December 31st, 2016

Tevet 2nd 5777


Recognizing the Truth and Admitting It

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

“Yosef recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him” (Bereishit 42:8)

We will take a look at the outstanding virtues and righteousness of Yosef the Tzaddik, who was the only one that merited the title “A Tzaddik, the Foundation of the World.” He was called Yosef the Tzaddik because he guarded his sanctity and purity of soul with great sacrifice. Even though he was all alone in the land of Egypt, a land steeped in immorality, and he was still a young man, handsome and beautiful, nevertheless, he kept away from depravity and preserved his sanctity. He was careful not to defile his “Ote Brit Kodesh – the Holy Covenant.” He also withstood bravely the challenge that Potiphar’s wife posed, and with great self-sacrifice he subdued his evil inclination. Therefore, he was awarded the special title “A Tzaddik, the Foundation of the World.”

The virtue of one who guards the Holy Covenent is immeasurable, as Chazal say (Zohar), “ברא – created” has the same letters as “אבר – organ,” implying that whoever guards the Holy Covenant resembles his Creator, and he possesses the ability to create worlds, because “a tzaddik decrees and Hashem fulfills his decrees,” and in the merit of guarding the Holy Covenant he can create and sustain the world. This is the meaning of “A Tzaddik is the Foundation of the World;” he is the reason for the world’s existence.

How did Yosef the Tzaddik achieve such lofty heights, despite all the hardship and suffering he endured? The answer is because faith in Hashem was rooted deep in his heart, and he had full trust in Hashem. He realized that his share of suffering and the hardship were designed for his utmost benefit, because “Everything Hashem does is good.” As a result of his firm belief he succeeded in managing to get through every crisis and remained with clarity of mind and retained his high spiritual level. He did not fall in spirit and did not despair in his difficult predicament, despite his brothers’ estrangement from him and their deadly hatred for him, seeking to kill him. Nevertheless, he did not defy Hashem, G-d forbid, and even more so, he did not hold a grudge against his brothers, because he trusted fully that everything was designed by Hashem for the best. Ultimately, not only did he not fall in his spiritual level after his difficult experiences, but on the contrary, his challenges served to fortify his spirit and strengthen his faith and trust in Hashem, enabling him to guard his sanctity and purity of soul even in a strange land.

This is also the reason that Yosef did not forget all the Torah that his father had taught him, and even though twenty-two years had passed since he had parted from Yaakov, his father, he still remembered his lessons and even hinted this to his father through the wagons that he sent him to remind him that they parted while studying the subject of the “eglah arufah – the heifer that was axed.” This is no small thing, because a person who is steeped in suffering and troubles goes out of his mind and forgets his studies. However, Yosef the Tzaddik, despite all his hardship and difficulties in life, did not forget his studies and remained righteous and perfect. He trusted that everything was orchestrated by Hashem for the best. Therefore he persevered in every crisis that he encountered, and he retained his mastery in Torah.

This is why Yosef merited receiving a much greater gift than all the other tribes, that his two sons, Menashe and Ephraim, would be included as part of the twelve tribes, as Yaakov stated when he blessed them, “Efraim and Menashe shall be mine like Reuvain and Shimon,” because the virtue of Yosef was immeasurable in comparison to the other tribes, both in his righteousness, and in his level of trust and faith in Hashem. And all this kedushah, Yosef passed on to his holy sons.

Walking in Their Ways

Count Your Blessings

One day of Chanukah, a couple approached me. The woman had a question which bothered her:

“Honored Rav, during these days, we thank Hashem for the miracle of Chanukah, which happened thousands of years ago. Those miracles were tremendous. Can’t Hashem perform a modern-day miracle for us to celebrate nowadays?” She was quite perturbed by this.

“Just today, you experienced a mighty miracle,” I quickly responded.

The couple looked at each other, puzzlement written on their faces. “No,” they replied. “Nothing special at all occurred to us today.”

But I stubbornly plowed on. “The great miracle is that you woke up today! And this is after the miracle of your hearts beating all through the night. And you didn’t swallow your tongues in your sleep.

“Is this not considered a miracle? Many people did not merit waking up today. Others woke up partially paralyzed. Here you are, hale and hearty, walking and talking. Each and every moment of your lives is an open miracle. Why do you insist that Hashem must make a rare phenomenon in order to reveal His power?

“This is all the machinations of the Yetzer Hara. He casts a pallor of placidity on the routine and mundane. He persuades you to take everyday miracles for granted.

