Parsha Shelach Lecha

June 20th, 2020

28th of Sivan 5780


Transforming Materialism to Sparks of Holiness

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

"It shall be that when you will eat of the bread of the Land, you shall set aside a portion for Hashem" (Bamidbar 15:19)

The Ben Ish Chai writes (Shana Shniya, Shelach Lecha) and explains that it is known that when eating, it is appropriate for a person to have intent for the sake of heaven, to pick out the holy sparks that are interspersed in that food, as it says, 'A righteous person eats to satisfy his soul'. Selecting the holy sparks is satisfying for the soul, and his intention should not be for physical pleasure but to nourish his soul so that he should thereby have the strength to serve Hashem, and with this intention, he will be able to pick out the holy sparks from the klippah.

If when a person eats, he does so solely for the sake of his soul, the selection will be ten times more effective than if he would have in mind to satisfy both his soul and body. The more pleasing the taste of the food, the more his desire for food increases, yet by overcoming this desire and focusing his intent for the sake of heaven, to the same degree the extrication of the holy sparks increases.

It is known that the bread of Eretz Yisrael is very pleasing for the body, to the extent that they would eat it without any accompaniment, as the holy Alshich expounds on the verse (Devarim 8:9), "A Land where you will eat bread without poverty". Therefore, in Eretz Yisrael, there is a great necessity to overcome the desire for food since its food is very pleasant. One must take this desire for food and use it to pick out the sparks of holiness. This is the intention of the verse, "it shall be that when you will eat of the bread of the Land", when eating this bread that is very pleasant for the body, you should not do so because you crave the food, but rather your intention should be for the sake of selecting the sparks. This is why it says, "you shall set aside a portion for Hashem". The Hebrew word for 'set aside' can also be translated as 'to uplift'. The Ben Ish Chai concludes that our intention should be to uplift the sparks from the food and elevate them for Hashem, the source of holiness.

According to his holy words, we can understand why Rabbi Yehuda HaNassi was called Rabbeinu HaKadosh. There were also other tzaddikim who were called 'HaKadosh', the holy one'. Why did they merit this description, and how can one merit this description? Furthermore, David Hamelech a"h says (Tehillim 40:9), "and Your Torah is in my innards". What is the meaning of this verse? Is it possible to have holy books inside one's body?

According to the Ben Ish Chai, one can explain that every element contains sparks, and the significance of the sparks is that if there is a green, growing plant that has not dried up and withered, it is a proof that it contains a holy vitality from Hashem, as it says (Nechemia 9:6), "and You give them all life". A person should eat intending to elevate these holy sparks, meaning that the holy sparks emerge from the food, enter a person's body which fills up with holy sparks, and the waste separates itself and exits the body.

If a person decides to abstain from speaking (ta'anit dibur) for one day, then the holy sefarim tell us that this is considered equal to seventy-seven thousand fasts from food. The meaning is that speech has the power of building worlds, or, G-d forbid, destroying worlds. This implies that speech contains many holy sparks, therefore one day of ta'anit dibur has much greater value than very many fasts. I am reminded of my father, my teacher, my crowning glory, the tzaddik Rabbi Moshe Aharon zya"a, who kept a ta'anit dibur for twenty-six months before his passing, to the extent that the family was sure that due to his old age he had become mute and was unable to talk… He was able to do this because he understood the power of extracting the sparks from speech, and this is why he guarded his speech with such care.

If a person truly wishes to sanctify himself and become close to Hashem, Hashem helps him and saves him, as Chazal say (Shabbat 104a), "One who comes to purify himself is assisted". Once during a flight, the steward handed us our meals but since I was in the middle of writing down Torah thoughts, I set the food aside for about a quarter of an hour. Just then the steward returned and apologized that the food we had been served had really been intended for a different passenger, and its kashrut was not suitable for us. I am certain that the merit of my occupation with Torah at that time is why I merited Divine assistance not to stumble by eating forbidden foods. This is a proof that if a person wishes to sanctify himself, Hashem comes to his aid, and the more a person desires to come close to Hashem and is distressed about the challenge that he faces, this causes a greater extrication of the sparks.

