March 25th 2023

3rd of Nisan 5783

Bringing Merit to the Public

Rabbi David Chananya Pinto

“When a man from [am you brings a sacrifice to L-rd” (Vayikra 1:2).

Chazal say (Menachot 110a) “Whoever occupies himself the study of Torah is as th he were offering a offering, a meal-offering, a sin offering, and a guilt-offering,” as it says (Vayikra 7:37), “This is the Torah for the burnt-offering, for the meal-offering, for the sin- offering, and for the guilt-offering.”

When the Beit Hamikdash stood the offerings would atone for sins. Whereas now, the study of Torah serves as atonement for a person’s sin. It occurred to me that there is something else that certainly atones for a person’s sins — bringing merit to the people (zikui harabim) and sanctifying Hashem’s Name in public. In this way one does teshuvah measure for measure; since he desecrated Hashem’s Name through his sins, by sanctifying Hashem’s Name he will be forgiven. Similarly, Rabbeinu Yonah writes (Sha’arei Teshuvah, Sha’ar IV) that sanctifying Hashem’s Name atones even for sins which have no atonement other than death. Chazal say (Avot 5:21), “Whoever influences the masses to become meritorious shall not be the cause of sin, but one who influences the masses to sin will not be given the means to repent. Moshe was meritorious and influenced the masses to be meritorious, so the merit of the masses was to his credit… Yeravam ben Nevat sinned and caused the masses to sin, so the sin of the masses is charged against him…” We need to clarify the essence of Yeravam’s sin, for he was the source of all the sins of the Jewish people during the first Beit Hamikdash. Chazal say (Sanhedrin 101b) that his colossal sin began with preventing the Jews from carrying out the mitzvah of pilgrimage to the Beit Hamikdash.

Let us examine this mitzvah about which we are told (Shemot 23:17), “Three times during the year, all your males shall appear before the Master, the L-rd.” Certainly this mitzvah was meant to strengthen the faith of the Jewish people by coming to the Beit Hamikdash and seeing the Kohanim in their service, the Levites on their platform and Yisrael at their position. Chazal say about the above verse (Chagiga 2a), “Yera’eh – yirah. As he comes to see, so He comes to be seen.” Rashi elucidates: The Scripture compares “your seeing” to “His seeing.” Just as you come to see Him, so He comes to be seen by you… At the same time a person observes the awesome Presence that resides in this holy place. This implies that through his pilgrimage he can achieve the level of truly feeling that Hashem saw him and he is being observed by Him, and that Hashem’s eyes view all his actions.

Thus his faith is strengthened and he absorbs yirat Shamayim at the Beit Hamikdash for a number of reasons: When they witness the avodat Hashem and the multitudes gathered together it certainly inspires them since, “The King’s glory is in a multitude of people.” In addition, wondrous miracles took place there every day, as Chazal say (Avot 5:5), “Ten miracles were performed for our ancestors in the holy Beit Hamikdash: No woman miscarried because of the aroma of the sacrificial meat, etc. By observing all these miracles, the person understood beyond doubt that it all comes from Hashem and He rules over everything.

The mitzvah of pilgrimage is something we can comprehend, but the mitzvah of offering sacrifices is something our minds cannot fathom. Why did the people who went to Yerushalayim have to offer sacrifices? Is it fitting for the holy Shechinah that the place be filled with blood of the sacrifices? The Rishonim explain (Rabbeinu Bechaye, the Ramban and others) that the issue of offerings is beyond our comprehension. The Ramban does provide an insight that a person becomes humbled and repents when he sees the animal being slaughtered in his stead.

All this was relevant while the Beit Hamikdash was standing. However, now since the Beit Hamikdash has been destroyed, how can a person soar to great heights and improve his character traits? Chazal say (Sukkah 27b) that one must visit his Rabbi on the Festivals. Certainly, when he will behold the holy countenance of his Rebbe, upon which the Shechinah shines by virtue of his righteousness and Torah, he will learn from him to fear Heaven and correct his ways. Chazal state (Ketubot 25b) that bringing a gift to a Torah scholar is as if he offered Bikkurim.

They also state (Yoma 71a), “If a man wishes to offer a libation upon the Altar, let him fill the throat of the disciples of the wise with wine.” This implies that greeting one’s Rebbe achieves a similar spiritual benefit as visiting the Beit Hamikdash.

Here is where Yeravam’s wickedness manifested itself. Since he was afraid that Bnei Yisrael would acquire faith and fear of Heaven through the pilgrimage, and consequently they would recognize his wickedness and zealously depose him from his kingdom, he prevented the Jews from carrying out this mitzvah. This is why Chazal accused him of sinning and causing the people to sin. On the other hand, Chazal say that Moshe Rabbeinu acquired merit and brought merit to the people, thus the merits of the people are credited to him.


