august 6th 2011
av 6th 5771
ONE WHO STUDIES TORAH WITH REVIEWING IT
by Rabbi David Hanania Pinto Shlita
Our Sages have called this book Mishnah Torah (“Repetition of the Torah”), for it contains nothing new. It consists entirely of a repetition of the things that were said in previous books, and we find only a very few passages or mitzvot containing new elements. Nevertheless, since there exist certain passages that have not been stated elsewhere, why is the book called Mishneh Torah? After all, it contains new things as well. We also need to understand why the book begins with words of admonishment.
We may explain this by citing the beginning of Moshe’s admonition, which he issued to the Children of Israel: “Hashem our G-d spoke to us in Horev, saying: ‘Enough of your dwelling by this mountain’ ” (Devarim 1:6). We need to understand why he uses the term Horev rather than Sinai. In every account of the giving of the Torah, the mountain is called Sinai, not Horev, as it is written: “All of Mount Sinai was smoking” (Shemot 19:18), “Hashem descended upon Mount Sinai” (v.20), and “The people cannot ascend Mount Sinai” (v.23). Therefore why did he mention Horev here rather than Sinai, which is used for the giving the Torah?
The answer is that Moshe told the Children of Israel that they had a mitzvah to discover new teachings in the Torah. The word horev is formed by the same letters as rahav (large), as it is written: “I shall walk varehava [in large pathways]” (Tehillim 119:45). Here Rashi explains that King David acted in ways that were widely accepted and widespread in Israel. From the fact that a person studies Torah and reviews it numerous times, he can discover new teachings that he did not find at first, as the Gemara states: “One who studies a chapter 100 times cannot be compared to one who studies it 101 times” (Chagigah 9b). Furthermore, the Mishnah says: “Learn it over and over, for everything is in it” (Pirkei Avoth 5:21). The more that a person goes over the Torah’s words, the more new teachings he will merit to find in it.
This is why Moshe gave the Children of Israel several new passages in this book, this Mishneh Torah. It was to show them that the more a person studies Torah, and the more he reviews his studies, the more flavor he will find in it. One must not say, “I’ve studied this passage two or three times – why should I come back to it? Better to study something new, something that I’ve never studied before.” The Sages have already responded to such an attitude by saying, “Whosoever studies Torah but does not review it is like one who plants without harvesting” (Sanhedrin 99a).
I’ve Studied Again and Again
Avoth D’Rabbi Nathan (ch. 24) states that a person can study Torah for ten years and forget it in two. How? If someone studies for six months and does not review it, he will end up saying that the pure is impure and the impure is pure. For twelve months without review, he will mix up the Sages. For eighteen months without review, he will forget the main passages. For twenty-four months without review, he will forget the main tractates.
Furthermore, by constantly reviewing what he has learned, a person will not fall into sin, for his every thought will cleave to the words of the holy Torah. The Children of Israel allowed themselves to be led astray by the daughters of Moav because they did not review their studies, as it is written: “Israel settled in Shittim, and the people began to commit harlotry with the daughters of Moav” (Bamidbar 25:1). What pushed them to do this with the daughters of Moab? It was because they did nothing and failed to review their studies. People said, “I’ve studied again and again, so why should I continue to study? I’ve already learned everything, so now I want to rest a little.” At that very instant, the daughters of Moav were able to seduce them.
It is also said, “Whoever occupies himself with Torah for its own sake merits many things. … He becomes like a fountain which flows with ever-increasing strength” (Pirkei Avoth 6:1). It is said that when the Arizal taught Torah to his students, the fountains of wisdom opened before him. He could not say a word, and he had to ask Hashem for words of Torah to enter into his head little by little, not all at once. Only one who studies Torah for the sake of Heaven and reviews what he has learned can merit this.
In this regard our Sages have said, “May the words of Torah not seem like something old in your eyes, but like something new, towards which everyone runs” (Sifrei, Va’etchanan 6:8). When words of Torah seem new to a person, and when he studies them as if he had never done so before, he will be able to find discover new teachings in it.
