August 19th, 2017

27th of Av 5777


Tangibly Experiencing the Blessing

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto Chlita

“Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse” (Devarim 11:26)

Moshe Rabbeinu tells Am Yisrael that they must witness how he presents them with the blessings and the curses. We need to understand; how could Bnei Yisrael see with their eyes the blessings and the curses. After all, the blessings and the curses had not as yet materialized, but were just promises. Furthermore, why did Moshe tell them “Behold, I set before you today?” Can they see the actual blessing and curse with their eyes?

It seems to me that man is inherently limited in his physical vision. This is true of all man’s physical senses, such as feeling, hearing, smelling, and tasting. While the physical senses are limited, the spiritual senses are without boundaries at all. Therefore, tzaddikim can see from afar, and even know things that their ears did not hear directly, since they possess a heart that hears. This teaches us that through the virtue of the Torah, tzaddikim transcend limited physical senses, and acquire spiritual senses, which have no limit or measure.

The word “re’eh” (ראה ) has the same letters as the word “orah” – light (אורה ), and there is no light but Torah. A person who is filled with the light of the Torah will gain infinite vision beyond a limited physical view. Similarly, when a person enlightens his eyes with the light of the Torah, he is rewarded with seeing an abundance of blessing and success. Thus we find that seeing the blessing is accomplished through the study of the Torah, which grants blessings to the person.

The Ramchal (Mesillat Yesharim 2) says that there are two kinds of blind people. One is truly limited in his physical vision, and even if he exerts great efforts, he will never be able to see. And the other can see physically, but chooses to blind himself and remain in the dark by denying the truth. This is why Moshe told Am Yisrael, “See.” He implied that they should open their eyes and see truth so that they will be rewarded with goodness and blessings, and G-d forbid, not suffer curses. If a person blinds his eyes from seeing the truth, it is already a curse in itself, apart from the additional curses that will come upon him through the decrees of the Torah.

Once a woman came to me holding twin babies; she told me that when she was expecting the children, her doctors recommended her having an abortion because they had not heard the pulse of one of the twins, which they assumed had died, and consequently could harm its sibling. She said that when she came to me then, I told her firmly not to do an abortion, because she did not know for sure that one of the twins had truly died, and since the life of one twin was in doubt and the other was definitely alive, such an act was considered absolute murder. How could she spill innocent blood? Thank G-d, contrary to the doctor’s expectations; she merited giving birth to two healthy twin babies. The women then asked me how I knew to advise her not to perform an abortion despite the doctors’ warning. I explained to her that the doctors possess physical vision, which is limited; whereas one who toils in Torah is granted by Hashem the ability to see afar, even things which are hidden. I trusted in the merits of my holy forefathers, zy”a, for Heavenly assistance. 

Many times a blessing can be a curse in disguise, while a curse may turn out to be a true blessing. Generally, wealth is viewed as a blessing, but there are times when wealth brings calamity on its owners; instead of enjoying the blessing of money, they are harmed by it. On the other hand, sometimes a person experiences troubles and it seems to him as if his world has been destroyed. But precisely because of this difficulty, he merits experiencing great benefits and salvation. Moshe told Am Yisrael that if they were careful to go in the ways of the Torah, they would be saved from any curse behind the blessing. Also, they would benefit from the blessing hidden within the curse, and they will ultimately realize that it was really not a curse at all, but only Hashem’s concealed manner of bringing blessing upon them.

Hashem begged his sons to look afar and see what great benefits and blessings await them if they went in the righteous and good way. The fruits of the blessings, and likewise of the curses, G-d forbid, are truly visible, as it is stated about those who observe the Shemitta (Vayikra 25:21), “[Know then, that] I will command My blessing for you.” There are many stories of wondrous miracles that the Shemitta observers experienced because of their adherence to Shemitta in an obvious and tangible way. They saw how during the Shemitta year their fields produced a successful crop above all logic, in view of the fact that the farmers abstained from working and did not make any effort to improve their crops. Because of their devotion to the observance of the Shemittah, Hashem bestowed His blessings and the farmers saw in a tangible way how their crops flourished beyond all expectations. 

