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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Week 31 (Book 4a): Accepting Greatness with Humility


STORY OF CHANNAH: 3. Do not increasingly speak haughtily; Let not arrogance come out of your mouth, For the Lord is a God of thoughts, And to Him are deeds counted.

QUALITY OF THOSE THAT STUDY THE TORAH FOR ITS OWN SAKE: and raises him above all creations  

PROVERBS: Chapter 31

TZADDIKIM: Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk and Rabbi Shmuel Shmelke of Nicholsburg  

On Week 31, the week of Rosh Chodesh Iyar, Yom HaZikaron and Yom Ha’Atzma’ut, the verse from the story of Hannah speaks of the importance of not being arrogant. These words are once again reminiscent of the horse in Book 1, who, despite his strength, looks to Hashem like a servant looks to its Master. As mentioned there, Israel’s victory in its War of Independence was due to Hashem’s great mercy and should not be a cause of haughtiness.

The Pirkei Avot adjective of this week is also connected to the idea of humility and greatness. It takes that the Torah “raises him above all creations.” Even though the verse states that person that studies Torah for its own sake is raised above everything, the use of the word “creations” (Ma’assim) instead of “things” or “people,” keeps everything in the proper perspective – after all, even the highest of beings is simply a minute creation vis-à-vis the Creator. This is the very last quality mentioned, a culmination of all the others mentioned until now.       

Chapter 31 of the Book of Proverbs contains many of the above themes. It’s first verses speak of a king, raised above everyone else, yet nevertheless is chastised by the one who gave him life and was a partner in his creation - his mother:

1. The words of Lemuel the king; a prophecy that his mother chastised him;          
2. What, my son, and what, the son of my womb, and what, the son of my vows?

This is the last chapter of the Book of Proverbs, and concludes with Eshet Chayil, and ode to the Torah itself.

This week includes many yahrzeits, including two prominent students of the Maggid of Mezritch: Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk (1st of Iyar) and Rabbi Shmuel Shmelke (2nd of Iyar).

From Ascent:

Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk/Horodok [1730 - 1 Iyar 1788] was an elder disciple of the Magid of Mizritch and one of the earliest Chasidic rebbes. He led the first modern aliyah to Israel, in 1777, where he and three hundred Chasidim and others settled in Tsefat (Safed). After a few years they moved to Tiberias, where he is buried in the "students of the Baal Shem Tov" section of the Old Cemetery. His works include Pri HaAretzand Likutei Amarim.

Rabbi Shmuel Shmelke HaLevi Horowitz of Nikolsburg (1726 - 2 Iyar 1778) was a major disciple of the Maggid of Mezritch along with his younger brother, Rabbi Pinchas, who became the Rabbi of Frankfort. Many of the leading rebbes in Poland and Galitzia were originally his disciples. Among the books he authored are Divrei Shmuel and Nazir HaShem.


Other yahrzeits this week include Rabbi Chaim Vital (principle student of the Arizal, 30th of Nissan), Rabbi Yaakov Beirav (Chief Rabbi of Tzfat, 1st of Iyar), Rabbi Avraham of Slonim-Baranovich (the Beis Avrohom, 1st of Iyar),  Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu son of Rabbi Shaul Yedidya Elazer Taub (Modzhitzer Rebbe, 4th of Iyar), Rabbi Chaim Meir Yechiel Shapira of Mogelnitz (5th of Iyar), Rabbi Yaakov Chaim Perlow (Stoliner Rebbe, 6th of Iyar) and Rabbi Yosef Meir Weiss (6th of Iyar).
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