march 8th 2014
adar-II 6th 5774
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Hashem Reveals Himself to Moshe Due to His Humility
by Rabbi David Hanania Pinto Shlita
It is written, “He called to Moshe, and Hashem spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting, saying…” (Vayikra 1:1). Rashi explains that here, the term “called” expresses G-d’s love for Moshe. Likewise, the expression “from the Tent of Meeting” signifies that a voice emerged from the Holy of Holies and passed through the Tent of Meeting, then stopped. As for the term “saying,” Rashi explains: “Go and tell them sobering words: ‘It is for your sake that He speaks to me,’ for we find that all 38 years that Israel was in the desert, as people who are excommunicated, from [the time] of the spies onward, the prophetic word had not come to Moshe.”
This raises a few questions. At first glance, why did the voice pass through the Tent of Meeting to reach Moshe, rather than going directly to his tent? Likewise, why is the letter aleph in the term vayikra written smaller than the other letters?
Furthermore, according to the commentary of the Satmar Rebbe (Rav Yoel) on Rashi, the goal of sobering words is generally to bring the Children of Israel to repentance and push them to better themselves. Yet here, it seems that he encouraged them by saying: “It is for your sake that He speaks to me.”
Rav Yoel also points out that this entire explanation is brought in Yalkut Shimoni (Vayikra), and he expresses his astonishment by saying: “A surprising discussion arises from what Yalkut Shimoni adds. One would think that G-d spoke to Moshe for his own benefit. However the term ‘saying’ [lemor] teaches us that He spoke to him not for his own personal benefit, but for Israel’s. One would think that He spoke to him only for the people, but the term lemor indicates that G-d addressed Moshe for his own benefit as well.” What benefit is there in knowing whether G-d spoke to Moshe for his own personal sake, or only for the sake of Israel?
Before forwarding our explanation, let us first present some introductory points: Moshe Rabbeinu’s greatness was well-known. He was the father of the prophets, a man of G-d who transmitted and taught us Torah, which can only be acquired by one who submits to it. Furthermore, everyone has the duty to resemble a person who corresponds to the verse, “When a man among you offers” (Vayikra 1:2), meaning one who views himself as an offering, who annuls himself and submits like an animal stretching out its neck for the slaughter.
This is the direction in which the diligent study of Torah should lead: To make a person wise and enable him to understand the Creator’s will without, G-d forbid, drawing any personal glorification from Torah (Pirkei Avoth 4:5), and to demonstrate humility and submission. Moshe Rabbeinu infused this characteristic in us by reflecting on Torah and considering himself as nothing, for he was extremely humble, as it is written: “Now the man Moshe was extremely humble” (Bamidbar 12:3).
We learn this from the fact that in the term vayikra (Vayikra 1:1), the letter aleph is written smaller than the other letters. Just as young children begin their study of Chumash with Vayikra, likewise Moshe Rabbeinu considered himself as a novice in learning. In fact he had so much love for words of Torah that a small letter – the aleph, the point at which children begin to learn – was important to him. Such is the meaning of the term vayikra: yekaro aleph (“the aleph is important to him”). It is also why children begin with Parsha Vayikra, so that words of Torah become important to them, as they were to Moshe, the teacher of the Children of Israel.
This view was pushed to such a point that before Moshe’s death, in transmitting his teachings to the Children of Israel, he told Hashem: “You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness” (Devarim 3:24). In other words, at the age of 120, after have been “close” to G-d for 40 years, and having seen what no other human being had seen (for Moshe ascended to the heavens, without eating or drinking, and did nothing but learn Torah), Moshe felt that despite all this, he had barely begun to understand G-d’s words. Such was the great humility of Moshe Rabbeinu, comparable to the small aleph.
In looking at this more deeply, we understand that the structure of the letter aleph alludes to G-d’s Name. In fact it is made up of two yuds, one above and one below, with a vav in the middle. Together this comes to 26 (twice ten plus six), equal to the numerical value of G-d’s Name. This equivalence alludes to Moshe Rabbeinu, who by humbling himself – by feeling unworthy of receiving the word of G-d, Whose voice fills the entire world in all its splendor – and by making himself small, Moshe revealed and sanctified the Name of G-d in all its splendor. It was precisely for this reason that G-d revealed Himself to Moshe.