Walking in Their Ways

A Gracious Blessing

A pair of twin girls from Lyon asked for my blessing that they each find their marriage partner quickly. After coming to me a few times, they each found their zivug and married into the families of Saban and Deri. The joy at their weddings was palpable.

But their joy was short-lived. Although one merited having children almost immediately, her sister waited anxiously for a baby that did not come. The years passed. One twin already had two young children and was expecting her third, while the other had none. The one who was a mother was terribly pained at her sister’s plight.

They came to the yeshiva in Lyon to see me. After I delivered the shiur, they came into my office.

The sister who had merited children burst into bitter tears. “Honored Rav,” she began. “I have been married for five years. I have two sons and am expecting my third child. But my joy is incomplete because my sister is still barren. This gives me untold pain and makes my lot bittersweet.”

Her twin then took up the thread. “Honored Rav, I do not envy my sister, chas v’shalom. I wish her all the good in the world and a home filled with the sweet sounds of children. But whenever my husband looks my way, I feel that he is unhappy with me.”

These words pained me. I was especially touched by the sorrow of the sister who did have children. Her distress at her sister’s situation in spite of her blessing was poignant. I blessed the barren woman from the depths of my heart and said, “B’ezrat Hashem, this year you will be happier than your sister.”

She looked at me in surprise. “How can I be happier than my sister?” she asked. “Even if I were to give birth this year, I will have only one child, while my sister will have three, bli ayin hara!”

“Do you think Hashem cannot give you four children?”

When her sister heard this, she heartily answered, “Amen! May my sister be happier than I!”

I was humbled before this giant of a sister. How she worried and wished her dear sibling well!

The two women left my room, filled with faith in my prediction.

Things transpired as I had predicted. The expectant mother gave birth to a healthy baby, and the barren sister had quadruplets. I was the sandek of one of her sons.

This story was publicized throughout Lyon and caused a kiddush Hashem. Hashem is not far from anyone who seeks Him and truly believes in Him, as we say (Tehillim 145:18-19), “Hashem is close to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him sincerely. The will of those who fear Him He will do; and their cry He will hear, and He will save them.”

Guard Your Tongue

The Conditions

A person who hears gossip about his friend and has “significant proof” proving that this is true, is permitted to believe it only under the following conditions:

A. That there is no basis for judging that person favorably.

B. That the proof is actual proof, and not far-fetched.

C. He must personally see the proof.

D. He would benefit from it in the future.

E. He may only believe it in his heart, but not tell others, nor cause him a loss of money, or harm him.

The Haftarah

The haftarah of the week: “O poor tempestuous one, who was not consoled” (Yeshayahu 54)

The connection to this Shabbat: This haftarah is one of the seven Shabbatot of comfort that we read following Tishah B’Av, providing consolation to Am Yisrael.

Words of Our Sages

Kindness arouses Divine Grace

“And grant you compassion, and be compassionate with you, and multiply you” (Devarim 13:18)

There are three signs that one belongs to the Jewish Nation: they are merciful, bashful, and benevolent. Merciful, as it is stated: “And show thee mercy, and have compassion upon thee.” (Yevamot 79a)

Furthermore, Chazal explain (Shabbat 152b) regarding the pasuk “Anyone who has mercy on his fellow, he is shown mercy from Heaven.”

The gaon Rabbi Avraham Yakov Pam, zt”l, in his sefer “Atarah L’Melech” says that we learn from this the magnitude of Hashem’s Grace.

When a person deserves lawful punishment, G-d forbid, what does G-d do in His merciful kindness? He brings the person to perform some act of mercy with people, and thereby gains the Grace of Heaven.

A rich Jew told of an occurrence that happened with him:

“I was an immigrant from Baghdad, alone without any acquaintances and friends. I was looking for a place to live and came to Yerushalayim. I entered the Beit Haknesset, Ohel Rachel, and found there an outstanding tzaddik, Rabbi Suliman Mutzafi. He insisted that he knew me from chutz l’Aretz, and he inquired about my situation. I told him that I was looking for a source of income in the Tel Aviv area, where I was assigned a small apartment.

He promised to make inquiries for me.

