Ki Tavo

September 17th, 2022

21st of Elul 5782


He Who Pursues Pleasure Will Not Feel the Dread of Judgment

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

"A lion has roared, who will not fear?" (Amos 3:8).

The holy sefarim tell us that the initials of אריה, lion, allude to אלול, ראש השנה, יום כפור, הושענא רבה.

In previous generations, as soon as the month of Elul arrived, people were overcome with awe, fear, and trembling. The roar of the 'lion' melted hearts, and all as one were aroused to make a reckoning of their ways, abandoning anything corrupt and cleaving to good.

Why does the lion's roar not terrify us these days? Why does our heart remain indifferent and dormant even though we know the Day of Judgment is approaching? Why does routine life continue as usual for so many people, just like yesterday and the day before?

The Yabia Omer magazine raises this question, asked by Harav Yitzchak Bar Zakai shlit"a. He explains that the relentless pursuit of material matters, and the effort we exert in trying to attain our desires, have the power to erase our fear of the Day of Judgment, making us deaf to the lion's roar. If only we would withdraw for even a short time from the race of life, taking a few moments to make some reckoning… If we would contemplate the events of the past year, and pay attention to our spiritual state which unfortunately may not be too rosy, there is no doubt we would succeed in arousing some measure of anxiety as in previous generations. And then inevitably we would change for the better.

But why are our hearts drawn to materialistic acquisitions and their imaginary pleasures? Why shouldn't the heart be drawn to the eternal pleasure and true happiness that lies in Torah study and observing the mitzvot? It is true we perform mitzvot and study Torah, but the problem is, we do not always feel the accompanying pleasure or happiness. This is because we do the mitzvot 'by the way', out of habit, without enough thought and intention; we wish to fulfill our obligation and move on to more interesting activities. This certainly does not lead to pleasure or happiness, because we are relating to the mitzvot as a burden to do away with as quickly as possible. And when a person has no satisfaction in keeping mitzvot and studying Torah, he will inevitably seek pleasure and happiness in material matters, trying to find fulfillment through them.

On the other hand, if someone fulfills the mitzvot with great enthusiasm, there is no doubt he will feel special joy and pleasure! And he who has satisfaction in observing mitzvot and studying Torah – eternal pleasures – will certainly not long for transient pleasures. And even when he must engage in worldly matters, he will do so only out of necessity. Since he does not pursue material pleasures and his head is not occupied with futilities, his spiritual essence will certainly hear the roar of the lion and tremble in fear, in anticipation of the Day of Judgment.

I had the privilege of having a close relationship with my master and teacher Rabbi Chaim Shmuel Lopian zt"l. Observing his outstanding ways, I saw the extent to which he was satisfied with little when it came to worldly affairs. His sole desire was to spend his life laboring in the holy Torah.

Are there are still homes today managed with such simplicity? A number of dilapidated chairs around an old table, and a few simple cups and plates were all the furniture and the dishes in the home. But the members of Rabbi Lopian's household were happy with their lot, an actualization of the verse (Mishlei 17:1), "Better a dry piece of bread with peace in it (than a house full of contentious celebrations)."

Once, noticing my master was suffering badly from a toothache and pain in his legs, I asked how he was feeling. He replied that since he is already old, it is natural that he suffers from various pains. "Why doesn't the Rav take medication to relieve the pain?" I asked. "Engaging in the holy Torah is my tranquilizer!" was his outstanding answer. "When I am involved in Torah study, toiling to understand a complicated issue, I forget all my pains!"

How did he merit such lofty greatness in Torah? Due to the fact that he did not seek to enjoy the pleasures of This World, but only used them when necessary. His entire life he was satisfied with little, and felt that whatever he had was enough to sustain him.

"Repentance, prayer and charity remove the evil of the decree." May we all have the merit of approaching Hashem on Rosh Hashanah with sincere repentance, and then, in His great mercy, He will inscribe and seal us for a good and blessed year, good health and peace, Amen.

Walking in Their Ways

The Place Where I Belong

I once accompanied my father zy”a to the grave of Rabbi Chaim Pinto zy”a in Morocco. When we reached the Mellah (the Jewish section of the city) Father began describing the glorious community that used to inhabit this quarter during his father's lifetime. He talked about life in that era: simple and modest, but rich in Fear of Heaven. After relating tales of this wonderful place he concluded, “In the merit of the walls of the Mellah that kept the Jews sheltered from the winds of the time, many Jews were saved from spiritual annihilation and assimilation.”

