If There Is No Flour…

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Flour in Hands
31 May 2007

Land of My Birth – The main link between Eretz Yisrael and the Diaspora during the time of exile was through a “Shadar” – a messenger sent to collect donations for the yeshiva students and for other needs in the land. The emissary was usually a prominent Torah scholar who knew how to impress his audience and convince them to support the people in Eretz Yisrael.

During the time of the First World War (starting in 1914), these trips were stopped, and one of the first to rejuvenate this tradition was Rabbi Avraham Pinto. He was known as a dedicated and smart man, a well known teacher in the “Tiferet Yisrael” yeshiva, who also published his own Torah innovations. In 5681 (1921), he was sent to Morocco. Before he left on his journey, he signed a contract with the Sephardic Committee for Kollelim, which included such items as the following:

“(1) The messenger, Rabbi …, is obligated to go himself on this journey. (2) He will try with all his might to specifically benefit the Kollelot of the holy city and not to support any other projects or to establish new institutions. And for his work he will receive ten percent of the amounts collected for the next ten years. (3) He must record his accounts in an accounting book, including amounts contributed and expenses, the names of the donors and the amounts given. If he is given used clothing he can keep it for himself… (5) The messenger is not allowed to take possession of any of the money that he receives… (9) He must take an oath at the end of his trip, in accordance with Torah requirements for partners.”

The messenger was given a letter of recommendation signed by “the head of the rabbis in the holy city, Rabbi Chaim Moshe Elyashar, ST (Sephardi Tahor).” Here is what the letter said:

“Honored sir: After many years of hardship and suffering, we have found an opportunity to send to your area the prominent rabbi, Rabbi Avraham Pinto, so that he will be able to describe to you our dire prospects in the holy city Jerusalem, where thousands of souls – rabbis, paupers, orphans, and widows – need our help, but we do not have the resources to provide for them. Unfortunately, the number of those needing support has grown because of the war, and not a single penny has arrived from the decimated areas of Russia and Europe… We hope that out of the kindness of your heart and your love for the holy land you will help the rabbi, our messenger, who has left his home and his land and made the long journey to your land, by making his journey a success, and that you will give a generous contribution, as befits the times… We pray that the G-d of Zion and Jerusalem will repay you for your kindness together with your poor brothers in the holy city, and that you will have a long life… And that you will see Jerusalem rebuilt…”

Rabbi Pinto traveled for 4 years, visiting about 70 places, including remote villages. He suffered from bad roads, from competition with other similar messengers, and from the economic crisis after the war. He described his problems in Morocco in a letter, as follows:

“To the great and exalted rabbis, more precious than jewels… I have great problems with respect to gathering contributions… I also need collection boxes, small and attractive, that will be suitable for my needs… It is not easy for me to collect contributions, since I was preceded in my visit by another wise man from Jerusalem, and they gave to him… I went to small villages, which was a great effort and posed great danger, since they are in desert areas, without any settled land around… Thank G-d I returned safely… I was in the city of Tzapro, where I was honored to give a sermon on Shabbat, and they sat and argued how much money to contribute… And in the city of Casablanca they gave me very big contributions, as much as they could…”

It is to the credit of such dedicated messengers who journeyed through the paths of the Diaspora in order to bring some “flour” for the mouths of the people of the land that Torah learning did not stop in the holy land.

(Source: Avraham Chaim, “Rabbi Avraham Pinto’s Mission to Morocco,” in “From East to West”). Reprinted with permission from Zomet Institute (www.zomet.org.il).

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.