Shabat Hahodesh - Parsha Tazria
April 9th, 2016
Nisan 1st 5776
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The wise woman builds her house
Rabbi David Hanania Pinto Chlita
“When a woman conceives and gives birth to a male, she shall be impure for a seven-day period, as during the days of her menstruant infirmity shall she be impure” (Vayikra 12:2)
It is noteworthy that the pasuk states “When a woman conceives and gives birth to a male,” since it could have stated simply, “When a woman gives birth to a male.” Why was it important to add that she “conceives?” Chazal have already discussed this and given their explanation.
We may add another dimension after considering the following point: When Hashem originally created Man, He created him as one entity. However, Hashem determined that it is not good for man to be alone and created a help-mate for him, which is his wife. It has been mistakenly assumed, especially in past generations, that the role of the woman in the house was inferior to that of the man, and her mission in life entailed only cleaning and cooking and other menial housework.
This misguided view is entirely opposite the Torah outlook, since the Torah refers a lot of importance to the woman, especially regarding her role in building the home and educating her children. Chazal testify that the redemption from Egypt was in the merit of the righteous woman of that time. They played an important role in hastening the redemption and lifting their husband’s spirits with hope.
The chief mission of a woman is realized in her house, since she plays the role of the “interior minister” by virtue of being mostly at home. She oversees the education and shapes the characters of her children and husband as well. She can bring them to lofty spiritual levels, since she possesses inherent faith, whereas the man is more like the “foreign minister,” who is not home as much because he is responsible for providing sustenance for his family.
Thus, the dominant influence in the home is the woman. This is why the pasuk adds the word “conceives” which in Hebrew is תזריע, since the word תזריע can be understood “to plant,” i.e. to instill. The way that the woman plants the seeds and nurtures her children is what will determine their greatness, when they grow up, in Torah and fear of Heaven and in their ability to withstand challenges and remain faithful servants of Hashem in the face of all hardship.
This is reflected by Rachel the wife of Rabbi Akiva, who chose to marry Akiva when he was ignorant, but through her dedication for Torah she sent him to learn for twenty-four years straight! During these years she did not see or speak to her husband; something no one in our generation would be able to bear. On the day that Rabbi Akiva returned, after twenty-four years, he was escorted by twenty four-thousand students. Rachel, his wife, came out to welcome him and the students tried to remove her from his path, but Rabbi Akiva stopped them and declared, “Mine and yours is all [in] her [merit]. He referred all his greatness to her, since she was the cause and the inspiration for his towering achievements. If not for her, Rabbi Akiva would have remained a simple ignorant shepherd, Akiva, G-d forbid.
This is clear proof of the enormous powers granted to woman, and to the importance of her role in molding her family. It reflects the maxim, “behind every man stands a great woman,” who empowers and encourages him to successfully prosper.
The gemara in Berachot (17a) poses the question: What is the merit of women [in order to merit resurrection]?
The gemara answers, “[They will be worthy] in the merit of waiting for their husbands and sons [to return from Torah study], and escorting them to [go] learn Torah.” Commentaries quote this answer in reference to the question: In which merit will women be resurrected? After all, only one who possesses Torah will be granted the life-giving dew to arise in the future, as discussed there (Ketubot 111b).
Thus Chazal determined that the woman’s merit in the acquisition of her husband’s and sons’ Torah is through guiding them and encouraging them to learn Torah. In this way she too is granted eternity.
In the institutions of Orot Chaim v’Moshe Ashdod, in the High School, Torat Chaim, I participated in the siyum masechet of one of the young students, and his mother who was present asked me for my blessings. Her request was in line with “One thing I asked of Hashem, that shall I seek.” She wished that her son should be great in Torah and fear of Heaven. I was very impressed since she did not request a comfortable income or other material acquisitions. She did not express a desire to succeed in a profession such as becoming a doctor or lawyer, as in other secular ideals which so many other people desire. She just asked for one thing; she desired spiritual greatness. I told her, if his mother’s greatest aspiration is that her son should be great in Torah, and she guides him in this way, I am sure that it will materialize.
Walking in Their Ways
Striking Sincere Incentives
Once a month, thousands of Jews from all over France gather together to hear words of Torah.
On the date of one such discourse, there were heavy strikes in public transportation throughout France. I was afraid that many people would be unable to attend the lecture which I was scheduled to deliver and considered postponing it to a later date.
But my son, Rabbi Moshe, discouraged me from doing this. Even if many would be unable to attend, due to the lack of transportation, it would be a shame for the few who traveled by private car or came by foot to be deprived of hearing the word of the Living G-d.
I accepted his words, and kept the original date.
As I entered the auditorium, my heart filled with joy. In spite of the strike, thousands of fellow Jews managed to come. The hall was filled to capacity. Many reported that they had walked two hours or longer. What self-sacrifice to hear words of Torah!
Hashem proved to me that when one concerns himself with the honor of Torah, He makes things work out.
Rav Elchadad, shlita, who participated in this event, later told me that when he arrived earlier that day, there were only eight people in attendance. Suddenly, the throngs began to arrive, and within half an hour, the place was packed.
