October 1st, 2022

6th of Tishri 5783


Hashem Provides the Machine – We Must Provide Water and Soap

Rabbi David Chananya Pinto

"For on this day he shall provide atonement for you to cleanse you; from all your sins before Hashem shall you be cleansed" (Vayikra 16:30).

Yom Kippur, by its very essence, is a holy day and has the power to atone for one's sins. But in fact, not every person merits this atonement – only those who have prepared themselves and repented in approach of the great and awesome day. This can be compared to a washing machine in which dirty clothes are placed. In order for the clothes to come out clean, you have to add washing powder and make sure there is a water supply. And only after choosing the appropriate washing program will the clothes come out spotlessly clean, even if they were very stained. On the other hand, if we put dirty clothes in the machine and do not take the time to add detergent and water, or set the machine to the appropriate program, the clothes will come out as dirty as they went in.

And when the stains are really tough, regular washing in the machine is not enough. Dry cleaning is necessary, in which special washing techniques and strong substances are used to remove the dirt. And for this the person is required to pay a higher price than for home laundry.

This parable makes it easy to understand that in order to be cleansed and purified from our sins on Yom Kippur due to the very holiness of the day, one must work hard and prepare. And the more a person sins and disobeys Hashem's word, the harder is the work required of him. Hashem provides us with the 'machine' – Yom Kippur – but we need to provide the water and the soap, which means sincere repentance.

A wedding day is preceded by countless preparations and arrangements; meetings with various providers, such as a photographer, caterer and band, choosing a hall, flowers, a beautiful suit/gown suitable for this significant event and altered to the groom or bride's exact measurements, and many other tasks that must be taken care of. Only after all the big and small details are finalized, can the groom and bride come to their wedding calmly and happily.

Hashem expects us to arrive at this great and awesome day after having prepared ourselves spiritually. For this purpose, Hashem has given us special days, beginning with Rosh Chodesh Elul, in which He is very close to us, as it is written, "Seek Hashem when He can be found; call upon Him when He is near." It also says, "Hashem is close to all who call upon Him – to all who call upon Him sincerely." One who truly seeks closeness to Hashem will find Him. But to find, one must search. Those who were not wise enough to seek Hashem and return to Him during the month of Elul, are given another opportunity during the Aseret Yemei Teshuva (Ten Days of Repentance), between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Of course those who took advantage of the head start in Elul will take full advantage of these ten days as well.

The holy Zohar says that Hashem's Kingship does not shine in the world until Yom Kippur. Meaning that although Rosh Hashanah is a day when we declare Hashem King, the complete and true Kingship of Hashem occurs on Yom Kippur. To clarify: on Rosh Hashanah when we crown Hashem as King over us, there are those who have not yet been aroused to repent. Their laundry is still dirty. They may not have even bothered putting their clothes into the machine, or they did so but did not add detergent and push the 'on' button.

Therefore, Hashem gives us ten more special days which are auspicious for repentance and atonement, so when the great and awesome day arrives we can all stand before Hashem with our clothes as white as snow, cleansed from all iniquity and sin. And in this state, when the entire Am Yisrael is clean and pure, in fulfillment of "before Hashem shall you be cleansed," we will merit accepting Hashem's sovereignty in a complete way.

Unfortunately, many times after the great inspiration of these Days of Awe we return to our previous ways, and even though we promised Hashem we would never repeat certain sins, we once again stain the garments of our souls with transgressions. And although Hashem confuses the Satan during the days of mercy and forgiveness, if we continue to sin after these special days are over, it becomes much harder to overcome the Yetzer Hara which is given permission to make us stumble. It is necessary to realize – we cannot make do with a one and only wash cycle during the Days of Awe, but it is necessary to continuously cleanse and purify ourselves before Hashem so we do not reach a situation where our clothes become so stained, they are no longer possible to remove.

May we merit our garments being whitened like snow and may we always shine like the light of the full moon!

Walking in Their Ways

Furthering our Closeness to Hashem

Once when I was in New York during the Aseret Yemei Teshuva, someone approached me and related a miracle involving his baby daughter – a literal "resurrection of the dead":

After many years of marriage in which he and his wife had longed for a child, they were blessed with a baby girl. One day when she was two years old, they suddenly realized the little girl had disappeared...

