October 15th, 2016
13 of Tishri 5777
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The Power of Speech
Rabbi David Hanania Pinto
The power of speech that Hashem bestowed upon His creatures is concrete, and can potentially have a huge impact. It is not just ordinary chatter or small talk. Today, with the development of technology, we can better understand this phenomenon. We see clearly how great the impact of speech is and how it can create great changes.
Today, just through the means of speech, a person can start his car, and by just mentioning his name in the cell phone, a number gets dialed automatically. This is also true regarding spiritual concepts. When Bnei Yisrael stood at Har Sinai, it says (Shemot 20:18), “The entire people saw the thunder and the flames, the sound of the shofar.” We are used to hearing sounds, but Am Yisrael saw the sounds; sound is a substantial creation and has the power to create reality. By the Creation of the world, it says, “G-d said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” Hashem created His world through the power of speech alone. Regarding this, David Hamelech said “By the word of Hashem the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host.” From this we learn that the power of speech has great impact and words alone can cause things to happen.
Yom Kippur, the holy and awesome day has passed, and Chazal say that the very “essence of Yom Kippur” is awe-inspiring. Hashem infused tremendous Kedushah in this day, to the extent that if during that day one just mentions the word “Kippur,” it is already considered as atonement for his sins.
Why is this so?
This is because the very mention of the word “Kippur” stirs his neshamah greatly and right away inside of him he begins to change for the better. This is what Chazal referred to when saying that the “essence of Yom Kippur” atones, because by mentioning even a simple word like “Kippur,” already his sins are forgiven. It is because the impact of the power of speech is so great. Therefore, this holy word burns inside of him and ignites his neshamah to return for the better. Deep inside of him, the words that he uttered make a significant impression.
This is true also of Sukkot. Even prior to Sukkot, when building the sukkah or being involved with purchasing the Four Species, just the mention of the word “Sukkah” or mentioning the Four Species, will cause love of Hashem to blaze inside him; drawing him closer to Torah and mitzvot. He becomes sanctified just by the mention of these holy words; the words have a beneficial impact on the person and effect changes inside him.
Even when fulfilling the mitzvah by shaking the Four Species, one’s limbs become sanctified. On this note, Chazal say that the lulav (palm branch) resembles a spine. The etrog (citron) resembles the heart. The hadas (myrtle leaves) resembles the eyes, and the aravot (willow branches) resemble the lips. When performing the mitzvah we sanctify our limbs to be entirely dedicated to fulfilling the will of Hashem and to be used to observe the laws of the Torah.
But, we already did this on Yom Kippur! We sanctified our limbs on this holy day. We prayed from the depths of our hearts to Hashem and we took upon ourselves resolutions to serve Hashem with perfection. If so, why do we have to sanctify our limbs again on Sukkot with the Four Species?
Chazal say that there are two types of teshuvah. One is teshuvah through fear, and the more elevated type is teshuvah through love. One cannot compare a servant who serves his master from awe and fear to one who serves his master from deep love. Certainly the second type is a much higher level of service because the love of his king is rooted in his heart.
On Yom Kippur we sanctified our limbs through suffering and fasting, and we did complete teshuvah. However, the teshuvah was achieved through awe and fear, since these are the Days of Awe when the Books of Life and the Books of Death are open before Hashem and we tremble from fear of judgment. We fearfully do teshuvah in order to be signed and sealed for a good and peaceful life. However, after Yom Kippur, when the fear of the Day of Judgment is behind us, Hashem asks us to elevate ourselves to yet a higher level and do teshuvah from love of Hashem; from joy and desire to draw closer to the A-lmighty.
The days of Sukkot are designed for this since they are days of rejoicing as is commanded in the Torah “You shall rejoice on your festival.” Thus we sanctify our limbs again by taking the Four Species and waving them. However, this time we sanctify ourselves through the love of Hashem, teshuvah through love and closeness to Hashem and not just from dread and fear.
By taking the Four Species, a person merits doing complete teshuvah out of love of Hashem, besides for the teshuvah out of fear, which he already did during the Days of Judgement. As we mentioned, even the efforts in obtaining the Four Species, making sure that they are the finest quality, and spending a lot of money on them, these deeds already raise a person and elevate his fear of Heaven so that in addition he acquires the love of Hashem as well.
