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Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary The Benjamin and Rose Berger CJF Torah To-Go Series Sivan 5774
Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary The Benjamin and Rose Berger CJF Torah To-Go Series Sivan 5774

In commemoration of the 70th yahrtzeit of most of our
family members who were murdered by the Nazis from
Rosh Chodesh Nissan through Shavuos, 1944.

In loving memory of the Shapira, Werfel, Turner, Frankel, Grunglas,
and Moscovitz families who perished .


' '

Judy and Mark Frankel and Family

Richard M. Joel, President and Bravmann Family University Professor, Yeshiva University
Rabbi Kenneth Brander, Vice President for University and Community Life, Yeshiva University
and The David Mitzner Dean, Center for the Jewish Future
Rabbi Yaakov Glasser, Associate Dean, Center for the Jewish Future

Rabbi Robert Shur, Series Editor
Rabbi Joshua Flug, General Editor
Rabbi Michael Dubitsky, Editor
Andrea Kahn, Copy Editor

Copyright 2014
All rights reserved by Yeshiva University

Yeshiva University Center for the Jewish Future
500 West 185
Street, Suite 413, New York, NY 10033 212.960.5263

This publication contains words of Torah. Please treat it with appropriate respect.
For sponsorship opportunities, please contact Paul Glasser at 212.960.5852 or
Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary The Benjamin and Rose Berger CJF Torah To-Go Series Sivan 5774
Table of Contents
Shavuot 2014/5774

Featured Section: The 48 Methods of Acquiring Torah
The sixth chapter of Pirkei Avot is an addendum to the first five chapters and contains beraitas, rabbinic
teachings from the Mishnaic times that were not included in the Mishnah. One particular beraita
discusses 48 methods to acquire Torah. These 48 methods are particularly relevant to Shavuot as we
experience our own personal acceptance of the Torah. Some people even use these 48 methods as a
method of preparing for Shavuot by focusing on a specific method each day of the Omer and then
reviewing all 48 on the last day (See Chochma UMussar 1:236 and Chiddushei HaRim, Sefirat
HaOmer). The articles in this section highlight some of the contemporary educational lessons that we
can learn from the 48 methods.
Miut Sheinah: Studying Torah While Sleep Deprived
Rabbi Yaakov Glasser . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page 4
Know Thyself: Student at the Center of Learning
Scott Goldberg, PhD . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page 8
Torah Study and Character Development
Rabbi Dovid Hirsch . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page 12

Rabbi Meir Goldwicht . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page 19
Dissuasion and Encouragement:
Complementary Themes in the Conversion Process
Rabbi Michoel Zylberman . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page 25

Shavuot Lessons for Families
From the Legacy Heritage YUTeach Fellowship
Rabbi Ariel Cohen Rabbi Gershon Eisenberger Ms. Danielle Grajower
Ms. Sarah Hochman Ms. Deborah Klapper Ms. Jaclyn Sova . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page 33

Practical Halacha Guide for Shavuot
Based on the halachic rulings of Rabbi Hershel Schachter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page 42
Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary The Benjamin and Rose Berger CJF Torah To-Go Series Sivan 5774
Miut Sheinah:
Studying Torah While
Sleep Deprived
Rabbi Yaakov Glasser
Associate Dean, Center for the Jewish Future Rabbi, Young Israel Passaic Clifton
The beraisa in Avos delineates 48 pathways to acquiring a substantial relationship to the study of
Torah. Among the list are a series of habits that are intended to diminish our indulgence in
physical needs and desires. One of the more striking suggestions is miut sheinah, curtailing ones
sleep. It is striking that Chazal would recommend a tactic that seemingly compromises ones
awareness and alertness, which are essential elements to success in intellectually mastering the
complexities of Torah. It is well established that a healthy sleep regimen correlates with increased
focus and memory capacity. What is so crucial about studying Torah at night, that we would
seemingly compromise the productivity and integrity of our study the remainder of the day?
The first individual in the Torah with whom we associate a pronounced commitment to Torah
learning at night is Yaakov Avinu. Among the most climatic moments of Sefer Bereishis is
Yaakovs angelic dream at the peak of Har Hamoriah:
And he reached the place and lodged there because the
sun had set and he took the rocks from that place and
placed them under his head and he slept in that place.
Bereishis 28:11


The Divine vision evolves from a deep sleep that overwhelms Yaakov upon finally succumbing
to the exhaustion that grips his daily life experience. Rashi explains the source of this
overwhelming fatigue:
He slept in that place: This language comes to exclude. He
slept in that place, but for the fourteen years that he served in
the house of Ever, he didnt sleep at night because he was
engaged in Torah [study].
Rashi, Bereishis 28:11
" , :

Yaakov Avinus dedication to talmud Torah (Torah study) in Yeshivas Shem VaEver eclipsed his
attention to provide for his most basic needs of physical functioning. The Gemarah in Sukkah
Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary The Benjamin and Rose Berger CJF Torah To-Go Series Sivan 5774
53a, writes that an oath to refrain from sleep for more than three days is invalid because it is
physically impossible. It is likely that Yaakov indeed slept occasionally to reinvigorate his
attention and strength, but never engaged in shechivahin the settled and relaxing state of
indulgent slumber. His commitment to talmud Torah entailed a comprehensive devotion that
encompassed both day and night. He viewed the entire 24-hour period as a critical unit to
accomplish his goals in talmud Torah. Yaakov Avinu, in what is described as the first formal
Torah learning enterprise, devotes considerable time and energy to the study of Torah at night.
In fact, the eternal mandate to regulate ones daily Torah study is formulated to accentuate this
span of dedication during both daytime and nighttime:
This book of Torah shall never leave your lips and you shall study
it day and night in order that you observe everything that is
written in it because then you will be successful in your ways and
then you will prosper.
Yehoshua 1:8


What is so unique about the study of Torah at night?
Contemporary advances in technology and communication have essentially equalized the
daytime and nighttime hours in their potential for productivity. Traditionally, however, the
nighttime posed many pragmatic barriers to efficiency. The centrality of talmud Torah to Jewish
life demands that we transcend these challenges and devote ourselves to Torah learning, even
when conditions make it difficult. The Gemarah (Menachos 99b) writes that one fulfills the
minimal requirement for Torah study by learning a section of Torah in the day as well as in the
night. The Rambam (Hilchos Talmud Torah 1:8) codifies this basic obligation to study Torah
daily as encompassing both the daytime and nighttime hours. It would appear from the
Gemarah and the Rambam that the significance in talmud Torah at night is found in its
balancing contribution to the obligation to study during the day. The Shulchan Aruch writes:
One must be scrupulous about studying at night more than during
the daytime and one who neglects this is punished severely.
Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 238:1

, .
, :

The Shulchan Aruch formulates ones obligation to study at night as even greater than during the
day. This approach is rooted in the many statements we encounter throughout Chazal that seem
to promote a disproportionate emphasis upon the study of Torah at night. The Gemarah in
Chagiga (12b) writes that one who engages in the study of Torah at night is endowed with an
additional dimension of chessed (kindness) during the day. In Eiruvin (18b), the Gemarah writes
that a home permeated with the study of Torah at night will never be destroyed. In Menachos
(110a) the Gemarah compares rabbis who engage in Torah study at night to those who served
in the Mikdash itself.
The Gemarah in Tamid (32b) writes that anyone who studies Torah at night will merit the
presence of the Shechinah:
R. Chiya taught: Anyone who studies Torah at night does so
opposite the Divine presence as it states (Eicha 2:19): Arise and

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sing at night, when it first becomes dark, pour out your heart like
water in the presence of God.

' .

The Rambam, subsequent to codifying the requirement to study Torah at night in the first
chapter of Hilchos Talmud Torah, reintroduces the concept of Torah study at night in an entirely
different context in the third chapter:
Even though there is a mitzvah to study day and night, most of
ones knowledge is learned at night. Therefore, one who wants to
earn the crown of Torah should be cautious about ones nights
and not lose even a single night to sleeping, eating, drinking,
conversation or other things. Rather, one should [dedicate] ones
nights to Torah study and words of wisdom. Our rabbis taught:
The song of Torah only comes about at night as it states, Arise
and sing at night.
Rambam, Hilchos Talmud Torah 3:12

" , ' :

While the fundamental mitzvah of talmud Torah is to study both during the day and at night, the
crown of Torah can only be acquired through devotion to study at nighttime. In this context,
the Rambam quotes the verse in Eicha that compares nighttime Torah learning to a song. What
is the source of the Rambams romanticized depiction of talmud Torah at night?
In his commentary on Maseches Brachos, Rav Avraham Y. Kook (Ein Ayah to Brachos 3b) reveals
the grandeur of talmud Torah at night. The Gemarah (Brachos 3b) compares David Hamelechs
sleep at the beginning of the night to that of a horse, and his sleep at the conclusion of the night
to that of a lion. Rav Kook explains that the horse is an animal whose strength is rooted in mans
capacity to utilize it for a higher purpose. Horses can be trained to maximize their contribution
in the contexts of work and of war. The lions strength is internal. It possesses a reservoir of
courage and vigor that can be unleashed independent of human direction. Rav Kook explains
that David Hamelech functions in two capacities. First, his strength and leadership is a product
of the people he serves. Ein melech belo am, there is no king without a nation. By virtue of his
leadership role within the greater Jewish people, David projects a vitality and virtue that
promotes the values and ideals of Torah. He metaphorically rides the horse of his nation and
conquers the enemies of his people. As the night gets darker, an additional dimension of Davids
spiritual personality emerges. The lions vigor represents ones internal capacity to project the
world of talmud Torah and transform the landscape of our spiritual reality.
The internal spiritual fortitude required to conquer the overpowering feeling of exhaustion with a
commitment to the study of dvar Hashem (the words of God) is the pathway to adorning ourselves
with the crown of Torah. The accolades celebrated by Chazal relate to the transformative effect of
exuding a personal devotion to Torah that transcends the more natural structures and frameworks
for Torah growth symbolized by the clarity of daytime. Yaakov Avinu recognized that to achieve the
spiritual heights of his ancestors, he needed to access a deeper and more personal source of
dedication that can only be realized through piercing the darkness and challenge of growing at night.
Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary The Benjamin and Rose Berger CJF Torah To-Go Series Sivan 5774
Jewish education is devoted to creating the curriculum, structures, and frameworks of talmud
Torah bayom, daytime study. The goals, instruction, and assessments that are necessary to shape
a learning environment of accountability and achievement are core to the development of our
children. However, our tradition recognizes another dimension to learning as well. It is found
outside the parameters of the required learning of vehagisa bo yomam valayla, the daily
requirements of Torah study. It is the journey to discover what the Rambam describes as the rina
shel Torah, the song of Torah, the personal and melodious experience of Torah learning
emerging from within the depths of ones own heart and soul. The recognition that beyond the
basic requirements of accumulating the knowledge of yahadus is the effort to discover the
passion and music of Torah learning. It can be found in the late night mishmars of yeshivos and
seminaries, where students project their own motivation in embracing a higher dimension of
dedication to Torah learning. It can be found in the Torah learning of summer kollels and
camps, when students strive to uncover the magic of the Torah learning experience, beyond the
accumulation of substance and information.
It can also be found in the late hours of Shavuos night as we rub the exhaustion from our eyes
and pour one more cup of coffee so that we can demonstrate our love of Torah in anticipation of
re-experiencing its revelation. Many wonder why a custom would evolve to remain awake the
entire night, thus compromising our ability to focus on tefilah and talmud Torah for the
remainder of the holiday. Perhaps this approach, of miut sheinah, is intended to concretize that
Shavuos is not only about receiving the essence of talmud Torah. In fact, if we were looking for a
holiday that celebrates our achievements in the public study of Torah, we should look toward
Simchas Torah. Shavuos has a different goal. The Gemarah (Shabbos 88a) tells us that when the
Jewish people expressed their commitment of naaseh venishma, we will do and then we will
listen, angels descended and placed crowns on their heads. Shavuos is about acquiring our
kesser Torah, our crown of Torah. It is about discovering our personalized song of Torah.
Shavuos is an opportunity to transcend the practical and reach for the ideal. It is an all night
mishmarwhere the motivation comes from within.
It is certainly true that curtailing ones sleep is a striking tactic to kinyan HaTorah, the
acquisition of Torah. However, sometimes we have to be willing to sacrifice some space in the
normative requirements of talmud Torah to inspire a broader lifetime commitment to the
passion and motivation in reaching for the crown of Torah. To truly acquire a deep and lasting
relationship to talmud Torah, we must continue to identify and embrace opportunities that
cultivate a love and a pride for the substance and song of our tradition.
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Know Thyself:
Student at the Center
of Learning
Scott Goldberg, PhD
Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning, Yeshiva University

