Tetsaveh - Shabat Zachor

February 24th, 2018

9th of Adar 5778


The Self-Abnegation of Man for Faith and Attachment to the Torah

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

"And you shall command the children of Israel, and they shall take to you pure olive oil, crushed for lighting, to kindle the lamps continually" (Shemot 27:20)

The Torah does not mention the name of Moshe Rabbeinu, a"h, in the entire parashah of Tetzaveh. The words of Chazal are well-known and brought in in the Zohar Hakadosh in Parashat Pinchas (246:1), that the reason is because at the time of the sin of the Golden Calf, when Moshe Rabbeinu approached Hashem to advocate for Bnei Yisrael, he said (Shemot 32:32), "And now, if You forgive their sin, but if not, erase me now from Your book, which You have written." Consequently, Moshe's name was dropped from at least one parashah, the parashah of Tetzaveh.

We may ask what sin did Moshe commit by asking "Erase me now from Your book." His intentions were to save Bnei Yisrael from annihilation. On the contrary, he should have received a handsome reward. Let us imagine a king who got angry at his son and wants to kill him. Then his minister comes to him to advocate for his son. Wouldn't he receive a generous reward from the king for his efforts in saving the king's son? Through the minister's efforts on behalf of the king's only son, the minister demonstrates his love for the king and his family and surely is deserving of reward and not punishment.

Also Moshe asked Hashem to allow Am Yisrael to exist, and they are children of the King. Moreover, the Torah parallels Am Yisrael and matches them in numerically (the 600000 letters of the Torah equal the number of the Bnei Yisrael who went out of Egypt). Thus it is puzzling. Just because Moshe Rabbeinu asked for mercy out of his devotion to Bnei Yisrael, when he said to Hashem, if you do not forgive them for their sin then erase me from your book, as a plea on their behalf; is this a reason to not to mention his name in the parashah of Tetzaveh?

We may explain the reason why the Torah omitted the name of Moshe in the parashah of Tetzaveh based on a fundement of our emunah in particular and of our service of Hashem and study of Torah in general. A person must subjugate himself totally, without any personal interests, neither of money nor honor; a person must fulfill Torah and mitzvoth only for the sake of Heaven. In our daily lives we encounter every day subjective interests that prevent us from perceiving Divine Providence. If we would humble ourselves and remove all personal interests, we would perceive Hashem in our lives and be imbued with faith.

This is as Shlomo Hamelech says in Kohelet (7:2), "It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for that is the end of every man, and the living shall lay it to his heart." Why is it better to be in the house of mourning than at a feast, such as a feast for the sake of a mitzvah, such as on Simchat Torah or a Brit Milah and the like? The answer is because true loftiness is attained through means which are devoid of personal interest. Many times people attend celebrations of their friends because they want their friends to come to their celebrations. Or they go because of the expensive foods served at the celebration, or in order to socialize, or the like. Only in a house of mourning one does not anticipate that the mourners should repay his visit. When one goes to console the mourners, he does so truly for the sake of Heaven in order to comfort the family and share in their sorrow. Therefore, it is stated, "It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting." I have seen many times that particularly in a house of mourning, the family is open to hearing rebuke and spurred to doing teshuvah, because in such a setting, like we mentioned, there are no personal interests involved. Then they can learn the lesson that should be learned by encountering death, that there is an end to every person. They are aroused to doing teshuvah and their hearts are opened to the words of Torah and rebuke.

One who does not humble himself and does not perceive Divine Providence in his daily life, then even in other things he sees in the world, instead of learning from them and growing, he will ignore them.

Rabbi Gershon Liebman, zt"l, related about Rabbi Yisrael of Salant, zy"a, who once saw a shoemaker bent over his work by candlelight late at night. He asked him why he was working so late, and the shoemaker replied that as long as the candle was burning it was still possible to do repairs. Rabbi Yisrael got inspired and was very moved by what he heard. He returned to his lodging and repeated to the owner what he had heard from the shoemaker. He said that he learned from him that also we, as long as our soul is still in our body, can repair our deeds.

Similarly, Shlomo Hamelech said that we can even learn from an ant (Mishlei 6:6), "Go to the ant, you sluggard; see her ways and become wise." The ant's life is short, and nevertheless it collects and gathers during its lifetime stocks filled with food. Chazal explain (Devarim Rabbah 5:2), that it does so because it has hope and faith that perhaps Hashem will have mercy on it and will prolong its life, and then it will need the entire stock of food. Thus, as from an ant, and as from the example of the shoemaker, we can learn so much as long as one has a humble disposition and does not allow his subjectivities to interfere. How much more so can one learn from everything in Creation in this manner.

