Will the cook teach a thousand kinds of dishes?

  (photo credit: PR)
(photo credit: PR)

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 he comments on the Torah section of Ki Teitzei.

"When you will go out to war against your enemies"

Our holy sages interpreted the verse in Song of Songs (6:2) "My beloved went down to his garden to the beds of perfume" as referring to the special days of Elul that we are in the midst of now. God is going down to His garden, to This World, and He is close to all who earnestly call upon Him.

Our sages compared the situation to a king who in usual times will not permit a citizen to have an audience with him without prior coordination that involves an orderly and complicated process. But during these days, our King, God Almighty, walks among us and is close to each and every one of us who earnestly calls out to Him. Everyone can approach him and ask for anything he wants.

During these days, a person only needs to sincerely call upon the Holy One, blessed be He, from the depths of his heart, and he will achieve great things and reach the highest levels and places.

This week's Torah section begins: "When you will go out to war against your enemies." The Arizal explains that this is referring to mankind’s struggle against the evil inclination, which is the greatest and most significant war a person will ever experience in his life. Ever since he was born, a person is in a constant battle. When he is a small child, the evil instinct comes to him for small things, and when he grows up, it goes after him for bigger things. The older a person gets, the more his battle with the evil inclination intensifies. As the Gemara says (Sukkah 52a) “One who is greater than his fellow man has a greater evil inclination than him.”

Despite the uneven battle, the Torah tells us: "The Lord your God will give it into your hand." This means that God helps man in the war with the evil inclination, and will give him the strength to subdue it. Later in the weekly Torah section, the Torah commands us about a beautiful captive that a Jewish soldier was attracted to and took for a wife, and a person who has a rebellious son. It is a great fundamental that one of the hardest battles in a person's life is to maintain his sanctity.

It is known that there are fifty gates in heaven, Gates of Light, Gates of Blessing, Gates of Success, Gates of Salvation and others. Each gate has a special key that opens it. A person who works on himself in a certain area - he gains the key to the Gate dealing with that particular area. Each gate has its own key. Just like each apartment in a large apartment building has its own key, so each gate in heaven has its own key. For instance, a person who has worked on himself to succeed in his field - has the key to the Gate of Success. It is the same for all the gates.

But whoever is in control of the Foundation of all Gates, controls them all. He has the master key that opens all the gates. There were righteous individuals about whom it was said that they are "known in the ‘Gates.’" (Prov. 31:23) This means that they have the key that opens all the gates.

The Song of Songs (8:12) mentions, "You, O Solomon, shall have the thousand, and those who watch its fruit, two hundred." Our holy sages explain that when King David went to war, he would kill eight hundred enemies in one blow. And he felt anguish because he had only killed eight hundred enemies instead of a thousand that the Torah had stated (Deuteronomy 32:30) "One shall pursue a thousand." Heaven revealed to him: They had deducted two hundred from King David because of what he did to Uriah the Hittite. This means that they let him kill only eight hundred instead of a thousand.

The Torah says about the righteous Joseph (Deuteronomy 33:17): "His firstborn ox is endowed with glory. His horns are the horns of a re'em. With them, he will gore peoples together until the ends of the earth. These are the myriads of Ephraim, and these are the thousands of Manasseh." Our holy sages say that because the Joseph kept himself holy and pure, that is why he was able to reach the summit of "tens of thousands of Ephraim and thousands of Manasseh." As the Torah says (Psalms 91:7) "A thousand and ten thousand shall fall at your side; they shall not approach you." A person who is careful to remain holy and pure, merits that ten thousand will fall at his right side and a thousand will fall at his left.

The Gemara relates (Nedarim 50b) that a man went to a cook and asked him to teach him a thousand types of dishes, but the cook only taught him eight hundred. That man was disappointed that he had not been taught all thousand dishes, and he went to Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi to sue the cook. Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi told him that he cannot adjudicate the case because he does not understand a thousand dishes.

Our holy sages explain the deeper meaning of this story. That person was a great and righteous individual who sought to reach the level of a “thousand.” He wanted to learn a thousand meditations and secrets to achieve this supreme level, but the “cook” wouldn’t teach him all the thousand. So he went to Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi, of whom the Gemara says (Shabbat 118b) that he was holy and pure and possessed a great, exalted soul, and hoped he would learn the remaining two hundred secrets from him.

Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi humbly said that he did not know them. “A thousand” is an euphemism for the sublime level and quality of a person who keeps himself holy and pure.

A person should be careful with all his might to preserve his holiness, and if he has failed in any way - to repent with all his might, and take every precaution in the future. He should also take extreme care of his little children from the time they are small by entreating and humbly asking God that his children follow the path of God.

Today, despite our many iniquities, the empowerment of the evil inclination, and the difficult battle we are facing, a person can save himself and save his family members by praying to God that his children be protected, that they not defile themselves and that they remain holy and pure. God willing, we will together merit to establish holy and pure generations, and open all the gates in the sky to give nachat to our Creator.

This article was written in cooperation with Shuva Israel