January 7th, 2017
Tevet 9th 5777
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The Main Part of Life is the Eternal Spiritual Life
Rabbi David Hanania Pinto
“I am Yosef your brother – it is me, whom you sold into Egypt” (Bereishit 45:4)
From a young age of only seventeen Yosef left to the defiled land of Egypt, which was filled with idolatry and witchcraft, and he was alone with no family support and no father or mother. It would have been most natural for him to assimilate into the impurity of Egypt and disconnect from Judaism, forgetting all the Torah that his father taught him in his youth. But Yosef guarded his sanctity and purity with great self-sacrifice, and despite being a country full of vulgarity and abomination, he took great caution not to get close to the people and learn from the corrupt ways of the Egyptians.
Yosef remained close to Hashem during all the time that he was there, and also merited heroically overcoming a difficult challenge involving Potiphar’s wife, because Yosef knew that Torah and mitzvot and fear of Heaven are not acquired easily, but only through self-sacrifice and perseverance. Only through much effort does one merit spiritual acquisitions of piety and holiness and purity of soul.
This was the intent of Yosef when he said, “I am Yosef.” He implied, I personify the essence of my father, as in “I am Yosef; is my father still alive?” Afterwards Yosef repeats again to his brothers, “I am Yosef your brother – it is me, whom you sold to Egypt;” I am Yosef who bonded to our father Yaakov and learned Torah directly from him and absorbed his holiness. Also now, living in Egypt, I am exactly the same Yosef. I am “Yosef” before you sold me, and I am the same “Yosef” after being sold. It is the same “Yosef” who bonded to Hashem and constantly was aware of standing in the presence of the Shechinah.
Upon hearing this, the brothers were very impressed over Yosef’s incredible self-sacrifice, that although he spent twenty-two years in the heart of Egypt, nevertheless, he retained his sanctity and Judaism, and the ways of Torah and mitzvot was the way of his life. Therefore, “his brothers could not answer him because they were left disconcerted before him.” This is because his countenance reflected holiness and testified to the purity of his entire being.
From this we learn that a person can never acquire lofty spiritual levels unless he sacrifices his life for this end, as Yosef the tzaddik, who sacrificed his life to guard his sanctity, and heroically conquered his evil inclination in order to protect his Jewish soul. Therefore, he succeeded in preserving his Torah in its entirety even after twenty-two years of separation from his father and being in a foreign land.
This is the way all our Sages conducted themselves despite all their pain and hardship. They overcame all life’s challenges and did not forget the Torah. They knew that Torah is acquired through suffering. I recall that I once met two great Torah sages, of blessed memory, in the hospital; the gaon Rabbi Yehudah Tzadka, zt”l, and the gaon Rabbi Ben Tzion Abba Shaul, zt”l. They were both hospitalized and shrouded in agony, but despite their illness, I saw that they were engaged in studying Torah with all their might and strength, discussing complex Torah matters as if they were completely healthy. This incredible example serves as a lesson to us of how to acquire Torah and the way to go about it. It is only through total self-sacrifice and not getting distracted by the hassles of life, ignoring all kinds of hardship, but endeavoring to invest all energies and aspirations in acquiring Torah. Then one is assured that the Torah will become his lot and not be forgotten.
Walking in Their Ways
Coming to a Full Circle on the Plane
Once, when I was in New York over Chanukah, I stayed in a hotel together with hundreds of people who had come to taste an authentic Shabbat.
On Motzei Shabbat, I went to my room and turned to my work, and a few minutes later one of the benefactors who were staying in the hotel came to my room holding a check to the benefit of our holy institutions. I was unable at the time to speak with him, so my assistant greeted him and told him that I was not available.
The man debated whether to give the envelope to my assistant, since he wanted to give the donation to me personally and receive my blessings in the merit of my saintly ancestors, zya”a. Afterwards, when I became available, my assistant told me what happened. I immediately opened the envelope and found a check of a sizable amount donated by the anonymous benefactor.
