June 3rd 2023

14th of Sivan 5783

Leading in Kedushah

Rabbi David Chananya Pinto

“They brought their offering before the L-rd: six covered wagons and twelve oxen” (Bamidbar 7:3).

Rashi comments: Rabbi Nathan says: Why did the Nesi’im see fit to be the first to contribute here, whereas concerning the work of the Mishkan, they were not the first to contribute [but the last]? However, the Nesi’im said as follows, “Let the people contribute what they can, and then we will complement whatever is missing.” When they saw that the people had supplied everything—as it says, “And the work was sufficient for them” (Exod. 36:7), they said, “What is left for us to do now?” So they brought the shoham stones and the filling [stones] for the ephod and the choshen. Therefore, [in order to make amends,] here they were first to contribute. And because they were not commanded to do so, but offered the wagons themselves, Moshe did not accept them from their hands until he was instructed to do so by the Omnipresent, as it is stated, “Take [it] from them, and let them be used in the service of the Tent of Meeting.”

It seems puzzling why Hashem did not command Moshe to arrange for wagons to carry the Mishkan in the first place. The beams of the Mishkan were too heavy to carry, so how could they transport them by hand? And if the Nesi’im would not have donated the wagons by themselves, there would have not have been any way for them to carry the beams on their journeys and transport them from place to place. Why, then, was this not explicitly commanded by Hashem?

I would like to suggest that Hashem intentionally did not command them so as to give them the opportunity to initiate the offer and demonstrate their desire to do so on their own. Hashem tested them to see if they would realize on their own that the wagons were necessary and thus they would offer to donate them, or if again now they would be indifferent and wait until Hashem commands them explicitly. When one’s heart is burning with love of Hashem, he wishes to be the leader for all matters of sanctity. He must be like Nachshon, who showed alacrity in serving Hashem, and not wait for others to do it, or to receive an explicit command from Hashem. Since the Nesi’im had been lax in contributing toward the Mishkan, they wished to correct this, and now they hurried to perform the mitzvah and took the initiative to donate the wagons. Hashem commanded Moshe Rabbeinu, “Take [it] from them,” because His whole purpose was to test if they would demonstrate alacrity in the service of Hashem and initiate something on their own. Indeed, the Nesi’im passed the test and immediately volunteered the wagons.

Therefore, the Torah elaborates extensively regarding the korban of the Nesi’im and lists in great detail what each of the Nesi’im brought. Likewise, the Torah records in detail about the donation of the wagons, since all this stemmed from their heart’s desire and good will.

Since they came on their own initiative and demonstrated love of Hashem to be the first in matters of sanctity, Hashem favored their donation and the Torah did not spare words to publicly tell their praise. From this we learn to show alacrity and contemplate how to constantly improve our service of Hashem, because this proves one’s love for Hashem.

How does a person’s heart become aroused to take the initiative and demonstrate alacrity in all matters of sanctity?

The answer is by getting excited over the service of Hashem and the study of Torah. And as David Hamelech says (Tehillim 55:15), “In the House of G-d we would walk excitedly.” David felt great excitement and enormous yearning to enter the beit midrash, and his aspiration in life was (ibid. 27:4), “that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to see the pleasantness of the Lord and to visit His Temple every morning.” On one hand, to always be in the Beit Hashem all his life, yet on the other hand, he wished it to be like “a visit,” so every time it should seem to him like something exciting and new, and thus the enthusiasm for matters of sanctity would not fade. In this way he would not get caught in the trap of acting out of habit, which would make his Torah like lipservice, G-d forbid. This was David Hamelech’s request.

If a person feels such excitement in his service of Hashem, naturally his heart yearns to take the initiative and invest more in Torah and mitzvot, and he becomes the leader in all matters concerning mitzvot and sanctity.

This   enthusiasm should continue even when one leaves the confines of the beit midrash. He should always live surrounded by sanctity and not leave his lofty conduct only for the beit midrash and outside devoid himself of spirituality. He should make sure his sanctity accompanies him every step of his life, as it is stated (Mishlei 3:6), “Know Him in all your ways.”

I found an allusion to this in the verse (Bamidbar 4:21), “Take a census [lit. raise] of the sons of Gershon, of them too.” “Gershon” is derived from the word “hitragshut,” or excitement. This implies that one who serves Hashem with excitement and emotion, and his heart burns with love of Hashem, merits being raised above all others, and he becomes the first and foremost in all matters of sanctity and is assured of advancing constantly in spiritual achievements.

