a world so intricate with so many wondrous creations can be created by itself?!” The point was clear and each man left the room a believer.

The word בראשית is written with a big ב. The dot in the ב is like the letter י. This is to show that the entire world was created for כלל ישראל, for the Jews. It is our job to use what Hashem has created to do His will.


What have we learned today?


What are some ways that we can keep the spirit of the days of Tishrei, from Rosh Hashana through Simchat Torah, with us throughout the year?

We can try to think of one thing that uplifted us throughout these days. Was it the time that you heard the Shofar that you were inspired? Was it the dancing with the Torah? Was it when you shook your lulav and etrog? Or was it when you stood and prayed on Yom Kippur? If you pinpoint the time that you felt uplifted, you can reminisce this feeling throughout the year as a reminder of repentance and belief that Hashem forgives and we can change.


How can we strengthen our Emunah, belief in Hashem?

If we just look around us and notice all the things that Hashem has created we will strengthen our belief. When you go to the zoo, look at all the amazing animals and you will be reminded that Hashem is the creator. On a bright clear day, glance up at the glorious blue sky and remember that Hashem created this outstanding world. When taking a walk take notice of how many different shades and shapes of leaves there are and how many different types of flowers.

Keep your eyes open and you will surely notice that there is a masterful creator that created this amazing world.


Around the Shabbat Table- Parshat Chukat


Hi! This is Rebbe speaking:

Are you ready for this week’s commentary on the Parsha? How many questions can you answer on your own?

This week’s parsha, Parshas Chukat, speaks about a Parah Adumah, a red cow. A red cow was used to be Metaher, to purify those that became Tamei, impure. It had to be a red cow that did not have more than two white or black hairs. The Rambam states that there were only nine red cows and the tenth will be when Mashiach comes. It will be used to purify all Jews. The first red cow existed in the time of Moshe Rabbeinu. In the generations following, when the red cow was used, it was mixed with ashes from the first Parah Adumah.

There is an interesting phenomenon with the red cow. It purifies the impure and simultaneously makes (those that prepare it) those that were pure, become impure.
How is it that the same thing can purify and impurify at the same time?

The Parah Adumah shows us that nothing in this world happens without the command of Hashem. Hashem decides who the Parah Adumah is to purify and who to impurify. To us it does not make sense. Without the command of Hashem nothing can have the outcome that follows. What seems like nature cannot occur without Hashem willing it to.

There is a story related in the Gemara – Talmud. There was a poisonous snake that would roam the town and many times kill people with his venom. All were too frightened to try and kill the snake. Reb Chanina ben Dosa, a holy rabbi, said he’ll get rid of this snake. He went to the hole in which the snake resided and put his foot over the hole. Of course the snake bit Reb Chanina’s foot. But a miracle happened. Reb Chanina did not die. Instead the snake died. Reb Chanina pulled the snake out of its’ hole and walked to the Bet Medrash pronouncing its’ death. All were shocked. Reb Chanina announced, “It is
not the snake that kills but Hashem that has commanded that he kill. Those who died have died because of their sins. I was not worthy of death and therefore Hashem has reversed the outcome and the snake died.”

We can look around us and see many instances where we seem confused. Times when we believe that a situation seems unfair. Times when a Rasha, an evil person, seems to be successful and has everything and a righteous person seems to have nothing. And yet, we do not see the full picture. We must believe that everything that happens makes sense and is for the good. It’s all part of the master plan. Just like we do not understand how the red cow can purify those that are impure and impurify those that are pure. We must follow all that Hashem demands of us even if we do not understand why.

There is a parable that clearly brings about this point: A man went to see a home that he was interested in purchasing. He entered the house and started to walk around. He kept bumping into things. “What a house! Everything is in the wrong place. All the appliances are placed in the way.” Suddenly the lights were turned on and he saw that everything was in the right place. It was he who was foolish.

So too, we do not see the whole picture. We assume that things are done wrong. When Mashiach comes the light will turn on and we will then understand all that transpired.
The holy Baal Shem Tov was walking with his disciples. “Why did this leaf fall off the tree? The holy Baal Shem Tov has told us that nothing happens for naught.” The Baal Shem Tov told his disciple, “Go lift up the leaf and see.” He lifted the leaf and saw a small worm resting under the leaf. “The worm prayed to Hashem to shade him from the sun. Hashem commanded the wind to blow. He commanded the branch to shake. He commanded that the leaf detach from the tree and fall precisely on this little worm. So you see all Hashem does has reason, many we don’t clearly see.”

There is an amazing story told. An ill man went to visit his doctor. He was diagnosed with a heart condition and the doctor warned him not to eat cheese and drink wine. fterwards he headed to the Rav of Sanz, the Divrei Chaim for a blessing. He described his condition to the Divrei Chaim and was told to eat cheese and drink wine. Although the doctor had warned him that it would be detrimental for his health, he followed the advice of the great Rabbi, the Divrei Chaim. Sure enough, he had a complete recovery. It is not the doctors who heal, nor the abstinence of cheese or wine but Hashem who has the
power to heal. There was another person diagnosed with the same condition. He did not go to the Divrei Chaim he just decided to eat cheese and drink wine against the doctor’s orders, since he heard about the recovery of the fellow who went for a blessing. His condition worsened. The blessing was not meant for him. He may have received different advice.

