April 18th, 2020

24th of Nisan 5780


Different Approaches in Serving Hashem

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

"It was on the eighth day, Moshe summoned Aharon and his sons" (Vayikra 9:1)

There are two main approaches in serving Hashem. One way is to serve Hashem with joy and serenity, delighting in and being satisfied with one's lot. The second more significant approach is avodat Hashem that is a result of suffering, pain, stress and privation. It is evident that the second way is superior to the first, for the fact that a person serves Hashem despite the poverty and lack that are his lot, and despite the suffering that he endures, is a demonstration of his great love for Hashem. It shows that he is prepared to sacrifice his soul for Hashem's sake, with love. He rises above all his challenges and performs Hashem's will. These two approaches are intertwined and illustrated in the following discussion:

Chazal tell us (Yalkut Shimoni Shemini 9): "The word 'ויהי ' indicates that on that day Hashem rejoiced in the heavens, as on the day that heaven and earth were created. With the creation of the world, it says, 'ויהי ערב ויהי בקר , And there was evening and there was morning' and here it says, 'ויהי ביום השמיני , It was on the eighth day'". The Gemara (Shabbat 87b) states the ten crowns or ‘firsts’ that were given on that day as well, indicating the tremendous simcha.

Each day for the last seven days, Bnei Yisrael gathered at the entrance to the Ohel Mo'ed while Moshe Rabbeinu performed the entire service. The eighth day was in fact the first day that Ahron Hakohen offered the sacrifices, and this is why the rejoicing was so great. But suddenly something terrible happened: At the height of their celebration, the attribute of justice struck Ahron's holy and pure sons "and they died before Hashem" (Vayikra 10:2). "Moshe said to Ahron: Of this did Hashem speak, saying: "I will be sanctified through those who are nearest Me" (ibid 3). On this Rashi writes, "Moshe said to Ahron – Ahron my brother, I knew that the House would be sanctified through the acquaintances of Hashem and I thought that either it would be through me or through you. Now I see that they are greater than both of us."

We need to understand why specifically when Am Yisrael were in a state of great rejoicing, did Hashem punish Ahron's sons with such a difficult and bitter punishment. Could Hashem not have punished them at a different time? The answer is because Hashem wanted to teach Am Yisrael that there are two ways of serving Him. One can serve Hashem through joy and exultation, just like Bnei Yisrael and Aharon Hakohen who began offering the sacrifices with enormous joy, with even the Upper Worlds joining in their jubilation. But at once Hashem transformed the situation to one of sorrow and grief, by suddenly taking the lives of Aharon's two sons, in order to teach the people that even in this kind of situation it is possible to continue serving Hashem, from within the suffering. This too is a path in the holy service of Hashem.

It could happen, may we be spared, that a person finds himself going through a terrible challenge. An example of this is Aharon Hakohen whose two holy sons died at the height of the celebration and this filled his heart with enormous grief. It is clear that this demanded from him superhuman strength and sacrifice to rise above the challenge and continue his avodat Hashem. This was indeed Ahron Hakohen's reaction. He immediately regained his composure and continued offering the sacrifices that were part of the holy service, together with all Bnei Yisrael, as if nothing had happened, as it says (ibid 3) "And Aharon was silent", he accepted the heavenly decree with love. Rashi writes that Aharon's silence was rewarded by Hashem appearing to him, alone, and telling him about the commandment against intoxicants (which follows immediately after their deaths).

This is a proof that at that time of tragedy, Ahron Hakohen returned to his previous state of joy and continued offering the sacrifices and performing the service with a heart full of joy, even though his two sons were lying dead before him, for prophecy only rests on one who is joyful, as it says (Melachim II, 3:15) "It happened as the musician played, the hand of Hashem came upon Him". Hashem speaking to Ahron alone was a proof that Ahron was in a state of happiness, for if not Hashem would not have appeared to him. This kind of avodat Hashem is the most important and superior type. When especially in times of "all Your breakers and Your waves have swept over me", (Tehillim 42:8) and despite all the challenges of daily life, a person does not despair or succumb but on the contrary, he continues serving Hashem, with this he fulfills "I will be sanctified through those who are nearest Me". Since through this kind of avodat Hashem, Hashem's honor is exalted and sanctified through those tzaddikim who are considered as Hashem's nearest ones, for despite all the suffering and strain, they continue to be faithful to Hashem's Torah and His commandments, which is literally a form of self-sacrifice.

