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August 7th, 2021

29th of Av 5781

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The Holy Torah Protects and Saves

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

"The blessing: that you hearken to the commandments of Hashem, your G-d, that I command you today" (Devarim 11:27)

The wording of the verse is surprising. Why does it say "The blessing: that you hearken", it would seem more fitting to say "The blessing: if you hearken" just as the following verse says "And the curse: if you do not hearken to the commandments of Hashem, your G-d, and you stray from the path that I command you today, to follow gods of others, that you did not know."

The reason could be that Hashem wishes to teach us that actually hearkening to Hashem's commandments is in itself a blessing. A person may sometimes feel because he observes the mitzvot and obeys Hashem's command, he loses out somewhat in This World. For example, someone who closes his store in the middle of the day for quarter of an hour to pray Mincha might think he is losing customers. Hashem wishes to teach us that this is not so. And even if it might appear to us mortals that there is some loss, when the full picture will emerge, each one will see how much Hashem intended for the good and that apparent 'loss' was in itself something good.

When Moshe Rabbeinu was punished by not being allowed to enter Eretz Yisrael, it seemed to him a terrible verdict, to the extent that he begged Hashem and pleaded with five hundred and fifteen prayers that Hashem forgive him and allow him to enter the Land. He did not wish to enter just to partake of its fruits, but rather for Am Yisrael's sake, for Chazal say (Sotah 9a) that had Moshe Rabbeinu entered Eretz Yisrael and built the Beit Hamikdash, it would never have been destroyed, since the enemies could have no power over Moshe Rabbeinu and David Hamelech's fruits of labor.

But from bitter emerges sweet, and particularly this punishment that Moshe Rabbeinu received was the catalyst for enormous good because as a result of the Beit Hamikdash being destroyed, we wait longingly for the building of the third Beit Hamikdash which will be bigger and more beautiful than the second Beit Hamikdash, and from which the Shechina will never depart.

The blessing mentioned in the verse is bestowed only upon someone whose entire head is immersed in Torah and mitzvot, alluded to by the words "The blessing: that you hearken to the commandments of Hashem, your G-d." The word "et – the" alludes to the letters from alef to taf, the letters of the Torah, while the word "asher – that" has the same letters as "rosh – head". Someone who inserts only Torah and mitzvot into his head will be protected by Hashem from troubles and mishaps, and blessed with an abundance of goodness and success, not losing out at all on account of his avodat Hashem.

Many times when I receive people, my heart fills with pain on hearing the troubles of Am Yisrael and thoughts of 'why do all these troubles come to me' fill my mind. Why do I need to hear about so much suffering? But then a young bachur comes along and asks for a blessing for success in Torah – this is what is most important to him! He doesn’t ask for wealth or success in his endeavors, not for a shidduch or anything else, only to be successful in his Torah studies and mitzvah observance! These bachurim grant me the strength to continue, for I see there is a future to Am Yisrael. Fortunate is Yisrael for whom observing the Torah and mitzvot is their highest aspiration!

Had Bnei Yisrael entered Eretz Yisrael immediately after receiving the Torah, Sefer Devarim would not have been written at all. It follows that the sin of the spies merited them with an entire Sefer. The Ramban says (intro. Sefer Bereishit) that all the letters of the Torah are in fact Hashem's Names and Chazal also say (Bereishit Rabba 74:17) that there are six hundred thousand letters in the Torah, corresponding to the six hundred thousand souls of Am Yisrael. So had the spies not sinned and received the resulting punishment of wandering in the Wilderness for forty years, we would not have merited sefer Devarim and would have lost very many Names of Hashem, and many holy souls of Am Yisrael would not have come down to the world.

Unfortunately, today we have an abundance of devices that take a person away from Torah and even remove him from This World. A person must know that he has limited space in his heart. If he fills it with nonsense, he will be left without room for Torah study. David Hamelech said (Tehillim 109:22), "… my heart has died [lit. become hollow] within me." Meaning, David Hamelech slaughtered his Yetzer Hara and in its place was left with a large empty hollow which he could fill with ever more Torah and mitzvot.

We too should not be drawn after 'progression' and sophistication in a world that is constantly coming up with innovations. For if it is a form of 'progression' that severs us from the Creator, it is not progression at all, and we must distance ourselves from it like fire. And one who as a result of this severance merits another half hour of Torah study every day, or another mitzvah every day, will be shown by Hashem that he did not lose out by refraining from wallowing in the mud of 'progression', rather Hashem will assist him in all his endeavors.