Similarly, the Nesi’im, whose hearts were full of love for Hashem and enthusiasm to fulfill His will, demonstrated alacrity and were quick to initiate the contribution of the wagons and offer sacrifices to Hashem.


Rabbi David Chananya Pinto

Keeping Arrogance at a Distance

“Should any man’s wife go astray and deal treacherously with him” (Bamidbar 5:12).

The Parshah discusses the issue where a married woman secludes herself with a man, and her husband suspects her of sinning and brings her to the Kohen to have her drink the bitter curse-bearing waters, to ascertain whether she sinned. The Torah states (ibid. 5:27-28), “And it shall be that, if she had been defiled and was unfaithful to her husband, the curse-bearing waters shall enter her to become bitter, and her belly will swell, and her thigh will rupture. The woman will be a curse among her people. But if the woman had not become defiled and she is clean, she shall be exempted and bear seed.”

Chazal say (Avot 4:21), “Jealousy, lust and honor remove a man from the world.”

It is important to know that Chazal did not only determine that these vices remove a person from his portion in the World to Come, but they also remove him from This World. This is because an arrogant person will never admit his mistake and acknowledge his sin. Even when he will be in a situation where the noose is tied around his neck, he will still continue going head-on trying to justify himself, until he destroys himself.

It seems to me that this was the evil of the suspected woman that eventually destroyed her. Because of her arrogance she did not admit her bad deeds and she was not willing to accept blame. Therefore, even when she knew she would inevitably die after drinking the bitter waters, she still stood her ground, denying any wrongdoing, declaring brazenly, “I am clean of sin,” because this is the way of an arrogant person. Arrogant people are willing to remove themselves from This World and from the World to Come, so long as they do not admit their mistake.

For this reason, this Parshah is read immediately following the Festival of Shavuot — the Festival of the Giving of the Torah, so a person will realize how despicable the vice of pride is, since it removes him from the world. Moreover, Torah does not reside within an arrogant person.

That is why the sections of Sotah and Matan Torah are contiguous. It teaches people to be aware of the vice of arrogance and make sure to distance themselves from it greatly. One should make sure to acquire the virtue of humility, the root of all virtues, and thereby merit the Torah residing within him and becoming his acquisition.


Tidbits of faith and trust penned by Moreinu v‘Rabbeinu Hagaon Hatzaddik Rabbi David Chananya Pinto, shlita

A Picture of the Truth

I once spent Tishav B’Av night at the hospital bedside of a man in Argentina. In the morning I got up from the hard, plastic chair where I had spent the night and began walking over to the beit hakeneset for Morning Prayers, the reading of Megillat Eichah, and the recitation of the kinot.

Just then, a white-bearded, black-robed priest made his way down the corridor. When he noticed me, he seemed to be startled. After a moment, his stance turned to real fear. I was wondering what he was afraid of. In order to calm him down, I smiled at him and wished him well.

But the priest was going from bad to worse. His entire body began trembling. I stretched out an arm to steady him and keep him from falling. Slowly but surely, he regained his equilibrium. He then began stammering in Spanish. I told him I did not understand the language. I am fluent only in French, English, and Hebrew.

Finally, he allowed himself to smile. I helped him enter the room and placed a chair before him. After a few moments, he told me, “Downstairs, in the lobby, there are various pictures of people of different religions. They sport white or grey beards, which add an aura of saintliness. When I looked at these pictures, I remained indifferent. But when I saw you, I was immediately overwhelmed with fear and reverence. Why do I feel nothing toward holy men of other religions, who look similar to you, yet when I see you, I am overcome by fear?”

Since he had initiated this conversation, I decided to turn the tables. I asked what he thought was the answer. He tried to evade responding, but I would not let up. Finally, he spoke. “The difference between Jewish clergymen and those of other religions lies in the fact that the Jews have the true Torah. When the truth stares you in the face, you become afraid.” He then lifted his hems and left the room.

I was left lost in thought. Surely after such an eye-opener, the priest would wish to convert to Judaism. But, on second thought, I realized he would never convert. His neshamah had never stood at Sinai. There are numerous kings and presidents who seek the blessing of a tzaddik and enjoy listening to the prayers of the Jews, yet they do not convert to our religion. This is because they never received the Torah like Bnei Yisrael at Har Sinai, and they never heard Hashem say, “I am your G-d.”

A non-Jew who never received the Torah might admire the Jewish rituals. But this admiration does not give him a ticket to join our nation. Conversely, there are righteous converts who join our nation. They contain a spark of a Jewish neshamah. Since this spark stood at Har Sinai together with all of Bnei Yisrael, after they recognize the truth their neshamot bond with the neshamot of our nation, and they convert according to halachah.


