June 25th, 2022

26th of Sivan 5782


Who is Strong? He Who Subdues His Inclination

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

In this week's Parshah, the Torah details the names of all twelve spies sent by Moshe to scout the Land. However, when Yehoshua bin Nun sent two spies to scout the land of Canaan, there the verse does not mention their names; it is Chazal who reveal their identities: Pinchas and Calev. What is the reason for this difference?

The answer could be that the twelve spies were distinguished personalities, as the Torah testifies that when they were originally chosen they were most upright. Therefore having their names written in the Torah could serve as a merit for protection for them.

However, this does not fully answer the question. The holy Zohar tells us that although when the spies were chosen they were upright and distinguished men, they failed their test and deliberately spoke lashon hara about the Land, for they knew that once Bnei Yisrael would enter Eretz Yisrael they would lose their positions as leaders. Only in the Wilderness were they leaders over Bnei Yisrael, as it says, "heads of Bnei Yisrael were they," but once they would settle in Eretz Yisrael, Moshe Rabbeinu would appoint different leaders. They therefore preferred that Bnei Yisrael remain in the Wilderness.

The question is, how were the spies so blinded by their lust for honor which drove them to speak lashon hara about the Holy Land?

This illustrates to what extent striving for honor and lust blinds a person's eyes and prevents him from seeing clearly, until he thinks that his pursuit of honor is actually a mitzvah, but in fact he is actually engaged in a sin.

So it was with the spies. They convinced themselves they were looking for ways to remain in a desolate Wilderness without materialism, rather than go to the Holy Land where they could be influenced negatively by the abundance of milk and honey. But in fact, their desire for honor blinded them and the real reason for their negative report about the Land was their wish to retain their positions as leaders of Bnei Yisrael.

It is therefore understandable why Moshe Rabbeinu told them "You shall strengthen yourselves". He was implying, "Instead of pursuing honor which blinds a person completely, you must strengthen yourselves, as Chazal say (Avot 4:1), 'Who is strong? He who conquers his inclination.' Be strong and do not fall into the hands of the Yetzer Hara who tempts you by making as if he is giving you spiritual reasons, when in fact all he wants is that you should follow your lusts."

Furthermore, Moshe Rabbeinu not only told them, "You shall strengthen yourselves" and not speak negatively about the land, but also "and take from the fruit of the Land." The fruits of the Land hint to the mitzvot, and Moshe Rabbeinu wished to give over the message that there are many mitzvot that can only be fulfilled in Eretz Yisrael. This is the virtue of the Holy Land, for there are no particular mitzvot associated with any other country. Moshe Rabbeinu wanted the spies to strengthen themselves and take from the mitzvot of Eretz Yisrael, which would further strengthen them.

Moshe Rabbeinu went on to remind them: if they merit and bring back a good report from the Holy Land, all Bnei Yisrael will merit entering the Land and then the entire universe will be perfected through the Almighty's sovereignty, for Eretz Yisrael is the holiest of all countries and only there can the true rectification be brought about.

Words of the Sages

In the Merit of Four Shekels

The students of the Mashgiach, Hagaon Rabbi Meir Chadash zt"l, once asked him to give them a talk on the prohibition of lashon hara. Rabbi Meir agreed and began a long lecture on the topic of 'good-heartedness.' The students were certain that at some point he would begin talking about the requested topic, but to their surprise the entire speech revolved solely around the matter of good-heartedness.

When he finished the lecture, his students expressed their surprise; why had he not spoken about the requested subject? Rabbi Meir explained: "Didn't you ask me to speak about lashon hara? Which kind of person speaks lashon hara? Only a bad person speaks lashon hara! If you become good people, you will never speak lashon hara!"

In Ramat Elchanan in Bnei Brak lives a very nice, young family – the parents are ba'alei teshuvah. The father is refined and kind, the mother's face shines with a special purity, and the children are polite and well-behaved. A beautiful family. The father (son of a scientist from Ramat Gan) related that in his youth he was so far removed from religion, he did not even know he was supposed to hate religious people...

What caused him to change his entire lifestyle?

His wife (originally from Be'er Sheva) was a soldier, and at one point suffered from some sort of problem. Her roommate, completely secular, told her: "You are suffering and it is bothering you. I heard that next to Ramat Gan, in Bnei Brak, there is a woman called Rabbanit Kanievsky who gives advice and blessings. Let's go to her!"

She decided to give it a try. It was a hot summer day. The women soldiers got on the bus and discovered it to be full of strange people, all dressed in black despite the heat. Everything was strange and different.

The bus began its route and after a while they decided to ask where to get off. Who should they ask? Each passenger on the bus looked stranger than the next. Finally they noticed a young man who looked almost normal, and decided to ask him: "Where do we have to get off for Rabbanit Kanievsky?" Without glancing out the window he replied, "Get off here, at the next stop."

They got off the bus and approached a passer-by. "Where does Rabbanit Kanievsky live?" they asked. Upon receiving the address and directions, they began a long trek, eventually arriving at the Rabbanit's house, where they immediately joined the end of the line.