When Rabbi Suliman realized that I had no connections in Yerushalayim, he himself went to find me a place to stay until I would be set up. He arranged for me to stay in a hotel and told me: Regarding food, I do not recommend eating the food from the hotel because its kosher standards may not be reliable, and besides, it would be too expensive to buy meals at the hotel.

Then, Rabbi Suliman himself would bring me daily a hot meal, always accompanied by uplifting words. In the meantime, he used his connections of acquaintances to find me a job in my area. After spending two weeks in Yerushalayim, I returned happily to my home.”

Later it turned out that the wholesome dinners that Rabbi Suliman brought this man every day for two weeks were his own meals! He gave up his meals for his fellow and was left without food! The Rabbi did not reveal this to his wife, so that no one would know the acts of loving-kindness which he quietly performed. 

Chazak U’Baruch

The children of the M. family are generally characterized by their vigorous spirit and liveliness, and it seemed that little Avremi outdid all his siblings. The family was accustomed to sudden surprises of all sorts, but what Avremi did that morning was beyond imagination.

Sometime earlier, the seminary in which their oldest daughter learned, held a gathering to reinforce the issue of berachot. They requested from all the girls to take upon themselves to strengthen a point that needed strengthening regarding berachot and its halachot.

The girls welcomed the project with enthusiasm. Each of them took upon herself something particular which she felt needed reinforcement, and a number of girls, including this oldest daughter, took upon themselves not to recite a blessing unless there was someone to answer Amen after the blessing.

Most of the day, this was relatively easy, but in the morning she faced a challenge, because being that her seminary was far from her home, she had to leave the house very early, while the members of her house were still asleep.

Little Avremi was used to getting up early every morning, and when he heard his sister’s request, his heart filled with pride, and he gladly agreed to her offer to answer Amen to her berachot.

This became a permanent procedure. Every morning Avremi waited paiently in the kitchen for his sister until she prepared herself a hot drink, listened earnestly to her berachah, answered Amen happily, and then continued playing with his toys.

That morning, Avremi woke up earlier than usual. The rest of the family was still asleep, and no one noticed the little boy slipping out onto the roof through the window of his room on the second floor of their house.

A few minutes later, the eldest daughter awoke from her sleep and quickly got ready to go to seminary. When she entered the kitchen she was a little surprised not to find her brother there. She prepared herself a drink, and before reciting the blessing, she went to look for Avremi.

She hoped to find him sitting in the corner of the living room busy with his toys, but strangely enough, he was not there. “Maybe he’s still asleep,” she thought to herself, but he was not in bed either.

When he did not turn up even after a quick look in all the rooms of the house, she began to worry. She hurried down to the yard of the building, where occasionally he would go play, but did not find him there.

Now she was really worried. “Who knows where he is?”

Then suddenly she remembered: The roof! She had noticed on several occasions that the space on the roof close to the second floor of their apartment appealed to her little brother. Just yesterday evening her mother had managed to pull him out of his bedroom window after he had managed to slip through it unseen…

Horrible images raced through her mind as she rushed, pushing herself through the window onto the roof. She looked around, and not seeing her brother, she began to shout in a frightened voice, “Avremi! Where are you?” Suddenly she heard a muffled voice answer from the corner of the roof: “I’m here!”

Gathering her wits she rushed toward the voice and noticed to her horror two small hands sticking out over the rail.

A quick glance was enough to comprehend the danger before her; little Avremi stood over the railing of the roof, grasping it with all his strength, while his feet barely fit on the small ledge protruding from the bottom of the porch railing.

She did not know where she got the strength from, but she reached out and pulled the little boy onto the landing of the roof. She could not think of what would have happened had she arrived a second later. Avremi stood with his eyes lowered in embarrassment. He knew he had done something wrong, and he was filled with remorse. He instinctively felt that he had to make it up to his sister for giving her such a fright.

He quickly entered the house and brought her the cup of drink. “Take it. Make a berachah, and I will answer Amen,” he offered.

“Baruch atta Hashem Elokeinu Melech haolam shehakol nihiye bidvaro – Blessed are You, Hashem, our G-d, King of the universe, through Whose word everything came to be.” All of a sudden, the blessing got new significance, and little Avremi answered promptly, “Amen,” with great fervor.