In this week’s parsha, it also relates that Jews were being bitten by a snake. They would die becausebthey complained about the manna. Hashem told Moshe Rabbeinu to create a snake out of copper. He hung it on a stick and those that looked at the snake were healed. Of course it was not the power of the snake but the power of Hashem that healed those that looked at the snake. This snake was used for many generations following. King Chizkiyahu destroyed this copper snake when people were convinced
that it was the power of the snake that heals. They did not put their trust in Hashem.

What have we learned today?

What was a Parah Adumah? What was the purpose of the Parah Adumah?
It was a complete red cow. It did not have more than two white or black hairs. It would make those that were impure, pure.

What can we learn from the Parah Adumah?
Just like we do not understand the reason for the Parah Adumah, so too, we do not need to know the reason for doing the things that Hashem has commanded of us. We must trust that all that Hashem does is right. We must believe that if we are commanded to do something or to refrain from doing something, there is good reason for it.

What are some examples of situation that show divine providence (that all that happens is with purpose)? A leaf does not fall without purpose. People have missed their flight only to discover that the plane crashed. Many were saved on 9/11 because they were delayed on their way to work. Think of personal examples that happened to you or people that you know. You’d be surprised how many you can think of.

Around the Shabbat Table – Parshat Va’etchanan

By Rabbi Gedalia Fogel


Hi! This is Rebbe speaking:


In this week’s Parsha, Parshat Va’Etchanan we see the power of Tefillah (Prayers). Moshe Rabbeinu davened (prayed) to Hashem 515 times asking to be allowed to enter Eretz Yisrael (Israel). If Moshe would have prayed one more Tefillah, Hashem would have allowed him entry into the Holy Land. Therefore Hashem told him to stop praying.

Chaim, a poor man needed a loan. He went to Natan a wealthy businessman and requested a loan. “Please lend me some money to build up my business.” Natan replied, “Call me in a week.” Exactly one week later Chaim once again contacted Natan. Once more Natan pushed him off saying, “Surely I will loan you money but now I’m very busy, try to catch me in the morning before I leave for work. Each day for a while, Chaim would wait in the synagogue for Natan to finish his morning prayers. Often Chaim would try to speak to Natan but did not succeed. Other times Natan would realize he had just missed him. Even when he finally did speak to him, Natan had some excuse for putting him off. Finally one day Chaim walked up to Natan. All he had to say was “the loan?” and Natan wrote out a check for the full amount Chaim had requested.

At that precise moment Daniel, another man in need, entered the shul and saw the transaction between Natan and Chaim. “It’s that easy”, he thought to himself. Daniel walked over to Natan and requested a loan. Natan curtly replied, “Sorry. Now is not a good time.” “What for me you don’t have the time? Only Chaim is worthy of a loan!” Daniel took a moment to explain himself. “You don’t understand. It may seem like Chaim got his money effortlessly. This is not the case. Chaim has been asking me for quite some time now. Come back to me and I’ll see what I can do.”

Sometimes we have to pray for something more than once in order for us to achieve the results we want. Hashem likes our prayers. All our forefathers, Avraham Avinu, Yitzchak Avinu and Yaakov Avinu did not have children immediately. Hashem cherished their prayers. We do not realize how meaningful our Tefillot are to Hashem.

It may seem that various prayers remain unanswered. This is not so. Every prayer is used for something. We may pray for someone who is not well and unfortunately they do not get better. How can this be? Hashem stores our precious prayers for others that need it or even sometimes puts it aside for future use for the person who said them. We do not know Hashem’s reasoning but we do know that He knows what’s best.

There is a fascinating story told about the Holy Baal Shem Tov.

The Baal Shem Tov asked to be shown the person who would be worthy of sitting near him in the world to come.

When the person was revealed to the Baal Shem Tov, he immediately set out to the far away city where Mendel resided. He wanted to see who this great man was.

The holy Baal Shem Tov was astounded to see a simpleton who was sitting and praying. Mendel had an interesting way of praying. He did not know that there are set prayers for different times of the day. Each day, Mendel would take out his prayer book and open it to the first page. He would not stop praying until he reached the very last page of the siddur. Mendel did not know that one does not say the entire siddur from cover to cover in one sitting.

When the Baal Shem Tov saw this he offered to make bookmarks for Mendel, in order for him to know what to say when. He marked the morning prayer. He marked the afternoon prayer and also the evening prayer. He placed bookmarks for the Shabbat and Holiday prayers. Mendel thanked the Baal Shem Tov profusely and the Rabbi left.

Mendel lovingly lifted his siddur, when a gust of wind blew and all the bookmarks that the Baal Shem Tov had placed were blown right out of the siddur. Mendel was almost in tears. He quickly ran after the Rabbi. The Baal Shem Tov had reached a river. He took off his belt and placed it on the water and thus he was able to cross over. Mendel did the same and he too crossed over. “Rebbe, Rebbe sorry to bother you, but I need you to replace all the bookmarks.” The Baal Shem Tov could not believe his eyes. How did Mendel cross the river? “Mendel how did you get here? Did you have a boat?” “No, I did what the great Rabbi did. I too walked across the river on my belt.”

The Baal Shem tov realized that Mendel was no ordinary Jew. “It must be his prayers.” he said to himself. “You do not need those bookmarks. Go back to your old way of praying. Hashem appreciated your Tefillot immensely. Wow, what prayers are worth!”