A few minutes passed and suddenly a young man walked into the room. They looked at him… he seemed familiar… He stopped next to them, asked them to open their hands, and handed them some coins.

Wishing to understand the meaning of this strange donation, they turned to him for an explanation: "I gave you four shekels and eighty agorot. We were on the bus together and you asked me where Rabbanit Kanievsky lives. Since I did not realize where we were, I mistakenly told you to get off the bus. As you alighted, I thought: Oh, what did I do? They'll have to take another bus. That will cost them two shekels and forty agorot each. It's theft! I caused you a loss! That's why I came here, to give you 'four-eighty'!"

That soldier was so moved by this act, she said, "If this is their moral standards, I want to be like them!"

And the results? An entire family of bnei Torah!

An ultra-Orthodox family for four shekels and eighty agorot!

Walking in Their Ways

Absolute Trust

Someone once asked me a question, but since I am not a halachic authority, I merely presented my opinion and advised him what to do.

However, he was not satisfied with my response and asked another rabbi for his opinion. This rabbi advised him differently than I had. Therefore, he went for a third opinion but this rabbi gave him completely opposing advice to what had previously been said.

The man was getting himself more and more confused. Eventually, he did as he saw fit but did not meet with success. He then phoned me, lamenting that his problem was not solved.

“Did you follow my advice?” I asked.

“No,” he answered. “I wanted to get other opinions.”

I rebuked him for his attitude and told him the following: “When you first came to me with your dilemma, I told you how to act, taking responsibility for my words. Had you fully believed in the Torah opinion which I represented, you would have merited salvation. But you looked for more opinions and thereby lost everything.

“I don’t mean to say that the other Rabbis were wrong. Had you followed any of their words, you might have met with success. But remember: when you ask a Rav for his opinion and place your trust in him, he is granted siyata di’Shmaya to help you.”

A Day of Delight

Baking Challot in Honor of Shabbat

1. It is advantageous to knead dough and bake challot in honor of Shabbat, and thereby also observe the mitzvah of "hafrashat challah" (separating a portion of the dough; when the Beit Hamikdash stood, it was given to the Kohen). If baking challot is hard for the housewife and causes her stress, she should rather buy challot from a bakery.

2. There are various halachic opinions regarding the amount of flour required for separating challah, ranging from 1.660 to 2.25 kilo. One should recite the blessing and set aside a small piece.

3. It is a mitzvah to glorify Shabbat by eating special bread (challot) on this day and not the ordinary bread eaten on weekdays.

4. After separating challah, one should burn the piece on the gas and not inside the oven. [Since this piece may not be eaten, the taste of something prohibited becomes absorbed by the oven.] However, if in error one burned the piece of dough in the oven, the oven does not become unfit. But if the piece was baked next to one of the challot (touching it), one should ask a rabbi whether it is permissible to eat the challah, and about the status of the oven tray.

5. If it is not possible to burn the separated dough in fire, one should double wrap it in paper and place it in the garbage.

6. A woman who prepares a large amount of dough and plans to distribute challot to her friends in honor of Shabbat must separate challah with a blessing (even though she herself might only be left with a small amount of challot). However, if she distributes the dough to her friends, and each receives less than the amount required to take challah, she does not need to separate challah from this dough.

7. If someone forgot to separate challah and remembered bein hashmashot (between sunset and the start of night when the stars appear, a period of time debatably day or night), he may separate if he has no other bread for Shabbat. But once it is definitely Shabbat he may not do so and should rather borrow bread from his neighbors. If this happens in chutz la'aretz, he may eat the challah provided he leaves some over, and after Shabbat this leftover piece should be used to fulfill the mitzvah of separating challah.

8. Before Shabbat the head of the family should calmly ask his household: "Did you take ma'aser from the fruits and vegetables? Did you separate challah?" If one buys challah from a place that fulfills this mitzvah, there is no need to ask.

9. If one is unsure whether ma'aser has been taken or not, he may do so bein hashmashot. But if he knows clearly that ma'aser has not been taken, he may only do so if he was preoccupied Erev Shabbat and only remembered now bein hashmashot, or he requires precisely these fruits for oneg Shabbat, or he has no other fruits for oneg Shabbat, and all the more so if he requires these fruits for his guests. This is all considered a mitzvah necessity and permitted bein hashmashot (but not later).

From the Treasury

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

The Special Sanctity of Eretz Yisrael

If we contemplate and come to realize the great virtue and holiness of Eretz Yisrael, we will understand the seriousness of the sin of the spies – speaking lashon hara about the Land.

Chazal tell us about the donkey of Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair, stolen one night by bandits. The donkey refused to eat the food offered by the bandits, and after three days of starving itself, the bandits feared it would die and leave a terrible smell. As the donkey was totally useless to them, they decided to set it free. It quickly found its way back to Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair's house and began to bray, announcing its arrival. As soon as Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair heard the sounds, he told his servants to feed the donkey, discerning that it had not eaten for several days. But now too the donkey refused to eat. Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair asked his servants, "Did you tithe the food?" They replied in the negative, and immediately tithed the food. Only then did the donkey begin to eat.

