march 26th 2011

adar II 20th 5771


by Rabbi David Hanania Pinto Shlita

It is written, “It was on the eighth day, Moshe called Aaron and his sons and the elders of Israel” (Vayikra 9:1). Rashi states that “throughout all seven days of the inauguration, when Moshe erected the Sanctuary…and dismantled it daily, the Shechinah did not rest upon it. The Israelites were humiliated and said to Moshe, ‘Moshe our teacher, all the efforts we have made were in order for the Shechinah to dwell among us, in order to know that we have been forgiven for the sin of the calf.’ Moshe therefore answered them: ‘ “This is the thing Hashem has commanded you to do; then the glory of Hashem will appear to you” [Vayikra 9:6]. My brother Aaron is more worthy and important than I, and by his offerings and service the Shechinah will dwell among you, and you will know that G-d has chosen him’ ” (Rashi on Vayikra 9:23).

This is difficult to understand. Why did Moshe wait until the eighth day of the inauguration in order for Aaron to replace him? That is, why did he make the Children of Israel wait for eight days? The Sages have said, “Wherever in Scripture we find the term vayehi, it indicates sorrow” (Megillah 10b). Here it is written, “Vayehi [It was] on the eighth day” (Vayikra 9:1), and yet we know that on that day there was as much joy before the Holy One, blessed be He, as there was on the day when He created the heavens and the earth! Therefore why does the verse use the term vayehi? Was it because Nadav and Avihu died on that day? They did not die until the end of the day, when the Sanctuary was already standing, not when it was still being erected!

It is also said, “During all seven days of the inauguration, Moshe used to erect the Sanctuary and take it apart twice each day” (Bamidbar Rabba 12:9). He did this through miracles, as the Midrash states: “When the work on the Sanctuary was completed, the Children of Israel awaited the coming of the Shechinah to dwell upon it. They went to the wise of heart and said to them, ‘Erect the Sanctuary yourselves, and the Shechinah will dwell among us!’ They wanted to erect it, but could not. They went to Betzalel and Oholiab and said to them, ‘Erect the Sanctuary that you yourselves built!’ They began to erect it, but they could not. All the Children of Israel went to find Moshe and said to him: ‘Moshe our teacher, we have done all that you have told us. Why does it not stand?’ ” (Tanchuma, Pekudei 11).

Moshe was bothered by this, so much so that the Holy One, blessed be He, said to him: “Because you suffered for not having labored or played any role in the work of the Sanctuary, all these wise men have been unable to erect it in your place, so that all Israel may know that it can only stand because of you; otherwise it will never stand. I will only allow it to stand because of you.” Moshe replied, “Sovereign of the universe, I do not know how to erect it!” He said to him, “Do what you must. It will appear that you are erecting it, but it will stand on its own, and I will write that you erected it.”

How amazing is this statement by the Midrash! If the Holy One, blessed be He, helped Moshe to erect the Sanctuary on each of the seven days of its inauguration, then why did Moshe doubt during all this time that the Shechinah would descend upon the Sanctuary on that day? After all, the fact that the Holy One, blessed be He, helped him was proof that He would make His Shechinah rest upon it! Can we say that Hashem stated, “I will dwell among them” (Shemot 25:8) and that He agreed to help Moshe erect it, but He did not keep His word or dwell there?

Don’t Lose Hope

I thought that I would explain this through the teachings of Mussar, by citing the explanation of the holy Jew of Peshischa Zatzal on the verse: “Glory in His holy Name, may the heart of those who seek Hashem be glad” (Tehillim 105:3). He states that although a person may not yet have reached lofty levels in the service of Hashem, and although he may still be searching for Him and having doubts, then if it is G-d’s will, the very fact that he is seeking Hashem will give him joy. Hence we read, “May the heart of those who seek Hashem be glad.” It is not “who have found Hashem,” but rather, “who seek Hashem.” This teaches us that G-d has great joy when a Jew seeks Him out.