The Haftarah

The Haftarah of the week: "O afflicted, storm-tossed one, who has not been consoled" (Yeshaya 54)

The connection to Shabbat: This Haftarah is the third of the seven special 'Haftarot of Comfort' that are read beginning with the Shabbat following Tisha B'Av. They are chapters of comfort for the Jewish people.

We add two verses from the Haftarah of Rosh Chodesh, "Tomorrow is the new moon" (Shmuel I, 20).

Words of the Sages

Charity Saved Him from the Army Jeep

"You shall surely give him, and let your heart not feel bad when you give him, for in return for this matter, Hashem, your G-d, will bless you in all your deeds and in your every undertaking" (Devarim 15:10)

The 'Sudai' Beit Haknesset in Holon, at a relatively early hour of the morning, found Eliyahu Zarbi finishing his prayers after which he turned to the gabbai: "I calculated my ma'aser money and found that I owe 1036 shekels to tzedakah. Here is the money, please give it to tzedakah." Eliyahu handed over the money and left for work, not imagining he had done anything special, certainly not an act that would soon save his life.

In the middle of the day, he was travelling on a dangerous, winding road, Kvish Alon. It is a challenging road to drive since it is very narrow, surrounded by a rocky mountain on one side and a steep drop on the other.

As he rounded one of the curves, he noticed a big army jeep coming in his direction. It took only a fraction of a second to realize that the jeep was travelling on the wrong lane, that is to say, he was driving towards him on his lane.

He honked his horn hard, blinked with his lights, opened his window and signaled anxiously. But for some inexplicable reason, it seemed as if the driver did not notice his car. What was certain was that if the jeep driver continued driving straight in his direction, in a matter of seconds there would be an inevitable collision.

Eliyahu saw three options, but each was worse than the next, each leading to certain death! If he swerved to the right, it was clear that he would plunge to the depths. If he swerved left, he would crash into the mountain. And remaining in the lane meant driving his car right into the bow of the armored jeep, transforming himself and his car into scraps.

"Master of the World, what now?!"

It was a moment of indescribable terror and fright. The feeling that he is doomed, but wanting to fight for his life. But there seemed no chance. Each of his three options would lead straight to Gan Eden. There was no fourth option. He had a fraction of a second, what can he do?!

Nothing! This was quite clear to him, so he chose to veer over to the left as much as he could, while still remaining on the road. The army jeep was coming right at him, the chances of averting an accident were nil. He honked with all his might and cried out Shema Yisrael from the depths of his heart, refusing to look straight ahead, seeing the jeep smashing forcefully into him…

Suddenly he felt an enormous gust of wind; his heart hammered inside him. The driver of the jeep had apparently noticed him at the last second, and turned the steering wheel sharply. His car was scratched, it shook slightly, but continued driving. And yes, he lived to tell the tale…

At the day's end he returned home. His phone rang, and he noted with surprise an incoming call from his mother, living in Los Angeles. She must have just woken up (Los Angeles is 10 hours behind Israel). She quickly greeted him and with bated breath asked: "Eliyahu, what happened? Tell me what happened! What went on today?"

Eliyahu panicked. From where did his mother get the information about what happened to him? How could she know about the near-accident that almost took his life? Who had already managed to spread this miraculous story to far away Los Angeles? Then his mother clarified her hasty questions: "Several hours ago, in the middle of the night, I was sleeping calmly when suddenly my husband a"h, your dear father, appeared to me in a dream. I was confused and anxious, but he turned to me with a benevolent expression and told me:

"'You should know that Eliyahu was saved today from death in the merit of a thousand and something shekels he gave to charity!' This is what my husband told me in my dream, and then disappeared. I woke up startled, covered in a cold sweat. Suddenly he comes to me in a dream and tells me a story like this!?! He was in fact disclosing that your life had been in immediate danger and that charity saved you. Tell me what happened!" his mother begged, and Eliyahu told her the entire story…

"My intention is not to announce that 'charity saves from death'," Eliyahu concluded his personal tale, "this is something clear and well-known. But what's amazing is that in the Heavenly Court there are real hearings and seemingly my late father's soul was involved. I cannot know why I was sentenced to death, but my father a"h revealed that it was the charity that saved me and granted me life!"

Guard Your Tongue

A Means That Would Not Be Acceptable in a Din Torah

Among the gentiles, the correct way to deal with an offensive act is to report it to the authorities. But informing on a Jew can result in a punishment that he does not deserve according to Torah law, and is therefore forbidden. For example, the Torah does not consider imprisonment to be an acceptable punishment for monetary offenses. Only in a case where it is clear that a certain individual is a true danger to the public is it permissible to speak about him so as to protect others from harm. These matters are both complicated and sensitive, therefore it is necessary to seek advice on how to act from a competent halachic authority.

