January 6th, 2018

19th of tevet 5778


The entire Torah is combinations of Hashem's Names

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

"And he retorted, "Who made you a man, a prince, and a judge over us? Do you say to slay me as you have slain the Egyptian?" Moshe became frightened and said, "Indeed, the matter has become known!" (Shemot 2:14)

These are the words that Datan and Aviram told Moshe Rabbeinu (see Nedarim 64b) when he reproved them about striking each other, and they asked him whether he planned to kill them the same way he had killed the Egyptian.

Rashi comments: "Do you say to slay me" – From here we learn that he slew him with the ineffable Name. We may wonder; after Datan and Aviram saw Moshe kill the Egyptian with the ineffable Name, how did they dare defy Moshe after seeing his lofty greatness in killing a man through the breath of his mouth.

In fact, the ineffable Name that Moshe used to kill the Egyptian is not the only Name of Hashem, since every single word in the Torah is combinations of Hashem's Names. From this we learn of the great obligation we have in delving in the Torah and its letters, because of the magnitude of its significance, since it is comprised of the Names of Hashem. When we learn the Mishnah, "Two hold a tallit," then of course it is discussing the tallit that two people are grabbing and arguing about, but in essence the words are combinations of Hashem's Names. 

Once a Jew asked me if I know how to pronounce the ineffable Name, and I told him, "yes."

The man was impressed, but refused to believe me. I told him that every blessing that we recite; "Blessed are You, Hashem, our G-d, King of the universe," is actually the ineffable Name. We must be aware that the study of Kabbalah is not limited to the combinations of Names and deep interpretations according to the mystics of the Torah, but each and every mitzvah, and every word of Torah that a person struggles over, according to his understanding and level, and also every prayer that a person concentrates on according to his level, and when he declares the oneness of G-d while reciting "Shema Yisrael," is also in essence Kabbalah, since it is dealing with combinations of Hashem's Names.

There was an incredible story that took place in France with my doctor, who beside for being one of the top professors in France, is also a true ba'al teshuvah, who sets fixed times to study Torah with great devotion, and does not take any calls at that time. Once a fellow Jewish doctor, who is his friend, was diagnosed with the dreaded disease of malignant cancer. It was discovered in an advanced stage, and it was clearly predicted that his days were numbered. My doctor went to visit him and advised him that although according to natural circumstances one dies from this disease, G-d forbid, but maybe Hashem sent this illness so that he would strengthen his commitment to Torah, and thereby merit life.

The sick doctor listened and accepted the advice, and even implemented it. He began to set fixed times to study Torah and strengthened his mitzvah observance. And wonders of wonders! After a few months he was cured entirely of his illness. It was an obvious, extraordinary miracle, and all the doctors said that there had never been a man who had survived this disease.

The miracle occurred through the virtue of the holy Torah. This is because the sacred Torah is actually Kabbalah, and it is capable of creating miracles like this. It is stated in Tehillim (Tehillim 145:19), "The will of those who fear Him He will do," signifying the will of the Torah scholars, who even without learning Kabbalah officially, fulfill the will of Hashem.

Why then are we not awed and enthused by the Names of Hashem when we study Torah and observe its mitzvot?

It seems that this is because of what we explained before, that when a person is involved in the transient vanities of the world, and does not disengage from them, his senses become dulled. This is also what happened to Datan and Aviram. Although they witnessed the miracle of Moshe killing the Egyptian through the ineffable Name, they were not awed by it, because they were dulled by their sinful conduct and slanderous speech. One who is attached to the vanities of this world, and how much more so if one is involved in sinful conduct, he is not capable of being inspired with faith in Hashem and in Moshe, His servant.

Truly the attractions of this world are most alluring, and many fall into the trap of the Yetzer Hara. One must sacrifice his life and distance himself from the vanities of this world so that his heart will be open to embrace the Torah and the love and fear of Hashem. Only then will he be awed by the Names of Hashem.