To prevent the Children of Israel from saying, “If so, if we have to constantly review and repeat our studies, we may add to the number of mitzvot,” Moshe said: “These are the words.” This teaches us that we must not add to them or take away from them, as the Sages have taught: “ ‘These are the words’ [Shemot 19:6] – no less and no more” (Mechilta, BaChodesh 2). Here too, Moshe warned the Children of Israel: Although you have a mitzvah to review your studies, don’t think that you have a right to change the essentials.
As If I Knew Nothing
Moshe also said to Hashem, “You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your strong hand” (Devarim 3:24). Let us think about this: Was it only at that point that Hashem showed Moshe His strong hand? Why did he say, “You have begun”? Moshe told the Children of Israel, “Now that I will die, do you think that I have succeeded in knowing the greatness of G-d and His powerful hand? Know that there is no man in this world who knows the ways of G-d. Each day I realize that my understanding of the previous day is like nothing. Each day I again see the greatness and the powerful hand of G-d, and it seems as if I had never seen them before.” These were the words of admonishment that Moshe gave them here, namely that the Torah’s words must seem new to them each day, and that they must review their studies.
The Midrash states, “This book is only called Mishnah Torah because it explains to us what was hidden, either because conditions were lacking, or things were repeated for fear of negligence on our part, or because a mitzvah was never given, teaching us that the essence of the book is to strengthen what has already been said.”
Guard Your Tongue!
Among Those Who Love Hashem
In particular, if a person’s refusal to recount Lashon Harah will not cause him any financial damage, but will simply result in humiliation and scorn, it is obvious that he is forbidden to relate it; there is no doubt about this subject. We know that as a result, this person will be considered, in the future, as someone who loves Hashem and whose face will shine like the sun. As the Sages have said, “Concerning those who are insulted but do not insult, who hear themselves reproached without replying…Scripture says: ‘Those who love Him will be like the powerfully rising sun’ [Judges 5:31]” (Yoma 23a). How much more is this true concerning a person who endures humiliation for the sake of Hashem’s mitzvot.
Concerning the Parsha
How Rabbi Yehonatan Silenced the Evil Inclination
It is written, “Listen among your brothers and judge righteously between every man and his brother, and between the stranger who is with him” (Devarim 1:16).
When the gaon Rabbi Yehonatan Eibeshutz (the author of Urim VeTumim) reached the age of 13, his family celebrated his Bar Mitzvah [his parents were no longer alive at the time]. As was the custom, the young man gave a talk during the meal, a wonderful discourse that amazed everyone who heard it.
Among other things, Rabbi Yehonatan explained the teaching of the Sages on the verse: “Better is a poor and wise child than an old and foolish king” (Kohelet 4:13). The Midrash states, “Better is a poor and wise child – the good inclination. Why is it called a child? Because it attaches itself to man only from the age of 13 years and up. Why is it called poor? Because no one obeys it. Why is it called wise? Because it teaches human beings the right way. Than an old and foolish king – the evil inclination. Why is it called a king? Because everyone obeys it. Why is it called old? Because it attaches itself to man from youth till old age. Why is it called foolish? Because it teaches man the way of evil” (Kohelet Rabba 4:9).
When Rabbi Yehonatan finished his discourse, one person in attendance addressed himself to him and asked an interesting question:
“Tell me, my dear Yehonatan, given that up until today – now that you’ve reached the age of 13 – you did not possess a good inclination, but only an evil inclination that tried to veer you off the path of Torah, what did you do when it wanted to entice you? How did you reject it?”
Rabbi Yehonatan answered immediately, for he was known for his sharp mind and intelligence from his earliest years. He explained what he would do whenever the evil inclination tried to entice him:
“It is written in the Torah, ‘Listen among your brothers and judge righteously between every man and his brother, and between the stranger who is with him.’ As a result, our Sages said in the name of Rabbi Chanina: ‘This is a warning to the Beit Din not to listen to the claims of a litigant in the absence of his opponent, as well as to the litigant not to explain his case to the judge until his adversary appears’ [Sanhedrin 7b].