Several minutes later, again someone knocked on my door. This time it was a man who came to pour out his sorrow to me about his difficult financial situation, and he thought about turning to the philanthropists staying in the hotel for help, but was ashamed to do so. Therefore, he turned to me for my assistance. While discussing his situation, he mentioned the amount of money that he needed urgently to put him back on his feet.
I thought to myself; it’s amazing! The amount that he required was exactly the amount written on the check that I had just received. I realized that it was divinely orchestrated for me to be the messenger to help a needy Jew. With great joy, I handed him the check and relieved him.
However, the story does not end here.
On one of my trips, I was sitting on the plane when my assistant turned to me and whispered that the person sitting directly in front of us was the anonymous benefactor who had given me the check. Of course, I spoke to him and reminded him of the donation he had generously given, and I commended him on the enormous kindness that he had performed. The philanthropist was overjoyed to meet me, and I was able to thank him personally for his significant contribution. In this way everything came full circle; all orchestrated from Above.
With the help of Hashem, I merited sanctifying Heaven, because this man saw that although I had many institutions to support, I preferred assisting a needy man, who was at a loss. Thus, the words of the Sages were fulfilled (Sotah) “Anyone who sanctifies Hashem’s Name in private, will be revealed in public.”
The haftarah of the week: “The word of Hashem came to me, saying: Now you, Son of Man” (Yechezkiel 37:15)
The connection to the parashah: The haftarah relates how in the future the kingdom of Yehudah and Yosef will unite, as it says: “Now you, Son of Man, take for yourself one piece of wood and write upon it, ‘For Yehudah and for the Children of Israel, his comrades,’ and take one piece of wood and write upon it, ‘For Yosef,’ etc. Then bring them close to yourself, one to the other, like one piece of wood, and they will become united in your hand.”
This is similar to what is stated in the parashah that Yehudah fought to save his brother Binyamin, and in the end all the tribes united with Yosef the Tzaddik, who ruled over all of Egypt.
Guard Your Tongue
He deserves to be thrown to the dogs
According to the Torah, it is prohibited to accept lashon hara, whether it concerns matters between man and G-d, or matters between man and his fellow. This signifies that we may not believe that the derogatory account we heard is true, because as a result we will feel contempt toward the person spoken about.
The one who hears and believes the derogatory account transgresses a negative commandment, as it says, “Do not accept a false report.” Chazal say (Mechilta) that this is a warning to those who accept lashon hara. Chazal explain that anyone who accepts lashon hara deserves to be thrown to the dogs, since it says, “Do not accept a false report,” and next to this it states, “To the dog shall you throw it.” Furthermore they say that the punishment for one who accepts [lashon hara] is greater than for one who speaks it. (“Chafetz Chaim”)
Words of our Sages
The White Face that Stained the Fabric
“Now Yosef could not restrain himself in the presence of all who stood before him” (Bereishit 45:1)
Yosef was in a most critical position, as Rashi explains: “He could not bear that Egyptians would stand beside him and hear his brothers being embarrassed when he would make himself known to them.”
Moreover, the Midrash states: Rabbi Shmuel Bar Nachman says: Yosef placed himself in grave danger, because if his brothers would kill him, no one in the world would know who he was. Why did he say “Remove everyone from before me!” Yosef thought the following: It is better that I should be killed than embarrass my brothers before the Egyptians.
Even when we have to admonish others, we must do so with utmost sensitivity and make sure not to embarrass them, G-d forbid.
An interesting case was brought before the Beit Din of Rabbi Yitzchak Zilberstein, shlit”a: A merchant dealing with materials and one of his clients came to decide their case about a deal over expensive materials which amounted to a great fortune.
A few days after their transaction, the client noticed that there were white stains on the material; therefore he claimed that the goods were defective. In his defense, the merchant argued that the white spots appeared because the client had laundered the material after the purchase. Since it is prohibited to launder the material, and the client was warned about it in advance, the client is liable. The client argued back that he is prepared to swear over a Sefer Torah that he had never washed the fabrics.
In this event, the law is against the accuser, since the one who wants to force another to pay him would have to prove his case.
