December 10th 2022

16th of Kislev 5783

Yirat Shamayim Leads to Repentance

Rabbi David Chananya Pinto

"The angels returned to Yaakov saying, 'We came to your brother, to Esav; moreover, he is heading toward you, and four hundred men are with him.' Yaakov became very frightened, and it distressed him" (Bereishit 32:7-8).

I read an insight from Rabbeinu the Rishon L'Tzion, Hagaon Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef zt"l, in the Yabi'a Omer periodical. He asked: Esav's behavior presents a contradiction. On the one hand, we see Esav is not scared of Yaakov Avinu at all, for when the angels returned to Yaakov and reported back about their mission, they told him Esav was entirely unafraid. On the contrary, he was coming to meet him with four hundred men. But on the other hand, later we find when Esav actually met Yaakov, he completely negated himself before him as a servant annuls himself in front of his master, as the verse says (ibid. 33:4), "Esav ran toward him, embraced him, fell upon his neck, and kissed him."

We will try to understand why the wicked Esav was not moved when approached by heavenly angels.

I would like to suggest the following answer. When Yaakov Avinu sent emissaries (angels) to Esav his brother, he told them to begin with an introduction (ibid. 32:5): "I have sojourned with Lavan and have lingered until now." Chazal say (ibid. Midrash Agadah) he was implying he was not scared of Esav, because he (Yaakov) lived with the wicked Lavan yet observed all 613 mitzvot and did not learn from his bad ways. If he succeeded in prevailing over Lavan, now too he will succeed in overcoming his brother Esav.

Esav, on the other hand, was not put off by hearing these words, since we are told (Yad Mitzrayim), "Hearing cannot be compared to actually seeing." Meaning, as long as Esav did not set his eyes on Yaakov, his strength and his words meant little to him, since for Esav it was nothing more than a verbal report. Therefore, even when Yaakov notified him, "I lived with Lavan and observed all 613 mitzvot," Esav did not believe him and was confident his heavenly angel would overcome Yaakov. Furthermore, the message Yaakov sent him even angered him, so he set out to meet Yaakov with four hundred men, planning to fight against him.

But hearing cannot be compared to seeing. When Esav actually came face to face with Yaakov Avinu, at that point he actually grew afraid of him because he realized the great power of Torah. He saw how Yaakov had elevated himself through the Torah he studied. So Esav made peace with Yaakov, hugged and kissed him, and even wanted to remain with him and accompany him.

It is incumbent upon us to realize that nothing stands in the way of determination. If a person truly desires to repent, nothing can stop him since the gates of teshuva are open for him. The proof is, Yitzchak Avinu tried to make Esav repent, drawing him close to him and giving him blessings, but despite this Esav turned his back to all the good he received and did not repent. On the contrary, he continued sinning.

Yaakov Avinu, when sending messengers to Esav, also tried to awaken him to repent. And in fact, when Esav came face to face with Yaakov, he immediately had a change of heart. He surrendered to him and hugged and kissed him. However, this still did not lead him to repent. It was hard for Esav to detach himself from the pleasures of This World, to the extent that he even sold his share in the Me'arat Hamachpelah.

The reason is because he lacked yirat Shamayim. Although he became submissive in his father's presence, honoring him greatly and asking him different questions about tithing, he lacked an important ingredient. His lack of yirat Shamayim was the cause of Esav being unable to subdue himself to the will of the Creator.

Walking in Their Ways

Awash with Gratitude

Rav Kurson is a precious Jew who devotes his time to acts of kindness and is pleasant to one and all. He has firm faith in tzaddikim and often hosts me when I come to his town to give lectures to inspire the public. Once, while I was visiting, he handed me a piece of paper listing all his family members. He asked that I pray for them for protection, blessing, and success in all their endeavors.

While carrying out his request, I spent more time than usual praying on behalf of his twin granddaughters. I do not know why, but I prayed for them over and over again. I repeated their names with deep concentration.

Then I gave Rav Kurson a bottle of water and told him to give it to his granddaughters to drink. It is superfluous to say that he wondered why I was focusing specifically on his twin granddaughters. Nevertheless, he did as I asked.

The next day shed light on this mystery.

Tragedy struck and both girls were critically injured after being run over by a massive truck. It seemed one of the girls would not make it. But, with nothing other than a miracle, both girls emerged from the hospital in perfect health.

Hashem had arranged that I should precede the malady with the remedy, in the form of the abundance of blessings and prayers I had offered in the merit of my holy ancestors zy"a. Certainly the merit of Rav Kurson’s hospitality, too, stood by his granddaughters and saved them from certain death.

