February 11th, 2017
15th of Shvat 5777
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Man’s Purpose in His World
Rabbi David Hanania Pinto
“Moshe caused Israel to journey from the Sea of Reeds and they went out to the Wilderness of Shur; they went for a three-day period in the Wilderness, but they did not find water” (Shemot 15:22)
Moshe had to move Bnei Yisrael away from the sea against their will, for the Egyptians had adorned their horses with ornaments of gold and silver and precious stones, and they were so involved with finding them at the sea, they did not want to journey onward. The spoils taken from the Egyptians at the sea were greater than the spoils they took from Egypt (Rashi, ibid.).
This raises the following question. Why did Bnei Yisrael receive the spoils of the sea as a gift, yet had to borrow the vessels of the Egyptians before they left?
We also need to clarify why indeed did the Jews descend to Egypt, and why did they have to suffer slavery?
We will try, with the help of Hashem, to answer all these questions.
Many people wander about, wondering what their purpose is in the world. The scientists are sure that people come into the world in order to live and enjoy as much as possible, similar to the animals. However, any thinking person will realize that it does not make sense for someone to have been born a human being in order to die as an animal.
Heretics will opine that since mankind evolved from the animal, there is nothing wrong with cremating a body after death. They therefore live their lives pointlessly. Many nations across the globe live this way. They want the good life, and they want to be in control. One animal will prey on another, for sustenance or safety, always involved in its survival. Likewise, the nations of the world, who live like animals, are constantly occupied with the battle of survival and control. Sometimes, one is on top, and at other times, another is in control, exactly like the animals.
This was the lifestyle in ancient Egypt. They would worship the animals, giving them preference over people. Hashem brought Bnei Yisrael down to Egypt so that they should observe this corrupt way of life and learn to keep away from it. They would steer away completely from this “beastly” lifestyle, and understand that they were put here to serve Hashem, meriting eternal life in Olam Haba.
This is why they were told to borrow the vessels from the Egyptians, instead of Hashem having the Egyptians give the vessels as gifts. This would make them realize that money comes only from Hashem. Accumulating wealth is not the purpose of our existence. A person’s wealth is predetermined by Hashem. If He wants a person to have money, he will get it even without working. And if He sees fit to withhold money from someone, no matter how hard he works, he will not see any blessing in his labor. By desisting from thinking (Devarim 8:17) “my strength and the might of my hand made me all this wealth,” Bnei Yisrael would come to the recognition that the true purpose of life in this world is preparation for the Afterlife. They received the vessels from the Egyptians only on loan, for had they received them as free gifts, they would have assumed it was payment for their years of labor. This would inject the feeling of pride and self-assurance into their hearts.
Conversely, the spoils of the sea were given to them as gifts. They did not have to ask for them. This taught them the following message, which was vital to internalize before they received the Torah. Man is master over his money, and not the other way around. A person may not allow himself to pursue materialism and worry over wealth. All of his concerns must revolve solely around Torah and mitzvot. Proof is that they received the spoils of the sea free of charge, directly from Hashem.
The Alter of Novardok, zy”a, was involved in business in order to support his family. Rabbi Yitzchak Blazer, zt”l, met him, and asked why he dedicated part of his time for business, rather than spending all his time involved in learning Torah and Avodat Hashem. The Alter asked, “If I don’t engage in business, with what will I live?” To which Rabbi Yitzchak responded, “And with what will you die?” Meaning, “What will you bring with you to Olam Haba? Why do you enslave yourself to money and not completely to Torah?”
Bnei Yisrael tied the sheep to their bedposts, indicating that animals are subordinate to mankind, and not the other way around. But if a person does not live to fulfill his true purpose, he is on a lower level than even the animal.
In the year 2006, the “natural” disaster of the tsunami took place. An underwater earthquake shook the waters, and they gained tremendous strength, overflowing onto a sizeable portion of land. They swept away people and property. Over one-quarter of a million people met their deaths in this catastrophe. But all of the animals, from the big to the small, followed their finely-honed senses, which signaled to them that trouble was brewing. They fled for their lives. In their singular objective of finding shelter, no animals preyed upon another. The leopard ran side-by-side with the deer. A short time later, two airplanes nearly collided. They were saved a mere few meters away from each other, by one of the pilots executing a last-minute act. Upon examination, it was discovered that the radar of one of the planes had been damaged. This was radar invented by humans. See the difference between the radar that Hashem placed in the animals’ brain and the radar created by man.
