September 29th, 2018

20th of Tishri 5779


The Essence of our Joy on Simchat Torah

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

Simchat Torah is called Chag Ha'atzeret, as we are told (Bamidbar 29:35), "The eighth day shall be a restriction (atzeret) for you". It is a time when every person feels great joy; for we have been told to linger one more day with Hashem. As Chazal tell us, "Remain behind with Me for one more day, it is hard for Me to take leave of you". If so, Hashem certainly showers a person on this day with abundant blessings which will assist him in his battle against the powers of the evil inclination, for the evil inclination feeds off the holiness of Bnei Yisrael and wants to ensnare them in his net, but Hashem helps us to overcome him.

In addition to this, at times of joy a person connects to Hashem, as it says (Devarim 16:15) "You will be completely happy". "Ach" (completely) has the same numerical value as one of the names of Hashem - "אהיה ". As if to say, his joy is a rejoicing with Hashem. The outcome will be that despite all the chagim that have passed, a person will not tire from serving Hashem, but on the contrary, specifically on the last day he increases his joy and forgets all his problems and challenges, since he feels that he is standing before Hashem, and he dances before Hashem with great humility.

A person must know that in order to prepare properly for Simchat Torah, that the focus of all his happiness should be Hashem alone, he must exert himself and try and become a new person already from Hoshana Rabba night. The word "Rabba"  (רבא )is made up of the same letters as "create" (ברא ). How is it possible to achieve this level? By connecting to David HaMelech a"h, the Ushpizin of Hoshana Rabba.

David HaMelech testified about himself (Tehillim 119:97), "Oh how I love Your Torah! All day long it is my conversation". And he also said (ibid. 119:59), "I considered my ways and returned my feet to Your testimonies." David HaMelech is telling Bnei Yisrael: I examined all the approaches that don't include Torah and mitzvoth, to see if they give any kind of pleasure, or perhaps they have a way to prevent a person from sinning, and I saw that all the nations are mistaken with their way, for they do not have the Torah. The only way is "to Your testimonies" and 'How I love Your Torah"; only the Holy Torah.

And indeed, David HaMelech was an example to all Bnei Yisrael with his love of Torah. For example, when he danced with all his strength in front of the Aron Hashem, and didn't pay attention to the scorn of his wife, Michal, as it says (Shmuel II, 6:16) "And it happened as the Ark of Hashem arrived at the City of David, that Michal daughter of Saul peered out the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before Hashem, and she became contemptuous of him in her heart". David HaMelech also honored Torah scholars and studied Torah with great humility (Mo'ed Katan 16:2). Even though he only learnt two things from Achitophel, he called him "My teacher, My master, my guide, my intimate". His sole desire was to become absorbed in Torah. In this merit, Hoshana Rabba is called after his name. Additionally, in the future he will be the one to hold the cup of wine and recite the blessing in the se'udah of the righteous Avot, because he is the example of Torah and joy.

Therefore when a person learns Torah on Hoshana Rabba night, which is compared to Yom Kippur, and says chapters of Tehillim which David HaMelech wrote, he is cleansed from his sins. As Chazal say (Berachot 5:1), "One who occupies himself with Torah and kindness, is forgiven for all his sins". In Mishlei too (16:6), it is written: "Through kindness and truth iniquity will be forgiven".  Hashem will definitely help him to become a completely new person, as it says, "One who wishes to be purified receives assistance". This is the idea of Hoshana Rabba; Hashem saves a person from the evil inclination throughout the year, and he becomes a new creation, as in רבא – ברא .

Following this holy day when a person comes to Simchat Torah, he merits standing in proximity to our Creator with great joy. Then, at this auspicious time, Hashem inspires him with the power of David Hamelech, our holy forefathers and Moshe Rabbeinu (the Torah ends with his passing) and he becomes a new creation for whom it would be worth creating the whole world, and then a person enjoys all the abundance that Hashem showers on him.

This is the reason why we read of Moshe Rabbeinu's passing on Simchat Torah; to remind each person that Torah is only acquired by one who kills himself for it (Berachot 63:2), just like Moshe Rabbeinu who, throughout his life, sacrificed himself for Torah until his last day, therefore the Torah is called by his name.  One who joyously devotes his entire being to Torah study experiences the greatness happiness. Therefore on Simchas Torah a person should make sure to joyously give his all for Torah, just like Moshe Rabbeinu.

