Lekavod Shavuos – Genack/Genechovsky Torah

Rabbi Menachem Genack & Rabbi Eliyahu Levine zt”l (Great Grandfather of Eliyahu Moshe Genachowski)

*Maariv as a Reshut

The 3 tefillos we daven every day is sourced in one of two places. The Gemara (Berachos 26b) records that Rebbe Yosi B’Rebbe Chanina says it is in direct correlation to the prayers of the Avot whereas Rebbe Yehoshua Ben Levi says it’s based on when the daily karbanos were brought.

Maariv was for the prayer of Yaakov. The difficulty emerges based on the Gemara (ibid. 27b) where Rav holds maariv is a reshut (which will be soon defined), and we hold like Rav in esurim. If the prayer was instituted based on tefillos Avos, how can maariv be a reshut, as Yaakov prayed at that time. (If maariv is sourced in the karbanos, it is very logical why it would be a reshus, for shacharis is in place of the tamid shel shachar, mincha in place of  the tamid shel bein ha’arbaim and maariv in place of the emurim of the karbonos – and emurim do not nullify the effectiveness of the karban.)

Three answers are proffered. The Netziv (Sheilta 8) explains that the nature of Yaakov’s tefilla was characterized in the Torah as “Vayifga Bemakom” (Genesis 28:11). The Gemara (Chulin 91b) explains this to mean that Yaakov was proclaiming, “Here I am passing through Charan where my forefathers prayed so I must pray as well.” It was a prayer more based on circumstances than need, thus making it a reshut. The Pnei Yehoshua (Berachot 26b s.v. mihu) says Yaakov didn’t intend to pray at night but G-d caused the sun to set suddenly giving Yaakov no choice but to pray then, thus deeming it a reshut. The Zohar says it’s a reshut because no later individual can match the kavana of Yaakov.

An outright Gemara seems to challenge the fact that maariv is a full-fledged reshut. The Gemara (Berachos 26a) says that if one mistakenly didn’t daven maariv, he must daven shacharis twice. If maariv is a full-fledged reshut then why must it be repeated?

The Rishonim deal with this question and four major opinions emerge all suggesting that maariv is not a full-fledged reshut.

The Behag (as cited in Tos. Yoma 87b) says that if one davens maariv in general than he subjectively creates maariv as a chova for him and therefore if he should miss maariv such a person would have to repeat it. Tosefos (Berachos 26a) understands that maariv is only a reshut if there is not another mitzvah passing, but if another mitzvah would be lost by praying maariv – one must perform the mitzvah. The Rif (Berachos 19a) holds that all of Israel has taken it upon themselves to daven maariv making it a chova. Rabbi Levine zt”l (Yad Eliyahu Siman 1 Page 3) notes a difference of opinion between the Rambam and the Rif. The Rambam (Hilchos Tefillah 1:6) says, “Tefillas maariv is not a chova like shacharis and mincha, nevertheless it has been accepted like a tefillas chova.” Rabbi Levine zt”l (ibid.) points out that the Rambam says maariv is “like” a chova but not a full-fledged chova like the Rif.

We see another chiddush in the opinion of the Rambam. The Gemara (Berachos 21a) says that if one is davening shacharis or mincha and realizes that he already recited it, he must cease davening immediately. However, by maariv, the Rambam (Hilchos Tefillah 10:6) says that one need not stop but can continue davening maariv as a nedava. The question is why is maariv different if it’s like a chova. Reb Chaim Soloveitchik zt”l explains that according to the Rambam maariv is a chefsa dereshut. That means even if it was metakaen like a chova it’s inherently a reshut type of davening and that is why one can continue to daven maariv as a nedava.

Rabbi Genack (Sefer Gan Shoshanim Chelek Beit, Sefer Chazon Nachum: Siman 11 Page 33) uses a similar sevara to explain Tosefos – (Brachot 26a s.v. Ta’aa). Tosefos brings down the Gemara (Berachot 27b) where Rav holds maariv is a reshut. Then Tosefos asks from the Gemara (ibid. 30b) that if one forgets to say Rosh Chodesh at night, he need not go back because we are not mekadesh the chodesh at night. Tosefos asks why didn’t the Gemara simply answer that one must not go back since maariv is a reshut. As already mentioned, [because of this question], Tosefos learns there is still a mitzvah and one is only excempt from maariv if another mitzvah is passing.

