Parsha Ki Teitzei
September 17th, 2016
Elul 14th 5776
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Faith Clarifies All Doubt
Rabbi David Hanania Pinto
“Remember what Amalek did to you, on the way, when you were leaving Egypt” (Devarim 25:17)
When Bnei Yisrael left Egypt, amidst mighty miracles, all the nations of the world were gripped with fear. They clearly saw Hashem’s strong hand. This is expressed in the Song of the Sea (Shemot 15:15): “Then the chieftains of Edom were confounded, trembling gripped the powers of Moab, all the dwellers of Canaan dissolved. May fear and terror befall them…” The nations were so afraid of Am Yisrael that they all proclaimed (ibid.15:18), “Hashem shall reign for all eternity!” Our nation was compared to a boiling bathtub. Everyone was afraid to enter, for fear of being scalded. One brazen man, named Amalek, took the plunge. He got burnt, but he cooled off the waters for everyone else (see Yalkut Shimoni, Devarim 938). The nations of the world were no longer in awe and fear of Am Yisrael, as they had been originally.
Amalek cooled off the attitude of the surrounding nations toward Bnei Yisrael; thus we are commanded to eradicate Amalek. But Amalek’s malevolence does not end there. Amalek will go down in history for introducing doubt in the hearts of Am Yisrael vis-à-vis their faith in Hashem. This faith had become firmly established in the wake of witnessing Hashem’s great miracles on their behalf. Doubt continues to gnaw inside us to this very day. As long as Amalek endures, this doubt will consume us. Only with the arrival of Mashiach and the complete eradication of Amalek, when Hashem’s sovereignty will be universally recognized, will all forms of doubt disappear.
Parashat Ki Teitzei ends with mention of Amalek, and parashat Ki Tavo begins with the mitzvah of bikurim, as the pasuk states (Devarim 26:1-2), It will be when you enter the Land… that you shall take of the first of every fruit… and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place that Hashem, your G-d, will choose, to make His Name rest there.” What is the connection between these two subjects?
Bnei Yisrael were ordered to bring the first of their fruit to the Kohen in order to teach them that it is not their power which brings them wealth. Hashem alone provides their sustenance. He is the One who blesses their fields and orchards. If not for the rains and bounty which He showers upon them, nothing would grow. It is only due to Hashem’s supervision that the earth yields its products.
Bringing bikurim manifested Am Yisrael’s perfect faith in Hashem, Who blesses their produce. With the reinforcement of this faith, Amalek’s power is diminished, along with the negative traits which he represents. Doubt is replaced by trust. In contrast, when a person is self-assured that it is his expertise which brings him his livelihood, he strengthens the power of doubt. This is the doubt planted in this world by Amalek, whose objective was to cool off our faith in Hashem.
Nowadays, we unfortunately do not have the Beit Hamikdash. We do not have the opportunity to ascend to Yerushalayim with baskets full of ripe fruit. It would behoove us to become accustomed to thank Hashem for all the good He does for us, small and great alike. The epitome of hakarat hatov is to bless upon the seemingly bad just as one blesses on the good. This wonderful quality reinforces one’s faith on the one hand, and nullifies the power of Amalek, on the other. Who among us does not anticipate the coming of Mashiach, who will bring an end to all our suffering? Only after Amalek’s influence is completely eradicated from this world, will Hashem reveal His great light upon us. Let us hasten his arrival by removing all doubt and intensifying our faith!
Walking in Their Ways
Evading a Tough Fine
During the days of the hilula for our holy mentor, Rabbi Chaim Pinto, Mr. Chaim, a noted supporter of our institutions, related the following inspiring story regarding the mitzvah of tzedakah.
When he once gave in his tax report, he reported his contributions for tzedakah as well, so that he could get deductions on them. The gentile who took his case was skeptical about the huge sums listed there. Assuming that there was foul play at work, he refused to give him credit for them. Mr. Chaim did not yield. After much back and forth argument, he ended up being fined to the tune of two million dollars.