Roger Schank, founder of the renowned Institute for the Learning Sciences at Northwestern
University, points out a fundamental truth about teaching and learning: The students that you
have may not want to learn what it is that you want to teach.
No doubt, student interest is an
important ingredient in learningbut is it the foundation on which successful learning is built?
John Hatties groundbreaking book Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating
to Achievement
provides a detailed breakdown of 138 different influences on achievement. Each
influence, organized by domain (i.e., student, teaching, teacher, school, curricula, and home), is
analyzed for, and rank ordered by, its impact on student learning. Hattie discusses each influence
in turn, providing us with a detailed explication of the factors that impact achievement.
Pirkei Avot 6:6 appears to provide us with a similar list. While analysis of the order of the
delineation of influences on Torah acquisition might bear interesting lessons for teaching and
learning, we will focus our attention on other aspects of the beraita. Reading the beraita with Hattie
as a framework shows a striking featureour beraita provides a list of characteristics of acquisition
of Torah that almost exclusively fall on the student. Indeed, the beraita pays scant attention to the
rebbe (teacher), to the students peers (whether classmates or merely friends according to
different commentaries), or to Godand even when it does, it seems to be directing its attention
to the student or learner. Further, there is no mention of the home, no mention of the specific
curriculum other than the generic Torah, and no mention of specific teaching methodologies per
se. Rather, the focus is on acquisition by the student. The focus is on learning. Remarkably, while it
took until the 20
century for educational philosophers such as John Dewey to note the active role
that students must play in his/her learning, our Sages already understood the reality that it is the
student who actively acquires Torah, not merely passively absorbs a teachers wisdom.

Schank, R. (2011). Teaching minds: How cognitive science can save our schools. New York: Teachers College Press.
Page 1.
Hattie, J.A.C. (2009). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. New York:
Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary The Benjamin and Rose Berger CJF Torah To-Go Series Sivan 5774
Like Hattie, our beraita provides us with inputs through which Torah is acquired. That is, the
48 characteristics through which Torah is acquired are not descriptors of outcomes for those
who acquire Torah. As Hattie says: Many teachers believe that if achievement is enhanced, then
there is a ripple effect to these dispositions. However, such a belief is not defensible, as such
dispositions need planned interventions and may indeed become precursors or barriers to
further learning.
Our beraita captures this notion; it isnt that the characteristics emerge when
one learns Torahthese arent outcomes of learning. Rather, these are all
characteristics/behaviors through which Torah is acquired. These are influencersthe result of
our Sages own meta-analyses of studies of achievement.
The underlying key dispositional ingredients in the student domain according to Hattie relate to
a childs openness to new experiences, their perception of the value of investing in learning, and
the sense of self that they develop through the learning process. These are motivational factors.
Our beraita itself delineates such motivational factors tooa set of dispositions that shape a
learners sense of self that influence his/her motivation to put forth effort in learning.
Let us explore a specific examplethat of anava, humility, the eighth characteristic on the list.
In his published letters, in response to a student asking about his developing a sense of self that
remains in check, Rav Shlomo Wolbe discusses the fine line between haughtiness and humility:
Rabbi Yisroel Salanter said, I know that I have the head
of 1,000 people and therefore I have the responsibility of
1,000 people. We learn from this that a person must
know the abilities and talents that God gave him/her.
Igrot U'ketavim (#93)
" "
" .

For Rav Wolbe, describing oneself as such without minimizing or exaggerating ones
characteristics is actually the definition of humility. Likewise, for Hattie, accurate understanding
of ones own achievement levels is a significant influence on his/her achievement. In fact, this
has the greatest influence.
How do we develop and teach such a disposition? This is especially challenging in a world that
promotes immediate gratification with tools that easily measure success through YouTube
hits, Facebook likes, and Twitter followers. Dan Piraro depicts this sad truth in a 2012 cartoon
depicting a funeral scene in which a couple reflects on the minimal attendance, and one of them
says, He had over 2,000 Facebook friends. I was expecting a bigger turnout.
In todays world, in which everyone is a winner because winning is more important than playing
the game, what can we do to promote the process itself? How do we promote the value of
struggling to learn beyond test grades? How do we ensure that our children do not lose interest
in an endeavor when signs of success are not immediately forthcoming? This is a serious
challenge in todays world, which stresses the final product and producing it bigger, better, and
faster. Of course, we know that successes and failures are part of what determine our religious
and personal fortitude in embracing the next moment of challenge. Indeed, stepwise individual

Hattie, p. 40.
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growth, not only big picture expectations, contributes to a healthy sense of self and thereby leads
to greater student achievement. Too often we forget this lesson ourselves and struggle to pass it
along to the next generation. We need to re-envision our definitions of success. What we tell our
children is important.
While our beraita teaches us similar advice about contributors to success close to 2,000 years
ago, Dr. Carol Dweck provides us with what she depicts as new approaches to success in her
book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Dweck helps us answer our questions about
developing student interest in learning and motivation to succeed. She depicts two different
views that people have on intelligence. The first is an entity view, in which the person considers
intelligence and ability to be fixed and stable. Students with this view of intelligence may be
overly concerned with looking smart. These people tend to develop goals based on performing
better than others and avoiding failure. They are prone to learned helplessnessthey cite
circumstances that are beyond their control and give up easily. They try to avoid challenging
activities and sometimes attempt outrageously difficult tasks as they have a built-in excuse for
failure. Following failure they may switch to an easier task or stop trying altogether. Perhaps
ironically, students with long and continuous histories of success can be most vulnerable to
learned helplessness and may accept the entity view of intelligence more readily.
In contrast, Dweck presents the incremental view of intelligence. These individuals believe that
intelligence and ability are malleable and changeable. They cultivate their intelligence through
ongoing effort, task involvement, and strategy development. They develop mastery goals with
respect to achievement and are interested in learning and mastering challenges, not just looking
smart. Following failure, they remain confident that they can succeed by revising strategies and
increasing efforts. They believe that effort will actually increase their intelligence.
Dwecks research suggests that the way we talk with our children about success and failure
makes a difference in their perception of it. Her diagnosis: only telling the end of the story,
focusing only on the successful outcomes and cutting out the challenges along the way, instills a
fixed learning disposition with reduced motivation and sense that effort matters. Such a person
does not have an accurate sense of self. Dweck prescribes the following antidote: shift the focus
of narratives to the process, discuss the ups and the downs, reflect on the challenges that were
overcome and how a successful outcome was achieved. This, according to Dweck, will create a
disposition of motivation and an accurate sense of self.
For the sages of our beraita, Hattie, Schank, and Rav Wolbe, such humility is a prerequisite for
the acquisition of Torah. Yet we do not communicate these messages to our children. In fact, we
often communicate the opposite message. Consider the numerous stories about gedolim which
portray them as infallible angel-like humans almost from the day they were born.
In contrast, Rabbi Yitzchok Hutner, in his famous letter to a struggling student, cautions us not
to leave out the struggles of our great leaders:
It is a terrible problem that when we discuss the greatness
of our gedolim, we actually deal only with the end of their
stories. We tell about their perfection, but we omit any

Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary The Benjamin and Rose Berger CJF Torah To-Go Series Sivan 5774
mention of the inner battles that raged in their souls. The
impression one gets is that they were created with their full
stature For example, everyone is impressed by the
purity of the Chofetz Chaim's speech. However, who
knows about all the wars, the battles, the impediments, the
downfalls, and the retreats that the Chofetz Chaim
experienced in his fight with the evil inclination?! As a
result [of this gap in our knowledge of gedolim], when a
young man who is imbued with a [holy] spirit and with
ambition experiences impediments and downfalls he
believes that he is not planted in the house of Hashem.
Pachad Yitzchak: Igrot U'ketavim (#128)


. ,

" ,
, ,
, ,
, ,
" ".
, '

We know that successful people struggled through challenging times before they realized
success. Rav Schach writes in his Michtavim that the Chofetz Chaim was a schmoozer. That is,
he worked to not speak lashon harahe didnt avoid speech but struggled through the
challenge, the same challenge we confront, perhaps (although perhaps not) with a different
scope and order of magnitude. We know that Beethovens music teacher thought he was
hopeless as a composer. Louisa May Alcotts editor told her that her writings would never
appeal to the public. While college chemistry students must now study Louis Pasteur, he was
given a rating of mediocre in college chemistry. Even the newspaper editor who fired Walt
Disney because he had no good ideas, had the opportunity to work through that failure by
reflecting on how to identify the qualities of creative geniuses. Of course, everyone makes
mistakes. However, it is how we deal with these errors, whether we have a mindset that leads us
to work to improve, and the extent to which we invite others in to learn from us, that can help us
achieve personal success and allow others to learn from us, as well. A teshuva from Rabbi
Shlomo Aviner stands as a model of this.
Question: Do you ever make mistakes?
Answer: I certainly make mistakes, though they are rare because
I carefully research each question [I receive] There have been
a number of times that I publicized that I erred.
Am KLavi no.5
: ?
: ,
... .

