July 24th, 2021

15th of Av 5781


Educating Children in the Torah Path

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

"Go say to them, 'Return to your tents'" (Devarim 5:27)

Immediately after Hashem revealed Himself to Am Yisrael at Har Sinai and gave them the Torah amid thunder and lightning, wonders and miracles, He commanded Moshe to tell Bnei Yisrael to return to their tents to be with their families. What lies behind this command? Any person who receives a gift thanks the giver and then naturally returns to his regular affairs. So why did Hashem have to command Moshe to tell Bnei Yisrael to return home – would they not do this on their own accord?

The reason could be that Hashem wanted to impart the following message to Am Yisrael: Even though the Torah is the center of their lives and they must invest all their strength and efforts to learn, understand, create chiddushim and debate the Holy Torah, nevertheless, just as a person may not neglect his physical needs and must eat and sleep in the right measure, the same applies concerning his home and family. If one's wife requires help in the home with raising or educating the children, or if one of the children requires help with his studies or other similar needs, he is obligated to leave behind his Torah study for some time and offer his help. He should not assume he is neglecting the Torah for on the contrary, this is Hashem's wish and the intention of the Torah; to learn as much as he can but without neglecting necessary concerns of This World.

Hashem specially commanded Moshe to tell Bnei Yisrael to return to their tents, because following the Giving of the Torah Bnei Yisrael felt so attached to it and longed to study it exclusively, to the extent that they might have entirely forgotten about This World, their wives and families. They therefore required a special command to return to their tents and see how their wives were faring. If it would be necessary to take leave of their Torah learning for a short time to help raise and educate the children, then this 'neglecting' is considered as performing. Every person is obligated to roll up his sleeves as much as necessary and only then return to his beloved Torah studies.

When Hashem wanted to give the Torah to Am Yisrael, He Himself descended to Har Sinai and there revealed Himself to His people, as it says (Shemot 19:20), "Hashem descended upon Mount Sinai to the top of the mountain." Seemingly, Hashem could have remained in the Heavens on His Throne of Glory, and from there given His people the Torah. Why did He bother, as if, to descend?

It seems that with this act Hashem wanted to reinforce this lesson for Am Yisrael. Hashem troubled Himself for Am Yisrael and went down to Har Sinai to give His people the Torah, to teach them that Torah must be accompanied by good middot and taking others into consideration, particularly one's close family. Each of us must learn from Hashem's ways to trouble ourselves on behalf of our families as much as we can, so they too will follow in the Torah path.

It follows that assisting with raising and educating one's children in the Torah way is not only an act of kindness and showing consideration for others, but a prior condition to accepting the Torah, for the entire giving of the Torah is dependent on the children following in their parent's ways. If one does not invest time in raising and educating them to Torah and mitzvot, one's children may not grow up as one wishes, and then even one's own Torah will be taken from him due to that prior condition.

Contemplating this idea will lead us to realize that time spent away from one's learning for the sake of helping out at home is not neglecting the Torah at all. Because when the wife and children see how much their father loves Torah and mitzvot, and nevertheless invests his precious time in their education and care, it causes them to try harder not to disturb his Torah learning and mitzvah observance. It follows that as time passes his loss is offset by his gain.

When I was only nine years old, my parents decided to send me to study in a Yeshiva in France. The material conditions were extremely tough and in addition I almost had no contact with my family. Besides a lone letter every few months, I had no way of communicating with my parents. I was overcome with intense longing for them and I am sure my parents missed me greatly too, but they wanted to grant me the opportunity to study Torah.

The fact that my esteemed father zy"a sent me so far away to study Torah does not surprise me at all because Torah was the light of his life and he was prepared to sacrifice himself and his personal longings so his children should follow in the path of Torah. But I always wondered about my mother's compassion. How did she garner the strength to send me so far away at such a young age, knowing she would hardly have any contact with me?

But as I grew older and observed the close connection between my parents, and the love and honor my mother a"h granted my father zt"l, I realized my mother considered my father's wish as holy of holies and she honored his wishes without asking any questions. She was empowered to do this because he wisely provided her with the feeling that he was at her side for whatever she needed, and just as water reflects a person's face, she too treated him with honor and esteem and accepted all his decisions despite the inherent maternal challenge.

