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September 21, 2014 / 26 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Simchas Hachaim Foundation’

Pesach: Splitting The Sea

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

The miraculous splitting of the Sea of Reeds was one of the pinnacles of Israel’s closeness to Hashem. It raises a question, though: Why? Hashem typically hides His presence somewhat, conducting the world in a discrete way and never revealing His presence so openly. As Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, explains, this spectacle on the Sea of Reeds was performed with two great purposes in mind.

“And the people feared Hashem, and they believed in Hashem and in Moshe his servant” (14:31). This means they put this lesson into their hearts, and they utilized it properly to cause themselves to be stirred by the miraculous spectacle of the splitting of the Sea and the destruction of Egypt, until they attained a very great measure of Fear of Hashem.

Before, the verse said “Israel saw”; now it says “the people feared.” “Israel” denotes that generation, “all of whom were full of deah (true knowledge)” who witnessed the Hand of Hashem.

“The people feared Hashem” refers also to the continuum of the nation in all ages. Because the nation of Israel saw and gained a clear awareness, the fear of Hashem became deeply rooted in their posterity forever; and also forever the people should endeavor to put the lesson of the sea to their hearts in order to regain and re-experience the enthusiastic awareness of Hashem (fear of Hashem) their ancestors gained on the shore of the sea.

Emunah (belief) fundamentally means “steadfastness”: to remain in one place and not to move away. “His hands were steadfast (emunah) until sunset” (17:12). “He does not remain still (lo yaamin) at the sound of the shofar” (Iyov 39:24). They remained forever steadfast in loyalty to Him, in their trust in Him and in their service to Him, and they never forsook this loyalty (i.e. there always will be a nation of loyal Jews). “And they believed in (were loyal to) Hashem” forever.

The belief in Moshe was the cause of loyalty to the Torah, called Toras Moshe throughout the Holy Scriptures, because the people heard the Torah of Hashem from the mouth of Moshe. This is the pathway of righteousness: from belief (loyalty) in Hashem one progresses to the Torah of Moshe.

However, we see “the people believed” (4:31) already when they had witnessed the signs which Moshe and Aharon had performed. After seeing such convincing miracles, would any doubt have been possible? We see, therefore, that emunah is not mere conviction but rather a state of perfection of the mind which has unlimited potential development. Every additional degree of this quality, which we shall call awareness, is a very great gift from Hashem.

The episode of the Sea of Suf was a grand opportunity whereby Israel gained a higher degree of emunah, and for this superlative gift they sang their song of thanks to Hashem. But even this degree of awareness they now received was a preface to a still higher degree of emunah that was yet to come (the revelation at Sinai).

This grand spectacle of the Sea of Suf was thus intended by Hashem for two purposes: 1) that the people of Israel should forever believe in Hashem, and 2) that they should forever believe in the greatness of Moshe His servant (which means: to believe in Moshe as the chief servant of Hashem).

The belief in the excellence of Moshe is the foundation of belief in “this Torah which Moshe put before the sons of Israel” (Devarim 4:44), so that subsequently no man could claim he was privileged with greater prophecy than Moshe possessed and attempt to abrogate the Torah of Moshe or propose substitutes.

The entire episode could have been rendered unnecessary had Hashem caused Pharaoh and his generals to become ill before they set out to pursue Israel. But this spectacle was performed so that the nation would witness how Hashem “split the sea before Moshe” (“Stretch your hand over the sea and split it” – 14:16), in order that they believe in Moshe His servant.

Compiled for The Jewish Press by the Rabbi Avigdor Miller Simchas Hachaim Foundation, a project of Yeshiva Gedolah Bais Yisroel, which Rabbi Miller, zt”l, founded and authorized to disseminate his work. Subscribe to the Foundation’s free e-mail newsletters on marriage, personal growth, and more at www.SimchasHachaim.com.

For more information, or to sponsor a Simchas Hachaim Foundation program, call 718-258-7400 or e-mail info@SimchasHachaim.com.

Tzav: Holiness And Eating

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

The evil inclination likes to tempt us to indulge in material delights. It is important to know that these delights may have another purpose, too: kedushah (holiness).

As Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, explains, the fact that kohanim were commanded to consume the korbanos offered in the Temple reveals that eating itself has a highly spiritual function. When done in the right measure and with the right intentions, eating is very much an act of holiness and service of Hashem.

“In a holy place it shall be eaten, in the court of the Ohel Moed” (6:19).

Kadshe kadashim, the more sacred offerings, such as the chattas (and the asham – 7:6) are eaten only by kohanim and only in the Court of the Sanctuary.

Thus the Torah states, “It is holy of holies” here (6:18) and regarding the asham (7:6). The minchah also, as stated in 6:10-11, is holy of holies and is eaten by kohanim in the Court (6:9) of the Sanctuary. A very great principle is derived from this procedure: “The kohanim eat and (thereby) the owner gains atonement” (Pesachim 59b).

Actually, the atonement is completed at the sprinkling of the blood on the mizbeach; even the offering of the korban on the fire is an additional mitzvah, which if not fulfilled does not invalidate the korban. Yet the offering of the parts on the fire is indeed a very important part of the service, which has many details of laws and procedure.

Now we also learn that the eating on the part of the kohanim is one of the forms of offering the korban; and like the offerings on the fire, that which is eaten also enhances the quality of the atonement. When the kohen eats in the sacred precincts, he becomes an altar; and the physical pleasure of ingesting the sacred offering is compared to the fire on the mizbeach. Certainly, he should eat with holy intention. But he may not swallow pieces that are not chewed because achilah gasah (an abnormal manner of eating) is against Torah law. He must chew and enjoy the sacred food, and despite the unavoidable pleasure he adds the intention of the service of the offering to Hashem.

Let us not underestimate the value of Hashem’s teachings. The fact that we, “the nation of kohanim” (Shemos 1 9:6) eat matzah on Pesach night with appetite is not a blemish on our mitzvah; on the contrary, we are admonished to refrain from much food during the day in order to eat the matzah with more appetite (Pesachim 99b) “because it is an honor for the mitzvah” (RSHI). The body of the kohen is sacred enough to consume kadshei kadashim but the body of every Israelite is also endowed with such holiness that it may consume kadashim kalim such as shlamim and todah and similar sacrifices.

The Sages derived even more from this principle: “He that desires to pour wine-offerings on the altar, let him fill the throats of talmidei chachamim with wine” (Yoma 71a). We learn the extremely valuable principle that eating with proper intention is a service to Hashem, and may even be considered as a form of kedushah (Mesillas Yesharim Ch. 26). In this are two elements: 1) the holy Intention, 2) and the holiness of the body of the eater.

The karbanos of lesser degree (shlamim, todah, and maaser b’hemah), which all Israelites could eat, were however permissible to eat only in Jerusalem: “And you shall bring there your olos and your z’vachirn and your maasros…and you shall eat there before Hashem your G-d” (Devarim 12:5). Thus even when the Israelite eats of the korban he is performing a holy service and therefore it must be done before Hashem.

Compiled for The Jewish Press by the Rabbi Avigdor Miller Simchas Hachaim Foundation, a project of Yeshiva Gedolah Bais Yisroel, which Rabbi Miller, zt”l, founded and authorized to disseminate his work. Subscribe to the Foundation’s free e-mail newsletters on marriage, personal growth, and more at www.SimchasHachaim.com.

For more information, or to sponsor a Simchas Hachaim Foundation program, call 718-258-7400 or e-mail info@SimchasHachaim.com.

Vayikra: The Sacrifice Of Thanksgiving

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

To the modern mind, korbanos may seem foreign or hard to understand. Yet they were a key component of the service of Hashem.

Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, explains that offerings served many purposes, including a primary purpose of expressing thanks to Hashem. Thus, following the book of Exodus comes the book dealing with sacrifices as an expression of thanks for the deliverance from slavery in Egypt.

“A man, when he offers…” (1:2).

Although many matters are taught in this book of Vayikra, the first and therefore most conspicuous subject is the korbanos. This had been foretold: “We shall go…and we shall sacrifice to Hashem our G-d” (Shemos 3:18); also “Send out My son and he shall serve Me” (ibid. 4:23), “and we shall sacrifice to Hashem our G-d” (ibid. 5:3), and “go sacrifice to your G-d” (ibid. 8:21).