Walking in Their Ways

Every Person Can Become a Rosh Yeshiva

Someone once approached my esteemed father, HaGaon Hatzadik Rabbi Moshe Aharon Pinto zy"a, and asked him: "How can it be that many distinguished tzadikim head great and famous Yeshivot, establishing many talmidim, while HaRav Pinto's Yeshiva is not well-known at all. I have never even heard about it. Where, then, is the esteemed Rav's Yeshiva and where are his talmidim?"

Abba zy"a replied without hesitation:

"My Yeshiva is my home, and my talmidim are my sons and daughters."

On hearing Abba's answer, I smiled to myself. What kind of Yeshiva is this?

But sometime later, as I understood the deeper meaning of his words, I was amazed at the pure truth and powerful wisdom contained in Abba's answer.

Each person has a 'mini Beit Midrash' in his home; a Yeshiva for young students where he raises his sons to become talmidei chachamim, and his daughters – righteous women. He himself is the Rosh Yeshiva of his home and on his shoulders rests the obligation and merit to lead, guide and direct his sons and daughters on the correct path.

So Abba's words "My Yeshiva is my home, and my talmidim are my sons and daughters," were aptly true and fitting.

Not every person merits becoming a Rosh Yeshiva, and not everyone can establish a Yeshiva for bachurim and produce Bnei Torah.

But each person has the opportunity of becoming the Rosh Yeshiva of his home, and each one can establish his home in a way that it should be like a Yeshiva, a mini Mikdash, for his sons and daughters, if he is only careful to educate them in the correct path.

From the Treasury

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

The Importance of Preparation Prior to Ascending to Yerushalayim

"Three times a year all your males should appear before Hashem, your G-d, in the place that He will choose: on the Festival of Matzot, the Festival of Shavuot, and the Festival of Succot; and he shall not appear before Hashem empty handed. Everyone according to what he can give, according to the blessing that Hashem, your G-d, gives you" (Devarim 16:16-17)

Could the intention of these verses be that every Jew who comes to the Beit Hamikdash for the Festivals must bring a gift for Hashem commensurate with his prosperity? Does Hashem really require our gifts or charity, to the extent that He asks us not to appear before Him empty handed? About Hashem it says (Divrei Hayamim I, 29:14),"For everything is from You, and from Your hand have we given to You." Everything belongs to Hashem, as it says (Chagai 2:8), "Mine is the silver and Mine is the gold, the word of Hashem, Master of Legions." He has no need for anything, certainly not gifts. So what does the verse mean?

It is important for us to know and internalize that before wishing to visit Yerushalayim for the pilgrimage festivals, each person, according to his level, must engage in suitable preparation so as to merit appearing before Hashem. Each person's soul contains a part of G-d's essence and each person has a share in Torah according to the level of his soul. And if he wants to merit seeing the Shechina, he must toil in his soul's share of Torah before ascending to Yerushalayim.

This is what Hashem requires of us by saying "he shall not appear before Hashem empty handed. Everyone according to what he can give…" We must not arrive empty-handed, meaning without prior preparation. Rather, each person according to his gifts, his understanding and his portion, according to what his soul received in Gan Eden, this is how he should come to the pilgrimage festivals, and not, G-d forbid, arrive empty-handed without Torah and yirat shamayim. He must prepare himself before he sets out, and arrive with the Torah chiddushim he created and with upright middot, according to the blessings Hashem granted him.

The Sabbatical Year

1. The Shemittah year begins on the first of Tishrei (Rosh Hashanah) and ends on the twenty ninth of Elul (Erev Rosh Hashanah) in the evening. But according to the unwritten law handed down to Moshe, as long as the Beit Hamikdash stood, they were forbidden to work the land thirty days before the onset of Shemittah. This law is called 'tosefet Shevi'it – adding to the Shemittah year'. Our Sages also forbade ploughing the produce fields from Pesach, and fruit fields from Shavuot of the sixth year. But today, most work on the Land is permitted until Rosh Hashanah 5781, and the law of 'tosefet Shevi'it' does not apply. However, it is correct to add a bit of time on Erev Rosh Hashanah.

2. Despite this, our Sages forbade planting a fruit tree less than forty-four days before the onset of Shemittah, for if one plants close to Shemittah people might think he planted in the seventh year. Therefore, anyone who wishes to plant fruit trees before the Shemittah year, must be careful to plant by the 15th of Av before sunset, since from the 16th of Av it is forbidden to plant fruit trees.