After a short search around the house, they discovered the worst... They found her in their pool, floating on the surface of the water... The father immediately pulled her out, but she was unconscious and had no pulse r"l. The rescue forces who were quickly called to the scene tried to perform CPR. However, their efforts were unsuccessful. They sorrowfully informed the parents they had done all they could, and covered her small body…

The shocked and heartbroken parents did not give up. They began crying out to Hashem with their last bit of strength. Their cries which emanated from their desperate, broken hearts were heard from afar and horrified everyone around... All joined in the supplications and poured out their hearts to Hashem Who apportions life, begging Him to send salvation.

Indeed, the enormous miracle was not long in coming. Suddenly the little girl showed signs of life! The sheet began to move… The paramedics could not believe their eyes! But they immediately dampened the excitement, explaining it was still too early to rejoice, for even if she lives the chances are high that she suffered brain damage due to a lack of oxygen. She was quickly rushed to hospital where the doctors carried out numerous tests to determine her condition. Miraculously, it turned out she was completely healthy and had suffered no harm! The parents' happiness knew no bounds. They thanked and praised Hashem for their daughter who was born anew!

The father continued his amazing story, "At that moment when I cried out to Hashem and begged Him to save my daughter's life, I felt such an immense closeness to Him. In those fateful moments which seemed to me like eternity, I understood salvation is in Hashem's hands alone, and we have no one to lean on but our Father in heaven... With this awareness, my prayers emanated from the depths of my heart…"

When I heard this, I thought to myself, "Had that father only persevered with the inspiration and spiritual uplift he gained in that difficult hour, and nurtured the close bond that was formed between him and the Almighty, there is no doubt he could have reached lofty levels in his avodat Hashem."

In fact, this is the obligation of each and every Jew. As soon as we experience special closeness to Hashem, we must further and intensify this holy intimacy, rather than feeling satisfied with our gain.

Words of the Sages

The Children Can Break Through

During the Aseret Yemei Teshuva, Rabbi Yaakov Eidelstein zt"l points out, we must increase our good deeds in approach of Yom Kippur. He quotes the Alter of Kelm who offers a wonderful piece of advice on how to succeed in performing many good deeds in a short time, tipping the scales to our benefit. There is one method by virtue of which we can earn thousands of merits:

Committing to do good deeds.

The reason is because this undertaking is considered as if one already carried it out, as Rabbeinu Yonah writes on the verse, "The Children of Israel went and did." He asks, did they in fact do it immediately? Weren't they commanded on the first day of the month to take a lamb for the Pesach sacrifice on the tenth of the month? Rather, the fact that they accepted upon themselves to do what Hashem had commanded was considered as if they had already carried it out! The Jewish people's recognition that it is Hashem's will and they must do the mitzvah was so strong, it was considered as if they had actually done it!

Regarding the Aseret Yemei Teshuva, if one accepts upon himself to do certain deeds, it is considered to have been carried out; and this includes the reward for the mitzvah. If his commitment is sincere, "through his loyalty (lit. faith) he shall live," and he will merit both This World and the Next. "For they are our life" refers to the World to Come, "and the length of our days" refers to life in This World.

The Maggid of Dubna, in his sermon on the first night of selichot when the children too had gathered in the beit knesset, turned to them and said: "Dear children! We need your help! You need to help us pass through so we can reach the inner gate, so our prayers can reach behind the partition!" As was his way, he likened this to a parable, telling of a father and his young son who were on their way home, when they realized robbers were chasing them. The robbers were still some distance away, so the father and son decided, "We will run home as quickly as we can and lock the door, and then we will be safe." And so they ran, reaching the outer gate of the courtyard, but to their dismay it was locked!

The father searched but could not find the key. The robbers were approaching; every moment was critical. The father noticed there was a small window on the side that only a small child could pass through, but it was too high for the child to reach. He said to his child, "Whenever you felt tired on the way, I carried you on my shoulders. Now it is your turn to save both of our lives! Stand on my shoulders and climb inside through the small window at the top of the gate. Then you will be able to open the gate from the inside. Don't be afraid; our lives depend on this!"

The child climbed through the window and their lives were saved.

We too may find the gates of Heaven closed. But here and there are small openings, too narrow for adults to pass through. The many years have left their mark and we are layered with sins. But young children who have not yet been soiled by sin can pass through even these narrow portholes.