We need not know how to pray as long as we are sincere in our prayers. We must have prayer be a part of us. In all that we do we can pray to Hashem. It does not only have to be a tefillah from a siddur. We can thank Hashem and ask him for things all day. It is our connection to Hashem that we are fortunate to have. We have access to the King of Kings at all times.

Keep praying and know that your prayers are worth much and no prayer is for naught.


What have we learned today?


Where do our Tefillot (prayers) go?

Our Tefillot are put to good use. Hashem knows where to put our prayers. We can relate to this answer by comparing Tefillot to money that we deposit in a bank. Some are deposited and used immediately to pay outstanding bills. Others are deposited only to be stored in order for it to be available at a time when we need it most. So too, our Tefillot may be used immediately and we can see results right away. Some are put aside for a later time.


What are some examples of things that we can pray for throughout the day?

We can pray for anything that we think we may need or want. All things both big and small are achievable by Hashem. Sometimes the answer may be “no”. We may think that our request would be good for us but Hashem knows better. A child may want to eat sweets all day, but the parent will not let. A parent says “no” because he knows what’s best.

One can ask Hashem to help him find a parking spot, have a successful shopping adventure or win a ball game. It makes no difference what the request is. It is praiseworthy to ask Hashem for what we want. It shows that we know and believe that He is in charge. Hashem is always listening. The door to prayer is always open. The King of Kings is always available.

I’m sure all you intelligent boys and girls have come up with outstanding examples of your own.

Around the Shabbat Table- Parshat B’haalotcha

 by Rabbi Gedalia Fogel – Pre 1A – Yeshiva Ketana of Queens


Hi! This is Rebbe speaking:

This week’s parsha, Parshas B’haalotcha, speaks about the avodah, the work that Aharon Hakohen, the High Priest, did in the Beis Hamidkash, (the Holy Temple).  It says that Aharon Hakohen did what Hashem commanded of him and he didn’t change. He lit the Menorah every day.

The head of each Shevet (tribe) brought Karbanot right after the Mishkan was built. Aharon felt bad that his Shevet, Shevet Levi, did not partake in this Avodah of bringing Karbanot. But he was appeased when Hashem told him that his Avodah was to light the Menorah daily.

Just like Aharon Hakohen lit the Menorah every day so too, our Avodah is to do Mitzvot, pray and to learn Torah daily. The more this becomes a habit the greater the reward will be. When one plants a seed he must work the field every day. He will not see results immediately but eventually he will enjoy the fruits of his labor. One who prays daily may not always see the results of his prayers, but one day he will see that every word of prayer was significant.  Rabbi Nachman of Breslov compares this to a king who had a tree in his garden that took 100 years to bear fruit. For one hundred years the king’s gardeners toiled and only then did they see results.

When one works on himself spiritually he will reap greater and greater reward. With each consecutive day that he learns, prays and does Mitzvot he will get more satisfaction and compensation. Rabbi Akiva saw a rock that had a hole in it. How can this be? Rabbi Akiva noticed that a drop of water dripped on this rock continuously and eventually the drops bore a hole. One may find it hard to pray and learn Torah on a daily basis but with consistency it will get easier and will have far reaching effects.

The first question asked when one reaches the heavenly court is whether he set aside time each day for Torah learning. One must learn for a period of time each day. He must make sure that this becomes a daily ritual and one he would never miss. If one keeps to this commitment it will become second nature and they will not feel as if it is a burden.

Rabbi Avigdor Miller taught us this lesson with doing Chesed, a kind deed. He stated that one must make sure to do at least one Chesed each day. The Torah stands on three pillars: Torah, Avodah and Gemillat Chasadim. Torah is making sure that one sets aside a time for learning Torah each day. Avodah is prayer and Gemillat Chasadim means doing Chesed, kindness.

There were no time restrictions when it came to see Reb Shmuel Salant, the Rav of Yerushalayim. He was getting older and his family wanted to set a certain time of day when Reb Shmuel would answer Halachic questions. But the Rav refused. He said, “One must always copy the ways of Hashem. He does not restrict our communication with Him. Hashem does not have hours. His doors are open at all times for prayer and repentance. So too, my Chesed, my door to others will always be open.

A Talmid, a disciple, asked the Chazon Ish, “Why give so much of your time to others? It is hard for you to always be available. Your time is so precious. You can spend more time learning Torah.” The Chazon Ish answered, “If I had a lot of money I would give Tzedaka regularly. But since I do not, the least I can do is listen to others at all times without limits.

Dear children, we learned about the importance of doing something daily without stopping. We can easily achieve this. There is great power to doing something on a constant basis. Let us try to make sure that a day does not pass without Chesed, prayer and Torah learning.

What have we learned today?

What is the significance of lighting the Menorah each day?

It teaches us the importance of doing something daily.

What three pillars does the world stand on?

Torah, Avodah and Gemillat Chasadim. One should set aside time for each of these three things daily. He should make sure to learn Torah, pray and do Chesed each day.

Around the Shabbat Table- Parshat Eikev

By Rabbi Gedalia Fogel


Hi! This is Rebbe speaking:



In this week’s parsha, Parshat Eikev, Rashi comments on the words “והיה עקב תשמעון”. Rashi translates עקב to mean “heel”. He states that if you listen and do the Mitzvot that you do with your heel (small Mitzvot) than you will merit the rewards that Hashem has promised. Even the Mitzvot that one walks right over with their heel, Mitzvot that go unnoticed, are counted and the reward that was promised will be fulfilled. One may think that only big Mitzvot, only good deeds that are major get reward. But this is not so. The small good deeds also receive great reward in the World to Come.


