Rabbi Moshe Aaron Pinto Zatzal
On Wednesday Elul 5, 5746, after a long and painful illness that lasted three years, the Tzaddik Rabbi Moshe Aaron Pinto, the “Light and Pillar of the World,” passed away in Ashdod at the age of 73.
Rabbi Moshe Aaron Pinto was the son of the saintly and venerated Rabbi Haim Pinto Hakatan, and the descendant of the great Tzaddik Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto, author of the book The Rif on Ein Yaakov, and of Rabbi Yaakov Pinto, author of the book on the Zohar entitled Mikdash Melech.
Rabbi Moshe Pinto was among the Tzaddikim Nistarim (Hidden Righteous). He did not wish to be known, and forbade people from talking about him. Yet on the day of his passing, people testified to the miracles performed because of the Tzaddik’s blessings. His students gathered his writings together to make a book. His miracles are innumerable. And yet, even after the passing of Rabbi Moshe Pinto, people were still able to benefit from him, for as our Sages say, “The Tzaddikim, even when dead, are alive.”
A neighbor of Rabbi Moshe Pinto was medically declared infertile since the age of 12. Two and a half months before the passing of the Tzaddik, she came to see the Rebbetzin in order to beg her to allow her into Rabbi Moshe’s room without speaking or bothering him. In entering, Rabbi Moshe Pinto, despite his illness and pain, gave a friendly signal towards this woman and smiled to her. Fifteen days later, she was pregnant. The doctors couldn’t understand anything.
Rabbi Moshe Pinto suffered from many illnesses, most notably from gangrene. Doctors at the famous Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem wanted to amputate both his legs. He always refused, however, saying that no descendant of Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto had ever suffered from mutilation. He always reminded the doctors, “I came into this world with two legs, and with two legs I will leave this world.” In saying this, he would raise his hands towards the sky and invoked his great grandfather, Rabbi Haim Pinto Hagadol. The day in which he was finally to be operated, the doctor told the Tzaddik’s entire family that he would try one final treatment. If that failed, he would be forced to amputate his legs or else Rabbi Moshe’s life would be in danger. The miracle occurred. That same day there was a marked improvement in his blood circulation, and the operation was no longer necessary. Once free of the gangrene, Rabbi Moshe said, “It is now that my sufferings will begin!”
From that point on, his state became increasingly worse. He lost his ability to speak, to hear, and to see, and he was subject to heart attacks. Each time, he raised his hands towards the sky and kissed them as a sign of joyous submission.
The Admorim and Rabbanim that came to pay him visits during this time noticed two things: Each time that he touched his head, it was to ensure that his kippah was in place, and every time that he made a gesture, it was to have people wash his hands.
And yet medically, his brain had ceased to function. Despite everything, he bathed in the light of Kedusha and his spirit was always with his people, for whom he never stopped praying. When his children would bring him his Tallit and Tefillin, he took them with his right hand, held them firmly to his heart, and began to gently cry. He cried because he was no longer able to perform the holy mitzvah of Tallit and Tefillin.
Other tears flowed for several moments just before his passing. These were not tears of physical suffering, but rather tears from the ultimate spiritual suffering of not having witnessed the advent of the Messiah during his lifetime.
From the depths of man’s despair, the hope exists that our much beloved Rabbi Moshe Aaron Pinto, with his legions of Israel’s holy ones, will intercede on our behalf and precipitate the arrival of the Messiah. Amen and Amen.
In 1984, before his illness, he gave his children two suggestions:
1. They should put into print commentaries on the book The Laws of Teshuvah by Ramban (Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon). This being done, the publication should be freely put at the disposition of synagogues, schools, and community centers.
2. That the Sefer Torah of the very great Tzaddik, Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto, written about 360 years ago, should be shown throughout the Jewish communities of the world. This was because, in his opinion, that Sefer Torah had a segula for the destruction of Avodah Zarah, which brings the advent of the Messiah closer, an event that he had waited his entire life for.
Rabbi Moshe never left his home. Our teachers say that this was because his father had asked him to make a vow to remain enclosed for 40 years. He stayed for 30 years in his home in Mogador and 10 years in Casablanca.