If everything that we have said is correct, it provides a simple explanation to our initial questions. In fact, “Man is led in the path that he desires to take” (Bamidbar Rabba 20:12). Thus in seeing the humility of His servant Moshe, G-d in His love allowed him to think that He had revealed Himself to him for the sake of the people. However from G-d’s point of view, it was for his own sake that He spoke to Moshe, who was equivalent to all the Jewish people. Moshe believed that G-d was speaking to him due to the importance of the Children of Israel, yet in reality it was due to his own importance.
We can now understand why the Divine voice had to pass through the Tent of Meeting. In fact it was the domain of the Jewish people. Thus the transmission of the Divine word through this place was interpreted as being due to the greatness of the Children of Israel, as well as being destined for them. Moshe therefore interpreted for Israel even the words that were personally addressed to him. Since he felt like a novice in the learning of Torah, he was elevated to the level of one to whom G-d’s word is personally addressed, in order that he could in turn teach Torah to the Jewish people.
Since Moshe knew that G-d’s word was addressed to him for the sake of the Children of Israel, he realized that when Israel was worthy, G-d’s word would come to him.
This is why G-d advised Moshe: “Go and tell them sobering words” – convince them to always be infused with prayer and repentance so that, through their merit and for their needs, “G-d’s word to you will continue to come to me.”
Thus when the Children of Israel wandered in the desert for 38 years because the spies had disparaged the land of Israel, G-d fulfilled the will of those who feared Him by not addressing them. Such was Moshe’s desire: That He should only speak to him when the Children of Israel were worthy of it, even if Moshe himself was worthy of receiving G-d’s word. G-d kept His faithful servant in mind, acting according to the words of Moshe, who in his modesty did not speak to G-d for his own sake, but only for the sake of the Children of Israel.
According to this explanation, the expression “sobering words” is appropriate, for Moshe Rabbeinu, the faithful shepherd, beseeched the Children of Israel: “It is only for your sake the G-d speaks to me, not for my own needs. Therefore continue to follow G-d’s path, be righteous, and submit to Him. By this merit, G-d will speak to me for your sake.” As such, the questions raised by the Rebbe of Satmar are fully explained.
Guard Your Tongue
Listen and Judge Favorably
Sometimes it is a mitzvah to listen to someone disparaging others. This is the case, for example, when we believe that by listening to someone’s disparaging story to the very end, we will be able to show him, or those who are listening to him, that things are not the way he says they are, or by presenting other, favorable points of view.
– Chafetz Chaim
Real Life Stories
The Power of the Tongue
It is written, “Pronouncing with the lips to do evil or to do good” (Vayikra 5:4).
There was once a king who possessed great love for a certain Jewish sage, for in him the king saw tremendous wisdom and someone who gave good advice. The king therefore appointed him viceroy. He directed the affairs of the king in a good and upright way, so much so that this king surpassed all others in greatness as well as in wealth. His treasury was filled with an immense fortune, all because of the influence of his Jewish viceroy.
The viceroy was loved and respected by all the inhabitants of the kingdom, small and great alike. The only exception was one non-Jewish tailor who was very jealous of him. In fact he composed several songs filled with disparaging accusations against Jews. This tailor lived next to a market, by a road on which the king and his Jewish viceroy often traveled in their carriage. He would work in his attic, which had a large widow facing the market. When he heard that the king and his Jewish viceroy were passing by in their carriage, the tailor opened his window and sang the songs he had composed in a loud and alluring voice, songs that were filled with vile accusations against the viceroy and Jews.
Sitting in his carriage, the king heard the tailor’s songs and their shameful lyrics. He realized that the tailor was doing this due to his great jealously for Jews and the viceroy whom he loved. The king therefore became angry and ordered his viceroy, upon leaving the carriage, to summon the tailor at once and to cut out his tongue with a knife.
What did the viceroy do?
As soon as he left the king’s presence, he went home and had the tailor summoned. He then gave him extravagant gifts, spoke positively of him, and sent him away in peace. Upon returning home, the tailor took out his pen and wrote several new songs, all filled with praises for Jews and glorifying them without end.