The wife of the Gra (the Rabbi of Vilna) and her friend Miriam, two righteous women took the troubles of their hometown into their hands. They would go from door to door and collect food and money for their poor townspeople. It was not an easy task. The wife of the Gra and Miriam would walk through the streets and knock at each door requesting a donation.

“Would you be so kind and help your Jewish brothers who have no food to feed their youngsters?” Miriam would ask. “Whatever the donation, food or money, big or small, would surely help them immensely.” the wife of the Gra would add. Many would give with a full heart. But there were those that would not contribute often, without even a kind word in response to their request.

For many years both friends had the merit of doing this great Mitzvah. As the years went on their great deed became more of a challenge for both women. They were not young anymore. But they were not about to stop what they had been doing for decades long.

The bond between both women was strengthened through this great Mitzvah. They made up that whichever woman would die first, would come to the other in a dream and tell them what had transpired in the World to Come.

The wife of the Gra passed away and left Miriam alone to continue this great Mitzvah. Shortly after Miriam’s death, the wife of the Gra came to Miriam in a dream. “You cannot fathom what great reward awaits you. Every step that you take, every knock on a door, every word of request, each are worth more than one can fathom.”

“Do you recall that time that we went to Meir, a wealthy man’s home only to discover that he was not home? I then spotted Meir walking across the road. I pointed my finger and showed you that Meir was heading toward his home. We both got great merit for this Mitzvah but I received a greater remuneration. Since I was the one that pointed Meir out to you, I received an extra reward for lifting my finger and pointing out that Meir was there, thus allowing us to get a donation from him.

The Mishna in Perkei Avot states “Be careful with a small Mitzvah as much as a big Mitzvah, since we do not know the reward of the Mitzvah. You should be careful to perform all Mitzvot since we do not know which good deed is big in the eyes of Hashem. One should be diligent with any Mitzvah, even those seemly small Mitzvot, since they may be more significant than they seem.

Offer a man $100 for a day’s work and he will work a day. Offer him $500 for a week and he will work a week. Offer him $3000 a month and he will work a month etc… Mitzvot are worth much more and even though we do not know exactly how much each Mitzvah is worth, we still know that comparatively it is priceless. Catch as many Mitzvot as you can.

Reb Shimon worked in a meat factory. He would greet Peter, the guard at the door each morning with a cheerful “hello” and each evening on his way out, he would thank Peter and wish him a “good night”.

One evening Peter was frantic as the owner of the factory was about to lock up. “Reb Shimon did not leave the factory. He must be somewhere inside the factory still.” “How can you be sure of that? Maybe he left in a hurry and you did not see him.” Peter responded with confidence, “He did not leave! Shimon does not leave without saying “good night”. He has done this for many years and has never missed a night. ”

Peter followed the owner into the factory and searched each room. They finally opened the deep freezer only to discover Reb Shimon half-frozen, barely moving. They quickly carried him out and covered him and warmed him up, until he came back to himself. “You saved my life. How did you know that I was still here? I was positive that no one would know that I was locked into the freezer. I was sure you all had gone home.” “Actually you saved your own life.” responded Peter. “I was positive that you were still here because you were meticulous in telling me “good night” each evening. I knew that you had come to work today because you greeted me in the morning and I did not receive your daily “good bye”. It’s your credit, your good deed of greeting me each day that saved your life.”

In this story we see how a small deed saved someone’s life. This shows us what small Mitzvot can achieve for us in the World to Come. A seemingly insignificant deed can go a long way.



What have we learned today?




Does it pay to do large Mitzvot over small Mitzvot?


Any Mitzvah is worthy of reward. Sometimes what seems insignificant is really worth much more than one can fathom. Do all Mitzvot that come your way both big and small.



What are some Mitzvot that seem insignificant? Which Mitzvot can girls and boys your age perform?


Greeting each person with a smile. Answering Amen to a Bracha. Sharing. Holding the door open for others. Listening to your parents the first time. Saying Brachot out loud. Playing nicely with your siblings and friends. Praying for someone in need.


I’m sure you all have great examples that you have performed and will continue to do. Hashem cherishes each Mitzvah big and small.

Around the Shabbat Table- Parshat Shelach

 by Rabbi Gedalia Fogel – Pre 1A – Yeshiva Ketana of Queens


Hi! This is Rebbe speaking:

In this week’s parsha, Parshas Shelach, Moshe Rabbeinu sent 12 spies to check out the land of Eretz Yisrael. They saw giants and came back to the Jewish nation with the following report. “We were like grasshoppers and they saw us like that too.” The Medrash asks, “How did they know what the giants thought of them? Maybe Hashem made them see the spies as angels? Moshe Rabbeinu had told the spies to be strong and not to be scared. There sin was that they did not trust in Hashem. They were only worried about what others thought of them.

Many of us, at times, are worried about what others think of us; sometimes to the extent that we refrain from doing the right thing. We must always remember that when we do the right thing Hashem is on our side.

One should not do things only to impress others. We learn this from Yaakov Avinu. Yaakov told his sons to go down to Mitzrayim and purchase wheat. But they still had wheat. Why did they have to go to buy more? There was a hunger and Yaakov did not want to show off what he had while others did not. Yaakov did not want the Goyim to be jealous of his food supply, so he did not show that he had any.