He had built inside his home a synagogue and a study hall, and he received thousands of people who came from all over to receive his blessing.
Once his vow had been accomplished, 40 years having passed, he went to reflect and pray by the grave of his venerated great grandfather and asked him for permission to go and settle in Israel.
My Father, Rabbi Moshe Aaron Pinto Zatzal (by David Hanania Pinto Shlita)
I remember in particular the first trip that we took in Morocco. I was responsible for preparing the entire journey, but I especially had to watch over the health of my father, who was suffering from a severe case of diabetes.
The trip lasted two months, and it was at that time that I began to listen to people who came to pour out their hearts to my father. I saw how he listened to everyone, rich or poor, with the same consideration. I saw how he gave advice, and how his entire being inspired faith and confidence in G-d.
One day during that trip in Morocco, my father awakened us very early in the morning and asked us to quickly bring him to the cemetery in Casablanca in order to pray by the grave of his father, the Tzaddik Rabbi Haim Pinto Zatzal. When I suggested that perhaps we could go a little later, after the morning prayers, he said to me: “If we wait until after prayers, it will be too late!” No one dared to insist, and we immediately went to the cemetery. Once he arrived by the grave of Rabbi Haim Pinto Zatzal, my father raised his arms to the sky and began to bless aloud the royal family, the Moroccan people, and all our Jewish brothers scattered around the world, after which he blessed my brother Abraham. This greatly surprised me, for he was not in the habit of doing this. Normally he blessed each member of our family, starting with my mother and proceeding from the firstborn to the youngest. Yet in that order, Abraham would have been the eighth person to be blessed!
Of course I didn’t dare ask my father so many questions, especially since he was crying profusely and seemed to be suffering terribly. Yet why had he blessed only my brother Abraham?
During that time we were the guests of Mr. Mardochée Knafo, whom all our friends knew quite well. We had barely returned from the cemetery when a person approached me and said that he had just received news from Israel, via a call from France, that about a half-hour earlier my brother Abraham had been involved in a serious road accident in which three people had died. As for Abraham himself, he apparently was seriously injured.
Still via France, I called my mother in Ashdod. She confirmed the sad news to me, saying that Abraham was hovering between life and death, and asked that my father and I return as quickly as possible.
Even though I was used to it, I couldn’t help being astonished by the Ruach Hakodesh that had allowed my father to sense this terrible turn of events and pray for the welfare of his son by the grave of Rabbi Haim Pinto Zatzal in the early morning.
When I told my father this terrible news, he said to me with a sad smile, “I knew it my son, I knew it. A serious gezerah [decree] was upon your brother Abraham. This is why I got up so early in the morning and prayed before the accident occurred. Unfortunately, only a portion of my prayer was accepted, since three people died. As for your brother Abraham, we must absolutely stay here in Morocco, next to the grave of Rabbi Haim Pinto, until the gezerah is removed from him and he starts recovering. I can assure you that his life will be in danger if we depart from the grave of Rabbi Haim Pinto.”
One morning my father said to me, “David, G-d willing we will return to Israel next Thursday.”
While we stayed in Morocco, my mother did not stop complaining that my father had not yet returned home to Israel. I then told her that he had announced that the gezerah would be removed from Abraham by next Thursday, and that we would return the next day. My mother, however, could not believe it, for the doctors had given Abraham no hope.
Later on we learned that on that famous Thursday, a large butterfly made it into my brother’s hospital room and began to fly over the length of his body. When it flew over his head, he regained consciousness and asked for something to drink. It had been almost two months that he had been in a coma, and in the interim he had undergone several major operations. Yet from that day on, his health began to improve. My mother held no grudge whatsoever against my father for having left her to face such a difficult situation alone.
It was at that time that I saw, with my very own eyes, just how my father’s sincere and confident prayers could produce real miracles.
About 13 years later, I was in Los Angeles when I was told that my father Rabbi Moshe Pinto HaTzaddik was in severe pain and that his life was in danger. I was told that he had been seriously burned when he spilled a pot of hot water on himself during Shabbat.
Of course the Tzaddik normally prepared a certain number of items for himself on Shabbat, and among other things it was always he who placed water on the hotplate for Shabbat.