Words of our Sages

Clever people at a disadvantage

"But the Lord said to him, 'Who gave man a mouth, or who makes [one] dumb or deaf or seeing ("pekay'ach" in Hebrew, literally seeing but colloquially understood as clever) or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?'" (Shemot 4:11)

Rabbi Meir Shapira of Lublin, zt"l, once came to the Admor, the author of the "Imrei Emet," Avraham Mordechai Alter of Gur, in order to consult with him about a certain person who had been suggested to him to fill the position as a mashgiach in his yeshiva "Chachmei Lublin." He wanted to know if the "Imrei Emet" thought it was a good idea, and whether he thought the person suited the job.

The "Imrei Emet" from Gur answered him very briefly, "He is a "pekay'ach" (a clever one)!" and he did not add anything more.

The Rabbi of Lublin left with a good feeling, thinking that the Admor supported the suggestion to appoint the man as the spiritual mashgiach of his yeshiva.

Upon leaving, he met the brother of the Admor, Rabbi Moshe Betzalel Alter, hy"d, and decided to share with him what the Admor told him. However, he was very taken aback by the brother's response.

"My brother will never utter a derogatory word about a fellow Jew. His mouth is entirely holy and one will never hear a derogatory comment about any person from him. Thus, what can he do when he is asked about a person who has something to hide about his character? He will give cryptic answers so that the person would figure out what he means."

"If he thought and agreed that this person was suited for the position, he would have given his blessings for success in closing the deal. However, the Admor wished to convey indirectly that you should not take him, and he is not suited at all for the job, so the Rabbi made a remark that sounds like a virtue, saying that the man was clever, but a Torah scholar like the Rabbi of Lublin should understand that this is not really a virtue"…

"See what is written in this parashah. Hashem lists this trait of being clever as a fault and not as a virtue: "Who gave man a mouth, or who makes [one] dumb or deaf or seeing (pekay'ach - clever) or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?"

"It is not by chance that Hashem listed being clever as a fault, since sometimes being too clever can be a fault and not a virtue!"

"The Admor actually intended to convey to his honor that you should not appoint him as a mashgiach!" Rabbi Moshe Betzalel concluded.

In the end, some time later the accuracy of the Admor's assessment became apparent, when it was discovered that this man was very far from fearing Heaven, just he had managed to conceal his unacceptable views…  

Walking in Their Ways

Sucked into the Cyclone

I know of a G-d-fearing Jew, who merited raising his children in the ways of Torah and mitzvot. They were all learning in prestigious kollelim and yeshivot. He himself was a talmid chacham of note. One day, he approached me, and, contrary to what one would expect to hear from such a man, he began complaining about his difficult life. He was constantly beset by financial stress. He was at the point of feeling grievances toward G-d due to his difficult financial situation.

Initially, I was shocked at his attitude. This man spent fortunes sending his sons to the finest educational institutions and brought them up with a solid Torah outlook. How could he display such an overt lack of faith in Hashem, utterly contradicting what his life stood for?!

Upon further reflection, I realized that this man was struck with the negative trait of anger. The Gemara states in the name of Rava bar Rav Huna (Nedarim 22b), “Whoever is quick to anger does not respect even the Shechinah, as the pasuk states: ‘The wicked man, in the pride of his countenance [says]: He will not avenge! All his schemes are: There is no Divine Judge.’ Rabbi Yirmiya Midifti says that one who is quick to anger forgets his learning and becomes foolish, as the pasuk states (Kohelet 7:9), ‘Anger lingers in the bosom of fools.’ It further states (Mishlei 13:16), ‘The fool broadcasts his foolishness.’ Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak says that his sins are certainly more than his merits, as the pasuk says (Mishlei 29:22), ‘A man of wrath is full of offense.’”

All of these verses point to the fact that one who allows himself to become angry loses out spiritually. The Shechinah is nothing in his eyes, chas v’shalom, he forgets his Torah study, and his offenses are numerous. The Rambam adds an indictment (Hilchot De’ot 2:3), “Our Sages say that whoever is quick to anger is compared to an idol worshipper.” Anger demonstrates a lack of belief that whatever happens to a person is pre-ordained on High.

I understood that this was the underlying problem in this man’s mindset. When Hashem sent him difficulties, he became plagued by his anger, which damaged his level of faith. His faith was thereby not strong enough to carry him through the tough times he faced, and he was therefore unable to make peace with his challenges. This vicious cycle nearly brought him to challenge Hashem Himself.