Each person must remember that besides being an important mission in and of itself, educating one's children in the path of Torah is an essential condition for one's own Torah study and elevation in yirat Shamayim. His Torah study is dependent on the way he educates his children to Torah and mitzvot.

Walking in their Ways

Tracking down a Blessing

Once, when I was taking the train from Nice to my home in Lyon, a woman suddenly burst into the car. It looked like she was desperately searching for someone. When she saw me, finally finding the person she was looking for, her relief gave way to a torrent of tears. She had heard of my visit to Nice but by the time she arrived I had already left. So she rushed to the train station in the hope of catching me before I caught the train back to Lyon. Here is what she told:

“My son is a boat repairman. About half a year ago, while he was working on a boat, the motor suddenly exploded. He sustained burns all over his body and was declared to be in critical condition. Until today, he is in a coma, fighting for his life. Honored Rav, I beg of you, bless my son with a complete recovery.”

I was aggrieved by her tale and her son's suffering. I immediately blessed her son in the merit of my holy ancestors that he should have a complete recovery. I also tried lifting her spirits, telling her that Hashem can heal a person in the blink of an eye.

A long time passed and I attended the sheva berachot of Mr. Yehudah Fahima. There, I heard Mr. Maman, one of the participants, joyfully relating this very story. Since I did not know how it had ended, I asked him to fill me in on the details. This is what he said:

“Approximately one month ago, I met this woman and she excitedly related that she had managed to meet the Rav on the train and he had blessed her son. When I asked her how he was doing, she said Baruch Hashem he came out of the coma and his body miraculously grew fresh skin over the burns.”

I was very glad to hear the happy ending of this story. It taught me the extent of a mother’s personal sacrifice. She did not give up and made every effort to track me down for she knew this was in her son’s best interest. In the merit of her faith in Hashem, Who can change nature at any time, her son was healed.

Guard Your Tongue

Sharing Difficulties Concerning a Challenging Student

A mechanech who dedicated much thought to the matter, or teacher who arrives at the conclusion that a certain talmid is suffering from a learning or behavioral difficulty and is convinced it is impossible to treat the problem without involving the principal, fellow staff members or parents of the child, must speak to the relevant party without delay.

Speaking for a beneficial purpose means his only intention is for a constructive purpose, and is not a result of anger or frustration. This is particularly challenging when the talmid in question disturbs and angers the teacher often, but nevertheless, the halacha must be followed.

In parenthesis we will point out that as hard as it is, teachers must not consider a student's behavior as a personal affront. In most cases, a student who disturbs is not rebelling against the teacher, rather he is struggling with the challenges of life.

Words of the Sages

The Mitzvah of Tefillin Applies All Over the World!

In the section of Shema recited daily, we mention the mitzvah of tefillin which must be bound as a sign upon our arms and between our eyes. The story is told that teachers of children came to the Chazon Ish zt"l and asked him how it happened that foreign letters were inserted into the Holy Torah in the word 'totafot – tefillin'?

"G-d forbid," replied the Chazon Ish. "No foreign language got mixed into our Torah, on the contrary. At the time of the creation of the world, the entire world spoke one language –  Lashon Hakodesh, the language with which Hashem created the world and gave life and existence to the world. Not so the languages of the nations, which would not be in existence if not for Lashon Hakodesh. After the Generation of Dispersion received their punishment and Hashem confused their speech and divided it into seventy languages, Hashem implanted one word of Lashon Hakodesh within each language to give it the power to exist. This is how we find the letter 'tet' in the Caspian language and 'pat' in African, letters which are actually sourced from Lashon Hakodesh (these two letters make up the word 'totafot – tefillin').

However, wonders the maggid Rabbi Elimelech Biderman shlit"a, we still need to understand: Why did the Africans and Caspians merit this honor of having letters from the word totafot in their language? Does Lashon Hakodesh lack seemingly more suitable words to give the nations? Why not words like "swelling lesions, and burning fever" or something similar. Maybe one of the ten plagues? The Torah is made up of six hundred thousand letters. Why did they deserve 'totafot'?

A principle laid down by Rashi answers this question. On the verse (Devarim 11:18),"You shall place these words of Mine upon your heart" Rashi writes, "Even in the exile observe the commandments; lay tefillin, affix mezuzot." Meaning, man should not think, how is it possible to remain committed to Torah and mitzvot in the bitter exile which overflows with temptations and challenges? The answer is: tefillin! By observing the mitzvah of tefillin, through which we connect ourselves to Hashem with a powerful bond, we are promised we will thereby remain observant even in the exile.