“I cleaved to this Halachah with all my strength,” explained Rabbi Yehonatan, “and in this way I was able to rebuff the evil inclination each time. ‘Be quiet and stop speaking to me now,’ is what I said to it, ‘for according to the Halachah, you are not allowed to voice your arguments, and I am not allowed to listen to anything you say until the other party, namely the good inclination, is present as well. Only when it too is present in the case that I will conduct in my heart, only then will I be able to listen to your words, and only then will I judge which one of you is right.’ ”
It is written, “These are the words that Moshe spoke to all Israel” (Devarim 1:1).
The Midrash cites Rabbi Aha the son of Rabbi Chanina as saying, “It would have been more fitting for the rebukes to have been uttered by Bilam and the blessings by Moshe. Yet if Bilam had uttered the rebukes, Israel would have said: ‘It is our foe who rebukes us,’ and if Moshe had uttered the blessings, the nations of the world would have said: ‘It is their friend who blesses them.’ Hence the Holy One, blessed be He, said: ‘Let their friend Moshe rebuke them and their foe Bilam bless them, so that the genuineness of the blessings and rebukes of Israel may be completely clear’ ” (Devarim Rabba 1:4).
Words of Torah
It is written, “These are the words that Moshe spoke” (Devarim 1:1).
Rabbeinu Chaim ben Attar explains this verse allegorically: “These are the words that Moshe spoke” – meaning that Moshe never said anything superfluous, for everything that emerged from his mouth consisted of words of Torah and sanctity. As the Sages have taught, “One who utters mundane words transgresses a positive mitzvah, for it is written: ‘You shall speak of them’ – of them, but not of other matters” (Yoma 19b).
The book Tiferet Shlomo expresses its surprise here. In fact Moshe was 80 years old prior to the giving of the Torah, and according to the Sages he was a king in Ethiopia. Therefore how can one claim that never in his life did Moshe say anything but words of Torah, having spoken nothing that did not relate to Torah and mitzvot?
The explanation is that when a person’s sole desire is to serve Hashem, everything else that he does for the needs of the body is also called “Torah.” Therefore when someone desires and chooses to do the will of Heaven, all his daily activities are considered to be like words of Torah!
The Life of Man
It is written, “In the desert, in the plain opposite Suph, between Paran and Tophel, and Lavan and Hazeroth, and Di Zahav” (Devarim 1:1).
The book Vayomer Avraham provides us with a very good explanation for this verse by relating it to the life of man:
“In the desert, in the plain” – an allusion to the time when we are placed on earth, in an arid desert, at which point we must…
“Opposite Suph” – always picture our end, constantly recalling the day of death,
“Between Paran” – whether we live under prosperous conditions (parah v’ravah) in this world,
“And Tophel” – or we live under bad and inferior (tafel) conditions, we must remember the day of death.
“And Lavan” – In this way we will be white (lavan), for our deeds will become as white as snow;
“And Hazeroth” – we will diligently study Torah in the courtyards (hazeroth) of the House of G-d.
“And Di Zahav” – We will disdain bribes, being content with little, and we will say dai zahav (“I have enough gold”).
A New Entity
It is written, “Take for yourselves anashim” (Devarim 1:13).
It seems that the plural form of the term ish (man) should be ishim. However we always encounter the term anashim, the only exception being the verse: “To you, O men [ishim], do I call” (Mishlei 8:4).
The reason for this, explains Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky Zatzal, is that a large number of people is not simply a collection of individuals. Rather, they constitute a new and different entity, hence the term anashim. It is only in Sefer Mishlei, where the concept of a community is not addressed – but rather each individual in particular – that we find the term ishim.
It is written, “You answered and said to me, ‘We have sinned against Hashem. We will go up and fight’ ” (Devarim 1:41).
Rabbi Shlomo Kluger Zatzal said, “Either the Children of Israel confess their sin and Hashem accepts their teshuvah, or they fail to confess their sin and Hashem does not accept their teshuvah. Instead, the Children of Israel confessed their sin and yet Hashem did not accept their teshuvah! He also prevented them from fighting, saying: ‘Tell them: Do not go up and do not fight, for I am not among you’ [v.42].”
In his book Imrei Shefer, Rabbi Kluger replies by saying that the Children of Israel indeed confessed by saying, “We have sinned.” However their confession was only superficial. On the inside, they had not genuinely confessed with feelings of regret and resolve for the future, meaning that their confession had no value.