Moshe also acted in this way, although he had doubts as to whether the Shechinah would descend upon the Sanctuary, for he did not know with certainty if the sin of the golden calf had been forgiven. He nevertheless did not lose hope, and for seven days he tried to erect the Sanctuary in case the Shechinah would descend upon it. Since G-d had told him to make the Sanctuary for His sake, and that the Shechinah would help him to erect it, Moshe knew what he had to do and that it was G-d’s will. However he did not know with certainty if G-d would make His Shechinah dwell upon it just because He helped him to erect it, since He helps those who seek Him, even if they do not find Him. Moshe was not afraid of wearying the Children of Israel in case the Shechinah would not descend upon the Sanctuary, since he knew that he was doing G-d’s will. He was erecting the Sanctuary despite his doubts, because when a Jew does G-d’s will – even if he has doubts about His will – Hashem still has great joy and helps him. When G-d saw that Moshe and the Children of Israel were busy erecting the Sanctuary despite their doubts, He rejoiced and helped them. Come the eighth day, Moshe saw that there was great joy before Hashem and he immediately sensed that the Shechinah would descend upon the Sanctuary on that day. He therefore told the Children of Israel, “Today Hashem will appear to you” (Vayikra 9:4).

Be that as it may, although there was great joy before G-d, there was also sorrow because the Children of Israel had sinned with the golden calf, and they had to be told to build a Sanctuary in order to atone for that sin. True, G-d had forgiven them, but their sin was not completely erased; there was still a trace of it, as it is written: “On the day that I make My account, I will bring their sin to account against them” (Shemot 32:34).

Although the Sanctuary had been erected and there was joy for Hashem, there was still sorrow because Hashem had to forgive their sin by means of the Sanctuary. Rashi mentions this by speaking about all the efforts made by the Children of Israel in order for the Shechinah to dwell among them, efforts made in order for them to know that they had been forgiven for the sin of the golden calf.

This is why the passage uses the term vayehi (“and it was”). In the final analysis, G-d was saddened by the fact that the Sanctuary had only been erected in order to atone for the sin of the golden calf. If the Children of Israel had been worthy, the Shechinah would have rested upon each of them, as the Gemara states: “At first, before Israel sinned, the Shechinah dwelled with each individual; as it is said: ‘For Hashem your G-d walks in the midst of your camp’ [Devarim 23:15]. When they sinned, the Shechinah departed from them” (Sotah 3b). It is also said, “When the Holy One, blessed be He, created the world, He wanted to live among terrestrial beings as among celestial beings. When they sinned with the golden calf, He gave them the Sanctuary in order to redeem them” (Tanchuma, Nasso 16).

Guard Your Tongue!

In the Presence of Three People

Some opinions hold that if a person speaks ill of another in the presence of three people, then apart from the fact that he has certainly transgressed the prohibition against speaking Lashon Harah, if one of the three goes out and spreads what he heard to others, he has not transgressed the prohibition against Lashon Harah. In fact since three people are aware of what the original person said, it is considered common knowledge, the spreading of which the Torah does not consider to be Lashon Harah. However this only applies when someone spreads these words incidentally, not purposely. One who intentionally goes about spreading these words – even if he does not mention the name of the person who told him it, but simply recounts what he heard about a given person – is guilty of having spoken Lashon Harah.

Your Eyes Shall Behold Your Teacher

Rabbi Tzvi Ashkenazi – The Chacham Tzvi

The gaon Rabbi Tzvi Ashkenazi Zatzal, better known as the “Chacham Tzvi,” was born into a prestigious family in the year 5420. He was the son of the gaon Rabbi Yaakov, a great talmid chacham who initially lived in Vilna, a city of Torah sages and scholars. Vilna earned a reputation among its inhabitants as the “Jerusalem of Lithuania,” a status which it retained until 5415, when Cossacks invaded the city and decimated the Jewish community. At that point Rabbi Yaakov fled, his disappearance being so abrupt that people thought he had died and that his wife should be allowed to remarry.

When the rabbis of the city learned that Rabbi Yaakov was still alive, they immediately sent him to his wife (who was the daughter of the gaon Rabbi Ephraim HaCohen Zatzal, the author of Sha’ar Ephraim). Their firstborn son Tzvi was born in holiness and purity, and from his earliest years his parents consecrated him to the study of Torah with skilled and G-d-fearing teachers. The young Tzvi also studied Torah with his grandfather, the Sha’ar Ephraim.

