Ki Teitzei

September 10th, 2022

14th of Elul 5782


Remembering the Day of Death is Not Merely a Good Recommendation

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

The holy sefarim tell us that the depth of judgment in heaven is most awesome "because every deed Hashem brings to judgment, also every hidden thing, whether good or bad." Man should not be deceived into thinking his actions were not seen, because "An eye sees and an ear hears and all your deeds are written in a book." Let him not live with the illusion of saying that his bad deeds have been forgotten, because for every single action he has performed during his lifetime, big or small, he will stand trial. And as we say in the Rosh Hashanah prayers, "For it is You Who eternally remembers all forgotten things, and there is no forgetfulness before Your Throne of Glory," because "Nothing is hidden from You and nothing is concealed from Your eyes." He will be judged even for a tiny thought or reflection, and therefore who will be determined righteous on the Day of Judgment?

Therefore the wise and prudent person should establish his lifestyle on the foundations of Torah and utilize his days and years to observe the mitzvot, study Torah and serve Hashem, so that at the end of his life he will be able to answer the piercing questions set before him by the Heavenly Court and not be struck silent, G-d forbid.

There are many who do not wish to be spoken to about their end and the Heavenly judgement. They try to suppress this knowledge because they are not comfortable thinking about death. In my opinion they are mistaken, because this is a reality no person can escape. Hashem determined that the end of every person is death. "Which man lives and will never see death?"

They should know that This World is a temporary, limited world: "The days of our years among them are seventy years, and if with strength, eighty years." At the most a person can live for one hundred and twenty years. Even if a person is a millionaire, he cannot buy life with his money, not even one moment more than what the Creator determined for him. Against his wish a person leaves This World and against his wish will have to stand trial for all his actions. And if this is reality, what does man gain by ignoring this knowledge? Man should therefore behave wisely and on the contrary, always remember his end. This important knowledge will surely help him distance the Yetzer Hara from himself and draw him closer to avodat Hashem.

Some time ago I was invited to meet one of the most eminent kings, and a few weeks earlier I had met the President of an important country. I cannot describe the strong emotions that gripped me, and how much I prepared for those weighty meetings. I planned my steps with caution and carefully clarified the words I would use; what I would say, and when and how, so my words would be accepted by the king and president. Then I took stock of myself and fearfully thought, "If this is how I am preparing for a meeting with a human king who is here today and tomorrow in the grave, all the more so must I prepare very well for a meeting with Hashem, the King of kings. When I stand before Him in judgment at the end of my life, I will be responsible to give an account for all my actions." This thought made me tremble with fear and I was filled with heartfelt thoughts of repentance.

As mentioned, most people do not pay attention to their end and do not think of the day of death. It is also possible that they forget about having to stand in judgment in front of the King of kings, because the Yetzer Hara makes them ignore this knowledge so they will continue their daily routine and not be aroused to rectify their ways. But man must be wise and not follow his Yetzer Hara blindly, for keeping in mind the end of all mankind will certainly arouse him to utilize his days for Torah and mitzvot and distance himself from sin.

This is not just a good recommendation, but an absolute duty imposed on every Jew, regardless of his status.

Walking in Their Ways

Hashem Has Many Messengers

One evening I was extremely sleep deprived after hardly sleeping two days before due to the hassle of long and tiring flights. Before going to bed I asked Mr. Michael Ben-Shushan to come the next morning at eight o'clock, to drive me to the beit knesset for Shacharit. Although there is an earlier seven o'clock minyan, I allowed myself just this once to sleep a little longer to partially compensate for my lack of sleep.

But the Torah has already said (Mishlei 19:21), "Many designs are in a man's heart, but the counsel of Hashem, only it will prevail." Indeed the next day I woke up at five o'clock in the morning, unable to go back to sleep. So I washed my hands, got dressed, and used the time to study Torah. After a while I looked at the clock – it was half past six. I thought to myself, "In just half an hour the first minyan for Shacharit will begin. I would very much like to join this minyan, but what can I do? I arranged for Mr. Michael to come and fetch me just before the second minyan." Knowing that Hashem hears all our prayers, I turned to Him. "Master of the World! There is a law that one should show alacrity for mitzvot. Now that I woke up earlier than expected, I would like to pray at seven o'clock, but I made up with Mr. Michael for eight o'clock... Please have favor on me and direct my way."

