December 10th, 2016
Kisleiv 10th 5777
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The mundane actions of a tzaddik are transformed into matters of sanctity
Rabbi David Hanania Pinto
“Jacob awoke from his sleep” (Bereishit 28:16)
Chazal comment: (Midrash Rabbah 69:7) “וייקץ יעקב משנתו – Jacob awoke from his sleep,” Rabbi Yochanan says “ממשנתו – from his Mishnah.”
Yakov Avinu, a”h, was the pillar of Torah. All his life he was entirely devoted to attaining kedushah and purity and serving Hashem. If he would have to pause from studying Torah in order to take care of his physical needs, even then his mind never wandered from Hashem and His Torah. When he prepared to eat or drink, his entire purpose was that his body should be strong and healthy so that he could serve Hashem. When he went to sleep – his intention was not just to fulfill a physical necessity, but in order to gather strength to continue delving in Torah with renewed vigor and greater exertion. In this way, even sleeping and eating served as an integral part of studying Torah. This is implied in the words, that when he woke up “משנתו” (from his sleep), it was considered as if he woke up in the midst of studying Mishnah (“משנתו” – from his Mishnah).
This was the way of Yaakov Avinu. All his life he would sit diligently in the tents of Torah, as it says “But Yaakov was a wholesome man, abiding in tents.” Even before he arrived at the holy site where he slept, he hid himself for fourteen years in the yeshiva of Shem and Ever, and he dedicated himself to Hashem’s service with great effort and toil, without shutting his eyes. Even now, when he felt an urgent need to shut his eyes a bit, his mind still remained involved in the words of the Living G-d, and he merited awesome revelations. Hashem showed him in a vision at night all the future generations and everything that would occur throughout the diverse exiles. Thus, Rabbi Yochanan explained that ממשנתו – should be understood as “from his Mishnah” and not “from his sleep,” since all his life was like a tractate of Avodat Hashem – both in his study and sleep. He always cleaved to Hashem and engaged in Torah and mitzvot.
Ultimately, the ways of our holy forefathers serve as an example for us. Everyone is obligated to learn from them how to conduct his life. There are some people that spend their days within the confines of the Beit Haknesset, with an expression of Yirat Hashem on their faces, and they recognize Hashem and are meticulous in performing mitzvoth and try to resemble Yaakov Avinu. However, outside the Beit Haknesset, when they engage in business and in their daily life, suddenly they forget Hashem and neglect His mitzvoth and cast the burden of Torah from their shoulders, behaving more like Esav the Rasha. When they sit at the table to satisfy their appetite, they engorge themselves indulging greedily in their food, seeking self-gratification and savoring every bite. Obviously, there is no semblance of kedushah or sanctity, and usually they do not recite the blessings before or after the meal.
This is not the ways of Yaakov Avinu, who was aware of Hashem at all times and in every situation, and he constantly sought to fulfill His commandments, as the pasuk states (Mishlei 3:6) “In all your ways know Him.” Also when he tended to his physical needs such as eating and sleeping, the Shechinah was always before him and all his deeds were performed for the sake of Heaven. If a person will choose this path, certainly his table would be considered like an Altar, and he will get rewarded fully for every bite, as well as for his other mundane activities. The Torah considers it as if he engaged in Torah even when he deals with material matters.
Hence, the answer to many people who argue that they are observing mitzvot and studying Torah, but still do not feel closeness to Hashem and do not sense the sweetness of mitzvah observance. It is clear that the reason is because they do not toil in the Torah. Although they study Torah, but they do not toil and devote themselves to understanding issues perfectly. If a person toils in Torah and “kills” himself over it, he thus demonstrates his love for it; love of Torah leads to longing for closeness to Hashem and ultimately love of Hashem and His mitzvoth; thereafter he is assured that it will last. Hard work and toil in Torah brings a person a taste of the sweetness and pleasantness of Torah.
Walking in Their Ways
The Perfect Blessing
Mr. Gabi Samuel is a regular participant in the hilula of Rabbi Chaim Pinto, zy”a, in Morocco. For many years, he and his wife were childless. They prayed from the depths of their heart that they merit holding a baby of their own.
During one hilula, as Mr. Samuel prostrated himself at the grave of the tzaddik, he was overcome with emotion. All of his pain and anguish spilled out, as he began beating his head against the grave, crying, “G-d of Rabbi Pinto, answer me!” over and over again.
Those standing near him, simple people, were taken aback at his behavior. They tried to stop him from hurting himself, all the while comforting him, “Please don’t cry! Next year, please G-d, you will return here, the father of a beautiful baby boy.”
