October 22nd 2011
tishri 24th 5772
The Essential Role of Humility in the Creation of the World
by Rabbi David Hanania Pinto Shlita
Regarding the beginning of this week’s parsha, the book Avodat Israel states: “In His wisdom, the Holy One, blessed be He, restricted His attribute of Ein Sof, and it became concrete with boundaries and limits. How can we understand the nature of this phenomenon, namely that from the attribute of ‘boundlessness’ emerged the attribute of ‘bounds and limits,’ which cannot be seen by human eyes? As the Rambam writes (Hilchot Teshuvah 5:5), our minds cannot understand the Creator, and therefore no one has the ability to probe the origins of Creation. We are like His children and servants, and we have faith, for it is the cornerstone and primary objective of Creation, namely that we should serve Him with fear and trembling, and make Him King to serve His Name.”
This teaches us that we are forbidden to seek out the origin and goal of Creation, for it is beyond our ability to comprehend. It is incumbent upon us to simply know what concerns us in practice, meaning that the goal of the world’s creation is for man to take upon himself the yoke of the kingdom of G-d, to serve Him, and to fulfill all His mitzvot like a servant fulfills his master’s will. This is why we must pay close attention to pride, for when a person grows proud and does not take upon himself the yoke of the kingdom of G-d, he becomes liable to death before the King. A person does not have the right to grow proud, for pride only befits the Holy One, blessed be He, as it is written: “Hashem is King. He has donned grandeur” (Tehillim 93:1). As for a human being who grows proud, the Sages have said: “Every man in whom pride dwells, the Holy One, blessed be He, declares, ‘I and he cannot both dwell in the world’ ” (Sotah 5a).
We find something similar to this in regards to Lashon Harah (Arachin 15b), for there is no one who speaks ill of others unless he has become proud, and we only find Lashon Harah among the arrogant. The Sages teach that the repentance of one who speaks Lashon Harah consists of humbling himself, for when he grows proud, he takes the place of Hashem and becomes liable to death. The Midrash states, “If someone dons the royal garment of a king of flesh and blood, he has no hope of living. How much more if he dons the garment of the King of kings.”
Overcoming the Evil Inclination
This is why the Torah was given only by Moshe Rabbeinu, whom the Torah describes as “very humble, more than any man on the face of the earth” (Bamidbar 12:3). Furthermore, the Torah was given not just anywhere, but on Mount Sinai, which was the lowest of the mountains, and which humbled itself before G-d. In fact the world was created only for the sake of Torah, and it does not endure among the proud. As the Sages say concerning the passage, “It is not in heaven…nor is it beyond the sea” (Devarim 30:12-13): “It is not found with one who, because he possesses some knowledge of it, towers in his pride as high as the heavens. It is not found with one who, because he possesses some knowledge of it, is as expansive in his self-esteem as the sea” (Eruvin 55a).
Since the goal of man’s creation, in accordance with the goal of the creation of the world, is to acknowledge the yoke of the kingdom of G-d and to act with humility, the Torah was given to humans, among whom the evil inclination exists. The Torah was not given to the ministering angels (Berachot 25b), for they have no evil inclination that entices them to sin (Shabbat 89a). They do not fight their own instincts to do G-d’s will, nor do they have to overcome the enticement of an evil inclination that pushes them into committing sin. The angels have nothing to prevent them from serving G-d. Hence their service of G-d does not infuse their hearts with subservience and humility. They are not like humans, who must work to overcome the evil inclination, which constantly burns in their hearts.
This is why the first mitzvah that a man fulfills is the mitzvah of circumcision. Each male is circumcised at the age of eight days, for due to the fact that man is circumcised, he will devote himself completely to fulfilling the orders of his master, learning that all his deeds must be those of a servant who fulfills what his master has decided for him. That is why this mitzvah is described as the covenant of our father Abraham. It is through this mitzvah that humility enters the heart of man, just as Abraham said of himself: “I am but dust and ashes” (Bereshith 18:27). We know what the Rambam wrote in this regard, namely that circumcision diminishes the power of desire, and that when a man conquers his instincts, humility enters his heart (Guide to the Perplexed 3:49).
The Torah Does Not Endure Among the Proud
Furthermore, we find that humility played an essential role in the creation of the world, for in the Midrash the Sages say that when the Holy One, blessed be He, wanted to create man, He took council of the ministering angels (Bereshith Rabba 8:8). This teaches us that the world was created through humility, for the King of the universe humbled Himself and took the advice of the ministering angels. Furthermore, humility was created before the Torah, for the Midrash states: “Derech eretz preceded the Torah by 26 generations” (Vayikra Rabba 9:3). The Torah teaches us that a person can only learn Torah if he first demonstrates humility in learning. Without humility, he will forget what he has learned, for the Torah does not endure with the proud, but with the humble.
