December 24th, 2016
Kisleiv 24th 5777
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Perfection is expected of Tzaddikim
Rabbi David Hanania Pinto
Rashi comments on the word “dwelt” (verse 1): When Jacob sought to dwell in tranquility; the troubles of Joseph sprang upon him. The righteous seek to dwell in tranquility. Said the Holy One, Blessed Be He, “What is prepared for the righteous in the world to come is not sufficient for them, but they seek [also] to dwell in tranquility in this world!”
The Midrash requires explanation. What was wrong with Yaakov seeking to dwell a bit in tranquility? After all, Yaakov valiantly fought to learn the holy Torah diligently, and it is written about him (Bereishit 25:27) “Yaakov was a wholesome man, abiding in tents.” He sat in the tents of Torah, since his whole life was entirely devoted to the study of Torah. So what was wrong with seeking tranquility?
The question is intensified; does Yaakov, who devoted all his life for the sake of Torah, deserve such harsh punishment for seeking a bit of tranquility to the extent that the troubles of Yosef, who was a son of his old age, sprang upon him, causing him to weep bitterly for twenty-two years?
In order to understand this, we must look at what Chazal say (Yevamot 121b) regarding the pasuk (Tehillim 50:3) “And round about Him it storms mightily,” which implies that the Holy One, Blessed Be He, deals strictly with those round about Him even to a hair's breadth. But why does Hashem deal so strictly with tzaddikim?
I remember years ago in Morocco, when they used to sell simple kinds of clocks by weight. These clocks were not valuable or quality clocks, therefore they were sold cheaply and simply, as selling fruit and vegetables by weight. On the other hand, there are also expensive and valuable watches which are worth fortunes.
I once received a very expensive and valuable gift from a wealthy, prominent individual. Even before giving me the present, he turned to me and said, “In this big box there is a gift for the honorable Rabbi, shlit”a.”
When I removed the outer wrapping, I found another wrapping underneath, followed by yet another parcel… and each wrapping was expensive in itself. Finally, I reached the main small box and inside was an expensive “Cartier” watch, which costs tens of thousands of dollars!... I really did not think that I would ever wear it, since I feared what people would say; how can he afford such an expensive watch? One may not cause others to be suspicious of him. So I asked him if he could estimate the value of the watch and instead donate the money to our sacred institutions, supporting Torah scholars.
An ordinary person may not notice the difference between an expensive watch and a simple one. Both show the same time. Both can provide the same benefits to tell time correctly. Nevertheless, there is a huge difference between them. The expensive watch is more than ten times better than the simple one, because the difference between them is the company that manufactures them. The better the brand name is, the more the watch is worth. If the watch is manufactured by an unknown, simple company, its products will be in accordance, and its price will be cheaper. Thus, everything is dependent upon the craftsman who manufactures the watch. The more well-known he is, the more the watch will be worth.
Moreover, the more the watch is worth, the more the craftsman makes sure that the watch shows the exact time very accurately, so that it should not be off by a split second. If it wouldn’t be so, then what difference would there be between the simple watch and the expensive one, since both show the correct time. Therefore, the more prestigious watch must be most accurate and absolutely exact.
Thus we can understand why Hashem is so meticulous with the tzaddikim to a hair-breadth. These devoted Torah scholars became sanctified by the Supreme Manufacturer and Creator of the world – by Hashem, may His Name be Blessed forever. The more the tzaddik rises to greater heights in Torah and fear of G-d, he can be compared to the valuable watches which the manufacturer expects to be absolutely accurate, without the slightest deviation, since its accuracy marks its prestige, displaying the time with great accuracy to the milliseconds.
Walking in Their Ways
The Wonder Drug
The following incident happened to my secretary who accompanies me on my travels. We were on our way from France to Israel. Approximately one hour before take-off, my secretary suddenly discovered that he had left behind very important medication that he takes to lower cholesterol. Since this medicine can be purchased only with a doctor’s prescription, he was very concerned. The lapse in taking his medication until he got home was likely to harm his health.
He could not return home, because our flight was due to depart very shortly. As he stood there, wondering what to do, he noticed Mr. Tzion Saban standing before him.
Tzion Saban is a wonderful Jew, who serves Hashem with joy. He loves infecting his fellow Jews with his contagious love of life.
Happy to meet my secretary; Mr. Saban immediately noticed that something was wrong. He asked if he could be of help.
My secretary, seeing no other option and figuring he had nothing to lose, informed him of his predicament.
“What’s the problem?” Mr. Saban asked. “I will give you a one euro coin and you will swallow it instead of your pill.”
“Please,” my secretary begged him, “now is not the time for jesting.”
