Monday, September 22, 2014

Week 52 (Book 4a): Parent and Child


STORY OF CHANNAH: 24. No, my sons, for the rumor which I hear the Lord's people spreading, is not good. 25. If man will sin to man, the judge will judge him. If, however, he will sin against God, who will intercede in the judgment in his behalf?" But they would not hearken to their father's voice, for the Lord desired to kill them. 26. And the lad, Samuel, was growing up, and bettering himself both with the Lord and with people.
PIRKEI AVOT QUALITIES BECOMING TO THE RIGHTEOUS: and children are becoming to the righteous and becoming to the world. As is stated (Proverbs 16:31): "Old age is a crown of beauty, to be found in the ways of righteousness." And it says (ibid. 20:29): "The beauty of youths is their strength, and the glory of sages is their age." And it says (ibid., 17:6): "The crown of sages are their grandchildren, and the beauty of children their fathers." And it says (Isaiah 24:23): "And the moon shall be abashed and the sun shamed, for the L-rd of hosts has reigned in Zion, and before his elders is glory."
Rabbi Shimon the son of Menasia would say: these seven qualities enumerated by the sages for the righteous were all realized in Rabbi [Judah HaNassi] and his sons.
SONG OF SONGS: Chapter 8
TZADIKKIM: Rebbetzin Devorah Leah Schneerson (3rd of Tishrei) and Rebbetzin Chanah Schneerson (6th of Tishrei)           

Week 52 is the week of Rosh Hashanah. The verse(s) from the story of Channah continue Eli’s reprimand of his children. As is the custom not to end a reading on a less than positive note, this week includes also verses 25 and 26. The verses contain many of the themes of Rosh Hashanah. First and foremost, the relationship between father and son. As noted in previous books, 52 has the numerical value of the Hebrew word for “son,” ben. The verses also speak of judgment, by other men but also particularly by G-d, one of the main themes of Rosh Hashanah. It is on Rosh Hashanah that G-d decides who will live and who will die, and the verses state that, regarding the sons of Eli, G-d desired to kill them. Verse 26, the end of this section of the Tanach, speaks of how Shmuel, already a Tzadik, continued to grow, both in his relationship with Hashem as well as with the people. Also, on Rosh Hashanah, we look to connect with the community, and particularly with the Tzadik, the head of the community, in order to be judged in the merit of the entire congregation. As mentioned in the previous week, teshuvah is connected to growth, and one must always be looking for ways of doing so, particularly during the Days of Awe.
This week’s Pirkei Avot quality that is “becoming to the righteous and becoming to the world” is exactly the quality of having children. Pirkei Avot brings prooftexts for the qualities mentioned, most of which are related to old age and children. Pirkei Avot also states that Rabbi Yehudah HaNassi, also called simply as “Rabbi,” had all of these qualities. Rabbi Yehudah HaNassi was the head of the entire Jewish people as well as the compiler of the Mishnah, the entire Oral Torah. It is therefore appropriate that he encompass all of the character traits listed above. Rosh Hashanah, the head of the year, also encompasses the entire year.
Chapter 8 of the Song of Songs contains many references to family relationships: brother and sister, but most importantly, mother and child:
1. "O, that you were like my brother, who sucked my mother's breasts! I would find you outside, I would kiss you, and they would not despise me.

2. I would lead you, I would bring you to the house of my mother, who instructed me; I would give you to drink some spiced wine, of the juice of my pomegranate.

3. His left hand would be under my head, and his right hand would embrace me.

4. I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem; why should you awaken, and why should you arouse the love until it is desirous?

5. "Who is this coming up from the desert, embracing her beloved?" "Under the apple tree I aroused you; there your mother was in travail with you; there she that bore you was in travail."

Rashi comments:
there your mother was in travail with you: We have said that the Holy One, blessed be He, called her His mother (above 3:11). There she became Your mother.

