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Sunday, October 9, 2016

Week 13 (Book 4): Being Straightforward

STORY OF CHANNAH: 13 Now Hannah, she spoke in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice could not be heard; therefore, Eli thought she had been drunken.
TZADIKKIM: the Sdei Chemed and the Be'er Mayim Chayim
PROVERBS: Chapter 13

Week 13 is the week of Chanukah. The verse from the story of Channah describes how she prayed. Her lips moved, but her voice could not be heard – this is the ultimate example of how prayer is first and foremost a spiritual act. It is not necessary for us to emit sound for Hashem to be able to hear our cry. The story of Chanukah is also about the victory of the spiritual over the material.

The Pirkei Avot adjective of this week is that Torah makes him fit to be “correct,” in Hebrew, yashar. Yashar literally means “straight,” someone who is truthful and straightforward. Yashar is particularly related to the fulfillment of the negative commandments, “which draws forth revelations beyond the creative order.” (Hayom Yom, 14th of Kislev) The above story, Eli mistakenly suspects Channah of being drunk, when in reality she was simply praying out of a broken heart. Praying when drunk would violate a negative commandment. In fact, Channah’s actions are that of a Yashar, above reproach, drawing forth such supernatural blessings that allow her to have a child.

Chapter 13 of the Book of Proverbs contains many of the above themes. It continues the trend of the previous chapters, contrasting the righteous with the wicked (a key theme of Chanukah, as already explained). It also specifically speaks of spiritual light, the light of Chanukah:

9. The light of the righteous will rejoice, but the candle of the wicked will ebb away.

10. Only with wickedness does one cause quarrels, but there is wisdom with those who take counsel.

This week includes the yahrzeits of Rabbi Chaim Chizkiya Medini (24th of Kislev) and Rabbi Chaim Tirar of Chernowitz (27th of Kislev).

Rabbi Chaim Chizkiya Medini is most well-known for his encyclopedic halachik work of 18 volumes, entitled the Sdei Chemed (although he wrote other books as well). He was born in Jerusalem, but also liked in Turkey and Crimea. He later returned to Israel and lived in Jerusalem, he was being considered for Chief Sephardi Rabbi of Israel,Rishon L’Zion. He wished to devote himself to his studies so he moved to Hebron. Eventually he became Chief Rabbi of Hebron. He was considered to be a holy man by both Jews and Arabs alike.

Rabbi Chaim Tirar of Chernowitz is most well-known for his Chassidic/Kabbalistic commentary on the Torah, the Be’er Mayim Chayim. Rabbi Chernowitz also wrote other books, including Sidduroh Shel Shabat, which explains the holiness of the Sabbath. (Ascent) He was one of the most important disciples of the Maggid of Mezritch. He also studied under Rabbi Yechiel Michel of Zlotchov.[1]

Other yahrzeits this week include Rabbi Chaim of Antunia (25th of Kislev), Rabbi Yochanan son of Rabbi David Mordechai Twersky of Tolna (25th of Kislev), Rabbi Elazar son of Rabbi Moshe Elyakim Briah of Koznitz (26th of Kislev), Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kohn of Toldos Aharon (27th of Kislev), and (sometimes) Rabbi Avraham son of Rabbi Nachman Chazan (leader of Breslov, 29th of Kislev), and Rabbi Tzvi Mordechai son of Rabbi Avraham Moshe of Peshischa (29th of Kislev)

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