February 12th, 2022

11th of Adar I 5782


The Potency of Piety Lies in its Beginning

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

“They shall take for you pure, pressed olive oil for illumination, to kindle the lamp continually” (Shemot 27:20).

Our Sages have taught (Menachot 86a), “There are three references to olives in the Torah, and each refers to the different kind of oil they produce. The first kind, the superior grade, is where one picks the ripe olives from the tree, pounds them and puts them into a wicker basket, where the oil drips through the holes into a vessel. Pressing the olives under heavy wood is the second type, while grinding and then pressing again is the third. The first type is fit for kindling the Menorah, while the other oils are used for flour-offerings.”

The question is, what is special about the first type of oil that only this is fit to be used for the Menorah?

The following explanation teaches us an ethical lesson: Chazal say (Shir Hashirim Rabba 5:2), “Open for Me just one opening of repentance the size of a pinprick, and I will open for you openings through which wagons and carriages can enter. Rabbi Tanchuma and Rabbi Chunya and Rabbi Abahu said in the name of Reish Lakish: ‘It says (Tehillim 46:11), “Desist and know that I am G-d”. Hashem said to Yisrael, “Desist from your bad deeds and know that I am Hashem”’. Rabbi Levi said, ‘If Yisrael would repent for just one day, they would immediately be redeemed and Mashiach would arrive immediately. Why is this? “For He is our G-d, and we can be the flock He pastures, and the sheep in His charge, even today, if we but heed His call”’” (Tehillim 95:7).

It follows that Hashem asks of man one thing alone: He should just begin the process of repentance and perform good deeds, and then Hashem will immediately assist him in overcoming the Yetzer Hara. As we are told (Makot 10b), “A person is led on the path he wishes to take”. Everything is dependent on the beginning of the matter, as it says (Tehillim 111:10), “The beginning of wisdom is fear of Hashem.” We are also told (Devarim 10:12), “Now, O Israel, what does Hashem, your G-d, ask of you? Only to fear Hashem, your G-d.” One who possesses fear of Heaven possesses everything, and one who is lacking fear of Heaven has nothing. Even if he repents, his repentance lacks substance.

This shows us the importance of the start, for the essence of a mitzvah and the core of everything is dependent on its beginning. The Rishonim say (Rokeach, Introduction) that nothing can match the strength of piety at its initial stage, for once one becomes habituated to the matter, he grows lax and is no longer meticulous. Thus Chazal say you should not consider the Torah as an old document to which a person does not attach importance, but rather treat it like a new document towards which everyone runs. If man begins to regard divrei Torah as old, they lose their appeal and become “Mitzvot performed out of habit,” without any intent. But if each and every day he approaches them as something new, the original enthusiasm is maintained.

Now we can understand why only the first grade of oil was fit to be used for the Menorah. Hashem was hinting to Yisrael that through opening for Him a small opening the size of a pinprick, He will open a large opening for them and they will succeed in defeating the Yetzer Hara. And if you are concerned about the end, Chazal have told us (Avot 2:16), “You are not required to complete the task, yet you are not free to withdraw from it.” Since you have taken the first step, Hashem will immediately come to your assistance.

Man should not wonder, how can I begin observing Torah and mitzvot? The Torah is extremely broad! How many hundreds of mitzvot and serious sins does it contain! How can I be careful with all of these? The Torah therefore tells us that the first grade of oil alone is fit for the Menorah, meaning the only action you need to do is take the initial step, and subsequently Hashem will help you complete the journey.

This is why the Kohen had to hold the light to the flame until it began rising on its own. The Menorah alludes to the Torah, as it says (Mishlei 6:23), “For a commandment is a lamp and the Torah is light.” The Torah is teaching us that since man took the first step and kindled his heart to perform a mitzvah, Hashem immediately assists him and the flame rises by itself. As Chazal say (Yoma 38b), “One who wishes to purify himself is assisted.”

The significance of the beginning is true in every area, not just regarding a mitzvah. Often when a quarrel breaks out between a man and his friend, or between a husband and his wife, it is because people react automatically and as soon as they notice something negative, they immediately grow angry and then the ball starts rolling. But had they taken a moment to calm themselves before growing angry, or before expressing something that causes antagonism and hatred, they could have saved the peace.