When he neared the age of Bar Mitzvah, the young Tzvi was known as a skilled talmid chacham, possessing extraordinary intelligence and being well-versed in the Talmud and poskim. He amazed his teachers by the breadth of his thought and the depth of his understanding. In fact he was so impressive that his parents decided to send him to study in a place of Torah, as the Sages have said: “Exile yourself to a place of Torah” (Pirkei Avoth 4:14). He was therefore sent to the Balkans in order to study with Sephardic rabbis and learn their ways.

Rabbi Tzvi Ashkenazi found himself in Salonica, and his legs took him directly to the gaon Rabbi Elihu Cobo Zatzal, who had a large yeshiva where he taught. It was there that Rabbi Tzvi mixed among other talmid chachamim and great Torah figures, absorbing a great deal of Torah and the fear of Heaven, to the point of becoming one of the most prestigious members of the Salonica Beit HaMidrash.

For two full years, Rabbi Tzvi remained among the Sephardim and learned their way of life. He became an expert in their customs and languages, which is how he earned the name of “Chacham Tzvi,” a name that was upon the lips of Sephardic rabbis wherever he went.

After remaining with the Sephardim long enough to study the Gemara and poskim, he again journeyed out, this time for the small city of Alt-Ofen. It was there that his parents lived, as well as his grandfather Rabbi Ephraim HaCohen, who in the meantime had been appointed as its Rav.

After receiving an emotional welcome at the gates of the city, many of its prominent figures offered him their daughter in marriage so they could have this extraordinary talmid chacham as their son-in-law. Thus, after a few days, the Chacham Tzvi married the daughter of one of the prominent figures in the city, who promised to see to all his financial needs so he could continue studying Torah, as he yearned to do.

Such pleasant days, however, were not to last. In 5446, a few years after his wedding, soldiers of the German emperor invaded the city, and cannon fire struck his home, instantly killing his young wife and small daughter. The Chacham Tzvi endured many hardships in life, for as the Sages have said in regards to the tzaddikim: “They are not content with what is in store for them in the World to Come, they even want to live at ease in this world?” (Bereshith Rabba 84:3).

Leaving an Important Position

After the death of his father-in-law in 5466, the Chacham Tzvi was named as the Rav of the community in his place. However disappointment awaited him. Some ba’alei batim opposed his nomination as Rav, preferring Rabbi Moshe of Rothenburg instead, who was one of the talmidei chachamim of Altona. As for the Chacham Tzvi, when he learned that his nomination was causing dissension, he renounced this lofty position in order to return to the Beit HaMidrash and devote himself to teaching.

At that point, a rabbinical position opened up in the Ashkenazi community of Amsterdam. In fact its leaders heard a great deal about the Chacham Tzvi’s greatness in Torah and his halachic decisions, which had been accepted throughout the Torah world without debate. Hence they invited him to become their Rav. They agreed to assure him of a comfortable living and to give him whatever he needed so he could spread Torah. The Chacham Tzvi was greatly honored in Amsterdam, and he was also admired by the Sephardic community of the city, which was led by the gaon Rabbi Moshe Hagiz Zatzal. At the same time, he published a volume of his writings and responsa, entitled She’elot U’Teshuvot Ve’Chidsushim U’Biurim. In the end, the book was named after its author: She’elot U’Teshuvot Chacham Tzvi.

His greatest accomplishment as the Rav of Amsterdam was to be named as the leader in the fight against Nehemiah Chayun, a follower of Shabtai Tzvi. Nehemiah Chayun had traveled to Amsterdam in order to spread his books and writings, which were filled with spiritual poison and impiety. The Chacham Tzvi went to fight him with pure zeal, to the point of being willing to give up his life, without any consideration for his own status or honor. Along with Rabbi Moshe Hagiz, he excommunicated Nehemiah Chayun, which caused some rich Sephardim in the city to rebel, for they had been his followers. When they saw the position held by the Chacham Tzvi, who was the Rav of the Ashkenazim, they believed that he was grossly interfering in the affairs of the Sephardic community. Hence they vehemently attacked him, including denouncing him before the authorities and summoning him to court. At that point the Chacham Tzvi decided to leave his position in Amsterdam, and so he departed from the city and headed towards an unknown future.

