December 3rd 2022

9th of Kislev 5783

Even in the Most Desperate Situation One Must Never Despair

Rabbi David Chananya Pinto

Concerning the moment Yaakov left his father's house, the Midrash says (Bereishit Rabba 68:2), Rabbi Shmuel bar Nachman said: "A song to the ascents. I raise my eyes upon the mountains (ההרים)" (Tehillim 121:1). I raise my eyes to my ancestors (ההורים) who preceded me and formed me. "From where will my help come?" When Eliezer went to look for a wife for Yitzchak, what does it say? "Then the servant took ten camels… and set out with all the bounty of his master" (Bereishit 24:10), but I am coming without even one nose ring or bracelet.

Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: His father sent [bounty] with him, but Esav came and took it from him. He repeated, "Am I going to lose hope in my Creator? G-d forbid! Rather, 'My help is from Hashem… He will not allow your foot to falter; your Guardian will not slumber. Behold, He neither slumbers nor sleeps…'"

(The following insight occurred to me in the Barcelona airport. My flight was postponed due to a malfunction in the plane's engine, and that is when I received the siyata d'Shmaya to write this idea.)

Chazal explain that Esav ordered his son Eliphaz to pursue Yaakov and kill him, but when they met up Yaakov convinced Eliphaz not to kill him. He asked Eliphaz to leave him alive and instead take his wealth, because a poor man is considered like dead (Nedarim 64a). Indeed, Eliphaz agreed and Yaakov's life was spared.

But when Yaakov arrived in Charan bereft of all possessions, he wondered for a moment and said, "From where will my help come?" That is, Eliezer servant of Avraham came here loaded with all good things, and still only with great difficulty was he able to leave with my mother Rivka. This means the people here are frauds and greedy for money. So how will I, lacking all wealth, attain my goal here of taking a wife?

However, Yaakov Avinu immediately strengthened himself and declared he is not losing faith in Hashem. Rather, "I raise my eyes upon the mountains:" to my ancestors, to the merit of my holy forefathers. And above all: "My help will come from Hashem, Maker of heaven and earth." Meaning, just as Hashem created the entire world "something from nothing," so certainly He can rescue me from the straits and lead me to expansiveness.

Yaakov Avinu bequeathed this way of life to his offspring and all following generations. Even if a Jew is in great trouble, and for a moment it seems all is lost and there is no hope for salvation, then too he must plead to Hashem and pray continually, for nothing is beyond Him and He can help any person in any situation.

Furthermore, a Jew must remember the 'mountains', referring to his ancestors, our holy forefathers, who even in the most difficult situations and hardest of trials did not despair. Rather they persevered in their prayers to the Creator of the World. And even when they did not see any ray of light, they prayed to Hashem and trusted in His salvation. And indeed they saw the fulfillment of "My help will come from Hashem, Maker of heaven and earth." This is true for every single Jew.

This, then, was the uniqueness and virtue of Yaakov Avinu. Yaakov Avinu rectified his physical body and perfected his sincere faith in the Creator, to the extent that he returned his image to its roots in the Heavenly source. That is why he merited to have his image engraved on the Throne of Glory.

If Bnei Yisrael, who are Yaakov's offspring, merit rectifying their materialistic bodies, they too will merit having their image engraved Above within the image of Yaakov Avinu. The more a Jew refines his body and his image, the more his image Above shines stronger and stronger.

The Jewish people are called Bnei Yisrael (Children of Yisrael i.e. Yaakov) and not Bnei Avraham or Yitzchak, because Avraham and Yitzchak each had some imperfection in the form of their offspring Yishmael and Esav. But Yaakov Avinu was the symbol of perfection. He is called "A wholesome man sitting in tents." All his children, known as "The Twelve G-dly Tribes," were tzaddikim. Therefore anyone who purifies and perfects himself merits an attachment to Yaakov Avinu.

Walking in Their Ways

For Not Having Made Me a Gentile

Once when I was travelling by train accompanied by my assistant, a gentile father and his two sons sat down opposite us. During the journey the sons began profaning their mouths with the worst kind of talk, while the father cooperated with them and actually enjoyed his sons' vulgar speech.

