June 2nd 2012
sivan 12th 5772
HOW G-D LOVES THE JEWISH PEOPLE
by Rabbi David Hanania Pinto Shlita
Our Sages have said, “When Moshe ascended on high, the ministering angels spoke before the Holy One, blessed be He: ‘Sovereign of the universe! What business has one born of woman among us?’ He answered them, ‘He has come to receive the Torah.’ They said to Him, ‘That secret treasure…You wish to give to flesh and blood? “What is man, that You are mindful of him, and the son of man, that You visit him?” [Tehillim 8:5]. “Hashem our G-d, how mighty is Your Name throughout the earth, [You] Who places Your majesty in the heavens” [ibid. 8:2].’ The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Moshe, ‘Respond to them.’ He replied, ‘Sovereign of the universe, I fear lest they consume me with the breath of their mouths.’ He said to him, ‘Take hold of the Throne of Glory and respond to them’ ” (Shabbat 88b).
Let us think about this for a moment: Did the angels not know why Moshe had ascended to Heaven, such that they had to ask what one born of women was doing among them? The angels had returned the Children of Israel’s souls when they retreated 12 mil (Shabbat 88b)! Furthermore, the Seraphim did not say “Holy, Holy” (Shemot Rabba 29:9). Can we possibly claim that they did not know that Moshe had ascended to receive the Torah?
Furthermore, what good did it do for Moshe to take hold of the Throne of Glory? Could he not have responded to the angels without doing so? Since G-d told Moshe to take hold of the Throne of Glory and respond to them, He would in any case have protected him against the angels, as it is written: “He makes him take hold of the face of his Throne, and spreads out His cloud over him” (Job 26:9). Rabbi Tanchuma (Sukkah 5a) understands this to mean that G-d extended His glory and Shechinah upon Moshe.
We therefore need to understand why G-d told him, “Take hold of the Throne of Glory,” since in any case He had extended His cloud over him.
Greater than the Ministering Angels
The Sages have said, “The Children of Israel are called servants, and the ministering angels are called servants. We do not know who are more beloved, but the verse states: ‘For the Children of Israel are servants to Me. They are My servants, whom I have taken out of the land of Egypt’ [Vayikra 25:55]. This means, ‘You are dearer to Me than the ministering angels.’ The Children of Israel are called sons, and the ministering angels are called sons. We do not know who are more beloved, but the verse states: ‘My firstborn son is Israel’ [Shemot 4:22]. This means, ‘They are more beloved to Me than the ministering angels.’ The Children of Israel are called kings, and the ministering angels are called kings. We do not know who are more honored, but it says: ‘You shall be to Me a kingdom of priests’ [ibid. 19:6]. This means, ‘You are more honored to Me than the ministering angels.’ The Children of Israel are called hosts, and the ministering angels are called hosts. We do not know who are greater, but it says: ‘I shall take out My hosts, My people the Children of Israel’ [ibid. 7:4]. This means, ‘You are greater to Me than the ministering angels.’ The Children of Israel are called holy and the ministering angels are called holy. We do not know who are holier, but it is said: ‘Israel is holy to Hashem’ [Jeremiah 2:3]. This means, ‘You are holier to Me than the ministering angels’ ” (Avoth D’Rabbi Nathan 44).
What is the reason for all this? How can man, who possesses a material body, be greater than angels, who are made entirely of fire? The answer is that the souls of the Children of Israel are hidden and engraved beneath the Throne of Glory, and furthermore the soul of a Jew is a divine spark, as it is written: “For Hashem’s portion is His people” (Devarim 32:9), and “He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (Bereshith 2:7). Now the Sages have explained that “he who breathes into the nostrils of another gives him something from his own soul.” Angels do not possess a divine spark, and they are not as holy as the Children of Israel, whose soul is a divine spark. Hence the Children of Israel are greater than the ministering angels, having the ability to elevate themselves above the ministering angels.
The Holy One, blessed be He, breathed a holy soul only into the Children of Israel. He did not give it to other beings, but only to those who were called upon to receive the Torah. Since He knew that the angels would not receive it, He did not breathe into them a soul which is a divine spark.
Take Hold of the Throne of Glory
The ministering angels were not aware of this extraordinary secret. They did not realize that every Jew has the ability to rise above the level of angels, which is why they said to G-d: “What business has one born of women among us?” How did Moshe elevate himself to such a level that it is said: “You have made him but slightly less than divine beings” (Tehillim 8:6), above the level of angels? He answered them, “He has come to receive the Torah. Since the Children of Israel will receive the Torah, their holiness is greater than yours, and moreover the man who receives the Torah and studies it through adversity is able to elevate himself to such a level that he becomes greater than angels.” This is because all the power of a Jewish soul resides in the fact that it is a divine spark, a part of G-d Himself. When a Jew cleaves to the Torah, he becomes greater than angels.