I had just about finished my supplication when there was a knock at the door. I couldn’t believe my eyes! It was none other than Mr. Michael! "What made you arrive earlier than we arranged?" I asked in surprise. Mr. Michael was bewildered, "It's almost eight o'clock... that's what we arranged..." "You're mistaken," I pointed out. "The time is now close to seven, not eight!"

Mr. Michael looked at his watch and seeing that he was indeed mistaken, began apologizing and asking my forgiveness, saying "I have never before made a mistake like this!" I smiled at him and said, "Dear Michael, you have nothing to apologize for! It was no 'mistake'; remarkable Divine Providence was at play here. I prayed to Hashem to bring you here earlier than we had planned so I could pray with the first minyan. Now let us make our way to the beit knesset."

Mr. Michael was amazed, "Indeed, there is no explanation for what happened, other than Hashem's miraculous Providence. You merited the fulfillment of "The will of those who fear Him He will do!"

This incident shows us that if a person sincerely wants to do Hashem's will, but there are obstacles standing in his path that hinder him, Hashem will help him by sending His emissaries to remove the deterrents and enable him to observe the mitzvah.

Words of the Sages

Is it Possible to Take the Evil Instinct Captive?

One of the greatest difficulties facing a Jew, after discovering the truth in a Torah way of life, is the inability to come to terms with the fact that until now he was living 'in vain'; an empty and meaningless life. This difficulty increases in proportion to the age of the person. If, for example, he is fifty years old when he discovers the truth, he realizes he has lost all fifty years of his life. They remain empty – without tefillin, without tzitzit, without blessings over food, without Shabbat and without Torah study. So what can help him defeat this Yetzer Hara, which deters him from returning to the path of truth with this claim?

The Torah says at the beginning of the Parshah (Devarim 21:10): "When you will go out to war against your enemies, and Hashem, your G-d, will deliver him into your hand, and you will capture his captivity." The Torah is referring to the war against the Yetzer Hara and uses the words, "You will capture his captivity." Is it truly possible to take the Yetzer Hara captive? And why doesn’t the Torah say, "And you will capture him" instead of "And you will capture his captivity?"

In truth, there is no such reality as taking the Yetzer Hara captive. It will forever retain its post. But what we can do is recapture what he took from us in captivity. He captured days and years, Shabbatot and chagim, and the many mitzvot of the Torah. All of this remains in captivity, under the control of the Yetzer Hara.

Hashem says to man: If you wish to take back everything the Yetzer Hara took captive from you, you can do so! If you fight against the Yetzer Hara, not only will I give you the strength to defeat and overcome it, but also everything it took from you – you will be able to recapture! What's more, if you have the merit of bringing another Jew closer to his Creator, every mitzvah he performs is credited to you as well. In this way you recapture the captivity which the Yetzer Hara took from you.

Consider a person who himself was far away from the true path and merited accepting upon himself the yoke of Torah and mitzvot. Now he turns to his acquaintances from the past or other distant Jews, and persuades them to taste the new path he is following, and those Jews also draw closer thanks to him and begin observing Torah and mitzvot! Through the mitzvot they perform his personal lack is filled. The years in which they live as God-fearing Jews make up for the other person's past which was empty of mitzvot and good deeds!

The gaon Rabbi Reuven Elbaz shlit"a, shouts the cry of these lost souls:

"I see young people, children of Hashem Yitbarach, whom the Yetzer Hara entices and takes their souls captive. They are holy souls, who almost reach the forty-ninth gate of impurity. But they are still searching for G-d.

"They come here like raindrops, looking for the light in life. Our dear brothers, our very own flesh and blood, are captives of the Yetzer Hara! Their souls cry out: 'Bring us back! Return us to Judaism, to Torah and mitzvot!' If only we would hear the cries of these souls, from Tel Aviv or Mayan Charod, we would not be able to continue our daily routine...

"There is a kibbutz in the north called Mazra. In this kibbutz they raise pigs r"l. Once one of the kibbutz members came to spend Shabbat in our yeshiva. He ended up staying for a while and was inspired to become religious. However, he continued living in the kibbutz, as a religious Jew.

"At first the kibbutz members tried to tell him he no longer belonged in the kibbutz, but he insisted on remaining there. He told them: 'You define yourselves as 'cultured' people, 'liberal' people. So why don't you invite a rabbinical figure to the kibbutz and hear what Judaism has to say? What are you afraid of?' They replied they are not afraid of anything and have no objection to a rabbi coming to the kibbutz. So this young man called me and asked me to come and speak at the kibbutz, and then answer any questions they may have.

