January 16th, 2021

3rd of Shvat 5781


The Purpose and Goal of Clothing

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

"I shall take you out from under the burdens of Egypt; I shall rescue you from their service; I shall redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. I shall take you to Me for a people" (Shemot 6:6-7)

Chazal point out that these verses contain four different expressions of redemption (I shall take you out, I shall rescue you, I shall redeem you, and I shall take you). The Midrash Lekach Tov says that these four expressions correspond to the four merits that Yisrael possessed which made them worthy of being redeemed from Egypt: They did not change their language or their way of dress, none revealed to the Egyptians that they had secretly taken their vessels, and they did not abolish the mitzvah of Brit Milah.

Chazal attach great significance to a person's clothing, to guarding the traditional way of dress of our ancestors. In fact, this merit of not changing their way of dress stood for Am Yisrael to be redeemed from Egypt. It is incumbent upon us to understand why the Torah attaches such importance to how we dress when after all it is something external and not part of a person's essence. And what special power does it possess that our ancestors were redeemed from Egypt in its merit?

If we consider the matter of clothing, we come to realize that it was a concept created as a result of the original sin performed due to the snake. Before the sin, Adam and Chava were naked, as it says (Bereishit 2:25), "They were both naked, the man and his wife, and they were not ashamed". Once they sinned and ate from the Tree of Knowledge it says (ibid 3:7) "Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they realized that they were naked, and they sewed together a fig leaf and made themselves aprons".

Although today clothing is a basic requirement of man and essential for any intelligent person, it is explained that before the sin clothing was unnecessary, there was no need for it. It was only the sin that caused clothing to become a necessity for man. If we delve deeper into the matter, we will find that there is a contradiction between the state of man before and after the sin. Following the sin, we understand that man requires clothing due to his importance and greatness as someone intelligent. The more distinguished and respectable the person, the more clothing he adds to cover his body and show respect to his position. On the other hand, lowly people who disregard themselves, walk around half-dressed, may Hashem protect us, while animals who have no intelligence whatsoever go completely naked. However, before the sin, the entire concept of clothing and covering one's body was completely unnecessary, and on the contrary, because of Adam and Chava's lofty level before the sin, they did not require clothing. This shows that the prominence and high level of man is cause for not requiring a covering, which seems to be a contradiction to today, after the sin, when dress seems to follow the opposite rule.

To reconcile the matter, we will explain that Adam was created with great perfection, similar to his Creator. He was born with upright middot and pure qualities, completely perfect in body and soul, pure and spotless from anything evil. Before the sin, the Yetzer Hara was not part of Adam and the power of evil in the world was external to him. However, once he sinned, contamination was injected into him by the snake, and the Yetzer Hara received permission to enter man and rule over his wishes and desires.

Because of this, prior to the sin when Adam himself was perfect and clear of any evil, there was no need for clothing. Because clothing serves to cover and hide, and when man's body is perfect and his soul is pure there is nothing to cover or hide. While also before the sin the Yetzer Hara was present in the world in the form of the snake, he was nevertheless not an intrinsic part of man and his desires, but an external being who had the power to try and make him stumble and sin. Against the external Yetzer Hara Hashem created the Torah, the power that subdues the Yetzer Hara and protects a person from it. But after the sin when permission was given to the Yetzer Hara to enter a person's soul and inner essence, and man became evil through the material desires and temptations that were part of him, then clothing became a necessity. It became necessary to cover the body, the place where temptations dwell, and conceal the animalistic part of him, i.e. the body which is the materialistic part of man and in this way, he can subdue his Yetzer Hara.

This reconciles the contradiction of how, before the sin, due to Adam and Chava's greatness they did not require clothing, while after the sin clothing became a necessity for man. Since before the sin their exceptional quality was that even a trace of evil did not cleave to them, they were pure and clean, therefore there was no place or necessity for clothing. For the entire concept of clothing belongs to the material world, while in the spiritual world it has no place. Do angels wear clothing?? Only once they sinned and contamination was imposed on them, did they then require clothing to subdue the evil in their bodies.

