February 5th, 2022

4th of Adar I 5782


Through Observing the Torah One Merits the Shechina

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

"They shall make a Sanctuary for Me, so that I may dwell among them" (Shemot 25:8).

We are told (Shemot 29:45), "I shall rest My presence among the Children of Israel," while another verse says (Shemot 40:34), "The cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of Hashem filled the Tabernacle." Similarly (ibid. 38), "For the cloud of Hashem would be on the Tabernacle by day, and fire would be on it at night."

How can these seemingly opposing verses be reconciled? Where in fact could Hashem's Presence be found?

A third verse reconciles this difficulty: "They shall make a Sanctuary for Me, so I may dwell among them." The early commentaries explain (Rabbeinu Ephraim, Shemot 25:8), "It does not say "inside it" but "among you," meaning inside each one of you. This teaches us that when the Shechina descended on the Mishkan, it rested inside the heart of each Jewish person.

But we can still ask, if Hashem desired to rest His Shechina among Bnei Yisrael and not in the Mishkan, why did He command them to build a Mishkan for Him?

Our sages tell us that heaven and earth were only created in the merit of Torah, and they can endure only when Yisrael engage in Torah and observe the mitzvot. As it says (Yirmiyah 33:25), "If My covenant with the night and with the day would not be, I [would] not set up the laws of heaven and earth." Chazal expound on this verse (Pesachim 68a), "If not for Torah, heaven and earth would not endure." Hashem created Adam Harishon with 248 organs and 365 sinews, corresponding to the 613 mitzvot which include 248 positive commandments and 365 prohibitions. When we study Torah and fulfill the 613 mitzvot, it is as if we have become a partner with Hashem in the creation of the world and completed the creation, since until Bnei Yisrael began studying Torah, the existence of heaven and earth hung in doubt.

This is in line with the Gemara (Shabbat 88a) that says, "Hashem made a condition with creation and said, 'If Yisrael accept the Torah, you will endure; if not I will return you to chaos.'" Since Yisrael engage in Torah, heaven and earth have permanent existence.

This implies that the work of creation was not completed during the six days of creation to the extent that it could exist permanently. When was this stage reached? When Yisrael undertook to accept Torah and mitzvot, and that is why the Torah uses the expression "to make," since "make" is always an expression of "creating". As it says (Bereishit 12:5), "And the souls they made in Charan." Chazal say (Bereishit Rabba 84:4), "If the entire creation would come together to try and create, they would not manage to create even one mosquito! So what is the meaning of 'the souls they made [in Charan]?' It refers to the souls Avraham converted. Why does it say 'made' and not 'converted'? To teach you that anyone who brings a convert under the wings of the Shechina, is considered as if he created him."

We can now understand why it says here, "They shall make a Sanctuary for Me, so that I may dwell among them" and not "inside it." Making the Mishkan taught Bnei Yisrael to be attentive to observing the Torah and mitzvot, which is what caused the Shechina to dwell inside them as before they sinned, at the time of creation.

The Parshah begins with the words "Let them take for Me a portion" and Chazal say (Tanchuma, Terumah 1), "For Me – for My sake." Why do we have to be told this? Would it enter someone's mind to donate for the Mishkan not for Hashem's sake? If not for Hashem, then for who is he donating? The Torah wants to teach us that the world, and the Mishkan which resembles the world, only exists when man carries out all his actions for the sake of Heaven. The word תרומה, a portion, has the same letters as תורה מ', alluding to the Torah that was given after forty days. Included in the command to engage in Torah is that one should not use it as a source of pride, rather one should seek to elevate oneself through the Torah. One who does this causes the Shechina to dwell inside him and connects the Jewish people to Hashem.

Walking in Their Ways

Following My Lead

Once on a flight, as the meals were being handed out, I discovered that a fellow Jew was following my every move. He did not seem to be religious, but when I noticed his interest in my actions, I decided to pretend to recite the Shemoneh Esrei prayer. My thoughts were on my fellow Jew. Who knows? Maybe my actions would stir something within him. I stood up and closed my eyes, as if I was deep in prayer. After a few moments, I took three steps backward, as though finishing my prayers.

The fellow immediately approached me and said, “Rabbi, today is my father’s yahrtzeit. He passed away forty years ago. In your merit, I remembered this. What can I do to bring satisfaction to his soul?”

The words of this ignorant Jew struck a chord in my heart. How great is the power of Torah and zikui harabim! It is capable of influencing even distant Jews. A Jew from one country can easily affect a Jew from another land, bringing him to the proper path.

An Appropriate Answer

Often, people approach me with various Torah-related questions. I am familiar with many of these questions and have ready replies. But frequently, I am asked questions which I never considered before. Nevertheless, I feel a special sense of siyata di’Shemaya enabling me to respond in a satisfactory manner. I am certain, beyond a shadow of doubt, that I am enlightened in the merit of the masses. The answers which Hashem places in my mouth allow me to share my Torah knowledge with others, increasing Hashem’s glory throughout the world.