Walking in Their Ways

Clearly Seeing Hashem’s Guidance

Since I am always busy with public matters, I am reluctant to leave the yeshiva building for matters other than the dissemination of Torah. Personal matters are postponed until they can be neglected no longer.

My blood sugar level was not stable. After consulting with my private doctor, I was told to visit a diabetes specialist and receive his advice. I realized that I must not take the matter lightly, but attend to my health. I got an appointment for Friday afternoon.

A week before the scheduled appointment, I felt my vision weakening and understood that I would have to pay a visit to my eye doctor, as well. I hadn’t been to him in six years, and my eyeglass lenses probably needed replacement.

On the scheduled Friday, I came to the doctor’s office. To my surprise, I discovered that I had mistakenly been sent to an eye specialist instead of a diabetes doctor.

Once there, I took advantage of the opportunity to have my eyes checked. As I had thought, I needed to raise my lens number. After finishing there, I continued on to the diabetes specialist, whose office was not far from there.

Upon reflection, I realized that this doctor’s mix-up had actually been an act of Divine intervention. Hashem had mercy on me and arranged for me to have two doctors’ visits on the same day so that I shouldn't have to trouble myself twice.

This incident reinforced my emunah in Hashem. He does good to all His creatures, in the simplest and most natural way. Often, it is only after a certain occurrence that we recognize the hashgachah pratit involved, helping us.

The Haftarah

The haftarah of the week: "And Shmuel said to Shaul" (Shmuel I, 15)

The connection to the parashah: On this Shabbat, which is Shabbat Zachor, we read the haftarah in which the subject of destroying Amalek is mentioned, when they went out to war against Bnei Yisrael in the days of Shaul Hamelech.

Guard your Tongue

Sometimes the prohibition of listening to lashon hara also includes listening to derogatory accounts about a small child. For example, to slander an orphan who is being raised by strangers in their house could cause them to expel him from their home. If the narrator's intention is to correct the young orphan, and guide him in the right way, then it is permissible. But he must be sure beforehand that the story is true. He should not simply rely on what he heard from others. He should also have foresight when telling the story, because many time distorted judgment is arrived at in such cases. 

Words of our Sages

Purity of heart

In the time of the gaon Rabbi Yehuda Assad, zt"l, a simple Jew lived in the town of Szerdahely, who was the shamash of the Beit Haknesset. He was so simple and wholehearted that every day when he would light the candles in the Beit Haknesset, he would say: For the sake of unifying the Name of the Holy One, Blessed is He, and His Presence, behold, I am prepared and ready to perform the commandment of "honoring Hashem with lights," and I am intending by lighting the candles in the Beit Haknesset to unify all the unifications accomplished during the lighting of the candles in the Beit Hamikdash."

His words would be uttered with great concentration and wholehearted purity. 

This is what the shamash did every day, rising to light the candles of the Beit Haknesset while murmuring the words, "For the sake of unifying the Name of the Holy One, Blessed is He," and his heart was overflowing with emotion in wholehearted purity, that it should be accepted on High just like in the Beit Hamikdash, when the Kohen Gadol would rise and prepare the lighting of the candles in the Beit Hamikdash opposite the Holy of Holies.

The congregants who would hear him would be awed by the exalted deed performed with wholehearted purity.

Once, the butcher of the town happened to come to the Beit Haknesset just when the shamash was lighting the candles, and the awesome performance inspired him so greatly, that he began to envy the shamash's tremendous merit. The butcher strode over to him and asked him, "Are you willing to sell me the merit of this tremendous mitzvah of lighting the candles?" The butcher did not suffice with simply asking the question, but he also mentioned a very large sum of money that he would pay him if he was prepared to make a deal with him. 

The shamash, who knew the value of the special mitzvah that he was privileged to perform, firmly refused to relinquish the mitzvah to the butcher. But the butcher did not give up and every day he would come to the Beit Haknesset and press the shamash, pleading with him to let him have the mitzvah.

The butcher begged him so much that the shamash decided to approach Rabbi Yehuda Assad and consult with him what he should do. When the gaon Rabbi Yehuda Assad, zt"l, heard the story, he advised the shamash to offer the mitzvah to the butcher for the price of a gold coin each day. This was considered a very large sum of money, "But," Rabbi Yehuda Assad added, "do not use the money that the butcher will give you. Rather, put it aside and save it."