One who serves Hashem in times of tranquility, when he enjoys abundant parnassah, good health and is enveloped with peace of mind, is considered as if he is performing avodat Hashem in the Mishkan. All the more so, one who serves Hashem when faced with financial strain and smothered by numerous challenges, his service is then considered like the service that was carried out in the Holy of Holies, for it is more desirable in Hashem's eyes. This is in accordance with the Chazal (Avot D'Rabbi Natan 3), "One (mitzvah performed) in pain is better than one hundred (mitzvot performed) without pain".

I remember that once on a visit to my esteemed teacher and master, Harav Chaim Shmuel Lopian zt"l, together with my family, I noticed that he was very weak and that his entire body was inundated with pain and suffering. I asked him, "Why does Rabbeinu not go to the doctor?" And this is what he answered: “You should know that the holy Torah is my best medicine, for when I sit by my Gemara and delve into its depths, I forget all my pains for love of Torah consumes my being and burns deep in my heart…” This is a tangible example of serving Hashem through suffering and travail. Harav Lopian did not succumb to his physical ailments, instead, he toiled and labored in Torah with all his strength. This is a loftier kind of avodat Hashem.

The Haftarah

The Haftarah of the week: "David again gathered" (Shmuel II, 6)

The connection to the Parsha: The Haftarah tells about the death of Uzzah who was punished for reaching out and grasping the holy Aron, whereas the Parsha speaks about the deaths of Nadav and Avihu, the sons of Ahron Hakohen, who died when approaching before Hashem.

Guard Your Tongue

Lifting a Hand Against the Torah

One who informs on the Jewish people to non-Jews transgresses an extremely great sin. He is considered as an informer who is subject to the same laws as an apikorus and those who deny the Torah and the resurrection of the dead. Even when Gehinom ends, their punishment will not end. Due to this, every Jewish person must take great care in this matter. One who transgresses this is considered as if he blasphemed, cursed and lifted his hand against the Torah of Moshe Rabbeinu a"h.

Words of the Sages

The Internal Commotion is What Disturbs

Every Jewish soul naturally longs for and is drawn to the sweet taste of closeness to Hashem, His Torah and the mitzvot. When observing elderly people who are far-removed from religion, one is able to identify who was once religious.

Just as one who has never tasted chocolate in his life will never know its taste, so too one who has never before sampled the taste of Torah and mitzvot will not understand its sweetness. But one who was exposed to its taste, even if it was when he was a young child, can never forget it. The yearning and pull for this gratifying matter that fills the soul and satiates a person with happiness and satisfaction, remains part of him.  Even if he has distanced himself, one can make out a thread of pain that accompanies him; his soul has not come to terms with the situation.

But do not fear, one day he will return. The opening exists, he just needs to find it. Therefore, even if at present he is far-removed from a religious lifestyle, it is worth it for him to leave an opening so that he can always return.

There is no Jew who does not possess a spark of holiness. Even the most distanced Jews have moments of longing, of yearning to belong to the eternal truth.

Once, Hagaon Hatzaddik Rabbi Aryeh Schechter zt"l told over, I was invited to speak at a seminar which took place in a hotel in Ashkelon. When I arrived there, I noticed a police unit parked outside. What had happened? One of the neighbors complained that too much noise was coming from the basement of the hotel and it was disturbing his sleep…

I understood that this was a deliberate act of harassment. Every night boisterous events and decadent parties took place in this basement, nevertheless these gatherings did not present any problem for this neighbor. Yet the seminar disturbed him?

I promised the police that we will take care to keep the noise level down, but they kept returning until finally they showed up together with the neighbor. What did he have to say for himself? "Believe me, I am sympathetic to religion, but you should know that if you continue making a noise and disturb my sleep, I will take revenge on you"…

I approached the neighbor and in a friendly gesture placed my arm around him and took him aside. I looked into his eyes and said: "Tell me the truth, is it correct that what is preventing you from falling asleep is the image of your grandfather who was a religious Jew? Be honest with me, deep inside don't you wish you could be here in the seminar, together with the other participants who are being exposed to the light? It is not the noise that is disturbing you, the fact that they are meriting to hear words of Torah and you are not is what is disturbing you. It hurts you that you are not part of this, jealousy is driving you. Am I right or not?"