Words of the Sages

Educating About the Power of Prayer

In the fateful moments when Yaakov Avinu stood in prayer before the Creator to save him from the hand of Esav, Yaakov cried out from the depths of his heart for the spiritual and physical salvation of Am Yisrael. He realized everything was now at stake. He was a personal example how to pour out our troubles to Hashem. He demonstrated how one serves Hashem through prayer, with feeling and heartfelt supplications.

The truth is, when trying to inspire others with an appreciation for prayer, one must understand how to reach the heart.

The very first objective, explained the mashigach Rabbi Noach Orlowek, is to educate youngsters; to explain to them in an indisputable way that we have a clear address. We have Someone to talk to and there is Someone Who listens to us – the Almighty, Hashem. The mashgiach related that his Rav, the gaon Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Feldman zt"l, mashgiach at the Mir Yeshiva in America and originally from Kelm, used to say that in Kelm during the prayers of the High Holy Days, they would linger over the words, "Our Father, our King," whereas they would quickly recite the supplication that follows (for example, "…send a complete recovery to the sick of Your people.") What do the words "Our Father, our King" signify?

A father is someone who loves me very much, while a king has enormous power. These are the two components of bitachon (trust in Hashem). This is the message we must convey to our children and students. There is an Address where we are heard; Hashem listens to our every word and our every intention is taken seriously. There is Someone to talk to. A young child knows he has a father and mother who are the address for all his needs and wishes, problems and misgivings. And as he grows up he must know he can trust his Father in Heaven. He is the One Who has the power to fulfill all his needs.

The sefer Chovat Halevavot (Shaar Cheshbon Nefesh) explains what prayer should look like: "He should take note in his heart to Whom he is talking when he prays, what he is asking and saying to his Creator, through the words of the prayer. The words should be like the peel, and the intention like the heart (of the matter). The [words of] prayer are like the body, and the deeper thoughts and intentions like the spirit." Telling a child just to pray, just to read the text written in the Siddur, is not prayer!

The Chovat Halevavot continues: "…prayer is equivalent to faith in the Creator… for He entrusted its matter into your hands… and if you pray as the Creator commanded, you have filled your obligation of faith." This kind of prayer is between you and the Creator. You can stand in the right position and say all the words, but the main work is the feeling that you are standing before the One Who said and the world came into being, and it is He Who is listening to you, harkens His ear with great love, and desires your every word and intention.

The sefer Machshava B'Parasha brings a story the author heard from a master educator about how he tried to help his students appreciate prayer.

He gathered his students in the office and asked the secretary to show the students on the security camera software, what took place at seven-thirty in the morning, during Shacharit. "I ask that each of you focus only on yourself, not on anyone else," said the teacher. "Each of you should take note as to how you appear when you stand before the King of kings, the Almighty…"

He himself left the room so as not to embarrass his students, letting them observe what took place. Some of the students, watching themselves on the screen, blushed or turned pale. They saw how they were dreaming, not focused enough, certainly not how they would stand before the mayor or an official… and how much more so not in front of the Creator of all, the Omnipotent…

From the Treasury

Rabbi David Chananya Pinto

Sanctify Yourself with the Permitted

"Therefore the Children of Israel are not to eat the displaced sinew on the hip-socket to this day, because he struck Yaakov's hip-socket on the displaced sinew" (Bereishit 32:33).

Why in fact are the Jewish people forbidden to eat the gid hanasheh (displaced sinew)? It would perhaps seem more fitting to eat it and thereby remember Yaakov's victory in overcoming Esav's angel, as we are commanded to eat matzah on Pesach to remember what they ate in Egypt?

I would like to suggest that precisely through making fences and restrictions does man succeed in warding off and conquering the Yetzer Hara. Excessive eating and drinking achieves the opposite. So if man would eat the gid hanasheh, perhaps he would relish the taste and think mainly about the food, not concentrating on what lies behind the physical act – Yaakov's victory due to his toil and devotion to Torah.

It is well-known that indulging in pleasures, such as excessive eating and drinking, will not yield a positive outcome. I heard that the tastiest part of the meat is the lower part, exactly in the place of the gid hanasheh. That is why it is necessary to set boundaries. Not without reason do Chazal say (Tana Debei Eliyahu Rabba 24), before a person prays for the words of the Torah to enter his innards, he should pray the abundance of food and drink not enter his innards. That is, a person must ask and beg Hashem for help in self-control, so as not to delight too much in eating and drinking, for as we explained, doing so in excess has negative repercussions.

Therefore, particularly by refraining from eating the gid hanasheh and distancing ourselves from worldly pleasures, do we remember the importance of investing ourselves in Torah, for that is the only thing that can save us from the Yetzer Hara. Similarly, if we find that those who support Torah have weakened their devotion, we should remember this could possibly be because we ourselves have become somewhat lax in Torah study.