Although at first the other gentiles in our carriage were astonished to hear this kind of talk, as time passed they began enjoying the scene and even laughed at the profanity.

In contrast, my attendant and I suffered greatly during these two hours, without being able to do anything about it since there was nowhere else we could sit. We encouraged ourselves and shut our ears so as not to hear the unclean speech. All the while I felt deep sorrow that instead of two hours of peaceful Torah study, we had to endure two hours of terrible suffering. I thought of Yaakov Avinu who after his long exile and struggles, wished to settle down in tranquility, but the anguish of Yosef's kidnapping pounced upon him.

I also reckoned: "It seems appropriate to right now recite the blessing, 'Blessed are You for not having made me a gentile' (without Hashem's Name). And tomorrow in the morning prayers, I will recite the full blessing with true feeling, because I have tangibly experienced the difference between a Jew and a gentile."

This father was educating his sons to profanity, and enjoying the abominations they uttered, R"l. In contrast, a Jewish father educates his sons to study Torah and guard his mouth and eyes from inappropriate sights, unclean speech and forbidden foods.

We are therefore worthy of reciting daily "… for not having made me a gentile."

Words of the Sages

What is Rachel Imeinu's Great Secret?

Rachel Imeinu, whose merit we constantly mention, is remembered with admiration mainly for her noble act which gave her the merit to eventually be blessed with children, as it says, "Hashem remembered Rachel; Hashem hearkened to her and He opened her womb." What did Hashem remember? Rashi tells us: "He remembered that she gave over the signs to her sister." The Maharal adds that this was measure for measure. Rachel made sure her sister would not be disgraced by her husband, therefore it was not appropriate for Rachel to be left childless, for this would have left her disgraced in the face of her husband.

The question is asked, if this was the reason it would seem appropriate that she be blessed with children long before she actually merited salvation, since she gave over the signs before her marriage. Why was she blessed only after the incident of the dudaim?

The Sfat Emet explains that through the incident of the dudaim, Rachel's forgoing (vitur) became a lesson for the generations. Leah said to Rachel, "Was your taking my husband insignificant?" Rachel remained silent and did not reply. With this silence Rachel reached the peak and perfection of her vitur, and therefore this is what brought about her salvation and gave her the final merit needed to be blessed with children.

Maran Harav Shteinman zt"l would repeatedly tell people who came to ask for his advice: Forgo, forgo and this will bring salvation. When asked by one of his students in what way the Rosh Yeshiva had gained by forgoing so much in his life, he replied: "I see how much Hashem protects me in matters pertaining to the public. If I am lacking some knowledge, in some way Hashem sends me whatever I need to know." This is measure for measure, for if one treats others beyond the letter of the law, Hashem behaves with him in this way too.

On the verse "You shall love your neighbor as yourself, I am Hashem," Rabbi Yeshaya Fuchs zt"l, in his sefer Petach Tikvah, explains by way of drush: Hashem says: If you treat your neighbor with love, as (you) yourself (behave), so will I. I too will behave with you in this way. Harav Shteinman added: There is a principle that if there is an only son, the daughter gets no part of the inheritance (daughters only inherit if there are no sons). Harav Chaim Kanievsky zt"l was an only son, yet when his father passed away he gave everything to R' Chaim's widowed sister. When R' Chaim heard about this he humbly said, "Father lived with this sister all these years – she deserves it!" Did he lose out? Hashem provided for him! (Kol Mishalotecha).

Also on this topic it is told that a G-d fearing talmid chacham once came to Harav Shteinman and began tearfully relating that he has several older daughters at home, and salvation seemed to be nowhere on the horizon. The Rosh Yeshiva replied, "I am neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but I know what Chazal say. Hashem promised Rachel that He would remember her great vitur when she gave over the signs to her sister. This demonstrates the great power of vitur! Train yourselves in the attribute of vitur and then Hashem will help you." This father decided to begin studying a certain mussar sefer dealing with the topic, and indeed in a short time they merited great salvation.