Pride is at the root of all sin, and no person sins unless a spirit of pride has entered him. Rabbeinu Yona wrote, “Pride encourages many sins and places a person under the sway of his evil inclination, as it is said: ‘Your heart will grow proud and you will forget Hashem your G-d’ [Devarim 8:14], and also ‘Haughty eyes and a proud heart are the cultivation of the wicked’ [Mishlei 21:4]. This means that pride is the ‘cultivation’ of the wicked, for sin grows as a result. Thus it is said, ‘In his pride, the wicked persecutes the poor’ [Tehillim 10:2], and ‘Let the wicked be ashamed…who speak insolent words about the righteous with arrogance and contempt’ [ibid. 31:18-19]. This is because, aside from causing a person to sin, pride in itself is a sin, as it is said: ‘Every proud heart is an abomination to Hashem’ [Mishlei 16:5]. When you are arrogant, you subjugate yourself to your evil inclination, and G-d no longer helps you because you are an abomination to Him” (Sha’arei Teshuvah 1:27).
Guard Your Tongue!
The Prohibition Against Believing Rechilut
Just as the Torah prohibits us from believing Lashon Harah, it also prohibits us from believing Rechilut, which is also part of Lashon Harah. In other words, we must not believe in our heart that what somebody has told us (for example, that so-and-so has done or said something negative about us) is true. A person who believes such things transgresses a prohibition, as it is written: “Distance yourself from a false report” (Shemot 23:7), without mentioning the other prohibitions and obligations that go with it.
– Chafetz Chaim
Mussar from the Parsha
In Honor of Shabbat
It is written, “G-d blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, for on it He rested from all His work which G-d created to make” (Bereshith 2:3).
The Chafetz Chaim said that Shabbat Hakodesh is the sign of the Jewish people. Transgressing the sanctity of Shabbat results in removing the sign of Jewish identity. That is why the observance of Shabbat is permanent, something that will never lapse. When a new breach occurs in the fortifications of Shabbat, people who have the public welfare at heart will immediately alert the community about the importance of observing Shabbat in accordance with the Halachah.
Numerous segulot have been attributed to the merit of observing Shabbat, such as the forgiveness of sin, abundant income, healing, and protection from harsh decrees. An earthquake once occurred in the time of the Chafetz Chaim, and he was asked what people should do. His response was brief: “Strengthen the fortifications of Shabbat.”
Rabbi Elisha Levi Shlita, a preacher at Zohorei Chama synagogue in Jerusalem, tries to alert the public to the importance of observing Shabbat, especially in regards to the start of Shabbat, when many people have still not completed their preparations. In such cases, they often profane Shabbat and cause others to profane it in turn.
Machane Yehuda Market
He takes the example of Jerusalem’s Machane Yehudah Market, but it can also apply elsewhere. People who dedicate themselves to observing Shabbat go out an hour before Shabbat and encourage merchants to close their shops. Yet what do they see at that point? Sabbath-observant Jews, people who are unmistakably orthodox, who just “happen to remember” that they should complete their shopping at that point. Just then, it seems, they remember that they are missing things at home for Shabbat.
Where were these Jews just a few hours earlier? What urgent business did they have, such that only now, at the last minute, they remember that Shabbat is soon arriving and they have to buy some particular items for it? What about the merchants who remain there one minute after another, eventually arriving home after the start of Shabbat?
What do these Jews, after their purchases, think of the fact that those merchants – enticed by a desire for gain, and regrettably far from Judaism – protest against those who come to warn them? “Leave us alone,” the merchants say. “Don’t you see that these Jews, who aren’t any less religious than you, are still buying things for Shabbat?”
A group of dedicated avrechim have taken it upon themselves to alert people, wherever possible, as to when Shabbat begins. They have said with great sadness, “We keep watch. We warn the directors of taxi companies and travelers not to take to the road so late. We warn shopkeepers and encourage them to close their shops on time. However we don’t always succeed, for it often happens that someone who ‘observes Shabbat’ will continue to buy everything he needs in a particular shop, whatever the consequences.”