The wise person is praised for exactly this trait, “He does not answer impetuously” (Avot 5:7). He pauses for a moment to think and calm himself before replying or reacting. Chazal say “The fool jumps in first.” Rabbi Yisrael Salanter is famous for saying that before a person lets words out his mouth, he is their owner and can decide whether to say them or not. But once they have left his mouth he can no longer retract them; if he regrets his words, he may have to put much effort into repairing that which he has damaged.


The Ketoret

“You shall make it into a spice-compound, the handiwork of a perfumer, thoroughly mixed, pure and holy” (Shemot 30:35).

The mitzvah of offering Ketoret (Incense) is held in high regard. In addition to its role in the Beit Hamikdash, reciting the section of the Ketoret has great significance. Chazal highly praise this segulah, which affords us many merits and great reward, both in This World and the Next.

The Midrash (Tanchuma, Tetzaveh 16) writes: “Hashem said to Yisrael: From all the offerings you offer before Me, there is nothing as dear to Me as the Ketoret.”

The Midrash explains the special virtue of the Ketoret over the other offerings. Whereas the other offerings are brought to atone for individual or collective sins, kindling the Menorah and offering Ketoret are done purely to bring spiritual pleasure to Hashem.

The holy Tanna, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai zy”a, teaches us the great virtue of reciting the section of the Ketoret.

Rabbi Shimon said: If mankind would realize the great virtue of the Ketoret before Hashem, they would be extremely careful with it and take every single word and wear it on their heads as a crown of gold. Anyone who wishes to put effort into this matter should contemplate the section of the Ketoret (and not just recite it as lip service). If he recites it with true concentration every day, he will be granted a portion in This World and the Next. Death will depart from him and from the world, and he will be saved from all retribution in This World, from bad things and the judgement of Gehinom, and from the decrees of foreign kingdoms (Zohar, Vayakhel).

Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai further testifies that this matter is an existing decree before Hashem. Anyone who contemplates and recites the section of the Ketoret every day, will be saved from all the kinds of witchcraft in the world, from all evil mishaps, foreign thoughts, difficult judgments, and death. That entire day he will come to no harm, because the Satan will not have power over him.

However, it is important to take note of the holy Zohar’s words: “He must recite it with concentration.”

Rabbi Moshe Ben Makir writes in detail about the great virtue of reciting the section of the Ketoret. He adds: “If one is afraid for his soul, it is fitting for him to try with all his might in this matter, and write the entire section of the Ketoret on a kosher piece of parchment, in sefer Torah script, and read it once in the morning and once in the evening, with complete concentration, and I guarantee…

“It brings us blessing and success in all our deeds and endeavors, and one who is careful with it will become wealthy and not suffer from poverty, as we find with the Kohanim who offered the Ketoret. Every Kohen who merited once did not need to offer the Ketoret a second time. So it will be for one who is particular to read it every day in the appropriate way, morning and evening. Without a doubt, he will merit generous sustenance.”

In the sefer Teshuvot V’hanhagot we find another segulah concerning reciting the Ketoret. The author told a childless couple of a segulah he received from the elderly sages of Yerushalayim:

“Write the section of Ketoret, with all the breita, on parchment, and recite it twice daily. One should specifically read the verses with the cantillations, and recite the entire breita slowly.” If one does so, with Hashem’s help he will merit salvation and Hashem will fulfil his heart’s desires.


Soaring High

I know of a fantastically wealthy family in New York who rub shoulders with the president himself. Their only son grew up with the symbolic silver spoon in his mouth, and even had a private jet at his service.

I found it fascinating that this boy, who never lacked for anything, felt a spiritual void. He sought to quench this thirst with the living waters of Torah. On his very own, he recognized Hashem. This is how it happened.

This young man, of a philosophical bent, noticed that the Jews were always pursued and persecuted, without any logical explanation. The torment and torture which this underprivileged nation underwent, throughout the generations, bothered him to no end. And although he lived in the Land of Freedom and Opportunity, he had plenty of occasion to observe anti-Semitism rear its ugly head. “Why does this happen?” he wondered. “Why is the Jewish nation destined to suffer at the hands of its host country?”

The matter gave him no rest. He studied Am Yisrael’s history throughout the ages. His research brought him to an awareness of a Creator and that He alone manages the world, each and every moment.

When he delved deeper into the matter, he learned about the intricacies of the Torah given at Har Sinai. He was astounded at discovering that he was light-years away from his purpose on this earth.

This revelation brought him to complete teshuvah. Baruch Hashem, he now sets aside a few hours each day for Torah study and prays three times daily.