As we have seen, our beraita recognizes the role of the learner in achieving success. Among a
series of many characteristics/behaviors, humility remains a prerequisite for achievement,
substantiated by todays research that it is a foundational disposition that contributes the most
to learning. While our beraita does not address the role of the home or the school, no doubt it
would agree that we need to recognize and highlight each step in our childrens growth. We must
teach them to focus on the process, noting and reflecting on the successes and failures along the
way, not just the outcome. We must not fall into the trap of expecting immediate gratification
from our children. Instead, we must recognize the effort and time it takes to develop a healthy
and accurate sense of ones own learning abilities, as well as the other dispositions highlighted by
the beraita and our other modern sources.
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Torah Study and
Character Development
Rabbi Dovid Hirsch
Rosh Yeshiva, RIETS Rabbi, Kehillas Bais Yosef of Passaic-Clifton, New Jersey

Introduction: The Torah is acquired with 48 methods
The beraisa uses the term kinyan, acquisition, when discussing these 48 methods. This term is
usually used in the context of monetary acquisitions. Why is it used here? What does it mean to
acquire Torah? I once heard that just as we are required to formally acquire an object before we
take ownership of it, and without that acquisition, the item doesnt belong to us, so too, one who
tries to learn Torah without refining his character traits cannot truly take ownership of his Torah
learning. Learning Torah without proper character traits can be considered a form of stealing the
Torah. People mistakenly think that the mitzvos bein adam Lamakom (mitzvos between man and
Hashem) and mitzvos bein adam lachaveiro (interpersonal mitzvos) are two separate areas that
dont intersect. In reality, that is not the case. They are completely enmeshed. This is especially
true when it comes to learning Torah. If one does not strive to follow all of the values of the
Torah, there is something seriously lacking with his learning.
One does not claim credit for himself-
The Chovas Halevavos in his introduction to Shaar Avodas HaElokim writes that hakaras hatov,
gratitude, is the foundation of all character traits. In fact, the Hebrew word for Jew is Yehudi.
The word Yehudi comes from the word hodaah, to give thanks. The idea that we are known as
Yehudim, people who give thanks, speaks volumes about the importance of hakaras hatov. Thus,
it is most appropriate to begin with a discussion about hakaras hatov. I would like to present a
few ideas that show how far we go to fulfill hakaras hatov.
Hakaras Hatov forced Moshe Rabbeinu to Reinterpret Hashems Commandment
When it was time for the Jewish people to wage battle against Midyan, Hashem commands
Moshe Rabbeinu to exact revenge against the Midyanites (Bamidbar 31:2). Yet we find that
Moshe Rabbeinu appoints Pinchas to lead the battle:
Moshe sent them, a thousand from each tribe and
Pinchas the son of Elazar the Kohen with the holy
vessels and the trumpets in his hand.
Bamidbar 31:6

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The Midrash wonders why Moshe Rabbeinu didnt lead the battle himself and states:
[The verse states] Moshe sent them, Hashem told Moshe
go avenge, [meaning] you personally, and he sent others?
Rather because he was raised (as a young adult) in the Land
of Midyan, [Moshe] said, it is not proper that I should cause
suffering to those who were kind to me.
Bamidbar Rabbah, Matos 22:4

, :

Hashem told Moshe Rabbeinu to do something and he didnt listen! When it comes to character
traits, the Rambam, in the first two chapters of Hilchos Deios, writes that all traits must be
balanced. Even a trait such as anger can be displayed in limited circumstances. If Hashem would
tell someone to express a certain trait in a way that is normally considered a negative use of the
trait, there would be no reason to question Hashems request. Yet when it comes to hakaras
hatov, Rav Chaim Shmulevitz, Sichos Mussar (5732 no. 32), suggests that the trait is so
important that Moshe Rabbeinu felt that he must interpret Hashems command to go avenge
as a directive to others and not to Moshe Rabbeinu himself.
Being Grateful to a Wrongdoer Who Indirectly Caused Good
R. Chaim Shmulevitz shows us another example of the importance of hakaras hatov. After
Moshe Rabbeinu killed the Egyptian taskmaster who was beating a Jewish slave, he fled to
Midyan, where he encountered a struggle between the daughters of Yisro and some shepherds.
Moshe Rabbeinu chased away the shepherds and gave water to Yisros sheep. When Yisro asks
his daughters why they came home earlier than usual that day, they respond:
They said, an Egyptian man saved us from the shepherds
and he drew [water] for us and gave water to the sheep.
Shemos 2:19


Why did Yisros daughters refer to Moshe Rabbeinu as an Egyptian? Wasnt he an Ivri (a Jew)?
The Midrash states:
This is comparable to someone who was bitten by a donkey and
ran to the river to wash his legs in the water. When he put his legs
in the water, he saw a child drowning and saved the child. The
child said to him, If not for you, I would have died. The man
responded, It wasnt me who saved you but rather the donkey
who bit me and chased me away. He saved you. Similarly, when
the daughters of Yisro said to Moshe, thank you for saving us,
Moshe said, the Egyptian that I killed is the one who saved you.
Therefore, they told their father, An Egyptian man, meaning,
who caused him to come to us, the Egyptian man that [Moshe]
Shemos Rabbah, Shemos 1:32



, :

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The Egyptian taskmaster was beating a Jewish slave. What he was doing at the time was so evil
that it warranted Moshe Rabbeinu killing him. Yet Moshe Rabbeinus deep sense of gratitude
allowed him to see that the Egyptian taskmaster deserved some credit for indirectly causing
something good.
Gratitude must be a Personal Expression
Chazaras Hashatz, the Chazzans Repetition, is a prayer recited by the chazzan on behalf of the
whole congregation. Rav Soloveitchik stressed the fact that even though we already fulfilled our
personal obligation of reciting the Amidah, Chazaras Hashatz is a different type of prayer. It is a
tefillas hatzibbur, a prayer offered by the whole congregation (see Nefesh Harav pp. 124-127).
We are supposed to listen to every word of the chazzan (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim
124:4). Nevertheless, there is one prayer that we recite on our own: Modim Drabbanan. Why
dont we follow the normal protocol by listening to the chazzans recitation of Modim? Rav
Dovid Avudraham explains:
When the chazzan reaches Modim and bows, the entire
congregation bows and recites a small expression of gratitude,
which also begins with the word Modim (we are grateful) because
it is not the way of a servant to thank his master and tell him you
are my master through an agent. Rather each person must
verbally accept the yoke of Heaven personally and if one uses an
agent, it is not a full-fledged acceptance However, regarding
other prayers that are requests, one may use an agent to request
ones needs.
Sefer Avudraham, Shemoneh Esrei



It is not enough to feel a sense of gratitude toward those who have been kind to us. We must
communicate it to them regularly and in a personal way. As the Chovos Halevavos teaches us,
regular expressions of gratitude will lead one to refine all of his character traits. This is why it is a
critical aspect of acquiring Torah.
A Listening Ear- (#2)
The following approach is found in Rav Baruch Simons, Imrei Baruch, Mishpatim no. 3. The
Gemara, in a discussion about compensation for damages that cause bodily harm, quotes a
beraisa that states the following regarding sheves, repayment for loss of work:
If he caused the eye to go blind, he pays the value of the eye (i.e. the difference between
what the person would have earned before becoming blind and what he could earn in
the future) If he caused the person to go deaf, he pays the entire worth of the
individual (i.e. what the person would have earned over the course of his lifetime).
Baba Kama 85b



In addition to the technical fact that in the times of the Mishna, someone who was deaf couldnt
find any type of employment, Rabbeinu Yonah, Shaarei Teshuva 2:12, notes that the beraisa is
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teaching us a moral lesson as well: The ability to hear and listen to what others have to tell us is
something invaluable.
Chazal tell us that we have two options to filter out information that we shouldnt be listening to.
We can cover our ears with our earlobes or we can cover them with our fingers. If Hashem
wanted us to be able to block out information we shouldnt listen to, why didnt he design the
ear like the mouth that can be opened and closed naturally? Maharal, Beer HaGolah, Beer no. 3,
explains that listening is so important that Hashem didnt want to create any natural impediment
to our ability to listen.
If an eved Ivri (Jewish servant) finishes his six-year term and decides to remain a slave, he must
have his ear pierced. Why, specifically, the ear? The Gemara explains:
Why is the ear singled out from all of the limbs of the body?
Hashem said, the ear which heard My voice on Mount Sinai saying
For unto Me the children of Israel are servants; they are My
servants, and not servants of servantsand this individual went
and acquired for himself a master?! He will have his ear pierced.
Kiddushin 22b



This explanation begs a question: If piercing the ear is a punishment for not listening to
Hashems commandments, why do we wait until the end of the six years to pierce his ears? Why
not do so right away? R. Chaim Yaakov Goldvicht, Asufas Maarachos pp.83-90, explains that a
servant has no ability to make his own decisions. He might be able to listen to the commands of
his master, but he is not able to process information on his own. When an eved Ivri decides that
he wants to permanently remain a servant (at least until yovel) and he has totally relinquished his
ability to listen to information and process it, he deserves to have a punishment relating
specifically to his ear. He doesnt recognize the importance of being able to listen.
With this background, we can understand why listening is an important component of acquiring
Torah. The pasuk states:
One who turns his ear from hearing Torah, his
prayers are considered an abomination.
Mishlei 28:9

Why should someone who doesnt listen to the words of Torah be punished specifically that his
prayers are not answered? Furthermore, what it is it about not listening to Torah that makes his
prayer an abomination? Rav Chaim Shmulevitz, Sichos Mussar (5732 no. 19), explains that we
are dealing with someone who specifically doesnt want to listen to someone elses ideas in
Torah. He is only interested in his own opinions. When a person takes such an attitude, Hashem
takes the same attitude and says, if this person is not willing to listen to others, why should I
listen to him? His prayers are now meaningless and are therefore an abomination.
A similar idea is presented by Rav Chaim Volozhiner to explain the following Mishna:
R. Chanina b. Tradyon says: Two people who sit and dont
have words of Torah between them, it is considered a

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gathering of scoffers.
Avos 3:2

We usually associate moshav leitzim, a gathering of scoffers, as a group of people engaged in
frivolity or silliness. These two people could be sitting and engaged in serious behavior, and yet
the Torah calls it a moshav leitzim just because they dont speak words of Torah. Why? R. Chaim
Volozhiner, Ruach Chaim, explains that they key word is beineihem (between them). The Mishna
is discussing two people and each of them is learning Torah. However, neither individual is
interested in listening to the Torah ideas of the other. Each individual is learning on his own. In
taking that approach, each one is scoffing at the opinions of the other, and therefore the Mishna
considers it a moshav leitzim.
Distancing Oneself from Honor- (#34)
The Gemara states:
One who pursues glory, glory runs away from him and one
who runs away from glory, glory will chase him.
Eruvin 13b


This is the idea of distancing oneself from honor. It is not enough to not pursue honor. If we
want to properly acquire Torah, we have to run away from it.
In general, pursuit of honor is considered a terrible thing. As we noted earlier, the Rambam in
Hilchos Deios writes that our character traits must be balanced. There are two traits that require
us to go to an extreme and eliminate them almost completely: anger and haughtiness. Regarding
haughtiness, the Gemara, Sotah 5a, has a discussion as to whether any form of haughtiness is
acceptable and the maximum that is allowed is a shemini shebshminis, 1/64 of ones character. A
person must have self-esteem, but cannot pursue honor.
The obligation to run away from honor is relevant in the area of talmud Torah. The Mishna
R. Tzadok says: Do not make [words of Torah] a crown to
glorify oneself with and not a hatchet to dig with. Hillel said
a similar idea: One who uses the crown will waste away.
Avos 4:5


Torah learning and seeking honor are two contradictory concepts, and therefore Torah learning
should not be used as a tool for seeking honor. While Tosafos, Berachos 17a, permit learning for
the purpose of gaining honor if it will lead one to learning for its own sake, Tosafos, Pesachim
50b, prohibit learning for the purpose of boasting to others.
The Chasam Sofer, in his Teshuvos, Orach Chaim no. 208, states that one who publishes a sefer for
the purpose of gaining honor violates a biblical prohibition. Originally, there was a prohibition
against writing down any words of Torah unless one was writing one of the books of Tanach. Any
interpretations or commentaries were meant to be passed on orally from generation to generation.
The Gemara, Gittin 60a, states that when the rabbis saw that parts of the oral tradition would be
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lost if they werent written down, they invoked the verse (Tehillim 119:126) '
, It is a time to act for Hashem, they violated the Torah, and permitted writing down the oral
tradition. The Chasam Sofer suggests that this leniency only applies to someone who is interested
in carrying on the tradition and teaching Torah to others for altruistic reasons. However, if one is
writing a sefer for the purpose of gaining honor, the leniency does not apply and one violates the
biblical prohibition against writing down the oral tradition.
The Gemara states:
Rabbi Chanina b. Idi states: Why are words of Torah
compared to water to teach you that just as water sinks
from a high place to a low place, so too words of Torah
only last through someone who is humble.
Taanis 7a



Torah is compared to water, which flows downward. If someone wants to be successful learning
Torah, he should emulate water. Water seeks its lowest point and then spreads out. Similarly,
one should not learn for the purpose of gaining honor but rather to share it with others. Like
water, we have an obligation to disseminate the Torah, not to keep it to ourselves. Someone who
is looking for honor doesnt want to share his ideas with his colleagues because he is worried
about his colleagues taking away some of his honor. However, someone who runs away from
honor will graciously share with others because he understands that this is the ultimate purpose
of Torah learning.
The opening Mishna in Avos states, Moshe kibel Torah MiSinai, Moshe received the Torah
from Sinai. Why does the Mishna say MiSinai, why not BSinai, at Sinai? What did he receive
from Sinai? Rav Soloveitchik noted the Midrash that discusses why Har Sinai was chosen as the
location for the receiving of the Torah:
[The verse (Mishlei 29:23) states] The haughtiness of a person
will lower him, this refers to Mount Tavor and Mount Carmel
who came from across the world with pride saying we are the tall
mountains and on us, Hashem will give the Torah. [The verse
continues,] A humble person will sustain honor, this refers to
Sinai who humbled itself and said I am the lowest of mountains,
and because of this, Hashem sustained its honor and gave the
Torah on it and it was worthy of all of the honor.
Bamidbar Rabbah, Naso 13:3


, :

Rav Soloveitchik suggested that Moshe Rabbeinu didnt only receive the Torah at Sinai. He
learned the message of humility from Sinai and he was the leader of the Jewish people because of
that humility. When we run away from honor and think about how we can help others through
our Torah learning, we can strive to be like Moshe Rabbeinu, the greatest teacher of Torah.

