The teachings of Rabbi Pinto are well-known in the Jewish community. His lessons combine Hasidism and thought, providing practical tips for leading a better life. In this article, we will explore some pearls of wisdom from his teachings that are applicable to our daily lives, focusing specifically on Shabbat Teshuva. On Yom Kippur, we read the entire book of Jonah, which tells the story of a reluctant prophet who eventually fulfills his mission to Nineveh. Jonah initially resisted his calling and tried to escape by boarding a ship.
However, a great storm arose, and Jonah was thrown into the sea, where he was swallowed by a fish. This raises the question of why we only read this specific haftarah on Yom Kippur. Why isn’t another haftarah chosen, and what is the underlying significance of Jonah’s story?
The answer lies in the theme of repentance and despair. Sometimes, a person reaches a point of hopelessness where they no longer care about anything. They may question whether God will even listen to their prayers, considering the extent of their past wrongdoings. Even when they attend synagogue and participate in prayers, they feel disconnected and unaffected. They might even think, “What’s the point? What more can God do to me? I’ll just continue living my life.” Jonah experienced such despair that he reached a state of resignation, believing that whatever will be, will be. However, the Almighty responded by sending a powerful storm. Similarly, when a person reaches a point of apathy, God might shake things up in their life, causing problems and disruptions. It could be through family issues, health problems, or other challenges that suddenly arise. If the person still fails to awaken from their indifference, they may be metaphorically thrown into the sea, representing a deeper level of turmoil. And if they remain oblivious even in the midst of this chaos, they may find themselves figuratively swallowed by a fish. Only when surrounded by these difficulties and trials does the person finally wake up and realize the need for change.
The fish eventually spits Jonah out onto dry land, where he is confronted with even more problems. It is at this point that Jonah awakens to his responsibility and turns to God. In essence, Jonah’s story serves as a powerful metaphor for the journey of repentance. It teaches us that sometimes, we need to experience storms in our lives in order to wake up from our indifference and recognize the importance of reconnecting with our spiritual path.
One must avoid entering a mindset that asks, “What could possibly happen to me?” or “How could this affect me?” It is crucial not to succumb to despair and say, “Whatever will be, will be,” or “If God wants to punish me, let him punish!” This confusion and dangerous state of mind is often stirred up by the evil inclination. Therefore, the haftarah is read on Yom Kippur during Mincha, the significant hour when the gates of heaven are open wide. Its purpose is to remind people not to reach this state of mind and to avoid immersing themselves in it. People often ask us on the eve of Yom Kippur about the type of acceptance they should strive for and make. The acceptance that everyone should aim for is to continue with the good that has been done so far and to make an effort to correct any past wrongdoings. It is important not to mix the good and the bad together. Those who mistakenly believe they can manipulate the Torah or play games with God are making a serious error. God judges the entire world and scrutinizes every minute detail. Nothing escapes God’s watchful eyes, and everything will be brought to judgment. We, as individuals, all engage in acts of devotion, prayer, observance of the Sabbath, and acts of charity. There has never been a generation with such extensive acts of charity as this one, nor has there been a generation with such a profound connection to Torah and grace. However, the problem in this generation lies in the mixing of good and evil. If people had faith and refrained from mixing good and evil together, the Messiah would come. Countless individuals seek forgiveness, and the observance of Yom Kippur is nearly universal among Jews. The Jewish community has been incredibly generous with their charitable contributions, even sacrificing their own needs to help others. Yet, one failure of the Jewish people is the mixing of good and evil. It is essential to recognize that good is good and evil is bad. The destruction of humankind occurs when these two are intertwined.
The mixing of good and evil resulted in the destruction of the First and Second Temples. Despite receiving signs from God as a wake-up call, we failed to respond and consequently, the Temple was destroyed. This destructive pattern continued for thousands of years, solely because we mixed good and evil. When someone devotes time to studying Torah, they should prioritize it and not let distractions take precedence. Similarly, when someone performs a good deed, they should refrain from compromising its integrity. If one desires wealth, they should focus on their work, while those aspiring to righteousness should prioritize Torah study and avoid mixing good and evil. A wise tzaddik once instructed his disciples to commit to one truth: to always speak honestly and act with integrity. However, after a few months, the rabbi fell ill and began crying out in pain. When asked about his tears, he explained that his sighs and cries were louder than the actual pain. He emphasized the importance of being true in every aspect of life. May God assist us in living by this principle.