The Memory of a Tzaddik Should Be for a Blessing

Rabbi Moche Aharon Pinto width=In honor of the hilula on the fifth of Elul, of Maran Rabbi Moshe Ahron Pinto zy"a, father of the esteemed Gaon and tzadik Rabbi David Chananya Pinto shlita, we will illuminate this column with several gems from the treasury of the tzaddik's zy"a middot and holy ways.

Each generation of the distinguished Pinto family is another shining jewel in the crown of this illustrious family. Father and son, generation after generation, all possessed the highest levels of faith and were exceptionally holy and pious servants of Hashem. The tzaddik Rabbi Moshe Ahron zy"a is one of the magnificent links in the succession of outstanding talmidei chachamim who merited performing wonders and brought salvation to many, protecting Am Yisrael with the splendor of their holiness and purity.

Rabbi Moshe Ahron zy"a was particularly famous for his unassuming manner in serving Hashem and for his extraordinary undertaking of secluding himself in his home for forty years, at the behest of his father, the tzaddik Rabbi Chaim Pinto zy"a. During this time, he devoted himself to Torah study with a diligence that is unfathomable to the human mind. Closeted in the four walls of his small room and devoid of any connection to the outside world, he ascended in levels of holiness and purity. With a holy passion to soar in his avodat Hashem, he paid no attention to his physical needs and materialism.

Rabbi Moshe Ahron zya"a was blessed with an outstanding humility which scattered its glow on all those with whom he came into contact. Standing in his presence felt like being in the presence of a lofty and exalted personality, who despite being head and shoulders above the rest of his generation, was able to lower himself to bear the pain and concern of all those created in the image of G-d. Anyone wishing to enter his home was welcomed with special warmth, no matter the time of day.

Rabbi Moshe Aharon lived the words of the Mishnah, “Be exceedingly humble in spirit.” Every Shabbat when he arrived at the Beit Hakeneset to pray, he would hunch over at the entrance, as if trying to reduce his significance when entering the king's court. When the congregants approached him after the prayers to kiss his hand and ask for his blessing, he would be appalled at this sign of respect and quickly pulled his hand back before they had a chance to kiss it.

Rabbi Moshe Ahron zya"a possessed great faith in Hashem Yitbarach. The verse "Cast upon Hashem your burden and He will sustain you" was his guiding light at every juncture and the principle with which he calculated his every step, to the extent that he paid no attention to the mundane matters of this world. Rabbi Moshe Ahron zya"a spent his days and nights secluded in his home, sitting close to the candles that he lit in memory of his holy ancestors, while occupying himself with Torah and good deeds.

In his modest home he received all those who turned to him for help. Nobody was turned away, both men and ladies were welcome. He was most particularly not to pick up his eyes to see who was entering his room, yet despite this custom he was able to discern the purpose of each person's visit and knew whether they had come to request a blessing or wished to ask his advice or request that he pray for the recovery of a relative. His meticulousness in guarding his eyes was proven by the fact that even when his wife or daughters would enter the room, he would start to bless them with the traditional blessing of "Mi Sheberach", and only when he paused to hear the name, did he suddenly feel the one standing opposite him was actually one of his close family members!

It is worth noting here a remarkable aspect of his conduct and despite the fact that we have mentioned this point on previous occasions, we repeat it now due to its prized value: One of his revered customs was his scrupulousness in guarding his eyes. The concept of guarding one's eyes is mentioned time and again in our Holy Sefarim and is accorded great significance. Our Sages teach us that the foremost holiness and purity of a person begins with his eyes. One who protects his eyes so as not to stumble with gazing at forbidden sights, merits achieving true fear of G-d. The tzaddik Rabbi Moshe Ahron zy"a, was most particular about this matter, and even though he was exposed to thousands of people who arrived at his home in search of his blessings, nevertheless he was extremely careful not to look at women. Even when his wife, the Rabbanit Mazal a"h, entered the room, the tzaddik did not pick up his eyes and only realized who it was once she 'introduced' herself!

With his prayers he moved worlds in order to bring down protection for the holy nation of Israel. With his holy spirit he was able to perceive the future, and would beseech his righteous ancestors, begging them to come forward and advocate for Am Yisrael, to send them salvation and annul any harsh decrees.

On the day of the hilula, the fifth of Elul, throngs of people will visit Rabbi Moshe Ahron's zya"a final resting place; his righteous children, family members and devoted students, together with many of Am Yisrael who merited experiencing salvation and mercy in his merit. For both in his lifetime and even after his passing he is the conduit for incredible salvation for all those who pray before the One who dwells on High, in the merit of this tzaddik zy"a.

 

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