Respecting Each Person

“And if a person brings a meal offering to the L-rd” (Vayikra 2:1).

Rashi comments: “And if a person [lit. soul] brings:” Regarding all the sacrifices which were donated voluntarily, the only instance where the Torah uses the word נפש soul, is in the case of the meal- offering. Now, who usually donates a meal-offering? A poor man (because flour is less expensive than birds or animals). [Hence,] Hashem says: ‘I account if for him as if he has sacrificed his very soul!’” The Ba’al Haturim explains that concerning the bird and the meal-offering it does not say that they should be brought “Before Hashem” like with the young bull. Why? Because birds was brought by the poor and they were embarrassed to bring them in public. Therefore, they would bring it only to Aharon and his sons. In addition, Aharon was warned that the Kohen Hagadol too should not disparage the offering of the pauper.

The gaon Rabbi Yakov Neiman, zt”l, in his sefer Darchei Mussar, explains the opinion of Rabbi Aharon Baksht, zt”l (Av Beit Din of Shavel): The Torah preserves the dignity of the poor, therefore it states, “Break it into pieces,” so it should look like a lot and the pan should be full. Similarly, it says, “And he shall split it open with its wing feathers [intact], but he shall not tear it completely apart” (Vayikra 1:7). Rashi explains (according to Vayikra Rabbah 3:5), “Surely you will not find even the simplest of people [i.e., even one who is not particular] who, when smelling the odor of burnt feathers, does not find it repulsive. Why then does the Torah command us to send [the feathers] up in smoke? [The feathers are left intact] so the Altar should appear sated and adorned with the sacrifice of the poor man [who could afford only a bird].”

If the wings would be removed from the bird, it would get burned up quickly and the poor man would feel bad and become jealous of the rich man and his offering — a bull which takes a long time to process and burn. Burning the bird together with the feathers draws out the process in this way the poor man would be gratified. We learn from this how much the Torah preserves the dignity of each man.

Even when a person encounters a relationship in which he has to conduct himself according to the dictum of “trust him, yet suspect him,” one should emphasize the “trust him” more than the “suspect him!”

The tzaddik Rabbi Nachum Ze’ev of Kelm, zt”l, was blessed with exceptional rhetorical abilities. His speeches were compelling and would impress his audiences. Once he was invited to a festive gathering in Vilna and was due to speak after another prominent Rabbi. When his turn came, he refused to speak despite all the pleading from the crowd.

He later confided to his family that after hearing the speech of the Rabbi before him, which did not impress the audience, he feared that if he delivered his powerful speech it would cause a slight to the honor of the prominent Rabbi. He had no desire to gain honor through his fellow’s disgrace.


Thanking Hashem

When I met the two dear brothers, Chaim and Yitzchak Weiner (who donated the temporary beit knesset in Ashdod), they promised to donate $9,000 for our institutions. Some time later, when I had not received the pledge, I asked Rabbi Moshe Gopes to approach them and tell them to hurry up to make good on their word. I told him to quote the verse (Mishlei 10:2), “Charity will save from death.”

Rabbi Moshe did as I requested and reminded Yitzchak Weiner to hurry and give the donation as he had promised, so that the verse “Charity will save from death” would be fulfilled. When he heard the message, he immediately paid his pledge. Afterward, when his brother Chaim came into the office and heard about the matter, he immediately offered to double the amount and give another $9,000, so that altogether the sum would amount to $18,000, the numerical value of י"ח (life).

This took place on Thursday evening. On Friday morning the two brothers took a flight to a business meeting. On the plane Yitzchak asked Chaim why he had decided to double the pledge. He responded, “Do you not agree to it?”

“I do not object,” replied Yitzchak. They had barely finished their sentence, and suddenly, horror of horrors, both engines of the plane shut down and the plane fell and crashed into pieces on the ground. Everyone on the flight was killed, except for the two brothers who by the grace of Hashem survived. Chaim lost consciousness, and Yitzchak suffered a blow from a large piece of metal and was in critical condition. Thank G-d, they both recovered completely.

When I spoke with them, they immediately thanked me for reminding them to fulfill their vow. “We saw clearly how tzedakah saved us!” I told them, “And what would you like to say to the Creator?”

“One thousand times thank you very much!” they answered enthusiastically. “We thank Him from the depths of our heart for saving our lives, as it says, “He, Who kept our souls alive and did not let our foot falter.”

But we must be aware that the greatest expression of gratitude when experiencing a miracle is to draw closer to Hashem and strengthen one’s commitment to mitzvot and good deeds. It is not enough to simply say thank you. Gratitude is a feeling that passes and is not always remembered. However, if he draws closer to Hashem he proves his love to Him, and this is the greatest show of appreciation, as it says, “But as for me – G-d’s nearness is my good.”