During that time, Mr. Chaim sent me a donation of fifty thousand dollars. Once again, he showed his receipt to the powers that be, in order to obtain a tax deduction. But they rejected it, once again declaring that it was too huge a sum for mere charity. Additionally, they sent down a representative to caution him about the severity of false contributions and receipts.
Mr. Chaim loudly berated the man who stood before him. He protested that all of the forms and figures he had shown the tax authorities were above suspicion. Then he categorically threw the man out of his office, warning him to never show his face again. This fellow would not take such umbrage sitting down. He called the police down to Mr. Chaim’s office. The police arrested Mr. Chaim for insulting a government employee. But Mr. Chaim was not fazed in the least. In his loud, clear voice, he boomed, “I donated to the Torah institutions of Rabbi Chaim Pinto, zy”a. I have nothing to fear from you. Now please leave my office immediately!”
When the officers saw his determination, they had a change of heart. They began speaking to him calmly. Finally, they took their leave. A short time later, they phoned up to say that they were willing to compromise with him. Instead of paying the sum of two million dollars, he would be required to pay only ten thousand dollars.
Mr. Chaim added a footnote to his story. Since he knew that all of his donations had gone to the worthy cause of Rabbi Chaim Pinto’s institutions, he did not fear the tax authorities or the police force. He knew the tzaddik would come to his aid.
That was exactly what happened. Instead of receiving a hefty fine, together with a prison sentence, he was cleared with only a relatively small fine.
Guard Your Tongue
Giving the Benefit of the Doubt is Commendable
People should be very careful not to find fault with the Jewish people, and moreover, one should train himself constantly to arouse mercy for the Jewish people and mention their virtues. In this merit he will be beloved and favored by Hashem, as we find regarding (the angel) Gavriel; when he was made to stand behind [as a punishment] the pargod (partition) [outside of Hashem’s compartment] and [from there] defended Am Yisrael, Hashem responded: Who is the one defending Bnei Yisrael? And He returned him to within the pargod (partition) [within His compartment].
Tuv Ta’am – Insights
The days of Selichot and the ten days of Teshuvah are known as “Yamim Noraim”, “the Fearful Days”.
There are two reasons for this. One is because these days are days of judgment; the very nature of these days arouse awe and fear in people’s hearts, (“fearful” thus refers to our fear). Additionally, this is because in the tefillot of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur we pray to Hashem: “O Hashem our G-d, instill Your awe upon all Your works, and Your dread upon all that you have created”. (“Fearful” according this reason refers to fear of Hashem).
The Haftarah of the week is: “Sing out, O barren one who has not given birth”
The connection to this Shabbat: This haftarah is part of the seven consecutive haftarot of comfort read on the seven Shabbatot following Tishah B’Av.
Rabbi David Hanania Pinto
Jealousy Causes One to Ignore the Truth
“An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter the congregation of Hashem, even his tenth generation shall not enter the congregation of Hashem” (Devarim, 23: 4)
The book of Shmuel (Shmuel I, chap. 17) describes the famous battle of David vs. Goliath: David the small and thin, succeeded to overpower the giant and mighty Goliath. The Navi there portrays the might of Goliath; “his height was six cubits and one span. [He had] a copper helmet on his head, and was wearing armor of mail; the weight of the armor [was] five thousand copper shekels. [He had] a copper shield on his legs and a copper neck-guard between his shoulders.”
Prior to his confrontation with David, Goliath called out to the camp of Israel and said to them, “Why are you going to wage war? Am I not the Philistine, while you are the servants of Saul? Choose yourselves a man and let him come down to me! If he can fight me and kill me, we will be slaves to you; and if I defeat him and kill him, you will be slaves to us and serve us”. The youth David, upon hearing this entire exchange, disregarded his own life and asked to fight against the giant Goliath. In the pasukim it is explained that David was incapable of hearing the uncircumcised gentile revile the battalions of Israel.
Therefore, even though by natural means David did not have a chance to defeat Goliath who was many, many times bigger and taller than him, he nevertheless requested to fight him. He could not bear Goliath’s despicable talk against Hashem and the “sheep of His pasture”.