The nations of the world took the concept of clothing and used it for the direct opposite of its true goal. With their arrogant and immodest dress, they increase lust and impurity in the world. They took clothing that was intended to make man modest and subdue his Yetzer Hara by covering his body, thereby enabling him to elevate his spirit and soul, and instead use it to beautify their bodies and make them conspicuous, so as to increase their lust.

Now we understand the great importance that the Torah attaches to the Jewish mode of dress and the great praise with which our forefathers in Egypt were commended for not changing their dress. Jewish dress is different from non-Jewish dress not only in its style but mainly in its essence and goal. And Am Yisrael in Egypt guarded their style of dress to isolate themselves from the outlook and opinions of the Egyptians concerning clothing and the purpose it is meant to serve. In this merit by being distinctive and preserving their own identity, Am Yisrael were trained to be called G-d's nation who in the future would receive the Torah, the purpose of their redemption from Egypt.

I recall that my esteemed father zya"a did not leave his home for forty years so as to guard the purity and holiness of his eyes. He never perspired and his body never gave off an unpleasant smell, for the more a person sanctifies himself, his body too becomes something spiritual with no connection to the physical laws of nature.

Guard Your Tongue

One who relates things to others no longer has control over where this will go and cannot know in which circumstances his words will be repeated. What one says about one's friend can later reach the friend's ears and might even be repeated in his presence.

Therefore, it is forbidden to say anything about someone else that could embarrass him or cause him distress if repeated in his presence, even if the actual words are not derogatory.

For example, it is forbidden to say that someone is a ba'al teshuva if that person is sensitive to this fact. The same law applies even among a congregation where ba'alei teshuva are held in esteem.

The Haftarah

The Haftarah of the week: "Thus said the Lord Hashem/Elokim" (Yechezkel 28)

The connection to the Parsha: The Haftarah speaks about the prophecies of the expulsion of the Egyptians and desolation of the land, and in the Parsha we read about the punishments that the Egyptians received from Hashem, in the form of the Ten Plagues.

Walking in Their Ways

The Merit of Torah Protects and Saves

During one of the times I received the public in Bnei Brak, two women came to ask for my blessing concerning their respective problems. The first walked in. Before she began speaking, it occurred to me to ask her, “What’s with your husband’s stomach?” The woman was shocked beyond words. She had come explicitly to tell me about his terrible stomach pains, and here I was, asking her about them!

Her face gave evidence to her amazement. Since she was speechless, I took the floor. “Do not worry,” I reassured her. “B’ezrat Hashem, your husband will have a complete recovery in the very near future. Tell him there is no reason to conduct tests or see doctors. He should just continue studying Torah diligently and the merit of the Torah will protect him.”

B’chasdei Shamayim, that was exactly what happened. Her husband was completely healed in the merit of his Torah study.

After this woman left my room, her friend walked in. This time too, before she opened her mouth I said, “How are your kidneys functioning? Make sure to drink a lot.” She too was speechless at my perception of her problem. She could not fathom how I knew why she was here. But I know that it was only in the merit of my holy ancestors. In the merit of their diligence in Torah study, the right words are placed in my mouth, words that provide succor to my fellow Jews for their various problems.

I blessed this woman, as well, with a speedy recovery and reminded her again to drink plenty. With Hashem's help, she too was cured of her ailment. She retold her story in public and it resulted in a tremendous kiddush Hashem.

Words of the Sages

Why is Dissension Compared to the Plague of Frogs?

The Maggid, HaGaon HaTzadik Rabbi Aryeh Shechter zt"l, in his sefer 'Aryeh Sha'ag', imparts a wonderful lesson concerning the plague of Frogs.

As we know, the plague of Frogs began with one gigantic frog that slowly emerged from the river.

The Egyptians wished to kill this huge frog that had infiltrated their land and began hitting it forcefully. But every strike caused more frogs to emerge from it and filled the land of Egypt with their multitudes.

Seemingly, if a rational person would be standing at the side viewing the actions of the Egyptians, he would turn to them with the following question: "What do you think you are doing? Have you gone crazy?! Can you not see that with every strike more and more frogs emerge? The blows are not helping at all, leave the frog alone and the plague will diminish!"

But this is the nature of man. When he acts out of anger and an intoxication of senses, he loses his discretion and hits everywhere without a trace of logic or benefit.