When a Jew yearns to glorify Hashem’s Name and bring merit to the multitudes through Torah and mitzvah observance, Hashem sends him Divine assistance and allows him to succeed above and beyond anything he could have imagined. Additionally, it is well-known that the Torah is acquired only through toil and hardship. Since I dedicate myself to serving the needs of the public, it is considered as if I toil in Torah. Therefore, I merit Heavenly assistance to learn, teach, safeguard, perform, and fulfil.

Words of the Sages

The Role of the Altar and One's Table

The purpose of the Altars, explains the Kli Yakar, was to atone for man's sins. Offering an animal on the Altar of Burnt-Offerings brings atonement to the sinner's body. And the Gold Altar atoned for the soul, through the smoke that rose from the Ketoret.

The Gemara (Berachot 55a) asks on the verse (Yechezkel 41) which begins, "The Altar was of wood, three cubits tall" but concludes by saying, "He said to me, 'This is the Table that is before Hashem.'" Why does it begin with Altar and end with Table? To tell you that as long as the Beit Hamikdash stood, the Altar atoned for Bnei Yisrael, but nowadays man's table atones for him.

The table in one's home is something lofty, for it is comparable to the Altar that atones for one's sins. If a person observes all the laws including proper conduct that apply when sitting down to eat, if he is particular about the kashrut of his food, eats politely and with derech eretz as is appropriate for a Jewish person, recites all the blessings slowly and with concentration – this kind of table atones for his sins. It is written in the sefer Reishit Chochma (Sha'ar Hakedusha 28), that Hashem sends two angels to a person's table to see how he behaves when he eats…

The tzaddik Rabbi Aharon Rata zt"l authored a special sefer on this topic called Shulchan Tahor. He quotes (essay Eitzot Ha'achila) in the name of a tzaddik, that if a person merits, even once a week or month, eating for the sake of Heaven, he thereby elevates all the other meals that were not for the sake of Heaven.

Some advice which can enable one's eating to be considered as an offering is to not snatch and wolf down the food, and when enjoying the flavor of the food, one should leave some over and not satiate oneself with the delicious food.

The Ra'avad writes on this topic: When a person stops eating while he still has much enjoyment from the food, and does so for the sake of Hashem, it is considered as a complete fast. (This fast is called Ta'anit HaRa'avad.)

Chazal also refer to a meal as לחם, bread. The Chida zt"l says this is because לחם is derived from the word מלחמה, war. Eating stimulates a war between the side of impurity and the side of purity. Fortunate is the person who intensifies his side of holiness and ensures his table is pure before Hashem.

The Sabbatical Year

1. If a permitted sale is carried out with peirot shevi'it yet we do not want the money to acquire kedushat shevi'it, it is possible to 'swallow' the payment in the price of something else.

For example, if someone buys both apples and meat from his friend, and the price of each is one hundred shekels, they may agree that he will pay two hundred shekels for the meat and the fruit will be a gift. In this way the money does not acquire kedushat shevi'it.

2. Another example is if one buys a lulav and etrog but only the etrog has kedushat shevi'it. If the price of each is one hundred shekels, but he does not want to pay the seller for the etrog since he may not treat the money with the required kedushat shevi'it, he should tell the seller he is paying two hundred shekels for the lulav and ask for the etrog as a gift (Rashi, Succah 39a). Some say it is not necessary for the seller to say the etrog is a gift, rather it is enough that he says the total payment is two hundred shekels, and the buyer has in mind that this money is for the lulav.

3. Most are of the opinion that with 'swallowing' there is also no prohibition of trade, therefore one may sell peirot shevi'it in this way. However, one may not trade with peirot shevi'it as in regular years to earn a profit. The permit is only for selling a small amount and not in a fixed place in the market, to make the produce available and for the sake of earning a profit.

4. When one buys on credit the money does not acquire kedushat shevi'it. Since the money is paid after the fruits are already eaten, it cannot acquire kedushah. Similarly, if one pays with a post-dated check or credit card, the money that enters the account does not acquire kedushat shevi'it.

For any questions in practical application of these halachot, please consult a rabbinical authority.

From the Treasury

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

The Keruvim hint to Unity Between Man and His Friend

"The Keruvim shall be with wings spread upwards" (Shemot 25:20).

The holy sefarim explain that the fact that the Keruvim had "their faces toward one another" is a hint to unity. As the Ba'al Haturim writes "Towards one another: as two friends who are discussing words of Torah." They were placed on the Aron which held the Luchot Habrit. This teaches us that Bnei Yisrael can only acquire the Torah when they are united in peace and love, as Rashi says on the verse (Shemot 19:2), "'And Israel encamped there, opposite the mountain': as one man with one heart."

The Keruvim were situated in a concealed place, inside the Holy of Holies, behind the Parochet (Cover) and not in full view of all. This teaches us that unity and love must be genuine, stemming from deep in the heart, and not, G-d forbid, an external demonstration of unity that is really only lip-service.