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The Mishna, Sotah 14a, states that most grain-based korbanos are made from wheat, not barley,
because wheat is considered food for humans and barley is considered food for animals. The
korban haomer, offered from the second day of Pesach until Shavuos, consisted of barley, and
the special korban for Shavuos, the shtei halechem, was made from wheat. The contrast between
the korban haomer and the shtei halechem can be understood when we consider the comment
found in the Zohar Chadash to Parshas Yisro, that when we left Mitzrayim we were at the 49

gate of tumah (impurity). On a spiritual level, we were no different than animals. There is no
coincidence that there are 49 days in the Omer. Each day of the Omer we are supposed to
eradicate a gate of impurity to reach the height of spiritual human beings ready to accept the
Torah. During the beginning of that process, we bring a korban consisting of animal food and at
the end of that process on Shavuos, after we have purged ourselves of our animalistic tendencies,
we bring a korban of wheat, to highlight the fact that we have developed into spiritual human
beings. The days of the Omer are a time to work specifically on refining our middos to remedy
the lack of kavod the talmidei Rav Akiva had for one another. After we have worked on these
traits and show respect for one another, then we are ready to accept and acquire the Torah.

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Because of Hashems love for them, He regularly counts them. He
counted them when they left Egypt and when they died after the
golden calf, He counted them to know how many remained and
when He wanted to reveal the Divine presence, He counted them.
Rashi, Bamidbar 1:1

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And He took him outside, and He said, "Please look heavenward
and count the stars, if you are able to count them." And He said to
him, "So will be your seed."
Bereishit 15:5
And You said, I will surely do good with you, and I will make your
seed [as numerous] as the sand of the sea, which cannot be
counted because of multitude."
Bereishit 32:13
And I will make your seed like the dust of the earth, so that if a man
will be able to count the dust of the earth, so will your seed be counted.
Bereishit 13:16 (Judaica Press Translation)

*An English language translation of key sources was added to ease the reading of the article and to enhance the
understanding of the English language summary at the end of the article.
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The prayers are the same as the holiday of Pesach except that we
recite this holiday of Shavuot the time of the receiving of the
Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 494:1

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And they perceived the God of Israel, and beneath His feet was like
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Shemot 24:10 (Judaica Press Translation)

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Rav Yosef said on Shavuot: Make for me a meal with a fine
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how many other Yosefs are there in the marketplace?
Pesachim 68b

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Question 1: The Midrash notes ten times that the Jewish people were counted, and the
number is always an exact, finite number. At the same time, the Jewish people are compared
to the stars of the sky, the sand of the beach and the dust of the earth, all of which cannot be
counted. Can the Jewish people be counted or not?
Question 2: In the middle of telling us how the Jewish people camped in the desert, the
Torah tells us the law of the nazir (someone who takes a vow not to drink wine, cut his hair
or come in contact with a corpse) and the law of the sotah (adulteress). Dont these laws
seem out of place?
Question 3: Shavuot is the day that we celebrate the receiving of the Torah. However,
according to the assumption that the Jewish people left Egypt on a Thursday and received
the Torah on Shabbat, the Torah was actually given on the 51
day after leaving Egypt. Why
then do we celebrate receiving the Torah 50 days after the first day of Pesach?
To answer these questions, we must understand the word for counting, lesaper, is from the
root . . . , which has three other connotations: 1) a border or boundary, 2) to grow and
multiply, 3) something that is more easily seen from a distance. The Jewish people are
compared to three things that cant be counted: 1) The sand on the beach, which is a
boundary for the water; 2) the dust of the earth, which contributes to the growth of all
vegetation; 3) The stars of the sky, which can only be seen from a distance.
One of the themes of receiving the Torah is boundaries. In order to be a nation that
transcends all boundaries, we have to first know and observe certain boundaries. On the 50

day after leaving Egypt, the Jews were given certain boundaries at Har Sinai before receiving
the Torah on the 51
. Shavuot is a day to commemorate the fact that we can live by those
boundaries. Our receiving of the Torah doesnt celebrate our intellectual ability to study the
Torah but our moral commitment to observing it.
While the nations of the world focus on numbers, statistics and ratings, we concern
ourselves with unity and the importance of the individual. The Torah interrupts the story of
the encampment in the desert with the laws of the nazir and sotah to teach us that if
someone leaves the camp, whether the person is overly-religious like the nazir or wayward
like the sotah, we dont leave that person behind. We require unity and therefore stop our
travels to attempt to bring that person back.
We may represent a small, finite number, but through our unity, we can transcend numbers
and be a nation that cannot be counted.

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Dissuasion and
Complementary Themes in
the Conversion Process
Rabbi Michoel Zylberman
Associate Bochen, RIETS
Geirus Coordinator, RCA Segan Menahel, Beth Din of America

The Gemara (Keritut 9a) derives the necessary components of the conversion process from our
collective experience at Sinai. The requirements of brit milah (for males), immersion in a mikvah,
and bringing a korban (when there is a Beit HaMikdash) mirror the steps that the Jewish people
took prior to receiving the Torah.
While the formal steps of the act of geirut emerge from the
conversion that we underwent at Sinai, the prescribed attitude and orientation toward prospective
converts finds precedent in the exchange between Naomi and Rut in Megillat Rut.
Discouraging the Prospective Convert
The Gemara (Yevamot 47a-b) records:
Our Rabbis taught: If a [prospective] convert comes to convert nowadays,
we say to him/her: Why do you desire to convert? Do you not know that
Israel at the present time is persecuted and oppressed, despised, harassed

See Rambam (Issurei Biah 13:1-5). In a fascinating line, Meiri (Beit Habechirah, Yevamot 46a s.v. Uma sheamru)
implicitly wonders why every Jew is not required to undergo immersion, just as every male must receive a brit milah,
as part of a personal acceptance of the Covenant.
R. Hershel Schachter (Ginat Egoz 35:5) poses the following questions, based on a comment of R. Yisrael Yehoshua
of Kutna, Yeshuot Yisrael (Choshen Mishpat 3), that relate to the relationship between the conversion process and
maamad Har Sinai. First, the Gemara (Yevamot 46a) establishes that geirut must take place in the presence of a beit
din. If conversion is modeled after Sinai, why is there a necessity for a beit din, as there was no beit din overseeing
the giving of the Torah? Second, at Har Sinai we received the Torah in the presence of the Shechinah. Why do we
not require the Shechinah to be present in order to perform a conversion? The answer is that at Har Sinai, precisely
because of the presence of the Shechinah, there was no need for a beit din. However, for geirut throughout the
generations, the beit din serves as the representative of the Shechinah in accepting new members of the Jewish
people. See R. Schachters comments there for further development of this idea and some practical ramifications.
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and overcome by afflictions? If he/she replies, I know and yet am
unworthy, we accept him/her immediately,
and we inform him/her of
some of the minor commandments and some of the major commandments
And we inform him/her of the punishment for the [transgression of
the] commandments. We say to him/her: You should know that before
you had come, if you had eaten forbidden fats, you would not have been
punishable with karet (Divine excision), if you had profaned the Shabbat
you would not have been punishable with stoning; but now were you to eat
forbidden fats, you would be punished with karet; were you to profane the
Shabbat you would be punished with stoning. And just as we inform
him/her of the punishment for [the transgression of] the commandments,
so too do we inform him/her of the reward [granted for their fulfilment]
and we inform him/her of some of the minor commandments and
some of the major commandments - what is the reason? In order that if
he/she desires to withdraw let him/her do so, for R. Chelbo said: Converts
are as hard for Israel [to endure] as a sore We should not persuade or
dissuade excessively. R. Eleazar said: What is the Scriptural proof? It is
written (Rut 1:18), And when [Naomi] saw that [Rut] was determined
to go with her, she left off speaking to her. She said We are forbidden to
leave the boundaries on Shabbat, Rut replied (Rut 1:16) Where you go,
I will go. [Naomi said] We are forbidden to have secluded meetings
between man and woman. [Rut replied] Where you sleep, I will sleep.
(Rut 1:16) [Naomi said] We have been commanded six hundred and
thirteen commandments. [Rut responded] Your people shall be my
people. (Rut 1:16). [Naomi said] We are forbidden from idolatry.
[Rut replied] Your God is my God. (Rut 1:16). [Naomi said] 'Four
modes of death were entrusted to beth din. [Rut said] Where you die, I
will die. (Rut 1:17) [Naomi said: Two graveyards were placed at the
disposal of the beth din. [Rut said] And there will I be buried. (Rut
1:17). Immediately, [Naomi] saw that [Rut] was determined to go with


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On the one hand, the Gemara requires that we initially attempt to dissuade a prospective
convert from becoming a coreligionist. We must make the prospective convert fully aware of
both the intense persecution that is the lot of the Jew as well as the significant obligations and
responsibilities of a Torah-observant Jew. The Midrash (Rut Rabbah 2:16) appears to go even

Although the Gemara indicates that we would accept such a convert immediately, common practice is to require a
course of study to ensure that the convert possesses the proper knowledge to conduct him or herself as an observant
Jew. Minchat Elazar (4:63), in justifying the practice of teaching Torah to conversion candidates despite the
Talmudic prohibition (Chagiga 13a and Sanhedrin 59a) of teaching Torah to a non-Jew, reasons that if a beit din
were to convert someone without previously educating him in the proper observance of mitzvot (he specifically
references proficiency in the siddur), the convert would, upon conversion, violate numerous prohibitions, and the
beit din would have violated the prohibition of lifnei iver, misguiding the uninformed.
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further than the Gemara in mandating three attempts at dissuading a prospective convert, based
on the three times that Naomi pleaded with Rut shovna, return:

' '


[The verse (Rut 1:12) states] Return my daughters, go. R.
Shmuel b. Nachmeni said in the name of R. Yudan b. R. Chanina:
In three places it says return (1:7, 1:11 and 1:12) corresponding
to the three times we turn away the prospective convert. If he is
willing to continue, we accept him.