The first service of Hashem in the form of korbanos was actually performed by the Pesach-sacrifice in Egypt, and the first national achievement after the giving of the Torah was the Mishkan where they would serve Hashem with offerings. We learn therefore the principle that after being delivered from affliction or from peril, the first reaction should be to bring offerings to Hashem.

Even before, it is proper to make vows to sacrifice to Hashem. “I beseech You, I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving.… I shall pay my vows unto Hashem” (Tehillim 116:16-17). Sefer Vayikra, therefore, which follows Sefer Shemos (which contains the entire narrative of the Exodus from Egypt), properly begins with the outstanding subject of sacrifices to Hashem.

Although the korbanos have many purposes and many lessons, the first of all the intentions is the expression of gratitude; and the foremost is the gratitude for the Exodus from Egypt. Thus Noach offered sacrifices when he survived the Flood (Bereishis 8:20), and Jacob (ibid. 28:20) vowed offerings for his deliverance from adversity.

Before beginning on the subject of sacrifices, mention must be made of the opinion of the Rambam (Moreh Nevuchim 3:32). He declares that because at that time men were accustomed to the practice of sacrificing to images, Hashem’s plan was to substitute sacrifices to the true G-d in the place of the idolatry of the nations: “He transferred to His service that which had formerly served as a worship of creatures or of imaginary things.”

But once these sacrifices to Hashem have become Torah, they remain Torah forever, even after all the nations have discontinued the practice of sacrifices. It thus becomes included in the principle: “The Holy One, blessed is He, desired to bestow merit on Israel; therefore He increased for them Torah and mitzvos” (Makos 23b).

But even without the Rambam’s explanation (or in addition to his explanation) there are important and eternal lessons to be gained from the korbanos, and that the practice of these commandments bestowed excellence of intellect and character on our nation. Thus the loss of the Sanctuary was not only the loss of the many mitzvos which the sacrifices provided, but it was also a loss of great opportunities for perfection of mind and character available because of the Beis HaMikdash.

But the impression the service of the Sanctuary created in the minds and souls of the nation never went lost, and continues forever as part of the national heritage. The words of the Torah that describe the Sanctuary service continue forever to be read and studied, and thus our nation gains part of the benefits the Avodah was intended to provide.

Compiled for The Jewish Press by the Rabbi Avigdor Miller Simchas Hachaim Foundation, a project of Yeshiva Gedolah Bais Yisroel, which Rabbi Miller, zt”l, founded and authorized to disseminate his work. Subscribe to the Foundation’s free e-mail newsletters on marriage, personal growth, and more at www.SimchasHachaim.com.

For more information, or to sponsor a Simchas Hachaim Foundation program, call 718-258-7400 or e-mail info@SimchasHachaim.com.

Vayakhel/Pekudei: The Devotion Of Women

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

“And he made the laver of copper and its base of copper, from the mirrors of (the women) who congregated at the entrance to the tent meeting” (38:8).

“The tent of meeting” mentioned here is the tent mentioned previously: “And Moshe took the tent and he pitched it on the side the camp far from the camp, and he called it ohel moed [tent of meeting]; and it was that everyone that sought Hashem would go out to the tent” (33:8). It was at this tent of Moshe that women congregated in great number, for they were seekers of Hashem. (The word “congregated” here is zav’u, from the word va which means “a host” or “army,” as in “And the heavens and earth and all their host were completed” – Bereishis 2:1).

This noteworthy enthusiasm of the women seeking Hashem is mentioned here only incidentally without any comment. We are therefore justified in understanding also that a multitude of men congregated near this tent because they too were seekers of Hashem.

The women’s mirrors were given especial preference as a source of copper, because they entailed a sacrifice of considerable magnitude inasmuch as all women use mirrors.

There was another aspect that made the mirrors worthy of preference for the laver (kiyor). Just as the laver provided water for washing the hands and feet as a preparation for the service of Hashem, so also had the mirrors served as preparation for the service of Hashem. Israel views the function of procreation with the most profound respect. The especial devotion of the women of Israel to the ideal of producing a nation for the service of Hashem had made these mirrors an essential factor in encouraging procreation in Egypt when the sons of Israel were being crushed under the heel of oppression.