This is why our Sages said that when Moshe ascended to Heaven, meaning that when he elevated himself to a celestial level – superior to that of angels – the angels were stunned and said: “How can a man, created from the dust of the earth, arrive at this level through Torah?” Hence the Holy One, blessed be He, said to Moshe: “Take hold of the Throne of Glory and respond to them.” This reply has two aspects: The first is that the souls of the Children of Israel are engraved beneath the Throne of Glory, which allows them to take hold of the Throne of Glory without fear, since they are one and the same with it because their souls emanate from there. The second is that since their souls come from beneath the Throne of Glory and are a divine spark, they can take hold of the Throne of Glory and elevate themselves through Torah to reach levels even greater than that of angels.
Guard Your Tongue
A Personal Example
A person must also be very careful himself, so that his relatives do not hear him speaking negatively about others. He can do a great deal of damage if he himself violates the prohibition against speaking Lashon Harah, for he will no longer have a way to prevent others from doing the same. In general, the behavior of family members is determined by how the head of the household acts, which is why he must be very careful in this regard. By doing so, he will find good in this world and in the World to Come.
– Chafetz Chaim
Concerning the Parsha
The Secret of Success Lies in Guarding One’s Eyes
The summer is already here, and the hot days present numerous obstacles for all of us, from the youngest to the oldest, not counting women and children. Everyone knows the words of our Sages regarding this week’s parsha: “Why does the section of the Nazirite adjoin that of the sotah? To tell you that whoever witnesses a sotah in her disgrace should withhold himself from wine” (Sotah 2a).
Not long ago, we described in this article how the gaon Yehudah Ades Shlita, the Rosh Yeshiva of Kol Yaakov, once went to the home of Rabbi Meir Abuhatzera, may his merit protect us, before the start of the zeman at the yeshiva. He asked him, “What must we tell the boys in order for them to succeed in their learning?” Rabbi Meir replied, “That they guard their eyes and mouth, for that is the secret of success.”
To understand the power of a single incorrect deed, one improper glance, we shall recount an amazing story that concerns the gaon Rabbi Shemuel Wozner Shlita, the author of Shevet Halevi and the Av Beit Din of Zichron Meir in Bnei Brak, a story told in the book Barchi Nafshi:
A prominent American, whose son had reached the age of 13, wanted to give him a very special gift for his Bar Mitzvah. He told the boy that they would travel to Eretz Israel for his Bar Mitzvah, to the Beit HaMidrash of Rav Wozner Shlita, and that the gaon himself would place tefillin on him for the very first time.
The boy was very excited by this spiritual gift that was promised to him, and he prepared himself well in advance. The man told him that Rav Wozner had asked them to call a few days before leaving the United States to make sure that all was well, so as not to make the trip for nothing.
The man purchased the plane tickets, which cost $2,000, and he called Rav Wozner one week before the flight in question. To the man’s astonishment, he heard the Shevet HaLevi say to him: “I’ve decided that it’s not worth the trouble for you to come and visit me in Bnei Brak”!
“What happened?” asked the man in shock. “The boy’s been preparing for the trip for a long time already.”
Rav Wozner explained his decision: “True, it’s important that the first time a boy puts on tefillin, it should be a Rav who does it for him. But have you thought about the harmful things that the boy is liable to see during the long journey that you will take with him from America to Eretz Israel? Is it worth the risk?”
The man, stunned by what he was hearing, tried explaining to the Rav that the boy was liable to be extremely disappointed. Naturally, all these explanations were useless. “Nothing in the world is worth the damage that is liable to occur to a child if he sees forbidden things,” decided the gaon. The man continued with another question: “And what am I going to do with the two tickets that I already bought for $2,000?”
We must pay careful attention to the response which the Shevet HaLevi gave him:
“Go and buy a large and beautiful looking frame, place the two tickets inside of it, and write in big letters: WE SACRIFICED THESE TWO TICKETS, WHICH COST $2,000, SO OUR BELOVED SON WOULD NOT SEE FORBIDDEN THINGS!”
According to this story, we can fully understand the grave mistake of parents who leave their children unsupervised while on vacation, not knowing where they are going, who their friends are, and what terrible images are being thrown before their eyes.
