June 17th, 2017

23rd of Sivan 5777


Ascent Corresponding to Aspiration

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

“Send out for yourself men who will scout the Land of Canaan” (Bamidbar 13:2)

The Spies sinned terribly by speaking derogatorily about the Promised Land. Rashi explains the juxtaposition between the section describing Miriam's sin and that of the Spies: Miriam was punished for speaking ill of her brother; these wicked men saw this, but did not take a lesson.

Bnei Yisrael accepted the negative report of the Spies and mourned over it, as the pasuk says, “The entire community raised their voices and shouted, and the people wept on that night” (Bamidbar 14:1). For this, they were punished severely. Rava says in the name of Rav Yochanan that this occurred on Erev Tisha b'Av. Hashem told Am Yisrael, “You wept for nothing. I will now establish a weeping for generations” (Taanit 29:1). To this day, we weep copiously over the two Batei Mikdash that were destroyed on this day.

Further, we read, “But as for My servant Calev, since he was possessed by another spirit, and he followed Me, I will bring him to the land to which he came” (ibid. 14:24). How was Calev different from the rest of the Spies and how did he merit this distinction?

In order to understand this, it behooves us to study the previous parashiyot. In Parashat Bamidbar, the Torah records the number of people in each Shevet. Why was it so important to count each Shevet individually? Wouldn't a general census of the entire nation have sufficed?

We continue on to Parashat Naso, where the korbanot of the Nesiim at the time of the chanukat hamizbe'ach are recorded. The Torah goes to great lengths describing the korban of each Shevet, even though each and every korban was identical to the others! In contrast, regarding the thirty-nine forbidden acts of labor on Shabbat, as well as other strict halachot, the Torah is sparse, and sometimes even just hints at these important subjects.

The counting of Bnei Yisrael according to their Shevatim wasn't merely taking a census or a survey to discover how large the population was. Hashem knows everything. So why did He ask that each Shevet be counted so meticulously? In order to teach us how special and significant is each and every individual in Hashem's Eyes. Every tribe has unique characteristics and every member of each tribe is outstanding in some way. Every single Jew has qualities that nobody else has.

Hashem counted the tribes individually to teach us that we can learn something from everyone. Shevet Yehudah represented royalty. A talmid chacham, also considered a king, can learn “royal etiquette" from the tribe of Yehudah. Our Sages (Gittin 62a) say that a talmid chacham is expected to behave with good character, as befits the sons of kings. Shevet Yissachar, compared to the donkey, carries the burden of Torah. He teaches the others the benefits of diligence in Torah study. Shevet Zevulun, the Torah supporters, inspires others to contribute financially to institutions of Torah and chessed. If a person will examine the unique characteristic of each tribe and try to adopt it, this characteristic will become ingrained in him. Eventually, he will be crowned with all good qualities.

Similarly, the Torah expounded on the korbanot of the Nesiim of each Shevet. No two Shevatim, and indeed, no two individuals, are exactly alike. As long as the Nesiim brought their offerings l’shem Shamayim, Hashem was pleased.

We should all make an effort to emulate those who have positive qualities. One who constantly strives to improve will succeed in reaching great heights. Such was Calev ben Yefuneh. “He was possessed by another spirit.”  His sole desire was to attain greater sanctity. In order to reach this goal, he made it a habit to learn from everyone.

A person will never reach his goal without true aspiration. The greater his aspiration, the greater his chances of reaching his goal. This is the only way of climbing higher in Torah and yirat Shamayim. By truly desiring to grow in Torah, one will constantly accrue greater amounts of Torah and kedushah, going from strength to strength. Aspiration is the force that propels one to forge onward and upward in attaining his goals.

Words of Our Sages

Military Maneuvers

“Are there any trees in it or not?” (Bamidbar 13:20)

Rashi elucidates on these words: Are there any people who can protect them with their merit?

Chazal (Bava Batra 15a) explain that Moshe told Bnei Yisrael that there is someone (Iyov) who protects his generation like a tree.

Bnei yeshiva and avreichim who study Torah day and night, likewise “protect their generation like a tree.” During wartime, rachmana litzlan, it is the Torah students who, by virtue of their power of Torah and tefillah, protect the nation from calamity.

Approximately thirty years ago, the Israeli prime minister decided to destroy the nuclear power plant in Iraq, due to the danger it posed to Israel. With great siyata diShemaya, the air force succeeded in deactivating Iraq's nuclear power plant.

Rabbi Yaakov Eidelstein, zt"l, related, that before putting this operation into effect, the Israeli president contacted Rav Shach, zt”l, as well as the Baba Sali, zy”a, asking them to pray for the mission's success.