I watched from the side and replied, “Amen” to their heartfelt blessing. Afterward, I spoke with Mr. Samuel and suggested he undertake certain good behaviors, which would allow the blessing to take effect. Mr. Samuel accepted my words and left the cemetery in a calm frame of mind, secure in the knowledge that Hashem would grant him his life’s dream.
A year passed. We found ourselves, once again, attending the hilula in Morocco. Since the celebration would take place on Motza’ei Shabbat, we spent Shabbat in Essaouira, near the tzaddik’s grave. Some of the participants, Mr. Samuel among them, were sitting together at approximately 2:00 on Shabbat afternoon.
“What is happening with your wife?” I enquired, “Do you have good news to relate?”
“Baruch Hashem, my wife is expecting a baby, in the merit of the tzaddik, just as I was blessed one year ago. But one detail of the berachah was not met.”
“And what might that be?” I pressed.
“The blessing was that by the coming hilula, I would already be the father of a baby boy. My wife is reaching the end of the pregnancy, but she has not yet given birth. There is still some time until her due date.”
“How do you know that the berachah was not yet fulfilled? Maybe your wife gave birth last night, and you do not yet know about it. Or perhaps she will give birth today, before the hilula takes place.”
Mr. Samuel was skeptical. “I don’t think she’ll have a baby within the next few hours. When I spoke to her on Friday, she did not feel the onset of labor at all.”
I did not give up. Instead, I told him that it was likely that at that very moment, as we spoke, she was in the throes of labor.
He was not convinced. According to their calculations, his wife was due only a few days later, on Rosh Hashanah, to be exact. But we all agreed that if his wife had, indeed, given birth that day, it would cause a great kiddush Hashem, proving to all the power of the tzaddik.
On Motza’ei Shabbat, in the thick of the festivities, Mr. Samuel suddenly burst into the room, shouting, “The G-d of Rabbi Chaim Pinto!” numerous times.
“What happened?” everyone asked, worrying for the worst.
Beaming with pride, he pronounced, “My wife had a baby this afternoon, at 2:30 p.m.!”
In this manner, the blessing was completely fulfilled. All this was in the merit of the tzaddik buried in Morocco, Rabbi Chaim Pinto, may his memory protect us always, Amen.
Guard Your Tongue
The Power of Hearing
The ability to hear is a good thing, as it says (Yeshayahu 55:3), “Listen, and your soul will be rejuvenated.” It also states (Mishlei 15:31), “The ear that hears life-giving reproof will abide in the midst of the wise.” Hearing alone enables a person to fulfill his obligation of certain mitzvot as if he himself performed the mitzvah, such as hearing the Megillah, the blowing of the shofar, Kiddush, and Birkat Hamazon (Blessing after the meal), since one person blesses out loud, and everyone who hears, fulfills his obligation as well.
Also when Bnei Yisrael received the Torah, it was all through hearing. Thus, it is a good thing in essence. However, chas v’shalom, when used for bad, it can have a tremendously negative effect on a person. This is as our Sages state (Ketubot 5b), “Our Rabbis taught: A man shall not let his ears hear idle things, because they are burnt first of [all] the organs.”
Words of Sages
When a Fire is Spreading --- No Time for Rules!
He said, ”Look, the day is still long; it is not yet time to bring the livestock in; water the flock and go on grazing. But they said, “We will be unable to, until all the flocks will have been gathered” (Breishit 29: 5, 8).
Rashi explains: “Because he saw them (the flocks) laying, he thought that they want to gather the flock on home and not to continue grazing. He said to them, the day is still long, i.e. if you are day-laborers you
have not yet concluded your days-work.”
In the Midrash Lekach Tov it is brought: “From here we learn that if a prominent person goes to a place and sees something improper; he must stop it and should not say “Peace unto me” (it is not my affair).
Why did Yaakov Avinu refer to the shepherds as “my brothers”?
The Netziv (in his commentary Ha’emek Davar) elucidates:
“He (Yaakov) accustomed his tongue to speak (words of) love and fellowship, thus he called them “my brothers”.
For only reproof of this manner, uttered from love, fraternity and friendship; is received well and heard willingly. When one reprimands in a manner of affection and love they (the listeners) will be careful to respect him. Indeed the shepherds responded respectfully: “We will be unable to, until all the flocks will have been gathered”.
The book “Yosef Daas” (notes and letters of Rabbi Yosef Lis zatza”l) brings an anecdote about a Rav who came to the Chafetz Chaim and excused himself for not reprimanding his community for various wrongdoings; since he himself is not completely proper in these matters; how then can he reprimand others.