However, since the amount in question was enormous, and the loss would be very painful for the customer, Rabbi Zilberstein tried calling the factory abroad to request that the fabrics be returned.
But the Rabbi added, giving the customer something to think about: “It’s obvious that the loss should not be on you! But a person that experiences such trouble must do some soul-searching to understand why this trouble visited him.”
Therefore, the Rabbi continued, you need to think hard, that perhaps once embarrassed your fellow in public, making his face turn white in humiliation. Maybe that is why it was decreed upon you in Heaven to suffer white spots on your fabric and cause you such a huge loss.”
Indeed, the customer admitted that he had to correct this very issue.
An explicit promise of “longevity” is found in the words of Chazal (Berachot 47a) stating: If one draws out the Amen, his days and years will be prolonged.
In the Talmud Yerushalmi (Berachot 8:8) this Beraita is quoted with a small but important addition:
“His days and years will be prolonged with goodness.”
The meaning of the word “prolonged” in reference to “Amen” says the “Ohr Zarua” is that one has to answer very consciously and slowly and it should take as long to say Amen as it does to say the words “א-ל מלך נאמן – e-l melech ne’eman” (whose first letters spell Amen) in order that he should have time to properly think of its meaning.
In any case, the Ba’alei Tosafot wrote that one should not prolong too much, in order that one should not distort the pronunciation of the word Amen.
The significance of the promise that “his days and years will be prolonged” is explained by Rabbeinu Yosef Chaim, zy”a, in his sefer “Ben Yehoyada” that this actually implies two promises. The first is that “his days will be prolonged,” which means that each day will seem longer so that he will manage to accomplish greater achievements, more than usual. The second is that “his years will be prolonged” so that he will live many years, and as the Yerushalmi adds “with goodness.”
In a slightly different explanation, Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac Chaver comments that “he will delight each day to the extent that others delight in two days.”
It is interesting to note the words of the tzaddik Rabbi Yitzchak Ze’ev of Cretchinef, zt”l; who brings proof to Chazal’s promise that “his days and years will be prolonged” from the words of David Hamelech, a”h, in Tehillim (102:24): “He has afflicted my strength on the way; He has shortened my days.” When a person travels distances and spends time on the road, he is sometimes forced to pray without a minyan and consequently he answers “Amen” less, reducing his merits to achieve longevity. Thus the long journey serves as a detriment, since it ultimately results in shortening his days (Alei Veradim Berachot 3a).
Rabbi Yekutiel Yitzchak Brach from the United States relates that there was a wonderful Jew who was a Satmar chassid and his name was Rabbi Chaim Hersh Goldberg. This Jew used to be very conscious of answering Amen and he would seek every opportunity to do so more and more. He could be seen every day remaining in the Beit Haknesset hours until the last minyan ended the Shacharit service in order to be able to answer Amen after them. Likewise, he would listen to all those around him, waiting for an opportunity to answer Amen. And if he would hear in the distance someone preparing to make a blessing, he would run to stand at his side in order to answer Amen.
When he passed away at the age of 91, the Admor, Rabbi Yoel of Satmar, zt”l, the author of “Vayoel Moshe,” mentioned in his eulogy: May it be known that Rabbi Chaim Hersh did not merit longevity for nothing, but he merited it because he was careful to answer Amen properly, as Chazal state that anyone who answers Amen consciously, prolonging the word, will have his days and years prolonged. It is not for nothing that he merited a long life until exactly the age of 91, since the gematria (numerical value) of the word Amen is also 91, and in the merit of answering Amen meticulously, he merited such longevity.
Rabbi David Hanania Pinto
Choosing a place to live
“He sent Yehudah ahead of him to Yosef, to prepare ahead of him in Goshen; and they arrived in the region of Goshen” (Bereishit 46:28)
Rashi explains: “The Aggadic interpretation of [to prepare ahead - לְהוֹרֹת] is [that there should be teaching]: to establish for him a house of study, from which teaching would emanate.” This signifies that when Yaakov went down to Egypt to reside there during the famine, first he established secure foundations of Torah. Therefore, he built a Beit Midrash from where teaching would emanate. This practice is the opposite of what is generally done, because usually when a person chooses his residence, he makes sure to check out all the physical features; he makes sure that there should be good air, light, and sun exposure, and it should be a comfortable, beautiful place. But here, Yaakov Avinu, our Forefather, teaches us the true way in which to decide on a residence – which is the Torah factor. One should examine whether there is a Torah Center, a respectable Yeshiva, and good neighbors, so that they should not learn from their corrupt ways.