Asked the Baba Sali, “What time is this mission planned for? ”

“At 2:00 p.m., the planes are scheduled to take off.”

The Baba Sali suggested that they wait another two hours. The prime minister heeded his words and postponed the operation until 4:00 p.m.

When asked to explain, the Baba Sali stated simply, “At 4:00, afternoon seder begins in the yeshivot. This is when everyone ends their afternoon rests and resumes learning. It is only in the zechut of Torah that we can expect salvation.”

Walking in Their Ways

Receipt of Merit

My wife once purchased a piece of furniture which we needed at home. After paying, the salesman gave her a receipt to sign. She signed, “Pinto.” Looking at her signature, the man let out a low whistle. “Pinto?” he asked, in incredulity. “Are you perhaps related to Rabbi David Pinto?”

“Yes. He is my husband.”

“In that case, I am ripping up the receipt. You deserve a better price.”

In response to my wife’s bafflement, the man related the following: “About ten years ago, I approached your husband in order to receive a blessing for a specific problem. The Rav asked if  I wore tefillin and observed Shabbat. After I replied in the negative, he convinced me to begin observing these basic mitzvot. For the last ten years I have been laying tefillin and keeping Shabbat. Besides for that, I study Torah and constantly seek ways of improving my relationship with Hashem. I ask you, don’t you agree that you deserve a discount?”

My wife was very moved by his account. “It was worth me coming to your store if only in order to hear your story. I know my husband is a tzaddik who brings merit to the public, but it is a singular privilege to hear, firsthand, of a Jew who was so affected by my husband.”

When my wife retold the story, I, too, was very happy. I was grateful that my words had fallen on fertile ground, entering this man’s neshamah and sprouting the fruits of mitzvot and closeness to Hashem.

I was filled with an added measure of joy, for the far-reaching effects of bringing merit to the public is incomprehensible. All the mitzvot which a fellow Jew observes in the merit of what I taught him, as well as those of his children and all future generations, accumulate and redound to his credit, as well as to mine. The reward awaiting one who brings merit to the public in Olam Haba is beyond anything we can imagine.

Guard Your Tongue

Mass Murder

One who spreads gossip transgresses the negative commandment, “You shall not go around as a gossipmonger amidst your people.” This is a terrible sin that can even lead to the death of many people. This is why these words are followed by the command, “You shall not stand by the shedding of your fellow man's blood.”

The story of Doeg Ha'adomi is an example of this pasuk. Doeg's derogatory report about the city of Nov led to its complete annihilation.

The Haftarah

The haftarah of the week: “And Yehoshua bin Nun sent forth” (Yehoshua 2)

The connection to the parashah: The parashah relates Moshe’s sending forth spies to scout the Land of Canaan. The haftarah tells of Yehoshua sending forth spies to check out the land, as well.


Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

Correct Chutzpah

“Calev silenced the people to [hear about] Moshe” (Bamidbar 13:30)

Rashi explains: Calev quieted them down in order to hear what Moshe would say. He stood up and shouted, “Is this all that Ben Amram (Moshe) did to us?!” The nation was sure he was about to add fuel to their fire of indignation. Agitated as they were over the Spies’ report, they all bent their heads to listen to Calev's diatribe. Instead, he continued, “Didn't he split the sea for us, bring down the manna for us, and obtain meat for us?”

Where did Calev muster the boldness to take a stance against everyone, rebuking the entire nation in such a brazen manner?

It was Calev's quest for the unadulterated truth that led him to act in this way. He wanted to convey nothing but the truth. In his heart was an intense desire to reveal the beauty and goodness of Eretz Yisrael. He cleverly gained the nation's attention by pretending to be of one mind with the Spies. When all ears were fixed on him, he suddenly changed tracks and told them the truth that burned in his heart. He censured the spies while proving to the nation that the Land was praiseworthy.

One who strives for spiritual perfection will fiercely defend the truth. He will fearlessly uphold his belief and stand staunchly in the face of liars and fakers. His sole desire is to reach the pure truth.

The first and last letters of the words רוח אחרת (another spirit) have the same gematria, adding one for the kollel, as the word חברת (company of). Although Calev went in the company of the spies, he bonded only with the tzaddikim who rested in Chevron. After silencing the nation, he proved to them that he had physically been connected to the spies, but in truth, he was one only with the tzaddikim of old who were buried in Chevron, where he had gone to pray for success.

Chazak U’Baruch

As every year, Plony was sure that this year, too, he would receive the honor of Maftir Yonah on Yom Kippur in the Zichron Moshe beit kenesset. He was, therefore, not a little surprised to discover another congregant vying for the honor.