Rashi’s comments to verse 3:11 are as follows:
upon the crown with which his mother crowned him: [This refers to] the Tent of Meeting, which is crowned with hues: blue, purple, and crimson. Rabbi Nehunia said: Rabbi Simeon bar Yohai asked Rabbi Eleazar the son of Rabbi Jose, “Perhaps you heard from your father what the meaning of ‘upon the crown with which his mother crowned him’ is?” He replied: “This is a parable of a king who had an only daughter of whom he was very fond. He could not stop loving her until he called her ” my daughter, “ as it is said (Ps. 45:11): ” Hearken, daughter, and see.“ He could not stop loving her until he called her ” my sister, “ as it is said (below 5:2): ” Open for me, my sister, my beloved.“ He could not stop loving her until he called her ” my mother, “ as it is said (Isa. 51:4): ” Hearken to Me, My people, and My nation (וּלְאוּמִי), bend your ears." It is written: וּלְאֻמִי [which can be read as וּלְאִמִי, and to my mother]. Rabbi Simeon bar Yohai stood up and kissed him on his head, etc.

Rashi states that by G-d calling the Jewish people his “mother,” he is pointing to the highest possible relationship. It is also worth noting that the verse that explains this concept refers us to the Jewish people crowning Hashem, which is exactly our primary task on Rosh Hashanah. It was also on Rosh Hashanah that two of the most important mothers in Tanach were answered and told that they would be having childern: our matriarch Sarah (to be pregnant with Isaac) and the prophetess Chanah (pregnant with Shmuel).  The descriptions of these events are part of the Torah and Haftorah readings for Rosh Hashanah.
This week contains the yahrzeits of two very special mothers in Israel: Rebbetzin Devorah Leah Schneerson (mother of Rabbi Menachem Mendel, the Third Lubbavitcher Rebbe, the Tzemach Tzedek, 3rd of Tishrei) and Rebbetzin Chanah Schneerson (mother of Rabbi Menachem Mendel, the (7th) Lubbavitcher Rebbe, 6th of Tishrei).
From Chabad.org:
Devorah Leah was the second daughter of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, also known as the Alter Rebbe, founder of the Chabad Chassidic movement. (…)

One day, amidst his anxiety, the Alter Rebbe called for his daughter Devorah Leah. In the privacy of his study, he informed her about the very difficult times that lay ahead, and the strong heavenly opposition against revealing the innermost aspects of Chassidism. He described to her, in the gravest of tones, that he had seen a vision of the faces of the Maggid and the Baal Shem Tov, and they were extremely dark and clouded. Devorah Leah understood that her father’s very life was in danger.

Acting on her own initiative, Devorah Leah gathered together three of her father’s senior chassidim. She requested that they promise to fulfill all that she asked of them, and swear not to reveal her requests to anyone. Only when they had agreed to these conditions did she proceed.

She reminded them that they were all chassidim of her father, and therefore, they must all be prepared to do whatever necessary for his and the Baal Shem Tov’s important work and teachings to flourish. Breaking down in tears, Devorah Leah begged them, “I ask you to swear a solemn oath, one that cannot be annulled, that you will follow my request even if a human life is at stake.” As one of the chassidim became apprehensive about making such a commitment, the two others calmed him by persuading him that Devorah Leah must have contemplated the matter well and certainly would not act recklessly.

The air was heavy with emotion as Devorah Leah notified the chassidim of the urgency of the present situation, and the threat hanging over Reb Schneur Zalman’s life. Resolutely, she stated, “You three chassidim will now constitute a beit din, a court of Jewish law. I have decided to give my own life in lieu of my father’s. I will die and he will live.”

On the eve of Rosh Hashanah of that year, following the afternoon prayers, Devorah Leah went into the small synagogue where her family and some elder chassidim were engrossed in prayers. She walked towards the holy ark and loudly proclaimed, “You are all witnesses before these Torah scrolls, that I, Devorah Leah, daughter of Sterna, accept upon myself, with a clear mind, to exchange lives with my father, Schneur Zalman, son of Rivkah. I, through my death, will be the atonement.”

