Simchat Torah

October 7th 2023

22th of Tishri 5784

The Unity of Am Yisrael

Rabbi David Chananya Pinto

“Fortunate are you, O Israel! Who is like you, O people whose salvation is through the Lord, the Shield Who helps you, your majestic Sword! Your enemies will lie to you, but you will tread upon their heights” (Devarim 33:29).

This parashah, which is read on Simchat Torah, always gets me very excited. Before he dies,

Moshe Rabbeinu signifies with his words to Bnei Yisrael that every single Jew, regardless of his spiritual level, is rooted to Am Yisrael and connected to the entire House of Israel.

Chazal say (Vayikra Rabbah 30:12) that the Four Species allude to Klal Yisrael, with each of the species representing a different level of a Jew. All the Species are tied together as one unit to teach us that despite the fact that there are more and less prominent Jews, nevertheless, they are all bonded together as one unit and thus comprise the Four Species, symbolizing all of Klal Yisrael.

The Four Species convey a message of unity, implying that everyone must join together, despite the differences between them, since every Jew possesses a Jewish spark which can be ignited into a huge flame one day. Therefore, it is forbidden to extinguish this lone spark by rejecting a Jew who is presently not meticulous in his observance. On the contrary, it is incumbent to draw him close in the hope that he will awaken to the truth and do teshuvah.

Before his death, Moshe Rabbeinu wanted to reinforce the sense of unity among the nation and therefore saw fit to tell Bnei Yisrael things that contain the message of unity. However, we need to clarify, if Moshe truly wanted to awaken the sense of unity and mutual responsibility to each other, why is this parashah read on Shemini Atzeret — Simchat Torah, and not on the chag of Sukkot, when, as stated, the Four Species are gathered, which allude to the unity among Am Yisrael. Why specifically convey the message of unity on a day that is not uniquely symbolic of unity and mutual responsibility, but rather expresses the joy of the Torah?

It seems this is to teach us that we must be careful to guard the unity of our people not only on days uniquely symbolic of unity, but throughout the entire year. Although on Simchat Torah we no longer take the Four Species that hint at unity, we must still continue to preserve the sense of mutual responsibility. Moreover, from the sense of mutual responsibility and unity, all the blessings will be fulfilled. We may also add that the chag of Simchat Torah unifies the Torah, Hashem, and Am Yisrael, as it is stated, “Torah, Am Yisrael, and Hakadosh Baruch Hu are one.” On Simchat Torah, Am Yisrael leap and dance with the holy Torah before Hashem, and in this way express the threesome connection, which is an eternal bond.

Furthermore, it is the Torah that actually unites Am Yisrael, since everyone observes the same laws and commandments that brings them closer to Hashem. We may say that the word Moshe is derived from the words, “ לא ימושו מפיל ומפי זרעך — shall not move from your mouth or from the mouth of your seed” (Yeshayahu 59:21). In order to place mutual responsibility between the Jewish people, as Moshe taught, one must adhere to the Torah and not move from it, since it is the only means to achieve true brotherhood and love for our brethren.

On the day of Simchat Torah one may not refuse anyone who wishes to have an aliya to the Torah, because the essence of the chag is “And He was King in Jeshurun, whenever the sum total of the people were gathered, and the tribes of Israel were together” (Devarim 33:5).

Therefore, it is mandatory to honor each person unconditionally, regardless of his status and spiritual level, in order to preserve the sense of unity, in which merit Am Yisrael were forged into a nation when they stood at Har Sinai “as one man with one heart.”

On the day of Simchat Torah, when we finish reading the Torah, there is a danger that we may feel a sense of emptiness, that we are no longer involved in Torah. Therefore, we immediately begin to read parashat Bereishit, in order to become awakened and rejuvenated. If a person wants to become awakened, he must adhere to the path of teshuvah that renews and purifies man.

The pasuk in Bereishit states, “ בראשית ברא אלקים — In the beginning of God’s creation” — and the final letters spell “emett — truth.” This implies that the right to live in this world is by recognizing the truth of the Torah and in one’s honesty in his deeds. If a person committed misdeeds and deviated from the path of righteousness, he must be aware of what he did and do complete teshuvah.

On Simchat Torah we read about Shabbat in parashat Bereishit, since Shabbat and teshuvah are interrelated. Adam HaRishon did teshuvah on Shabbat (see Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer 18), and by doing teshuvah on Shabbat he indicated that on this holy day the gates of heaven are opened to accept man’s repentance with open arms.


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

David Rectified the Soul of Adam Through the Torah Of Moshe

“The Torah Moshe commanded us is a legacy for the congregation of Yaakov” (Devarim 33:4).

The entire Torah is attributed to Moshe Rabbeinu, as it is stated (Malachi 3:22) “Zichru Torat Moshe avdi — Keep in remembrance the teaching of Moshe.” Chazal add that the parashah of “Vezot Haberachah” is specifically named after Moshe Rabbeinu because of the pasuk, “Torah tziva lanu Moshe — The Torah Moshe commanded us.”