“Your mission is to overcome the Yetzer Hara. At any given time, try to think of the myriad miracles taking place in your lives. This exercise will flex your muscles of gratitude to Hashem. You will succeed in finding countless examples of His miracles. Then, when you recite the Al Hanissim prayer in the Shemoneh Esrei and Birkat Hamazon, you will include the modern-day miracles of everyday living, thanking Hashem with all your heart.”

The Haftarah

The haftarah of the week: “Sing and be glad, O daughter of Zion!” (Zecharia 2:14)

The connection to the parashah: The haftarah mentions the Menorah and its candles that the navi Zecharia envisioned, which is what we are engaged in currently; lighting the candles during Chanuka.

Guard Your Tongue

Refraining from Revealing his Past

We can perceive Yosef the Tzaddik’s outstanding virtues when he said “And now, be not distressed, nor reproach yourselves for having sold me here.” Likewise towards the end of the parashah it says, “Thus he comforted them and spoke to their heart.” We can also see the greatness of Yosef that he did not tell his father what the reason was for his disappearance. Ultimately, it was revealed to his father by Divine Inspiration prior to his death. Moreover, we find that Chazal say that Yosef refrained from being alone with his father so that his brothers should not suspect that he was revealing to him what his brothers had done.

Words of Our Sages

Publicity Brings Harm

“Why do you make yourselves conspicuous?” (Bereishit 42:1)

“Jacob conveyed thereby to his sons’ ‘When you are fully sated do not show yourselves either before Esau or before Ishmael that they should not envy you’.”

In addition, Chazal say, “Blessing is only possible in things hidden from sight,” because success of any matter is dependent on the virtue of modesty, as it says in the Midrash (Tanchuma Ki Tisa): The first Tablets that were delivered with fanfare – broke. The second Tablets that were given with modesty – survived.

The lesson we learn from this is that we must try as much as we can to refrain from publicity and not flaunt our success in public, in order not to arouse jealousy and envy of others.

It is told about one of the disciples of the Chafetz Chaim, zt”l, who took his young son of six years-old and a tremendous genius, studying gemara with Tosafot at this age, and went withhim to the lodging of the Chafetz Chaim when he visited their city.

The streets leading to the lodging was blackened by the crowds of people waiting to meet the Chafetz Chaim, but the disciple with his son entered the lodging through a side entrance. The Chafetz Chaim, who was not aware that throngs of people were waiting for him outside, spoke at length with his disciple.

During the visit, the Chafetz Chaim tested the child in his studies. After the short test, he turned to the father and told him to guard his child from publicity. He added, “The gaon (one of the great Torah scholars in his times) could have been much greater, but the publicity harmed him and prevented him from realizing his potential”…


Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

A bit of light repels a lot of darkness

“Reuvain heard, and he rescued him from their hand” (Bereishit 37:21)

The Torah testifies that Reuvain came to save Yosef and remove him from the pit.

I would like to suggest, with Siyatta DiShemaya, that there is a special connection between Reuvain and Yosef. The name “ראובן” (Reuvain) includes the letters “בן אור” (product of light), and the name “יוסף” (Yosef) implies “increase.”

This teaches that anyone who increases his Torah study more and more, and progresses constantly, he merits beoming a “בן אור” – a true product of Torah (which is compared to light).

In the days of the Chashmonaim, even though they were few, and many Jews had become Hellenized, blackening the Torah – however, the light of Torah which shone from those few succeeded in dispelling the blackness from all of Am Yisrael and casting its bright rays on everyone. This is because “a bit of light repels a lot of darkness,” and thus the Jews merited being saved from the Greeks.

We see in our holy yeshivot many young sweet boys who abstain from all the temptations of the world and sit in the shelter of Torah, engaging in its study with great zeal, their faces radiating the light of Torah. From where do they obtain this lofty valor? What is the magic that draws them into the world of Torah?

The answer is that it is the segulah of the Torah. The light inherent in the Torah enhances those who study it, and “a bit of light repels a lot of darkness.” When one tastes its delightful taste, already it is hard to part from it, as it says, “Contemplate and see that Hashem is good.” In this way they succeed in overcoming their evil inclination.

Chazal say in the midrash regarding the pasuk (Shir HaShirim 7:14) “הדודאים נתנו ריח – The baskets yield fragrance” – that this refers to Reuvain, and “ואל פתחינו כל מגדים – at our door are all precious fruits” – refers to the lighting of the candles which we light near our doors at the entrance to the house.