With this one can understand why Hashem planted specifically the totafot among the nations – so that in the merit of tefillin we will succeed in remaining distinct even when among them. Meaning, it is not the Africans who merited the word totafot falling in their lot, but the opposite. Out of Hashem's great kindness to us, so that we not stumble and fall when in exile, Hashem planted the totafot way out there in faraway Africa, China and Caspia, so that through its power we will remain faithful even there.

The Rosh Yeshiva, HaGaon Hatzadik Rabbi Yehuda Tzedakah zt"l, writes in his sefer Kol Yehuda, that we can infer from this Rashi that if by Divine Providence a Jew finds himself in Africa, he should lay tefillin there proudly as Hashem commanded.

The Haftarah

The Haftarah of the week: "Comfort, comfort My people" (Yeshaya 40)

The connection to Shabbat: This Haftarah is the first of the seven special 'Haftarot of Consolation' that are read beginning with the Shabbat following Tisha B'Av. They are taken from the Sefer Yeshaya and are called the 'Shiva Denechemta' (The Seven of Consolation).

From the Treasury

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

Fulfilling Mitzvot Rectifies One's Limbs

"Bind them as a sign upon your arm and let them be ornaments between your eyes" (Devarim 6:8)

Chazal describe the mitzvah and reward of tefillin at length, as the Holy Zohar writes (Pinchas 222:2), "The mitzvah of tefillin is equal to the entire Torah." The sefer Or Zaru'a writes that in the merit of the mitzvah of tefillin Hashem will hasten our redemption.

How is this mitzvah different than any other of the six hundred and thirteen mitzvot for which we receive great reward? Why is it singled out and considered equal to all the other mitzvot? We say in the prayer before laying tefillin, "He has commanded us to put [tefillin] upon the arm to recall the 'outstretched arm' [of the Exodus] and that it be opposite the heart thereby to subjugate the desires and thoughts of our heart to His service, may His Name be blessed; and upon the head opposite the brain, so that the soul in my brain, together with my other senses and abilities, may all be subjugated to His service, may His Name be blessed."

The idea here is that there are practical mitzvot performed with different limbs and these specific actions rectify material desires. But there are also spiritual mitzvot performed with thought and mind, such as contemplating words of Torah etc. These spiritual mitzvot rectify any blemish in thoughts. However, the mitzvah of tefillin is unique in that it rectifies both these areas because the tefillin of the arm corresponds to the heart, the seat of material desires, while tefillin of the head corresponds to the brain and thoughts.

Tefillin are made from the skin of a kosher animal, large cattle such as a cow or bull, or small cattle such as a goat. The reason why Hashem wanted tefillin to be made specifically from animal skin is to remind Am Yisrael of the sin of the Golden Calf, created in the form of an animal. At that time Am Yisrael had attained the highest level of closeness to Hashem; at Har Sinai all seven heavens were opened and it was clear to Am Yisrael that there is None other than Him. Nevertheless, they committed such a severe sin and worshipped an animal made from gold, the handiwork of man.

This was possible only because they did not subjugate their entire mind and heart to Hashem. When Am Yisrael fulfil the Torah not wholeheartedly but out of coercion, this is not a sincere subjugation and they can therefore fall to commit such a severe sin for which we continue to pay throughout the generations until the coming of Mashiach.

The Sabbatical Year

Awaiting the Final Redemption

This point in time, the middle of the month of Av, is an opportune occasion to introduce a new, relevant column, where we will briefly discuss the laws and customs applicable to the mitzvah of shemittah, which will merit observing in the coming year, 5782.

The section is topical also for our many loyal readers around the globe, not just those living in Eretz Yisrael. It is incumbent upon them to study and engage in the laws of shemittah, so as to rectify, together with all Bnei Yisrael, the sin for which we were exiled from our Land – not observing the laws of shemittah appropriately.