It Was Not in Vain

“He shall not eat any product of the grape vine, from seeds to skins” (Bamidbar 6:4).

“Whoever witnesses a suspected woman,” Rashi comments: in her disgrace, “should withhold himself from wine” (Sotah 2a).

Where could a person have seen a Sotah in her disgrace? In the Beit Hamikdash. And what was he doing there? He went there to become more spiritual and refined. Was he in such danger to the extent that he would be affected by the scene, just for witnessing the punishment and not even the sin?

Rabbi Yisrael of Salant, zt”l, explains that seeing the Sotah is not the reason; it is a signal. He must ask himself: Why was it orchestrated from Heaven for me to see this? Why was the woman brought out precisely now? This was a sign from Heaven that it was not sufficient for him to make a one-time pilgrimage to the Beit Hamikdash, but he should also become a Nazir and withhold himself from wine.

This is as the Navi says (Tzefania 3:6), “ I have cut off nations; their towers [lit. corners] have become desolate.” Sometimes Hashem destroys a nation entirely, and sometimes only a corner, whereas a district or city are demolished and become desolate. And sometimes, as the Navi states, “I have destroyed their streets so that no one passes by. Their cities have become waste so there is no man— so there is no inhabitant. And why is this? Hashem says, “I said, ‘Surely you will fear Me, you will accept reproof,’” and Rashi comments: I brought retribution upon the nations so you should see and fear, as He concludes, “I said, ‘Surely you will fear Me.’” The Navi continues, “and her dwelling shall not be cut off,” that the homes of Jewish people should not be destroyed. Not only that, but Rashi explains, “All that I ordained upon her: And all the good that I ordained to bring upon her shall not be cut off from her.”

A wonderful story is told in this context by the Maggid Rabbi Yaakov Galinsky, zt”l:

A Jew living in China engaged in an import business. He set out on a business trip to Europe, and of course, he stopped on the way in the city of Radin to receive the blessings of the saintly Chafetz Chaim. He arrived and introduced himself.

The tzaddik’s face lit up and he asked: What’s doing in China?

He sighed and told him that there were very few Jews there, the religious community was very small, and there was no Rabbi or mentor, no one to decide halachah, and no shochet… The tzaddik responded: “This is the plight of many in our times. I hear this from the Jews in North America and South America, South Africa and Australia. It is a difficult challenge, but one can overcome it. For people like you I wrote the sefer Nidchei Yisrael. Take it as a gift. Study it and teach it to others. What else is doing in China?” He was surprised by the question, but went on to report that a gigantic dam had burst and flooded a huge valley. It washed away many villages and damaged all the crops. Thousands of people drowned, and hundreds of thousands of people were left homeless…

The Chafetz Chaim was shocked, and inquired about every detail. “Oh! That means the Attribute of Justice is prevailing!...

The man dared to ask: “Rebbi, what does it have to do with us?” The Chafetz Chaim answered, “If someone would stand up on a podium in the center of the city of Warsaw and begin speaking in Yiddish, who would he be addressing?

The man answered: “The Jews, of course!”

“Why?” the Chafetz Chaim queried. “Aren’t the Jews the minority in the big city?”

“Indeed!” the man agreed. “But only they understand the Yiddish language.”

“Exactly!”  the  Chafetz Chaim explained excitedly. “These disasters are signals from Heaven. Who is Heaven signaling? Only those who “understand the language” … What do the Chinese understand about the Attribute of Justice prevailing? It is intended for us, so we should repent. But how will we know about the disasters? Therefore, Hashem orchestrates events that a Jew from China should come to Europe and stop in Radin to report to us, so we should take the lesson to heart and do teshuvah before it is too late…”


During the end of Rabbi Shmuel Aharon Lieder’s life, he began to suffer from impaired vision. His doctor suggested getting medical treatment that would restore his vision. But to the surprise of his family, Rabbi Lieder refused to undergo the treatment, saying, “This is an incredible opportunity from Heaven! If I cannot see, I will not transgress guarding my eyes from seeing forbidden scenes. Is there a greater blessing than this?”

His children were taken aback, but still, it was hard for them to witness his failing vision. They turned to the Chief Rabbi of Bnei Brak, Rabbi Moshe Leib Landau, and he hurried over to Rabbi Lieder’s house and ruled that his duty requires him to make an effort to repair his vision and therefore he should undergo treatment. In order to convince him, Rabbi Landau offered him a segulah as a gift. He should count the strings of his tzitzit every day, string by string, eight on each corner, totaling thirty-two strings, as a segulah for healthy vision. Rabbi Lieder began to do so and later testified that since then his vision improved immeasurably.

