October 29th, 2022

4th of Cheshvan 5783


Everything is a Result of Hashem's Word

Rabbi David Chanayia Pinto

"This is how you shall make it – three hundred cubits the length of the Ark; fifty cubits its width; and thirty cubits its height" (Bereishit 6:15).

We can ask why Hashem had to specify to Noach how to build the Ark, detailing exact measurements of its intended length, width and height. Why was he not left to build it according to his own discretion?

In addition, relative to the multitudes of animals and beasts in the world, the dimensions of the Ark were very small. It is simply miraculous that this tiny Ark could house all the animals, people, all their food and also all their garbage for an entire year. All this would actually require an Ark many times larger. So how in fact did an Ark three hundred cubits long, fifty cubits wide and only thirty cubits high sufficiently house them all?

We find something similar with the Ohel Mo'ed (Tent of Meeting). This was a place where Moshe gathered all Am Yisrael, who numbered hundreds of thousands. How did they all manage to gather in its courtyard? Chazal tell us that the courtyard of the Ohel Mo'ed, and the Ohel Mo'ed itself, was one of the places where we experienced the miracle "A small [space] holds something much larger." That is, even though it was a small area, since Hashem commanded all of Am Yisrael to gather there, miraculously there was room for everyone. Because when it is Hashem's will, matter need not be limited to space.

Similarly, the Mishkan, built according to specific measurements, was not big at all. However, on Erev Pesach, when they had to slaughter the Pesach offering, many thousands were able to enter the courtyard of the Mishkan. In addition, the Azarah (Courtyard Area), only 16 amot in size, was able to hold hundreds of thousands of Jewish people, and there was sufficient room for all, without crowding.

Above all, Chazal say that one of the ten miracles that occurred in the Beit Hamikdash was that no one ever said, "There is no room for me to sleep overnight in Yerushalayim," despite its relatively small size. The fact that more than sixty thousand people came to Yerushalayim for the festivals and did not feel crowded was an exceptional miracle. And even in the Beit Hamikdash itself, people stood tightly together when they prayed, but when it came time to bow down there was plenty room for all to prostrate themselves on the ground.

So we see that when Hashem gives measurements, even if they are small, the place is not limited to its physical dimensions and can contain much more than its actual size would normally allow. This is the lesson the Torah wishes to impart. Hashem's hand is not limited; through Hashem's blessing and word the small can hold much.

Accordingly, it is clear why Hashem told Noach exactly how to construct the Ark. Hashem did not leave Noach to build an Ark according to the size and dimensions he would imagine appropriate. For had he carried out the construction according to his own discretion, it would not have contained Hashem's blessing. And then the Ark really would not have been large enough to accommodate all the people, animals, food and necessities for an entire year. For this Noach would have had to construct several Arks.

***Through the waters of the Flood that completely covered the highest mountain and filled the deepest hollows, Hashem wished to purify the world.

However, despite the entire world being filled with water, Hashem's name remained imprinted on the waters. The verse says (Bereishit 7:20), "Fifteen cubits upward did the waters strengthen, and the mountains were covered." Hashem created the world with the name י-ה, as it says (Yeshaya 26:4), "כי בי-ה, For in G-d, Hashem, is the strength of the worlds." And י-ה has a numerical value of fifteen. The letter yud remained in the heavens, while the letter heh was found upon earth. This teaches us that even though there was a great Flood, there was tremendous Divine Providence throughout the destruction and Hashem made sure the world would not be completely destroyed, so it could later be renewed, with the Name י-ה.

Walking in Their Ways

Hovering in Heaven

Once during a flight, as we were about to land in New York, Hashem suddenly enlightened me in understanding a specific sugya I had been having trouble comprehending. As the city’s lights came into view, the resolution of the sugya dawned on me with crystal clarity. Without wasting a moment, I pulled out a pen and paper and started to commit this thought to writing. I began explaining the subject, as well as its Heaven-sent resolution.

As I was writing, I glanced out the window and noticed we were about to touch ground any moment. I was filled with sorrow at the thought that I would not be able to wrap up my writing in one sitting.

Suddenly, and to my great surprise, I felt the plane gain altitude. The captain took the loudspeaker and explained that since another plane was about to land, we would have to circle the area for a while until it would be safe for us to touch down.

We circled the airport for a good half hour, during which I managed to record all the details of the difficult sugya, from beginning to end. I have no doubt that Hashem caused this delay, which I had never before experienced on a plane, so I could finish committing my thoughts to writing.

I also understood that it was the merit of the Torah I was studying that protected the two planes, preventing them an accident. 

Words of the Sages

You Were Saved by Telling the Truth!

The Yalkut Shimoni (Tehillim remez 638) enlightens us with basic guidance and instruction for life. He states that when Hashem told Noach to bring two of every species into the Ark, falsehood came and also wanted to enter the Ark. Noach said to him, "You can only enter the Ark if you come with a partner, as it says, 'Two by two they came to Noach into the Ark.'"

