Parsha Vaiera – Praying in a city of idols

shem mi shmuel

The Shem MiShmuel discusses a strange discrepancy in the Torah portion. Why does Moshe have to go outside of the city to pray for the plague of hail to stop? In answering the question, the Shem Mishmuel uncovers the deepest mysteries of the plagues.

Blessings of Tu B’Shvat

Amazing insights into Tu B’Shvat from the Chassidic master, The Shem MiShmuel. Using the book Shem MiShmuel translated by Rabbi Zvi Belovsky.


Why is the Torah finished on Simchat Torah?

From Rabbi Eliezer Kwass, the master teacher from Yeshivat Darchei Noam in Yerusahalayim (aka Shapells).

The Shem Mishmuel on Vezot Habrakha

Hagaon Rav Shmuel Bornstein on Parshat Vezot Habrakha
(from Shem Mishmuel Vezot Habrakha 5672 “B’Rashi)

Why Do We Finish the Torah on Simchat Torah?

Why was the yearly Torah reading schedule set up to finish on Simchat Torah? Surely right before Rosh Hashana would have been a more appropriate finishing time. The Shem Mishmuel offers an explanation through his comments on a Rashi at the beginning of Vezot Habrakha.

When the Torah says that Moshe blessed the Children of Israel before his death, Rashi comments, “If not now, when?” This implies that if Moshe could have delayed giving the blessings any more, he would have. Why?

For a blessing to take effect, teaches the Shem Mishmuel, it is essential that the recipient of the blessing be properly prepared, that he be a “kli kibul,” a vessel ready to receive blessing. [The last Mishna in Shas ends, “G-d found no better blessing holding vessel for Israel than peace, as it says, ‘Hashem gives power to His nation, Hashem blesses His nation with peace.'” This might be why at the opening of Moshe’s blessings he says, “B’hitasef rashei am,” referring to the gathering together of Klal Yisrael.]

Moshe wanted Israel to receive the greatest possible blessings, so, because he saw that they were in a period of spiritual growth (see Devarim 29:3) he wanted to wait for them to reach their maximum level. He, like an investor waiting for his stocks to reach their highest price before selling, delayed giving the blessing as much as he could. When he knew he would soon die, he had no choice – “If not now, when?”

Moshe’s blessings were not a one-time event, says the Shem Mishmuel, but are an eternal yearly one. Each year as we read Parshat Vezot Haberakha, it is as if Moshe is giving every one of us a berakha. We must all therefore make sure we are proper vessels ready to receive the Divine blessings Moshe is channeling towards us.

Therefore our Sages set up the Torah reading schedule so that when Moshe’s blessings come around we are naturally at our highest point. After having repented during the days of Teshuva, receiving atonement on Yom Kippur, and serving Hashem with joy during Sukkot we are ready to receive them. On Simchat Torah we are a fitting vessel to hold Moshe’s blessings.

May we merit receiving all the Torah’s blessings.

[prepared by Eliezer Kwass]


Shem Mi Shmuel

I could not resist posting this amazing translation from the Yiddish Yizkorbuch about the life of the Shem MiShmuel, whose Yarzheit is today. This is from

Rabbi Zvi Belovski from London has published an amazing book of translations from the Shem MiShmuel, and is available online.

From Wikipedia: Shem Mi-Shmuel is the name for a nine volume collection of inspirational essays on the Torah and Jewish holidays. It is authored by Rabbi Samuel Bornstein (1856-1926) (שמואל בורנשטיין) and it is the name by which he became known among Jews in the world of Torah scholarship.

In this work, Bornstein presented many of the ideas of his father, Rabbi Abraham ben Ze’ev Nachum Bornstein, who was head of the Bet Din of Sochaczew (Poland). The commentary set forth many of the classic ideas of the Hasidic movement. Upon his father’s death, Samuel succeeded him as the rebbe of the Sochaczew Hasidim.

The Admor Rabbi Shmuel of Holy Blessed Memory

by A. Ch.

Translated by Jerrold Landau

The Second of the house of Sochaczew (known by the name of his book “Shem Mishmuel”)
4 Chesvhan 5617 (1856) – 24 Tevet 5686 (1926)
Notes about his personalityRabbi Shmuel of holy blessed memory was born in the year 5617 in the house of his holy grandfather Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk (his righteous mother was Sara Tzina the daughter of the fiery Admor of Kotzk) during the time that his father the Gaon Rabbi Avrahamele was supported at the table of his father-in-law. His youth was spent in Parczow and Krosniewice, places that Rabbi Avrahamele served as rabbi and spread Torah publicly. During those days the young Reb Shmuel soaked up most of his Torah from his father – for the rabbinate did not take much of his time, as he was coronated as a Rebbe only in 5630, — and even at that time the lines of Hassidim that knocked on his door were not too long, and did not disturb him from his learning. Therefore, he was able to give of his time freely to the education and teaching of his only son who was fitting, and to give him to taste of his treasures. Read more