But Tzion did not relent. “Here, I am giving you a coin.” He put his hand into his pocket and opened it to reveal a handful of coins. But his hand revealed something else, as well. There, nestled among the various denominations, sat a tablet for cholesterol!
The incredulous man took the pill from Tzion. But, instead of swallowing it, he did something else. He kept it as a reminder of the miracle Hashem had performed for him.
What hashgachah pratit was apparent in this incident! Mr. Saban and his family never suffered from problems of cholesterol. How did a cholesterol tablet end up in his pocket? Moreover, what made my secretary tell his story to Mr. Saban, of all of the people in the airport?
There is no such thing as coincidence. Every act is supervised Above, and every pill rolls around only by Hashem’s command. “One does not stub his toe below unless it has been so decreed on High” (Chulin 7b).
Guard Your Tongue
Imprisonment because of Slander
Chazal tell us, Yosef only worked in Potiphar’s house for one year, and he was imprisoned for twelve years [he was sold when he was seventeen years-old, and when he stood before Pharaoh he was thirty years-old].
The Midrash stays that he deserved to be in prison for ten years for slandering his ten brothers, and because he told the Chamberlain of the Cupbearers, “If only you would think of me with yourself when he benefits you… and mention me to Pharaoh” he was sentenced to an additional two years.
The haftarah of the week: “Thus said Hashem: For three transgressions” (Amos 2:3)
The connection to the parashah: In the haftarah there is an allusion to the sale of Yosef the Tzaddik, as it states: “For their selling a righteous man for money, and a poor man for shoes,” and the parashah recounts the sale of Yosef.
Words of Our Sages
Admitting an Error
“They hated him; and they could not speak to him peaceably” (Bereishit 37:4)
Rashi comments: From what is stated to their discredit, we may learn something to their credit, that they did not say one thing with their mouth and think differently in their heart.
Chazal say (Yoma 72b): Any scholar whose inside is not like his outside, is no scholar. Abaye, or, as some say, Rabbah ‘Ulla said: He is called abominable. In addition, Chazal say (Pesachim 113b): Three the Holy One, Blessed Be He, hates: he who speaks one thing with his mouth and another thing in his heart.
The way of a Torah scholar is to be honest in all his matters even if there is no loss to others, as Chazal say in gemara (Baba Metzia 21b): “A Torah scholar does not change his words.”
Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach adhered to the truth meticulously, and he did not see it as a slight to his honor to admit his error. The story related about him by Rabbi Moshe Meir Yadler, shlit”a, (author of Meor HaShabbat) is characteristic of this:
In one of my letters to him, I commented to Rabbi Shlomo Zalman on what he wrote, concerning a certain matter, that the sefer “Mordechai” contradicts what he said. A few days later, I received his reply to me stating the following: I am not embarrassed to admit that I erred, and you are right; the exact opposite is stated.” He was honest and did not attempt to cover up his mistake.
Similarly, it is told about the tzaddik Rabbi Salaman Mutzafi, zt”l who argued with his fellow scholars about the meaning of a passage in the holy Zohar. Each member brought evidence to what they held.
When Rabbi Salaman realized that his fellow’s explanation of the Zohar was correct, he was overjoyed. He turned to him and repeated many times: Thank you, thank you so much for clarifying the matter correctly. In your merit I now understand the passage properly.
Also the following evening, before beginning his lecture, Rabbi Salaman turned again to his fellow and said: “You can’t imagine what happiness you brought me by explaining the passage to me yesterday. Thank you so much”…
When we read the parshiot in Bereishit describing the exalted lives of our holy forefathers, who dedicated their lives entirely to the service of Hashem and to constantly rise to greater spiritual heights, until they reached unimaginable levels of holiness and closeness to Hashem, each of us certainly aspires – “When will my deeds be [as exalted] as the deeds of my Fathers.”
How wonderful, then, to see that by being meticulous to answer Amen properly, one can merit the remarkable longevity that our Fathers merited. It is longevity which besides for the benefit of living long years, also expresses spiritual perfection, as the Midrash explains – that all our days should be equally good.
In the summer of 1979, two young, important avrechim, who had been close to the Admor of Sanz, zt”l, died tragically at a young age: Rabbi Ahron (אהרון) Krieger and Rabbi Moshe Nechemia (משה נחמיה) Streibel.
Heavy mourning settled on the G-d fearing people in general, and in the Sanz community in Netania specifically. Everyone waited to hear what the Admor of Sanz would say, to clarify why Hashem had caused this to happen. However, the Admor remained silent and said nothing.
The following week, the Admor began his lecture quoting the pasuk (Devarim 32:19-20): Hashem will see and be provoked by the anger of His sons and daughters, and He will say, “I shall hide My face from them and see what their end will be – for they are a generation of reversals, children whose upbringing is not in them (בנים לא אמן בם).” The Sifri explains: Rabbi Dusta’i ben Yehudah says: Do not read it “בנים לא אמן בם – Children whose upbringing is not in them,” but “בנים לא אמן בם – Children who do not answer Amen,” since they did not want to answer Amen after the blessing of the Navi.