Another place that we learn this is in Parshat Devarim. It says that Hashem told the Jews to go “Tzafon” literally meaning “North”. But the Kli Yakar says in his commentary that the word “Tzafon” can also mean “Hidden”. One must hide their wealth. They should not flaunt their riches. A Jew must always be aware not to incite the Goyim. Eisav is still upset with Yaakov that he took away his blessing from Yitzchak their father. Eisav’s descendants get angered and jealous when they see the Jews flaunt their wealth.

The Gerrer Rebbe was walking by a beautiful, palatial house under construction. They were building new front steps. The Rebbe started giving the owner instructions on how the bricks should go, what color they should be, how wide, etc. To which the man answered, “These are my steps. I will do it the way I want.” The Rebbe responded jokingly, “You are making fancy steps for those that pass your house. So in essence you are building them to impress me. Therefore I would like to tell you just how I like it so that I will enjoy it each time I pass.”  The Rebbe was trying to teach a lesson. One should not do things just to impress others.

Yeravam Ben Nevat did Avodat Zorah, worshiped idols and he incited others to do Avodat Zorah. It is a grave sin to worship idols, but is much worse to encourage others to sin too. Hashem told Yeravam, “Do Teshuva and your terrible sin will be erased. Then you will merit walking with Me and David Hamelech in Gan Eden.” Yeravam then asked, “Who will walk first David Hamelech or me?” To which Hashem responded “David Hamelech”. Yeravam’s pride did not allow him to do Teshuva, for he knew that in the end David Hamelech would still walk ahead of him.

There are amazing stories about those that went out of their way to stay low key and not to show off to others.

Some have a custom to say a D’var Torah when they are the Baal Simcha. This particular week, both Raphael and Pinchas were making a wedding. It was Shabbat and they gave a Kiddush in Shul. Raphael stood up and said a nice D’var Torah. Pinchas did not say anything, although he had prepared a speech. Only at the meal did Pinchas say the speech he had prepared. His family asked him, “Why didn’t you say your D’var Torah at the Kiddush as is your custom? You prepared an outstanding commentary.” Pinchas answered, “Raphael spoke before me. His D’var Torah was nice. But I was afraid that my D’var Torah was better than his and if I speak after him, no one would be appreciate his D’var Torah.

Shlomo was an extremely wealthy man. He was marrying off his daughter. All anticipated a glamorous wedding. But Shlomo took a smaller hall. It was a beautiful wedding but not the biggest talk of the town. Shlomo did not want to show off his wealth, so he took the money that he saved by lowering the cost of his daughter’s wedding and quietly, without fanfare, paid for a wedding of an orphan that got married that same night.


Everyone gathered into the synagogue to hear the speeches of two Torah scholars. The first, Reb Yankel got up to speak. He took out his notes and delivered a beautiful, insightful speech. Then the second, Reb Naftali stepped up to the podium. He too took out a paper and delivered a remarkable speech. Mordechai had heard Reb Naftali speak many times before and he never had any papers in front of him. When Reb Naftali went to rest, Mordechai checked Reb Naftali’s jacket pocket. Sure enough the paper he took out was empty. Reb Naftali did not want others to comment on the fact that he could say a speech by heart, while Reb Yankel needed to look into his notes.

One should make an effort to do what’s right and not to care about what others think. We must not look to impress those around us.

What have we learned today?


What was the sin of the spies?

They did not trust in Hashem. They were worried and scared about what the giants thought of them.


What lesson can we learn? 

One should make sure to do what’s right and trust that Hashem will be on his side. One need not go out of his way to impress others. One should not flaunt his wealth and his capabilities.


Around the Shabbat Table- Parchat Re’eh



By Rabbi Gedalia Fogel



Hi! This is Rebbe speaking.

This week’s parsha, Parshat Re’eh, speaks about Tzedaka. Tzedaka is the act of giving to others. The definition that usually comes to mind when Tzedaka is mentioned is giving to the poor, but really Tzedaka means giving to anyone that is in need. It may be to a guest, to a family that has a new baby, to a friend that does not have snack. These are all means of Tzedaka.


Money is a gift from Hashem. It is placed in our possessions in order to do with it what Hashem has commanded of us. Of course we may use it for our pleasure but we must make sure to distribute some of it to others. There are many benefits promised when one gives Tzedaka. It is written “צדקה תציל ממות” Tzedaka saves one from death and תשובה, תפילה וצדקה מעבירין את רוע הגזרה””Tzedaka is one of the things that save us from bad decrees.


The highest form of Tzedaka is when those that give Tzedaka do not know to whom they are giving and those that receive the Tzedaka do not know who gave it. There are many ways one can perform this great Mitzvah. One can give money, food or a place to sleep to those in need.


Nachum and Yehudit were on their way to the government office to clear a mistake in their insurance. It was crucial that they have all the paperwork necessary for them to reinstate the medical insurance for their family.


“Please check to make sure we have all the birth certificates and social security cards for everyone.” said Yehudit for the third time that morning. “I’ve already checked and have put everything into this manila envelope.” answered Nachum. “Please check once more. I don’t want to be missing anything.”


Nachum once again emptied the contents of the manila envelope onto the kitchen table. “Sarah’s birth certificate and social security card, Moshe’s birth certificate and social security card, Naomi’s, Miriam’s, Binyamin’s…Oh no, I do not see Binyamin’s social security card. Didn’t we have it just a moment ago? Yehudit, we’re missing Binyamin’s social security card. I shook out the entire enveloped and looked everywhere I cannot find it.”


