August 10th, 2019

9th of Av 5779



Lashon Hara is the Antithesis of Hakarat Hatov

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

"How can I alone carry your contentiousness, your burdens, and your quarrels?" (Devarim 1:12)

Chazal tell us that Moshe Rabbeinu's message to Am Yisrael before entering the Land –"איכה אשא לבדי" – "How can I alone carry…", hints to the lamentation found in Eichah, "איכה ישבה בדד" – "Alas- she sits in solitude! The city that was great with people has become like a widow".

When the spies returned from spying out Eretz Yisrael, they gave over a bad report and spoke lashon hara about the Land. In response, Hashem proclaimed: On the Ninth of Av, (the day that the spies returned from spying out the Land) you cried a cry for no reason; your end will be that this day will be transformed into a day of crying for all generations. And as we know, indeed both Batei Mikdashot were destroyed on the Ninth of Av.

Why was Hashem so stringent with the spies for speaking lashon hara about Eretz Yisrael, and with Bnei Yisrael who accepted their words? Had the spies spoken lashon hara about people, we could understand the severity of the matter, but Eretz Yisrael, a land, does not possess feelings like a person. This being the case, why was Hashem so particular with those who spoke negatively about the Land?

Giving a false report against the Holy Land, the Land upon which "the eyes of Hashem…are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to year's end" (Devarim 11:12) is a demonstration of a lack of hakarat hatov (appreciation). It is a fundamental tenet that the trait of appreciation is the key to fulfilling Torah and mitzvot, for when a person shows appreciation to his Creator for a good deed that He performed for him, that gratefulness is a catalyst for him to cleave to Hashem's Torah and fulfill His mitzvot.

In order for a person to accustom himself in showing appreciation to Hashem, he must first show appreciation to the people in his environment, for this will then bring him to feel grateful to Hashem who created him and Who sustains him at every moment. The obligation to honor our parents is also derived from this important concept of hakarat hatov. When a person feels grateful to his parents who do so much for him, this is a stepping stone to feeling grateful to his Creator who created him and blessed him with knowledge, understanding and wisdom.

For Moshe Rabbeinu, the idea of showing appreciation to those with whom he came into contact was not enough. He was particular to show hakarat hatov to inanimate objects too. Chazal tell us that this was the reason why Hashem did not want Moshe to strike the River to bring about the plagues of Blood and Frogs, since the River had protected the infant Moshe when his mother placed him in a basket by the bank of the River.

The way of the Torah is to be concise with words, yet it stresses that it was Ahron his brother and not Moshe who was designated to strike the River and also the dust of the land (the same dust that had protected Moshe from discovery when he had used it to conceal the dead Egyptian), in order to teach us about the significance of the trait of hakarat hatov, which is the root of many good middot.

Hashem was strict with Bnei Yisrael for accepting a negative report about the Land, since He knew that if Bnei Yisrael would accustom themselves to speaking lashon hara about the Land that they received as a gift, this will result in them forming a habit of speaking negatively about people too, eventually leading to the sad situation of the Land spitting them out. Indeed, we find that the Bnei Yisrael were exiled from their Land for speaking lashon hara about each other, which was rooted in an intense, baseless hatred.

This is the reason why Hashem punished them harshly. He wished to impart the severity of speaking lashon hara about the Land which is the converse of the trait of hakarat hatov. Negative speech and ingratitude is the path to downfall after downfall, eventually arriving at the lowest level.

I remember that when my esteemed father zya"a would see pieces of bread strewn on the floor, he would exert himself to pick them up out of appreciation towards bread which nourishes and sustains a person. This is also the reason behind the prohibition of 'ba'al tashchit' (not to waste or destroy). It is forbidden to spoil or destroy anything that can bring benefit to a person, for we must show hakarat hatov to an object that could faithfully serve us. When a person is careful with small things and shows respect even to inanimate objects, he will end up being particular with important things too and will treat Rabbanim and tzaddikim with respect, and above all show respect to Hashem who created him and continues to sustain him.