Rabbi Genack asks why Tosefos didn’t suggest another answer where everyone would hold it’s chova, that is, by the mere fact that there’s a din of tashlumin to daven maariv twice if one mistakenly didn’t daven mincha, therein lies a proof that maariv is a chova because you can’t daven tashlumin if not for the fact that you recited the first tefillah at its designated time. Therefore, when mincha is missed both tefillas recited at maariv should be considered chova’s. Rabbi Genack answers that Tosefos didn’t offer this explanation because even though there is a din of tashlumin, maariv is a chefsa dereshut, deeming it impossible to have the din of tashlumin transform the tefilla’s to chova’s.

*Excerpts from the writings of Rabbi Menachem Genack (Sefer Gan Shoshanimm Chelek Beit, Chazon Nachum Siman 11 Page 33) & Rabbi Eliyahu Moshe Levine zt”l (Sefer Yad Eliyahu Siman 1 Page 3).


Rav Avraham Genechovsky zt”l

*Tefillas Mincha After lighting Candles on Erev Yom Tov Sheini Shel Galios

On Shabbas, after one lights the candles, he may no longer daven mincha, as he would be offering a tefillas Chol on Shabbas (Orach Chaim: Siman 263; Mishna Berurah, Seif Katan 43).  Does the same law apply on Yom Tov Sheini Shel Galios when you light the candles on Erev Yom Tov of the first day for the second? The logical answer, is that in this case, you can daven mincha as it’s the same nusach as maariv and you’re not davening Chol on Yom Tov.


However, this premise isn’t necessarily true, for if the first day is Yom Tov then the second day is Chol and if the first day is Chol then the second day is Yom Tov, either way causing a Chol to be said on Yom Tov.


Therefore, the answer lies in an argument between the Magen Avraham (Siman 108) and the Tzlach. The case relates to one who who forgot to recite the Yom Tov portion of mincha on Erev Yom Tov Sheini Shel Galios. The question is whether he can repeat mincha and daven maariv twice. According to the Magen Avraham one can repeat it, whereas according to the Tzlach one cannot. The Mishna Berurah (Siman 108: Seif Katan 34) is not doche the opinion of the Magen Avraham indicating that this is the Halacha. Therefore, according to the Magen Avraham if you lit candles on the first day for the second day you can still say mincha.

*Sefer Bar Almugim

Siman 82 Section 3 – Pages 436-438



In the middle of a shiur, Rav Avraham made the following remark. People look for all kinds of vacations, including entering the water and such. He said; let me tell you about a real vacation. It would be to enter the Beis Medrash with air conditioning, or even without air conditioning and open a Shelot Veteshuvot Maharsham, and to begin to look inside. Then, to read one Teshuva and review it over and over, several times, and then you will feel a real vacation. There you will find beautiful waters, rivers and springs, and you go deeper and deeper and feel greater satisfaction. There you will find mountains to climb and descend. In fact, he said, this week I read a Teshuvat Maharsham on Shleichos Ledavar Avera, and this is the greatest vacation one can derive pleasure from.

*Avraham, Avraham, Vayomer Heneini – Page 42


Rabbi Menachem Genack

*“This thing is very close to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can fulfill it” (Deuteronomy 30:14)

The verse (Deuteronomy 30:14) says, “This thing is very close to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can fulfill it.” Rashi says on this verse, [this] thing is very close to you: The Torah was given to you in writing and [accompanied by an] oral [explanation]. In the previous verses of the Parsha it says, (ibid. 30:11) “For this commandment which I command you this day, is not concealed from you, nor is it far away,” and (ibid. 30:12), “It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will go up to heaven for us and fetch it for us, to tell [it] to us, so that we can fulfill it?”, on which Rashi comments, “It is not in heaven,” for if it were in the heavens, you would have to climb up after it [in order] to learn it (quoting Eruvin 55a). So according to Rashi that which is very close to you in your mouth and heart refers to Torah.