Yehudit and Nachum spent the next ten minutes combing their home for the card. They did not have much time left. Where could the card have disappeared? They checked the drawer where these important documents were kept. They stuck their hand into the empty envelope shook it up and down many times and looked on the table and floor over and over again.


“Let’s give money to Tzedakah. Maybe in that merit we will be able to find this card. I can’t believe it’s not here. I just had it moments ago!”


Nachum placed $18 in Tzedaka and prayed to Hashem that he find the missing card. There was no way that he could afford to pay for medical insurance for his family and it was crucial that this meeting go well.


Right after they gave Tzedaka, Yehudit once again checked the manila envelope. She was sure that it was empty but on impulse shook it again. Sure enough Binyamin’s social security card came right out. From where? Who knows. But Nachum and Yehudit could promise that the envelope had been empty and this was nothing short of a miracle.


If a person gives he will get in return. There is a set amount of money that Hashem allots to each person. Those that give Tzedaka will not lose out. The money that they used for Tzedaka was given to them for the purpose of distributing to others. If they do not use that money for Tzedaka then they will lose it some other way.

The Siach Eliezer, a great Rabbi, Reb Eliezer Chaim of Yampoli, was a one of the first Rabbis to reside in America in the early 1900s. He is buried in Mount Judah cemetery near Queens, New York. Many people go to his gravesite for a blessing and their prayers are answered.


He would distribute all the money in his home to the poor. He would not go to sleep unless every penny in his home was distributed.


One day, Lemel, a poor man, came to the Siach Eliezer with a request for a blessing. He did not have enough money to buy food for his family and wood to warm his home. His wife and children were hungry and cold.


The Siach Eliezer gave him a blessing and told him, “Tomorrow go and buy a lottery ticket. Use the numbers…”


The next morning, bright and early, Lemel bought a lottery ticket with the numbers the holy Rabbi had told him. Sure enough he was the lucky winner!


Lemel returned the Siach Eliezer. “I’ve been blessed! But I have one question. If the Rebbe knew the lottery numbers all along how come you did not buy the lottery yourself? The Rebbe can use the money too.”


The Siach Eliezer answered sharply, “This money was intended for you. Does a mailman ever open up the mail that he delivers and take the checks and cash for himself?” “No, of course not! That would be stealing.” Lemel answered. “Well then, I am like the mailman. I too am delivering the money intended for you. For me to use the lottery numbers for myself would be stealing.”


The Siach Eliezer clearly pointed out that the money that we have is sometimes intended for others. Hashem has given it to us to be the mailman to deliver it.

Around the Shabbat Table- Parshat Shoftim




By Rabbi Gedalia Fogel


Hi! This is Rebbe speaking.

The month of Elul is designated for Teshuva, repentance. This month is the month that leads up to Rosh Hashana, the New Year. We repent and prepare for the day of Judgement.


A king spent his days in the grand palace. All those that wished to speak to the king had to set up an appointment. Speak to the guards. Be escorted to the kings chamber and was allowed a few minutes to say his request. One day the king went to the town of his subjects and allowed anyone to ask for what they need. There were no restrictions. It was a much simpler task to ask the king for his mercy or one’s personal request.


All year we pray to Hashem and daven for what we need and for Hashem’s mercy. All year round Hashem lives in his palace. We can ask but with some difficulty. The month of Elul is a special time when Hashem steps out of his palace to live near us. There are no barriers. One can ask, so to speak, face to face and ask for His mercy and forgiveness.

We blow the Shofar, (the horn of a ram) each day after Shacharit (morning prayers) in the month of Elul. The sounds of the Shofar are Tekiyah – one long blow, Shevarim – three short blows and Teruah, many small broken sounds.

The holy Shelah Hakadosh states that Tekiah, the one long blow, symbolizes a child that is newly born, one that does not have any sins. Shevarim, the three short blows, symbolize one who has done just a few sins, and Teruah, a series of little blows are symbolic to someone who has many sins. When we blow the Shofar we start with Tekiah and end with Tekiah. This shows that one can always repent. No matter how many sins he has committed, there is always room for repentance. Teruah also symbolizes a broken heart.

Anyone can do Teshuva. We must feel bad about the sin, admit that you did the sin and promise not to do it again.

Yossele, a lad of 16, was known as the wild one. He would never complete a full day at school. He would come in the morning and before noon usually was nowhere to be found. But the results of his actions would ripple through the town of Slutzk. Even the short time he did spend with his peers was full of mischief. He was bad influence on anyone who he came in contact with.

The children were frightened of Yossele and so were many adults. One never knew what tricks were up his sleeves, what new pranks he was preparing.

One Tuesday evening, Yossele passed the home of Menashe a fine learned 12-year-old. The words he heard changed his life. He overheard Menashe’s irate mother berating her son. “Menashe how could you do such a thing? Is this how I brought you up? Menashe would you like to grow up to be a good-for-nothing like that wild one, Yossele?

“Am I the epitome of the worst? Is this what the townsfolk are warning their children about? How can I have fallen so low? What will become of me? Can I ever repent?” Yossele cried and cried. He fled from the window determine to change his ways. He felt terrible about the sins he committed. He reviewed all the sins that he remembered doing. And then he begged Hashem for forgiveness.

