Sunday, November 9, 2014
Week 8 (Book 4a): Rejoicing with Creation
Week 8 is the fourth week of Cheshvan. The verse from the story of Channah once again reflects that of our matriarch Rachel, whose yahrzeit is in Cheshvan. Here we see Elkanah interfering, trying to make her happy. The more we leave Tishrei, the more bogged down we feel in the affairs of the world. This feeling can certainly be overwhelming at times. It is good to be able to reach out to someone to inspire us, make us happy.
The Pirkei Avot adjective associated to this week is exactly that: “rejoice of people,” making them happy. In Hebrew, it is written “Messame’ach et HaBri’ot,” which literally one who makes “creatures” happy. Sometimes in order to make people happy, you have to remind them, first and foremost that they are created beings, which have the same basic needs as every other, such as eating and sleeping, etc. (why eatest thou not?); it also important to focus on the positive (am not I better to thee than ten sons?); and that things may only look bad from our very limited perspective, but our Creator has a plan for each one of us, and everything He does is for the very best.
Chapter 6 of the Book of Proverbs encompasses many of the basic ideas of making G-d’s creatures happy, particularly through the Torah. Much of the chapter is also about Creation itself:
21. There is substance to give inheritance to those who love me, and I will fill their treasuries.
22. The Lord acquired me at the beginning of His way, before His works of old.
23. From the distant past I was enthroned, from the beginning, of those that preceded the earth.
24. I was created when there were yet no deeps, when there were no fountains replete with water.
25. I was created before the mountains were sunk, before the hills;
26. when He had not yet made the land and the outsides and the beginning of the dust of the earth.
27. When He established the heavens, there I was, when He drew a circle over the face of the deep;
28. when He made the skies above firm, when He strengthened the fountains of the deep;
29. when He gave the sea its boundary, and the water shall not transgress His command, when He established the foundations of the earth.
30. I was a nursling beside Him, and I was [His] delight every day, playing before Him at all times;
31. playing in the habitable world of His earth, and [having] my delights with the children of man.
This week, on the 21st of Cheshvan, is the yahrzeit of two very prominent Kabbalists, from the Sefardi tradition: the Radbaz (Rabbi David ben Zimra) and Rabbi Avraham Azulai, author of the Chessed L’Avraham (some say his yahrzeit is the 24th).
The Radbaz was the Chief Rabbi of Egypt from approximately the year 1514 to 1553. He was the teacher of the Holy Arizal (Rabbi Yitzchak Luria) as well as the Shita Mekubetzetzet, Rabbi Betzalel Ashkenazi. In addition, the Radbaz was a wealthy businessman.
Rabbi Avraham Azulai was also a major influence upon the Arizal, and is often quoted in his works. He was the Chief Rabbi of Hebron, and the great, great, grandfather of the Chidah (Rabbi Chaim Yosef David Azulai), perhaps the most prominent of all Sefardi authorities in recent history.
Other yahrzeits this week include that of the Knesset Yechezkel, the third Rebbe of Radomsk (20th of Cheshvan), Rabbi Mordechai Sharabi (20th of Cheshvan), and (sometimes) Rabbi Yissachar Dov ben Rabbi Yehoshua Rokeach, of Belz (22nd of Cheshvan).
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