This is why Yaakov chose not to live in Egypt proper, but in a distant location, in the land of Goshen. The pasuk specifies, “להורות לפניו – to prepare ahead of him. What does “ahead of him” imply? It refers to the future generations. All the future generations will learn priorities when choosing a location to reside. Since there were no yeshivot there at the time, Yaakov established a Talmud Torah even before his arrival.
Why does the pasuk state that he sent Yehudah ahead of him “to Yosef”?
This suggests that, apart from founding a place of Torah, Yaakov Avinu was worried that his sons would be influenced by the Egyptians and learn from their ways, G-d forbid. Since Egypt was considered the “Nakedness of the Land,” filled with corruption and immorality, he was worried how his family would live there and how his children would be affected there. Perhaps they would be tempted by the wanton prevailing atmosphere. Chazal explain that when Yaakov heard about Yosef that he was still alive, he debated inwardly: Should I leave the land of my ancestors and the land where Hashem’s Shechinah resides to go to a defiled land, live among the heathens, where there is no fear of Heaven? Hashem said to him, “Have no fear… I shall descend with you to Egypt.”
Thus we learn that first we must worry about our spiritual state, especially regarding our place of residence so that we and our families will be influenced positively and not suffer from the negative impacts of our environment. It is man’s obligation to see himself as a messenger to perform Hashem’s Will in the world. In this way one can more easily overcome the difficulties surrounding him when performing mitzvot.
Zachur Latov – Of Blessed Memory
Tanna D’vei Eliyahu
What will the honor and might of the tzaddikim in the ultimate future and the world to come be like?
The Holy One Blessed Be He shall sit in His Beit Midrash and the tzaddikim of the world shall sit before Him; to each and every one shall be given radiance of his face according to the Torah he acquired; and the ministering angels stand around of Israel and cry in their hearts (and say).
“Happy are Israel; for all the sorrow, pain and persecution that they endured has passed and is gone, and now all of this greatness is theirs”, as it is stated: “Kings of legions (allegorically refers to the angels) flee, they flee”; do not read this as “"ידודון (they flee) but read it as “ידדון” (they debate); for they debated with Moshe who was the father of wisdom, the father of the prophets; who ascended to the heavens above and brought down the Torah from Heaven. Thus it is stated “Kings of legions etc.”
What does one matter have to do the other?
Because they say all this goodness and greatness is on account of the Torah they observed; for in this world all the nations vilified Israel and said to them: “ Just as Israel has gold and silver – we too have gold and silver; we have fields and vineyards – just as Israel has fields and vineyards; we have food and drink – just as Israel has food and drink; we possess fine garments – just as Israel possess’ fine garments; what reward do you have from the words of Torah that you toil so much over them?
After the passage of time, when the days of the Mashiach shall arrive and the Angel of Death shall pass from the world, then all the nations of the world will say: “Praiseworthy is the nation that his fate is good, praiseworthy is the nation that Hashem his G-d is his lot”; as it is stated: “He will eliminate death forever” (Yeshaye 25:8); this shall occur in the days of Mashiach and the nations of the world will shout (bemoan) on the outside because they did not hear words of Torah; and the angels will shout (bemoan) inside because they did merit all the goodness and greatness of Israel, as it is stated; “Behold, their herald cried out outside; messengers of peace wept bitterly” (Yeshaye 33:7).
“He raises the needy from the dust etc.” (Psalms 113:7) for the tzaddikim in the world to come; how will it be?