There are multiple rationales for attempting to dismiss a prospective convert. The Gemara presents R.
Chelbos statement that converts are as difficult for the Jewish people as a sapachat, a form of tzaraat.
The rishonim disagree as to whether R. Chelbo highlights a deficiency in the collective body of geirim
and the need to weed out those whose conversion would be detrimental to the Jewish people, or
whether he emphasizes the exalted status of the ger that may reflect negatively on Jews from birth.
Rashi (s.v. Damar) suggests that according to R. Chelbo, converts tend to retain some practices of
their upbringing and may negatively influence other Jews.
Tosafot (Yevamot 47b and Kiddushin
70b-71a s.v. Kashim), however, present two distinct interpretations of R. Chelbo that stress the
special status of a ger. First, acceptance of converts poses a particular challenge to other Jews since
one who causes any anguish (onaah) to a ger violates multiple prohibitions.
Alternatively, geirim
tend to be especially knowledgeable and scrupulous about mitzvah performance, and this
implicates those Jews from birth who are not as careful about their observance. Beit Yosef (Yoreh
Deah 268 s.v. Ukesheba) quotes Semag (Lo Taaseh 116) as explaining that the attempts at
dissuading the potential convert serve to prevent any subsequent claim on his part that had he
known what he was getting himself into he would never have converted.

Rambam (Issurei Biah 14:1) indicates that beyond (and prior to) the dissuasive conversation
mandated by the Gemara, a beit din should independently investigate the motivation and
sincerity of a prospective convert.
How do we accept righteous converts? When a non-Jew
comes to convert, and we investigate him and do not find any


Although this formulation does not appear in Shulchan Aruch or the classic authorities, Rokeach (110) does rule
that we should not accept converts until we have discouraged them three times. For further analysis of this matter
see R. Yona Reiss, Binyan Kabalat Geirim, in Zeved Tov (pp. 459-460).
See Rambam (Issurei Biah 13:18), who appears to understand this line in a similar vein. Meiri (Yevamot 109b s.v. Lolam)
writes that R. Chelbos concern is that one who converts for ulterior motives may tend, once the original impetus is gone,
to become less careful in his observance and serve as a negative influence on other Jews. While Rashi and Rambams
concern may arguably extend even to sincere converts, Meiris presentation is clearly limited to those that convert for
ulterior motives. Bach (Yoreh Deah 268:4), however, assumes this understanding in Rashi and Rambam as well. See also
Rashi (Niddah 13b s.v. Ksapachat) who quotes and rejects an interpretation that converts may not be sufficiently
knowledgeable in their mitzvah observance and may thus create an unfair burden for the rest of the Jewish people, as the
notion of arvut creates collective responsibility for the deviant actions of all members of the Jewish people. Rashi
ultimately rejects this interpretation not because of the premise, but because he believes that geirim are not included in
arvut. See also the citation of this position in Tosafot (Yevamot 47b and Kiddushin 70b s.v. Kashim).
See Bava Metzia 59b.
See R. Moshe Klein, Mishnat HaGer (Part II Chapter 6 p. 264) for an analysis of Semags intention.
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ulterior motives,
we say to him Why do you want to
' .

The general approach of contemporary poskim, reflected most famously in Achiezer (3:26-28),
is to convert individuals whose initial motivation may have been for ulterior motives when the
beit din can ultimately discern sincerity and commitment independent of the initial motivation.
This is consistent, on some level, with the approach of Tosafot (Yevamot 24b s.v. Lo and 109b
s.v. Raah) to the actions of Hillel Hazakein. The Gemara (Shabbat 31a) records that Hillel
Hazkein was approached by a prospective convert who insisted on converting with the
precondition that he become a kohen gadol, a clear impossibility, and by a prospective convert
who insisted on learning the entire Torah while standing on one foot. Despite the apparent lack
of sincerity on the part of these conversion candidates, Hillel proceeded to convert them.
Tosafot explain that Hillel was confident that ultimately these individuals would possess the
requisite sincerity.
Encouraging the Prospective Convert
Notwithstanding all of the above, the Gemara equally cautions against being overly dismissive or
discouraging of the interested convert; ein marbin alavwe should not scare the sincere convert
away. The very next line in Rut Rabbah reflects this balance.
R. Yitzchak said: A stranger shall not sleep outside (Iyov
a person should always push away with his left hand
and bring close with his right hand.
' )
: (

Although Naomi repeatedly attempted to discourage Rut from converting, she embraced Ruts
decision once she realized the depth of Ruts commitment. The Gemara in Sanhedrin (99b)
records that the Avot were punished for not allowing Timna to convert despite her sincere
Timna came from royal stock but wanted to embrace the faith of Avraham, Yitzchak,
and Yaakov. However, the Avot pushed her away, and Timna subsequently became a concubine
of Elifaz the son of Esav and gave birth to Amalek (Bereishit 36:12), which Chazal view as a
punishment for not facilitating the conversion of a sincere potential convert.
Bach (Yoreh Deah 268:5) views the detailed instructions of the above quoted Gemara in Yevamot as
striking the appropriate balance between discouraging the insincere convert and encouraging the
sincere one. The Gemara requires that we initially apprise the interested party about a sample of
complex mitzvot (chamurot) as well as a sample of simple mitzvot (kalot). We hope that upon hearing
about the complexity of Jewish observance, evidenced by the selection of mitzvot chamurot, and the
punishment for noncompliance, the insincere convert will abandon his quest. At the same time, we

See also Meiri (Yevamot 47a s.v. Kevar). Shut Beit Yitzchak (Yoreh Deah 2:100:4) notes that Rambams language
implies that a beit din should not rely solely on the representation of the prospective convert about his motivation
but should reach its own independent conclusion.
The commentaries on the Medrash note that the homiletic interpretation of the passuk in Iyov is that one should
not totally push away a prospective convert, forcing him out onto the street.
Tosafot (Yevamot 109b s.v. Raah) note that the Gemaras negative comment about those who accept geirim
applies only to those who convert them immediately upon request or despite clear external motivation.
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inform the prospective convert of some mitzvot kalot and of the reward for proper observance. This is
due to the opposite concern: if the prospective convert is sincerely motivated and we fail to inform him
that there are also easier elements of observance and immense reward for proper observance, we will
unjustifiably discourage him from what would be an appropriate conversion. We also inform him of the
ultimate reward in Olam Haba in order to prevent him from becoming distressed by the theological
dilemma of tzadik vra lothe suffering of the righteous in this world.

Shut R Eliyahu Gutmacher (Yoreh Deah 87) suggests that if a beit din has doubts about the
sincerity of a potential convert but has no credible evidence of lack of sincerity, the orientation of
the beit din should be to accept rather than reject the convert. In his calculation, the consequences
of rejecting a genuinely sincere convert, as the Avot did with Timna, are more severe than of
accepting a candidate who appears sincere to the beit din but may be masking ulterior motivations.
He argues that the Avot presumably had at least speculative grounds for rejecting Timna but were
nonetheless punished for doing so. If, however, a beit din were to accept a convert who,
unbeknown to them, had ulterior motivations that he deliberately withheld from the beit din, the
conversion would still be valid post facto (Yevamot 24b)
(assuming that the ger sincerely
accepted the yoke of observance) and the beit din would not be liable for any wrongdoing.

According to some authorities, facilitating the conversion of a sincere, committed convert may
be included either in the imperative of ahavat hager, loving the convert,
or subsumed more
generally under the mitzvah of ahavat Hashem. The Gemara (Shabbat 137b) rules that one who
circumcises a convert recites a berachah that includes the phrase asher kidishanu bmitzvotav
vtzivanu lamul et hageirim etc. Tosafot Harosh implicitly asks
what mitzvah is there to

See, however, Meiri (Yevamot 47a s.v. Kevar) who writes that the reason for informing the prospective convert
about mitzvot kalot is that idolatrous religions do not generally have precepts that govern the minutia of daily life.
Upon discovering that Judaism involves such details, the prospective convert may choose to reconsider. Meiri
understands that our representation about the ultimate reward in Olam Haba is similarly intended to dissuade the
convert. The emphasis is supposed to be that only the truly righteous will merit such reward. See also Iyun Yaakov
on the Ein Yaakov, quoted in the hagahot vhearot on the Machon Yerushalayim Tur (268:20), who cites a
Tanchuma on Parshat Reeh that presents Dovid HaMelech as expressing to Hakadosh Baruch Hu that he is more
worried about proper performance of mitzvot kalot than of mitzvot chamurot, given the dictum (Avot 2:1) hevei zahir
bmitzvah kalah kvachamurahbe as careful with an easy mitvzah as with a difficult mitzvah. The hope is that
information about easy mitzvot may also serve to discourage a potential convert.
The conclusion of the Gemara there is that even though we should not convert individuals who convert for ulterior
motives, their conversions are valid post facto (so long as the requisite commitment to beliefs and practices was in place).
For further analysis of this position see Mishnat Hager (Part II Chapter 3). One could, however, argue, based on
the presentation of R. Schachter cited in footnote 1 above, that under certain circumstances, the deliberate
withholding of critical information from a beit din when that information may have changed the beit dins ultimate
decision to convert a person could call into question the validity of the conversion. See a teshuvah of R. Asher Weiss
on this topic in Kovetz Darchei Horaah 12 (Yerushalayim, Sivan 5770 pp. 70-72) that recommended redoing the
conversion in the particular case that he was asked about.
See Devarim 10:19 And you shall love the convert for you were
strangers in the land of Egypt. The more conventional understanding of this passuk assumes that it only applies
subsequent to a conversion. Mishnat Hager (Part II Chapter 11 footnote 70) quotes acharonim that note that this is
the simple understanding of the Rambam (Hilchot Deiot 6:4).
Shut Dvar Avraham (2:25:1) was asked how we recite a berachah on the milah of a convert if there is no
obligation to circumcise converts. He responds that while there is no obligation to seek out converts to circumcise
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circumcise a convert that would justify the text of this berachah.
He answers
. For we are commanded to love converts and it is impossible
to be a [male] convert without milah. This response implies that the act of accepting geirim is
included in the mitzvah of ahavat hager.

R. Yehuda Gershuni (Kol Tzofayich pp. 503-505, cited in R. Gedalia Dov Schwartz, Loving the
Convert: Converts to Judaism and our Relationship with Them, Chicago 2010) quotes the
Tashbeitz in Zohar HaRakia (28), who asks why R. Shlomo ibn Gevirol did not count the
mitzvah of accepting geirim in his list of mitzvot. R. Gershuni and R. Yerucham Fishel Perlow
(commentary to Sefer Hamitzvot of Rabbeinu Saadia Gaon end of Aseh 19) suggest that this is
included in the mitzvah of ahavat Hashem. This is evidenced in Sifrei (Vaetchanan Piska 32):
You shall love God your Lord, project love of Him onto other
people as your father Avraham [did], as it states (Bereishit
12:5) And the souls that they made in Charan. If the whole
world attempted to create one small mosquito and give it life,
they would not be able. [How then did Avraham make
people?] Rather, this teaches that Avraham Avinu converted
them and took them under the wings of the Shechinah.
' ,
: ( ,


The Rambam quotes this Sifrei in his Sefer Hamitzvot (Aseh 3) and explains that just as Avraham
Avinu, out of his love of Hashem, inspired others to join his faith. so too should we love Hashem
in such a way that inspires others to take an interest in our faith.

