May 14th, 2022

13th of Iyar 5782


Locking the Door to the Yetzer Hara

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

"You shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of a citron tree" (Vayikra 23:40).

The Midrash asks (Tanchuma Emor 22), "What does 'on the first day' mean? The festival begins on the fifteenth of the month, so why does it say on the first day? It means the first day of reckoning for sins."

The periodical Has'vivot (in memory of my esteemed Rav, the gaon Rabbi Gershon Liebman zt"l), explains the meaning of 'the first day of reckoning for sins'. Right after Yom Kippur, each Jewish person rushes to acquire the Four Species and is preoccupied with this search. When a person is engaged in mitzvot, he certainly does not have spare time to listen to the Yetzer Hara and follow his advice, and therefore does not sin.

On Yom Kippur each individual repents for his sins and at the same time re-commits to follow only the will of Hashem. But how can a person retain this mindset the entire year and maintain his commitments? In answer to this, the Midrash tells us that when a person is occupied with mitzvot, the Yetzer Hara loses his power.

In the same vein, Chazal tell us (Otzar Midrashim 273) that idleness leads to boredom and thoughts of sin. The implication is that when a person is not busy, there is time and room for the Yetzer Hara to penetrate and make him stumble. The Rambam already told us (Issurei Bi'ah 22:21), "Thoughts of immorality only intensify in a heart free of wisdom." Meaning, if a heart is free of Torah and mitzvot this automatically creates an opening for the Yetzer Hara, and the results are unfortunate.

On the other hand, if a person is preoccupied with Torah and mitzvot, his heart is unbreachable and the treacherous waters of the Yetzer Hara cannot enter. He then remains pure and untainted by sin, dedicating his entire essence for Hashem alone.

This idea helps us understand a different question. When talking about the mitzvah of the burnt-offering, the Torah writes (Vayikra 6:2), "Command Aharon and his sons, saying: 'This is the law of the burnt-offering.'" Chazal say, (Rashi, quoting Torat Kohanim), "The word 'command' is an expression of urging, for now and all generations." Specifically with the burnt-offering Hashem urges Aharon and his sons to be especially zealous in performing this service, since it involves monetary loss.

Ostensibly, this requires an explanation. Is it conceivable that the Kohanim would be lazy with the burnt-offering just because it involves a loss (all the meat is burnt for Hashem and unlike the other offerings they do not receive any part of it)? If Hashem commanded them to bring the offering, wouldn't they surely do so, no matter what?

However, according to the above, it is clear. The Torah understands human nature and knows that something from which man has no pleasure, and only loss, he will certainly not do wholeheartedly. Even if he does perform the mitzvah, he will do it in a lazy and lax manner. This prepares an opening through which the Yetzer Hara can enter a person's heart and make him stumble.

Therefore specifically with the burnt-offering the Torah urges the Kohanim to perform it zealously, so as not to give the Yetzer Hara pause to jump in and inject them with lethargy. It is the Torah's desire that man – and in this instance the Kohanim – should be busy and preoccupied with the mitzvot, and thus the Yetzer Hara will not disturb them, allowing them to perform each mitzvah with great intent.

It is important to realize that it is not enough to study Torah, one must also learn mussar which helps us overcome our inclination to be lax with mitzvot. I saw written in the name of the gaon Rabbi Simcha Zissel, the Alter of Slabodka zt"l, that the Torah is offended if a person engages in it alone but does not study mussar. This is because mussar study awakens the inspiration to strive and remain firm in times of trial, thereby drawing ever closer to Hashem.

Walking in Their Ways

The Healthy Half

An avreich once informed me of the happy news that his wife was expecting a baby. But during a routine checkup, it was discovered the baby had a certain medical problem. Many newborns are born with this problem and suffer from it all their lives, r"l, while in other cases it simply disappears.

The man asked for my blessing that their child should suffer no ramifications from this condition. He wished to continue studying Torah with peace of mind. Upon hearing his innocent request, I told him, "Let us recite together that your unborn child should be included in those whose problem completely disappears. B’ezrat Hashem, he will not have any symptoms whatsoever!"

I added a blessing in the name of my ancestors and sent him on his way.

After some time, his wife underwent more testing. These tests showed the problem had completely disappeared. The doctor informed the father that his baby was among those whose problem disappears on its own.

