Ha'azinu - Shabat Shuva

September 23rd, 2017

3rd of Tishri 5777


Man’s Mission in This World

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

“Listen, O heavens, and I will speak! And let the earth hear the words of my mouth!” (Devarim 32:1)

The commentaries ask, what is the connection between the heavens and earth and the admonishment for Am Yisrael?

There are those who explain that the heavens and earth are an allegory to man; man is composed of two parts – the upper part, which is spiritual, and the lower part, which is physical. This is similar to the account of Yiravam ben Nevat, when Hashem “seized” him and urged him, “Repent, then I, you, and the son of Yishai [i.e. David] will walk in the Garden of Eden” (Sanhedrin 102a). What exactly does it mean that Hashem “seized” Yiravam? Why would Hashem need to seize him? Certainly the word just serves as a parable for us to understand what happened, as we find many times in the Torah, as in “My wrath will be kindled” (Shemot 22:23) and “The strong Hand” (Devarim 34:12) etc., which are metaphorical.

This implies that Hashem said to Yeravam – “Let us strengthen My connection to your upper part, which is the neshamah, and it will be considered as if I “seized” you. This is also the implication of one who does teshuvah. The person leaves his old ways and returns to reconnect to his upper portion, which is the neshamah. The earth symbolizes the physical lower part of man, and when Moshe came to rebuke Bnei Yisrael, he spoke also to the body and also to the soul, so that they should hear what he wants to testify to them, and he likened them to heaven and earth.

Thus, we can explain the reason for the exile that Hashem decreed upon Bnei Yisrael when Avraham asked, “How will I know that I will inherit it?" (Bereishit 15:8). Why was this reason for punishment? After all, he just asked how he would know, so why was he punished? Actually, Avraham sensed the extraordinary holiness of Eretz Yisrael and wanted to know how Bnei Yisrael would be able to connect to themselves and bond with Eretz Yisrael. Regarding this Hashem answered him, “And they will enslave them and oppress them.” This signifies that Eretz Yisrael will be acquired through the suffering of the exile, and not be acquired easily, as Chazal say (Berachot 5a), “The Holy One, blessed be He, gave Israel three precious gifts, and all of them were given only through sufferings. These are: The Torah, the Land of Israel and the World to Come.” The suffering creates the bond to Eretz Yisrael by causing them to strengthen their spiritual (heavenly) component and weakening the physical (earthly) portion. In this way they will merit the Land of Israel, where Hashem’s “Eyes” are always focused.

Chazal say (Berachot 33b), “Everything is in the Hand of Heaven except the fear of Heaven.” This sounds surprising, since if everything is in the Hands of Heaven, meaning all great things and small things one needs, whether physical or spiritual, then how come the thing that is most Heavenly, which is the fear of Heaven is not in the Hands of Heaven?

Perhaps this is because fear of Heaven is dependent upon free choice of man, and Hashem does not want to interfere with the choice of man. Since man himself is partially heavenly, because his neshamah is a G-dly portion from Above, therefore Hashem provides man with all his needs, whether spiritual or physical, in order that man should not claim that he did not achieve fear of Heaven and could not serve Hashem properly because he was lacking his needs. Therefore Hashem provides man with everything, and the only expectation from him is that he demonstrate fear of Heaven, which is what he needs to work on; just as Hashem granted Adam rule over the entire world and provided him with everything only in order to fulfill one mitzvah. This is why every person receives everything from Hashem, and he has only one issue to labor over by himself, which is fear of Heaven. He is composed of a Heavenly portion from Above and the earthly physical body, and all that he is required to do is to connect and join them together to serve Hashem.

This is what Moshe implied when he said, “Listen, O heavens, and I will speak! And let the earth hear the words of my mouth!” (Devarim 32:1), meaning that Moshe begs the neshamah within the material body to listen to the Voice of Hashem and join together to serve Hashem. Just like the heavens and the earth exist forever and they are witnesses that Moshe admonished the nation before his death, so too the neshamah is eternal, and even the body, despite the fact that it eventually perishes and is buried, since a part of it lasts forever; they too will testify that they heard Moshe’s admonishment to always go in the ways of Hashem, for otherwise, many troubles will befall the people and they will not experience blessings throughout their lives.

Words of Our Sages

How does our Yom Kippur look?

