April 16th, 2022

15th of Nisan 5782


The Holiness and Supremacy of the Chagim

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

"Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them: Hashem's appointed Festivals that you are to designate as holy convocations – these are My appointed Festivals. For six days labor may be done, and the seventh day is a day of complete rest, a holy convocation, you shall not do any work; it is a Shabbat for Hashem in all your dwelling places. These are the appointed Festivals of Hashem, the holy convocations, which you shall designate in their appropriate time" (Vayikra 23:2-4).

The Holy Ohr Hachaim zy"a asks several questions: After saying "Hashem's appointed Festivals," the words "these are My appointed Festivals" seem repetitive. Furthermore, why is the command to observe Shabbat repeated here? And finally, after the command about Shabbat, the words "These are the appointed Festivals of Hashem" are repeated once again. What is the reason for this?

These questions can be reconciled with an ethical message. Hashem wanted to instruct Bnei Yisrael about the severity of the sanctity of the Festivals. A person should not say, "Since Shabbat has enormous sanctify and one is punished severely for its desecration, I will be careful to observe it and will instruct my family to guard its sanctity. But the Festivals do not have the same level of sanctity as Shabbat, as we see from the fact that Chazal permitted certain acts forbidden on Shabbat. So perhaps there is no need to guard the Festivals so carefully." Due to this mistaken belief, the Torah inserts the warning about Shabbat inside the warning about the Festivals, to stress that their sanctity is equal. G-d forbid one may not be lax concerning the Festivals while strictly observing Shabbat.

A person must always be careful with the sanctity of the Festivals, and Chazal stress the punishment of one who disgraces them: "One who desecrates sacred things, and one who disgraces the Festivals… though he may have Torah and good deeds, he has no share in the World to Come" (Avot 3:11). Chazal also say, "One who disgraces the Festivals, it is as if he serves avodah zarah" (Pesachim 111a).

The prevalent halachah is that in havdalah at the departure of the Festivals one omits the blessing over spices, as the Tosfot explain (Pesachim 102b), there is no neshamah yeterah (additional Shabbat soul) on the Festivals. (The reason for smelling the spices is to assuage oneself for the loss of the departing neshamah yeterah.) Nevertheless some of the kadmonim (earlier sages) did recite this blessing. From this custom we derive that on the Festivals too we are blessed with a neshamah yeterah, the explicit opinion of several of the Rishonim.

The idea of neshamah yeterah we learn from the words concerning Shabbat, "He rested and was refreshed" (Shemot 31:17). Chazal expound on these words: "When Shabbat is over, woe for the loss of the neshamah yeterah (Beitza 16a). Since "He was refreshed" is not said concerning the Festivals, what is the source for having a neshamah yeterah also on the Festivals?

The reason could be that Chazal say (Yerushalmi, Shabbat 15:3), "Shabbat and the Festivals were only given to engage in Torah." When a person engages in Torah on the Festivals and does not waste his time on excursions and mundane talk, he merits enjoying the light of Torah and an additional soul enters him. This special soul is created in the merit of the Torah studied on the Festivals, and is imbued with their sanctity.

One who engages in Torah while other people are spending their time in less productive ways, and in a certain measure even "disgracing" the Festivals by not using them to study Torah, there is no greater Torah study for its own sake than this. This person merits a neshamah yeterah in the merit of his Torah study.

It follows that the neshamah yeterah of Shabbat is unlike the neshamah yeterah of the Festivals. Every person is blessed with a neshamah yeterah on Shabbat; he does not need to be deserving of it. But a person only merits a neshamah yeterah on the Festivals if he engages in Torah. This is the reason why Chazal do not instruct us to recite the blessing over spices at the departure of the Festivals, since not everyone merits a neshamah yeterah.

I would like to suggest that this is the reason why the Torah writes about the Festivals adjacent to the Exodus. Hashem is telling us that He only took us out of Egypt to give us the Torah and mitzvot. When Am Yisrael study Torah on the Festivals, and in this way honor them appropriately, the Festivals become "Festivals of Hashem" and not "our festivals". They become days fitting for Hashem to rest His Presence amongst us.

This is why the Torah repeats "These are My appointed Festivals." Hashem is saying, "When am I sanctified among Bnei Yisrael? When the Festivals become "My" Festivals, and not their festivals. Instead of considering the Festivals as just family time, when the family gets together to eat, drink, and enjoy themselves with personal pleasures, one should ensure the Festivals have spiritual content in line with their sanctity. In this way they will be a true "Festival for Hashem."

The Exodus is followed by the Festivals to hint that just as when Am Yisrael left Egypt, the Shechina rested among them since they agreed to accept the Torah, including the celebration of the Pesach Festival for all generations, so too, if we truly accept the Festivals upon ourselves, we will merit the Presence of the Shechina.

Walking in Their Ways

In Good Faith

A completely irreligious Jew once approached me and related his problem. Afterward, he asked for my blessing. “Resolve to begin wearing tefillin, observe Shabbat and taharat hamishpachah, and I promise you deliverance,” was my answer.

The man, who found this difficult to accept, tried to wheedle his way out. “For such a simple problem, you are asking me to pay too steep a price,” he stated.