Indeed, the more a person is distraught about being faced with a certain challenge, to that same degree his power of extracting the sparks from the klippah and transforming them into something holy, grows. But if G-d forbid, a person enjoys gazing at forbidden sights or enjoys speaking lashon hara and does not repent, all his future Torah study or blessings that he recites, they all go to the Sitra Achra r"l (lit. ‘the other side’ or ‘the side of impurity’) and gives strength and power to the klippah.

May Hashem give us the strength to overcome all life's challenges, thereby sanctifying and elevating the sparks from within the klippah, to holiness, Amen v'Amen.

The Haftarah

The Haftarah of the week: "Yehoshua son of Nun dispatched" (Yehoshua 2)

The connection to the Parsha: The Haftarah speaks about the two spies that Yehoshua Bin Nun sent to spy out the Promised Land. In the Parsha, we are told about the spies that Moshe Rabbeinu a"h sent to spy out the Land.

Guard Your Tongue

Known as Upright and Righteous

If one wishes to praise a person who is publicly acknowledged as an upright and righteous person who performs no wrongdoings, one should praise him even in front of his enemies or adversaries.

The reason is that they will be unable to degrade him, and if they do try, it will be clear to all that they are speaking untruths.

Words of the Sages

Tzitzit Strings Entangled in the Rifle

"They shall make themselves tzitzit on the corners of their garments" (Bamidbar 15:38)

Many stories have been related concerning the segula of the mitzvah of tzitzit, stories that demonstrate how the tzitzit protected the wearer from all kinds of danger.

The sefer 'Ma'aseh Ish', brings the following story, told by Rabbi Ya'akov Plint: "I and my twin brother", he related, "were born many years after our older sister. After my sister's birth, a problem with the antibodies and many failed attempts at treatment, caused the doctors to despair of my parents bringing more children into the world.

My father, who was very close to the Chazon Ish zt"l and consulted with him concerning this challenge, did not pay heed to the doctor's predictions, for during one of the attempts the Chazon Ish declared: "R' Mordechai, this time everything will be okay"!

During the pregnancy with us twins, my mother experienced many complications, to the degree that half her body became paralyzed. In the end, after a serious disagreement with Professor Rachmilewitz, and after he personally met with the Chazon Ish, the doctor agreed not to operate, on the assurance of the Chazon Ish. Indeed, my mother gave birth and all was well.

Every so often the Chazon Ish would ask my father to bring us for a visit, but technical difficulties prevented him from fulfilling his request.

On the last Wednesday of the Chazon Ish's life, he told my father determinedly: "R' Mordechai, bring the children! Travel with them right now and bring them to me!" My father had no choice, he took a taxi to Tel Aviv to bring us to the Chazon Ish.

Just that day our father had bought us a new scooter, and we would not hear of leaving it behind. When we went into the Chazon Ish, my father asked us not to play with the scooter in front of the Chazon Ish, but the Chazon Ish turned to him and said, 'let them be'!

The Chazon Ish spoke with my father and asked him which one of us is the older one. When he heard that I was the older one, he sat me on his right knee, put my brother on his left knee, and then blessed us. After that, the Chazon Ish turned to my brother and asked him: 'Do you know what tzitzit are?'

My brother did not understand the Chazon Ish's question, so my father showed him his tzitzit.

The Chazon Ish then said to him: 'I want you to wear tzitzit your entire life!'

My father asked the Chazon Ish, 'What about my other son?' but he did not answer. Even after my father repeated the question several times, he did not answer him.

Three days after this meeting, the Chazon Ish passed away.

Many years later, during the Yom Kippur war, my brother was serving in Motzav in the north. One day when he was positioned in the lookout, he placed his weapons beside him and began reading a newspaper. Suddenly his tzitzit strings became entangled in his rifle and the rifle fell.

Just as my brother bent down to pick up his rifle, a missile struck the lookout. By a miracle, my brother was only lightly injured in his hand and shoulder. Had my brother been sitting upright and had not bent down, the story would have ended tragically, G-d forbid…

Walking in Their Ways

Faith – The Hardest Service

Harav Shach zya"a used to say that a person is obligated to seriously contemplate and delve into the depths of Sefer Bereishit, which speaks about the deeds of the holy Avot, in order to learn from their way of life, how they cleaved to Hashem Yitbarach and His Torah.