When one succeeds in correcting the negative trait of anger, he automatically raises his spiritual level. His challenges serve as a springboard to lift him ever higher in kedushah and yirat Shamayim.

Guard Your Tongue

Not deciding that it is true

The prohibition against accepting lashon hara is even if the narrator relates the story before a number of people. Nevertheless, one may not decide because of this that it is true, but the listener may suspect and investigate the matter. If it becomes clear that the story is true, then they should reprove the person. 

The Haftarah

The haftarah of the week: "The words of Yirmeyahu the son of Chilkiya" (Yirmeyahu 1:2)

According to the Ashkenazim: "Those who came, whom Jacob caused to take root" (Yeshayahu 27:6) and according to the Iraqis and Yemenites: "Son of man let know" (Yechezkiel 16)

The connection to the parashah: The haftarah describes how at first Yirmeyahu refused to go on the mission of Hashem, arguing that he could not speak well, because he was only a young man, which is similar to the parashah, describing how Moshe Rabbeinu refused to go on the mission of Hashem because he was not a man of words.

Chazak U'Baruch

The mitzvah of "Love your fellow as yourself" is undoubtedly a most important mitzvah and a fundamental principle of the Torah. However, besides for its great importance in quality, this mitzvah also is most significant because of the quantity of opportunities it presents. The Saba of Kelm expounds upon this point in his writings (page 13), and he says the following:

"There is no other mitzvah that a person can perform thousands and ten thousand times every moment aside from this mitzvah, because regarding every Jew there is a positive commandment [to love him as yourself]. Consequently, the Yetzer Hara attacks this mitzvah constantly to cause us great losses every moment. The mitzvah in general to love every Jew is incumbent upon each and every Jewish person at every moment, and includes thousands upon thousands of mitzvot."

The Saba of Kelm presents a simple calculation:

The Torah commands us to perform the mitzvah of "Love your fellow as yourself." If we were to love one of our fellows, would we fulfill this mitzvah? Of course! And what if we would love two Jews; would we thereby fulfill two mitzvot? Certainly! Then, what if we would love that fellow for a long period of time. Would we fulfill only one mitzvah? Certainly not! Why would we be fulfilling only one mitzah if we love a fellow Jew more and more? Is it conceivable that one who loves a fellow Jew for one moment fulfills a mitzvah, and one who loves that same fellow Jew for a long period also just fulfills only one mitzvah?"

"The line of logic, therefore, is that the more we continuously love more and more fellow Jews, the more the mitzvah is multiplied; every additional Jew is another mitzvah, and every additional moment is another mitzvah in itself."

Now, let us calculate the mitzvot:

There are millions of Jews in the world. So then, if we love every Jew unconditionally, how many mitzvot can we fulfill? Clearly: millions of mitzvot!

During each day there are thousands of moments, and perhaps even more than that. Thus, if we would love a certain Jew for an entire day, how many mitzvot could we earn? There is no doubt: thousands and tens of thousands of mitzvot!

And if so, what if we would love every Jew at every moment for an entire day? We are already arriving at an astronomical sum of millions of mitzvot! And if we would continue this day after day for many years? It is impossible to calculate the enormous number of mitzvot that we could merit without any effort or trouble.

If so, is there anyone who can't figure out why the Yetzer Hara is so worried that we will fulfill the mitzvah of "Love your fellow as yourself?" Why he is so afraid that we will cling to it and merit endless mitzvot thereby? Why he does everything in his power to diminish its importance in our eyes? Who understands as well as him that there is no other mitzvah in the world that one can perform so many times in a very short time, without even getting up from his chair!


Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

Man resembles a tree of the field

"An angel of the L-rd appeared to him in a flame of fire from within the thorn bush, and behold, the thorn bush was burning with fire, but the thorn bush was not being consumed" (Shemot 3:2)

Hashem revealed Himself to Moshe specifically from the bush, and did not appear to him through a stone or sheep which Moshe was shepherding. Certainly there is deep meaning to the vision of the fire burning specifically in the bush. We also need to understand why Hashem revealed Himself to Moshe particularly through fire.

It seems that Hashem wanted to hint to Moshe that a person resembles a tree of the field. Just like the tree requires water in order to flourish, so too man needs Torah, which is compared to water, in order to live and flourish.