The Admor continued: The letters of Amen (אמן) are the same as the first letters of the names of the deceased Aharon (אהרון) and Moshe Nechemia (משה נחמיה); since people were not careful to answer Amen, these precious avrechim were taken from us!
Evoking the Benefits of Answering Amen
In conclusion, we present a wonderful idea which is brought in the name of the holy Admor Rabbi David Abuchatzera, shlit”a:
Every morning we say in the Blessings of the Torah, “ונהיה אנחנו וצאצאנו וצאצאי צאצאינו כולנו יודעי שמך – May we and our offspring and the offspring of Your people, the House of Israel – all of us – know Your Name.” Why do we specifically use the term צאצאינו to refer to our offspring, and not a different term such as זרענו which seems more appropriate?
This is because at the start of our day we aspire to recall the merit of answering Amen, and because a person does not answer Amen to his own blessings, and usually when one arises early to study Torah there is no one around to answer Amen to his blessing, therefore the Men of the Great Assembly chose specifically the words צאצאנו וצאצאי צאצאינו in which there appears a number of time the letters צא that have the numerical value of Amen (אמן). When we say these words, we evoke the benefits and merits of answering Amen.
Rabbi David Hanania Pinto
The Dreidel Symbolizes the Scheme of the Greeks
One who contemplates the events will be surprised and puzzled. It is well-known that a majority of Am Yisrael followed the Greeks and they almost succeeded in their mission to “make them forget the Torah” G-d forbid. In the end, only a handful of people remained loyal to Hashem and His Torah. It is difficult to understand how it is possible that in the heart of Yerushalayim, while the Beit Hamikdash was standing, and at a time when Am Yisrael were able to see the Kohanim in their service and the Levi’im in their platform and all the ten miracles that occurred continuously in the Beit Hamikdash. How is it possible that so many Jews became Hellenized and fell for the scheme of those wicked people?
It is important to understand what the scheme of the Greeks was. At first, they did not demand of the Jews to stop all observance of Shabbat or other important mitzvot, which are the foundation of Judaism, but approached them with small and seemingly innocuous proposals, with trivial things, with which simple Jews said to themselves, “What’s wrong with that?” After all, they are offering to provide gyms and various sports for the children, which are not immoral or depraved. There seems nothing wrong with it.
Those parents who failed to understand the cunning scheme remained oblivious to the danger and sent their children to all these places, since they did not see anything wrong with it.
However, they should have known that although there is no prohibition against sports, one is obligated to investigate who is behind the program. One must inquire who the teacher is, under whose supervision the children will be and in what company they will be. Is their religious worldview similar to their own, according to the pure spirit of the Torah, or G-d forbid, not? When the teacher or guide is a heretic Greek, lewd and corrupt, and his worldviews are distorted, certainly he will have a great influence and instill his false views in the vulnerable children, uprooting all the values of Torah and mitzvot they were taught.
In my opinion this is the essence of the customary dreidel game played during Chanukka. Its purpose is to remind us that the Greeks attempted to sway the Jews from their true worldviews causing them to stray from the proper path, similar to a spinning top which starts from the point of origin, but ends with another.
Thus they first approached the people with seemingly trivial things that sounded harmless and offered to take the children to various sport activities. In this way they instilled in their heart improper values. The simple innocent parents did not perceive the trap that was set for them and were totally oblivious, thinking “What could be wrong? They are just little children…” Ultimately the Greeks succeeded in their scheme and the parents ended up sacrificing their lives to sanctify Hashem’s Name, but their children entirely lost any spark of Judaism and any connection to the Torah and mitzvot.
Zachur LaTov – Of Blessed Memory
Tanna D’vei Eliyahu
Why did Moshe merit a radiant face in this world, that of which He is destined to give to the tzaddikim in the Ultimate Future? For he fulfilled the will of the Holy One Blessed Be He and was concerned (lit. pained) about His honor and the honor of Israel all of his days; and wanted, desired and anticipated that there should be peace between Israel and their father in Heaven.
Know that it is so, for when Israel was in the Wilderness and committed sinful actions; the Holy One Blessed Be He said to Moshe: “And now, desist from Me” (Shemos 32:10); Moshe promptly had an opening to respond, as it is stated: “Moshe pleaded before Hashem etc., why should Egypt say the following etc., remember for the sake of Avraham, Yitzchak and Israel etc.” (ibid.32:13); (and) Hashem promptly answered him, as it is stated: “Hashem reconsidered regarding the evil He declared He would do to His people” (ibid 32:14).
