(From the teachings of Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef ztvk”l. written by his grandson HaRav Yaakov Sasson Shlit”a)
(translated by our dear friend Rav Daniel Levy Shlit”a, Leeds UK)
Spiritual Growth and Holiness are not Automatic and there is no Quick-Fix for them, Rather they are Achieved Through Tenacity and Prayer
It states in the Parashah, “You shall be holy, since I am Hashem your G-d [and] I am holy” (Vayikra 19:2), Hashem says to Am Yisrael, you shall be holy because I am Holy. A person is required to cleave to his Creator and follow his virtues. Just like He is gracious, so should you be gracious. Just as He is compassionate, so should you be compassionate. Just as He is Holy, so should you be Holy.
Wherever you find holiness, you find a fence around sexual immorality [see Ramban z”l ad loc.]. A person must be careful that if there is a place lacking in modesty, he should distance himself from it, “Distance your way from her, and do not come near the door of her house” (Mishlei 5:8), he must continually guard himself and consider that the yetzer hara is always attempting to trip him up. First with seeing forbidden things and then also in action, “the eye sees and the heart desires”. It states, “My eyes shed streams of water, because they did not keep your Torah” (Tehillim 1119:136). It should have written, “for I did not observe your Torah”, what does it mean, “because they did not keep”? It is because the eyes cry for not having kept the Torah themselves! That the person didn’t keep his eyes in s state of holiness.
But Baruch Hashem, Am Yisrael are holy. We (are now approaching) [recently approached] Yom Haatzmaut, and what transpired in previous years? They sanctified the day to Torah! All the chachmei Yisrael ran from Bet Kenesset to Bet Kenesset. “They follow your footsteps” [Devarim 33:3], they wore out their feet by going from place to place to spread Torah. For they transformed this day to a day that is all Torah. If only there were two days of Yom Haatzmaut, then we would have two days that are all Torah…
But there are places where they erect stages, and make a kumzitz and other similar events with no measures for tzniut, it is forbidden to go there! And not come near the door of her house! It also states in the Parashah, “Do not hate your brother in your heart, you shall admonish your neighbour, and not bear a sin because of him” [Vayikra 19:17]. The Torah says, do not hate your fellow but admonish [guide] him. It is written in Mishlei [27:5] “Open rebuke is good, if it stems from hidden love”. A person who loves his fellow, truly loves him, will guide him in the ways of Hashem and not flatter him. He will say to him, my friend, you should know that this is forbidden. If he sees that his friend is doing something wrong, he must point this out to him as we find with Eili the Cohen Gadol who saw Hannah praying to Hashem, however, she had [what was considered then] unusual movements and appeared to Eili as if she were intoxicated, “…so Eili thought she was drunk” Shmuel 1, 1:13]. So he immediately said to her, “’How long will you be drunk? Remove your wine from yourself!’ Hannah answered and said, ‘No, my lord! I am a woman of aggrieved spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, and I have poured out my soul before Hashem’” [ibid.]. Eili immediately asked her forgiveness as it states, “Eili then answered and said, ‘Go in peace. The G-d of Israel will grant the request you have made of him’”. She merited to a son the greatest man in the world, he was Shmuel HaRamati.
Shmuel HaRamati, was equal to Moshe and Aaron, as it states, “Moshe and Aaron were among His cohanim, and Shmuel amongst those who evoke His Name” [Tehillim 99:6]. What does it mean, “those who evoke His Name”? It states in the Prophets that when Shmuel rebuked am Yisrael for King Saul’s sin, he told them their history. Within that he said to them that Hashem sent leaders to Am Yisrael to save them from their distresses, “Hashem sent Yerubaal” this is Gidon ben Yoash who saved Am Yisrael from Amonim and Amalek, “and Bedan” this is Shimshon the mighty one who came from the tribe of Dan, “and Yiftach”, this is Yiftach the Giladi who was a mighty warrior who fought against the people of Amon, “and Shmuel” this is Shmuel the Ramati, “and He rescued you from the hand of your enemies from all around” [Shmuel 1, 12:11].