He had no need for a private jet in order to reach the Heavens. Rather, it was an encounter with the bare, basic truth, which galvanized him to reach tremendous spiritual heights, coming ever closer to his Creator.

This man’s search for the truth opened a tiny aperture, the size of a pin prick. And Hashem, as He promises, opened for him the opening of a banquet hall and brought him back to his roots.


1. Just as it is forbidden to work during Shemittah, one may also not show support for any Jewish person who does not observe the laws. We are forbidden to aid those who transgress, as it says (Vayikra 19:14), “You shall not place a stumbling block before the blind.” If we assist him in any way we become a partner to his sin. Furthermore, we are commanded to protest when faced with sin, as it says (ibid. 17), “You shall reprove your fellow and do not bear a sin because of him.” Coming to the aid of such a person is a transgression of this mitzvah.

2. One may therefore not sell agricultural tools to someone one suspects does not observe Shemittah, for he will almost certainly use them for forbidden work.

3. One may not sell garden tools to someone one suspects will use them for forbidden acts, since there is no heter mechira (permission regarding selling the land) for gardens. If there is a realistic possibility he will use them for permitted acts, or only use them after Shemittah, one may sell them to him.

4. If one purchases peirot shevi’it from someone ignorant of Jewish law, one may only buy an amount of food that would suffice for three meals. Although we suspect he will not act appropriately with the d’mei shevi’it and will use it for trade, or not use it before the time of bi’ur, since it is only a suspicion, it is inadvisable to completely take away his chance to support himself. Since it is also desirable to allow the buyer to attain food for the coming day, one may therefore buy a small amount from him.

5. If it is clear that this person transgresses the laws of Shemittah, one may not even buy a small amount from him, so as not to support one who sins. Similarly, one may not give peirot shevi’it or d’mei shevi’it to someone who will not treat them with the appropriate holiness.

6. Today the custom is to rely on the kashrut certificate displayed in the store. If a store does not have a certificate, we must suspect it of not observing Shemittah and one may not buy peirot shevi’it in that store. If the store displays a kashrut certificate, one may buy peirot shevi’it without limit. If the fruit is from otzar beit din, one must treat them with due holiness.

7. The same laws apply when purchasing flowers and plants. One should not buy from an unfamiliar person if he does not have a certificate stating they were grown by non-Jews or in hothouses, detached from the ground. But if the seller is well-known as someone who observes mitzvot, he can testify that the fruit or flowers he is selling were grown in a permitted fashion, even if he does not possess a certificate.

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


Rabbi David Hanania PInto

Submission for the Sake of Attachment to Torah

“Now you shall command the Children of Israel that they shall take for you pure, pressed olive oil for illumination, to kindle the lamp continually” (Shemot 27:20).

Moshe Rabbeinu’s name is not mentioned throughout the Parshah of Tetzaveh. The holy Zohar (Pinchas, 246:1) writes that the reason is because when Moshe Rabbeinu asked Hashem to forgive His people for the sin of the Golden Calf, he added (Shemot 32:32), “But if not, erase me now from Your book You have written.” Therefore his name was erased from one Parshah in the Torah.

Moshe Rabbeinu annulled himself totally for the sake of Hashem and Am Yisrael. Even the Torah he received at Har Sinai he made sure to pass on to Am Yisrael and did not keep for himself. He felt no trace of pride and his only goal was to bequeath Torah to Am Yisrael. Pride in people is indeed a despicable trait.

Pride belongs to Hashem, as it says (Tehillim 93:1), “Hashem has reigned, He has donned grandeur (lit. pride).” On the other hand, man has no reason to feel proud. Moshe Rabbeinu was the humblest of all men and felt his position was given to him only for the sake of teaching Torah to Am Yisrael. As it says, “The Torah Moshe commanded us is the heritage of the Congregation of Yaakov.” His singular wish was to help Am Yisrael grow and elevate themselves in Torah and fear of G-d.

We can see the extent of his humility from the fact that he asked, “But if not, erase me now from Your book You have written” (Shemot 32:32). Moshe did not want his name to be mentioned in the entire Torah, because he was willing to surrender his entire being for the sake of Am Yisrael.

Due to his total self-effacement, Moshe Rabbeinu felt that his name was not worthy of being included in the letters of the Torah, since he did not equate his name with Torah. He wanted the Torah to be Torah alone, and nothing else.

