July 9th, 2022

10th of Tamuz 5782


Torah Has the Power to Change the Order of Creation

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

"Miriam died there and she was buried there. There was no water for the assembly, and they gathered against Moshe and Aharon" (Bamidbar 20:1-2).

What is the connection between the death of Miriam and their lack of water?

Chazal tell us that during their forty years of wandering in the Wilderness, Bnei Yisrael were blessed with the Well in Miriam's merit. This Well, known as Miriam's Well, was their source of water. But when Miriam passed away, this merit ceased and the Well no longer produced water. Since their source of water had dried up, Bnei Yisrael complained to Moshe and Aharon.

Moshe Rabbeinu prayed to Hashem to give the assembly water, and Hashem told him, "Take the staff and gather together the assembly, you and Aharon your brother, and speak to the rock before their eyes that it shall give its waters. You shall bring forth for them water from the rock and give drink to the assembly and to their animals." Moshe was told to speak to the rock and then the rock would give forth water.

The question is, if Hashem wanted Moshe Rabbeinu to speak to the rock, why did He tell him to take his staff? Chazal explain (Devarim Rabba 3:8) that since Hashem's explicit Name was engraved on the staff, Hashem told him to take it, because by virtue of its sanctity, vitality will arise in the rock and give forth water for Bnei Yisrael.

However, Moshe Rabbeinu did not act as Hashem instructed him, and instead of speaking to the rock he struck it; not just once but twice.

Rabbi Yoram Aberg'el zt"l asks: at the end of Parshat Beshalach we are told that when Bnei Yisrael arrived at Rephidim, shortly after they left Egypt, then too they had no water to drink and so Hashem told Moshe Rabbeinu to take his staff and hit the rock. "You shall strike the rock and water will come forth from it and the people will drink." Moshe Rabbeinu indeed did so in front of all Bnei Yisrael; the rock produced water, and the people were able to quench their thirst.

So why in Parshat Beshalach did Hashem command Moshe Rabbeinu to strike the rock, whereas in this week's Parshah, after Miriam's death, in the fortieth year after leaving Egypt, did Hashem instruct Moshe Rabbeinu to just speak to the rock, and even punished Moshe for hitting it?

I would like to suggest an answer. Even though in Egypt Bnei Yisrael witnessed many miracles, and as they began their journey in the Wilderness they constantly experienced Hashem's miracles and saw His awesome deeds, nevertheless some of their "shortness of breath" due to the bondage remained with them, because they had not yet received the Torah. Therefore, in Rephidim they were unable to withstand the test of thirst and complained to Moshe and Aharon that they had no water to drink, until Moshe Rabbeinu thought they were going to stone him.

Since in Rephidim they had not yet received the Torah, Hashem told Moshe Rabbeinu to strike the rock with his staff so it should produce water, because Bnei Yisrael were lacking the merit of receiving water through Moshe Rabbeinu just speaking to the rock. However, forty years later, after Miriam's passing, Bnei Yisrael had attained the level where they could merit water just by Moshe speaking to the rock, similar to the way Hashem created the world with His utterances.

We can further add that at the Splitting of the Sea, Hashem intentionally told Moshe to take his staff and just stretch out his hand over the sea without hitting the water, and thus split its waters even without speaking to it. For then Hashem wanted to show Bnei Yisrael that He had chosen Moshe Rabbeinu to be their leader and all he does is in accordance with Hashem's word.

Words of the Sages

A Taste of Torah

Rabbi David Hofstetter shlit"a, president of the Acheinu organization, went to visit a yeshiva he founded that was under his presidency. During the festive visit, a siyum masechet was held for several bachurim, and during the seuda one of the bachurim asked for permission to speak.

He held the microphone in his hand and told his story: "I came here last Rosh Chodesh Elul," he began. "The truth is this was not part of my plan. I graduated from elementary school, and my plan was to go on to high school. I did not entertain the thought of going to a yeshiva.

"But the Acheinu activists approached me, saw I was attracted to studying Gemara, and convinced me with all their might to go to a yeshiva. With all due respect, I was not convinced. I was certain I would continue my studies in a high school.