We are told (Tehillim 92:2), “It is good to give thanks to the L-rd.” If a person wishes to thank Hashem for performing wondrous miracles on his behalf, he should engage in “good,” which implies engaging in Torah study. There is nothing as good as the Torah, as it says (Mishlei 4:2), “For I gave you a good teaching.”

A person who is close to Hashem and fulfills His will, besides for meriting a portion in the World to Come which is eternal bliss, will also be joyous and happy in This World. He will be free of worries since he clearly trusts that all Hashem does is for his best. Even if he experiences difficulties, he knows his trials are meant to atone for his sins, and he will never question Hashem’s ways. Rather he will accept his lot with joy


Rabbi David Chananya Pinto

Sanctifying One’s Entire Being

“And what he has trespassed against the holy thing he shall pay, and he shall add one fifth of its value to it” (Vayikra 5:16).

The Ben Ish Chai, zy”a, (Vayikra, Year 1) brings the words of Chazal (Bava Batra 75b), “There will come a time when ‘Holy’ will be said before the righteous as it is said before the Holy One, blessed be He.”

We will expand on these words. As we know, one who uses sacred property thereby commits treachery, and the Torah obligates him to pay the principle, a fifth, and bring a guilt offering. Why a fifth? I would like to suggest, with siyata di’Shmaya, that the sacred property does not belong to the person. Rather it belongs to Hashem and no one has the right to use it for his own needs. If he transgressed by using it even unintentionally, he committed treachery and tarnished not only the sacred property but also the entire Torah, including all its five chumashim. Therefore, he pays “a fifth,” signifying the discredit he caused to all five chumashim of the Torah. No one can have any part in an object that was assigned as holy and sanctified for Hashem. It is prohibited by all means to use it, which would turn it into mundane. This is so severe that it is considered as if he discredited the entire Torah, and that is why he pays specifically a fifth.

If this is true concerning violating an inanimate object that was sanctified for the sake of Heaven, how much more so is it considered treachery to use one’s body for unholy purposes, for example using one’s mouth to speak forbidden words, G-d forbid. All a person’s organs and limbs are considered sacred, since Hashem commanded us to be holy, as it says (Vayikra 19:2), “You shall be holy, for I, the Lord, your G-d, am holy.” Thus, by default a Jew’s body is sacred. Hashem allows a person to use his body only for the purpose of observing Torah and mitzvot. One who transgresses and uses his limbs and organs to sin is guilty of committing treachery with that which has been sanctified for Hashem’s sake. And here too one is obligated to pay a fifth because he caused discredit to all the five chumashim of the Torah.

Therefore, the Ben Ish Chai says that tzaddikim consider their bodies entirely sacred to Hashem, with no trace of personal enjoyment. They delight only with Hashem and ultimately achieve endless joy. Their limbs and organs become holy and sanctified to Hashem in thought, speech and action. Consequently, in the Future, the angels will say before them, “Holy, holy, holy.” They will testify about them that they sanctified themselves for the sake of Heaven in all three areas: thought, speech, and action.


When the Mishkan was inaugurated, the Nesi’im, the leaders of the Tribes, sought to bring pleasure to Hashem and offer sacrifices on the occasion of the great day when the Shechinah descended to reside within the Mishkan. Certainly the Nesi’im sought to offer their sacrifices in the most perfect manner. So what did they do? Let us see what the Midrash writes (Bamidbar Rabbah 14:12):

“Rabbi Shimon says: What is the Torah teaching us by stating, ‘presented by the Nesi’im of Israel’? It teaches that they volunteered by themselves, and each one offered an identical sacrifice, equal in value and weight, and not one of them sacrificed more than their fellow. If one of them would have offered more than his fellow, then this sacrifice which would be brought on the seventh day (Shabbat) would not have been able to override the sanctity of Shabbat, and he would have been denied his turn. Hashem said to them: Since you have honored one another, therefore I will honor you by allowing you to sacrifice your offering on my Shabbat, so there should be no cessation in the succession of your offerings.”

The Nesi’im of Israel, the Chafetz Chaim teaches, knew the secret: They understood that the best way to bring pleasure to Hashem was by each offering the exact same sacrifice so there should not be any competition between them.

The Nesi’im understood that Hashem’s joy in their sacrifices would be complete, since it would not be accompanied by any strife or jealousy between them. By witnessing all His children demonstrating love and respect to each other, Hashem’s pleasure would be magnified.

Indeed, the Nesi’im merited a magnificent privilege because of this: even though an offering of the Nesi’im would generally not override the sanctity of Shabbat since it was the sacrifice of an individual and a voluntary donation, nevertheless Hashem told them, “Since you honored one another, I too will honor you, and in order not to cause a cessation in the succession of your sacrifices, I will allow you to sacrifice your offering also on the holy day of Shabbat.”

