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Sunday, July 3, 2016

Week 27 (Book 4): He Becomes Modest

STORY OF CHANNAH: For this child did I pray, and the Lord granted me my request, which I asked of Him.           

QUALITY OF PIRKEI AVOT: He becomes modest

PROVERBS: Chapter 27

TZADIKKIM: Rabbi Shalom DovBer of Lubavitch (the Rebbe Rashab, 2nd of Nissan), Rabbi Yochanan Twersky (the first Rebbe of Rachmastivka, 4th of Nissan) and Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Heschel (the Ohev Yisrael, Rebbe of Apt, 5th of Nissan).

On Week 27, we are in the beginning of the month of Nissan. It includes the yahrzeit of Rabbi Shalom DovBer Schneersohn, the Rebbe Rashab, fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe, on the second of Nissan. In the verse of the story of Channah for this week, she exclaims, “For this child did I pray, and the Lord granted me my request, which I asked of Him.”  The Rebbe Rashab was known for the great love and care he bestowed on his only son, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak, the Rebbe Rayatz, particularly regarding his son’s education and training. The Rebbe Rashab stated that, "It is an absolute duty for every person to spend a half hour every day thinking about the education of his children, and to do everything in his power -- and beyond his power -- to inspire his children to follow the path along which they are being guided."[1]

The Talmud teaches us that Eli the Kohen Gadol was willing punish Shmuel and pray to G-d and pray to G-d for Him to give Channah a child even better than Shmuel. Channah did not accept that – this was her child, the one for which she prayed. Furthermore, this was not her child any longer, but Hashem’s (next verse). This is very much symbolic of the month of Nissan and the redemption from Egypt. The Jews at the time were far from perfect – but these were the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, which G-d promised to take out of Egypt. Even deeper than that, we were G-d’s children, and He redeemed us independent of our condition. Similarly later, after the sin of the golden calf, G-d offers Moshe to destroy the Jewish people and build a nation out of him. Moshe replies that if G-d were to do such a thing, “erase me from Your Book.”

This week’s Pirkei Avot quality is that he becomes “modest.” One of the ideas of modesty is not to ask Hashem for personal greatness. (Yayin Levanon, commentary on Pirkei Avot) Channah did not want a greater child than Shmuel. She was happy with her portion.

The very beginning of Chapter 27 of the Book of Proverbs addresses the characteristics of modesty and humility:

1. Do not boast for tomorrow, for you do not know what the day will bear.   
2. May a stranger praise you and not your mouth, an alien and not your lips.

Aside from the Rebbe Rashab’s yahrzeit, this week also contains the yahrzeits of Rabbi Yochanan Twersky (the first Rebbe of Rachmastivka, 4th of Nissan) and Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Heschel (the Ohev Yisrael, Rebbe of Apt, 5th of Nissan).

Rabbi Yochanan Twersky was known for his great humility. His father, Rav Mordechai Twersky, the Maggid of Chernobyl, said that his son had the soul of Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai. He was the last of eight brothers, each of which became a rebbe. The following story describes Reb Yochanan’s humility:

When the Maggid of Chernobyl was niftar, his sons gathered to divide his spiritual inheritance. One took his kind heart, another took his sharp mind and so on. Reb Yochanan wanted to take his father’s gornisht, meaning his nothingness — his father’s deep humility. But when his brother, Harav Moshe of Koristchov, took the gornisht, Reb Yochanan was left with gor gornshit, absolutely nothing, and he was pleased. Indeed, he was distinguished by his profound humility and self-negation.[2]
Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Heschel was one of the close disciples of Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk. He was known as the Ohev Yisrael (“Lover of Israel”) due to his great love for his fellow Jew. Interestingly, a very similar story is told about his spiritual “inheritance:”

It is told that before he died, Rebbe Elimelech bequeathed the sight of his eyes to the Chozeh of Lublin, the spirit of his heart to the Kozhnitzer Maggid, the soul of his mind to Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Riminov, and the power of speech to Rebbe Avraham Yehoshua Heshel of Apt.[3]

Other yahrzeits this week include Rabbi Yaakov Yosef son of Rabbi David Twersky, (the Skverer Rebbe, 2nd of Nissan); Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech Shapira of Bluzhov son of Rabbi David of Dinov (the Tzvi LaTzadik, 5th of Nissan), Rabbi Moshe son of Shlomo Rokeach (the Kiev-Zlotchover Rebbe, 5th of Nissan), and Rabbi Mordechai of Neshchiz (disciple of R. Yechiel Michel of Zlotchov, 8th of Nissan).

[1] Hayom Yom, 22nd of Tevet
[2] http://hamodia.com/features/day-history-4-nisanapril-4/
[3] http://heichalhanegina.blogspot.com/2008/02/i-remember-him-from-rebbe.html

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