Although the Rav's advice was hard for the shamash to accept, he obeyed the Rabbi of the city, and did as he was told. So, each day the butcher would pay a gold coin to the shamash of the Beit Haknesset, and he would approach with awe to light the candles in the Beit Haknesset.

The shamash, on his part, also fulfilled the other half of Rabbi Yehuda Assad's advice and placed the golden coins that he received each day in a safe place, without spending any of it. Thus, during the next few years a huge amount of money had accumulated.

One day, a member of the congregation met the butcher in the Beit Haknesset, and the butcher began to cry bitterly. When he asked him what had happened that he was crying so hard, the butcher told him that he had just finalized a shidduch for his daughter and she got engaged, but he did not have the money which he had promised to pay for her dowry.

When his distressing situation reached the ears of Rabbi Yehuda Assad, the gaon called the shamash of the Beit Haknesset and told him: "Now the time has come to use the money that you saved and to perform a tremendous mitzvah. Take all the money that the butcher gave you throughout the years which you put aside and give it to the butcher so that he could marry off his daughter with dignity."

When they counted the golden coins that were saved, Rabbi Yehuda Assad exclaimed, "I testify before heaven and earth that it is the exact sum the butcher promised for his daughter's dowry – exactly! Not one gold coin more and not one less!"


Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

Not in heaven

"And you shall command the children of Israel, and they shall take to you pure olive oil, crushed for lighting, to kindle the lamps continually" (Shemot 27:20)

The word "shemen – oil" can allude to the word "Mishnah," since they share the same letters. This implies that Am Yisrael were commanded to "take" the Mishnah and learn it continually. "Mishnah" refers to the entire Torah, which they are obligated to toil in its study. By learning the "Mishnah," which is an integral part of the Torah, all the neshamot of Am Yisrael connect with each other, since the word "neshamah" also corresponds to the letters of "shemen – oil" as stated in the pasuk, as well as the letters "Mishnah." Also the word "Tetzaveh" alludes to "tzavta – unity," since when Am Yisrael learn Torah in unity (tzavta), they cause all the neshamot to connect together, and consequently Hashem resides His Shechinah among them.

David Hamelech says in Tehillim (69:19), "Alita lamarom shavita shevi lakachta matanot b'adam – You ascended on high, you took captives; you took gifts to be among men." The Arizal Hakadosh explains that we learn from this pasuk that Moshe Rabbeinu ascended to heaven and captured the neshamah of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, since the word "shevi" is an acronym for Shimon bar Yochai. However, it is puzzling, why did Moshe Rabbeinu have to capture the neshamah of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and bring it down to earth?

The reason is because Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai is synonymous to the hidden secrets of the Torah, and as soon as his neshamah descended to the world, all the secrets of the Torah came down to earth, and were no longer reserved in heaven. This is as stated regarding the Torah that "it is not in the heavens" (Devarim 30:12). It implies that anyone who wishes to learn Torah, can do so, since it is laying in a corner available for everyone.

This fact that all the secrets of the Torah descended to earth, and even the most lofty concepts mentioned in the holy Zohar, which was written by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, obligates us so much more to dedicate ourselves to the study of Torah and not shirk our responsibility with the excuse that the Torah is unattainable. As we explained, since the time the Torah was brought to the world, it has become accessible to everyone, especially after Moshe Rabbeinu captured the neshamah of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and brought it to this world, all the secrets of the Torah descended to the world and are not withheld from those who delve in it.  

Chazak U'Baruch

We already mentioned that the way to succeed in practicing "Love your fellow as yourself" is to get used to the idea that we are not the only person in the world. Just as Hashem created me, He created all other people as well. Just as I have desires and needs, so do others. Hashem gives each person their portion, and your fellow cannot take what belongs to you. A person has a tendency to believe that the entire world belongs to him. Consequently, when he sees what his fellow has, he assumes that he took it away from him and then becomes jealous and angry.

It is told about the tzaddik Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vizhnitz, zt"l, that when his daughter suffered a dangerous illness, there was no choice but to send her to the top doctors in the big city to cure her. Her father, who worried about her condition, remained informed about her care each day by means of a special telegram sent to him from the central post office in the city.

Once day, the telegram did not arrive as it did every day, and it was evident that this greatly disturbed the illustrious father. He paced back and forth in restless frustration.

