July 29th 2023

11th of AV 5783

Learning for the Sake of Heaven Induces Real Pleasure

Rabbi David Chananya Pinto

“You shall observe the commandment and the statutes and the ordinances that I command you today, to perform them” (Devarim 7:11).

Why is the word “commandment (mitzvah)” in the singular and the words “statutes” and “ordinances” in the plural? Similarly, the same language is used above “….and I shall speak to you the entire commandment and the statutes and the ordinances that you shall teach them….” (Deuteronomy 5:28). “Commandment” is also said here in the singular. It is necessary to understand which “commandment” this is referring to and what is its essence.

In order to comprehend this, it is crucial to examine another verse, “And it will be a merit for us if we are careful to perform this entire commandment… (Deuteronomy 6:25), and as this also uses the word “commandment” in the singular, it seems the intention of the verse is about the main mitzvah, namely the study of Torah, as our holy Torah is the basis and root of all the mitzvot in their entirety. This is the intention of the verse: when a man sits and studies Torah, it is incumbent upon him to imagine he is receiving charity and a big favor from the Creator, because he has been given the privilege to be involved in the Torah and its teachings.

To what can this be compared? To a pauper that does not even have the basic necessities, and a wealthy benefactor provides him with charity to survive. There is an enormous obligation upon this pauper to recognize the goodness the benefactor has bestowed upon him. So too, we likewise have to feel when we are involved in the holy Torah that with charity and goodness the Creator has given us the Living Torah that is our very life and longevity. Then a person will certainly realize he does not warrant any reward for the Torah he studies, but rather on the contrary he has an obligation to thank Hashem and fill his mouth with praise and adoration for the charity He has done with him.

The question is, how do we reach and achieve such an appreciation towards the King of all kings and the holy Torah?

Only by observing the verse “You shall observe the commandment…” that means by keeping this main mitzvah that is the revealing title of all the mitzvot — Torah study, certainly our hearts will be filled with an infinite happiness that we have been deserving of this. It is for this reason that the Torah chose the singular language. Because only by observing the mitzvah of studying Torah (Talmud Torah) and being involved in it, can a person reach the understanding of how much sweetness there is within the Torah, how much more precious it is than pearls and that no materialism can match it. As the mitzvot of Talmud Torah are equivalent to all the mitzvot collectively, automatically a person will be worthy to fulfill all the ordinances and statutes as prescribed. From this we may conclude that Talmud Torah brings a person to closeness with Hashem, and in addition all of the mitzvot he will fulfill will be with joy and a holy inspiration. This being so, a person profits an extra benefit, namely that he is not fulfilling and learning Torah for his own honor or reward but rather purely for the honor of Hashem.

Rashi in accordance with this, writes on the opening verse, “Today is to perform them and tomorrow in the World to Come is for their reward.” In truth, the intention is not that man is in some sort of expectation of reward for his deeds, because in that way he cannot fulfill “for the sake or honor of Hashem.” Rather, it is everyone’s obligation to fulfill mitzvot and learn Torah in order to receive an eternal and authentic reward of basking in the presence of the Holy Divine Shechinah and standing on the threshold of its shadow in the future. This is a pure and correct aspiration, as there is no request for a materialistic reward of wealth, honor and possessions but solely a spiritual reward. It is essential to know and remember that only he who rejoices in his learning and is happy with it, he is the one who is worthy to learn “for the sake of His Honor” and therefore also “tomorrow” he will receive his full reward. Everything is dependent on the source of the mitzvot and their principle — Torah learning, for if one is occupied with it and gives it his soul and delights in it, then inevitably he is drawn after all the mitzvot, statutes and ordinances of the Torah, and then they all become “for the sake of Heaven.”

I remember the time when I sat with my master Maran Rabbeinu Chaim Shmuel Lopian, zt”l, and I marveled how he was so immersed in learning Torah, I literally felt as if I was standing opposite the Holy Divine Presence. To observe the face of my Rabbi and Teacher was so wonderful; his face had the countenance of an angel, comparable to a burning fire worshiping Hashem. And if such a pleasure can be aroused in examining the faithful servants of Hashem, all the more so when a person in the future will be worthy to enjoy the Divine splendor and glory of the Holy Shechinah.