It is incredible how a person almost ninety years-old feared so much for the kedushah of his eyes and felt it was worth losing his vision. It is also a good idea to adopt the segulah of counting the tzitzit threads, to maintain the good health of one’s eyes for many years.

The most central place in our body whose sanctity and purity we must guard carefully is the brain. As the most central organ in the body, the supreme commander of all other organs and the primary data processor, the importance of refinement and perfection of the brain is critical. Everything runs according to the brain; it is the automatic system that controls us.

In the medical world, the brain is accorded supreme importance because it is the central “processor” and “server” in our lives. Therefore, great thought is invested in maintaining its health and optimum function, so it can perform its various critical functions best.

The most influential factor of the brain is the eyes. It is not by coincidence that the eyes are the closest organ to the brain. It testifies to the importance of what we see. Chazal say that the eyes see and the heart covets. This implies that what we see has a great influence on our desires and aspirations.

Those who wish to merit succeeding in Torah, living it and remembering their studies and feeling connected to Hashem, with the Torah as a central part of their lives, must maintain guarding their eyes as the top priority. Similarly, those who want a developed brain, high quality memory, fast data processing, original ideas, and a brilliant mind, must start by guarding the sanctity of their eyes. (Excerpt from a lecture delivered by Rabbi Asher Kovelsky, shlit”a)


A Holy and Awesome Man

Meknes was a city full of learned, scholarly people. The Rav of the city was not pleased with many of the community members, since the scholars considered themselves superior in authority to him and argued with him on every possible occasion. There was often controversy between the Rabbi and other scholars.

Once, when Rabbi Chaim Hakatan came to visit, the Rav of Meknes conveyed his displeasure with the scholars of his city, since they did not accord him sufficient honor and disputed his halachic rulings. Rabbi Chaim told him sympathetically, “This generation does not want to accept the truth. Therefore, many disputes arise that are not for the sake of Heaven. However, as the Rabbi of the city, you must always conduct yourself with integrity and try to minimize dissent as much as possible. Your appointment as Rav by the Beit Din below was preceded by your appointment by the Beit Din Above. Therefore, everyone is obligated to honor this appointment.”

On one occasion, when Rabbi Chaim met one of the scholars who did not accord honor to the city’s Rav, he admonished him and told him this behavior did not reflect the Torah’s ways. On the contrary, he was desecrating the honor of the Torah in this way. He added that anyone who showed contempt for the Torah will ultimately be held in contempt by others.

Evidently, this man was no real scholar.  He responded with audacity and ridiculed the tzaddik, “Who are you? Is it not enough that you came to collect alms, but you also dare to rebuke me? Take your coins and return to your home town. Do not dictate to us how to live our lives.”

Rabbi Chaim wisely remained silent, not responding to the tirade. He attempted to get the man to go into an empty side room with him so he could explain to him his error. Since the rude man would not budge, Rabbi Chaim turned to all the people in the room and asked them to leave.

When everyone had left the room, Rabbi Chaim gently rebuked him, “Your words are not at all correct. In fact, I can prove your false ways to you.”

“How?” asked the man.

“On Ta’anit Esther, you did not feel well, and you took a slice of cake to eat. However, at that moment, you heard someone knocking on your door, and since you were worried that someone would see you eating on a fast day, you quickly took the cake and hid it in the pocket of your caftan…”

The tzaddik continued revealing the man’s hidden deeds. “After they knocked on the door, you went into a side room to eat the cake, which you did without first reciting a blessing, since you were afraid of being seen and wanted to hurry. When you finished eating the cake, you drank water from a jug, and washed your entire head with the water. Since then, you suffer from headaches.”

The scholar realized that a holy, awesome man, who perceived the absolute truth, was standing before him. There was no point in denying his words or contradicting them. He fell to the tzaddik’s feet and kissed his hand, tearfully begging his forgiveness.

The congregants were later invited to a seudat mitzvah the contrite scholar arranged in honor of Rabbi Chaim. Facing the Rabbi of the city and all the people, he expressed his regret and begged forgiveness for all his misdeeds. He solemnly resolved to be careful to protect the honor of Torah leaders.

Rabbi Aharon Chassin, zt”l, author of Mateh Aharon, who served as Rosh Av Beit Din in Mogador, was an eye witness to this event.


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