In Parshat Behar (Vayikra 25:2-5) we are commanded, "When you come into the land that I give you, the land shall observe a Shabbat rest for Hashem. For six years you may sow your field and for six years you may prune your vineyard; and you may gather in its crop. But the seventh year shall be a complete rest for the land, a Shabbat for Hashem; your field you shall not sow and your vineyard you shall not prune. The after-growth of your harvest you shall not reap and the grapes you had set aside for yourself you shall not pick; it shall be a year of rest for the land."

The Torah lays down an additional command, to make one's produce ownerless and leave it for man and animals (Shemot 23:10-11):

"Six years shall you sow your land and gather in its produce. And in the seventh, you shall leave it untended and unharvested, and the destitute of our people shall eat, and the wildlife of the field shall eat what is left; so shall you do to your vineyard and your olive grove." These verses are also the source for the Torah command to treat the produce of the seventh year in a special manner, for example we are prohibited from using shemittah produce for commerce, causing the produce to go to waste, or owning produce if ownerless animals don't have what to eat.

During the coming year we will review together the main laws applicable during shemittah, and intensify, by means of this precious mitzvah, our longing for the final redemption, may it come speedily in our days.

Pearls of the Parshah

The Churban for the Good of Am Yisrael

"You will surely perish quickly from the Land to which you are crossing the Jordan to possess; you shall not have lengthy days upon it, for you will be destroyed" (Devarim 4:26)

Since the verse says "You will surely perish quickly", why is it necessary to repeat "you shall not have lengthy days upon it?"

The Chida, in his sefer Nachal Kedumim, quotes Rabbi Shlomo Ma'ali HaKohen zt"l, who brings the Gemara (Gittin 88a) on the verse (Daniel 9:14),"Hashem hastened the calamity and brought it upon us; for Hashem our G-d is just in all His deeds that He has done, for we have not heeded His voice." Meaning, Hashem did a favor for Am Yisrael by bringing forward the calamity, the Churban, to eight hundred and fifty years from the time they entered Eretz Yisrael. For had they remained in the Land the same number of years (852) as the value of "ונושנתם – you will have been long [in the Land]", it would have been impossible to revive them, G-d forbid. Therefore, Hashem in His righteousness brought the Churban forward and hastened their exile by two years.

This is hinted to by the words, "You will surely perish quickly." Moshe was implying that Hashem hastened Yisrael's exile from the Land, the reason being "you shall not have lengthy days upon it, for you will be destroyed." Had they stayed more "days" meaning another two years, as in the verse "שנתים ימים – two years" (Bereishit 41:1), then they would have seen the fulfillment of "for you will be destroyed" and there would have been no way to restore them, G-d forbid.

The Connection Between Tefillin of the Arm and Head

"Bind them as a sign upon your arm and let them be ornaments between your eyes" (Devarim 6:8)

Tefillin of the arm, explains the Gaon Rabbi Yehuda Tzedakah zt"l, alludes to those who work for their living, craftsmen and other tradesmen whose main occupation is through the work of their hands. The tefillin of the head allude to the talmidei chachamim, those who toil in Torah, whose primary efforts engage their minds.

For this reason, there is a halachic ruling that it is forbidden to interrupt in any way between laying the tefillin of the arm and head. In this lies a significant allusion that one is obligated to ensure proximity between them without any partition: the Torah scholars must use their Torah to influence the laymen, while the laymen must support the Torah scholars with the money they earn from the toil of their hands, as in the Yissachar-Zevulun relationship.

A Novel Look at the Parshah

Never Give Up Praying!

Chazal tell us that Moshe prayed five hundred and fifteen prayers, the numerical value of ואתחנן – I implored – to merit entering Eretz Yisrael; nevertheless, Hashem did not accept his prayers. This gives rise to a substantive question. If Moshe Rabbeinu prayed five hundred and fifteen prayers but they did not help change the decree, what benefit can the prayers of we, lowly people, achieve? Are Chazal seemingly causing us to despair from praying?

The truth is, many of us ask, or at least think in our hearts, what do our prayers benefit? We pray considerably yet we are not answered. And since our prayers fall short of the high level of prayers of tzadikim, despair enters our hearts and causes us to pray out of habit, just to fulfil an obligation or as a superficial act. But the Torah teaches us that this is a mistake. There is no prayer that goes to waste; on the contrary, every single prayer hastens the goal – it is only a question of time.