Walking in Their Ways

Thank You Abba

As a young boy, in 5719 (1959), my father sent me to learn in the far-away yeshivot of Armentieres in France and Sunderland in England. I did not see my family for almost seven years! The extent of my communication with them was through letter-writing; even a phone, with which to hear my parents' voice and concern for my welfare, was non-existent.

In fact, all the Gedolim of the previous generation studied for many years in yeshivot that were far from their hometown. Their great self-sacrifice together with their toil in the Holy Torah indeed proved itself.

I remember from my youth that when I studied in the French yeshiva of Rabbeinu Gershon Libman zt"l, aside from homesickness, my friends and I had to cope with very difficult physical conditions.

One year was especially cold. Precisely then, the yeshiva ran out of fuel for heating. Without heating, we nearly froze. The dire straits of the yeshiva did not allow for even one decent blanket. We covered ourselves with mattresses in order to buffer ourselves against the cold. Despite these conditions, we sat and toiled diligently in Torah. No wonder that these Yeshivot produced many great Torah personalities.

Truth to tell, as a yeshiva boy, I had many grievances toward my father, zy”a, who sent me to manage on my own at such a young age, so far away from home. On one occasion, when I told him of the conditions in the yeshiva, Father replied, “This is how you feel now. But the day will come when you will yet thank me.”

Father knew best.

After I matured, I often contemplated going into business. But whenever the thought came to me, I would remember Father’s simple, sincere words. I would immediately realize that my destiny is to disseminate Torah among our brethren. This is the business of my life, and this would be my true thank you to my father.

When I look at my past and remember the trails I blazed to get where I am today, my lips murmur with joy, “Thank you, Father.”

Words of the Sages

The Avreich's Acceptance

"As a man carries his son" (Devarim 1:31)

Our leaders and Gedolei Torah throughout every generation have always displayed the exceptional characteristic of "…as a man carries his son".

In this column we will try to portray some of the greatness of an extraordinary tzaddik who lived in our times – Rabbi Natan Tzvi Finkel zt"l, the Rosh Yeshiva of the Mir yeshiva. The sefer 'Bechol Nafshecha' describes how during one of the difficult financial periods that the yeshiva went through, they decided to temporarily not accept any new avreichim. The many avreichim who submitted applications were all told that at the moment the yeshiva was unable to accept any new students.

There was one avreich who nevertheless asked to speak to the Rosh Yeshiva. He maintained that his not being accepted will cause discord in his home, for as far as his wife knows, being accepted in the Mir is usually straightforward, therefore he is concerned that if he returns home and tells her that as of now they are not considering any new applicants, she will not believe him and will look at him in a bad light. The Rosh Yeshiva heard what he had to say and decided to accept him.

In another incident, an avreich who was one of the alumni of the yeshiva, would come to the Rosh Yeshiva from time to time to ask the Rosh Yeshiva to pray for his wife who was ill r"l. He told over how surprised he was that the Rosh Yeshiva always remembered every detail of her illness. This was true not only for this avreich, but also for the hundreds of avreichim who asked him to pray for all different kinds of issues that they were struggling with. The Rosh Yeshiva remembered every detail of each problem. He immediately wrote down the name in a special notebook, even though in fact he remembered tens of names by heart.

Harav Hagaon Rabbi Avraham Cheshin, one of the Rosh Yeshiva's close friends, told over that once he wished to speak to him about a certain matter and since he knew that the Rosh Yeshiva was supposed to attend a certain wedding, he planned to take the opportunity to consult with him at the wedding. When he arrived, the Rosh Yeshiva was in the middle of the Shemoneh Esrei prayer of Ma'ariv, so Rabbi Avraham stood off to the side and waited. Noticing him bending his knees and bowing down, he realized that the Rosh Yeshiva was already finishing the Modim prayer and will therefore soon finish praying. However, Rabbi Avraham had to wait for him close to another fifteen minutes.