Rav Zilberstein, who recounted this story, also spoke about a response that he heard from a mother that greatly shook him: “This woman had nine children of various ages, and she decided to travel to Switzerland with her husband during the summer Ben Hazemanim – and not for one or two days! ‘I felt that if didn’t stay in Switzerland for at least 15 days, then I wouldn’t have any vacation,’ she said.
“Let’s not discuss the very act of leaving Eretz Israel, which we shall speak about in detail elsewhere. Yet when I asked this woman who would be taking care of her children while she was away – saying to her: ‘You do realize the enormous spiritual dangers that exist today in the streets’ – she replied, unperturbed: ‘Hashem will protect them.’
“Since I couldn’t believe my ears, I again asked her the same question. She replied that since they didn’t have an extended family, ‘we have no other choice but to trust in Hashem to protect the children while we’re in Switzerland.’
“I want to say how much these things greatly disturbed me. How could a mother let such things emerge from her mouth? Did Hashem giver her children so He would be the one to protect them? Who gave this woman and her husband the idea to go to Switzerland and leave their children alone, without any supervision? Do we lack cases in which children have taken to the wrong path because of such stories, namely parents leaving their children alone to go on vacation?”
Spiritual dangers are so numerous and varied that they assail us in all forms. We therefore have a sacred duty to be careful with – and sometimes to sacrifice on the altar of sanctity of the home and purity of our children’s education – things that are important to us in the material realm. We do these things while stressing that they are destined to protect our family’s sanctity, as well as the purity within the confines of our home and outside of it.
They Acted On their Own
It is written, “The Children of Israel did so. The expelled them to outside the camp” (Bamidbar 5:4).
This expression is redundant. Once the verse states that the Children of Israel carried out Hashem’s word, it is clear that they expelled sinners outside the camp, just as Hashem had told Moshe. Therefore why does the verse use a redundant expression, lengthening the account without reason?
There are several responses to this. Let us first cite the response of Rabbi Chizkiyahu bar Manoah, the Chizkuni, who wrote that the verse mentions the same thing twice because there were really two orders that were to be carried out:
The first, addressed to the court, was to expel sinners from the camp.
The second, addressed to the sinners themselves, was to leave the camp.
The verse is teaching us that there was no need to force the sinners to leave. They did not hide the impurity that was among them. With Hashem’s command to Moshe, the sinners themselves acted accordingly without the court having to force them.
Giving to the Kohen
It is written, “A man’s holies shall be his” (Bamidbar 5:10).
To explain the juxtaposition of this verse with the previous verse, “Every offering from any of the holies that the Children of Israel bring to the kohen,” the Midrash states: “The Holy One, blessed be He, meant to imply: Anyone who gives offerings and holy things to the kohen in a fitting way will be privileged to marry his daughters into the priesthood, and his seed will eat holy things” (Bamidbar Rabba 8:8).
In his book Roni Akara, Rabbi Yaakov Hillel Shlita cites the Satmar Rebbe, Rabbi Yoel Zatzal, in stating that the reward for the mitzvah of giving terumah and ma’aser to the kohanim is powerful enough to arouse compassion on a person. In fact his prayers will be generously answered, and he will be saved from misfortune. And if he has no children, he will have children!
The verse, “A man’s holies shall be his” will be fulfilled in him, and he will marry some of his daughters to the kohanim.
Not the Tribe of Levi
It is written, “One leader each day, one leader each day shall they bring their offering” (Bamidbar 7:11).
This is surprising: The tribe of Levi, which was chosen to stand before Hashem and serve Him, did not participate in the inauguration of the altar, nor did its leader contribute to bringing offerings, as did the leaders of the other tribes.
What does this mean?
The book Sha’ar Bat Rabim gives the following explanation: On the verse, “Please speak in the ears of the people: Let each man borrow from his fellow, and each woman from her fellow, vessels of silver and vessels of gold” (Shemot 11:2), the Midrash states that only those among the Children of Israel who worked as slaves in Egypt received this order. To repay them for their forced labor, they were allowed to take vessels of silver and gold from the Egyptians. The tribe of Levi was not allowed to do so, however, for the children of Levi had been exempt from forced labor. Hence they did not have the right to benefit from vessels of silver and gold, since it would have constituted theft.
For the inauguration of the altar, since each tribal leader received the order to bring a silver bowl, a silver basin, and a gold ladle, the tribe of Levi could not do so. This is because it was poor, its members living from the charity of others, namely tithes and offering.
It is written, “He brought his offering: One silver bowl” (Bamidbar 7:19).
For the first offering it is written, “His offering was one silver bowl” (v.13), whereas for the second offering we read: “He brought his offering: One silver bowl…” (v.19).
