October 22nd, 2022

27th of Tishri 5783


Man's Purpose in This World – A Life Full of Spiritual Content

Rabbi David Chananya Pinto

The Torah writes at length about all those who lived in the generation of Adam Harishon and those after him, until Noach was born. At the end of Parshat Noach too, we find how the Torah details all the Generation of the Flood until the birth of Avraham Avinu; how long they lived, at what age they began having children and how long they lived after their children were born. And after the Flood, the Torah continues, listing all the names of the generation and how long they lived.

The question is, why is it important for us to know all these facts? These people did not accomplish anything significant, so why does the Torah provide so much detail?

A possible answer is that the Torah wishes to teach us a moral lesson for all generations. These people lived so long – some of them more than eight and nine hundred years – and all of them surely knew Adam Harishon, the handiwork of Hashem. They were all the offspring of Adam and Chava.

And certainly, Adam Harishon who knew all these people since he lived for hundreds of years, must have told them about different events that happened over the years. The story of the Creation, how Hashem created the world in six days, and how he was Hashem's favorite creation and had been placed in Gan Eden where angels roasted meat for him and gave him wine from Gan Eden to drink…

He must also have told them about the special time he spent in Gan Eden, until due to his sin he was banished. And how Hashem then stationed the Cheruvim and the flame of the ever-turning sword, sealing off entrance to Gan Eden.  And above all, he must have told them how he repented for his sin and sang, "A psalm, a song for the Shabbat day."

But all these significant events did not have a positive effect on any of the people who lived in those generations, throughout the hundreds of years.

And even when they saw the Flood beginning to descend on the land, they still did not subdue themselves before Hashem or repent.

Even worse, they wanted to kill Noach, as Chazal say they took swords and axes to break the Ark and kill Noach! But then "Hashem shut [the Ark] on his behalf." He surrounded the Ark with lions and bears to save Noach from the hands of the wicked who sought to kill him.

If so, in light of this wicked behavior, it was not worthwhile for them to live such long lives devoid of any spiritual content. A proof is they all died in the Flood and there was no-one left except Noach and his wife, his three sons and their wives, whom Hashem protected vigilantly lest they be affected negatively by these people and be punished, leaving no one to sustain the world.

Even the Generation of Dispersion which followed the Generation of the Flood rebelled against Hashem, instead of living in unity with one another to benefit the world. So much so, they even wished to build a tower with its top in the heavens, so they could as if ascend to heaven and fight against Hashem.

That is why the Torah details at length the names and events of these people who lived so long. They did not bring any benefit to the world; their years were empty of spiritual content. And since they had no merits at all, and even scorned the many opportunities they were given to repent, Hashem destroyed them completely.

The Torah wants to teach us that there is no value to living a long life if a person does not bring any benefit to creation, humanity, or even to themselves. And how much worse if they do the opposite, showing a lack of appreciation for all Hashem's kindness.

This is a practical lesson for each and every one of us. How important it is to take advantage of one's years and make sure they are replete with Torah, mitzvot and good deeds. We should ask for a life that will be full of sublime spiritual content, since this is man's purpose in This World.

Walking in Their Ways

Every Person Has His Hour

We had a relative who was a well-known businessman in Morocco. As a young man, I wanted to meet with him on several occasions, but it never came to be. When I needed funds in order to publish a book about my grandfather, Rabbi Chaim Pinto Hagadol zy”a, I wanted to enlist his help, but he kept eluding me.

When I matured, I undertook my father’s instruction to conduct a yearly hilula in Morocco, in memory of the tzaddik Rabbi Chaim Pinto zy”a. I always invited this relative but he never participated. Over the course of the years we lost contact.

The man aged. When he was close to ninety he made a complete turnaround in his relationship with me! He would spend hours in my presence, kissing my hand often and taking pride in our common ancestry.

David Hamelech states (Tehillim 119:99), "From all those who teach me I grew wise, for Your testimonies are a conversation for me."