This is what Moshe told them: “You answered and said to me, ‘We have sinned’ ” – if you had told Hashem, Who knows the thoughts of the heart, “We have sinned,” He would have certainly forgiven you. However it was to me that you said this, which is why Hashem said to me: “Tell them: Do not go up and do not fight, for I am not among you,” for all your words were superficial.
A True Story
Punished by the Death of His Children
It is written, “I will give grass in your fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied” (Devarim 11:15).
Our Sages in the Gemara say, “[Relieving] the suffering of an animal is a Biblical law” (Bava Metzia 32b). This is why we feed our animals before we ourselves eat, as the Gemara (Berachot 40a) teaches from the verse: “I will give grass in your fields for your cattle” – for your animal first – “and you will eat and be satisfied” – for you second. This is because animals depend on man, and man depends upon the One Who created the world.
The author of the book Charedim recounts a story from the time of the Arizal. It concerns a man who was punished by the death of his sons because of the suffering he had caused to small chicks. They had a basket which allowed them to reach their mother, but the man’s wife removed the basket without realizing it. As a result, he was punished.
The wise man will hear and learn from this, fulfilling Rabbi Yehuda HaChassid’s testament to not raise chicks, for no one can stand on guard all the time to make sure that they do not suffer. Most people do not succeed in this, and most chicks die because they fall or are eaten by cats, mice, and the like, and they suffer as a result. Hence it is better not to raise them. It is always possible for them to be raised by others, those whose focus is the life of this world.
It is also not good to raise chickens, since we can always buy and slaughter them when we need to. If we do not find them when we want, and it becomes necessary to have them on hand, we should be very careful to feed them on time, for we are responsible for their nourishment, and the punishment for delaying it is very serious. In particular, if they are enclosed in a cage, we must have mercy on them and feed them first, lest we fall into the sin of causing pain to an animal.
From here we must learn a lesson regarding everyone surrounding us, such as our family, our household servants, and those in the community, people who are like roosters enclosed in a cage, those whose eyes are turned to the master of the house. We must be quick to give them their food and everything they need on time before we ourselves eat. Heaven acts with man in the same measure that he acts with others, and Hashem also gives us everything that we need in its proper time (Rabbi Eleazar Papo, Peleh Yoetz).
It is also said that one time, as the Arizal was teaching his disciples in the Beit HaMidrash, he turned and looked at one of them and said: “Leave, for today Heaven has banished you!” When he heard this, the man began to tremble. He fell to the feet of the Rav and wept, saying: “What have I done? What sin did I commit for Heaven to banish me? I beg you, tell me what this means and I’ll repent!”
“Heaven has banished you,” the Arizal said, “because you have chicks at home that you have not fed for three days, and they are crying out in hunger before Hashem.”
The disciple immediately left the Beit HaMidrash and returned home, where he ordered the chicks to be fed. He then fell to the ground and began to weep bitterly, praying to Hashem for this sin not to lead the Arizal into growing distant and not letting him study with him. He then fasted for the entire day, and on the following day he woke up early and went to the Arizal and fell at his feet.
“Do not worry,” the Arizal said to him, “for Hashem has forgiven your sin, but only if you take it upon yourself to feed your chickens before coming to synagogue. They are animals and cannot ask for their food, and the sin of making animals suffer is very grave.”
The disciple committed himself to this condition, which he respected for the rest of his life.
In the Light of the Parsha
From the Teachings of the Gaon and Tzaddik Rabbi David Hanania Pinto Shlita
It is written, “Moshe began explaining haTorah haZot [this Torah]” (Devarim 1:5).
We may explain this verse allegorically by referring to a statement of the Gemara: “Zot – that is, the Torah, as it is written: ‘VeZot haTorah [And this is the Torah] that Moshe set’ [Devarim 4:44]” (Menachot 53b). Furthermore, the Zohar often describes the Shechinah using the term Zot. Because of the beauty of these words, I shall cite them here: “When Jacob wished for his sons to be blessed in the name of the faith, it is written: ‘All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and Zot…’ [Bereshith 49:28]. Twelve and Zot are thirteen, since the Shechinah, called Zot, participated with them and the blessings were fulfilled” (Zohar III:62a).
