Parsha Vayeichi

December 30th 2023

18th of Tevet 5784

The Merit of Our Holy Avot

Rabbi David Chananya Pinto

“When Yaakov finished instructing his sons, he drew his feet onto the bed; he expired and was gathered to his people” (Bereishit 49:33).

Chazal tell us that Yaakov did not die in the literal sense, but was gathered from this world to the next, and as Rashi writes, “Death is not mentioned concerning him, and Chazal say (Taanit 5b), Yaakov Avinu did not die.” What this means is that Yaakov Avinu left the world where he was living and passed on to a world where there is a superior kind of life. This can be compared, l’havdil, to a person who changes his citizenship to that of a different country.

In light of the above, the following question arises: Why do people cry and mourn when someone passes away — they should feel happy he moved from this temporary world to an Eternal World? It seems that the world mourns for we do not know if the niftar has enough merits to be allowed entry into Gan Eden. And when people cry it has the power to act as an advocate for the niftar as he stands before the Heavenly Court.

The holy Avot, whose lives are described in detail in Sefer Bereishit, are distinguished for their exalted middot, which are a guiding light for their descendants and for all future generations. Avraham Avinu was outstanding in the attribute of chessed. Chazal tell us that the tent of Avraham Avinu had four openings corresponding to all four directions, so any passer-by could easily find his way into Avraham’s tent. The Torah details at length how Avraham troubled himself and expended much effort on behalf of the three angels, despite feeling weak from his brit milah. This mitzvah was so dear to him, and we learn from Avraham the novel idea that hachnasat orchim takes precedence to receiving the Shechina, for he left the Shechina who had come to visit him in order to receive his guests.

From Yitzchak Avinu we learn about true love of Hashem. He was ready to give up his life and be bound on the mizbe’ach, for this was the will of Hashem. This is a lesson for us small people, to what extent we have to exert effort to fulfil the will of Hashem Yitbarach. If Yitzchak was willing to sacrifice his very life on the command of Hashem, all the more so must we be willing to give up our desires and personal wishes

if they oppose Hashem’s wish. Yaakov Avinu is the pillar of Torah. From Yaakov we learn the extent of the devotion and toil one must be prepared to expend for the holy Torah, for the Torah is our entire life and the source of a G-d fearing person’s existence. No excuse has the means to justify a slackening in Torah learning, for if not for Torah learning the life of a Jewish person is not fitting to be called life. Therefore we are obligated to cleave to the ways of Yaakov Avinu, and we too must toil in our holy Torah in every situation, even if it seems that in light of the difficulty one can make an exception and take a break from learning Torah. “Fortunate is the one who comes to Shamayim with the Talmud in his hand.”

Three times a day, in our prayers, we mention the Avot: “The G-d of Avraham, the G-d of Yitzchak and the G-d of Yaakov.” Mentioning them in tefillah serves to awaken us to think about their elevated middot and way of life which was one long chapter of cleaving to Hashem Yitbarach with the utmost devotion. Also, by mentioning the Avot, we are asking that their merit protect us and they should advocate for us.

It seems the greatest praise for Hashem is mentioning His great children, our forefathers. It is almost like a promise to Hashem that we wish to be like them and follow in their path, and when Hashem hears this He immediately feels great pleasure. However, if a person mentions the Avot without intending to continue in their path, it can be compared to a person who meets his friends and greets him and at the same time strikes him on his face.

After completing Sefer Bereishit and allowing ourselves to become perfumed by the spirituality of the holy Avot, we go on to learn Sefer Shemot which tells about the slavery in Egypt, the redemption and finally the culmination — the receiving of the Torah. With this specific order of the sefarim, Hashem is teaching us that derech eretz precedes Torah; to be ready and fitting to receive the Torah and fulfil its mitzvot, one must first learn from the deeds of the Avot. Only one who adopts the lifestyle of the Avot can be a suitable vessel for receiving the holy Torah.

Otherwise he will not be able to retain Torah and it will soon be forgotten from his heart. This can be compared to a person who holds on tightly to all the indulgences of this world, while saying kaddish throughout the year for a relative who passed away. It is clear that at the end of the year, when he no longer has the obligation to say kaddish, he will return to his bad ways, for he didn’t work on his middot or prepare himself to receive the Torah, so the Torah is unable to remain with him permanently.

The most ideal thing to do l’ilui nishmat a niftar, is to accept upon oneself to improve in a certain trait, since if this effort is carried out with right intentions, it will eventually become part of one’s personality and will not evaporate at the end of the year.