Like the kiyor, the mirrors had served as preparation for the most noble service of creating the nation of Hashem’s servants. By means of these mirrors the women had beautified themselves in order to restore the spirits of their broken and downtrodden husbands, and thus the children of Israel continued to increase despite the heavy oppression.

In verse 35:22 we read: “Everyone generous of heart brought bracelets and earrings and rings and beads, all jewels of gold.” These are all women’s ornaments, which implies that the women willingly parted with their personal ornaments for the sake of the Mishkan.

We are taught here that just as the laver is essential as preparation for the service of Hashem, so also (and even more fundamentally) is the institution of marriage and begetting children and rearing them to adulthood a most essential preparation for Hashem’s service. Actually, marriage and children are in themselves the major forms of service to Hashem: “Was the world not created but for the purpose of piryah and rivyah” (Gittin 4 1B).

Compiled for The Jewish Press by the Rabbi Avigdor Miller Simchas Hachaim Foundation, a project of Yeshiva Gedolah Bais Yisroel, which Rabbi Miller, zt”l, founded and authorized to disseminate his work. Subscribe to the Foundation’s free e-mail newsletters on marriage, personal growth, and more at www.SimchasHachaim.com.   For more information, or to sponsor a Simchas Hachaim Foundation program, call 718-258-7400 or e-mail info@SimchasHachaim.com.

Tetzaveh: Honor And Beauty

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Every detail of the Torah is important and laden with meaning. Take the wardrobe Hashem designed for those who served in his Mishkan. Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, explains that these unique garments served not only to distinguish them but also to impress upon them the importance and significance of the service for which Hashem had selected them. Clothing itself, he explains, is a form of serving Hashem.

“And headgear you shall make for them, for honor and for beauty” (28:40).

Migbaos (headgear) is the same word as givah (a hill, an elevation), for the wearer appears taller because of the headgear. The kohen wears a crown of honor and beauty to demonstrate his superiority as a servant of Hashem and to show the importance of the service. But this crown, and the other vestments which he must wear during the service, are intended also to teach the kohen himself that he is elevated, for thereby he becomes impressed by his function as the designated servant of Hashem.

This is the principle that the garments affect the attitude of the wearer, and thus they become true kohanim: “In the time when their garments are upon them, their kehunah is upon them” (Zevachim 17B). (Similarly, the Jew covers his head to make him aware of his function as the chosen servant of Hashem: “Send out My people so that they shall serve me” – 7:16.)

The principle of the influence of garments was demonstrated when Adam and his wife made coverings of fig-leaves to conceal their nakedness (Bereishis 3:7), Hashem afterward “made for Adam and his wife tunics” (ibid. 3:2 1) in order to clothe man in dignity (“for honor”) to demonstrate his superior function of being created to serve his Creator.

In this matter, two elements are discernable:

1. The wearing of garments is a demonstration that the wearer acknowledges Hashem is looking, and therefore he is ashamed to expose his body, just as Adam declared to G-d (Bereishis 3:10). Thus the decency of clothing proclaims to the world the presence of the Creator. Similarly, when the kohen wears the garments of service to Hashem he thereby publicly proclaims the necessity to serve Hashem and to acknowledge Him as the Creator and Benefactor.

2. When Adam and his wife (and their progeny) put clothing upon their bodies to conceal their beastly aspects and to demonstrate awareness of G-d – to whom their lives should be dedicated in gratitude and thanksgiving for creating them and elevating them above all other creatures – a great change occurs in the minds of the wearers. They themselves are profoundly influenced by the lessons of the garments. Similarly, the kohen himself is the chief beneficiary of the lessons of his vestments, and he becomes more intensely aware of Hashem’s Presence.

Because of the effect of the garments on the wearer, we understand that the wearing of the garments in itself constitutes an important form of service to Hashem. The kohen clothes himself in the vestments which identify him as a servant devoted to the service of the King, and he thus dedicates himself mentally to this great function. This is in itself an achievement of immense value. Therefore “If not for the garments of kehunah no remnant would have survived of (the enemies of) Israel” (Yoma 72B).

The donning of the vestments is in itself an act of service and atonement.