So I spent some time contemplating this man’s paradoxical attitude toward me and came to the following conclusion: When I was young, I was not well-known and had nothing to offer this successful businessman. He therefore did not acknowledge me. But once I merited disseminating Torah, he sought my presence, proud to be my relative.

This is only in the merit of my holy ancestors and the Torah I studied from my youth until today.

Words of the Sages

The Act of Creation Includes Everything that Exists

Elucidating a verse from this week's Parshah, the holy Or Hachaim zy"a shatters the entire theory on which heresy is based. He writes: "'בראשית ברא אלקים את השמים ואת הארץ – In the beginning of G-d's creating the heavens and the earth:' The double use of את comes to include everything that can be found in the world."

It would seem more correct to write "בראשית ברא אלקים שמים וארץ". The "את" is an inclusive statement: don't make the mistake of thinking that the creation is only what you see with your eyes. When you look at the heavens, do you know what they contain? Infinitely vast worlds! Spiritual creations! And the entire creation that is part of the heavens was created by Hashem.

"And the earth:" beyond the earth which stretches as far as the horizon, Hashem created various things intended to be used by His creations. Some of them lie in the depths of the earth or deep in the water, and over the years they have been discovered in a deliberate or random fashion. And this might not be the end of the discoveries.

All of this is included in the word "את" of "ואת הארץ"; all material things that exist in creation.

It is impossible to say, G-d forbid, that there is a creation not created by Hashem. Not only this, but every single thing was created during the Six Days of Creation. However, some are visible, while others are not. Some material substances are only revealed after hard work, such as gold and diamonds, deposits of copper and zinc etc. And spiritual creations require contemplation and deliberation to "see" them.

With everything man does and produces, he uses the wonderful materials that exist in creation, and by various techniques makes new creations from them. But even the greatest professor of zoology cannot produce a small mosquito! Hashem alone created and creates everything!

This is something we must always remember and believe: the entire creation is Hashem's! By studying the verses of Creation we can strengthen our important core of faith: "I believe with complete faith that the Creator, Blessed is His Name, creates and guides all creatures."

Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe zt"l, the pillar of mussar, writes: Hashem created light. What is light? No one has yet been able to answer this question. The moon, for example, illuminates the entire world. When there is no moon, total darkness prevails in the world at night. What is this projector that lights up the whole world? Russia and America investigated this matter and sent spacecraft to the moon. When they first accomplished this feat, the world was impressed. They landed on the moon – the wonderful battery that lights up the night over the entire world. But what did they find? Only black rocks. They dug, and found nothing. Only rocks. How does the rock called "moon" light up the whole world?!

And the sun – what is it? It is still being investigated. A kind of fire that gives light to the whole world...

The real answer to this riddle is that everything is Hashem. The sun and moon are His servants, and it is He alone "Who illuminates the earth and those who dwell upon it, with compassion."

They, the sun and moon, receive their power from the Creator. He commands: "Illuminate!" and they illuminate – without batteries and accumulators, with a tremendous light. And you, the person, who stands and sees the light – are actually seeing Hashem in front of your eyes!

Harav Wolbe concludes: If man were to investigate the Divinity of the sun and moon, he would be frightened upon seeing light. He would arise in the morning and hide out in caves, afraid to see the light in the world, an embodiment of the light of Hashem Who illuminates the earth.

From the Treasury

Rabbi David Chananya Pinto

Man's Obligation to Do Hashem's Will

"So Hashem created Man in His image, in the image of Hashem" (Bereishit 2:7).

The Torah writes the sequence of the Creation in the first chapter, including a mention of the creation of man, and only later in the second chapter does the Torah write about Man in more detail, continuing with Adam's life in Gan Eden and his subsequent sin. Why is this?

