Ki-Tisa - Parah
March 18th, 2017
20th of Adar 5777
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Teshuvah Radiates a Shine
Rabbi David Hanania Pinto
“See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Chur, of the tribe of Yehudah” (Shemot 31:2)
From this pasuk we learn of the importance of giving a name. Hashem said to Moshe, “Re’eh – see,” implying that he should contemplate the name of this person who hides himself. He is as if in the shade; although he is only twelve years old, he is exceptionally great and knows the codes of Hashem’s Names. He is “ben Uri – the son of Uri” (lit. light), since a great light radiates from him. “Ben Chur – the son of Chur,” (lit. hole) which signifies that he is great despite hiding himself in “holes” and crevices.
We find (Yoma 83b) that Rabbi Meir researched names, and he would expound on the names of people. According to this he would reveal his essence and would know who the person standing before him is. Thus, Betzalel radiated light which was reflected on his countenance in the merit of his humility, since he would hide himself humbly, as if he were a shadow. On the other hand, we find further on in the parashah, “And Moshe did not know that the skin of his face had become radiant while He had spoken with him,” implying that also Moshe merited this. Where they both on the same level? The answer is that Moshe was more humble, since regarding Betzalel the word “shadow” is used regarding him, however in reference to Moshe, even the word “shadow” was not used to describe him. Moshe said about himself and Aharon his brother (Shemot 16:7), “ונחנו מה – but [of] what [significance] are we.” The word מה (what) has the numerical value of אדם (man), since he did not refer anything to himself, not even that he was a shadow. This was the perception of the master of all prophets. In the merit of his absolute humbleness, Hashem rested His Shechinah upon him, and thus his face radiated light.
We can also infer that the skin of Moshe’s face literally shone by the words of Hashem to Moshe (Shemot 32:10), “Now leave Me alone… so that I will annihilate them, and I will make you into a great nation,” and in the following pasuk it is stated, “Moshe pleaded before the Lord, his G-d.” As we know, the words of the holy Torah are absolutely true and real. We must study them and try to imagine the scene they present. For example, we should imagine how Avraham Avinu, a”h, sat at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day, in tremendous pain after circumcising himself, but yet did not pay heed to the discomfort, since his entire objective was to perform the mitzvah of hachnasat orchim (hospitality). He longed for the moment that guests would enter the four doors of his tent, even though no one was able to leave their house because of the intense heat that day. Likewise, when he was commanded about sacrificing his only beloved son, Yitzchak Avinu, a”h, he devoted himself entirely to fulfilling the commandment and did not question the will of Hashem, his Master, but wholeheartedly and willingly gave his life for it.
Hashem told Moshe, “So that I will annihilate them, and I will make you into a great nation,” and following immediately it is stated, “ויחל משה – Moshe pleaded” (חול lit. means profane). He regarded himself as profane (חולין), as a person who has nothing to him. Because of this virtue of humility, he did not even consider himself like a shadow, as Betzalel did, but declared “ונחנו מה – but [of] what [significance] are we,” and perceived himself as חולין – a nonentity; something totally insignificant. Therefore, Moshe Rabbeinu merited his face shining and radiating the light of the Shechinah. As we know, when a tzaddik hides himself – Hashem desires to grant him honor, and the skin of his face radiates light.
For this reason, when a person learns Torah, which requires the height of humility, Hashem illuminates his face. Generally we do not merit seeing this light, but there are times when we perceive this light by great tzaddikim, or by a person who fulfills a mitzvah wholeheartedly with intense devotion. I remember that once when I entered the room of my teacher and master, Rabbi Chaim Shmuel Lopian, zt”l, I was struck by the shining light that was radiating from his face. This light is not a physical light, but a spiritual light, resulting from toil in Torah and laboring in it, which causes the face to radiate.
Once a simple person approached me and told me happily, “Honorable Rabbi, here are the Tithes that I saved up in order to contribute to your institutions of Torah and chessed.” Even though this man was not wealthy, and he did not donate a considerable sum of money to tzedaka, he gave it with great joy, and the radiance on his face from this mitzvah was obvious. This is how Hashem created and established His world, that the light of Torah and mitzvot would be evident on the face of a person.