Maran the Steipler, the 'Kehilot Ya'akov' zt"l, explains that a similar reality sets in with every fight and argument. When a person sees that his friend acted against him, he does not sit by idly but repays him twofold. After that, his friend pays him back and so it goes on until the two sides are left with only 'a tooth and an eye', with the fire of dissension growing hotter and being prolonged.

Turning to one of the rivals and trying to inject some logic into him by saying: "Keep quiet, don't respond, why do you need more mud-slinging and disgrace?" will result in him replying with blind anger: "No, he started, I'll show him business!"

So, for every blow that one strikes one's friend, loads of new 'frogs' emerge, and the fire of argument intensifies and increases infinitely.

Therefore, any time one is faced with a dispute, friction or quarrel, it is important to remember the verse: "You shall love your fellow as yourself for I am Hashem." Indeed, it is not easy to swallow one's words when someone else is spreading false reports about you and publicly degrading you, but if you keep in mind that "I am Hashem", that Hashem is looking at all that is taking place and sees how you are not responding to all the degradation and slander, it is easier to guard one's tongue and count oneself among those who are insulted but do not insult.

If a person understands that all the suffering and distress he endures in This World is not happenstance but set in motion by an intentional Heavenly hand, he will realize that anyone who humiliates him is simply a messenger of Divine Providence, a means of afflicting him for his sins. Then automatically there is no reason at all to return battle, rather it is in place to search one's deeds and understand why this evil befell him.

From the Treasury

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

The Extent of the Power of Free Choice

"The necromancers of Egypt did the same by means of their incantations; so Pharaoh's heart was strong and he did not heed them" (Shemot 7:22)

On the words "by means of their incantations" Rashi explains: "Our Sages say, an act of the demons".

"Ten things were created on Shabbat Eve, at twilight… Some say also destructive spirits (Avot 5:6). Harav Ovadiah Bartenura explains that destructive spirits refer to the demons. He explains that demons were created for a certain purpose which is why they are called 'destructive spirits', for on Hashem's command they harm and punish those who deserve retribution and serve as His destructive stick. That is why Noach brought them into the Ark at the time of the Flood, for the world requires them.

This gives rise to a difficulty. How come the demons, who are like G-dly angels who carry out His word, assisted Pharaoh and his sorcerers in dulling the illumination of Hashem's kingship and His control over the creation that permeated Egypt through the plague of Blood and disparaged Moshe and Aharon, Hashem's messengers?

But this is the great power that was given to man through his possessing free-choice on how to act. We are accustomed to thinking that with the power of free-choice, being able to make decisions concerning our bodies and actions, man can do whatever he wishes for better or for worse. Here, through the deeds of Pharaoh and his sorcerers, it became clear that not only does man possess the power of free-choice over his deeds and actions, but he can also decide how to use the powers and the creation that Hashem fashioned for His honor and the revelation of His Name. Even those things that were created with the main goal of being Hashem's messengers and fulfilling His command, man possesses the power to divert from their goal and harness them for his deeds and actions, even if G-d forbid this goes against the Will of Hashem.

This is the great responsibility that lies on man's shoulders. Man is the crown of creation and Hashem gave us power over His world. And man uses the creation both for the good and for the bad. This is the implication of Hashem's warning to Adam HaRishon, "Make sure that you do not spoil and destroy My world".

It is in man's hand to ruin not only himself and his soul but also the world that does not belong to him but to Hashem. Man has the power of destroying the creation whose purpose is the revelation of Hashem's sovereignty.

This is one of the foundations of the power of free-choice that was given to man, so as to justify the reward that is due to him for his deeds. For if when man would desire to do something evil, he would come across opposition and disruption in carrying out his desire by the powers inherent in the creation who act as Hashem's messengers, this would cause a breach in his power of free-choice, for he would see tangibly how his deeds are not desirable. This being the case, he would not deserve reward for turning away from evil and doing good, for he was forced to do good and against his wish was prevented from doing bad.

Now we can understand how the sorcerers used the demons to undermine faith in Hashem Yitbarach, the opposite of the purpose for which they were created, which is to punish sinners and proclaim that there is a Judge and judgement. For the foundation of free-choice and reward and punishment is to give man complete control over his deeds and actions both for the good and the bad, even if to this end he uses the powers inherent in the creation whose purpose is to reveal His Name and increase His honor, as the verse says, "Everyone who is called by My Name and whom I have created for My glory, whom I have fashioned, even perfected".