When he finally finished praying, Rabbi Avraham approached him and asked him why it took him so long to finish praying? The Rosh Yeshiva answered that in the evening prayer he prays for all the sick people and for all the various things that people request that he pray for. He recited tens of names, all by heart…

The extent to which this exceptional conduct caused Hashem's Name to be sanctified, is demonstrated by the fact that one of the Mir Brachfeld's architects, despite living a life far from the correct path r"l, was extremely impressed by the Rosh Yeshiva's demeanor. Sometime later, when that architect became ill, his friends suggested that he should ask the Gedolim to pray for him. His reaction was: He would like only one person to pray for him: Harav Finkel of Yerushalayim…

The Haftarah

The Haftarah of the week: "The vision of Yeshaya" (Yeshaya 1)

The connection to Shabbat: The Haftarah speaks about the punishment that will befall the Bnei Yisrael with the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash, due to their sins. This is the third of the three special Haftarot that Chazal established to be read during the three weeks leading up to Tisha B'Av.

Guard Your Tongue

A Father Must Educate His Child

If one overhears one's young children speaking lashon hara, it is a mitzvah to rebuke them and stop them, just as with all matters forbidden by the Torah.

A father must educate his children from a very young age about the importance of not speaking lashon hara and all other kinds of forbidden speech, for example, not to become involved in arguments and the prohibition to tell untruths, as the Vilna Gaon writes. For speech and all good traits require much practice and habituating oneself in a certain matter is the only way to master the trait. Their reward will be a portion in the World to Come and all good things in this world.

Pearls of the Parsha

All His Words Are Holy

"These are the words that Moshe spoke to all Israel" (Devarim 1:1)

It is a well-known rule that whenever the expression 'אלה' (these are) is used, it comes to exclude other words. Which 'words' are being excluded by the above verse?

The holy Ohr Hachaim zya"a explains that the Torah is testifying that Moshe Rabbeinu, despite being the leader of the Jewish people for tens of years, never spoke any unnecessary words on his own accord, besides what we are told in this Parsha, "These are the words…" This was the only occasion where Moshe chose the words and spoke to the Bnei Yisrael of his own volition, without a prior command from Hashem, whereas throughout all his years of leading the people he did not utter a single unnecessary word, nor anything that he had not been commanded to say by Hashem.

This is in line with the Chazal that expounds on the words of the Shema prayer, "v'dibarta bam" (and you shall speak of them) - "you shall speak of them and not of idle matters". Only now before Moshe Rabbeinu's death did he offer words of his own accord, and "anyone who heard can bear witness that all of them were words of Torah, wisdom and mussar".

Perceive the Goodness

"These are the words that Moshe spoke to all Israel" (Devarim 1:1)

Rashi writes on these words: "Since these were words of rebuke…he only alluded to the sins in order to protect the honor of the Bnei Yisrael."

The holy Ba'al Shem Tov zya"a, was very concerned about the Maggidim who would preach the congregants and detail their wrongdoings.

Once the Ba'al Shem Tov arrived at a certain Beit Midrash and heard a Maggid rebuking the congregation, pointing out their sins and disgracing them in public.

The Ba'al Shem Tov cried out in protest: "How can you speak lashon hara about the Jewish people? Do you know that sometimes a Jew toils the entire day, working hard to support his family, yet when evening draws close and he suddenly remembers that he has not yet prayed Mincha, he immediately gets up and prays, and no matter whether or not he understands the words of the prayer, all the seraphim and ofanim (types of Angels) tremble when he prays his Mincha! How dare you not be careful with what you say and speak unfounded truths about the Bnei Yisrael…

Peace Talks Generate War

"See! Into your hand have I delivered Sichon king of Cheshbon, the Amorite, and his land; begin to drive [him] out, and provoke war with him" (Devarim 2:24)

Hashem commanded Moshe to provoke the king of Cheshbon with war. What did Moshe do? "I sent messengers from the Wilderness of Kedemot to Sichon king of Chesbon, words of peace, saying" (ibid 26). This seems to be the opposite of what Hashem commanded him to do?