From the Treasury

Rabbi David Chananya Pinto

The Essence of the Aramaic Language

When Yaakov fled with all his possessions, including Lavan's teraphim (idols) that Rachel had stolen, Lavan chased after him. Lavan searched through Yaakov's possessions but did not find his teraphim. Lavan later proposed a treaty, as it says, "So now, come, let us make a covenant, me and you, and He shall be a witness between me and you" (Bereishit 31:44).

Lavan Ha'arami (lit. the Aramean but also meaning deceitful) is called so because he constantly acted deceitfully. But in fact, where was the deceit in this incident? Yaakov agreed to make the covenant and together they built a monument, calling it Gal-eid.

Lavan's words shed light on the matter: "This mound shall be a witness and the monument shall be witness that I may not cross over to you past this mound, nor may you cross over to me past this mound and this monument, for evil" (Bereishit 31:52). This shows that the intention behind the covenant was not for the sake of bringing them closer. On the contrary, the covenant was one of separation and distancing, ensuring each would not approach the other's territory.

In fact, there are two types of alliances; there is a covenant of love made to strengthen a bond and mutual responsibility, and there is a covenant which is actually a form of setting boundaries, so each side does not infringe on the other's share. There are also two kinds of covenants between a husband and wife. There is a ketubah (Jewish marriage contract) and there is a get (Jewish bill of divorce). When a couple wants to marry and make a covenant of connection and closeness, there must be an official ketubah. If they wish to disconnect and go separate ways however, they must also do so with a covenant but this is called a get. This was the kind of covenant Yaakov made with Lavan. Yaakov wanted there to be complete separation, as if his wives were no longer Lavan's daughters and Yaakov's sons not Lavan's grandchildren. The mound and monument were to serve as witnesses to this.

However, Lavan wanted the opposite. He proposed an alliance of connection and so-called peace, for he hoped thereby to be able to influence Yaakov and his offspring with the power of his impurity. But when he saw they did not desire any form of influence from him and wished to distance themselves, he had no choice but to agree to this covenant. And even then Lavan had his own benefit in mind. That not only would he not influence them, but that he would not be influenced by them. He longed for such a covenant which would ensure there would be no influence of holiness on him or his descendants, a holiness which could crack and subdue the klippah. And in future generations, when the Jewish people would go into exile in Babylon, they would have no opportunity to study Torah there, for the entire Aramaic language would be impure. In this way they would not be able to grow in Torah and elevate themselves when in exile.

Today we see clearly how much the klippah has intensified and interferes with the power of holiness. This is also noted when it comes to seeking financial support for our holy Torah institutions from pure sources. The holy Zohar (I, 171a) talks about this in regards to the angel of Esav striking Yaakov's hip-socket; he says this refers to those who support Torah. The klippah makes it very difficult to raise funds for the holy Torah. Yaakov understood this and wished to make a covenant of severance so we should not be influenced by the klippah. That is, even if we use the Aramaic language to study Torah, we should not be influenced by the klippah of Lavan.

A Day of Delight

Preparing on Shabbat for Any Other Day

1. Because of the honor of Shabbat Chazal decreed one should not prepare on Shabbat for a weekday, or on Shabbat for Yom Tov or on one Shabbat for the next Shabbat. This is based on the verse (Shemot 16:5), "And it shall be on the sixth day when they prepare what they bring, it will be double what they pick every day." This means that when the manna fell in the Wilderness, Bnei Yisrael would collect a double portion on Friday and prepare it for Shabbat.

2. One should preferably not prepare on Shabbat for a weekday even if the act does not involve much effort, such as bringing wine to the beit knesset for Havdalah for Motza'ei Shabbat etc. However, if one would not be able to easily get hold of wine later on, it is permitted because it is a mitzvah necessity.

3. One may take challah out of the freezer to thaw for Melave Malke, and other similar cases. In addition, if Yom Tov falls on Motza'ei Shabbat one may thaw frozen foods for the festive meal already on Shabbat. This is not considered an act of preparation since the defrosting happens by itself. What's more, there is not much effort involved and it is for a mitzvah purpose.

