Halacha for Tuesday 3 Elul 5779 September 3 2019

The Days of Mercy- When Maran zt”l Stood Guard

Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l writes (quoted in Maor Yisrael- Derashot, Derash 2 on the Month of Elul) that Hashem bestowed a great kindness upon his Jewish nation by revealing to them that the Day of Judgment is on the First of Tishrei, as the verse states, “Blow the Shofar on the [new] month, on the designated day of our festival. For it is a statute for Israel, a [day of] judgment for the G-d of Yaakov.” In truth, Hashem decides the fate of the other nations of the world for the coming year as well on Rosh Hashanah; however, the other nations of the world are unaware that they are being judged on Rosh Hashanah and they continue with their actions as usual without any introspection or prayer and as such, they lose out on tremendous goodness in this world and the next.

Usually, if one breaks the law and is caught by a police officer, if the officer takes him immediately in front of a judge to be judged in a swift manner, it is almost certain that the defendant will not be able to cope with the charges being leveled against him. If, however, he is made known of the court-date and given the chance to meet with and seek adequate legal counsel and know who will represent him in court, he surely has more of a chance to be found innocent in his case.

Similarly, from the day of Rosh Chodesh Elul, we begin blowing the Shofar and waking up early in the morning to recite Selichot (prayer service for atonement) in preparation for the Day of Judgment when we will proclaim, “Today is the world’s birthday; today He shall make [everyone] stand for judgment, all creations of the world,” and is likewise the day we begin to recite “Ha’Melech Ha’Kadosh” and “Ha’Melech Ha’Mishpat” in our prayers. During Elul, we prepare great “attorneys” before Hashem; one’s “attorneys” are Torah, Mitzvot, and worthy deeds (Shabbat 32a). The Tosefta states, “Charity and acts of kindness are great defenders between Israel and their Father in Heaven.” We have also learned in Pirkei Avot, “One who performs one Mitzvah acquires for himself one defending attorney.” If the defender is strong and mighty, such as one formed by a Torah scholar who delves in Torah, certainly the other prosecuting angels will only be like small foxes in comparison and one roar from the defending angel shall be sufficient to silence them all. As we say in Selichot, “Seal the mouth of Satan so that he may not prosecute us; may a good-speaking advisor stand up for us and speak of our righteousness.” This is a tremendous opportunity to allow us be found innocent in the eyes of Hashem, as the Gemara in Rosh Hashanah expounds the verse, “For who is a great nation that has a God who is close to him, like Hashem our G-d [who is close to us] whenever we call him.”

Maran zt”l adds that throughout the course of the year, one must distance one’s self from the Evil Inclination. Many people unfortunately fail in this area by bringing a television into their home and this is considered bring the Evil Inclination itself into one’s home, for one who watches television instigates the Evil Inclination against one’s self and transgresses several Torah prohibitions simultaneously since our Sages teach us (Sotah 8a) that the Evil Inclination can only take effect on something one sees with one’s eyes.

Regarding this issue, the Sefer Od Yosef Hai (Parashat Pinchas) quotes a very interesting parable: Once, a wealthy man was riding on his horse on his way home. When he was some distance from his city, he saw a crippled man sitting on the road screaming and begging for someone to pity him and help him. Upon seeing this unfortunate man, the wealthy man had mercy on him and immediately opened his wallet and gave him a silver coin. Afterwards, the crippled man slowly limped over to the wealthy man and while kissing the edges of his coat, he told him, “If you wish you wish to perform even greater kindness with me, allow me to ride on your horse, for I also wish to go to the city but I cannot walk there.”

The wealthy man had a generous heart and agreed to fulfill the request of the cripple. He got off the horse and after helping the crippled man get on the horse, he handed him the reigns after which he mounted the horse himself and sat behind the cripple. When they arrived at the entrance to the city, the cripple turned to the wealthy man and brazenly asked the wealthy man to get off the horse as he would be riding the horse to his own home. The wealthy man exclaimed, “Why should I, is this your horse? Get off my horse immediately!” The crippled man began to screaming and told all those around him, “Look how this lowlife wishes to steal my horse!” The wealthy man for his part claimed that the horse was indeed his and he had merely done this cripple a favor by allowing him to ride along with me on the horse.

A large tumult ensued and both of them were brought before the local judge and each stated his own claim. Although the judge felt deep down that the horse really belonged to the wealthy man since the truth is recognizable, he turned to the wealthy man and said, “My friend, I realize that you speak the truth, however, what can I do? You relinquished your rights to the horse with your own hands by placing the cripple in the front as the main rider and you sitting behind him. This action clearly displays that the horse belongs to the cripple. You should have put him in the back and held the reigns in your hands. Thus, at the moment, I can do nothing to return your stolen horse to you.”

The lesson behind this parable is that one must distance the Evil Inclination from one’s self and one who has a television or a computer connected to unfiltered internet in one’s home has already allowed the Evil Inclination to take control. What can one reply on the Day of Reckoning when one is asked, “How could you have handed over control of yourself and your family members to the Evil Inclination?” This is especially true regarding children who learn all sorts of horrible obscenities from the television and internet and this is a loss which cannot be undone!

Once, approximately thirty years ago, Maran zt”l discussed all of the above in a certain lecture he gave. After the class, an individual approached Maran zt”l and told him, “Honorable rabbi, unfortunately, I have a television at home; however, I cannot do anything about it because my wife is not willing to give it up.” Maran zt”l asked him, “Where do you live?” The man replied, “In the Ramot neighborhood.” Maran zt”l said, “Let’s go to your house and talk to your wife.” The man was startled and said, “Honorable rabbi, perhaps we should make an appointment? Does the honorable rabbi such a spontaneous visit to my house is respectful of the rabbi?” Maran zt”l encouraged the man and told him, “Do not worry, I can go with you now and try to speak to her.”

They then traveled by car from the Bukharian Quarter of Jerusalem to Ramot. The man dashed up the stairs, entered his home, and told his wife, “Rav Ovadia Yosef is coming to our house!” At first, she did not believe him but a few moments later, she saw Maran zt”l, in all his glory, enter the home. The couple was so excited and the wife served whatever she could muster together in honor of the occasion. Maran zt”l was seated and started speaking to her. He said, “I understand that you like to watch the news and other programs on the television, however, you must understand that it is extremely detrimental to your children.” Maran zt”l continued speaking to the couple with his characteristic patience until eventually the wife acquiesced to remove the television from their home!

Maran zt”l immediately instructed the husband, “Quickly, pick up the television and throw it into the dumpster!” The man tried to pick up the television himself but it was too heavy for him. He quickly summoned a neighbor to help him move it. As they maneuvered clumsily down the stairs with Maran zt”l looking on from above, the television banged into the wall. The neighbor told the man, “Be careful with the television! Bring it down gently!” Maran zt”l exclaimed, “No need to be gentle, it’s going in the trash anyway!” And so it was. The television was thrown in the dumpster and that individual became a close student of Maran zt”l and merited raising a wonderful family true to Hashem, His Torah, and Mitzvot.

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