The Zohar also states, “Rabbi Aba said: ‘Af gam Zot [And yet for all this], when they are…’ [Vayikra 26:44]. Come and see how great is the love of the Holy One, blessed be He, for Israel. Although they caused themselves to go into exile among the nations, the Shechinah never removed herself from them. Do not say that they are in exile alone, but af gam Zot, for the Shechinah – called Zot – is with them. This is the meaning of, ‘Af gam Zot, when they are in the land of their enemies….’ It is like a king who was angry with his son and decreed that, as punishment, he should exile him to a distant land. The queen heard of it and said, ‘Since my son is going to a distant land and the king has cast him out of his palace, I shall not leave him. The two of us shall either return to the king’s palace or dwell together in another land.’ After a few days, the king visited the queen but did not find her, for she left with his son. He said, ‘Since the queen is there, let both of them return.’ It will happen in the same way when the Holy One, blessed be He, will visit the Shechinah. He shall visit Her first and visit His children for Her sake. This is the meaning of, ‘And I have also heard the groaning of the Children of Israel...’ [Shemot 6:5]. Who caused, ‘I have also heard the groaning’? It is as if the Shechinah has caused it, that I remembered Her” (Zohar III:297b).
According to this explanation, we may say that the verse: “Moshe began explaining haTorah haZot [this Torah]” means that by the study of Torah (which is called Zot), the Shechinah (which is also called Zot) will rest upon us.
Your Eyes Shall Behold Your Teacher
Rabbi Shlomo of Karlin
The tzaddik Rabbi Shlomo of Karlin Zatzal was born in the year 5498. He was a disciple of the Maggid of Mezritch and the greatest disciple of Rabbi Aaron of Karlin Zatzal. When his Rav, Rabbi Aaron, passed away, he inherited his position at the age of 34, becoming the spiritual leader of the magnificent Chassidic community of Karlin.
Rabbi Shlomo distanced himself from all the concerns of this world. He cleaved to the Creator 24 hours a day, being among the unique figures of his generation. His prayers, by which he could uproot mountains and abolish severe decrees, were innocent and pure, completely dedicated to Hashem.
Upon being named as the leader of the community, his greatness and righteousness were known throughout the land. Many people flocked to him in order to see how he served G-d, admiring his prayers that could pierce the Heavens. Rabbi Shlomo greatly encouraged his disciples to focus on mitzvot that deal with joy, especially on days when people celebrate a mitzvah, such as a circumcision or wedding. This is because, if the slightest trace of sadness or anger comes upon a person, it can translate into a great loss for him, and he will be called upon to render an account. Rabbi Shlomo would often say, “If you want to pull someone out of whatever place he is in, don’t think that it’s enough for you to stand above him and stretch out your hand. You must completely descend to his location – to where he is – and there you must seize his hand and bring him up at the same time as yourself.”
One day a group of Jews came to find Rabbi Shlomo, telling him about the spiritual collapse taking place in their generation, as well as the evil inclination’s increasing power. When Rabbi Shlomo heard this, he cried out: “Sovereign of the universe, save me from the evil inclination, whose power is greater than mine! The evil inclination is an angel, whereas I am a man. It does not need to eat or drink, nor to nourish its wife and children, as I do. It fulfills its mission by pushing people to sin, and it has no evil inclination to entice it not to fulfill its mission. As for me….”
A Great Love for Israel
Rabbi Shlomo’s love for every Jew – be it the least among them, even overt evildoers – was very great. In the book Beit Aaron, he is quoted as saying: “I hope to love the greatest tzaddik of Israel as much as Hashem loves the greatest scoundrel in Israel!”