Rav Levi Shlita cites the words of the Sages in describing Shabbat observance: “It is the root of faith.” The Torah issues twelve warnings on Shabbat observance. In the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings, we find that Shabbat is equal to all other mitzvot combined. “He implanted in us eternal life” – each of the 248 [positive] mitzvot gives life to one of the 248 members of the body. The heart, upon which the vitality of the body depends, corresponds to Shabbat Hakodesh, upon which the existence of the Jewish people and its vitality depend. Whoever observes Shabbat according to the Halachah, even if he commits the sins of the generation of Enosh, is granted forgiveness. The emphasis on observing Shabbat “according to the Halachah” designates the 39 prohibited forms of work on Shabbat and all that stems from it.
It Will Soon be Shabbat
In terms of the great characteristics of Shabbat Hakodesh, a very close disciple of the Chafetz Chaim testified that once, close to the start of Shabbat, he went to ask his Rav a question that was difficult for him. At that point, he saw something spectacular, something he would never forget for the rest of his life. The Chafetz Chaim was returning from the mikveh, and his face was shining like that of a man who was about to receive an enormous fortune. He said, “Soon it will be Shabbat!” This occurred several times, and long after this incident the disciple testified: “This incredible sight engraved itself in my mind for the rest of my life. Since then, I’ve learned the greatness of the Shabbat Queen.”
To those who do not know the greatness of the Shabbat Queen, our greatest teachers have shown us the path to follow in wisdom, intelligence, and friendliness, each person according to his own level. It is said that the tzaddik Rabbi Aryeh Levine Zatzal (who often used his friendly disposition to draw close those who were far) was once told that there was a Jew who opened his restaurant on Shabbat. At the time, this was the only case of public profanation of Shabbat. Yet besides a transgression of Shabbat, it was also liable to lead other residents in the district to emulate this Jew and open their shops as well. What did the Rav do? He went to the restaurant of that Jew, took off his coat, and sat down with the clients, not saying a word. A few minutes later, the owner saw the tzaddik sitting in his restaurant. He approached the Rav, not knowing what to say.
The Rav looked at him with his shining eyes and said, “I know that this is a difficult challenge for you. It is very hard to close a business on Shabbat. However you should know that Shabbat is the source of blessings. If you observe Shabbat according to the Halachah, there is no doubt that blessings will come upon your business.” When the restaurant owner heard these words, he replied: “Many people have spoken to me, all without success, because they did not have a good attitude. Now that you understand my situation and have spoken to me gently, in a way that I can accept, I promise you that I will no longer open my restaurant on Shabbat.”
Needs are a Blessing
It is written, “Dust shall you eat all the days of your life” (Bereshith 3:14).
If the earth nourished the serpent and provided it with everything it needed, how did this constitute a curse? On the contrary, the serpent was promised an unending supply of food!
The author of Yismach Israel notes that it is precisely this promise – that the serpent would never have to exhaust itself for food, which it would never lack – that constitutes a curse. In fact pleasure and joy in life only come from obtaining what we desire. This is the reason for the blessing, “Who creates numerous living beings and their needs,” for needs are also part of the blessing.
The greatest satisfaction that a person can have occurs when he obtains what he needs, and cursed is the one who has no desire to be met, for whom nothing is lacking and nothing is needed.
Measure for Measure
It is written, “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make him a helper against him” (Bereshith 2:18).
The Holy One, blessed be He, acts with us measure for measure. In the way that a man conducts himself with his Creator, his wife will conduct herself with him. This is what the Sages alluded to in saying that if a man is deserving, his wife will be a helper. Otherwise she will be against him. She will rebel against him in the same way that he rebels against his Creator. Hence every ben Torah whose wife does not listen to him must realize that it is because of his own conduct towards Heaven. It serves no purpose for him to get angry at his wife, since he is the one to blame.
In his book Chesed L’Avraham, the gaon Rabbi Avraham Azoulay states that this situation applies only to the tzaddikim. In no way does it apply to the wicked, for it is only natural that when they issue threats and instill fear in their homes, they are obeyed.
Returning to Dust
It is written, “For dust you are, and to dust shall you return” (Bereshith 3:19).
The Chida is surprise by this, for we know of some tzaddikim whose bodies have remained even after their death, as the Sages have said: “Our father Jacob is not dead” (Taanith 5b). We also find that Rabbeinu HaKadosh and other tzaddikim, after leaving this world, returned to their homes on the eve of every Shabbat. Therefore how is the verse, “to dust shall you return” fulfilled in them?
The Chida explains by saying that by removing the foreskin and placing it in the earth, the order to return to dust has already been fulfilled. They are thus exempt, for there is a little bit of soul in each part of the body.