The servants of Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair then understood why the donkey had not eaten the bandits' food. This donkey had become so sanctified, it was particular not to eat tevel (food that has not been tithed) and preferred to starve!

From this incident we can begin to conceptualize the holiness of Eretz Yisrael, for it derives its holiness from the specific mitzvot that can only be observed in this Land, among them the mitzvah of separating terumot and ma'aserot. This holiness extended itself to even the donkey of Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair who refused to eat food that had not been tithed.

It is well known that what gives the entire world vitality is only the reality of Hashem, in particular His Presence in the Holy Land, which can be felt there in greater measure than anywhere else. Therefore, not only produce and material things in the Land become sacred, but every single thing becomes holy because of Hashem's reality that gives it life. For example, tzitzit and tefillin have more holiness in Eretz Yisrael, because Hashem sanctifies them. This kedushah is due to the mitzvot that are dependent on the Land, which gives the Land added, supreme sanctity.

Zecher Tzaddik Livracha

Hagaon Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu zt"l

The gaon Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu zt"l, who served as the Rishon LeTzion and Chief Rabbi of Israel for more than a decade, was born in the Old City of Yerushalayim, to his father the gaon Chacham Salman Eliyahu zt"l, one of the greatest Kabbalists in Yerushalayim. The poverty that prevailed in the Eliyahu home did not prevent the young Mordechai from studying Torah, even if this had to be done using candlelight by the table or sitting on the floor. When Mordechai was only eleven years old his father passed away. However, in the short time they had together he managed to bestow his ideals on his young son, and instill in him a love of Torah with a special focus on the hidden Torah.

Upon completion of his studies at the Beit Midrash for Rabbis and Dayanim of Rabbi Yitzchak Nissim zt"l, Rabbi Eliyahu passed the tests with honors and was appointed a Dayan; the youngest in the country. Four years later he transferred to the Regional Rabbinical Beit Din of Yerushalayim, and later was appointed a member of the Great Rabbinical Court.

During these years Rabbi Eliyahu cultivated a strong relationship with the general public, who saw him as the address for any halachic or personal problem. This connection reached as far as the most remote places in the world. His warm connection with all sectors, parties, and denominations of the public, ultimately led to becoming a worthy candidate for the office of Chief Rabbi of Israel.

His consent to submit himself as a candidate for the Rishon LeTzion was forced upon him by Rabbi Yisrael Abuchatzera zy"a, who made it clear to him that this position was determined for him by Heaven. These two Torah giants formed a strong connection, and many miracles are related in connection with their relationship.

Rabbi Eliyahu travelled around the world visiting all different Jewish communities, guiding community leaders in the war on assimilation and encouraging Shabbat observance and family purity. He called on Diaspora Jewry to immigrate to Eretz Israel. In his rulings, Rabbi Eliyahu emphasized the need to preserve the eternity of the Torah and establish regulations in accordance with the needs and challenges of the generation.

Numerous miracles and wonders are woven into the tapestry of Rabbi Eliyahu's life, and many who received his blessings merited open miracles. His sons point out in the introduction to his biography, that his outlook in life perfectly matched the words of Rabbi Pinchas Ben Yair: "Torah leads to caution; caution leads to zealousness; zealousness leads to cleanliness; cleanliness leads to abstention; abstention leads to purity; purity leads to piety; piety leads to humility; humility leads to fear of sin; fear of sin leads to holiness; holiness leads to Divine Inspiration."

In his final years Rabbi Eliyahu experienced severe suffering which he accepted upon himself on behalf of the Jewish people. His wife, Rabbanit Tzivia Eliyahu shetichya, divulges a prayer Rabbi Eliyahu offered to Hashem, the night before undergoing one of his critical surgeries:

"At two o'clock at night I understood that the Attribute of Judgement was fighting against the Attribute of Mercy. Very harsh decrees were to befall the Jewish people, and many were destined to be killed, here in Eretz Yisrael. I begged the Creator, 'Master of the World, I have many [merits]. My entire life was Torah and chessed. Take whatever You want, the main thing is that You annul the decrees!'"

"I said to him," relates the Rabbanit, "'Really? Everything we have done all our lives you are giving away just like that?' And the Rav replied, 'Would you agree that so many Jews be killed here in Eretz Yisrael?' 'No!' I answered, and the Rav continued, 'So who can pay? Only someone who has with what to pay. I am willing to pay!'"

The Cast Lead War broke out during his illness, and Rabbi Eliyahu travelled by ambulance straight from the hospital to Kever Rachel, pleading for Hashem's mercy for the Jewish people. Indeed, in various places soldiers testified that a woman dressed as an Arab warned them not to enter ensnared places, saying, "I am Mother Rachel!"


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