The sefer 'Kerem Chemed' writes that the answer can be found in the following verse: "I am peace; but when I speak, they are for war" (Tehillim 120:7). The nature of a non-Jew is that when one talks to him in a peaceful manner, he interprets it as a show of fear and therefore breaks out with war.

So too, when Moshe wished to provoke Sichon, he sent him "words of peace" so that he should start to wage war against him. This is how he fulfilled Hashem's command of "provoke war with him".

From the Treasury

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

The Peak of Success Comes from the Heart

"These are the words that Moshe spoke to all Israel" (Devarim1:1)

I would like to suggest, with siyata dishmaya, the following explanation:

The word 'אלה' (these are), has the same numerical value (adding one for the actual word) as 'הלב' (the heart). This implies that Moshe Rabbeinu a"h guided the Bnei Yisrael in the way of Torah and mitzot and led them with words of rebuke and mussar, yet all his words flowed from a warm and loving heart. He behaved like a merciful father who guides his only son with great love.  Chazal tell us that "Words that flow from the heart enter the heart". Since this was his approach, the Bnei Yisrael listened to his words and took them to heart.

The Gaon Rabbi Yechezkel Sarna zt"l told one of the distinguished melamdim of Bnei Brak: "One who sincerely loves his students, is promised that they will achieve the ultimate success." For words that flow from a pure and loving heart will eventually enter the heart.

In truth, I too try to practice this concept in the mussar speeches that I give, both to the public and when speaking privately to people. I have never rebuked a person for his bad ways with harsh words or out of anger; far be it for me to behave in this way. Even when faced with those who are very far from Torah and mitzvah observance, I try to heap abundant love and pity on them, and all my words of rebuke flow from a loving heart. I use only words of mussar that are pleasant to hear; never reacting out of anger or agitation. My words are composed and I feel a sincere love for the person. When the listener realizes that I have only their benefit in mind, my words bear fruit and they are open to repent.

With Hashem's help, using this method I have merited to bring many back from their wayward path, and even those who, to our great sorrow, were among the most corrupt and even hated the Torah r"l, when faced with my words of rebuke that came from my heart, with my only intention being to help them, my words had an immediate affect and they repented. I am even acquainted with several (former) non-Jews who used to participate in my Torah lectures. The Holy words of Torah entered their hearts and completely transformed their souls, eventually leading to their conversion and becoming sincere members of the Jewish people.

Moshe Rabbeinu was the one who transmitted this practice to us, by rebuking the Bnei Yisrael with love and with a heart flowing with mercy and compassion for each one of them.

"Let Her be Praised"

In Memory of Mazal Tov Madeleine bat Mocha Simcha Zal

סדין עשתה ותמכר וחגור נתנה לכנעני

"She makes a cloak and sells [it], and delivers a belt to the peddler"

The "Torat David" yeshiva in Ashdod, under the leadership of Hagaon Hatzaddik Rabbi David Chananya Pinto shlita, recently celebrated a Siyum HaShas which took place with much glory and splendor, as is fitting for the honor of Torah. During the shloshim of Harav Pinto's mother, the precious yeshiva students completed the entire Shas l'ilui nishmat the righteous Rabbanit a"h, as a sign of appreciation for the devotion and enormous efforts that Harav Pinto expends on behalf of the yeshiva. One of the Rabbanit's grandsons, Rabbi Yoel Pinto shlita, was among those who addressed the yeshiva students at the siyum. He elaborated on her trait of modesty which was an intrinsic part of her way of life.

The trait of modesty has always been a symbol for the Jewish woman who with her very essence fulfills the verse, "Every honorable princess dwelling within" (Tehillim 45:14). This crown of royalty adorns the Jewish woman's head and it is the cornerstone of the foundations for the building of her home - the way in which she inspires the next generation.