When King Saul realized that David is the one who is asking to go out and fight Goliath, he turned to Avner, the minister of the army and asked him: Avner, whose son is this lad? Rashi asks “How can it be that Saul did not recognize David? The passuk states “He (Saul) loved him (David) very much, and he became his armor-bearer” What caught Shaul’s eye was that David conducted himself with royalty. Shaul reasoned that if David came from the royal family of Peretz, he would become king. A king “breaks” (poreitz) the way for himself, and no one can stop him (Yevamot 76b). He also knew that if David descended from the royal family of Zerach, he would become important.
Doeg replied, “Before you ask after his lineage, inquire as to whether or not he is worthy of being a member of the Jewish nation, for he descends from the Moabite, Rut.” Avner answered, “We learn that an Ammonite or Moabite man may not enter our nation. But an Ammonite or Moabite woman is permitted. This is because it is not the way of women to come out with bread and drink to the war-weary.” Doeg surely knew the halachah, which had been ruled in the Beit Hamidrash of Shmuel Hanavi (Yevamot 77a). This was the ruling transmitted by Moshe Rabbeinu via Yehoshua. Why did Doeg ignore this ruling, insisting on challenging David’s roots? It was due to his tremendous jealousy of David, who merited vanquishing the mighty Goliat and was associated with royalty.
Doeg’s name (דואג) alludes to this defect. The word דואג – (Doeg) means “worry.” He was filled with worry regarding David’s success. He was envious of David’s victories. Chazal teach (Avot 4:21), “Envy, lust, and the pursuit of glory drive a person out of the world.” Doeg’s envy of David removed him from the world of Torah and halachah, to the extent that he denied an outright ruling and challenged the Torah teacher of the time.
Words of Wisdom
Followed by Mitzvot
“If a bird’s nest happens to be before you on the road” (Devarim 22:6)
This is as stated (Mishlei 11) “For they are an adornment of grace for your head.”
What does “an adornment of grace” imply?
Rabbi Pinchas bar Chamma said: Wherever you go, mitzvot follow you:
“If you build a new house, you shall make a fence for your roof.” When you make yourself a door – the mitzvot follow you, as it says, “And write them on the doorposts of your house.” When you wear new apparel – the mitzvot follow you, as it says, “You shall not round off the edge of your scalp.” And when you have a field and you set out to plow it – the mitzvot follow you, as it says, “You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together.” When you plant seeds – the mitzvot follow you, as it says, “You shall not plant your vineyard with a mixture.” And when you harvest it – the mitzvot follow you, as it says, “When you reap your harvest in your field, and you forget a bundle in the field, you shall not turn back to take it.”
Hashem said: Even if you were not involved in any activity, but you were just going on your way – the mitzvot follow you. From where do we learn this? As it says, “If a bird’s nest happens to be before you on the road.”
Benefitting One Who is not Needy
“Because of the fact that they did not greet you with bread and water”
Did Bnei Yisrael need them? Weren’t Bnei Yisrael supported for forty years in the Wilderness through miracles; the mannah descended from Heaven, the Well appeared, the Quail was available, the Clouds of Glory surrounded them, and the Pillar of Cloud went before them.
But it is good manners for one who returns from a long journey to serve him food and drink. What punishment did Hashem exact for this? “An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter the congregation of Hashem… for eternity.”
Thus we infer, if one, who refused to do kindness with his fellow who was not needy, Hashem punished harshly, then one, who refuses to do kindness with his fellow who is needy, how much more so will he get punished.
Fulfill Your Command
“Remember what Amalek did to you”
Rabbi Berachia said: Yisrael said to Hakadosh Baruch Hu: Ribbono Shel Olam! You commanded us to remember, but You too should remember, since we are mortals who forget things, but you do not forget. Thus, remember what [Amalek] did, since they acted against us and against You. Remember, Hashem, for the offspring of Edom, the day of Jerusalem; for those who say, “Destroy! Destroy! to its very foundation.”
In the presence of the tzaddik Rabbi Pinchas from Koritz, zt”l, a sick man’s name was mentioned in the days during the month of Elul, and the Rabbi agreed that Tehillim should be recited for his recovery, even though it was evening time (when Tehillim is usually not recited). He explained the reason for his consent: Because the entire month of Elul are days of mercy, including the beginning of the night. It is known in the name of the holy Arizal that the days in the month of Elul are a time in which there is an emanation of the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy by day and by night.