According to what we said, we can explain the midrash in the following way: One who wishes to merit being like “ראובן” (Reuvain) – a product of light – light which is a product of the Torah, must progress continuously and continue in the light of Torah, just as the Chanuka lights which we light progressively, each day adding another light. The first day we light one, and the next two, and so forth.

Chazak U’Baruch

The Greeks purpose in defiling the oil was to reduce the study of Torah, since the oil signifies wisdom, and they wanted to emphasize external knowledge as opposed to truth and holiness. First of all, their scheme was to prohibit prayer, because if one doesn’t pray properly, he cannot learn Torah. Since they wanted “to make them forget Your Torah,” they arrange that they should not be able to pray properly and consequently they would not learn Torah. Ultimately, if they abandon the Torah, they would slowly free themselves of the yoke of Heaven and abandon their religion, G-d forbid.

As a memorial for this, eight days of Chanukah was instituted to thank and praise Hashem with heartfelt prayer, and Amen would be stated, instilling complete faith that there is One G-d, Who protects his nation Yisrael. Then, they will also be able to strengthen the study of Torah, because only through praying properly one can grow in Torah. However, if the prayers are not conducted properly, and if only one Amen was missed, the study of Torah will be lacking.

In these days, when we glorify Hashem’s Name by publicizing the miracle of the lights, it is a suitable time to reinforce the custom that can restore us to our former glory, and adopt the ancient custom that our ancestors observed, of reciting the Morning Blessings in the Beit Haknesset and bring merit to the congregants by having them answer Amen to the order of the Morning Blessings. 

Beloved Friends

We have early evidence for this custom, as the Maran the Chida states in his sefer “BirkeiYosef” (OrachChaim 677) regarding the words of the Maran Beit Yosef: There are those who have the custom of having one of their fellow congregants recite the Morning Blessings out loud and the congregants answer Amen, and then another congregant recites the blessings out loud and the others answer Amen, and in this way all the congregants had the others answer Amen to their blessings… And as is known, the custom spread throughout all the large cities and towns, as the Maran states.

The Rama of Pano suggests (Shu”t 109):

How good it is to adopt the custom that the Shliach Tsibbur (Cantor) should recite the Morning Blessings out loud, and the congregants who answer Amen should have in mind that they are not fulfilling their obligation to recite the blessings by doing so. Not only that, but roommates who sleep in the same room should rise early and recite the blessings one by one, while their fellows answer Amen, and each one should follow in the same way. Then, they should continue towards the Beit Haknesset with vigor.

It is told about Rabbi Chaim Falagi, zt”l, that he never lost patience with children; on the contrary, he would call them to come to him every morning and recite the Morning Blessings in order to answer “Baruch Hu U’varuch Shemo” and Amen after them. They would say before him the “Zemirot” in a loud voice and thus he would fulfill “Teach them thoroughly to your children” each day. (Tseva’a MiChaim” The Customs of the Author, Ote 4)

Zachur LaTov – Of Blessed Memory

And not only Moshe Rabbeinu, but also every talmid chacham who engages in the study of Torah from his youth until his old age and dies, did not die yet but lives on forever and ever, as it is said: “May my lord’s soul be bound up in the bond of life, with Hashem, your G-d” (Shmuel 25:29);the matter is compared so as to say; just as Hashem your G-d, His great Name is blessed forever and all eternity, so too every talmid chacham who engages in the study of Torah from his youth until his old age and dies, it is as if he  is alive and did not die yet, but he is alive forever and all eternity. Where is his soul? His soul is beneath the Heavenly Throne.

From here they said: A person should not overdo his weeping, eulogizing, grieving, and lamenting over his departed one; but should restrict it to the amounts set by the Sages; three days to weep and eulogize, and seven days to mourn, thirty days not to cut one’s hair and iron as well as other matters. Whoever weeps from that point on is considered to be as harming himself and bears guilt for his soul, as it is stated; “Do not weep for a dead man, and do not shake your head for him etc.” (Yirmiyahu 22:10). The Holy One Blessed Be He says; do not be more merciful than I am.

How is this? A person quarrels with his friend; he goes to him alone (to appease him) but he refuses to forgive him. Finally, he gathers many people (and thus asked his forgiveness) and after that he forgave him. However, even though he forgave him, he still retains a bit of resentment in his heart. But I (Hashem) am not like that, for if a person shall sin before Me and subsequently do teshuvah, I am merciful and accept his repentance. And once I accept him and his teshuvah I do not remember even a little of his sins. Therefore it is stated; “Do not weep for a dead man, and do not shake your head for him etc.” (Yirmiyahu 22:10).