It seems strange, for here we see Shmuel speaking about himself, so he should have said “and me” and not “and Shmuel”. The answer is that when Shmuel was speaking, the Shechinah (Divine Presence) spoke from his throat and it was the Shechinah that said, “and Shmuel”. Where do we find a prophet from whom the Shechinah spoke from their throat? Only with Moshe and Aaron! And this is what is meant what it states, “And Shmuel amongst those who evoke His Name”, that the Shechinah calls his name from his mouth, his level was exceedingly great.
A person must educate his children in Torah, to wisely rebuke (guide) them that they should follow the ways of Hashem. And he must especially pray to Hashem in the same way that Hannah the Prophetess did, that he merit children who are talmidei chachamim. The Talmud (Bava Metzia 85a) relates that Rav Yosef fasted 40 fasts to merit to toil in Torah study. Until they said to him in his dream “they will not be withdrawn from your mouth”, [Yeshaya 59:21]. Then he fasted another 40 fasts so that his children will be talmidei chachamim, until they said to him in his dream, “they will not be withdrawn from your mouth nor from the mouth of your children” [ibid.]. Then he fasted another 100 fasts until they showed him in his dream “[and not withdrawn] from your grandchildren’s mouths” [ibid.]. Happy is the person who merits to children who are righteous talmidei chachamim! “A son merits his father” [Sanhedrin 104a], the son merits his father [who has passed away and is] in heaven. Who today fasts 100 fasts that his sons should be talmidei chachamim? Today people want things “automatic”. There is no such thing as this!
Rabbeinu the Chatam Sofer z”l (Rav Moshe Schreiber 1762-1839) established many pupils and a yeshiva in Pressburg, Hungary, he established there a community living under Torah life. In his [somewhat] old age [aged 53] he bore his son Rav Avraham Shmuel Binyamin z”l, known after his work “Ktav Sofer”. He wasn’t a well child and was very weak.
In the Chatam Sofer’s yeshiva they finished their studies at 10pm but his son would come home at 8pm and say father I have no strength, I am tired. And he would tell him to go to sleep my son.
The son would privately study Torah. He would sleep in his bed until 10pm, when his father would arrive back from the yeshiva and he knew his father would get up at 5.30am. He himself would study Torah from 10pm until 5.30am, during the time that his father was asleep. His father would arise and find his son still asleep and he thought to himself, he slept from 8pm until 8am, how lazy! But his father didn’t realise how he had got up in the night and studied.
When the Chatam Sofer became elderly, he felt unwell and called his friend Rav Daniel Prostitz z”l. He said to him go to the yeshiva and tell the students that he won’t give a shiur tomorrow. He son was in the other room and entered saying, “Father would you allow me to give the shiur in your place tomorrow!” He father said, “What? You will give the shiur? What will you teach? They will swallow you alive!” He replied, “Father, what difference does it make to you, allow me to try!” Rav Daniel also said to him, “What difference does it make to you, allow him to have a go.”
Rav Daniel and Rav Avraham Shmuel Binyamin went to the yeshiva. Rav Avraham Shmuel gave a shiur, for 6 whole hours he gave the shiur. Unbelievable [new] insights that no one had ever heard!
After the shiur, Rav Daniel ran like a young person and told the Chatam Sofer what happened. He said to him, “Your son delivered an unbelievable shiur!” No one could stop him! They were all aghast and shocked by him!” The Chatam Sofer began crying and said to him, “You should know that there is no prayer that I didn’t cry that I should have a son who is a talmid chacham!”
People want everything “automatically”, that everything should be ready made, but how? A person must exert all his energy, to put his son in a yeshiva, to ensure he has provisions after he marries, he must give him and help him with all his might. Then he will merit to a son who is a talmid chacham that will merit him in Olam Haba. “All your children will be students of Hashem, and your children’s peace will be abundant” [Yeshaya 54:13].