FROM THE TREASURY

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

Emulating the Conduct of our Gedolim

“When Yaakov finished instructing his sons, he drew his feet onto the bed; he expired and was gathered to his people” (Bereishit 49:33).

Chazal tell us that Yaakov did not die in the literal sense, but he was gathered from this world to the next world, and as Rashi writes, “Death is not mentioned concerning him.”

There are tzaddikim who despite living in our generation today, nevertheless possessed the distinguished characteristics of our holy Avot. One example is the tzaddik Rabbi Rafael Bardugo, zt”l, Av Beit Din of Essouaira, who possessed these three attributes of Torah, tefillah and chessed.

Even though his greatness and righteousness was clear to all, we mourned his death. Why? For “they travelled to their resting place and left us to our sighing;” his departure from this world left us stranded, confused and bewildered with the absence of our leader who was our guiding light. This is the reason why one is distraught when a tzaddik is niftar; not out of concern for him — he is certainly reveling in Gan Eden, but because of the lack we feel down here in this world.

After the petirah of the tzaddik Rabbi Nissim Ravivo, zy”a, many women were left with great uncertainty as to the true status of their possibly illegitimate children. Everyone cried bitterly for who would now take care of this matter and determine their status, for the good or bad? When we cry for a tzaddik, the tears are not for him. We are not concerned about his lot, we are worried about our own future — who now will be an advocate for us? Who will pray for us and help shoulder our concerns? Tzaddikim leave the world and go to their resting place, while we are left stranded.

When the tzaddik Rabbi Rafael Bardugo came to live in Eretz Yisrael, he could have been mistaken for a regular person by those who were unaware of his greatness, since he behaved with exceptional modesty. He accorded no significance to materialism and his entire life was exemplified by humility and self-effacement. This scarlet thread winds its way through the entire distinguished Bardugo family, especially manifest by his son shlit”a, the Av Beit Din of Netanya, Eretz Yisrael. Concerning the tzaddik Rabbi Rafael one can certainly say that he is alive and did not die, just as it says about Yaakov Avinu, a”h. Rather, he was only gathered to his people and continues to be an advocate for Am Yisrael, just as he was in his lifetime.

When Rabbi Rafael would appear in the palaces of kings and counts, his model behavior left a deep impression on all the elite personalities, and they expressed this by exclaiming about him, “Praiseworthy is the people for whom this is so, praiseworthy is the people whose G-d is Hashem.”

This should be the goal of every Jew — to observe the tzaddikim of the generation and try to emulate their elevated middot, so anyone coming into contact with a Jew who observes Torah and mitzvot will be most impressed, and this will cause a great Kiddush Hashem.

WORDS OF THE SAGES

Turning to our Creator

“O G-d before Whom my forefathers walked” (Bereishit 48:15).

What is required from a person that he be crowned with the title of tzaddik? In general, what is the measuring stick by which we can determine the greatness of a righteous person?

Rabbi Eliyahu Diskin shlita, addresses these questions in his sefer Nachal Eliyahu.

He quotes the words of the Gaon of Vilna, who in his work on the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, in the first section, gives a clearcut answer.

The Rema writes: “I place Hashem before me constantly” is an important rule of the Torah and in the loftiness of tzaddikim, who walk before Hashem.

The Vilna Gaon quotes several sources showing how our holy Avot behaved in this manner, and finishes, “and this is the entire advantage of tzaddikim.”

The Vilna Gaon is telling us: Do you wish to know who is considered a tzaddik? One who constantly walks before Hashem; the awareness of Hashem’s presence is firmly entrenched inside him at all times.

The greatness of the Avot was in the fact that they were a merkava (chariot) for the Shechina, meaning they didn’t let their minds wander for even one moment from the Creator of the world. At all times and in all places they maintained the awareness of “I place Hashem before me constantly.”

How does one achieve this?

The Chazon Ish, zt”l, once advised a yeshiva bachur on how to form a constant connection with Hashem. This is what he told him: Accustom yourself to ask for everything, whether big or small. Turn to Hashem in every matter and ask for His help, and also thank Him. In this way your soul will absorb the feeling that you are constantly in Hashem’s presence and that you are unceasingly dependent upon Him.

It is especially important to turn to Hashem with slight concerns, small matters which a person may feel he can manage on his own, chas v’shalom.

It is worth repeating a story we have already quoted several times. Chassidim once heard Rabbi Pinchos of Koritz, zt”l, asking in the prayer of “My G-d, guard…” that their maid shouldn’t leave…

Certain that he was referring to lofty kabbalistic concepts, they approached him and asked him to explain the underlying intentions of his words.