“Weep rather for the one who went away” (Yirmiyahu 22:10); this refers to one who sinned and repeated and tripled his inquity and did not repent and do teshuvah; from him you should cry, for he shall be uprooted from the world and not see the land of his birthplace.

And not this alone, but the reward of Moshe the tzaddik; who stood in prayer on four and five occasions and saved Israel from death; is that the Scripture considers him as if he would have created them, therefore it is said, “They [then] remembered the days of old, of Moshe [with] his people” (Yeshaye 63:11). And also each and every Sage of Israel who has acquired the truth of Torah and laments regarding the [the lack of] honor of the Holy One Blessed Be He and the honor of Israel all of his days; and desires, wants and anticipates the honor or Jerusalem and the honor of the Holy Temple and the salvation that shall sprout in the near future; and for the ingathering of the exiles; then promptly the holy spirit rests in him as it says, “Where is the One who infused His holy spirit in their midst?” (ibid).

From they said: Every talmid chacham who engages in the study of Torah every day constantly in order to increase the honor of Heaven does not need not a sword nor a spear or javelin, and not any object to protect him, for the Holy One Blessed Be He Himself protects him, and the ministering angels stand around him with swords in their hands and guard him, as it is stated “The lofty praises of G-d are in their throats, and a double-edged sword is in their hand” (Psalms 149:6).

They [the talmidei chachamim] shall live without sorrow and without yetzer hara in the days of Mashiach and in the world to come – How will it be?

The Holy One Blessed Be He is destined to sit in His great Bet Midrash and the tzaddikim of the world shall sit before Him; and He shall provide for them and their wives and sons and daughters and slaves and maidservants the needs of their household; the holy spirit will rest upon them. Thus it is stated “And it will happen after this, that I will pour out My spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and daughters will prophesy etc. Even also upon the slaves and upon the maidservants in those days I will pour out My spirit” (Yoel 3:1, 2). And it is also stated, “O complacent women, rise up and hear my voice! O confident daughters, give ear to my speech!” (Yeshaye 32:9).

“Without yetzer hara”; as it says, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Yechezkel 36:26). “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; this refers to good deeds. “I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh”, this refers to the yetzer hara. “And give you a heart of flesh”, this refers to the yetzer tov, to fulfill all the words of the Torah which always are written in a duplicate manner.

Men of Faith

All disputes within the Jewish community were decided in the Beit Din of Mogador, whether monetary, marital, or arguments between man and his fellow.

Decisions were arrived at swiftly and accurately at the table of the tzaddik. Corruption did not gain entry into Rabbi Chaim’s court. In his great wisdom, he led the Beit Din and supervised all investigations with absolute integrity and impartiality.

Rabbi Chaim Hagadol served as the chief judge in the esteemed Beit Din of Mogador, and Rabbi David Chazan served as his assistant. The third pillar of the court was Rabbi Avraham Koryat, author of the sefer Brit Avot, who was a student of Rabbi Chaim.

How did Rav Avraham merit sitting as a judge in the Beit Din together with these Torah giants? It is told that when he was young, he was very musical and a talented poet. Once, when Rabbi Chaim passed through the streets of Mogador with his friend, Rabbi David Chazan, they heard an enchanting melody echoing from one of the houses. The two followed the sound and discovered Rabbi Avraham Koryat sitting in his house, singing piyutim with a captivating voice, accompanied by the violin.

For a whole hour, the Rabbanim remained entranced by the enthralling melody and prose. They inquired about the background of the young fellow, and they learned that he was a grandson of the famous tzaddik, Rabbi Baruch from Tetouan, zt”l, and lived alone without any family or financial support.

Upon hearing this, Rabbi Chaim and Rabbi David Chazan told him, “Such a sweet voice should be utilized for learning Torah. Come with us and join us in our study. We will provide you with all your needs.”

Rabbi Avraham accepted their offer and joined them, learning both b’iyun and b’kiyut. Rabbi Chaim provided him with all his physical needs with the same devotion as a loving father.

In time, after Rabbi Avraham became well-versed in all areas of the Torah, he too was appointed as a judge in the special Beit Din of Rabbi Chaim and Rabbi David Chazan. From then on the three of them were referred to as echad (one), since אחד is an acronym of their names (אברהם, חיים, דוד).


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