Halacha for Friday 21 Adar 5781 March 5 2021

Parashat Ki Tissa - A Person is His Thoughts

From HaGaon Rav Zevadia HaCohen Shlit”a, The Head of the Batei Din in Tel Aviv
(translated by our dear friend Rav Daniel Levy Shlit”a, Leeds UK)

This Shabbat we shall read, “When you take a census of  Bnei Yisrael to determine their number” (Shemot 30:12).

Rabbeinu Chaim ben Atar z”l (1696-1743) explains in his commentary on the Torah that “Ki Tissa” (the Hebrew for “when you take a census”) is an expression of “elevating”, similar to the phrase “Paro will lift your head” (Bereishit 39:13), which is an expression of raising, that the head of the Bnei Yisrael will be raised from having been down due to the sin of the Golden Calf. This is achieved since they will raise their mindset to perform mitzvot and detach from sins, this is a spiritual elevation of the head and mind.

This may be explained that when Hashem Created man, his head was elevated and he walked boldly upright, to indicate a yearning for spiritual growth, thereby distinguishing him from animals who face downwards, which indicates a desire for embracing physicality and earthliness.

When a member of Klal Yisrael sins, even though he walks on two legs and his face is upright, nevertheless in his spiritual dimension he is inclined to materialism, “he is likened to the silenced animals” (Tehillim 49:13), he is slithering on his stomach, his eyes darting downwards and not looking heavenward to Hashem.

Chazal already said, “A person is his thoughts” and “where a person thinks is where he is”. If you wish to know your true spiritual level, examine where your thoughts are, what occupies your mind throughout the day - and you will know who you are.

Therefore Moshe Rabbeinu was commanded to raise the heads of Bnei Yisrael, to elevate their spiritual standing, to propell their expectations, and to transform them to those who will serve Hashem sincerely.

There is no doubt that there are multiply components to occupy a person, a livelihood, a bank account, debts and worries, but it is not a given that these should rule his life, or his mind, and become the central focus of his life. Rather, we must place at the top of the pyramid the spiritual element, which includes Torah-study, the performance of mitzvot and good deeds.

It is related about one of the holy ones in Eretz Yisrael, the tzaddik Rebbi Yitzchak Minischitz ztz”l, who would seclude himself in his attic and study Torah in state of kedusha and purity. The tzaddik asked his assistant not to allow anyone to disrupt him from his holy work, except for the specific time that people would come to him to seek his counsel and ask for berachot. Amongst the rav’s chassidim were two cattle farmers who never made a deal without the rav’s blessing and so they merited to great success in their cattle business.

One day a plague erupted, and the cattle began dying one after another. Immediately, the two cattle farmers sought the rav’s beracha. The assistant explained that the rav cannot be disturbed until his dedicated time that he receives people.

But the two traders refused to wait. With tears in their eyes they explained to the rav’s assistant that every moment entire herds are being decimated, and that they are destined to be poor and destitute. The assistant was overcome with compassion, he took them to the attic and opened the rav’s door.

The rav sat in his room wrapped in his tallit and tefillin and was studying the secrets of the Torah. When he heard the door open, he lifted up his head and saw the two cattle farmers. Immediately, his eyes opened, his jaw dropped in shock and his face became white, he almost fainted. Before he had a moment to recover, he heard their plea and blessed them as they had requested, and the plague ceased.

The rav’s assistant, who had witnessed this play out, asked the rav why was he so shocked when they came to him, to the extent that he nearly fainted.

The tzaddik explained, “Know this! That it isn’t without reason that I request that you don’t bring people to me without permission when I am studying. My mind is totally absorbed in the Torah, I find myself in a world that is all light and shining, spirituality and growth. Before I accept people I must descend into a world that is all secular and material. So when they entered without prior warning, and their minds were only concerned with their cattle, I almost fainted!” I saw before me oxen dressed as men and I panicked thinking how do oxen know to climb stairs.”

This is what we said, “a person is his thoughts – and the place where he thinks – that is his location”.

“When you raise the head of Bnei Yisrael” – we must elevate our heads, and to soar our thoughts to spiritual heights, to “clear our head” from trivial thoughts. As we say each morning, “The superiority of man over the animals is nothing, for all is but a fleeting breath, except for the pure neshamah”.

Shabbat Shalom!

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

Taking Haircuts and Shaving During the Omer Period

Abstaining from Taking Haircuts During the Omer It has become customary among the Jewish nation to refrain from taking haircuts during the Omer counting period: According to the Ashkenazi custom, until the 33rd day of the Omer and according to the Sephardic custom, until the morning of the 34th day......

Read Halacha

Producing Sound and Whistling on Shabbat

The Gemara in Masechet Eruvin (104a) tells us that our Sages banned producing sound on Shabbat and Yom Tov, for instance, by playing a musical instrument, for they were concerned that while the tune is being played, the player will come to fix the instrument. This decree would certainly apply eve......

Read Halacha

Clapping and Drumming on a Table on Shabbat and Yom Tov

The Gemara in Masechet Beitzah (30a) states that one may not drum, clap, or dance on Shabbat lest one come to fix a musical instrument (ibid. 36b). This means that just as we have discussed in the previous Halachot that our Sages have decreed that one may not play musical instruments on Shabbat ......

Read Halacha

Toys Which Produce Sound and those Which Operate Using a Spring or Coil

Question: Is it permissible for one to allow one’s young children to play with toys which produce sound, such as a doll which makes noise when shaken, on Shabbat? Answer: In the previous Halacha we have discussed the prohibition of producing sound on Shabbat, such as by banging on a board, ......

Read Halacha


Praying in Pajamas

Question: Can one pray while wearing pajamas? Answer: Approximately one week ago, we have discussed that, before praying, one must prepare a fitting place, proper attire, and cleanse one’s body and thoughts, as the verse in the book of Amos states, “Prepare yourself before your G-d, I......

Read Halacha

Praying Barefoot

Question: May one pray while wearing sandals or while one is barefoot? Answer: When one prays, one must prepare one’s environment, clothing, body, and thoughts accordingly, for one will be standing before the King of all kings. Respectable Garments While Praying The Gemara (Shabbat 9b) ......

Read Halacha

Question: How many “Kezayit”s (olive’s volume) of Matzah must one consume during the Pesach Seder?

Answer: One is obligated to eat altogether three “Kezayit”s of Matzah during the Pesach Seder. Every Kezayit amounts to approx. 30 grams of Matzah. Nevertheless, there is room for stringency to eat four or even five “Kezayit”s of Matzah, as we shall now explain. The Order......

Read Halacha

Kissing One’s Parents’ Hands on Shabbat Night- The Students of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai

Question: Should one kiss the hands of one’s parents and receive a blessing from them on Shabbat night and does the same apply equally to one’s father and mother? Answer: The Gemara in Masechet Avodah Zarah (17a) tells us that when Ulah (a sage who lived during the Talmudic era) would......

Read Halacha