It is brought in the sefer "Beis Ahron" in the name of tzadikim, that on the Chag of Shemini Atzeret, Hashem takes hold of all the good influences to prevent them from going back up to heaven, so that they should stay down below to shower blessings on the Bnei Yisrael, for on Simchat Torah Hashem effects His people more than on any other day of the year. This is the true joy of Chag Simchat Torah.

Walking in their Ways

With Bonds of Love

More than ten years ago when I came to New York for the first time, I thought to myself that even though I am used to influencing people and helping them return to Hashem, nevertheless I can feel in my heart that New York is different. People won't be interested in listening to me; I doubt whether I will be able to approach someone and ask him, "Did you put on tefillin today? Do you keep Shabbat?" If he tells me no, and then I tell him - so go and put them on straight away, or keep the next Shabbat, will he listen to me? Will he put on tefillin and keep Shabbat? I imagined that since the focus of New York is primarily commerce, and a person only lives in New York if he has a major enterprise, his entire day is centered on business matters which leaves him with no time to daven and learn, put on tefillin and keep Shabbat.

Nevertheless, I didn't despair and I travelled to New York.

During my trip, Mr. Diamond approached me and related that he had suffered a serious eye disease, which had no known cure. It left him blind in both eyes.

“Do you lay tefillin daily?” I asked.

He replied in the negative.

I then quoted to him the pesukim which discuss tzitzit and tefillin. I read to him the following from Sefer Bamidbar (15:37-39), “Hashem said to Moshe, saying: Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them that they shall make themselves tzitzit on the corners of their garments, for all their generations. And they shall place upon the tzitzit of each corner a thread of turquoise wool. It shall will be tzitzit for you, that you may see it and remember all the commandments of Hashem and do them; and not explore after your heart and after your eyes after which you stray.” I also quoted the pasuk from Devarim (6:8), “Bind them as a sign upon your arm and they shall be ornaments between your eyes.”

I explained that Hashem gave us the mitzvot of tzitzit and tefillin which have the ability to protect a person from all harm. But to my dismay, he burst out in laughter. “Honored Rav, I was born in Israel, but moved to America, the land of plenty. Thank G-d, I do not lack for anything. The only thing that bothers me is this eye disease. What’s the connection between tefillin and my vision? Is wearing tefillin some kind of voodoo, which will suddenly open my eyes?!”

But I would not be deterred. “Imagine if a top specialist were to prescribe some sort of concoction of various herbs and tell you to put it between your eyes every morning. Would you obey him? Of course you would. If you would unquestioningly accept the advice of a mere human doctor, listen to me, your spiritual healer and do exactly as I instruct!

“The Torah is the potion of life, with the potential to heal anyone from any ailment. If Hashem commands us to wear tefillin every day, there is certainly a special reason for it, and doing it can only be beneficial. The Ben Ish Chai writes that tefillin have the ability to help a person believe in Hashem. They act as buffers between a person’s eyes and heart and the temptations of this world. If they provide spiritual remedy, they surely provide physical remedy, as well, and will be the catalyst for your complete recovery!”

Mr. Diamond followed my instructions. He purchased a pair of tefillin and wore them daily.

Sometime later when his eyesight returned, Mr. Diamond came to see me and with great emotion started telling me of his wonderful experience: "Rebbi, when I laid tefillin for the first time, I felt something that I had never felt in my life. At that moment I decided that my intention is solely to give nachat to Hashem and to fulfill the mitzva, and I didn't do it with the intention that it should take away my blindness.

I told him - in the merit of your complete faith, Hashem restored your eyesight. There is even a hint to this in the possuk (Devarim 6:8) "Bind them as a sign upon your arm and let them be ornaments between your eyes".

I am certain that this person was able to achieve this level of faith due to the power that Hashem embedded in him before he was born, when He created him; the potential bore fruit and brought him to repent.