It is written, “Hashem G-d made for Adam and his wife garments of skin, and He clothed them” (Bereshith 3:21).
It is surprising that the Holy One, blessed be He, clothed Adam and his wife with garments of skin.
The author of Tzafnat Pa’aneach explains this by saying that when Adam discovered he was naked and in need of clothes to cover himself, he had to say the Shecheyanu blessing for the first garment that would come upon him. If the Holy One, blessed be He, had covered him with other garments, Adam should have said the blessing. However a naked man does not have the right to say this blessing, and therefore Adam would have been faced with a dilemma: Would he have to say a blessing for the first garment that came upon him, and if so, how should he say it?
That is why the verse states, “Hashem G-d made for Adam and his wife garments of skin, and He clothed them.” It specifies garments of skin because we know that Shecheyanu is not said on leather garments, since “His mercy extends to all His creatures” (Tehillim 145:9). By means of the garments of skin that Hashem made for Adam when he was still naked, He exempted him from the requirement of reciting Shecheyanu on that piece of clothing.
In the Light of the Parsha
From the Teachings of the Gaon and Tzaddik Rabbi David Hanania Pinto Shlita
No Beginning but Torah
It is written, “Bereshith [In the beginning] G-d created” (Bereshith 1:1). The Sages say that the world was created for the sake of Torah, which is called reshith (Bereshith Rabba 1:1). Why is the Torah called reshith (“beginning”)? It is because there must be a beginning in the eyes of man, and thus if he is assailed with problems comparable to the primordial chaos and darkness, it will not prevent him from going to the house of study, nor will his problems be his main focus, for the holy Torah will occupy his thoughts. This is the way of man: When he has a problem, he forgets all else in order to deal with it, even if it consists of a slight difficulty. The Torah states: Whoever studies Torah, even if he is beset by problems, the Torah will remain at the beginning and center of his thoughts.
If a person conducts himself in this way, we know that his trials stem from love, as the Sages have taught: Hashem sends trials upon the one He loves, and if they do not prevent him from Torah study and prayer, they are trials of love (see Berachot 5a).
The Sages say that the Holy One, blessed be He, renews each day the work of Creation (see Chagigah 12b). The Sages also say (Bereshith Rabba 1:1) that the reshith of Bereshith 1:1 is none other than the Torah, as it is written: “Hashem made me as the reshith [beginning] of His way” (Mishlei 8:22), and the world was only created for the Torah.
Thus a person must regard the Torah’s words as new each day. This is why the Torah is called reshith, to teach us that it is none other than a beginning, and that each day it must seem new in man’s eyes, as if he had never studied it before in his life. As the Sages have said, “Words of Torah should not seem to you like old sayings, to which no one pays attention, but as something new, to which everyone runs” (Sifrei, Va’etchanan 6:8).
Just as Hashem has been renewing the Torah each day since the start of Creation – the Torah, for which the world was created, and which is called reshith – likewise man must renew the Torah each day as well.
Reasons for the Mitzvot
Shnayim Mikra Ve’echad Targum
The author of Levush Malchut states that the reason behind the mitzvah of shnayim mikra ve’echad targum (reading the weekly parsha twice in Hebrew and once from the Targum) is for people to become extremely well-versed in Torah. The book Korban Shabbat (ch. 5) cites the Matei Moshe in stating, “I have heard that the reason why we read the Hebrew text twice and the Aramaic translation once is because the Torah was given three times: Once on Mount Sinai, another time in the Tent of Meeting, and a third time ba’er heitev, as explained by Moshe. This third time is represented by reading from the Targum.”
The author of Aruch HaShulchan gives another reason, namely that it was instituted by Moshe Rabbeinu, who when instituting the reading of the Torah, also established these two additional readings.
The author of Levush Malchut finds an allusion to this law in the expression ve’eleh shemot bnei Israel (“and these are the names of the Children of Israel” – Shemot 1:1), the letters of which are the initials of vechayav adam likrot haparasha shnayim mikra ve’echad targum, meaning that it is incumbent upon every Jew.
A Life of Torah
Meriting a Long Life
This week, for an auspicious start as we begin to read Parsha Bereshith, we shall devote this article to the advice given to us by our teacher Rabbi David Hanania Pinto Shlita, who has encouraged us to practice the mitzvah of reading the parsha twice in Hebrew and once in the Aramaic Targum each and every Shabbat. This week, we have a new opportunity as we begin to read the Torah once again. Let us use this opportunity by focusing on reading, every Shabbat from now on, shnayim mikra ve’echad targum (twice in the Hebrew text and once from the Targum). We will thereby merit the promise of the Sages, namely that for anyone who does this every week, “his days and years will be prolonged.” After all, who among us doesn’t want a long life?