Rabbi David Hanania Pinto Chlita

Ma’aser sheini which was eaten in Yerushalayim

“And you shall eat before the Lord, your God, in the place He chooses to establish His Name therein” (Devarim 14:23)

The Torah commanded each person to bring the fruit of his ma’aser sheini (second tithe) to Yerushalayim. If he could not do so, then he would have to redeem it with money and bring the money to Yerushalayim, and buy food to be eaten there in holiness. We need to clarify; why did the Torah command that the ma’aser be eaten specifically in Yerushalayim, since each person could have eaten it in his own city for the Sake of Heaven.

We can explain it in the following way: Yerushalayim is the center of Torah where the Sanhedrin sat and passed judgment. It was filled with the sound of Torah emanating from the heart. Therefore, everyone had to ascend to Yerushalayim to learn how to study Torah, and only there to eat the fruits in holiness. Although they made the pilgrimages to Yerushalayim three times a year, it was still not enough, because at that time they were preoccupied with the celebration of the chag and performing its mitzvoth, and had no time to focus on the sounds of Torah vibrating in Yerushalayim.

Therefore, the Torah commanded that they should ascend to Yerushalayim during tranquil times and eat the ma’aser sheini, and consequently become aware of the sounds of Torah in Yerushalayim.

Another thing that was achieved when ascending to Yerushalayim was to abolish any notions of “My strength and the might of my hand that has accumulated this wealth for me.” People would realize that it was the Hand of Hashem, when they witnessed the obvious miracles in Yerushalayim, and thus remember that it is Hashem Who runs the entire world and there is no other power besides for Him. Ultimately, people only came to this realization when they heard the sound of Torah resounding in Yerushalayim.

Food for Thought

When the intentions do not matter

This parashah emphasizes the importance of the mitzvah of giving tzedaka by discussing the significance of charity and kindness.

The Admor the Ba’al Hatanya, zt”l, once told his followers that although regarding prayer it was decided that “Better to pray less with deliberation, than more without deliberation,” but regarding tzedaka it is not so.

On the contrary, it is better to increase one’s charity even without deliberating on the meaning of the mitzvah, because the main thing about performing charity is to provide the relief and assistance.

Men of Faith

A Tzaddik’s Decree

R’ Yichye Hakohen, z”l, from Casablanca, who was active in promoting Torah and charity, offered to drive the holy tzaddik, Rabbi Pinchas Hakohen, who was a descendant of Rabbi David ben Baruch, to pray at the grave of the tzaddik Rabbi Kalifa ben Malka.

During the ride to Agadir, something went wrong with their car and it swung out of control. The car turned over three times and veered dangerously from the road, heading toward a steep cliff. It would be a matter of seconds before the car would plunge over it.

Rabbi Pinchas Hakohen, who was aware of the danger, screamed in panic, “May the merits of the tzaddik Rabbi Chaim Pinto save us so that we should not perish down in the valley.” At that moment, the two men felt as if some hidden power stopped the car and shifted it back onto the road.

After a few minutes, when the two tzaddikim recovered from their trauma, they realized what an immense miracle they had experienced. Rabbi Yichye turned to Rabbi Pinchas Hakohen and asked him, “Why did you prefer addressing the merits of Rabbi Chaim Pinto in your prayers, as opposed to the merits of your illustrious grandfather, Rabbi David ben Baruch?”

Rabbi Pinchas Hakohen was a bit surprised by the question, but provided a ready explanation, “It is important to note that the sons of tzaddikim must also believe in the powers of other tzaddikim, who are not directly related to them. Not always are one’s righteous ancestors available to assist him.”

“When we were in danger,” the tzaddik continued, “I wanted, of course, to mention the merits of my grandfather, Rabbi David ben Baruch. However, I perceived that he was busy finding merits for a woman who had turned to him in prayer. Therefore, I beseeched that in the merit of Rabbi Chaim Pinto we should be saved. He sprang into action and righted the vehicle. Moreover, his intervention saved us from the terrible decree, since ‘the will of those who fear Him, He will do; and their cry He will hear, and save them.’ A tzaddik decrees, and Hashem fulfills his will.”


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