Guard Your Tongue

Even his Father or Teacher

There is no difference in the prohibition of rechilus, whether one told over something on his own accord, or whether his friend who partially understood the story pressed him to tell exactly what so-and-so said about him. Even if his father or teacher pressures him to reveal what so-and-so said about them, and even if it is only avak rechilut, nevertheless it is forbidden.

Words of the Sages

Hold on to the Hakafot!

The Rav of Chevron, the holy Rabbi Eliyahu Manni zt"l, tells over a story in his sefer 'Siach Yitzchak': There was a chassid who used to kiss the Sefer Torah on Simchat Torah, while crying and pleading. They asked him if he could explain the reason for his tears.

He answered them: "On Simchat Torah I beg the Torah to be appeased for any bitul Torah or disrespect, and I accept upon myself from now on to observe all its commandments"!

If the Sefer Torah passes in front of the congregation and a person is not moved to regret and repent for transgressing mitzvot or for wasting time that could have been spent learning, and he does not plead to Hashem to forgive him for all his sins – but on the contrary, he continues on the wrong path - he is included in "The brazen goes to Gehinom" and deserves a great punishment.

It can be compared to a king whose servants insulted him. One day the king passed by but they were not moved and did not even consider using the chance to ask for forgiveness. They are now even more deserving of a punishment. So too, if a Sefer Torah passes a person and his heart is not moved to repent for insulting the Torah, common sense tells us that he deserves to be punished greatly, rachmana litzlan!

The Tzaddik R' Meir of Parmishlan used to say that at the time of the hakafot a person can tear up his decree. It is interesting that something similar is written in the prayer that is said at the beginning of the Hakafot, composed by the Chida. He writes that the hakafot have the power to bring down all partitions of iron which create a barrier between us and Hashem.

The great Chassidic masters were of the opinion that everything that a person achieves on Rosh Hashana through crying and a broken heart, one can achieve on Simchat Torah through one thing – joy and dancing. In addition, they said that the minutes of Simchat Torah are extremely precious - buckets and barrels of material and spiritual treasures can be drawn from each minute, and all this can be achieved through joyful dancing.

The Haftarah

The Haftarah of this week: "On the day that Gog comes" (Yechezkel 38:18)

The Connection to Sukkot: the Haftarah tells of the war of Gog and Magog which will break out at the end of days, and we have a tradition from our Rabbanim zt"l that this war will start on Chag HaSukkot


Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

The Most Suitable Time to be Joyous with the Torah

I thought of a wonderful reason why Chazal established that we finish reading all the Five Books of the Torah on Shemini Atzeret, at the end of all the Chagim and Holy Days.

It is known that the number seven symbolizes nature, and eight symbolizes a dimension beyond nature. All physical things are seven: seven stars, seven middot, seven days of the week.

Since the number eight is above nature, the Chag of Shemini Atzeret, which is the eighth day of Chag HaSukkot, hints to what existed before the world was created - there was only Hashem and Torah. Therefore Shemini Atzeret is a most fitting time to be joyous with the Torah.

One can also say a different reason. There is a well-known Rashi (Midrash Agadah), that on  the chag the Bnei Yisrael sacrificed seventy oxen, symbolizing the seventy nations. And when it came time for the Bnei Yisrael to leave, Hashem said to them: "Please, make for Me a small se'udah. Linger with me a little longer". This is an expression of love, comparable to sons who are about to take leave of their father when he tells them, "It is hard for me that you are about to depart. Stay with me one more day".

One can say that just like Hashem longs for our presence, each person, too, should feel that he longs for the days of the chag that have passed, and it should be hard for him to take leave of them and their holiness and the avodat Hashem that he achieved during this time. One who feels this longing will merit that the holiness of the chag and the closeness that he feels to Hashem will stay with him throughout the year. This is the main intention of the Yom Tov of Shemini Atzeret; we too should find it hard to take leave of Hashem and the Yom Tov days, we should wish that the holiness of these special days and our closeness to Hashem should continue throughout the year.

It is impossible for a person to feel this yearning unless he learns Torah. Through devoting himself to Torah he longs for Avodat Hashem and devotion to Hashem.