“Return, O Israel, to the L-rd your G-d, for you have stumbled in your iniquity. Take words with yourselves and return to the Lord. Say, ‘You shall forgive all iniquity and teach us [the] good [way], and let us render [for] bulls [the offering of] our lips.’” (Hoshea 14:2-3)

We shall begin with the parable of the maggid Rabbi Yakov Galinsky, zt”l:

There was a simple villager who had an ignorant, uneducated son, who had never left the village. When the son came of marriageable age; his father recommended his son highly to a respectable family from the large city. The family wanted to see what the prospective groom was all about, and they invited him to visit their large city. The father, who knew his son’s foolishness; that he did not know Chumash, nor Mishnah, nor proper conduct, and had spent his life in the company of cows and chickens, began teaching him acceptable manners and social graces:

Listen my son, when you meet them and they will greet you by saying “Shalom Aleichem,” reach out your hand and answer, “Aleichem Shalom – how are you?”

When they ask you how your trip was, you should respond, “Baruch Hashem.”

When they will show you the room they assigned for you, tell them, “Thank you very much.”

When you go to sleep, say, “Good evening to all of you.”

When you arise, you shall say, “Tzafra taba – good morning! Did you sleep well?”

And so on, the father prepared his son with everything that an intelligent person from the city would say. In order to be sure that his son would not falter, he ordered him to repeat what he taught him one hundred and one times, until he knew them by heart…

The groom traveled to the big city and arrived at the home of the family, which was filled with all their relatives and acquaintances, who had come to meet the guest. Everyone sat around a table laden with all delicacies, and the groom appeared. He went over to his future father-in-law, reached out his hand and said eloquently with confidence:

“Aleichem Shalom, how are you? Baruch Hashem! Thank you, good evening to all of you, tzafra taba – good morning, did you sleep well?”

The father-in-law’s face turned pale, while the groom reached his hand to the person on his right and repeated his refrain. Then he turned to the next person and to the next, repeating his words again and again, happily and cheerfully. The guests were divided in their reaction: laughing and crying…

And the parable: Repenting is not easy. One must conduct soul-searching, locate the cause for the delinquency, and figure out how to repair the problem, and in which way to improve his ways and elevate himself. This is hard work; slow and prolonged, which begins in the month of Elul, and continues throughout the days of forgiveness, during the Ten Days of Repentances, until Yom Kippur, which concludes the period of forty days of confession and prayer. But those who remain indifferent and aloof during the month of Elul, during the days of Selichot and the Ten days of Repentance, and they come on Yom Kippur to conduct a quick race through the prayers and confessions, during five prayers and ten confessions, they resemble the ignorant village boy who opened his mouth and said in one breath: Shalom Aleichem, good evening…

This is what the pasuk implies: “Return, O Israel, to the L-rd your G-d.” One must repent before he stands before Hashem on Yom Kippur. First he must engage in soul-searching and figure out how to improve “for you have stumbled in your iniquity,” and afterward, “take words with yourselves,” and ask forgiveness during the prayers of the holy day and during confessional, and “Say, ‘You shall forgive all iniquity.’” If so, you will achieve, “the good way”… 

The Haftarah

The haftarah of the week: “Return O Israel” (Hoshea 14, Michah 7)

The connection to this Shabbat: This haftarah is read on Shabbat Shuva – the Shabbat between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, since it discusses the issue of Teshuvah, and these days are the days of repentance and forgiveness for Am Yisrael.

Guard Your Tongue

Even if he does not speak disparagingly

Who is referred to as a “gossiper”?

One who peddles gossip from one to another and goes and says: This is what so-and-so said about you; this is what so-and-so did to you; such and such I heard that he did to you, or intends to do to you.

Even if there is no derision in what he is relating about his fellow, even according to the gossiper, and if one would ask the fellow if what was said was true, he would not deny it, the peddler is still considered a “gossiper.”

Walking in Their Ways

Secure in Mitzvot

I once attended a hachnasat Sefer Torah in a large hotel in Israel. Important dignitaries were in attendance, such as the president, Moshe Katzav, as well as the Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon. Members of the Knesset participated, as well.

We had to undergo security check-in as we entered the hotel lobby. Everyone who came in was scrupulously frisked for weapons.

When it was my turn to be checked, my escorts protested, claiming it did not behoove a representative of the Torah to be frisked like a commoner. But I insisted that this was a formality for the sake of security. We are taught (Avot 2:5), “Do not separate yourself from the community.” I therefore forewent my honor.