For years, Plony had been the indisputable recipient of this great honor, and the segulah it affords. However, this year was different. Another worshipper, apparently a relatively new one, decided to challenge Plony’s rights to this honor. As the bidding progressed, the numbers began skyrocketing, hitting sums too large for Plony’s pocket.

The gabbai was about to announce the name of the lucky winner, but Plony couldn’t bear foregoing this tremendous honor just yet. The air became filled with tension as voices were raised in anger.

“You have no right to set such a huge price,” Plony stated.

“It’s for the benefit of the beit kenesset,” countered his counterpart.

“But I’ve had this honor for the past decade,” continued Plony.

“And now the honor is being transferred to me.”

The argument might have continued long after sundown, if not for the presence of a Torah personage among the congregation. The gaon Rabbi Yisrael Yaakov Fischer, zt”l, Ra’avad of Yerushalayim and Rav of the Zichron Moshe neighborhood, decided to intervene: “The one who offers more money receives the aliyah! However, in order to maintain the peace, he should ask Plony to forego this honor.

“How can I forego a segulah for longevity?” Plony asked bitterly.

“I wholeheartedly bless you with good, long life, even without this segulah,” Rabbi Fischer assured him.

Sadly, Plony passed on within the year.

When Rabbi Fischer came to pay his condolences, he told the family, “My blessing was meant to be completely fulfilled, but nobody in the congregation, not even Plony himself, bothered to reply, ‘Amen’ to my blessing. I reiterated my berachah a number of times in order to give the people a chance to do so, but unfortunately, no one did. A berachah without an ‘amen’ is incomplete. Thus, its power is limited.”

He left his audience with a piercing message.

Food for Thought

Looking without Seeing

“You shall not stray after your heart and after your eyes” (Bamidbar 15:39)

On the wedding day of Rebbi Aharon of Belz, the governor wished to pay a visit to his and his kallah’s family, whose fathers were Rabbanim in his district. He also wanted to meet the illustrious chatan.

The chatan, however, was not interested in this visit in the slightest. He sought ways and means of avoiding this meeting. On the one hand, he deeply wished to avoid gazing at the face of a gentile and to have to bless him on this sanctified day of his marriage. On the other hand, the governor was liable to become insulted and take out his anger on the Jews in his province.

His father, Rabbi Yissochor Dov, told him, “The Torah commands, ‘You shall not stray after your heart and after your eyes’? Why is the heart mentioned first? The eyes are the first ones involved in sin. After the eyes see something, the heart desires it.

“The answer is that the eyes only notice that which the heart desires. When the heart has no interest in something and does not think about it, the eyes don’t see it. You can look at a person and not see him!”

Men of Faith

R’ Massoud Levi, one of the loyal followers of Rabbi Chaim Hagadol, earned a livelihood as a goldsmith. The older he became, the worse his vision became, until he became blind.

For more than ten years, R’ Massoud remained blind. The greatest specialists could not restore his vision.

R’ Massoud had only one objective in mind: to regain his vision. He decided to go to the grave of the tzaddik Rabbi Chaim and plead that in the merit of the tzaddik he should recover his sight.

He asked his son to help him get to the grave of the tzaddik. His son agreed, but for unknown reasons, when they arrived, the son fled the graveyard, and his father was left alone.

R’ Massoud began to cry, “Who will lead me? Who will help me back?”

Suddenly he fell into a deep slumber. In his dream he saw two people standing in front of him, asking loudly, “Why are you crying?”

R’ Massoud answered, “I am blind and my son ran away from me.”

The people standing opposite him in his dream told him, “We will wait until the great king, Rabbi Chaim Pinto, appears, and he will tell us what to do, since it is prohibited to remain here alone.”

Suddenly, R’ Massoud saw Rabbi Chaim coming toward him. Rabbi Chaim passed his hand over both of his eyes, and R’ Massoud began to see once more. This was after ten years of being blind!

Astonished, he woke up from his sleep. He could not believe his eyes. He began to walk around the cemetery, completely amazed by the powers of the tzaddikim and the miracles that they perform.

Meanwhile, his son returned to the cemetery. When he spotted his father wandering among the tombs, he called to him, “Father! Be careful not to stumble.”

“In the merit of the great king, Rabbi Chaim Pinto, who came here, Hashem healed me. I can see well already,” his father answered.

There is another version to the story that Rabbi Massoud visited the grave frequently and recited Tehillim there until his vision was restored in the merit of the tzaddik. When he returned to the city, everyone was amazed by the enormous miracle that Hashem had performed in the merit of the tzaddik, returning his vision after ten years of being blind.


Hevrat Pinto • 32, rue du Plateau 75019 Paris - FRANCE • Tél. : +331 42 08 25 40 • Fax : +331 42 06 00 33 • © 2015 • Webmaster : Hanania Soussan