April 20th, 2019

15th of Nisan 5779


The Festival Days – An Opportunity to Feel the Shechina's Presence

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

The Ohr Hachaim HaKadosh, asks a question on the following verse in Parshat Emor: "Speak to the children of Israel and say to them: Hashem's appointed festivals that you are to designate as holy convocations – these are My appointed festivals. For six days labor may be done, and the seventh day is a day of complete rest, a holy convocation, you shall not do any work; it is a Shabbat for Hashem in all your dwelling places. These are the appointed festivals of Hashem, the holy convocations, which you shall designate in their appropriate time." (Vayikra 23:2-3)

To quote the Ohr Hachaim: "We need to know why it repeats the words, 'these are My appointed festivals'. We also need to know why the Torah repeats the command about observing Shabbat, and I also notice that the repetition of 'these are the appointed festivals of Hashem', follows the command about Shabbat."

All these questions can be reconciled with an ethical perspective:

Hashem wished to teach the Bnei Yisrael the severity of the holiness of the festivals, so that a person should not think – as far as the holiness of Shabbat, which is indeed serious and for which one is punished for profaning it, I will certainly be particular to observe it and I will also urge my household to do so. But concerning the festivals which are not as holy - for on these days some of the halachot which are forbidden on Shabbat are permitted - maybe it is not so important to be meticulous. Therefore the Torah places the warning about Shabbat next to the warning about the festivals, to make it clear that they are equal in holiness, and far be it for a person to make light of them and to be more meticulous about Shabbat.

We find this idea in the Gemarah (Beitza 2b): "Why is Yom Tov different that the halacha is decided according to R' Yehuda who is stringent with the laws of muktzah? The answer is that since the severity of Shabbat is taken seriously in people's eyes, so the Sages were lenient with muktzah, as R' Shimon holds. However, because people are laxer with Yom Tov, they might be negligent, so the Sages were stringent and decided the halacha according to the opinion of R' Yehuda concerning muktzah.

In addition, we find that the festivals are actually called 'Shabbat', according to the words "on the morrow of the rest day" (Vayikra 23:11), which our sages explain (Menachot 65b) refer to the day after the festival. This is a proof that Yom Tov is equal to Shabbat in all ways, besides for the halachot concerning the preparation of food. We are told about the festivals: "No work may be done on them, except for what must be eaten for any person – only that may be done for you" (Shemot 12:16). Similarly, we find that the Mishna writes (Beitza 36b), "There is no difference between Yom Tov and Shabbat, only concerning preparing food."

A person must be extremely careful with the holiness of the festivals, and Chazal were most severe about the retribution of one who disgraces them. They decried (Avot 3:11): "One who desecrates sacred things, who disgraces the Festivals, who humiliates his fellow in public, who nullifies the covenant of our forefather Avraham, or who perverts the Torah contrary to the halacha – though he may have Torah and good deeds, he has no share in the World to Come". The Gemara also expresses this idea very strongly: "One who disgraces the festivals, it is considered as if he worships false gods" (Pesachim 111a).

We also find that our Sages say (Torat Kohanim, Emor 9:7): "Why is Shabbat inserted in the middle of the section about the festivals? To teach us that anyone who profanes the festivals – he is considered to have profaned the Shabbat." The Maharal of Prague zt"l, in his work 'Gur Aryeh', explains this idea in the following terms:

"Anyone who profanes the festivals which are also called Shabbat, and they are the seven days: The two days of Pesach, one day of Atzeret (Shavuot), one day of Rosh Hashana, one day of the Fast of the Tenth, two days of Succot, these are seven (days) corresponding to the day of Shabbat which is the seventh day, and one who profanes the festivals which are included under the term Shabbat, which is the seventh day. Understand this idea well, and you will find that one who profanes the festivals is considered as if he has profaned Shabbat, for the festivals are portions of rest while the Shabbat encompasses all rest."