Instead of trying to gain honor through hatred and rivalry, the Nesi’im gained a lot more honor through their brotherly love and by protecting their fellow’s honor!

When each person tries to attain everything the world has to offer at the expense of his fellow, he may succeed… but woe to such success. How short lived it is, and how deficient! How much honor, wealth, or success can a man of flesh and blood ultimately achieve through all his labor?

But when one’s priority is to benefit his fellow as he would want to benefit himself, then he acquires direct access to the boundless treasures of his Father in heaven! Through these treasures one can find true and unlimited success in all that he needs: salvation, health, pleasure, livelihood, and everything good!

We sometimes live with the feeling that the success of our fellow is actually at our expense. Therefore, we look grudgingly at other people’s success. However, this is clearly a mistake! For Hashem it makes no difference if there is only one person on earth, or more than we can count. He has no problem providing and sustaining the entire creation with all its needs, just as He provides and sustains all creatures, “from the horns of wild oxen to the eggs of vermin.”

Furthermore, the opposite is true: Not only will our efforts for our fellow’s success not be at the expense of our own well-being, but when we bring pleasure to the Master of the World by seeking to benefit His beloved Children, it will bring us even greater abundance from Above!


The Tzaddik’s Warning

Mr. Mordechai Cohen embarked on his business at the young age of eighteen. He would travel from city to city, buying merchandise and selling it for a profit. Mordechai was a good soul and he had a partner whom he trusted implicitly. He spent much of his time assisting others and doing acts of charity. One day, when Mordechai came to Mogador, he heard a voice calling his name. He turned around and saw a young man.

“Who are you and what do you want?” “You don’t recognize me?”

“No! I do not recognize you at all!”

“You may not recognize me, but I am Chaim Pinto, the grandson of Rabbi Chaim Pinto Hagadol.”

The chance meeting filled Mordechai with joy. The youth standing before him was the grandson of the tzaddik buried in the city. In appreciation, he kissed the young Rabbi Chaim’s hand and gave him a gift as a gesture of admiration.

Rabbi Chaim parted from him, wishing him well. Less than half an hour later, Rabbi Chaim returned to the spot where they had met. He searched for Mordechai, asking all the people around him for a clue to his whereabouts. In the end, Rabbi Chaim found Mordechai loading his wagons with merchandise in preparation for his journey home. “Be aware,” warned Rabbi Chaim, “that your partner has betrayed you. He sold all the merchandise which you had in stock and plans to rob you of your share. Do not let him get away with it. Bring witnesses to prove your case, since you did not receive a penny from him. Pray that the merit of the tzaddik Rabbi Chaim Pinto should stand in your stead and save you from the evil schemes of your partner.” At first, Mordechai did not take the tzaddik’s warning seriously, since he enjoyed a solid partnership with his friend, trusting him completely. “How could it be that he had behaved in such a low way?” Mordechai wondered in his heart.

However, since the information had come from a reliable source, he decided to investigate the matter. He waited for an opportunity to verify the accusation.

When Mordechai got home, he set out immediately to his partner’s house. After the formal greetings, Mordechai asked him, “How did our business fare while I was away?” His “partner” answered him brazenly, “What business? We are not partners at all! What are you talking about?”

At that moment, Mordechai recalled the words of Rabbi Chaim, including his advice. At first, he called two witnesses to the Beit Din to testify that there had been no dissolution of the partnership and he had not received a single penny of his share.

Mordechai also remembered the rest of Rabbi Chaim’s advice, and he began to cry, “G-d of Rabbi Chaim Pinto, answer me! G-d of Rabbi Chaim Pinto, answer me!”

The partner became paralyzed with fear when he heard this name. He shamefacedly admitted his evil scheme. His disgrace was revealed in court, and his credibility was damaged. Mordechai legally terminated their partnership.

Moreinu v’Rabbeinu added the following:

“I heard this story from the son of Rabbi Mordechai Cohen. I am absolutely amazed how Rabbi Chaim Hakatan possessed Divine Inspiration already at such a young age. The city in which the partner of Rav Mordechai lived was approximately one thousand kilometers from Mogador. How did Rabbi Chaim have such far-reaching vision?”


One Must Condemn

The prohibition of lashon hara is specifically regarding those who according to the Torah are still considered as members of the Jewish people, meaning they are part of the Jewish nation who bear the banner of Torah and mitzvot. However, it is a mitzvah to condemn and disparage Jews who are termed heretics, whether in front of them or otherwise, concerning all one sees or hears about them. As it says (Tehillim 139:21), “Did I not hate Your enemies, O L-rd? With those who rise up against You, I quarrel.”


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