This explanation seems to be going on the simple meaning of the words – (ibid. 30:14), “It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can fulfill it.” With the mouth one can read the Torah Shebichtav and with the heart one can understand Torah she-be-`al peh. Rabbi Genack heard from the Rav zt”l that Torah Shebichtav is different from Torah she-be-`al peh, in that Torah Shebichtav – one has a kiuyim of Talmud Torah by just reading the words even without understanding them whereas Torah she-be-`al peh, if one learns a Halacha or Gemara and doesn’t understand it – one does not fulfill Talmud Torah.

This is further evidenced by the Halacha relating to Megillat Esther that even though we don’t understand the explanation of some of the words, such as האחשתרנים בני הרמכים  (Esther 8:10), we are still yotze.

The notion of differentiation between Torah Shebichtav and Torah she-be-`al peh is further illustrated by the following story. The Griz zt”l was walking with Rav Elchanan Wasserman zt”l and they were discussing Torah. As they were speaking in Torah, Rav Elchanan zt”l mentioned that perhaps they should look inside to get reward for otiot machkimos (The letters bring wisdom). The Griz zt”l responded that such a notion only applies to Torah Shebichtav and not Torah she-be-`al peh. In regards to Torah she-be-`al peh, it’s the understanding of the sugya that brings fulfillment of Talmud Torah, not the reading of the letters.

While Rashi understood the above mentioned verses (Deuteronomy 30:11,12,14) to be going on Torah, the Ramban understands the verse (ibid. 30:11), “For this commandment which I command you this day” is going on Teshuva and the verse (ibid. 30:14), “It is in your mouth and in your heart” refers to vidui on sins with the mouth and returning to Hashem with the heart.

There seems to to be a proof to Rashi from the Tanna Dvei Eliyahu Zuta (14:1), where it’s written that Eliyahu encountered a fisherman that didn’t know how to read or learn Torah. The fisherman remarked that he wasn’t given the intelligence nor ability to learn. Eliyahu countered by saying – being that it’s true that you have the ability to weave a net from flax that is then placed in the water to trap fish, certainly you have the ability to learn the Torah, as the verse (ibid. 30:14) says, “This thing is very close to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can fulfill it.” This seems to be a direct proof for Rashi as Eliyahu uses this verse to reference Torah and not Teshuva.

*Birchat Yitzchak – Deuteronomy – Section 3 – Pages 287-288



Rabbi Yaakov Nagen (Genack)

*Giving of the Torah

In the Shavuos davening, we describe the Yom Tov as “The time of the giving of the Torah.” However, according to the Zohar every day G-d teaches the Torah anew, implying the Torah is transmitted each day as well, not just on Shavuos. Therefore, how is Shavuos unique and why don’t we hear G-d’s voice talking to us on a daily basis?

The Chasid, Rabbi Yaakov Leiner, answers that G-d keeps the world moving at a constant and gives us the Dibros to us on a daily basis (see Zohar: Siman 71, relating to the words in the verse  “with a great voice, which did not cease” (Deuteronomy 5:19) and see also Berachos (17b)), but because of the noise and dealings that we are preoccupied with, a separation is created between us and G-d and we don’t hear the daily expressions from Heaven. By Matan Torah, G-d himself silenced the outside noise allowing us to hear the Dibros [that are present every day], but after that experience, the regular noise of our lives consistently drowns out G-d’s voice (paraphrased from “Beit Yaakov” by Eliyahu Kitov; Order of Parshios: Book of Exodus: Volume 2, Page 130, 1985).

For years, I took the time to walk from my home to the Beis Medrash, preoccupied with preparing for the daily shiur. However, when I began to live in the present and sensed all the sweetness around me, I was awakened to my immediate surroundings. Already, on the first day, the voices that were hidden from me appeared. The birds sang “all” day, not just in the morning and at sunset.

Soon I realized that life’s journey is not over time, but exists in the present, and should therefore compel one to delve deeper into his current reality. Now, I’m trying to establish the life of the order, “Seek out my face every day.”