His Teshuva was accepted and Yossele went to a famous out-of-town Yeshiva where they did not know him and he was able to start anew. Yossele grew up to be a great Rabbi.

There is another fascinating story told.

Rachamim a sinner, came to the holy Baal Shem Tov and pleaded for a way to repent. The Baal Shem Tov answered “You most definitely can repent. There is no one that cannot do Teshuva.” Rachamim said, “But you don’t realize how many graves sins I have committed.” The Baal Shem Tov said, “You must spend your days in the synagogue and return home only for Shabbat.” “Very well. But how will I knew if and when my Teshuva was accepted and I no longer have to spend my days away from home.” “When Eliyahu Hanavi will come learn with you.” answered the Baal Shem Tov.

Rachamim spent his days in the synagogue, learning Torah and praying for full forgiveness for his sins. He returned home only for Shabbat. This went on for many years.

One Friday after all the rest of the congregants finished their evening Shabbat prayers, Rachamim was still praying in his corner seat of the synagogue. He was engrossed in his prayers and did not notice that the caretaker of the synagogue had locked up. What was he to do. No one was around it was useless to scream. Rachamim sat himself back down and a took out a Tehillim. He recited page after page and exhausted fell into a deep slumber.

Eliyahu Hanavi came to Rachamim in a dream. “I have informed the caretaker and he will return shortly and reopen the doors. And one more thing, I would like to set up a learning schedule with you.”

Rachamim awoke to the sound of a key in the lock. “I’m so sorry. I came back here to since I was unsure if I locked up today. Good thing I did. Who would have thought that indeed I locked it and not only that but I locked someone in?”

Rachamim returned to his home for the remainder of Shabbat and when he returned to the synagogue he really had the merit to learn with Eliyahu Hanavi. He then knew that he reached full repentance.

One can reach great heights after one repents. Sometimes a person who has done Teshuva can be greater than a Tzaddik, a righteous person.

Around the Shabbat Table- Parsht Ki Teitzei



By Rabbi Gedalia Fogel



Hi! This is Rebbe speaking.


Where has the summer gone? I’m sure all you children enjoyed your summer vacation and are well-rested and ready to start a fresh new school year.


This week’s parsha, Parshas Ki Seitzei, speaks about the laws that apply to going out to fight a war.


Every day, every minute, each and every one of us fights a battle. We go to war all the time.


Who knows what type of war? How can it be?


We fight against the Yetzer Hara, the Evil Inclination. The Yetzer Hara does not give up, each and every minute the Evil Inclination tries again to get us to do an Aveirah, a bad thing. He has all different ways that he uses to try to trick us into following what he says.


But we are strong enough to fight against the Yetzer Hara. Each of you has the power to fight against the Evil Inclination and WIN!!


Someone came to the great Rabbi, the Shpola Zeide and asked for advice on how to fight the Evil Inclination. The Shpola Zeide related the following:


The Yetzer Hara decided that he would pay a visit to the, Avot, (Patriarchs) Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov.


First he went to Avraham Avinu. He came well-prepared with all sorts of weapons ready to fight his battle. Knock, knock!! “Please come in. Have a seat I’ll be with you in just a moment.” Avraham Avinu quickly prepared a huge meal and started to serve the Yetzer Hara one course after the other.


The Yetzer Hara was so busy eating that when his time was up, he realized that he had wasted his time eating and did not accomplish what he had come for.


Before the Evil Inclination set out to go to Yitzchak Avinu, he made sure to eat a meal. He was quite stuffed when he showed up a Yitzchak Avinu’s home. Knock, knock!! “It’s you!! You’d better find yourself someone else to start up with. I will not allow you to enter my home.” Yitzchak Avinu came with all his weapons and might to fight against the Yetzer Hara. It did not take long for him to win over the Evil Inclination, since the Yetzer Hara did not come with his weapons. He assumed he did not need them since he did not use them when he went to Avraham Avinu.


Before the Yetzer Hara went to Yaakov Avinu, he made sure to have eaten a good meal and this time he was sure to come with all his weapons too.


Knock, knock!! Knock, knock!! KNOCK KNOCK!! “Is Yaakov Avinu home? I will look into his window… He sure is home! I see him sitting at his table reading a book.” KNOCK, KNOCK!! The Yetzer Hara kept on banging on the door, but Yaakov Avinu did not even look up from his Sefer. He was learning so diligently that he was oblivious to the knocking. Seeing that he was not getting anywhere with Yaakov Avinu he went on his way.


“We must always try new ways to fight the Yetzer Hara.” concluded the Shpola Zeide.


There is no right or wrong way to fight against the Yetzer Hara. Every one of you can come up with a plan, a strategy of your own, that you will use to fight against the Evil Inclination.


We must realize that often the Yetzer Hara tells us to do an Aveirah by convincing us that it’s really a Mitzvah. We must not listen to him and we must follow our Yetzer Tov, Good Inclination, and do what’s right.


The Yetzer Hara is compared to someone who walks around with a closed fist and announces “Guess what I have in my hand? You’ll never believe what I’m holding?” With these words he gets everyone excited and has everyone’s attention. But really he has nothing in his hand. He is just tricking everyone. The Yetzer Hara entices people to do the wrong thing but covering it up and making it good, but really it’s just one of his tricks.