I saw his eyes starting to brim with tears. He admitted that indeed in his heart of hearts something was pulling him to participate in the seminar…

Of course he cancelled his complaint and sent the police away.

With this incident, I had another proof for the 'Arachim' staff that there are no wicked people in Am Yisrael. All those who try to block our steps, do it out of pain, jealousy, frustration, bitterness and resentment, not from true hate. It hurts them to see others having a close relationship with Hashem while they themselves are so far away. It is hard for them to admit this truth. If not for all their deterrence's, they would join immediately.

Walking in Their Ways

Wealth that Leads to Happiness

During one of my travels to America, an extremely affluent individual came to me to ask for a blessing. I asked him, "Do you put on tefillin? What about Shabbat observance?"

"I do not even have time to think about it" he answered straightforwardly. "From morning till night I am taken up with commerce and business matters". I did not give up and entreated him, "Behave intelligently, with five minutes of laying tefillin every morning, you are purchasing an eternal deal and buying your true world. In this way at least you will have some connection with your Creator, for you should know that all the abundance and blessings that you possess, all come from Him. It is a great shame that you do not have even the slightest relationship with Him."

The wealthy man heard me out and then left. A long time later I met him once again, accompanied by his wife. I asked how he was doing and he answered that some time ago already, all his wealth had surprisingly gone down the drain and he was left with almost nothing. But in the same breath he added, "I came to thank the Rav shlita since right after our last meeting, I started laying tefillin every single day. The Rav's words of rebuke seeped into my heart and made an impression on me, and through being particular to fulfill this mitzvah of tefillin, I merited adding other mitzvot, and baruch Hashem today I and my family have become religious, and I have fixed times for Torah study every day. So I wish to take this opportunity to thank the Rav for opening my eyes and paving the way for my teshuva."

His wife who was listening added, "It is true that at the moment we do not possess much in the way of material wealth, but spiritual wealth we have in abundance. This is a wealth that brings in its wake happiness and inner satisfaction. Observing Torah and mitzvot has filled our hearts with genuine joy. Despite our previous wealth that we once enjoyed, we were never as happy as we are today"…

This is the story exactly as I heard it. Every word shouts out the clear message of how gratifying it is for a person to invest his foremost energy and toil in avodat Hashem, in learning Torah and fulfilling the mitzvot, for it is this alone that affords us true happiness in life. It is a life that endures from this world to the next, for besides the enormous reward which awaits us in the Next World, one merits enjoying the fruits of one’s mitzvot in this world too.

I would like to add that this wealthy person did not utter even one complaint about his material situation. He held no grievances, G-d forbid, against Hashem, why after accepting upon himself the yoke of heaven, instead of experiencing even more success in his business affairs as a 'reward' for setting aside time for Hashem to pray, lay tefillin and observe Shabbat, he actually lost his fortune.

This obviously stems from the fact that once he merited contrasting the flavor of a material lifestyle to one full of spirituality, he was faced with the sweetness of this kind of life, as it says in Tehillim (34:9) "Taste and see that Hashem is good".

From the Treasury

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

At Home Yes, Outside Not!

Sometimes when people come to me to ask for blessings, I ask them if they are particular about observing kashrut. I often get this incomprehensible answer: "At home we are careful but when we eat out of the house we are not particular." And this leaves me wondering: How can a person commit such a coarse lie with his soul? His insides are full of abominations and he comes to ask for a blessing and wishes that Hashem's blessing should rest on him… How can such a thing be?! I offer my words of rebuke and they immediately understand the extent of their hypocrisy and repent.

This is the kind of person whose way of life is synonymous with doubt. He does not cleave in a complete, decisive and clear fashion to the path of Torah and mitzvot and he is not steadfast in his opinions. This is obviously also a proof that even within his home he is not particular about all the laws of kashrut. To what can this be compared? To a person who watches over his possessions only when he is at home, but once he leaves his home, he recklessly abandons all his possessions to the street. This is certainly foolish behavior. So too one, who as if, in his home is particular about guarding the purity of his soul, but outside he causes his soul utter destruction and brings it down to the depths, of course this is madness. This could be the reason why the Torah mentions what is permitted and what is forbidden to eat especially in this Parsha so that we should not come to defile our body and soul. For only through eating permitted foods does a person merit a pure soul, which is how he will merit the Shechina resting in him just as it rested in the Mishkan.

