L.A. 5758 Sephardic Spirit

To understand the mystic approach to life thatsuffuses the Pinto Torah Center, simply listen to Rabbi Yaakov Pintotell the story of how his parents met.

At the age of 18, Rabbi Moshe Pinto decided thathe was ready to marry, and so he went to his father, Rabbi ChaimPinto, the great tzadik , righteous one, and miracle worker of Mogodor (nowEssaouria), Morocco.

Chaim told his son his wife would be a woman yetunborn named Mazal Tov. He then told a woman whose daughters had diedin infancy that her next daughter would be born healthy, her namewould be Mazal Tov, and she would marry his son.

Fourteen years later, Chaim and Mazal Tov weremarried. “And their whole lives, he treated her like a jewel, and shetreated him like a tzadik,” says Yaakov Pinto, 36, sitting in hiswood-paneled synagogue on Pico Boulevard, the summer sun shiningthrough the glass bricks.

For Pinto, there is no questioning the truth ofthis and other, even more magical stories of his family.

“This is how it is. Every Moroccan Jew knows about[my family]; it’s not just some story you hear,” says Pinto, his cellphone and Wizard electronic organizer sitting on the white plastictablecloth in front of him.

Before Moshe died, in 1985, he told his familythat he wanted them to set up 26 — the numerical equivalent of God’sname — centers of outreach and Torah study across the world.

Celebrating a birth at Pinto Torah Center.Rabbi Yaakov Pinto is fifth from left.

So far, Yaakov and three of his brothers havecenters — call them the Chabad of the Sephardic community — inFrance, Israel, England, Tahiti, New York and Los Angeles.

Yaakov Pinto arrived in Los Angeles 14 years agofor a one-week honeymoon, before he and his young wife were to settlein France. The week turned into years, as Pinto found himself, likehis father and grandfather before him, dedicated to the goal ofbringing Jews closer to tradition and Torah.

The door is almost always open at the one-roomsynagogue, where the walls are lined with books and plants, and thelinoleum floor is covered with rugs. A mural of the Western Wallhangs high, and an ornate Elijah’s Chair sits in a corner.

Pinto holds three daily services and Shabbatprayers and meals, and he teaches classes in several languages. Thecenter also feeds about 400 homeless people a week.

Next door is B’er Moshe, the book and Judaic shopthe synagogue operates to ensure that his members have an amplesupply of Hebrew books at good prices. The store also providesanother gateway for those who Pinto hopes to bring closer. Somewander in to the store and find themselves having a glass of strongcoffee with the rabbi. Many of those who