"Dear children," said the Maggid of Dubna. "Concentrate well during the selichot prayers. Say the Thirteen Attributes with intention: 'Hashem, Hashem, G-d, Compassionate and Gracious, Slow to anger…' And just as Hashem is compassionate, so you should be compassionate. Awaken Heavenly mercy! You children can do so much more than we adults! You can open for us the iron gates from inside!"

A Day of Delight

Laws of Kiddush

1. The Shulchan Aruch rules (170:19): "One should not drink from the cup and then give [the rest] to his friend, because of danger to life." The friend might be repulsed to drink his leftovers, but because he is embarrassed he will drink against his will and become ill, which may lead to danger (Mishna Berura 2:37). Therefore, unless the other person specifically asks, he should not pass the cup to someone else.

However, when making kiddush at home we are not particular about this, for family members are generally not repulsed. But when guests are present, even sons or daughters-in-law, one should be particular. Many batei knesset hold a shiur on Shabbat after praying at netz, followed by kiddush. The one making kiddush should take care not to give the members to drink from his cup. Rather, prior to reciting kiddush he should pour out some wine in a cup for each one, which they should drink when he finishes the blessings. If they specifically want to drink from the kos shel bracha, he should pour a small amount into their cup.

2. If one of the listeners speaks before drinking the wine, he has still fulfilled his obligation of kiddush but must recite the hagafen blessing if he wishes to partake of the wine.

3. One who is unable to procure wine for kiddush should make kiddush on bread. How should he do this? He should take the two challot and begin reciting "Yom hashishi. Vayechulu… In place of hagafen he should recite the hamotzi blessing, continue with the rest of the kiddush recitation, and then distribute the challah.

4. One who has neither wine nor bread cannot use other alcoholic beverages, bread made from potato flour, or fruit etc. Rather he may rely on the kiddush he said in the evening prayer. He should stand up and recite, "And the Seventh – You found favor in it and sanctified it. Most coveted of days You called it, a remembrance of the Creation and Exodus." He may then eat and does not need to fast even though he has not made kiddush over wine. If one mistakenly made kiddush over fruit or bread made not made from grain, he should recite kiddush again if afterwards he is given wine or bread.

5. From the verse (Yeshaya 58:13), "If you proclaim the Shabbat 'a delight,'" Chazal teach us that "proclaiming Shabbat" (i.e. making kiddush) should be done in the same place as delight (which refers to the meal). This means one must make kiddush, both by day and night, in the place one intends to have the meal. This is considered respect for the kiddush. Therefore, if the one making kiddush, or those listening, go and eat at a different house, they have not fulfilled their obligation of kiddush and must recite kiddush again before the meal.

6. The meal, which completes the obligation of kiddush, does not have to be a bread-based meal. It is enough to drink a revi'it (81 grams) of wine or grape juice, or eat a kezayit (27 grams) of cake or other dish made from grain. (Rice and fruit are not considered a meal.) One may then have the Shabbat meal in a different place or house.

From the Treasury

Rabbi David Chananya Pinto

Torah is More Beloved than All Sacrifices

An essential component of teshuva is for a person to undertake from now on to diligently study Torah, and not allow a single day to pass without fixing some time for Torah study, come what may.

The merit of Torah is so great, it atones for wrongdoings.

Fortunate is the one who labors in Torah day and night, for this atones for even the most serious transgressions. As Chazal say (Yalkut Shimoni, Hoshea), "Hashem said, 'Your Torah study is so dear to me, more than all the sacrifices in the Torah and all the sacrifices Shlomo offered before Me.'" Chazal also say (Rosh Hashanah 18a), "With peace-offerings and meal-offerings he does not receive atonement, rather it is Torah that atones for him, and fortunate is the one who toils in Torah and gives pleasure to his Creator."

We are also told (Vayikra Rabba, section 25), "'It is a tree of life for those who grasp it.' Rav Huna said, 'If a person stumbles with serious transgressions and is liable to death by Heaven, what should he do so he will live? If he is used to learning one page [of Torah] he should learn two pages, and if he is used to learning one chapter of Mishna he should learn two.'"