Of course, this is the hardest service of G-d. Achieving perfect faith and yirat shamayim is something that requires sincere effort, but we are promised that Hashem will assist whoever desires to attain these attributes.

The following story demonstrates how great and tremendous is the power of simple faith.

I was once engrossed in an urgent phone call. A woman suddenly burst into my office and cried that her husband was in the throes of death, rachmana litzlan, and in dire need of salvation. Since I was in the middle of an important call, I asked the woman to wait a few moments and then I would be able to give her husband a complete, wholehearted blessing. But instead of waiting, the woman said, “Thank you, thank you,” and left as suddenly as she had come.

I was quite surprised by her reaction and asked those in the room if they had any idea why she had thanked me. They, too, were astonished at her words and hurried to find her and ask for an explanation. When they reached her, she stated, in all innocence, that she understood that I had blessed her husband with a refuah sheleimah and that he would soon recover.

At this, I was really stumped. I had not offered her any blessing at all. I had not even said anything which could be understood as a guarantee that her husband would live. All I had done was ask her to wait patiently until I could hear her out. But she left so fast that I could not clarify her husband’s condition or offer him a blessing.

The poor woman was certain that I had promised her that her husband would be well. But what if Hashem decided to take him from this world? What a chillul Hashem would result!

I asked my secretary to call her up and straighten out the matter. She should be told that I was not guaranteeing her husband’s recovery. But when my secretary reached her, she did not let him speak. With great emotion, she said, “Relay my thanks to Rabbi David. My husband miraculously came back to life!”

This telling story demonstrates the power of simple faith. In whose merit was the miracle performed? In my merit or hers?

The miracle that happened to this man was undoubtedly in the merit of his wife’s perfect, complete faith. She thought I had blessed him with a refuah sheleimah and was therefore certain that this is what would be.

Of course, in order to merit this level of faith, one must expend much effort, but fortunate is the one who merits this.

May it be His will that we strengthen our faith in Him, and may Hashem imbue our hearts with love and awe of Him, that we may do His will and serve Him wholeheartedly, Amen.

Pearls of the Parsha

 Complete Agreement as to the Punishment

"They found a man gathering wood on the Sabbath day" (Bamidbar 15:32)

The one who gathered wood on Shabbat was punished by being pelted with stones by the entire assembly, as it says, "they pelted him with stones and he died" (ibid 15:36).

The one who blasphemed was also punished with the same death, as it says, "they stoned him to death" (Vayikra 24:23).

There is a discrepancy in the terminology concerning these two sinners. Concerning the Shabbat desecrator, it says "וירגמו אתו באבנים", "they pelted him with stones", the word 'אבנים', stones, being in the plural, while about the blasphemer it says, "וירגמו אתו אבן", "they stoned him to death", with 'אבן' being in the singular?

Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu zt"l asks this question and explains according to the Targum Yonatan, that when Bnei Yisrael were in the desert, they were told about the commandment of Shabbat, however the nature and procedure of the death penalty had not been clarified. Due to this, someone from the tribe of Yosef got up and started gathering wood on Shabbat, in front of witnesses who had warned him, so that Moshe would judge him and then all Yisrael will understand the severity of the sin of desecrating the Shabbat.

However, since concerning the Shabbat desecrator, Am Yisrael were not all in agreement regarding the nature of the death penalty since his intention was for the sake of heaven, it therefore says "they pelted him with stones", in the plural, since those pelting did not all do so with the same intention.

Whereas with the blasphemer, his punishment was accepted by all Yisrael, so concerning him it says, "they stoned him to death" in the singular.

Tzitzit are Comparable to a Cute Baby

"They shall make themselves tzitzit" (Bamidbar 15:38)

A villager once approached the town's Rav with a difficult question:

This villager was a G-d fearing Jew who observed all the mitzvot, but he lived far from other Jews and did not have the opportunity to study Torah.

This was his question: Our Holy Torah contains six hundred and thirteen mitzvot and we try to observe them all. But it seems to be that the mitzvah of tzitzit is put on a pedestal more than the other mitzvot. Why do we kiss them so many times during our prayers and show special love for this mitzvah?