Chazal relate the following incident (Avot 6:10): Rabbi Yosi ben Kisma said, "I was once walking on the road when a certain man met me. He greeted me and I returned his greeting. He asked me: 'Rabbi, where are you from?' I answered, 'I am from a great city of scholars and sages.' He then asked, 'Rabbi, would you be willing to live with us in our town? I would give you thousands upon thousands of golden dinars, precious stones, and pearls.' I replied: 'Even if you were to give me all the silver and gold, precious stones and pearls in the world, I would dwell nowhere but in a place of Torah.' And so David Hamelech writes (Tehillim 119:72), 'I prefer the Torah of Your mouth above thousands in gold and silver.'"

Every Jew must aspire to live in a place of Torah, for one's residence has a direct effect on his own and his family’s spiritual state.

Words of the Sages

How the Joy of a Mitzva Should Look

In a lecture given by Harav Reuven Karlenstein zt"l on this week's Parshah, he discussed how we can become servants of Hashem. He then clarified: The Torah tells us (Devarim 20:16), "Because you did not serve Hashem, your G-d, amid gladness and goodness of heart, when everything was abundant." Rashi expounds, "'When everything was abundant:' even though you had everything good." The holy Arizal offers a different interpretation: The words "when everything was abundant" define the joy we should feel when performing a mitzvah. It must be the same joy we feel as when we have abundance. If a person would possess all the good things in the world, there would be no limit to his happiness. This is how we should feel when performing a mitzvah!

Harav Karlenstein went on to illustrate this idea: Do you remember the lottery advertisements displayed on buses and billboards – "The Fifty Million Lottery!"? People were hysterical. Can words describe the joy of the lucky winner upon being informed he has won the grand prize?

I remember once travelling by taxi in Bnei Brak. I noticed the driver looked particularly happy and excited. One could see it was some special occasion for him. Before I managed to ask, he began to share his story: "Yesterday I gave a ride to the lottery winner! He asked me to drive him to the lottery building in Tel Aviv. At first I didn't believe him, but slowly it became apparent; he was telling the truth! Honorable Rav! What should I say!?" he told me excitedly. "When we arrived, he got out of the taxi and told me to wait for him. Several moments later he returned and showed me a check of 14 million, bearing the lottery stamp!"

The driver spoke with such excitement – I could almost hear his heartbeat. His eyes sparkled. Why? Because yesterday he drove the winner! If so, how much happier is the one who actually won all those millions!

This, says the holy Arizal, is the joy we should feel when performing a mitzvah! We are obligated to feel as if we won the highest prize in the lottery, as if we possess all the good in the world! We laid tefillin today? We earned millions! We recited the blessing after eating bread? We earned millions! We learned Torah? We earned millions! The Arizal actually testified about himself that all the virtues he attained and all the perceptions he reached, were in the merit of his great joy when performing mitzvot!

Every prayer and blessing must be accompanied by the feeling that we are talking to the King. In this way we will utter every word slowly and with joy! We must feel we are doing every mitzvah for the honor of Hashem Yitbarach! This leads to enthusiasm, excitement and joy, and is a wonderful way of preparing ourselves for the Day of Judgement.

Chazal say (Shir Hashirim Rabba, Sec. 2), "'His right arm embraces me' – this is prayer." When praying a person can reach the feeling of "I am prayer." His entire being is swept up into its depths and sweetness, to the point where he feels extreme closeness to Hashem, as if "His right arm embraces me."

This is how a person becomes a servant of Hashem; this is how he can enter Rosh Hashanah and truly proclaim Hashem King over him!

From the Treasury

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

The Way to Merit Hashem's Blessing

"And these shall stand for the curse on Mount Eval: Reuven, Gad, Asher, Zevulun, Dan, and Naphtali" (Devarim 27:13).

The holy Or Hachaim zy"a says that when Am Yisrael heard the ninety-eight curses said on Mount Eval, they were filled with great fear for their future. They approached Moshe, wanting to know what would be with them. Moshe replied, "If you continue existing even though you transgressed Hashem's word time after time, it is proof you will never perish, since we are told, 'The Eternal One of Israel does not lie' (Shmuel I, 15:29)."

The question is, why was Am Yisrael aroused to ask this question only after receiving the blessings and curses mentioned in Parshat Ki Tavo? Apparently, they should have asked this question already after hearing the curses mentioned in Parshat Bechukotai.