Falsehood went and met P'chata (the attribute of damages). It too wanted to enter the Ark but Noach would not let it because it did not have a partner. Falsehood suggested they enter together as spouses and P'chata responded, "How much will you pay me for this?" Falsehood answered: "I will pay you whatever I earn in my business dealings." P'chata agreed and they entered the Ark together. And from then until today, whatever is earned through falsehood goes to P'chata.

Harav Tzvi Weinman related: I owned a one-and-a-half-room apartment in the Bayit Vegan neighborhood. Since it stood empty and I wished to sell it, I consulted with lawyers who told me I should declare the apartment occupied, as the vast majority of sellers of empty apartments do, since owners pay appreciation tax for an apartment which is not occupied, and this can amount to the difference between the purchase and sale price.

When I expressed my astonishment how they could suggest such a thing, and my concern what would happen if I would be caught, they told me there was no chance I would get caught because the authorities would never know the apartment was empty. According to their experience there was nothing to fear.

However, I, who was used to consulting with Maran Harav Elyashiv zt"l about big and small matters, went to ask this question as well. He answered with an emphatic warning not to lie or engage in any form of deception, and I should only tell the truth.

Of course, I did as he said. I went to the post office and paid the tax, having in mind to fulfill the commandment, "And you shall be careful to do according to everything they will teach you."

The buyer who bought the apartment was a religious Jew who worked in the property tax office. He met me on the street shortly after and asked me: "Tell me, do you have Divine Inspiration?! Do angels follow you everywhere?! After all, the absolute majority of sellers of empty apartments declare them to be fully occupied. You are extremely lucky that you did not do this, because I can tell you  property tax officers were lying in wait for you…"

He continued: "They were waiting to catch you! They knew you didn't live in the apartment and wanted to sell it. They went and checked the water and electricity meters, and saw that the apartment had not been lived in for many years. They chuckled to themselves and waited for the prey about to fall into their hands. They were sure you would lie just like everyone else...

"But you told the truth and were saved!"

One never loses out from telling the truth! And lying is never profitable! (Dirshu)

From the Treasury

Rabbi David Chanayia Pinto

Part of Man's Role in Life is Zikui Harabim

"Noach, with his sons, his wife, and his sons' wives with him, went into the Ark because of the waters of the Flood" (Bereishit 7:7).

Rashi quotes Chazal (Zohar Chadash I, 37b) who explain that before the Flood began, Noach stood by the entrance to the Ark and did not wish to enter because he lacked faith. "He believed yet did not believe" Hashem would bring a flood. He therefore stood there until the rising waters forced him to enter.

This seems most surprising. Did Noach really not believe Hashem would bring a flood? Hashem told him clearly (ibid 6:17), "And, as for Me – Behold, I am about to bring the Flood-waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which there is a breath of life from under the heavens." So how can we understand this – how could it be even when the rain began to fall Noach was still unsure?

I would like to suggest the following explanation. We are told "Noach walked with G-d," which implies He walked with G-d alone. He was concerned only for himself and studied Torah only for himself. He was lacking both the aspect of toiling in Torah for the sake of transmitting it to others and the desire to inspire the masses to perform meritorious deeds (zikui harabim). This is in contrast to Avraham Avinu a"h who converted many of his generation and brought them closer to Hashem. The absence of this factor is what brought Noach to a state of wavering belief.

However, we can easily exonerate Noach by the fact that he was surrounded by wicked people on all sides; his entire generation was corrupt and rebelled against Hashem. He, his wife, his sons and their wives were the only upright people. This may be why he kept to himself.

Noach's very name testifies to his conduct. The word Noach come from the term menucha – rest and tranquility. He lived a tranquil life and did not invest effort in trying to make his generation repent. Zikui harabim was not part of his life. He was calm, knowing that "the waters of Noach", the Flood, would not harm him.

This is a lesson for us about the importance of zikui harabim, and how much it contributes to a person's spiritual growth.

A Day of Delight

Seuda Shlishit (Third Shabbat Meal)

1. Chazal say (Shabbat 118a) that one who is particular to eat three meals on Shabbat is saved from three types of punishment: the birth pains of Mashiach, the judgement of Gehinom, and the war of Gog and Magog.

Rabbi Yossi said: May my share in the Next World be with those who eat three meals on Shabbat. And Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai said: Whoever eats three meals on Shabbat, a Heavenly Voice announces: "Then you will delight in Hashem," corresponding to the first meal, "and I will mount you astride the heights of the world," corresponding to the second meal, and "I will provide you the heritage of your forefather Yaakov" corresponding to the third meal.

2. One may eat the third meal from the time of Mincha Gedola, meaning half an hour after chatzot (midday). It is preferable to pray Mincha first and then eat, but if this would mean missing a Torah shiur, he should eat first and pray later.