Unique Circumstances
While a beit din must strike an appropriate balance between discouraging and encouraging a
prospective convert, there are situations in which the general orientation to push away may be
minimized or dispensed with entirely. In 1864, as the American Civil War was raging, Rabbi

(mitzvah chiyuvit), if a situation presents itself in which a sincere convert is in need of a milah one fulfills a mitzvah
in performing the conversion (mitzvah kiyumit). By way of analogy, while there is no mitzvah to seek out animals to
slaughter, if one does slaughter an animal in order to eat its meat, he fulfills the mitzvah of shechitah.
The text in our Gemara indicates that there are two separate berachot recited upon the milah of a ger: the generic
al hamilah as well as the unique lamul et hagerim etc.. Rambam (Milah 3:4) only records the second berachah.
Kesef Mishneh notes that Rambam follows the text of the Gemara as recorded in Rif and explains that according to
Rambam this berachah is not a birchat hamitzvah, as the ger is not yet Jewish until he completes his immersion in a
mikvah, but rather a birchat hashevach, a berachah extolling the uniqueness of the mitzvah of brit milah in general
and the status of dam brit, the blood of the brit. This approach is in distinction to that of the Rosh, who clearly views
this berachah as a birchat hamitzvah.
This is the position of Ri AlBartziloni cited in the commentary of R. Yerucham Fishel Perlow on the Sefer
Hamitzvot of Rabbeinu Saadia Gaon (end of Aseh 19).
It is worth noting an interesting comment of Ibn Ezra (Devarim 31:12). Included in the Torahs list of attendees
at the Hakhel gathering is hager asher bkirbechathe stranger in your midst. Ibn Ezra writes, ulay yityahad
perhaps he will become Jewish. Ibn Ezra clearly understood that the ger referenced here is not a ger zedek, an actual
convert, but rather a ger toshav, a non-Jewish resident of the land of Israel, and that there is a communal interest in
having such a person convert. See Pardes Yosef HaChadash on this passuk for further source material about this
matter. See also the statement of R. Eliezer in the Gemara (Pesachim 87b).
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Bernard Illowy (1814-1875), a student of the Chasam Sofer who served as the rabbi of New
Orleans, Louisiana, issued an edict prohibiting local mohalim from circumcising children born to a
union of a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother. He reasoned that these conversions were not
being performed for the sake of geirut, as the mothers had no intention of converting themselves or
even raising the children as Jews (and neither did the nonobservant Jewish fathers), and any
berachah recited on such a milah would be a berachah levatalaha blessing recited in vain.

Performing a milah on these children would give the incorrect impression that these children were
halachically Jewish. In response to R. Illowys proclamation, two of the local mohalim pledged to
follow his directive; a third mohel refused and R. Illowy publiclly denounced him.

R. Illowys actions, which he wrote had the endorsement of R. Samson Rafael Hirsch of
Frankfurt, spawned a debate in the Jewish newspapers of the time, both in the United States and
in Germany, as to whether his halachic position and banning of the noncompliant mohel were
justified, and as to whether a subsequent milah performed by the noncompliant mohel would be
valid post facto. The treatment in the Der Israelit, the weekly organ of Agudath Israel in
Germany, led to an exchange of letters between two German halachic authorities of the time, R.
Zvi Hirsch Kalischer and R. Ezriel Hildesheimer. As part of their discussion, R. Kalischer, in
disagreeing with R. Illowy, cites the pasuk in Ezra (9:2) that refers to zera kodesh, holy seed. R.
Kalischer claims that zera kodesh is a reference to the progeny of the unions between Jewish men
and non-Jewish women that were rampant in the time of Ezra and Nechemia. These children,
while not halachically Jewish, have some higher status than full non-Jews and therefore, argues
R. Kalischer, it is appropriate to do what we can to provide them, when possible, with a proper
conversion. R. Hildesheimer argues that zera kodesh refers not to the progeny of these unions
but to the Jewish seed itself of the husbands.
Thus there is no evidence to the notion of treating
these children differently than any other non-Jew.

What emerges from R. Kalischers argument is the possibility of a different orientation toward
conversion candidates with Jewish blood or identity who are not halachically Jewish. He
suggests that the general orientation to push off conversion candidates may not apply to the
same extent to an individual who has a Jewish father. There may be grounds to distinguish
between the formal pushing away reflected in the Gemaras specific directives, that should still
be followed, and the less rigorous defined process of investigation of motives. Contemporary

Regarding performing milah on non-Jews generally see Rema (Yoreh Deah 263:5), Taz (263:3), and Shach (263:8).
These accounts are included in a collection of R. Illowys writings published by his son and entitled Sefer
Milchamot Elokim: The Controversial Letters and the Casuistic Decisions of Rabbi Bernard Illowy PhD (Berlin 1914),
pp. 188-202. That volume reprinted some articles written by R. Illowy and others that appeared in the Jewish
Messenger of New York and the German Der Israelit. See the introduction for biographical information about R.
Illowy, some of which is reproduced at R. Illowy was also
responsible for bringing to the attention of the halachic world the question of the kashrut of the Muscovy Duck.
R. Reiss (ibid. p. 465) observes that the commentary of Metzudat David on the passuk in Ezra supports R.
Hildesheimers interpretation. See further evidence of this in R. Mordechai Alter, Kager Kaezrach (Yerushalayim
2013), pp. 391-397.
Shut R. Ezriel 229-232, especially 229:19 and 230:18.
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batei din tend to be sympathetic to this approach, at least in certain circumstances in which a
halachically non-Jewish individual is raised with a Jewish identity .

This is presumably the case to an even larger degree regarding an individual who was raised as
Jewish and is observant of halacha only to find out at some later point that he or she is not
halachically Jewish. The primary reasons for pushing away geirimthe concerns for ulterior
motives or for not understanding the gravity of accountability involvedwould not apply in such
a situation. In a brief previously unpublished letter reprinted in the journal Moriah (Tamuz 5765 p.
57 and recently republished in Iggerot Moshe Vol. 9 Even Haezer 14), R. Moshe Feinstein
responded to an inquiry from Brazil regarding the daughter of a non-Jewish woman (and a Jewish
father) who was raised Jewish, attended Jewish schools, and was observant of halacha, and only
discovered that she was not halachically Jewish upon becoming engaged to marry a Jew. The
question posed was whether the beit din should be wary of converting such a person. R. Moshe
answered that the beit din should not hesitate to convert her. Even though one might have argued
that such a conversion should be deemed a conversion for ulterior motives (i.e. to be able to marry
the man that she was engaged to), that is not the case, as the whole reason that she was interested
in marrying a Jewish man was because of her Jewish upbringing. R. Moshe suggests that this was
precisely the criticism of the Avots handling of Timna. They viewed Timnas interest in
conversion as being motivated by her interest in marrying a member of the families of the Avot,
and they therefore rejected her. While it was true that she was interested in marrying into the
family, her primary motivation was altruistic, and her interest in marrying into the family was only
because those were the people who shared her belief system.
The Medrash Tanchuma (Lech Lecha 6) relates:
R. Shimon b. Lakish said: The convert is more precious to
Hashem than the people who stood at Har Sinai. Why?
Because if those multitudes had not seen the sounds, the torches,
the lightning, the trembling mountains and the shofar blasts,
they would not have accepted the yoke of heaven. This
[convert] did not see any of those [signs] and he came to
complete himself before Hashem and accepted upon himself the
yoke of heaven. Is there someone more precious than that?



Notwithstanding the initial attempts that we must make to discourage a prospective convert,
Chazal laud the sacrifices and commitment demonstrated by the sincere convert. The personal
kabbalat HaTorah of the ger tzedek outshines the collective kabbalat HaTorah of maamad Har
Sinai. May our batei din continue to enjoy siyata dishmaya in properly facilitating the conversion
process of geirei tzedek.

See R. Asher Weiss (ibid. pp. 82-83), who recommends minimizing the pushing away of intermarried spouses
that express an interest in conversion, assuming that the eventual convert and spouse will embrace an observant
lifestyle. See R. Reiss (ibid. pp. 464-5) for further source material about this matter.
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Shavuot Lessons for Families
From the Legacy Heritage YUTeach Fellowship, a project of
Yeshiva University's Institute for University-School Partnership

The Ten Commandments: I am Your God
Rabbi Ariel Cohen
Teacher, Manhattan Day School, New York
One of the most significant and moving moments over Shavuot is the reading of the Aseret
Hadibrot, the Ten Commandments. We are re-experiencing one of the biggest moments in
Jewish history, namely the giving of the Torah. When we imagine the scene at Har Sinai, we are
struck with awe and reverence. When we incorporate Chazals description of the scene we are
left speechless and bewildered.
The main event at Matan Torah seems to be the giving of the Aseret Hadibrot, and there is
something unique about the first two dibrot. Chazal, Makkot 24a, teach us that the first two
dibrot were told to us directly by Hashem.
The first and second commandments are the foundation for our belief system and are worth analyzing.
I am the Lord Your G-d who took you out of Egypt from
a house of slaves. There shall be no other gods before Me.
Shemot 20:2-3
. .
: -

Discussion Questions:
Why begin with these commandments? Is Hashem trying to simply set a serious tone?
What is the first commandment commanding us to do? Believe? Can we really be commanded
to believe in something?
Why does Hashem stress that He took us out of Mitzrayim and not that He created the world?
Surely, on a scale of G-d's accomplishments, stage-managing the Exodus doesn't even approach
His role as designer and creator of the universe!
Use the following two comments of Ramban to help answer these questions:
And this commandment is called in the words of our Rabbis
acceptance of the kingdom of heaven, because these mitzvot
that I mentioned are (between) a king and his nation. And this
is what it says in the Mechilta: There shall be no other gods
before me, why is it stated if it already stated I am the Lord
your G-d? A parable is said about a new king who entered his
country. His servants told him to institute some decrees. He
said, no, only after you accept me as king will I institute
decrees, because if you do not accept me as king, why would

) (: ,

. )
, '
, ,
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you keep my decrees? So too Hashem told the Jews, I am the
Lord your G-d and you shall not serve the gods of others, Am I
the one that you accepted as your king in Egypt? The Jews
replied, yes. [Hashem said] When you accepted my kingship
you accepted my decrees as well, in other words, just as you
accepted and recognize that I am the Lord and I am your G-d
from the land of Egypt, accept all of my commandments.
Ramban, Shemot 20:2
, ,

" :

And it states that I took you out of the land of Egypt because
taking them (out of Egypt) teaches the existence (of G-d) and the
desire (of G-d to take them out), because we left there with
(G-ds) knowledge and intervention. Additionally, it teaches the
(ability of G-d to orchestrate) change, because with the original
state of the world, nothing changes from its nature. Additionally,
it teaches about Hashems ability and His ability teaches His
uniqueness (oneness) as the verse states so that you will know
that there is no one like me in all of the land.
Ramban, Shemot 20:2

, ,
) (
" :

A Stranger Among Us: Understanding the Torah's
Perspective on Converts
Rabbi Gershon Eisenberger (YC 03, RIETS 09, Azrielli 09)
Ms. Danielle Grajower (SCW '07)
Teachers, Hillel Day School of Boca Raton, Florida

On Shavuot, we read Megillat Rut, which tells the story of a princess from Moav who converted
to Judaism and eventually married a judge of Israel, Boaz.
Question: Why do we read Megillat Rut on Shavuot?
R. David Abudraham explains that Shavuot commemorates our acceptance of the Torah. It is
when we converted as a nation. Similarly, we read the story of Rut and her conversion to Judaism.
The Torah teaches us that there is a special commandment to love a ger (convert). The Gemara,
Bava Metzia 59b, points out that this mitzvah appears no less than 36 times throughout the
Torah, making it the most repeated mitzvah in the Torah. In Parashat Kedoshim, we are taught
the following about how we are to treat converts:
When a stranger (convert) dwells among you in your land, do not
taunt him. The stranger (convert) who dwells with you should be
like a native among you, and you shall love him like yourself, for you
were strangers in the land of EgyptI am Hashem your God.
Vayikra 19:33-34

' :
: -
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The word means taunt. What are some examples of ways one might taunt a convert?
Why do you think someone would taunt a convert?
Rashi helps us answer these questions:
Do not taunt(This refers to) verbal harassment. Do not say
to him, in the past you worshiped idols and now you come to
learn Torah that was given from the mouth of the Almighty?
- .