Anguished, I took the first flight out of Los Angeles for Tel Aviv. When I arrived, I immediately went to Hadassah Hospital, where my father lay almost unconscious. The doctors had just told him that regrettably they had to amputate his two legs, for they were infected to the point of gangrene.
That same night my father confided in me: “Listen my son, I want to tell you that there is no reason to worry, and that the doctors will never be able to take the legs that Hashem gave me at birth. These legs have always helped me to accomplish G-d’s will. They brought me from Morocco to the Holy Land and allowed me to walk to synagogue day after day!”
We know how close Hashem is to those who invoke His Name and call upon Him in truth. Never did G-d leave my father’s prayers unanswered. This time as well a miracle occurred. At the time of the operation, the surgeon noticed that my father’s legs had improved. He turned to my father, and the face of the Tzaddik was shining. An extraordinary light emanated from his eyes. Surprised, the surgeon asked that all test results be brought to him, the newest as well as the oldest.
The doctors were literally proclaiming it to be a miracle when they saw all the test results. The tests had been taken with great care, and they clearly showed that a serious case of gangrene had infected both his legs, yet now they seemed completely healthy.
My father was brought back to his room. There was no further reason for his legs to be amputated, legs that had brought him to synagogue on Shabbat!
It is well known that Hashem protects the one who is occupied with fulfilling a mitzvah. How much more is this true concerning the mitzvah of Shabbat.
Upon awakening, my father got up and began to pace in the room while singing hymns of Rabbi Haim Pinto Zatzal. He wholeheartedly proclaimed the glory of G-d, Who had not allowed his legs to be buried before he was.
A few months before his passing, during Chol HaMoed of Passover, his general health began to deteriorate and he was brought to the hospital. In the midst of his suffering, he said to those close to him: “A great Tzaddik is about to leave our world today.”
In fact, upon returning from the hospital they learned on the radio that Rabbi Meir Abihssira Zatzal, the firstborn son of Baba Salé Zatzal, had lost his life in a major accident. My father had announced it three hours earlier!
After my father passed away, he was buried on a Thursday. Very early the next day, just as dawn was about to break, some people went to his grave to recite Psalms. Imagine their shock to discover that the sand covering his grave was burning hot, yet it was so early in the morning that the sun had not yet risen, and all around the ground was cool!
One day I had to accompany my father to the eye-doctor. I will never forget how he walked before me as if he knew the way! In the streets, just as at home, he was very careful about preserving the sanctity of his eyes, and he always looked towards the ground, never gazing upon anyone.
My father once expressed his desire to see a real lion. I drove him to the zoo, and when he saw a lion for the first time in his life, he proclaimed: “How great are your works, O L-rd.” He looked at the lion before him and said, “Greetings to you, your majesty, king of the animals.” Afterwards he remained there for a long time, observing the animal.
I have had the privilege of personally witnessing so many proofs of my father’s holiness, which is why I always dreamed of building something big in his name, such as a town or settlement. Thank G-d, many close friends and associates in the United States and elsewhere around the world agreed to invest in a project in Ashdod. A large parcel of land was purchased in the city near the cemetery where my father Rabbi Moshe Pinto Zatzal is buried, and thanks to some sizable loans and investments by several banks, we succeeding in acquiring three residential complexes for orthodox Sephardic families.
Unfortunately, in 1991 the price of property plummeted and the Be’er Moshe institution lost a great deal of money. All that remained was to shut down our operations and take over the responsibilities for the sizeable debts that we had acquired. For three months I was literally ill, so great was the pain I experienced in not being able to fulfill the dream I had. I began to implore G-d to help me so that this project would see the light of day. I gave instructions that our operations were not to be shut down, and I personally borrowed money from all my friends in order to meet the payments that the banks demanded. Hashem came to my aid, and we finally managed to rent out, albeit at a loss, almost all our residential spaces, thus saving Kiryat Be’er Moshe.
Thus today, because of G-d’s help, Kiryat Be’er Moshe still exists and houses about 100 orthodox families.
I sincerely pray that the merit of my father will help all those who supported us during those difficult times. May Hashem protect and help them in all their endeavors. Amen.