Hashem is called 'An insulted King'. The Ramak, in Tomer Devorah, explains that when a person sins, at that actual moment Hashem is breathing life into him and giving him the strength to carry out his desire. And he uses that very strength and life that is being bestowed on him at that moment by Hashem to rebel against Him. Yet Hashem restrains Himself and does not cease the influence of life.

Pearls of the Parsha

We are Not Jealous of the Nations of the World

"I shall take you to Me for a people and I shall be a G-d to you" (Shemot 6:7)

One Rosh Hashanah, Reb Meshulam Zusha of Anipoli zya"a left the Beit Midrash before the shofar blowing and noticed an unfortunate young Jewish child of destitute parents, dressed in rags. Reb Zusha asked him, "My child, are you not jealous of the gentiles who eat fattening foods, drink sweet beverages, and are dressed in respectable clothing?"

The child replied, "No, I am not jealous of them at all. Mine is greater than theirs. I am a Jew and believe in the G-d of the Jews."

Rabbi Zusha returned to the Beit Midrash and proclaimed, "Master of the World, look down from heaven and see. Who is like Your people Israel, the Chosen Nation. Even though a young Jewish child is hungry, thirsty, and dressed in rags, he accepts everything with love for he feels fortunate that he is a Jew!"

 Personal Gain Prevails Over the Good of the Nation

"Entreat for me" (Shemot 8:24)

Pharaoh asked, "entreat for me". This is the character of that wicked king, and similarly of all the kings of the nations who are only interested in their own good.

This precise wording, points out the 'Ta'am V'da'at', demonstrates that Pharaoh asked that they should entreat only for him, he did not care at all about the fate of his people. In contrast, Jewish kings and the Gedolim always take an interest in the public and their concern for their welfare takes precedence to their own benefit.

The Sorcerers Rejected Faith in Tzadikim

"The sorcerers said to Pharaoh, 'It is a finger of G-d!'" (Shemot 8:15)

Since the sorcerers yielded and proclaimed, "It is a finger of G-d", why were they smitten with additional plagues following this declaration?

The sefer 'Siman Tov' answers in the name of the elderly chassid, Rabbi Chaim Neta Katz zt"l, who quotes the words of the Targum Yonatan: "Pharaoh's astrologers said, it is not from the power of Moshe and Aharon but it is a plague sent by Hashem". Meaning that the sorcerers indeed admitted that the plague came from Hashem, but said that it had no connection to the power of Moshe and Aharon.

It follows then that the sorcerers denied the concept of faith in tzadikim. Therefore, despite saying "It is the finger of G-d", they were subsequently smitten with additional plagues.

Redemption in all Situations

"I shall make a distinction between My people and your people" (Shemot 8:19)

The Ohev Shalom explains, so said Hashem: "I will redeem My people Yisrael (פדות, distinction, can also be translated as 'redeem'), 'between My people', whether they are behaving like Yisrael (בין, between, can also be translated as 'whether'), 'and between your people', or whether they are behaving like Egyptians, G-d forbid. Even if this is the case, I will still redeem them…"

A Novel Look at the Parsha

Rashi quotes the Midrash concerning Hashem's command to Moshe "Say to Aharon, "Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the land": "Since the dust of the land protected Moshe from discovery when he used it to conceal the Egyptian that he killed, it would have been ungrateful for him to smite the earth, therefore it was smitten by Aharon".

The Torah relates (Shemot 2:11) how Moshe saw an Egyptian man striking a Hebrew man, of his brethren, and he wanted to help and protect him. The Holy Zohar writes that Moshe took his stick and used it to kill the Egyptian, after which he "hid him in the sand".

Did the sand perform a special act for Moshe? Certainly not, but since he was assisted by the sand when he hid the Egyptian, he was obligated to accord honor to the sand, therefore it was not fitting for Moshe to strike the sand.

This requires further explanation, for does the sand have a soul? Does it feel the pain, or honor, that is accorded to it? What does it care if the lice crawling over it came as a result of Moshe striking it?