The Gemara (Sanhedrin 98a) brings down the story of one who asked, “When will Moshiach come?” and he was answered, “Today.” The questioner waited until the evening and was disappointed when the redemption didn’t materialize. Then they explained to him, “Indeed it will come today, if you hearken unto the voice of G-d.”

Listening to the present after undergoing spiritual preparation for seven weeks is the purpose of Shavuos. On this day, a person must try to tear down the walls that separate him from the “here and now” so that he may hear the voice of G-d that is speaking to us on a constant basis.

*A Translated Version from the writings of Rabbi Yaakov Nagen (Genack)


Notes From the Editor

Every Friday night we say in Eishet Chayil, Gimalto tov vilo ra, “She bestows good and never bad all the days of her life” (Mishlei 31:12). In the simple peshat this is referring to the female gender, however allegorically, it is referring to Torah.

Rav Avraham asked on the redundancy of the verse, if the Torah is good then by definition it’s not bad. He answered that some things in life have good and bad elements attached to them, such as a dish of food that may have some good elements and some lacking. However, the Torah is not only good but it has no element of bad to it; it’s perfection.

Rav Avraham’s drash inspired me to another drash on the verse (Numbers 19:2), Zot chukat hatorah asher-tziva Hashem lemor daber el-benei Yisrael v’yikchu eleicha para aduma t’mima asher ein-ba mum asher lo-ala aleiha ol, “This is the statute of the Torah which the Lord commanded, saying, Speak to the children of Israel and have them take for you a perfectly red unblemished cow, upon which no yoke was laid.” This verse has many allusions and hints to the Torah, one striking one that is based on what Rav Avraham said.

Certain words in this pasuk point to the fact that we are dealing with Torah. Firstly, the wording of the verse is saying, this is the “chok of the Torah.” Torah here is a noun not an adjective (as in Zot Torat…this is the status of). The simple meaning is that this chok – represents the whole Torah. However, on a simple level – based on drash – we can certainly say the verse is saying that what will be mentioned in this verse is “the Torah,” and therefore keywords ensue.

The word “take” refers directly to Torah as it corresponds to the verse (Mishlei 4:2), Ki lekach (a taking) tov natati lachem, torati al taazovu, “For I give you a good doctrine; forsake ye not my teaching.” The end of the verse, “forsake ye not my teachings,” is evidence that the beginning of the verse is discussing Torah.

The verse discussing the chok continues – “Take a complete (Tamim) red heifer.” The word complete – “tamim” also references Torah as we know the verse says (Tehillim 19:8), Torat Hashem temimah, “The Torah of the law of the Lord is perfect.”

Now, Rav Avraham’s chiddush illuminates the middle of the pasuk as it says, “Bring this red heifer which must be complete with no blemish” (Tamim asher ein ba mum). The question ensues – if it must be complete then obviously it must have no blemish, similar to the original redundancy, “She bestows good and never bad all the days of her life” (Mishlei 31:12). The message is the same in both cases; that the Torah is not only complete but it has no blemish.

The verse ends by saying that no yoke (ol) may be upon it. This is a clear reference to Torah (connoting the idea ol malchut shamayim), but a specific kind of Torah, a perfect Torah that was not worked yet, that has no ol on it, that exists in its purest form. (Should the verse be discussing an animal that had an ol on it, this would already be referring to human Torah that was worked through, but we are discussing with no ol. It’s our responsibility to be mekabel ol malchut shamayim twice a day and consecrate perfection in a manner that can be applicable to our lives but this verse gives insight into the nature of Torah and its perfection.)

With Shavuos upon us another drash is appropriate. תּוֹרָה  (Torah) spelled backwards is  הַרוּת  (“Ha”Rut) “The Rut” (and with the “hey” closed תּוֹרָה  spelled backwards is חֵרוּת, for it says, “The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved [charut] on the tablets” (Exodus 32:16). Read not charut, “engraved” but cherut, “freedom,” for the only person who is truly free is one who occupies himself with Torah study. (Avot 6: 2)). Rut truly represents the Torah as she sacrificed all, a similar requirement in Torah for “The words of Torah only exist by one who ‘kills himself’ over it” (Shabbos 83b).