Walking in Their Ways
Room for Improvement
I was once asked to affix mezuzot upon the rooms of the home of a wealthy Brazilian. When I arrived there, I was dumbstruck to find a house of over seventy rooms. This was not a house; this was a mansion. The rooms were spacious, containing every conceivable modern contraption; the most technologically advanced devices graced this place.
The furniture was most impressive, offset by expensive rugs, spread from wall to wall. Crystal chandeliers caught the light as it filtered through the massive bay windows. Two tremendous pools stood in the yard, flanked by gardens and lawns on all sides. Wherever one looked, a staff of servants stood at service, ready to serve the family and guests most graciously.
As I there stood in wonder, drinking in the sights, the householder handed me a mezuzah – one and only mezuzah -- to put up.
“Such a tremendous house requires tens of mezuzot, one for each room,” I pointed out.
Not missing a beat, he informed me that he had only one mezuzah.
“And in which room do you want to put it?” I asked.
He thought for a moment, and then said, “I would like the Rav to affix it to the basement.”
“Why not place it at the front entrance of your home?” I asked in surprise.
The man innocently replied that his safe was kept in the basement. He felt that a mezuzah there would keep it safe.
I was filled with pain at his blindness to the pure truth.
“Your entire outlook on life is mistaken,” I reprimanded him. “You think you will live here forever, but you are sadly mistaken. ‘The days of our years… are seventy years, and if with might, eighty years’ (Tehillim 90:10). When your day will come, none of your possessions will remain with you. Only your mitzvot will escort you on your Final Journey. It hurts me that you want the mezuzah, written with Hashem’s Name, to protect your property instead of your spirituality.
“See how good the Al-mighty has been to you. He has granted you fame and wealth. But instead of expressing gratitude and thanking Him by performing mitzvot, you distance yourself from Him and hand over your soul to your Evil Inclination.”
I added another point. “The Torah relates that Yaakov ‘built himself a house, and for his livestock he made shelters’ (Bereishit 33:17). Shelters are temporary dwellings, implying transience and impermanence. With this deed, Yaakov taught us what our attitude toward our acquisitions should be. In contrast, for his soul, Yaakov built a house, which is a stable, permanent abode, established upon closeness to and love of Hashem.
“You have mixed up the messages. You have made the primary peripheral, and vice versa. Instead of employing your fantastic wealth and modern technology to promote the cause of mitzvot, you have invested your funds in… accumulating more money.”
Although this man ranks among those who support our institutions, I spoke to him with zealousness, l’shem Shamayim. I hope and pray that my words entered his heart and he merits correcting his ways.
The Reasons for Jewish Customs
Women are exempt from the mitzvah of Sukkah and from taking the Four Species.
The reason for this is because women are exempt from all mitzvot that are limited to a specific time, since they are under their husband’s authority and are occupied by taking care of their husband’s needs. Therefore, the Torah exempts them from all mitzvot that are time-bound.
Moreover, we find the Ineffable Name that was written in sanctity and reverence – was erased in the Waters of Sotah in order to bring peace between husband and wife.
Guard Your Tongue
Woe to Them and Woe to Their Lives
At the end of the Amidah we say: “My G-d, guard my tongue from evil,” and thereafter we plead, “Open my heart to Your Torah.” If it would not be so, then one’s study of Torah would not be worth anything. The holy Zohar states (Parashat Pekudei): For this evil spirit [of lashon hara], there are several [angels] appointed to grasp the derogatory words that a person uttered, when he thereafter utters words of holiness. Woe to them and woe to their lives; woe to them in this world and woe to them in the World to Come. This is because the defiled spirits take hold of the impure words, and then when a person afterwards utters words of holiness, the defiled spirits come forth and take the impure words and defile the holy words.
Rabbi David Hanania Pinto
Witnesses of Worth
“Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak; and may the earth hear the words of my mouth” (Devarim 32:1)
Why is there a difference in expressions regarding the heavens and earth? Let us precede our answer by stating that “giving ear” and “hearing” are two different acts. “Giving ear” denotes listening through concentration. One “gives ear” when he does not want to miss a single word. “Hearing,” on the other hand, does not demand one’s full attention. The tzaddikim are lofty, compared to the heavens. They have hardly any connection to earthliness, while ordinary people are called “inhabitants of the land – amei ha’aretz.” Whereas tzaddikim are spiritually inclined, the rest of the nation is bonded with physicality. In order for the tzaddikim to hear what is said by the ordinary people, they must pay undivided attention, for they are far removed from the goings-on on earth. Moshe turned to the “heavens,” i.e., the tzaddikim, and instructed them to come closer to “earth.” He asked them to give heed to these things, and bear witness to them. Tzaddikim are considered living even after death (Berachot 18a). Therefore, they are fitting witnesses to what transpires on earth.