Walking in Their Ways
Short on Cash, Rich in Lessons
I once asked a disciple to buy ten plane tickets for me, totaling close to five thousand dollars. I handed him the money, and he went to the travel agency to do my bidding. When he finished the deal, he put his hand into his pocket to pay for the tickets. To his dismay, he was short two dollars.
What is two dollars in comparison to five thousand? My disciple asked the company representative if he could overlook the two dollars. But the representative replied that he was not authorized to do this. None of the other employees agreed to forego the elusive two dollars and refused to give him the tickets until he paid in full.
My devoted disciple came back to me and related the entire incident. He apologized for coming back empty-handed, but he had no other choice. I was quite surprised by his tale. The travel agency accrues revenues in the thousands, yet insists on a measly two dollars, even though they might lose out on a five-thousand dollar deal.
Just as the travel agency does not dismiss an income of even two dollars, so must we approach mitzvot. Even if a mitzvah seems paltry, its value is tremendous. We must make every effort to fulfill it properly.
Everyone will eventually travel on his Final Journey via the Heavenly Travel Agency. Once at his destination, there will be no concessions. If a mitzvah is lacking proper intent, or was not done perfectly, one will give a full accounting for the lack.
For this reason, our Sages exhort us (Avot 2:1), “Be as scrupulous in performing a minor mitzvah as in a major one, for you do not know the reward given for respective mitzvot. Calculate the cost of a mitzvah against its reward, and the reward of a sin against its cost.”
Words of Our Sages
In the Merit of the Yeshiva Students
“When He had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, He gave Moshe the two tablets of the testimony, stone tablets, written with the finger of God” (Shemot 31:18)
A delegation of several of the country’s top military officials came to the house of the gaon of Tchebin, Rabbi Dov Berish Weidenfeld, zt”l, to speak to him about the security situation.
After explaining to him the difficult security situation and the dangers hovering over the citizens and the need to increase the military force, they dared to persuade him to agree that the students of the sacred Yeshivot should join the army.
The Rabbi of Tchebin answered them and told them the following:
I would like to tell you a true story:
A wagon carrying heavy cargo began climbing up a high mountain. The ride up the mountain was not easy, and the wagon progressed with difficulty, until finally the horses stopped halfway, with no strength to continue their climb.
The coachman stepped out and began to unload the heavy packages in order to make it easier for the horses to proceed, but to no avail. The coachman finished unloading all the cargo, but still the wagon remained stuck.
In desperation he decided to disassemble the wheels, assuming that they were placing a heavy burden on the weight of the wagon, since they were made of iron and were very heavy. The coachman believed that after he would remove the wheels of the wagon, it would move.
“So too, you seek to remove the wheels of the wagon,” the Rabbi of Tchebin explained.
In the merit of the students learning in Yeshiva the entire world exists, and in their merit Hashem leads His “wagon” with Divine Providence.
David Hamelech, a”h, said: “Our feet were standing within your gates, O Jerusalem.” In which merit were “our feet standing” during war? In the merit of the “gates of Jerusalem” which were engaged in Torah.
The haftarah of the week: “And the word of the Lord came to me, saying” (Yechezkiel 36)
The connection to the parashah: This Shabbat we read “Parashat Para” which discusses the mitzvah of Parah Adumah (Red Heifer) and the purification process using the ashes of the Heifer. Similarly, it is mentioned in the haftarah that Hashem will purify Bnei Yisrael in the future.
Rabbi David Hanania Pinto
Eliminating the Avodah Zara of the Second Millenium
I would like to suggest, with the help of Hashem, that the reason for the juxtaposition between the mitzvah of Shabbat and the Giving of the Torah to Moshe Rabbeinu, and the sin of the Golden Calf is because the Torah is hinting to us what the reason was for the Sin of the Golden Calf, the serious sin that did not reflect the high level that Bnei Yisrael had achieved. It was because they did not perceive the mitzvah of Shabbat and the Giving of the Torah as a unique gift. Hence their spiraling decline, until they came to actually worship idols. From this we learn that as long as a person observes the mitzvot with true joy and perceives them as a gift from Hashem, he will be saved from sin.