This is especially important in our day which is considered the period of 'ikvata d'Meshicha', the footsteps of Mashiach, when pleasures and excess are in abundant supply and a person is no longer satisfied with little, rather the more the better.

Therefore, "the living should take it to heart" and certainly anyone who wishes to merit the coming of Mashiach, which contains the same letters as 'ישמח ', rejoice, must remove from his heart any doubts and cleave to Hashem's path without turning to the right or the left. When there are no doubts in avodat Hashem, the heart sings with joy at performing mitzvot and in this way we become fitting to receive Mashiach, may he come speedily in our days, Amen.

Pearls of the Parsha

Honoring One's Parents is Clarified Through One's children

"A fire came forth from before Hashem and consumed them" (Vayikra 10:2)

Chazal bring several reasons for the death of Ahron's sons:

They did not marry, they entered the Mishkan intoxicated, or because they passed laws in the presence of their Rav.

These three reasons, the sefer 'Torat Moshe' tells us, are all intertwined:

Truthfully, a person does not realize how to behave with derech eretz until he has children of his own. It is only then that his honor may be slighted by his children and students, that he reaches an understanding of the correct way to behave towards his own parents and teachers and how to be meticulous with their honor.

So Ahron's sons, who did not yet have children since they did not marry, did not have a full appreciation of how one must accord honor to one's Rabbanim and parents and in particular how to revere G-d. This is why they were lax and passed laws in front of their master and their honor of Heaven fell short by entering the Mikdash in a lighthearted fashion, after they had drunk wine.

Atonement for Selling Yosef

"Take a he-goat for a sin-offering" (Vayikra 9:3)

The he-goat offering, as Chazal tell us in 'Torat Kohanim', was an atonement for selling Yosef Hatzaddik.

The question is, if the sin of selling Yosef was so great, why did it not prevent the miracles of being redeemed from Egypt and the splitting of the Sea?

The Meshech Chochma answers that in fact Yisrael had a way of excusing their selling of Yosef, by claiming that Yosef should not have spoken negatively about them to Ya'akov their father, rather he should have rebuked them himself. Therefore, during all those years the sin of selling Yosef was not held to their detriment.

But now, once they killed Chur because he reproved them for wanting to create the Golden Calf, this excuse was no longer valid, for their very own deeds proved that they were unable to accept rebuke. On the contrary, now the accusation of selling Yosef was awakened and held against them, therefore now they were required to bring a he-goat as a sin-offering, in order to atone for this sin.

Learning Torah Raises Man Above Animals

"This is the law of the animal, the bird" (Vayikra 11:46)

In Masechet Pesachim (49b) it says in the name of Rebbi, "An ignoramus (ignorant in the ways of the Torah) is forbidden to eat meat as it says, "This is the law of the animal, the bird". One who occupies himself with Torah, is permitted to eat meat from animals and birds, while one who does not occupy himself with Torah, is forbidden to eat from the meat of animals and birds."

What is the connection between an ignoramus, learning Torah and eating meat?

Rabbi Mordechai Abadi zt"l, in his sefer 'Viku'ach Naim', explains that it is known that man and animals are equal in relation to the Creator, as it says, "Man has no superiority over the beast" (Kohelet 3:19). The only advantage of man over animals is their power of speech. Therefore, it is likely that the Torah only permits the slaughtering and eating of animals, as it says, "to your heart's desire may you eat meat" (Devarim 12:20), when man makes use of his superiority to animals, meaning that he uses his power of speech to study Torah. However, an ignoramus who does not study Torah or keep mitzvot, is worse than an animal and therefore he has no permission to eat them.

A Novel Look at the Parsha

One of the most well-researched areas in the world is that of developing man's potential learning ability and capacity for personal growth. Thousands of articles have been written, tens of thousands of researchers are engaged in the subject non-stop, thousands of books have been published and hundreds of recommendations have been proposed, rejected and presented once again. There is an entire industry occupied with the subject, researching the influence of food, dietary supplements, sleep, exercise and others. They all focus on one goal: improving the function of the human mind, expanding its learning potential and functioning with the highest degree of attention and concentration.