After sojourning in England, Germany, and Poland for a long time, he finally settled in Lvov, where he was appointed as the Rav of the community and the region. However he did not remain in this position long, for he died at the age of 58 on Rosh Chodesh Iyar in the year 5478. He left behind a blessing to the world in the form of his son, Rabbi Yaakov Emden. Like his father, Rabbi Yaakov Emden would go on to enrich the world through his Torah, responsa, and halachic decisions.

A True Story

Jewish Milk to Heal a Jew

It is written, “I am Hashem Who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your G-d. You shall be holy, for I am holy” (Vayikra 11:45).

The Gemara cites a teaching from the school of Rabbi Ishmael: “The Holy One, blessed be He, declared, ‘Had I brought up Israel from Egypt for no other purpose but this, that they should not defile themselves with reptiles, it would be sufficient for Me’ ” (Bava Metzia 61b).

The following story allows us understand just how much Heaven helps a person to sanctify himself and maintain the sanctity of his soul and mind. It happened more than ten years ago.

A young avrech from Jerusalem fell ill and had to undergo a complex brain operation in a medical center located in former Yugoslavia. In order to translate from English what the medical team was saying, the father of the avrech asked his friend Rav Yossef Rafoul Shlita to accompany them on their journey. After having received the blessings of rabbis and great Torah figures, the three of them – the avrech, his father, and Rav Rafoul – left on their journey.

They arrived in Yugoslavia and immediately made an appointment to see the surgeon, who was very specialized in brain operations of the type required by the avrech. After exhaustive tests, the surgeon fixed a date for the operation.

When the surgeon completed the operation and emerged from the operating room, he addressed Rav Rafoul and asked him to immediately purchase a large quantity of milk for the avrech’s recovery, for he would need to drink a great deal of it.

Rav Rafoul quickly left the hospital and began looking for milk, but could only find a few liters of non-Jewish milk. He addressed the avrech, who had already awoken from the anesthesia, and joyfully told him that with Hashem’s help he had obtained some milk, which would help him to recover.

The avrech asked whether the milk had been produced under Jewish supervision, for otherwise he would not drink it. He was strict in regards to himself, and non-Jewish milk had never touched his lips, a custom that he had no intention of changing, even under such difficult circumstances.

In order to convince the avrech to change his mind and drink the milk, Rav Rafoul summoned all the teachings of the Sages with regards to the measures that one must take in order to preserve life. In fact it was the surgeon himself who was ordering him to drink this milk, which was essential for his recovery. However the avrech was adamant, for he had never even tasted non-Jewish milk, and even now he did not want to drink any. He told the Rav that if drinking such milk was so important for him, then the Holy One, blessed be He, Who heals all flesh, knew about it and would certainly find him some milk produced under Jewish supervision.

Needless to say, it was almost impossible to find such milk in Yugoslavia at the time, and therefore looking for it would be an impossible task. Racking his brain to think of a way to find milk produced under Jewish supervision for the avrech, Rav Rafoul began to pace up and down the hospital corridor. Suddenly, out of the corner of his eye, he saw a woman walking with a young man who was carrying a heavy suitcase. When they noticed a Jew walking towards them like a light emerging from the darkness, they asked him in Hebrew: “Excuse me, do you speak English?”

“Yes,” replied Rav Rafoul, “what can I do for you?”

The woman said that she had arrived from Israel for a major brain operation, and now she had to meet the surgeon. However since she did not speak any English, she did not know how she was going to communicate with him.

Rav Rafoul accompanied the woman and spoke with the surgeon, who looked at her medical records and x-rays. He then told her that he could perform the operation, but not in Yugoslavia. It had to be done in Israel, for the local medical staff was not skilled enough for such an operation. It required a medical team from Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem.

When Rav Rafoul translated the surgeon’s remarks to the woman, she was beside herself with anger: “That can’t be!” she exclaimed. “I traveled here from Jerusalem after a long journey. I had to endure airplane strikes on the way, wandering from country to country before arriving here. And now you want me to return to Israel?!”

The woman’s supplications were translated to the doctor, who strongly repeated his position: “The local medical team isn’t capable of performing such a complicated operation. It’s only at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem that such an operation can be attempted. Therefore let’s schedule an operation at Hadassah.”