In regards to this difference, the gaon Rabbi Ben Tzion Abba Shaul Zatzal (Ohr LeTzion, Chochma U’Mussar) writes that the Torah is hereby underlining that the offering of each tribal leader resulted from a personal spiritual awakening, not because of pressure to imitate the offering of the other leaders. Thus for the second tribal leader, it is written: “He brought his offering” – on his own.
From here, every talmid chacham who issues directives to people must learn that he must not take decisions according to what has been said by so-and-so, who preceded him. Rather, he must deeply examine every issue and render his own decision.
The Priest Who Blesses
It is written, “Vesamu [And they shall place] My Name upon the Children of Israel” (Bamidbar 6:27).
The term vesamu is an acrostic for vekohen shemevarech mitbarech u’mitgadel (“and the kohen who blesses is blessed and grows”).
– Avnei HaShoham
In the Light of the Parsha
From the Teachings of the Gaon and Tzaddik Rabbi David Hanania Pinto Shlita
Becoming a Nazir Atones for Sinful Sights
Our Sages have said, “Why does the section of the Nazirite adjoin that of the sotah? To tell you that whoever witnesses a sotah in her disgrace should withhold himself from wine” (Sotah 2a). Rashi explains, “For it leads to promiscuity.” This is surprising, for is it only wine that leads to promiscuity? If we say that wine, since it intoxicates man, leads him to lax morals, then what connection is there between letting one’s hair grow and the sight of the sotah in her disgrace?
It is a general rule: The Holy One, blessed be He, does not show a person something by accident. If someone has seen something that is not good, he should reflect upon his deeds and repent. We know that what he has seen represents some aspect of the sin for which he is being reprimanded, as the Gemara states: “A person does not arouse suspicion unless he has done the thing [in question]. If he has not done it wholly, he has done it partly. If he has not done it partly, he has thought of doing it. If he has not thought of doing it, he has seen others doing it and enjoyed [the sight]” (Moed Katan 18b). We therefore learn that when we see someone committing a sin, some aspect of that sin exists in us, and we must examine our deeds and repent.
Thus from the fact that G-d made someone see a woman in her disgrace, we know that there was a reason behind it. Since he has seen it, he should make certain that this same sin does not exist in him, and that no desire for the pleasures of this world exists in his heart. Even if these consist of permissible things, the Sages have taught: “Sanctify yourself by what is permitted to you” (Yebamot 20a). It is therefore fitting that he becomes a Nazir, sanctified for Hashem, and that he separates himself from the desires of the world, for this is what being a Nazir consists of, and that is his atonement.
Hence we may say that this is why a Nazir brings a sin offering: Because he was only pushed to become a Nazir because he saw a forbidden sight that called for atonement.
The Sweet Singer of Israel
Ten people contributed to writing Sefer Tehillim, as our Sages in the Gemara have said: “David wrote Sefer Tehillim, including in it the work of the elders, namely Adam, Melchizedek, Abraham, Moshe, Heman, Yeduthun, Asaph, and the three sons of Korach” (Bava Batra 14b-15a).
Regarding this subject, we find the following explanations in the Midrash: “Rabbi Huna said in the name of Rabbi Acha: Although ten people composed Sefer Tehillim, the only one among them to whom it is ascribed is King David of Israel. To illustrate this, a comparison was made to a company of men who sought to sing an ode before the king. The king said to them: ‘You are all good singers, you are all loyal, you are all famous and qualified to sing an ode before me. Still, let so-and-so sing it on behalf of you all, for his voice is particularly sweet.’ Thus when the ten tzaddikim wanted to recite Sefer Tehillim, the Holy One, blessed be He, said to them: ‘All of you are poetic, pious, and famous enough to sing an ode before Me. Nevertheless, let David say it on behalf of you all. Why? Because his voice is sweet.’ As it says, ‘The sweet singer of Israel’ [2 Samuel 23:1]” (Shir HaShirim Rabba 4:5).
No Interruptions or Cries of Distress
The book HaLevush (Orach Chaim 1:9) cites the Sha’arei Orah in stating that the main reason for the custom of reciting tehillim is to make accusers flee before prayer, so that our prayers may ascend without hindrance. This is why David called them mizmorim (from a root meaning to cut, to prune), since they mechatchim (clear a path) for prayer to ascend, as in the expression: “He will cut the twigs bemazmerot [with pruning hooks]” (Isaiah 18:5).
This is why, explains the author of HaLevush, people who usually recite tehillim after prayer are mistaken, for the primary reason for reading them is to make accusers flee so our prayers may easily ascend afterwards. That said, what purpose is served by making accusers flee after prayer? It is useless afterwards.