I found a beautiful hint for this idea from Yom Kippur, the main day for repentance and forgiveness. We are told about this holy day (Vayikra 16:30), "For on this day He shall provide atonement for you to cleanse you; from all your sins before Hashem shall you be cleansed." The initial letters of "כי ביום הזה, For on this day" have the same numerical value as זך, pure. How can a person merit becoming 'pure' and clean from all sin and iniquity? Through "הזה, this," which has the same numerical value as טוב, good, and there is no good other than the Torah, as it says, "For I have given you a good teaching, do not forsake My Torah" (Mishlei 4:2). All those who engage in Torah together with repentance will merit Hashem's forgiveness and become pure and clean from all impurity and filth.

The holy sefarim tell us that on Yom Kippur the Satan does not rule, and no angel is allowed to stand and accuse the Jewish people. Whoever comes to speak negatively about them and tries to prevent their repentance from being accepted willingly, Hashem immediately removes him and lovingly and willingly accepts our repentance.

Zecher Tzaddik Livracha

Rabbi Yehuda Leib Ashlag zt"l, the Ba'al HaSulam

Rabbi Yehuda Leib Ashlag, known as the "Baal HaSulam" after his huge treatise on the holy Zohar, was born in Likuba, Poland. He absorbed his main approach to Torah from the Rabbanim of the Gur Yeshiva in Warsaw.

His passion for learning the wisdom of Kabbalah took root already in his youth. It is said he used to hide pages of the Zohar and the writings of the Arizal inside his Gemara. He wished to establish the study of Zohar in Polish yeshivot, and to that end even met with Rabbanim and Admorim, requesting their agreement. However, they did not comply.

After a short term of living with his father-in-law in Porisów, he moved to Warsaw where he was ordained as a rabbi and served as a Dayan for sixteen years. During this period he met someone known as a merchant, who was in fact a hidden Kabbalist. In his writings Rabbi Ashlag refers to this person as "My holy teacher zt"l", and it was he who taught Rabbi Ashlag Kabbalah.

Following the death of his master he decided to immigrate to Eretz Yisrael. On the 16th of Tishrei 5682 he arrived in Eretz Yisrael, and when he heard there was a yeshiva of Kabbalists in Yerushalayim, the 'Beit El' yeshiva, he settled in the Old City of Yerushalayim. According to the testimony of his grandson, Rabbi Simcha Ashlag, already during the days of the First World War Rabbi Ashlag would often lament the imminent destruction of the world. He warned of the Holocaust soon to take place in Europe, and of the great danger this would pose for the Jewish people.

He arrived in Eretz Yisrael with nothing. He did not want to benefit from his rabbinical certification, so in order to support himself he engaged in processing hides and making soap, using a soap machine he brought with him from Poland. However, it did not take long for him to become famous for his greatness in Torah, and he was then appointed Rabbi and Dayan in the Givat Shaul neighborhood.

In 5686 the Baal HaSulam travelled to London and remained there for about a year and a half, not leaving his house at all. During this time he wrote his first sefarim, Panim Me'irot and Panim Masbirot, commentaries on the sefer Etz Chaim of the holy Arizal. It was a great innovation in the world of Kabbalah, because until then no systematic commentary had been published on the Arizal's sefer. In his sefer Rabbi Ashlag presented a method with wonderful, clear principles and guidelines. In the year 5693 he began composing his huge work Talmud Eser Sefirot (with sixteen sections and more than two thousand pages), including all the writings of the holy Arizal. In this masterpiece, he grouped passages from all the writings of the Arizal, not according to the time of their writing, but according to the order of the sequence of spiritual states, in the way of cause and effect.

In 5703 the Ba'al HaSulam began his huge composition: the commentary HaSulam on the holy Zohar. He devoted his entire day to writing this commentary, and wrote for more than eighteen hours a day with an enormous devotion, at great financial and physical cost. Upon completion he said, "This commentary will allow people to learn the Zohar as they learn Chumash with Rashi." He also stated that 150 years after the compilation of HaSulam, children will study it in the Talmud Torah.

After completing the writing of this great work, the Baal HaSulam's health began deteriorating steadily. He felt his end was drawing near, and therefore made a final trip to Tzefat and Meron, where he prepared a great feast for his talmidim. None of his students understood that this was in fact a farewell feast.

On the day of his passing, in the middle of the holy Yom Kippur 5715, the Baal HaSulam ordered the prayer to begin two hours earlier. When the chazan recited the words, "With long life I will satisfy him, and I will show him My salvation," he returned his holy and pure soul to his Maker.


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