We can explain with the following principle: Mankind is the crown of creation, the ultimate reason for the creation of the world. For this reason, the Torah did not want to start with Adam's sin – how he disobeyed Hashem by eating from the Tree of Knowledge immediately after being created. Rather, the Torah begins with the virtues of Man, taking note of the fact that Hashem created Man in His image, "in the image of G-d He created him."

And since the Torah mentions the qualities of Man, it continues by mentioning other admirable works of creation, namely the holiness of Shabbat. Shabbat is the choicest day of the week and actually brings blessing to the rest of the week, as the Zohar says (II, 88a), "Through it the rest of the week receives its sustenance."

Only then does the Torah continue with Adam's sin and his punishment of being banished from Gan Eden.

This teaches us how careful we must be to ensure our actions give spiritual pleasure to the Creator. We must be meticulous with studying Torah and observing the mitzvot, and then we too will merit being like our holy forefathers, and Hashem will indeed consider us the crown of creation.

A Day of Delight

Torah Study on Shabbat

1. The mitzvah of Torah study is equal to all other mitzvot. And one who studies on Shabbat receives reward that is multiplied many times over. One hour of Torah study on Shabbat is equal to 170 million hours of study on weekdays (as stated in the sefer Shibat Tzion, according to Tikunei Zohar)!

2. Maran the Chida writes: Talmidei chachamim who are engaged in Gemara and Halacha the entire week, should schedule time on Shabbat also for the study of Midrash and Aggada. This is indeed the custom of most talmidei chachamim in all places.

3. Regarding the virtue of creating innovative Torah ideas, and in particular on the holy Shabbat, the holy Zohar says (Zohar intro. 4b): "Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai said, know how much a person must strive to engage in Torah day and night, because Hashem listens to the voice of those who engage in Torah, and every word of a Torah thought they introduce creates one firmament. At the same time that man produces that word of Torah, it rises and testifies before Hashem, and Hashem takes that utterance and kisses it, adorning it with seventy crowns…" The Zohar also writes (Shelah Lecha 173:2), "…and how much honor upon honor, and crown upon crown, adorn the father of that person who creates Torah ideas. At that time Hashem says to His Heavenly Court, 'Gather to hear the Torah innovations of so-and-so, son of so-and-so.' They kiss the father on his head in the merit of his son. Fortunate is the lot of those who engage in Torah, and in particular on Shabbat more than on any other day.''

The Zohar also says (Beshalach 173): "Come and see! When Shabbat arrives the souls descend to minister the holy Nation (this is the neshama yeteira each person receives according to their level, an extra measure of holiness for Shabbat). And when Shabbat departs, these souls ascend and stand before the Creator. He asks them, 'What innovation in Torah did you create in that world?' And fortunate is the one who recites Torah innovations before Him, how much pleasure it brings Hashem! Then Hashem gathers His holy entourage and says: 'Listen to the Torah innovations the soul of so-and-so is saying.' And the entire Heavenly Court listens to these words, and the wings of the holy Chayot grow and they clothe themselves with their wings.''

4. Rabbeinu Yozef Chaim zy"a, in his Responsa Torah Lishmah (siman 98), adds another advantage: Even if a person was able to create novel Torah thoughts during the week, if he utters the chiddush for the first time on Shabbat, this chiddush has an added advantage due to the sanctity of Shabbat, and it is considered as if he created it on Shabbat itself, because the determining factor of its value is when he gives expression to it. In any case, whoever does not know how to be mechadesh should learn something new he did not know before, and this will be considered as if he was mechadesh.

5. From this we learn that whoever is concerned about the sanctity of Shabbat should try to speak only divrei Torah or other essential matters on Shabbat. The Midrash says: "Torah said to Hashem: 'Master of the world! When the Jewish people will enter the Land, one will run to his field and the other to his vineyard – and then what will become of me?!' Hashem replied: 'My daughter, I have a marriage partner for you, and it is called Shabbat. On this day the Jewish people cease all forms of work and engage in Torah.' The Talmud Yerushalmi writes: "Workers and businessmen who are involved with their occupation the entire week should study Torah on Shabbat more than talmidei chachamim..."