The tzaddik answered them frankly: “The maid we employ wishes to leave just now when my wife is sick. Therefore I asked Hashem to resolve the matter in the best way.”

Surprised by his answer, his chassidim probed further and asked: “For a small insignificant matter as this the Rebbe beseeches Hashem during the Amidah prayer?” He replied: “This is the reason why tefillah was established, so one should ask for every single thing!”

Harav Dessler, zt”l, wrote an entire essay about the Amidah prayer being the time when we ask for lofty things such as wisdom, repentance and forgiveness, and suddenly right in the middle of those blessings, we find the blessing of “Baruch Aleinu — Bless on our behalf,” where we request a blessing for money and sustenance. He explains that the intention that lies behind all the requests is the same — we are asking for all the tools we need to be able to serve Hashem.

A healthy relationship between a child and his father expresses itself in the feeling that he can approach his father even for insignificant things. It is the very same thing with our relationship with our Father in Heaven, Who is the address for everything.

PARSHAH PEARLS

Exempt from the Blessing of “Baruch Sheptarani”

“Then Yisrael saw Yosef’s sons and he said, ‘Who are these?’ And Yosef said to his father, ‘They are my sons whom G-d has given me here.’” (Bereishit 48:8-9).

Did Yaakov really not recognize these children? Were they not his grandchildren who used to visit him regularly?

Rashi explains: “Who are these?” — who are not deserving of a blessing. The question is asked, is this the way to confront a father who brings his children to be blessed? This is what one says about them to their father? The Kedushat Zion of Bobov, zt”l, explains that when a child becomes bar mitzva, his father recites the blessing, “Blessed is the One Who freed me from the punishment due to this boy,” for until now the boy’s punishments and obligations were the fathers responsibility, and now that he has reached maturity, his father is absolved from his punishments.

This blessing is appropriate only in a case where the son has sinned, but if the child has merited observing Hashem’s commandments, there is no place for this blessing for the father never had to be punished for the child’s wrongdoings.

That is what Yaakov was implying upon being faced with the holiness of Yosef’s children and seeing they had never sinned. He wondered and said, “Who are these?” for whom it is inappropriate that their father recite the blessing — “Blessed is the One who frees…”

“And Yosef said to his father,” Yosef added to their greatness by replying, “They are my sons whom G-d has given me here,” meaning, they were born and raised right here in Mitzrayim, the land which is the source of all impurity, and despite these conditions they have remained righteous…

Aim for the Highest

“May G-d make you like Ephraim and Menashe” (Bereishit 48:20).

We bless our children that they should become like Ephraim and Menashe, but we don’t mention the other Shevatim. The reason for this is that if one wishes to educate one’s child in the ideal way, the priority is to educate him to be great in Torah. If he is not able to achieve this, then the father’s goal should be to guide him to become a G-d fearing Jew who sets aside time to learn every day. Ephraim was the one who used to learn Torah with Yaakov while Menashe stayed with Yosef and assisted him with the communal needs. Yaakov placed his right hand on Ephraim even though he was the younger of the two, to show the significance of one who totally devotes himself to learning Torah.

The sefer Chochma v’Daat points out that there is an important lesson in this for all generations: Chazal chose this specific wording for blessing our children, for the main thing every father must know is that he must aim to educate his children to be like Ephraim; his entire occupation should be Torah. The father must invest much effort in this, and only if the child doesn’t succeed, he should strive to be like Menashe in yirat Shamayim, although his brother Ephraim is greater than him for he is the one who merits to constantly sit and learn.

The Choicest Sacrifice

“He saw tranquility that it was good, and the land that it was pleasant, yet he bent his shoulder to bear and he became an indentured laborer” (Bereishit 49:15).

Common sense tells us that after seeing that tranquility is a good thing and that the land is pleasant, one would choose to rest. Yet here it says the opposite, “He became an indentured laborer” — he went to work! What lies behind his choice?

The Admor of Ozrov, zt”l, once said to the Chazon Ish: “Our holy Torah commands us: ‘And you shall love Hashem your G-d.’ How does one love Hashem?

“One of the ways is ‘with all your soul’ בכל נפשך( (. On the verse ‘If it is truly your will (nafshechem)’ (Bereishit 23:8), Rashi writes: ‘Your nefesh: your desire.’ It is clear from this that a person’s nefesh is his desires. Therefore, when the Torah commands ‘Love Hashem with all your soul (nefesh),’ the intention is really — offer Hashem your desires.

“This is what Yissachar did: ‘He saw tranquility that it was good, and the land that it was pleasant.’ He saw that tranquility is where his true desire lies, so he decided that this is what he is going to sacrifice for Hashem, therefore, ‘He became an indentured laborer.’”