It is said that one night, when Kiddush HaLevana was about to be recited, the moon suddenly appeared. Rabbi Shlomo told his disciple Rabbi Mordechai Malkovitz Zatzal to prepare himself for Kiddush HaLevana. There was also a wagon driver present, and when he suddenly saw the moon, he rubbed his hands against the wheels of his wagon and immediately began to recite the blessing. When Rabbi Mordechai saw this Jew praying, he said with an air of amusement: “Where in Heaven will this Kiddush HaLevana ascend?” Rabbi Shlomo immediately rebuked him: “It is forbidden to scorn even the most insignificant of people.” What can this be compared to? It is like a king who ordered his army to gather every crumb that fell from what each soldier ate. Over the course of time, entire storehouses of food were collected. Everywhere the army went, it took these storehouses of crumbs with it. Everyone was surprised at this, for no one could understand the king’s intentions. Why go to all the trouble of transporting such crumbs? One day, however, a war broke out. The king’s enemies besieged the city and blocked all food from coming in, though it paid no attention to crumbs. When a famine threatened to ensue, the king ordered the storehouses of crumbs to be used. This enabled his entire army and the civilian population of the city to survive, and they held out until total victory was achieved.
Sometimes an accusation arises in Heaven, and the great and effective prayers of the leading men of the generation are not allowed to present themselves in Heaven. However prayers that resemble “crumbs” are allowed through, and these prove to be stronger than our accusers. These prayers ascend, pierce the Heavens, and are accepted on high.
Rabbi Shlomo of Karlin’s practice of tzeddakah and chesed were at a lofty level. He would not hesitate to give away all the money he had, down to his very last cent. It is said that after the death of the Maggid of Zlotchov, which occurred when Rabbi Shlomo was already famous, he went to see Rabbi Baruch of Mezhibuzh (the grandson of the Baal Shem Tov) and concluded a marriage pact with him: The son of Rabbi Shlomo, Rabbi Dov Ber, would marry the daughter of Rabbi Baruch, Reisel. Rabbi Shlomo was already living in Ludmir at the time, after having been forced to leave Karlin due to the persecution of the mitnagdim, which was then in full swing. Humble and quiet by nature, Rabbi Shlomo was incapable of responding to this fierce attack. Dissension did not suit him, and so he went to live in Ludmir.
Upon concluding the marriage pact with Rabbi Baruch of Mezhibuzh, Rabbi Shlomo took all the money that he had saved for his son’s dowry and distributed it to the poor. The chassidim then collected the needed funds for the dowry and transferred them to Rabbi Shlomo. However a mitzvah presented itself to him at one point, and he used all the money that had been transferred to him. In the end, the chassidim decided to again collect the funds he needed for the dowry. However they did not transfer it to him until he was actually in a carriage headed to his son’s wedding.
Paving the Way for the Final Redemption
Some 20 years after he moved to Ludmir, Poles rose up against their Russian overlords. The first rebels enclosed themselves in the famous city of Ludmir, and in response the Russians came with most of their troops to crush the rebellion. The city fell into Russian hands on a Friday night, and the Jewish residents were terror-stricken. They knew exactly how the Russians would exact their vengeance, obviously by taking it out on Jews, whom they despised!
It did not take long before all the residents of the community – great and small, young and old, along with women and children – gathered in synagogue and poured out their supplications before Hashem.
Night fell. The tzaddik Rabbi Shlomo was standing in prayer, but in his immense piety he did not sense what was happening around him. Thus a Cossack with a limp, carrying a gun, came into the Beit HaMidrash. He stopped and took one look at these Jews in prayer, his eyes filled with hatred. At the same time, a cry emerged from the mouth of Rabbi Shlomo: “For to You, O Hashem, belongs royalty!”
“Grandfather!” cried out his grandson as he tugged on his grandfather’s coattails. At that point, a bullet emerged from the gun of the Cossack and struck Rabbi Shlomo with a fatal wound.
He endured terrible suffering for four days, during which time he kept the Zohar open before him. Thus on Tammuz 27, 5552, Rabbi Shlomo’s soul ascended to Heaven.
At his funeral, his chassidim recalled what their Rav had said: “I’m not even afraid of a Cossack with a limp.”
The chassidim recount that the soul of Mashiach ben Yosef dwelled in Rabbi Shlomo, and that his Cossack murderer was an incarnation of Armilus. By annulling himself, Rabbi Shlomo had advanced the final redemption of Israel through Mashiach ben Yosef.