On a journey to the Ukraine, where I visited various Batei Kenesiot and gravesites of tzaddikim, I discovered an interesting phenomenon. Great tzaddikim who were world-famous often prayed in small, unassuming synagogues. One would expect such holy personalities to have prayed in majestic edifices. Why did they choose, instead, to frequent simple structures? It was due to their humbleness of heart. The closer they came to Hashem, the more they appreciated His greatness and their own insignificance. They did not seek honor and prestige, only to serve Hashem with submissiveness and subordination. It is to these giants of our nation whom Moshe turns, requesting that they leave their place on High and hear what is said below. They are the witnesses for us, who dwell on earth, that we keep the Torah perfectly.
Words of Wisdom
”Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak; and may the earth hear the words of my mouth.” (Devarim 32:1)
For what reason did Moshe call for the heavens and the earth prior to his death?
We learn from this that he called them to command them on account of himself. He said to them: Hashem decreed upon me that I should die. Heed how you will receive me with respect. You should consider it as if I was alive and speaking words of Torah forever.
Give ear, O heavens, since I already told you, I testify before you today: Make sure that you will not accuse Yisrael, but consider as if I was alive and pleading mercy [for them].
A Perfect Creation
“The Rock! – perfect is His work, for all His paths are justice; a G-d of faith without iniquity, righteous and fair is He” (Devarim 32:4)
“The Rock! – perfect is His work” – [This is referring to] the Artist who created the world in the beginning and fashioned man in it, as it says “And Hashem formed the man.”
“Perfect is His work” – His word is perfect for every creature, and one should not cast doubts about the conduct of Hashem, not even [to desire] a small change. Not in any creature should one wishfully say: If only I would have three eyes… if only I would have three hands… if only I would have three feet… if only I would walk on my head… if only my face was at the back of my head, how wonderful that would be!
“For all His paths are justice” – [Hashem] sits in judgment about each and every one of them and provides it with its needs.
“A G-d of faith” – [Hashem] had faith in His world and created it.
“Without iniquity” – [This is because Hashem] did not create people to be wicked, only to be righteous.
“Righteous and fair is He” – because He deals fairly with all His creatures.
“Is He not your Father, your Master?” (Devarim 32:6)
“Is He not your Father, your Master – He took possession of you. This is as we find in Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer: When Hashem went to confuse the Generation of Dispersion, Hashem said to the angels, ministers of all the nations: Come and draw lots, to determine to whom each nation will belong. They drew lots and Yisrael came out as the lot of Hashem, as it says “When the Supreme One gave the nations their inheritance,” and further on it says, “For Hashem’s portion is His people; Jacob is the measure of His inheritance.”
Therefore Hashem calls Yisrael His portion from all the nations, as our Sages say “Yisrael is a possession,” as it says, “Is He not your Father, your Master.”
The Four Species and Their Unique Qualities
Many sefarim have expanded on the special qualities and points about the Four Species, during the time of Sukkot and throughout the entire year, as a segulah for protection while travelling, to merit having children who will serve Hashem, and many other wonderful segulot in store for those who fulfill Hashem’s will. We will briefly discuss the segulot mentioned and some others, with the help of Hashem.
Our Sages said that since a mitzvah was performed with them, one should do another mitzvah with them. It is brought in the Hagaot Maimoniot (Hilchot Lulav, Perek 7) that the Riva”k used to create from the branches of the aravot quills used to write a Sefer Torah. And from the hadasim, the Acharonim wrote, they would save them and smell them during havdala on Motza’ei Shabbat from their love of the mitzvah.
The sefer “Orchot Chaim” quotes in the name of the Rav “Yaffe La’lev” that they had a custom to take the lulav while it was still tied together with the hadassim and aravot on the day of Hoshana Rabbah after the morning services, and place them at the entrance of their house for protection until Pesach. On erev Pesach they would take it and throw half of it into the fire where they burned their chametz, and the other half into the oven where they baked the matzot mitzvah.