The Chafetz Chaim exclaimed in surprise: “When a fire is blazing, is it then the time to look for sterile water”? The Chafetz Chaim proceeded to explain what he meant and related to the Rav the following story:
Once the mayor of a town came to visit the fire chief of the town; the chief presented him with a glass of tea. The honored guest commented, that the water in the glass is murky and unfit to present to guests; first one must purify the water so that it should be clean and sterile. The fire chief heard what the mayor said and guarded them in his heart.
Then one day a great fire broke out and the conflagration spread quickly through the town. The mayor arrived at the scene of the inferno and to his surprise sees all the firemen headed by the chief standing around the blaze making no attempt to extinguish it. The mayor asked, “Why aren’t you putting out the fire”?
To that the chief answered: We don’t have any sterile water to use.The mayor screamed at him, “You fool! Now is not the time to look for sterile water! The fire is raging and spreading every second”
The haftarah of the week: “And yet My people waver about returning to Me” (Hoshea 11:7)
The Ashkenazi custom is to read the haftarah: “Yaakov fled to the field of Aram” (Hoshea 12:13)
The connection to the parashah: The haftarah describes how Yaakov grabbed Esav, his brother’s ankle, as it states: “In the womb he seized his brother’s heel.”
The connection of the haftarah according to the Ashkenazi custom: The parashah relates that Yaakov Avinu fled from his brother Esav.
Rabbi David Hanania Pinto
Yaakov Avinu is the Foundation of the World
“Leah’s eyes were tender, while Rachel was beautiful of form and beautiful of appearance” (Bereishit 29:17-18)
The gaon Rabbi Aharon Cutler, ztk”l, writes in his sefer “Mishnat Aharon”: Common people have a distorted view of this parashah. The Torah relates that Rachel was beautiful of form and beautiful of appearance, and Yaakov loved Rachel… One who does not understand properly would think that this involves personal interests. Of course this is a distorted understanding of the pasuk, and severely damages the dignity of Yaakov Avinu, who was the chosen of the Fathers and who merited having his image engraved in the Heavenly Throne of Hashem, that he loved Rachel just because she was beautiful of form and beautiful of appearance.
In fact, it is true that Rachal was beautiful of form and beautiful of appearance, literally. However, the intention of the pasuk is to teach us about her spiritual virtues and her exalted level of kedushah. “Beautiful of form” refers to her lofty character traits, and “beautiful of appearance” refers to her outstanding modesty and kedushah.
When Rachel saw her father usher Leah to the wedding, she feared that her sister would become humiliated, and she immediately revealed to her the Signs that Yaakov had given her to assure that he would marry the right wife. Rachel was willing to forgo even marrying Yaakov just to save her sister from being ashamed. This is purity of soul at its best, and such were the exceptional virtues that she possessed. When Yaakov perceived her outstandingly beautiful character traits and righteousness, he desired to marry her. This is not like those people who seek a woman just for her beauty or money and do not care about refined character or check to see if she is virtuous or not.
Shlomo Hamelech exhorts (Mishlei 31:30) “Grace is false and beauty vain; a woman who fears Hashem, she should be praised.” One should check well for the yirat Shamayim of the woman and see if whether she possesses refined character traits and good manners because that is the most important thing in a person. So too, Yaakov Avinu found these wonderful features in Rachel, and it says: “Yaakov loved Rachel,” because he loved her modesty and refined character. Therefore, he asked Lavan if he could work for him for seven years in order to marry her, so that he would have enough time to prepare for the union properly.
Strengthening Fellowship and Meriting Blessing
In this parashah we find a hint and wonderful inspiration about answering Amen after a blessing:
The influential Rabbi Eliyahu Roth once told his audience:
It is important to know that answering Amen properly has a positive effect on us both physically and spiritually, and it prevents sickness from visiting our homes. Each person must contemplate, what is more important to him; is it to go visit doctors, or to answer Amen loudly, which is a wonderful segulah to be saved from all these and bring salvation and success in all matters.
It is written in the sefer “Meorot Hadaf Hayomi” (Bechorot 43a) in the name of Rabbi Yitzchak Zilberstein:
As we know, one hundred blessings were instituted in order to save people from the curses that are written in the parashah of Reproof. If so, we can conclude that a reason for answering 90 times Amen each day is in order to be saved from the 90 bodily blemishes that disqualify a Kohen, as listed by the Rambam (Hilchot Biyat Mikdash 8:1). Indeed, proof supporting this is found by the fact that the word “המום – blemish” has the same numerical value as אמן – Amen!