There was a rabbi that wanted to make Baalei Teshuva, bring people back to Judaism. The Yetzer Hara tried to stop him. This time it was his turn to trick the Evil Inclination. He convinced the Yetzer Hara that he was going to do business with these people, but really his real reason was to teach them Judaism.


My Rebbe, The Skolya Rebbe, let us in on a secret. He said that if someone has a desire to do wrong, it’s a good idea to wait it out a few minutes. Usually the desire does not last more than two minutes. Another good idea is to keep busy. If a person is kept busy than they won’t have time to sin.

Around the Shabbat Table- Parshat Ki Tavo

        By Rabbi Gedalia Fogel 


Hi! This is Rebbe speaking:


   Back to school? Now you’ll surely be able to answer all the questions. You’re already in the thinking mode!

   This week’s parsha, Parshat Ki Tavo, speaks about one who will own a field in the land of Israel. When his fruit will be ripe, he will bring some of his fruit to the Kohen (priest) in the Beit Hamikdash (the Holy Temple) to give thanks to Hashem for providing him with such delicious produce.

We must thank Hashem for all that he does for us. We say blessings before we eat, so that we can properly show gratitude to Hashem for giving us sustenance. We pray each day and thank Hashem for all he has done and continues to do.

   We learn from here that we must show Hakorat Hatov, gratitude, to one that does us a favor. We see examples where one even thanks inanimate objects.

Moshe Rabbeinu was careful to thank the water for saving his life. When Moshe Rabbeinu was a baby, his mother put him in a basket in the river since Pharaoh commanded that all Jewish baby boys be killed. Moshe Rabbeinu had Hakorat Hatov to the water for this and did not hit the water when performing the first three Makot, plagues, on the Egyptians. He had his brother Aharon perform them, since it warranted hitting the water.

   Reb Moshe Feinstein was known to thank everyone that did even the slightest favor for him. Even when he was the passenger in a car, he made sure to lean over and call out to the man at the toll booth to thank him for his service.

   Reb Eliyahu Lopian was meticulous in this virtue. He stated that one must have Hakorat Hatov and thank someone even if you paid for their service. Such as: a grocer, bus driver, shoemaker etc. Even if you paid him money you must make sure to thank him properly.

   Reb Eliyahu Lopian was seen cleaning the bench in his Yeshiva. Many disciples ran over and offered to clean it for him. “No thank you. I want to clean this bench myself, since I owe the bench Hakorat Hatov. Each morning this bench helps me fold my Talit. It makes sure that my Talit does not drag on the floor while I am folding it.”

Two nations, Amon and Moav, are not allowed to convert to Judaism. Avraham Avinu saved the life of their grandfather, Lot and they did not show Hakorat Hatov. When the Jews were traveling through the desert on their way to Israel, Amon and Moav did not allow them to pass through their land. They should have given the Jews bread and water but instead they came out to fight against them. One that does not have the midah of Hakorat Hatov cannot be part of the Jewish nation.

Sometimes we don’t notice the good that we have until we are missing it. When one breaks his leg, it is only then that he realizes the greatness of being able to walk each day with ease.

Reb Avigdor Miller waited under water for an extra few seconds so that he can be grateful for every breath. We take these things for granted.

Miss Braun, a 6th grade teacher came in one day. “Girls today we will begin a special contest. I will hand out notebooks to each girl and I want you to write at least one thing each day that you are thankful for.”

Sara immediately started jotting down a list of four things that she was thankful for. Linda on the other hand was stumped. “What are you writing? I can’t think of a thing.” “There’s tons! I am thankful for having great friends. I am thankful for being able to see. I am thankful for walking and of course for the best teacher, Miss Braun. I could go on and on, but I’ll save some for other days.”

Now even Linda got the hang of it. The girls jotted down a few examples every day for months and slowly filled up their notebooks. The girls were surprised that up on till then they had not realized how much they had to appreciate.

At the end of the school year each girl had a treasured book, filled with Hakorat Hatov.


In the middle of 7th grade Linda came down with a dreadful disease that left her hospitalized. All those that came to visit her were surprised with her upbeat attitude. “I’ll let you in on a secret. Last year Miss Braun taught us to have Hakorat Hatov. She requested that we write down things that we are thankful for. Each morning, here in the hospital, I read through my notebook and see how many things I still have to be grateful for. It gives me strength and a good mind-set to conquer the day.”

Thank G-d, Linda overcame her illness and is married with a family today. She makes sure to cherish this notebook and is certain to publicize what she calls a miracle. “This is what kept me going!”

What have we learned today?


What is Hakorat Hatov?

A Jew must always be thankful to Hashem. He must be sure to thank anyone that does an act of kindness even if he paid him for his service.


What are some examples that we can thank Hashem for?

We can say thanks to Hashem throughout the day even when we are not praying. We can thank Hashem for giving us good friends. We must be grateful for our functional limbs, our feet that walk, our hands that move and write. We can thank Hashem that we can speak and hear and for the brain that allows us to think. We should be thankful for our wonderful parents who provide us with what we need.

Boys and girls, who can come up with a notebook-full of Hakorat Hatov? Try it. I’m sure you’ll fill it up in no time.


I’d like to take this opportunity to show my Hakorat Hatov to Rabbi Matmon for allowing me to share some thoughts and ideas with all my fantastic readers. I would also like to show gratitude to all my readers who have sent in words of encouragement and suggestions. I am looking forward to hearing more comments and suggestions.