The father was ecstatic at this news. He knew it was Hashem Who had removed the ailment, in the merit of the tzaddikim, in order to promote his undisturbed Torah learning.

Words of the Sages

They Did Not Accord Sufficient Honor

We are in the midst of the days of Sefirat Ha'Omer where we count forty-nine days until the Giving of the Torah, seven whole weeks of working on ourselves and refining our middot, slowly ascending the mountain of the forty-nine attributes with which Torah is acquired.

During this preparation time for receiving the Torah, we deeply mourn the passing of 24,000 of Rabbi Akiva's talmidim, all talmidei chachamim and spiritual giants.

What was the reason for their death? Chazal teach us a penetrating lesson: they all died between Pesach and Shavuot "since they did not treat each other with respect." Let us think about this for a moment: they did not transgress any of the 613 mitzvot, on the contrary, they fulfilled all the mitzvot, minor and major. They were Tannaim! Tzaddikim! Holy souls! But they had one problem: a lack of proper respect for each other.

This is frightening and requires thought: First of all, there is no doubt that respectful conduct is a noble value, an important character trait, which we must strive to attain. But must a lack of this trait bring such a tragic result?! Secondly, how was Hashem prepared to take the risk of the continuity of Torah? Those Tannaim were supposed to be the ones who would continue transmitting Torah to Yisrael and developing it further.

Rabbi Baruch Mordechai Ezrachi shlit"a, Rosh Yeshiva of Ateret Yisrael, explains that this demonstrates how fundamental and basic is the conduct of respect for others, as per the concept, "Derech eretz precedes Torah." Before engaging in Torah study, in its observance, in disseminating Torah, or conceiving novel Torah ideas, well before all of that, personal behaviors must be rectified. Torah scholars must be respectful and have a good relationship with one another. This is the basis, the foundation of existence, and from there one can take off!

Precisely because of this, the lack of respectful conduct led to such a difficult end. It was not a marginal value that was lacking, or lack of perfection in some area. Rather they fell short in an area that is the foundation of existence, the required basis on which one can build one's personality, the Torah, and our entire heritage. Therefore, as soon as there is some lack in respect, the result is devastating.

That is why the disaster happened, even though it raised concerns about the transmission of the Torah. For just as the existence and continuity of the Torah requires people with a spiritual level like the holy Tannaim, so is it necessary to meet the high standards of according respect, according to their lofty level!

Since they did not treat each other with sufficient respect, there was in any case no chance for the Torah to endure (through them). One who lacks this basic principle of treating others with respect cannot be the one to transmit Torah to future generations.

In this week's Parshah we learn about the commandment of Sefirat Ha'Omer. It is appropriate to consider the significance of these days, and come away with a lesson for life. Let us use this period as a catalyst to transform our relationships with others, and improve the way we treat each and every Jew. Let us concentrate during these weeks on investing effort to enhance our middot and stay far away from dispute and baseless hatred.

If we have a strained relationship with someone, now is the time to take care of it by apologizing and opening a new page of true friendship and love, leaving behind past resentments. The more we improve the way we treat others and the respect we accord them, the more we utilize these days to contemplate and improve our actions and middot, the more meaningful our preparations for Shavuot will be! In this way we will merit accepting the Torah with joy!

The Sabbatical Year

1. In principle it is forbidden to lock one's field and vineyard during Shemittah. However, in the post second Beit Hamikdash era, Chazal saw there were merchants who took large quantities from others' vineyards and orchards, exploiting their right to collect a small amount of fruit for their own needs. Instead they would collect large amounts of fruit and sell them in the market.

Consequently, the messengers of beit din would sit at the entrances of the towns, and if anyone was seen carrying a large amount of fruit (during Shemittah), they would allow him to take only enough produce for three meals and would store the rest in the city treasury (otzar). On Erev Shabbat the beit din would distribute this produce to each family, according to their size.