The Maharal writes about the festivals (Ohr Chadash pg 69): "All the festivals show the connection and the cleaving which Yisrael have to Hashem, and therefore it is called 'moed' (appointed festivals), as in, "It is there that I will set My meetings with you, (ונועדתי לך שם ) and I shall speak with you from atop the Cover" (Shemot 25:22), which is an expression of meeting and connection." This brings out the idea that there is no difference between the holiness of Yom Tov and the holiness of Shabbat , and one who profanes the festivals is considered as if he has profaned the Shabbat, and he is punished as if he had profaned both of them.

Even though the generally accepted halacha is that one doesn’t bless over sweet smelling spices at the conclusion of the festivals, with the reason being as the Tosfot writes: "Because there is no neshama yetera (additional soul) on Yom Tov" (Pesachim 102b, Rav), nevertheless, some of the Kadmonim (later authorities) would indeed recite this blessing at the departure of the festivals (Or Zaru'a second section, siman 92, in the name of the Ramah). From this we can derive that there is an opinion that on the festivals too one receives the additional soul. This is indeed clear from several of the Rishonim. (Tosfot Pesachim ibid. in the name of the Rashbam, and this is also the opinion of the Rashba in his responsa, brought in the Avudraham, Seder Motzei Shabbat).

The Haftara

The haftara of the week: "At that time" (Yehoshua 5)

The connection to Shabbat: The haftara mentions the Pesach offering that Bnei Yisrael offered when they were about to be redeemed, which has a clear connection to Pesach and also to the topic of the Torah reading, which discusses the laws of offering the Pesach sacrifice.

Walking in Their Ways

Man is Born to Toil – in Spirituality Too

Somebody once came over to me and started pouring out his troubles. He doesn’t have anywhere to live, he has no source of income and on the whole, his entire situation is bleak. In his great distress he wished to know how he could improve his lot.

My answer to him was that I suspect his troubles stem from laziness. He must understand that as long as he sits with his arms folded he will not achieve anything. He must get up eagerly each morning and go out to work in order to bring in a respectable income, from his own hard work. This will bring him satisfaction and then with siyata dishmaya his situation will improve.  "Man is born to toil" and without toil and investment, there are no achievements.

In contrast, I was acquainted with someone who originated from Syria and later moved to Venezuela. When he first started out, he was a poor and unfortunate fellow who did not seem to be making it in life, but he did not give in to despair. He decided to take up any form of work that would present itself, as long as he could find some means of income.

He told me that each day he made his way over to the grounds where the factories used to dispose of their spare bolts of cloth, and he used to gather together the remnants which were still in good condition. He took them home and then he and his family would sit and fashion ties from these pieces of cloth, which he then proceeded to sell. From day to day his situation improved and he was soon able to purchase better quality materials, until the day came when he had the means to open a store. With Hashem's help he was eventually considered one of the wealthiest in his country.

These days that are upon us, are days of preparation for the long awaited future, for the time of receiving the Torah on the festival of Shavuot. And just like with every good and valuable thing which a person wishes to acquire, toil and exertion is necessary in order to achieve them, so too one who wishes to merit the crown of Torah, is obligated to exert himself in the battle against his evil inclination, and to totally exterminate it.

Indeed, effort and exertion are the only possible means of achieving and meriting all kinds of good. If this is true with material things, how much more so with spiritual matters, where a person is required to toil greatly and exert himself as much as he can to prepare his soul with wisdom, in order to merit acquiring the Torah.

This is the way of tzaddikim who merited achieving the highest levels - solely due to the great toil which they invested in order to refine their souls and purify their ideas, while being prepared to forgo worldly pleasures and reject materialism. With great strength they fought a mighty battle against their evil inclination and therefore merited to strive in Torah and yirat shamayim.

Words of the Sages

Putting Chumrot in Their Place

The days of the festival and the days approaching them, present much opportunity for advancing in our avodat Hashem, if the preparations are carried out in the correct way, with peace of mind and with moderation. Hashem requested from his children to love each other and honor each other, and this command applies even in times of pressure and even in situations which sometimes cause us to lose our peace of mind. One who prepares himself and works on his middot throughout the year, has charged himself with a wide range of good middot and behaviors, so that in times of preoccupation he will remain calm and composed.