“If you want to merit salvation, these are my terms. You are required to uphold Hashem’s mitzvot.”

On the spot, he had a complete change of heart. He accepted the yoke of Hashem’s Kingship upon himself and decided he would keep the mitzvot. From where did this man draw his determination to make a 180-degree turnabout? Until now he was very far from living a Torah way of life.

It was undoubtedly due to the strong roots implanted in Am Yisrael from their beginning. These are the roots of solid faith in Hashem, which grow deeper and stronger over the years of our challenge-riddled history. These roots have the power to bring back the most recalcitrant of souls, and they are what gave this man the strength and courage to change his ways.

A Story for the Chag

Reality or Dream?

Rabbi Chaim Pinto Hagadol zy"a was noted for his hospitality and never turned anyone away for lack of place.

Once, Rabbi Yitzchak Shapiro, a shaliach from Eretz Yisrael, came to Rabbi Chaim’s house. He was an outstanding Torah scholar, whose fame had spread far and wide. Rabbi Chaim went out to greet him and received him cordially, as befit his distinction.

Since it was close to Pesach, Rabbi Shapiro naturally remained in Rabbi Chaim’s house to celebrate the festival and joined him for Leil HaSeder. Suddenly, the family noticed rivers of tears flowing from Rabbi Shapiro’s eyes.

Rabbi Chaim tried to comfort him, but the shaliach continued to cry. “Please, tell us why you are crying and I will try to help you,” Rabbi Chaim told him. “Your pain is our pain. We cannot sit joyfully at the Seder table while you are crying.”

Rabbi Shapiro listened, but continued sobbing. Rabbi Chaim tried once again to calm him down, “Rabbi Shapiro, if you are troubled because you need something, I will try to help you. Why should you spend Leil HaSeder crying?”

The shaliach calmed down a bit and began to talk: “I left Eretz Yisrael on my own. Every year, I joyously sit with my family members at the Seder table. When I saw the matzot, wine and the Haggadah, I thought of my family. I do not know how they are doing. Are they happy? Are they distressed that I am not with them? Is everything all right in Eretz Yisrael?”

Rabbi Chaim empathized with his distress and comforted him. “Do not worry. The salvation of Hashem comes speedily, like the blink of an eye. Let us go to my study. I wish to show you something.” The two of them entered Rabbi Chaim’s study, and then Rabbi Chaim said, “Just watch.”

The man peered in the darkness and suddenly saw clearly in front of his eyes the figures of his family members, sitting around the Seder table, rejoicing in the festival!

After he recovered from the amazing spectacle of seeing his family who were hundreds of miles away, his happiness was restored. He left the room with Rabbi Chaim in order to continue the Seder. However, Rabbi Chaim first wanted to confirm that Rabbi Shapiro had fully comprehended the implication of his vision.

“Please try to recall every detail of what you saw, including the seating order of the family members, how the table was set, and what was on the table. When you return to Eretz Yisrael, ask your family how they felt at the Seder during your absence. Verify that everything you saw in my study was real and not a dream. And then send me a letter informing me exactly what they told you.”

At the conclusion of the festival, Rabbi Shapiro bade farewell to Rabbi Chaim, thanking him for his outstanding hospitality which made him feel like a member of the family. He left Morocco and safely arrived home in Eretz Yisrael. After greeting his family, he asked them how they had fared while he was away, and how they had felt on Leil HaSeder.

They recounted to him that right after he left, they had been downhearted about being alone. However, when Leil HaSeder arrived, they suddenly felt uplifted and celebrated the festival with great joy.

Rabbi Shapiro listened to their account, and his heart filled with joy. He hurried to send a letter with a detailed description to Rabbi Chaim Pinto, as he had promised, emphasizing that everything he had seen in his study had not been a dream, but had actually transpired.

From the Treasury

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

Acknowledging the Miracle Through Feeling the Pain

In the Festival prayers (in Shemonei Esrei) we say, "And You gave us, Hashem, our G-d, with love, appointed Festivals for gladness, Festivals and times for joy, this day of the Festival of Matzot, the time of our freedom, a holy convocation, a memorial of the Exodus from Egypt."

The question is, there is an apparent contradiction in the above words. At first we say, "the Festival of Matzot, the time of our freedom," meaning we are thanking Hashem for our present freedom. However later on we say, "a memorial of the Exodus from Egypt," meaning the entire Pesach Festival is only a remembrance of our ancestors' redemption from Egypt, not necessarily referring to our own freedom today.

In order for man to achieve strong faith, and attain this wonderful perception, that had Hashem not brought our fathers out of Egypt, we and our children would still be enslaved to Pharaoh in Egypt, he must pray excessively. He must also educate his children from infancy to strong faith. That is why it is necessary on Leil HaSeder to tell of the Exodus at great length, to instill in the hearts of our children steadfast faith in Hashem, leaving no room for doubts.

A person must contemplate and connect himself to the past, to the time when Bnei Yisrael were enslaved in Egypt and suffered terrible torments. If he aches for their pain, sees how Hashem performed miracles and wonders for them and judged their enemies with great blows, and then rejoices in their joy at the redemption, he suddenly feels he himself was blessed with freedom. But without feeling distress at the suffering of his ancestors, and then joy at their salvation, he would be far from acknowledging the miracle performed for his ancestors and himself, and will not feel like a free man.