Responsa Beit Yaakov indicates that when praying with the community, we must recite tehillim before prayer. When praying individually, however, it is better to recite them after prayer. He finds support for this idea in the words of the Arizal, according to whom all the abundance that a person draws down when praying with the community is concretized after prayer, as long as he still finds himself in synagogue. Hence it is better to recite tehillim after prayer.
The Chida agrees with the author of HaLevush, and he strengthens the views of Rabbeinu Ephraim, one of the Ba’alei HaTosafot. The Chida testifies that he himself saw a manuscript of Torah commentaries in which he wrote that tehillim must be recited early in the morning, before prayer, while wearing a tallit. The Sages have noted that the last letters in the expression tzitzit al kanfei bigdechem (“fringes on the corners of their garments” [Bamidbar 15:38]) form the word tilim (i.e., tehillim).
In his book Makor Chaim, the gaon Rabbi Yair Chaim Bacharach Zatzal reached a compromised between these two views: During the week we follow the opinion of HaLevush, while on Shabbat and festivals we recite tehillim after prayer.
What is the reason for this?
Accusers are powerless during these holy days, meaning that the Satan and forces of impurity are irrelevant on those days. There is therefore no reason to remove obstacles and clear a path before prayer. Hence we recite tehillim after prayer.
Citing Rabbeinu Ephraim, the Chida states (Midbar Kedmot) that if someone recites tehillim every day, it is as if he has fulfilled the entire Torah.
Special Segulot for Reciting Tehillim
The Shelah, author of Shnei Luchot HaBrit, states: “One whose soul yearns to cleave to Him and recite His praises, let him cleave to Sefer Tehillim. Happy is the man who reads tehillim like a song, with joy and concentration, and who understands them.”
Hence this is the essence of the segula of reciting tehillim. In them, the Shelah sees a pure source for one whose soul yearns to cleave to Hashem and His glory, taking special care to recite them like a song, with joy, concentration, and understanding.
It has already been said that during the 20 years that he lived with Laban, Jacob recited tehillim. He also recited them every day that Joseph was in Egypt. The Sages have lavished praise upon the reciting of tehillim. King David himself asked Hashem to consider a person who recites them as if he has studied the most difficult parts of the Torah.
In his book Peleh Yoetz, Rabbi Eliezer Papo describes a tradition of holy and saintly men, “according to whom a person who experiences any misfortune, or who is traveling on the road or navigating upon the sea, if he reads Sefer Tehillim each day without interruption, with concentration and humility, he will see wonders, something that has been fully verified.”
Along the same lines, the book Tehillah LeDavid states: “We have heard that there is a tradition according to which a person who studies all of Sefer Tehillim, from the beginning with concentration, without any needless words interrupting, if he asks for something, he will immediately receive it.”
The book Emek HaMelech cites Rav Avigdor Karah in stating that one who has the habit of reading tehillim distances all kinds of misfortunes from himself, his family, and his entire generation. He also draws all kinds of abundant blessings, possessions, and success upon them.
The book Shnei Luchot HaBrit recounts that in the year 5112, in a certain village, there was an old, pious man who read all of Sefer Tehillim every day. When his time came, he died at an advanced age. In the thirty days that followed, he returned in a dream to a great Torah scholar. He was wearing his burial shroud and holding a small book in his hands.
The Torah scholar asked him, “Are you not the man whom we buried on such-and-such a day?”
“Indeed I am,” he replied.
“And what is the book you are holding?”
He said to him, “It is Sefer Tehillim. I have come to tell you that you must warn the people in the village where I lived. They must flee from there, and they will be saved. When I lived there, I recited tehillim every day, and they lived in peace and tranquilly. Yet now that no one protects them, misfortune awaits them.”
In the morning, the Torah scholar arose and sent a special emissary with a letter to warn them. Some took the words of the pious man to heart, and they fled and were saved. Others did not pay attention to his words, and they stayed until the hand of Hashem came upon them.
It is good to do things at their proper time, and to recite all of Sefer Tehillim on the day of Shavuot, which is the Hilloula of King David.
Throughout the Diaspora, the custom has spread for people to gather in synagogue during the festival of Shavuot and recite tehillim together, like a song, with a joyful heart. This is also what Rabbi Yosef Haim of Baghdad, may his merit protect us, wrote:
“The study of tehillim on the day of Shavuot has tremendous importance. It is the day of King David’s passing, and they are more acceptable on this day. Hence everyone must recite all of Sefer Tehillim on Shavuot” (Ben Ish Hai, Bamidbar 6).