Not long after they left the surgeon’s office, the young Jewish man who was accompanying the woman approached Rav Rafoul and asked him to take the suitcase that he was carrying, since it was now useless to them.

“What’s in it?” asked Rav Rafoul.

The young man explained that before their trip, the woman made sure to pack everything she would require, both for her personal and medical needs. Among other things, she packed a large quantity of milk, which she would have to drink after the operation. She had therefore purchased a great amount of supervised milk, which obviously she would not need now.

With visible joy, Rav Rafoul took the suitcase from the hand of the young Israeli and ran to the room of the avrech, who was stunned to see its contents: An enormous pile of milk cartons, milk produced under Jewish supervision, before his very eyes. With praises and thanks to Hashem, he took the glass of milk that had been poured for him and said with great concentration: Shehakol nehiye bidevaro (“By Whose word all things came to be”).

Note: I would like to thank my friend Rav Yehudah Rafoul Shlita for recounting this amazing story, as told to him by his father, so it can benefit as many people as possible.

At the Source

In the Same Way

It is written, “Aaron was silent” (Vayikra 10:3).

The book Shai LaTorah cites an account given by the gaon Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach Zatzal regarding the gaon Rabbi Eliyahu David Teomim Zatzal (known as the Aderet).

The Aderet was very careful never to weary the public. On the day that his son died, the Aderet’s heart was broken.

When a large crowd gathered for the funeral, everyone began waiting for the Aderet to leave his room, where he had enclosed himself. After two full hours, he emerged from his room and said the blessing of Dayan HaEmet, at which point the funeral procession began.

Later on, the Aderet’s disciples said to him: “Teach us why you remained in your room for so long, since it wearied the public.”

The Aderet replied, “The Gemara in Berachot states, and it is the Halachah, that a man must say a blessing for evil things in the same way as he says it for good things. That being the case, I remembered the immense joy that I had when I said Shecheyanu upon bringing my son into the covenant of our father Avraham. I therefore had to ready my broken heart, lifting myself to the same level of joy that I had experienced then, in order to say the blessing of Dayan HaEmet.”

Only When Young

It is written, “And the ostrich” (Vayikra 11:16).

It would seem that this verse prohibits the eating of the bat haya’ana (ostrich). Does this mean, however, that the “mother” of this “daughter” (bat) is permitted?

The book Sha’ar Bat Rabim answers this by basing itself on Rabbi Avraham ibn Ezra’s remarks on Parsha Mishpatim concerning the verse, “You shall not cook a kid in its mother’s milk” (Shemot 23:19). He states that in Africa and India, where the ostrich lives, it grows to such a size that it becomes impossible to eat, for its meat is as dry as wood and as hard as iron. It cannot be softened even with cooking, and only the meat of a young female chick that is just a few days old is tender enough to eat.

This is why the Torah does not need to prohibit us from eating an adult ostrich, for eating it is impossible. Only an ostrich that has just been born from its mother is edible, and only for a short time. Hence it is called bat haya’ana, since its meat is tender only when it is young (bat).

Kosher Locusts

It is written, “You may eat these from among them: The arbeh according to its kind; the salam according to its kind; the chargol according to its kind; and the chagav according to its kind” (Vayikra 11:22).

The Rambam lists eight kinds of locusts in the Mishneh Torah (Laws of Forbidden Foods 1:21) which the Torah has allowed us to eat: 1) the chagav; 2) a type of chagav called chazbanit; 3) the chargol; 4) a type of chargol called artzovia; 5) the arbeh; 6) a type of arbeh called tziporat keramim; 7) the salam; and 8) a type of salam called yochana yerushalamit. The Gemara also tells us that there are 800 kinds of locusts (Chullin 63b)!

The Rambam states that an expert who knows their identities may eat them. What about someone who is not an expert? He must verify the signs of a clean locust, of which there are three. Those with four feet and four wings, which cover the greatest part of its body in length and in width, and have two thighs or knees to leap with, are pure. Although its head is long and it has a tail, if its name is chagav, it is clean.

Past, Present, and Future

It is written, “The camel, for it brings up its cud, but its hoof is not split” (Vayikra 11:4).