This idea explains why Chazal established the last day of the Chag as the day when we complete the Torah and make a great celebration. Through celebrating we will feel love and devotion for the Torah, and thereby we will carry forth the holiness of the chag and the uplifting feelings which surrounded us during these holy days, into the rest of the days of the year.

Quill of the Heart

The following is a sacred piyut, penned from the pure heart of the holy Maran Rabbeinu Chaim Pinto Hagadol, zya”a:

סימן: אני חיים

א-לי תפרח בת עמי. ושכל איש זר רם שלט בכל הדור. על הכל יד זר גברה. שובי נחשך אור עיני סף אני

נצור כבבת בנך אשר תמיד נזנח. ופרצותיו תגדור אליך ה' אקרא.  בכל צרה אל תרחק ממני

יסיר דאבת מלבנו אלוקים חי ובקרבנו ידור. יאמר לשפחת שרי. שובי אל גברתך והתעני

חי מתוך לבת אש הוציא את בן אהובך, אברהם ההדור. ואם לא עכשיו, מתי ישוב אפך ותנחמני

יבוטל יושבת וימח שם אדום. וגם בן קדר מדור ודור. ואשמח כל עתותי. ארוממך י-ה כי דליתני

יחפוץ י-ה קרבת בנו, אשר יצא לחוץ ורחק ממדור. קדשו ועם אנשי שוא. שכן הוא הגביר ראה עוני

מלכי תן לבת ציון הנחה ושמחה, וקרבן הנדור. וקרבנות חובותי נקריב לך קרן ישעי ומגיני


 Inyanei D'yoma

David HaMelech tells us in Tehillim "Of David; Hashem is my light and my salvation" and Chazal explain that "ori" (my light) refers to Rosh Hashana and "yishi" (my salvation) refers to Yom Kippur. The great masters had a special love for Shabbat Chol HaMo'ed for they were able to perceive the great merit and holiness of this Shabbat which occurrs in the middle of the Chag. The Mahari Segal (Maharil, Order of Prayers of Pesach, letter yud) used to say, "The Shabbos of Chol HaMo'ed gives me a special pleasure unlike any other Shabbat during the year, for there is a Yom Tov before it and a Yom Tov after it, and itself is a festival".

The truth is that the work of the Holy Days does not finish with Yom Kippur, but "He will hide me in His shelter on the day of evil" – this refers to Chag HaSukkot, which is a natural continuation of the Holy Days and cannot be separated from them. The atmosphere and holiness carries on in an even stronger way, surrounding us and accompanying us further.

Additionally, Harav Shach zt"l used to say that Sukkot is not just a continuation of the Holy Days, but it is a new height of closeness to Hashem. And the pinnacle is at the end of the Chag – Simchat Torah, when we open the Aron HaKodesh, take out all the Sifrei Torah and do not want to put them down! We hold them tight in our arms, "Please save, she hugs and cleaves to You, please save", Master of the World, we are with You together, we will never leave You.

Men of Faith

Helping Out

One Friday, Mrs. Chana Lankry was walking home from the marketplace, carrying heavy baskets laden with food for the holy Shabbat. Her steps were measured and slow, since at that time she was expecting a child, and the added load weighed her down considerably.

Just then, Rabbi Chaim Hakatan passed by and noticed Mrs. Lankry straining under her burden. He hurried over to her and said, “With your permission, we will carry the baskets to your house.”

The tzaddik took one basket and handed the other one to his attendant. Mrs. Lankry was very touched by the sensitivity of the tzaddik, and she burst into tears, saying, “I must beg forgiveness from your honor. I am but dust and ashes beside you. I cannot permit your honor to carry my baskets as a common porter.”

“Madame,” the tzaddik addressed her and declared with delight, “You are the one who is actually doing us a favor. You are giving us the privilege of fulfilling the important mitzvah of ‘You shall help repeatedly with him.’ Our reward is reserved for us in the World to Come, and we are grateful to you for granting us the opportunity to fulfill this exceptional mitzvah.”

Upon arriving at Mrs. Lankry’s house, Rabbi Chaim took out a substantial sum of money from his pocket and handed it to her to cover the expenses of new clothing and provisions required for the baby’s imminent birth.


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