Parashat “Vezot Haberachah,” which is named after Moshe, is read on Simchat Torah, right after Hoshana Rabba, which is attributed to King David.

What is the connection between King David and Moshe Rabbeinu that the festival attributed to King David is followed by the reading of the parashah attributed to Moshe? We may explain that King David loved the holy Torah immensely, as it is stated in Tehillim (119:97) “How I love Your Torah! All day it is my conversation,” and Moshe Rabbeinu symbolizes the Torah, since he risked his life in order to bring it down from heaven and give it to Bnei Yisrael.

We may notice that the initials of David and Moshe have the same gematria (according to the rule of kollel) as “Adam.” As we know, Adam HaRishon granted King David 70 years of his 1000 year life-span, after seeing that David was destined to die on the day he was born. Since he took pity on the lofty neshamah, he decided to grant it 70 of his years. It thus follows that King David, who completed Adam’s years, thereby corrected the soul of Adam, who had sinned in the Tree of Knowledge.

How did David succeed in correcting the soul of Adam? By learning the Torah, which is attributed to Moshe Rabbeinu. We find, therefore, that Moshe Rabbeinu also had a part in correcting the soul of Adam, since without the Torah, which is called by his name, King David would not have been able to correct the sin of the Tree of Knowledge. This, then, is the connection between King David and Moshe Rabbeinu, and in the merit of both of them, the soul of Adam HaRishon received its tikkun and was cured.

It is truly amazing! The seventh day of Sukkot (Hoshana Rabba) is attributed to King David, and on the following day of Simchat Torah, we finish reading the Torah, discussing the death of Moshe Rabbeinu. Then we immediately begin reading Bereishit, in which we read about the creation of the world and about Adam HaRishon. Thus, we see a clear connection between King David, Adam and Moshe.


Surrounded by Chessed

On the festival of Simchat Torah, which concludes the three festivals in which we huddle in the shadow of Hakadosh Baruch Hu; in awe during the Days of Judgment, and in joy with the Clouds of Glory, symbolized by the sukkah, in which we gathered in the company of the seven Ushpizin, we begin to read Bereishit. Chazal state (Sotah 14a), “R. Simlai expounded: Torah begins with an act of benevolence and ends with an act of benevolence.” In addition, Chazal state in Midrash Rabbah (Kohelet 7): Acts of benevolence in the Torah are found in its beginning, in the middle and at its end.

The gaon Rabbi Yehonatan Eibeshitz, zt”l, says (Ya’arot Devash part I, drush 1): when a person mentions during prayer, “Who bestows beneficial kindnesses and creates everything, Who recalls the kindnesses of the Avot,” he must contemplate how much a person should be gracious in his deeds and righteous in his ways, in order to resemble the ways of his Creator. He should focus on the kindnesses people do for him and not recall their misdeeds, as Hashem does by recalling the mitzvot and good deeds, while forgiving willful sin.

It is praiseworthy to adhere to the attribute of Avraham Avinu, who performed kindness with all people and made known the Attribute of Hashem and His Goodness in the world. He proclaimed the Oneness of Hashem, and established a true religion for all people, which should be practiced by all of mankind.

The Ye’arot Devash adds: How dare a man say “Magen Avraham” while not really meaning to go in His ways; to have mercy on every person, and support those failing in business, and to accept whatever happens to him lovingly, even though he may have to wander around and have many troubles befall him, as Avraham Avinu experienced. Nevertheless, he remained perfect in his faith and wholeheartedly devoted.

The tzaddik Rabbi Sulieman Mutzafi, zt”l, would seek opportunities to perform charity. When an opportunity of tzedaka or chessed arose, he was the first to organize assistance, and when the help came from official channels, he would modestly shun any acclaim. In his last years, a few days before Rosh Chodesh, he found 61 lira in his pocket. He saw that he had enough food in his home to last until Rosh Chodesh and therefore decided that the money was unnecessary, since he did not leave over the income of one month for the next. He went to the store and bought children’s clothes and brought them to the home of a needy Torah scholar who had little children.


Gossip Arouses Feuds

It is considered “gossip” even when the tale is not told in front of the subject of the gossip.

For example, a person says to his friend: I heard that Reuvain used to say such and such about Shimon. This is prohibited because such things, when passed from one person to the next, result in feuds between Reuvain and the one he supposedly spoke about.


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

Struck by the Spectacle

When I was once visiting Toronto, I spoke in our Yismach Moshe kollel, which is under the auspices of Rav Prospert Lugassi, shlita. After the speech, I was offered a trip to the renowned Niagara Falls. These waterfalls are extremely beautiful and fall from tremendous heights. All onlookers are mesmerized by this natural phenomenon. I had never before seen anything so spectacular. Out of a sense of enthusiasm, I proclaimed loudly the blessing of, “He Who renews the Creation.”