2. Today too we have the concept of otzar beit din produce, and they set up distribution stations as will be explained. There are no reservations about this matter and the previous Gedolei Hador relied on this practice. Therefore one may in the first place buy fruit from otzar beit din if they follow all the relevant laws and do not sell the produce for more than the market price, particularly because there are some poskim who hold that it is a mitzvah to eat fruits that have kedushat shevi'it. If the beit din charges only for expenses and not an exorbitant price, it is preferable to buy otzar beit din produce than produce from heter mechira (land sold to a non-Jew). However, if the beit din sells the fruit at high prices, they could be transgressing the prohibition of using peirot shevi'it for trade, and in this case it would be preferable to buy produce from heter mechira. Those who have been stringent and not relied on heter mechira should annul their vow before doing so.

We hereby show our support for the "strong warriors who do His bidding" – the courageous farmers who observe all the laws of Shemittah with true self-sacrifice, relinquishing their means of livelihood!

3. Some say that one who owns an orchard should rather declare it ownerless than rely on distribution of the produce by otzar beit din as is customary today. He should at least consider the orchard ownerless for several hours each day, and the rest of the day can rely on otzar beit din. Bi'ur applies to these fruits just as with other peirot shevi'it. After the time of bi'ur he must be careful not to eat fruit or drink wine from otzar beit din until bi'ur has been carried out.

The general ruling is that one may rely on otzar beit din without hesitation.

4. Although one may not harvest and gather peirot shevi'it, the prohibition only applies to an individual who harvests his field. But messengers of beit din who harvest for the public, may harvest in the usual way.

5. Messengers of beit din may measure and weigh peirot shevi'it, since it is not an ordinary sale.

6. The price of otzar beit din produce is not payment for the fruit, since they are ownerless and may not be used for trade. Rather, beit din may pay its employees for their work and ask the public to cover their expenses. Paying for the produce is simply a way of participating in the expenses of otzar beit din. Therefore this money does not acquire kedushat shevi'it.

7. If peirot shevi'it are in the possession of otzar beit din at the time of bi'ur (renouncing ownership at a certain point, after purchasing in a permitted manner), they are not obligated to do bi'ur, and the produce is considered ownerless. Produce distributed by otzar beit din after the time of bi'ur may be eaten without doing bi'ur. If they are taken before the time of bi'ur, some say one must do bi'ur at the appropriate time but others disagree, and this is generally the opinion followed.

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

From the Treasury

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

Parents' Duty to Provide Wholesome Education

"And Hashem said to Moshe, 'Speak to the Kohanim, the sons of Aharon, and tell them'" (Vayikra 21:1).

There seems to be a redundancy in the verse: "Say… and tell them." What is the reason for this repetition?

One of the reasons for the name of Pesach is "Peh-sach", meaning "the mouth talks." Indeed on this Festival we are instructed to speak at length about the story of the Exodus, in particular focusing on our children as it says, (Shemot 13:8) "And you shall tell your sons on that day, saying." We must think and feel as if we ourselves left Egypt, as we say in the Haggadah, "In every generation one is obliged to regard himself as though he himself had actually gone out from Egypt."

It is not enough that the child is taught about the Exodus in school and hears stories from his teacher, because the essence of the mitzvah of relating the story of the redemption is "You shall tell your sons." The father must be the one to tell his child and talk about it at length, imprinting the story and lessons in his heart.

In addition, we must also give over to our children that the purpose of the redemption was so we could receive the Torah at Har Sinai, as Hashem said to Moshe Rabbeinu, "When you take the people out of Egypt, you will serve Hashem on this mountain" (Shemot 3:12). Thus, the more we talk about the Exodus and preparation for receiving the Torah, the more we commit ourselves to preparing for the Giving of the Torah. Indeed Sefirat Ha'Omer helps a person prepare for this event. After counting forty-nine days we arrive at the Festival of Shavuot and are privileged to receive the Torah.

Moreover, the more we tell our children about the Exodus, the more we implant love for Hashem in their hearts. In this way we fulfill "Say… and tell them." That is, when the Torah cautions the adult (Kohanim) regarding the children, and commands them to explain the story of the Exodus in all its details to both the older and younger, then the parents' warning, to always remain holy and not become impure, is transmitted to the children. This is how the verse concludes, "Tell them: each of you shall not contaminate himself to a [dead] person among his people." Meaning, through educating their children, the parent's warning to always remain holy and pure stays alive and will be well-absorbed by their children.