Among other things, Rabbi Yoel shlita stressed the Rabbanit's exceptional modesty which was her guiding light, and the reward that awaits her in this merit:

"It is usually the mother who passes on her approach to her children and educates them according to her worldview. Chazal (Yuma 47a) tell us that a woman named Kimchit merited seven children who were all Kohanim Gedolim. When she was asked what she did to merit this, Kimchit replied: "The walls of my home never saw the hairs of my head". I once said over the following explanation: With Kimchit's answer, she did not mean to explain with which merit she was blessed, but rather she was conveying the power that she used to raise righteous offspring. She replied that when they saw how she conducted herself with such modesty and tried so hard to conceal her hair out of her great fear of G-d, the result of children witnessing this kind of modesty in their mother is that they too strive to become great. It is not a merit but a fact, for in a home where there is such a great mother, inevitability she will raise righteous children. This was how she succeeded."

Why Does She Give Away the Belt?

The level of modesty that the previous generations displayed was exemplary.

Hagaon Rabbi Rafael Bardugo zya"a was one of the famous Sages of Morocco two hundred and fifty years ago. He compiled many sefarim in Halacha and Aggadah and was known as "the Angel Rafael" for he was a most awesome and holy Rabbi, almost like an Angel of G-d.

He explains one of the difficult to understand verses in the song 'Eishet Chayil' in a most beautiful way. It can be taken as a demonstration of the extensive modesty with which the righteous Jewish daughters used to conduct themselves at that time.

Rabbi Rafael questioned the second part of the verse - "…and delivers a belt to the peddler". According to the straightforward explanation, the verse is referring to the 'Eishet Chayil' who, in her righteousness, wishes to enable her husband to devote himself to Torah study day and night and therefore she accepts the yoke of parnassah upon herself.

As a means of supporting her family, "She makes a cloak and sells [it]".

But if this is indeed the explanation, the continuation of the verse, "and delivers a belt to the peddler" is hard to understand. If she gives away the belts, how does this increase her income?

One could say that giving away the belts to the peddler was a medium (or in today's language - 'a giveaway') in order to attract potential customers to buy her cloaks. However, it does not seem likely that Shlomo Hamelech, the wisest of all men, is trying to teach us the secrets of business in this chapter that praises the woman of valor. There is certainly some deep message hidden in these words.

Rabbi Rafael Bardugo's zya"a most fascinating interpretation of these words, is a proof of the modest and holy way of life that was the norm in those days. He says that indeed the verse refers to the woman who takes responsibility for supporting her family in order that her husband can devote himself to Torah study, and therefore she is the one who stands in the store and sells her merchandise, in place of her husband.

But, since the trait of modesty is her guiding light, she understands that it is not appropriate for her to receive people and take money directly from their hands, therefore she created a special sheet that concealed the place where she stood. It served as a partition between her and her customers (like a private 'ezrat nashim'). "She makes a cloak and sells" is a reference to this special partition that she made and spread out in front of her so that she could stand behind it and sell.

In addition, this righteous and modest woman of valor searched for a way to be able to take the money from her customers in a modest manner. Were she to stretch out her hand from behind the separation, this would not be modest for Chazal were particular that even a small finger should not be displayed to other people.

This is the meaning of, "delivers a belt to the peddler". With her great wisdom and sensitivity, she wove a kind of belt which she affixed to the partition, on which the peddler could place the money. Then she would pull the belt with the money inside the partition. This is how the 'Angel Rafael' explains the words of Shlomo Hamelech a"h.

It is not the way of our Rabbis to offer an explanation that is not in accordance with the reality of life of that time. So if this is how the 'Angel Rafael' found it correct to interpret the verse, it is a proof that the righteous women of that generation used to conduct themselves in that way. Indeed, there are countless stories about righteous women for whom this was their way of life. Although these concepts of modesty are unconceivable to us, we can still take a lesson from the supreme importance that they attached to the trait of modesty and strive to strengthen ourselves in this area, each one according to her level, for modesty is the glory of the Jewish people.


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