How can one reach this high and lofty level that is our obligation to attain? Only by “And it will be a merit for us…”. As we explained before, only when a person understands that charity and lovingkindness was done to us by our Creator in giving us the Torah of truth, and when a person engages in it with joy and inspiration without thought of materialistic reward but only “for the sake of Heaven”, only then will he succeed in “knowing Hashem” with an enlightening clarity.

(Taken from a talk given to the students of Yeshivat Bein Hazmanim of “Orot Chaim and Moshe” Institutions.)


Based on the teachings of Moreinu v‘Rabbeinu Hagaon Hatzaddik Rabbi David Chananya Pinto, shlita

Who Is a Happy Man?

“I implored Hashem at that time, saying” (Devarim 3:23).

The Ba’al HaTurim points out that the word “va’etchanan” has the same numerical value as “song.” What does this suggest? Moshe Rabbeinu begged to enter Eretz Yisrael in order to teach the people that if they wish to be happy with their lot and song, praises and joy should constantly pour from their mouths. They must be careful not to indulge in the materialism that the good Land has in abundance. They should not become too preoccupied with “the Land flowing with milk and honey,” rather their gratifications should be calculated and indulged in the correct measure. All their intentions should be for the sake of Heaven, for a higher purpose. One who treads this path will without a doubt experience a life filled with happiness and joy; for him it is appropriate to sing.

We find the same idea expressed in the words of the verse that talks about ma’aser sheini which must be consumed in Yerushalayim. “You may spend the money for whatever your soul desires — for cattle, for flocks, for wine, or for alcoholic beverage, or anything your soul wishes; you shall eat it there before Hashem, your G-d, and rejoice — you and your household. You shall not forsake the Levite who is in your cities, for he has no portion or inheritance with you” (Devarim 14:26– 27). As if to say, when has a person fulfilled “and rejoice — you and your household”? When will he merit enjoying his wealth? Only if he carries out, “You shall not forsake the Levite…” When a person shares what he owns with others, he proves that he is not simply chasing after gratifications; he is satisfied with a modest lifestyle. There is no happier person than one who knows how to use his possessions in the correct way.

In contrast, one who is constantly pursuing riches and wealth, never feels satisfied and does not make do with what he has. He will never be happy because he always feels lacking. Even though he has many possessions, he does not feel content, as chazal say, “A person doesn’t die with even half his desires in his hand” (Kohelet Raba 1), and “One who possesses one hundred desires two hundred.” But one who is happy with his lot and thanks Hashem and praises Him for whatever He blessed him with, is the happiest person in the world. If a person has the correct attitude towards the materialism of This World and uses it in an appropriate manner, he will certainly also be sensitive to his spiritual desires. In this way it will be good for him in both worlds.


The period known as “Bein Hazmanim” is the time to fortify the “mitzvot” concerning honoring parents. And what can be more inspiring than the following astonishing incident:

The “Holy Jew of Peshischa” was immersed in studying with his students, and when they reached an extremely difficult topic, the righteous man delved deeper into his learning and became unaware of his surroundings. Meanwhile his students waited until their teacher would continue his lesson. However, his probing extended for a long time.

Suddenly one of the waiting students felt hunger pangs. Consequently, he said to himself, “Certainly the Rebbi will continue with his perusal on this passage for a long while. Meanwhile I will run to my mother’s house and taste something to quell my hunger.”

With this in mind he hurried home, ate something and was about to return to the study hall. Whilst still on the threshold of the house, his mother’s voice reached his ears, “Please, my son, could you go up to the attic and bring down a bundle of hay? You know that I cannot climb up to the roof and I am in pressing need for the hay!” “Mother,” the son retorted, “I must return straight away to the study hall. Certainly, my Rebbi will shortly finish his scrutiny of the passage we are learning and will start to explain the issues to the attentive students!”

The son left the house and ran back to the study hall. At the outset he marched quickly, not wanting to miss one iota of his Rebbi’s words. However, his steps become slightly more regulated when suddenly he stopped in his place in fright. “For what am I learning?” he asked himself penetratingly. “For what purpose am I hurrying to the study hall? Just to learn more and more? Behold, the whole purpose of learning is on condition to realize its messages!” The youth retraced his steps and returned to his mother’s house. He climbed up to the attic and rummaged around until he found the sought-after bundle of hay. “Here, mother, is the hay you requested.” He gave the bundle to his mother with eyes downcast with embarrassment. “Please forgive me for not fulfilling your request immediately.”