This was all in the merit of doing Hashem’s will with simplicity and faith, with no ulterior motives.
All of my intentions were for Hashem’s sake alone, in order to increase His glory in the world. When He observed my worry that many would lose out on this opportunity, He fulfilled my desire and did not allow a transportation strike to block the way to Torah study. He helped these people reach their destination.
Guard Your Tongue
A Clean Slate
Chazal state in the gemara (Shabbat 119b): The world would not exist were it not for the vapor [issuing words of Torah] from the mouths of young children learning in Beit Rabban.
Rabbi Pappa said to Abaye: Your [Torah] and my [Torah] what [status does it have]?
He answered: One cannot compare the vapor [of speech] with sin, to vapor [of speech] without sin.
Even though their diligence and level of learning was most lofty, since some improper words (which they deemed improper) may have leaked into their speech, the power of speech was diminished and could not be compared to the pure vapor [speech] of young children learning in Beit Rabban.
Tuv Taam – Insights
It is customary to bake the matzot for Pesach from wheat flour.
The reason for the custom is that although it is permissible, according to halachah, to prepare matzah made of any of the five species of grain (as in barley, oats, and spelt, etc.), in any case, since the wheat is the finest of all the grains, preferably wheat is used.
Another reason is that since most people like wheat best, it is preferable to bake matzot from wheat.
The haftarah of the week: “Thus said the Lord Hashem Elokim: In the first [month]” (Yechezkiel 45)
It is also customary to add two pesukim from the haftarah of Rosh Chodesh “The Heaven is My throne.”
The connection to the parashah: In the haftarah we read about the korbanot that the nassi brings on Rosh Chodesh Nissan, and also it discusses the Festival of Pesach. So too the maftir on Shabbat Chodesh deals with the topic of Rosh Chodesh Nissan and the Festival of Pesach, which is approaching.
Rabbi David Hanania Pinto Chlita
“Hashem spoke to Moshe and to Aharon, saying: If a person will have on the skin of his flesh a s’eit, or a sapachat, or a baheret, and it will become a tzaraat affliction on the skin of his flesh; he shall be brought to Aharon the Kohen, or to one of his sons the Kohanim” (Vayikra 13:1-2)
A person is inflicted with tzaraat for speaking lashon hara (Arachin 15b). The Torah relates (Bamidbar 12:1-10) how Miriam the Prophetess, the sister of Moshe Rabbeinu, was inflicted with tzaraat for speaking lashon hara about Moshe, discussing his separation from his wife, Tzipporah. Miriam did not intend to disparage her brother; nonetheless, she was punished. How much more so will a person be punished for speaking degradingly about his fellow with premeditated intentions.
The tzaraat does not immediately appear on the body of a person. First the disease afflicts the walls of his home. If the person does not awaken to do teshuvah from this ominous sign, then the disease begins to spread to his household appliances. If he still does not correct his ways, then it spreads to his clothing. Thereafter, the disease appears on his skin and flesh (Rambam, Tumat Tzaraat 16:10). From this progression, we observe the infinite compassion of Hashem. Hashem does not hurry to punish His children. He first awakens them to teshuvah through external factors. However, if people do not pay attention to the signs that Hashem is sending them from Heaven, the tzaraat gets closer and closer. From this subject we see how Hashem is Slow to Anger, and Abundant in Kindness. He does not strike the sinner immediately, but instead, seeks to grant him the opportunity to reflect on his deeds and do teshuvah to atone for his sins.
The Rav of Ponovezh, zt”l, says that from the disease of tzaraat, one can learn an important lesson. In the beginning, only small signs of the disease appear on the walls of his house. However, if the person does not do teshuvah, he will ultimately be excommunicated and be forced to remain outside of the Camp for a long period of time until he repents completely. From this one can conclude that when a person does not make an accounting of his deeds, he will begin to deteriorate. There are times when a person transgresses in a trivial matter. However, because he does not immediately do teshuvah, he can easily become accustomed to transgressing and thus descend to the depths of corruption.
Therefore, a person should examine his deeds regularly and immediately do teshuvah for the sins he committed each day. In this way, the sins will not become strongly rooted within him, making it very difficult for him to do teshuvah.
Words of Wisdom
“If a person will have on the skin of his flesh a s’eit, or a sapachat”(Vayikra 13:2)
Why does it not state, “Speak to the Bnei Yisrael,” as is stated in all the other pesukim?
It just states “if a person will have on the skin of his flesh,” because every place that it specifies to speak to the Bnei Yisrael, everyone is obligated to hearken to that command. Therefore, in other places it states, “Speak to the Bnei Yisrael.”
Furthermore, the congregation of Israel – Bnei Yisrael – are righteous, as it says, “Your people are all righteous” (Yeshayahu 60:21). Therefore, it usually says “Speak to Bnei Yisrael.” But the affliction of tzara’at only comes upon an individual who transgressed the command of his Creator. This is why it says, “If a person will have on the skin of his flesh,” etc. (Midrash Agaddah)
A Great Loss
”If a tzaraat affliction will be in a person” (Vayikra 13:9)
Once Rabbi Akiva’s students came to study by him in the Beit Midrash, and it appeared to them that he was about to give a eulogy. They reckoned that a righteous person died and Rabbi Akiva was mourning him.