Similarly, when an Israelite dons tallis and tefillin and thereby identifies himself as dedicated to Hashem’s service, then even before he has uttered any prayer he has already achieved an important form of service to Hashem. And anyone who declares himself a servant of Hashem thereby has performed a great and prized act of service.

Compiled for The Jewish Press by the Rabbi Avigdor Miller Simchas Hachaim Foundation, a project of Yeshiva Gedolah Bais Yisroel, which Rabbi Miller, zt”l, founded and authorized to disseminate his work. Subscribe to the Foundation’s free e-mail newsletters on marriage, personal growth, and more at www.SimchasHachaim.com.

For more information, or to sponsor a Simchas Hachaim Foundation program, call 718-258-7400 or e-mail info@SimchasHachaim.com.

Mishpatim: Holy Lifestyle

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

The lifestyle of a holy people is different from the lifestyle of others, just as the lifestyle of kings and princes is different from that of common folk. Hashem has left marks of distinction on Israel, His chosen nation, in numerous ways. As Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, explains, one of the foremost marks of holiness is a special diet. What’s more, Rabbi Miller explains that this special diet is not only a sign of our distinct character, but is even a cause of it.

“And men of holiness you shall be to me, and you shall not eat meat in the field of a torn carcass (22:30). The expression “to Me” means “men of holiness that are Mine.” By being holy, they become close to Hashem.

The prohibition of trefah is a cause and an effect. It is an effect of its elevated status that Israel is limited in its diet. Just as men cannot eat grass and raw meat, as do animals, and are thereby elevated by their especial diet that confers dignity upon them, so is Israel given a select diet that denotes its elevation.

But this prohibition is also a cause of Israel’s excellence. The necessity to restrain the appetite for undignified foods 1) confers aristocracy and special distinction 2) and also causes the excellence of constant self-control to refrain from forbidden foods.

By this restriction, Israel becomes ‘holy to Me.” Similarly: “You shall eat no dead carcass (n’velah)…for you are a people holy to Hashem your G-d” (Devarim 4:21) and “For you shall be holy” (Vayikra 11:45) in connection with the laws of forbidden animals (ibid. 1:44).

Although the quality of kedushah is conspicuous in the laws of forbidden food, the holiness of Israel is expressed by all other prohibitions and also by all the mitzvos: “You shall be holy” (ibid. 19:2) is said as the preface to a number of both positive and negative mitzvos.

This is because of the double excellence the mitzvos represent: the mere fact of being commanded by Hashem is a demonstration of Israel’s holiness and the fulfillment of the mitzvos confers upon Israel an additional degree of holiness.

This holiness has two aspects: 1) the closeness to Hashem that commanded this precept and 2) the setting of Israel apart from the nations, as the Israelite home is thereby rendered entirely unlike a non-Jewish home because of the kosher diet and kosher utensils, and because Jews are thus unable to eat together with non-Jews.

In the prohibition of forbidden foods we find this purpose: “And you shall separate between the clean beasts and the unclean…and you shall not abominate yourselves by beasts and fowl…which I have separated for you to make unclean. And you shall be holy unto Me…and I have separated you from the nations to be mine” (Vayikra 20:25-26).

Although the purpose of all the mitzvos is to set Israel apart from the nations and also to discourage any fraternizing, the dietary laws are a special demonstration that the body of the Israelite is a sanctuary into which only the purest food is admitted. (This holiness of the Israelite body makes it worthy of eating the offerings – see 12:8. The Canaanite slave shares this privilege of the holiness of the body.)

This is an important general purpose of all the positive and negative commandments: 1) to keep Israel apart from the nations 2) and to demonstrate that Israel has been chosen by Hashem as His holy people.

 

Compiled for The Jewish Press by the Rabbi Avigdor Miller Simchas Hachaim Foundation, a project of Yeshiva Gedolah Bais Yisroel, which Rabbi Miller, zt”l, founded and authorized to disseminate his work. Subscribe to the Foundation’s free e-mail newsletters on marriage, personal growth, and more at www.SimchasHachaim.com.  For more information, or to sponsor a Simchas Hachaim Foundation program, call 718-258-7400 or e-mail info@SimchasHachaim.com.