Rabbi Akiva is synonymous with his famous parable of the rock that was hollowed out from the force of dripping water. He made the following calculation, contemplating the very first drop that fell onto the rock. What impression did one, lone drip make on the rock? Nothing at all. If so, asked Rabbi Akiva, since it had no effect, the second drop will be no different and inevitably the third, fourth and even hundredth drop, will have no effect either. Since as long as no effect was had on the rock, consequentially the hundredth or thousandth drop has no more power than the first drop.

But reality stares us in the face; there is a hole in the rock! This brings us to the conclusion that the first drop did have some effect, and similarly the second and third, but the effect was so miniscule that it could not be detected by the human eye. However, once the effect accumulated, it became apparent. He made a fortiori for himself from it and began studying Torah, eventually becoming Rabbi Akiva. And so it is with prayer; every prayer has an effect but we are not aware of the greatness of its effect and at which point the results will be noticeable.

Chazal relate to this idea in the Midrash on the verse (Devarim 3:23), "'I implored Hashem at that time, saying.' Rabbi Akiva said, saying implies tell future generations they should pray at a time of hardship, for even though Moshe was told 'You shall not cross this Jordan', he began to plead.'" This teaches us that prayer has the power to change a decree. Had Hashem not told him "Do not continue to speak to Me further about this matter" and he would have prayed just one more prayer, he would have entered the Land.

This shows us that while the five hundred and fifteen prayers were not accepted, had Moshe Rabbeinu continued praying just one more prayer, the decree would have been annulled. We see that every prayer helps and brings the goal and annulment of the decree that bit closer. Even though we do not know at what point this will happen, there is not even one prayer that goes unheeded. Every single prayer works to alleviate and sweeten the judgement, until the decree is annulled.

This principle is derived from the words of the Navi (Yeshaya 1:15), "When you spread your hands [in prayer], I will hide My eyes from you; even if you were to intensify your prayer, I will not listen." There seems to be a redundancy in the verse: At first it says "When you spread your hands [in prayer], I will hide My eyes from you", the intention being that your prayer will not be accepted. So why does it repeat "even if you were to intensify your prayer, I will not listen"?

The Navi is teaching us that there are two kinds of prayer; someone may pray and it could be Hashem will not heed his prayer, while another person may pray a great deal and Hashem will therefore listen to his prayer since there is special power in increasing one's prayers. Each additional prayer reduces the verdict until it is annulled. Therefore, the Navi added in his prophecy that the situation of Am Yisrael is not only that their prayer will not be heard, but even if they intensify their prayers it will not help, for there was a distinct decree. However, if not for that decree, increasing one's supplications presents a special segulah and advantage.

This idea is expressed explicitly by the Midrash Tanchuma on Parsaht Vayeira, "Hashem said to Yisrael, be careful with prayer for there is nothing better than it and it is greater than all the sacrifices, as it says, 'Why do I need your numerous sacrifices… even if you were to intensify your prayer'. This shows it is considered greater than the sacrifices. Even if a person is not worthy of his prayer being answered and kindness being performed for him, since he prays and increases supplications I do kindness with him, for so it is written 'All the ways of Hashem are kindness and truth' (Tehillim 25)."

Because I don’t Talk During the Prayers

On the subject of praying, it is worthwhile relating here an incredible story that came to light in the aftermath of the terrible tragedy in Meron:

In the Lalov Beit Knesset in Tzfat, on Shabbat morning after the mussaf prayer, an avreich called R' Yisrael Yehuda Rotenberg approached the bima and related with emotion: "On Friday, I went to the Ziv hospital in Tzfat to visit the wounded from the Meron tragedy. One of the patients, an avreich from the Toldot Ahraon chassidut, asked me for assistance. He told me that due to the crush he had to undergo resuscitation, during which the paramedics tore his clothing and so he had nothing to wear. He asked if I could get hold of some clothing for him, or alternatively bring him his suitcase that was left behind in Meron.

"Some time later I called the avreich and told him I had managed to obtain clothing for him but he said it is no longer necessary, he is actually right now in Meron…

"The avreich added: 'You should know that I was treated with extensive resuscitation; I was already Up There… They told me they are sending me back down only because I don't talk during prayers.'"


Hevrat Pinto • 32, rue du Plateau 75019 Paris - FRANCE • Tél. : +331 42 08 25 40 • Fax : +331 42 06 00 33 • © 2015 • Webmaster : Hanania Soussan