A few hours later, the awaited telegram arrived with wonderful news: It turned out that his daughter was out of danger, and there was significant improvement in her condition…

Happy rejoicing was clearly reflected on the Rebbe's countenance. The faithful attendant of the Rebbe took advantage of this opportune moment in order to clarify what was troubling him:

"Rebbi, how is possible that the delay in the telegram caused the Rebbe so much distress? If the Rebbe was overcome with worry and could not find peace of mind despite his unquestioning faith, then how could we, simple and lowly people ever succeed?" the attendant persisted.

Rabbi Menachem Mendel replied:

If you think that my distress today stemmed from worry over my daughter, then you are mistaken…not at all! My frustration stemmed from a very different reason. 

For many years now I have been working hard to achieve success in practicing "Love your fellow as yourself." I invested a lot of efforts to perfect this virtue and achieve unconditional love for each Jew to the same extent that I love myself!

Just recently it seemed to that I had truly succeeded in achieving my goal. I thought that I had already made it to the degree in which there was no difference between myself and my fellow Jew. However today, to my regret, I was proven wrong…when I was extremely anxious about my dear daughter's condition, my concern for her exceeded tenfold the concern I feel for one of my followers who give me a kvittel (request) on behalf of a member of their family who is very sick and their life is in danger…

"This was why I was so distressed and looked agitated!" the Rebbe concluded. Is there anything more to add to this?

Men of Faith

Mr. Pinchas Avitan told Moreinu v’Rabbeinu, shlita, that his father related an amazing story about his grandfather. His grandfather owned a bakery, which was unfortunately not successful. Discouraged, he sought out Rabbi Chaim Hakatan and asked him for a blessing to earn a profitable income.

Rabbi Chaim asked him, “Do you have some money on you?”

“Yes, I have.”

“Take the money that you have, invest it in making pastries and continue selling the products in your bakery.”

My grandfather was taken aback. “Rabbi! I cannot even sell the pastries that I have in stock now. How can I invest more money in the goods?”

Rabbi Chaim was adamant and repeated, “Listen to what I tell you and you will have success.” 

The man was permeated with faith in tzaddikim and did exactly as Rabbi Chaim instructed. He bought flour and baked cakes. Indeed, he sold all the cakes and earned a large profit from them. 

However, on his way home, he lost the wallet containing all his money. He was extremely distressed. While outside, my grandfather met Rabbi Chaim again.

“Nu, how were the sales today?”

“Although I sold all the pastries and earned a large profit, I lost my wallet with all the money in it. I am devastated.”

Rabbi Chaim gave him a penetrating glance, “It is true that the wallet with all your money got lost, leaving you destitute. However, since a poor person is considered dead, perhaps in this way the decree against you will now be cancelled.”

Upon hearing this, the man burst out crying bitterly.

“What should I do now? I don’t have a penny to live on.”

Rabbi Chaim gazed at him again and told him, “Go to a certain place and you will find your wallet there with all the money. Not one cent will be missing.”

Astounded, he asked the Rav, “How can I possibly find the wallet in that place? Hundreds of people pass by there. How is it possible that no one took it, and I will still find it?”

Rabbi Chaim repeated firmly, “Do exactly as I told you.”

Quickly, he went to the location that Rabbi Chaim described and found the wallet exactly where the Rav had told him to look. In the evening, when the man returned to Rabbi Chaim, the Rav asked him, “Did you find the wallet?”

“Yes!” he answered. “I found the wallet exactly where the Rav had said it would be. But, I still don’t understand how it’s possible! Thousands of people pass by there; how could it be that no one took it?”

“These things are ordained by Heaven,” Rabbi Chaim explained. “It is from Hashem. It may be that a certain fellow found the wallet, but when I gave you the blessing, he lost it. It was orchestrated by Heaven that, in the end, the wallet would be returned to you.”

This teaches us that the prayers of tzaddikim are not in vain.

Food for Thought

The effect of the sacrifices on the fruit

"And unleavened bread" (Shemot 29:2)

In our parashah we read about the sacrifices that Hashem commanded Bnei Yisrael to offer on the Altar. Chazal cite in the Midrash that when they would offer a sacrifice, anything that would be brought on the Altar, would bring blessing to that specie throughout the world.

The unleavened bread and the Lechem Hapanim (show-bread) that they used to offer would bring blessing upon the bread. And the Bikurim that they used to offer, would bring blessing upon the fruit of the world.

There is a story that is told about Rabbi Yonatan ben Elazar, who sat under a fig tree in the summer, and the fig tree was full of luscious figs. The dew came out upon it and the fig tree was dripping with honey. A goat came by and his milk was dripping into the honey, and the milk mixed with the honey. He called his disciples and told them: Come and get an idea of what it is like in the World to Come!


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