Weekly Cycle

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Week 3 (Book 4): Pilgrimage and Friendship, Happiness and the Maggid of Kozhnitz

STORY OF CHANNAH: 3 And this man went up out of his city from year to year to worship and to sacrifice unto the LORD of hosts in Shiloh. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there priests unto the LORD.        

PIRKEI AVOT: He is called friend     

PROVERBS: Chapter 3

TZADDIKIM: Rav Yisrael Hopstein (the Maggid of Kozhnitz, 14th of Tishrei) and Rabbi Mordechai of Lechovitch (15th of Tishrei)

Week 3 is the week of Sukkot.  The verse from the story of Channah speaks of three priests: Eli, Hophni, and Phinehas. The verse also speaks of Elkanah’s yearly pilgrimage to the Tabernacle in Shiloh. Sukkot is one of the three pilgrimage festivals in the Jewish calendar, along with Passover and Shavuot. Rashi explains that Elkanah’s pilgrimage was unique:

And that man was wont to go up: This is the present tense. He would go up from one appointed season to another appointed season, to Shiloh. Midrash Aggadah (M.S. 1: 1,5, 7): The route he followed this year he did not follow the next year, in order to publicize (his pilgrimage) to the Israelites that they should do likewise.

Elkanah’s behavior was characteristic of that of a Tzadik. He served as a role model, and actually succeeded in bringing more pilgrims to Jerusalem in the process.

The Pirkei Avot section for this week explains that one that studies Torah for its own sake is called a “friend.” Interestingly, Elkanah’s behavior above exemplifies such friendship. In general, Sukkot is a time of much social interaction, in which we invite each other to our respective sukkot.

Chapter 3 of the Book of Proverbs contains the theme of peace, friendship and hospitality characteristic of Sukkot:

27. Do not withhold good from the one who needs it when you have power in your hand to do it.           
28. Do not say to your fellow, "Go and return, and tomorrow I will give," though you have it with you.               
29. Devise no harm against your fellow, when he dwells securely with you.           
30. Do not quarrel with anyone without cause, if he did you no harm.

This week, on the 14th of Tishrei, is the yahrzeit of Rabbi Yisrael Hopstein, the Maggid of Kozhnitz. The Kozhnitzer Maggid was known by his followers as “the second Baal Shem Tov,” so holy and special was his ways. He was born to his mother and father at a very old age after a blessing from the Baal Shem Tov himself. The story of how this blessing came about is a book in and of itself. The story involves his parents being rewarded for their Simcha (happiness) and for their dancing around the Shabat table, which is clearly connected with these days of Sukkot (as well as Shmini Atzeret/Simchat Torah in week 4):

You should know, that at the time the bookbinder [the Maggid's father] broke out in a joyous dance onf Friday night, expressing his gratitude to Hashem, there was a great 'simcha' (celebration) in all worlds, and the heavenly tribunal danced with and joined in his happiness. Now you can understand, the Baal Shem Tov explained to his students, why I smiled Friday night, because I saw the great simcha going on in the upper worlds, so it brought me a unique simcha.[1]  

Like the Magen Avraham, he also was sickly as a child, and was a tremendous prodigy. There is also a story that connects these two tzadikim:

The story goes that when the Maggid of Koznitz was young, he arranged to study Magen Avraham with a friend every day in the early morning. After the first session, their hearts were aflame even more than usual in their service of G-d, to that point that they were overcome by extreme enthusiasm. The Maggid decided to go to his Rav, Rabbi Shmelke of Nickelsburg, and ask him from where this great light came. When he went to see his Rav, as soon as he crossed the threshold of his home Rabbi Shmelke said to him, “Israel, I can see on your face that you studied Magen Avraham. That book generates a great light in the heart of the wise.” [2]

A day later, on the 15th of Tishrei, the first day of Sukkot, is the yahrzeit of Rabbi Mordechai of Lechovitch (the father of Rabbi Noach, mentioned last week). His teachings are an essential part of Karlin Chassidism, as well as the other dynasties mentioned last week. One of the key elements of his teachings is the focus on happiness.[3]

Other yahrzeits this week include Rabbi Mordechai of Nadvorna (15th of Tishrei), Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch ben R' Shlomo Shapiro of Munkach, author of Darkei Teshuva (1913) father of the Minchas Elazar (16th of Tishrei), and (sometimes this week and sometimes next week) Rebbe Nachman of Breslov (18th of Tishrei), Rabbi Eliyahu Kramer (the Vilna Gaon, 19th of Tishrei), Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchak Rabinowitz (the Yid HaKadosh, the “Holy Jew” of P’shischa), and Rav Eliezer Papo (the “Peleh Yoetz,” 20th of Tishrei).

[1] http://spectrum.library.concordia.ca/1081/1/MQ47771.pdf
[2] http://www.hevratpinto.org/tzadikim_eng/093_rabbi_avraham_aveli_gombiner_the_magen_avraham.html
[3] http://asimplejew.blogspot.com/2008/05/question-answer-with-rabbi-shlomo.html

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