3. The third meal must be started before sh'kia (sunset). If this was not possible, he should eat right away as long as it is not yet night. He may then continue the meal even after nightfall.

4. Both men and women are obligated to eat bread at this meal, and one should not try to exempt oneself with different excuses. Therefore, one should take care to eat the morning meal immediately after returning from the beit knesset, in order to have appetite for the third meal later on.

5. If one is truly unable to eat bread, he should eat a k'zayit of cake or other dish made from grain. If even this is too difficult for him, he should eat a cooked dish such as meat or fish. If this is not possible, he should eat fruit, and in the worst case should drink a revi'it of wine.

6. The Kabbalists write that it is important to eat fish at the third meal. It is also praiseworthy to eat egg as a reference to the passing of Moshe, Yosef Hatzaddik and David Hamelech who all passed away at Mincha time on Shabbat. It is also good to recite the "borei pri hagafen" blessing and drink a little wine at this meal.

7. If one does not intend to eat bread at this meal, but did not begin eating (cake/fruit/wine etc.) before sh'kiah, one should not delay and finish by nightfall.

8. If one ate cake or drank wine (without washing for bread) before sh'kiah, when sh'kiah arrives he should stop drinking but may continue eating until nightfall. This is because eating (until one finishes the dish) is considered one act, but each cup of drink is considered a new act of drinking.

9. If, upon completion of the third meal, one forgets to recite the retzei addition in birkat hamazon and remembers after reciting the word ha'kel of the fourth blessing, one continues and nothing need be done. If one remembers before this point one should recite the Compensatory Blessing.

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


An Amazing Phenomenon Inherent in the Human Soul

The moral deterioration of the world reached its peak in the days of Noach. Only about 1600 years had passed since Adam Harishon was expelled from Gan Eden, yet the people of Noach's generation did not refrain from any abomination. Acts of robbery, murder, theft and terrible moral lawlessness were the norm. From the moment the world discovered the power of the Yetzer Hara, it made extensive use of it, until the entire creation reached moral depravity. The Torah sums up man's condition in one short sentence: "Every outcome of the thoughts of his heart is but evil always."

Chazal explain the meaning of "For the earth is filled with robbery (חמס)." Not for nothing does the Torah use the word חמס, and not גזל, theft. חמס means taking from someone an amount of money worth less than a penny.

This is what the Generation of the Flood would do: a peddler would take out his coffers full of fruit to sell, but a passerby would approach and take less than a penny's worth, and then another would come and do the same. This continued until the peddler had nothing left, but no one was legally liable.

The Generation of the Flood, a promiscuous and corrupt generation, is described by Chazal as meticulous about observing the Torah law. When they wanted to take the property of others, they did so in a 'permitted' way. Instead of robbing the person without thinking, they tried to take less than the value of a penny so they would be exempt from having to reimburse.

The judges themselves were as corrupt as the rest of the generation, and were complicit in their crimes. So it was not the fear of legal proceedings that led the people to steal less than a penny. So what was behind the 'halachic' meticulousness in their acts of robbery?

Rabbi Shalom Schwadron zt"l explains: "This teaches us something amazing about the powers of the human soul. How a person can commit a true abomination, and yet in the midst of being immersed in evil, can imagine himself meticulous about certain things. He reasons that if it's possible to take in a permissible way, why transgress a prohibition? And his soul doesn't feel any contradiction in the extremity of his actions. On the one hand he enjoys cheating, yet on the other hand delights in his meticulous observance of the mitzvot, taking without transgressing the sin of theft. He says to himself, "Wow! I am so scrupulous and G-d fearing!"

As was his way, Rabbi Shalom spiced up his insight with a personal story:

"Once I was walking in one of Jerusalem's alleyways. From afar I saw people passing a certain place, blocking their noses and fleeing for their lives. I told myself when I get to that place I will see and understand why they are running away from there. I continued on my way and was suddenly overcome by a terrible smell. I continued further, the odor grew stronger, and I noticed in the distance a group of people standing around a pit and looking inside.

"I came closer, somehow overcame the stench, and was faced with an astonishing sight. A central sewage pit had been opened up due to a malfunction, which is why the smell wafted from it to such a great distance. And since the pit was a large and central one, several non-Jewish workers were working inside it. And believe it or not, one of the workers had found a cleft inside the pit, and was sitting there enjoying a portion of pita falafel...

"When I saw this I realized it was a sight that could teach me something. I, already from some distance away, couldn't stand the smell, while this worker was sitting inside the stench, surrounded by filth and pollution, enjoying his lunch! How was his soul not repulsed by the bad smell? It must be that when a person is deeply inside the stench he does not feel it...

"It is the same with spirituality. When a person is immersed in the mire of his vile deeds, his nose and heart are blocked. That is how he can delight in being particular not to rob more than the lowest value, an amount he will not have to repay. In this way he satisfies his Yetzer Hara while in his own eyes maintains his status as a good and honest man who does not steal!"


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