Now that he had lightened the load from his heart, the youth hurried back to the study hall and with his burning hands opened the door. The “Holy Jew” was still immersed in the same passage. But when the door opened the tzaddik raised his head from the sefer with a smile that illuminated his holy face. He stood up from his place and faced the student standing erect on the threshold.

“Do you know who is accompanying you at this moment?”

The orphaned youth lowered his confused face.

“Tell me please,” continued the righteous man, “which important mitzvah did you complete just now, that you merited such an important companion?”

But the youth remained silent in bewilderment.

“When you came in here,” the tzaddik continued, “I saw that the Amora Abaye accompanying you. And his entry enlightened my eyes and answered the serious difficulty I was deliberating for these long hours. Tell me then, why did you merit such a great escort?”

Then the youth opened his mouth and related all that had occurred during the past hour. “I realized I had made a mistake,” he concluded, “and so I returned home to carry out my mother’s wishes.”

“Because of this,” the tzaddik turned to his students, “it is as clear as the sun why your comrade merited the accompaniment of Abaye. Abaye was orphaned from both his father and mother. In fact, his name is comprised from the initial letters of the words “which through you I will have mercy on the orphan — Asher B’cha Yerucham Yetom.” The Amora Abaye never merited in his lifetime to fulfil this important mitzvah of honoring one’s parents. Therefore, since his passing, he is accustomed to accompanying those that accomplish this mitzvah. It is his desire to join in with those who do fulfill this important mitzvah of honoring a father and mother.


There Are No Shortcuts to Hasten the Redemption

I implored Hashem at that time saying, “My L-rd, Hashem/Elokim, You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your strong hand, for what power is there in the heaven or on the earth that can perform according to Your deeds and according to Your mighty acts? (Devarim 3:23–25).

Moshe Rabbeinu begged Hashem to allow him to enter Eretz Yisrael, davening 515 prayers until Hashem stopped him by saying, “Do not continue to speak to Me further about this matter” (Devarim 3:26). What in essence, did Moshe Rabbeinu want? Hashem had already decreed that he would not enter the Land; what did he hope to achieve with his prayers?

This concept is something we have to comprehend whenever we pray, for example, when praying for a sick person to recover, or for a destitute person to be blessed with affluence. If Hashem decreed that he should be in this situation, how do we think we can change the decree?!

Rabbi Baruch Shimon Schneerson, zt”l, explains this fundamental concept (brought in the sefer U’matok Ha’or):

Moshe Rabbeinu begins his prayer with “My L-rd,Hashem/Elokim”. “My L-rd” always signifies a merciful approach while “Elokim” denotes strict judgment. “You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your strong hand.” Similarly, “Your greatness” signifies Hashem acting with mercy, while “Your strong hand” signifies strict judgment.

“Asher mi kail — For what power is there…” “Kail” could imply both mercy and judgment. On the one hand “kail” is one of the 13 traits of mercy. Conversely, we find “Kail zo’em b’chol yom — G-d is angered every day” (Tehillim 7:12). How can this be?

The answer is that what we perceive as judgment is in actual fact — from a Heavenly perspective — mercy! This is what Moshe Rabbeinu was implying: “For what power is there in the heaven or on the earth…”

Master of the world! Everything You do is mercy. Only down here in This World there are things that seem harsh. Please, I beg of You. Allow me to understand this as mercy, allow me to feel your kindness! This is what he was praying for.

This seems like a legitimate argument. What was Hashem’s reply?

“But Hashem became angry with me because of you, and He did not listen to me.” Chazal expound on these words — “like a pregnant woman.” (The Hebrew words used in this verse for “became angry,” and the Hebrew word for a pregnant woman have the same root letters.) The Meshech Chochmah explains that sometimes a woman in her fifth month of pregnancy feels that she has come to the limits of her strength and she prays, “If only the baby would come out already.” But if the baby is born at this point he will not live, because he has not yet developed sufficiently to survive in this world. He needs to stay in the womb for the complete nine months; only then will he be mature enough to exist outside the womb.

Moshe Rabbeinu begged Hashem: “I will pass and I will see the good Land.” Allow me to enter the Holy Land and conquer it, and then I will build the Beit Hamikdash. I will eradicate the memory of Amalek and the world will attain its final rectification.

