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Sunday, July 17, 2016

Week 25 (Book 4): "An Ever-Increasing Wellspring"

STORY OF CHANNAH: 25 And when the bullock was slain, the child was brought to Eli.  

QUALITY OF PIRKEI AVOT: and he becomes as an ever-increasing wellspring

PROVERBS: Chapter 25

Week 25 is the last week of Adar. The verse from the story of Channah speaks about the slaughter of her animal sacrifice, as she brought Shmuel to Eli the Kohen Gadol. The last week of Adar is significantly tied to bringing contributions to the Temple. Those that did not bring their yearly half-shekel contribution by now, Jewish courts had the right to take it by force.

The Talmud (Berachot 31b) teaches that this verse is an indication of Shmuel’s hidden greatness:

And when the bullock was slain, the child was brought to Eli.24 Because the bullock was slain, did they bring the child to Eli? What it means is this. Eli said to them: Call a priest and let him come and kill [the animal]. When Samuel saw them looking for a priest to kill it, he said to them, Why do you go looking for a priest to kill it? The shechitah may be performed by a layman! They brought him to Eli, who asked him, How do you know this? He replied: Is it written, ‘The priest shall kill’? It is written, The priests shall present [the blood]:25 the office of the priest begins with the receiving of the blood, which shows that shechitah may be performed by a layman.26 He said to him: You have spoken very well, but all the same you are guilty of giving a decision in the presence of your teacher…

Adar is a month connected to revealing what is secret. That is the reason the text we read on Purim is called Megillat Esther, revealing (Legalot) what is hidden (Nistar). In this case, the hidden greatness of a little boy is revealed.

Along the same lines, last week’s Pirkei Avot quality was, “the Torah’s secrets are revealed to him.” This week, the quality is, “and he becomes as an ever-increasing wellspring.” A wellspring contains also this idea of revealing the hidden. The wellspring brings water (a metaphor for Torah) from the depths of the earth to the surface. The Hebrew term for wellspring Ma'ayan, is often associated with the hidden aspects of Torah, such as the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov. Furthermore, as the story above indicate, Shmuel himself was a living example of an “ever-increasing wellspring.” 

Chapter 25 of the Book of Proverbs, particularly its first verses, contains the same theme as above:

1. These too are Solomon's proverbs, which the men of Hezekiah, king of Judah, maintained.
2. The honor of God is to conceal a matter, whereas the honor of kings is to search out a matter.  
3. The heaven for height, the earth for depth, and the honor of kings are unsearchable.      
4. Remove dross from silver, and a vessel emerges for the refiner.

This week contains the yahrzeits of Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk (21st of Adar) and Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Rothenberg/Alter (the "Chiddushei HaRim, 23rd of Adar).

Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk was on of the main disciples of the Maggid of Mezritch. He was known as the "Rebbe of Rebbes" of the Jews of Poland/Galitzia. He was the brother of Reb Zushia of Anipoli, and many of his disciples became rebbes in their own right, including the Chozeh of Lublin, the Ohev Yisrael, Reb Menachem Mendel of Rimanov, and the Maggid of Kozhnitz. His also the author of the Noam Elimelech, one of the foundational texts of Polish Chassidism.

Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Alter was the founder of the Ger dynasty, which, in great part because of his inspiring and caring leadership, became the largest of all Chassidic groups. His work, Chiddushei HaRim, is also a Chassidic "classic."

Other yahrzeits this week include Rav Chanoch Henach of Alexander (18th of Adar - He served as the rebbe of Ger for some time after the Chidushei HaRim passed away), Rabbi Nachum Mordechai of Chortkov (son of Rabbi Yisrael Friedman, 18th of Adar), and Rabbi Meir Yechiel of Ostrovtze (19th Adar 1928).

[For Adar I: As mentioned previously, this year there are two months of Adar, and yahrzeits are usually commemorated on the second one, unless the person passed away in the first Adar in a year that also had two. We will therefore, leave the descriptions for the next month, when we repeat weeks 22 through 25.]  

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