Walking in Their Ways
Believing in Torah Sages is Comparable to Believing in Hashem
On Chol Hamoed Pesach (in the year 2011) during my stay in Eretz Yisrael, I was invited to deliver a Torah lecture in Netivot at an event held in the Beit Haknesset “Lev Eliyahu” led by Rabbi Moshe Peretz, shlit”a. When I finished speaking, a man approached me by the name of Mr. Avraham Cohen, and he recounted his unbelievable story which happened fifteen years ago. This was his amazing account as he related it:
Fifteen years ago, my son was born to us. However, already at birth our joy turned to grief. The baby lay like a lifeless stone without moving. Moreover, he did not cry at all as babies normally do at birth. Unfortunately, the doctors’ dire predictions were grim. In their opinion, the baby had only a few hours to live…
But, we did not despair of Hashem’s Mercy, and immediately I called Rabbi David, shlit”a, and asked him for his blessings for salvation. When Moreinu heard my story, he was shocked, but said the following: “Do not worry! I promise that in the merit of my master, my father, Rabbi Moshe Aharon Pinto, zya”a, your baby will be cured and live. And if you invite me to serve as a Sandek, I will gladly accept…”
At that time such ideas seemed so far removed, since the baby lay nearly lifeless in the cradle. However, I believed wholeheartedly in the merits of the tzaddik Rabbi Moshe Aharon Pinto, zya”a, knowing that the Sages state: “The tzaddik decrees and Hashem fulfills [his decree].” In fact, despite the predictions of the doctors, the baby recovered slightly and we were able to perform a Brit, where the Rav, shlit”a, indeed served as Sandek.
As the days passed, again the baby’s condition worsened, and the doctors’ diagnosis filled our hearts with worry, determining that the baby did not stand a chance of living for longer than one year. But, we did not give up. We had strong faith that the blessings of the Rav, shlit”a, in the merit of his fathers, zya”a, had the power to bring salvation with Hashem’s help. Thank G-d, our dear son grew up magnificently, and got out of his dangerous predicament in a most miraculous manner. Today he is fifteen years old, alive and well…! As he was speaking, he pointed at the young man standing at his side, “Here! This is my dear son, who recovered and grew up thanks to the tzaddik’s blessings…”
I was filled with joy when I saw what a great Kiddush Hashem resulted from this remarkable story. I am truly convinced that it is not I who caused his salvation, but his perfect faith in the tzaddik, my master and father, Rabbeinu Moshe Aharon Pinto, ztk”l, zy”a, who was a perfect servant of his Creator, and his life was entirely devoted to serving Him. This wholehearted faith led to the blessed salvation for the baby.
The haftarah of the week: “Devorah sang” (Shoftim 5)
The connection to the parashah: The haftarah tells about the fall of Sisera and the Song of Devorah the Prophetess, similar to the parashah which tells about the fall of Pharaoh and his army and the Song of Moshe and Bnei Yisrael at the Sea.
Words of Our Sages
Hashem provides and man is just a messenger
“Behold! I am going to rain down for you bread from heaven, and the people shall go out and gather what is needed for the day, so that I can test them” (Shemot 16:4)
Rashi cites the words of the Mechilta: What is needed for the day: Heb. דְבַר יוֹם בְּיוֹמוֹ , lit., the thing of a day in its day. What is needed for a day’s eating they will gather on its day, but they will not gather today for the needs of tomorrow. Mechilta also adds: What is needed for the day: The One Who created the day creates its sustenance. Thus, Rabbi Elazar Hamoda’i would say: Whoever has what to eat today, but says “What will I eat tomorrow,” is lacking faith.
The gaon Rabbi Refael David Auerbach, zt”l, relates: There was a story that took place with two families whose children got engaged to each other. The two mechutanim came together to the Chazon Ish to receive his blessings and advice on how to share the burden of the enormous expenses for an apartment and for the wedding.
The Chazon Ish turned to one of the mechutanim and told him: You should take upon yourself to cover the expense of the apartment!”
Then he turned to the other mechutan and told him: And you should take upon yourself to cover the expense of the wedding and the furniture.” When the first mechutan recovered somewhat from his shock at hearing of the gigantic responsibility he faced, he asked the Chazon Ish: “Rabbi, How can I possibly pay such an enormous expense!”
The Chazon Ish responded: “Do you think you are the one who provides? It is Hashem Who provides, and you are merely His messenger to carry out His will. So, what do you care if I appointed you to be in charge of buying the apartment…? However, if you strongly object and do not want to be the messenger to buy the apartment, but want something less expensive, then I will switch the obligations”…
Then, to the astonishment of the second mechutan, the Chazon Ish turned to him and said: “Now you are in charge of buying the apartment, and the first mechutan is the messenger for paying the wedding expenses and buying furniture”…
The second mechutan, who was a clever man, said: “If the Rabbi can appoint me to be the messenger to buy the apartment, then why not appoint me as a messenger to take care of other things as well!” The Chazon Ish replied: “You are really right. Therefore, I am appointing you to be the messenger for everything! You will also buy the apartment and also pay for the wedding and furniture.”
