From the teachings of Rabbi Pinto: Are you truly alive?

  (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)

Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto’s talks are known throughout the Jewish world. They combine chassidic teachings and philosophy, along with tips for a better life. We have collected pearls from his teachings that are relevant to our daily lives. This week we have the anniversary of the death of the holy Ohr HaChaim and the Torah section of Pinchas.

This week, the Jewish people celebrated the date of the passing away of the holy Ohr HaChaim, who was famous for his great holiness and mystical powers.

Our holy sages say that when reciting a Torah thought in the name of a righteous person, one should imagine the image of the righteous person as if he is standing nearby and saying his innovative idea or Torah thought. In this way, a person will be greatly influenced by the righteous person’s root, and heaven will channel down upon him great strength. Therefore, let us strengthen ourselves by means of his Torah teachings, so his lips speaking in the grave will be a good advocate for each of us.

In this week's Torah section of Pinchas, the Torah tells us about Pinchas’s zeal: "And the smitten Israelite man, who was smitten with the Midianite woman, was Zimri ben Salu." The Ohr HaChaim asks: Why does the text repeat "the smitten one who was smitten?" It was enough to merely say “the name of the smitten Israelite.” We know that the Torah is sparing with every letter and makes a text as short as possible. There are no unnecessary words in the Holy Torah, so why does the Torah repeat itself "the smitten one who was smitten"?

The Ohr HaChaim explains a great fundamental: every Jew has a corresponding life force Above, and when his life force Above is strengthened - then his life below is also strengthened. The same is true vice versa. When his life force Above weakens - his life force below also weakens.

This is true even with nations. If we see a nation falling, it is a sign that its heavenly minister has fallen. If we see a nation that is getting stronger, it is a sign that its heavenly minister is getting stronger. If a person’s heavenly power weakens - he will also weaken, and if his heavenly power becomes stronger - he will also become stronger.

Based on this principle, the Ohr HaChaim explained: When Pinchas took action and stabbed Zimri ben Salu, it was after Zimri ben Salu had lost his life force in heaven, and was considered as dead. When he approached the Midianite woman, he began to lose his strength, and as soon as he defied Moses - he lost his life force Above and was considered dead. Although his body seemed to be living, it was not real life but just an intermediary state, and in truth he was already dead.

We see a similar dynamic in the Gemara in tractate Shabbat which recounts a story that occurred between Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and Yehuda ben Gerim. When Yehuda ben Gerim slandered Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and caused him grief, at that moment Yehuda ben Grim lost his heavenly life force. Although he continued to live another thirteen years, when Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai came out of his cave and put his eyes on him, he immediately turned into a mound of bones which had been his heavenly status all along.

The Torah section of the spies mentions about the Canaanites that "their shadow was removed from above them" (Numbers 10:9). As soon as a person's shadow is removed and his light from heaven is gone, a person may continue to live transitorily, but in heaven he is considered a dead person. As soon as a person humiliates a tzaddik or dishonors the Torah or holy things, he loses his life Above, and then his corresponding part below easily falls. When the final blow comes, he was already a dead person, lacking vitality and life.

Therefore, as soon as Zimri ben Salu united with the Midianite woman, he became lifeless. That is why the Torah says, "And the smitten Israelite man, who was smitten." It is conveying that he was already dead before. He only appeared to be living in his body, but he was really dead Above. Pinchas did not really kill him. He only added a small touch, because Zimri ben Salu had already died earlier, when his life-force had departed and disappeared.

This explains the difficulty many have asked: How could Pinchas have killed Zimri? Pinchas did not commit the serious act of killing, because he killed a man who already had lost his life. What Pinchas did was an act of self-sacrifice by risking his own life and demonstrating zeal for God. Zimri was already a walking dead man, and Pinchas putting an end to his life was not an act of murder. Pinchas only did the small act of finalizing his death. Now, concludes the Ohr HaChaim, we can understand why the text repeats itself.

Know that a person's name has great potency. There are righteous people who can see whether a person’s heavenly part is alive or dead just from his name.

A Gemara (Yuma 83b) relates that Rabbi Meir used to pay attention to peoples’ names. When people came to ask him about other people, he would check the person's name, and examine whether heaven viewed him as alive or dead.

One day, Rabbi Meir, Rabbi Yehuda and Rabbi Yossi were traveling together and arrived at the house of a certain person where they planned to stay for Shabbat. Rabbi Yehuda and Rabbi Yossi asked the owner of the house to safeguard their money, but Rabbi Meir did not give him his money and instead hid the money in the cemetery.

After Shabbat was over, Rabbi Yehuda and Rabbi Yossi asked the owner of the house for the money. The owner replied that he did not receive anything from them and he has no money. Rabbi Meir’s money was saved. The sages asked Rabbi Meir: How did you know not to give him your money? Rabbi Meir replied: The owner's name is Kidor, like the verse (Deuteronomy 32:20) "Because it is a fickle generation [כי דור = ki dor]." This indicated to me that he is a fickle person, so I didn’t trust him to watch my money.

Righteous individuals can see by a person's name whether he has heavenly life or not. This is why people going to get a blessing or advice from a righteous man always gave him a note with the name of the person needing a blessing. The righteous man can examine the person's name and probe whether he possesses heavenly life, how much of it he has, and what kind of blessing or salvation he needs.

May it be our God's will, that the merit of the holy Ohr HaChaim devolve upon all Jewish people. We have a tradition that those who learn his teachings, the power of His Torah will refine their souls and be a protector and advocate for them in heaven. May we merit this blessing and salvation and the coming of our righteous Messiah, Amen.

(Published in the popular magazine "Bakehila")

This article was written in cooperation with Shuva Israel