There are those that had the custom of throwing the hoshanot over the top of the Ark in the Beit Haknesset. The sefer “Darchei Chaim v’Sholom” states that one should be careful not to throw the aravah on the floor or on the Ark, because it is a disgrace for the Holy Names. However, the sefer “Moadim VeZmanim” posits that the custom to throw the hoshanot over the Ark is because in the Beit Hamikdash they would stand up the aravot around the Mizbeach, and to commemorate this we place the hoshanot on the Ark, which is in place of the Mizbe’ach in our days.
The Segulah of the Aravot
The sefer “Mateh Efraim” cites the words of the Rav “Seder Hayom” who writes: “On Motza’ei Yom Tov one should take the lulav with the Species and keep it in a special place for safekeeping. He should see them and remember them and thus will merit to be saved from all harm. He should not throw them away in the garbage, since they signify great concepts, and he should not treat them with disgrace.”
In his sefer Menorat Hameor, Rabbi Yitzchak Abuhav, zt”l, points out that taking an aravah from the beaten aravot on Hoshana Rabbah, is a segulah for salvation throughout the year. “I heard that they are a segulah for protection, when one intends it for this; against dangers while travelling. It is all dependent upon his good deeds and intentions.”
Rabbi Nachman of Breslov is quoted in the “Sefer Hamiddot” about the segulot of the hoshanot:
One who rides a horse (rochev al ha’sus) or the like, should take with him the hoshanot, as it is implied in the pasuk “l’rochev b’aravot –He Who rides upon the highest heavens,” etc. He also writes that the beaten hoshanot are a segulah to expel fear.
Additionally, the sefer “Likutei Tzvi” (Inyanei Tefillat Haderech 37) cites: We have a tradition that it is a segulah to take one’s hoshanah with him on the way, or at least he should know clearly where he put it, and in times of danger, chas v’chalila, he should mention “ani v’ho hoshea na.”
Rabbi Meir Simchah Hacohen, zt”l, of Dvinsk, the author of “Ohr Same’ach” used to distribute the remnants of his aravah to Jewish soldiers who were drafted into the army. They testify that all those who took the aravah from him was miraculously saved during the war and returned home safe and sound.
Also Rabbi Avraham Adadi, zt”l, testifies in his sefer “Vayikra Avraham” about the incredible segulah of the hoshanot: “In my personal experience, when I was in the middle of the sea and I had the Four Species with me, I witnessed a wondrous miracle when the sea calmed down during a storm. In addition, this segulah is also true of pieces of matzah shemurah.”
Another thought is that the word aravah has the same gematria (numerical value) as “zera” – seed. Consequently, the sefer “Likutei Mahari”ch” brings that it is a segulah for those who are childless to cook the hoshanot and drink the water to merit having a child.
The sefer “Eleph Hamagen” (660:6) states that expectant mothers had a custom on Hoshana Rabbah after the services, when their husbands return home, to break off the “pitom” (knob) of the etrog, and also give money to the poor, so that Hashem should save her and her baby from death.
Etrog Resembles the Heart
Another segulah of the etrog is brought by the Rav “Kaf Hachaim” among other segulot of the Four Species: “One makes jam from the etrog after the Holiday and places it on the table on the eve of Tu B’Shevat, which is the Rosh Hashanah for trees, among the fruit that the family blesses, both for men and women. This is true even if she is expecting a child. It is also recommended for a woman in the midst of a hard childbirth, since it is a segulah to give birth easily without pain and to have a healthy child safely and soundly when she eats it at that time.
There are those who claim that eating an etrog that was used for a mitzvah is a wonderful segulah for childless women. On another note: Eating an etrog after Sukkot is a segulah for heart patients, for a strong and healthy heart. A basis for this idea can be found in the Sefer Hachinuch that the Four Species parallel the organs of the human body, and the etrog parallels the heart.
The Midrash Rabbah relates about a pious man who gave a dinar to a poor man. His wife scolded him and he fled and he did not have money to sustain himself. It is stated: “They used to take their lulavs from the hands of the children and eat their etrogs.” The pious man passed with a ship through a city, and the king needed etrogim that were used for a mitzvah in order to heal him. He sold them for a large profit and returned home…
Besides for the segulot of the Four Species, the Acharonim bring that it is a custom to hang up in the sukkah a bottle of oil to be used to light the Chanukah lights. Also, the flax used to wrap the etrog on Sukkot is sacred and should not be used for mundane purposes. It is a worthy custom to save this flax and to twist it into wicks for the Chanukah lights.