Why does the Torah suddenly mention that the Jewish people were like strangers in Egypt?
What does that have to do with taunting a convert?
Rashi explains:
An imperfection that exists in you, don't say to your friend. [Dont taunt
another with a flaw you share in common. People in glass houses shouldnt
throw stones.]


Rav Shimshon Rafael Hirsch teaches an additional insight: that you must show a stranger
kindness in both your feelings and your actions.
How can you have positive feelings without positive actions?
How can you be kind in your actions but not in your feelings?
Give an example from your life where you can see kindness in both actions and feelings.
Ibn Ezra teaches us why we must be extra sensitive toward the convert:
...similarly, I (Hashem) warn you about the strangeras your
strength is greater than his, or since he has no strength at all.
He is able to live in your land only with your permission.
, ,

What characteristics does Ibn Ezra attribute to a ger?
Based on these defining characteristics, who are other people in your life today who can be
considered gerim?
As we saw from R. Abudraham, Shavuot commemorates our connection to converts. Let us use
this opportunity to understand why the Torah strongly emphasizes caring for converts and open
our hearts to all those around us who may be in need of extra care and concern. As vulnerable as
others may be, we must also remember how powerful we are, and how our words, our actions
and our feelings can change the lives of those around us.

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Har Sinai: A Study in Humility
Ms. Sarah Hochman
Teacher, BiCultural Day School, Connecticut
Humility is among the greatest of virtues, as its opposite, pride, is among the greatest of vices.
Avraham says in Bereishit 18:27 Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak to Hashem, who
am I but dust and ashes. The king, in Devarim 17:20, is told to review the Torah regularly so
that his heart be not lifted above his brethren.
King David and Moshe both display examples of being humble before Hashem. Moshe
describes himself as nothing (Shemot 16:8), and King David describes himself as a worm
(Tehillim 22:7). The character traits of a religious person addressing Hashem must give us
pause to contemplate what humility truly is.
The humble person is one who believes every gift they have comes from Hashem; short of that a
person is not humble. R. Sol Roth notes that according to the Rambam, a full characterization of
the humble person must take into account mans relation to Hashem.
We find many examples of true humility in the texts and personalities of JudaismMoshe, Hillel,
and Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi. It is said when Rabbi Yehuda died so did true humility. (Sotah 49a)
We will discuss what humility really means when we see it in the Tanach and when we see it in
our daily lives.
Younger children may have learned the song about why Har Sinai was chosen above all other
mountains. Have them sing it, or go over the words below and discuss which mountains are
humble and which are not. This is the springboard into the humility and Shavuot discussion.
I am a mountain so very high, I can reach right up to the sky. The Torah should be given on me,
because I am as tall as can be you see. Oh no,
I am a mountain so very wide, I can reach from side to side. The Torah should be given on me,
because I am as wide as can be you see.
But little Har Sinai just stood there and sighed, I know Im not tall and Im not wide. The Torah
wont be given on me, because I am as small as can be you see.
But of all of the mountains, Hashem chose Sinai, because he did not hold himself high. He had
such simple and humble ways.
What do we learn from the song? What does humble mean?

People in the Tanach and Talmud are also shown to be humble.
King Shaul appeared to be humble, at least in the beginning of his reign. We can learn from his
act of apparent humility (Shmuel I ch. 10).
When Shaul is appointed king it is in front of all of Bnei Yisrael. Shmuel uses a lottery to show
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the nation that Hashem has chosen Shaul. When Shauls name is picked he is nowhere to be
found. Eventually he is found hiding in the luggage.
Why do you think Shaul is hiding? Is this an act of being humble? Explain.

We learn that a conscious attempt to be humble is not humility at all but a self-aggrandizing
attempt to lift oneself up. [For children: We know that if we purposely try to make ourselves
humble this is just trying to make ourselves more important.]
How can we be humble if not on purpose? Can you give an example of the last time you were humble?

Use the scenarios below and discuss if the people in the situations are humble or not and why.
There are no correct answers, this is meant to spur discussion.
Yehuda gets an A on his test. He does not tell anyone about his grade and when asked what
he got, he answers that that is between him and the teacher. Most students assume he got a
bad grade but he sticks to it and does not share his grade. Is he humble?
Molly is on the playground doing cartwheels. Her friends tell her how amazing she is. She
replies that she takes gymnastic once a week. Is this a humble answer? Why or why not?
Moshe, at the burning bush, says, Who am I that You (Hashem) are speaking to me. Is that
humility or fear? Moshe, at the burning bush, reminds Hashem that he has a speech
impediment. Is this humility or just stating the facts?
Yosef comes into class talking about how much fun he had working in a soup kitchen. He is
very proud of the mitzvah he performed. Is he humble?
Closing Questions:
Why is it important to know that Har Sinai was humble?
What does this teach us about how we should act? Explain.
Did Har Sinai demonstrate humility for the sake of bringing itself higher or was it true humility?
How do you know?
How is being humble the opposite of pride?

My Jewish Learning, Humility in Judaism, Rabbi Louis Jacob.
Towards a Definition of Humility, Rabbi Sol Roth. Tradition, volume 13, 1973.

What Does Shabbat Commemorate?
Ms. Deborah Klapper
Teacher, The Binah School, Massachusetts

The mitzvah of Shabbat is described in the Torah and in our davening as being both in
remembrance of Hashems creation of the world and in remembrance of Yetziat Mitzrayim (the
Exodus from Egypt). This discussion guide will allow you to explore what it means to
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remember something that happened before you were born, what exactly one is supposed to
remember, and how these memories relate to specific aspects of Shabbat.
Questions to consider before you begin:
1) What other events that took place before you were born do you remember?
2) What have your parents and teachers done to help you remember these events?
3) You remember your last birthday party and you remember that Hashem created the
universe. How are these kinds of remembering similar? How are they different?

The Texts:
Who has made us holy with His commandments and was
pleased with us, And gave us His holy Shabbat with love
and pleasure, A memorial to Creation. Because it is the first
day of the holidays, In memory of Yetziat Mitzrayim.
Because you chose us and dedicated us out of all the nations
And you gave us your holy Shabbat with love and pleasure.
Friday Night Kiddush


1. This Kiddush describes Shabbat in two different ways. What is the difference between He
gave us His holy Shabbat with love and pleasure and Because it is the first day of the holidays?
2. Why is the first connected to creation, while the second is connected to Yetziat Mitzrayim?

Remember the Shabbat day to make it holy. Work for six
days and do all of your work. But on the seventh day is
Shabbat for Hashem your G-d: dont do any work, you or
your son or your daughter, your slave or your animal or the
convert who lives in your gates. Because in six days Hashem
made the Heavens and the Earth, the sea and all that are in
them, and He rested on the seventh day. Therefore Hashem
blessed the Shabbat day and made it holy.
Shemot 20:7-10
- , .
, - . -
- , ' : - -
, ,
, . -
' - - , - -
- - , , ; - ,
' -
: -

How, according to this mitzvah, should one remember () Shabbat? Why?
Keep the day of Shabbat to make it holy, like Hashem your
G-d commanded you. Work for six days and do all of your
work. And the seventh day is Shabbat for Hashem your G-d:
Do not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your
slave or your ox or your donkey or any of your animals or the
convert who lives in your gates, so that your slave may rest like
you. And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt,
and Hashem your G-d brought you out of there, with a strong
hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore Hashem your G-d
commanded you to observe the Shabbat day.
Devarim 5:11-14
- ,
' . ,
- . '
: -
, ' ,
; - '
, - .
: -
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1. What are we supposed to remember in this mitzvah of Shabbat? How are we supposed to
remember it?
2. In this mitzvah, it seems that remembering happens because we keep Shabbat. How is
remembering different when it happens because of something we do (rather than because
we are trying to remember)?
3. How are the last two verses here different from the last two verses in the previous source? Be
Questions to consider after reading all sources:
1. The Torah told you to make sure that the people who work for you get to rest also. How
does this change your experience of resting?
2. Letting your slaves rest on Shabbat reminds you of Yetziat Mitzrayim. Is there a similar
reminder for creation?
3. What can you do on your Shabbat to make it more of a reminder of creation and Yetziat
Mitzrayim for you personally? Will you do the same thing to remember the two different
events? Why or why not?

A Lifelong Learner
Ms. Jaclyn Sova (SCW 08, Azrieli 12)
Teacher, Stella K. Abraham High School for Girls
Pirkei Avot is often learned between Pesach and Shavuot. The steps from slavery to acceptance
of the Torah requires personal reflection and growth, which is the basis of the Pirkei Avot text.
Every Mishna is infused with wisdom and insight into personal growth and self-actualization.
Some are better known than others. However, all of the messages are crucial to teach our
children, since they hold the secrets to happiness, meaning and growth.
It is for that reason that I have chosen to focus on a detail of a well-known Mishna to teach
children of various ages. My hope is that through this exercise, children of various ages and
intellectual and maturity levels will be engaged in learning.
Ben Zoma said: Who is wise? One who learns from every person, as
the verse suggests: From all my teachers have I acquired wisdom.
Pirkei Avot 4:1
, :

For younger children:
? Who is wise? One who learns from every person.
What does it really mean for a person to be smart?
Do they get high scores on tests or know tons of facts by heart?
Or maybe it is more than thatperhaps you will need to see
That every person is unique and is a model for you and me
So lets start a game together, a story I will provide
And you will tell me the message hidden deep inside
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What can you learn from these people? What is it you can see?
Because remember every person can be your teacher if you let them be.
Shira loves ice cream! Shira couldnt believe she already had enough stickers on her job chart to get some
delicious ice cream. On her way to the ice cream store with her big brother, Moshe, they passed a man who
lived on their block named Mr. Friedman. Mr. Friedman told Shira and Moshe that he bought flowers for
his garden that morning and accidentally left them somewhere. He could not find them. After Shira and
Moshe helped Mr. Friedman, and they still could not find the flowers, Mr. Friedman smiled and said,
Baruch Hashem, its just flowers. It is not a big deal! Finally, Shira was on her way again with her brother
to the ice cream store. She could not decide if she would get vanilla or chocolateor both! Finally after
buying her chocolate ice cream with sprinkles, she and Moshe walked to the closest bench outside to enjoy
their delicious ice cream. While they were walking, suddenly Shira tripped and some of her ice cream fell all
over the floor! As she was about to cry, she took a deep breath and said, Baruch Hashem its only ice cream.
Its not a big deal! and Shira and Moshe laughed as they headed home.
Questions to consider:
1. Why wasnt Shira upset anymore about her ice cream that fell on the floor?
2. Where did Shira learn to react in a positive way?
3. Was there ever a time you learned something from someone else?
Questions for older children:
1. Why do you think the verse quoted in the Mishna says, I have learned from all of my
teachers, when the Mishna stresses learning from every person? What message might the verse
be teaching about our perception of those around us?
2. If we are supposed to learn from every person, what about the people in the world who are not
so nice? Are we supposed to learn how to behave from them? Explain.

Even though studying and high test scores make a person look bright
It is really learning from other people what is wrong and what is right
A chacham knows that from every person he can learn
Imagine if you learn from everyone how much wisdom you will earn!
Sources for Pre-teens and Teens:
Rebbi said, I have learned a lot of Torah from my teachers. I learned
even more from my friends. I learned the most from my students.
Makkot 10a


Which is greater, talmud (learning/studying) or maase
(action)? Rabbi Akiva answered and said, learning is greater.
They all responded, learning is greater because learning leads [a
person] to action.
Kiddushin 40b


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Questions to consider:
1. In what way could a teacher learn more from his students than from peers or even teachers?
2. Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm in an essay titled Knowing vs. Learning: Which takes precedence,
(in Wisdom From All My Teachers pg. 18) writes, If knowledge is a state of being, studying is an
act of becoming. Explain Rabbi Lamms quote. In what way is it consistent with Rabbi Akivas
view of learning?
3. By working to become a chacham, how might he simultaneously be working to attain another
quality listed in the same Mishna: Who is honorable? One who honors his fellow men?
4. If Pirkei Avot is a book about attaining morals and self-actualization, what middah is a person
really working on when striving to be a chacham?