The Seforno writes "The angels resemble Keruvim." Just as angels do not feel jealousy, hatred, or competition, rather true love reigns among them, so too the Keruvim allude to unity between man and his fellow. There must not be jealousy, hatred, or competition between them, but only love, unity, peace, and friendship.

The Keruvim also hint to marital harmony. As the Gemara explains (Yoma 54a), when Bnei Yisrael would go to Yerushalayim for the three festivals, the Kohanim would roll up the Parochet and show them the Keruvim who were embracing each other. The Kohanim would tell the people, "The love Hashem feels for you is like the love between a husband and wife."

This is an important lesson for every couple, who must ensure that peace reigns in the home. Just as the Shechina rested in the Mikdash when the Keruvim embraced each other, a sign there was peace and unity between Am Yisrael and their Father in Heaven, so also the holy Shechina will rest in our homes only when there is love, peace, and friendship between the couple.

Rashi writes "The Keruvim had the face of a baby." This is another important lesson for us. Just as a baby clings to his mother day and night and always wants his mother to be at his side, so too every Jew must cling to the holy Torah and constantly wish to be close to our Father in heaven. As David Hamelech said (Tehillim 73:28), "But as for me, G-d's nearness is my good."

Zecher Tzaddik Livracha

Rabbi Eliyahu HaKohen Ha'itamari zt"l

"Many people repented as a result of his sermons, admonitions, and pleasant words," Maran the Chida stated about the righteous Rabbi Eliyahu HaKohen zt"l, who grew up in the city of Izmir, Turkey.

Rabbi Eliyahu HaKohen composed over thirty sefarim, among them Shevet Mussar, sermons that were published in Constantinople during his lifetime. Since then this sefer has been printed in dozens of editions in several languages – Jewish Arabic, Ladino, and Yiddish. Other sefarim are Me'il Tzedakah, on the subject of charity, Midrash Talpiot, Ezor Eliyahu, and many others.

It is commonly thought that Ezor Eliyahu was called so after the name of the leather belt with which Eliyahu Hanavi girded his waist. But the holy gaon Rabbi Chaim Palagie zt"l, also a rav in Izmir, related in the name of the elders that this name was given to his sefer because early one morning when the Shevet Mussar wished to gird himself with a belt for prayer, he did not notice that he actually girded himself with a snake! While he was studying before the prayers, the snake began moving until it slowly untied its knot and slipped off him, causing him no harm!

Rabbi Eliyahu then wrote the sefer Ezor Eliyahu as a thanks-offering for the miracle Hashem performed for him by saving him from the snake.

When the Tzaddik Rabbi Moshe of Kobrin zt"l related this story, he would say: The fact that the snake did not harm the Shevet Mussar is not surprising, because Chazal say (Shabbat 151b, Sanhedrin 38b) "An animal does not rule over a person unless he appears to it as an animal, as it says, 'The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth' (Bereishit 9:2). And as it says (Tehillim 49:13), 'He is likened to the silenced animals,' which can also mean 'If he is ruled [i.e. if man is ruled by the animal instead of ruling it, this is because] he resembles an animal [in the eyes of the animal].'"

Like the gaze of doves towards their mates, Rabbi Eliyahu cared for his flock, encouraging them to graze in the pasture of Torah and piety. His sermons touched on almost every public and private issue that arose at the time. Rabbi Eliyahu responded to everything in his own way, with his wise advice and wanted rebuke that brought the hearts of his followers closer to our Father in heaven.  

He himself took care of the needs of the poor, distributing the funds he collected from the wealthy. About the great virtue of charity the Shevet Mussar wrote: "My son, be very careful with charity. Whether you are able to give, or unable, give according to your ability. And if you don’t have anything, help others with your very self. And if you are sick, in the place where you find yourself, feel sorrow for the troubles of the poor. And if they come to you, calm them with words and encourage them to trust Hashem, for He is the Omnipotent Who has the power to lower or raise."

Rabbi Chaim Pelagie, in his sefer Ruach Chaim (siman 288:1), quotes Rabbi Eliyahu HaKohen who would advise those who had a bad dream on Friday night not to fast on Shabbat, but to enjoy eating and drinking. Additionally, the dreamer should not engage in idle talk, instead he should recite Psalms and engage in Torah throughout the day as much as he can, since Torah protects and saves from calamity and sin.

Rabbi Eliyahu highly regarded tradition and was particular not to criticize any kind of custom. He recounts what he heard from the exalted sage, Rabbi Avraham Apomado, zt"l: "Long ago in the city of Bursa, there was an exceptionally old shaliach tzibbur who had a long-standing custom of making hand motions while reading from the Torah, symbolizing the events.

"A rabbi who once attended this beit knesset told him not to do this for it appeared to him as a disgrace to the Torah. He was then told in a dream: 'Someone who honored Hashem, and Hashem was happy with him, you prevented from making Him happy.' That morning the rav hurried over to the house of the shliach tzibbur to ask his forgiveness, and told him to continue with these motions."


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