The expression “its hoof is not split” is stated in the present tense. In the next verse we read, “The hyrax, for it brings up the cud, but its hoof lo yafris [will not be split]” (v.5), using the future tense. In the verse after that we read, “The hare, for it brings up its cud, but its hoof lo hifrisah [was not split]” (v.6), using the past tense.

Rabbi Israel Salanter Zatzal states that the Torah is telling us by allusion that before one declares a person to be impure, one must first think deeply and take into consideration not only the present, but also the person’s past and future. One must not rush into judgment and declare him impure, even if his past and present are not what we would like, for perhaps in the future he will show signs of purity. It is only if one has made certain that he sees signs of impurity in the future, the present, and the past that he must declare, “He is impure.”

In the Light of the Parsha

Aaron’s Fear

It is written, “Aaron raised his hands toward the people and blessed them. Then he descended from having performed the sin-offering, the burnt-offering, and the peace-offering. Moshe and Aaron went into the Tent of Meeting, and they went out and blessed the people, and the glory of Hashem appeared to the entire people” (Vayikra 9:22-23).

Rashi cites the Midrash: “When Aaron saw that all the sacrifices had been offered and all the procedures had been performed, and yet the Shechinah had not descended for Israel, he was distressed. He said, ‘I know that the Holy One, blessed is He, is angry with me, and on my account the Shechinah has not descended for Israel.’ So he said to Moshe, ‘My brother Moshe, is this what you have done to me, that I have entered and been put to shame?’ Moshe immediately entered with him, and they prayed for mercy. Then the Shechinah came down for Israel.”

In commenting on this parsha, the holy book Noam Elimelech (Vayikra 9:22) states that a tzaddik is at such a level that he is constantly evaluating himself, lest he may have sinned by some small thought. According to these holy words, we may say that Aaron was afraid that a trace of pride dwelled in him. Now pride is worse than idolatry, as the Sages have said: “Every man in whom pride dwells, the Holy One, blessed be He, declares, ‘I and he cannot both dwell in the world’ ” (Sotah 5a). It is also said, “If one walks with a stiff bearing even for four cubits, it is as if he pushed against the heels of the Shechinah” (Berachot 43b). Rashi explains that Aaron was thinking, “The Shechinah is not here.” He was afraid that due to some wicked thought of pride that he had, Hashem would not accept his service, and as a result the Shechinah would not descend upon the Children of Israel. This is because Hashem detests pride, as it is written: “Every haughty heart is an abomination to Hashem” (Mishlei 16:5). Aaron was also afraid that he had not yet been forgiven for the sin of the golden calf. He therefore raised his hands and blessed the people. The term nasa (to lift) is formed by the same letters as the term sana (to detest), meaning that he detested and completely removed the fault of pride from his heart, which is an abomination to Hashem. Hence it is said that “he descended.” Had he climbed to a high spot, such that he needed to descend from there in order to bless the people? No. Instead, Aaron humbled himself and annulled the pride that he suspected of having, in order not to be guilty of idolatry. In this way the sin of the golden calf (which stemmed from idolatry) would be forgiven.

We should certainly not say that Aaron, the holy one of Hashem, harbored pride, for it is the way of the tzaddikim to always look for faults within themselves. This is how they lead others to repentance. The holy Rabbi Elimelech Zatzal wrote elsewhere (Likutei Shoshana) about this: “It is written: ‘I am black, yet beautiful’ [Shir HaShirim 1:5]. On the verse, ‘When a ruler sins’ [Vayikra 4:22], the Sages have explained: ‘Happy is the generation whose ruler brings an offering for a sin that he has unwillingly committed’ [Horayot 10b]. We must say that it is impossible for the tzaddik, who is constantly immersed in great sanctity, to cleave to people in order to awaken them to completely repent and elevate their deeds. However the tzaddik who finds a fault in himself, one that he regrets and for which he reprimands himself because of the imperfection of his service, will thereby awaken others to repentance. Thus when the tzaddik ascends in holiness, he will elevate all of Israel with him. It is of him that the Sages have said: ‘Happy is the generation whose ruler has sinned,’ for he helps the people by also elevating them towards sanctity.”


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