Moshe said before Him: “Master of the World, You are righteous and benevolent just Your Attribute of Justice demands justice (be done) against all the people of the world and all of Your handiwork that You created in the world. Let me go down and do unto them justice, if they all worshipped the Golden Calf wholeheartedly, then they should all die in one day. Moshe went down from before Him and took the Calf and burned it in fire, as it is stated: “He took the calf that they had made and burned it in fire etc.; Moshe stood at the gateway of the camp and said, “Whoever is for Hashem join me!” etc., he said to them “So said Hashem the G-d of Israel etc.” (Shemos 32:20, 26).
I bring heaven and earth to testify that the Holy One Blessed Be He did not say so to Moshe; to stand at the gateway of the camp and to say, “Whoever is for Hashem join me, etc.”, and he said “So said Hashem the G-d of Israel etc.” (Shemos 32:26), but Moshe thought about it and said to himself, “If I shall say to Israel, ‘Let every man kill his brother, every man his fellow, and every man his near one”, then Israel shall begin deliberating and shall say to me, “Did you not teach us, our Master, Sanhedrin that put to death one soul of Israel once in seven years is considered to be a destructive tribunal; why then do you say to us to kill three thousand people in one day”? Thereupon he ascribed it to the Honor of Heaven and said, “So said Hashem the G-d of Israel, ‘Every man, put his sword on his thigh and pass back and forth from gate to gate in the camp etc. (Shemos 32:27).
What is the following subject? “The Levites did as Moshe said etc.” (Shemos 32:28). Moshe the tzaddik returned and stood in prayer before the Omnipresent and said before Him: “Master of the World, You are righteous and benevolent; all Your deeds are faithful; because of three thousand people that worshipped the Calf wholeheartedly shall 600,000 men from 20 years and older as well as those nineteen and fifteen and ten and two and one die? And how many converts and slaves that there are in addition, ad infinitum (shall they die as well)?” Promptly, the mercy of the Holy One Blessed Be He overflowed, and at that time became reconciled with them.
To what is this analogous?
To a king of flesh and blood whose first-born son sinned against him. He grabbed him by his hand and gave him into the hands of his servant the master of his household, and said to him “Go and kill him and throw him to the animals and dogs.” What did the servant do? He took him outside and placed him in a different house and went and stood before the king. At the end of thirty days, when the king was in good spirits and his servants and the members of his household were sitting before him; the king raised his eyes and did not see his first-born son; he became filled with sadness and grief; no one could understand why the king was filled with grief besides the master of his household. He immediately ran and brought him and stood him before the king. What did the king do? He took a beautiful crown which was before him and placed it on the head of his servant.
To this was similar Moshe the tzaddik; because he stood in prayer on four and five occasions and saved Israel from death, Hashem said to him, “Because you stood before me four and five times and saved Israel from death, a beautiful crown that was reserved for Israel, that which was meant to be for them and children forever because of the Torah they accepted and because they said na’aseh venishmah; that same crown shall be placed on the head of Moshe forever as it is stated: “And the Children of Israel saw the face of Moshe, that Moshe’s face had become radiant” (Shemos 34:35).
And perhaps you shall say since Moshe passed on; perhaps his crown of radiant face ceased from him? Therefore Scripture says: “Never again has there arisen in Israel a prophet like Moshe, whom Hashem had known face to face” (Devarim 34:10). Just as the radiance of his face of above shall last forever and ever, so too the radiance of the face of Moshe entered with him to his eternal home, as it is stated: “Moshe was one hundred and twenty years old when he died; his eye had not dimmed, and his vigor had not diminished” (ibid. 34:7)
Men of Faith
On one of the days of the hilula of Rabbi Chaim Hagadol, a woman came and told this amazing story:
A year earlier, she encountered a serious problem in her eyes, which could cause her to eventually become blind. She visited a top ophthalmologist, who told her that he suspected that she was suffering from a particular medical problem, which could be remedied only through surgery.
The woman was extremely alarmed and decided to go to Moreinu, Rabbi David Pinto, in order to receive a blessing. Rabbi David told her to begin observing mitzvot, and in this way the merit of the tzaddik Rabbi Chaim would protect her, and she would be healed.
She followed his suggestion and began to scrupulously observe the Torah and mitzvot, believing in the merit of the tzaddik with all her heart. On the day of her surgery, the doctor ordered preliminary testing. The unbelievable occurred. The tests confirmed that she did not require surgery. This was something extraordinary and absolutely impossible under normal circumstances.
Rabbi David declared, “We see from this that Hashem can change the order of nature. All troubles come upon a person only to bring him to do teshuvah. When he ultimately does teshuvah, Hashem removes his troubles and suffering from him in a way that is beyond the laws of nature.”