About a week later, as the king was passing through the market with his Jewish viceroy, as he usually did, when their carriage approached the entrance of the market, the tailor began singing once again. He was in his attic, near the large open window that faced the market, and his new songs glorified Jews and the viceroy. As soon as the king heard the tailor’s voice, he became very angry with his viceroy.
He said to him, “Why didn’t you cut out his tongue, as I ordered you?!”
The viceroy replied, “Your Majesty, that is what I did. I cut out the tongue that displeased you, and I gave him another tongue. Listen to what this new tongue is saying, and you will see that it is not the same, but rather a new tongue!”
When the carriage came closer to the tailor’s home, the king heard the lyrics of his songs and realized that he was actually glorifying Jews, contrary to his first songs. The king then began to laugh, realizing that he had changed his tongue through bribery.
Nevertheless, the king said to the viceroy: “If you had cut out the tailor’s tongue, it would have pleased me even more!”
The viceroy replied, “Sire, it was out of respect for you that I did not cut out his tongue, but arranged things in such a way that his tongue was changed. Had I cut out his tongue, non-Jews would have said: ‘This tailor said nothing wrong, nor did he lie, for all he said against the Jews was true. Yet the king, because of his love for the Jewish viceroy, ordered him to cut out his tongue, which wasn’t right.’ Yet now that I acted in this way, by bribing him, and now that he himself has changed his own words, he is personally attesting to the fact that he lied before, since a lie occurred in any case – be it at the beginning or at the end – and the liar himself testifies to this better than a hundred witnesses could ever do.
“If he changes his opinion once again and begins to disparage Jews, nobody will believe him anymore, and everything that he says will be in vain, as if he were saying nothing at all. Thus people will know that your love for Jews is justified, something that would not have been the case if you had cut out his tongue, for people would have suspected you and tried to justify the tailor’s words.”
– From the Ben Ish Hai in Niflaim Ma’asecha
The Blessing for Trees
• One who goes out during Nissan and sees trees in bloom recites the blessing for trees (Birkat Ha-Ilanot), but without reciting Shecheyanu.
• The text of Birkat Ha-Ilanot is the following: “Blessed are You, Hashem our G-d, King of the universe, that His world is not lacking anything, and He created in it good creations and good trees for the pleasure of mankind.”
• The blessing is not recited over barren trees, which do not bear fruit, but only on fruit-bearing trees when they are in bloom.
• Halachically, two trees are sufficient to recite the blessing, even if they are of the same kind. It is even better if one can recite the blessing over several kinds of trees.
• Women also recite the blessing for trees, for it is not considered as a blessing that is time-dependent.
• It is good to recite the blessing on trees that are planted outside of the city, although this is not necessary. Hence if it is difficult to leave the city, or if we are afraid of losing time for learning Torah, we may recite the blessing on trees that are found inside the city.
• Those who are zealous recite the blessing as soon as possible, as early as Rosh Chodesh Nissan. There is no reason to delay the fulfillment of this mitzvah in order to recite it with a minyan.
• If we have not recited this blessing before fruit appears on a tree, we no longer recite it. When the buds have fallen out, even if fruit has not grown to the point of being edible, but has only started to grow, we do not recite the blessing.
• If the month of Nissan ends without the opportunity to recite the blessing, we may recite it during Iyar. We must not lose the opportunity to recite this important blessing, as long as trees are still in bloom and fruits have not yet started to grow on them.
Your Eyes Shall Behold Your Teacher
Rabbi Haim Aboulafia
Credit goes to the gaon Rabbi Haim Aboulafia Zatzal for the rebuilding and restoration of the Jewish community of Tiberias. Rabbi Haim Aboulafia was born in Hebron in 5420, and he rendered his soul to Hashem on Nissan 6, 5504.
In his youth, Hebron’s Jewish community sent him on a mission to Turkey, where his knowledge and wisdom enabled him to be named as the Chief Rabbi of Izmir. Then, upon returning to the Holy Land, he was named as the Chief Rabbi of Sefat and later of Tiberias.
Rabbi Haim Aboulafia was the friend and study partner of two of the greatest sages of his generation: The author of Pri Hadash and the author of Ohr HaHaim. He himself wrote several important works on the Torah, in particular Etz Haim, Mikraei Kodesh (a commentary on the laws of Passover and the holidays), Yosef Lekah, Shevuot Yaakov, and Yashrei Yaakov.