"I arrived at the kibbutz and delivered a lecture. I can say with all sincerity that through their questions I could hear the cry of their Jewish soul. They were so touched that a group of young men even agreed to come to our yeshiva to hear more about Judaism. From the depths of the impurity of this kibbutz, which raises and distributes pig meat, captive souls came to us. Can we remain oblivious to their cry?"

A Day of Delight

The Blessing of the Angels and Praise of the Woman

1. Chazal say (Shabbat 119b): "On Shabbat evening two ministering angels accompany a person from the beit knesset to his home; one good and one evil. If they find the candles lit, the table set, and the beds made, the good angel says, "May it be Your will that the following Shabbat will be like this too!" and against his will the evil angel answers "Amen!" But if the house is not ready for Shabbat, the evil angel says, "May it be Your will that the following Shabbat be like this too!" and against his will the good angel must answer "Amen!"

2. When he arrives home the husband should amiably and joyfully call out, "Shabbat Shalom!" Then all the family members should gather around the table and sing together: "Shalom Aleichem…", reciting each stanza three times.

3. The custom is to sing the hymn, "Aishet Chayil – A woman of valor, who can find?" When reciting the verse, "Many daughters have amassed achievement, but you surpassed them all," some husbands point to their wives. The husband should instill in himself that for him, his wife surpasses them all! Then she will automatically desire to fulfill this 'prophecy'.

When Maran Hagaon Rabbi Elazar Menachem Shach zt"l would sing Aishet Chayil on Friday night he would stress the above verse.

4. When Bnei Yisrael were in the Wilderness, they received a daily portion of manna from heaven. On Friday they were given a double portion, for Shabbat as well (see Shemot 16). As a remembrance for this we recite hamotzi over two loaves (lechem mishnah) at each of the Shabbat meals.

5. Chazal say (Mechilta): On Friday a double portion of manna fell for Bnei Yisrael, the size of two omer for each one. From each omer they made two loaves of bread, so from two omer they made four loaves. They ate one on Friday morning, the second on Friday night, the third on Shabbat in the morning, and the fourth for se'uda shlishit, the third meal.

6. One should cover the challot with a covering above and underneath. Several reasons are given for this:

This lends the Shabbat meal a respectable and important appearance.

As a remembrance of the manna. First dew fell upon the earth, the manna then fell on top, and then again dew fell. So the manna was as if placed in a casing, with dew below and above.

Another reason is because bread is considered more important than wine, for in the order of the seven species as written in the Torah, wheat precedes the vine. Therefore, we cover the challot so as not to 'shame' the bread since the usual order of priority is bread before wine, and here we first recite the blessing over wine (kiddush).

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

From the Treasury

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

Confess Before the Day of Judgment

Let us contemplate what happens when a person stands in judgment on Rosh Hashanah. Although he clearly knows he will have to stand before the King of the World and give a detailed account of his actions, he may not be overcome by fear or anxiety because his feelings of pride do not allow him to see his shortcomings. He innocently thinks to himself that he has nothing to correct or set right. In his ignorance it seems to him that he is worthy and his righteousness will be brought to light, and that since his good deeds are many they will cover up his bad deeds. He is unaware of the painful truth that his iniquities are many, and woe to him if this is how he approaches the Day of Judgment. But his pride blinds him and does not allow him to take stock and admit his bad deeds.

Of course the correct and appropriate behavior during this month is for a person to examine his actions, and as he indeed finds blemishes in his heart and shortcomings in his actions he should immediately admit them and confess before the Almighty and ask for forgiveness and repent completely, and then "He who confesses and forsakes them will be granted mercy."

A Jew is called Yehudi, because Yehuda was the personification of examining one's actions, taking note of his shortcomings and immediately confessing them. As Yaakov Avinu praised him, "Yehuda – you, your brothers shall acknowledge" (Bereishit 49:8), which the Targum translates as "Admitted and did not hesitate." Yehuda possessed the ability and courage to publicly confess his sin in the incident with Tamar, and was not ashamed to say "She is right; it is from me." And as the Gemara says (Sotah 7b), "Yehuda confessed and was not embarrassed (to admit), and what was the result? He inherited life in the World to Come."