Hashem answered him: “No!” “But Hashem became angry with me because of you.” Hashem compared this to an expectant woman who wishes to shorten the duration of her pregnancy. Similarly, here, if Moshe Rabbeinu would enter Eretz Yisrael and bring the world to its final purpose, everything would cease at midpoint and this would not be good for the Jewish people. They are still in the middle of their journey; they need more time to complete their mission. Therefore, “because of you” he was prevented from entering the Land, so they could continue rectifying their souls until the time of the final redemption when the world will come to its rectification.


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

The Book That Spoke Volumes

A non-Jewish woman once brought me a book she had written about angels and asked for my approbation. This was her third book on this subject. Every few years, she would come to me with another book and ask for my endorsement.

I took one look at her defiled book and was filled with a desire to rip it to shreds. How does a gentile woman have the audacity to profess knowing anything about the angels on High? How in the world can she know the names and missions of the Ministering Angels of Hashem? It must be that she studied the holy works of mysticism, the Kabbalah and Zohar, in a most unholy way. Her works, therefore, were saturated with impurity.

It is self-understood that I refused to give her book any sort of approval. To my utter dismay, I could not stop thinking of this vile volume for the entire week. This was due to the forces of evil which had penetrated its writing. It is well-known that when these types of forces attach themselves to a person, it is very difficult to shake them off.

The Ari writes that even passing by a slaughterhouse of non-kosher animals influences a person negatively. One should therefore make every effort to avoid this. A pregnant woman, in particular, should not go by a store that sells forbidden foods, as they can have an adverse effect on her unborn child, chas v’shalom.

I remember that in my childhood, when I lived in Morocco, I often had to walk by the gentile marketplace where nonkosher items were sold. I literally felt the negative effect of this act. Whenever I walked by on Shabbat, I felt a distinct detraction of the kedushah of the day.

The soul of the Jew is extremely sensitive. One who is concerned for its safety would do well to distance himself from any source of impurity and adhere only to holiness and sanctity.


I Must Learn Torah

A sixty-year-old man approached Rabbi Moshe Aharon worriedly. He said, “I heard in a lecture that every Jew is obligated to set fixed times to study Torah. When a person dies, he is tried in the Heavenly Court and asked several questions, such as whether he was honest in business, if he set fixed times for learning, and so forth. Honorable Rabbi,” the man cried, “I did not engage in the study of Torah, not in Mishnah, not in Gemara, and not in halachah. Now I try to set some time for learning Torah, but I do not understand anything. What will be with me after I depart from This World?”

The Rav answered him calmly, “It is never too late. I also experience this feeling at times when I engage in learning Torah, and do not understand the text. I simply raise my hands and say, “Ribbono shel Olam, whatever I did not understand in This World, I will understand in the World to Come when I will learn in the Heavenly Yeshiva, in my designated place.”

“You, too,” the Rav told the man, “can master the entire Talmud. Even if you do not understand a word of it at present, persevere in your studies and Hashem will grant you your reward. Which reward? In the World to Come Hashem will delegate a Torah scholar to sit with you and teach you everything you did not comprehend in this world.”

His Shining Countenance Rabbi Moshe Aharon Pinto stayed in the house of the Azulai family when visiting Los Angeles. In his honor, the family kashered all their dishes and even prepared special foods for him.

One day Mrs. Azulai told her son David, “Please go to the tzaddik’s room and invite him to come eat lunch.” The boy went at his mother’s bidding and opened the door to the tzaddik’s room. But, suddenly, he recoiled and gasped. He quickly retreated.

The family members were alarmed. “What happened?” they asked him anxiously. The boy excitedly reported, “When I entered the room, I saw the Rav glowing with a dazzling light, and his face was radiant and shining.”

A similar story happened with Makhluf Bitton from Moshav Luzit. Rabbi Moshe Aharon was a guest in his home for a few days, and Makhluf noticed a brilliant light shining from his room. It was because the face of the Rav shone like a torch of fire, casting its rays far and wide. When the host approached Rabbi Moshe Aharon’s room, he suddenly stepped back in fear and retraced his steps without entering. His family members also witnessed the scene, which continued throughout his stay in their home.

Such testimony is also given by Rabbi Moshe Aharon’s family members. Many nights, when his room was dark, his face glowed like the sun. At first they were frightened by the scene, but later they became accustomed to it.


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