Zecher Tzaddik Livracha

Rabbi Zundel Kroizer zt"l

In the holy mountains of Yerushalayim, the foundations of the gaon and tzaddik Rabbi Zundel Kroizer zt"l were planted. He carried on the legacy of the father of all yeshivot, Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin zt"l. His childhood passed in the shadow of the World Wars, and although he was brought up in severe poverty, he lived a rich spiritual life, replete with love for Torah and yirat Shamayim.

To illustrate the degree of poverty that accompanied his youth, it is told that his father would sleep with his Shabbat shtreimel under his head as an original substitute for a pillow. He tangibly absorbed contempt for This World in comparison to the pricelessness of the Holy Torah and its mitzvot.

He used to retire for the night early, but as soon as he awoke, even if only one hour had passed since he went to bed, he quickly arose and began his study routine. He was famous throughout Yerushalayim for his diligence and toil in Torah.

The tzaddik Rabbi Nachum Cohen shlit"a related that he merited studying Torah and mussar from Rabbi Zundel, one of the ge'onei hador. According to him, the most prominent feature of Rabbi Kroizer's character was the immense joy evident on his face at all times.

"He had nothing. He lived in a tiny apartment; the kitchen was miniscule. He lived with a simplicity that today would be defined as shocking, yet his smile never left his face. He was the happiest person. He was always satisfied and nothing annoyed or disappointed him."

Rabbi Zundel was appointed mechanech in several yeshivot where he strove to elevate the students in their own eyes. One of the original ways he accomplished this was by keeping a special notebook in his pocket in which he wrote down remarks and observations his talmidim came up with during his shiur.

He designated a special page for each student, and titled it with his name and an appellation for his "sefer". For example, for a student named "Avraham" he wrote at the top of the page, author of Divrei Avraham. And "Yitzchak's" page was entitled, author of Be'er Yitzchak. The magnitude of importance felt by a student who was privileged to be written in his master's notebook under the name of his future sefer, cannot be underestimated!

At the chuppah of one of his talmidim, the Admor of Biala was asked to conduct the marriage ceremony. The gaon Rabbi Zunder Kroizer, whom the Admor greatly admired, served as one of the witnesses and the Admor was delighted to see him. Just before beginning the ceremony he turned to the witnesses with a smile and said: "To such distinguished talmidei chachamim it is certainly unnecessary to point out the need to repent before the chuppah so as to be considered a fitting witness."

When Rabbi Zundel heard this he was filled with fear and began shaking. He asked the Rebbe:

"How can I now at once engage in repentance, just before the chuppah?! The Rebbe should have aroused me to do so a few days previously, so I could do so properly!"

When the Rebbe heard his question, he became very upset. His face turned red, and with fiery passion he declared: "What is teshuva? Regret for the past and acceptance for the future! With just one thought of true repentance, to abandon all one's bad ways and do good, he is no longer considered a rasha and is a kosher witness!"

He proved his words from an explicit gemara (Kedushin 49b): "If someone consecrates a wife on condition that he is a tzaddik, even though he is known to be a rasha, the kiddushin is valid because perhaps at that moment he entertained thoughts of repentance." This proves that in one moment he can transform himself completely by repenting. This is how the Rambam and Shulchan Aruch rule.

Rabbi Zundel zt"l would relate this incident to his talmidim and in his pleasant manner he would add that the Rebbe's words teaches us several important lessons. Firstly, the Rebbe's original statement cleverly illustrates how to stir someone to repent without embarrassing him. We also learn an important principle in repentance. His holy opinion was that even though there are conditions and laws of repentance, for example it requires verbal confession, and is divided into three stages of discarding the sin, regretting the past, and a commitment for future, etc. (see Hilchot Teshuva ch. 1 where the Rambam outlines all the laws of repentance), nevertheless this does not impede the basics of teshuva. Even if he does not confess verbally or fulfill the other conditions, but only contemplates the meaning of teshuva in his heart, he has already cast off the title of "rasha" and his repentance is accepted!

When people approached Rabbi Zundel for a blessing for salvation he refused, saying, "They think I am capable of giving a blessing, but how will I prevail on the Day of Judgment?" Instead he would say, "I accept upon myself to study a masechta for his recovery." And many indeed merited salvation.

Rabbi Zundel published tens of sefarim, titled Ohr Hachama, on all areas of Torah. He wrote commentaries on Chumash, most of the masechtot of Shas, on Shulchan Aruch and many topics in halacha and aggadah.

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