The Ramchal expresses this idea in his sefer Mesillat Yesharim (Ch. 2): "The concept of caution (zehirut) is that a person must be careful in his actions and affairs; that is, he contemplates and watches over his actions and ways to determine if they are good or not, so not to leave his soul to the danger of destruction, G-d forbid. And he will not just persist with his habits like a blind man in the dark."

This is in fact the duty of every Jew; to contemplate his actions and search and investigate them. And when he finds a flaw, he should immediately admit it and begin to correct the wrong, and not let the attribute of pride take control over him, making him think he is perfect and has no blemish. Because this is the advice of the Yetzer Hara whose way is to distort the bitter reality and hide from man his sins. Especially in these days, days of mercy and forgiveness, man should wake up from his slumber and examine his spiritual condition, preparing himself appropriately for the coming Day of Judgment.

Zecher Tzaddik Livracha

The Gaon Rabbi Ovadiah (Abdallah) Somech zt"l

One of the most distinguished and important families in Babylon was the Somech family. According to tradition preserved by the elders of the Somech family, they are descendants of Rabbi Nissim Gaon, who served as the Rosh Yeshiva of the Nahardea Yeshiva in Babylon.

Rabbi Ovadiah Somech was born in 5573, to his father Rabbi Avraham. His main teacher of Torah was the Gaon Rabbi Yaakov son of R' Yosef Harofeh (the doctor). Rabbi Yosef Chaim, the Ben Ish Chai, who was a foremost student of Rabbi Somech's revealed Torah, mentioned Rabbi Yaakov in his sefer Rav Pa'alim: "The Chief Rabbi, the expert dayan, Harav Yaakov Yosef Harofeh..."

Initially, Rabbi Ovadiah made a living by engaging in trade, but seeing the study of Torah had weakened in his generation, he decided to leave his occupation and engage in spreading Torah to the public. He took ten G-d fearing young men who were great in Torah and taught them Torah, with no thought of remuneration.

One of the famous philanthropists who lived in Baghdad was Yechezkel ben Reuven Menashe. He took it upon himself to assist and support Rabbi Ovadia in spreading Torah. In 5600 the philanthropist purchased a spacious courtyard where he established a beit midrash. It was named after him, Midrash Abu-Menashe. Yechezkel took care of all the students' financial needs.

Yechezkel's pivotal and impressive stance was the importance of assisting the students at every stage of their lives so they would not lack for anything. When they were single, the philanthropist provided them with a fixed monthly stipend, and then, when they came of age, he found them marriage partners and assisted with the wedding expenses. Even after their marriage, the philanthropist continued offering them regular support throughout their lives.

When Rabbi Ovaidah's student, the Ben Ish Chai, became famous and began delivering sermons on Shabbat, Rabbi Ovadiah tried to arrive at the beit knesset before the Ben Ish Chai, his student. And when the Ben Ish Chai would enter, Rabbi Ovadia would stand up for him. The entire crowd which filled the huge hall in the Tzala L'chbiri (The Great Synagogue), was dumbfounded to see the rabbi standing up for his student. This raised their esteem for the greatness of the student, their rabbi.

Rabbi Ovadiah passed away Friday night, 18 Elul 5649. It is said that the Jews tried to bury their rabbi in the same courtyard as the grave of Yehoshua ben Yehotzadak the Kohen Gadol, located in the western section of Baghdad, next to his master Rabbi Yaakov Harofeh.

But the gentiles prevented the Jews from digging the grave, and the governor El-Karach came to the site and forbade the Jews to continue digging. The mayor of Baghdad who loved the Jews offered his support, and so the two camps stood, one against the other, with justifications, accusations and violent talk, leading to some fistfights as well.

The governor of Baghdad accused the Jews of beating the Muslims, and consequently imprisoned several sages. The Jews traveled to Mutzel from where they sent messengers to Kushta in Turkey, to the Vaad Shelichei Hakehilot, to the Sassoon family in London and to several other communities in Europe, informing them that the governor of Baghdad was mistreating innocent Jews.

The efforts of the Jews were crowned with success, and the governor was removed from his position. To appease the gentiles, they removed the rabbi's body from the grave, and in the process the Jews were amazed to see that the rabbi's body had remained intact as when it was lowered into the grave.

Following this awesome spectacle, many gentiles converted to Judaism. The new governor (Wali) of Baghdad who saw this great miracle, got off his horse and ordered all his men to do the same, saying that for the funeral of such a great man, it is not proper to ride on a horse; it is a moral obligation to accompany him on foot.


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