The first mechutan, listening to the dialogue, felt uncomfortable and ashamed. He turned to the Chazon Ish and said: “Rabbi, for the wedding and the furniture I do agree to take responsibility.”
The Chazon Ish told him: “It is too late now. The second mechutan already accepted the mission for taking care of everything!” And so it was. The second mechutan succeeded in all his endeavors, and obtained the funds necessary to cover all the expenses in a supernatural manner…
Guard Your Tongue
Protecting himself for the future
We can see clearly that one who listens to lashon hara, even though he does not intend to believe it, becomes an assistant to crime.
Because if once [the gossiper] will see that the listener is paying attention to him, he will not shut his mouth ever, and the next day he will continue in his corrupt behavior to gossip about his fellow and fabricate tales. But, if he will respond to him by saying “I don’t want to hear something that you did not witness personally,” or if he will give him a look of disgust, then he will spare himself from hearing slander in the future, because the gossiper will see that he is being condemned for his slander, and he is viewed as a “ba’al lashon hara” (gossiper) because of it.
>Rabbi David Hanania Pinto
The connection between finding one’s spouse, making a living, and the Splitting of the Sea
“And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the Lord led the sea with the strong east wind all night, and He made the sea into dry land and the waters split” (Shemot 14:21)
Chazal say that finding one’s spouse is as difficult as the Splitting of the Sea, and also making a living is as difficult as the Splitting of the Sea.
We need to clarify what is the common denominator between making a living and finding a spouse, since they are compared to each other in being as difficult as Splitting the Sea. Furthermore, we need to clarify why the difficulty of making a living and finding a spouse is compared to the difficulty of Splitting the Sea?
I would like to suggest that when Bnei Yisrael stood at the Sea and the Egyptians pursued them, they did not imagine in their wildest dreams that Hashem would split the Sea for them and they would be saved in this way. Therefore, they began to plead to their Father in Heaven to deliver them.
Indeed, Bnei Yisrael believed wholeheartedly that Hashem would save them from the Egyptians. After all, if Hashem would not have intended to save them from the Egyptians, then why had He redeemed them from Egypt in such a miraculous manner? But aside from their belief, Am Yisrael had no clue from where their salvation would come.
I think that finding a spouse and making a living is compared to the Splitting of the Sea since in these two areas a person does not know from where his salvation will come. It may be that in the area that a person invests all his energies and strength in the development of a particular business, or a particular investment in something where he believes he will earn a flourishing income, in the end, the Master of the world causes his livelihood to come from an entirely different source, which he never dreamed of, just as the Splitting of the Sea, where Bnei Yisrael did not dream that their salvation would come from.
Similarly, when finding a spouse, sometimes a person feels that he is in charge and it is up to him to decide who is his right partner; who is the one meant for him. But in reality Hashem sees to the heart of a person and recognizes his essence and his inherent characteristics. Therefore, He presents to the person a spouse most suitable for him, who is capable of helping him, with his cooperation, to establish a beautiful home enabling him to perfect his character traits.
Even if at first glance it seems to the person that his wife is not compatible and reacts by treating her harshly, making it difficult for them to remain together, he must have faith that just as Am Yisrael did not believe that their salvation would come from the direction of the Sea, but nevertheless they were saved by it, so too, Hashem arranged that this woman should be his partner in life, since only she is suitable and proper for him, even though it is not obvious at first glance.
A person will achieve success only if he believes that success comes from Hashem. But if he stubbornly argues that only in such and such a way he will get what he needs, it is a sign that he believes in himself and not in Hashem. Ultimately he will not meet with success.
We are all certainly familiar with Chazal’s explanation of the pasuk: “Pitchu she’arim v’yavo goy tzaddik shomer emunim – Open the gates, so the righteous nation, keeper of the faith, may enter.” They suggest, do not read the words as “shomer emunim – keeper of faith” but as “she’omrim Amenim – saying Amen.”
The meaning of the word “goy – nation” in this pasuk refers to many people. The author of “Shomer Emunim” questions, we must clarify why this is so, since the pasuk is talking about a single person who answers Amen. Subsequently, it should state: “v’yavo ish tzaddik she’omer Amenim – the individual tzaddik who says Amen may enter.”
Rabbi Shemuel Rozovsky, zt”l, explains this according to what is stated in the gemara (Eiruvin) about Rabbi Preida, who demonstrated outstanding dedication in teaching his student the lesson 400 extra times, and merited a Heavenly Voice declaring that he will be granted both rewards [suggested to him] and in addition, Rabbi Preida and his entire generation would gain entry to the World to Come.