The Gaon, Chacham Rabbi Ben Zion Abba Shaul zt"l, was once called to calm down a ba'al teshuva who was terribly anxious because of the many mitzvot that a Jewish person has to fulfill. The Rav explained to him that performing the mitzvot must always be done with joy.

He told him, that he personally, in his youth, was most anxious that the matzot that he baked for Pesach should meet all the extra requirements. When he saw his father's matzot, which were less exceptional than his, yet his father rejoiced with the merit that he had to fulfill this mitzva, this taught him not to go into a frenzy, even for the sake of beautifying the mitzva, but instead to perform all the mitzvot with joy.

Guard Your Tongue

The Townspeople Are Obligated to Support Him

There is something that unfortunately causes people to stumble. For example, every town is obligated to support its poor by giving them charity. It can happen that someone spreads a rumor that a certain poor man is really putting on an act and is deceiving people.

According to the Torah, accepting this as a fact is included in the prohibition of accepting lashon hara. One who follows the Torah law knows that one may only be cautious, and this information does not endorse absolving oneself from the needs of this poor person. He retains the status of a poor man and the townspeople are obligated to support him. The only thing that is permitted is to be cautious and to enquire discreetly as to the true situation. As long as the truth of the matter has not been determined, one is forbidden to absolve oneself of the mitzva of charity, and about this and other similar matters, Chazal apply the verse "Do not rob the destitute for he is destitute." (Mishlei 22:22)

From the Treasury

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

When the Satan Sows Seeds of Despair

"And the Children of Israel were going out with an upraised arm" (Shemot 14:8)

What is the implication of this verse? If it is saying that they went out with a strong hand it has already mentioned this: "It happened on that very day: Hashem took the Children of Israel out of the land of Egypt, in their legions"! (Shemot 12:51) But what does it say further on? "The Children of Israel raised their eyes and behold! – Egypt was journeying after them, and they were very frightened; the Children of Israel cried out to Hashem. They said to Moshe, "Were there no graves in Egypt that you took us to die in the Wilderness? What is this that you have done to us to take us out of Egypt? Is this not the statement that we made to you in Egypt, saying, 'Let us be and we will serve Egypt'? – for it is better that we should serve Egypt than that we should die in the Wilderness!" (Shemot 14:10-11)

This teaches us that sometimes a person can elevate himself to high levels of holiness and fear of G-d, girding himself with all his strength and exerting himself to serve his Creator while achieving true elevation of the soul, and then what does the satan do? He throws the person down from his high level and sows seeds of despair in his heart, by making him feel worthless. This is exactly what the Bnei Yisrael said, "Were there no graves in Egypt that you took us to die in the Wilderness? What is this that you have done to us?"

This is why it says over here "And the Children of Israel were going out with an upraised arm", which is followed by, "Were there no graves in Egypt?" The Torah is warning us: Be careful! When the satan tries to make you despair, don’t pay attention to him! And if you claim - but he caused me to plummet so how will I now serve Hashem?

Hashem answers: I have a precious gift and it is called prayer. Even if you cannot serve Me because the satan made you fall, cry out to Me! A cry alone, even though you are unable to pray in the regular way, is nevertheless enough for Me, and I will listen.

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

Inyanei D'Yoma

How Does One Appear Before the King?

The Gaon Rabbi Reuven Elbaz shlita, the Rosh Yeshiva of 'Ohr Hachaim', quotes a question that Rabbi Chaim Kreiswirth zt"l, the Av Beit Din of Antwerp, asked on the words of the Gemara (Chagiga 4b): "When Rav Huna reached this verse, he would cry.

The Torah says: "Three times a year all your males should appear before Hashem, your G-d, in the place that He will choose" (Devarim 16:16). Rav Huna said on this, "A servant, whose master awaits him to see him, will then distance himself from the servant? And Hashem says, "Who sought this from your hand, to trample My courtyards?"