The Source of the Mitzvah
The source of this mitzvah is found in the Gemara, where we read: “Rabbi Huna bar Yehudah says in the name of Rabbi Ammi, ‘A man should always complete his parshiot together with the congregation, twice the Hebrew text and once the Targum, even [verses such as] Ataroth and Dibon [Bamidbar 32:3], for if one completes his parshiot together with the congregation, his days and years are prolonged’ ” (Berachot 8ab).
The Shulchan Aruch establishes the Halachah as follows: “Even if a person hears the entire Torah with the congregation each Shabbat, he is obligated to read to himself that week’s parsha every week. He must read it twice in Hebrew and once in Aramaic” (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 285:1).
This is not just a stringency that applies to very pious men, nor is it simply a custom of the Sages. Rather, the din is that every Jew must absolutely read shnayim mikra ve’echad targum each week!
A Good Reward
The reward of one who fulfills this mitzvah is explicitly given as a firm promise in the Gemara. It is not just a wish or a simple blessing: “[I]f one completes his parshiot together with the congregation, his days and years are prolonged.”
The following story is related by Rabbeinu Yehuda HaChassid in Sefer Chassidim: A certain Jew did not read shnayim mikra ve’echad targum, which prolongs days and years, for he said to himself: “I no longer want to live! So why should I read it?” A sage answered him, “This was not only said to those who love life, for it also deals with the prolongation of life as in the mitzvah of honoring one’s parents (Shemot 20:12) and accurate weights (Devarim 25:15). It is not for this reason that people who are depressed, those who do not love life, are exempt from it! It is like a servant who is obligated to serve his master and fulfill his orders in every situation without exception, and without an explicit reward. Yet his master, through his inherent goodness, still rewards him for his work. Rabbi Yehudah HaChassid ends his account by saying, “This is why we must read twice in Hebrew and once in Aramaic, ‘so that the Torah of Hashem is in your mouth,’ and for His part, the Holy One, blessed be He, will prolong your days and your years.”
Rashi’s Commentary is Considered Like the Targum
There are various opinions among the Acharonim with regards to reading the parsha twice in the original text and once in the Aramaic translation. Some say that we must read each verse twice and add its translation. Others say that we must read each paragraph twice, and then its translation. The Aruch HaShulchan states that some people read the entire parsha twice and then the Targum, but concludes that it is not very important, and that each person may do as he wishes. This is because every method may be justified in the Halachah, and it is possible to proceed sometimes in one way and sometimes in another.
The book Yalkut Yosef states, “It is the custom of very pious individuals to read shnayim mikra ve’echad targum on Friday night in a single reading, verse after verse accompanied by its translation, without being interrupted by anything until the entire parsha is read [according to the Arizal]. One who is pressed for time and cannot read the parsha twice in Hebrew and once in Aramaic should read it very softly at the same time as the shaliach tzibur reads the Torah, verse after verse. He can then read it a second time at home, followed by the entire Targum once.”
Let us now cite the Shulchan Aruch, which states that if a person has studied the parsha with Rashi’s commentary, it is considered like the Targum. A G-d fearing man will read the Targum as well as Rashi’s commentary. In fact the Targum was given on Sinai and also explains each word, whereas Rashi’s commentary examines subjects in the parsha according to the explanations of the Sages, more so than the Targum.
The author of Pri Megadim states that the cantillation marks should not pose an obstacle to this reading. However Responsa Yechave Da’at (2:37a) cites a response of the Radbaz in the name of the Arizal which states that the essence of the mitzvah is to read the parsha with the cantillation marks. As the Chida writes in Machazik Beracha, we must pay attention to reading the Torah text along with the cantillation marks, and he states that “our teacher Moshe Cohen of Fez used to warn his students to read as much as possible, and in the most beautiful way possible.”
In regards to reading the Targum, the author of Kaf HaChaim cites Rav Chaim Vital as saying that he heard from the Arizal that it is important to read the Targum without the cantillation marks. We shall end with the words of the book Minchat Shabbat, which cites the kabbalists in stating that a person merits an additional soul when reading the parsha twice in Hebrew and once in the Aramaic translation, and a spirit of purity rests upon him from above.