Sunday, November 2, 2014
Week 7 (Book 4a): Elevating (and Being Elevated) by Your Place
Week 7 is the third week of Cheshvan. The verse from the story of Channah continues to reflect the story of our matriarch Rachel, whose yahrzeit is usually this week. As previously explained, Rachel’s cries are especially heard by G-d. The verse also emphasize’s Channah’s pilgrimage to the Temple every year. As also previously explained, the month of Cheshvan is closely linked with the Third Temple.
The Pirkei Avot adjective associated to this week is “rejoicer of G-d."In Hebrew, it is written “Messameach et haMakom,” which literally means “makes the Place happy.” As in Week 5, Hashem is called, “the Place,” as no place is devoid of Him. In addition to there being no place devoid of Him, there is one place where His Presence is more concentrated than anywhere else: the Temple, may it be rebuilt speedily in our days.
A person’s geographical location has an immense impact on them, to the extent that Maimonedes writes that if a person wishes to repent from misdeeds, one of the options is to seek to change the locations of where they live. There is also a concept that when a person changes locations they change their mazal, their destiny. This is one of the ideas of Avraham leaving the land of his forefathers and going to Israel. Channah herself goes to the Temple to weep and pray for a child. She is not satisfied in staying in her place, despite the vexation she suffered.
However, as the quality of this week appears to emphasize, once a person is on the level of learning Torah for its own sake, it is not so much the role of place to make a person happy, as it is the role of the person to make the place happy. It is in our power to create a proper Torah atmosphere, an idea very much emphasized by the Sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yoseph Yitzchak Schneersohn, as well as by his successor, the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson.
Even when faced with a barrage of attacks by those around us, like those suffered by Channah, it is still up to us, not up to others or to the place we find ourselves, how it is that we choose to behave.
Chapter 7 of the Book of Proverbs encompasses many of the basic ideas of being careful about foreign places, again similar to the messages of Week 5 and Week 6:
10. And behold a woman [was coming] toward him, the nakedness of a harlot with her heart besieged.
11. She is bustling and rebellious; her feet do not dwell in her house.
12. Sometimes [she is] in the street, sometimes in the squares, and she lurks at every corner. (...)
25. Let your heart not veer off into her ways; stray not in her paths.
26. For many are the dead that she has felled, and numerous are all her victims.
27. The ways of the grave are to her house, descending to the chambers of death.
Along with Rachel Immeinu, there are (at least) two other important yahrzeits on the same date, the 11th of Cheshvan. Both the first in the line Chassidic dynasties that remain important sources of light and inspiration until today: Rabbi Menachem Nachum, the Maggid of Chernobyl [1730-1787], and Rabbi Avraham Wienberg, the Slonimer Rebbe [1804-1883].
The Maggid of Chernobyl was a close disciple of the Ba’al Shem Tov, as well as of the Maggid of Mezeritch. He is also known for his work, Meor Einayim. Chernobyl is also at the root of other important Chassidic dynasties, such as Skver and Tolna. It is interesting to note that Chernobyl, a place nowadays usually associated with tragedy, is also associated with tremendous holiness, Torah, and spirituality.
The Slonimer Rebbe was a disciple of Rabbi Noah of Lechovitch and Rabbi Moshe of Kobrin. He is also known for his work, Yesod Ha’Avodah, as well as Chesed L’Avraham and Be'er Avraham on the Mechilta. Rabbi Wienberg was well respected among both chassidim and non-chassidim, in a place traditionally opposed to Chassidic thought, Lithuania. Under his leadership, Slonim Chassidim also became established in Israel. (Ascent)
Other yahrzeits this week include that of Rabbi Zev Wolf Kitzis (12th of Cheshvan), Rabbi Baruch of Kosov (author of Yesod HaEmunah and Amud HaAvodah, 13th of Cheshvan), Rabbi Avraham Elimelech Perlow of Stolin-Karlin the son of Rabbi Yisrael of Karlin (14th of Cheshvan), and (sometimes) Rabbi Avroham Yeshaya Karelitz (the Chazon Ish, 15th of Cheshvan); Rabbi Chaim Pinto (HaKatan, 15th of Cheshvan); Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach (16th of Cheshvan), and Rabbi Menachem Mendel Hager of Kosov (from whom stem both the Vizhnitz and Kosov dynasties, 17th of Cheshvan).
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