As I watched the waters, I reflected on their significance. These waters, which fall with such ferocity and noise, from hundreds of meters, began falling during the six days of Creation and continue to this very day, without letup. No eye has ever observed such an exalted scene, which confirms, “How great are Your works, Hashem!”

There were thousands of other tourists viewing the scene just as I was. But they saw it with different eyes. They snapped pictures and then went home to their daily routine. To them, this was merely another beautiful sight of nature. But they did not bother to use their faculties to really experience it. About them, the pasuk says (Tehillim 115:5–6), “They have eyes but cannot see; they have ears, but cannot hear.”

One who uses his eyes and ears to observe Hashem’s wonders will never, for a moment, think that nature has no Creator. Its very essence declares faith in Hashem. When I arrived at this conclusion, my mouth began uttering the passage (Tehillim 104), “Bless Hashem, O my soul.” I praised Hashem for the fine nuances which define Creation. I praised Him for the distinction between man and beast, for the great luminaries, for the sea and its borders. I continued thanking the One Who spoke and the world came into being.


Better Not to Promise

One of the prominent Jewish merchants in the city of Mogador, Mr. Musen Bochbot, traveled one year to a neighboring city to purchase a stock of etrogim and sell them in Mogador for the festival of Sukkot.

On his way home to Mogador, he was ambushed by an organized band of thieves, who planned to kill him and take all his possessions. At that fateful moment, he prayed that in the merit of the tzaddik Rabbi Chaim Pinto he should be saved from their hands. He pledged that if he would survive, he would give Rabbi Hadan the sum of five hundred duro that was concealed in his pocket.

The merit of the tzaddik Rabbi Chaim Pinto stood in his stead and, in the end, he was miraculously saved.

Once home in Mogador, Mr. Bochbot regretted making the pledge. The sum of money he had promised to give to Rabbi Hadan seemed exorbitant. He decided to give Rabbi Hadan a smaller amount.

That night, Rabbi Chaim Pinto appeared to Rabbi Hadan in a dream and revealed to him everything that had happened to the merchant, Musen Bochbot. He instructed him not to accept from him less than five hundred duro, which he had pledged to give when his life was in danger.

When the merchant arrived at Rav Hadan’s house, he presented him with one hundred duro and five etrogim. Rav Hadan thanked him for the nice etrogim he had given him, but upon seeing the money, he told the merchant in no uncertain terms, “I will not take from you less than five hundred duro, since this is the amount that you vowed to give me.”

The merchant could not believe what he was hearing. “How does the Rav know what happened to me, and what I pledged to give?”

Rabbi Hadan recounted to the merchant in exact detail everything that had happened to him on his journey, describing his desperate prayers to be saved in the merit of Rabbi Chaim Pinto, and the pledge that he had made. He also reminded him how in the end he was saved from the cruel bandits. Rabbi Hadan looked at the merchant and stated emphatically, “My father, the tzaddik Rabbi Chaim Pinto, appeared to me at night and told me everything. Accordingly, you are obligated to give me the full five hundred duro.”

Shamefacedly, the merchant rummaged through his pockets and pulled out another four hundred duro, placing it on the table of the tzaddik.

Rabbi Hadan did not touch the cash, since he did not wish to take the merchant’s money. He returned the entire sum to him and admonished him sternly, “It says in Kohelet, ‘Better that you do not vow at all than that you vow and not pay.’ If you make a pledge, you are obligated to fulfill exactly what you promised. And if you do not truly desire to give, one should use the word nedavah, which is not binding when making a pledge, and not neder, which is a vow” (Shenot Chaim, Mekor Chaim).


The Lesson From the Sukkah: Not to Complain!

A heady joy envelopes us during these days of Sukkot; we huddle in the shadow of the holy Shechinah and enjoy the elevated spiritual atmosphere together with physical delights. Why do we sit in the sukkah? Everyone knows. It commemorates the Clouds of Glory which surrounded Bnei Yisrael when they left Egypt, so that the sun and heat should not hurt them.

The question arises as to why the Torah specifically established a festival commemorating the Clouds of Glory, and it not establish a commemoration for the other miracles that existed in the desert, such as the mannah descending each day, and the Well of Miriam which escorted them throughout their journey. There is no memorial for these extraordinary miracles.

The Chida answers this question, by teaching a moral, related in the name of Rabbi Yeshua Zayin:

The Clouds of Glory were given to Bnei Yisrael as a prize from the benevolence of Hashem. This is why we commemorate this miracle.

However, the mannah and the Well were given following complaint and resentment against Hashem that they had nothing to eat or drink.

When one complains against Hashem in a disrespectful manner, then he will receive what he requested in an ungracious manner. Thus it is not appropriate to establish a commemoration for such a miracle…


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