It’s important to know that the Sin of the Golden Calf has not been entirely lost in the world. True that today there are no people in our circles who worship idols and bow down to them literally. However, the Avodah Zara of our generation is in the form of offensive media and technological advancement which has brought a spiritual holocaust upon many good people, Rachmana litzlan. Likewise, the pursuit of wealth and lust for money also is a form of Avodah Zara itself which belongs to our generation. Against all the difficult spiritual challenges we face, we must reflect and appreciate the valuable gift that Hashem in His great mercy granted us of mitzvot which purify our souls. Through this we can defeat the Yetzer Hara – the instigator of corruption.
I remember that a simple man approached me and told me with a shining countenance that he was about to make a siyum.
At first I thought he was talking about a siyum on Mishnayot or a siyum on a masechta of Gemara. However, it became clear to me that he was actually making a siyum on the entire Shas! When I asked him how he merited accomplishing this, he told me that despite his flourishing business, and although he often travels distances, far from his fixed shiur, he would overcome fatigue and in every place he was, he accessed his shiur. In this way he was able to set fixed times for Torah study until he succeeded in finishing the entire Shas.
It seems that this special person delighted in Torah, which was a more precious gift to him than his material business, because only the holy Torah will accompany him after a hundred and twenty years when he dies.
In fact, the holy Torah is referred to as the “Torah of Truth,” and when a person engages in it he sees the truth of Hashem, and subsequently he is drawn to it more and more. This in itself requires him to be careful to try not to let the Yetzer Hara’s schemes disturb him from his sacred studies. The more one devotes himself to his Torah studies and performance of mitzvot, certainly he will merit enormous salvations.
The gaon and tzaddik, Rabbi Yaakov Edelstein of Ramat Hasharon, zt”l, got sick not so long ago and lost his voice. Thereafter, he communicated with people through writing.
One day, an innovative treatment was recommended to the Rabbi, which could possibly take months, that would enable him to express himself verbally once more, but only two words. After brief contemplation, the Rabbi decided that he wanted to learn how to utter the two words, “Amen” and “thank you.”
This devotion to Hashem is reinforced by the words of the prophet Yeshayahu (Yeshayahu 26:2) “Pitchu she’arim v’yavo goy tzaddik shomer emunim – Open the gates, so the righteous nation, a keeper of the faith, may enter.” “Goy” refers to an entire nation in the plural form, whereas “shomer emunim – a keeper of the faith” refers to a single individual.
Allegedly it should have stated “v’yavo goy tzaddik shomrei emunim - so the righteous nation, keepers of the faith, may enter,” in the plural form. Why did the pasuk begin speaking about an entire nation and conclude in the single form?
Rabbi Shmuel Rozovsky, zt”l, the Rosh Yeshiva of Ponovezh explains this beautifully:
The gemara (Eiruvin 54b) relates about Rabbi Preida, that in the merit of his exceptional dedication in teaching his student and repeating the lesson that he found difficult to understand after the first four hundred times, another four hundred times, Rabbi Preida merited a Heavenly Voice declaring that he 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 his entire generation.
Therefore, also in this pasuk it is stated, “v’yavo goy tzaddik shomer emunim.” “Shomer ha’emunim” is in the plural form, because even by one individual answering “Amen” with all his might, he brings merit to his entire generation, granting them a portion in the World to Come.
Hereby it is also clear why our Sages stress that the word “she’arim” in the above pasuk is in the plural form. This is because when one answers “Amen” he opens many gates in Gan Eden for his entire generation.
Also in His Lifetime He Merits Seeing
Rabbi Pinchas of Koretz once told his followers that he saw a tzaddik who was in Gan Eden.
One of the followers asked him, “But we see our teacher is here with us!”
Rabbi Pinchas explained to him: Our Sages of blessed memory said that “anyone who answers Amen with all his might, the gates of Gan Eden are opened for him” (Shabbat 119b). This means that whoever answers Amen with all his might, as our Sages describe, with the proper intentions, he merits seeing the gates of Heaven opening for him and observing what transpires Above. Our Sages did not exaggerate at all; just we have not merited this.
Furthermore, it is told regarding this matter that the gaon Rabbi Baruch Frankel Te’omim, the Rabbi of Leipnik, was once at a feast of a Brit Milah, and suddenly a smile played on his lips.
To the puzzlement of the guests he explained that he smiled about something that he saw in the Upper world.