"One of the activists came to me and said: 'Tzaddik, listen to me for a moment! After all, high school only starts on the first of September, which turns out two weeks after Rosh Chodesh Elul. What do you care to come to yeshiva for just one week? Go, enjoy the experience. There is an up-scale dormitory, there are game rooms and activities, there is an air-conditioned beit midrash, quality company – the most interesting in the world! Go and experience it for a week, and then go to high school if you want!'

"I laughed and told them that yeshiva and I do not go together. I'm not the style of a yeshiva bachur. I'm just not interested. On the other hand, I was a little intrigued to know what goes on there, so I decided to come for just one day.

"I arrived at yeshiva without any belongings. I did not bring books, not even a change of clothes or a toothbrush, because I planned to be there for just a few hours and travel home that afternoon.

"Then the mashgiach noticed me and came over. He asked, 'What's this? Why did you not bring a bag with basic personal belongings? You didn't bring anything? Bedding, a pillow, and blanket I can bring you from my house, but what about a change of clothes? What about shampoo and a towel, minimum…?'

"I replied: 'Honorable rav, I did not come to sleep here. I'm only here for a few hours... I'm going home soon… although the truth is, it is actually interesting here. Maybe I'll come tomorrow for another visit, another day in yeshiva. Why not? But I'm not going to sleep here…'

"The mashgiach looked at me like I was someone who had lost his mind: 'What's wrong with you? How can you experience yeshiva without sleeping in the dormitory? You haven't gained anything, you haven’t tasted anything. Try sleeping here one night, just one night! Get up in the morning like a yeshiva bachur, go to the beit midrash for the morning prayers, eat breakfast here, and then start a day of learning like all the other boys. I promise you that without this you won't have any taste of what yeshiva is really like…'

"He almost grabbed me by the ear," the bachur went on to describe. "He took me outside, put me in his car, and we drove all the way to my house. There the mashgiach waited for me for about a quarter of an hour, until I got some things together and said goodbye to my parents. I told them I was going to sleep in the yeshiva for one night and tomorrow I would return home, and they shouldn't forget to buy me the books I needed for high school.

"And here I am, after almost a full year has passed," the bachur concluded his story to the sound of applause. "And you know what?" he added, addressing the yeshiva staff and Rabbi David Hofstetter, the president, "I wouldn't give up this year in yeshiva, even for a million dollars! I don't have the slightest remorse that I came to sleep here for one night! It was the best decision I made in my life and made me the happiest person!" (Dirshu)

Walking in Their Ways

The Disappearing Growth

A young boy, Moshe Chabarbati, was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. His parents decided to take him to a hospital in Boston where the doctors have experience with this type of growth. A short while before they were scheduled to travel, they heard I was about to visit their town. They delayed their trip in order to meet with me and receive my blessing for a complete recovery. Due to the urgency of the matter, they were waiting for me at the airport so I could see their son immediately and bless him in the merit of my holy ancestors zy"a.

As soon as I came out of Arrivals, I saw the boy in a wheelchair. He could hardly move a limb. I blessed him with a complete recovery and added that we should hear good tidings from him in the merit of his parents’ solid faith in Hashem.

Then the trio made the arduous journey to Boston. After comprehensive testing, it was discovered that the boy did not have a growth in his head at all. He was suffering from a violent germ which had attacked his brain. Although this necessitated complex treatment, his life was certainly not in danger. Truly a miracle!

After a number of treatments, the boy did not require his wheelchair anymore. He himself came to relate the good news that with Hashem's kindness, in the merit of my holy ancestors, he had recovered and regained his health.

From the Treasury

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

Why Did Moshe Hit the Rock?

This section raises a compelling question. How can it be that Moshe Rabbeinu and Aharon HaKohen, leaders of Am Yisrael, who heard Hashem speaking to them so many times, suddenly did not obey Hashem's word exactly as He commanded, to sanctify His name in front of all the Jewish people?

The ensuing explanation is a possible answer. After forty years in the Wilderness, following Hashem in an unsown land with great faith, receiving manna every day from heaven, and constantly engaged in Torah, Am Yisrael attained a high spiritual level.