Rabbi Haim Aboulafia committed himself to the spiritual resurrection of Tiberias’ Jewish community by building yeshivot and synagogues. He also devoted himself to the development of the city by building numerous homes for the community. He did not stop there, however, for the members of the community were indebted to him, some for their jobs, others for their livelihoods. In fact Rabbi Haim, whose name became synonymous with chesed (kindness), was responsible for reviving the famous Rabbi Meir Ba’al HaNess fund, a communal fund devoted to the city’s poor. He did not hesitate to send messages and emissaries to the Diaspora in order to call upon Jews around the world to help their brothers in Tiberias.
During that time, the Jewish community in the Holy Land was weak, and the country’s roads were fraught with danger. An Arab sheik, who had rebelled against the central authority, marched on Tiberias and took control of the town and its surroundings. This sheik wanted to develop the region, and he knew that he could only achieve this with the help of the Jewish community. He hoped that Jews would settle in Tiberias, invest in the city, and give it a much-needed boost by creating jobs there. In doing so, this sheik also sought to increase his power base and political standing against the Pasha, who ruled in Damascus.
The sheik therefore wrote letters to the leaders of the Jewish communities in Turkey, proposing that they encourage their brothers to settle in Tiberias. He promised to protect them and grant them rights.
Thus Rabbi Haim Aboulafia, who then served as the Chief Rabbi of Izmir in Turkey, found an opportunity to return to the Holy Land, which he did as quickly as possible with his family and a dozen of his students. Yet before doing so, he went through the city collecting funds aimed at strengthening the community of Tiberias. The Sultan was in town on that particular day, and when he came across Rabbi Haim Aboulafia, he saw a column of fire above the head of the tzaddik.
The Sultan hastened to summon Rabbi Haim Aboulafia, and he showed him so much respect that the Sultan’s counselors were astonished.
“If you had seen the column of fire over his head as I did, you too would have showed him respect,” he replied.
The Sultan was not content with simply honoring Rabbi Haim Aboulafia. When he learned that the great Rabbi was gathering funds for his sacred cause, he quickly gave him a sizeable donation.
As a result, as soon as Rabbi Haim Aboulafia arrived in Tiberias, he began to renovate a synagogue located in the very same spot where the Arizal prayed. The community did not stop growing and developing with every new wave of immigrants from the surrounding countries. It was in this way that Rabbi Haim, after having built a magnificent synagogue, went on to establish shops, public markets, and local industries.
It is not surprising that the author of Ohr HaHaim preferred to settle down in Tiberius on the day that he arrived in the Holy Land, even before reaching Jerusalem. The Chief Rabbi of the city tried to persuade him to stay and build his yeshiva, but the author of Ohr HaHaim replied that he could not commit himself to doing so before writing a letter to his Italian friends. The Chief Rabbi of Tiberius therefore dispatched messages to the leaders of Jewish communities in Italy.
Yet even before an answer arrived, the Pasha of Damascus decided to put down the sheik’s uprising, and so he quickly sent a formidable armed force to Tiberius, determined to retake it. For 85 days, assault troops subjected the city to such intense cannon fire that the friends of Rabbi Haim begged him to leave the city. However he obstinately refused, certain that Tiberius would not suffer in any way from this attack. With surprising calm, he promised his disciples that with Hashem’s help, nothing bad would happen. By a miracle, the cannonballs directed at Tiberius all missed their target and landed in the Kinneret.
Word that the failed attack was the result of Rabbi Haim’s influence with Heaven spread to all the troops assaulting the city. These soldiers felt that they were powerless before the prayers of Rabbi Haim, and they rose up against the officer commanding this force and decided to break camp.
This occurred on Kislev 4. In order to commemorate this miracle, comparable to the miracle of Purim, Rabbi Haim Aboulafia decreed that Kislev 4 would henceforth be a festival for the Jewish community of Tiberias every year.