For any questions in practical application of these halachot, please consult a rabbinical authority.

Principles in Service of the Heart and Rectification of Middot

Arrogance is Literally Considered Avoda Zara!

The changing of the seasons is one of the great kindnesses Hashem bestowed upon His creatures. This change causes a change in man's feelings, role and actions, and gives birth to renewal. It is the nature of creation to change and renew itself, and thus it serves as a tool for man, so he will not grow stale and stagnant by remaining constantly in one state.  Without the ability to rejuvenate, all a person's days would follow the same course and he would sink into the mire of habit and thereby slowly descend to lower levels of spirituality.

This time of the year, Shabbat Bereishit, is as its name signifies: Shabbat, and also a starting point for good beginnings of plans and ideas. It could be thoughts we have entertained in the past, which never came to fruition; along came some destructive thought curtesy of our Yetzer Hara, which made sure to convince us to postpone these good plans until 'tomorrow' or 'after the chagim'.

There is no shortage of examples. Someone who finds his thoughts straying while praying, consoles himself that next time he prays he will concentrate from the beginning (until the very end...!) A student whose handwriting is illegible, is ready to make an effort to improve his writing – he will start with the next notebook. It's not just laziness. There is an emotional need for an external factor to influence the activity. The special fragrance of a new beginning, or new reality, helps change the habit and makes it easier for us to act differently.

This Shabbat is therefore a most appropriate time to inspire ourselves. Together we can acquire new habits, improve our traits and uproot any bad middot that do not belong among our refined nation. Let's renew ourselves, together.

At the center of the creation stands its crown – Adam Harishon (a reference to the Jewish people). Our positive inherent character was determined even before our creation, and accompanies us throughout our lives. This is how Chazal describe the creation of man (Yalkut Shimoni 1:13):

Rabbi Simon says: The ministering angels separated into different sects and groups, as it says, "Kindness and truth have met, righteousness and peace have kissed." Kindness says: Create [man] for he performs acts of kindness. Truth says: Do not create [man] for he is entirely falsehood. Righteousness says: Create [man] for he performs righteous acts. Peace says: Do not create [man] for he is entirely strife.

The initial, root trait with which man was created is therefore "chesed – kindness". This trait can accompany man throughout his entire life, at every moment and in every action. The human being is motivated and activated by this special trait of chesed. How is it possible that this trait sometimes becomes uprooted, transforming man into an emotionless being full of negative middot? The answer lies in one word that slowly penetrates and permeates into the inner, pure goodness of the crown of creation. This word is – 'sucker' (freier)!

This negative trait was created by the opinions of the people of Sodom. It is a Sodomic phrase that has no meaning; it cannot be translated into any human language. It has but one purpose – to prevent doing good to others. It makes us suppress all feelings of compassion and desire to volunteer. It blinds our eyes so we do not see others. The Alter of Kelm zt"l writes about this trait in connection with the words of the Gemara (Shabbat 105b): Rabbi Evin said: "What is the meaning of 'There shall be no strange god within you, nor shall you bow before an alien god'? What alien god is there inside a person? It refers to the Yetzer Hara."

This implies that self-love (an egoist) comes under the definition of avoda zara, serving foreign gods. The fact that a person thinks only of himself and does not think of the other person at all, means he kneels and bows to himself! This is a systematic idolatry of selfishness.

So for example, when your eyes and ears are blocked, you will no longer hear the noise you create that disturbs others. You don't hear the horn you honk in your car late at night outside a building – to get a friend's attention – even though elderly Jews live right there. And it's very possible there are also sick people or babies nearby who are already asleep. You don't see how the wrapper or cigarette butt that gets tossed on the floor disturbs others.

Let us open our eyes and ears to the needs and feelings of others, thereby distancing ourselves from following a strange god.


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