Learning on the night of Shavuot is not merely a rectification of the past; it symbolizes our
eagerness for constant growth. Jews are not complacent with that which they already know but
are looking to what still needs to be learned. The learning is not limited to the walls of the beit
midrash. Every encounter with another person is an opportunity to learn from their knowledge
and personality, and can most certainly be a learning experience about yourself.

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Practical Halacha
Guide for Shavuot
Based on the halachic rulings of Rabbi Hershel Schachter
Rosh Yeshiva and Rosh Kollel, RIETS
Compiled by Rabbi Shay Schachter
Annotated by Rabbi Yehuda Turetsky and Rabbi Etan Schnall

Eating a Meal on Erev Yom Tov:
One should refrain from eating a large meal on erev Yom Tov in order to eat the Yom Tov
meal with an appetite.
It is best not to eat a meal in the late afternoon, even if the meal is not
In all instances, one should not eat meat on erev Yom Tov.

Candle Lighting:
There are two opinions as to whether the bracha on Yom Tov candles should be recited
before or after the candles are lit. The generally accepted practice is to recite the bracha
before lighting the candles.

The bracha of Shehechiyanu: There is no requirement to recite the bracha of Shehechiyanu
in conjunction with Kiddush. However, the Talmud (Eruvin 40b) states that the significance
of the bracha is enhanced when it is recited in conjunction with Kiddush, and common
practice is to act accordingly. R. Akiva Eiger (O.C. 263:5) quotes the opinion of R. Yaakov
Emden that women should not recite Shehechiyanu when lighting Yom Tov candles, but
should instead wait until Kiddush to satisfy the requirement to recite the bracha.

Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 249:2) states this explicitly in regard to erev Shabbat. This is included in the mitzva of honoring
Shabbat, which includes preparations done before Shabbat begins. Rema (529:1) rules that this halacha applies to erev
Yom Tov as well, for there is also an obligation to honor Yom Tov (see below). See Mishna Berura (249:10) for an
additional reason to prohibit large meals.
Ibid. Shulchan Aruch states that it is a mitzva to avoid eating a standard weekday meal after the ninth halachic
hours has passed. Biur Halacha explains that this refers to eating what is sufficient to satisfy him during the week.
However, one need not refrain from eating enough to simply quiet his feelings of hunger.
Regarding eating meat at a seudat brit milah on erev Shabbat, see Magen Avraham (249:6) who cites a
disagreement amongt the Poskim.
Magen Avraham (O.C. 263:12) quotes the Drishas son who records that his mothers practice was to recite the
bracha before lighting the candles. While Magen Avraham argues that one should recite the bracha after lighting, the
accepted practice is not in accordance with his opinion. See Mishna Berura (263:27).
R. Yaakov Emdens position is recorded in his Shut Sheilat Yaavetz (1:107) and has been accepted by many
poskim. Mishna Berura (263:23) rules that one should not protest against those whose custom is to recite
Shehechiyanu at the time of candle lighting. Achronim present justifications for this practice; see Aruch HaShulchan
(263:12) and Moadim UZmanim (7:117).
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The mitzvah to light Yom Tov candles should ideally take place in ones home. If one is staying
in a hotel, ones private guest room is ones home. However, hotels prohibit lighting candles
in guest rooms because this poses a fire hazard.
Therefore, the obligation is best fulfilled by
turning on an electric light in ones room, provided that it is incandescent (not neon or
fluorescent, etc.), as many poskim maintain that a bracha may be recited on a light bulb that
contains a filament.
It does not appear proper to light candles in a place where no one will
benefit from the light of the candles, and a bracha may not be made in this scenario.

Yahrtzeit Candles:
Some poskim question whether one is permitted to light a yahrtzeit candle on the second
day of Yom Tov in honor of Yizkor. The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (98:1) cites poskim on both
sides of the issue and concludes that one should not light such a candle on Yom Tov. He
views it as a ner shel avtala, a candle whose light does not provide benefit on Yom Tov, and
as such may not be lit. Therefore, one should ideally light a yahrtzeit candle on erev Yom
Tov (see footnote).

The Shavuot Meal:
There is a long-standing custom to eat dairy on Shavuot.
Mishna Berura (O.C. 494:16,
Shaar HaTziyun 15) notes the long-standing custom to wait six hours before eating meat if

R. Schachter cautions that one who lights a candle in a guest room without permission violates the prohibition of
theft, as hotel administration does not authorize guests to use rooms in this manner. See R. Asher Weiss, Kovetz
Darkei Horaah (4:94).
It is important to note that this mitzva can be fulfilled by turning on a closet or bathroom light (the bracha must be
recited outside of the bathroom). For a summary of poskim who discuss whether one fulfills the mitzva by lighting
electric lights, see Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata (chap. 43, note 22).
See Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 263:9).

Many other poskim accept the Kitzur Shulchan Aruchs ruling; see also Daat Torah (O.C. 515:5). Shut Ketav Sofer
(O.C. 65) permits one to light a yahrzeit candle on Yom Tov, though he believes that it should be lit inside the shul.
In his discussion of the issue, Biur Halacha (514 s.v. Ner) writes that if one neglected to light a yahrzeit candle on
erev Yom Tov, it is best to light it in shul or at least in the place where one eats in order to benefit from the
additional light. Some later poskim have questioned whether Biur Halachas logic still applies, as it is unlikely that a
candle will significantly increase the light in the room in a contemporary setting. Biur Halacha concludes that one
may perhaps be lenient in a pressing situation to light the candle because the aforementioned Ketav Sofer argues that
a yahrzeit candle is considered a permissible ner shel mitzvah, and not a ner shel avtala, as it provides honor to ones
parents. It should be noted that most poskim assume that it is only a custom to light a yahrtzeit candle and not a
halachic requirement; see Shut Yechave Daat (5:60). See also Mishna Berura (261:16) quoting Maharshal who
permits one to instruct a non-Jew to light a yahrtzeit candle during bein hashmashot of erev Shabbat, due to the
unique importance that many associate with this custom.
This custom is recorded by Rema (O.C. 494:2). Various reasons are offered for this custom; see Rema and
Mishna Berura (ibid.).
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one ate hard cheese.
R. Soloveitchik ruled that American cheese is certainly not included in
the custom.

Staying Up All Night:
Many question whether a person who remains awake the entire night is obligated to wash
his or her hands in the morning. The common practice is to wash ones hands without a
bracha. However, if one uses the bathroom prior to washing, one may recite the bracha of Al
Netilat Yadayim.

A similar question exists regarding the Birchot HaTorah. Common practice is to fulfill the
obligation by answering amen to the brachot of one who did sleep. One should not recite
amen after the phrase laasok bdivrei Torah, but after the entire paragraph of vhaarev na
is completed.

It is likewise unclear whether one who remains awake all night may recite the brachot of
Elokai Nishama and HaMaavir Sheina Meeinai. Here, as well, common practice is to find
someone who did sleep the previous night and answer amen to that individuals brachot.

Amen following HaMaavir Sheina should not be said until after the bracha that concludes
the Yehi Ratzon prayer.
Those who daven at sunrise (vatikin) should not recite a bracha on the tallit before the
halachic time known as misheyakir. R. Moshe Feinstein states that in the New York area, this
time is approximately 35-40 minutes before sunrise.
Because of this concern, the Bnei
Yissoschar recommends waiting to don the tallit until the completion of Korbanot (before
Baruch Sheamar) in order to ensure that one does not don his tallit or make the bracha too

Shavuot Davening:
Staying up late to learn Torah does not exempt one from reciting Keriat Shema in its proper
time. The mitzvah of Keriat Shema should ideally be fulfilled during daveningin order to
recite Keriat Shema together with the Birchot Keriat Shemaand not beforehand. R.

The custom to wait after eating hard cheese is recorded by Rema (Y.D. 89:2). For this purpose, hard cheese
includes types that are aged and somewhat sharp. While Shach (89:17) quotes the Maharshal, who forcefully rejects
this stringency, most poskim do not accept his opinion; see, for example, Biur HaGra (89:11). Shach (89:15), Taz
(89:4), Yad Yehuda (89:30) and other poskim discuss how to define hard cheese for purposes of this halacha.
As reported by R. Schachter in Mesorah Journal (vol. 20, pg. 92). For an updated list of contemporary cheeses that
may pose a problem, see May 2012 edition of Daf HaKashrus, published by the Orthodox Union Kashrus
Division (
Rema (O.C. 4:13) requires one to wash without a bracha. Mishna Berura (4:30) notes that later poskim debate
whether to accept Remas ruling or to wash with a bracha. However, poskim agree that one can recite a bracha in
this scenario if he or she uses the bathroom first. This appears to be common practice.
See Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 47:12) and Mishna Berura (ibid.). Mishna Berura also cites the ruling of R. Akiva Eiger
that one who slept in bed the previous day (prior to staying up the entire night) may recite Birchot HaTorah in the
morning according to all opinions. Although some poskim question R. Akiva Eigers opinion, many poskim endorse
this ruling (see Shut Tshuvot VHanhagot 3:149, citing the Brisker Rav).
Shaarei Tshuva (O.C. 46:7) and Mishna Berura (O.C. 46:24).
See Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 18:3) and Shut Igrot Moshe (O.C. 4:6). Shemoneh Esrei is scheduled to begin at sunrise,
as per Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 89:1).
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Soloveitchik and many other poskim maintain that it is better to daven without a minyan
before sof zman Keriat Shema (the end of the period during which one may recite Keriat
Shema) rather than daven with a minyan after this time has elapsed.

Many have the custom to follow the Baal HaTanyas practice to recite ushnei seirim
lchaper (as opposed to vsair lchaper) in the Mussaf Amida, in order to make mention of
the korban chatat (sin offering) that was offered with the shtei halechem (ritual loaves of
bread) of Shavuot.

Megillat Rut is read on the second day of Yom Tov. The custom in our Yeshiva is to read the
megilla from a klaf (parchment). Poskim differ as to whether the brachot of Al Mikra Megilla
and Shehechiyanu are recited when a klaf is used.

When the baal koreh reads Megillat Rut from a printed Tanach, etc. it is preferable for
individuals to read along quietly. This applies to the reading of the haftarah throughout the
year, as well.

The aliyah of maftir on the first day of Shavuot should be reserved for an outstanding talmid

The custom of our Yeshiva is to omit the recitation of Yetziv Pitgam on the second day of
Yom Tov.

Nefesh HaRav (pg. 114). For more on this subject, see Shut Pri Yitzchak (1:1) and Shut Binyan Olam (O.C. 4).
See Siddur Baal HaTanya where this practice is recorded. For an alternative perspective, see Shut Igrot Moshe
(Y.D. 3:129:7).
See Rema (490:9), Levush (490:5), Maaseh Rav of the Vilna Gaon (175), Mishna Berura (490:19) and Hilchot
Chag BChag (Shavuot chap. 8, note 79).
See Mishna Berura (284:1) and Shut Chatam Sofer (O.C. 68). See also Magen Avraham (284:5), Shaarei Ephraim
(9:33, cited in Biur Halacha 284:5, s.v. Trei and Mishna Berura 494:4).
Chok Yaakov (494:4). See also Mishna Berura (494:4).
See Levush (O.C. 494).
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