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Friday, May 9, 2014

Week 32 (Book 4a): Ups and Downs


STORY OF CHANNAH: 4. The bows of the mighty are broken; And those who stumbled, are girded with strength.

PIRKEI AVOT ON THE GREATNESS OF TORAH: Great is Torah, for it gives life to its observers in this world, and in the World To Come. As is stated (Proverbs 4:22): "For they are life to he who finds them, and a healing to all his flesh."

ECCLESIASTES: Chapter 1

TZADDIKIM: Rav Naftali Tzvi of Ropshitz and Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac Yehuda Yechiel Safrin ben Alexander Sender of Komarno 

On Week 32, still related to Yom Ha’Atzma’ut, the verse from the story of Hannah speaks of how the bows of the mighty were broken, and those that had stumbled were given strength to succeed. This is a very accurate description of what took place in 1948.

We now switch from discussing the quality of those that study Torah for its own sake, to examine particular verses chosen in Pirkei Avot which illustrate the greatness of the Torah, which gives life in this world and in the World to Come. The first verse speaks of life and healing of the flesh. At the time of independence, the Jewish people were broken. Yet somehow they gathered strength and found life and healing. The same can be said for Channah.

We also now switch from the Book of Proverbs to the Book of Ecclesiastes. Chapter 1 contains many of the above themes, particularly how the world goes in circles, with many ups and downs. The wicked may at one point be on top, but they will ultimately fall. Life and endurance are given to those that remain humble:

1. The words of Koheleth son of David, king in Jerusalem.              

RASHI -  The words of Koheleth: … “The words of Koheleth… The sun rises… All the rivers run into the sea.” He refers to the wicked as the sun, the moon, and the sea, which have no reward. So it was taught in Sifrei (Deut. 1:1). I learned from there that the section deals with the wicked and compares them to the rising of the sun, which ultimately sets.

(…)

4. A generation goes and a generation comes, but the earth endures forever.

RASHI - A generation goes and a generation comes: As much as the wicked man toils and labors to oppress and to rob, he does not outlive his works, for the generation goes and another generation comes and takes all away from his sons, as it is stated (Job 20:10): “His sons will placate the poor.”
           
but the earth endures forever: But who are the ones who endure? The humble and low, who bring themselves down to the earth, as it is stated (Ps. 37:11): “But the humble shall inherit the earth.” And Midrash Tanhuma states: All the righteous of Israel are called earth [or land], as it is said (Mal. 3:12): “for you shall be a desirable land.”

(…)

6. It goes to the south and goes around to the north; the will goes around and around, and the will returns to its circuits.

RASHI - goes around and around: … Also the wicked, no matter how much their sun rises, they will ultimately set. No matter how much they gain power, they will ultimately return to the place of filth. From the place of filth they came, and to the place of filth they will go. And so…

This week includes many yahrzeits, including the founder of two prominent Chassidic lines: Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac Yehuda Yechiel of Komarno (10th of Iyar) and Rabbi Naftali of Ropshitz (11th of Iyar).

From Ascent:

Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac Yehuda Yechiel Safrin ben Alexander Sender of Komarno (25 Shvat 1806-10 Iyar 1874), was one of the most prolific and respected expounders of the Kabbalah teachings of the Baal Shem Tov. He insisted that every Jew should study the Zohar and the Writings of the Arizal, and emphasized the importance of Kabbalistic meditation. A close disciple of Rebbe Tzvi Hersh from Zhiditchov (the Komarno dynasty is considered a branch of Zhiditchov), he was a hidden ascetic for many years, only later known for his genius, piety and ability to work wonders when he became the Rebbe of thousands of chasidim. He authored volumes of deep insights on Jewish mysticism, as well as on Mishnah and Jewish Law. His commentaries include Heichal HaBrachah on the Torah, Otzar HaChaim on the commandments, and Zohar Chaion the Zohar.

Rabbi Naftali of Ropshitz (6 Sivan 1760 [the same day as the Besht's passing!] -11 Iyar 1827) became the rebbe of many thousands of chassidim. He was noted for his sharp wit and humor and his elusive sparkling aphorisms. Some of his teachings are collected in his works, Zera Kodesh, Ayalah Sheluchah, and Imrei Shefer. Many stories about him appear in the book, Ohel Naftoli.

From RabbiShimon.com:
When R' Naftali decided to join the chassidic movement he chose Rabbi Elimelech of Lizensk as his mentor. He subsequently became a dedicated chasid of the "three patriarchs:" the Chozeh of Lublin, the Maggid of Koznitz, and Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Rymanov.

During the Napoleonic wars the Tzaddikim were divided in their attitude towards Napoleon. Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Rymanov strongly supported Napoleon and felt the wars represented Gog and Magog and were a prelude to the Messiah. His disciple Rabbi Naftali, as well as Rabbi Shneur Zalman, the Baal HaTanya, were strongly opposed, sensing that Napoleon's victory would introduce changes which would threaten the Jewish community's way of life.

After the passing of these three luminaries he settled in Ropshitz, which then became the focal point for thousands of chassidim. Ropshitz chassidut distinguished itself for the captivating niggunim it created, soul stirring melodies of ecstasy and of yearning for nearness to G-d.

Reb Naftali is a crucial figure in the development of Galician Chassidut and there are many "minhagei Ropshitz", which are followed in Galicia. He was known for his profound wisdom, sharp sense of humor and musical gifts.  He was a master of kabbalistic interpretation of the Torah, a fact reflected in his writings. His demeanor, his sermons, and his witticisms concealed a depth of thought that could be grasped only by his closest students, foremost among whom was Rabbi Chaim of Tzanz.


Other yahrzeits this week include Rabbi Yerachmiel Rabinowitz of Peshischa (son of the Yid HaKadosh, 8th of Iyar), Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Twersky of Lublin-Trisk (8th of Iyar), Rabbi David Twerski of Tolna (son of Rabbi Mordechai of Chernobyl, 10th of Iyar), Rabbi Masoud Abuchatzeira (son of the Abir Yaakov and the father of Baba Sali, 12th of Iyar)
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