But on the contrary, since his self-negation was so great, he even merited his name being one of the concluding words of the entire Torah. And Chazal say, any novel Torah idea created by anyone at any point in time was already conceived by Moshe Rabbeinu. Therefore, even in Parshat Tetzaveh where his name is not mentioned, the Torah writes, “Now you shall command,” implying you, Moshe, are the one commanding Bnei Yisrael, even though your name is not mentioned explicitly.

In addition, we find a hint to Moshe Rabbeinu’s name in the verse “They shall take for you oil.” ..., oil, has the same letters as ...., soul. This implies that the souls of all Am Yisrael are included in you, Moshe. Why? As the verse goes on to say, “… pure, pressed olive oil.” Pressed alludes to self-negation. Since this was Moshe Rabbeinu’s distinct attribute, he merited that the oil – the souls of Am Yisrael – are all part of him. He also merited the end of the verse – “for illumination.” In the merit of Moshe being “pressed,” he was granted great illumination, meaning that from his light all the souls of Am Yisrael are kindled with understanding of the Torah.


Rabbi Moshe Pardo zt”l

The southern end of the city of Bnei Brak is home to the glorious Beit Yaakov seminary, ‘Or HaChaim’. The seminary’s superb reputation is as wonderful as the reputation of its founder, Rabbi Moshe Pardo zt”l, to whom many owe their spiritual lives. His name will forever be engraved in letters of gold for the thousands of Jewish girls for whom he became a central figure and spiritual father, educating them in the Torah path and being the catalyst for the exceptional Torah homes they later established.

Rabbi Moshe Pardo was a wealthy and successful merchant in Turkey and later in Tel Aviv, but his noble and merciful soul was revealed when he was exposed to the plight of the Bnei Torah. On realizing their economic and even spiritual distress, he astonishingly deserted his private business affairs and took on a different role. His days and nights became dedicated to his holy educational institution which merited special siyata di’Shmaya.

After coming to the rescue, he found himself going from strength to strength. He established an institution for girls from troubled families who wished to strengthen themselves by the light of the Torah. From its humble beginnings of a few girls, it grew into the establishment of the Or HaChaim seminary, a boarding school for thousands of girls from around the country. And seeing the need, he later also founded high schools – mesivtot for young boys and then yeshivot for the graduates, and other educational institutions imprinted with his noble and pure seal.

One student was orphaned of her father as a young girl. On the first day of school Rabbi Moshe told her: “Know, my daughter, I am the address. Everything you want and everything you need, come to me and ask.” And he did not wait for her to come. He searched her out, holding a box of cookies or a bag of almonds, or anything which parents normally provide their children.

When guests would come to his office and the secretary would bring refreshments, he would instruct her to pack up some cookies and drinks and send them to the girl’s room, to make her happy. (And she was not the only one who enjoyed such special attention...) The day after Purim he called her to his office. The table was full of delicacies from the mishlochei manot he had received from his many acquaintances and admirers, including many of his graduates who lived in the city. “Please do me a favor and help me pack up,” he asked, taking the opportunity to fill a basket with treats, telling her: “Give it to your mother, it will surely make her happy.”

She will be happy, first and foremost, to know there is someone who cares so much for her daughter…

On Friday he would pass between the dorm rooms, surveying the preparations for Shabbat, the order and cleanliness, while looking out for girls from troubled and poor families, secretly slipping them some pocket money. He knew the other girls bought treats, cake or nuts, or replenished their supply of stockings etc. in honor of Shabbat. And a loyal father makes sure there is no discrimination, ensuring all his daughters have equal chance to buy…

Rabbi Shlomo Lorenz zt”l, who greatly assisted Rabbi Moshe, related: “Rabbi Moshe’s success in recruiting donors was exceptional. I once met one of his wealthy donors and asked him directly, ‘Famous roshei yeshiva approach you, yet you prefer Rabbi Moshe to them! Why is this?’

“And he answered, ‘How can you not understand! They are asking for their students, while he is asking for his daughters. And which heart does not melt upon hearing a father’s request?’”

The greatest philanthropist and the last of his employees were all treated with the same appreciation and recognition, pleasantness and respect, warmth and consideration. The principal and deputy, teacher or madricha, graduate, student, or young child, were all accorded the same exceptional treatment. Because “Man is dear for he is created in G-d’s image, and dear are Yisrael who are called Hashem’s children.” So how could he, the lowest of the Creator’s servants, not accord honor and respect to all those created in His image and called His son?

Praiseworthy are the people for whom this is so!


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