Sunday, October 26, 2014

Week 6 (Book 4a): Dealing with Difficult People

STORY OF CHANNAH: 6 And her rival vexed her sore, to make her fret, because the LORD had shut up her womb.
 
QUALITY OF THOSE THAT STUDY TORAH FOR ITS OWN SAKE: Loves people
 
TZADIK: 7 Cheshvan- Rav Yehuda Meir Shapiro of Lublin
 
PROVERBS: Chapter 6
 
Week 6 is the second week of Cheshvan. The verse from the story of Channah continues to reflect the story of our matriarch Rachel, whose yahrzeit is on the 11th of Cheshvan. As mentioned in the previous week, G-d had not graced her with children. Yet she watched how her own sister, who Jacob did not intend to marry, had one child after the other.
 
The Pirkei Avot adjective associated to this week is again associated with love: “loves people.” In Hebrew, it is written “Ohev et HaBri’ot,” which literally means loves “the creatures.” This is a quality very much associated with Aharon HaKohen, Moshe’s brother and the first High Priest. As Hillel states in the first chapter of Pirkei Avot, “Hillel would say: Be of the disciples of Aharon--a lover of peace, a pursuer of peace, loves the creatures and draws them close to Torah.” (emphasis added). Our sages explain that people are referred her as creatures (or creations), because Aharon loved those people that had no obvious positive qualities other than the fact that they were created by G-d. In Cheshvan, when we are “out and about” in the world, we are likely to encounter people that also do not appear to have any positive qualities, yet we must love them and learn from them.
 
In the above verse from the story of Channah, we see the difficult situation she was in. Channah had to live with a rival, Peninah, that vexed her about the fact that she had children while Channah did not. Such a situation required great “love for people,” and the ability to judge others favorably. In fact, we are told that Peninah’s motives were in fact positive ones – she wanted to enhance Channah’s prayers.
 
Chapter 6 of the Book of Proverbs encompasses many of the basic ideas of loving G-d’s creatures. It speaks of how to behave when encountering strangers, and what to look out for when faced with unscrupulous and violent men and evil and adulterous women. The chapter also teaches us to learn lessons from other creations, animals: the ant, the bird and the deer.
 
1. My son, if you have stood surety for your fellow, have given your hand for a stranger, 2. you have been trapped by the sayings of your mouth; you have been caught by the sayings of your mouth.
(...)
5. Save yourself like a deer from the hand and like a bird from the hand of the snare. 6. Go to the ant, you sluggard; see her ways and become wise,
(...)
12. An unscrupulous man, a man of violence, walks with a crooked mouth;
13. he winks with his eyes, shuffles with his feet, points with his fingers.
(...)
24. to guard you from an evil woman, from the smoothness of the alien tongue.
25. Do not covet her beauty in your heart, and do not let her captivate you with her eyelids.
 
This week, we discuss another important rabbinical figure related to the Rizhin dynasty. The 7th of Cheshvan is the yahrzeit of Rabbi Yehuda Meir Shapiro of Lublin, known for institutionalizing the Daf Yomi cycle. Rav Shapiro was a devoutchassid of Rabbi David Moshe Friedman, the Chortoker Rebbe, discussed in Week 4. Rav Shapiro was the chief rabbi of Galina and Piotrkov, and author of the book Or HaMeir. He is also well known as the founder of Yeshivat Chachmei Lublin, in 1930.
 
Rabbi Shapiro faced tremendous challenges and difficulties in convincing the Jewish leadership and the rest of the community at the time to institute the Daf Yomi cycle, in part because of his young age. Today it is the hallmark of the vibrancy of Talmudic scholarship worldwide.
 
Also mentioned in Week 4 was the Holy Yid of Peshischa. The 7th of Cheshvan is the yahrzeit of not one, but two of his descendants, both of them rebbes in their own right: Rabbi Nosson Dovid Rabinowitz of Shidlowitz, grandson of the Holy Yid, and Rav Yerachmiel Tzvi Rabinowitz of Biala-Shedlitz.
 
It is also important to mention the continuation of the line of Rav Menachem Mendel of Kosov, founder of the Vizhnitz dynasty, also mentioned last week. The 9th of Cheshvan is the yahrzeit of Rabbi Yidele Horowitz, the Dzikover Rebbe, who was raised by his maternal grandfather, Rabbi Yisrael Hager, Rebbe of Vizhnitz:
 
Although known as a formidable scholar and a man of exceptional character, he shunned the limelight and abhorred any reverence or treatment as a Rebbe. He lived a very frugal life. Absolutely all the monies forwarded to him by admirers and Chassidim were immediately distributed to orphans and widows.[1]
Other yahrzeits this week include that of Rabbi Yehudah HaChassid (6th of Cheshvan), Rabbi Shlomo Dovid Yehoshua Weinberg of Slonim son of Rabbi Avrohom, the Bais Avrohom (6thof Cheshvan), and Rabbi Asher bar Yechiel, the Rosh.

 
 
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