The holy Or Hachaim answers: there is a difference between one who is cursed individually and one who is cursed as part of the public.

When a person is cursed alone, he feels the curse has strong validity and significance, whereas when the curse is given to the public, each person feels the curse does not apply to him personally. In Parshat Ki Tavo when they were given blessings and curses, Moshe recounted the curses that could befall each of them as an individual, therefore they grew fearful. However, since in Parshat Bechukotai the curses were general ones, they did not take it personally, and therefore did not experience this fear.

But we are still left with a question. It seems that for some reason Moshe calmed Am Yisrael and took away their fear of these personal curses. Shouldn't Moshe have rather reinforced their fear and shown them they should indeed be afraid of choosing evil, which will result in terrible curses? Indeed, we find the curses were fulfilled one by one, so their fear was appropriate and justified.

The explanation seems to be that Moshe did not seek to remove their fear, but sought to comfort them by explaining that they can repent and merit atonement. And when a person repents, Hashem the Merciful One accepts the repentance and withdraws His anger. The word חץ, arrow, has a numerical value of ninety-eight (צ"ח), the number of curses, to teach us that when Am Yisrael repent, Hashem takes the curses and sends them as an arrow onto the gentiles.

צ"ח is also the numerical value of סלח, forgive, for Hashem is the One Who forgives and pardons and His forgiveness has the power to annul all curses.

However, it is also very clear that for Hashem to forgive Am Yisrael and remove their sins, they must repent completely. Only then will the curses be annulled, and even transformed into goodness and blessing.

A Day of Delight

Kiddush Over Wine

1. It is a Torah obligation to make kiddush when Shabbat begins, as it says, "זכור את יום השבת לקדשו, Remember the Shabbat day to sanctify it." Since this 'remembering' is of great significance, Chazal established that we do so over wine.

2. Several laws concerning the Kiddush Cup:

It is a mitzvah to glorify the mitzvah of kiddush by using a beautiful and special cup, such as a silver goblet. However, any type of cup may be used, even a disposable cup made of plastic or carton, when nothing nicer is available.

The cup should contain at least a revi'it of wine (81 grams), and preferably slightly more so it will still contain the minimum measure even if some wine spills.

The cup should be intact, not cracked or damaged, even on its rim. One should be especially careful with a glass cup, for it is common for rims to be chipped. One should also make sure the base of the cup is intact. In any case, if one does not have a suitable cup, he may use even a broken cup.

One should wash the inside and outside of the cup. However, if the cup is clean it need not be washed or even rinsed. According to Kabbalah however, it should be rinsed even if clean.

3. What type of wine may be used for kiddush?

It is preferable to use red wine. If one has white wine and only a small amount of red wine, he should mix the red into the white wine even on Shabbat, and this is not considered 'coloring' (an activity forbidden on Shabbat).

Uncovered wine (left uncovered most of the night), should preferably not be used for kiddush. But if one doesn't have other wine, it may be used. Uncovered wine kept in the fridge or cupboard is not considered uncovered.

Wine that is mostly water cannot be used for kiddush since its correct blessing is "shehakol niheya bid'varo." If there is no other wine available, he should make kiddush over bread.

The blessing for pasteurized (cooked) wine is "hagafen" and it may be used for kiddush.

Grape juice and Fantasia (sparkling wine) may be used for kiddush.

4. If one who desecrates Shabbat publicly (in front of ten Jews) pours unpasteurized wine, one may not drink this wine and it cannot be used for kiddush. Even if he merely touched the wine or drank from it, the wine may not be used, even for drinking.

5. If one is inviting guests who generally desecrate Shabbat, one should use pasteurized wine so as to avoid problems with touching the wine. If one only has non-pasteurized wine, he should ensure that the guests do not pour the wine. However, if they are not on the level where they observe all the mitzvot, but do not desecrate Shabbat, they are not prohibited from touching the wine.

6. Note – if an Apikorus who does not believe in the words of Chazal, observes Shabbat and prays, he is still an Apikorus, and any wine he touches may not be used.

Zecher Tzaddik Livracha

The Esteemed Maran Rabbi Chaim Pinto zy"a

The pure and vibrant flame of the ner ma'aravi, the holy tzaddik and mekubal Rabbi Chaim Pinto Hagadol zy"a, spread its light throughout the world already in his youth when he accepted upon himself a life of Torah and holiness which he absorbed from his parents' home. He was famous throughout the Jewish communities of Morocco; the gentiles too respected him greatly and revered him as a holy man who worked miracles.