"Do you have any children?" the Rav asked him, by way of an answer. "Yes", he replied, "I have an only child, a precious son, and Hashem has blessed me with much good and beautiful grandchildren." "Do you kiss your son?" asked the Rav. "No", answered the villager, "my son is already a grown man and he himself is a father. But I love my young, cute grandchildren dearly and I shower them with kisses."

The Rav then asked him: "Why do you kiss your grandchildren so much?" And he replied: "My grandson is like a little bird, I get so much pleasure from playing with him. He is like a miniature man, he has all that a grown person has, all the features and limbs, but tiny. Everything is small and cute and I just have to kiss him."

The Rav then said, "Now I will explain to you why the mitzvah of tzitzit is so precious to us.

The tzitzit are a reflection of the entire Torah, with all its six hundred and thirteen mitzvot. The numerical value of 'tzitzit' is six hundred, and together with its eight strings and five knots, this adds up to six hundred and thirteen, the number of mitzvot in the Torah. Tzitzit are comparable to the young child who has everything in him. The tzitzit too contain all the six hundred and thirteen mitzvot and it reminds us of all the Torah's precepts, as it says, "that you may see it and remember all the commandments of Hashem". This is why we accord such honor to the tzitzit and kiss them repeatedly."

A satisfied smile lit up the villager's face, the Rav had taught him a valuable lesson and from now he would show even more love for the mitzvah of tzitzit.

From the Treasury

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

Korach's Mistake

The section of tzitzit follows the section that talks about the spies, and it is also adjacent to the Parsha of Korach because Chazal tell us (Midrash Tanchuma, Korach), that Korach showed disregard for this precious mitzvah. What did he do? He gathered together two hundred and fifty heads of Sanhedrin and dressed them in prayer shawls (tallitot) that were completely turquoise. They came and stood before Moshe and said, "Does a garment that is entirely turquoise require a single turquoise thread in its tzitzit, or is it exempt?" Moshe said yes, it requires a turquoise thread, whereupon Korach scoffed, "If a single strand is enough for an entire garment made of a different color of wool, does it not stand to reason that an all-turquoise garment should not require one more strand?"

Why did Korach mock the mitzvah of tzitzit and belittle it?

Korach was among those who carried the Aron and was originally a righteous and pious individual. He even merited prophecy, seeing that Shmuel the Ramati would descend from him. But then he said to himself, does a person like himself require the mitzvah of tzitzit to increase his yirat shamayim? He beheld himself as someone chock-full of yirat shamayim, he felt so close to Hashem Yitbarach and the fact that he was counted among those who carried the Aron was confirmation enough for him. He did not feel the need for the additional holiness that the mitzvah of tzitzit affords its wearers.

This was Korach's foolish argument. He made a grave mistake because he did not understand that the yirat shamayim that he merited as a result of carrying the Aron, was given to him as a free gift from the treasury, it was not a result of his own personal effort. The problem is that yirat shamayim that comes easily does not have lasting power and it can easily dissipate and disappear when put to the test, facing the temptations of the Yetzer Hara. Therefore, when he faced this challenge, Korach indeed fell to the depths. Since the entire argument against Moshe came from a feeling of an affront to his personal honor, he abandoned the yirat shamayim that he possessed and began blaspheming all that is precious and holy to Am Yisrael.

Had he understood and admitted his mistake, he would have worn the tallit on his body with the appropriate awe and realized that the turquoise color is comparable to the Throne of Glory. This thought would have enabled him to subdue his heart to his Father in heaven and feel subservient to Him, and then he would certainly not have chased after imaginary honor and fame, and not have fallen into the trap of the Yetzer Hara. For yirat shamayim that is a result of hard work makes a deep impression on the soul, and stands for a person to assist him in overcoming life's challenges.

A Novel Look at the Parsha

"Slow to Anger, Abundant in Kindness" (Bamidbar 14:18)

"It is proper for man", points out Rabbi Moshe Cordovero zya"a in his famous sefer 'Tomer Devorah', "to emulate his Creator, for then he will attain the secret of the Supernal Form in both image and likeness. For if he reflects the Supernal Form in his body alone and not in his actions, he falsifies his stature and about him will be said that he possesses a handsome form but ugly deeds. For the essential aspect of the Supernal ‘Form’ and ‘Likeness’ is that they are the deeds of the Creator. Therefore, what benefit will it be for a person to reflect the Supernal Form physically while his actions do not resemble his Creator? Therefore, it is proper that he should imitate the functions of keter (the crown) which are the Thirteen Supernal Attributes of Mercy."