Rabbi Meir Rubman zt"l imparts additional depth to the great principle of hakarat hatov that is brought in the holy sefarim:

The obligation of hakarat hatov is not just to show appreciation to the person who did us a favor. Although it is correct to repay him, we see from the words of the Midrash that the reason for hakarat hatov is not so that the one who did the favor should not be hurt, for the sand cannot understand that good is being done to it, and certainly cannot understand the idea of restraining from doing something negative to it, just as Moshe Rabbeinu did.

If so, what is the idea behind showing appreciation to an inanimate object, for example, water and sand? Harav Rubman says that although it is true that an inanimate object is not affected by our hakarat hatov, the obligation of hakarat hatov is for the person himself, that he should not be ungrateful! The idea of showing hakarat hatov is not the concept of remuneration for the one who did me a favor, but so that I myself should feel that this person benefitted me. And so as to acquire this feeling, it is not fitting that I should harm the person or not repay him with good in return.

And if it is an inanimate object that cannot feel? The benefactor is not the reason, rather it is we who must accustom ourselves to feeling appreciation towards every object and every person, so as to sensitize the soul of man to this wonderful feeling of hakarat hatov.

This is why Hashem instructed Moshe Rabbeinu that he should not be the one to hit the sand, for he must have the inner feeling and sensitivity that it did him a favor.

This teaches us that the idea of hakarat hatov is a soul quality that we must strive to acquire! Man must elevate his soul by showing appreciation to everything that benefitted him.

The more modest a person, Hagaon Rabbi Reuven Elbaz shlita points out in his sefer 'Mishkani Acharecha', the more of an obligation he feels to show appreciation even for the smallest favor that was done for him. Even many years later he still feels that his very soul is obliged to the one who benefitted him!

On the other hand, a conceited person always feels that others are obligated to give to him and honor him. He is consumed with the thought, "I deserve it!" And if someone does him a favor, he doesn’t understand why he must show appreciation for this. "What did he already do for me? Who is he that I have to show appreciation to him?" These thoughts stem from a false sense of pride and prevent him from repaying good with good.

This is the work that is required from us; to attach such significance to the good bestowed on us and think that all the good was done for us only until automatically we will feel obligated to show our appreciation. The fact that others also received the same good, or benefitted together with me, should not be of interest to me at all. They deserve the good but I am not worthy.

Expressing Hakarat Hatov in the Home

First and foremost, we must feel appreciation towards our family members and of course, it is no less important to express our thanks out loud to them. Every person who does not walk around with the feeling of 'I deserve it' which is a result of pride, will be prepared to gratefully receive all that others went to the trouble of preparing for him. But he must also show appreciation for this and actually thank the one who did him the favor.

"I recall", Harav Elbaz shlita relates, "once staying with a certain Rosh Yeshiva. When we entered his home after the Friday night prayers, we found the table set with elegant dishes. The Rosh Yeshiva turned to his wife the Rabbanit and said, "I am telling you, even in the most luxurious hotels that I have stayed at, there was nothing so elegantly and tastefully laid out like you manage to do. Every time I see your beautifully set table, I am amazed anew! You do it with such good taste!"

And I will tell you the truth: I am sure, I have no doubt, that this is what he tells her every Friday night!”

If we too would enter our homes and exclaim to our families, "You really know how to lay the table! I have never seen such a beautifully set table!" what a good feeling this would give them.

When a person enters his home on Friday night and greets his family with "Shabbat Shalom", is there any great peace than this?

The worst thing for the home is to find faults with one's wife! Woe if this is the situation! That unfortunate wife feels that she cannot manage on her own. She feels that the responsibility for the home is a burden for her and in addition, she is required to keep the entire house tidy exactly as her fastidious, pedantic husband (whose shoes can be found in the dining room and socks are someplace…) demands. She exerts herself above her capabilities, just so that he should not point out her faults!

One must know that the worst feeling for a wife is when her husband tells her, "You didn’t manage!" or "You made a mistake!" What damage this can cause!

Therefore, it is important for a husband to always feel that he doesn’t deserve anything and that he must feel appreciation to his wife for all that she does for him. In this way, he will not demand unfair requests and will not expect his wife to always be on top of all the many tasks that are awaiting her attention.


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