That night, the first night of Rosh Hashanah, the Alter Rebbe left his private room to seek out Devorah Leah. As she approached him, he began to bless her with the customary blessing of “leshanah tovah” (“You should be blessed with a good year”). She abruptly interrupted his blessing with, “Father, leshanah tovah tikatev veteichatem (You should be inscribed and sealed for a good new year).” When he, in turn, was about to finish his blessing to her, she pleaded, “Father, say no more!”

At the conclusion of Rosh Hashanah, the Alter Rebbe called for Devorah Leah and her husband, Rabbi Sholom Shachna. Rabbi Sholom broke down in tears, asking, “What are we to do? Our young son, Menachem Mendel, is so special, yet he is so young and tender. He has just celebrated his third birthday.”

Devorah Leah’s last request of her father was that he should personally involve himself with the duty of educating and raising her young and only son. Reassuring her, the Alter Rebbe promised, “Your son, Menachem [Hebrew for comfort], will be a nechamah (comfort) to me, a nechamah to you and a nechamah to all of the Jewish people.”

The following day, on the third day of Tishrei, Devorah Leah’s prayer came true. Her soul left her body and ascended to the heavens. (…)

From Beis Chana of California Women’s Yeshiva:

Rebbetzin Chana Schneerson was born 28 Teves 5640 (1880) in Nikolaeiv, Russia. Her father was the distinguished and pious scholar, Rabbi Shlomo Halevy Yanovsky, Rabbi of Nikolaeiv. Her mother was the righteous Rebbetzin Rachael, daughter of Rabbi Yitzchak Pushnitz, The Rabbi of Dobrinka.       

As a young girl, both her father and her great-grandfather, Rabbi Avraham David Lout, educated Rebbetzin Chana. Her father was known throughout the Jewish world for five scholarly books he authored. In 5660 (1900), Rebbetzin Chana married the renowned and pious scholar and brilliant kabbalist, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson, great-grandson of the Tzemach Tzedek, The Third Lubavitcher Rebbe.       

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak was appointed Rav of Yekatrinoslav (now Dneproptrovsk), and for all practical purposes was the spiritual leader of the entire Jewish population of the Ukraine. Rebbetzin Chana stood at his side, adding to and assisting in his holy work.       

The congregation in Yekatrinoslav was comprised mainly of non-religious professionals. The Rebbetzin, an intelligent and pleasant person, was not only knowledgeable in Torah, but also spoke Russian. She had a good rapport with the members of the congregation and thus contributed significantly to her husband’s success. She was an elegant woman, always well-dressed and friendly.

Rebbetzin Chana gave birth to three sons: Her eldest is Rabbi Menachem Mendel, The Lubavitcher Rebbe.        

In 5699 (1939), Rabbi Levi Yitzchak was arrested because of his energetic work to preserve religious observance. When he was exiled a year later, Rebbetzin Chana joined him, paying no heed to the difficulties and dangers involved.       

Rebbetzin Chana was widowed in 5704 (1944) when Rabbi levi Yitzchak passed away prematurely, at the age of 66, from the harsh cruelties of his exile. Three years later, Rebbetzin Chana succeeded in emigrating from the Soviet Union. At great danger to herself, she smuggled out her husband’s writings of Kabbalah. These writings were later printed and published by her son, The Rebbe, and are available to all of us. Later that year, she arrived in Paris where she was reunited with her eldest son, whom she had not seen in 20 years. The two traveled to New York, where The Rebbetzin lived the last 17 years of her life warmed by the light of her son who, in 5711 (1951), became the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe.

Rebbetzin Chana’s gentle, unassuming demeanor and thread of majestic grace intertwined in her every word and movement deeply impressed everyone who met her.

This week also contains the yahrzeits of Rabbi Amnon of Mainz (1st of Tishrei),  Rabbi Yisrael of Stolin (the "Yenuka," 2nd of Tishrei), Rabbi Yitzchak-Meir of Kapichnitz (2nd of Tishrei), the Chayei Adam (4th of Tishrei),  the Shpoler Zeide (6th of Tishrei).

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