In the following lines, we will take a look at the distinguished personality of Maran the Gaon, Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt"l, taken from the sefer 'Amudo Shel Olam'. We will start by quoting his oft-quoted fundamental principle, "In this world, one must suffer and keep quiet. This is our work in this world…"

Rabbeinu was blessed with the patience of steel, and even though he was often bothered by senseless questions, he never held it against the questioner and always replied calmly, comparable to the patience of Hillel in his generation.

Rabbeinu's wife a"h related: One night at one o'clock in the morning, during the Rav's limited hours of sleep, we heard relentless knocking on the garden gate. When after ten minutes the constant knocking did not let up, the Rav got up, dressed quickly and went to open the gate.

At the entrance stood a young man, wishing to ask an urgent question. The Rav invited him inside, and it turned out that indeed his question was most urgent: What name should he give to the baby son?

The Rav imagined that the brit was about to take place that morning, and since the question was a matter of marital harmony, he answered him calmly and patiently, making sure that he understood all the details of his question.

After the matter had been explained and clarified, the man wished to ask another question: "And if in the end, we have a girl, what should I call her...?!"

Slow to Anger

Rabbeinu was once travelling by bus from Yerushalayim to Bnei Brak when suddenly he smelt smoke. It turned out that there was a man sitting close by who was leisurely smoking. As we know, Rabbeinu suffered from frail health, and when he was only fifty years old the doctors declared that his weak heart would not able to sustain him for more than sixty years. But Rabbeinu lived in a supernatural, miraculous fashion, with Torah being his life and the source of his strength and vitality.

The smoke that emerged from the innocent cigarette disturbed Rabbeinu and posed a danger to his health. His travel companion knew that it was dangerous for him, and asked his permission to bring this to the attention of the smoker and ask him to extinguish his cigarette. But Maran adamantly refused. "How can I stop him from smoking? Because the smoke disturbs me, he has to stop his habit?"

Immediately after Maran got off the smoke-filled bus, he fainted and lost consciousness. But to caution someone and deny him his pleasure?! This he did not dream of doing at any cost!


Rabbeinu was blessed with extreme patience and never became angry, as his son in law Rabbi Ezriel Auerbach shlita testified:

"We lived in my father-in-law's house for tens of years and we came to recognize that the attribute of patience was so deeply implanted in him, in a measure that cannot be described. Close to fifty years we did not hear him raise his voice, and even in situations where it seemed that there was no choice, his demeanor remained tranquil and calm!"

Questions of Interest

During his daily shiur, many participants would ask Rabbeinu different questions. He would listen to their words with great patience, repeating his oft-quoted sentence, "again, again"!

In general, Rabbeinu was extremely careful not to hurt anyone, even if he was asked a question that clearly had not been given too much thought. When the chapter 'Aizehu neshech" was studied in the shiur, one of the participants asked if there is a question of 'ribit' (lending with interest) when giving someone many small coins in exchange for a banknote. Rabbeinu listened to the question and replied that this does not involve the prohibition of interest.

A few moments later, one of the participants got up and asked the same exact question: "Is it permissible for someone to lend his friend an amount of small coins so that he should repay the loan with one banknote?" Rabbeinu once again replied with the same answer and explained that this is not considered as interest.

Immediately after giving over the answer for the second time, one of the participants asked the same question for the third time, presenting the question in good taste and describing how often traders do not wish to deal with small coins and prefer notes, if so the note could be considered as more tradable money and of more significance than single coins?

On hearing the question repeating itself yet again, the congregation burst out laughing, for Rabbeinu had answered this exact question twice already, and seemingly this questioner had not been listening and did not hear. But Rabbeinu replied for the third time with a gentle smile: "All the traders here have already discussed and decided that there is no difference between small change and a banknote, it does not involve the prohibition of paying back with interest!"


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