Causing Abundance to Shower from Heaven
Rabbanit Meislish, shetichye, who inspires large audiences about this important matter, relates:
My father, the Admor of Bobov, ztk”l, who lived in New York, used to celebrate Purim also on the fifteenth of Adar, in order to rejoice with the Jews living in Eretz Yisrael.
One year, amidst the celebration, my father was offered “brandy” and he recited the blessing “Shehakol nihiye bidvaro.” Afterward he began to recite the blessing “Borei nefashot,” while the Mashgiach of the yeshiva stood by his side. The Mashgiach was married for eight years but was still childless, and he sensed that this was an opportune time of grace. He therefore answered Amen with great concentration after the blessing of “Borei nefashot,” contemplating the meaning of the words “Borei nefashot.” This was his heart’s desire, to merit nefashot – souls.
At the same time, one of the gabaim was also present who had only one son and he wished to have more children but had not met with success. He turned to my father and said: “I too yearn to have a child.” My father closed his eyes and replied: “Borei nefashot – creates souls” is in the plural form.” The Gabai and the Mashgiach shouted together: Amen! Exactly ten months passed since that day and the wife of the Mashgiach, after having been married for nine years, gave birth to a girl, whereas the wife of the Gabai gave birth to a boy. Twenty years later the two children got married and built a home together.
And for her it is not at all surprising. This is stated explicitly: “פתחו שערים ויבוא גוי צדיק שומר אמנים – Open the gates, so the righteous nation, keeper of the faith (lit. Amenim), may enter,” since the power of answering Amen opens the gates of Gan Eden and showers down upon us abundance from the Supreme Source. It is amazing how one small word “Amen” can bring about supernatural salvation.
Zachur LaTov – Of Blessed Memory
From the teachings of Eliyahu Hanavi
“Its source (of the sun) is the end of the heavens and its circuit is to their end; nothing is hidden from its heat.” (Psalms 19:7) All of this (judgment) is because of what? Because (they did not engage in the study of ) “The Torah of Hashem [which] is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of Hashem is trustworthy, making the simple one wise; the orders of Hashem are upright, gladdening the heart; the command of Hashem is clear, enlightening the eyes; the fear of Hashem is pure, enduring forever; the judgments of Hashem are true, altogether righteous.They are more desirable than gold, than even much fine gold; and sweeter than honey, and drippings from the combs.” (Ibid. 19:8) From this the sages expounded, that all the time when people all idle from the study of Torah, Hashem desires to destroy the world, as it is stated “Render onto Hashem, you sons the powerful” ( Psalms 29:1); “the powerful” refers to the angels. The Holy One Blessed Be He says, though I have multiplied Man like the birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, they do not do My will, therefore I have concealed My face from them.
“Render onto Hashem honor and might.” (ibid.) “Honor” is a reference to Torah, as it is stated “They will render honor to Hashem and relate His praise in the islands.” (Yeshaye 42:12) It is also stated; Give honor to Hashem your G-d etc. (Yirmiyahu 13:16).
“Bow to Hashem in the beauty of holiness” (Psalms 29:2) from here they learned that a person should not stand to pray until he first said a halachah or a pasuk; thus “Bow to Hashem in the beauty of holiness”.
“The voice of Hashem is upon the waters” (ibid. 3), “water” is a reference to Torah; so did the sages teach: “Scholars, be cautious with your words, lest you rule in one matter not according to the Torah and be liable to the death penalty at the hands of Heaven; and also the disciples who follow you shall rule in your name one matter not in accordance with the Torah and incur the death penalty, Heaven forbid, and consequently the Name of Heaven will be desecrated.
“The G-d of Glory thunders; Hashem is upon vast waters”(ibid.), for I have poured for you words of Torah like milk and oil which is poured soundlessly from vessel to vessel, thus it is stated: “The G-d of Glory thunders; Hashem is upon vast waters. The voice of Hashem [comes in power! The voice of Hashem [comes] in majesty!
To what is this analogous?
It is analogous to a king who had older sons, some were masters of Bible, some were masters of Mishnah and Gemarah, and some were merchants. He married a different poor woman and had children from her. He sent them to learn Scripture, Mishnah, Gemarah and ethics; he sat and anticipated; when will they be like his grown sons. The days passed; they came to him and he found them to be without Scripture, without Mishnah, without Gemarah and lacking ethics. And he sat before them and said, “Houses that I built, fields that I bought and vineyards that I planted for them, why have I done all of this?