What's more, they also experienced other great miracles in the Wilderness: their clothes did not wear out, but actually grew with them as they grew, as the verse says (Devarim 29:4), "I led you for forty years in the Wilderness, your garment did not wear out from on you, and your shoe did not wear out from on your foot." The Clouds of Glory also protected their clothes, and even improved and ironed them (Shir Hashirim Rabba 4:2). The Clouds also guarded them day and night from enemies, snakes, scorpions, and desert animals. And above all, they enjoyed the Well of fresh water which followed them in their travels, in the merit of the righteous Miriam.

So if they were such staunch tzaddikim and received abundance from Hashem, then now, when Miriam passed away and they no longer had water to drink, they should not have complained at all about the lack of water. Rather, they should have asked in a refined manner, since "The Torah's ways are pleasant and all its paths are peace" (Mishlei 3:17). Torah refines the human soul, so why should Bnei Yisrael shout that they have no water?! Is this fitting behavior for Jews who have been studying and practicing Torah for forty years?!

In light of this spiritual decline Moshe Rabbeinu thought that perhaps with speech alone water would not come forth from the rock. He thought they might require the merit of the staff, engraved with the Holy Names, for the rock to give forth water, as happened forty years earlier when they were lax in Torah study in Rephidim and he was told to strike the rock with his staff.

Since now too Bnei Yisrael had fallen from their high spiritual level, Moshe Rabbeinu therefore hit the rock, doing so for the sake of Heaven. Certainly his intention was not to transgress Hashem's command; rather he wanted to prevent the profaning of G-d's Name which might have happened had he been unsuccessful with speech alone.

A Day of Delight

Preparing for Shabbat

1.  It is a mitzvah to wash one's entire body in warm water in honor of Shabbat. If one cannot do so one should at least wash his face, hands, and feet.

2.  Chazal say (Shabbat 25b): "This was the custom of Rabbi Yehuda Bar Elai: on Erev Shabbat they brought him a large bowl full of hot water and he would wash his face, hands, and feet, and then adorn himself with a head covering and sit and wait. He resembled a heavenly angel."

3.  The Midrash also writes (Vayikra Rabba 34:3), "'A man of kindness brings good upon himself:' this refers to Hillel the Elder. As he walked with his talmidim and took leave of them, they asked him: 'Rabbeinu, where are you going?' He answered, 'To perform a mitzvah.' They then asked, 'Which mitzvah?' and he replied, 'To bathe in the bathhouse.' They asked, 'Is this considered a mitzvah?' and he responded, 'Yes! Just as there are people appointed to wash the figures of kings displayed in theaters and circuses, and the king pays them for carrying out this service, and furthermore this position is an honor for the workers – therefore I, created in the 'image' of Hashem, as it says (Bereishit 9:6), "For in G-d's image He made man," how much more so [must I take care of my body]!'"

4.  One should bathe on Friday so it is noticeable one is doing so in honor of Shabbat. Immediately following this one should dress in Shabbat clothes. If this is not possible, one should bathe at an earlier time.

5.  It is proper to immerse oneself in a mikvah on Erev Shabbat, to receive the sacred abundance of Shabbat. Through immersing one also merits purifying one's body, soul, and thoughts.

6.  One should wear nicer and more dignified clothes for Shabbat, as well as clean tzitzit. One should also polish one's shoes. One who has special Shabbat shoes will be blessed. The holy Rabbi Yisrael of Apta zt'l quotes an exceptional Midrash: "Yisrael do not understand the reward they deserve for cleaning their shoes on Erev Shabbat, "How lovely are your steps in sandals, O daughter of nobility!" (Shir Hashirim 7:2)

7.  It is a mitzvah to check the pockets of one's clothes on Erev Shabbat, to ensure they contain no muktzah items. In particular, in places where there is no eiruv, one must be careful to check one's pockets so one does not accidentally carry in a public domain.

8.  Maran the Chida writes: "Erev Shabbat is a dangerous time for dissension between a husband and wife and family, and the Yetzer Hara tries very hard to cause arguments and disagreements. Therefore every G-d-fearing person should restrain his Yetzer Hara and avoid all complaints, anger, and controversy. On the contrary, he should behave pleasantly for the sake of peace.