How wondrous are the incisive words of Rabbi Chaim Palagi, zt”l; which he would reiterate before his audience with copious tears, citing the Tanna D’vei Eliyahu: I bring the heaven and earth for witness that more than a woman awaits her husband’s return from overseas, and [more than] a father awaits his only son’s return from overseas, Hashem waits for a Jew to do teshuva.
The lecturer, Rabbi Elimelech Biderman, shlita, inspires his audience speaking about teshuvah during the month of Elul. He always mentions the Sephardic custom, that already in the beginning of Elul they start rising early to say Selichot. On that note, he mentions what he heard in the name of the great gaon, Rabbi Shmuel Halevi Wosner, zt”l, who said: The [the Sephardim] already rise [early] for Selichot; we do not yet rise for Selichot, but at least we should get up [on time] for the [morning] prayers…
To Shout Elul
The stirring words of the Chida served as an inspiration for the Chafetz Chaim during the days of mercy; Selichot. At the time the shamash (sexton) of the Beit Haknesset would announce between the Minchah and Ma’ariv services “Return O wayward sons.” Regarding this, the Chida commented that the shamash should explain to the people that the time is drawing close when their life, the lives of their families, their livelihood, and the assets of their families, everything is placed on the scale and judged. Whose heart shall not be roused and shall not be rent to pieces?! These are the words of the Chida.
Similarly, the Rabbi of Melberose would call out loudly over and over to his followers: The month of Elul! The month of Elul! Once a man commented: Do we not know that now it is the month of Elul? Why does the Rabbi need to shout it loudly over and over again?
The Rabbi explained to him that actually it is a simple halachah.
It is brought in halachah that Kriat Shema is said out loud, as the Shulchan Aruch explains. However, on the other hand, the Amidah is recited quietly. Why is that? What is the difference between Kriat Shema and the Amidah?
The difference between the two can be understood, explained the Rebbe, according to a wonderful parable:
When Reuvain enters the house of Shimon, he calls out loudly his greetings to acknowledge that he is in Shimon’s house. He asserts his recognition that Shimon is the master of the house. However, when Reuvain goes to Shimon’s house to ask for a loan, or any other favor, then he speaks in a soft, quiet tone: Perhaps you can help me out…
The moral of the parable is: We say Shema Yisrael out loud because a person wanders about this world and does not clearly see Hashem. He thinks that he is his own master. Therefore, it is necessary to assert out loud: Hashem is the Master. Everything in the world occurs through Divine Providence!
On the other hand, during the prayer of the Amidah, when we beg and plead with Hashem that he should grant us wisdom, insight, and knowledge with good health, generous livelihood, and many other things that we require, then we speak in a quiet and subdued tone.
This is the case during the days of Elul, the month of mercy. The Yetzer Hara, our worst enemy, tries to harass us with its devious schemes in order to distract us from these awesome days of opportunity before us. Therefore, we must call out loudly: Elul! Elul!
Men of Faith
Bring Me the Wallet
The following story was told by Mrs. Gabai, tichyeh:
My father was living in Casablanca close to Rabbi Chaim’s house. It was 1937 (5697), and the date of his wedding was drawing close. He had only one draham in his pocket for the wedding expenses. This was not enough to purchase anything.
One day, he passed through Rabbi Chaim’s street, and the Rav was sitting at the entrance of his house as usual. He called my father over and asked him why he looked so downcast. My father told him that his wedding date was approaching, and he did not have money to buy a suit or other provisions for his wedding.
Rabbi Chaim instructed him to go to a certain spot in the market, where someone had dropped their wallet full of money. “Bring me the wallet,” the tzaddik ordered. “Half the money in it will be for your wedding expenses, and the other half will go to needy people.”
My father was overjoyed. He trusted Rabbi Chaim completely and immediately ran to the market. There he found the wallet, exactly in the spot that Rabbi Chaim had told him. The wedding took place with great celebration, and the money that was left was distributed among the poor, as the tzaddik had instructed.