4. The main prohibition of preparing on Shabbat for weekday is concerning something that could be done on weekday but one wishes to do it on Shabbat to save time on the weekday. But in the case where if something is not done on Shabbat it will not be possible to do it on weekday, this may be done on Shabbat. Therefore, at the end of the meal one may place the dishes in the sink and pour water over them to prevent the remains from drying out on the dishes, thus making it easier to wash them on Motza'ei Shabbat, for if this is not done immediately on Shabbat the dirt will dry. However, if time has passed and the dirt has already dried, one should not pour water on them to soften the dirt, because the same act could be done Motza'ei Shabbat. However, one may place the dishes in the sink and wash one's hands over them during Shabbat.

5. It is permissible to freeze challah or return foods to the refrigerator, for the purpose of eating after Shabbat, since waiting until Motza'ei Shabbat would cause the food to lose its freshness or even spoil. In addition, this act only preserves the current state. Also, it is normal to return food to the refrigerator and does not always involve a special intention for weekdays.

6. One may wash dishes only if they will be used during Shabbat. Drinking cups may be washed throughout the day since it is normal for a person to drink during the day and so he may need them. But if he is certain he will not drink anymore, he should not wash the cup.

If one has an additional set of dishes it is preferable not to wash at all. Instead when necessary he should use the second set. However, if one is bothered by seeing so many dirty dishes in the kitchen during Shabbat, one may wash them if they will be used again.

7. One may use dish soap to wash dishes but not a sponge or scourer for fear of squeezing the water out of them. However one may use something made of synthetic material that does not absorb.

8. One may place dishes in the dishwasher on Shabbat, but should not arrange every utensil in order. Rather, place them randomly and organize them Motza'ei Shabbat.

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


Principles in Service of the Heart and Rectification of Middot

Exaggerate? No. Abstain? Also Not!

Yaakov Avinu paves the correct path for us when asking Hashem to fulfill all our needs: Food – to eat, and clothing – to wear!

In Yaakov Avinu's prayer we discover what is required of the Jewish person who serves the Creator with sincerity: not to overindulge in pleasures, but at the same time not to abstain from basic necessities.

The secret of this conduct lies in a clear and unequivocal directive: not to look over our shoulders and desire what our neighbor has. So what should we do? Notice and concentrate on what Hashem has given us and rejoice with our lot.

How does one achieve this?

Only through studying the holy Torah and its lessons, which benefit us both in This World and the Next.

It is told about Rabbi Yaakov Aryeh of Radzimin zt"l, that although when he served as Rav in Ritchebel he was most destitute, nevertheless he was always happy with his lot. Due to his poverty he did not even have enough money to buy himself a hat, so he would cover his head with cabbage leaves, as was the way of the poor farmers.

Once one of his close friends met him and saw him walking with the cabbage leaves on his head, cheerful and happy. The friend was surprised and asked him, "Isn't the Rebbe embarrassed of his poverty?"

The Rebbe was puzzled by his question and replied:

"And why should I be ashamed? Did I steal it from someone…?"

Since this incident involves extreme poverty, to balance the picture we will turn our focus to Yaakov Avinu who beseeched Hashem to provide for his basic needs: "If Hashem will be with me… give me bread to eat and clothes to wear" (Bereishit 28:29).

On this verse the Chovat Halevavot expounds (Shaar Habechina 5): "This is what tzaddikim ask of Hashem. They do not ask for luxuries, only for what is necessary and which a person cannot live without. It is well known that man's tendency to seek luxuries causes him many disturbances. Therefore it is fitting for every G-d fearing person to be happy with his lot, be content with little and not covet luxury. In this way his heart will expand with fear of G-d."

Hagaon Rabbi Yerucham Leibovitz zt"l, in his sefer Daat Torah, explains that when the sages of the nations sought the pleasure of wisdom, they separated themselves and abstained from all worldly affairs, for these things were a hindrance to obtaining wisdom. "But," Rabbi Yerucham points out, "this is not the Torah view! The Torah does not demand from man total abstinence, for Chazal say (Kiddushin 30b), 'When a healing bandage (referring to Torah) is on the wound, eat and drink whatever you enjoy and bathe either in hot or cold water, and there is no need to fear.'

"Eating and drinking can affect a person's wound, but if it is bandaged he can eat and drink whatever he wants!"


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