Yisro: Of Magistrates And Kings

Friday, February 10th, 2012

The greatness of our Torah leaders is often vivid but occasionally requires illumination. Consider the exchange between Yisro and Moshe. At first glance we might mistake this episode for a simple conversation or advice from a helpful father-in-law. Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, cautions not to diminish the depth of this dialogue. When understood properly, it is, in fact, revealing of the wisdom of both of these great patriarchs.

“And now hearken to my voice, I shall counsel you” (18:19).

We should not be so naive to think Moshe himself could not have thought of the plan of appointing officers. The Elders of the sons of Israel in Egypt were an official and recognized body, not mere old men as are found today in homes for the aged. It is certain that Joseph, in whose time the people had already increased, in his great practical wisdom ordained magistrates for his people. But Yisro’s counsel was given now for two purposes.

1. Moshe’s plan had been to elevate the people by temporarily superseding the system of magistrates, so that all the people should come to him personally. This was now especially necessary because the old order had been based on human logic, but now it had become imperative to yield the human logic to the divine dictates of the Torah. This necessitated a fundamental change in all procedures in every aspect of one’s daily life, and Moshe foresaw that difficulties were sure to arise.

The former judges had now been deprived of all competence. New judges would need to be trained, but even they might continue to apply the new Torah laws with the old logical system. The urgency of understanding that everything from now on depended solely on Torah moved Moshe to take the extreme step of being the sole judge and interpreter of Torah. Any other course could lead to disaster. Even Aharon, when Moshe was away on Sinai, decided to compromise for the sake of the people’s welfare. (Although logic is a part of Torah, it must be applied with strict Torah procedures.)

We do not know for how long Moshe intended to be the sole judge, but he certainly planned eventually to institute a system of general judges and local magistrates, as Hashem indeed commanded, but only after he himself had personally initiated them into the Torah way of thinking.

To this Yisro countered: Very true. But can you rely on a miracle (one not explicitly promised by Hashem) that you and the people could persevere in such an uncomfortable and tedious procedure, standing in line for days in order to gain an audience with you? You will surely wear away, but even if you do not tire physically, your authority will be worn away by personal contact with everyone; and the people will lose favor in your eyes when you deal with their individual idiosyncrasies and obstinacy and foolishness. Familiarity breeds contempt, and therefore not every individual should have access to you and take up your time with petty questions and problems.

2) Moshe aimed to create a noble nation (“a kingdom of priests” – 19:6) that would govern itself without much coercion by the authorities. Thus: “These were the kings that reigned in the land of Edom before any king reigned in Israel” (Bereishis 36:31), because Israel did not need a king. “In those days there was no king in Israel, [because] each man did as was right in his eyes” (Shoftim 17:6).

The mitzvah of making a king was conditional: “If you say, Let me put over me a king” (Devarim 17:14) – from which it is clear this mitzvah depended on the time when you choose. “If you say…” is exceptional among all the mitzvos because to govern themselves by their own conscience (“Each man as is right in his eyes”) was preferable. Moshe therefore did not plan to subject the people to the scrutiny of a multitude of magistrates until some time had elapsed.

But Yisro countered: Are the people great enough to be so independent? Now especially, when beginning the new mode of Torah life, they require special surveillance: officers of tens, of fifties, of hundreds and of thousands. Until now they had been permitted to eat everything, they were not obligated by Shabbat or Yom Tov or by the numerous other laws of the Torah. Therefore the people must have tens of thousands of magistrates that supervise all the behavior of each person, in order to train them to become accustomed to the new existence as a Torah nation.

Moshe did not need Yisro to instruct him. Yisro was given the honor of voicing that which Moshe himself understood even better, and which Hashem also eventually commanded (Sifri, Devarim 1:9).

Compiled for The Jewish Press by the Rabbi Avigdor Miller Simchas Hachaim Foundation, a project of Yeshiva Gedolah Bais Yisroel, which Rabbi Miller, zt”l, founded and authorized to disseminate his work. Subscribe to the Foundation’s free e-mail newsletters on marriage, personal growth, and more at www.SimchasHachaim.com.  For more information, or to sponsor a Simchas Hachaim Foundation program, call 718-258-7400 or e-mail info@SimchasHachaim.com.

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