When one guest asked him: “Why did I not merit seeing what is happening in the Upper world?” Rabbi Baruch answered: “Our Sages said (Shabbat 119b) that ‘anyone who answers Amen with all his might, the gates of Gan Eden are opened for him,’ and the Sages did not say that this would occur only after his death, but even while he is alive in this world, he will merit having the gates of Gan Eden opened for him, and he will see what is happening Above, if he will only be meticulous in answering Amen with all his might.”
Men of Faith
There is an amazing account describing what transpired on the day of Rabbi David Chazan’s demise:
Rabbi David came to Marrakesh together with Rabbi Chaim Pinto Hagadol upon the request of the governor of the city, who wanted the holy tzaddikim to serve as judges in the hearing of a wealthy man, Rabbi Chaim Ben Bakhas.
When they arrived in the city, it was time to pray. In the midst of the Shemoneh Esrei prayer, Rabbi David Chazan’s neshamah departed in holiness and purity.
The members of the Chevrah Kadisha approached the body to begin the purification process and bury him. However, to their astonishment, they were not able to proceed. Whoever came near the holy body of Rabbi David promptly got knocked down. This occurred to the first person, the second, and all others.
The members of the Chevrah Kadisha realized that there were mysterious circumstances preventing them from burying Rabbi David Chazan. They hurried to Rabbi Chaim Hagadol to tell him about the strange series of events.
He thought for a moment and then told them, “Rabbotai, you should know that I shared a deep secret with Rabbi David Chazan. Now that he has departed to the Heavenly Spheres, I can reveal it to you.
“Whoever will approach his body will immediately fall. However, there is only one way to conduct the taharah and arrange for his burial. His body must be bathed with his own tears, the tears that flowed freely from his eyes while crying every night during the tikkun chatzot prayers, in grief over the destruction of the Temple.
“These tears,” Rabbi Chaim explained, “are found in a special jar in his house in Mogador. Go quickly to Mogador and bring the jar, and then you will be able to arrange the taharah properly.”
The members of the Chevrah Kadisha were confounded by the tzaddik’s suggestion. “How can we possibly fetch something from Mogador? It is very far from here, and it will take a few days to travel there and back. Leaving the body without burial during this time is a desecration of the deceased.”
Rabbi Chaim agreed that it was not appropriate to allow the deceased to remain unburied for such an extended period. He entered his room to reconsider the situation and then emerged and announced, “Wait a few moments, and the jar will come to you.”
Rabbi Chaim strode over to the Beit Hakeneset Alazama, in Marrakesh, and opened the Aron Hakodesh with awe. When he emerged, he was holding the jar filled with the tears of Rabbi David Chazan.
Rabbi Chaim Pinto handed them the jar, to their absolute amazement. The members of the Chevrah Kadisha first immersed themselves in the mikveh, in order to purify themselves in honor of the deceased. Afterward, they bathed the holy body of Rabbi David in his tears. Miraculously, the tears in the jar sufficed for the entire washing process.
Then, the body of Rabbi David Chazan was finally brought to its burial. Throngs of people came to accompany him in Marrakesh, where he had departed suddenly, in fulfillment of the pasuk, “He will come in peace; they will rest on their resting places – he who walks in his integrity.”
Food For Thought
Instead of a Letter of Recommendation
A kind Jew once raised a girl who was orphaned from her father and mother.
When she grew older and began searching for her intended match, the kind Jew undertook to raise the sum of twenty thousand dollars for her wedding expenses and for an apartment. This person asked me to come with him to the home of Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, the Rosh Yeshiva of Kol Torah, in order to get a letter of recommendation to help him collect the necessary funds.
Rabbi Shlomo Zalman heard his cause and enthusiastically encouraged him on his undertaking of raising an orphan and taking care of her needs.
Then he turned to him and asked: “So, what do you request?” The man answered: “I would like a letter of recommendation.”
Said Rabbi Shlomo Zalman dismissively, “If you had a letter of recommendation, would you get the money?!”
“Why would people give you?! Would a contractor give you a discount because of my letter?! Instead of asking for a letter of recommendation, ask for money!”
The man accepted the Rabbi’s advice and requested a donation for hachnasat kallah in helping fund the wedding expenses for the orphan. Rabbi Shlomo Zalman asked him what sum he had undertaken to collect. Then he told him, “Come back to me in three days.”
Three days later, the man knocked on the door of Rabbi Shlomo Zalman. He received him warmly and went off into the next room. A few moments later, he returned to him with a sum of money, not less than twenty thousand dollars!