A few months later, the Pasha of Damascus attempted to conquer Tiberias once again. This time, his troops besieged the city from all sides, including the sea. Frightened, the inhabitants of the city gathered in synagogue to hear Rabbi Haim tell them the following:
“Do not fear! Nothing bad will happen to you. Remember that it is Friday, the eve of Shabbat, when we read Parsha Shoftim. Now in tomorrow’s Haftarah, it is written: ‘Who are you, that you should be afraid of mortal men?’ [Isaiah 51:12].”
On the next day, Shabbat, Rabbi Haim again encouraged his brothers and repeated the same prophetic verse to them.
And so it was, on the Sunday that followed, an emissary from Akko announced that on the previous day, the Pasha of Damascus had fallen very ill and died on the same day. The danger thus ended, and the inhabitants of Tiberius decided that Elul 7 would also be a festival, just like Purim.
We can easily understand that Divine aid never ceased to accompany Rabbi Haim in everything he did, thereby guaranteeing him success.
The following story is very significant in this regard:
Not long before settling down in Tiberias as the Chief Rabbi of the city, Rabbi Haim Aboulafia once traveled to Sefat for a pilgrimage to the graves of the tzaddikim. On the way back, he passed through Tiberias, which was then a small town with a tiny population, populated only by Bedouins. Rabbi Haim sent his shamash (assistant) to the city to buy him something to eat. The shamash was then accosted by a group of young non-Jews who, after having thrown stones at him, began to violently strike him. The unfortunate shamash was thus left there, having been beaten. Since he only spoke Turkish, Hebrew, and Spanish, he didn’t know what to do. It was then that a man passing by saw him in this state and offered to help. The man spoke a little Turkish, and the shamash was able to tell him what had happened. After hearing this, the man realized that the leader of the young thugs was none other than the son of the sheik of Tiberias. He suggested to the shamash that he come with him to see the sheik, assuring him that the latter would not be indifferent to his plight. In fact he would certainly punish his son, who by his disgraceful behavior had publicly dishonored his father.
The shamash agreed, following the man until they reached the sheik and told him everything. Upon hearing the story, the sheik became enraged and decided to punish his son as he deserved, swearing: “Even 100 clubs on his back will not be enough to forgive such an offence!”
That said, having heard from the shamash that he served the great tzaddik Rabbi Haim Aboulafia, the sheik asked to meet with him. Rabbi Haim therefore went to see the sheik, who greeted him with tremendous honor. Having been impressed by the character of his shamash, the sheik said to him: “The punishment that I swore to give my son is obviously too much. Can you suggest another punishment, such that I do not break my oath?”
Rabbi Haim replied, “Since you did not explicitly mention blows, I suggest that you simply place 100 clubs on your son’s back without striking him with them. In this way, you will not break your oath, and it will be enough to persuade your son to correct his misdeeds.”
Upon hearing such wise advice, the sheik grew very fond of Rabbi Haim Aboulafia. Thus when the time came, this sheik generously helped him to rebuild the Jewish community of Tiberius.
Rabbi Haim Aboulafia’s Hilloula is Nissan 6.
At the Source
Not From An Apostate
It is written, “When a man among you brings an offering” (Vayikra 1:2).
The Sages say, “Among you – but not all of you, thus excluding an apostate” (Chullin 5a).
This is actually surprising. Why do we not accept the offering of an apostate, since even the offering of a non-Jew – even if he is an idolater – is accepted?
We must distinguish between an apostate Jew and a non-Jewish idolater. What’s the difference between them?
The Ralbag explains that a non-Jew was never close to G-d, meaning that he never had a spark of spirituality or elevation. Hence now, when he wants to draw closer to G-d by bringing an offering, it is good to accept it.
On the other hand, a Jew is already close to G-d, and he is already aware of the Torah’s greatness. Since an apostate Jew has already denied everything, he has deliberately distanced himself from G-d and allowed himself to be ensnared in depravity by cleaving to falsehood. Hence we should not accept an offering to Hashem from such a man.
It is written, “If one’s offering to Hashem is a burnt-offering of birds” (Vayikra 1:14).
In the future, says the Zohar, there will be no poor people and offerings will consist only of bulls. In fact Rabbi Binyamin Ze’ev Boskowitz says that we should take the following verse literally: “Do good in Your favor to Zion; build the walls of Jerusalem…then bulls will go up upon Your altar” (Tehillim 51:20-21).
Thus in the future, only “bulls” will be offered, and no one will bring “birds” as an offering.