People who transgressed greatly and it was decreed upon them death until four generations, as it is stated; “Who visits the sin of fathers upon children to the third and fourth generations” (Shemot 20:5). If they then did teshuvah and read the Scripture and reviewed the Mishnah but died from amongst that sorrow; then there is no consolation for the Holy One Blessed Be He over them only if He lifts them on to their feet from the dust and places them between his knees and hugs them and kisses them and brings them to the life of the world to come. Thus it is stated: “He raises the needy from the dust, from the trash heaps He lifts the destitute” (ibid.)
“He transforms the barren wife” (Psalms 113:9), this refers to the Holy Temple; the Holy One Blessed Be He stood within it and created the whole entire world from one end to the other, as it is stated: “Hashem founded the earth with wisdom etc.” (Mishlei 3:19).
Another explanation; “He transforms the barren wife” (Psalms 113:9), refers to this world; the Holy One Blessed Be He created within it Man from one end of the world to the other, as it is written: “I made the earth and I created mankind upon it” (Yeshaye 45:12).
“A glad mother of children” (ibid.); Blessed be the Omnipresent blessed be He, for His joy about Israel is great forever; for just as Israel fulfills the Torah in this world and rejoices with it, so too the Torah rejoices with them in the world to come, as it is written “A glad mother of children”; with her child is her joy.
Another explanation; “He raises the needy from the dust etc.” (Psalms 113:7), in the days of the Mashiach; how is this?
A person who committed many sins and it was decreed upon him death until four generations, as it is written: “Who visits the sin of fathers upon children etc.”, and then did teshuvah and read Torah, Prophets and Writings; reviewed Mishnah, Midrash, halachot and aggadot and served Torah scholars; then even if it had been decreed upon him a hundred decrees, the Holy One Blessed Be He shall remove them from him, and will gather him with the other tzaddikim in the days of Mashiach, as it is written, “Although they pay tribute ((יתנו to the nations, now I will gather them” (Hoshea 8:10), do not it as “יתנו” but read it as “ישנו” (repeat i.e. in sin).
Men of Faith
Your Husband Has Already Been Healed
Rabbi Shlomo Pinto had ten sons. They all learned Torah day and night in the yeshiva of Agadir. The blessing of David Hamelech was fulfilled in him: “Your children will be like olive shoots surrounding your table.”
One evening, one of the sons of Rabbi Shlomo Pinto returned from yeshiva and hung his jacket in the entrance hall of his home. At that moment, a poor man entered their house. He was so destitute that he did not even have the means to provide his children with food. He grabbed the jacket of the Rav’s son and left the house. He sold the jacket and bought food and provisions for his family’s dinner.
At midnight, he began feeling excruciating pains in his abdomen. His wife, observing his intense pain, tried to solve the mystery. “Please, tell me,” she asked her husband, “Did you commit any transgression today which may have caused you such suffering?”
“Yes,” he admitted guiltily. “I stole a jacket from Rav Pinto’s house, which belongs to his son. I sold it in order to acquire the money to buy food.”
Upon hearing this, his wife understood exactly what the source of her husband’s tormenting pain was. With the first rays of dawn, she rose and took one of her possessions. She ran quickly to the person who had purchased the jacket from her husband and gave him the object in exchange for the jacket of the Rav’s son.
Meanwhile, in the house of the Rav, Rabbi Shlomo’s son awoke and began preparing for the Shacharit prayers. He went to the entrance hall where he had hung his jacket, but to his dismay, he could not find it. The young boy hurried to his father and told him, “Father, my jacket has disappeared! How will I be able to go to the Beit Hakeneset to pray Shacharit?”
“Whoever took your jacket will return it shortly,” his father answered him.
As they were talking, they heard knocking on their door. On the doorstep, stood the wife of the pauper, holding the jacket in her hand. She began to beseech the Rav, crying, “Honorable Rav, you know that my husband is very poor, and he stole the jacket. However, now he is lying in bed, writhing in pain. Please, honorable Rav, pray for him to be healed.”
“Go home, your husband is already cured,” Rabbi Shlomo informed her.
The woman went home and, to her amazement, saw that her husband’s pain had subsided after she had given back the stolen article and begged forgiveness in his name.