A person should sanctify himself through that which is permitted (Yevamot 20a). He must not only stay away from forbidden pleasures, but even minimize permitted ones. Then he will see how the sun shines for him increasingly stronger, and he will see an abundance of blessing and success in his material and spiritual affairs.

A Day of Delight

Preparing on Shabbat for Any Other Day

1. One may remove the dishes from the table and tidy it after Seuda Shlishit (the third Shabbat meal), if one's intention is that the room should be clean and tidy in honor of Shabbat. But if one eats in a side room which will not be used until Motza'ei Shabbat, he should not tidy the table on Shabbat.

2. If a beit knesset holds Seuda Shlishit in a side room, the room may only be tidied if it will be used for the Arvit prayer, since it is a lack of respect to pray in a disorderly place.

3. On the Shabbat of Sukkot one may remove the dishes from the Sukkah immediately after Seuda Shlishit, since leaving dirty dishes on the table is a sign of disrespect for the Sukkah.

4. One may make the beds so the house is pleasant and tidy in honor of Shabbat. But if one rests close to evening and will not enter the room until Motza'ei Shabbat, he should not tidy it.

5. One may study Torah on Shabbat even if one's intention is to prepare for the week, since the actual study of Torah is a mitzvah. Therefore, a Bar Mitzvah boy may prepare his speech for the Bar Mitzvah celebration that will be held during the week. Similarly one may prepare the Torah reading or a Torah class for the coming week. It is also permissible to review Torah studies, such as the laws of a kosher kitchen, Shabbat and chagim, for the purpose of an examination that will take place during the week.

6. On the completion of one's studies one should return the sefarim to their place for it is not respectful for the sefarim to lie around. This is not considered as preparing for the week because it is normal conduct to return sefarim to the shelf once they are no longer needed.

7. If to read the Torah portion in Mincha on Shabbat, one must scroll the Sefer Torah to the next page, one should not roll it back after the Torah reading to prepare it for Monday's Torah reading.

8. If someone wishes to feel restful on Motza'ei Shabbat so he can engage in Torah or work a night shift etc., he may sleep on Shabbat because the preparation is not evident. However, he must not say explicitly that he is resting in order to have strength for the night.

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


Principles in Service of the Heart and Rectification of Middot

Thank and Ask for More

After Leah Imeinu gave birth to Yehuda, she made a wise declaration: "This time let me gratefully praise Hashem, therefore she called his name Yehuda." And what does the Torah say immediately afterwards? "Then she stopped giving birth." Later on Leah gave birth only after taking the duda'im plant, a segulah for fertility. She considered this birth a reward, as it says, "And Leah declared, 'Hashem has granted me my reward because I gave my maidservant to my husband. So she called his name Yissachar" (Bereishit 30:18).

Chazal tell us that this incident contains an important moral lesson. It is incorrect to thank Hashem and then say, "Ok, from now on I'll manage on my own!" On the contrary, keep begging for more blessing. "Master of the World, continue to assist me!"

Each Motza'ei Shabbat a group of students would secretly gather in the home of the gaon and tzaddik Rabbi Yaakov Galinsky zt"l, for the purpose of refining their character traits.

Each week Rabbi Yaakov would assign the group a different task or two, and the following week he would check how the task was actually carried out.

One week the task was to check where each person meets Hashem during his day. Rabbi Yaakov believed each person should notice Hashem during his life. He told them to write down the times they noticed our Heavenly Father watching over them. A seemingly simple task, which when carried out in practice reveals to the person how blind he was.

The second mission was bound up with the first: You noticed Hashem, blessed be He? You saw He was with you? Now thank Him! Do you thank the bus driver at the end of the trip? And what about the Master of the World? Does He not deserve your thanks?

And keep going:

You thanked Him? You even thanked Him several times a day? Now don't stop! Ask Him for the future, that He give more!

Rabbi Yaakov Galinsky's view of life was a moral one, and it was important to him to convey to his students the importance of correcting negative middot. Every person has a package of middot which he must correct. One feels a deep need to work on the trait of anger, while his friend, by nature a very calm person, feels the need to work on the trait of laziness that has set up home in his heart. Each person with his specific areas of weakness.

"Man was created with various challenges," said Rabbi Yaakov. "But the root of everything is faith. One who has faith cannot have corrupt middot. How can you be proud if you believe it is the Holy One, blessed be He, Who apportions everything? Is it even appropriate to be jealous of someone? The attribute of faith is the antidote against all negative traits."

The correct outlook is the moral one. A Jew must use his time in This World to rectify his middot and acquire the correct attitude to life. Only one who follows this path will achieve true happiness.


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