9.  Rabbeinu Yosef Chaim zy"a (Chukei Hanashim 28) warned: "On Friday the wife must take care to work quickly and complete her tasks early. One hour before candle-lighting she should finish all her work and welcome the Sabbat calmly. She should take a rest and be full of joy and gladness in honor of the Shabbat Queen."

Zecher Tzaddik Livracha

Hagaon Rabbi Eliyahu Mani - Rav of Chevron

Rabbi Eliyahu Mani was born in Tammuz 5578, in the city of Baghdad. According to an ancient tradition, the family can trace their roots to David Hamelech, and following the incident with Bustenai, the family hid this connection by changing their family name to "מני, Mani," an abbreviation for "מן נצר ישי, descendants of Yishai" or "מזרע נין יהודה, descendants of Yehuda."

From a young age Rabbi Eliyahu studied at the Beit Zelka Yeshiva (Beit Midrash Abu Menashi), and became one of the exceptional students of Rabbi Abdallah Somech.

In 5616, at the age of 38, he immigrated to Jerusalem, a three-month journey, with his wife and three sons. There he became one of the sages of Beit El, the beit midrash for Kabbalists. The Rosh Yeshiva, Chacham Refael Yedidya Abulapia, said about him, "A lion arose from Babylonia." Chacham Yosef Chaim of Baghdad, who considered Chacham Eliyahu Mani his master in Torat HaSod (concealed Torah), continued corresponding with him on matters of halacha and kabbalah.

In 5618 he moved to the ancestral city of Chevron where he remained until his passing. The then small Jewish community of 250 people lived in great poverty, and he immediately took upon himself to assist them.

When the cholera plague broke out in Chevron in 5624, Rabbi Eliyahu did not fear for his own safety. He went around among the population, offering help to the many patients. In 5625, after many entreaties, he agreed to accept the position of Rav of the town, but without remuneration. Only after about fourteen years when his financial situation deteriorated, did he agree to accept a small salary for this position. In his humility he refrained from wearing the rabbinical robe of Chacham Bashi, and when he signed his name on rabbinical documents he would write, "Eliyhau Mani, who serves the holy congregation of Chevron for the sake of Hashem."

When he became blind in 5651, he sighed and said, "Woe to me for the insult of Torah." For about four years he suffered from an eye disease, until Hashem heard his prayers and miraculously cured him.

It is told that at the time an Arab approached him, dressed in clothes that showed he was not one of the locals, and said to him: "I heard that you suffer from an eye disease and cannot see, so trust in Hashem because I will heal you." Rabbi Eliyahu believed him and replied, "It will be as you say; I will pay you the fee you demand."

Meanwhile the Arab took just enough money to cover the expense of the drugs, and three days later the Rav was cured! Wishing to pay him the rest of his fee, they searched for the Arab but he had disappeared without leaving a trace… All those who heard were astounded by this miracle!

The gentiles too accorded Rabbi Eliyahu great honor. The Arabs feared him and referred to him as "Sheikh Abu Suleiman." When he would walk in the street the Arabs would move to the side in his honor, demonstrating the fulfillment of the verse: "Then all the peoples of the earth will see that the Name of Hashem is proclaimed over you, and they will revere you" (Devarim 28:10).

Once when a Jew was walking next to the market, an Arab grocery owner beat him. The man who was attacked reported what had happened and Rabbi Eliyahu declared that no one may buy from his store. When the Arabs heard that Rabbi Eliyahu was boycotting this Arab, they too refrained from buying from his store. A few days later, the Arab came to Rabbi Eliyahu with his head lowered and asked for forgiveness.

Rabbi Eliyahu ordered the Arab to be flogged, and only then removed the boycott.

Rabbi Eliyahu Mani passed away in Chevron on the 8th of Tammuz 5659, and was buried in the Reishit Chochma plot. Since even the local Muslims considered him holy, they wanted to transfer his body to their cemetery, but the Jews steadfastly guarded his holy gravesite.


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