That is why the Festival of Pesach is the time of our true freedom. This is a result of the freedom our ancestors were granted in Egypt, through enormous miracles, without which we would not exist today as free men. When Hashem performed the miracles for our ancestors in Egypt, He made sure the results of those miracles would continue to have an effect and draw powers of holiness to all future generations. When we celebrate Pesach today, we are drawing upon the endless abundance of holiness from the very first Pesach festival and the miracles performed at that time. When a person is inspired with this joy, he will certainly feel the same great joy of being a free man, as our ancestors felt when they left Egypt.

Zecher Tzaddik Livracha

Hagaon Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi Doron zt"l

During the eighteen years Rabbi Bakshi Doron served as Rav of the city, he opened his home to one of the unfortunate townspeople and provided for all his needs. In addition, after the Shabbat meal the Rav would go for a short walk with him. He continued this custom Shabbat after Shabbat, year after year, for eighteen years!

This short story is just one of many that gives us a glimpse into the multifaceted personality of the Rishon L'Tzion, the gaon Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi Doron, who passed away two years ago on Pesach.

The city of Haifa, where he served as Chief Rabbi (before becoming the Rishon Letzion), is home to many Holocaust survivor residents. One of the Holocaust survivors would come to the Rav's house offering him moldy bread. And the Rav? Not wishing to insult her, he had a reluctant bite or two and made as if it was the most delicious bread.

The family members added that homeless people often came to their home and slept on their beds. Sometimes they would even find bedbugs on the beds after the guests left. When asked how they survived, they replied simply: "This was life. We did not know anything different!"

The story of his first visit to Kiryat Arba, the city of the forefathers, is extraordinary. "We arrived there to spend Shabbat in the town," related one of his attendants. "We were supposed to eat together with the Council Head and Heads of the settlement. But at the last minute the Rav decided against this plan and explained we would be hosted by someone else. At the time I did not understand why. 'Esteemed Rav, they are excepting us,' I tried to explain. But the Rav would not change his mind.

"During Shabbat the reason became clear. We ate our meals at a family whose mother had been murdered shortly before, and this is where the Rav wanted to spend Shabbat. Throughout Shabbat, he showered the orphans and widower with special warmth and love."

The Rishon LeZion, Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi Doron ztl, was born in Yerushalayim in 5701. He first studied Torah with his father, Chacham Ben-Tzion Bakshi Doron, Committee Head of the Spanish Community in Yerushalayim, and gabbai of the Rav Yochanan ben Zakai beit knesset in the Old City. He later studied in Yeshivat Hadarom in Rechovot, and in the Chevron yeshiva in Yerushalayim. After his marriage he went to study at the Kol Yaakov Kollel, named after Chacham Yaakov Adas, Rosh Yeshiva of Porat Yosef.

The Rav had a special connection with his father-in-law, Harav Shalom Lopas zt"l, Rav of Akko, near Haifa. This is demonstrated by the fact that when Rabbi Shalom Lopas came to his daughter's house, his son-in-law would change all his customs to follow the customs of his father-in-law. On Leil HaSeder, Harav Lopas was a regular guest at his son-in-law. Harav Lopas followed the custom of praying Shacharit at netz (sunrise), and come what may, this was when he prayed. So whereas throughout the year there were three minyanim for Shacharit at Harav Bakshi Doron's beit knesset, when Rabbi Shalom came to the city, Harav Doron Bakshi instructed the entire congregation that the following day there would be a minyan at netz only.

In his old age, when his strength was no longer what it used to be, Rabbi Shalom moved into the home of his son-in-law who took care of his every need, including dressing and feeding him. This continued for half a year, with Rabbi Bakshi Doron caring for his father-in-law every moment, day after day, until his heart stopped beating. Whenever other people wanted to share the burden of his care, the Rav would respond, "Do you want to prevent me from dressing a Sefer Torah?"

During the last months of Rabbi Shalom's life, a minyan of the Rav's talmidim would come to his house so Rabbi Shalom could pray with a minyan. However, despite his love and admiration for his father-in-law, the Rav would not join this minyan, but would go and pray with the community. Only once he finished his own prayers would he join the minyan in his home for a short time.

Rabbi Bakshi Doron's Torah is found in the rabbinical rulings he wrote, in hundreds of Torah essays he authored, and in hundreds of shiurim he taught. Some were published in a set of sefarim called Binyan Av, including Responsa Binyan Av – answers, halachic inquiries, clarification of sugyot in Shas, and various chiddushei Torah, Binyan Av Sichot U'ma'amarim al Chamishah Chumshei Torah (essays on the Torah), and Binyan Av Sichot U'ma'amarim Al Hamo'adim (essays about the Festivals).

Rabbi Bakshi Doron's Torah thoughts are written simply and clearly and so are easy to understand. His halachic rulings demonstrate a combination of sensitivity to others, his amiability to one and all, and his desire to reach the truth of the halachah.


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