Even the Kohen Gadol
It is written, “In the place where the ash is poured out, it shall be burned” (Vayikra 4:12).
We must learn from what Rabbeinu Yaakov Baal HaTurim wrote:
“The Torah has ordered us to publicly burn the offering of the anointed kohen. We are to do this outside, ‘in the place where the ash is poured out,’ so that a person is not ashamed to admit his sin, for the Kohen Gadol sinned, confessed, and brought an offering for his sin.”
It is written, “When a soul sins in that he hears the voice of adjuration, and he is a witness – either he has seen or known – if lo [lamed-vav-aleph] say, then he shall bear his iniquity” (Vayikra 5:1).
This is surprising. The term lo (“not”) is usually spelled lamed-aleph, yet in this verse the term lo is spelled lamed-vav-aleph.
The book Gan Raveh explains this based on the remarks of Rabbi Azariah Figo Zatzal in Bina L’Ittim concerning the verse, “He who conceals his sins will not succeed, but he who confesses and forsakes them will be granted mercy” (Mishlei 28:13). The sinner who denies wrongdoing by saying, “I haven’t sinned” does not annul the accusations created by his sin. On the contrary, the accusations against him increase, for it will be said: “He stole, he murdered, and he also denied it.” However if the sinner sincerely confesses his sin with a contrite heart and says, “I have sinned, I have transgressed. This is what I did, and I completely regret it. From now on, I’m committed to sinning no more, and I ask Hashem to forgive me,” then Heaven will take pity on him and Hashem will forgive him.
This is what the verse alludes to by stating “if lo [lamed-vav-aleph] say,” for this allows for two interpretations:
(1) “if lo [lamed-aleph] say” – “if he does not say” – meaning that if a person does not confess his sin and regret it, in which case “he shall bear his iniquity,” then he will have to give an accounting for it.
(2) “if lo [lamed-vav] say” – “if to Him say” – meaning that if a person confesses and regrets his sin to Hashem, then Hashem will bear his sin and forgive his transgression.
It is written, “And He called to Moshe” (Vayikra 1:1).
Here we must cite an allusion that we find among the Sages regarding the fact that a talmid chacham has priority for the reading of the Torah.
The term vayikra (“and He called”) alludes to the keriya (reading) of the Torah. Immediately after this term, the verse states “Moshe” – meaning that a talmid chacham who is like Moshe should be the first to be honored for the reading of the Torah.
– Eliyahu HaIsh
It is written, “He shall sprinkle of the blood seven times” (Vayikra 4:6).
Many things go by sevens: There are seven days, the seven heavens, seven continents, seven deserts, the seventh day, the seventh month, the seventh year, the seventh shmita, the seven lamps, the seven altars of Bilam, the seven lambs of the whole burnt-offering, and others.
In the Light of the Parsha
From the Teachings of the Gaon and Tzaddik Rabbi David Hanania Pinto Shlita
Gentle or Harsh Words?
It is written, “He called to Moshe, and Hashem spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting, saying…” (Vayikra 1:1).
Rashi explains that each word and command was preceded by a “call,” which designates affection, a language which the ministering angels use, as it is written: “One called to another” (Isaiah 6:3).
We need to understand this: If G-d called Moshe by expressions of love, why did He command Moshe to speak to the Children of Israel in a harsh tone: “Daber [“speak” – which indicates a hard language] to the Children of Israel”?
We may explain that G-d asked Moshe to speak in this way because the Children of Israel would only truly pay attention when they were addressed in a harsh manner, not a gentle one.
This is explained in the book Ketav Sofer: The sin that occurred at the waters of Meriva consisted of the fact that Moshe said, “Listen na, you rebels” (Bamidbar 20:10). Our Sages have explained that the term na always expresses a supplication (Berachot 9a). Moshe should have spoken in a harsh tone to the Children of Israel, imploring them in regards to an issue that touched upon the glory of G-d. Yet because he spoke to them gently, he was punished.
Along the same lines, at the giving of the Torah we read: “vetageid [‘and say,’ meaning in a hard tone] to the Children of Israel” (Shemot 19:3). Here our Sages explain, “Words as hard to man as giddin [tendons]” (Shabbat 87a).