This signifies that by performing a mitzvah with dedication, a person can gain merit, not only for himself, but also for others. This is supported by the pasuk that states: “Ish emunot rav berachot – A trustworthy man will have many blessings.” Whoever is trustworthy, Hashem brings blessing [to the world] through him. “Trustworthy” refers to one who makes every effort to this end, as he would for a very close soul mate. This teaches us that “Ish emunot – a trustworthy man” who meticulously answers “Amen” – with great devotion brings merit to his entire generation. Through the deliberate choice of words in the pasuk “v’yavo goy tzaddik – so the righteous nation may enter” which is referring to many people, we learn that by answering Amen meticulously he brings merit to the public. This virtue of being “Ish emunot – a trustworthy man” causes blessing to rain down from Heaven of goodness and prosperity to all mankind, and Hashem brings blessing specifically through him.
The Gates of Gan Eden are Opened for Him
Raish Lakish says: “Whoever answers Amen meticulously, the gates of Gan Eden are opened for him.” The Maharsha, in his commentary on the words of Chazal asks: Why did Raish Lakish say “the gates of Gan Eden are opened for him” – in the plural form? This teaches us that one who answers Amen meticulously merits not only to have the gate of Gan Eden opened for him, but also many gates in Gan Eden are opened. This implies that inside Gan Eden there are gates within the gates, and all these gates open for him.
Why so many? – Rabbi Shemuel Rozovsky asks: Is answering Amen so difficult, requiring so much effort to the extent that one who answers Amen merits such an enormous reward? However, the main emphasis is not only upon the one who “answers Amen,” which is a great virtue in its own right, but on “meticulously” – which is a condition for this remarkable reward. One must answer with deliberate intention and concentration, investing all his energies.
And what are the gates of Gan Eden that are opened before him? The Zohar says: When a person who was meticulous to answer Amen leaves this world, there is a heavenly proclamation that announces: “Open the gates” before him, just as he would open the gates every day when he was meticulous in answering Amen.
Which gates are opened before him?
The Zohar says: The gates of prayer – when a person encounters hardship and he prays to the Creator of the World, a Voice proclaims throughout all the worlds “Open gates;” just as Yisrael opened the gates of blessing by answering Amen after blessings, so now, open the gates and their prayers will be accepted.
Tu B’Shevat – The Potential of This Day
Parashat Beshalach is read every year close to the fifteenth of Shevat.
On this day, which is the New Year for trees, it is customary to prepare a spread of all kinds of fruit in order to praise and thank Hashem for the trees.
However, on the Festival of Shavuot, the Day of Judgment for the fruit, we decorate our Beit Haknesset with branches of trees.
The Admor of Satmar, zt”l, asks: It seems like the custom should be just the opposite; on Shavuot, the Day of Judgment for the fruit, we should eat the fruit of the trees, and on the fifteenth of Shevat, which is the New Year for the trees, we should decorate our homes with branches of trees.
It is a good question which also has a brilliant answer:
The trees symbolize parents, and the fruit symbolize children.
On the fifteenth of Shevat, the “trees” are judged, which corresponds to the parents, so although the parents themselves do not possess merits in their own right, but in the merit of educating their children and investing in their “fruit” (their children), they merit much goodness and blessing.
But on the Festival of Shavuot the “fruit” are judged, which corresponds to the children themselves. Then they, seeking support, bring the “trees,” which are the merits of their forefathers, in order to be granted prosperity.
Men of Faith
Hard times came upon Morocco. Half the month of Adar Bet had already elapsed and not a drop of rain had fallen to dampen the earth.
The Jews of Mogador approached Rabbi Chaim Hagadol, beseeching him to save them from their troubles and pray for them. There was already a great shortage of wheat, and with tears streaming from their faces they begged the tzaddik to arouse Heavenly mercy.
Rabbi Chaim declared, “Tomorrow, everyone should gather in the Beit Hakeneset. Do not eat or drink. Immerse yourselves in prayer and afterward head toward the cemetery, where we will await Hashem’s salvation.”
The next day, there was a public announcement about the mandatory fast day designated for communal prayer. The crowd gathered in the Beit Hakeneset to pray, and when they concluded their supplications, everyone went to the cemetery, with Rabbi Chaim heading the procession.
Rabbi Chaim stood next to one of the tombstones and asked his attendant to proclaim loudly, “Adar Bet is excommunicated! Adar Bet is excommunicated! Adar Bet is excommunicated!”
The attendant did as he was told, even though he did not understand the extraordinary procedures, which were way beyond his grasp. Just as he was waiting to see how things would develop, Rabbi Chaim called out in a loud voice, “Adar Bet, we allow you; Adar Bet, we forgive you; Adar Bet, we permit you,” just as one states in the procedure for annulling vows.
Rabbi Chaim concluded the ritual and turned to go home, with all the people following behind him.
As the congregants made their way to their homes, the skies suddenly opened, and torrents of rain came pouring down.
It is told that before the people were able to reach their homes, their clothing was soaked from the rain that descended in the merit of the tzaddik’s prayers.