Therefore, they all went home to change to black clothes and came to sit in front of Rabbi Akiva. He said to them: Why did you assume this and change your clothes?
They said to him: We came and saw you preparing yourself to eulogize. He told them: I was delving in the parashah of the affliction of tzaraat and I remembered Geichazi, who was worthy of being a prophet as great as Elisha. However, with a small error he lost everything, as it says (Mishlei 9:18), “But a single sin [lit. sinner] can ruin a great deal of good.” This is why Hashem laments (Vayikra 13:24), “If a person will have a burn from fire on his skin.” (Pitron Torah)
The heart of relationships is linked with the emotional bond woven between the Jewish mother and her children. The emotional fabric finds expression in regular routine, as in the mother’s constant care for her child’s clothing, food, education, and emotional well-being.
When the child leaves his home to go to school, he is fortified with her warmth and love and ambitions for him, which is expressed by caring for his needs. When he returns home, he is acknowledged and welcomed. One can sense this through the attention given, and by the way she relates to his wishes, and by being available to hear about his experiences. As a result, the child desires to emulate his mother’s wishful call: “grow!”
When a child goes to study in yeshiva, he is accompanied by the dedication of his mother in preparing his clothing, her efforts in providing the delicacies he loves, since through these things he continuously hears the echo of her wishful call: Grow!
Upon contemplating the prophetess Channah, the mother of Shmuel Hanavi, we see that through the power of her tefillot she merited having a holy child. She also designated him even before his birth to become sanctified for Hashem’s service. We learn from her the unique power that a mother has in influencing her child’s spiritual development.
When Channah brought Shmuel as a young child to the House of Hashem, she said: “This is the child that I prayed for,” meaning that through him I anticipate the actualization of my aspirations. With this Channah set Shmuel on his path to realize his lofty purpose, which she so much aspired.
And Channah followed Shmuel’s progress, as the navi relates: “His mother would make him a small robe and bring it up to him from year to year, when she came up with her husband to slaughter the annual offering.” Through the “small robe” that his mother sewed and brought to him from time to time, she transmitted to Shmuel her aspirations and expectations for his spiritual growth. Chazal also point out that by the virtue of the small robe that she would sew for him, he blossomed into an elevated man.
On the whole, we see that Chazal attempt to instill the message to mothers, and on several occasions Chazal is quoted in the gemara illustrating how parents received their children upon their return from the Beit Midrash. These descriptions serve as examples of how to encourage our children in their Torah studies. For example, it says in kedushin (31b): Rabbi Yakov b. Abbahu asked Abaye: “I, for instance, upon returning from yeshiva, my father pours out a cup [of wine] and my mother mixes it. Am I allowed to receive this service from them?
Rabbeinu Nissim adds to this the example from the Yerushalmi (Peah 1:1), where it describes how Rabbi Yishmael’s mother honored her son. When he would return from the Beit Midrash, she would beg him to let her wash his feet and then drink the water.
Men of Faith
Saved in the Merit of the Tzaddik
R’ Shmuel Marciano once traveled to the tzaddikim Rabbi Meir Pinto and Rabbi Refael Pinto in Casablanca in order to receive their blessings. There was a woman in the house, who had also come to receive the blessings of the two righteous brothers.
Suddenly, the woman turned to Rabbi Shmuel Marciano and declared, “May it be Hashem’s will that just as the merit of the tzaddik Rabbi Chaim Pinto wrought a tremendous miracle for me, so, too, Hashem should perform miracles for you.”
When R’ Shmuel asked her to tell him about the miracle which she had experienced, she told the following story:
For a living, I engage in the production of alcoholic beverages, such as wine and arrack, and sell them to the Jews, despite the fact that the sale of alcoholic beverages is against the law. The law forbids Jews to produce alcoholic beverages without a license. (Note that this business was a source of income for hundreds of Jews several decades ago in Morocco, and the government would deliberately close their eyes to those engaging in such business, knowing full well that this was their livelihood.)
One day, someone who was jealous of my thriving business informed on me to the authorities. All of a sudden, without any prior warning, the police raided my home and began to search the house. Of course, I was very frightened and did not have where to escape, since the whole house was surrounded by policemen.
Immediately, I cried out in prayer for the merit of Rabbi Chaim Pinto to protect me, and I begged the tzaddik to come to the aid of a poor widow, whose only source of income was the sale of alcoholic beverages and arrack.
Immediately afterward, I felt instant relief. With incomprehensible joy, I began to “help” the police search my house for the liquor and alcohol. The police were very surprised that I was helping them unlock doors and open the barrels full of wine and arrack. I myself was surprised that I was helping the police search the house. But this is the way it was.
The police searched every room in the house, opening barrel after barrel, but did not notice anything amiss. When they finished going through the house, having searched in every corner, they told me that someone had tipped them off that I was selling alcoholic beverages without a license. They even apologized to me about the trouble and mess that they had caused during the search. They left the house empty-handed.
And this is how I was saved from slander in the merit of the tzaddik Rabbi Chaim Hakatan.