The blessings of the tzaddik that emanated from his pure mouth wrought miracles and salvations as in "A tzaddik decrees and Hashem fulfills [his word]." Still today, numerous Jews merit miracles and salvation when they pray at his holy gravesite, begging Hashem to grant them deliverance in the merit of the tzaddik and miracle worker, Rabbi Chaim Pinto zy"a.

On various occasions we merited hearing from Moreinu the gaon Rabbi David Chananya Pinto shlit"a about the great power exerted by the tzaddik Rabbi Chaim Pinto Hagadol from the Next World, especially on his hilula.

"At the hilula one can observe the innocence of the participants. On the one hand, many are educated, prominent individuals, who on the whole live upscale, materialistic lives. But on the other hand, when they approach the grave they are transformed spiritually; they annul their egoistic selves completely and become different people. This is a sign that deep down in their roots they are upright and decent.

"Now the Yetzer Hara has his work cut out for him. He will try to make us forget all the spirituality we acquired on the hilula. So now it depends solely on us. We are obligated to triumph, as it says, 'When you will go out to war against your enemies…and you will capture his captivity.' This infers that we must defeat the enemy (the evil inclination) before he captures us. And it is only through Torah that one can possibly defeat the Yetzer Hara. The Yetzer Hara is well aware of this and therefore repeatedly tries to make a person stumble.

"This is the implication of, 'and you will capture his captivity.' The war must be constant; one has to persistently strike him, for once is not enough. The Yetzer Hara knows the time will come when the inspiration will weaken and the spiritual delight will diminish. He therefore waits for the appropriate time. This is why a person must be in constant state of growth and continuously preserve the spiritual heights he acquired on the hilula of the tzaddik.

"The very holiness each person receives by the gravesite of the tzaddik on his hilula – and especially after several days of growing in Torah and mitzvot and hearing stories of tzaddikim – that holiness must constantly remain with the person, with fervor and passion. And he should add to it daily, as inferred from the verse, 'A permanent fire shall remain aflame on the Alter; it shall not be extinguished (Vayikra 6:6).'

"But it is difficult, and for this one needs much siyata d'Shmaya, because without Heavenly Assistance it is impossible to overcome the Yetzer Hara. Therefore we are told, 'And Hashem your G-d will give him in your hands.' With Hashem's help the holiness will remain with the person and he will continue growing spiritually throughout his life."

Moreinu shlit"a recently spent time in Montreal, and while receiving people he was approached by Rabbi Shimon, an elderly Jew who grew up in Mogador (Rabbi Chaim Pinto's hometown) and whose daughter hosts Moreinu and his attendants, always showing great respect for his ancestors.

Moreinu requested that Rabbi Shimon share his memories of the holy Pinto family. He replied that he does not remember anything from those days but he can relate a miraculous incident he experienced in the merit of Rabbi Chaim Pinto zy"a:

"For years my kidneys had not been functioning properly and my life was in real danger. My only hope was a kidney transplant, but no suitable kidney had been found. Meanwhile I was treated with dialysis.

"Last year," he movingly recounted, "you told me that in the merit of Rabbi Chaim Pinto I will experience miracles and wonders in just a few days. In the merit of my daughter honoring my holy ancestors, I will find a suitable donor. Indeed three days after the blessing, I received a call from the hospital, informing me to come urgently for surgery because they had found a suitable kidney (in a supernatural way)! I underwent the operation and baruch Hashem, as the Rav knows, for the last year I have enjoyed perfect health. This is the great miracle I merited in my old age, in the merit of your righteous grandfather!"

The ner ma'aravi was extinguished on the 26th of Elul 5605 (September 28th, 1845), but not before the tzaddik asked his talmidim to continue strengthening their mitzvah observance, promising them explicitly:

"Know, my dear talmidim! I will continue standing before Hakadosh Baruch Hu in prayer even after my passing, as I did in my lifetime. I will not forsake you when I die, as I did not forsake you in my lifetime!"

Rabbi Chaim zy"a was buried in the old cemetery in Mogador. May his memory protect us and all Am Yisrael, and merit us with goodness and blessing.

May we merit being written and sealed in the Book of Life and Peace, and rejoice in the final redemption, Amen.


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