After passing through the required security, we entered the hotel lobby and waited for the national dignitaries to arrive. I noticed that they were spared from frisking. The entire reason for the heavy security was for their sake; certainly, they themselves did not need to be checked.

At that moment, I thought of the difference between Yisrael and the nations of the world. Just as this security check was performed for the sake of the esteemed political figures, so, too, was the entire world created only for the sake of the Torah and Am Yisrael.

But then I was troubled by another thought: If the entire world exists for the sake of Am Yisrael, why is it that every nation has some sort of criticism against us? Why are we always forced to defend ourselves and make excuses for our actions?

The answer lies in the following: When Am Yisrael observe the Torah, they are worthy of sustaining the entire world. But when they sin, the nations overcome them. They simply do not recognize them as Children of Hashem. That is when we are forced to defend ourselves in every area. It is our moral obligation to learn Torah and keep mitzvot, for these are the only things which will provide us with the respect of the nations.

Chazak U’Baruch

In the month of November, 2009, there was a drought, and the Rabbi of the community, Rabbi Yitzchak Zilberstein, shlit”a, enlisted the children of his neighborhood, Ramat Elchanan, to pray for rain that was so vital during this period for the whole Land of Israel. Rabbi Zilberstein asked all the children to gather together next to the Aron Hakodesh while reciting the last two Kaddishim during the Maariv service on the eve of Shabbat and to answer “Amen, y’hei Shmei Rabbah” together with intense concentration and in a loud voice.

“This initiative,” the Rabbi said, "came about after we heard that it was done in some of the large Batei Midrashot of Yerushalayim. One scholar said that after he heard from Rabbi Aharon Leib Steinman, shlit”a, about the importance of answering “Amen, y’hei Shmei Rabbah” with concentration, he gathered all the children of the Beit Hakneset in which he regularly prayed in Yerushalayim, and asked them that after the Amidah prayer, they should gather next to the Aron Hakodesh, and when Kaddish will be recited after the prayer, they should all answer “Amen, y’hei Shmei Rabbah” with concentration and in a loud voice. In this way they will also arouse the congregants to answer “Amen, y’hei Shmei Rabbah” with concentration.

It is impossible to describe the great momentum of the thundrous “Amen, y’hei Shmei Rabbah” uttered by all the children in front of the Aron Hakodesh. The voice of pure innocent children was heard from afar, and it was a great sanctification of Hashem’s Name. Chazal say, anyone who answers “Amen, y’hei Shmei Rabbah” with all his might, even a sentence of seventy years is annulled, and even more so if it said by pure innocent children in front of the Aron Hakodesh together with the congregants. The children caused the elder congregants to join in answering loudly together with them “Amen, y’hei Shmei Rabbah” with intense concentration. (“Barchi Nafshi,” Bechukotai)


An avrech from America approached Rabbi Avraham Kessler, who is close to Rabbi Steinman, shlit”a, and asked him: Please ask the Rosh Hayeshiva, Rabbi Steinman, shlit”a, to beg mercy for me. Tell him how terribly I am suffering; I am married many years and do not have children. I am deep in debt and have no way of paying up. And in addition, I was diagnosed with the dreaded disease; and these are just a few of the glaring troubles. Many more hardships are my lot, so please ask in my name what I should do, the avrech begged.

Rabbi Kessler, who prays with Rabbi Steinman in the vatikin minyan, approached him after the prayers and related everything as they were.

The Rosh Hayeshiva told him: Hashem is very fond of Am Yisrael’s declaration of “Amen, y’hei Shmei Rabbah.” When, G-d forbid there is an accusation against them, notwithstanding, when they chant the Kaddish and declare, “Amen, y’hei Shmei Rabbah” loudly and pleasantly, Hashem delights in it and overlooks all their sins. Go tell the avrech, said Rabbi Steinman to Rabbi Kessler, that reciting “Amen, y’hei Shmei Rabbah” has the power to atone for all the accusations.

Rabbi Kessler said that he immediately called the avrech and passed on the exact words of Rabbi Steinman. The man was very impressed and began to be meticulous in answering “Amen, y’hei Shmei Rabbah” with concentration. He would go from minyan to minyan in order to answer “Amen, y’hei Shmei Rabbah” with concentration, and he continued doing so for a period of time. In fact, to his amazement, in a short while all his troubles were resolved. The dreaded disease disappeared, without a trace; the debts miraculously got paid up when a member of his community approached him on his own initiative and offered him a very large loan for an indefinite period. In addition to all the salvation he experienced from Hashem, because he listened to the advice of Rabbi Steinman, shlit”a, he also was granted a child. Although many years passed, the averech continues to make rounds from minyan to minyan in order to be able to answer “Amen, y’hei Shmei Rabbah” many times, loudly and with intense concentration.


Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

It is only through Torah study that a person is saved and protected

During the days of Rachamim and Selichot it is a custom to recite perek 27 in Tehillim, “Of David, Hashem is my light and my salvation,” written by King David, sweet singer of Israel.

Thus King David said: “One thing I asked of Hashem, that shall I seek: That I dwell in the House of Hashem all the days of my life, to behold the sweetness of Hashem and to contemplate in His Sanctuary.”

David did not seek honor for himself, not grandeur, or greatness, but he only had one wish; to dwell in the House of Hashem all his life and feel excitement and enthusiasm in learning Torah and performing mitzvot, as if it was his first visit to the House of Hashem. It is not for nothing that his chapter was chosen to be recited during the Days of Rachamim, in order to arouse us and make us aware that the purpose of man in this world is to serve his Creator perfectly by dwelling in the House of Hashem and studying Torah day and night. Only through the study of Torah does a person merit safety and protection for all the limbs of his body so that they should not succumb to sin. The more a person is careful in guarding himself from sin, the more he merits to be saved from sin. Then ultimately he arrives at the Day of Judgment pure and clean.

It is a good idea to read perek 27 of Tehillim with great concentration, and not only as lip-service. Hopefully the recitation of this perek will influence us positively through the virtue of King David’s Torah and teshuvah, and his aspiration, which he aspired for all his life, to dwell in the House of Hashem and behold the sweetness of Hashem, not only during the Days of Judgment, but also during his entire life on earth.    

Food for Thought

Have patience

“My lesson will drip like rain; my word will flow like dew” (Devarim 32:2)

The following is a beautiful insight from the holy Rabbi Simchah Bunim of Peshischa:

The words of the holy Torah are like rain falling on earth.

Just like one does not immediately see the affect of rain on the plants, and only after a while the blessings of the rain are evident, since it quenches the earth, similarly, the words of the Torah take effect upon those who hearken to them. At the time when they are sounded, their positive and spiritual influence is not immediately noticed. But in the end they are destined to bring blessings upon Torah scholars.

Men of Faith

A wealthy man dreamed that the tzaddik, Rabbi Chaim Pinto, zy”a, appeared to him and told him: How can you sleep peacefully, while my son Yosef does not have the means to celebrate the approaching chag? Arise quickly and go to your attic where you will find my son’s handwritten list in which he wrote everything that he is missing for the chag.”

The man woke up and climbed to his attic. There he discovered that his dream was real. In the attic there was a detailed handwritten list of all the provisions that the tzaddik, Rabbi Yosef, zy”a, was missing for the chag. Immediately the man went to buy all the items for Rabbi Yosef, zy”a.

At the same time, Rabbi Chaim Pinto, zy”a, appeared in a dream to his son Rabbi Yosef, zy”a, and informed him that B’ezrat Hashem, in another few hours, a man will come with wagons loaded with everything he requested on his list.

Fortunate are the tzaddikim for whom the verse is fulfilled: “The will of those who fear Him He will do.”

The Arab’s Salvation

Next to the city of Mogador there was a hotel owned by an Arab from Algeria. It provided him with a profitable income. Later, when relations between Morocco and Algeria became strained, suspicions were raised about the loyalty of the owner of the hotel. Ultimately, the authorities ordered him to close it, and they canceled his license, prohibiting him from operating his business.

The Algerian Arab, who recognized the extraordinary holiness of the tzaddik, came with his wife on the hilula of Rabbi Chaim Hagadol to pray at his grave. He begged that his license be returned so that he could operate the hotel, which provided him with his livelihood. He did not suffice with his own prayers, but asked the Jews visiting the holy grave to pray for him as well. He begged that just as Hashem performs miracles for the Jews, He should also perform a miracle for the Arabs.

The very next day, he received a telegram from the government informing him that he had been chosen exclusively to operate a hotel in the area. Enclosed was an official license granting him the right to continue running his hotel business.

The Arab’s house filled with joyous celebration and boundless exhilaration and the Name of Hashem was sanctified among all the Arabs in the entire area.


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