WALKING IN THEIR WAYS

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

Jealousy, Lust and Honor

A man once approached me and with righteous indignation stated, “Rabbi David, I do not want so-and-so elected as president of our community! I will do everything in my power to ensure he does not get this post.”

“Why don’t you want him to be president?” I asked.

“Because he attracts characters I don’t want here. He is ruining our good name. And he lords over others, to boot!”

“And what will you gain from this?” I persisted. “Do you, perhaps, want to be elected president instead of him?”

“Not at all,” he replied, in mock humility. “I have no interest whatsoever in leading the community.”

“In that case,” I tried to mollify him, “look for another candidate who can take his place as president. Then come back to me.”

The man was quiet for a moment, and then said, “That being the case, I am ready to make the sacrifice of offering my services as president of the community.”

I looked at him in astonishment. “It seems your entire objective in undermining soand- so’s position is to seize it for yourself. What type of sacrifice are you referring to? You know good and well that so-andso is more fitting for the job than you. All of your grievances toward him are nothing but the rantings of a man riddled by the lethal character traits of jealousy, lust, and the pursuit of glory.”

The man lowered his head in humility and agreed that it was honor which prompted him to think this way. The Mishnah (Avot 4:21) came to mind, “Jealousy, lust, and the pursuit of honor drive a man from this world.” For the sake of honor, this man was ready to tear asunder an entire community!

A person would do well to analyze the motivations behind his acts. Is he motivated by personal interests or glory? When he takes up the banner of the public benefit, is it really the public good that drives him, or do feelings of personal pride play a role? One who seeks the truth will be assisted by Heaven to find it.

MEN OF FAITH

More than I Received

Because of his responsibility in shouldering the tremendous expenses incurred when providing for the poor, Rabbi Chaim Hakatan suffered a financial crisis. What did the tzaddik do?

He went to prostrate himself over the grave of his grandfather, Rabbi Chaim Hagadol. Rabbi Chaim Hakatan took his attendant, R’ Yehuda Ben Ezer, with him. When they finished praying at the grave, the Rav said to R’ Yehuda, “Let us set out to the city of Safi.”

On the way, they noticed a group of people approaching. The Rav turned to R’ Yehuda and asked him if he saw the group. He answered in the affirmative, but was not sure if it was a group of Jews or not. The Rav told him, “It is a group of Jews, and one of them is bringing me a sum of seventy-five royal.”

When the group came closer, Rabbi Chaim approached them and asked, “Who is Refael Lalush?”

“I am,” answered one of the men.

“Give me the seventy-five royal you pledged in honor of my grandfather the tzaddik Rabbi Chaim,” the tzaddik demanded.

Refael Lalush took out of his pocket the entire sum and happily gave it to Rabbi Chaim. When the group left, R’ Yehuda Ben Ezer asked Rabbi Chaim to allocate to him some of the money he had received.

Rabbi Chaim told him, “I hereby bless you that you shall receive today more than I did.” The blessing was fulfilled. R’ Yehuda miraculously discovered a large sum of money in his horses’ stable. R’ Yehuda Ben Ezer lived a long life, and he was honored by all the people of his city until his last day, just as the Rav had blessed him (Shenot Chaim).

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

The Potency of Prayer’s from the Heart

“And as for me, I have given you Shechem — one portion more than your brothers, which I took from the hand of the Emorim with my sword and with my bow” (Bereishit 48:22).

The Targum Unkelos translates the words “with my sword and with my bow” as “With my prayer and my request.”

Rabbi Avraham of Sochashov explains:

Just as with the bow and arrow, the potency of the arrow is affected by the degree to which one stretches the bow, so too does this analogy apply to tefillah. When a person’s heart is enveloped in pain, the more he begs and pleads intensely, to that extent his prayer will have the power to reach higher and higher and destroy all the partitions that are blocking the way to the salvation he requires.

Let us fully utilize the power of standing before our Creator in prayer. We should beg and pray for everything we need, from the depths of our heart straight to the heart of the One Who loves us.

GUARD YOUR TONGUE

Lashon Harah Through Deception

There are some ba’alei lashon hara who speak lashon hara in a backhanded way. For example, one who tells his friend that soand- so invested a large amount of money in home-renovations. There are people who consider this as extravagant and wasteful yet other people don’t see this as something negative at all. If he knows that the one listening has a negative perception of people who indulge in this way, yet he nevertheless relates this information while making as if he isn’t aware of this, he has transgressed the prohibition of deceptively speaking lashon hara.

 

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