An amazing revelation appears in our Parsha, in which the Creator of the world reveals the victorious formula which promises that sought after attainment of maximizing and enhancing our potential in an amazing fashion.

The Creator of the word reveals that kosher nutrition is the key! This is the magical formula for success in our studies! Food that is held up to a meticulous standard of kashrut bolsters and fortifies, improves and advances. Food that is heaven forbid not kosher, food that is not fit to be eaten, spreads poison in a person's soul, contaminates his capacity to comprehend, stops up his mind and prevents it from developing.

This diet, as Rabbi Asher Kovalesky shlita writes, is the magic formula, ancient and guaranteed, as if, with the signature of the finest scientist in the world. He is aware of all the food products in the world, He is the One who created all the different supplements, so certainly to the extent that it is possible to say, He is the Number One World Expert on nutrition. Only the Creator of the world who created all of these and understands all their components, is aware of the results of the studies, that will take the scientific world another hundred years, at least, to discover. He has merited us with a Heavenly formula for favorable nutrition, that leads to improving the quality of our lives and reaching the peak of our ambitions in all areas of life.

All those who are familiar with Jewish history know that it is saturated with thousands of stories of bravery of Jews who sacrificed their lives for the sake of adhering to kashrut, even to the extent of starving themselves for lengthy periods of times, under literally substandard conditions. This is because non-kosher food, in any situation and under any circumstances, has such a destructive influence on the soul, that it does not make a difference under which conditions it is eaten and in which situations one is forced to compromise. Its harmful influence and its intrinsic poison are so destructive and so defiling that it obliterates every positive capacity of the Jewish mind.

On the other hand, the positive effect of kosher food not only has an impact on the person who eats it, but it is absorbed in his blood and is passed on to all future generations. The food that he eats secures also his children with a pure and holy soul. This is true to the 'Reishit Chochma' who quotes the Ramban, "If a person separates himself from forbidden foods, he will merit holy and pure sons!" Plain and simple: Any Jewish person who merits being particular about the kashrut of his food, is promised by the Ramban that he will merit holy and pure children, the aspiration of every Jewish father and mother!

How worthwhile it is it to take this message to heart, to understand that kashrut of food is not only a matter of personal preference, but it has a dramatic influence on our physical health and comprehension abilities, while at the same time it also has a direct influence on the success and growth of our children.

The common excuses are bound to arise: "It's out the house", "What could be wrong with this food", "I saw so and so eating this", and other variations that justify and defend our behavior. They quieten our conscience for the moment, but if the food is not one hundred percent kosher, the damage that it causes us is immediate and long term, much more profound than the momentary gain of eating the food.

We will quote the famous words of the Gemara (Yuma 39a): "It was taught in the yeshiva of Rabbi Yishmael: Sins block up (מטמטמת ) a person's heart, as it says, "do not contaminate yourselves through them lest you become contaminated through them". Do not read it 'lest you become contaminated' (ונטמתם ), rather 'lest you become blocked up' (ונטמטם ).  Rashi explains the meaning of 'מטמטמת ' – seals and stops up from all wisdom.

Gifted Children

Harav Rafael Barlazon is quoted in an article that was printed by the 'Yated Ne'eman' (Shemini 5771): "Over the course of many years, one of our generation's famous educators encountered an amazing fact. This is what he explained to us (I am taking full responsibility for its veracity): "Children who come from homes that are stringent about the kashrut of their food, are more talented!"

Since he serves as a supervisor for many chedarim around the country, he encounters children from all different sectors and communities, from the old-style traditional Yerushalmim to today's chutznik children. From a statistical viewpoint we are talking about a fascinating fact which he reiterates with undisclosed excitement: "I repeat, I have examined this factor over many years and it has unequivocally proved itself that children who come from homes that are particular about re-tithing the food, have an open mind to learn Torah and excellent absorption skills."

This educator disclosed this fact without going into the reasons why this should be so, he simply made a simple calculation and discerned the distinct results. Over the years he discussed this concept with great talmidei chachamim, among them Hagaon Rabbi Yosef Shalom Zilberman zt"l, and they explained the spiritual factors which stand behind this amazing fact.


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