Lastly Rut in English is pronounced as “Root.” She is the essence and root of all that Judaism requests.


Featured Guest – Rabbi Bodenheim – Sefirat Haomer

The matzos are eaten, the chametz is back. Pesach is now “back on the shelf” until next year. Our current focus is the Pesach sequel:  Sefiras Haomer.  It’s a time of counting up to the giving of the Torah on Shavuos AND it’s a time of mourning as well.  No haircuts, no shaving, no music, no weddings.  How do we connect these two very different themes so it all makes sense?

The first glimpse of an answer comes at the end of Pesach, with the Krias Yam Suf – the splitting of the Red Sea. Chazal tell us that this event was even more spectacular than the 10 plagues.  It was a moment of true, sublime prophecy and connection with our Creator.

When the Bnei Yisroel were at Yam Suf, they said “Zeh Keili Vanveihu” (Beshalach 15:2) “This is my G-d and I will glorify Him.”   Here are just a few ways we can understand “V’anveihu.” Rashi says it means “I will speak of Hashem’s beauty and praise.”  Targum Onkolos says it means “I will build a Beis Hamikdash for Hashem.”  The Gemara in Shabbos 133 defines it as “I will beautify myself in front of Hashem by performing mitzvos in a most beautiful way.”  The Gemara Shabbos 133 further says it’s a hybrid of two words “Ani” and “Vhu” – I and he. I will act like Hashem- just like Hashem is compassionate, kind and benevolent, so too I will act.  Rav Gedalia Schorr zt”l explains these are four different paths to accomplish one common goal.

The Bnei Yisroel experienced an amazing prophecy at the Yam Suf.  To keep it forever, they responded “V’anveihu”- I will refine my speech, thoughts, and actions.  In what way? My speech is refined by praising Hashem; my thoughts by becoming compassionate, patient and tolerant; and my actions by performing mitzvos in the most beautiful fashion possible. By doing all these things the Jews were creating a place for the Shechina to rest – the foundation of the Beis Hamikdash.

According to Rav Wolbe zt”l once we connected to the Creator of the universe, we were changed dramatically. Our standard of conduct received a huge positive boost.

Those changes happened back then.  What is likely to happen when we resolve to change today?  Typically, in contemplating Teshuva, the first areas we think of changing are those Bein Adom LaMakom (between oneself and Hashem).  Maybe we’ll say brachos with more concentration; perhaps, we’ll come on time to shul, learn more and be more diligent.  The big question here is: why don’t we also think of improving ourselves in areas Bein Adam L’chaveiro (between oneself and one’s fellow man)?

Rav Wolbe zt”l explains that our ego often gets in the way.  When we daven or learn better, we feel we are holier.  Such is not the case when we are considering helping others – especially if we think there is no one watching.  Our egos tell us that by giving to others, we are giving up something of ourselves. At the splitting of the sea, on the other hand, we accepted upon ourselves not just improvement in our relationship between man and G-d, but also improvement between man and man; improving the way we treat and relate to others.  We resolved to work on our compassion, kindness, patience and tolerance.


This might be a new understanding of the puzzling Gemara which says the reason why the students of Rabbi Akiva died was because they did not accord honor to each other, resulting in the Omer period as a time of mourning.  A little harsh, don’t you think??  After all, the Torah does not say that failing to honor one another is deserving of death? The answer is that the students of Rabbi Akiva were the crème de la crème!  They were to be the successors of the transmission of the Torah.    However, when they failed to honor each other, with their egos getting in the way, that made them unworthy of the holy task they were assigned, causing them to pay the ultimate price.


We have just experienced a tremendous closeness to Hashem, starting with Seder night and growing throughout Pesach.  This has helped us reach a new and lofty level – a benchmark for the start of Sefiras Haomer. Certainly, we need to work on our relationship between us and Hashem by improving our davening and learning.  But we must focus as well (and perhaps even more) on Bein Adam L’Chaveiro.   Our ego may be whispering to us to look the other way, but focusing on helping our neighbors, families, friends, chavrusas, etc. will result in conquering our egos and venturing forward towards true growth and closeness to Hashem.