This whole discussion is very hard to understand. Hashem says "Three times a year all your males should appear before Hashem", which seems to be a contradiction to "Who sought this from your hand, to trample My courtyards"?

The Gemara (ibid) tells us about several Amoraim who cried; Rav Huna cried on reading the above mentioned verse, Rabbi Yochanan cried on reading a different verse - "I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers; against the adulterers; against those who swear falsely" (Malachi 3:5). Each of these verses brought a different Amora to tears.

How come Rabbi Yochanan did not cry over the verse "All your males should appear before Hashem", but only over the verse "I will be a swift witness"? He was also familiar with the other verse?

The point is that every neshama has its own specific key which opens its heart. The key to Rabbi Yochanan's heart was, "I will be a swift witness" and Rav Huna's key was, "All your males should appear before Hashem".

A tear that is shed by a person who is alive, by a person whose heart and mind are alive – has great significance, whereas a tear that comes out from a dead person, does not possess the significance of a tear.

When Rav Huna cried, or when Rav Yochanan cried, their tears flowed from something alive. Their hearts and minds were connected to each other, and that is what brought on the tears.

The Navi Yirmiyahu says, "If only my head would be water and my eyes a spring of tears" (Yirmiyahu 8:23). Tears flow from the eye, but they need to stem from the head which should be connected to the heart.

Hashem says to Am Yisrael: "Who sought this from your hand, to trample My courtyards?" I asked you to be oleh regel (ascend to the Temple on the festival)– but with what are you coming? Your legs come to fulfill "Three times a year all your males should appear". I asked "appear" – in the way that is fitting to appear before Hashem Yitbarach, but you send your legs!

The legs arrive – but where is the person himself? "Who sought this from your hand, to trample My courtyards?" I want to see you!

When I say, "Shimon came to me", I mean to say that he was fully present. On the other hand, if I say: "Shimon's legs trampled my courtyard", this does not imply that he came to me. It was only his legs that trampled my courtyard.

Don’t leave your heart and mind outside – come to me together with them! I am waiting for you, not for your legs!

Rabbi Chaim added a personal anecdote:

When I was at the Kotel, praying before the remnant of the Beit Hamikdash, I thought to myself: How much would my grandfather from Warsaw have been prepared to sacrifice just to have the opportunity of standing in this place… And what would my grandmother not have given to merit the opportunity of praying here…!!

These are the words of Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi's famous piyut, describing the beauty of Eretz Yisrael and his longing to dwell in its midst: "יפה נוף משוש תבל קריה למלך רב, לך נכספה נפשי מפאתי מערב, המון רחמי נכמר כי אזכרה קדם כבודך אשר גלה, ונווך אשר חרב... וטעם רגביך לפי מדבש יערב "...

"טעם רגביך " –  "The taste of your clods of earth". Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi says – the taste of the mud of the holy city of Yerushalayim, is sweeter for me than honey!

I remember that when I was young child, Chachamim from Eretz Yisrael would come to our home collecting funds for their institutions. My mother would exclaim in admiration: "This is a messenger from Eretz Yisrael!" I was a small child yet I remember myself removing the mud that was stuck to their boots and saying to myself: "This is from Eretz Yisrael!" I would take the mud, put it in my soup and eat it…

Oh….Eretz Yisrael...! I merited eating Eretz Yisrael!

When the Gaon Rabbi Eliyahu Lopian zt"l came to Eretz Yisrael, he was particular to always spit into a cloth. Chalilah to spit onto the holy soil of Eretz Yisrael!

I remember the great excitement that we felt when we arrived in Eretz Yisrael, even though I was only eleven years old at the time. We arrived in the port of Haifa, and as soon as we left the gangplank we prostrated ourselves on the ground and started to cry. This is something that I will never forget…

This is the way to come to Eretz Yisrael – and this is the appropriate way to come to the Beit Hamikdash! Not with one's legs, but with one's entire being! ("You wished to draw me near" Shir Hashirim 1:4).


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