Furthermore, the bush that Hashem showed Moshe was burning with fire, since fire symbolizes burning passion, which has the potential to consume a person and destroy him. However, if a person toils in the study of Torah, then "the thorn bush was not being consumed," because the Torah protects and saves a person from every danger.

There are many different types of trees and bushes. Wicked people are compared to barren trees that have nothing, but their whistling is heard far away. On the other hand, tzaddikim are likened to fruit trees, since they contain Torah and many good deeds, just like trees that have lots of fruit.

There are also trees that are always green and covered with leaves even during the fall season. Then there are trees that are covered with leaves only at certain times of the year, but their leaves fall off during the fall season. Also these trees are compared to tzaddikim, and to those who are not tzaddikim. The tzaddik is like a tree that blossoms and blooms all year round, and the changing seasons do not affect him; he continues flourishing despite everything. This is because the tzaddikim heed Hashem's will and overcome their challenges with great courage. They do not slip and fall by every sweeping wind.

The masses and common people are compared to the other trees, which sometimes are green and full of leaves, and at other times are entirely bare of leaves. These people have times when they observe the mitzvot and follow in the ways of Hashem, but then it happens that the Yetzer Hara gets the better of them and overcomes them. Therefore, they abandon the ways of Hashem and succumb to the dictates of the Yetzer Hara. But very quickly they wake up to the truth and do teshuvah, and the leaves return to cover them as before. Thus, it is clear why Hashem revealed Himself specifically in a burning bush, since the tree teaches us about the different levels of Jews.  

Men of Faith

At the chanukat habayit of one of Moreinu v’Rabbeinu’s students living in Ashdod, someone got up and told the following unbelievable story that happened to her mother when she was living in Casablanca:

My mother would go out every day to the market to do her shopping. On the way, she would stop at the house of Rabbi Chaim Hakatan in order to receive his blessings.

Once, the tzaddik asked her, “Where are you going?”

“To the market to do my shopping as usual,” she answered.

“Do not go to the market,” the Rav instructed her. “Go back home and stay there. You can do your shopping in the afternoon or even tomorrow.”

The woman did not ask any questions. If the tzaddik said so, certainly there was a good reason for it. Without a word, she returned to her house. When her husband saw her, he asked why she had returned home before getting her shopping done.

“That is what the tzaddik told me to do,” she answered.

“Didn’t the tzaddik tell you why you should go home?” asked the husband.

“The tzaddik did not give any reason, and I also did not ask. Since he advised me to go home, I did exactly as he said.”

A few minutes later, one of the neighbors knocked on the door and told her, “Hurry over to your daughter’s house. She asked me to notify you that her husband suffered a stroke, and he is in critical condition.”

Only then did she understand the reason why Rabbi Chaim had told her to hurry home. It was in order that she should be available for her daughter in time. She rushed to her daughter’s house and her daughter informed her weakly, “Mamma! My husband is dying.” After a few minutes, her husband returned his soul to his Creator.

When Rabbi Chaim came to console them during the shivah, the mother asked him, “Rabbi! Why didn’t you tell me that my son-in-law was about to die? Why did you just tell me to go home without giving any reason?”

The tzaddik answered, “Did you want me to cause you grief earlier? It is enough to suffer the anguish now!”

From this we can perceive the greatness of the tzaddik. Rabbi Chaim knew through Divine inspiration everything that would happen. But, even so, he did not want to cause another Jew any additional pain. He felt their distress. Because of his exceptionally kind heart, he did all he could to reduce their suffering.

Food for Thought

The wisdom of the leader

Once when Rabbi Meir of Lublin, zt"l, left the Beit Knesset on Shabbat and set out for home, he noticed that a Jew had left his store open on Shabbat for business. A student of his, who was accompanying the Rabbi, tried to dissuade his teacher from entering the shop and reproving the owner, because this man was known to be violent and aggressive, and would hurt anyone that intervened with his business.

Nonetheless, the Rabbi of Lublin entered the shop and did not say a word, but simply sat and began to recite the Mishnayot of tractate Shabbat by heart.

It was not long before crowds of people gathered next to the store to witness the unusual sight: The Rabbi of the city found himself a suitable corner to study Mishnayot Shabbat…

Naturally, the owner of the store was forced to close his shop on the spot.


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