This is what Israel is like in this world before their Father in Heaven when they are lacking Torah, thus it is stated: The voice of Hashem [comes in power! The voice of Hashem [comes] in majesty! (ibid. 4), these are people who are clever in worldly matters, in commerce and all professions but are lacking Torah. These people are compared to a cedar tree; just as a cedar does not produce fruit, so too everyone who does not possess Torah is likened to a cedar. As the pasuk states: “Yet I destroyed the Amorite from before them – [the Amorite] whose height was like the height of cedar trees” (Amos 2:9). It is also stated “Hashem shatters the cedars of Lebanon”, this refers to the people that were in the time of the First Temple who were clever [but] remained in their places (they did not do good deeds) and were lacking Torah; thus it is stated “Hashem shatters the cedars of Lebanon, he makes them prance about like a calf; Lebanon and Siryon like young re’emim” (Psalms 29:5, 6)
From here the sages learned; one who does not accept (lit.“kicks at”) Divine Judgment causes his judgment to be doubled. To what is this analogous?m,
To a householder who owned a cow that kicked. He gave her a leash of ten amot and she kicked; he then gave her a leash of 50 amot, as it is stated: “For Israel has strayed like a wayward cow” (Hoshea 4:16). Thus whoever rejects Divine Judgment it is a bad omen (for him). The sages said: Did not his sins bring on him judgment? How strange! (Not to accept Divine Judgment; to think that one does not deserve the judgment.) But affliction came onto him because he did dreadful deeds and improper deeds; he with his own hands is uprooted himself from this world and the world to come.
The Holy One Blessed Be He said to Israel: If you desire to learn My ways, then come and learn from the people of the Generation of the Wilderness; even though they kept the Torah all of their days, because they said something improper before Me I smote them immediately, thereupon it is stated “The voice of Hashem cleaves with shafts of fire, the voice of Hashem convulses the wilderness; the voice of Hashem convulses the wilderness of Kadesh” (Psalms 29:7, 8).
Hashem returned to be favorable to Israel and said to them; My children, I swear by My Heavenly Throne that even a schoolchild who studies Torah for My sake; his reward is placed before Me, just he should guard himself from sin. And even if a person has in his hand only ethical conduct and Scripture his reward is placed before Me, just he should guard himself from sin. And even if a person has not in his hand not Scripture nor Mishnah, [but has in his hand] only [that] he attends morning and night the synagogue and house of study and recites Kriat Shema for the sake of My great Name; his reward is placed before Me, just he should guard himself from sin.
Men of Faith
Moreinu v’Rabbeinu, shlita, often talks about the extraordinary powers granted to a tzaddik on the day of his hilula. On the hilula, one perceives the simple faith of all the participants. Educated, rich, and respectable people, whose lives are filled with materialism, attend the hilula. Yet, when they stand at the gravesite, they become entirely spiritual. They are totally humbled when praying by the tomb, and they suddenly turn into different people. This proves that they are truly worthy individuals.
When a person stands facing the tomb and sees the grave, he realizes the ultimate destiny of every person. Consequently, he lessens the importance he places on physical matters and concentrates on spirituality. Following the event, when the hilula is over and everyone returns home, he aspires to achieve greater levels in spirituality.
However, the Yetzer Hara quickly begins to attack him, causing him to forget all the spiritual achievements he attained at the hilula. It is his job to defeat the Yetzer Hara, as it says, “When you will go out to war against your enemies, and Hashem, your G-d, will deliver him into your hand, and you will capture its captives.” This indicates that one should try to capture the enemy before the enemy captures him. It is possible to defeat the Yetzer Hara only with Torah. The Yetzer Hara knows this and therefore constantly attempts to sway the person.
This is what is hinted in the words “And you will capture its captives.” One should continue to battle the Yetzer Hara continuously, not only for a limited time. The Yetzer Hara knows that after a while the inspiration will wear off, and then the spiritual elevation will diminish. Then, at an opportune moment the Yetzer Hara will strike. Therefore, one should always strive to achieve higher levels and reinforce the inspiration that he experienced at the hilula of the tzaddik.
One can maintain this lofty level by learning Torah, keeping mitzvot, and hearing stories about tzaddikim. He should constantly progress, as it says, “A fire, continually, shall remain aflame on the Altar; you shall not extinguish it.”
However, this is very difficult. One needs much Divine assistance in order to succeed, since otherwise it is impossible to overcome the Yetzer Hara, which attempts to trap a person in its snare. This is why it says, “And Hashem, your G-d, will deliver him into your hand,” since only with Divine assistance can one retain his spiritual attainments and continue advancing spiritually.